The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza has been worsening at an exceptionally fast pace, notwithstanding the sympathy for the Palestinian cause among a very large number of people. There is no doubt that the attack by the Hamas on October 7 which harmed in very serious ways civilian people of Israel was terribly wrong. However the question after this was—should not efforts to bring the situation under control be made and should not the response be proportionate to the original offence which started it all on October 7. While the people of Israel had reason to be very upset by the October 7 attack which was certainly wrong, it is clear that Israel too had been inflicting so many atrocities and injuries on the Palestinian people that its responsibility for creating mass discontent cannot be ignored.
Anyway Israel should not have gone beyond a proportionate response and should have taken care not to widen and prolong the conflict in an already volatile region. Instead the Israeli Prime Minister talked of changing the Middle-East. He unleashed such huge bombing that that apart from the over 1,000 deaths, over 350,000 people were displaced within the first six days, fleeing in terror to uncertain places of better safety. Israel has also given arbitrary and unjust orders for evacuations from vast areas, with a call for mass evacuation from Northern Gaza in 24 hours. With shortages of food and other basic needs, with the already meager health facilities seriously impaired, with electricity supply disrupted, families are under pressure anyway but orders of evacuation make things further difficult for them as they have to move in a hurry without due preparations and the danger of bombings still remaining.
US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated on social media—Any person can see that ordering 1+million to move in under 24 hours is not possible. It is unacceptable. Humanity is at stake. Nearly half are children. We must stop this.”
Nearly 6600 people of Gaza have been injured by deadly bombings of the first six days of this war. Several of them are on life-support in the middle of great difficulties being faced by the health care system deprived of some essential facilities like electricity. WHO representative Tarik Jasarevic has said that moving such injured people is a death sentence. Doctors without Borders who were asked to evacuate their hospital within hours have said that this is outrageous. The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that these people of Gaza have nowhere safe to go and many, including the disabled, elderly and the sick, will not be able to leave. There are also shortages of vehicles and fuel for moving out, and in addition the risk of being bombarded while leaving.
The biggest question is—where they will go? There has been talk of a humanitarian corridor but on closer examination it does not appear to be so humanitarian at all. There is a constant threat of people being made to stay away from a stable and assured place of residence, and instead attempts appear to be aimed at turning the threatened people of Gaza into longer-term refugees, if not permanent refugees. It is this apprehension that has led people here to draw comparisons with the nakba of 1948. Already there are so many Palestinian refugees. It appears from the past record that the Palestinian people have more sympathizers than real friends. So one does not know how much help they will get once they are away from their homes. Their original home in Gaza should not be taken from them under any circumstances. Mass evacuation of Gaza should be stopped by the international community including the United Nations. Deadly bombing of Gaza should be stopped. At the same time, Hamas should release all civilian Israeli hostages immediately. This was very wrong to start with.
So the solution for the Gaza conflict should be based on-
- Release of all hostages of Israel by Hamas.
- Israel should immediately stop bombing and evacuation, and give up any intention of ground invasion.
- Hamas should express regret for October 7 attack. Israel should express regret for its aggressions in the recent past.
- There should be an immediate ceasefire while other differences are settled over longer term negotiations.
However in addition there is need for taking a hard second look at what has been the mainstream discourse on this issue.
This tendency of reconsideration is spreading as informed people have identified several holes in the dominant discourse. Confirming the tendency, Aydin Sezer, a Turkish political analyst and former diplomat has written in The Times of India (October 13), “Can we simply dismiss this as a failure of intelligence? Conspiracy theories are gaining ground.” The dominant discourse tells us that Hamas managed to fool Israeli and US/West intelligence for months in planning an unprecedented big attack on Israel resulting in over 1000 deaths. However several intelligence analysts have expressed doubts over such a big failure of Israeli and US/western intelligence agencies. This in turn has led to the logical next step of considering the possibility that these intelligence agencies knew about this attack but deliberately kept quiet as it was considered that a big attack would provide the legitimacy for such a huge response that the Palestinians could be more or less pushed out of Gaza. As a large number of Palestinians are already refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and other places, it was considered perhaps that the nearly 2 million people of Gaza can also be absorbed among the refugees or in a very concentrated way in camps of a small ‘humanitarian corridor’. This may appear far-fetched to some people, but they may also consider it far-fetched that the Hamas with all its violence and violent sectarian rhetoric was initially supported by Israel to limit the influence of the PLO and the secular left forces which led the Palestine resistance at that time, and which in the longer run had more chances of bringing justice to the Palestinians, compared to the violent sectarian forces which can never get worldwide sympathy.
Today we have a situation in which the Palestinian cause remains highly just, but the way it is articulated in sectarian violent ways by the Hamas cannot be supported by the world peace movement.
If the intelligence agencies neglected to give prompt attention to the threats of attack, then this draws attention to several other issues.
In the case of the 9/11 attacks in the USA, several senior security experts of the USA including insiders had said that several advance warning of al-Quaeda warnings of the attacks had been ignored. Richard Clarke, the White House Counter-terrorism Expert, later mentioned several such warnings which had been ignored. Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, a member of the official 9/11 Commission, was was the only Commission member who had permission to read President Bush’s daily brief, has stated that these had contained an extraordinary spike in intelligence warnings of al-Qaeda attack that had “plateaued at a spike level for months”.
Consider these words carefully of someone who had read the President’s daily briefs. There was a rise in warnings regarding al-Qaeda attack and this remained at a high level for months. Yet hardly anything was done in the name of strong preventive action and instead the record shows many terrible lapses leading to such a high loss of life. Richard Clarke was soon asked by President Bush to link 9/11 with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. He responded by sending written statements, supported by CIA and FBI, that there is no link with Iraq. However other pliable people were found to create the grounds for Iraq invasion and the overall War on Terror that followed 9/11 has so far claimed, counting directly as well as indirectly caused deaths, over 4.5 million deaths.
In the present conflict while it is a possibility that Hamas may have planned a highly destructive ( but ultimately even more self-destructive) attack in a way which fooled very efficient intelligence agencies, it is more likely that the intelligence agencies of Israel and/or the USA had at least some knowledge of the attack, but someone at the high level took a decision not to intervene as it was thought that such an attack by Hamas would provide the pretext for a much bigger assault on Gaza (and this too may not be the end of the story, there may be more to come).
Of course in the context of the survival crisis, based on very serious environmental problems and WMDs, which threatens the entire humanity and most other forms of life, such wars reflect not just an irrational but even insane mindset which ignores not just world peace but even enlightened self-interest. Such thinking on the part of very powerful persons is a prescription for complete disaster in times which are already very dangerous. While this is the bigger challenge to be sorted out by the majority of world’s people who want peace ad want to leave behind a better earth for their children and grandchildren, the immediate challenge is to prevent the huge humanitarian catastrophe unfolding at a rapid pace in Gaza.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.