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Israel-Palestine Crisis 101: Why We Are Not Pressuring Hamas For Peace?

Hamas Israel Palestine Rocket Gaza Strip

One of the most complex and long-standing conflicts in the world is the one between Israel and Palestine. It dates back to the 1940s, when the aftermath of World War 2 led to the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Since then, the two sides have been locked in a cycle of violence and mistrust, with no clear solution in sight. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the Palestinian people are divided into two factions, one of which has been launching rockets into Israeli territory. Image source: Twitter

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Current Israel-Palestine Crisis

The Hamas Oct 7 attack was a surprise offensive launched by the Palestinian militant group Hamas and its allies against Israel on the morning of October 7, 2023. The attack, which coincided with several Jewish holidays, involved a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip, as well as ground, air and sea incursions into Israeli territory.

The attack was reportedly planned and commanded by Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades. The attack was named “Al-Aqsa Flood” by Hamas, in reference to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which was the site of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in 2022.

According to statements by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, around 200 civilians, of which the number of children is slightly under 30, and soldiers were kidnapped during the raid on the Gaza periphery settlements. Israel confirmed the identity of 203 hostages among them 30 children, while Gaza spokespeople reported holding roughly 200 and estimated another 50 were held by other factions.

At least 250 additional hostages were taken on the first day of the war, but rescued that day. Video analysis from The Washington Post shows that some of the captives were executed after their capture. Handbooks made by Hamas suggest that its militants were instructed to “kill the difficult” hostages, and use the rest as Human shields.

Some of the kidnapped are foreign nationals including from Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. 11 Thai citizens working in greenhouses in the Gaza periphery were also kidnapped.

Nepal confirmed seven of its citizens who are university students were kidnapped in Herzliya and ten more Nepalis in Alumim were abducted. Italy announced that 10 of its citizens were kidnapped and brought to Gaza, including a one-year-old baby. At least one Filipino was abducted.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Hamas Israel Palestine October Attack

The events subsequent to the surprise attack and the causalities on both sides of the conflict. Image source: Stratheia

The attack resulted in heavy casualties on both sides, but especially among Israeli civilians. According to Israeli sources, over 1,400 Israelis were killed in the attack, including 260 people at a music festival near Re’im, where Hamas fighters massacred and set fire to the attendees.

Over 200 Israelis, including civilians and soldiers, were taken hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel responded with airstrikes and a blockade on Gaza, as well as declaring war on Hamas. The attack sparked a full-scale war between Israel and Hamas, which is still ongoing as of October 27, 2023.

So why did Hamas launch this massive attack in 2023?

One suggested reason is this:-

Before Oct. 7, the biggest Middle East story was the growing prospect of a normalization agreement between the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

The thawing of Saudi-Israeli relations was unmistakable. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in late September, “We’re getting closer to peace every day.” Earlier this month, Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi was photographed celebrating Sukkot with the ritual lulav and etrog in Riyadh.

Hamas’s grisly and barbaric terrorist attack was a transparent effort to forestall a U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal and, more broadly, Israel’s continued integration into the Middle Eastern community of nations.

Hamas’s interest in derailing a U.S.-Saudi-Israel pact is clear. Such a normalization agreement would isolate Hamas from the Arab world. Anything good for the Palestinian people in the deal would weaken Hamas’s control and undermine its singular purpose of destroying Israel.

A normalization agreement would enable U.S. Central Command to further expand and implement a regional security architecture, which would collectively enable the U.S. and its partners to neutralize the very types of asymmetric military threats that Hamas and all of Iran’s proxies pose to the region.

(Source: The Hill)

Regardless of the reasons for the surprise attack, it is difficult to pinpoint the benefit that Hamas expect to get from the attack as it will only invite a heavy response from the Israeli military which in turn will only translate to massive casualties mainly children. It is unlikely that Israeli is going to leave Gaza and open the borders.

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The big question is whether Hamas is working in the best interest of the Palestinian people or they have other agendas. This is an interesting interview with the son of the Hamas founder, Mosab Hassan Yousef aka the Green Prince who initially sided with Hamas before becoming an agent for Israel going after Hamas operatives.

History of Hamas

After 2005, the two factions that claim to represent the Palestinian people are quite clear with the Palestine Authority & Fatah controlling the West Bank and Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip. Both have fought each other in the past with heavy casualties on both sides.

Fatah is a reverse acronym for Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filistiniya or Palestinian National Liberation Movement in Arabic. The word Fatah means to conquer.

The secular movement was founded in Kuwait in the late 1950s by diaspora Palestinians after the 1948 Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionist movement aiming to create a Jewish modern state in historic Palestine.

In the 1990s, the Fatah-led PLO officially renounced armed resistance and backed United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for building a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders (West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza), alongside an Israeli state.

The PLO then signed the Oslo Accords, which led to the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, or Palestinian Authority, an interim self-governing body meant to lead to an independent Palestinian State.

Hamas is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, or Islamic Resistance Movement. The word Hamas means zeal.

The Hamas movement was founded in Gaza in 1987 by imam Sheikh Ahmed Yasin and aide Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi shortly after the start of the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea” but considers the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state on 1967 borders “to be a formula of national consensus”.

The movement believes that the “establishment of ‘Israel’ is entirely illegal”. This sets it apart from the PLO, of which it is not a member.

(Source: Al-Jazeera)

Interestingly there is no one condemning Hamas for their armed resistance & missions which affected civilians on both sides of the border and including Malaysia:-

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has rejected Western pressure to condemn Hamas, saying his government will continue to maintain relations with the armed group.

Anwar said that Western officials have repeatedly asked Malaysia to condemn Hamas in meetings but his government “does not agree” with their attitude.

“As such, we don’t agree with their pressuring attitude, as Hamas, too, won in Gaza freely through elections, and Gazans chose them to lead.”

(Source: Al-Jazeera)

Trying to understand both sides of the story and getting all the facts does not mean you immediately become a Zionist supporter or an anti-Palestine supporter. There was plenty of misinformation being played for the masses out there and it will not be easy to identify facts from fiction.

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So do Palestinians fully support Hamas? Political analyst, Bassem Eid certainly is not holding back his criticisms against Hamas considering that despite what Hamas may have argued on behalf of the Palestine plight, they too have been guilty of violence against the Palestinians as well. Bassem Eid himself is a Palestinian and started his work in a Palestinian refugee camp as a UN representative before handling human rights cases. He now works for an Israeli TV as a political analyst.

Palestine & Hamas

A lot of people are confused about the situation in Palestine, especially because of the false or misleading information that circulates on social media from both sides of the fence. Some people think that Hamas is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people because they won the elections in 2006.

But they don’t realize that those elections were 17 years ago and that there was a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the other major Palestinian faction, that resulted in Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip and Fatah losing control. This means that many Palestinians do not support or agree with Hamas and that Hamas does not speak for all of them.

The findings, published here for the first time, reveal that rather than supporting Hamas, the vast majority of Gazans have been frustrated with the armed group’s ineffective governance as they endure extreme economic hardship. Most Gazans do not align themselves with Hamas’s ideology, either. Unlike Hamas, whose goal is to destroy the Israeli state, the majority of survey respondents favored a two-state solution with an independent Palestine and Israel existing side by side.

Continued violence will not bring the future most Gazans hope for any closer. Instead of stamping out sympathy for terrorism, past Israeli crackdowns that make life more difficult for ordinary Gazans have increased support for Hamas.

Asked to identify the amount of trust they had in the Hamas authorities, a plurality of respondents (44 percent) said they had no trust at all; “not a lot of trust” was the second most common response, at 23 percent. Only 29 percent of Gazans expressed either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in their government. Furthermore, 72 percent said there was a large (34 percent) or medium (38 percent) amount of corruption in government institutions, and a minority thought the government was taking meaningful steps to address the problem.

(Source: Foreign Affairs)

In reality, not all in Gaza may support Hamas as Gaza has become the launching pad for rockets fired into the civilian populated areas in Israel which prompted the deployment of the Iron Dome by the Israeli military.  But then again, as the bombing intensifies and the number of deaths increases, this may soon change.

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The war between the Israelis and the Palestinians surely cannot go on forever so what is the solution moving forward? Many have voiced out a 2 state solution as the only feasible solution for both sides of the fence. But there is a problem to this as was highlighted in this video from David Brog who is the Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force and who had worked with a pro-Christian Israel NGO and is the cousin of former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak.

Two State Solution

The two-state solution is a proposed framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by establishing two states for two peoples: Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people. It is the official position of the UK, US, United Nations and even Israel itself, but many now say there is little hope of achieving it.

Here are some of the key obstacles that are stopping the two-state solution from becoming a reality.

Obstacle No: 1 – Borders

The biggest obstacle to a two-state solution is deciding what the borders of a potential Palestinian state would be. Many believe they should be the same ones that existed before the 1967 six-day war, which saw Israel occupy East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Since then, increasing numbers of Israeli settlements have been established inside the West Bank, with around 600,000 Israelis now living there and in Occupied East Jerusalem. Although these settlements are considered illegal under international law, their existence makes the territory increasingly difficult to designate as Palestinian.

Obstacle No: 2 – Refugees

The creation of Israel and the subsequent Arab-Israeli war of 1948 saw many Palestinians forced from their homes, in what is known as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” in English. As such, the UN gave around 750,000 people refugee status, defined as people “whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict”.

But under the same criteria, 5.9 million Palestinians – who live in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and in camps across Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – now qualify, and many would want to return to their homeland. There would not be space for this increased number of people inside the occupied territories, meaning some would have to be resettled in Israeli territory, which goes against Israel’s idea of a two-state solution.

Obstacle No: 3 – Jerusalem

There are particular border difficulties with Jerusalem. Both sides claim the ancient city as their capital. This is because of its huge historical and religious significance for both Israelis and Palestinians and the fact it is home to several holy sites in Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

For example, the walled Old City hosts both The Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – and Al Aqsa Mosque, the third most important location in Islam behind Mecca and Medina, where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Dividing Jerusalem between two states would be a complex and contentious task that neither side is willing to compromise on.

Obstacle No: 4 – Security

Israel views itself as facing existential threats from its neighbours, especially Iran and its allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. It also fears that a Palestinian state could become a base for terrorism or a failed state that would destabilize the region.

Therefore, Israel demands that any Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized and accept Israeli control over its borders, airspace and water resources. Palestinians reject these conditions as infringing on their sovereignty and dignity.

Obstacle No: 5 – Public Opinion

As of 2021, most Palestinians are against the two-state solution. In 2021, a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed that 39% of Palestinians accept a two-state solution, while 59% said they rejected it.

Many Palestinians have lost faith in the peace process and see no prospect of ending the Israeli occupation or achieving their national aspirations. Some Palestinians prefer a one-state solution that would grant equal rights to all citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion. Others support armed resistance or violent uprisings against Israel.

On the other hand, most Israelis still support the two-state solution in principle but are sceptical about its feasibility or desirability. According to a poll by Tel Aviv University in 2020, 53% of Israelis support a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders with land swaps, while 47% oppose it.

However, only 24% of Israelis believe that such a solution will be implemented in the next five years, while 76% do not. Many Israelis are also concerned about security risks or demographic challenges that a two-state solution could entail.

The two-state solution has been widely endorsed by the international community as the best way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. However, there are many obstacles that prevent its realization, such as disagreements over borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security and public opinion.

Unless these issues are addressed through negotiations and compromises by both sides, with support from regional and global actors, the two-state solution will remain elusive and the conflict will continue.

Israel Hamas Europe EU Trade Palestine

Whether we like it or not, we need to trade with others for both exports & imports and we cannot expect them to have the same views as us. We exported almost EUR18 billion worth of electronics & electrical components to Europe in 2022. Image source: Trading Economics

Malaysia’s Stand & the West?

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a source of controversy and tension for decades. Many Western countries have sided with Israel, mainly because they oppose Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza and has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement that has been outlawed in Egypt and Jordan.

Malaysia, however, has expressed strong support for Palestine and its right to self-determination, without mentioning Hamas or its role in the violence. This has raised some questions and criticisms from other countries and observers.

In a show of unwavering support, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola travelled to Israel on 13 October to express their solidarity.

Kuala Lumpur’s stance is particularly problematic in light of previous reports that uncovered a training program in Malaysia from 2012 that coached Hamas fighters on how to fly powered parachutes.

One of the novelties of Hamas’ coordinated attack on Israel was the launch of multiple motorised paragliders into Israel, who descended to kill people indiscriminately, including attendees of the Nova music festival, among whom more than 250 — mostly young — people were massacred.

Hamas’ Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement from 1988 expressly founded the organisation for the purpose of the obliteration of Israel through jihad, also calling for the killing of Jews and rejecting any and all peace initiatives for the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Support for and indeed any affiliation with Hamas are contradictory to the EU’s most cherished normative principles, which, alongside the bloc’s economic prowess, has distinguished the organisation as a steadfast and effective actor in the world.

(Source: Euro News)

Some Malaysians who stand with Palestine may think that Malaysia does not need the support of the EU or the US. However, they may not realize the economic consequences of losing these trade partners. The EU and US are among the top importers of Malaysian services and goods, after Singapore and China.

In 2022, Malaysia exported services and goods worth EUR35.6 billion (about RM180 billion) to the EU countries and USD78.3 billion (about RM380 billion) to the US. These are huge amounts that contribute to Malaysia’s economy and development.

Final Say

Conflict is not only a matter of physical violence but also of psychological manipulation. Both sides in a conflict may try to spread false or biased information about their opponents, in order to sway public opinion in their favour. This is especially true in the age of social media and state-controlled media, where people may only have access to one perspective and not the other.

This influences the narrative that people adopt about the conflict. For example, in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, Western media outlets have largely ignored or downplayed the Russian point of view. As a result, they shape the narrative of the war according to their interests. The same can be said about the Palestine crisis.

In Malaysia, there is hardly any criticism of Hamas, the militant group that provoked the current escalation of violence by firing rockets at Israel and clashing with Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Hamas is also a key player in the proposed two-state solution, which would require them to renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept the borders of a new Palestinian state.

However, unfortunately, and despite the close ties between the Madani Government and Hamas, there has been no public attempt by the Madani Government to condemn Hamas for its role in sparking the crisis and taking civilian hostages.

The situation in the region is dire. For too long, the people on both sides of the conflict have suffered from the relentless attacks, bombings, and killings that have claimed the lives of countless innocent civilians. The humanitarian crisis is worsening by the day, as millions of people are displaced, injured, or starving. The international community has failed to intervene effectively, and the prospects for a peaceful resolution seem bleak.

But there is still hope. There is still a chance to end this cycle of violence and destruction, and to pave the way for a constructive dialogue that can address the root causes of the conflict and create a lasting peace. But this requires a change. A change in the mindset, the attitude, and the actions of all the parties involved.

This change is not optional. It is necessary. It is urgent. It is the only way to end the suffering and save the lives of millions of people who deserve better. It is the only way to create a stable and prosperous region that can benefit from its rich diversity and potential. It is the only way to ensure a peaceful and secure future for all.

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