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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Israel-Palestine war : Two weeks...and counting

In my previous post, I had talked about my not getting “involved” in the Palestine situation. For my own sake. And in the belief that my views do not make a difference anyway.

Now, over a week later, I find that this was not right on my part. For many reasons.

Firstly, I am unable not to get “involved”. By nature, I am very much interested in politics and current affairs. Have always been. Especially in stories that involve the human side of things. So I just cannot shut myself off from all that is happening in the world. And I do see the pictures of this war on TV, I see pictures of the wounded and the dead, the hospitals, the statements made by various leaders, reporters and members of the public. So how can I not get "involved" ?

Secondly, the war is still raging on. It is now two weeks since Israel first launched its offensive into Gaza – and, despite a UN resolution passed last week, there seems to be no let-up in the intensity of the fighting.

Lastly, and most importantly (and very honestly), I am somewhat ashamed at myself.

For even suggesting that I did not want to get “involved”.

Let’s get things in perspective.

I am sitting in the comfort of my home, with the heating switched on (it is way below minus) and blogging.

Those out there in Palestine have no heating, no lighting, no food, they have lost loved ones, have others injured but have no medical facilities to treat them, they do not know how their next hour or day will look, if at all they live to survive that day.

And these are the ones I do not want to discuss about because I want to be in a “positive frame of mind” ? What if everybody thought the same way ? These people, who already have close to nothing, would then really have nothing to hope for.

My writing may not make the slightest difference. I have no illusions about it. But I have decided that, whether anybody reads what I write or not, I will continue to write. I will continue to talk about the war and Israel-Palestine – from my personal perspective. This is MY blog, so I am entitled to express my opinion, whether others agree with me or not.

In the last week, we just saw the fighting go to a different level altogether. After the initial air-strikes, Israel decided to launch ground operations. These were always going to be higher-risk, at least from Israel’s point of view. But, if they wanted to weed out “militants” from civilian locations, air-strikes were not going to help, without causing considerable civilian damage. So it was a combined air-strike and ground operations offensive that we saw in the last week.

While Israel has claimed considerable success in attacking rocket-launching sites, weapon-storage facilities, smuggling tunnels, it has not come without considerable civilian cost. Although Israel claims to have made tremendous effort to minimize loss of civilian lives (including pre-announcements of attacks and requests to evacuate target areas), in a densely populated war zone as Palestine, it was always going to be unrealistic to expect civilians to escape unscathed.

One incident earlier in the week, where an attack on a school saw children casualties, saw the whole world horrified although Israel claimed that the facility was being used as a cover to protect “militants”.

Every format of news from aid agencies and humanitarian work groups in the Gaza has just one message – that it is a humanitarian crisis, that the numbers of dead and injured are mounting, that the number of civilians affected is increasing, that medical and food supplies are not enough and are not reaching in time, that doctors, working 24/7 are not able to cope with the number of cases flooding in, that aid agencies are being hampered in their aim to distribute food and medicine due to the fighting on the streets.

So, if anybody ever had to see the ugly face of war – and its consequences for the common man - he or she could not have a better illustration of all that war results in. It is not just the loss of lives – which is horrible in itself – it is also the numbing casualties in terms of injuries and destruction of infrastructure. It takes years to rebuild something that it takes seconds to destroy.

The UN Security Council, after considerable debate about the “wording” of its resolution, finally managed to come up with one on Thursday. Not that either side in the fighting cared. Israel, never one to allow anybody or anything to come in the way of its military objectives, just continued on its mission to go after Hamas. Which, inspite of the concerted Israeli offensive, continues to manage to launch rockets into Israeli territory, more as a show of defiance than anything else.

In the meantime, in fact before the UN finally managed to come up with a resolution, a joint proposal to end the fighting was formulated by Egypt and France. This proposal of an immediate ceasefire was accepted by Hamas but Israel, wary of a ceasefire that it fears would only allow Hamas to regroup, seems to show no interest in this proposal.

All in all, the war continues - and, while the world can keep screaming, Israel is on a mission here and does not appear to want to entertain any discussions that may derail its mission. And that mission would seem to be to, once and for all, disarm Hamas.

And herein lies one of the fallacies of this whole story and one that convinces me that this was just an election-winning ploy by the current party in power in Israel.

Let’s say, for one moment, that Israel succeeds.
That Hamas is disarmed.
Will this really solve the problem once and for all ?
Surely Israel itself does not believe this.
All it will get is that, temporarily, just temporarily, there may not be any attacks on Israeli soil – at least not through rockets fired from Palestine.
But then, for how long will Israel enjoy this “peace” ?
How long before Hamas, or another outfit, regroup and launch their revenge attack on Israel ? Even forgetting about the fact that Hamas was the popular choice of the people, surely it has even got more ground support now after these recent offensives by Israel ?
So, if Hamas or another outfit attacks Israel, what then ?
I expect Israel then to retaliate with full force – and for another war to be kicked off as a result.
With more casualties, more destruction.
And the saga will go on.
As it has been going on for as long as I can remember.

All this because none of the powers-that-be makes enough effort to address the root cause of the conflict.

For once, the holier-than-thou West should see things from a Palestinian perspective. The Palestinians live in their own country like second or third-class citizens. They have restrictions on their movement, they have scarcity of supplies, of jobs, of basic amenities like electricity and water. And, to add to all this, they also have to contend with their land taken away from them.

In the wake of this, they have elected a party which they believe will espouse their cause, will win them back some of their rights. That such a party adopts violence in its methods to make its case may make it a “terrorist” organization in many eyes but it is more a reflection of the hopelessness and helplessness felt by the Palestinian community than anything else.

Had the world listened and cared, had the world been fairer in allocation of resources and treatment of Palestine, I doubt if we would have seen all this fighting in all these years. Like I have said in an earlier post, the seeds of this conflict were sown decades ago. What we are seeing now is only the effect.

I know Israel believes that they will always be insecure, surrounded as they are by Arab neighbours and Islamic countries. That is one of their basic premises for having a strong military, for always being “ready to go to war”.

But if you don’t give peace a chance, you will never know whether it will work or not. And every such war as the one we are seeing now only further distances neighbours, it certainly does not bring them closer. And therefore gives peace even less of a chance. And, as a result, only increases mistrust and tension. Sort of a catch-22.

No, the solution is to address the structural issues of land and emphasise the equality of rights of all living in that region. Whether Jew or Muslim.

The UN, after sowing the initial seeds of discontent, has been hopeless so far in extinguishing the flames of hatred and violence. Like I said in an earlier post, the best solution is probably one from the region itself. These are the countries closest to the situation, they are the ones most affected. They will also be the most direct beneficiaries of any peace talks and attempts to improve understanding between the countries.

But for that, the parties involved should be open to discussion with each other. They should be interested in peace. They should be willing to compromise on some of their demands, in the interests of peace.

We are a long way from this. And, by the looks of it, not getting any closer with all that is happening.

Having said that, and despite not having much of history to give me any assurances to back my optimism, I am hopeful that the times are a-changing.

Relationships are changing. There is or will soon be new leadership at the helm of affairs in some countries. This will hopefully herald a new, more compassionate view on matters Middle-Eastern.

One can only hope. For there is nothing else for most in Palestine to live for.


Nandini Vishwanath said...

I think you should go out and do something. I'm sure someone must be trying to provide relief?

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Hi Raja - Stop by my blog to pick up an award for you.



Corinne Rodrigues said...

Raja - You're very welcome. You do have to nominate 8 others and display the award on your post.

Take care.