TIME TO BREAK THE RHETORIC IN PALESTINE-ISRAEL CONFLICT
By Dr Mir Sadaat
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Palestine is a small region of land that has played a prominent role in the ancient and modern history of the Middle East. The history of Palestine has been marked by frequent political conflict and violent land seizures because of its importance to several major world religions, and because Palestine sits at a valuable geographic crossroads between Africa and Asia. Today, Arab people who call this territory home are known as Palestinians, and the people of Palestine have a strong desire to create a free and independent state in this contested region of the world.
Today, Palestine theoretically includes the West Bank (a territory that sits between modern-day Israel and Jordan) and the Gaza Strip (which borders modern-day Israel and Egypt). However, control over this region is a complex and evolving situation. There is no international consensus concerning the borders, and many areas claimed by Palestinians have been occupied by Israelis for years. In May 1948, less than a year after the Partition Plan for Palestine was introduced, Britain withdrew from Palestine and Israel declared itself an independent state, implying a willingness to implement the Partition Plan. Almost immediately, neighbouring Arab armies moved in to prevent the establishment of the Israeli state. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War that ensued involved Israel and five Arab nations—Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. By the war’s end in July 1949, Israel controlled more than two-thirds of the former British Mandate, while Jordan took control of the West Bank, Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The 1948 conflict opened a new chapter in the struggle between Jews and Palestinian Arabs both Muslim and non-Muslim, which now became a regional contest involving nation-states and a tangle of diplomatic, political and economic interests. Although Palestinians occupy key areas of land, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, some Israelis, with their government’s blessing, continue to settle in areas that are generally agreed to be under Palestinian control. Many international rights groups consider such settlements illegal, the borders aren’t clearly defined, and persistent conflict continues to be the norm. A substantial proportion of Israelis also oppose the settlements and would prefer to find peaceful ways to resolve their land disputes with the Palestinians.
We all know there are two sides to any argument, but the key to discussing real prospects for peace is by truly understanding the other side’s opinions, perspectives, and concerns without using volatile language, demonizing your adversary, or unfairly dominating the debate. Keeping an open mind and open ear can be extremely difficult when it comes to controversial topics, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, but no solution will ever succeed unless we all try to step outside of our comfort zones and listen to opinions and ideas we may not agree with. We might then discover common ground we would not have found if the discussion had not taken place, and it can start with one person, one idea, one discussion, one acknowledgement, just one. The following discussion is one such attempt.
While most of us (including myself) are charged with emotions witnessing a humanitarian crisis (that is being called a state terrorism) in which the state of Israel is killing innocent people in name of self-defence. We forgot to setback and observe things with logic and come up with a discourse other than the rhetoric from both sides. Most of readers may disagree with my point of view but I have to present my string of thoughts let’s say for sake of argument. In this write up I will try to dispel some notions that are hindering a constructive narrative for resolution of this conflict. Before doing that lets understand why this recent violence started at the first place. Yes, you guessed it right it was Israel but why on earth they would just jump into this other than the fact that their PM wanted a face saving.
For Palestinians, the ongoing crisis of leadership has been encapsulated in Hamas commandeering the resistance, further side-lining Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority, of which he is president. Tensions between Fatah and Hamas have dominated Palestinian politics since 2006, when Hamas was victorious in the Palestinian Authority’s last parliamentary elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, ending the era of Fatah’s dominance. After armed conflict between the two factions and the failure of an attempted unity government, the Palestinian leadership has been divided since 2007, with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority governing the West Bank, and Hamas governing the Gaza Strip. Then we cry for Muslim Ummah whereas on the other hand two political parties cannot unite for the cause of Palestine.
Without the ballot box to prove its legitimacy, Hamas has now doubled down on projecting its image as the face of resistance to the occupation. Since the storming of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli police on Monday May 10, Hamas has launched more than 1,000 rockets into Israel. These have been largely neutralised by Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system and Israel has retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza. Dozens of civilians have been killed and scores wounded, seemingly setting up another “Gaza war” like those of 2009, 2012 and 2014, which resulted in thousands of casualties. Hamas doesn’t need to “win” wars in the traditional sense to be victorious. By simply resisting, it affirms its legitimacy and popularity, which has tended to surge after such escalations in the past. This is especially in comparison to the Palestinian Authority, which is seen as weak at best and complicit at worst in terms of relations with Israel.
Nathan J. Brown a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University while writing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict argues that it is time to admit what most observers already know: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that diplomats have been dealing with for half a century is over. It is not that a solution has been found. Just the opposite: all the injustices and insecurities that afflict inhabitants of the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are now so deeply ingrained in daily life that no diplomatic framework can address them now. This leaves some people far better off than others, of course—and it leaves many quite satisfied. But even the smug have cause for worry—less about their own lives and livelihood and more about the world to be inhabited by their children and grandchildren. And many others are left stateless, restricted in movement, harshly policed, and pondering how to provide for their family’s needs now rather than for future generations.
The Muslim Ummah cannot have a resolve for Palestine until they excel in field of knowledge creation. Constantinople had weathered the attack of the Christian Crusader army in 1204, but couldn’t fend off the onslaught of the Ottoman Turks. One factor played a decisive role in the fall of Constantinople, and that was a dreaded new weapon, a monster cannon using gunpowder. Gunpowder, with its explosive potential, was actually a Chinese invention, from around the 9th century but it was the Ottoman Turks that took full advantage of it through research and analysis. Israel reinforced the importance of research recently through its “Iron Dome” missile defence system. While exceling in that field is a tall order still there are things that we can do to help the cause of Palestine.
In my limited knowledge we can doing the following. First of all, we need to understand that the concept of Muslim Ummah in flawed and its not going to work for any of us. There was a Muslim Ummah when it was ruled by a single leader like Hazrat Umer (RA), Hazrat Usman (RA) and Hazrat Ali (RA). So, let’s not keep high hopes from Ummah. Secondly, we need to understand that Israel-Palestine conflict is not a religious conflict but a political struggle. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was a secular revolutionary socialist organization founded in 1967 by George Habash and had many non-Muslim Arabs members. Even the poster girl of Palestine liberation Leila Khaled never associated herself with any religion. If we need to gain more traction for the cause we must present it to world as a humanitarian cause, where innocent people are being killed with impunity. And finally, we need to stop hating the Jews. Hating the Jews for so many years has done no good to us, its time that we must stop hating them and start competing them in every possible way. Hate is a very strong emotion that always blind our all faculties and do us not good. On the other hand, the sense of competition brings in a lot of motivation for a resolve to any cause.
If we use the following three attitudes to build a narrative for the cause of Palestine then we can present much better case for them. This may seem a drop in ocean but as the famous Chinese philosopher Xun Zi once wrote “Without taking many small steps, one cannot complete a journey of a thousand miles. Without collecting many drops of water, one cannot form a river or sea.”