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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 2, January 24, 2009

Israeli Invasion of Gaza

Monday 26 January 2009, by Shree Shankar Sharan

Holocaust, the attempted annihilation of the Jews by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis had exposed the true and ghastly nature of fascism, made the world stand up against it, inspired the allies to fight World War II and stop Hitler from annexing the world and turn it into his laboratory for racial redesigning.. The Nazis lost the war by the prowess of the USSR and the USA and the will of the British Army and the Jews of Germany as were still alive and of many other countries were saved.

By an irony of history while the victims found a home in Israel, built it with their blood and sweat which earned the admiration of the world, it became the cause of eviction and uprooting of another set of people, the Palestinians, also of the Semitic race, but divided from their kins by conversion to Islam. It is the Palestinians rather than the Jews who are now without a home and assimilated in other Arab countries trying to reclaim their home. But passion rather than reason has continued to dominate their relations.

Since each has a fair case to live in Palestine, the indignant protestation of some like Iran or militant Palestinian organisations like Hamas or Hezbollah in swearing to the extinction of Israel are wholly unacceptable. But equally unreasonable is the Israeli refusal to achieve a permanent peace with the Palestinians, or of gobbling some of the captured territory in several wars between Arab countries and them in the West Bank and Gaza on the plea of securing Israel’s security. It is like Israel wanting permanently weak neighbours, like the satellite states of the former Soviet Union in Eastern Europe or in South America for the USA, to be sure of its security. These policies belong to a bygone age and have ceased to exist. Each country has the right to defend itself by an Army and arms it should be free to make or procure. Security is the right of every country placed together and can only be improved, besides arms, by mutual respect and restraint which neither side displays. Israel shows a colonial mentality and Palestinians impotent rage.

Israel apparently has been emboldened by the support it enjoys from time to time of the US, both military and economic, partly because of the influence of the Jewish lobby in the US as also of the hawks in Israel, the military weakness of the Arab states, and the détente it has made with Egypt and the apparent softening of other countries in the region not to take on Israel militarily. It was also emboldened by the circumstances of its birth by the British vacating at the end of their mandate without resolving the tension between immigrant Jews and the Palestinians; whereas in India they left only after dividing India between the Hindu majority and Moslem majority areas. This gave the Jews the chance to defeat the Palestinians in a civil war and defeat legitimacy by force. Superior force helped by the West enjoyed a premium.

ATTEMPTS to broker peace by Scandinavian countries facilitated the birth of an autonomous Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza which were to evolve into a new state; but peace was disturbed by Palestinian militant organisations and a subsequent military attack by Israel on the autonomous region. A wall was built by Israel to divide the populations which made peace a distant goal. In one of the elections Hamas defeated the more moderate Fatah led by the famous Yasser Arafat as long as he was alive which deepened distrust and further deferred the birth of an independent Palestine.

The last time permanent peace was negotiated was in Camp David by President Clinton but broken by the intransigence or populism of the otherwise highly respected leader Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian liberation movement, a realist, and a visionary over the question of Jerusalem, held in equal reverence by Moslems, Christian and Jews. The Arab logic to refuse half a loaf if they cannot have the whole came into play again. A formula to divide Jerusalem should have been accepted

Tragedy has loomed over the area after losing the chance for peace. The militants have continued to abort peace by sending human bombs or rockets to Israel and the latter reacted fiercely by attacking first the autonomous Palestinian Authority and now Gaza.

A ceasefire, being brokered by Egypt and France in the current invasion of Gaza, includes a clause of ending the smuggling of rockets by Hamas from Iran and has been turned down by Hamas. A ceasefire by both sides to end the misery of civilian populations should not have been laden with conditionality which should be negotiated in the course of talks for a permanent peace. The war in Gaza is catastrophic for a innocent civilians, women and children which must be stopped on humanitarian grounds. The Hamas should be bound down by a commitment not to fire rockets in return for a truce.

It is only reasonable to supervise the two bitter enemies by an international force from neutral countries.

Beyond this, sense should dawn on both sides to be realists, and not cry for the moon. Negotiating permanent peace should be one the most important agendas of President Obama, unlike President Bush’s clandestine or overt policies supportive of Israel, and like-minded leaders of the world. It is a pity that India has squandered her moral capital to intervene by deserting the non-aligned movement, the USSR by abandoning its proactive and balancing policies in the Middle East, the Arabs by losing their famous wisdom and the Israelis the memory of the days when they were the hunted.

Israel should be wise enough to realise that in the long run it is public opinion rather than power that prevails as it has done recently in US. It is fast losing the former.

Let not the Palestinian freedom fighters wear the tag of terrorists. Let not Israelis be accused of being a pale copy of their old tormentors. n

Shree Shankar Sharan is the President, Awami Eka Manch, Patna/Delhi.

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