The recent violence in Palestinian territory shows no sign of abating. A two-week Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip has led to numerous civilian casualties and much damage. However, this was surpassed by the fierce Israeli bombardment of Lebanon over the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. It has thrown the region into further crisis and turmoil, threatening to make all-out war a reality.
All this makes the key question of whether true peace can be sought in the Holy lands as murky as ever.
Although peace negotiations over the past decade or so have had positive gestures from both sides superficially, in truth progression has been slow, cyclic and fraught with difficulties and bloodshed. The issue of the Palestinian struggle has gripped the Middle East and dominated the agenda of neighbouring Arab countries.
Many historical junctures have been achieved without really gaining the adequate agreement and long-term harmony required for a lasting peace. Even the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) granting some autonomy to Palestinians has left them bickering about strategy, diplomatic relationships and national direction.
After all, decades of war and bloodshed leading to much displacement, mourning and suffering, would hardly lead to national agreement among all Palestinians overnight. This, coupled with the persistent involvement and interference of many of the neighbouring Arab countries each with their own stance on the conflict and their own relationship with Israel, has caused a deep split in the region.
The death of the much heralded leader, Yasser Arafat, sent shockwaves through the occupied lands. Yasser Arafat was the figure that bonded so many sides and was the personification of the Palestinian struggle. However, since his death, Palestinian politics has been incoherent with splits between rival factions. The surprise victory by Hamas may have aroused the West but it also created tensions with its rival faction - Fatah.
Israel has ruled out any negotiations with the Hamas-led Palestinian Government, while withholding millions in custom payments, labelling the militant group a “terrorist bloody organisation” and rejecting claims about the use of disproportionate force against both Lebanon and the occupied territories.
However, if the situation in Gaza itself is tense, the conflict brewing between Lebanon and Hezbollah militia could prove that an all-out war between Jews and Arabs could strike once again. The constant flexing of their military muscle will only alienate Israel further, and Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Lebanon in particular have been fierce and more than just a defensive right. It appears that unfortunately for the Middle East, history is often repeating without progress and repentance.
Background of hostilities
The struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians is one of the most capricious and notorious of all the worlds’ conflicts. The historical claim to lands between the Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordanian river has led to centuries of hostilities, bloodshed and bitterness and is still evident today, with different nations fighting for the prized iconic lands.
For the much-persecuted Jewish people, the return to the land of their forefathers after years of displacement has not been without perils. Security and peace have been non-existent as hostile neighbours have sought to nullify their gains.
For the Palestinians on the other hand, the last century has brought colonisation, occupations and much displacement, followed by a difficult and bloody battle for self-determination and co-existence with a nation heralded by many with anger and bitterness.
Since the revolt in 70AD against Roman rule, the dispersion of the Jewish people has been commonplace and highlighted by recurrent European anti-Semitism. Jewish fortunes changed with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, where the British Government supported Zionist plans for a Jewish "national home" in Palestine, a British mandate at the time.
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