Palestine at war

Published October 8, 2023

FIFTY years since the last Arab-Israeli war, hostilities have once again broken out in Palestine. Hamas, the Palestinian group which rules Gaza, launched a Saturday morning surprise blitz targeting Israel, sending fighters into the state and initiating what will likely be a lengthy armed confrontation between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Tel Aviv has already said Israel is “at war”. According to Hamas, ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ was started in response to “atrocities in Gaza, against Palestinian people [and] our holy sites”. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, has said his people have the right to defend themselves against the “terror of settlers and occupation troops”.

Many Western states have issued typically sanctimonious statements criticising Hamas, and reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself. Yet they choose to ignore what has led to the current conflagration: the far-right government that runs Israel has unleashed a reign of terror upon the Palestinians.

According to the UN, over 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers (before yesterday’s declaration of war) — the highest number in 18 years. At the time of writing, another 200 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed in a single day’s bombardment, a blood-soaked tally that is bound to rise.

Moreover, rabid extremists have been staging increasingly provocative marches in the occupied city of Jerusalem, taunting Palestinians on grounds of Al Aqsa. They have also been involved in desecrating churches in the holy city, and attacks on Christian pilgrims and residents, emboldened by a racist government that seeks to ethnically cleanse Palestine of all non-Jews. The situation had been simmering for months, and Saturday’s events were the reaction to a sustained cycle of violence and humiliation.

All sides need to exercise restraint, and to avoid civilian targets. Yet knowing Israel’s historical desire for bloodlust, it is the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, who will pay a heavy price as women, children and the elderly are decimated by Tel Aviv’s war machine, even as Israel’s foreign friends trumpet its right to ‘self-defence’.

The latest escalation also raises a question mark over the efforts of various Muslim states to normalise ties with Israel. The Palestine question cannot be resolved unless a just solution is found, one where the Palestinians have a viable state that is secure and financially self-sufficient, where those ethnically cleansed over the decades by the Zionists have the right to return to the land of their forefathers, and where illegal settlements are permanently dismantled.

Unless the Palestinians receive justice, the cycle of violence will continue, with Israel periodically beating them into submission. No fanciful deal sidestepping the core issue of Palestinian nationhood will ever deliver, no matter what slick PR is employed. The Israeli occupation needs to end, and the Palestinian people need justice.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2023

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