When a country or a people engaged in a struggle for survival and asserting their rights undergo a mega crisis of the magnitude that was witnessed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the sufferings the latter bore, it is time to step back and take stock of what lies ahead. In short, the Palestinians have to assess the strength and weaknesses of their own and that of their mortal adversary who is determined to reduce them to an enslaved status.
This is not the last round or the end of the conflict. For the naked Israeli aggression against the Palestinians was not the first nor is it going to be the last. It is one episode of a long running war where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, overconfident with the country’s military might and unlimited tacit support from major powers, will continue to wage. It is also a war that goes on in many different ways even when the guns are silent, by containment to weaken the adversary. The saddest, cruelest and the most highly unacceptable aspect of Israel’s aggression is that it has a beginning but no end. Moreover, it does not consider or treat the Palestinians as normal citizens and brazenly defies all human and well-established behavioural norms. It has usurped Palestinian legal rights as citizens and indulges in prejudices that do not behoove of civilised behaviour to say the least. What is most disappointing and tragic is that the United States and the West overlook these major policy aberrations for expedient gains. With advanced technology, military might and unquestioned support of Washington and the western countries, Israel has studiously planned to push the Palestinians from their land and that of their ancestors. This it has planned to execute by initially squeezing their living space, making existence unbearable by applying relentless pressure and abandoning the two-state solution.
True, not that long ago, Jews were subjected to the most inhuman treatment and even a genocide but not by Muslim countries but by the West. Regrettably, the focus of retaliation and pent-up hatred seems to be misdirected against the Palestinians. Of course, the Jews consider that they inhabited the land in the distant past but this is merely a dressing to justify its aggression. The same argument holds equally true for Palestinians, in fact, even more convincingly.
The most tragic aspect is that due to the acute differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran the Muslim countries are deeply divided. A few years ago, it would have been simply unimaginable that the Arabs would abandon the cause of the Palestinians and side with Israel or remain indifferent to their plight as the Arab-Iran confrontation has a higher strategic priority. Furthermore, most of the Middle Eastern kingdoms are politically, economically and militarily dependent on the West and cannot take positions that run counter to their immediate vested interests.
The support to Israel by the West serves multiple purposes due to their converging interests. Besides, the US is so engrossed with the Chinese rising threat that Palestine is more of a distraction and all it wants is that the conflict does not get out of control.
Another major factor that cannot be overlooked while assessing the Palestine-Israel conflict is the prevalence of prejudice against the Muslims in general at the global level. This applies not only to Christian countries but also countries like India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and many more. It is not surprising that whereas there were large-scale protests and condemnation in several western capitals but the protests were not that significant in these countries.
The Muslim leadership cannot absolve itself of the sharp and continuous decline in their collective voice, which is a consequence of its lagging behind in all critical features that define the progressive countries of the world today. Whether it be education, health or in the field of science and technology, or manufacturing civil or military hard or software, the Muslim countries with a few exceptions are heavily leaning on the US or China or Russia. Perhaps their decline is another reason for the world to exploit them so easily.
According to Nicholas Kristof, a highly respected journalist of The New York Times, Netanyahu, by being able to get support from evangelical Christians and to an extent from American Jews, has strengthened his hard line against Palestinians. It is nothing short of acute discrimination if not apartheid, if we dispassionately examine the treatment meted out to the Palestinians in the occupied territories. They are denied their fundamental rights in their own country. They are denied their right to vote, their lands are forcibly usurped and given away to Jewish settlers. In short it is the cruelest form of colonisation. And the other dark side of this saga is that seldom do the western or Muslim countries, apart from a few exceptions, speak up and raise their concern. Unfortunately, the animosity of certain Arab rulers for Iran far outweighs their interests in Palestine. It seems that the Arab kingdoms consider Palestine a lost cause and a fait accompli. The divide within the Muslim countries is a blessing for Israel. The civil war in Syria and its adversarial relations with Saudi Arabia, the Shia-Sunni divide in Iraq and the Yemen civil war are pulling down these already battered countries and allowing Israel to dominate the region and deal with each of them individually. Iran does stand up against Israel and has been the main supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah. But the country is presently constrained by severe international sanctions and its adversarial relations with the US and Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan and Turkey have raised voice against Israel’s aggression at the UNSC and other international forums but much more is needed to rescue and support the beleaguered Palestinians. Israel having inflicted severe damage on Gaza it would take years to recover and rebuild so an uneasy calm is likely to prevail. The question is: should this cycle of violence, followed by a lull, make the world shift its attention away from it until the next round with more fatalities and greater misery for the Palestinians?
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2021.