Brisbane, July 16, 2014 (Alochonaa): Around 200 Palestinians have been killed and over 1000 have been seriously injured, while one Israeli has been killed and less than half a dozen have been injured in this latest exchange of bombs and rockets between Israel and Hamas. The pretext for Israel’s latest offensive was the alleged kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Hamas denied involvement. Its priority at the time was securing the release of political prisoners. Had Hamas kidnapped the three Israeli teens they would likely have been used as part of an exchange as has occurred in the past when the group captured Israeli soldiers. Moreover, one might assume that the Palestinians who were terrorised, beaten and killed by Israeli security forces in response to the incident would have been sufficient revenge for Israel.
The current Israeli offensive against Hamas and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip is most likely motivated by the Israeli government’s opposition to the Fatah-Hamas unity government and the persistence of the Palestinians in pursuing a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict through international organisations and instruments of international law rather than a flawed negotiated peace process. Palestinians a acutely aware that two decades of peace process has not resolved the conflict but resulted in deeper entrenchment of Israel’s occupation, dramatic expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem and worsening violations of Palestinian human rights.
To understand this conflict, one must recognise that Palestinians and Israelis mean something different when they speak of peace. For Palestinians, peace is a restoration of their rights, which includes their own independent state in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israelis consider peace to be Palestinian submission, acceptance of the status quo and silence on the matter of their rights.
The Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu articulated the objective of the current offensive as a “sustainable calm and quiet for the Israeli people”. Israel has repeatedly proven it is prepared to go to extraordinary measures to prevent a Palestinian state and the Palestinian version of peace from prevailing.
The rockets Hamas fires into Israel completely undermine the Palestinian cause as they serve only to provide Israel with a pretext to attack Palestinians. They neutralise international outrage over civilian deaths and destruction under the guise of self-defence. However, in the end Israel may still be the bigger loser.
According to the latest BBC World Service Poll, Israel is the world’s fourth most unfavourably viewed nation, just ahead of Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. The poll has consistently found Israel to be seen as having a strongly negative influence on the world. Over the past decade, a number of studies have found that Australians are increasingly identifying with the Palestinian narrative of theconflict. Poll data published in the Australian Journal of Political Science in 2011 found 55 per cent of Australians described the conflict as “Palestinians trying to end Israel’s occupation and form their own state”, while 32 per cent saw the conflict as “Israelis fighting for security against Palestinian terrorism”. An overwhelming majority of Australians support the Palestinian right of return, oppose Israeli settlements and believe Jerusalem should be a shared capital. In the lead up to the UN vote on Palestinian statehood in 2012, a study by journalist and academic Peter Manning found that 51 per cent of Australians thought the government should vote “Yes”, while only 15 per cent wanted a “No” vote and 20 per cent thought Australia should “Abstain”.
Even among Israelis, the policy of bombing Palestinians does not evoke a sense of victory among Israelis. A poll conducted by the University of Maryland in the aftermath of Israel’s previous offensive against the Gaza Strip in 2012 found that only 36 per cent thought the actions made Israel better off, while 38 per cent felt Israel’s position is the same and 21 per cent found Israel to be worse off. Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians are often compared to those of apartheid South Africa. It is worth recalling that apartheid only ended when the international community left the conflicting parties with no option other than accepting a just peace.
* Dr. Halim Rane is Associate Professor of Islam-West Relations at Griffith University and the author of Making Australian Foreign Policy on Israel-Palestine: Media Coverage, Public Opinion and Interest Groups, and , Reconstructing Jihad amid Competing International Norms among others.
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