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Monday, July 21, 2014

GAZA, A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER

By SSK

Gaza’s known history goes back 4,000 years. Considering India’s known civilisation is 10,000 years and 5,000 years for China, we can assume that Gaza’s unknown history is certainly longer than 4,000 years, pre-dating even the beginning of the Abrahamic faiths.

Gaza originated as a Canaanite settlement after which it came under the control of ancient Egypt before being conquered by the Philistines. About 3,000 years ago, the Israelites under King David conquered Gaza but less than 300 years later it became part of the Assyrian Empire and subsequently part of the Persian Empire until Alexander the Great of Greece conquered Persia.

The most ‘recent’ occupiers, of course, were the Romans around the time of Jesus. The Romans ruled Gaza until the collapse of the Roman Empire after which the area came under the Christian Byzantine Empire and then finally, just after the time of Prophet Muhammad’s death, it was conquered by the Arab Muslims under Omar.

The Christian Crusaders then took control of what was by then an ‘international’ or metropolitan city briefly around 1,000 years ago and less than 200 years later the famous Saladin drove the Christians out and the Muslims have held that area until the creation of Israel soon after the First World War.

The reason I am laying out that very brief history of Gaza is so that we can better understand what is happening in that area and why for millenniums we have seen conflict after conflict in the battle for control of both Gaza and what is now called Israel. Basically, all the contestants to the ownership of that region feel they have a legitimate claim to that place.

In short, it is a battle for territory but most people who are ignorant about the history of Gaza and/or Israel view it as a religious conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles. And this is as great a fallacy as arguing that America originally belonged to England and therefore the United Kingdom has a legitimate claim over the United States.

Gaza, which once-upon-a-time was considered a thriving and prosperous metropolitan, has now been reduced to probably the largest open prison in the world. The conflict in that area has really nothing to do with Islam. It is a political struggle for domination of that area with all sides believing that that they have a legitimate claim.

However, as in all conflicts, while the politicians battle it out, it is the people who suffer. And what we are seeing is a great loss of property and life as the death toll and destruction spirals by the day.

The pictures and news reports coming out from Gaza are heartbreaking. Women, children, babies, old people, and all form of non-combatants are victims of the Israeli bombardment. The Israelis say they are merely responding to the attacks by Hamas. And they argue that Hamas is using human shields to bombard Israel from behind the residential areas in Gaza.

Israel explains that it has a right to protect its citizens from Hamas bombardment and that if Hamas would stop sending rockets into Israel then Israel would also do the same. And, added Israel, if Hamas shoots the rockets from the residential areas then it is Hamas that is putting the civilians at risk from ‘dragging’ them into a military conflict.

This is a sort of tit-for-tat situation. If you shoot me then I shoot you. And if you shoot those rockets from residential areas then I too will shoot rockets into those same residential areas. Basically, two wrongs make a right, is what is being argued by Israel.

While some may be angry with Hamas for putting civilians at risk or with Israel for shooting rockets into what they know are residential areas, there is one fact we cannot deny. And that fact is the world is standing by and doing nothing about the actions of both Hamas and Israel.

Why can’t Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and the other Middle Eastern ‘powers’, especially the backers of Hamas, rein them in? Hamas has sophisticated weapons. Who is financing Hamas and who is supplying them these sophisticated weapons? This has never been answered. Similarly, there are many Western allies of Israel who are maintaining a silence as if there is only one side to this conflict.

The truth is the many conflicts in the Middle East, not confined to just Gaza, are proxy wars being fought by Middle Eastern as well as Western powers. For obvious reasons, the Western powers do not want to see unity in the Middle East. And countries like Saudi Arabia, too, do not want to see the Middle East united because that will not bode well for countries such as Saudi Arabia that are seen as pro-America.

So, to solve this humanitarian disaster we need the Western and Middle Eastern powers to play their role. Hamas and Israel must be subjected to international pressure like what they are doing to Ukraine and Russia to end the senseless killing in the Crimea that has now seen the MH17 tragedy. If not, the death and destruction will continue with more civilian than combatant casualties.

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