Six long decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict
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.