24 June, 2024

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Middle East Conflict: A Test Of Our Systems, Values & Humanity

By Kasun Adikari

Kasun Adikari

As per OECD’s report in April 2023, Israel posted a strong growth of 6.4% in 2022. Aided by its dynamic high-tech sector, Israel’s economy has rebounded strongly from the pandemic and has proven resilient to the global economic headwinds. The October 7 surprise attack however upends Israel’s economic outlook. The coming days are crucial since the world is watching whether Israel will agree with the immediate humanitarian truce overwhelmingly called by the United Nations General Assembly. 

Israel, where it stands on the world map

As majority of the older generation of our times may know the fact that there was really no country called Israel on the world map. The movement to create a Jewish homeland, had emerged in the late 19th century, though it wasn’t exclusively focused on a homeland in Palestine. Uganda and Argentina were among the several alternatives proposed over the years. Creating a Jewish state in Palestine was a deliberate, drawn-out and violent process killing tens of thousands of people and displacing millions. Palestinians were dispossessed of vast swathes of land. Over 80 percent of Palestinians in what became Israel in 1948 were made homeless overnight. The process may have culminated in 1948, but it had begun in the early 20th century, and it continues to this day.  

The Balfour Declaration

In 1917, Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, wrote a letter addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community. The letter was short (just 67 words), but its contents had a seismic effect on Palestine that is still felt to this day. It committed the British government to “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and to facilitating “the achievement of this object”. The letter is known as the Balfour Declaration. In essence, a European power promised the Zionist movement a country where Palestinian Arab natives made up more than 90 percent of the population. A British Mandate was created in 1923 and lasted until 1948. During that period, the British facilitated mass Jewish immigration. Many of the new residents were fleeing Nazism in Europe and they also faced protests and strikes. Palestinians were alarmed by their country’s changing demographics and British confiscation of their lands to be handed over to Jewish settlers.

Arab Revolt 

Escalating tensions eventually led to the Arab Revolt, which lasted from 1936 to 1939. In April 1936, the newly formed Arab National Committee called on Palestinians to launch a general strike, withhold tax payments and boycott Jewish products to protest British colonialism and growing Jewish immigration. The six-month strike was brutally repressed by the British, who launched a mass arrest campaign and carried out punitive home demolitions, a practice that Israel continues to implement against Palestinians today. The second phase of the revolt began in late 1937 and was led by the Palestinian peasant resistance movement, which targeted British forces and colonialism. By the second half of 1939, Britain had massed 30,000 troops in Palestine. Villages were bombed by air, curfews imposed, homes demolished, and administrative detentions and summary killings were widespread. In tandem, the British collaborated with the Jewish settler community and formed armed groups and a British-led “counterinsurgency force” of Jewish fighters named the Special Night Squads.

Within the Yishuv, the pre-state settler community, arms were secretly imported and weapons factories established to expand the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary that later became the core of the Israeli army.

UN partition plan

By 1947, the Jewish population had ballooned to 33 percent of Palestine, but they owned only 6 percent of the land. The United Nations adopted Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The Palestinians rejected the plan because it allotted about 55 percent of Palestine to the Jewish state, including most of the fertile coastal region. At the time, the Palestinians owned 94 percent of historic Palestine and comprised 67 percent of its population.

Ethnic cleansing of Palestine

Even before the British Mandate expired on May 14, 1948, Zionist paramilitaries were already embarking on a military operation to destroy Palestinian towns and villages to expand the borders of the Zionist state that was to be born. In April 1948, more than 100 Palestinian men, women and children were killed in the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem. That set the tone for the rest of the operation, and from 1947 to 1949, more than 500 Palestinian villages, towns and cities were destroyed in what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic. An estimated 15,000 Palestinians were killed, including in dozens of massacres. The Zionist movement captured 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent was divided into what are now the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. An estimated 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes. Today their descendants live as six million refugees in 58 squalid camps throughout Palestine and in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. On May 15, 1948, Israel announced its establishment. The following day, the first Arab-Israeli war began and fighting ended in January 1949 after an armistice between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. In December 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194, which calls for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Oslo Accords 

The years of war ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the formation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an interim government that was granted limited self-rule in pockets of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) recognised Israel on the basis of a two-state solution and effectively signed agreements that gave Israel control of 60 percent of the West Bank, and much of the territory’s land and water resources. The PA was supposed to make way for the first elected Palestinian government running an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with its capital in East Jerusalem, but that has never happened. Critics of the PA view it as a corrupt subcontractor to the Israeli occupation that collaborates closely with the Israeli military in clamping down on dissent and political activism against Israel. In 1995, Israel built an electronic fence and concrete wall around the Gaza Strip, snapping interactions between the split Palestinian territories.

Wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people

What we are witnessing today is the Israel’s relentless carpet bombing of Gaza including hospitals, schools, refugee camps, ambulances, mosques etc. Israeli onslaught reached its pinnacle when they cut the access to electricity, water, and communications, the Israeli establishment has turned this war into a medieval-like siege, pushing millions of civilians into starvation and horrible deaths.

The besieged Palestinian enclave faces a growing humanitarian catastrophe. Internationally accepted rules of armed conflict were passed under the Geneva Conventions in 1949, which state children must be protected and treated humanely. However, Israeli air strikes on Gaza have killed one child every 10 minutes since the start of the war. Assault involved the use of internationally banned weaponry, such as white phosphorus. Residents in Gaza have flocked to hospitals and United Nations schools for safety, hoping that Israel will abide by international law and not attack those coordinates. However, places of shelter and medical care have also not been free from Israeli attacks.

As of the date I write this article, there were at least 10,022 Palestinians have been killed including at least 4,104 children, 2,641 women. Also, at least 25,408 Palestinians have been injured including at least 6,360 children and 4,891 women.

Over the past four weeks, a chorus of voices from various international bodies and numerous civil society organizations have echoed calls and shed light on significant observations. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, in their assessments have pointed to the commission of war crimes by Israel. They cite the use of white phosphorus bombs and the deliberate targeting of civilians and non-military structures, characterizing Israel as an overwhelmingly disproportionality on Gaza. 

Where is the UN?

The United Nations General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas. Regrettably, the said resolution is non-binding, but serves only as a barometer of global opinion. 

The United Nations Security Council, the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states, failed to adopt a resolution on the ongoing situation in Gaza as the resolutions were rejected by US using its veto power. 

There is a history of the US blocking UN resolutions critical of Israel through its veto power. The US has used its veto power at least 34 times to block UN Security Council resolutions that were critical of Israel. 

The majority of these resolutions were drafted to provide a framework for peace in the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict, including asking Israel to adhere to international laws, calling for self-determination for Palestinian statehood, or condemning Israel for the displacement of Palestinians or settlement building in occupied Palestinian territories.

In this light, the director of the New York office of the UN high commissioner for human rights Craig Mokhiber has left his post, protesting that the UN is “failing” in its duty to prevent what he categorizes as genocide of Palestinian civilians in Gaza under Israeli bombardment and citing the US, UK and much of Europe as “wholly complicit in the horrific assault”.

Once again we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes and the organization, we serve appears powerless to stop it. This is textbook case of genocide. The US, UK and much of Europe were not only “refusing to meet their treaty obligations” under the Geneva Conventions but were also arming Israel’s assault and providing political and diplomatic cover for it.” Mokhiber stated in his final communication as the director of the New York office of the UN high commissioner for human rights. 

Towards the end of the global order?

The post-World War II global order was founded on liberal values to maintain peace and prevent conflicts. There is a growing debate questioning the global order with public opinion increasingly challenging their authenticity in light of the fundamental values underpinning the international order.

The United States, which positions itself as the key architect and stakeholder in the rules-based liberal international order, seems only respects international law when it suits its interests. So, a question arises: why should others respect this order from now on?

The United States is facing its fourth major inflection point in history since the early 20th century, and if world leaders get it wrong, the results could be similar to what occurred during the 1930s and ultimately led to World War II. That’s according to Frederick Kempe, CEO of foreign policy think tank Atlantic Council. According to Kempe, that’s a feeling shared in many corporate boardrooms.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon recently warned, “This may be the most dangerous time the world has seen in decades.”

The war crimes in Palestine are undeniable. Palestine is the test of our collective humanity. Unfortunately, the world is gradually losing its moral compass. Humanity should prevail in these dark times.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    10

    Well written and to the point.

    In the US, if one criticizes Israel, one is labeled anti-semitic and stands to lose one’s job and possibly one’s life-savings. Americans can only speak of Israeli atrocities in hushed tones.

    Majority of Jews are against Israel’s expansions, but it takes that usual elite to skew sensibilities.

    Much of US finance, banking, and capitalistic endeavors are in the hands of this Jewish Elite.

    Only a Jew from Jewish masses – viz. Bernie Sander, can put an end to rabid US-Jewish capitalism and give prescriptives for Israel-Palastinian peace, and peace for the whole globe. World needs a Saviour.

    • 8
      0

      Blaming Jewish people for the crimes of Israel would be akin to blaming Muslims for the crimes of Al Qaida or ISIS. Israel or Zionism is a supremacist, racist ideology that is supported by Jews and non-Jews alike in the Western political establishment., that is where the blame lies.

      • 2
        8

        RK
        Only a tiny fraction of Muslims anywhere openly supported the IS.
        But the crimes of the state of Israel was by a government of the Jews by the Jews for the Jews.
        There is a significant number, but a minority, of global Jewry that has a conscience, but the majority have for long sailed with the Zionist fascist wind.

        • 9
          2

          Only a small fraction of Muslims anywhere openly supported IS. Really ??? I guess that’s why many youth / converts all over world including small cities of Kerala were recruited. You expect Muslims living in Lanka , India, West………. to openly declare their support to IS???

        • 3
          7

          SJ,

          Only reason Jews support Zionism is because they have not other option. Their premise is: Never again will be subject to a holocaust! And they were indeed subject to a holocaust in Nazi Germany and before, in Europe. They feel that they have no other option but to look with hope towards Zionism.

          Zionism of course has long lost it necessity. But the major powers still uphold the concept. The concept revolves around balancing major power’s budgets, and also making easy money. As long as the non-essential Palestinians do not cause too much of a problem, then Israel neatly fits into the Western monetary equation.

          If these Western powers do not reconfigure their equations, all will tilt of course, towards a major global war (possibly WW3 with nuclear holocaust). Globe therefore needs a US president that will set the course rightly – the only way globe can create and balance out peace. Globe needs a US president that will show the grim reality of the Palestinians and Israelis alike in that war-torn area, filled with terrible suffering.

          • 2
            6

            As per IS, when a race of people is subject to poverty and persecution, ISIS is the only thing that can come up (with or without Islam). Concept spreads even with no rhyme or reason. Alas, that is the existential reality.

            Not sure if Jews would have bombed their way and overtaken Europe pre-Nazi times (they weren’t given the weapons and money by Britain and US then). But one can surmise that they were a peaceful race, albeit beyond the thought process of other races, thus making it impossible to assimilate with any (even if they assimilated, they kept their Jewish identity).

            • 3
              5

              Truth is, unlike Europe, British welcomed the Jews. Jewish brains were the only ones who knew how to work the British colonial monetary system. It continued on in the US.

              Jews at this time, need to realize that they are merely pawns in the continuing Western Supremacist Agenda. Once that’s realized, Jews will pull back, and benevolently give in to the Socialist drive of one of their rare and capable leaders – Bernie Sanders.

  • 8
    14

    In every Western country there are big movements against Israeli bombing of Gaza. At the same time there are protests against the massacre of innocent Israelis on 7th October carried out by the Hamas.

    This is the essence of freedom and democracy. There are many opinions and choices

    In Muslim countries, there can be only one voice, against the Jews and the West ! No other opinion is tolerated. In Afghanistan, Saudi, Yemen, Egypt ,Iran, the government and the mullahs decide what the people can think and say.

    I think this religious brain washing and oppression is humanities greatest threat.

    We are very fortunate that we enjoy freedom, can change our religion, openly condemn this foolish idea of a god or say that God is great from every roof top, express our opinion, don’t have to turn this way or that way and pray 5 times a day.

    These people have been taking this drug called religion for centuries. Where has it taken them ?

    Into darkness, oppression, ignorance and stupidity.

    • 12
      1

      Much what you have said of those Islamic Religious states are true for the Sinhala-Buddhist trodden Democratic Socialist Rep. of Sri Lanka.

      SL’s Buddhist clergy vs the Islamic states’ Mullahs! How are they different in spite what each of the two religion teaches?

      In fact, Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka is pushing forward to closely match the ways of those Islamic Religious states which you condemn. Further into darkness, oppression, ignorance and stupidity.

  • 9
    13

    Brilliantly researched and catalogued. These are the very facts that corporate mainstream media hide from the western publics who are often divided on allegiances. The strategy the weak Arab states and the oppressed peoples of both Gaza and the West Bank adopt, should be similar to a Malaria mosquito attacking a monstrous giant in a darkened and humid room. The results should be similar, in that life becomes miserable for the oppressor and is forced to give up what has been stolen and stops catastrophically bullying the under trodden…

    • 10
      2

      The western public is not dependent on corporate mainstream media for information on history or current events. –
      You’ve heard of the information highway? It’s now the information superhighway in the west at least.

      Let’s not forget the freedom of press and the freedom of speech and expression all of which are still alive and well and thriving in the West with the advent of internet and social media.

      • 2
        2

        Sugandh,

        In US, saying anything against Israel is considered Anti-Semitic. And Anti-Semitism is a criminal offense. So, there’s no chance for freedom of the speech and expression where Israel is concerned then.

        Anyway, Americans avoid speaking of it for they regrettably know it is their bread and butter, or till they find a new kind of bread and butter. But as freedom of speech and expression is stifled where Israel is concerned, the bread continues to be buttered the same way.

  • 8
    1

    I am looking at, ‘Where is the UN?’.
    It looks funny to me.
    Does it matter where UN is. Has it ever?

  • 3
    3

    A wonderful article. I’m passing the link on the author of this, with whom I correspond and discuss matters:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/netanyahus-divine-license-for-gaza-genocide/
    .
    Given the horrendous state of affairs, an old man like me, in Bandarawela, Uva, Sri Lanka a can only follow events and hope that this conflict will not be the beginning of the end of all life forms on Planet Earth.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (483111444V)

  • 7
    1

    “The war crimes in Palestine are undeniable. Palestine is the test of our collective humanity. Unfortunately, the world is gradually losing its moral compass. Humanity should prevail in these dark times.”
    Well said, Mr Adikari and thank you for this excellent article.
    We also need to consider the fact that Israel is home to one of the most advanced and fastest growing Military-Industrial Complexes in the world. Israel, the official homeland for Jews established by the British and the US, maintains formidable military power, perhaps with a nuclear arsenal in its hands and supported by billions of unconditional US military aid. Israel exports the majority of the weapons it produces such as missiles, drones, and missile defence systems. Israel is also one of the largest weapons exporters. This plays a significant role in its external relations and is a determinant of its foreign policy. In addition, Israel imports a great deal of weapons, including jets and guided bombs, mostly from the US. Germany supplies submarines for Israel.

  • 11
    0

    Palestine is yet another test in our collective humanity.

    We have collectively failed many such tests in the past and currently failing other tests of varying magnitude.

    We have collectively failed Palestine for several decades. If the current crisis can be a turning point towards a resolution, the resolution is likely to take several years to achieve.

    As for the potential of WW III out of the current Palestinian crisis because of some trend in global questioning of the existent world order, I think it is very unlikely until the global trend of emigration to the West changes to emigration to the non-Western powers…. I.e. China, Russia, India etc.

  • 6
    11

    “What we are witnessing today is the Israel’s relentless carpet bombing of Gaza including hospitals, schools, refugee camps, ambulances, mosques etc. “
    The writer has got it all wrong.
    It is not carpet bombing but targetted bombing of hospitals, schools, refugee camps, ambulances and mosques besides power stations supply routes etc.
    All anti-Jewish crimes that went towards justifying the planting of a Jewish state in a predominantly Arab (Muslim & Christian) land have been committed by the Zionist state even more intensely than by the Nazis to Jews.
    Being a victim in the past is no justification or defence for being a murderous Apartheid regime.

  • 7
    1

    OK, so, the jews of the world was given a home by the British & the US after WW2. In my understanding, Jews & Palestinians are the same people separated by religion. The jews were banished during the Roman empire & they sought refuge in various parts of Europe but were eventually chased out & many of the ‘wandering jews’ ended up in US over the years. The stateless jews were a problem after the war & it was decided to send them back to their original land, which was known as Palestine. However, a peaceful settlement to the problem was not to be due to International politics, greed, racism & religious fanaticism, & the rest is, as the saying goes, is history.

    I don’t condone violence, nor, injustice to the Palestinians & Israel’s tough stand resulted in the birth of terror organisations. However, the current scenario is about the relentless bombing by Israel in response to rocket attacks & the hostage taking of more than 240 civilians, including innocent civilians & small children, as well as, over 1400 being murdered. Israel says it will stop the bombing if all the hostages are released & rockets into Israel stops. Do those who shed tears think that Hamas will do that if asked nicely? Hamas operates within civilian areas & hold civilians as human shields & Israel is sending a clear message, ‘Don’t mess with Israel’, maybe as a deterrent for future such attacks on Israeli civilians.

    Cont

    • 10
      0

      Cont.
      The irony is, similar occurrence in SL happened not too long ago but how many cried foul? We celebrated with ‘kiri bath’ & are eternally grateful to the ‘ranaviruvo’, even looting of the country is excused.
      We are quick to denounce land grabbing by Israelis but isn’t that happening even now in the North? Tamils were discriminated & opportunists in the guise of freedom fighters took up arms. When 13 solders were ambushed in Jaffna, innocent tamils in other parts of the country were murdered. The SL army raped & robbed Jaffna civilians. The tamils in Jaffna were caught between the devil & the deep sea, no wonder they were sympathetic to terror organisations, just like the Palestine civilians. In fact, it was a common belief among many as not to trust a Tamil, therefore, Tamil deaths were collateral or deserved. In the final stages of the war, SL army bombed Red Cross field hospitals where civilians were sheltering. Civilians & surrendering combatants simply disappeared, last seen boarding army buses. Others, apparently, still languishing in jail. We were proud when the govt. showed 2 fingers to the UN, so why shouldn’t we support Israel. We did the same to eliminate LTTE.

    • 5
      1

      The reason why Kasun Adikari’s meticulously researched article has not received five times the number of comments that have come in may be because he made the Title rather too provocative.
      .
      We have no time to read everything, and the title may have led people to think that the author wants us to support Israel. Every word of the actual article tells us that we should not do so.
      .
      Raj-UK makes a mistake that I have now identified as typical of him. He is a Sinhalese and a Buddhist, educated in a Christian private school in Lanka.. He rightly relates what’s happening in Palestine to what was done to the Tamils of Lanka, but ignores the existence of many Sinhalese like me who never supported what was done in the North and East of our country. There always were many, although few were as brash in expressing themselves as
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V), Lasantha Petiyagoda, and Lionel Bopage.

      • 6
        1

        SM,

        “Why We Should Support Israel?”

        That title is not provocative but has the opposite effect, making it appear the article would advocate the pro-Israeli line.

        Another factor is that there have been too many articles on the conflict, on CT as well as in other media. It creates a certain amount of news/opinion fatigue.

        • 1
          1

          Thanks, Agnos,
          .
          Opinion fatigue it is. How long can we suffer vicariously for people w don’t know? Especially when the typical Christian types tell you that the Jews were given that land about 3,000 years ago.
          .
          The simple fact is that Israel has no right to exist. Putting it like that makes it look as though I’m taking a pretty extremist stance. And then they will accuse me of excusing the provocations by Hamas, and focus on what has happened to one Israeli-Jewish family.
          .
          As for the title – it is clumsy for another reason. Ostensibly a question. That should have been without a question mark to mean what you suggested. If a question, it should have been “Why Should We Support Israel?” Then the meaning would have been what we wanted.
          .
          So, we now have “broken English” in the title preventing readers from digesting an excellent article.

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