The Israel-Palestine conflict is reckoned as one of the enduring conflicts of contemporary times with the ‘’Question of Palestine’’ being on the United Nations (UN) agenda since 1947. This conflict exacerbated because of the Arab-Israel War of 1967 when Israel seized, what were historically known as Palestinian territories, and continues to occupy them to date. Despite adoption of numerous UN resolutions on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, independence and sovereignty, they continue to live under Israeli occupation turned into an apartheid.
Sadly, one does not foresee an end to this occupation in the near future due to the silence of the governing cabinets worldwide and the blanket support of the United States (US) to Israeli seizure. It is heart wrenching to see the sheer indifference of the world’s ruling elites towards Israeli war crimes and violation of International Human Rights Law in the occupied Palestinian territories. While this conflict has seen a series of military engagements between the Arabs and Israeli forces in the past, today it is only a tale of war crimes at the hands of Israeli military forces against innocent Palestinians.
Israel has never shied away from applying brute force on innocent civilians with utter disregard for the Rules of Engagement (ROE). Its military offensives in the occupied territories in 2008-09 (Operation Cast Lead, more tragically known as the Gaza Massacre); 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense); and 2014 (Operation Protective Edge known also as the Gaza War) killed more than 3,500 Palestinian civilians, including hundreds of children.
The killing of more than 200 Palestinian protestors and wounding 30, 000 in the 2018 Great Return March is another traumatic memory which echoes Israel’s blatant disregard for human rights norms. Its other unlawful practices include creation of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, destroying homes and property of Palestinians and the decades-long inhumane blockade of Gaza. The UN has called the latter a form of “collective punishment” barred under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
2021 has witnessed a renewed wave of intense hostilities in occupied Palestine. The Israeli forces, this time driven by the motivation to divert attention from the political turmoil within their state, instigated yet another cycle of death and destruction for the besieged Palestinians under apartheid. Israeli forces took to violence by attacking peaceful unarmed worshippers in al-Aqsa mosque. This came at a time when the political environment in the occupied territories was already tense following the forced evictions in East Jerusalem. The act provoked Hamas fighters who retaliated to Israeli aggression with militant tactics allegedly firing rockets into Israeli territory. Israel further responded to Hamas’ actions with offensive aerial strikes making it its fourth major offensive on the Gaza Strip in the last decade.
The 11-day air raid killed no less than 248 Palestinians, including 66 children and 39 women, before reaching a fragile ceasefire. Intermittent violations continue. Aerial escalations once again led to a huge loss of civilian lives and property mainly for the Palestinian people. The destruction of property in garb of military targets remains massive. From homes to buildings housing media offices and hospitals were razed to the ground by Israeli bombers. Contrarily, 10 Israelis lost their lives in wake of the Hamas incursions, a stark disparity given the fact that Israel was the one defending itself.
It is for the first time since the 2014 Gaza War that Israel and Hamas in Gaza Strip have indulged in aerial exchanges. Although Israel claims that the 2014 war actions were lawful since it made substantial efforts to avoid civilian casualties, the UN team report on the 50-day war found evidence of serious war crimes by Israel, including relentless bombardment, use of illegal weapons and insufficient warnings before attack. Israel continues to conduct offensive aerial operations in the guise of defending itself with little regard to the moral dimension of war. Ironically, Israel being the sanctuary of holocaust survivors of World War II is itself indulging in the very same practice of systematic abuse of power.
Although the state of Israel claims to target militant installations in Gaza as they crossed a so-called “red line”, the pattern of attacks shows otherwise. Fortunately, the proliferation of digital and social media has contributed tremendously in exposing Israel’s war crimes where international observers failed to do so. Indeed, International Humanitarian Law, also known as the Law of Armed Conflict, establishes clear Rules of Engagement where protection of civilian objects is indispensable. The state of Israel has been blatantly violating international law for decades.
When the recent round of violence escalated, the United Nations Security Council met several times to discuss the matter but failed to put up a joint statement of concern against Israel. This was predominantly because the United States vetoed any sincere effort to hold Israel accountable. The US not only provides diplomatic cover to Palestine’s occupation, it is also party to the human rights violations given its substantial military aid to Israel.
The world’s elites, especially those walking the power corridors of the US and the UN have stayed hesitant in highlighting and holding Israel accountable for its war crimes and aggression for far too long. They must stop standing on the wrong side of the law and must force Israel to accept the UN mandated two-state solution in order to restore lasting peace in the Middle East, apart from just calling for “relative calm” to a long-simmering humanitarian conflict.