Israel’s new war

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

LIVING under the worst kind of repression for more than half a century, the Palestinians of the occupied Gaza Strip, described as the world’s ‘largest open-air prison’, struck back against their subjugator last week, with a ferocity that has shaken the Zionist state.

They took the battle inside Israel, inflicting the worst kind of humiliation on the most powerful military force in the region. More people died in Israel in a single day than in any other conflict since it became a state. Inevitably, the retaliation has been extremely brutal.

The Gaza Strip, home to a Palestinian population of some 2.2 million, has witnessed many bombings by the Israeli occupation forces but never like the one being witnessed now.

The Israelis are deliberately killing the civilian population including children. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes. There is a complete blockade of the area which has been sealed off, with no food, fuel or other supplies getting in. The siege that intends to starve the entire population is clearly a war crime.

It is unprecedented for the occupiers to declare a war against the subjugated population. But despite their massive use of force, the resistance has not been defeated. Palestinian fighters are still battling inside Israeli territory.

There is no sign of the war ending soon; in fact, there is a danger of its spreading to the West Bank that already has a massive presence of Israeli forces. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened the Israeli response will change the Middle East.

For the ‘civilised world’, the oppressed do not have the right to stand up against colonisation.

Indeed, the ongoing war is already changing regional geopolitics. Not surprisingly, the US and other Western countries have backed Israel’s brutal actions. The conflict has once again exposed Western hypocrisy.

While condemning Hamas for killing civilians and taking women and children hostage, the Western world has approved the Israeli bombardment of Gaza that has killed a large number of women and children on the pretext of ‘Israel’s right to defence’.

For the so-called civilised world, the oppressed do not even have the right to resist the colonisation of their land and fight for their freedom.

Last week’s stunning assault led by Hamas may have come as a surprise to Israel and its Western allies but its roots lie in the long occupation of Palestinian land and the ongoing atrocities carried out by the Israeli forces. There has been a constant expansion of Israeli settlements, displacing the Palestinian population.

Gaza has borne the brunt of Israeli atrocities over the past five decades. The situation has become intolerable. Among the world’s most densely populated areas, Gaza has been described by the current UN secretary general as a “hell on earth”. It has been in a constant state of blockade, making the territory a picture of humanitarian crises.

Over half the people of Gaza live in utter poverty. A large percentage of the children don’t make it past their fifth birthday. Children have been major victims of the constant Israeli bombardment and blockade. Hundreds of Palestinian children have died over the past several years in Israel’s repeated bombing campaigns on Gaza.

Israel’s latest aerial strikes have turned a large part of the territory into rubble. The situation in other occupied Palestinian territories is not very different. The eviction of Palestinians from their homes is a regular phenomenon. Now the hapless population of Gaza is bracing for a ground invasion by Israel.

All these miseries of a long-colonised people have not shaken the conscience of the West, which never stops lecturing us on human rights. It looks away from Israel’s apartheid policies. Israel’s use of brute military force and the West’s backing for it may kill many more Palestinians but will not crush the force of the resistance.

Israel’s declaration of war on Gaza will have far-reaching implications for the Middle East and beyond. The most significant fallout of the war is the derailment of the US effort for rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The process initiated by US President Joe Biden has made significant progress with the first-ever visit of an Israeli minister to Saudi Arabia last month. The visit may not be directly linked to negotiations on normalisation but the event was seen as a thaw between the two countries.

But the outbreak of the latest round of fighting has dealt a huge blow to any negotiations. According to media reports, Saudi Arabia has told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that it is “ending all negotiations” on normalising relations with Israel. The Biden administration’s initiative was seen as part of a larger move to reassert Washington’s position in the Middle East.

Washington’s move came after Beijing brokered a peace pact between Riyadh and Tehran, that had, for years, engaged in a proxy war in the region. That agreement demonstrated China’s growing clout in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

Despite some progress in the US-sponsored process, a peace deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv was still not close because of the ultra-right Israeli government’s refusal to concede on the settlements issue. Unlike past US presidents, Biden has made no direct effort to foster peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Keeping out the Palestinians from the process will not bring long-term peace to the Middle East.

There seems to be no possibility now for the resumption of the peace negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia in the current atmosphere of heightening tensions and the danger of the war turning into a wider conflagration. The only solution to the crisis is to end the Israeli occupation and recognise the Palestinian right to a state.

The writer is an author and journalist.

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