The Israeli invasion of Gaza has risks spiraling into a regional conflict, as Western states back the offensive, even as Israel and Iran engage in regrettable saber-rattling. The U.S., meanwhile, has attracted much criticism over its policy of supporting Israel’s assault while “warning” Iran against intervention and rubbishing calls for a sustained ceasefire. In an apparent bid to boost public support for Washington’s actions, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has predicted the “prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region”—echoing reasons voiced by American officials ahead of the Iraq invasion. To be clear: the central concern of Americans is Iran and the potential for China to “exploit” the situation, not Israelis or Palestinians.
Iran’s foreign minister, meanwhile, has warned that if the Gaza offensive continues, it risks spreading across the region, indicating the role that Hezbollah militants in Lebanon might play in the days to come. In response, Israel’s economy minister has warned of an assault on Iran itself if Hezbollah joins the war. The consequences of such a conflict are horrible to imagine and would undoubtedly cause human suffering not seen since World War II.
Amidst all this, public sentiment is rapidly turning against Israel and in favor of Palestinians, showing a marked disconnect between policymakers and their constituents. Barring a handful of states, the vast majority of the world now considers Israel an oppressor indiscriminately killing civilians. Massive protests calling for a ceasefire in the U.S. and Europe have done little to shift government policies, boosting anger over the hypocritical stance of the “bastions of human rights” who are otherwise quick to sanction any state not named Israel. Unfortunately, the dividing of the world into pro-Palestine or pro-Israel camps has shifted attention away from suffering of Palestinians, whose casualties over the past month have now soared to over 8,000 deaths and at least 20,000 injuries, with no end in sight.