• Saturday, October 25, 2014

Two tragedies -Two different reactions

Mahmood Hasan

WORLD conscience was struck by two extremely tragic incidents recently. The first was the Israeli military attack on Gaza, which began on 8 July 2014. The second was the shooting down of Malaysian flight MH 017 over Ukraine on 17 July 2014.

Ukraine is going through political instability since October 2013. The country is deeply split into pro and anti-Russian camps and is at war with itself. Pro-Russian separatists have practically cut off eastern part of Ukraine. Kiev has literally lost control over the area. It is in this area that the Malaysian plane came down.

Finger pointing started immediately after the plane was shot down. Washington first accused Russia for shooting a missile at the aircraft. Later, US accused pro-Russian separatists for this ghastly crime. Russia strongly defended itself declaring that Kiev was responsible for the disaster. We shall probably not know who exactly was responsible.

European and American leaders reacted strongly at the loss of 298 lives and warned fresh sanctions against Russia. The tragedy was used as a weapon by the West to score political points against Russia. While on the one hand, leaders continued with their political rhetoric, on the other, the media kept airing emotional footage of the families, which lost their dear ones

Under pressure from the West and Russia the separatists handed over the corpses to Netherland. Somber ceremonies were held in eastern Ukraine and Netherland for the victims. Foreign Ministers from Netherland and Australia and senior functionaries from Malaysia and different organizations descended on Donetsk to demonstrate their resolve to find the culprits and punish them. Leaders from the West stood together to demonstrate their grief and respect for the dead passengers of MH 17.

Israel's military incursion on Gaza was seen coming when US brokered Palestinian – Israeli negotiations collapsed in April 2014 and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formed a unity government in June 2014, bringing Hamas on board. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's statements at that time clearly indicated that something awful was about to happen.  Clearly, his target was to scuttle the unity between Fatah and Hamas.

In May two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by Israeli forces. That was followed by the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers on 30 June. Though Hamas was not responsible, Netanyahu blamed it for the murder and threatened action. Tension began to rise between the two communities. When Israeli Jews kidnapped a 16-year old Palestinian and burnt him to death on 2 July, Hamas militants reacted by firing 'Qassam” rockets into Israel from Gaza. The stage was thus set for an Israeli -- Hamas war.

On 8 July 2014, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) started “Operation Protective Edge” -- all out attack on Gaza by air, land and sea. Indiscriminate bombing has already killed more than 1000 Palestinians, 80 per cent of whom are civilians. Thousands have been seriously wounded. Heart breaking scenes of blood stained children lying in hospitals would unnerve and horrify even the most heartless. Hospitals and mosques have come under heavy Israeli shelling. Gaza is now a heap of rubble.

Unfortunately the world has been watching the carnage with disaffection as neo-fascist Netanyahu commits genocide in Gaza. Western capitals made some cursory remarks that Israel was using “disproportionate” force against the Palestinians. The champions of Human Rights conveniently overlooked the gross Human Rights violation committed by Israel.

What is most shocking is the distorted logic used by Western leaders blaming Hamas for the massacre. Hamas is wrong for resisting the Israeli seize of Gaza, Israel has the right to self-defense and therefore is correct in attacking Gaza. Actions against Hamas is justified -- is the West's constant refrain.

The UN Security Council went through the motion of calling for an immediate ceasefire, but did not adopt any resolution. It did not address the root causes of the conflict. However, UN Human Rights Council has warned that Israeli military actions could amount to “war crime”. It has started an investigation against Israel. Secretary General Ban ki Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry cut sorry figures in Tel Aviv when they failed to extract a ceasefire from Netanyahu. All attempts to secure a permanent ceasefire have so far failed. Even on Eid day Israeli shelling continued.

The root cause, as described by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal,  is that for the past seven years Gaza has been an “open-air prison”.  Life has become so desperate for the 1.8 million Palestinians that they have no alternative but to resist the blocked imposed by Israel.  Israel's policy to dehumanize and decimate Palestinians has compelled Hamas to fight. Economic condition in Gaza is terribly depressed. Majority of the people survive on doles coming from different sources. Khaled Meshal has laid down conditions for a permanent cease fire -- notably lifting of Israeli blockade of Gaza and restoration of full human rights to the Palestinians.  

Netanyahu must be surprised at the remarkable resilience of Hamas fighters. Despite suffering massive losses, it is not begging for ceasefire. Israel has failed to bring Hamas down to its knees. Defiant Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. This has put fascist Netanyahu into a difficult situation as public opinion within Israel and across the world has gone against him. Hamas appears to have own a tactical and moral victory over Israel.

Israel can probably denude Hamas's fighting capabilities, but it cannot annihilate Hamas. The anti-Jewish hatred will keep Hamas ranks full, fighting till Israeli occupation ends and their demand for homeland is fulfilled.

Both these two tragic incidents have provoked opposing reactions in Western capitals. One is deeply pained at the narrative of the two incidents that emanates from the West. The powerful western media have handled the two tragedies differently, though both made conscientious citizens the world over outraged and deeply sad.

Shooting down the Malaysian plane and killing civilians in Gaza are criminal acts and needs to be condemned squarely. It is shameful when powerful Western leaders submerge themselves in narrow geopolitical games forgetting the greater need to protect humanity and uphold justice. They are indeed a disgusting pitiful lot.

The writer is former Ambassador and Secretary.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, August 01, 2014

TAGS: Palestinian Israel Malaysian plane Gaza conflict Ukraine airspace flight MH 017

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