Dr Syed Farooq Hasnat and Zamurrad Awan

The ongoing Palestinian crisis offers a variety of modules for the readers of conflict studies and colonisation; though the idea of colony is outdated and hardly exists in its classical sense.

The Gaza tragedy sets an example of human rights gross violations and apathy of ‘civilized world’. This Mediterranean enclave, being unarmed and disconnected from its neighbourhood is vulnerable for frequent Israeli inhuman blitzes, which makes it further demeaned.

Gaza, being a surrounded enclave of 365 square kilometers, with 1.82 million Palestinians, is among the most densely populated area of the world. The poverty ridden ‘largest prison without roof’ has been under a constant onslaught of ruthless aggression, ever since 1967, when it was captured by the Israeli army from Egypt.

The latest brutal onslaught started on 8th July 2014, lasting for 50 days of unabated airstrikes, naval bombardment and artillery fire by the Israeli Defence Forces, under the name ‘Protective Edge’ - targeted scores of innocent Palestinians including women, children and disabled people mercilessly, without any distinction of civilians and combats.  The most effected were the babies and small children. The causality list pronounced more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, including 500 children; while 11,000 were seriously wounded.

However, disproportion to the Palestinian casualties, the Israelis suffered only seventy-two. This time, Israeli forces demonstrated American acquired modern and lethal weaponry, which was two times more since 2008. 

The Palestine issue is one of the oldest international and regional conflict, which despite of agreements of ‘Oslo Accord’ 1993 between the Israeli government and the Palestinians, in which it was agreed, that the Middle Eastern peace requires that there should be two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, existing side by side, under a formula of ‘Land for Peace’- with a guarantee of security to the state of Israel, and Israeli occupied land of Gaza and West Bank will belong to an independent Palestinian state.  Despite of that historic breakthrough, Israeli and the Palestinian conflict continues, with Israeli barricade and economic blockade of its worst kind.  It makes Palestinians of both Gaza and the West Bank a virtual colony of the Israelis - the only colony that exists today.

Before the July 2014 onslaught, an attempt was initiated by the American administration in February-March of the same year, to resolve the core of the conflict in the Middle East region, making other hotspots like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon more explosive by its fall-out. The American Secretary of State, John Kerry tried to convince the two sides for a peace agreement to over-come hostilities and aggression against each other. However, this initiative failed without any progress. It is a given fact that whenever a hope for peace was initiated, the Israeli hardliners would resort to ruthless onslaught against the Palestinians, less than one pretext or the other, which in turn would sabotages any peace initiative.  On the other side, the Israelis undermined a reproachma between the Gaza controlled Hamas and Al-Fateh, which is a ruling entity in the West Bank. Just before the Israeli onslaught of July, these two Palestinian groups, agreed in April to form a unity government till time, elections were held in the Palestinian territories, with a chance of ending hostility between the groups, since 2007. It was in fact this unity effort, which became the major cause of the Israeli onslaught, with a clear intension to sabotage the unity of the Palestinians.

The Palestinian conflict has become more complex with each passing year. Even if an agreement is reached in recent times, establishing two sovereign states of the Palestinians living along the state of Israel, still, unless six core disagreements, between the two belligerents remain unresolved, there can be no peace in the area - they are: demarcation of borders, right of the return of Palestinian refugees, status of Jerusalem, security concerns, dismantling of the Jewish settlements and control over water resources. All these issues make the Palestinian Israeli conflict the most complicated and explosive in current history.

The recent Gaza onslaught has six lessons for international community.

1. The first is that if there is commitment and resilience, then a much weaker side can confront, defend and even inflict setbacks on much stronger aggressor. In spite of heavy casualties and destruction of Gaza, the ceasefire of August 26 was conditional. The Israelis were forced to lift the blockade on the narrow Mediterranean coastal strip. Apart from that Hamas rejected the demand to be disarmed, i.e., in lieu of lifting decades old blockade of the Gaza strip. By all accounts Hamas appeared stronger and determined, after the disproportionate war.

2.The second lesson for the international community confirms that Israel is a ruthless state, having no regard for international law and norms, and aims to retain its illegal occupation of the Palestinian land, quoting some doubtful biblical scriptures, since its creation in 1946. To attain this purpose, Israel has carried on with its expansionist settlement policy, building residences and cantonments, on the Palestinian lands, a practice which continues despite repeated complaints by the International community. The United Nations, time and again has declared this act as against the international law. Israel’s current government of Likud Party under the leadership of an extremist Benjamin Netanyahu (with the support of the American Neocons) with frantic leaning has been aversive to the idea of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. The current Israeli leadership is in no mood to accept the status of Palestine as an independent entity, what to talk of a sovereign nation. The Israeli military machine  aims to squeeze them still further in a corner through mushrooming of the Illegal settlements, in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, while on the other using violent tactics, to subjugate the will and spirit of the besieged Palestinians.

3. Third, the United States government remains a main supporter of Israel’s aggrandised brutality and is a main supplier of their military arsenal; some of it is banned by international law. By supporting unconditionally the recent Israel’s strike on Gaza the U.S. government invited an aggravation of anti-American sentiments, especially among the Muslim world, and other communities. In this situation, the commitment of America to root-out militancy, in the Middle East loses its rationale.

4. Fourthly, such Israeli aggression and brutal killings will give further rise to militancy which is already creating threats for the countries of Middle East, in the shape of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. This would not only hamper economic progress of the region but also create insecure environment for foreign investors, ultimately slowing down the global economy.

5. The state of Israel has virtually become a bunker nation, living under fear. Such adventures would further push it to the wall. No state can exist for longer time-period under constant threat or fear. On the other, the Palestinians are equally under constant threat from the military adventures of the Israelis. Therefore, for the advancement of the Palestinians and Israel, both need to accept each other’s sovereignty over their respective territories, which would ultimately ensure them security and peace, opening avenues to resolve the more complex remaining concerns.

6. The sixth feature of this war was the alarming apathy of international community. Such organisations like OIC remained mum; throughout the crisis-in fact most of its members like the gulf-states with the exception of Qatar were hostile towards Hamas. The United Nations was a mere spectator, except for an occasional mute response. Such toothless responses shatter the trust of the people on international agencies. Second, the statements of protest against the Israeli aggression by Muslim countries remained symbolic, including that of Pakistan. Hamas received political and diplomatic support from only two countries in the region, Iran and Turkey.

The glaring exception being the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s public pronouncement that the present Israeli leaders are no less brutal than Hitler. Another bold stance was taken by a Pakistani born Sayeeda Warsi, the senior British Foreign Office minister, who resigned from her position to protest the British policy on Gaza, describing it as ‘morally indefensible’. It is appreciable that non-Muslim Latin America nations like Bolivia and Venezuela took a serious note of the civilian casualties in Gaza, recalling their ambassadors, as a protest. Though, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and foreign office issued condemnation statements but they lacked effectiveness and could not convey a clear support for the sufferers of Gaza, which raised many eye-brows over the  Pakistan’s policy towards this issue, who traditionally has been a staunch supporter of Palestinians ever since the days of Quaid-e-Azam. In this situation, all that the Muslim countries could do was to send donations in the United Nations funds for the Palestinians.

Concluding, the saner elements amongst the Jewish community are fearful that if the policy of alienation and denial of Palestinian rights continue, then there will be no option left than to move for a ‘one state’ solution,  in which the Palestinians and Israelis will have to live side by side, on the basis of equality and similar political rights. If that happens, the Palestinians being in majority will be well placed to form a government, abolishing the very nature of a Jewish state.

Dr Syed Farooq Hasnat is a Professor of Political Science at the Forman Christian College University and Zamurrad Awan is a Lecturer of Political Science at the  Forman Christian College University.