Melamed looks 'Inside the Middle East' at MJCC

PHOTO: Author and intelligence analyst Avi Melamed presents on the ongoing war in Gaza at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center Wednesday, Mar. 13. His appearance was part of a nationwide speaking tour addressing Jewish communities about the root causes of the war and how the situation may continue to develop. (Rockne Roll/The Jewish Review)

The Jewish Review
At long last, Avi Melamed arrived at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, in the flesh, to talk about what’s happening in Gaza, Israel and the surrounding region. 
The author of “Inside The Middle East” and the founder of the organization that bears the same name had been scheduled to speak about the regions political challenges late last year – this plan was upended by the Oct. 7 attacks and became a zoom presentation about the War in Gaza. 
Melamed’s Mar. 13 appearance, part of a nationwide tour of Jewish community centers, was a longer-form discussion of the driving forces behind the Oct. 7 attacks and the big-picture forces that will affect the future of the region. 
Recent events in the region were, of course, initiated by Hamas’ attacks on southern Israel that killed 1,143 Israelis and saw more than 240 hostages kidnapped to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. But, Melamed said, this was only part of the story.
Melamed said that Iran has long used Arab proxies to work toward its ultimate goal of Shi’ite Muslim control of the entire region, supporting governments and non-governmental entities aligned with this goal all over the region in the pursuit of a combined offensive against Israel, its Sunni Muslim Arab opponents and the Western powers aligned against it. A Hamas-led attack on Israel has always been part of a larger-scale plan, Melamed said, to launch coordinated offensives by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shi’ite militias in Syria and Iraq, Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, and Houthi militants in Yemen. 
“Oct. 7 was supposed to be this, at least the eyes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Melamed said. “Oct.7 was supposed to be the thing.”
While Iran’s influence is part of the equation, Hamas is also influenced by its own power struggle against Fatah, the political party and former terrorist organization in charge of the Palestinian Authority and thus  in control of the West Bank. While Fatah is organizationally committed to a Palestinian state and accepts, by accession to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the State of Israel, Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, not only openly seeks the destruction of Israel but sees a Palestinian state as only an intermediate step to its ultimate goal. 
“The Muslim Brotherhood totally rejects the concept of national states,” Melamed said. “The Muslim Brotherhood says, ‘Look, this is a Western Christian concept. It’s totally alien to Islam, we are not willing to accept it. We envision the creation of a global entity, an Islamic entity, by the name of Caliphate, and that Caliphate should be based upon Sharia law.’”
These factors, combined with a desire to slow the process of diplomatic normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors, let Hamas to initiate the recent conflict with the strategic aim of forcing a reaction by Israel which would alienate its Western allies and erode international support.
While Hamas’ propaganda puts out a message of Arab unity and Palestinian dignity through violence, much of the Arab world sees Hamas’ actions as sacrificing the lives of innocent Palestinians not to gain liberation, but to further Iranian influence in the region, and they’re not impressed. 
“There are circles in the West that constantly insist on exempting Hamas from responsibility,” he said. “The irony is that while they are insisting on exempting Hamas from responsibility in the Arab world, there has been an increasing criticism of Hamas way before Oct. 7, let alone after.”
Now that the world has come to this point, what happens next is an open question. 
Israel’s objective, Melamed said, is “not to eliminate Hamas because it’s not achievable. The objective here is in the end of the day to shrink Hamas capacities and ability to continue to dictate its radical agenda.”
A complicating factor in this pursuit is the wave of public opinion that has been generated against Israel through popular media that present what Melamed called a “flat” understanding of one of the world’s most complicated conflicts. 
“It’s all narratives and buzzwords and slogans and sound bites and concepts and theories and throwing out terms that you don’t even understand what they stand for,” he said.
Those reductionist messages, Melamed continued, “don’t really offer the ability to understand, let alone navigate the complex reality.”
“We need to replace this with education, context, nuance, critical thinking, understanding the ins and outs,” he said. “These are the cornerstones of a healthy functioning society. If you move out these cornerstones, the structure falls apart. If you move out this cornerstone, you don’t see more inclusiveness and diversity. You see the opposite. You see growing polarization.”
Some of that was on display as anti-Israel activists interrupted the opening portion of Melamed’s presentation, shouting slogans before being removed by MJCC security. 
“I’m sorry for the people who scream and shout because I think it could [have been] very valuable for them,” Melamed said at the conclusion of the event. 
More information about Melamed’s work, including links ot purchase his books, is available at


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