Palestine bleeds and bleeds again. After three days of truce, which began on Tuesday (5th August, 2014), Israel resumed aerial bombing this morning on Gaza, a small enclave of Palestine, and Hamas resumed the mockery of rocket attack on Israel. Israel uses this home-made rocket attack by Hamas as an excuse to attack Gaza by the most sophisticated fighter planes.
This Palestine-Israeli conflict is the fourth one in the last ten years and is the longest one. This particular conflict had been raging, on and off, for nearly a month now and after a pause of three days, it had begun this morning in earnest again with no prospect of ending very soon. Israel said two days ago that it had withdrawn its troops from Gaza across the demilitarised zone to Israeli territory. But the sword of Damocles remained hung over the head of Hamas leadership that should it dare to fire any rocket towards Israel again, then Israel would return with overwhelming force. Now Hamas militias as well as Gazans are being targeted and killed at will as sitting ducks by Israelis!
Although in the media, it is dubbed as a war between Israel and Palestine, it is anything but war. Whereas Israel is armed with the most sophisticated weaponry supplied by America and other Western powers, the tiny enclave of Palestine has no army, no navy, no air force, no heavy weapons and the whole territory had been under strict Israeli blockade for the past seven years. So, how can this be called a war? Is it not a naked aggression by the most modern army against unarmed, defenceless people? Only retaliation that Hamas can muster is firing some rudimentary rockets which can go only few miles and in any case they are intercepted by Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile defence system. Only three Israeli civilians had been killed by these rockets and another 64 Israeli soldiers died in ground attack, whereas Israeli bombs and tank shells killed over 1900 Palestinians and rising all the time and injured more than 10,000 people. The large fraction, nearly 85 per cent, of Palestinian casualty is civilian. The casualty figure gives an overall picture of relative powers of Israel against the non-existent power of the Palestine.
How did this conflagration flare up between Hamas, the paramilitary force in Gaza, and Israel, by far the most powerful nation in the Middle East? It is nothing other than a well-engineered and well-chosen fight by Israel to finish off Hamas. Nearly two months ago, three Israeli teenagers had been abducted while returning from the West Bank and subsequently found dead in one of the Israeli settlements. Israel immediately blamed Hamas for this heinous act, but Hamas denied vehemently being behind the killing. To make things even worse, one Palestinian teenager had been abducted and killed by Jewish thugs in revenge. Without waiting for the investigation of these tit for tat killings, Israel took punitive action in attacking Hamas offices, government buildings and killed a number of Hamas officials. Hamas in retaliation fired some home-made rockets towards Israel. However, situation could have calmed down, but Israel ratcheted it up by flooding Gaza with Israeli soldiers to round up hundreds of Hamas activists. Hamas in retaliation fired more rockets towards Israeli towns and villages. This gave Israel an excuse to invade Gaza with overwhelming force under the pretext of self-defence and killed hundreds of Gazans. (It may be noted that a week or so later after the start of hostility, when investigation was completed, even Israel admitted that it was not Hamas but some rogue elements which abducted and killed the Israeli teenagers).
So, why did Israel deliberately stoke up the hostility at this point? To get an accurate and meaningful answer, one has to look at the geo-political situation in the Middle East as it exists today. Hamas is a militia force aligned to Sunni sect of Islam and an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood. Notwithstanding this aspect, previously both Syria and Iran used to give significant financial and military assistance to Hamas to fight their common enemy – Israel. But when Hamas sided with the Sunni-led rebels against Alawite Bashar al-Assad of Syria and its backer, Iran, they turned the tap off. Hamas was left weakened. But the fatal blow came when Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown over a year ago by Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, all the material, financial and political backing for Hamas disappeared overnight. Not only that, al-Sisi considers Hamas as a terrorist organisation as it supported Morsi and instigated uprising in Egypt against al-Sisi. Also no money from Saudi Arabia comes to Hamas as Saudi Arabia supports al-Sisi. (Middle East politics is very treacherous and mind-boggling affair). The end result is that Hamas has been left very weakened and vulnerable.
Israel realised Hamas’ predicament and vulnerability. But Israel has to keep an eye on America also. American situation also favoured Israel, as Barack Obama is effectively a lame duck President in the last couple of years of presidency. In any case, the Jewish lobby and Zionist influence is now so strong in America that any misbehaving President can be well tackled politically. With everything going for Israel, it should not waste this opportunity to give a fatal blow to Hamas, when the opportunity has arisen. This was the thinking on the Israeli side.
What Hamas has got in its favour? Not a lot. Militarily it is no match at all to Israel. Financially it is close to bankruptcy; only financial assistance is from Qatar to run administration in Gaza. Political backing from Egypt has completely disappeared. In fact, Egypt is as much its enemy now as Israel always was. In desperation, Hamas came to some sort of political reconciliation with Fatah, which runs the occupied West Bank in the guise of Palestinian Authority (PA). However, only thing Hamas could reliably depend on is the public sympathy of the world when innocent civilians are expected to be seen suffering inhumanely under the onslaught of Israeli aggression. This is a despicable strategy that Hamas must have envisaged..
The Gazans and the Palestinians as a whole are very resilient people. For the past seven years Gazans had been living under the most oppressive and hostile environment imposed by Israel. It is said that Gaza is the world’s largest open-air prison. Gaza is strangulated on all four sides by hostile forces – two sides having land borders with Israel have solid fences followed by demilitarised zones, Mediterranean border is blocked by Israeli navy and the fourth side bordering on Egypt is completely fenced off. No wonder, Gazans found that only way they can escape from this prison is by digging underground tunnels into somewhere where they can feel free.
The plight of the Palestinian people is extremely unfortunate and heart breaking. Unfortunate because when the United Nations on 29 November 1947 passed a plan for two States in Palestine – one State for the Jews comprising 52 per cent of land and the other State for Palestinians having 48 per cent and with Jerusalem being the shared capital – the Zionists accepted it and the Arabs rejected it. On 14th May, 1948 the Zionists announced the formation of a Jewish State and called it Israel. The Zionists had at least 40,000 well trained militias who started terrorising Arabs and capturing and annexing their land. Over the years since then, it is an unremitting fascist story of forcible occupation of land from the Palestinian Arabs and the Arabs could do nothing. Five wars that Arabs fought against Israel – 1948-49 war; 1956 war; 1967 war; 1973-74 war (the Yom Kippur war) and the 1982 war – all ended in the defeat of the Arabs.
It may be that the Western countries helped Israel in those wars. But credit must also be given to Israel that she cultivated fruitful relationship with the West such that the West came to their assistance at the time of her need. Such beneficial relationship does not grow out of nothing. It is a sum total of political, technical, cultural and other issues merging together between the West and Israel and, at the same time, the discord of Arab culture and attitude from the West. Putting these two aspects together, one can easily get the feel why West always favour Israel over Arabs.
While considering the imbalance of power between Israel and the collective power of the Arabs, one may also note the demographic difference. There are only about seven million Jews in Israel and there are nearly 400 million Muslims surrounding it, from Yemen to Iran to Turkey. Even with this vast demographic advantage and with enormous amount of petro-dollars of the Muslim countries, the Muslims are no match to Israel – either in science and technology; or in arts and literature; or in medicine or genetics and so forth. This should be a serious issue for the Muslims to contemplate. What is it that is lacking in Muslims which leave them lagging behind other peoples of the modern world?
A Rahman is an author and a columnist.