The israel-hamas war now into its third week has taken a terrible toll in the Gaza strip, a narrow (41×9 km) land parcel sited between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan to the east.
Although the latest casus belli is the surprise attack on Israeli civilians in a border town on October 7, and taking of an estimated 200 hostages being held as a bargaining chip for the release of Hamas militants in Israeli jails, the origin of the Israel-Palestine conflict goes way back to 1948. That’s when Israel, constituted by purchase and land grab from native Palestinians, was recognised as a legitimate nation state by a majority vote in the United Nations General Assembly. In the early 20th century, the Jewish demand for a country of their own in Palestine was conceded by Great Britain (administering the region) in the Balfour Declaration (1917) which permitted Jews worldwide to settle in Palestine without any diminution of the rights of Palestinians already settled there.
The purpose of recounting this history is to make the point that the Arab/Palestine charge that Jewish people have no roots in the region is incorrect. However, instead of accepting the right of the Jewish diaspora to carve out a state from Palestine as decreed by the United Nations, an Arab coalition declared war on Israel in 1948, which it lost, prompting Israel to expand its frontiers.
Again in 1967, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Palestine waged a six-day war with Israel and lost, prompting Israel to occupy the Sinai, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In 1978, following yet another unsuccessful (Yom Kippur) war, in the Camp David Accords, Israel returned Sinai, and agreed to self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by an elected Palestine Authority. However under the Nehtanyu government in Israel, the Camp David Accords and the subsequent Oslo Accord, have been breached by permitting Israeli settlements/enclaves to be established in the West Bank.
While there is misjudgement and wrong perpetrated on both sides, clearly the massive aerial bombardment of Gaza by Israel amounts to use of disproportionate force and collective punishment of the hapless people of Gaza for the atrocities of an unelected (since 2006) Hamas government. The correct response would have been for Israel which claims that its Mossad is the world’s best cross-border counter-intelligence service, to oust the terrorist Hamas leadership than indiscriminately bomb civilians.
From a broader perspective, it’s high time that the Palestine Authority and the Arab world in general switched to a Gandhian strategy — as suggested by eminent editor Swaminathan Aiyar (ToI October 29) — to establish a peaceful two-state (Israel and Palestine) solution to this prolonged dispute. As has become painfully apparent in the latest Hamas-Israel armed conflict, the prime victims are women, the elderly and utterly innocent children.