Vivid: Gaza cauldron simmers while the world watches, media outraged

The international community mustn't allow the conflict to escalate. In the absence of any Arab initiative, Israel's western backers must use their leverage to nudge Israel to lessen tension & stop the attacks, says exchange4media's Annurag Batra

e4m by Annurag Batra
Updated: Jul 21, 2014 8:18 AM
Vivid: Gaza cauldron simmers while the world watches, media outraged

It almost seems that a helpless world can only seethe in anger as Israel continues its onslaught on Palestinians for the second week, while the global media flashes images of death and destruction.  Already 200 Palestinians have been killed in the latest flashpoint between the Palestinians and Israel, 89 per cent of whom are civilians; 20 per cent, children.

Hundreds of Palestinians, their children crying, have fled their homes in Gaza City  as the world’s fourth largest military might intensified its airstrikes. The raids are supposedly intended to target Hamas militants but more often than not find civilians in the crosshairs.

Israel’s fury against the hapless in Gaza has already inflicted heavy civilian casualties and rained devastation on the long besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip. For 1.7 million Palestinians, living in 365 square kilometres – a little less than three times the size of Chandigarh -- bounded by a wall and the sea, there is no place to run.

This is the third time in six years that the people of Gaza have had to endure such an attack.

Experts say the aggressive attack was prompted by a national revulsion in Israel after the seminary students’ death. It may be noted that there is huge popular support in Israel for the military action.  "This is a wake-up call," Shlomo Avineri, one of Israel's most respected political scientists, told the New York Times. "A line has been crossed ... this is absolute evil."

The international response to the escalating Israel-Gaza tensions has been at best mixed. While the West and its media have emphasised Israel's right to defend itself, regional powers have called the attacks on Gaza 'savage'.

Even though White House reiterates its support to Israel’s right to defend itself, but one wonders why US plays the ostrich. The European Union, like the US, condemned the “indiscriminate” rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel but also focused on the growing number of civilian casualties caused by Israel’s retaliation. But just the call for both sides to exercise restraint to re-establish calm is quite soft.

As has happened in the past, what is being reported – particularly in the West – about Palestinians and Israelis fighting each another on a level battle field, under same conditions and on a level playing field. It’s certainly no more Muslims versus Jews, not just about Palestinian “terrorists”  inviting retaliation by a country’s Army. Some years ago, in similar Israeli attacks in Jerusalem many Palestinian Christians suffered as much as their Muslim neighbours. Few remain but as Israeli bombs rain on West Bank inhabitants, there’s no sensor yet made to make detection of man, woman, child, Christian, non-Christian possible.

And the media in the West, surprisingly continues to be silent about these deeper issues and continue to give the conflict merely Israeli-Palestinian colour. Back in 2001, the media largely ignored the conditions of the occupation and continue to do so. Inaccuracies too continue on reporting human rights issues in the region.

But not all have been so much at ease with all this. According to Guardian columnist Seumas Milen “The idea that Israel is defending itself against unprovoked attacks from outside its borders is an absurdity. Despite Israel’s withdrawal of settlements and bases in 2005, Gaza remains occupied both in reality and international law, its border, coastal waters, resources, airspace and power supply controlled by Israel”.

According to Mint Press News founding editor-in-chief Mnar Muhawesh, "The deaths of Israeli teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah represent a tragedy- one that no family should have to face. Violence touches communities deeply and does not spare race, creed or intellect. What I grapple with, is the reaction to their deaths — Israeli lawmakers calling for a genocide and vengeance against Arabs, the torture and murder of 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdair by Israeli settlers, Israeli settlers’ continued kidnapping and abuse of Palestinian children, and now the Israeli military operation and violent assault against Gaza that is collectively punishing 1.7 million people who are already living in poverty. Gaza has been described by human rights groups as an open air prison with no where to escape. It has to end."

What is also surprising this time is that while the sufferings of Palestinian people prompted spurts of anger and condemnation across the world, little action is seen in the Arab world. Official Arab responses have been fairly muted, partly because of the hostility of Saudi Arabia and Egypt towards Hamas, analysts say.

Jordan called the attack as “barbaric aggression” against Gaza, but, it is unlikely to jeopardise its peace treaty with Israel. Turkey was reported to have warned Israel that the Gaza Strip escalation could lead to “chaos in our region”, while  Iran lambasted “savage aggression by the Zionists”.

For decades Palestine was the touchstone of pan-Arab solidarity but since the 1973 war, that has meant little more than posturing. Experts say all 21 members of the Arab League have formally endorsed a 2002 Saudi plan for peace – based on Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders. The split between the PLO and Hamas in 2006 weakened the Palestinians, but wider divisions since the start of the Arab spring uprisings in 2011 have damaged the cause even further, as pointed out by global media.

With the entire region in turmoil, it is unlikely that the world will see an early solution to the West Bank conflict. Even Egypt, which use to mediate in earlier conflicts, is not showing any interest this time.

However, the international community must not allow  the conflict to escalate. In the absence of any Arab initiative, Israel's western backers, must use their leverage to nudge Israel to lessen tension, and stop the attack. UN also must intervene to end the conflict. Otherwise, gory images of death and destruction will continue to flow in our drawing rooms.

Interestingly, though as in other events, social media witnessed outrage against the Israel attack. It has becomes the latest battleground in Middle East aggression and become a minefield of propaganda and misinformation, as per The Guardian.

Graphic violent images of civilians under fire were posted in large numbers, suggesting that news organisations were turning a blind eye to the attacks. “The media are not reporting anything,” was the hashtag’s catch line. From #prayforgaza hashtags to 'bomb shelter selfies', millions in Israel took to social media to share their experiences of the ongoing Gaza crisis, according to media reports.

Contrary to its traditional stand of firmly standing with the Palestinians, the new government in India took an `equivalence’ stand this time. An  External Affairs spokesperson  while expressing deep concern  at the steep escalation of violence said that India is also alarmed at the “cross-border provocations resulting from rocket attacks against targets in parts of Israel.”

The Indian stand has left West Asian rivals disappointed, says Suhasini Haidar Strategic and Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu, adding that “India seems to have pleased neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian side with its stand of ‘equivalence’ over the conflict in Gaza”.

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