On 7 October, Hamas announced the start of what it called “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” breaching the apparently impregnable hold of perhaps the world’s pre-eminent security state, Israel, and, within a span of 20 minutes, firing over 5,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip, killing some 1,400 Israelis after a six-hour ruthless operation.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a televised broadcast, promised in stark terms that, “The Israel Defense Forces will act immediately to destroy Hamas’s capabilities…cripple them mercilessly and avenge this black day they have brought upon Israel and its citizens,” even as defence chieftains apocalyptically announced that “we are cutting off food, electricity, water, all supplies to an entire civilian population.” As prelude to a ground offensive, Israel started drenching Gaza in bombs, killing, in two weeks, no fewer than 7,000 people in Gaza.
The contention that has defined Israel and Palestine goes back to antiquity, and it offers little value rehashing the overstated narratives of history. The sad reality of the current carnage in Gaza is that it runs against accepted norms of international law, which defines the conduct of war and draws the borders for what represents legitimate self-defence.
Unquestionably, Hamas’ murderous slaughter of 1,400 Israeli on 7 October stands condemned and has provided the excuse for the Israeli right-wing political hawks to prosecute what many of them, including the now fumbling Netanyahu, describe as a second Nakba (forced displacement of Palestinians), through the unbridled killings of mostly children and the aged. This, without doubt, has been a Palestinian pogrom sullenly coordinated by Israeli leaders, some heartless Western governments, and an incredibly reckless mainstream Western media. Their brazenly slanted coverage of the war has not only failed to challenge the dominant narrative from Israel, normalized pogrom, and are inciting a military response in Gaza that is deliberately targeting civilians and determinedly committing war crimes.
To be sure, but within the confines of legal prohibitions, occupied people have the right to defy fundamental violence connected to martial occupation. Hamas, however, offers no platform for acceptance, for it is hard to process how, since its founding, despite its democratic claims to a popular mandate in Gaza, has advanced, rather than inhibited, the progress of the Palestinian people.
Buried in its very DNA, expressed since origin, Hamas has always announced straight-out antagonism to the closest promise of peace in the region – the two-state solution. In response, it’s obviously unrealistic “one-state solution” counters and calls for a unitary, federal, or confederate Israeli-Palestinian state, which would encompass all the present territory of Israel, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and possibly the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.
International diplomacy, expressed often by the rule of the powerful and rich, has never been just, and given current structural global imbalances, it will remain naïve to deny Israel a compromise that assures the Jews of a homeland, where they can live in peace and decent neighbourliness. The notion that all Jews must leave and go back to Europe, or wherever else they came from, is not only a pipe dream, but also a recipe for unending bloodbath.
A sad irony in this regrettable conflict is the twinhood of the metallic inflexibility of Hamas and that of the core elements of Israeli’s right wing political spectrum. This was the context that gave birth to the so-called Netanyahu Strategy. In 2009 when it was first promoted, Netanyahu audaciously proposed that since the Palestinian authorities had semi-autonomy in the West Bank and Hamas had control in Gaza, that was a perfect scenario to shun any peace talks, because Israel could not be negotiating with a terrorist Hamas, and to indulge the Palestinian authorities in talks amounted to engaging in making a deal with half the Palestinians.
Until the Palestinians “get their act together,” Netanyahu always threatened, he as prime minister had no clear path of negotiations and certainly wouldn’t make any concession. To that extent, a Gazan community under a Hamas dispensation eclipsed any hope for a peace deal. This same presumed Netanyahu Strategy was what came to a shattering head on 7 October.
Tragically, the collapse of the Netanyahu Strategy not only represents the declining phase of an era, the Netanyahu era, it had to come with enormous human and material devastation. It is also understandable that this moral and political collapse would trigger the high-propane instinct for vengeance that is coming from Tel Aviv, to turn Gaza into rubble. Hence, it may be worth listening again to the wise counsel of President Barack Obama, who warned that a devastating ground operation, the type that Netanyahu is promising again, could further toughen Palestinian resistance for generations, drain world solidarity for Israel, and “undermine long term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.”
Obama was spot on in his call for the rejection of antisemitism, anti-Islamic, or anti-Palestinian sentiments among “people around the world (by) putting our best values, rather than our worst fears, on display.” It is also appropriate that President Joe Biden of the United States will ultimately admit that “Hamas does not represent — let me say it again — Hamas does not represent the vast majority of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip or anywhere else. (That) Hamas is hiding behind Palestinian civilians, and (also that) this…puts an added burden on Israel while they go after Hamas.” But statements like this have failed to constrain Israel, let alone rein in its instinct to level up Gaza.
So, what is the be done? PREMIUM TIMES believes that, primarily, the lack of international courage to pronounce an immediate cease-fire, with the full guarantees and respect for the human and humanitarian rights of the Palestinians, must be acknowledged. For too long, the big powers have twisted Palestinian hands to enable Israel enact 56 years of full military occupation that has now fully assumed the reality of an apartheid regime (this is discounting the 16 years of siege and blockade of Gaza). Relatedly, Israel needs to operate within the confines of international law and international humanitarian law and restrain from collectively punishing the civilian population of Gaza.
Yet, this is not going to be a one-way street. Part of the irreducible minima in this conflict is the rights of Israeli citizens and children to live without fear, and to be assured of a homeland that must also be guaranteed as a right. It is evident that these calls, to earn a material meaning, make the case for a return to the negotiation table in a broad and humble spirit of give and take.
As such, there is a need to reiterate that the pathway to a sustainable resolution of the crisis in the region remains a two-state solution, which would guarantee distinct but co-existent homelands for the peoples of Palestine and Israel. To this end, dusting up and bringing the long-abandoned Oslo Agreement – which brought the two nations close to a settlement back in the 1990s – up to speed with recent realities, would be worthwhile. In this regard, consideration should be given to the suggestion of Nigeria’s Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah that an envoy or a team of international mediators, acceptable to both sides, needs to be raised to step in, towards the attainment of a two-state solution for a chance at enduring peace in the region.
In the face of a broad Western hypocritical aloofness, African countries too have displayed varied moral confusion. Ghana and Kenya have openly canvassed for Israel, while South Africa has offered a formidable support for Palestine, as Nigeria typically equivocates. Thankfully, we have seen better African response in last week’s UN vote to compel an immediate ceasefire in the war. Nevertheless, the truth is that the South African decolonisation model from apartheid, where a coloniser sanely yields its imperial grip to power in the hope of a future of peace, offers the most lasting solution to what is happening in Israel today.
Paraphrasing Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, to end this conflict, the Western powers must change course to end Israel’s impunity toward Palestinians, by investing in the humanity of both nations.
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