By S. Nihal Singh
Aug 05, 2014
The Israelis have swallowed nearly the whole of Palestine at the cost of native Palestinians living there and are loath to give it away. US administrations are hemmed in by the powerful American Jewish lobby to be able to give justice to Palestinians.
The enormity of Palestinian civilian deaths and suffering is making even jaded statesmen and countries sit up. The United States administration, the main supporter and arms and money supplier of Israel, is stiffening its statements, criticising its ally.
The irony, of course, is that it is at the same time giving more military aid, in addition to replenishing ammunition.
This dissonance is at the heart of the tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tel Aviv has a hammer lock on US support, whichever administration is in power in Washington. Indeed, the entire American political system is geared in a manner that the influential and rich Jewish lobby can make or mar the career of potential senators and representatives by blackballing them.
As opposed to the impact the obscene levels of Palestinian deaths, especially those of women and children, are having in Europe and the rest of the world, US media is largely shielding Americans from Palestinians’ suffering and it is only the young who are beginning to see light through social media sites.
The last ceasefire announced by US secretary of state John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was loaded in favour of Israel as it not merely allowed Israeli troops to stay in Gaza but also permitted them to continue conducting their anti-tunnel operations. Although Mr Ban hastily blamed the Hamas for aborting the ceasefire, for which he was rebuffed by Qatar’s ruler, the accusation was far from convincing.
One thing is already clear from the nearly month-long Israeli offensive. Once there is a ceasefire that holds, the situation cannot go back to the situation as it existed. This is the third conflict between Israel and Palestinians over Gaza. The last one, in 2012, promised a more liberal regime in terms of the Gazans’ ability to enter and leave their territory. The promises were not kept by Tel Aviv and a population of 1.8 million — one of the most densely populated areas of the world — lived bottled up, guarded by Israelis on land, in the air and the sea.
There is, of course, a background to the present crisis. Its beginning was the abduction of three Israeli teenagers on the occupied West Bank and the later discovery of their murder. It lead to the abduction and murder of a Palestinian teenager in a revenge attack. But Tel Aviv decided to give a larger twist to the abductions by launching a major military offensive on the West Bank by rounding up hundreds of Palestinians, including the re-arrest of those previously released.
The Hamas offensive in launching rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip — the vast majority of them fielded by the US-supplied Iron Dome system — led to Israeli air attacks and subsequently the ground offensive.
Despite Mr Ban’s brave efforts — he spent days in the region meeting the principal characters — there was little to show for it. The world organisation was virtually locked by the US veto to rescue Israel in the Security Council. Even the UN schools, which served as shelters for more than 100,000 Palestinian families bombed out of their homes, have been targets of Israeli attacks.
Mr Kerry, it is true, tried hard to start talks between Israelis and Palestinians. His efforts led nowhere, with the Right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu firmly in power. In fact, the US official became something of an object of derision in Israeli ruling circles and was publicly criticised by Tel Aviv when it suspected his veering even an inch from the official Tel Aviv position.
The truth, of course, is that Israel is more powerful in America than President Barack Obama’s senior-most official because it has the US Congress and Senate at its beck and call. If confirmation of this were needed, it came in the overwhelming congressional vote to give Israel another $225 million in bolstering it militarily while it was continuing to conduct its war on Palestinians.
What of the Palestinian equations? There was the formation of a unity government of technicians between the mainstream Fatah and Hamas, which led Israel to end the notional peace talks. Hamas then was in a weak position, with the salaries of government staff unpaid.
Thanks to the manner and scale of the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, Hamas’ fortunes have brightened because it is fighting a war of survival with an arrogant and seemingly merciless enemy. No Palestinian buys the Israeli justification for the astronomical civilian casualties as a Hamas tactic of using civilians as human shields. In truth, there is nowhere for Palestinian families to hide in Gaza.
The future of Gaza and the occupied West Bank remains bleak. The last time a US President tangled with Israel was Bush senior, George H.W. Bush, and he lost his election. President Obama has proved as supine as they come, having burnt his fingers initially by trying to chart a brave course. He could not have won his re-election otherwise.
One of the most acerbic critics of Israel’s occupation policies is former President Jimmy Carter who has lived his political career. European allies of the United States have also been more critical as appalling scenes of Palestinians’ suffering are affecting their people intensely. But the European Union is helpless in the face of their governments’ traditional subservience. As before, realpolitik triumphs over injustice and suffering.
The nub of the problem is simple: The Israelis have swallowed nearly the whole of Palestine at the cost of native Palestinians living there and are loath to give it away. US administrations, on the other hand, are hemmed in by the powerful American Jewish lobby to be able to give justice to Palestinians.
It remains to be seen whether the scale of the Palestinian suffering — 80 per cent of them civilians by UN estimates — will make a difference to the Israeli resolve to retain the whole of the Palestinian land and continue to rule Palestinians as second-class citizens.