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May 19, 2021

After the carnage?

As Israel continues to relentlessly bomb Palestinian homes for the second week across the nominally independent Gaza strip, the immediate fallout from the ongoing carnage hardly matters.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, till recently surrounded by accusations of corruption, may draw comfort from the ongoing bloodshed having provided a timely diversion away from the troubles surrounding his controversial rule.

Yet he and other Israelis must recognize that the seeds of conflict now being firmly sowed once again will deepen hatred among not just Palestinians for the foreseeable future. Elsewhere too across the Islamic world in general, the ongoing conflict has only once again intensified hatred towards Israel.

As the number of Palestinian casualties rapidly pile, the determination by Palestinians, notably younger ones, to beat the odds will only grow with time. A new generation of Palestinians coming out of a series of conflicts including the ongoing one will be armed with hardened opinions against Israel.

For more than five decades, the Palestinians have suffered under an unending Israeli push to deprive them of their rights. The condition of the Palestinians even before the latest carnage was dismal. Some rightfully termed their communities in Gaza and the West Bank under Israeli occupation as living under a system of apartheid unleashed by the Zionist state. For students of history, the transition in South Africa from a tightly enforced apartheid to the hard-earned freedom under the leadership of the late Nelson Mandela must serve as a useful and timely lesson. A day must inevitably come sooner or later when the Palestinians living under the deprivation of today will find themselves unshackled from the cruelty that surrounds them all around

For the moment, Israel has been driven to disregard global opinion mainly with generous military and economic assistance from the United States amounting to a staggering $4 billion annually. More importantly, Washington continues to blindly back Israel for its actions without seeking compliance with even the least acceptable global standards of humanitarian behavior.

But the blind pursuit of Israel’s supremacy in its surrounding region will eventually further harden anti-Israel and anti-US feelings across the Middle East.

For Israel, the pursuit of normalized ties with the Arab world till recently proved an emerging success story, as Tel Aviv established diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. At the time, it seemed like a success story at par with Israel’s earlier revival of ties with Egypt and Jordan. But across the Arab world and other Muslim world, governments will have to now think twice before considering normalized ties with the Zionist state.

Meanwhile, the defiance shown by Hamas against Israel has only lifted its position on the streets across the Middle East and possibly elsewhere across the Islamic world. For policymakers, a non-state actor gaining respectability may indeed become a potentially dangerous idea earning popular traction.

Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Islamic Jihad and Hamas together represent groups which have gained popularity over time for standing up to Israel. Their popular image stands in sharp contrast to the way the US has labeled them as terrorist outfits and slapped them with punitive measures. Yet, given Washington’s one-sided backing of Israel and its disregard for innocent civilian casualties, the US view of these non-state groups will be overshadowed by popular opinion across the Middle East.

Meanwhile, further afield the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is already viewed in many parts of the Islamic world as more of a retreat with some humiliation. In contrast, the Taliban who were once seen by many Western officials as no more than an ill equipped ragtag militia, have scored a series of victories on the battlefield and appear poised to become a significant partner in a future ruling coalition, at the very least. The ascendancy of the Taliban has once again highlighted the emergence of a non-state actor in the face of the world’s best equipped military force.

For now, Netanyahu and Israel’s American backers may choose to ignore calls for an immediate end to the killings of innocent Palestinians. But in doing so, they must recognize that they are standing on the wrong side of history. The carnage of Palestinians today will sooner or later force trends in their favour.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist who writes on political and economic affairs.

Email: [email protected]