Photo courtesy of BBC
When the Secretary General of the UN condemned the Hamas attack of October 7 and cautioned the world to see it in context, he came under harsh criticism from Israel. But he was right. It is misleading to enter a conflict in the middle of the story.
The story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict begins around the close of the 19th C-CE when organized groups of diaspora Jews descended on Palestine. They claimed the land was promised to them by God.
At that time Palestine was populated mostly by Arab Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) and smaller communities of Jewish, Druze and Samaritan Palestinians to whom the Jewish claim was audacious. Palestine was their land.
Today’s inhumane massacre of Palestinians updates the story. It tells of how a tenacious toe hold of a century ago has subjugated their land. Those who lived on it have lost their land, freedom and more. Trapped and targeted, they face annihilation.
A mix of Zionism and impunity explain this travesty of justice.
This ideology was provoked by the incessant anti-Semitic pogroms in Christian Europe, which persecuted Jews as “Christ Killers”. Under the direction of Theodore Herzel, the father of Zionism, Jewish suffering was shaped into a clamor for a homeland in Palestine.
Zionism is not Judaism. It has become an ethno-nationalist agenda bent on occupying all of Palestine and ridding it of Palestinians.
Conversely, Judaism is the authentic religion of the Jews. Because it equates belief in God with loving care over ones’ neighbor, it has potential to co-exist with others. This difference explains today’s opposition of numerous Jewish Israelis to the Zionist Israeli agenda.
The convergence of two factors have helped the Zionist agenda. The Balfour declaration that devised a homeland for Jews in Palestine reflected European guilt. European Jews had to be compensated for European atrocities but far away from Europe. Provision in the declaration for the protection of the rights and privileges of the then inhabitants of the land has been proved to be a lie.
The other factor was the prevailing climate of Western colonialism. The Zionist invasion of Palestine occurred when the plunder of other lands by some greedy nations was the norm.
Zionism alone could not have turned Israel into the bully it has become. The manipulation of Western guilt to equate any criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism earned Israel limitless impunity. Recent hearings by Congress into alleged anti-Semitic protests in some universities in the US illustrates how this manipulation works.
Zionist impunity first manifest under the British mandate (1920-1948). Palestinians who fought Jewish invasion were branded as insurgents. Their leaders were exiled in the Seychelles and in a practice emulated by Zionist Israel, their dwellings were demolished. When the Palestinians revolted against Jewish land acquisition, Britain declared martial law and trained Jewish night squads to hit back. These squads later evolved into the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
When the conflict got out of hand, British attempts to partition the land and regulate Jewish immigration and land acquisition came too late. Zionist Israel had smelt the power of impunity.
War and strategies
World War 11 and the horrendous holocaust brought a flood of Jewish refugees into Palestine and further bolstered the Zionist agenda. With the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 after the British mandate, war broke out between Israel and the surrounding Arab states in support of the Palestinians. Israel-Egyptian tensions in 1967 led to a second devastating war.
Both wars stirred the trauma of the holocaust and doubled Zionist Israel’s resolve for a land of its own. Consequently, a more fervent fighting force twice crushed Israel’s adversaries. A calculated cycle of forcible occupation followed; it expanded Israel’s boundaries to close in on its Zionist agenda.
As hundreds of Palestinian villages, mosques and churches were destroyed, millions of Palestinians displaced, exiled or detained and millions of acres of Palestinian land acquired, armed Israeli settler colonies were built where Palestinians had lived and farmed before.
Soon, settler only roads and security walls bifurcated Palestinian villages and undermined Palestinian unity. Whenever friction developed between armed settlers and desperate stone throwing Palestinians, the IDF moved in to complete the next cycle of detention, displacement, more settler colonies and so on.
By the end of the 1948 war, Israel had occupied 77 % of Palestinian land including most of Jerusalem and the remaining 22% was annexed during the 1967 six day war. At the beginning of 2023 the Israeli war machine had illegally established more than 150 settler colonies on Palestinian land. With all of Palestine under Israel, the subjugation of a people on their own soil was almost complete.
Two Israeli laws reinforced the Zionist agenda of total occupation. The Right to Return Law welcomed Jews from anywhere in the world and the draconian Absentee Law annulled Palestinian ownership after they were forced off their land.
With the inflow of large numbers of Jewish refugees and immigrants and the prevention of over two million Palestinian refugees from returning, the demography of Palestine changed drastically.
Israeli impunity, ensured by the US and its western allies, had made these glaring violations of international humanitarian law and human rights appear normal. As a victim of despicable crimes became a ruthless oppressor; its allies stood on the wrong side of history.
In the meantime, global endorsement for Palestinian self-determination, UN recognition of a Palestinian authority, UN observer status and the declaration of a Palestinian state in 1988 did little to change Israel’s attitude.
This rigidity provoked the rise of groups like the PLO determined to liberate Palestine and its people from the yoke of Zionist occupation. This was typical of all peoples under wanton Western colonialism. Had these Palestinians resisted German invasion during World War 2, they would have been honored as the resistance.
With time, the secular PLO under Yasser Arafat changed its stance to talk peace with the leftist Israeli Prime Minister Ishtak Rabin. Rabin’s daring to shift from violence to negotiations cost him his life. Later on the emergence of Hamas, an armed Islamic group, intensified the conflict as killings increased on both sides. Strained relations between the PLO and Hamas finally led to their separate but limited control over the West Bank and Gaza respectively.
In 2005, the densely populated Gaza strip was disengaged as a non-profitable, volatile zone by Israel. After Israeli settlers in Gaza were compensated and resettled in the Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli withdrawal turned into a siege. The borders of the strip came under IDF control and all movement in and out, including the supply of food, medicine and fuel by the UN Relief Work Agency, was brought under its scrutiny. Israel, a law to itself, had Gaza at its mercy.
Then came the incidents of October 7.
Today the relentless bombardment of Gaza, the massacre of innocents, the targeting of hospitals, UN workers and media personnel as well as embargos on food, medicine and fuel demonstrates the enormous power of unchecked impunity. In the name of self-defense arbitrarily conferred by the US and some western allies, Israeli bombardment threatens to go on until Hamas is liquidated. The soaring numbers of civilian deaths and the recent white flag incident in which Israeli hostages were killed on sight by the IDF suggest that civilians will have to die for Hamas to be liquidated. After Gaza, it will be the West Bank, if not immediately, eventually.
A shared land
An ideal solution to this conflict, in an ideal world, is a shared land. If this is ever possible, the Palestinians will be free on their land and Israel free to live in a land they believe to be a promise.
But there are two daunting prerequisites to a shared land.
- It will not happen until the US protection of Israel stops, the discriminatory right of veto on the UN Security Council is repealed and the UN is empowered to do its work independently.
- It cannot happen until investigations into war crimes by Israel and Hamas and crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing by Israel are in place. Urgent negotiations cannot postpone investigations. Justice delayed in the name of peace absolves the guilty.
If these requirements are bypassed, our world is likely to witness another genocide under our watch.
With peace and blessings to all.
 through a Royal Commission (1937) and White Paper (1939)