By Gaurav Sharma
What began as an extensive persecution of Jews in the Middle Ages in the form raging anti-semitism has now transformed into a morbid crackdown on Palestinians.
Palestine represents the world’s largest refugee population, most of whom are poor, powerless, and homeless. Unemployment is rampant, with a record 67 percent of the youth population without a job to provide for their basic needs. Homes lie in shambles, bombed by the incessant flow of missiles fired from Israel-occupied regions in the West Bank.
To aggravate the situation, most of the promised $3.5 billion foreign aid does not reach the target audience (almost three-fourth of the amount is diverted to the Palestinian Authority, a puppet regime in West Bank).
The crisis which has snowballed into flagrant human rights abuses by the Israeli regime traces it roots to the resurgence of Zionism in the early 20th Century, in line with the long-standing demands of a ‘return to Zion.’
Zionism began as Jewish nationalist movement under the vision of Theodor Herzl, an Austrian-Jewish journalist who galvanized the brewing jingoism into a mass movement in 1896.
By organizing meetings and penning down vocal essays, Herzl was able to magnetize Jews living in Europe to what now stands as Israel / Palestine. To escape the jaws of European persecution, the Jews heeded Herzl’s clarion calls for a national homeland and migrated to what was then an Arab and Muslim dominated territory under the control of the Ottoman empire (which was later transferred to the British).
Through a heady mix of anti-semitism and religious nationalism, the Jewish population in Israel/Palestine sharply escalated between 1896 and 1948. The Arabs saw the mass immigration of Jews as a European colonial movement and a war soon ensued.
Division of state
Unable to stymie the violence, Britain devised a partition policy wherein Palestine would control West Bank and the Gaza strip and the rest of the land would be transferred to Israel.
While the Jewish population accepted the deal, Arabs viewed the agreement as an insidious plan to displace them from their rightful land. Subsequently in 1967, the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq launched a war against Israel, though not before terming it as an aggressor.
Israel, on its part, asserted that it had launched the attack as a pre-emptive measure. During the Six Day war (as it is popularly known), Israel crushed the Arab powers and assumed control of West Bank and East Jerusalem. More than 77 percent of the land came under the territory of Israel. In the aftermath of the sinister battle, a massive 700,000 Palestinian civilians transfigured into refugees.
To address grievances of the displaced populace, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 242, asking Israel to withdraw from ‘the territories’ (French translation) occupied. The US and Israel used instead the English translation of the text to argue that withdrawal from some, and not all the usurped area would suffice.
Meanwhile, to govern the Palestinian population in West Bank and Gaza, Israel organized a military establishment through which civil rights and political liberties such as freedom of speech and expression, press, and association were denied to the Palestinians.
Intifida and Human rights abuse
Following the subversion and criminalization of Palestinian nationalism, an Intifida (shaking off) movement was mobilized by the Palestinian community. During the mass unrest, Israel arrested people by the dozen. (Israel had the highest per-capita prison population in the world)
A secret policy of targeted killing was undertaken by Israel. Violence within the Palestinian community also escalated, with the rift between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO, the official representative of the Palestinians) and Hamas (an Islamist organization deemed as a terrorist group) spilling out in the open.
Despite the 1993 Oslo 2 agreements dividing the West Bank into a shared territory (besides giving complete control of one area to Israel), Israel has launched sweeping offensives in the Gaza strip, killing thousands of Palestinians. Hamas has retaliated with much less fire-power.
As of now, the Gaza strip is under the control of Hamas and the West Bank is ruled by the mainstream Fateh faction of the PLO.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the apathy of diplomatic amnesia, refugees which include young children, helpless women, and old residents have been subjected to barbaric human rights abuse.
Human Rights Watch, a global human rights advocacy group, has documented cases where boys belonging to the tender age group of 10-15 years were threatened, mercilessly beaten-up, stripped, and jailed. (a gross violation of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights ratified by Israel in 1991)
A Unicef report further underscores the plight of the refugees in a 2013 report wherein the uncertainty and instability of the future of Palestinian children is highlighted.
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning author, calls the peace process a ‘sham’ and defines Israel as a ‘corrupt oligarchic regime for whom war has become a lucrative business.’
The allegations are not far-fetched keeping in mind the 390,000 tank shells, 5 million bullets, and 35,000 artillery shells that were blasted by Israel during the 51-day Gaza siege in 2014.
More recently, a one-and-a-half-year old Palestinian infant was charred to death in what has been defined as a clear case of Jewish terrorism. The brutal episode is however not an isolated case of brazen violence.
Following the execution of three Jewish students in West Bank, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Gaza and administered an even more sinister campaign to blockade food deliveries, thereby ensuring the survival of Palestinians just above starvation levels. The periodic rocket shelling which has shattered the lives of the Palestinians is meanwhile callously dubbed as ‘mowing the lawn.’
As far as counter-charges of Hamas wreaking havoc in Israel go, the disparity in the efficacy of attacks is precociously prominent. Compared to the 20-40 tonnes of firepower that Hamas used through its widely inaccurate missile strikes, Israel pummelled 20,000 tonnes of explosives in Gaza.
The only feasible way to prevent Israel from continuing the horrific hounding of Palestinians is through imposition of sanctions, such as those that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa.
However, with the US backing Israeli-occupation of Palestine, it is highly unlikely that the BDS movement, a global campaign to exert political and economic pressure on Israel to leave Palestinian land, would succeed.
And yet, there is no other way to arrest the fall of the Palestinian people.