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Challenges and Consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Perspective on the Middle East

Yasser Arafat is a name synonymous with the Palestinian cause. He was a believer in peaceful means to resolve the quagmire of the Middle East as a warrior. Therefore, he became one of the few political Arab leaders deserving of the ‘Nobel Peace Prize.’

In 1974, Yasser Arafat addressed the United Nations General Assembly podium, holding an olive branch in one hand and the weapon of freedom fighters in the other. “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand,” he said. Nearly 50 years have passed since this speech in which Arafat called on the world to end the Israeli occupation and bring peace to all the peoples of the region.

In those times, countries that had lived under colonial rule in Africa and Asia were gradually gaining acceptance in the international community. Leaders who spoke at the UN podium were the pioneers of a changing world. The oppressed peoples of the world acted together until the early 1990s and looked to the future with hope.

Nelson Mandela, once branded a ‘terrorist’ in the civilized world, became the leader of a new government that embraced a variety of races in his country. The brutal South African apartheid regime, meaning ‘merciless’ in African languages, was buried in history’s trash can after Mandela in 1994.

The 1990s marked the beginning of the culture wars that affect nearly every corner of the world today. Liberation and emancipation ideas gave way to increasing identity concerns. Among these identity concerns, Palestinians are the greatest victims. The land where Israelis are referred to as ‘victims’ and Palestinians as ‘terrorists’ is, in fact, an example of the ‘apartheid policy,’ which is the most beautiful example of genocide.

Such forms of othering have been accepted logic throughout history. The “us against them” analogy, which swept the world after September 11, has shaped the new generations and created ‘others’ as well. This generation has become pawns of ‘terrorism’ comparisons. The so-called war on terror is interpreted as ending with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. However, the reality is different; the wars on terror are, in fact, endless. The language used is always the same:

“Terrorism will be eradicated at any cost.”

“We will never allow the forces of evil to defeat us.”

What needs to be learned from the war on terror is that violence imposed by the state can never solve any political conflict. Deadly culture wars have always served the interests of hate-mongering forces. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has openly stated on several occasions that he prefers Islamist groups like Hamas at the table. The PLO has lost all its legitimacy since it gave up many of the fundamental demands of the Palestinian movement.

For over half a century, the Western world, which condemns Hamas for killing civilians and taking women and children hostage, as well as for the atrocities committed on October 7th, not only needs to condemn but also curse the savagery. It is hypocrisy not to read the same condemnation when Israel, claiming the right to self-defense, causes the deaths of many women and children through the Gaza bombardment. Hamas’ attack may have been a surprise for Israel and its Western allies, but the underlying problem is the long-standing occupation of Palestinian territories and the oppression carried out by Israeli forces. The constant expansion of Israeli settlements displaces the Palestinian population.

While Yasser Arafat, who lived in Gaza for a few years, said, “This is my homeland, no one can drive me away from here,” Israel has now ignited the fuse of a major genocide. Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened that Israel’s response to Hamas’ attacks would change the Middle East. Indeed, the ongoing war has already begun to change the regional geopolitics.

Gaza has borne the brunt of Israeli brutality for over 50 years. The situation has become unbearable. Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, has been described by the UN Secretary-General as “hell on earth.” The region, under constant blockade, has turned into a tableau of humanitarian crises. Many children do not live to see their fifth birthday. Children are the greatest victims of Israel’s continuous bombardment and blockade.

All these pains suffered by a people long under colonial rule did not shake the conscience of the West, which preaches human rights at every opportunity. It turns a blind eye to Israel’s ‘apartheid’ policies. Using military power and Western support may kill more Palestinians, but it will not break the strength of resistance.

There is no doubt that Israel will regain hierarchy in the death mathematics. It should be remembered that achieving peace in the Middle East is difficult as long as the occupation continues. The international community is aware of this in Ukraine, but it remains to be seen whether it will turn its attention to Palestine.

“Oppressed people cannot remain under oppression forever.

The longing for freedom eventually manifests itself.”

Martin Luther King

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YÜKSEL DURGUT is a journalist with a primary focus on global politics and foreign affairs.

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