The world is witnessing another round of bloodletting in Gaza, which started earlier this week. It may seem like a ‘war’ with Hamas firing thousands of rockets into Israel and Israel, in turn, retaliating by missile-bombing Gaza. In reality, it is far from a war as Hamas is only a tiny fraction in terms of power when compared to one of the most militarised nations in the world, Israel.
Hamas’ rockets, mostly Qassams, have traditionally been crude and short range. In recent times, there have been improvements in the quality of the rockets, which include medium and long-range ones. Few die in these attacks. That is what makes the death by a rocket of an innocent Indian woman from Kerala all the more tragic.
The hundreds of Hamas rockets fired between 2004-14 killed 32 civilians, five Israeli soldiers and even 11 Palestinians, when the rockets fell into Gaza itself.
On the contrary, the Israeli missiles are powerful used in conventional wars and are capable of causing widespread destruction and death, as is being witnessed in this conflict. Israel has used F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft equipped with the latest weapons. There are reports that it may have even used the latest F-35 aircraft, although it has not been officially confirmed.
In addition, Israel over a decade has developed the Iron Dome system, which intercepts most of the rockets fired by Hamas before they land anywhere. That has been put to good use this time around. One reason why since the fighting broke out on May 10, Hamas has fired at least 1,500 missiles to browbeat the Iron Dome.
But clearly it is a one-sided conflict with Israel holding all the military cards. The question is why would a savvy politico-military organisation like the Hamas (Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Front of Palestine) fire rockets into Israel knowing fully the retaliation that it would engender from the Jewish state.
The only rational explanation is that Hamas’s rocket strike is an expression of extreme frustration among the Palestinians who have all but lost out in the seven-decade struggle against the Israeli state. Since the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Israel has gobbled up almost every bit of land that was to be part of an independent Palestine nation.
Owing to the ongoing conflict, the Palestinians in Gaza, as in the past, will end up not only losing their friends and relatives in the hundreds but also suffer enormous damage to infrastructure and housing. Innocent Palestinians who have nothing to do with the Hamas attacks will end up getting killed.
Following similar conflicts, some 1,300 Palestinians were killed in 2008, 170 in 2012 and at least 2,251 in 2014. Israeli deaths in comparison were 13, six and 73, most of them military. In the latest, fighting, over 100 Palestinians have already been killed in Israeli attacks.
As has happened in most cases in the past, Palestinians tend to lose out to the Israelis in the way the conflict is presented to the world. Much of the media will make it out to be a case of Israel retaliating against rocket attacks by the “terrorist” group Hamas. And the world will end up sympathising with the original aggressor, Israel.
The decades-old conflict has dragged on for so long that it tends to induce a sense of fatigue among those who try to understand the issue. Along the way, facts have routinely been twisted, fake narratives have been introduced to the advantage of the powerful, which in this case is Israel, backed by the world’s superpower, the United States.
For example, the very description of Hamas as a terrorist group is questionable and unfair but it is viewed in most parts of the world as gospel truth since that designation is backed by the US, Europe and obviously, Israel. The counter to this narrative is that Hamas is a Palestinian resistance group whose main aim is to protect its territory and reclaim that which has been lost over the years. The group has not carried out a single attack anywhere in the world other than from its territory against Israel.
The ongoing fighting can be traced to the recent attempts by Israel to evict Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah locality surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque, considered Islam’s third holiest shrine.
The eviction drive carried out by the Israeli state is with a view to replacing Palestinians living there for decades with Jewish settlers who have no locus standi to claim these houses. The Palestinians have resisted, battling Jewish settlers backed by security forces who are attempting to take over their homes.
Is such a thing possible anywhere in the world, for a set of people to gather and forcibly attempt to evict people living lawfully in their homes? The settlers are not being pushed away by the Israeli security forces. On the contrary, the Jewish state is backing the settlers in their illegal move to uproot Palestinians from their homes.
As the outside world looks on silent and, maybe, even unconcerned, the Palestinians know it is but a matter of time before the settlers have their way. This is what has happened in several parts of the Palestinian territories over the last seven decades and there is nothing to suggest it is going to be any different this time.
This is bound to push up the frustration of any group of people in the world. The only way Hamas probably thinks it can attract the attention of the world on this issue is to fire a barrage of rockets into Israel. But that, unfortunately for the Hamas, is going to serve little purpose and is bound to turn counter-productive as it will result in deaths and destruction for its own people in Gaza.
But then anything is possible in the region as the world’s longest conflict years ago entered the realm of absurdity. For, Israel controls the entire region that was once called Palestine. West Bank and the Gaza Strip are Palestinian territories only on paper; they are under the direct supervision of Israel.
Yet the conflict goes on, hundreds of hours are spent discussing the possibility of an independent Palestine state alongside Israel as part of a two-state solution and scores of rounds of peace talks are held to keep up appearances.
While all this is going on, Israel has quietly pushed its settlements into areas meant for an independent Palestinian state. Any other people in the Palestinians’ shoes would have responded in ways similar to Hamas, despite knowing fully well it is for a losing cause. Such is the power of frustration.