By Yakubu Musa
Nothing, perhaps, illustrates the tragedy of the current world’s most enduring struggle, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, than last Friday’s UN resolution for a ceasefire. Curiously, the United States of America voted against it while her number one ally, the United Kingdom, was nowhere to be found during this all-important vote. Both have been part of the problem since the beginning of the 20th century. While the UK, as the Great Britain Empire then, sowed its seed, the Americans have since adopted the pet project and turned it into an obsession. More ironic is that the Americans have often posed as neutral mediators only to shamefacedly act as the defender of a darling side of the protracted conflict.
Yet there is no escaping the sui generis nature of this catastrophe as an ideological one, which explains both its zero-sumness and durability. If there’s any doubt on this, the Israel Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, cleared it up when he told the world that what the country set out to achieve was in fulfilment of a Biblical Prophecy is rooted in Isiah. His officials and their US government counterparts have re-echoed similar sentiments when they openly suggested that they were dealing with animals, not humans, and thus the need for no redline to observe.
This is perhaps the reason the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are behaving like the modern-day Genghis Khan Army. What they currently see in Gazza is what the Genghis cruel soldiers saw in Samarkand, and they have not yet started since Netanyahu charged them with the motivation of Samuel 15:3: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”. The IDF is perfectly executing this Al-Qaeda and ISIS style of cherry-picking religious injunctions with the full backing of the West as I type. All these with the approval of global hegemons.
What is playing out is therefore another vindication of Noam Chomsky, who said “We can debate the extent to which Israel relies on US support. But there can be little doubt that its crushing of Palestinians, and other violent crimes, are possible only because the US provides it with economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support”.
Indeed, no stone will be unturned in waging this colonial war against the indigenous population, by a variety of parties, “to force them to relinquish their homeland to another people against their will,” as Rashid Khalidi argues.
Everything started with the subterfuge of the Balfour Declaration. When “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”. Yet the British were not oblivious of the fact everything would be done which would surely “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
Arthur Balfour too was very much aware of the contradiction in the declaration. After all, the British had another covert agreement with the French to share the Arab lands between themselves—when Mark Sykes and George Picot were redrawing the map of the Middle East in 1916— while a promise was made for an independent Arab state as the carrot dangled for the rebellion against the Ottomans during the First World War.
Perhaps no one captures the debacle of the dubious declaration better than Eugene Rogan in his epic book, the Arabs. “The Balfour Declaration was a formula for communal conflict. Given Palestine’s very limited resources, there simply was no way to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Inevitably the mandate engendered conflict between rival nationalism —the highly organized Zionist movement, and a new Palestinian nationalism forged by the dual threats of British imperialism and Zionist colonialism.
“Palestine would prove Britain’s gravest imperial failure in the Middle East, a failure that would condemn the whole of the Middle East to conflict and violence that persist to the present day,” he wrote in the book.
Many other scholars corroborate this view as the Zionists never miss an opportunity to showcase to the world their impunity to the rest of the “inferior world”. The Zionists had, and still have, the conviction that the Palestinian land— they violently seized— especially after the Nakba of 1948 belongs to them. They seem to have the notion the original C-of-O of the land is attached to the 10 commandments tablets as Annexure 1. But the irony of establishing the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to start purchasing the Palestinian’s land as they escaped pogroms in Europe is never missed by the discerning minds.
As far back as 1895, Theodor Herzl, the leading Zionist movement intellectual looking for a land to call theirs provided an insight into their vision. “We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly!” his diary revealed.
If the project was conceived to be executed discreetly, it took a different turn in 1948 when 780,000 Palestinians were dispossessed and displaced. But Nakba wasn’t the first. It was merely the climax. The British had, after realizing their thoughtlessness, tried to amend the past. But each attempt would confound the situation like in the case of the Peel Commission, whose recommendations left the Palestinians at the receiving end again. The partition proposed gave the Jews statehood in 20 percent of the territories of Palestine. But the bigger bone of contention was that it included most of the coastline and the country’s most fertile land in the Jezreel Valley and Galilee, while the Arabs were consoled with the poorest lands of Palestine, including the Negev Desert and the Arava Valley. If these are criminal, the population transfer recommended is equally no less evil.
But this has always been the treatment of the Palestinians, whether in the hands of the British who started the collective punishment, or in the hands of the favoured settlers later. The only time they were, perhaps, viewed with some favour was when the Americans were truly neutrals. The King-Crane report tried to genuinely remedy the situation at the cradle. Yet it was ignored, shelved, and only made public 3 years after the head had been cut off.
The negotiation tables too have never favoured them. If the Camp David Accords ended in a major disappointment, as Edward Said argued, Oslo was the disillusionment according to Mohamed Heikel, the author of Secret Channels.
“No one commented that Camp David failed to deal with-failed even to mention-the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. It went without a comment that during the Knesset debate on Camp David, Begin’s presentation was made explicitly to depend on an exchange, a deal, which was better for Israel than for Egypt and “the Arabs”: Sinai would be returned to Egypt while Israel would keep the other territories,” wrote Said in his remarkable book, the Question of Palestine.
In the final analysis, what is manifestly clear is that this protracted conflict cannot be resolved by ignoring its root cause, nor will it be cured with the same prejudiced and deceitful approach the global hegemons have so far treated it with. And while any form of Palestinian violence is also condemnable, the world cannot continue to pretend that the Palestinians have not been victims of betrayal, apartheid, and collective punishments. For how long will the world endure the horror of watching as the hospitals, refugee camps and other civilian targets in Gazza being bombed by the IDF?