By S. V. Kirubaharan in France
When nearly 50,000 Jews managed to move into Palestine over the 10 years between 1904 and 1914, neither Palestinian people nor Arabs states ever expected that one day a Jewish state of Israel would be born and that the Palestinians would have to struggle for their identity and survival in their own land.
The birth of Israel in May 1948, led to the Arab-Israel war (Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria) in the same year. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supported Egypt by sending its troops. Yemen was hostile to Israel but never participated in the 1948 war. This year-long war rendered nearly 800,000 Palestinians homeless. Many of them fled to neighbouring countries.
It is not easy to understand world politics. The Palestinians with good support of many UN member states are finding it difficult to achieve the same that Israel achieved in 1948.
Since the acceptance of Israel as a UN member state on May 11 1949, the Middle East continues to be in turmoil. During our school days, we heard of planes being hijacked; the killing of 11 Israeli Olympics athletes in 1972 in Munich, Germany; kidnappings; revenge killings and so on. Anyone who sees the film Munich can understand how Israelis carried out revenge killings of those believed to be suspects.
Today, suppressed and oppressed people are seeking the help of the UN which was established for the promotion and protection of humanity, human rights, peace and security. Of course, the Eritrean, East Timorese and Southern Sudanese peoples have settled their issues through the UN. It is true that the solutions were found after many years of suffering – anyway, better late than never.
Today what is happening in the Middle East raises questions as to how the UN and other countries could look at the terms ‘internal conflict’ and ‘territorial integrity’ which are both loosely used in the context of ethnic conflicts. Who recognised Israel? Why are there double standards when it comes to the people of Palestine? If the Jewish people lay claim to a promised land and history, what about the Palestinian and other ethnic groups who also lay the same claim?
When we analyse all these questions, we may come to a conclusion that everything is decided by only one powerful state. In Tamil there is an expression that “Vallavaan vaguthathu vaihaal” (‘the agricultural waterway, arbitrarily made by the powerful person – should be accepted by everyone!’). Today, the same theory is applied to world affairs.
Definitions of violations of sovereignty, territorial integrity, the birth of new states, internal or international conflict, pro-democracy movements or terrorism all seem to be decided by one powerful state. Then endorsed by its allies and partners. If one goes through the 1971 records of the US State Department, one can understand the involvement of this powerful state, even at the birth of Bangladesh. (Document 6, volume XI, South Asia crisis 1971, Department of State – Page 37-45 -Bangladesh Independence on 16 December 1971 -http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/45587.pdf).
Saddam Hussein left with sophisticated weapons
What is happening in the Middle East now, may be a mystery to those who do not understand today’s world order and the attitude of this powerful state.
Let me give a good example of what happened to Saddam Hussein of Iraq. When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, by an Islamic revolution, the US became a supporter of Saddam Hussein and in 1980 war started between Iran and Iraq. During this war many countries gave all their support to Saddam Hussein via Kuwait. When eight long years of war came to an end in August 1988, Saddam was left with enough sophisticated fire power, to use against Israel.
Since 1948 Iraq-Israel relationships had been hostile. Understanding the impending danger to Israel, the smart power found a way to destroy the arms capabilities of Iraq. Through their behind-the-scene manipulations, Saddam’s advisors were motivated to make their historical claim in Kuwait. This was a trap and Saddam fell into it. Eventually Iraq faced Gulf War I against the coalition forces. During this war Iraq fired some Scud ballistic missiles at Israel. Knowing the consequence of Israeli retaliation, the US advised restraint to Israel. This clever move meant Iraq finished its sophisticated weapons and neighbours became enemies. The powerful state had achieved many goals with one stone. Then Gulf II brought Saddam Hussein to an end. Now there is a puppet government in Iraq.
Presently what is happening in the Middle East will cast its shadow and the eventual local and international victim will be the Palestinians. For example, consider the speech US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made on February 28, 2011 in the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council. She said “….And I must add, the structural bias against Israel – including a standing agenda item for Israel, whereas all other countries are treated under a common item – is wrong.” This clearly shows that the US wishes to remove the agenda item on Israel, which incorporates the phrase “the occupied territories,” in the UN Human Rights Council.
Severe defeat of Syria, Jordan and Egypt in the six day war in 1967 destroyed the credibility of Arab states, who are supporters of the Palestinians.
The “Organisation of the Islamic Conference – OIC” has a membership of 57 Islamic states. Among them there are a few states that have informal relationships with Israel and also some states which champion the Palestinians’ cause. When we look at those countries including Iraq, which were thrown out of power, and countries in conflict today in the Middle East, they are either strong supporters of the Palestinians or have some sort of pact with Israel.
I would like to insist that I am not in favour of the regimes which were replaced recently. But the curious questions are — why is all this suddenly happening? Who is behind those revolutionary or pro-democratic demonstrations? How did they find courage which they had lacked for decades? If one analyses these questions, the answer will be that today’s crisis in the Middle East is sowing seeds for the Palestinian cause to be silenced in a few years. Today, if what is happening in the Middle East were a real revolution or pro-democratic cry, why has nothing happened in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries ruled by monarchies? Do the people in those countries enjoy better democracy than the countries which are in conflict today?
Strong supporters of Palestinians in Israel have frontiers with Egypt (Sinai) in the South, Syria and Lebanon in the North and Jordan in the East and the Mediterranean in the West.
There were a few wars waged by Egypt and Syria against Israel. During the wars (1956, 1967 and 1973) between Israel and Egypt, Israeli forces captured and occupied Sinai, which belongs to Egypt. Sinai was returned to Egypt, only after both countries signed the Camp David accord in September 1978 and Peace Treaty, March 26 1979. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation – PLO had its head quarters in Tunisia from 1982 until it was bombed by Israel in October 1985. Col. Gaddafi of Libya is of course a strong supporter of the Palestinian struggle. He has been accused of supporting many international hijackings and killings.
Jordan and Israel signed an agreement in 1949, allowing Israel free access to Jewish holy places. This agreement has its ups and downs. Forty five percent (45%) of Jordan’s population is Palestinian.
Having said all this, today what seems important for Israel and its allies is to create a few hostile countries, which are neighbours and strong supporters of Palestinians. This is not possible with the dictators who were ousted and in the process of being ousted. Those dictators do not listen to the masses of their country. Like it or not, they manage powerful parties and Israel whereas the new governments in the Middle East will listen to their people and will challenge Israel on the Palestinian issue. This would pave the way for Israel to expand its territory as it did in earlier wars, thus colonising Palestine.
In the past Jordan was a hostile country, now it has a good relationship with Israel. The two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994 and Jordan thus became the second Arab country to recognise Israel. Even though Christianity was born in the Middle East, according to recent reports, the Christian population there has dropped from 1.5 million to approximately 850,000 and the majority support Israel. Statistics for the Christian population exclude immigrant workers. Syrian and Yemeni leaders may become the next victims. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, UAE and Jordan may not face serious changes, because of the US influence already in those countries.
It is to be noted that in Bahrain, the minority Sunni Muslims are ruling the majority Shia. Iran is the only Shia Muslim state. So Shia Muslims in Bahrain are supported by Iran and the West would not like further Iranian influence in the Middle East. Azerbaijan and Iraq also have majority Shia Muslims but those countries were declared secular states.