On the 7th May 2021, Muslims gathered at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem for the final Friday prayers of Ramadan. This Ramadan had been like no other. Tensions were on the rise again between the Palestinians and the Israeli forces, confirmed by the killing of two Palestinians by the IDF the day before. During the month prior, clashes had taken place in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah as the long-running property dispute looked to be coming to an end with the eviction of dozens of Palestinian families. 70,000 people gathered on this Friday to celebrate but were greeted by large numbers of Israeli police in riot gear and on horseback, some of whom used stun grenades and water cannons, leaving 80 injured.
Over the following nights there were more clashes at the mosque, violence increased and media attention grew. Emirati businessman Hassan Sajwani, tweeted “Sincere question: why can’t the Palestinian protestors just vacate #AlAqsaMosque and go home?” Just years ago, an Emirati almost in support of Israel, wondering why the Palestinians don’t just surrender the third holiest site in Islam to their oppressors would have seemed preposterous, but now shows the state of the Middle East and world aptly. It’s never been more obvious that the world has failed the Palestinians.
While the escalation of the conflict, between Hamas (the political organization in control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) and Israel (the state often in flagrant violation of International law), made the news, no amount of complexity could distract from the facts. From the beginning of the escalation, until the signing of the ceasefire, 256 Palestinian civilians were killed and 13 Israeli civilians were killed and despite Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertions that any target was definitely a Hamas target, the surreal Al-Jazeera broadcast of their own offices being destroyed in Gaza contradicts this.
Anyone would be excused for asking why a group that has been designated a terrorist organization by the US, Canada and for a period, the EU, governs one of the most-densely populated areas in the world, but it would not be unreasonable to suggest that Hamas are a consequence of Israel’s own doing. Founded in 1987 in protest at the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s non-confrontational approach to Israel, Hamas would have not been able to shift from the fringes of the conflict to the centre were it not for the backing of the Israelis. Israel chose to finance the Islamist group to undermine the secular, left-wing PLO, led at the time Yasser Arafat. Retired Brigadier General Yitzhak Zegev confessed that, “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.” Israel constructed a strain of militant-political Islam and is now breathing in the blowback.
It's not just the Israelis who have failed the Palestinians, but the entire Middle East is close to abandoning the cause. In September, Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump sat on the White House lawn with the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE to sign the ‘Abraham Accords,’ commonly referred to as the Israel ‘normalisation’ agreement. What was seen as traitorous decades ago - Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 after signing a similar treaty with Israel in 1979 - was now welcomed with open-arms in both Jerusalem and Washington. The ultimate normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel might be the worst kept secret across the Middle East. Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi De-Facto leader, spearheads a new generation of rulers who have not been personally affected by the conflict and is leading the way in shifting the Arab world towards viewing Iran as the threat to peace. Recognition of Israel as a legitimate state is the newest chapter in the Riyadh-Tehran cold-war, with MBS showing support to Israel as the counterweight to Iran’s less than covert support for Hamas.
The US’s continued military and political support for Israel has been documented extensively by academics like Noam Chomsky, but nothing demonstrates it better than the 53 UN Security Council resolutions against Israel that have been vetoed by the US. These resolutions have tackled anything from the condemnation of air-strikes on Gaza, to the condemnation of illegal settlements in the West Bank, the aforementioned flagrant violations of international law. While the perceived hounding out of Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader and outspoken supporter of Palestine, is a discussion for another day, the arms sales to Israel from the UK is proof we are less than absolved from responsibility.
It’s a crying shame that the world has left the people of Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus behind. Even the Iranian support is soured by its overt intentions to be for the disruption of Israel and to rile up Saudi Arabia, a continuation of the proxy war that scars the region from Lebanon to Yemen. While the short-lived, devastating events of May put the assumed-dormant conflict back on the evening news, and while we do not know what the future holds, the perhaps permanent, perhaps temporary abandonment of the Palestinians must not be forgotten.