There has been too much blood under the bridge for any discussion on the possibility of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or even the lifting of Israel’s blockade of Gaza to manifest any time soon, or that is how it would seem to most onlookers. But often times, just when situations look as though they cannot get any worse, is when they get better.
The sheer horror and devastation that Israel has unleashed on the civilian population of Gaza with no hospital, ambulance, school or United Nations facility immune from attack, has weighed heavily on the global conscience, far more so than previous Israeli onslaughts on this tiny strip of land home to 1.8 million. This awakening is primarily due to the ability of citizen-journalists to capture atrocities in real time on their mobile phones and the burgeoning use of social media.
Such photographs, video clips and witness accounts on social media sites showed an embarrassing disconnect between mainstream media reports prompting a flurry of complaints about media bias with the result western networks and dailies, whose editorial content has traditionally been skewed in Israel’s favour, have been forced to changing tack, else be written off by viewers and readers as propagandist at worst, unreliable at best. And now that the truth is out there for anyone with a computer or a tablet or a phone, Israeli spokesmen who have always relied on a manual to guide their responses to awkward questions have ended up with egg on their faces. Pinpoint targeting? Even John Kerry could not swallow that. Concern for civilians when more than 1.800, mostly civilians, have been killed, including children playing on a beach?
Unfortunately, even a groundswell of public disapproval rarely alters government policy unless there is a ballot on the horizon, which is the case with Israel’s weapons merchant, the US, where mid-term elections are due in the autumn. Americans sickened by the example of man’s inhumanity to man, nay even to toddlers and babies, in Gaza, could wield their potential vote to exert pressure on Congressional representatives.
Changes in US attitudes to the Palestinian’ plight are already perceptible. For the first time, celebrities — including Madonna, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, John Cusack and Mia Farrow — have been tweeting and posting pictures on Instagram, showing their support for the people of Gaza and expressing their outrage at the killing of so many children, incurring the wrath of their pro-Israel fans. The strong language directed at an Israeli prime minister by a US president is another first. US President Barack Obama has given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a public dressing down in respect to the Israeli army’s overkill and, in particular Israel’s shelling of a UN school being used as a shelter. US Secretary of State John Kerry has made positive noises regarding the lifting of the siege. And, interesting too, that the Senate initially refused Israel’s request for $225 million (Dh827.55 million) to replenish its iron dome; the capture of an Israeli soldier was ultimately a mind-changer — at least for now. One thing is certain, Israel’s formerly unspoken crimes are now being talked about in the loudest fashion.
The International community is also showing its displeasure over Israel’s massacres in a variety of ways. At least five Latin American countries — Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and San Salvador — have withdrawn their envoys from Israel. South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has equated Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis, a sentiment echoed by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused Israel of “Nazi-type fascism”. The UN Human Rights Council has voted to investigate Israel’s military offensive and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is mulling applying to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague. UN spokesman Chris Gunness broke down in floods of tears on live TV. In short, the people of Gaza have nowhere to hide and neither has Israel in the court of public opinion.
Israel’s ignition of this conflict, which many analysts believe was meant to break-up the fledgling Palestinian unity government and encourage Gazans to turn against Hamas, has had the reverse effect. If Netanyahu wished to re-atomise the Palestinian territories so as to keep the international community off his back, vis-a-vis the peace process, he has failed dismally. Fatah and Hamas now speak with one voice and, from all accounts from those on the ground, Hamas is more popular than ever in the same way that Netanyahu is with his Jewish-Israeli constituency.
If public and government condemnation can be channelled to block Israel’s impunity from answering for its war crimes and crimes against humanity, coupled with wide-spread boycotts of Israeli goods and services, the Netanyanu government will be forced to reconsider its hitherto cost-benefit analysis with regard to the advisability of a Palestinian state to which Israel has been paying mere lip-service.
Unless the root problems of these serial conflicts and uprisings are tackled, they are destined to occur again and again. The only route to putting a lid on what Israel calls ‘terrorism’ is an end to occupation. Unless Israel wakes up to that simplest of truths and registers the fact that attitudes are changing, it will sleepwalk towards being classed as a pariah state of the kind that even its buddies in Washington can no longer defend.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at email@example.com