What prompted the terrorist attack of Hamas in Southern Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) on 7 October 2023 resulting in the killing 1200 Israeli soldiers and civilians in a single day, and taking over 200 men, women, senior citizens and children as hostages was the result of the prolonged dehumanisation of Palestinian people by the Zionist far-right parties in Israel and the encouragement given to them by the Zionist State at official level to carry on their hate campaign against their Palestinian counterparts.
This included printed shirts by Israeli army units depicting pregnant Palestinian women and children as military targets; calls of “death to the Arabs” at the annual settler Flag March through the Old City in Jerusalem; students as young as 13 in Israel singing anti-Palestinian songs, hoping that “your village burns down”; several statements by present and past Israeli Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers calling Palestinian resistance dogs, snakes and animals; enactment of many discriminatory Apartheid Laws aimed at preventing the assimilation of Palestinian and Israeli students, youth and couples, and incremental efforts by Israeli authorities to limit the access of Muslim Palestinian worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque in order to prevent them from entering the Temple Mount freely in the Muslim Quarter of East Jerusalem. Little wonder then that Hamas named its military operation of 7 October Toofan Al-Aqsa, meaning the storm of Aqsa.
By paying a heavy price of over 12000 Palestinians dead, of whom half are children and 27000 wounded, the Palestinian resistance has raised the conflict level to a point where it is no longer sustainable to forget this flashpoint of war without leaving it unsolved. The issue of Palestine will not be dead after a ceasefire is reached and the reconstruction begins.
Israel has become desperate to get the hostages back from Hamas and engaged in a genocide of civilians in Gaza, about whose identity and the brutal manner in which they have been killed cannot be in doubt. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has also acted disproportionately and committed war crimes in the Palestinian villages in the West Bank.
Israeli leaders, in particular Prime Minister Netanyahu’s war cabinet, are responsible for violating international law and for mismanaging and mishandling this one-sided war. They will have to answer to their people and to the international criminal court for the excesses they have committed in Gaza despite repeated warnings issued by the heads of the UN, UNHCR, WHO and other international criminal lawyers and experts. UNRWA alone lost 200 staff in Israeli bombardment.
In today’s civilised world, human lives matter. The lessons from the heavy toll on civilians caught in past conflicts resulted in the formulation of international humanitarian laws that were endorsed globally by UN member states and actors. These laws cannot be violated by anyone, whether it is a militant group or a sovereign state, for obtaining results, no matter how crucial they may be. When the Jews signed up for “Never Again” after the Holocaust, the Muslims also signed up for “Never Again” after the Srebrenitsa massacre. Soon thereafter, the Christians ensured that a blood bath was timely prevented in a Muslim Kosovo. This constitutes the international principle of “Responsibility to Protect”. All countries agree that such a responsibility is necessary for the protection of human dignity and maintenance of peace and security in the world.
Contrary to respect for international law, Israeli Defence Minister Yollan Gallant ordered a “total siege” of Gaza, calling Palestinians “human animals’”. Israel’s Heritage Minister suggested nuking Gaza and got away with it without being fired from his job. Israel’s Homeland Minister is known for his support to radical settlers in the OPTs and for making frequent hate speeches against the Palestinians. Israeli journalists have called on IDF to turn Gaza into a slaughterhouse. Israel TV talk shows have no editorial censorship. There are banners in Tel Aviv which read: ‘Annihilate Gaza’.
Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from his own public to bring back the hostages alive even if he has to order a ceasefire in Gaza. He is desperate to get a deal that gives him some face-saving. But the outcome of this war is clear. Israel has not achieved the desired military objectives in Gaza.
*Use of indiscriminate force has failed to free the hostages, some of whom have already died in Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment.
*IDF has failed to eradicate Hamas completely or kill or arrest its leaders. In this war Hamas’ profile has increased among the Palestinians, and it now leads other Palestinian militant groups and liberation fighters.
*Israel has failed to conquer Gaza and clear the Strip for Israeli administration to take over its governance.
*Israel has also failed to break the will of the Palestinians to resist oppression and leave Gazza. If anything, Israel has gone ten years back in its plan to expand settlements in OPTs without anyone, including the Palestinians saying anything against it.
Time is fast running out for Netanyahu who is under a scorching spotlight to stop the killings. Israel’s Western allies are coming under increasing public pressure in their own countries for supporting Israel’s war crimes by not pressing on Netanyahu to stop this genocide.
The biggest nightmare of any Zionist today in Israel is the call at the peace marches organised every week for the last five weeks in the major cities of the world when marchers say: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The Zionist mind interprets this slogan as a threat to the right of Israel to exist, whereas it only means Palestine also has the right to exist in peace in the same land where Palestinians are now living as slaves.
The day Israel’s public appreciates this and calls on its leaders to honour this, we can hope for a two-state solution of this protracted and painful conflict which is a lacerating legacy of colonialism and injustice. The major players in this conflict also have a moral responsibility to make this happen by becoming imposing arbiters and guarantors of a lasting peace deal.
*Syed Sharfuddin is a retired Pakistani Diplomat and a former Special Adviser Political Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat, London, UK.
As the War Prolongs in Gaza, Israel is Losing it By the Day.