Thursday, July 31, 2014

Israel Palestine Conflict: Is the general reaction towards Israel's offensive a variant of the Stockholm Syndrome?

Disclaimer at the beginning: My article is no way in support of the Israeli offensive against Palestinian people. But at the same time, it's not harmful to have a different perspective to the whole thing.

India and Israel were born almost at the same time - India on 15th August, 1947 and Israel on 14th May 1948. And interestingly, both were born out of partition plans made by none other than the British. India was partitioned on the basis of religion to carve out an Islamic Pakistan. A similar plan was used to carve out Zionist Israel and Arab-Muslim Palestine. Coincidences don't stop here. Like the Muslim Pakistan comprising two appendages in the east and west, the Arab-Muslim Palestine too comprised the Gaza strip in the west and West Bank in the east (Yes, it's like West Bengal in the east of India) of the newly created Israel. But, over the next six decades, the affairs between India and Pakistan haven't come to the state as they are now between Palestine and Israel. Of course, India never struck against Pakistan like Israel has always done, though state and non-state sponsored terrorism in (P)alestine and (P)akistan have constantly targeted (I)srael and (I)ndia in similar ways. Indian being  a soft power with lofty ideals has failed miserably to tackle Pakistani terrorism. There's no guarantee that incidents like 26/11, where terrorist attacks at various parts of Bombay were planned and executed by Pakistan, will not occur in future. But similar incident can't ever occur in Israel, come what may, and the reason is very simple - Israel's offensive against anything that's Palestinian.

A close study of the history of the various events in that area leads me to the thought that Israel has been always in the retaliation mode since its creation in 1948 and retaliation is always manifold stronger than its cause. Interestingly, history has been always sympathetic to the cause and illogically harsh to the retaliation, perhaps which leads to my reference of the Stockholm syndrome. The USA is always condemned for the nuclear strikes against Japan. But is Japan condemned in the same way for its attack on Pearl Harbor? Had there been no Pearl Harbor there wouldn't be any Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I just gave one example, but history has many such instances where retaliation has been very horrific. I find no reason why it shouldn't be. Just see the impact of the nuclear attack on Japan. The World War II came to an end in no time, the holocaust too ended. But still the USA have to bear the ignominy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for ever. Aren't we excessively sympathetic to Japan and illogically harsh to the USA? They just retaliated and that's what Israel has been doing always. Let us go back to the history a bit before pointing all our guns against Israel.

The Ottoman Empire has been degenerating fast. The last nail in their coffin is their aligning with the Germans in the World War I. 

  1. 11 November 1914: The Ottomans become German ally
  2. 24 October 1915: The British High Commission at Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon, sends a letter to the Sherif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali. He assures that if the Arabs fight against the Ottoman, then the British Government would "recognize and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories in the limits and boundaries proposed by the Sherif of Mecca", with the exception of certain areas, which don't explicitly mention Palestine, but would later be claimed to have included it through the ambiguous reference to "portions of Syria lying to the west of the vilayets (districts) of Damascus". The Sherif doesn't raise any concern with the wordings of the correspondence. By the way, this British High Commission is the same McMahon who, just a few years ago, was instrumental in creating the McMahon line which still serves as the boundary between India and Tibet - more India connection.
  3. 5 June 1916: The Arabs, under Faisal, a son of Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca, start fighting against the Ottomans. T E Lawrence, popularly known as the Lawrence of Arabia, immortalized by David Lean's eponymous movie, plays a great role in convincing the Arabs to support the British forces against the Ottomans. 
  4. 2 November, 1917: James Balfour, Foreign Secretary of the UK, declares that UK favors the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". One of the main proponents of the Jewish Homeland is Chaim Weizmann, a leading spokesperson in the UK for Zionism and an acclaimed chemist whose inventions in explosives are much needed by the British to counter the Germans. The declaration is also seen as an attempt to please the US president Woodrow Wilson two of whose closest advisers are avid Zionists and who hasn't yet joined the World War. 
  5. 23 November, 1917: Just after the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks expose an agreement, known as Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed between UK, France and Russia on 16 May, 1916, which divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into future regions of British and French control. Balfour Declaration along with Sykes-Picot Agreement contradict with what McMahon had assured to Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca, earlier about the recognition of the independence of the Arabs. Even then, various officials of the British government manage to convince Faisal, Hussein's son and Hussein that they are still committed towards Arab's independence. It's argued that the Jewish Homeland mentioned in the Balfour Declaration is not same as a Jewish State in Palestine. UK sticks to its interpretation of McMahon-Hussein correspondence that Palestine was excluded from the areas of Arab independence and that it's in sync with both Balfour Declaration and Sykes-Picot Agreement.
  6. 18 January, 1919: Paris Peace conference starts following the decisive end of World War I. More than one and a half year later Treaty of Sevres, which finally decides the fate of Palestine, is signed on 10 August 1920. Palestine and Iraq are placed under British Mandate and Syria and Lebanon under French. The Palestine Mandate consists of two regions, one to the west of Jordan River, known as Palestine, and the other to the east, known as Transjordan, an autonomous region placed under the Hashemite family of Hijaz. The erstwhile Hijaz vilayet or province under the Ottoman Empire included Mecca and Medina. Hijaz is presently under Hussein bin Ali, the Sherif of Mecca who was assured of Arab independence by Sir Henry McMahon in 1915 and who has recently claimed Hijaz as a part of that assurance. Iraq would be soon placed under Faisal, a son of Hussein of Hijaz.
  7. 1 July, 1920: Civilian government starts in Palestine Mandate under British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel. The Treaty of Sevres had acknowledged clause of Jewish Homeland in Palestine as per the Balfour Declaration, but had also mentioned that the interests of the other people wouldn't be hampered. The British Mandate for Palestine is opposed by the Arabs, whose interpretation of the McMahon-Hussein correspondence included Palestine as a part of the region which would be independent under them. Nevertheless, initially the relation between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine is cordial.
  8. Over the next few years a hard line Palestinian Arab Nationalist movement gains momentum under Amin al-Husseini. Massive anti Jewish riots erupt in many places leading to heavy casualties to the Jewish people. This heralds the beginning of the Jewish retaliation with the founding of several underground militia groups and Jewish paramilitary force. The violence continues with Arabs pouring in from the neighboring Syria to boost the fight against the Jewish people in the thirties. Over the next eighteen years, during which the World War II begins and ends, it becomes very clear that the Arab Muslims and the Jews can't stay together in Palestine and that a partition, with Gaza strip and West Bank going to the Arabs and the rest of the British Mandate going to the Jews, is imminent.
  9. 29 November, 1947: General Assembly of the newly formed UN recommends the partition of Palestine. Expectedly, the Jews accepts the recommendation but the Arabs oppose, resulting in another series of violent clashes between the two, with the Muslims supported by the Arab League . Here also, the Jewish stand at the beginning is defensive and occasionally retaliative. But things change gradually, with more Jewish veterans of the World Wars joining the struggle. The Jewish offensive is strengthened by the underground militias which were formed in the previous decade during the early stages of the Arab-Jewish violence. By the spring of 1948 the Arab forces are a total collapse. 
  10. 14 May, 1948: The State of Israel is born a day before the British Mandate for Palestine would come to an end. The Arab League intervenes on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs. Thus begins the Arab-Israel War. Jordan occupies and later annexes West Bank and Egypt takes over the Gaza Strip.
  11. 22 September, 1948: All Palestine Government is declared by the Arab League in Gaza. Through the 50s Egypt and Jordan keep on supporting militant activities against Israel, who is left with no option than to carry on reprisal operations, which continue till date.
Without any prejudice anyone can infer that the Zionists, from the beginning, wanted to create a Jewish Homeland through dialogues and negotiations. If the Arabs can claim their nativity in the Palestine, the Jews can also do the same on same land which was part of the much older Israel Kingdom. After the holocaust and the outcome of the World War II, it was very logical for the homeless Jews to think of returning to their historical homeland, which presently was placed under a British Mandate and no longer a part of the Ottoman Empire to which the Arabs could claim their sole ownership. The World Wars created many new countries, mostly impacting the losing parties, of which the Ottoman Empire was perhaps the biggest loser. It's expected that they would be impacted the most. The erstwhile Islamic Ottoman Empire having collapsed, the idea of the Islamic states at all its erstwhile regions was out of question. Nevertheless, major parts of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire emerged as Islamic States (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Hijaz etc.) The relatively smaller area of Palestine not being recognized as an independent Arab State shouldn't have been a big issue for the Arab League who were suffering from the shock of the demise the Ottoman Caliphate and the loss of Arab control over Middle East. But that was an eventuality which they had no other option than to accept. Had the Ottoman Empire sided with England and France, then things would have been totally different, but then that's just a wishful thinking. 

When the partition of Palestine between the Jews and the Muslims was imminent, there was no reason for the Arab League to oppose that. Had they not done so, there wouldn't be the present state of affairs between Israel and Palestine. The first violence between the Jews and the Palestinian Muslims was triggered not by the Jews, but Arab nationalists from outside Palestine, when Palestine was still under a British Mandate. With the formation of Israel, the external forces kept on instigating offensives against them and the outcome is of course the present sad state in that region. 

To bring back my India-Israel analogy, let us consider a scenario where India has rejected the plan for the Partition of the Indian subcontinent as proposed by the outgoing British government and all the neighbors of India - Russia, China, Thailand and Malaysia - join hands with India against Pakistan. What do you think Pakistan would do? Would they keep quiet and allow India along with its neighbors bully him? Of course not. They would do exactly what Israel has been doing for the past six decades. It's altogether a different thing that Pakistan anyway has been striking against India in as many was as possible without any provocation from the Indian side. India has been mostly acting like a matured big brother, not retaliating against Pakistan time and again. But has that stand improved the situation? Has the safety of our country been guaranteed by the soft stand taken against Pakistan? No. But, just think about it, would you ever see anything like 26/11 in Israel? No. Never. 

Now coming back to the original point of the reaction towards Israel's offensive. Yes, it's horrific, condemnable in all standards. But without this ultra strong stand, would Israel exist in that region? Would you  all be fine if the Israel State were annexed into an Islamic State of Palestine? If you're fine with that, aren't you actually showing symptoms of Stockholm syndrome because the first aggressor was not Israel? It's sad that the first aggressor in this case was neither Palestine - it was the Arab League.

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