Palestine: Fading hopes of peace!
New York has just played host to another assemblage of world leaders. Occasion was the annual General Assembly of the United Nations, the 71st of the series, really. As has been the practice with past sessions, the gathering provided leaders an opportunity to bare their minds on domestic, regional and global issues. It is the last session under the watch of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who bows out in December after executing the office for 10 years.
The session was also the last for U.S. President, Barack Husein Obama. Nobody expected President Obama to achieve much in respect of critical global issues such as peace in the Middle East. Like his predecessors, President Obama was not sincere about Washington’s advertised quest for a two-state solution in the troubled Middle East. Neither Hillary R. Clinton nor Donald J. Trump, who are already falling upon themselves to court Israel is expected to do much in respect of the Palestinian question. And, no one knows better than the Israelis whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, did not fail to amuse at UNGA ‘71.
The only ground the typically hawkish Israeli prime minister yielded was an invitation to President of Occupied Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, to address the Israeli (Knesset) parliament in Tel Aviv. On his part, President Abbas served world leaders a 12-month ‘ultimatum’ to prevail on Israel to relinquish its grip on Palestinian territories and revert to the pre-1967 map of the Middle East. Interesting, because President Abbas was present at UNGA ’70 when President Obama told the world that the United Nations has no role to play in effecting the two-state solution! President Obama did not give details then; he didn’t have to!
In essence, left to Washington and Tel Aviv, the idea of an independent and free Palestine exists only in the imagination of its proponents. And, while the criminal Israeli occupation goes on, successive occupants of the White House and their carbon copies in other western capitals, desirous of arming and sustaining a strong ally in the strategic Middle East, turn the blind eye and continue to delude themselves that the Oslo peace agreement that recommended the two-state solution is on course. This was an open invitation to radical elements to take the initiative.
It is important to put the Arab-Israeli conflict in its proper historical perspective. Officially, the state of Israel came into being in 1948 but truth is Israel had been a de facto state three decades earlier when it was decreed into existence by the letters of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The events of 1948 were mere formalities but then, it is safe to speculate that had Ben Gurion and his ultra-right fellow travellers in World Jewry never folded their arms to allow a so-called negotiated settlement to go on, as the West (read, United States) is today telling the Palestinians. Had Jewish terrorist groups agreed to be led by the nose, chances are Israel may not have come into existence in 1948!
Like the so-called terrorists in the Arab world today, Israeli ( Jewish) armed men took up arms, organised themselves into death squads, launched deadly terrorist raids ever known to mankind and extended their killings to UN envoys on fence-mending missions to the Middle East. The struggle for the creation of Israel was not a tea party; it did not come peacefully. The Jews had to bomb, kill and virtually rendered Palestine ungovernable in their struggle for a homeland. In fact, for every Hamas and other militant Palestinian group the world knows today, the Jews had their Irgun and Zvai among others.
In fact, it was the bombing spree of these Jewish organisations that forced the hands of the British, who exercised a United Nations mandate over Palestine, to eventually accede to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Today, Western leaders would have been expected to come to the grim realisation that the era of self-deceit has ended. But from the conflicting signals the world continues to get, it is unlikely this is the case. Right from the onset, not many gave the two-state solution any chance of success but crazy and awkward as it sounded, even the most incurable pessimists thought the idea should be given a chance.
It is not surprising that it never took long for the world to realise that the two-state solution was a fluke; another unimaginative invention by the United States of America to buy time for her lapdog. President Obama will leave office and transfer the Palestinian question to a successor who will not be expected to do things differently. As to be expected, radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and their sympathisers, who execrate the concept of a two-state solution felt fulfilled and justified in their untenable quest to delete Israel from the map of the world. They have been told by successive U.S. presidents that might is right and, being good students of history too, the pro-Palestine radical elements are aware that no amount of hours spent around negotiating tables will give them a home.
The Palestinian question does not lend itself to easy resolution. One year after late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, defied the Arab world to sign the 1979 unilateral peace agreement with Israel, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, then of the Department of Political Science of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and later of the United Nations took one long look at the peace agreement and concluded that it was incapable of bringing peace to the Middle East.
As a mark of how wrong President Sadat was, and how right Professor Gambari was, Sadat was killed by his own soldiers in 1981 while reviewing a military parade in Cairo. Nearly three and half decades after Sadat’s misadventure, the prospect of the salaam he boasted of, and for which he paid the supreme price, is fast receding. In the years since the peace agreement was signed, Israel has forcefully grabbed more lands from the Palestinians; killed, maimed and impoverished more Palestinians and turned what remains of their land into a prison.
It is convenient for the world to watch and applaud as Palestinians get increasingly boxed into a small corner in their homeland with Israeli soldiers breathing down their necks. With the ferocity and speed Israelis are evicting Palestinians from their homes, it won’t be long before Tel Aviv and Washington succeed in implementing a 21st century ‘final solution’ to the Palestinian question. It is convenient today for Israel to forget that, eight decades ago, the whole world rose against Adolf Hitler in his ‘final solution’ to the Jewish question. In defence of their Jewish cousins, Arabs too joined the campaign against Hitler who was not Arab or Muslim anyway.
In 1974, that was just a year after the Yom Kippur war and, in the same hall at the UN headquarters where President Mahmoud Abbas recently served his ultimatum, the late Yasser Arafat told his audience that he was at that year’s General Assembly bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighters gun and ended with an appeal: ‘Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.’ Forty-two years on, the international conspiracy to squelch the Palestinian dream has encouraged more radical groups to sprout. And, many of them no longer brandish olive branches.
Magaji lives in Abuja