Gaza Conflict in Perspective

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 21 2021

The recent escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has shifted much of the world’s attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Once again, the decades-old unrest was rekindled by territorial disputes that spiralled into massive demonstrations by Palestinians in the West Banks and relentless rocket attacks by the likes of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

Exhilarating news footage showed the rocket barrage being neutralised over Israeli cities thanks to their sophisticated ‘Iron Dome’ missile system which mitigated large numbers of civilian casualties. The Jewish State’s preparedness being surrounded by constant threats is praiseworthy no matter which side you take in the conflict.

In terms of defence, Israel has done more to protect its own people than the Palestinian Authority, with the latter seemingly getting more sympathy and coverage by liberal news outlets; rubbishing the Anti-Semitic adage that the ‘Jews control the Media’.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict is one of the most complicated political issues in the world today, with multilateral aspects to it. Spanning a history that stretches back 3,000 years, the Jewish people once inhabited the land that was once called Judea and were driven out by the Romans in the year 70 following a revolt against the empire. The scattered Jews settled in many parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and these communities came to be known as the Jewish Diaspora. The Jews in exile, although being a minority, played a key role in shaping world history; their resilience and tenacity in the face of oppression moulded them to become successes wherever they went but the harassment continued nonetheless.

The State of Israel was the result of the Jewish exodus from all over the world, fleeing centuries of persecution and pogroms as well as the institutionalised Anti-Semitism in their host countries (with the exception of India where Jews were never persecuted). The call for a separate State for the Jewish people by the international community grew following the events of the Holocaust.

Accordingly, the State of Israel was established on 14 May 1948; getting their start in the same year that Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) received its Independence from the British. The Jewish homeland today is the result of years of tumultuous political agreements and conflicts with its neighbours.

Since its inception, Israel was not welcomed by its surrounding nations and the Palestinians. One of the major reasons for this was the failure of the United Nations, as well as the Western nations, that took the lead in adopting a resolution on 29 November 1947, recommending the adoption of the Partition Plan for Palestine, whereby the establishment of the State of Israel was declared. However, as the British Mandate of Palestine, that was established in 1920, following the end of World War I, came to an end in 1948, no nation took the initiative to establish the State of Palestine, rendering a people that lived in that region for centuries becoming stateless.

This oversight later contributed much to the unrest and instability in that region. Over the next few years, a number of resolutions were adopted by the UN and a vast number of nations formally accepted the Palestinian State. Yet, the veto power wielding United States of America is yet to formally recognise the sovereignty of the Palestinian people. The State of Palestine is recognised by 138 of the 193 UN members and since 2012 has a status of a non-member observer State in the United Nations.

Despite a long-term peace process, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement. Progress was made towards a two-State solution with the 1993–1995 Oslo Accords, but today the Palestinians remain subject to Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip and in 165 ‘islands’ across the West Bank. Also, in 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-State solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.

However, hostilities between the Jewish State and Arab nations have thawed in recent years. In August 2020, the Unites States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed the Abraham Accords followed by normalisation agreements with Sudan, Morocco, Oman and Bahrain. The pact was signed to bring economic, defence and other levels of cooperation between former foes. The UAE has even built synagogues for the Jewish expatriates living there.

The May 2021 resumption of violence between the two parties that had been in conflict for the longest time in the world, shows the failure of the world bodies such as the United Nations and the Security Council in finding the lasting solution to one of the most festering conflicts that had plagued the West Bank for many decades.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 21 2021

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