Palestine is bleeding
THE ancient land of Palestine lies bruised and bleeding once again. This unfortunate area has seen war, conflict, bloodshed and the horror of genocide many times in the past including full scale war between Israel and the Arab states in 1948, 1967 and in 1973.
This area has been a major flash point between the United States (US) and the Soviet Union (SU) during the cold war period with the US supporting and arming Israel and the SU doing the same for the Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Dark clouds of war are once again looming on the horizon as Israel continues its relentless airstrikes on Gaza and in return the Palestinian fighters controlled by Hammas fire rockets into Tel Aviv.
This latest violent clash has been the heaviest since 2014. It all started when the Israeli forces broke into the Al-Aqsa mosque during the holy month of Ramzan firing rubber coated bullets, tear-gas and stun grenades. So far air strikes have killed 53 people in Gaza including 13 children.
Why this bloodshed and killings and horror? What is the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians??
Violence and conflict between the two sides began more than seventy years ago with the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of Jewish settlements.
Many countries and the UN agree that these settlements are illegal but Israel denies this and facilitates settlers to move to the West Bank.
Palestine demands to be an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem currently occupied by Israel since the 67 Arab Israel War.
Israel insists and claims the entire city as its capital with the US and some countries recognizing the Israeli claim.
There have been many attempts in the past to negotiate peace and come to a two state solution but the dispute remains unsolved so far.
The Palestinians want Israel to move back to the 1967 borders meaning before the war situation when Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem from Jordan, the Sinai area from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria.
Israel has always rejected this proposal as “unrealistic” and “indefensible” and today the chances of reaching a peaceful settlement are extremely remote after decades of violence and a state of no-war, no-peace between the two sides.
After WW1 Britain took control of the area after the Ottoman Sultans were defeated as allies of Germany and this land became a mandated territory under the League of Nations.
The area was inhabited by an Arab majority and a Jewish minority and both communities existed in relative peace.
After the Belfour Declaration of 1917 Britain agreed to the demand of the Zionist leaders to establish a national home for the Jewish people.
During the 1920s, 30s and 40s there was a massive influx of Jewish people from Europe during the British rule thus changing the demographics of the region.
In 1947 the UN voted for Palestine to be split into two states one for the Arabs and one for the Jews with Jerusalem as an international city. The Jewish leaders accepted the plan and the Arabs rejected it.
The British left Palestine and the Jewish leaders declared the State of Israel in 1948 resulting in an attack by the Arab countries and about seven million Palestinian Arabs had to flee their homes to become refugees in various Arab countries.
Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 but the UN still considers it occupied.
It is surrounded on all sides by a high barrier constructed by Israel and the Israeli army controls what comes in and goes out of the area in an attempt to prevent any weapons reaching Hamas.
The entire area of the Gaza Strip is in the control of the militant group Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has no control over the territory.
The charter of Hamas calls for a complete destruction of Israel and has launched suicide attacks and rocket barrages into the territories occupied by Israel.
For more than 25 years, the international community has tried, and failed, to reach some kind of solution.
The most recent peace plan, prepared under Donald Trump’s presidency, was hailed as the ‘deal of the century’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Palestinian leaders were united in their rejection of the proposal, which would have put Jerusalem under complete Israeli control.
Palestine would have been offered a capital on the outskirts of the city currently behind the Israeli barrier.
The plan also denied the right of return of Palestinian refugees into lands they were forced to flee and said Israel would maintain security responsibility for the future state of Palestine, which would have to be demilitarized.
As of now the area of Gaza is enveloped in explosions as Israeli bombs strike apartment buildings, shattering windows, ripping doors to splinters and killing indiscriminately.
Israel is targeting the area mercilessly causing havoc and extinguishing the life of innocent people. Ironically the Muslim world is a silent spectator.
The OIC confines itself to issuing condemnations and messages of sympathy for the Palestinians.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.