THE ceasefire between Hamas and Israel seems to be holding up after 11 days of heavy and indiscriminate Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip. Estimates vary but some reports say around 250 Palestinian men, women and children have been killed by Israelis and several parts of Gaza have been reduced to rubble.

The ceasefire was brokered by Egypt and the international community has welcomed it. Aid has also finally started to pour into the destroyed area as Palestinians begin the painful process of rebuilding their shattered lives. The ceasefire comes in the wake of the UN Security Council’s failure to restrain Israel from unleashing violence on the Palestinian civilian population and targeting populated areas including schools and hospitals.

Most Western governments continue to draw a false equivalence between the two sides and refuse to identify Israel as the aggressor. However, international public opinion favoured the Palestinians and there was widespread condemnation of Israel raining death and destruction on the unarmed population in Gaza.

What was missing in this entire unfortunate episode was any role played by organisations like the OIC and the Arab League. Pakistan pursued a proactive policy and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led these efforts from the front by travelling to the UN headquarters in New York to galvanise diplomatic efforts in favour of the Palestinian cause.

He also welcomed the announcement of the ceasefire and said: “This is the power of collective, unified action … May this ceasefire be the first step towards peace in Palestine.” The minister added: “Israel’s occupation of Palestine must end, and illegal settlements and apartheid-like regime imposed in the occupied territories must be dismantled. Implementation of UN [resolution] for establishment of independent and contiguous Palestinian State, with Al-Quds Sharif as its capital [is] imperative.”

Pakistan partnered with Turkey to raise the issue forcefully and reinforce the just cause of the Palestinians at the global forum. It was unfortunate, however, that many other Muslim nations, as well as their multilateral platforms, chose to soft-pedal the issue. This crisis required the OIC and the Arab League to power up their diplomacy and utilise the collective clout of their member countries to pile pressure on Israel and its supporting countries. Instead, these organisations chose expediency over principles and left countries like Pakistan and Turkey to shoulder the burden.

In the wake of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the Donald Trump administration that saw many Arab nations recognising Israel, there has been a visible dilution of support for the Palestinian cause among platforms like the OIC and the Arab League. If this accord was meant to restrain Israel and make it more accommodative towards the Palestinians, Israel has buried this notion under the Gaza rubble. It may be better for the OIC and the Arab League to learn lessons from their failure in this crisis and amend their policy of silence in the face of Israeli brutality.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2021

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