Without consulting anybody from the Arab population, which outnumbered the Jews by about ten times, the British made public their intent to create a national home for Jewish people in Palestine on November 2, 1917 through the Balfour declaration. Then on November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recommending creation of independent Arab and Jewish states with a special status for Jerusalem. The UN Partition Plan for Palestine was opposed by the Arab world.
Today whereas Israel, after being admitted to the UN as a member state in 1949, enjoys recognition as a country by 164 of the 193 member states of UN, Palestine has got a non-member observer status at UN in 2012. The demographics changed dramatically in 1948 during what is termed by Palestinians as Nakba (catastrophe) and since then Jews have been dominating the Arabs in all respects including population. Most of the Arab population was killed or made to flee. There are more Palestinians in refugee camps than outside. The people of Palestine do not enjoy basic human rights or the recognition of a free statehood.
For 73 years Palestinians have been fighting for their survival and Israel has been trying to bomb them out of existence, with the implicit help of the United States of America. An independent state of Palestine becomes a distant reality with every attack by Israel. The change in demographics and policy of expansionism narrates a continuous story of hegemony and domination by Israel. The picture is lucid if one just looks at changing areas under control of Israel and those inhabited by Palestinians on the Israel-Palestine map over the years since 1948. While the world sympathises with Jews for the Holocaust they faced during World War II, that cannot become an excuse for putting the Palestinian-Arab population through a similar experience. When will the Israeli cruelty on Palestinians end? All Israel-Palestine conflicts since 1948 have been lopsided with Palestinians facing heavy casualties. With the economic blockade by Israel, Palestine has become a huge open prison where citizens are denied basic human rights.
As Israel’s response remains insensitive and it thwarts all attempts towards any peaceful resolution of the issue, the Palestinians have also become hardened. From a secular Palestine Liberation Organisation led by Yasser Arafat being the sole representative of Palestinians on World fora, today the Palestinian politics is dominated by groups such as Hamas which controls Gaza and believes in militarily countering the might of Israel. Undeterred by continuous air strikes from Israel aimed at ensuring total and long term quiet, Hamas recently fired thousands of rockets at Israel. The casualties on Palestinian side were about twenty times including many children and women dead, but the spirit of resistance is reflected in the retaliation by Hamas. No wonder, the ceasefire is being celebrated in Gaza as victory. Israel claims that it had attacked Hamas military infrastructure in Gaza but how does that explain attacks on 18 hospitals and 50 schools? Essential supplies of medicines, water and electricity have been disrupted by Israeli air raids and over 50 thousand Palestinians have been rendered homeless.
There is a feeling among the Palestinians that Israel is not honest about peace. The Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 and the Camp David Summit, 2000, all raised hopes that peace would be achieved based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, but Israel was never ready to withdraw its forces from territories occupied in 1967 nor was it ready to fold up the settlements established on Palestinian land. Question of an independent state of Palestine always remained elusive.
With the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco according recognition to Israel in 2020, it appears that the idea of an independent Palestine is a lost cause, but knowing Palestinians, they are not going to give up easily. They’ll fight to the bitter end. There is probably hardly any family, including those of leaders of Hamas, which have not lost their members in Israeli attacks. With no economy to support them and completely dependent on outside support, like that from Qatar, channelizing essential materials to sustain their society through illegal tunnels built under the Rafah border with not so friendly Egypt, they have hardly anything going for them. Surviving in such adverse conditions it is a surprise that Hamas has been able to put up such a counter-offensive. Moreover, unlike some previous skirmishes this time it was not a direct fight between Hamas and Israeli forces. As the trigger incident was an attempt by Israeli authorities to evict some Palestinians from East Jerusalem followed by an attack by Israeli police on Arabs gathered in al-Aqsa mosque, this time the resentment against Israel spread among all Palestinians, in Gaza, West Bank and within Israel.
Palestinians have shown tremendous resilience over the years. They are known to rebuild structures devastated by Israeli attacks within days. Even under attack they pretend as if life is normal by continuing to carry on with all necessary activities of day-to-day life. They know there is no alternative for them, as they refuse subjugation by Israelis. But as Israel declines to accept the reality, the suffering of Palestinians continues.
US and some European countries supported the Israeli right to defend itself. It is ponderable as to which country kills 65 children in self-defense? The fact is that Israel is the encroacher and aggressor since 1948. If anybody is defending themselves it is that Palestinians all the way, sometimes using peaceful means but using violence in other instances. Thankfully, US President Joe Biden who talked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six times to impress upon Israel to de-escalate the conflict, even though US refused to support a French sponsored UNSC proposed resolution calling for immediate ceasefire, has with the help of Egypt been able to achieve a ceasefire and now promised to support reconstruction efforts in Gaza. US says it will help only Palestinian Authority in this reconstruction effort as it views Hamas as a terrorist organization. Poignantly it doesn’t see the folly of its actions as it considers another round of military aid to Israel which is already one of the most militarised states in the world. Ironically, while Biden has promised rapid humanitarian assistance to Gaza, he has in the same breath also promised to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The Palestinians will once again be left to fend for themselves.
*Anandi Pandey is a B.A. student at Ashoka University and Sandeep Pandey is Vice President, Socialist Party (India).