Unending massacre in Gaza

The disgusting levels of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that have risen since the offensive began do not help anybody.

Editorial July 27, 2014

After the ‘Day of Rage’ observed internationally on July 25, the violence inevitably spread through the West Bank, as 6 Palestinians were killed in clashes with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Till Saturday, 856 Palestinians and 40 Israelis have lost their lives. Ever since Israel’s ground offensive, ostensibly to destroy the myriad tunnels (along with basic supplies medicine and petrol, the tunnels have been used to funnel and transport weapons and rockets to Hamas) that lead out of Gaza, the death toll has dramatically escalated, and risks spiralling out of control as the Israel’s offensive shows no sign of ending.

On July 25, the latest ceasefire proposal, pushed forth this time by the United States, was rejected by Israel, prompting American Secretary of State John Kerry to go to Paris to meet his Qatari and Turkish counterparts — seen as being partial to Hamas — to draft yet another proposal. While we have seen this violence occur every few years — 2012 and 2008 before that — what has been different this time round is the allegiances. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s traditional ally and benefactor, has been on the run. Ever since General Sisi’s coup in Egypt, a domestic crackdown on the Brotherhood has resulted in Egypt being almost as hostile to Hamas as Israel has. Turkey, previously seen as the go-to mediator for any conflict in the Middle East, has seen its foreign policy turn in on itself. Rocky relations with Israel ever since Israeli troops stormed a Turkish flotilla in 2010 has meant that Israel — and by extension, the United States — has been on keeping Turkey’s role as a mediator to a minimum. Qatar, also suspected to be close to the Brotherhood, faces a similar problem. While on the other side, the United States is hardly be trusted to be a ‘neutral observer’. Hence, because regional powers have an interest in one party ‘winning’, the need to end the conflict as soon as possible is not as urgent.

‘Winning’ for either side in this case, is a next-to-impossible notion. No matter how many bombs Israel pounds Gaza with, hostility will not end. For Hamas, cynically, the high death toll has worked in its favour, allowing people both in the West Bank and internationally, to sympathise with it. Yet, it is unpopular with its own people given that it has abjectly failed to provide any services, development or jobs to the besieged people of Gaza. Most polls predict that if elections were to take place in Gaza today, people would choose Fatah over Hamas. Having lost its strongest ally in Egypt, Hamas is also more isolated than ever. Reports of using human shields and hiding rockets in UN schools haven’t helped either.

In fact, there are no winners in this conflict, only losers: the Gazans more than anybody else. Even during peacetime, life in Gaza is appalling. No one can come in, and no one can go out. Gaza’s economy has imploded, since goods can neither be imported nor exported. More than half its working population is unemployed. Its water supply has slowed down to a trickle. There’s sewage in the streets. Once the bombings started, IDF has been keen to tell everyone that they have issued warning calls telling residents to evacuate. The questions Gazans have been asking themselves is: evacuate to where? 1.8 million people live in the world’s largest open-air prison. There is no escape.

The international community can do a lot more than it has thus far. The Arab League has largely remained criminally silent; so has much of Europe. Both have acted in varying capacities as mediators before, and they should try to do so again. At the same time, criticism towards either side ought to be kept civil. The disgusting levels of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that have risen since the offensive began do not help anybody.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2014.

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Syed Inamul Hasan Mohani | 9 years ago | Reply

Yes. I agree with the writer. Hammas, at the very first opportunity, must attach top priority to building bomb shelters to save lives of innocent Palestinians Secondly they must consider timely salary payments to the affectees. Hammas Leaders should be very mindful of the fact that they are under vigilant scrutiny from their people.

Solomon2 | 9 years ago | Reply

"...Why Gaza does not have bomb shelter? Hamas took control of Gaza Strip in 2005 following Israeli withdrawal. However, hostilities never ended. In one of the conflicts around 1,500 Palestinians lost their lives and the Israeli side sustained few casualties. Undoubtedly, Israel is militarily powerful than Hamas. Had Hamas built bomb shelters, the causalities would have been reduced. It seems Hamas does not pay much attention to the number of dead Palestinians. Hamas is not gaining anything by locking horns with Israel...why Hamas was successful in spreading a sophisticated network of tunnels and fail to build simple bomb shelters if they knew there would be armed conflicts? Is Hamas willing to sacrifice Palestinians to get more Arab and foreign financial aid and what is more, does Hamas receive orders from abroad...Leaders of Hamas are now under more scrutiny from their people. Hamas leaders are jet setters. They travel high class, stay at the best hotels and eat the best food but their people are not paid their salaries on time and what is worse is that they are always under constant pressure from Hamas rule and the Israeli missiles. And Hamas did not even think of building bomb shelters. So, is Hamas looking for more innocent Palestinian casualties to gain more sympathy from the outside world?...the assets of Hamas could have been utilized to educate the Palestinian youths. But if Hamas really wanted an armed conflict, then they should have at least built some bomb shelters for the poor innocent Palestinians. Most of them don’t want this armed conflict. "

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, July 16, 2014
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