In this way, Hamas and the government of Israel appear to be intimately connected nemeses in order to survive and hold consensus at the expense of unity, cohesion and peace.
On the 10th May, Hamas, the Palestinian political and paramilitary group, launched a rocket attack against Israel and hit sensitive targets in Jerusalem, forcing the immediate evacuation of Jewish worshippers to the Wailing Wall. The reasons for the attack are linked to the intensification of Israel’s expansionist policies in recent months. The Israeli State , under the control of leader Benjamin Netanyahu, has recently occupied the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah – located in East Jerusalem – destroying several buildings and forcing Palestinian families to leave their homes.
The Israeli government had also recently approved police reprisals against Palestinians at Temple Mount, the religious site located in old Jerusalem dominated by three imposing buildings of historical-religious interest including the al-Aqsa Mosque, which caused the injuries of at least 300 Palestinians. During the following days shortly after, there was an exchange of crossfire: Israel responded to the Hamas attack by bombing the Gaza Strip, while defending itself from the enemy missile attack through Iron Dome – Israel’s mobile anti-missile defence weapon system. A total of 6,000 sensitive Palestinian targets were hit, including an intelligence centre, the only Covid19 swab laboratory as well as the building housing the Al-Jazeera newspaper and Associated Press agency. Among the victims were 65 children, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health, together with 39 women and 17 senior citizens – resulting in a total of 230 casualties recorded on the 20th May.
History. Hostility between Israelis and Palestinians stems from the unilateral establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 by the British mandate and with the approval of the United Nations. The members of the Atlantic Pact saw it as their duty to compensate the Jews for the horror of the Holocaust by granting them the long-awaited Promised Land, which was the very same territory they had always longed for but no longer possessed since the instruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
This was achieved with the passing of Resolution 181 by the United Nations which divided the Holy Land – Eretz Ysrael for Jews or Palestine for Arabs – into two states: Israel and Palestine. Yet, it was not clear to the Arabs why 37% of the Jewish population had been granted 55% of the land. The Arab delegates immediately stated that any effort to implement the resolution would lead to war. On the opposite side, the same resolution provoked the Zionists’ drive to grab as much land as possible and to expel just as many Palestinians. Destruction of entire villages followed and there were mass evictions: it was the silent beginning of the Nakba, the catastrophe as it was renamed by the Arabs, the exodus of the Palestinian Arab population during the civil war of 1947-1948. Israel then declared its independence on the 14th May 1948, and the efforts of the Arab League to bring it under its control were to no avail. Subsequently, over 750,000 Palestinians were removed from the lands that had become part of the Jewish state and resettled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Looking back at history, it is easy to understand the reasons for such a fierce clash that lasted for decades and that originated from the territorial dispute that followed with the UN Resolution 181, which failed to accommodate the tensions between the two populations in a peaceful manner. Instead, the Resolution exacerbated them, forcing one nation to abandon its home, to make room – literally – for another that brought international guilt upon itself.
Today. On 13th May of this year, Israel assembled ground troops to prepare for an invasion, while Hamas launched an approximate number of 1,750 rockets, 90% of which, however, were intercepted. Meanwhile, the situation in the Gaza Strip is worsening by the day; according to the NGO Oxfam, 450,000 civilians are suffering from a lack of food, clean water and sanitation. However, thanks to strong international pressure and the mediation effort led on behalf of Egypt through UN envoy Tom Wennesland, a truce was reached on 20th May and Israel announced a ceasefire on Gaza.
“When a ceasefire is declared at the end of this new escalation, we will go out into the streets and start rebuilding from the rubble, with the only prospect of awaiting a new wave of bombings that will destroy everything we have just rebuilt” declares Laila Barhoum, Oxfam’s policy advisor in Gaza – in defence of the more than 2 million Palestinians confined there. Israel is not backing down and although the official strategic focus is on deterrence, the issue of reconquering Gaza, a key site in a ten-year conflict whose siege has lasted 14 years, is still on the table. In light of the ongoing tension, the truce seems as feeble as a dim flame in the wind; the world observes the ongoing hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians with bitterness. The international community is tired, because it is incapable of adopting a decisive position due to the economic and geopolitical interests at stake and because it is aware that the complexity behind the clashes has deep roots in the history of both populations.
The political interests behind the clash. According to American journalist Thomas Friedman, an expert on the Middle East and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, the sudden explosion of violence after years of tranquillity is not coincidental but the result of internal Palestinian and Israeli policies. In Friedman’s opinion, Netanyahu and Hamas exploited and fed the resentment of the population to prevent the birth of a government of national unity in Israel – which could have brought together Israeli Jews and Israeli Muslims.
It is the Israeli Arab party United Arab List, also known as Raam, led by Mansour Abbas, which last January won four seats in the Knesset, and is Israel’s single-chamber parliament.
In this regard, the prospect of an Arab Government at the head of Israel did not meet with the approval of either the Israeli leader or Hamas. Furthermore, it seems plausible to believe that the two, even in the absence of dialogue, would have found common ground in the reopening of hostilities in order to legitimize each other in the eyes of their electorate. Both, as Friedman sees it, maintain power by riding on the people’s animosity towards the other and do so whenever their political power is threatened.
Ispi researcher Annalisa Perteghella also supports Friedman’s analysis, arguing that the two need each other in order to hold power: If on the one hand Hamas needs a malignant Israel to convey the feeling of hatred by legitimising itself with the Palestinians; on the other, Israel needs Hamas in a position of strength to claim that it cannot negotiate with a terrorist organisation, thus disengaging from peacekeeping. In this way, Hamas and the government of Israel appear to be intimately connected nemeses in order to survive and hold consensus at the expense of unity, cohesion and peace.
Given that there are corroborated theses, like the one mentioned above, that suggest the idea that the clash is wanted by the same participants in the field as a means of legitimising and maintaining their authority, a certain reluctance on the part of the international community to want – or at least try and be able – to act more incisively in putting an end to a long-standing and wearisome dispute like this one becomes even more evident.
While we are watching fingers being pointed, are we perhaps forgetting to look at the moon? While we may be doing this, men and women with more than human impulses, similar in their desire to protect the sanctity of their own truth but antagonistic because they wear a different colour uniform, continue to fight. They do so in belief of a piece of land, their family or honour; they layer the basest instincts and the highest aspirations over the years, handing down forgiveness or revenge, fear or courage, from generation to generation.