Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Gaza War

Images of mangled bodies, soldiers and civilians alike, from Gaza, though familiar, are horrifying. Those morbid pictures, it must be admitted, are sad products of the long-drawn conflict between the two sides that rightfully lay claims to provocation. Now, it takes more than rhetorics for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) cease-fire resolution passed last Thursday to end this gruesome run.
Israel whose military action has caused more of the destruction, has remorselessly pointed to the consistent pounding of its southern territory with rockets and mortar bombs by Hamas since it (Israel) evacuated its army and settlers from the Gaza Strip three years ago. It also has plausible reasons to believe that those weapons were smuggled into Gaza long ago and that more are still being brought into the area to torment it. On its border with Lebanon, Israel already faces formidable danger in the form of Hezbollah, the militant group it waged an unsuccessful war against in 2006. The ferocity with which it is prosecuting the present hostilities could be traced to the determination of the Jewish state to redeem its bruised ego and institute an atmosphere of deterrence in a region. Ordinarily, these grounds are cogent.
On its part, Hamas hinges its belligerence on the fact that Israel has tightened Gaza’s borders, thereby hampering its economic progress, while enhancing that of West Bank , controlled by Hamas’ political and more secular rival, Fatah. Even while the truce which was shattered by the on-going conflagration lasted, Israel permitted the delivery of only a token of the humanitarian aid meant for Gaza. But despite the heavy losses they have incurred (nearly 800 casualties as against Israel’s just above one dozen), the Palestinians have continued to insist that their foes must open up Gaza before they would stop the bombardment. The organisation’s spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said in response to the UNSC resolution thus: “This resolution doesn’t mean that the war is over. We call on the Palestinian fighters to mobilize and be ready to face the offensive, and we urge the Arab masses to carry on with their angry protests.”
That threatening declaration did not come as a surprise to watchers of the precarious life in Palestine. After all, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, had equally voiced the combative stance of her government at the beginning of the war two weeks ago, long before the UNSC proposition. As she put it, “Israel has acted, Israel is acting and will act only according to its own considerations, the security of its citizens and its right to self defence.”
Both Israel and Hamas have credible excuses to fight but they should learn from their own past that is littered with failed attempts at armed prosecutions. Israel ought to know by now that the gun alone is not strong enough to subdue a people. The Palestinians should also come to terms with the futility of prompting the annihilation of Israel . The earlier both sides embraced the fact that they will be neighbours forever, the better.
It is instructive that the UNSC move is overwhelming. With 14-0 vote (only United States abstention), the warring parties should be clear about the expectation of the rest of the world.
In the light of this despondency, therefore, the UNSC’s direction to the international community to “intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained reopening” of border crossings is timely. Everyone, particularly the United States and the other countries that have traditionally taken part in the peace process, has key roles to play in healing the sore that has plagued humanity since 1948 when Israel’s determination to actualize its nationhood started.