The scoreline says it all: 1814-67. Israel 'won', Palestine battered black and blue. This latest round of Israel-Palestine conflict started with the abduction and killing of three Israeli youth in June 30. Israel began a manhunt for the people behind the killing and started bombing what it called 'Hamas targets'. On July 17, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded Gaza and on August 5 withdrew its forces. On Friday, hours before a 72-hour ceasefire was to end, two rockets were fired into Israel by militants from Gaza. Hamas has denied firing the rockets. The Cairo-brokered ceasefire was has come to an end with Israel and the Hamas not reaching an agreement.
After nearly 30 days of violence more than 1,814 Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, have been killed. On Israel's side, it lost 64 army personnel and three civilians. That's roughly 27 Palestinian lives for every loss Israel suffered.
For those who enjoy the spectacle of warfare this is how comfortable it gets. A news report that is widely circulated and called the 'Sderot Cinema' shows how Israeli residents climb a hillock, sit on chairs and cheer as bombs fall on Gaza. For those who are shaken by its horrors, this is what 21st century massacres look like.
While Israel is guilty of using disproportionate force, Hamas cannot escape blame. Its use of human shields, keeping weapons in schools and firing rockets from densely populated civilian areas has jeopardised the safety and security of Palestinians — who the organisation claims to serve and protect.
Guilty of complacence
World nations have expressed grief at the events and have asked for peace to prevail but have stopped short of condemning Israel for its attack on innocent civilians (however, many nations have condemned the Hamas for its atrocities).
The United States has always showed unwavering support to the Zionist cause and this time also it stood by its ally. However, two instances stood out that showed a bit of insensitivity on Washington's side. First was on July 14 when President Barack Obama hosted prominent American Muslims at the White House Iftar dinner. Obama probably chose a wrong occasion to reiterate Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Hamas, especially at a time when scores of innocent Palestinian children and women were dying. The second was on the next day, on July 15, when a shipment of 4.3 ton US-manufactured arms arrived at the Port of Haifa, Israel.
A women with her baby prepares to leave her destroyed home amid ruins in the Shejaia neighbourhood in Gaza City. (Reuters Photo)
Former US President Jimmy Carter in an article co-authored with former Irish President Mary Robinson for 'Foreign Policy' said, "There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defence Forces are conducting this war… Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it co-operate in its own demise". Carter and Robinson go on to say that only by recognising Hamas as a political player can the West provide it incentives to lay down arms. But it seems Obama is in no mood to listen to Carter.
Playing both sides of the fence
New Delhi, it seems, is playing both sides of the fence. In mid July in a strong-worded statement released at Fortaleza, Brazil, India, along with other BRICS nations, censured Israel. However, a discussion on the Gaza conflict was not permitted in Parliament. Following this, on July 23, India voted in Palestine's favour at the UNHRC.
No friends in West Asia
Though the grand visions of a United Arab Republic and Arab Federation have more or less perished, the fault-lines that drove such ambitions during the mid-20th century are visible. If Arab socialism and nationalism were the threats to the monarchies in West Asia then, today it is democracy and variant Islamic schools of thought. That's why even though Saudi Arabia will not break bread with Israel it will not lend a hand to the Palestinian cause in which Hamas is a player. Add to this Syria's historical claim that Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine are part of Greater Syria (Damascus disapproves the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916) and the hostility the Palestinians have faced from Jordan's Hashemites, the Palestinians have few friends in the region.
Militants fire rockets at Israel as Gaza truce expires
So it's not surprising that there was not much condemnation from the Arab world against Israeli action, except for token statements calling for a ceasefire and peace from the Arab League. The 21-member league was, however, critical of US secretary of state John Kerry's meeting with officials from Qatar and Turkey (two countries that back Hamas) in Paris.
Far from a solution
While Israel maintains that it cannot lower its guard, the Palestinians are replete with stories of atrocities and injustice by Israel that 'occupies' its territory. Israel's violation of international norms, especially its spree of new settlements in the occupied territories (in 2013 there were about 540,000 Israelis living here), has made it hard for even its well-wishers to defend its cause. On the other hand, Hamas, which is ruling the Gaza Strip, without shunning its violent ways has not made it easy for the people of Palestine.
In its zeal to 'protect' Israel's interests the IDF have forgotten the number of innocent Palestinians killed by its mindless bombings. In the din of new settlements coming up Tel Aviv has forgotten UN Resolution 242. Washington has shown double standards in defining human rights, and the world in general has remained a mute spectator. Hamas, which claims to represent the voice of a section of the Palestinian people, has been exposed and has done disservice to the Palestinians.
Israel has retreated to 'defensive positions' around Gaza claiming that its objective of destroying tunnels in Gaza has been achieved. But this is a pyrrhic victory — if at all there is a victor.
If Carter's words are uninspiring and violence is the preferred way, Israel and the US should consider another US president, John F Kennedy's words: Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.