Fresh provocative initiatives followed by armed attack on 10 May by the Zionist Israeli rulers in the narrow coastal strip of land called Gaza in the east of the Mediterranean Sea where about 2 million Palestinian Arabs are huddled in, have thrown the region again into bloodbath. Gaza is one of the three territories occupied by Israel, the other two being West Bank at the border of Jordan and Golan Heights at Syria border. On and often, the armed conflicts assumed dimensions when the Israeli regime backed by the US imperialists escalated military assault on the Palestinian inhabitants who have been continuing struggle to be liberated from the clutches of the most ferocious power in the Middle East and regain a part of their motherland. To add fuel to the fire, Donald Trump, former US President unilaterally declared on 6 December 2017 that the United States would move its embassy in Israel from the capital city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It implied that Jerusalem would be Israel’s capital and would thus come under Israel with control over the entire Jerusalem. It bears recall that during the 1967 Six-Day ‘blitzkrieg’ war between Israel and Arab countries like Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Israel seized control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank located in Palestine from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Since then, all of the city of Jerusalem has been under Israel’s authority. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state and even today, Israel’s sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem is not internationally recognized. Jerusalem is supposed to belong to Palestine. But Trump trumpeted that his declaration was a mark of ‘beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians’. This overlordism of the US imperialists who have been using the Zionist Israeli state as its springboard for its hegemonic designs and mounting attacks on the Arab countries refusing to bend before their dictates sowed the seed of renewed trouble in the region. The present outbreak of armed clashes in which over 200 lives mostly of the Palestinian people including children have been officially reported to have perished and 1440 grievously wounded, has its cue in this brigandish move as well. After 11 days, airstrikes on and rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel and Hamas, the organization now at the forefront of Palestinian resistance to Israeli war threats, agreed to an Egypt-mediated ceasefire from the night of 20 May. However, both sides have warned that the ceasefire would hold based on the ground circumstances. Clearly, this is a fragile truce until and unless the original conflict is resolved.
A brief recap of the perspective
Before entering into a detailed analysis of the present context of Israel-Palestine conflict, it needs a brief recapitulation of the origin of the issue.
In the later part of 19th century, a movement started developing in Russia after a series of pogroms against the Jews, and later spread to other countries in Europe including Britain for the creation of a nation exclusively for the Jewish community. In those times, Jewish people were scattered all over the world. They were generally more concentrated in eastern part of Europe and relatively scarcely in other countries of the world. Their logic was that every community in the world has a nation of its own, which was not the case with only the Jews and this was the reason for them to be discriminated against and vilified across the globe. And they were swayed by a thought that if they had a nation of their own, they would assert themselves and command the respect of the world. This paved the ground for emergence of Zionism. Zionism as a worldwide movement was started by Theodor Herzl in 1896 whose goal was the return of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, or Zion, the Jewish synonym for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. Thus, modern Zionism emerged in the late 19th century in response to the violent persecution of the Jews in Eastern Europe and anti-Semitism in Western Europe. In course of its emergence, modern Zionism fused the ancient Jewish biblical and historical ties to a long-lost homeland with the concept of ultra-chauvinistic nationalism into a vision of establishing a modern Jewish state in the land of Israel.
Where was this to be created? This was to be created in the midst of Palestine homeland by pushing out the original resident Palestinians from their homeland! Thus began the influx of Jewish settlement in Palestine in the beginning of 20th century with the active and direct connivance of British imperialists. Palestine was a British protectorate at that time. With these settlements came friction between the Arab Palestinians and the Jewish settlers. Following the holocaust in Germany and other countries under Nazi rule, the exodus of Jewish people to Palestine increased manifold. The demand for creation of Israel gained currency even more. The Arab Palestinians who wanted one single state where both Jews and Arabs lived together, were opposed to partition or a bi-national state, either way leading to the loss of their homeland. But their demand was not acceded to. Israel proclaimed a Zionist state in the land of Palestinian people where Jewish settlers constituted only a minority and thereby betrayed the cause of its own common people. Treacherously, by the end of WWII, with the active connivance of the British and American imperialists Israel was carved out of Palestine in 1948, in spite of opposition by all the countries of the world, most illegally and illegitimately! In 1948 the Jews made up 33% of the population of Palestine, but owned only 7% of the land. Since then Israel has been expanding its territory at the cost of Palestine by brutal force backed by American imperialists, to such an extent that most of Palestine has become Israel and what has remained as Palestine is Gaza and West Bank areas majorly. Such is the brutal history of creation of Israel in short.
As regards birth of HAMAS (?arakat al-Muq?wamat al-Isl?miyyah, meaning “Islamic Resistance Movement”), the first thing the Zionist Israeli rulers did after defeating mighty Egypt in 1967 to take hold of Gaza territory, was to subdue secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Yasser Arafat, which had taken up the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. The latter were thrown into a pathetic life of terrible destitution and uncertainty. In their frantic efforts to survive with freedom and dignity, they ultimately built up organized struggle under the leadership of the PLO. What started as their war of resistance was transformed soon into a struggle with demands for their independent homeland, that is the Palestinian state, and right for the Arabs to return to their homeland. They fought heroically true to their spirit. So, decimating PLO or bringing cleavage into the fighting unity of the Palestinians was a pressing necessity for Israeli rulers. Hence they started inciting the various Islamic groups against PLO. Sheikh Ahmed Yaseen was then leader of Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. Israeli rulers gave him the responsibility to revitalize the Islamist groups. Seizing the opportunity, Yaseen formed an ultra-Islamist group called Muzama-al Islamia. Israel called Muzama a charitable organization and wanted to suppress the leftist and secular forces with the help of it. Within few years, Muzama virtually cornered PLO and its influential organization, Fatah. Israeli authorities funded Muzama liberally. But, after a decade, Israel came to know that the followers of Sheikh Yaseen were procuring arms in Gaza. Yaseen was immediately arrested. But cunning Yaseen convinced Israel that the arms procured would be used against the secular forces. In 1987, Palestine became explosive centring on a street accident in which a few Palestine citizens were run over by a car driven by an Israeli person. Rebellious protests spread throughout Israel-occupied West Bank and Gaza. Yaseen led the protests and received support from the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas was born out of this rebellious outbreak. In a sense, Hamas proved to be a Frankenstein for Israel.
Three steps that triggered the present crisis
Peace-loving people round the globe are visibly disturbed at this development. Many of them are in dilemma as to which side initiated the assault since a large section of media and their columnists are posing a neutral reporting. They quote the Israeli PM and military leaders saying that they did not start the attack but Hamas only showered salvos of rockets on Israel. The Israeli military acted in retaliation. But facts speak otherwise.
In April, at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israel’s police chief fenced off the wide steps leading into the Damascus Gate, one of the ancient entrances to Jerusalem’s old walled city. During Ramadan, these steps are a favourite place for families to celebrate the evening iftar meal. There was no apparent logic to closing them off allegedly for “security reasons”. The only apparent goal was a wish to humiliate Muslim Palestinians at a particularly sensitive moment. The Muslim Palestinians were naturally outraged at such a provocation. So, fiery protests erupted leading to clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police. Eventually, the police removed the barriers. By then other processes had been set in motion. Hundreds were injured. The rockets started flying.
Apart from this, there was another treacherous move on the part of the Israeli government. Disregarding presence of a sizeable section of Palestinians in the eastern part of the city, Israel had built a wall separating Jerusalem from the Palestinian hinterland. The motive was clear. It sought to strengthen Israeli claim to the whole city by ringing it with new Jewish homes and squeezing Palestinians out. Most local Palestinians now living there are not citizens but mere “residents”, granted access to health care and social security, but not the same rights as Jews.
What brought increasing tensions in Jerusalem to a boiling point, is the fact that Israel’s Supreme Court started reviewing a judgment with a view to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Their homes sit on land that had once been owned by Jews before the State of Israel came into being and before Jordan occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1948. Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war (friction between the Palestinians and Israel commenced in 1948) were settled there by the Jordanian government in the 1950s, and they have been living there ever since. But Israeli settlers belonging to the ultra-right groups have been trying to reclaim these lands from the Palestinians and the courts have cruelly gone along with them.
Noteworthy is the fact that Israeli law allows the heirs of the original owners to reclaim property in East Jerusalem. But in Israeli West Jerusalem one third of the properties belonged to Palestinian families who lived there before 1948 and had been evicted since then; yet under Israeli law, Palestinians have no hope of recovering their lost homes in West Jerusalem (or anywhere else in Israel). No wonder Palestinian residents of the city are always ready to protest. On the contrary, settler thugs, ultra-right-wing Israeli Jew gangs descended upon Sheikh Jarrah and marched through the city chanting ‘Death to Arabs’ in order to terrorise the Palestinian residents. Night after night, the neighbourhood turned into a battle ground, the police often siding with and protecting the settlers and coming down brutally upon Palestinian protestors. Quite understandably, such violent suppression turned Sheikh Jarrah issue into a rallying cry for Palestinians everywhere in Israel and the West Bank or Gaza, also for the Arab world beyond Palestine.
The height of frenzy of the Israeli authority was witnessed in the Haram al-Sharif during the final days of Ramadan, when tens of thousands of worshippers come to the Al-Aqsa mosque — the third-holiest site in Islam considered sacred to over a billion Muslims. The place is also a site revered by the Jews. There were slogans in favour Palestinian state with some enthusiast waving a flag too. This was counter-posed by a heavy-handed police raiding of Al-Aqsa Mosque and thus setting off an instant backlash. Some Palestinians threw stones at the police who responded with extraordinary brutality. In fact, the Israeli authorities were waiting for such a repercussion so that they could use this as a pretext to launch ruthless attacks. Hundreds of Palestinians were wounded. It takes truly unusual degrees of cruelty and provocation to send policemen throwing stun grenades and tear gas at worshippers inside the mosque during Ramadan. Moreover, since the very beginning of the conflict in the early 20th century, Palestinian Muslims have seen the Zionist actions as being aimed, first and foremost, at destroying the Haram al Sharif so the Jews could rebuild their temple there. For many Palestinians, the Israeli police have now, not for the first time, substantiated this notion.
So it is clear that contrary to majority of media reports, it was the Israeli authorities who prompted enough provocations, even armed assaults to set the region aflame. Hence, it demands unequivocal condemnation from all with demand for immediate and unconditional stoppage of Israeli attack.
Other disturbing developments
Moreover, there are some other proofs of Israeli regime flagrantly violating Human Rights. A 213-page report, ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’, released on 9 May 2021 by Human Rights Watch, examined Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the land of Israel itself and in the occupied territories. It presented the present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government, ruling primarily over the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, populated by two groups of roughly equal size, and methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory. It maintained that severe deprivation of fundamental rights of a particular community like the Palestinians with discriminatory intent, makes it a crime against humanity of persecution and apartheid by the internationally agreed statute and customary international law.
As a part of their heinous policy, Israeli authorities sought and seek to maximize the land available for Jewish communities by confiscating land and building settlements even on occupied territories which is illegal under international laws, to restrict movements of Palestinians under a rigorous permit regime and force them to live huddled together in dense population centres under such harsh conditions as to compel thousands of Palestinians to move out of their homes, while Jewish Israelis live in a segregated manner in the same territory enjoying their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law. Building permits are categorically denied to Palestinians and thousands of homes are demolished on the pretext of lacking permits. Residency rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their relatives are denied. Population registry is effectively frozen in the occupied territories so much so that family reunification is blocked and Gaza residents are barred from living in the West Bank. Palestinian citizens of Israel also are discriminated against by laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children. In Jerusalem itself, the government with the help of the municipality, plan to maintain “a solid Jewish majority in the city”. This is despite the fact that the eastern part of the city occupied by Israel in 1967 remains largely Palestinian and the 1993 Oslo accords left the city’s status to be settled in a permanent peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the background in which the Palestinians in Israel and occupied territories face discrimination to the extent of persecution and apartheid, which are internationally and legally recognized as crimes against humanity. The present crisis developed on this background with Jerusalem at its heart.
Features that stand out in the present case
Other striking features in the present case are given below point by point.
First, for the first time international opinion clearly categorizes Israeli policy in Israel and occupied territories as crimes against humanity marked by persecution and apartheid.
Secondly, despite the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the coastal territory of Gaza, Hamas leadership could manage to get hold of a fair amount of arsenal. Also the rockets demonstrated a longer range and were more powerful than those fired in previous conflicts, reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Hamas also adopted a new tactic of firing more than 100 missiles simultaneously to thwart the U.S.-financed Iron Dome missile-defence system, which might have caused more casualties in Israel this time. This time Hamas in Gaza surprised the Israeli army and the intelligence services, not to mention the government, by its ability to take command of a volatile situation, to hit deep into Israel with precision rocketry, and to impose its agenda on an overwhelmingly more powerful enemy.
Thirdly, the attack on Gaza was paralleled by a violent ferment on the sidewalks and streets of several mixed-ethnicity Israeli cities, such as Lod, Ramleh, Jaffa, Acre and east Jerusalem where ultra-right Jewish vigilantes mostly coming from elsewhere pounced upon the Arab locals, only to face a stiff resistance. The conflict was on a scale not seen since the start of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, 21 years ago. It created conditions close to civil war underlining failure of Netanyahu-led Zionist government to restore some semblance of normalcy.
Fourthly, the argument of exercising “the right to defend itself” as advanced by the Israeli authorities, US president Joe Biden and their cohorts is losing its sting, may be imperceptibly, but surely. The warning of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that he was prepared to use an “iron fist if necessary” to calm the violence is also worth recounting. To democratic-minded people, it is becoming clear that the military machine Israel employs against an occupied population, for example in Gaza, is highly sophisticated, demonically lethal, well-lubricated by unbridled funds, aids and assistances from the US imperialists and their associates. The occupied population, in their turn, does hardly have any mechanized units, and has no air force, navy, missiles, heavy artillery and command-and-control. Whatever Hamas might have achieved as reinforcement of its attacking power, there cannot be any match between that and the devilish Israeli might. It is ridiculous to argue that such a mighty power is forced to attack Gaza in self-defence. Hence questions are being raised to call out what Israel is doing is carrying out mass murder particularly in occupied territories. It is a war crime.
Fifthly, Netanyahu’s political future and personal ambition are also factors which cannot be glossed over. He failed to form a government coalition after inconclusive parliamentary elections in March, and now his political rivals have three weeks to try to form one. So, he thought a war cry might come to his rescue. Hence he declared on 16 May that the offensive against Hamas would continue for some time as Israel sought to exact a “heavy price” on the group for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Israel will inevitably “win” this round of fighting once it has “mowed the grass,” This message was evidently aimed to woo the Israeli citizens in his favour and convince them that continuation of this conflict, launching permanent war against Palestine and occupation of the Palestinian territories would safeguard their interests. The longer the fighting would drag on, the more it could hamper the attempts of Netanyahu’s opposition at forming a coalition against him. It could also boost Netanyahu’s prospects of an absolute victory if another election is held, since security is his strong suit with the public. This is typical of any fascist autocratic ruler. A prolonged war or armed clashes in sporadic bouts not only deflect the attention of the people from the real issues but also help release stockpiles of arms and give a boost to further production of such armaments which are manufactured as a part of sustained militarization of economy to stave off the crisis that decadent moribund capitalism is sunk in. At the same time, perpetuating a war psychosis helps in creating a national jingoist mindset as well as pseudo-patriotic feelings among the people.
Stand of US, UK, China and India
As regards international reaction, the UNO chief condemned the “indiscriminate launching of rockets” from civilian areas in Gaza toward Israeli population centres, he also urged Israel to show “maximum restraint”. On the other hand, US President Biden and the Secretary of State called Netanyahu to extend their support to Israel. A third United Nations Security Council emergency meeting in a week – amid the deadly Israeli offensive in Gaza – has again ended with no concrete outcome after the United States blocked a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. While urging both sides to “step back from the brink”, UK, however, sided with US to “unequivocally condemn acts of terrorism from Hamas”. China, on the contrary, encouraged the United Nations Security Council to immediately help broker a ceasefire, opposed American efforts to sabotage this, supported a just two-state solution for the Palestinians in line with international law, and backed the constructive role of the UN, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in this regard. China also held that the two sides should resume peace talks based on a “two-state solution” as soon as possible, to establish an independent State of Palestine that would enjoy full sovereignty with East Jerusalem as its capital and based on the 1967 border, and would fundamentally realise the peaceful coexistence of Palestine and Israel as well as harmonious coexistence of the Arab and Jewish nations.
As regards India, between its intervention in the UN Security Council on 16 May and its statement in the UN General Assembly on 20 May perceptibly indicated a shift towards Israel. The line that “India strongly supports the just Palestinian cause and is unwaveringly committed to the two-State solution” which was part of the Indian statement in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 16 May was found absent from its UN General Assembly (UNGA) statement on 20 May. Moreover, in 20 May statement, India condemned “the indiscriminate rocket firings from Gaza into Israel, which have caused deaths of a number of civilians.” In the UNSC statement, India had said “We urge both sides to show extreme restraint, desist from actions that exacerbate tensions, and refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.” This was seen to draw an equivalence between Israel and Hamas, particularly with India stating then that it was Israel’s action in East Jerusalem and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood started the problem. In the UNGA statement, India removed all such ambiguity, being much more supportive of Israel. It is reported that India’s UNSC statement evoked a lot of criticism of the government from the ruling BJP’s own supporters, who felt India was not supporting Israel enough during this time, and that being even-handed meant an acceptance of Hamas actions. Israel also felt the same way. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his thanks to a number of countries that supported Israel, but India was not among them. So, the BJP-led Indian government went for a course correction which clearly militates against the views of the anti-imperialist peace-loving Indians.
Build up and strengthen anti-imperialist militant peace movement round the globe
It is a historical truth that the population of Palestine consisted of Muslims, Christians and Jews and lived without any enmity in peace and harmony for many centuries before the Jewish settlement which began in the beginning of 20th century. Amidst all this war-like situation, what has not been reported by the world bourgeois media is that many common people forgetting their ethnic divide have jointly protested against Israeli government in Israel itself. Thousands of people belonging to Jewish community in US took out a rally supporting Palestine and condemning Israel. They have demanded an end to war and to put an end to rightist forces who are behind all this worsening situation both in Palestine and Israel. It is unfortunate that the left forces which were once a formidable force in Israel and stood for peace and friendship have reportedly lost ground. It should be realized by the common masses that wars only serve the interest of the war monger imperialists and the capitalist class of their respective countries and it goes directly against the interest of the toiling masses who suffer the most. As taught by great Lenin, “imperialism generates war”. So long as imperialism would exist, there would be no respite from war- whether localized, partial or large scale-bringing in its wake devastation and death of the common people. It should also be understood that in today’s world, war anywhere will affect the world everywhere! The sad dismantling of the USSR and the socialist camp following counter-revolution aided and abetted by the imperialist camp as well as revisionist intrigues, the bulwark against war-mongering of the imperialist camp also collapsed. In the unipolar world, if imperialist sharks and their lackeys find there is no effective deterrent to their pursuit of precipitating war, they would run amuck just like Zionist Israel have found fresh vigour to launch and continue their offensives to a greater extent. Therefore the need of the hour is to organize united sustained powerful and integrated anti-imperialist militant peace movement all over the world by the peace loving people which alone can be a deterrent to imperialist war machination. At the same time, we call upon all to stand by the fighting Palestine people with active support and demand immediate stoppage of lethal attack by the Zionist Israeli authorities as well as vacation of all the occupied territories in Gaza, West Bank and Golan heights. We also demand of the US imperialists to withdraw from interfering in the affairs of West Asia and look forward to establishment of independent sovereign Palestine state. We also demand of the US imperialists to withdraw from interfering in the affairs of West Asia and call for overwhelming worldwide active support for establishment of independent sovereign Palestine state.
[Source: hrw.org 27-04-21, Al Jazeera 12-05-21, 13-05-21, 17-05-21, Chicago Tribune 12-05-21, The Economist 12-05-21, Workers’ World 13-05-21, The New York Times 13-05-21, The Wire-13-05-21, BBC 13-05-21, Common Dreamsn14-05-21, nbcboston.com14/5/2021, Reuters 14-05-21, The Hindu 11-05-21, 15-05-21, 17-05-21, 21-05-21, 24-05-21, johnmenadue.com 16-05-21, Business Standard- 16-05-21, Hindustan Times 17-05-21, Economic Times17-05-21, jagranjosh.com 21-05-21, Times Of India 22-05-21, 25-05-21]