A media statement prepared for AMAN by Dr Chandra Muzaffar
The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) urges the hundreds of thousands of citizen groups all over the world to give their fullest support to the Resolution adopted by the emergency session of the UN General Assembly on 27th October 2023 calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and its surrounding areas. The ceasefire should be followed by the urgent dispatch and distribution of fuel, food, and medicines to all the residents of Gaza and its adjacent localities. It is significant that the Ceasefire Resolution had the support of 120 nations with only 14 votes against it and 45 abstentions. Though a General Assembly vote is non-binding, ALL NATIONS AND PEOPLES SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE ITS MORAL WEIGHT AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.
There are at least 4 compelling reasons why there should be an honest attempt to implement the resolution. One, since 7th October when Hamas, the Palestinian liberation organization, launched multiple attacks upon Israelis living along the Gaza border, the death toll has been mounting rapidly. By 30th October, more than 1400 Israelis and over 8300 Palestinians had perished in the conflict. While most Israelis were victims of the Palestinian assaults on the 7th of October, the Palestinian dead are largely victims of aerial bombardments and military forays conducted by the Israeli armed forces. Of the dead, a huge number are children.
Two, there is a dire shortage of fuel, food and medicines in Gaza. This is a direct consequence of the harsh measures adopted by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians living in Gaza. Though some assistance has been allowed to trickle into the enclave, it is woefully inadequate for its 2 .2 million inhabitants. In fact, UN sources have opined that if the situation does not improve immediately, people especially the vulnerable could die of starvation.
Three, it should be borne in mind that clashes between Palestinians and Israelis have a certain background. In a sense, they predate the establishment of Israel in 1948. They can be traced back to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the British abused their mandate over Palestine, given by the League of Nations, by promising the Jews of Europe that they would help to create a home for the Jews on Palestinian land. This, it is alleged, was the British government’s way of repaying European Jews for their massive financial support to Britain in the First World War. But the indigenous people of Palestine — Muslims, Christians and even Jews — right from the beginning opposed this plan which they saw as the importation of an alien population to their home. Their opposition led to huge uprisings in Palestine in the thirties which were crushed by the British. In the confrontations after 1948, the new state of Israel proved to be militarily far superior to its opponents, especially because of the formidable s
upport it obtained from the United States of America, its protector and guardian.
Four, attempts by Palestinians living in Gaza in particular to resist Israel since 2008-9 have revealed the tremendous imbalance in power between the protagonists. Israel, with one of the strongest armed forces in the world, maintains a tight grip over Gaza which it controls from land, sea and air. 70 % of Gaza’s population comprises refugees and their descendants from those parts of Palestine (now Israel) who were forced out of their homes when Israel was established in 1948. Gaza is one of the most congested and one of the most impoverished places on earth. Around 60% of its population is unemployed. Youth unemployment in the tiny enclave is the highest in the world. The current food crisis in Gaza is merely an extension of a crisis it has faced for decades. It has been rightly described as the largest concentration camp that has ever existed.
In arguing for the implementation of the UN General Assembly Resolution on Gaza, we have tried to understand the history of conflict between Palestinians and Israel and the actual plight of the people of Gaza. This is what understanding the context of a crisis means. It is critical for arriving at a just solution.
After actual hostilities are brought to an end and the essentials of life are made available to all the victims, our priority should be resolving the root causes of the conflict. Many people are acutely aware of why this conflict is happening. But there are powerful actors who do not want to come to terms with the truth. Unless the real, underlying causes are addressed this terrible tragedy will see no end. It will continue to occur and recur as we witnessed in the last 100 years.
And so, what are the root causes? It is the dispossession of the Palestinian people — dispossessing them of their land, of their resources, of their heritage. It is denying the Palestinians their right to determine their own future, to shape their own destiny.
How was this done? Through occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands by European Jews. The indigenous people were not only evicted and expelled. They were in many instances eliminated and obliterated. There are other terms for what happened to Palestinians and Arabs and many others before them — to the natives of North America and even South America; to the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand. They were all victims of ‘ethnic cleansing’. They were victims of ‘genocide’.
Coming back to the Palestinians, the real challenge before all of us is how to restore their rights and their dignity in a situation where far-reaching changes have taken place to society, its demographics and its direction. Many proposals have been articulated, among them a ‘two-state solution.’ What this means is creating a new state — the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital — which will exist side by side with Israel. Since Israel today accounts for 78% of historic Palestine, the new state built on 22 % will comprise Gaza and the West Bank. Neary all governments in West Asia accept this as a compromise solution, however painful it may be. One suspects that a significant segment of the populace in the region will also go along with this idea. But the Israeli government is lukewarm mainly because it is uncomfortable with the notion of East Jerusalem as the capital of the yet-to-be born Palestinian state. Others have toyed with the idea of a single unified, decentralized democratic state of Palestine in which Muslims, Christians and Jews will enjoy a degree of autonomy. Such a state, its proponents have argued, will reduce inter-state antagonism which is inherent in the two- state solution. Here again, there is less enthusiasm for this solution among Israelis than the Palestinians.
Whatever the eventual solution, let us not forget that for the most part of the last few centuries, before Balfour and the nineteen forties, Muslims, Christians and Jews, have lived together in relative peace and harmony. That should give us hope for the future.
1 November 2023