Momentary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel – Yasmeen Aftab Ali

14

The fact that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was violated with Israel attacking Masjid Al Aqsa within hours of Egypt negotiating a settlement between the two shows just tenuous peace is for the people of the area.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had stated that he was “determined to continue this operation until its goal is achieved”. This was his response to pressure from the Joe Biden White House to de-escalate violence.

As Israeli jets continued pounding Gaza with airstrikes, civilian fatalities including women, children and old people continued to mount; reportedly 38 women and 64 children were among the 228 killed, according to recent accounts by Gaza’s Health Ministry. There has also been untold destruction of property.

As countries around the world raised their voices and called for de-escalation, the atrocities unleashed on the Palestinians – the death toll and amount of destroyed infrastructure keeps rising. A senior Israeli military official said Israel was evaluating whether that was enough to deliver a message to Hamas to deter it from firing rockets deep into Israel. “Until then,” he said, “the military is prepared to go on fighting for more days.”

The current cycle of violence started began following the eruption of protests when Palestinian families were issued eviction orders in occupied East Jerusalem. The agitation was spontaneous and not politically motivated. The violence unleashed by the Israeli police at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem played a part in the build-up of tensions as well. The international community has never done anything to resolve the plight of the Palestinians and the recent provocations to make Jerusalem more Jewish (in terms of population numbers) provoked panic among the Palestinians. Six Palestinian families faced eviction until the Supreme Court issued a 30-day stay order. Other negative steps taken included a police ban on Palestinians gathering at Damascus Gate during Ramzan, which represents the main entrance to the Old City. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem was bound to ignite tensions at some future point.

When there are two unequal partners engaged in conflict —whether it is Israel and Palestine or India and Indian Occupied Kashmir — the benefit goes to the stronger one. Especially when the international community decides to look the other way. Railroading one side to accept the other’s point of view is futile

Pro-Israeli organisations have been trying to change the demographics of occupied East Jerusalem, home to a sizeable Arab population. Incoming Israeli governments have always supported the right of Jews to reclaim property owned by their ancestors prior to 1948. Though the reasoning over here of marginalising Arab populations may be different; shrouding its wishes in the law, one cannot help but compare this illegal step to the deliberate takeover of Occupied Kashmir by of India, in a more ruthless and direct manner. The parallel is between legitimising Israeli settlements and Modi’s step to forcibly and unilaterally abrogate Article 370, which affords special status to Occupied Kashmir. Like Netanyahu, Modi, too, in his election campaign had pledged the abrogation. In the wake of this year’s Day of Independence for India (August 15), 10,000 troops were moved to OIK followed by another deployment of 25,000.

Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is to be read alongside Article 370. The former provides the Jammu and Kashmir legislature with decision-making powers on a number of subjects dealing with the fundamental rights of the people of the state, including the right to define permanent residence and acquisition of immovable property within the regional boundaries. According to the provisions in the Article 35A, the citizens are defined “permanent” as someone who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident of the state for 10 years and has lawfully acquired immovable property. The article also outlaws outsiders from owning property or having any gainful employment in the region. This greatly hinders private sector investments and development in the region. This abrogation took away exclusive citizen rights and allowed an influx of Indians and the take-over of properties (il)legally and/or by coercion; thereby violating Article 370 as well rendering the original inhabitants a minority in their home state.

Looking at the Israel-Palestine situation, over three million Palestinians live in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem as opposed to roughly 600,000 Israelis. Quite an eyesore for the pro-Israel organisations and its supporters of different hues and shades.

What nations need to do is to focus on a solution. A comprehensive one that addresses the needs of the stakeholders is required, failing which the situation as we see today will continue in the future too, going up and down like a see-saw as evidenced as this article goes to print.

To recap, at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, a decision was taken to resolve the long-standing issue through a two-state structure Unfortunately, most nations think today, including Palestinians and Israelis, that this model may not solve the issue. In the presence of continuous eruption of high degree violence, one cannot rule out that the circle of violence may spread as previously (militarily) weaker players secure better military gadgets that may lead to further escalation. Lebanon’s Hezbollah has in its possession precision missiles, and there is always a possibility that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, too, may acquire them. Indeed, there are already reports of Iranian involvement.

Certain steps can be unilaterally taken by Israel to take the heat off on a long-term basis, however, it does not seem like they want to do this, as they remain secure in their position against the Palestinians. Among these steps, the United States Institute of Peace had suggested: ending home demolitions and other forms of collective punishment; alleviating restrictions on movement and access; removing impediments to Palestinian economic development; gradually releasing Palestinian prisoners; allowing the reopening of Palestinian institutions, such as the Orient House, in occupied East Jerusalem; and commitment by Israel to end settlement expansion beyond the wall.

The ceasefire that momentarily ended 11 days of war was always a breather, never a solution. This became immediately evident with the latest Israeli police, which targeted Muslim worshippers offering weekly Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, mere hours after a negotiated peace settlement. Over the past so many bloody days, more than 200 have died, the majority of whom were Palestinians. Leaders of different nations had expressed their relief at an end to this bloody war – however, that relief proved very short-lived.

History proves that past attempts to bring peace between Israel and Palestine have failed. The reason for this is obvious. When there are two unequal partners engaged in conflict – whether it is Israel and Palestine or India and Indian Occupied Kashmir – the benefit goes to the stronger one. Especially when the international community decides to look the other way. Railroading one side to accept the other’s point of view is futile. Therefore, an UN Arbitrary Council, comprising 3 or 5 countries, needs to be established to settle the issue by creating benchmarks. This should be the way forward.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9