Islam

Friday Sermon: Palestine in Ebullition

By Babatunde Jose

The violence convulsing the Middle East has produced heart-rending and soul pinching images and statistics. People are dying, bullets and missiles are flying, and most of the dead are Palestinians, including dozens of children. Israeli military carry out bombing raids in densely populated Gaza; a disproportionate response to armed Palestinian groups hurling ineffectual rockets at Israeli cities. There are wanton destruction of infrastructure and people in an already destroyed enclave.  Meanwhile, inter-communal violence continues across Israel between Jews and Arab Israelis. Palestinian missiles are crude, homemade devices without any guidance system and have limited reach and destructive capabilities against the well-armed Israeli armour that is well financed and supplied by the American government which spends an estimated $3 Billion on military aid to Israel annually including exchange of military intelligence, access to stockpile of US arms kept in Israeli bases for use in eventuality of war and supply of sophisticated guided missile systems that enable Israel to engage in precision bombing of Palestinian targets. It is a one-sided war; that is if it could be called a war; but genocide.

Gaza, like its twin, West Bank is one huge prison; has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967 and a 15-year-old suffocating siege and naval blockade. Palestinians cannot even fish nor carryout any maritime activity. Hence, 80% of the people rely on humanitarian aid to eat. And worse of all, the people cannot leave the enclave.

Yet, Western governments, led by US President Joe Biden, have been quick to unequivocally condemn Palestinian groups for the rocket barrages, but have been much more circumspect about condemning Israel’s attack on Palestinian civilians in what could be described as the fallacy of self-defence.

What has happened in Palestine in the last 100 years has been a result of the duplicity and political hooliganism of European powers; chiefly Britain and France, who carved out the old Ottoman Empire among themselves with the blessing of the defunct League of Nations. The League of Nations granted the French, Mandate over Syria, and the Lebanon and the British, Mandate over Mesopotamia (later Iraq) and Palestine, later divided into Mandatory Palestine and Emirate of Transjordan (1921-1946). The Balfour Declaration which encouraged the international Zionist movement to push for a Jewish homeland in the Palestine region, started the whole trouble and since then the region had not known peace: It cannot know peace because the whole arrangement is strewn with injustice, unfairness, inequitableness, duplicity, inequality, and political deceit. Speaking in the British Parliament this week, George Galloway told fellow members; ‘We are the author of this tragedy’. That is very true!

Abridging the historical narration, the 1948 forced exodus of Arab Palestinians from their homes, marked a watershed in the tragic history of Palestine. Also known as the Nakba, literally “catastrophe”, or “cataclysm”, more than 700,000 Arabs – about half of pre-war Palestine’s Arab population – were expelled from their homes, on the eve of the creation of Israel. About 600 Palestinian villages were destroyed; and urban Palestine was almost entirely obliterated.

A series of laws passed by the first Israeli government prohibited  Arabs who had left from returning to their homes or claiming their property. They and many of their descendants remain refugees to this day.  The expulsion of the Palestinians has since been described by some historians as ethnic cleansing. Seventy-two years after, the Palestinians are not only stateless, but refugees in their ancestral land marking three quarters of a century of wrong!

Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees, and their descendants. A core Palestinian demand in peace negotiations is justice for these refugees, most commonly in the form of the “right of return” to the homes their families abandoned in 1948 ( On the other hand, Jews returned to Palestine after being in diaspora for 1,900 years.). Unfortunately, Israel has demolished these homes and Jewish settlements have sprang up to replace them. Moreover, Israel has refused to agree to this as it would make Jews a minority — On 31 December 2020, Israel’s population was estimated at 9,291,000 residents. 6,870,000 Jews (73. 9%), 1,956,000 Arabs (21.1%) and 456,000 Others (5.0%).

In our view, the most important condition for this ongoing conflict to end and for real peace to be established is for both sides to give peace a chance and search for realistic and meaningful solutions. No matter the might of the Israeli conquistadors, if there is no justice in the land, Israel will never sleep with its two eyes closed. Contrary to sentiments being expressed by fundamentalist Christians, the problem in Palestine is not about God or worship, neither is it about mosque, church, or synagogue, but more of a political issue. It is about righting a wrong. It is about justice and human right. It is about the right to a place in the sun, a lebensraum, and a place for a people to call home. It is about a homeland, secure from incessant bullying and threat of extermination, from being evicted from their homes and being denied the right to work, the right to electricity, water, and food because of being refugees and prisoners in the biggest prison man had ever known.

One of the core problems in negotiations, then, is how to find a way to get justice for the refugees that both the Israeli and Palestinian people can accept. The ‘Two-States’ option has been proposed but the two sides have never agreed on the details of how these would work: Especially the contentious issue of the status of Jerusalem.

In the United States, one of the most powerful lobbies is AIPAC, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee. In the last several decades, this organization has funnelled tens of millions of dollars to U.S. politicians who are willing to protect Israel’s apartheid regime at all costs. According to the US Congressional Research Service Report, November 2020, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. Successive Administrations, working with Congress, have provided significant assistance for Israel and its security; shared strategic goals in the Middle East; a mutual commitment to geo-political values; and historical ties dating from U.S. support for the creation of Israel in 1948. To date, the United States has provided Israel $146 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding. At present, almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance. Israel is the first international operator of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Department of Defence’s fifth-generation stealth aircraft, considered to be the most technologically advanced fighter jet ever made. The US has military bases in Israel with well stocked weaponry which it places at the disposal of Israel during emergencies such as its war with its Arab neighbours. The United States is therefore not a ‘honest broker’. Rather it is part of the problem.

It is a sad fact that the Arabs states are in disarray, disunited and under the affliction of one crisis or the other: Syria is under the gun, Iraq is under the ashes of American imperialism; Jordan is under the American spell and Egypt is a shadow of its old self; The House of Saud is now an appendage of America and fighting its own war in Yemen; Libya is a smouldering rubble after the despoliation of that country by US and its allies; And worst of all, the United Nations is a disunited organization. Who fights or speak for the Palestinians? None in the horizon.

For Jews, the possession of the Holy City of Jerusalem continues to have healing power; they see Jewish Jerusalem as a balm to sooth the pains of the holocaust.

The Christian fundamentalists have long believed that the final battle of Armageddon will be fought outside the city of Jerusalem, and that Jews must be present in the Holy Land to fulfil the ancient prophecies.

But there is more that keeps Palestine in ebullition. It is the birthplace of the world’s three great monotheistic religions —Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Too often it has not been just their birthplace, but their battlefield.

Archibald Wavell, an officer who served with the British Army in Palestine prophetically declared, “After ‘the war to end war’ they seem to have been pretty successful in making a ‘Peace to end Peace’.

After 1,900 years, the restoration of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East was seen as a necessary condition to fulfil ancient Bible prophecies. This region has become the centre of the final global crisis that will usher in cataclysmic events leading humanity to the brink of extinction if care is not taken. Welcome Armageddon!

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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