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A ball of fire and smoke rise above buildings during an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AFP

Not just any citizen, but an Israeli citizen with an open mind and a worldly perspective can draw parallels and glean valuable insights from the unfolding global events.

The recent armed clashes between a group of Palestinian citizens from Gaza, IDF personnel, and settlers in the surrounding areas of the Gaza Strip have multifaceted explanations.

While some of these explanations may delve into the realm of typical “conspiracy” thinking prevalent in the Arab and Israeli psyche, at its core, it serves as a stark reminder of the age-old adage that “violence only breeds violence.”

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As the years have rolled on, the world, including neighbouring Arab communities, has borne witness to the daily loss of Palestinian lives, whether at the hands of organised military forces or settlers within Palestinian territories.

Through TV broadcasts, the world gains a glimpse into the oppressive conditions faced by Palestinians, including physical assaults with rifle butts, the demolition of homes, and unlawful detentions in overcrowded prisons. These distressing scenes of violence impact not only men but also women and even children.

While it’s true that the global community empathised with the Jewish population following the horrific mass murders in Nazi Germany, a critical discourse emerges when comparing mass murder to a series of individual killings that, over time, accumulate to a massive scale. The essence of extermination remains consistent, regardless of its manifestation.

Racial hatred

The people of Gaza, regardless of their political allegiances, find themselves trapped in a suffocating blockade, deprived of basic human necessities like medicine, food, and a consistent electricity supply, all controlled by Israeli authorities. Even their marine resources are rationed, with punitive measures awaiting those who dare cross the set boundaries.

Under such oppressive conditions, death may seem like a respite compared to a life of misery. This narrative extends to the West Bank, where residents live under a constant threat, facing blockades and the peril of death without due process, let alone accountability, even when simply crossing paths with armed forces.

Regrettably, the global community either remains oblivious to this daily ordeal or chooses to ignore it. When victims retaliate out of desperation, they are often met with scorn, as exemplified in a recent incident involving an Israeli military spokesperson’s derogatory remarks on Arab television, underscoring the undercurrent of racial hatred that overshadows the political or strategic aspects of the dispute.

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Thousands of other Palestinian carrying their belongings flee following the Israeli army's warning to leave their homes and move south before an expected ground offensive, in Gaza City on October 13, 2023 Image Credit: AFP

Our intention here is not to delve into the internal divisions among Israelis, stemming from different racial and geographical backgrounds. Rather, our focus lies on the metaphorical “cage” that encapsulates an entire population. The recent clashes have undoubtedly fuelled the flames of hatred on both sides, Arab and Israeli, with some emphasising the notion of “victory” — a tendency reminiscent of past behaviours, invoking the narrative of the late Ahmed Saeed.

Impossible and inhumane notions

On the Israeli side, there is a noticeable inclination towards intimidation, “crushing” opponents, and advocating for “annihilation.” However, sensible individuals understand well that the annihilation of an entire nation, the Palestinians, is an impossible and inhumane notion, regardless of perceived limitations.

Similarly, rational individuals recognise that the call for “liberating the land” from river to sea is a misleading and fallacious slogan. The unequivocal reality is that these two distinct communities share a common land, and coexistence is imperative for lasting peace. This coexistence could manifest either as a unified democratic state, where equality prevails, or as two neighbouring states sharing the same land.

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An Israeli Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) is obscured as it whips up dust near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel October 15, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

This realisation is inescapable; the only alternative is a prolonged cycle of attrition. While Israel’s attrition towards the other side may appear more pronounced and impactful than that endured by the Palestinians, attrition remains a destructive force for all involved.

For decades, Israeli politics have propagated the narrative of a small nation with a relatively limited population surrounded by a “sea of enemies.” This notion has been championed by Israeli politicians both domestically and internationally. However, the geopolitical landscape has evolved.

The establishment of peaceful relations with significant neighbouring countries like Egypt and Jordan, followed by a wave of normalisation agreements with other Arab nations, has begun to dismantle this narrative. Although this normalisation may be perceived as tepid, it partially debunks the notion of Israel being encircled by adversaries.

The broad normalisation, which the Israeli Prime Minister recently said at the United Nations, signalled a potential avenue for reconciliation with closer neighbours, fostering territorial compromises and peace exchanges.

Collective punishment

Today, Israel possesses the capability to launch attacks on Palestinian cities, possibly as a means to “avenge” perceived affronts to its military honour. However, there’s an inevitability to the rekindling of conflict, and the cycle of attrition will persist. The rights and interests of an entire population cannot be brushed aside.

Drawing a parallel, had it been possible to ignore such rights, the Jewish community would not have endured the attempts at suppression faced in Western countries, yet they persevered through millennia.

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A boy carries a mattres as Palestinians with their belongings flee to safer areas in Gaza City after Israeli air strikes. Image Credit: AFP

Similarly, the Palestinian people will continue to endure. The foundations of their resilience bear resemblance to other enduring cultures, fortified by a shared language, culture, and an egalitarian societal structure where no citizen is relegated to a secondary status.

In the past, many within their community have grasped the intricacies of this prolonged conflict and proposed peace initiatives. Yet, tragically, some were met with lethal opposition from within their own support bases, while others faced political ostracism.

Without reasoned mediation, no amount of technological advancements, planetary explorations, or symbolic gestures can usher in a much-needed resolution to this enduring discord.

For over two-thirds of a century, the neighbouring Palestinian conflict has engendered a plethora of conflicts, stunting development and impeding the region’s progress toward aligning with global civilisation.

Mohammad Alrumaihi is a Professor of Political Sociology at Kuwait University