By Siri Gamage –
On again and off again ceasefires, rocket launches, bombings and killings involving Israel and Gaza dominate television news at this time. When the indirect talks between the two sides fail in Cairo, the military campaigns restart and the destruction caused by Israeli bombings in Gaza is there for all of us to see. Buildings with several stories, UN schools, civilian areas, shops, electricity generating facilities or any other civilian facility is not out of bound for the Israeli military forces if they believe there are Hamas fighters in them. By now over 2000 casualties and over 10000 injured have been reported in Gaza whereas the Israeli casualty figure is less than 70, overwhelming majority being military personnel. In the meantime, rockets from Gaza keep coming to Southern Israel and other parts but they are ineffective and crude creations as the US funded and provided Dome shield is capturing and destroying them once in the air. These rockets fall largely in vacant areas of land causing no major injury to the civilians in Israel. The casualty rate from such rockets has been remarkably low. Yet the fear caused by these rockets seems to be vey high among the population in Israel subjected to such attacks. Fear –real and constructed- is an important weapon in modern warfare.
The scale of firepower available to Israel vs Gaza militants is drastically uneven. Israel has a regular army, airforce, navy, and intelligence services well funded by the government of Israel. It is receiving ammunition, rockets, bombs, armed vehicles, guns, planes and ships from major arms suppliers from around the world on the top of Israel’s own capacity to manufacture such weapons legally. Added to this, Israel also seems to employ a well-funded, highly professional public relations machinery to provide its version of the events to the world through international media.
The world leaders, in particular President Obama, are alarmingly but not surprisingly silent about the ongoing carnage going on in Gaza due to the close relationship between Israel and the US as allies and friends in the Western sphere. Middle Eastern countries that had voiced their concerns in previous episodes of military conflict are also silent on this occasion. Even the humanitarian catastrophic unfolding in Gaza with Israeli bombings does not seem to be moving Obamas of this world to either exert greater influence on Israel or to condemn its disproportionate attacks in Gaza causing enormous amount of civilian casualties.
It appears that the strategy on the part of the US and other Western powers is to allow enough time and space for Israel to continue its military campaign to such a point that Hamas, the elected government in Gaza, and it’s armed wing plus other armed groups are annihilated beyond repair. Unlike in other armed conflicts, there don’t seem to be concerns about collateral damage this time when it comes to Gaza attacks by Israel. Israel, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, is hitting hard, and hitting at any target if Israeli war planners deem it necessary to teach a lesson to Hamas and bring its carders to their knees. The publicly pronounced goal however is to secure Israeli populations security and stop the rockets coming from Gaza. Israel leadership argues that so long as rockets keep coming from Gaza, there will be no talks with Palestinians in Cairo, and Israel will employ disproportionate lethal “weapons of deep penetration and destruction”(WDPD) to hit hard at Hamas.
The UN seems to be irrelevant in this time of human destruction, carnage, and terror unleashed by Israel on the Gaza population except as providers of humanitarian assistance and temporary refuge. Security Council is hamstrung in taking any meaningful decisions because historically the US has used its veto power when discussions on this conflict took place. It is also important to note that the US tried to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians without success before and while the current round of hostilities started. The world body responsible for world peace and security is busy issuing statements about the rise of Islamic terrorists in northern Iraq or the Ukrainian conflict. Both these conflicts are much more important to Western powers than the Israeli and Palestinian conflict because the Western governments know that Israel has the upper hand in that conflict compared to Palestinians who are under long-term occupation and oppression. To obtain an understanding of the extent of Israeli occupation and Palestinian oppression, see this video produced by some human rights activists who visited the West Bank:
Though the root cause of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is the former’s occupation of Palestinian land and numerous check points, settlements, roads and other facilities created exclusively for the Jews, dispossession plus the daily humiliation caused, the Israeli, Australian, British and US media give prominence to the Israeli line of argument as to why the current military campaign was started? Namely, it is to provide security to the Israeli population. For this to happen and quietness to dawn on Israel, the argument goes that the rockets from Gaza has to stop completely. The implication drawing from this line of argument is that the carnage being created in Gaza by Israel is justified, irrespective of the human and physical destruction, the imbalance in fire power between the two sides, and the disproportionality of fire power used by Israel. Furthermore, these media in Western capitals also adopt the Israeli line that Hamas has to be blamed for the destruction caused by Israel. So for Israel and its backers in the Western capitals, the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, in this case in Gaza, starts from the fact of firing rockets and disturbing peace and quiet in Israeli life.
What about the ‘peace and quiet’ of the Palestinians? This is a secondary issue for the above players in the world stage. For those who are supporting the Israeli view, when and if Hamas stop firing rockets to Israel from Gaza, the heavens will open, and people in Gaza will be able to live happily thereafter because Israel will stop bombings and other targeted killings. Is this so? Not quite. One has to listen to the Palestinians to understand why? From their point of view, the Israeli occupation and the blockade of Gaza from air, land, and sea will not stop, even if the rockets being fired from Gaza are stopped. In the view of Palestinians, including Hamas, it is the Israeli occupation that is the root cause of the conflict. Until a permanent solution to this is found through negotiations, peace in Israel is not secured.
But who can negotiate such a peace deal? Could the US be the broker for peace while at the same time being a close ally of Israel? There is differing opinion about this. But the intention of this article is not to dwell on this topic. It is basically to question the world powers’ conscience and the inability of the current world system and it’s multilateral agencies to exert enough pressure on Israel, being the occupying power, to move in the direction of peace negotiations rather than a military solution. Though it is reported that over 300,000 Jews live in the West Bank in well-secured settlements with government subsidies, and the hard line, conservative parties in the coalition are pressing for further expansion of such settlements -not less- from a long-term perspective, it makes every sense to reach a settlement with Palestinians. Yet Israel seems to be unwilling to do so citing its long-term security. The question one has to ask in this situation is whether Israel has much to lose materially if the occupation is ended, now that it has built a security wall separating so called Palestinians areas from the so called Jewish areas? Water seems to be a crucial factor for Israel along with the land, more than security that is driving its cravings for Palestinian occupation at any cost.
Those Western governments that are advocating human rights, civil rights, and political rights of peoples governed by tyrants or semi dictators in the name of democracy in various parts of the world thus do not seem to have legitimacy for their calls for such rights so long as they are simultaneously supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestine, modern day apartheid being implemented on Palestinians’ land, and the ongoing carnage and human misery in Gaza. For such governments, there can’t be one logic applied to Israel as a nation among nations and another to various other nations who engage in mischief. The US and it’s allies need to try to resolve the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinians by investing more resources and political will instead of repeating the Israeli line and setting aside the issue saying either it is too difficult or it is up to the warring parties to settle for peace. The Palestinians have two choices in this context: Succumb to Western and US pressure and accept the minimum to enjoy modern amenities of life in relative peace or suffer the consequences of a world system and its inaction if they choose to ask for their lost land, equal rights, self determination and liberation from occupation.
The disenfranchised and humiliated Palestinian population under occupation and modern apartheid deserve the same quality of life, security, and opportunities as those desired by Israelis. In an age where Russian or Chinese expansionism is criticised by Western governments and it’s media as unacceptable and wrong in international law, it is very difficult for the observers of international affairs to understand how these governments can tolerate and almost accept Israeli expansionism that has been at play for over thirty years, against so many UN resolutions?
Countries like China, Russia, and India also have a special duty to exert their political and moral power on the world stage to canvass support for a negotiated settlement. So should all peace loving peoples, organisations, and individuals around the world. When the mainstream media are biased, one option for these individuals and groups to obtain a balance of reports about the conflict is to access various online media and sites. We are living in an age where governments are increasingly controlling-not only governing- our lives. The tide can be reversed if as informed citizens we look at alternative news sources to obtain accurate reports about what’s happening in the world.