While there is a wide consensus at world-level among all people committed to justice that the Palestinian people have suffered relentless injustice and ending this injustice must be a top priority in the agenda for the Middle-East region, this cannot be taken as a justification for the massive attack by Hamas which started the ongoing ‘war’.
It is very important to ask a very simple question — who will eventually suffer the most?
As the Palestinian people are concentrated in a small region and the other side has much more destructive weapons whose supply can be easily increased by the USA, ultimately it is the civilian Palestinian population which will suffer the most.
Of course, any peace activist feels strongly for the civilian victims on both sides of any conflict and our concern is equally for the loss of lives of innocent civilian people in Israel.
It is likely that the newspapers in coming days will be full of reports of gains and losses from a military perspective, but clearly it is the high humanitarian costs of the fast unfolding huge tragedy which should concern us the most.
The entire conflict is being fought in an area of high population density with high concentration of population in cities and other vulnerable areas. The Gaza strip with its two million people has a width of just 6 to 12 km. In such conditions deaths from heavy bombing can be very high. It is difficult to avoid getting affected and seriously injured.
What is more, 43% of the population of Gaza strip consists of children under 14 years of age. The physicians’ density is just 2.7 per 1000 population while hospital bed availability per 1000 population is just 1.3. What is more, the existing medical infrastructure can be very adversely affected by bombings.
Hence to avoid very high humanitarian costs in a densely populated region, this conflict should end as early as possible.
The injustice suffered by Palestinians must be resisted strongly but in peaceful ways and this peaceful resistance must be conducted in such a way that it can get stronger, continuing, worldwide support. In this way, the cause of justice for the Palestinian people must be advanced steadily.
Hamas must restrain itself keeping in view the wider and larger interests of the Palestinian people. It should act in more democratic and transparent ways in the true interests of the Palestinian people and anything decided secretively by its leaders cannot be stated conclusively and without further discussion to be in the interests of the Palestinian people.
In the present context, the initiation of a big conflict by Hamas which was certain to bring a much bigger retaliation by Israel cannot be considered to be in the interests of the Palestinian people. When the total Palestinian population in Gaza Strip and West Bank is less than five million, is it in the interests of the Palestinian people to risk the loss of too many lives?
It is well-known that heavy bombing of any area can destroy critical infra-structure of water, sanitation, health and other essentials so that the number of people who die after the war is over can also be very high and several areas bombed heavily may become inhabitable for some time, leading to forced displacement.
Hence from the point of view of the ordinary Palestinians as well as the ordinary people of Israel, this war should end as early as possible.
As historians recall, Hamas and its early leaders were at least initially encouraged by Israel as a counter to the PLO and left forces of Palestine. This is also in keeping with the USA record of using Islamist sectarian forces to curb left forces in several countries. Hence too much glorification of Hamas militancy is not proper.
A lot is being written about the great achievement of Hamas in fooling the most efficient intelligence agencies of Israel and the USA while planning its big attack. However all aspects of this are not yet clear.
What is already known is that the extreme right wing rulers of Israel, including the top leader, have been facing a lot of domestic problems and this sudden war gives them a chance to cover up their various blemishes and to emerge ultimately as saviors in difficult times, making use of more destructive weapons and powerful allies.
Clearly the aim of the peace movement and all forces committed to peace should be to try to secure peace as early as possible while other issues can be sorted out later.
[The writer, Bharat Dogra, is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and Man over Machine.]
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