For years, the Israel-Gaza conflict has been pictured as Israel’s powerful military pitched against Iran-backed proxy groups like the Hamas. Hamas and other anti-Israel militias usually rely upon the Chinese military arsenal in hostilities against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But forget Iran, because a bigger bully called the People’s Republic of China (PRC) may have entered the conflict.
Though Iran evidently backs Hamas, China too may have silently contributed to the ongoing Israel-Hamas hostilities. Palestine-China camaraderie is not new. Even in the Mao era, the paper dragon saw an opportunity in the Israel-Palestine conflict to advance its propaganda blitz against the Western world but abandoned its campaign due to lack of success. However, the latest reports point out that Hamas could have used ‘made in China’ military hardware in the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict.
In the ongoing escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas, the latter has used a variety of lethal weapons, including rockets, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and suicide drones. Despite launching thousands of such weapons towards Israel, Hamas has rarely managed to penetrate Israel’s air defence system, Iron Dome.
Most of the weapons used by Hamas are locally manufactured with foreign assistance. However, as per The Eurasian Times, Hamas is also using Soviet-era BM-21 Grad rockets, which are available in the international black market. More importantly, Hamas is also alleged to using Chinese rockets.
Meanwhile, there are allegations on social media that Hamas is using missiles made in China’s Shandong province.
HAMAS fired Made in Shandong, China Missiles.
— Boycott China Hegemony (@BoycottHegemony) May 15, 2021
The latest allegations of Hamas using Chinese weapons actually revives the history of the Palestine-China alliance. After Mao’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Middle Kingdom felt the need of increasing its presence in the Middle East. This was also a part of the propaganda war that Mao wanted to start against what the CCP described as Western imperialism.
Initially, it suited China’s narrative to describe Israel as an occupier force and legitimise its support to Palestine as a liberation cause. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese military supplies to Palestine had peaked out. China was partly driven by its anti-West propaganda and partly by the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s.
While both Soviet Union and the US had decided to support Israel even at the peak of the Cold War, an isolated China tried to project Palestine as a part of the third world and extended support to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Apart from supplying military hardware and arms to PLO, China also rendered ideological inspiration and military training to the PLO.
In 1970, Yasser Arafat was quoted by the Peking Review. He had described China as “the biggest influence in supporting our revolution and strengthening its perseverance.” Mao had himself gone as far as equating Taiwan and Israel, which really showed why the Middle Kingdom wanted to support Palestine.
In 1965, Mao had told a PLO delegation, “Imperialism is afraid of China and of the Arabs. Israel and Formosa [Taiwan] are bases of imperialism in Asia. You are the front gate of the great continent, and we are the rear. They created Israel for you, and Formosa for us. … The West does not like us, and we must understand this fact. The Arab battle against the West is the battle against Israel. So boycott Europe and America, O Arabs!”
By the end of the 1970s, Chinese support for Palestine had however started fading. The Communist nation was hit by internal unrest and destitution. Israel, on the other hand, had grown into an enviable power. As such, China had no resources or inspiration to help Palestine any longer. In the 1980s, China had started opening up itself for trade and investment with the West and therefore supporting Palestine as a symbol of protest against the “imperialist world” no longer made any sense for Chinese Communists.
Over the past four decades or so, China grew into the world’s second-largest economy with Western support. Later, Beijing even tried to encourage closer ties with Israel. But once again, China wants to weaponise the Israel-Gaza conflict, by strengthening Hamas.
China’s latest bid to support Palestine rests on two developments- one, China is now past the days of its economic misery and capable of providing military support to Palestinian militant groups. And two, under Xi Jinping, China is harking back to the Maoist era and its relations with the West are getting strained.
In fact, China has used the latest Israel-Gaza hostilities to take a dig at the US. The Chinese State itself has been facing criticism for murdering Uyghur Muslims and raping ethnic minority women in Xinjiang. So, Beijing thought of spinning the narrative and accused the US of “ignoring the suffering” of Muslims in Gaza.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “What we can feel is that the US keeps saying that it cares about the human rights of Muslims… but it was ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
The Israel-Gaza hostilities is a convenient situation for Beijing. It might be looking to keep the region on the boil to deflect intention away from Xinjiang and blame the West for ignoring Muslim rights. A Communist, ruthless nation that runs genocides against ethnic minorities is thus using a complex conflict to twist the narrative in its own favour. We therefore won’t be surprised if China is actually supplying weapons to Hamas for attacking Israel in the ongoing conflict.