Six long decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict

The Palestinians just want to be heard; this is why non-violence is not an option.

Taimur Arbab December 11, 2011
It has been more than 60 years now since the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Before the start of the First Intifada in 1987, the Palestinians knocked at every door of the international world for someone to address their issue. No one lent an ear. A total of 42 Security Council resolutions were vetoed unilaterally by the United States alone.

The Intifada — imbued in shreds of violence and counter-violence both on the part of Arabs and Israelis — made the world realise that there was, indeed, a problem to be addressed in the Middle East. Arafat had to be listened to. He was speaking on behalf of nearly 11 million people. In the 1990s, Hamas also came to the fore, to challenge the PLO’s sway over Palestinian votes.

Alienation led to radicalisation seeping into the Palestinian youth. They became hyper-aware of their situation, due to a world where the UN was powerless to do anything about changing the status quo in the Middle East and where the rule of international law was that whoever had the power called the shots.

Mandela, in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, writes at length as to why he adopted the tactics of militancy, as opposed to Gandhi’s principles of non-violence. He makes it clear he wanted the apartheid regime to ‘hear’ him. The Palestinians, unfortunately, had no other option but to increasingly rely on militancy to make the world hear them.

It is 2011 now: the Gaza strip is held by Hamas and the West Bank is under the control of Fatah. Many of my Palestinian friends speak of utter hopelessness when they talk about the recent failure of Mahmoud Abbas to secure the elusive nine votes at the Security Council.Abbas had eight, including China and Russia. Britain and France abstained. Bosnia remained undecided.

They talk about the failure of diplomacy to guarantee them statehood. They mention Mandela and the right to oppose the oppressor – militarily. No amount of cajoling works over here since they have six long decades as a constant reminder of their helplessness.


In terms of the changing Middle East geopolitical posture, analysts now project the increase in power of militant Hamas, even in the West Bank, after the recent failure of Palestinians to gather sufficient votes for statehood at the Security Council (SC).

Although the General Body will favour them heavily, Palestinians know that the ‘observer status’ and entry into UN subsidiary organisations cannot be taken as a replacement for full statehood.

In resolving this dispute, the world must pull its act together now. The Middle East conflict has the potential to flare up into a major regional war, if happenings on ground are not taken into account.

Arab Spring will eventually knock on the doors of Jerusalem and only add to Israel’s insecurity while allies are no longer there with the coming of power of Islamists in the region.

Also, Turkey is supplementing its regional clout and Turkish PM Recep Teyyip Erdogan has made his stance clear time and again, most glaringly in the World Economic Forum in 2009. Friends are gone as Mubarak is imprisoned and Ben Ali is wanted for crimes against humanity by his own nation. More importantly, Iran is on a nuclear trajectory.

For Israel, the siege mentality would have to give way to pragmatism by recognising that there is indeed a problem to be addressed. A military posture would only increase the radicalization of Palestinian youth who feel increasingly isolated by growing Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Even America, a long term ally, resents Israel’s refusal to halt these.

What must the world do? It must recognize that the archaic ‘status-quo’ is no longer possible to maintain in the region. Hollow negotiations would never solve the problem. They never worked in South Africa. They would not here.

Israeli and Palestinian children both deserve a secure future-a future without fear of Katyusha rocket or an aerial bombing. That is only possible if Palestinians are granted what they set out to achieve six decades back- a homeland.

Mahmud Darwaish, Palestine’s national poet, once said that a grand revolution will occur in the Middle East. It was bound to occur and it will challenge the dictators and strip away their powers.

He also prophesized that Palestine will be granted freedom at this point in time.

I sincerely hope that he is proven right.

Six decades of a forced exodus are a very long time indeed.
Taimur Arbab A former sub-editor at The Express Tribune, college teacher of Sociology and English Language and a graduate student at Aga Khan Institute for Educational Development, who leans toward the left side of the political spectrum and looks for ideas for his short stories and poems in the everyday happenings of life.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


MM | 12 years ago | Reply Why do Pakistanis get so riled up about the Palestine issue? Pakistanis care more about the issue than nearly all Arabs (who frankly don't give a damn what happens to the Palestinians - they even kicked them out of Jordan, and they are treated as second class citizens in the rest of the Arab world). Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all recognize Israel. Why does Pakistan have to adopt a holier-than-Arab stance on the issue? Everytime something happens in Palestine, Pakistanis are the first to cry foul. Pakistani Facebookers post links of the event and insult Israel/America, media covers it all day, street protests happen (there's even an annual anti-Israel protest all across Pakistan on the last Friday in Ramzan). But how many Arabs give a damn when anything happens to Pakistan? How many Arab Facebookers posted links when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed? Or for any other unfortunate thing that happens in Pakistan, whether now or over the decades? Pretty much zero. But Pakistanis are the first in line to defend Palestine and the Palestinians, and Arabs in general. It's part of Pakistan's identity crisis - trying to be Arab rather than embracing their proud South Asian culture.
Williambilek | 12 years ago | Reply @logical_atheist: So, according to you the conflict can only end if Israel surrenders completely, and disappears. ONLY the Jewish People are to be denied their own nation state. You suggest the Jewish People go "back to the place from where they were originally kicked out". Great news! The have come back, exactly to where they came into being, and from where they were "kicked out" 2000 years ago. And where they live now has not been "someone else's house" since the Ottomans, and the the Brits left the "house" that only they legally "owned".
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