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Arab-Israeli conflict through history: Part – I

The Hamas attack on Israel and the consequential bombardment of Gaza by Israel has not only triggered a heated debate over the Palestinian issue but also exposed the hypocrisy of Western ruling elites and their subservient media that have tried to show only one side of the picture. The conflict erupted after the stunning attacks of Hamas militants. The eruption of violence on both parts has claimed more than 2000 lives besides causing immense difficulties for the civilians of two warring groups.

No argument could possibly justify the targeting of innocent civilians but the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas in Gaza, stopping supply of fuel, food and medicines and suspension of power supply is equally condemnable and should evoke as much anger and fury. Violation of international laws and norms must be slammed outright, no matter who commits it.

It is important to understand the conflict keeping in view the historical context. Israeli propaganda and Western complicity with Israel’s apartheid project has created an impression that it is the Palestinians who should be held responsible for everything that has happened in the region over the last 100 years

In a bid to dehumanize the Palestinians, the cabal of western ruling elite and hegemonic Zionists love to highlight the atrocities of Palestinian nationalist groups or Hamas militants – but they seldom mention the barbaric treatment meted out to the residents of Gaza for the last 23 years or the sledgehammer tactics of the Israeli state that has been unleashing a reign of terror on the indigenous population of this historic land for seven decades now.

Attempts are also made to create an impression that all Palestinians are Muslims or that Palestine is just a Muslim issue. The reality is that some of the top ideologues of the Palestinian movement were Christians. Christians, Muslims, Jews and the Druze are among the indigenous people of this historic land. During the Ottoman time, 87 per cent of the residents of this land were Muslims, 10 per cent Christians and only three per cent Jews. However, they lived side by side and the level of hatred and mistrust was never what it is today.

It is true that like ruling elites of different nations, Muslim kings, emperors or Sultans discriminated against the minority communities including Jews but the level of this hatred was not as high as it was in Europe and by and large they coexisted. Most of the pogroms against Jews were historically carried out on non-Muslim lands. During the medieval times, Jews were held responsible for everything – from natural calamities to the epidemics and mistunes that befell Western societies. Organized pogroms were orchestrated to decimate Jews. Even great writers and intellectuals were not immune to anti-Semitism. The character assassination of Jews in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare could be one example to show how deeply embedded anti-Semitism was in Europe. The Russian ruling elite came up with concocted stories and charges to eliminate Jews from their region.

It was the Muslims of southern Spain who rescued them from persecution, letting them take shelter under their rule. The followers of the two faiths collectively promoted Greek thought and made valuable additions to it. Jews during Ottoman times did not face as intense persecution as they did in European states. Turkey under Kamal Ata Turk also offered shelter to fleeing Jews.

As Arundhati Roy said somewhere, it is heart-wrenching to see an unfortunate group of people vent their anger against the most unfortunate. The creation of Israel was very clear from the statement of a senior British official. It was not meant to help out the persecuted but to use them against the most unfortunate Palestinians who were challenging the British empire. An article penned by John Gershman and Conn Hallinan for Foreign Policy in Focus in October 2005 highlights this British imperial policy in detail.

The two authors note, “Following the absorption of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the British set about shoring up their rule by the tried and true strategy of pitting ethnic group against ethnic group, tribe against tribe, and religion against religion. When British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour issued his famous 1917 Declaration guaranteeing a ‘homeland’ for the Jewish people in Palestine, he was less concerned with righting a two-thousand-year-old wrong than creating divisions that would serve growing British interests in the Middle East.”

So, it is clear that Balfour’s intentions were not altruistic but they were rather meant to serve British interests. It is not just a fallacy; the statements of other British officials also lend credence to this argument that the state of Israel was not created to extend help and succor to persecuted Jews, but was rather done in the interest of the empire that was adroit at driving a wedge between communities in the territories that it occupied. For instance, this statement of Sir Ronald Storrs, the first governor of Jerusalem, was issued in a more unabashed way. It clearly indicates that Storrs certainly had no illusions about what a ‘Jewish homeland’ in Palestine meant for the British Empire. He said, “It will form for England a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.”

So, it is clear that the British empire was behind this Zionist settler state that turned out to be the most loyal servant of imperial powers. Had the British empire not declined in the aftermath of World War II, Tel Aviv would have demonstrated unquestionable loyalty to London. Barring a few conflicts and differences with London, the fidelity of the Zionist state remained strong with the largest empire of the world in its early years.

When Tel Aviv realized that the days of the empire were numbered, it switched loyalty to Washington, doing its bidding in the region. It was perhaps the only state in the region that emerged as a strong wall against the rising Arab nationalism that was sweeping the region and was extremely lethal to American interests and Western hegemony. No matter what the ruling elite of Israel says about the creation of this state, it is clear that the state was an imperial project that emerged as a tool to serve the interests of the British empire first and then American strategic aims.

The reason why Western countries throw their blanket support behind this Zionist project lies in the history of the West that is replete with land grab, outright plunder and subjugation of colonized people. The US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are themselves colonial settler states established on the blood of indigenous people. Conscientious people in these states have enough moral courage to admit this. However, the majority in Israel are reluctant to accept that the creation of this state is a result of outright loot, plunder and subjugation.

To be continued

Abdul Sattar, "Arab-Israeli conflict through history: Part – I," The News. 2023-10-13.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Foreign policy , Zionists , Militants , John Gershman , Conn Hallinan , Israel , Palestine