• Tuesday, Jun 15, 2021
  • Last Update : 07:10 am

OP-ED: The same old story

  • Published at 06:02 am May 17th, 2021
israel palestine
A rescuer holds the hand of a victim amid rubble at the site of Israeli air strikes in Gaza on May 16 REUTERS

Is the old wound the root cause of the recent conflict between Palestine and Israel?

In November 1948, the United Nations decided to establish two states in the Palestinian territories. One for the Jews and the other for the Arabs. Although the Jews owned 10% of the land, they were given half of it. 

Naturally, the Arabs did not accept this decision. They rejected the UN decision. But in the land of the Palestinians, the Jews began to rejoice. Eventually, the Jews got an independent territory. 

But the Arabs realized that diplomacy would not solve the problem. As a result, riots broke out between Arabs and Jews after the UN decision. Not only that, as the days went by, more and more causes of conflict between the two sides were added. 

As Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent states: The conflict between the two sides, which has been at the root of decades of conflict, has not been resolved so far. 

Old grievances fuel new fighting

As always, Jerusalem is at the centre of this conflict. The new round of protests is thought to have begun with the Israeli police’s excesses during Ramadan and a controversial move to oust several Palestinian families through the courts. 

In the past few weeks, anger has spread among Palestinians over a controversial decision to evict four Palestinian families from the Arab-inhabited area of East Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah. Some extremist Jews suddenly claimed ownership of the land in Sheikh Jarrah -- one that the four Palestinian families have been living in for nearly 70 years. 

The Jerusalem city authorities and a lower court in the city agreed. As a result, there has long been a suspicion among Palestinians that Israeli right-wingers are determined to oust them from Jerusalem by deception. The Palestinians believe that the decision to evict the four families from Sheikh Jarrah is part of that plan. 

As a result, the anger of the Palestinians started from there. In the wake of this, Sheikh Jarrah and various places in the Old Jerusalem area have been the scene of sporadic clashes with Palestinian teenagers over the past few weeks, with Lehaba and members of some other extremist Jewish organizations. 

Meanwhile, the situation became murkier when the police imposed some restrictions on Palestinians in Jerusalem at the beginning of Ramadan. For example, many Palestinians had been breaking their fast in the evening at the Damascus Gate in the Old City during Ramadan. This time the Israeli police banned it, which caused outrage. 

Adding to that was the excitement over the “Jerusalem Day” parade. That is, the Israeli right-wing party celebrates the 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem in a war with the Arabs. On May 10 each year, thousands of Jews march through the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem. This year, the day accidentally fell inside the rosary. The Palestinians wanted the route of the procession to be changed this time. But neither the Israeli police nor the city authorities listened, which angered the Palestinians. 

However, in a last-minute decision on Monday, the procession was not allowed to enter the Palestinian territories. Although Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday morning, the night after Israel fired rockets at Gaza.

Israel’s internal politics and the new conflict

For the past two years, no party has won a single majority in Israeli elections. Even after the last election, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party failed to form a government with his allies, and the president gave Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, a chance to form a government. 

And to form a government, the support of Arab parties is needed. Lapid was trying to do that. Now, after all the events in Jerusalem and the eviction of the Palestinian family, the Arab parties are not wanting to talk to Lapid. After last Monday’s incident, Lapid and his current allies will now have no choice but to support the government and the army. 

As a result, there will be the formation of the coalition government. Lapid’s attempt is at risk. So Netanyahu will now definitely get the political benefits of this ongoing conflict. Harinder Mishra, a Jerusalem-based journalist, thinks that now if Lapid fails to form an alliance, there is a possibility of another round of elections in Israel. 

And the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians may help Netanyahu in that election. So it is understandable that perhaps Netanyahu is heating up the environment in a planned way in his lust for power. 

The role of the Arab world

The recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have so far killed 28 Palestinians, including 10 children. Hundreds of people were injured. Millions of people have fled their homes. The Arab world is silent when the ruins of various buildings, the piles of corpses, the cries of bleeding children are being published in the world media every day. 

Although some people from the neighbouring Arab countries are protesting against the arrogant attack of Israel, the rulers of these countries are somehow keeping their mouths shut. Peace-loving people are angry, upset, frustrated, and helpless.  

Their question: why have the Arab leaders shut their mouths? An analysis of history -- the role of Arab leaders in the 1948 Palestinian-Israeli crisis -- shows that this is not new. A large number of analysts believe that those in power in Arab countries, including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, are more concerned with defending their thrones. In order to perpetuate the Arab dynasty, they have to compromise with the United States and the Western world. 

If it takes a stand against Israel, the West will be able to discredit the royal family on human rights issues. Dissenters in the Western world may be upset. In this, the mattress of the monarchy may become shaky. For these reasons, the Arab world has less of a headache in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. 

The role of the US

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says Hamas must stop rocket attacks as soon as possible. So it is clear in the statement of the USsecretary of state that the new US administration cannot go against the Jewish lobby. 

The purpose for which the state of Israel was born in the belly of the Middle East has not yet been achieved. So the idea that many would think that Joe Biden would change the Middle East policy of George W Bush or Donald Trump is not realistic. 

On the contrary, the United States has already carried out air strikes on pro-Iranian groups in Syria. As always, America will keep the kings of the Middle East in their hands because they have to sell arms to them. The United States does not want to lose control of the Middle East’s oil and mineral resources. 

As a result, the conflict in the Middle East will never end, and if it continues, Israel will be safe on the one hand, and billions of dollars worth of weapons will be sold in the Middle East on the other. 

Whatever it is, the strange thing is that human rights organizations around the world have never been very vocal about Israel’s killing and torture of Palestinians. The Palestinians do not have a state. They are one of the most unfortunate people in the world, who once had a vast Palestinian homeland but are now living as refugees in their own country. 

Yet, they have been fighting for ages with their heads held high, with smiles on their faces. As their leader Yasser Arafat dreamed: “The victory march will continue until the Palestinian flag flies in Jerusalem and in all of Palestine.”

Fazlul Halim Rana  is Associate Professor and Chairperson, Dept of International Relations, Jahangirnagar University.

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