Whether or not there is a ceasefire, Israel wants to continue the massacre in Gaza. Of course, there is the excuse/justification that Israel is simply exercising its right of ‘self-defence’ against incoming rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas and other associated groups. But there are only two Israeli civilians killed by rocket firing, while the Israeli bombing, at the time of writing, has killed over 1,800 Palestinians (and rising). And 80 percent of those killed are civilians, many of them women and children. In other words, Israel is using the civilian population as ransom to crush the resistance movement spearheaded by Hamas. Undoubtedly, most Palestinians share the aspiration to become masters in their own homeland. Who would not when their territory is besieged from all sides and the people are confined to a vast prison-like existence with all movements of humans and goods dependent on Israel’s mercy? There is no hope in hell of any redemption, unless the world wakes up to Palestinian misery. By and large, the Arab world and the larger international community have abandoned the Palestinians. This is what Israel wants. Every time it pounds the Palestinians in Gaza and/or the West Bank, its narrative presents itself as the victim and much of the world seems to buy it.
What is this narrative? Essentially, it preys on the holocaust visited on the Jews and other pogroms they were subjected to when they lived in Europe. The stereotypes created about them, reproduced also in the US, have been a part of mainstream European literature and culture. Its culmination by way of a final solution under the Nazis, and European and American indifference to their plight, finally persuaded these countries to salvage their conscience by creating a ‘homeland’ for these people. And since the Zionist movement wanted to reclaim their homeland in Palestine, it did not seem a difficult proposition as the Palestinians were among the most powerless people in the world. This would explain why the creation of the state of Israel got the stamp of approval from the UN Security Council. Against this backdrop of victimhood in which, incidentally, the Palestinians had no role to play, the state of Israel emerged as a ‘heroic’ tale of a people managing to return to their ‘lost’ land. And when this story had supporters among almost all members of the Security Council, it was not difficult to see how it became an acceptable narrative.
The problem, though, was that the people of Palestine did not want to be displaced and replaced from where their forefathers had lived forever. They, therefore, put up strong resistance and their consequent struggle, backed by some of the Arab countries, only resulted in greater misery. Israel, created and nurtured with US support, money and weaponry, proved too powerful for the Arab coalition. And in the six days war of 1967, Israel exponentially expanded its occupied territory, leading its defence minister, Moshe Dayan, to declare that Israel was now an empire. Since then, the basic fact that Israel is an occupying power acting at will and constantly altering ground realities, is a constant.
Notwithstanding the Oslo Agreement of 1993, creating a framework for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian issue, and subsequent efforts in that direction, the most recent one by John Kerry (whom the Israeli government found so annoying), Israel simply does not want a political solution that will accommodate Palestinian aspirations. The entire facade over the years of a political solution is a gimmick to drag on the process to a point where it becomes pointless and fruitless. Israel wants total capitulation with the acceptance of an even deeper state of apartheid than exists today. Better still, they would like to make the Palestinians’ existence so miserable that they would just exit their homeland like many did before.
Just look at what they are doing to Gaza. Gaza is a vast open air prison with its 1.8 million people kept like prison inmates, surrounded on all sides by Israel. Some Israelis have, at times, urged that it be reduced to the Stone Age or simply flattened. And, at best, its residents should be kept at a bare subsistence level to keep them occupied with their sheer survival. However, the problem is that, despite periodical flattening of parts of their territory and mass murder of their people through Israeli bombing and missile attacks, they still have not submitted to Israeli terror. Egypt sought to bring about a ceasefire on Israeli terms, which amounts to total surrender on Gaza’s part. In essence, it would mean the demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip under Israeli control.
Hamas has not been willing to go so easily and has kept up its barrage of rockets falling in Israel but without causing any real damage while Israeli bombing is killing people on an industrial scale. Watching women and children in the throes of despair is heartrending. Netanyahu reportedly described them as the “telegenic corpses” of the Palestinian children. How sick! The Israeli narrative, however grotesque and cruel, still is that they are bombing and killing Gazans as a defensive measure. And that is not the end of it. Its ground invasion is intended to destroy, according to Israel, the network of tunnels that are, in some ways, Gaza’s alternative lifeline. Israel wants to destroy the entire infrastructure that makes Hamas continue its resistance.
And Egypt under Sisi, like his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, is facilitating this task with even greater enthusiasm. Some of its journalists, working for the state-controlled media, reportedly are even appreciative of Israeli efforts to eliminate Hamas. Indeed, the defeating silence of the Arab world on the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip is a sad reflection on its state of affairs in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies have no love lost for Hamas, regarded as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. This, in turn, has been banned as a terrorist organisation in Egypt, with its entire leadership in prison and many of them sentenced to death or long prison sentences. Saudi Arabia is right behind the Sisi regime in its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Against this backdrop of politicking within the Arab world targeting the Muslim Brotherhood, it is not entirely surprising that Hamas finds itself so isolated. Israel is getting away with murder and mayhem. Still, Israeli forces might find the going hard to pacify the Gaza Strip as even the inveterate Israeli warhorse Ariel Sharon found when he finally withdrew Israeli occupation and settlements from there.
During a conversation at a‘soiree’ I attended in Lahore a few months ago, I mentioned ...