As it happened four years ago, the Israelis are again in Gaza, cutting down anything and everyone in their way. As they are known to be, the Israelis do not discriminate when it comes to killing: the Old Testament of the Bible tells of several instances of thousands of women and children being put to the sword, killed, by rampaging Jewish troops! As in 2008, the casualty figure is steadily climbing and from the way it is going, it will surpass the 1,300 Palestinian men, women and children who were killed four years ago. At the root of the killings is criminal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Pure and simple.
But why go on? To Europe and the United States of America, Gaza and the whole of occupied Palestine is a befitting trophy they have handed over to Israel for their own complicity in the holocaust, a process of incineration of some six million Jews which the Palestinians knew nothing of or played any role in. It is natural for Europeans and the Americans to feel guilty about the incineration of the Jews. It is ironic that the Palestinians who never participated in killing of the Jews are being punished while the perpetrators of the act, the West, applaud. If we go by the Jewish law of an eye for an eye, the Jews should look beyond their neighbours in the Middle East if they now feel strong enough to avenge the incineration of their forebears. They should direct their aggression at their European and American friends who applauded by the side when Hitler incinerated them; not the Palestinians, a people who had no hand in their ordeal.
This Jewish misplaced aggression and its possible consequences are rooted in history. It should remind the West that it was its appeasement policy in the face of Adolf Hitler’s misplaced aggression that sparked the World War. As it was with Hitler, the West is once again at the appeasement game. Nearly 80 years ago, the West looked the other way when Hitler started behaving like a drunken sailor. Today, the West looks the other way, just as it did with Hitler, as Israel continues its aggression against Palestinians. Yet again, it is only the blind hawks in Israel that fail to see that occupation of a people never endures forever.
This is not about joining the appeal on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. No. The Israelis should feel free to continue with the occupation. After all, their brothers down south, the Boers, whose apartheid system the Israelis have copied and perfected tried it in South Africa. After killing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, the Boers soon realised that the cost of their misadventure, their occupation of South Africa, was too high to bear. They soon realised that without making peace, a future black-ruled South Africa would be too hot for them. Sadly, blind hawks do not learn from history. The exact opposite of what the Boers did is what the Israelis are now doing, believing things will work their way. What this means is that, sooner than later, the Israelis will realise they are on the wrong side of history. You cannot pin a man down forever and common sense teaches that you have to remain down there with a man you have succeeded in pinning down. It is like the hen that opts to perch on a rope; it soon discovers that it has not found an appropriate nesting place and eventually abandons its worthless effort. And this is true with all histories of occupations known to humanity.
The ongoing Israeli onslaught on Palestinians should be a major source of frustration, indeed a major challenge to peace-loving individuals and groups who envisage a peaceful resolution to the Middle East crisis. One year after the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat defied the Arab world to sign the 1979 unilateral peace agreement with Israel, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, then of the Department of Political Science of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and now of the United Nations took one long look at the peace agreement and concluded it was incapable of bringing salaam- peace- to the Middle East. As a mark of how wrong President Sadat was, and how right Professor Gambari was, Sadat was killed by his own soldiers while reviewing a parade in Cairo in 1981.Nearly three and half decades after Sadat’s misadventure, the prospect of the salaam he boasted of, and for which he paid the supreme price, is fast receding.
In the years since the peace agreement was signed, Israel has forcefully grabbed more lands from the Palestinians, killed, maimed and impoverished more Palestinians and turned what remains of Palestinian land into a prison for all Palestinians. While thousands of Palestinians, many of them minors, continue to languish in Israeli jails without being charged, life for those outside the four walls of prison is not any better. It is a classic, even though vexing, case of a host being turned into a prisoner in his own house by his guest. While the criminal occupation goes on, successive occupants of the White House and their carbon copies in other Western capitals, desirous of arming and sustaining a strong ally in the strategic Middle East, turn the blind eye to the plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Few Western leaders care about the prisoners; they are happy to tie improvement in the conditions of these Palestinian prisoners to a half-hearted desire for a two-state solution to the question of Palestine.
It is important to put the Arab-Israeli conflict in its proper historical perspective. Officially, the state of Israel came into being in 1948 but truth is Israel was created by the letters of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It is safe to speculate that had Ben Gurion and his ultra-right fellow travellers in World Jewry folded their arms and allowed a negotiated settlement, as the West (read United States) is today telling the Palestinians, there would not have been a state of Israel in 1948. Just like the radical elements in the Arab world today, the Jews took up arms, organised themselves into terrorist groups and spearheaded deadly raids ever known to humankind. The struggle for the creation of Israel was not a tea party; it did not come peacefully. The Jews had to bomb, kill and render Palestine ungovernable in their struggle for a homeland. In fact, for every Hamas and other militant Palestinian group the world knows about today, the Jews had their terrorist Irgun and Zvai among others. No amount of round table conferences could have given the Jews a foothold in Palestine. It was the bombing spree of Jewish terrorist organizations that forced the hands of the British, who then exercised a United Nations mandate over Palestine, to eventually accede to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
Ordinarily, Western leaders should by now have come to the grim realisation that the era of self-deceit has ended. But from the conflicting signals the world continues to get from Western capitals, it is unlikely this is the case. When Washington mooted the idea of a two-state solution, one for Israel and the other for Palestine, as the right path to tread in pursuit of peace in the Middle East, not many people gave it a chance of survival. But crazy and hare-brained as it was, even the most incurable pessimists thought the idea should be given a chance. After several false steps, outgoing US president, Barack Hussein Obama, is realising that his dream of a two-state solution will never come to fruition. Not even if he were to spend another decade at the White House. This is hardly surprising because the idea of a two-state solution was a ruse; a mere smokescreen to buy time and put more Palestinians away in Israeli jails so that they are not in a position to ‘make trouble’ for Israel. And the reason for this is not far fetched.
President Obama had the opportunity of a lifetime to make the difference but demurred at the last minute; at last year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama created the impression that the battlefield, not the United Nations, was the right place to resolve the Arab Israeli crisis when he literally dismissed the world body as an arbiter. By insisting that the United Nations was not the right place to effect a two-state solution, Obama, in effect, confirmed fears that many things are fundamentally wrong with US decision making process. As a result, American allies, both in the Middle East and Western Europe, dazed by this criminal about-turn have been left in a lurch. And it is perhaps only Obama, whose forebears in Kenya and the United States endured very bloody decolonization wars, who is blind and deaf to the possibility, in the words of former French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, ‘of an upsurge in global terrorism’.
As to be expected, radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and their sympathizers, long anathemic to the concept of a two-state solution should feel fulfilled and justified in their seemingly daunting task to delete Israel from the map of the world. After all, they have been told by another US president that might is right and being good students of history, the radical elements in the Arab world are aware that no amount of hours spent around tables would give them a home. They know too well that had Ben Gurion and his band of Zionist land grabbers fallen for the sweet talk of the British, they probably would still be wandering in Europe, homeless like the Gypsies, and not as lords of the manor in the Middle East. Hamas and others are aware that what is left of Palestine today will continue to shrink and could disappear within the next decade, going by the ongoing criminal land grabbing policy of the Jews, if they choose not to emulate the fighting Jews of the early twentieth century. Sadly, fighting remains about the only option they are left with to erase the perception that Palestinians are an invented people.
And where does all this leave Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, chairman of the Palestinian Authority? After the thunderous applause he received for his moving speech at last year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly, Abu Mazen returned home to another tumultuous welcome. If anything, his speech at the UNGA session helped to launder his flagging image at home and abroad. But nothing has changed; the only change is that the Jews have become even more daring in expropriating the lands of their Palestinian cousins. And talking about moving speeches, Abu Mazen does not come close to his predecessor, Yassir Arafat. One year after the Yom Kippur war, Arafat, in the same hall his successor made his moving speech last year told his audience that he came bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun and appealed: ‘Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.’
If you are in need of olive trees, the Middle East is the right destination to head to. In Jewish-occupied Palestine, olive trees sprout anywhere and everywhere. But the symbolism of olive branches is lost on illegal Israeli settlers on Palestinian lands. While Arafat and moderate Palestinian leaders, including Abu Mazen, continue to dangle branches of olive trees, their antagonistic cousins, the Jews, assisted by their government and complicit Western countries are spurning peace overtures by practically uprooting olive trees in their thousands. Aside denying Palestinians a source of income, the symbolism of uprooting olive trees is a clear message that, for Palestinians, the prospect of Salaam in the Middle East is still far off.
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*Abdulrazaq Magaji, a historian, lives in Abuja, Nigeria, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .