The latest deaths of innocent Palestinian protesters, who had gathered along the Israel-Gaza border for the ‘Great Return March’, at the hands of Israeli forces is condemnable. Thousands of protesters, demanding the return of millions of displaced Palestinians and their descendants to their homes, were targeted with the same brutality that Israel always displays when it attempts to quell Palestinian resistance – even if it is peaceful.
As usual, Israel has blamed Hamas for planning to launch attacks inside Israel under the garb of a peaceful protest. The first casualty was a Palestinian farmer who was tending to his lands when he was struck by Israeli shells. After killing at least 15 Palestinians and injuring another 773 people, Israel has now threatened to take the offensive into Gaza. It is highly likely that the beleaguered 140 square kilometre strip of Gaza, that is blockaded from all sides and where human life is dependent on the outside, is already preparing for the attack.
The last Israeli offensive in Gaza, in 2014, had resulted in more than 2,000 civilian deaths. In 2008, Israel not only bombed but also used white phosphorous – an internationally prohibited weapon – on children in Gaza. The matter was brought to the world’s attention but Israel was neither reprimanded by the US nor sanctioned by the UNSC. Israel once again got away with its record of war crimes as it has since its inception – more so over the past two decades.
Thus, settlements continue to be built with impunity and Palestinian children keep getting imprisoned for throwing small stones with their bare hands at Israeli soldiers. The brave 17-year old Ahed Tamimi is only one such individual – recently sentenced to eight months in prison for standing up to an Israeli soldier. This is how hellish the situation is for Palestinians.
An occupying ‘democratic’ state is busy swallowing their lands, squeezing them out of their homes, imprisoning, killing and starving thousands of them. And all of this goes on while the international community busies itself in reliving cold war politics, poisoning former spies, expelling diplomats and indulging in meaningless assertions of authority calling out for states to respect each other and the law as part of the civilised world order.
Civilised is one word that must be dropped from the jargon. It is a naked, brutal power play, in which it is always the strongest that stands to win. The military and economic prowess of aspiring hegemons is only feasible if they forge the right alliances. The erstwhile global power, the US, despite visibly struggling to maintain its superpower status, is loath to realise that its hold on international politics is diminishing. The US continues to spout the necessity of maintaining world order while reiterating its championship of human rights and respect of international law. Indeed, this would be tantamount to the darkest comedy show ever conceived in the modern world history had it not been for the blood and suffering the US has caused for thousands.
Even as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an independent and transparent investigation into the Gaza violence, it is hardly a deterrent to quell further outbreak. Hamas might be the black card but young men burning tyres and throwing stones is not reason enough to start shooting. More troubling is the threat of escalation that looms large. Another war might not bother Israel. In fact, it might be a good distraction for Netanyahu to escape the graft investigation underway against him, but this would mean further miseries for the Palestinians. Moreover, it reiterates the impotence of the great powers in resolving that one Midle Eastern conflict which is the source of all instability in the region.
It is also true that every meaningful protest is buried beneath the rubble of ‘terrorist attacks’ by Hamas, and Israel’s paranoia of an imaginary existential threat. The question of Palestinians’ return is a major factor that threatens the existence of the Israeli state. Where on earth would Israel accommodate these Palestinians when it is itself clamouring to wrest every inch of land from the ones already residing in areas where it is building its settlement colonies?
Israel’s fears have compounded the situation; the very situation that Israel forces to avert will one day be forced upon it for refusing to accept a two-state solution. The country will have to return the Palestinian land forcibly occupied over the years. Also, the status of Jerusalem disputed by both sides is another huge obstacle in the way of resolving the conflict.
More unfortunate is the reticence of the Muslim world to force a workable plan towards peace. So much for the futile OIC statements and the aid donated to the Palestinians; genuine help means putting sustained political pressure on all stakeholders to resolve the crisis. So much for the decades and lives lost and spirits broken. How much more suffering must the Palestinians undertake to be able to live with dignity in their own homeland?
The writer is a former deputy opinion editor at Gulf News, Dubai.