THE war planes and rockets have fallen silent, the smoke has cleared but how long will the uneasy truce between Israel and Palestine last?
With no clear long-term resolution, no one can hazard a guess, although the peace between the previous 50-day conflict in 2014 lasted for seven years.
The death toll from the 11-day Israeli blitz on the besieged Gaza Strip is 248, including 66 children and 39 women, while around 2,000 were injured. One Israeli soldier was killed, along with 12 civilians, including two children.
Hundreds were injured by rockets fired by the military arm of Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since coming to power in the 2006 elections.
The latest Israeli air strikes, which ended last Friday after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire, left a massive trail of destruction across the seaside stretch of Gaza.
In the rubble was what used to be more than 130 buildings, including one housing AP, Al-Jazeera and 18 other media organisations in Gaza and health facilities where people were treated for Covid-19 or were being vaccinated against it.
Gaza’s healthcare system has collapsed without bed space and medical supplies, and hospitals which were already overcrowded with Covid-19 patients are filled with the wounded.
The wanton destruction has worsened the already woeful state of Gaza’s economy, which has long suffered under an Israeli blockade.
Both sides have accused each other of war crimes.
Israel denounced Hamas for indiscriminately firing rockets on its cities while Hamas condemned Israel for the disproportionate bombardment of civilians in residential buildings and shelters.
Under international law, there are rules which limit the barbarity of war, the most important of which is the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the additional protocols of 1977.
These treaties protect civilians, medical personnel, workers and the media who are not involved in the fighting, and also shields soldiers who cannot fight anymore, such as the wounded, prisoners of war, the sick and such.
They also cover the “proportionality” of attack, which should not be excessive and unreasonable against the expected military advantage, in addition to fair warnings and precautions to compel warring parties to prevent civilian deaths and injuries.
Looking at the surface of what happened, Hamas violated these laws by firing rockets into Israeli neighbourhoods, triggered by the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem followed by an Israeli raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in which tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets were used to disperse protesters.
The excessive and disproportionate Israeli attacks on high-rise commercial and residential buildings were clearly a war crime as these structures, especially the one housing media offices, do not offer any irrefutable military advantage, in spite of Israel’s unproven claims that they were used by Hamas.
The strikes smack of a more sinister motive.
As AP president Gary Pruitt pointed out: “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today (May 21).
“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organisations in Gaza.”
But if Israel is indeed guilty of war crimes in its latest round of hostilities with Palestine, gross culpability must be shared by the United States, which has served as its main supporter, funder and apologist.
On May 5, a week before the airstrikes devastated Gaza, US President Joe Biden tabled a US$735mil (RM3.04bil) arms package for Israel in Congress, as part of its whopping US$3.8bil (RM15.73bil) of annual aid to Israel.
The package included joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), which convert free-fall bombs into accurate, adverse weather-smart munitions. When released from aircraft, JDAMs autonomously navigate to designated target coordinates.
Proportionate response? Just compare such state-of-the-art explosives with the crude Hamas rockets made from pipes and detritus from exploded bombs.
And the United States also exercised its veto power three times within a week before the ceasefire to prevent the UN Security Council from issuing any statement censuring Israel’s actions.
Let’s not forget that previous US leaders, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, also abetted Israel’s wars against Palestine between 2008 and 2009 and 2012 and 2014, during which some 3,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in Gaza.
But unlike then, the latest war has changed perceptions and the constant “victim narrative” of Israel, both in the United States and around the world, with the plight of the Palestinians being heard more attentively.
In his widely circulated op-ed in The New York Times, US senator Bernie Sanders drew the focus away from Hamas’ rockets to the harsh reality of life for millions of Palestinians struggling under Israel occupation and highlighted the role of rampaging mobs of Jewish extremists and attempts to forcibly evict residents of a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
Across the United States, people are also seeing the contiguity between the Black Lives Matter protests calling for racial justice and the Palestinians’ quandary.
While support for Israel is still prevalent, a growing number of Democrat politicians and human rights groups are demanding political rights for Palestinians, even accusing Israel of “apartheid” – a term which used to be taboo when used in conjunction with Israel.
A similar trend is also seen among American, British and European Jewish communities, especially the younger generation, based on their attendance at protest rallies last week in major cities.
Another indicator of this is the call by a group of Jewish employees of Google to increase its support of Palestinians.
In an internal letter, 250 workers who broke away from “Jewglers” – Google’s pro-Zionist official Jewish employees resource group – urged CEO Sundar Pichai to issue a statement condemning the attacks, including “direct recognition of the harm done to Palestinians by Israeli military and gang violence”.
This shift in opinion offers some hope, albeit still a dim one, that a solution can be found for peace and co-existence between Palestine and Israel.
Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan admires the wisdom behind Sun Tzu’s observation: ‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.’ The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.