Saturday, January 10, 2009

Israel-Palestine Conflict

Hamas, the extremist Palestinian organisation which rules the Gaza Strip has brought untold miseries to the 1.5 million people residing there. The Hamas had been attacking Israeli areas near Gaza with rockets after the ceasefire between the two sides ended abruptly recently. Few Israelis were killed when they were hit by Hamas-fired rockets. But the thoughtless Hamas action, which though came because of Israel’s tormenting activities against the Palestinians in the Gaza and West Bank areas, created the situation Israel had been looking for. Thus, it launched a massive army operation, killing more than 300 Palestinians since then. The Israeli drive, as it has announced, will continue till international uproar forces it to halt its show of military might against an impoverished people.
Israeli Aggression
It is a fact that Israel is ruthless when it comes to killing Palestinians, as it has shown yet again. It is the least bothered about the international condemnation of its use of force on such a large scale. Israel knows that the demonstration all over West Asia and calls for an end to the shelling of Gaza by the United Nations, the European Union, Egypt, Russia, China and some other countries have no meaning so long as the US is its protector. The US is content with saying that “We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold the Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there.” The US is not perturbed over the Israeli overreaction, which cannot be justified irrespective of what the Hamas has been doing for some time.
The ongoing Israeli attacks have not only jeopardised the Israel-Palestinian Peace Treaty of November 2007 but have also created serious concern among the security and military intelligence throughout the region. The conflict has caused heavy casualties on both sides. In 2005, more than 200 Palestinians died while 1,250 were injured. This rose to 1,289 and 6,290 by the end of 2007. Similarly, the casualties among Israelis rose from 48 dead and over 400 injured in 2005 to 86 dead and more than 1,100 injured in 2007. Any effort to get international support--especially from the Islamic countries by giving the struggle a common colour—can turn the region into a battlefield.
To understand why Israel is politically and morally wrong in the present conflict, one need to go back as far as its 1967 invasion and occupation of Palestinian territory, which is an original sin that has yet to be reversed despite the UN resolutions and more than a decade of the West Asia Peace Process. The events of the past few years—the failure to accept the victory of Hamas in a democratic election, the inhuman blockade, frequent air strikes, and the expedient violations of the ceasefire—provide sufficient grounds to condemn Israel for the tragedy that is under way today in the glorified penal colony claimed the lives of more than 300 men, women and children.
Role of the US
The present crisis is one of that shows up all three main players in the Israel-Palestine conflict—the Palestinian leadership, Israel and the US in poor light. The two major parties of Palestine—Hamas and Fatah—have been at loggerheads and that has not helped the very cause of the Palestinian people.
The US hands-off policy towards the issue during the last two tenures of President George W. Bush has played a negative role in deepening the crisis. President Bush made Iraq the centerpiece of its West Asia policy, convinced that the removal of Saddam Hussein would miraculously set in order all troubled houses in the vicinity. The bloody consequences of such short-sightedness are there for everyone to see today. Instead of pumping billions of dollars on all ill-conceived war, the US would have done well to bolster the moderate elements in Palestine to help them gain credibility against the extremists as well as given them status while dealing with Israel.
International Reactions
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon referred to Israel’s disproportionate response to Kassam rockets calling for immediate halt to the escalating violence in the region. The European Union called for a new ceasefire; Amr Moussa of the Arab League largely contented himself with describing the tragedy as a “major humanitarian crisis” while Syria was the only one to talk about “the barbaric Israeli aggression” in tow with Iran’s strong condemnation. The Vatican contented itself with the Talmudic comment: “Hamas is a prisoner to a logic of hate, Israel to a logic of faith in force as the best response to hate”. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas , who belongs to the Fatah faction, condemned the attack, calling for restraint. But the leader Khaled Meshal, who is in exile in Damascus, called for a third intefada against Israel, despite the second uprising giving the handle to Israel to destroy Palestinian infrastructure and sequester Yasser Arafat in his battered headquarters until his death.
The question arises: “Where do Israel, Palestinians and the world go from here?” No one will give second thoughts to the UN Security Council calling for an end to all violence in Gaza, including rocket attacks. In view of the hold Israel has on the US policy, the UN has never been a major player in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It was a measure of American success in getting a carte blanche in pursuing its pro-Israel policies that it was instrumental in forming a Quartet of the European Union, the UN, Russia and itself whose task it has been to rubberstamp the US approach to Israel and the Palestinians.
The truth is that both the US and Israel want to remind the Palestinians in Gaza that their fate cannot be better than what it is if they remain the supporters of the Hamas, which Washington has declared a terrorist organisation. The Hamas came to power in Gaza defeating the Fatah group. This, however, cannot help establish peace in West Asia. Killing innocent people in the name of punishing uncooperative rulers will further complicate the crisis in what volatile region.
Peace is, indeed, a rare commodity in what the US calls the Greater Middle East. By hitting Gaza hard Israel has further complicated, rather than helped resolve, the seminal conflict of the region: the occupation of Palestinian land and the banishment of many Palestinians from it.

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