Friday, May 24, 2013
Last Updated: 23 May 15:02 PM IST
15 November 2012
OFF LIMITS ~ Seema Mustafa
Talks for a solution seem to have disappeared from the global agenda, with Israel’s hardline position working to virtually eliminate the free-spirited Palestinians from the world stage
Gaza has become Israel’s backyard for use of military weapons, targeted assassination, and control of a hapless population that seems to be virtually living at the mercy of its all-powerful neighbour with no solution in sight. The targeted assassination of a top Hamas commander, Ahmad Jabari, along with seven others deserves strong condemnation but unfortunately has not made headlines, even in newspapers of supposed friendly countries like India.
The moment there is even a hint of unrest or opposition from the Palestinians living in Gaza, Israel retaliates with air strikes killing innocents on a regular basis. The fear and trauma affect all residents, with women and children remaining the worst hit as normal life for them has been overtaken by conflict and war. In this recent case, Jabari was murdered by an initial Israeli strike on a car in Gaza city in broad daylight, just before 4 p.m. local time according to the West Asian media. This was supposedly an Israel operation targeting armed groups. Jabari was killed along with his son and his bodyguard when his car was blown up. After this, again according to conservative reports, Israel pounded the tiny strip with at least 20 air strikes in which seven Palestinians were killed and 30-odd injured, including two children.
The Israel-Iran face-off has diverted attention from the plight of the Palestinians who are facing attacks on a regular basis. Apart from this they have been hemmed into their tracts of territory with the infamous wall that makes them captive until and unless they are cleared for movement from one part to the other by the Israeli troops in command. Travel outside West Bank and Gaza remains in the hands of the Israeli controllers, as does electricity and water in parts thereof. Garbage is piling up, the Palestinian tracts are turning into overcrowded, congested, disease-bearing ghettos, with the standards of living reduced to unimaginable levels.
Talks for a solution seem to have disappeared from the global agenda, with Israel’s hardline position working to virtually eliminate the free-spirited Palestinians from the world stage. In killing Jabari, Israeli military claimed that the attack was justified as he was a “senior Hamas operative, directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the State of Israel in the past number of years.” This absurd justification has been met with silence from the world, including the Arab League that is more vocal against rulers like the Syrian President, than it is in its condemnation of Israel’s unilateral military actions in the region.
The United States, of course, has nothing to say about this violation of all democratic principles where a tiny country backed by military power, takes law into its own hands through a system of targeted assassinations that has killed any number of Palestinians not just in Gaza but in Western countries as well. Rumours that Palestinian leader Yaseer Arafat had been poisoned to death eight years ago, were buried in the Palestinian scramble for the top position with even leaders like Mahmoud Abbas ignoring Mrs Arafat’s allegations at the time. Now eight years later reports seem to have vindicated her stand, and the dead Palestinian leader’s body is being exhumed on 26 November for a proper autopsy. Arafat was held prisoner by Israelis in his last days, with the great leader being humiliated, harassed and threatened on an almost daily basis. Most Palestinians believe he was poisoned, and it is indeed regrettable that the Palestinian leadership that succeeded him did not raise the issue and take it to its logical conclusion.
India with its pragmatic and not-so-principled foreign policy has forgotten the Palestinians completely. Except for the usual lip service to a cause the mandarins in South Block clearly do not believe in, the Indian government is only interested in strengthening relations with Israel, diplomatic and military in particular. The money lies with Israel, not with Palestinians and the pragmatic turn to Indian foreign policy has ensured that it does not move away from Tel Aviv in any meaningful way. The Arab League controlled by oil-rich nations has never really been sympathetic to the Palestinians even during the days of Yasser Arafat, with this lack of sympathy turning into callous indifference over the years.
Thus one of the most serious violation of rights in history is slowly being absorbed by the world community as a given. The marginalisation of the Palestinians is reflected in the media, with the true picture of their stress and trauma being completely blacked out from mainstream newspapers in all countries. An unequal war is going on, killing innocents almost every day, and yet there is not a murmur from the governments in the region and across the world there is not even a whisper that commands “Stop it!” Ironically, if and when there is an initiative, clearly weighed in favour of Israel, it comes from Washington with its satellite countries then suddenly re-discovering their interest in the Palestinian cause.
The world has thus become a silent spectator to the systematic attempts to eliminate the most secular Arabs ever, proud, courageous, and dignified. This attitude, if not radically changed, will lead eventually to a Holocaust more terrible and virulent than the one that led to the creation of Israel.
The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman