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Israel, on the wrong side of history

The longstanding Israel-Palestine issue is finally seeing a shift in global opinion

By Nizamuddin Siddiqui |
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PUBLISHED June 16, 2024

Right since Israel’s independence in 1948, Israeli leaders have been riding roughshod over Palestinians. In the last 76 years — with the possible exception of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who signed the Oslo Accord on the lawns of White House in 1993 alongside Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat — all the Israeli leaders committed atrocities against Palestinians. They even committed war crimes and crimes against humanity if you believe what accomplished writers Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Norman Finkelstein, Arundhati Roy and our own Faiz Ahmed Faiz believed.

However, despite the best efforts of the above writers, plus those of Israeli authors like Ilan Pappe, Gideon Levy, and above all Shlomo Sand (who wrote a couple of eye-opening books about the origins of Jews), an overwhelming majority of people in the western world had largely been blind to the untold misery and devastation visited upon Palestinians on a daily basis. Jews who occupied high positions in European and American governments; pro-Israel and anti-Muslim politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats; and the biased and prejudiced western media took part in effectively keeping their people in the dark vis-à-vis the truth about the Palestinian question. But that fortunately is changing now.

Tragically, the events that have served to bring about the much-needed change are the Hamas attacks of Oct 7 and the lopsided war the Israeli forces subsequently unleashed on the people of occupied Gaza. Many analysts believe Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu fears that once he agrees to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, his rightwing and extremist government will be ousted from power corridors. That’s why he is prolonging the war.

However, there’s a catch for Netanyahu; the longer this war continues in the manner it has been prosecuted so far, the more the world population will become disgusted with his policies. In the wake of Oct 7 attacks, his government could have spared the general population of Gaza from their current ordeal and gone only after the Hamas leadership and their foot soldiers. From a legal standpoint, Gaza Strip is not an enemy country but one of the territories languishing under Israeli occupation.

(One does not describe the Hamas attacks of Oct 7 as “terrorist assaults” but rather as “acts of resistance” that any occupied nation is expected to carry out from time to time against the occupiers. So, one terms them “violent extremist attacks”). Now, pray tell one; do countries begin annihilating an entire district or province under their occupation whenever a “resistance group” carries out a “violent extremist attack”? Have you seen anything like this happening even in occupied Kashmir?

In response to violent extremist attacks, countries normally resort to a police action, not to a months-long war against an entire ethnic group languishing under occupation. But soon after the Hamas attacks, senior Israeli officials made it clear that they intended to perpetrate, and thus perpetuate, a collective punishment of all Palestinians. To the horror of unbiased analysts across the world, the western powers generally did not object to those wrong policies; rather they began supporting them. Hence, they largely kept mum when Gazans collectively were deprived of water, food, electricity and fuel in the initial stages of the war.

One reason for their silence was their old habit of acquiescing to whatever Israeli governments dished out in such situations. The other reason was the systematic demonisation of the Muslims as “anti-Semites”, “terrorists” and “Holocaust deniers” over the last five decades or so. Yet another reason was the unquestionable support the Biden administration has been extending to the Netanyahu government in this war. Governments like that of the UK, which is often pilloried by the British media as America’s poodle, often go along with whatever the US presidents decide.

However, the tide of public opinion began to turn in the last month of last year when South Africa moved the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ), urging it to stop Israeli government from committing what it called genocide against Gazans. In its case (officially called the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip) South Africa claimed that Israeli forces were committing genocide in the occupied territory and violating the Genocide Convention. The African country exhorted the court to “indicate provisional measures including the immediate suspension of Israel’s military operations”.

Public hearings were held in the case on January 11-12 at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Subsequently, the court ordered Israel to take all measures aimed to prevent any acts contrary to the 1948 Genocide Convention, but did not specifically ask Israel to suspend its operations. It also expressed concerns over the fate of Jewish hostages held in Gaza. In late February, the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International pointed out that Israel had not complied with the ICJ’s provisional measures. Then in May, by 13 votes to two, the court ordered an immediate halt to Israel’s offensive in Rafah. While there was a consensus among legal experts that the order required Israel to halt its campaign immediately, Israel rejected this position and continued with its offensive operations.

To many members of the public, the unprecedented case against Israel and the Zionist state’s continued refusal to listen to what the UN court had to say must have confirmed their worst suspicions about it. Resultantly, the Jewish state has lost so much diplomatic ground since the beginning of the Gaza War that Spain announced recently it would join South Africa in the “genocide case” before ICJ.

Speaking of Spain, it is among the four European countries that announced only a few weeks ago their decision to recognise the State of Palestine, which was proclaimed back in 1988 by Yasser Arafat. The other three countries are Ireland, Norway and Slovenia. In view of the ongoing atrocities in Gaza, these countries have simply ditched the viewpoint held by most western countries that the State of Palestine should be recognised only after a negotiated settlement with Israel.

The welcome move by the four countries means a total of 146 countries, out of the 193 UN member states, now recognise a Palestinian state. They include most Middle Eastern, African, Latin American and Asian countries, but not the US, the UK, Canada, most countries of western Europe, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

In another indication that Israeli atrocities against Palestinians are no longer being swept under the rug, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, recently submitted an application to the court for issuance of arrest warrants against the Israeli prime minister, his defense minister and two senior leaders of Hamas for the violent actions committed by the two sides on or after Oct 7. Although several international bodies have sought measures against senior officials of Hamas in the past as well, an application for the arrest of an Israeli prime minister and a defense minister is a novelty.

Meanwhile, although the relentless killing and maiming by the Israeli military of the children and women of Gaza in the last eight months were enough to convince people of the ghastly excesses committed against the Palestinians, unveiling of the true face of Netanyahu and his extremist government could not have been possible without the invaluable work put in by the likes of Journalists Mehdi Hassan and Gideon Levy, Authors Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein, and social media stars Bassem Youssef and Mohammed Hijab. Through sheer hard work and ingenuity these articulate professionals proceeded to turn the tables on even hostile and pro-Israel interviewers and anchors. They prevailed in the debates they featured in on the strength of their arguments and not through negative tactics on their part.

In an indication that UN’s patience over Israel’s behaviour towards Palestinians has grown really thin, the world body recently added Israeli military, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wing to its list of offenders for violating children’s rights. (Palestinian resistance groups that are routinely described as “terrorist groups” in the West have been included in such lists in the past as well but this is a first for Israel. According to the BBC, the listing made in the annual Children in Armed Conflict report is meant to shame parties so that they commit to measures outlined by the UN to protect children.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said the conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups has led to grave violations on an unprecedented scale and intensity, notably in Gaza. “Children bore the brunt of multiplying and escalating crises that were marked by a complete disregard for child rights, notably the inherent right to life,” the report adds.

Let one conclude with a sobering thought. Neither the war in Gaza nor the “struggle” in the western media have ended. Please note also that the “successes” mentioned above would not have been possible without the jurists from South Africa and a handful of Jewish historians who oppose the Zionist mindset. What’s worrying is that while Iran and Yemen have firmly sided with the Palestinian resistance groups, most Arab governments have not done much to force Israel to end atrocities in the region.

It’s true that as compared to the past seven decades it’s far easier today for various peoples across the globe to follow what’s actually happening in the occupied Israeli territories, provided they choose the right mainstream and social media channels. And western countries like Ireland and Spain have sort of made the Palestinian cause their own. However, that’s hardly a cause for celebration because at least 70,000 Palestinian lives have already been lost in the ongoing war in Gaza, 60 per cent of the housing stock of Gaza destroyed, and almost all the healthcare centres there have been razed to the ground. But having said that, we can feel satisfied that at long last the true face of Israel and its government is being exposed before the whole world. The word is getting around.

FOOTNOTE: Muslims across the globe have been losing debates in the public space simply because we didn’t have competent people before who could engineer a strong enough “pushback” in the western media. We have sort of managed to remove that deficiency (with the help of some Israeli experts) when it comes to the question of Palestine. But what about Kashmir? That’s a point to ponder, isn’t it?


Nizamuddin Siddiqui is an author and teaches journalism at the Hamdard University, Karachi

All facts and information are the sole responsibility of the writer