A homeland lost, a homeland found
As violence continues to beget violence in the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict, Tanya Vatsa, wonders: is it really a two-state problem?
During the Second World War, over eight decades ago, more than five million Jews across Europe were exterminated for the lack of a homeland. Thereafter, with the support of the victorious allied forces and a very strong Jewish community in Washington and London, Israel was born in 1948. While millions of Jews across the world found a land to call home, the former inhabitants of the land known as Palestine were gradually forced out and confined to limited areas.
Some of these areas, which remain contested, include the Gaza Strip, West Bank and the Golan Heights. Gaza has long been under the domination of Hamas – which stands for Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamiy – an off-shoot of the Palestinian branch of the Islamic brotherhood, which emerged in the 1980s. In continuing its armed resistance against Israel and its campaign of violence, Hamas stands contrary to its rival party, Fatah. As a prominent representative of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), Fatah dominates the West Bank and remains largely non-violent in its fight for Palestinian rights.
With the West having designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation for its armed rebellion against Israel, it remains cutoff from the funding received by the PLO in the West Bank. Gaza has also been isolated by Israel and Egypt;hence it is economically strangulated and poverty has intensified in the region. The rift between Hamas and Fatah has been by far the most glaring Palestinian issue, depriving the community of a united front. While the Israel-Palestine border remains one of the most politically and militarily turbulent areas, the October 7assault by Hamas on Israel, and the subsequent retaliation, has turned Gaza into an impending humanitarian catastrophe.
The recent violence is the largest confrontation between Tel Aviv and Hamas after the 11-day fighting in 2021, following tensions between the two communities in Jerusalem. Hamas’ attack on young people at a music festival stands out in its scale, coordination and, significantly, in its element of surprise, given the efficiency of Israeli intelligence. The militant group launched several thousand rockets into the country, breaching the heavily fortified Gaza border and killing, wounding and kidnapping civilians. The attack was a brutal blow to Israel’s fortification and its adeptness at interception of information regarding such attacks and security breaches. In addition to the deaths resulting from the rockets, Hamas took hostages and left many people severely wounded.
Hamas should surely have predicted the scale of retaliation, given Tel Aviv’s alacrity to seek valid justifications for its oppression of the remnants of Palestine.
And so it came. Tel Aviv retaliated with indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, targeting ‘terrorist strongholds’ and issuing a call for evacuation by civilians from the north to the south of Gaza. The UN confirmed that such evacuation was not possible without a massive humanitarian toll.
Hamas claimed to have acted in response to years of Israeli oppression and occupation, including that of the Al-Aqsa mosque. For its part, Tel Aviv vowed to obliterate Hamas from Gaza, despite the horrific collateral damage that would ensue. The current situation in Gaza seems to be far from proportionate. Apart from residential settlements, hospitals and schools have been hit and, as a result of ruthless bombardment, all communication and internet connection in the Gaza Strip has collapsed. Hospital services are about to close due to fuel shortages.
After much pleading, Israel has allowed the opening of the Egypt-Gaza Rafah Border Crossing to enable aid to enter Gazan territory. The innocent inhabitants of Gaza have lost their homes, families, livelihoods and live in constant fear ofobliteration, considering no intervention has alleviated their situation, and that they have no sovereign state for their protection.
Hamas is funded and supported by Iran and Turkey and often helped by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel’s right to self-defence is being protected by its Western allies, who are also trying to assist Gazans with humanitarian aid. The Islamic regimes of the Middle East, especially Qatar, have loudly called for a ceasefire, threatening disruption of oil supplies.
If the war between Hamas and Israel escalates further, it will inevitably involve more active players, including Hezbollah in Lebanon,thus threatening a two-front conflict for Tel-Aviv. The underlying implication would be proxy battles like those infesting most of the Middle Eastern territories. Irrespective of the number of state and non-state actors involved, the price will be disproportionately paid by civilians caught in the cross-fire.
The UN secretary General has rightly iterated that the grievances of the Palestinian people do not justify the attacks by Hamas on civilians, and the Israeli bid to retaliate does not condone the sufferings of innocent Palestinians. As Tel Aviv calls for intensification of ground operations in Gaza, the UN General Assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce for the protection of civilians.
Misled by political ploys, people across the world are divided between the Jews and the Arabs.Yet the conflict is not between two religious entities; the war between Hamas and Israel is for the relevance and dominance of their ideology and politics. Yet again, the dehumanisation of people in order to demonstrate power results in the sacrifice of innocent lives, on both sides, at the altar of political deception. The need of the hour is an intervention, not only for a ceasefire in Gaza but for the demarcation of borders, in order to prohibit transgressions by both sides and ensure people’s dignified and peaceful existence.
It has been several decades since the holocaust and yet another group of people are being persecuted for not having a sovereign state of their own. It is ironic, however, that the situation of Jews was remedied by pushing Palestinians out and into a similar condition of statelessness. The international community has failed on humanitarian grounds by failing to provide protection and security to both the Jews and the Palestinians. It is this constant state of fear of persecution that fuels their insecurities, resulting in continued acts of violence and oppression.
Tanya Vatsa, a law graduate from National Law University, Lucknow and an incoming LLM candidate at the University of Edinburgh, is a former assistant advocate. She is currently a geopolitical analyst with The Synergia Foundation, an India-based think tank. Her writing on international relations has been published by the Diplomatist, International Policy Digest and The Kootneeti