MIDDLE EAST AT WAR


THE UN is now fearing a full-scale war over the fate of the city that lies at the heart of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it in 1980, the Israeli way of colonization that continues unabated to-date.

The latest spell of tensions started to simmer when Israeli police entered the compound that houses Al-Aqsa mosque on 13 April 2021, the holiest site in Islam on the night of prayers on first Ramazan.

The dramatic escalation of violence happened with the Israeli police raid of the Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday 07 May 2021.

Police officers armed with tear gas stun grenades and rubber bullets burst into the mosque compound shortly after 8:00 pm setting off hours of clashes with stone throwing Palestinians in which hundreds were injured. Can war happen when there exists this kind of asymmetry of power.

This is the worst cycle of violence in seven years and shatters the perception painstakingly fostered by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that the occupation of West Bank and the seizure of Gaza has no consequences for Israeli security. Abraham Accords is perhaps a testimony to it.

Israel had made inroads in the Arab world despite what it was doing in Palestine and to the Palestinians. Antonio Gutierrez said he was gravely concerned by the ongoing violence.

One wonder is that all UN and US can do, show concern when the weak and the vulnerable are in the line of fire. Israel has been using excessive force to pursue an unlawful agenda.

The act tantamounts to genocide and ethnic cleansing where densely populated areas in Gaza and elsewhere are targeted as a war strategy.

By the time this piece goes into print it will be the 9th day of Israeli atrocities on the defenceless Palestinians.

Hamas has retaliated after trying to talk and offering a de-escalation, responded by an uptick in atrocities by Israeli forces.

Russian Foreign Minister, in a statement, quoted a Hamas spokesperson as saying the Movement was ready for a ceasefire if Israel stopped violent acts in East Jerusalem and illegal measures in respect of its native Arab residents.

Gaza’s multi-story tower decimated in Israeli blitz was the second tallest building in the city which housed media houses like Al Jazeera and the US-based Associated Press, “it is clear that those who are waging this war do not only want to spread destruction and death in Gaza but also to silence media that are witnessing, documenting and reporting the truth,” said Walid Al-Omari, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief.

In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister, US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, and all he had to say to the Israelis was that they had an obligation to avoid civilian casualties.

This was when over 122 Palestinians had been killed including 36 children, hundreds are injured and many more will die and become homeless before and if Israel is restrained.

A UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem Lynn Hasting said that by Friday some 10,000 Palestinians had fled their homes in Gaza Strip as the result of the ongoing fighting.

The Palestinians have woken up to their marginalization and isolation a bit late but nevertheless they have.

Israel has on its hands another Intifada after sixteen long years. The dynamics of Palestinian resistance is changing, and it has taken Israel by surprise.

There is a rising sense of national identity among young Palestinians which found expression not only in resistance to a series of raids on Al Aqsa but also in protesting the plight of six Palestinian families facing expulsion from their homes.

The need to placate an increasingly assertive far right gave Netanyahu’s little incentive to calm the situation.
The Israelis were both complacent and emboldened for obvious reasons.

There was no major unrest in Jerusalem when President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital and moved the United States’ embassy there.

There were also no mass protests after four Arab countries normalized relations with Israel abandoning a long-held consensus that they would never do so until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been resolved. A few weeks ago, no one in the Israeli military establishment was expecting anything like this.

Israeli military officials in a private briefing said the biggest threat to Israel was 1000 miles away in Iran or across the northern border in Lebanon.

Palestinians were both weakened and marginalized because of the weak responses of the US and European capitals to the blatant colonization of the West Bank and Gaza.

Abraham accords were hailed as Israel’s victory and Palestine’s resignation to the new realities.

However, it is now evident that there can be no peace if the Palestinians are not given their due rights and the Israeli occupation ends.

This cycle of violence may come to an end, however, it does not warrant the end of bloodshed.

Palestinians and the world were looking at the new Administration in the US to heal not just America but also the world.

The Biden Administration’s attempts to reverse Trump’s pro-Israeli bias have fallen apart in the face of the tepid response given by the US during the recent Israeli excesses.

This time it is not just Chomsky and Bernie Sanders but many others in US, Canada, Europe, across the Muslim world and even inside Israel that have chosen to speak up for the Palestinian cause.

Is China the new hope for the Middle Eastern peace? Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the United Nations Security Council open debate via video link on Israel-Palestine situation.

China criticized the US for blocking UNSC from reaching an agreement on the matter and expects all parties in the Council to put forward a unified voice on the issue.

During a phone talk with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Wang expounded on China’s position on the current Palestine-Israeli conflict and said the root cause of the deteriorating situation is that for a long time there has not been a just solution to the Palestinian issue.

Ma Xiaolin, Dean of the Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean rim at Zhejiang International Studies University, categorically said that China’s position shows a profound understanding of Middle East affairs as it has pointed out that the Palestinian issue is still at the core of the Middle East affairs and it cannot be marginalized.

Fariz Mehdawi, Ambassador of the State of Palestine to China, in a statement, sent to Global Times said on behalf of the Palestinian leadership and people, “I would like to express our sincere gratitude and high appreciation of the honest and responsible important recent remarks and comments of the Chinese Foreign Minister.”

According to Reuters, the US had delayed the UNSC efforts to issue a public statement on the escalating tension between Israel and Palestine.

Washington’s plea was that the statements could be harmful to behind-the-scenes efforts to end the violence. It is essentially the US protecting Israel.

More importantly, if China mediates Palestine-Israel conflict via UN platforms, are China and US opposing each other, and does US stand is opposite to peace in the Middle East and international justice.

Biden needs to make a judgement call. It is a call on the US global leadership.

—The author is an Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.