The long-running Middle East conflict is a polarizing issue the world over. The latest outbreak of violence has been particularly emotive because of the large number of civilians killed, especially children. Shocking pictures of the dead and dying, and grief-stricken survivors have gone around the world. Images of Gaza’s bombed towns and cities, now mounds of rubble, bear testament to the disproportionate force being employed by the Israeli military to counter the rockets being fired by Hamas. More than 200,000 of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been displaced, and electricity and water supplies have been crippled.
Palestinians have had their homes taken away from them and continue to live as captives in their own land. They have lived under occupation for decades and many Palestinians who left in search of a better life are no longer allowed to return under Israeli law. Under the occupation, their daily existence is made more intolerable by numerous checkpoints. In addition, the wall that Israel has erected runs through portions of a future Palestinian state. The increasing size and population of Israeli settlements is a further aggravation.
Some of them abroad have succeeded to a certain extent in the West, but there is a negative perception of their status and this has increased after the 9-11 tragedy. Palestinians are denied many opportunities in other Muslim countries where many live in refugee camps. The world wants the Palestinians to live in freedom in Palestine.
They would be able to live in their own country of Palestine and prosper without any occupational controls. The Palestinian refugees could return from all the countries where they have lived, either as unwelcome guests or finding a mistrustful acceptance at best, and finally be able to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship in their own state.
When Theodor Hartzl, the ideological founder of the Zionist movements in the 1890s, was asked what he proposed to do with the indigenous Palestinian population when his “state of the Jews” becomes a reality, he replied, “We will quietly spirit them across the border”.
This was followed by Joseph Weitz’s statement, the head of the Jewish Agency’s colonization department. He confirmed in his 1940 diary. “It must be clear”, he wrote, “that there is no room for both peoples together in this country … not one (Arab) village, not one tribe should be left”.
In 1923 Vladimir Jabotinsky, leading intellectual of the Zionist movement and father of the right wing of that movement, wrote: “Zionist colonization must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population (Palestinians), which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population.
Now, the reality is that Israelis have taken away 78% of the Palestinian land since 1967 gradually sliced up the Occupied Palestine into 70 pieces connecting to ring roads excluding Palestinians from their homes, farms, work, etc. These 20, 000 settlers unlawfully grabbed the Palestinian land, turned Palestine into the longest running concentration camp of this universe with a stamp of infinity.
However, in finding lasting solution to the conflict, some commentators have advocated a “one-state solution”, in which Jews and Arabs would be joined in one state, with all inhabitants having the same citizenship – call it Israeli or Palestinian. But such a “solution,” as most observers know, was rejected by Israelis.
The Jews had maintained that given the murderous hate expressed daily in state-controlled Palestinian media toward them, this would be a method for a second Holocaust. Within one generation, Arabs, with their high birth rate and inevitable immigration from abroad, would be a majority. They would unleash a civil war that would make the Lebanese and the Syrian wars seem like child’s play. With more than half the world’s Jews now living in Israel, Adolf Hitler’s most fervent genocidal wish would finally be fulfilled.
A second solution, which was a “Two- State Solution” is favored by much of the world, including the United States government. Again the Jews had said is not much better than ‘one state solution’ and almost as unacceptable to those who support the welfare and future of the Jewish state. They said the example of Gaza is instructive, when former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon in order to advance peace and appease world opinion abandoned Gaza with no reciprocal agreement from the Palestinians. All Jewish inhabitants, most living there for generations, were expelled from their homes by Israel and resettled in “Israel proper.” Today, almost daily bombardments by deadly Hamas rockets force up to one million Israel civilians into bomb shelters. Israel’s forbearance to these affronts is almost unimaginable.
The surrounding Arab states and Muslim countries beyond (such as Iran) would certainly join the fray and assist in the final destruction of the beleaguered and helpless Jewish state.
There is no doubt that the extent of the humanitarian crisis there has touched the world. There are no words to describe the horror of the incessant bombing. The sheer level of atrocity, with even UN shelters, facilities and schools being targeted, has seen people rise above narrow ethnicity and religiosity in sympathy with the great level of human suffering.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has described the Israeli onslaught in Gaza as “a moral outrage and a criminal act”. The scribe of the world’s body said, “This madness must stop”.
The conflict has seen a rise of anti-Semitism as anti-war protests and Palestinian support campaigns are occurring around the world. Even in the United States, Israel’s most powerful ally. There has been hacking and defacing of Jewish websites and a Florida synagogue was vandalized. While several countries in South America have cut diplomatic ties with Israel, protests, some of them violent, have been raging in Europe demanding stronger action from governments to stop the conflict.
In addition, South Africa has lent its voice in condemning the conflict. President Jacob Zuma appointed former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Aziz Pahad and Former High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, Zola Skweyiya as special envoys to the Middle East. At a media briefing in Cape Town to report on their mediation efforts, Pahad and Skweyiya said they met with Palestinian and Israeli officials, as well as civil society representatives to convey the South African government concern about the situation and urge an unconditional ceasefire.
While there has been strong condemnation against Israel from political organizations and civil society in South Africa, with demonstrations and protests in the country’s major cities, there have not been violent clashes as seen in other parts of the world. A group of South African Jews are running an online petition they intend sending to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu condemning the assault on Gaza and killing of civilians.
There is need to urgently solve this crisis as emerging countries of the world would benefit by having more attention and money focused on them instead of resolving of conflict and in providing aids.
For peace to return to the region, proponents of peace and conflict resolution have said that there is every need for both parties to see themselves as equal and one human community created by one God. They should stop fanning the ember of hate but embrace each other irrespective of religion or race.