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Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

West Asia (Middle East) has never seen peace. As things stand today there is little hope. Unless, there is a huge change in the mindset of both Israel and Hamas, blood will continue to be spilt.

Though Israel says it’s against only Hamas, hundreds of innocent civilians have died and thousands have been maimed. Gaza, the de facto capital of Palestine, will soon become completely uninhabitable, according to the Red Cross.

An Israeli army artillery battery fires a smoke bomb into the Gaza Strip from the border. Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships went blazing into towns across the Gaza Strip, attacking Hamas targets and searching for its leaders as the war death toll approached 600. (AFP/Jack Guez)

An Israeli army artillery battery fires a smoke bomb into the Gaza Strip from the border. Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships went blazing into towns across the Gaza Strip, attacking Hamas targets and searching for its leaders as the war death toll approached 600. (AFP/Jack Guez)

West Asia conflict is one of my pet subjects. In fact, my interest in international affairs began with this. There is so much history to this area that it’s impossible to even summarise anything here. But let us look at some interesting developments in the recent past, so we can capture the immediate context.

Year 2004

Who are Hamas? It’s the largest Palestiniansmilitant organisation and it came into being in 1987. It has been fighting Israeli occupation of the land, with rocket attacks and suicide bombings. Many Palestinians feel that’s the best way to fight Israeli occupation.

However, the face of Palestinian struggle for self-determination largely was Yasser Arafat, a terrorist-turned-moderate, who belonged to the moderate Fatah faction. That was until 2004 when he died. After that, the mantle fell on Mahmoud Abbas, who is an opponent of rocket attacks on Israel. His argument is that these attacks will only provoke Israel to hit back  much harder and would do no good to Palestinian cause.

Year 2005

Gaza, a thin strip of land, was one of the areas Israel was occupying. In 2005, in a historic move Israel began withdrawing from the area. This was done in the face of strong opposition from Israeli hardliners who said the area was part of Greater Israel, Biblically ordained for the Jews. But the move delighted Hamas, who felt this was the result of its armed struggle.   

Palestinians sift though the rubble of destroyed buildings following Israeli air strikes in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Palestinians sift though the rubble of destroyed buildings following Israeli air strikes in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (AFP/Said Khatib)

 

Year 2006

Election to the Palestinian Authority legislature was held in 2006. Hamas had a clear upper hand. Making international headlines, the terrorist group won over Fatah, the moderate group — 74 out of 134 seats.

Hamas’ victory instead of solving problems only complicated them. Not only it refused to put down arms against Israel, it refused to even recognise the existence of its Jewish neighbour. In retaliation, the US and Israel imposed sanctions on the Hamas administration, starving it of funds.

Year 2007

While Israel withdrew, clashes broke out between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza for control. Through the year there were clashes, finally ending with Hamas victory. Gaza Strip came in complete control of Hamas.

Year 2008

Even while all this was happening, there was no end to rocket attacks on Israel, which had started in 2001. Israel detected smuggling in of arms into Gaza. In as recently as Nov 2008, Israel raided Gaza and destroyed tunnels used for smuggling weapons. Hamas once again intensified its rocket attacks. Israel launched massive assault on Gaza.

Year 2009

Israel says it will not ceasefire until Hamas decides to stop firing rockets into Israel.

Palestinian medics carry a wounded boy into Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (AFP/Yasser Saymeh)

Palestinian medics carry a wounded boy into Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (AFP/Yasser Saymeh)

 

Why Hamas doesn’t impress

There are no saints in this conflict. Both Israel and Palestinian militants are guilty of perpetuating violence. But what disappoints me most is the inability of Hamas to honour the mandate of the people who elected them to power.

Hamas always refused to participate in elections. When it did in 2006, it was a historic move. Its victory only thrust more responsibility on its shoulders. It should have been gracious in victory. Imagine the dramatic turn if Hamas had declared that it would conditionally lay down arms, and talk to Israel.

Violence — let it be by anyone, Israel or Hamas — achieves only short-term goals. It’s never a long-term solution. Hamas should have realised that the rocket attacks had indeed succeeded, if not fully, at least to a large extent; when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Hamas had said it was ready to offer a 10-year truce if Israel completely withdrew from all occupied territories: Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel did withdraw from Gaza.

With the power of the popular mandate, Hamas — instead of getting into an internal fight with Fatah — should have snatched the upper hand and pushed ahead to get Israel out of West Bank and East Jerusalem as well.

A conditional laying down of arms would have been a wonderful beginning. Track the way the Troubles in Ireland were resolved. Of course, the history is different there, but rough parallels can be drawn.

People’s mandate gives power to push for peace as well. That’s a side which Hamas never recognised. Now, all the good that had been achieved in the last few years have come to a naught. Things in Gaza haven’t been this bad, at least in the recent past.

What lies ahead in Gaza and West Asia?

Any conflict can be ended. But it will need sagacity and statesmanship. Hamas is still pressing for the return of all the Palestinian refugees to their original homes, which is what Israel is now. Isn’t Hamas being unrealistic with that demand?

Hamas will have to recognise Israel. Because, whether anyone likes it or not, Israel is a reality. Hamas will have to then go ahead and talk to Israel. Israel too will have to back down and agree to at least sharing Jerusalem with Palestinians, if not completely hand it over.

Sounds too good to be true!

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