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Perspectives

If the Palestinian cause isn’t resolved now, then it never will

Published January 16, 2024
A displaced Palestinian child sits behind barbed wire on a dune overlooking a makeshift camp on the Egyptian border, west of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 14, 2024. Photo: AFP
A displaced Palestinian child sits behind barbed wire on a dune overlooking a makeshift camp on the Egyptian border, west of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 14, 2024. Photo: AFP

The day after the war. The unspoken and untenable situation that nobody has wanted to speak about. Certainly not the Israeli government, nor the IDF.

“We will not stop Gaza war until total victory” were the only words being reiterated by Israeli spokespeople, none willing to elaborate on a concrete plan for Gaza after the war ends – including rebuilding, governance and resettlement. These words were stressed by the Israeli PM as well a few days ago.

Without risking losing the column to repetition, here’s a quick recap of the state of affairs in Gaza.

Over 24,000 killed. Over 1.9 million people displaced and thousands more injured and missing under the rubble. This, along with complete decimation of most civilian infrastructure including schools, universities, hospitals, mosques, libraries and churches.

 This photograph taken on January 15, 2024 from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows a rainbow across the sky, amid ongoing Israeli aggression in Gaza. Photo: AFP
This photograph taken on January 15, 2024 from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows a rainbow across the sky, amid ongoing Israeli aggression in Gaza. Photo: AFP

The aggression has brought on retaliatory attacks from Houthis on vessels crossing through the Red Sea, threatening to set off an expanding conflict and disrupt trade – 12% of global traffic.

They were successful.

This week saw a rise in oil prices and a possible glut in the energy sector as Qatar briefly suspended liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments via the crucial trade route following US-led strikes against Houthis.

The Houthi movement remained undeterred and vowed to expand targets in the Red Sea region.

Across the Persian Gulf, Iran also vowed to continue attacks after a series of missile attacks in Iraq and Syria.

 Pro-Palestinian demonstrators listen to speakers during the ‘March on Washington for Gaza’ in Washington, DC, on January 13, 2024. Photo: AFP
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators listen to speakers during the ‘March on Washington for Gaza’ in Washington, DC, on January 13, 2024. Photo: AFP

World Economic Forum

As the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos began this week, the biggest threat to the world, as noted by attendees, was not AI or inflation, but geopolitical stability, according to CNN’s Richard Quest.

Notably, a large number of the sessions at Davos this year are dedicated to stability in the Middle East, along with the usual world order.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hosts a session on Wednesday after Prime Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan holds his. Others are dedicated to a humanitarian briefing in Gaza, the plight of refugees, and the endgame in the Middle East.

Interestingly, also on Tuesday, we saw Republican frontrunner Donald Trump sweeping the Iowa caucus, all but securing the nomination for presidential candidate.

 An image of US President Joe Biden is projected onto a building in the vicinity of the White House during the ‘March on Washington for Gaza’ in Washington, DC, on January 13, 2024
An image of US President Joe Biden is projected onto a building in the vicinity of the White House during the ‘March on Washington for Gaza’ in Washington, DC, on January 13, 2024

Notably, President Joe Biden, fighting for a second term, has seen his approval ratings drop dramatically amidst his unequivocal support for Israeli aggression in Gaza. Muslim voters in the United States have also expressed their disappointment in him.

The chain of events in the Middle East now have the power to sway an entire presidential election, placing the onus on Biden to reign in Israel for a fighting chance at a second term.

Trump, if one remembers, for all his flaws, was disapproving of the US involvement in multiple skirmishes globally, also laying the groundwork for the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan which Biden carried out.

On Tuesday, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said, “requiring Israel to agree to a time-bound, mandatory path to a two-state solution is key to future stability in both territories,” at Davos.

As we all know, the Israeli far-right cabinet – the savage little noose around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s neck – is vehemently opposed to this idea, just as they are to winding down the war.

The largest endorsement of the Palestinian cause came earlier this month, when Saudi Arabia indicated that they were open to resuming ties with Israel as long as there were veritable conditions created for a path to an independent Palestinian state.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud reiterated this sentiment at Davos on Tuesday.

If there is one thing that the war has been able to achieve is to put the Palestinian agenda at the forefront for the global meeting of elite at Davos. Failure to reach a resolution and global trade/progress are also threatened.

Could this finally be the turning point for the plight of the Palestinians, or is it another unicorn offering aimed at biding time and creating false hope while remaining complicit with Israeli aggression.

Global outrage

Truth be told, the global rage, protests and condemnation at the high casualty figures and sympathy for Palestinians that the war has now garnered seems impossible to put aside and ignore.

Public opinion matters, and what the world has now seen cannot be unseen.

The divided opinion over the war has even managed to upend university presidents at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, while Fortune 500 companies (Unilever, Starbucks) navigate consumer backlash.

Notably, the 84-page case submitted to the Hague by South Africa is brimming with plenty scathing evidence that Israel has breached its obligations under the 1948 international genocide convention, with many experts saying the legal argument is “unusually strong”, according to an opinion column in The New York Times.

This leaves Israel with diminished leverage on the other side of this, if charged.

This is because even a determination that evidence suggests genocide, would oblige the international community to protect the besieged people of Gaza by demanding a cease-fire and sending aid.

In the long run, the case could lay early groundwork for sanctions against Israel or the prosecution of its officials.

In one way or another, at this protracted stage, an autonomous state, withdrawal of Israel from Gaza, a governance of Palestinian choosing will all have to be on the agenda in some form or the other, for if not now, then when?

Do it for the sake of global trade, of course. Oh, and world peace.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Faiza Virani

The writer is Life & Style Editor at Business Recorder

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