Sunanda K. Datta-Ray | Can dialogue, diplomacy be effective in Mideast?

Columnist

Opinion, Columnists

Not only is Israel a flourishing technological hub, one of the world’s largest weapons exporters, and recipient of billions of US dollars

This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows destruction in the Palestinian territory on April 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Image: AFP)

It’s ironical that Israel’s greatest outrages in West Asia -- setting for the last stand of white supremacism -- should also appear to hold the promise of a solution to the “Nakba” (catastrophe) of 76 years ago when European Jewish settlers drove some 800,000 Palestinian Arabs out of the only homes they had ever known. Whether that promise will ever be realised depends on the United States of America heeding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s enigmatic warning that “this is not an era of war, but it’s one of dialogue and diplomacy”.

When Mr Modi said that in June 2023, a gleeful Western media swiftly concluded that he was ticking off Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine. Perhaps he was. If so, however, increasingly grim references to a third world war looming ahead remind us ten months later that the catchy comment has had absolutely no impact on Russian militarism. But “dialogue and diplomacy” can prove effective in West Asia if the United States is able to rise above its Israel-right-or-wrong blindness and accept that while Asian parties like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah may be part of the “evil empire”, innocent Palestinians are victims of a vicious genocide by whites.

Israel’s colonisation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is the main threat today to global peace and stability. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and another 77,000 wounded in Gaza since October 7 when Hamas, admittedly terrorist in its operations, however patriotic its original motivation, raided southern Israel. The death toll from that grim night stands at 1,139, while dozens of Israeli hostages are still in Hamas captivity in Gaza. None of this can be excused. But so far, as the bigger picture is concerned, it is abundantly clear that left to its own devices, European Israel will never grant Asiatic Palestinians their freedom. Nor will Israel willingly honour any of the pious resolutions passed by the United Nations General Assembly.

As for the October 7 raid, the UN’s envoy on sex crimes during conflict presented a 24-page report indicating that rape and gangrape had likely occurred during the onslaught with “clear and convincing” evidence showing that hostages were raped while being held in Gaza. Those held captive still face such abuse. Not unexpectedly, Israel accused the UN of playing down Hamas’ atrocities and dragging its feet on looking into the allegations -- something that the UN Secretary-General swiftly denied.

While Hamas’ brutality cannot be condoned, it did not start the war. The occurrences of October 7, horrible though they were, were only another episode in a continuing horror story that began with the “Nakba”. There was another brutal episode on February 29, 2024, when Israeli forces killed more than a hundred Palestinians and wounded more than 700 while flour was being distributed in Gaza City. Having shot down hungry refugees, Israel sent its tanks to crush the bodies of the dead and the living in a straightforward massacre.

Earlier, the world witnessed what is called “Naksa”, meaning the defeat and setback the Palestinians suffered in 1967 when an additional 300,000 of them were ethnically cleansed. As a result of this decisive Six-Day War (June 5-10, 1967, the third between Arabs and Israel), Israel seized the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, Jordan’s West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, and Syria’s Golan Heights. The status of these territories has since been both a major point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as a pointer to a possible territorial solution.

The war, which added a million second-class Arabs to Israel’s population, began in November 1966 with an Israeli strike on the village of Al-SamÅ« in the Jordanian West Bank that left 18 people dead and 54 wounded, followed by an air battle with Syria in April 1967 when the Israelis shot down six Syrian MiG fighters. Although Soviet intelligence reports indicating that Israel was planning a campaign against Syria turned out to be inaccurate, the information further heightened tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

The silver lining was that the Six-Day War led on November 22, 1967 to the UN’s unanimous Security Council Resolution 242 which started a peace process to which even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid lip service initially. There have been references to “unconditional negotiations”, Arab guarantees that Israel’s borders should be “secure” and peace treaties covering all the parties. Resolution 242 recognises the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace … in which every state in the area can live in security”. It “affirms that the fulfilment of UN Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace” … which should include the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”; and “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.

These stipulations deserve respect if the rule of law is to prevail and not jungle law. Given the reality of great power politics, an American President may not be expected to declare, as China’s representative, Ma Xinmin, did at the International Court of Justice, that: “In pursuit of the right to self-determination, the Palestinian people’s use of force to resist foreign oppression and complete the establishment of an independent state is (an) inalienable right well founded in international law”. But he brings dishonour on himself by saying, as Richard Visek, the US state department’s acting legal adviser, did, also to the ICJ, that: “The court should not find that Israel is legally obligated to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from occupied territory”.

Mr Visek should look at India’s speedy, voluntary and total withdrawal from Bangladesh immediately after an incomparably complete victory, and similarly gratuitous release of 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. As for comparisons with the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998, ending 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland, the difference is that all the Irish players were white.

Not only is Israel a flourishing technological hub, one of the world’s largest weapons exporters, and the recipient of billions of US dollars, but its white Jews are pitted against coloured Asians in what one hopes will be the last stand of white supremacism.

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