18 April, 2024


Putting Palestine In Perspective

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Western commentators have taken either of three positions on the conflict in Israel and Palestine. Many side with Israel and emphasise its right to exist. Some bemoan the nature of Israeli apartheid in Palestine while condemning Hamas. Others, prominently anti-Zionist Jewish groups, call for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip. There is very little love lost on Benjamin Netanyahu or his regime, even if Hamas’s incursions have forced him to form a coalition with the Opposition. That, though, has not prevented the West, barring a few countries in Europe, from throwing its weight behind Israel.

The Western political establishment’s inability to call out on Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip is surprising to say the least. At a time when the Israeli government is turning Hamas’s attacks into an excuse for barricading Gaza, Europe is debating the most unhelpful point ever: whether to withhold aid to Palestine. To their credit, France and Spain have opposed such actions, drawing a line between the Palestinian people and outfits like Hamas. But that the EU considered such measures, even for a moment, when it has been forthcoming if not generous about its aid to Ukraine, should disturb everyone.

If people are siding with Palestine, despite Hamas being a Palestinian outfit, it is because the latter has been identified, rightly or wrongly, with the Palestinian cause. To say this is not to condone the spate of violence spreading in the region. The killing of innocents is wrong, and if proved should be condemned. But the people of Gaza have been systematically starved, dispossessed, and brutalised for over half a century. The Israelis have been occupying the Strip since 1967. More than 100,000 hectares of land have been plundered, and more than 50,000 homes have been demolished. Where, then, is the outrage?

Clearly, there is a moral dimension to these issues. But there is also a geopolitical dimension, which several commentators have written on. Depending on how you view it, Hamas’s recent incursions were a success or a failure. I tend to view them as a short-term setback and a long-term gain. In a piece to Foreign Policy, Daniel Byman suggests that Hamas may have wanted to dent Israel’s overtures to Arab countries vis-à-vis the Abraham Accords. The country, after all, was on the verge of signing an important agreement with Saudi Arabia. Byman argues, however, that while Hamas may have deterred the Saudis, the Saudis may revisit the agreement once the conflict ends. The jury is still out there.

On the other hand, as The Economist recently reported, the violence has brought Israel and the US together. For all its support of Israel, the Biden administration did, at one level, avoid embracing Netanyahu and his policies. But this was because Israel itself had turned against his regime, as witness the large protests against his moves to curb the country’s judiciary. In that respect the Economist report fails to distinguish between US opposition to Israel’s turn to the right and the US’s fundamental embrace of Israel’s “right to exist.” Moreover, the fact that Netanyahu and Benny Gantz can form a coalition, setting aside their differences, shows that in the face of external threats, the Israeli State will unite itself.

Hamas’s actions have ramifications going beyond the Middle-East. The US has learnt the hard way how not to intervene in the region. In this regard, it has always viewed Israel as a convenient proxy. Fundamentally, Israel a settler colony funded by the US. Washington sends aid to the tune of USD 3 billion a year. Considering that the EU sends USD 700 million or so every year to Palestinians, this is a massive capital inflow. Israel’s activities in the Gaza Strip, however, has led to a shift in Western public opinion. Groups like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement and the pro-Palestine Jewish Voices for Peace underlie this clearly. Moreover, Hollywood celebrities, who would have thought twice about talking on Palestine’s behalf – remember the reaction to Vanessa Redgrave’s speech at the 1978 Oscars? – have become more vocal. The killing of an Al-Jazeera journalist by Israeli Defence Forces has also helped tilt the balance in favour of the Palestinian cause.

The War can tilt this balance again, either way. On the one hand, mainstream Western academics supportive of Palestine have condemned Hamas, while on the other, those on the Left, like Tariq Ali, see it as the late Edward Said saw the First Intifada in 1987, as an anti-colonial uprising. It depends on how Hamas interprets the right to resist that is more or less enshrined in international law. In Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers and Costa Gavras’s State of Siege, the guerillas distinguish between the enemy and civilians. The ability to draw this line is what sets successful guerilla movements apart from unsuccessful ones, what helps such outfits rally support. The killing of innocents may be seen as necessary collateral in the short-term. But in the long-term, it will be counterproductive.

Rathindra Kuruwita argues, and I agree, that Hamas’s actions have undermined Israel. The latter, he adds, has already lost. The convulsions of domestic politics, the loss of the moral high ground, and Europe’s wavering support for Israel, especially in countries like Spain, have cost the government badly. It remains to be seen whether the US will intervene to help: it has shipped aid to the country, and will do so. Over the next few days, moreover, we will see the War’s impact on oil prices and global trade. Regardless of these issues, the Global South has chosen the path of solidarity with Palestine. That underlies arguably the most important takeaway from this conflict: that wars do not and will not end, even if crushed militarily, if underlying causes are not addressed. For over half a century, Palestinians have been waiting. They cannot be expected to wait any longer.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance columnist who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com. He is the Chief International Relations Analyst at Factum, an Asia-Pacific focused foreign policy think-tank based in Colombo and accessible via www.factum.lk.

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Latest comments

  • 12

    Finally a different perspective from what we heard upto now. Generally I disagree with most of Uditha’s opinion. In this article he seems to have not formed any of his own but presented a global view, from very many sources. Regardless Palestinians will continue to suffer and be victimized .Whereas opinionated Lankans with similar experiences are blind to the rights and wrongs of their own country.

    • 6

      Yes, correct all these so called Chingkalla intellectuals support and of course not forgetting these fake Arab South Indian Thamizh immigrant origin Thullkans, whose Arabian nights fairytale of a Western Asian ancestry has now been definitely debunked with the latest DNA studies that has concluded that there are of almost pure South Asian (meaning South Indian Thamizh) descent, with hardly any western Asian ancestry( even previous DNA studies also concluded that the so called Arab element in them, that they love to boast about is far below average but they still insisted in this blanket Arab origin lie for their entire community, when even less than 5% of them only had a very distant male Arab ancestor). All jump up and down with regards to the plight of the Palestinian Arabs, which by itself not incorrect, as I also condemn what is happening to them, especially in Gaza now. However, these people are bloody hypocrites, especially these fake Arab South Indian converted Thamizh immigrant Muslims, as whilst crying about the plight of the Palestinians, they are silent and condone the marginalization, displacement and dispossession of the native Eezham Thamizh from the north and east and stealing their lands in the name of Chingkalla Buddhist and Islamic fundamentalism.

    • 2

      According to the UN office [UNOCHR], since 2008 and prior to recent hostilities, deaths through violence in occupied Palestinian territory are declared as over 6,400 Arabs and 308 Israelis. More need not be said.

  • 0

    Occupiers are Putting Palestine In Perspective. Explore history.

    Russia & China are neutral, China wants to be a peace broker in the Middle East. and,

    A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done. Chinese are for forward-looking, moving ahead, and rejecting practices of discrimination and exclusion of others. and will grab world economic activities

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