Writing about the Israel can be tricky as the issue has scorched the Middle Eastern subcontinent for over a century and still continues to. The issue at hand is not only about the illogical Balfour Declaration by the British or the mass exodus of the European Jews to Palestine or even Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
It is about how millions of Palestinians families live apart, how thousands of civilians die in the air strikes and bombings, how the UN does not show any regard to the humanitarian crisis and moreover, how people continue to live as Jews and Muslims rather than as humans.
Different versions about the creation of present day Israel exist and the exact truth perhaps has now been lost forever. One version states how the British started the transfer of European Jews to Palestine after a series of battles with the Turks in the middle eastern region which was resisted by the Arabs. As a direct result of that, Jews were treated unfairly by the Arabs of the region furthering the chasm. After the holocaust, millions of Jews fled persecution and landed at Palestine which led to a mass exodus of the people living there to other Arab countries. After the Six-Day war, Israel occupied most of Palestine and that continues to be a bone of contention till today. The most appalling thing perhaps here is the refusal of Israel to let the original inhabitants return to their homeland or families. Another version, however, is that Jews which came to Palestine after World War II were sold off the land near the coast thought to be used by the Arabs, for triple their price. However, the growing population and the hard work by the Jews ensured that the balance of power tilted in their favor. The subsequent wins in the 1948 and 1967 Wars boosted the confidence of the Jews and since then the liberation of Palestine has become a distant dream.
The most horrifying reality of this conflict has been its prolonged presence which shows no signs of abating. The hardliners on both sides have ensured that a peaceful settlement is not reached and unfortunately does not seem possible in the present scenario. The glorification of the cause is the most easy way by which the state continues with all the violence unchecked. Violent anti-Semitic trailers run by the PA TV (Palestine Television) are interspersed with the regular programs in a bid to incite children to die for the cause. Twelve-year-old Muhammad al Dura is perhaps the most well known Palestinian martyr. A film clip broadcast all over showed him being shot to death in his father’s arms by Israeli soldiers; however controversy rages whether it was Israeli soldiers who shot him. It ends with a message asking people to follow him! Such inflammatory ploys only worsen the growing discontent. Talking about Israel, there has been talk about how a pro Israel group plans on infiltrating Wikipedia, the most popular search engine, to conceal Israel’s true history and smear Palestinians and Muslims. So much so for ethics!
For the ordinary civilians, this is a continued attack on their right to exist peacefully. Life in the disputed area as well as surrounding areas is extremely difficult and trying. It is not only a question of leading a normal life but the very fact of having a life at all. Air strikes and bombings are the norm and while leaving home one is not sure of a return. The count for the dead is irrelevant now as the figures are staggering and growing even as one writes this. Thousands of Palestinians have been detained by the Israelis and their treatment can be seen at par with the treatment of any prisoner of war. To see this in contrast to the Nazi pogrom against the Jews is quite obvious. However, the Israelis are extremely careful in not equating the two. For them fighting for Israel is a fight for a homeland of their own.
With no peace process in the line up, the situation definitely is bleak and unpromising. Both sides need to realize the humanitarian crisis being perpetuated by them and come to a peaceful solution soon.
The United Nations and other major world powers have intervened time and again to put an end to this continuing struggle for occupation of the Palestinian land; and once in a while, a new conflict digs its fangs deeper. To sum up the situation that exists in Palestine, one could quote Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar at the Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies,
“For the last thirty-five years, occupation has meant dislocation and dispersion; the separation of families; the denial of human, civil, legal, political and economic rights imposed by a system of military rule; the torture of thousands; the confiscation of tens of thousands of acres of land and the uprooting of tens of thousands of trees; the destruction of more than 7,000 Palestinian homes; the building of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands and the doubling of the settler population over the last ten years; first the undermining of the Palestinian economy and now its destruction; closure; curfew; geographic fragmentation; demographic isolation; and collective punishment.”
Many parallels can be drawn between the Nazi genocide of the Jews and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Both have repressed people, destroyed faith in humanity, brutally denied basic necessities to people and left them stranded, shattered and defeated! It is quite ironic to think that the same race that almost got its name scratched out from existence is now doling out brutality to another set of people.
Although peace seems distant as yet and disputes many, world wide support has emerged to bring a quicker end to all conflicts. The light may not seem near at hand, but it sure seems present at the end of the tunnel.
Niha Masih and Sandhya Ramachandran