Pales­tine and Is­rael

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Har­ris Khalique

PER­HAPS those fight­ing the long-drawn cold war from the western hemi­sphere thought that with the demise of the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc, other peo­ple of the world will start fall­ing in line be­fore the end of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. That did not hap­pen and doesn’t seem to be tak­ing place in the com­ing years ei­ther. Re­gret­tably, there has been an es­ca­la­tion of con­flicts in the Mus­lim-dom­i­nated re­gions since.

There was a war in Iraq much be­fore the un­for­tu­nate 9/11 hap­pened. There was an­other war in Iraq to find the weapons of mass de­struc­tion, which were never to be found. There is a war go­ing on in Afghanistan since 2001.

All along, the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict has con­tin­ued, only at­tract­ing sig­nif­i­cant news cov­er­age when there is an up­surge in vi­o­lence. It has the Is­raeli state aided by the Amer­i­cans and en­cour­aged by the cal­cu­lated timid­ity of some rich Arab coun­tries, on the one hand, and the frag­mented and op­pressed Pales­tini­ans with lim­ited in­de­pen­dent sup­port from cit­i­zens across the world, on the other.

But the Pales­tini­ans are pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim and there­fore, af­ter the weak­en­ing of the global pro­gres­sive move­ments, the Pales­tinian rights move­ment has in­creas­ingly be­come Mus­lim in na­ture. Is­rael has con­trib­uted to mak­ing it such as well. For years now, this con­flict has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the Mus­lim world like no other con­flict has. What the Amer­i­cans need to un­der­stand is that their sup­port to de­vel­op­ment projects and hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse across de­vel­op­ing Mus­lim coun­tries in times of crises get washed away by their overt sup­port to Is­raeli ag­gres­sion.

The Jews, Chris­tians and Mus­lims shared the land and its re­sources for cen­turies. But the cur­rent con­flict crys­tallised in 1948 with the cre­ation of the state of Is­rael, when the UN sided with the Zion­ist claim on Pales­tinian land and re­solved in favour of cre­at­ing two states when the British man­date over the area was to be over.

The ide­ol­ogy that David Ben-Gu­rion, the head of the World Zion­ist Move­ment sub­scribed to tri­umphed. A state was born on the ba­sis of a faith-based community’s claim over a piece of land, which their an­ces­tors in­hab­ited more than two mil­len­nia ago. Ridicu­lous as it may sound, be­cause Euro­peans them­selves were as­pir­ing for sec­u­lar­ism around the same time, they and their transAt­lantic al­lies sup­ported the Zionoist claim. They may have also suf­fered from a huge guilty con­science for treat­ing Euro­pean Jews with con­tempt for cen­turies and the re­sul­tant holo­caust.

As soon as Is­rael was cre­ated, Arab forces re­sisted its for­ma­tion but couldn’t suc­ceed. Sub­se­quently, in Arab-Is­raeli wars, Is­rael oc­cu­pied the West Bank, the Si­nai Penin­sula, the Gaza strip and Golan Heights. Some land, in mod­ern terms, would be re­garded as Syr­ian, Le­banese or Egyp­tian. Egypt got Si­nai back and Jor­dan also signed a pact with Is­rael. The Pales­tini­ans were be­lea­guered and con­tin­ued to lose their land which they had got in 1948. Hun­dreds of thou­sands were turned into refugees. Parts of East Jerusalem were an­nexed by Is­rael. Set­tle­ments re­mained un­de­vel­oped for decades on the land which was marked for Pales­tini­ans even by the UN.

In 1964, the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, a united front of sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions like Al-Asifa, PFLP, Al-Fatah and about eight oth­ers, was cre­ated for Pales­tinian’s right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and the right to re­turn to their land. They opted for armed strug­gle. There were two wars in 1967 and 1973. Pales­tini­ans and those Arab coun­tries that came to their sup­port could not over­power the Is­raelis due to the un­re­lent­ing US sup­port and tech­no­log­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity.

The skir­mishes, at­tacks, mil­i­tant op­er­a­tions and per­pet­ual state of war be­tween the two grossly un­equal par­ties con­tin­ued un­til 1991, when the PLO was recog­nised by the UN and Is­rael as the sole rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Pales­tini­ans. This came about af­ter the PLO de­nounced its armed strug­gle and started work­ing to­wards a two-state so­lu­tion. But in the mean­while, In­tifada caught ev­ery­body by sur­prise. The first In­tifada, wide­spread civil dis­obe­di­ence and re­sis­tance move­ment, broke out in 1987 and con­tin­ued un­til 1993. Is­rael had ex­pe­ri­enced bat­tles and at­tacks, this ci­ti­zen’s move­ment in­tro­duced dif­fer­ent chal­lenges, both in terms of man­age­ment of cri­sis and in­ter­na­tional im­age.

In 1993, the Oslo Peace Ac­cords were signed be­tween Is­rael and the PLO. The two par­ties agreed on the with­drawal of Is­rael from Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They agreed to a Pales­tinian self-gov­ern­ment and also re­solved that within five years, ne­go­ti­a­tions would com­mence on a per­ma­nent sta­tus for Pales­tine. Also, dur­ing these ne­go­ti­a­tions, pend­ing is­sues like East Jerusalem, the Pales­tinian refugees and ex­pan­sion of Is­raeli set­tle­ments were to be taken up and re­solved.

While the ac­cords were pro­jected and prop­a­gated as a sig­nal turn in the con­flict, saga­cious peo­ple like Ed­ward Said, the Pales­tinian-Amer­i­can pub­lic in­tel­lec­tual, had a dif­fer­ent view. Time tells us that Said was on the spot when he said, “The Is­raeli cal­cu­la­tion seems to be that by agree­ing to po­lice Gaza – a job which Be­gin tried to give Sa­dat 15 years ago – the PLO would soon fall afoul of lo­cal com­peti­tors, of whom Ha­mas is only one.

“More­over, rather than be­com­ing stronger dur­ing the in­terim pe­riod, the Pales­tini­ans may grow weaker, come more un­der the Is­raeli thumb, and there­fore be less able to dis­pute the Is­raeli claim when the last set of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gins.” But on the mat­ter of how, by what spe­cific mech­a­nism, to get from an in­terim sta­tus to a later one, the doc­u­ment is pur­pose­fully silent. Does this mean, omi­nously, that the in­terim stage may be the fi­nal one?

Is­rael did as Said had pre­dicted. While flirt­ing with the PLO and bag­ging No­bel peace prizes, what the Is­raelis were do­ing on the side is worth-men­tion­ing here. Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence con­tin­ued to weaken the in­clu­sive and plu­ral­is­tic PLO. In­tifada had taught them a les­son. It is eas­ier to deal with a mil­i­tant out­fit and im­pos­si­ble to deal with cit­i­zens at large ris­ing in fury.

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