The latest round of the Palestine-Israel conflict has lasted more than three weeks and, judging by the reluctance on the Israeli side for a truce, will continue for a long time. Despite the uncertainties of the endgame, the implications are already visible, one of which is that the Palestine issue has come back to the center of Middle East regional politics. A false picture, in the making for two decades, cannot hide the realities on the ground. It cannot hide the truth.
In international politics, a constructive veneer is often adopted in rhetoric. Politicians would like to paint pictures and narratives supporting their own political interests. For that purpose, they will always emphasize some aspects of a story while minimizing other aspects. Some intentionally create irrelevant concepts and rationales, and they may even deliberately distort the truth. These tactics might work temporarily, but the truth will always be there and will finally emerge to be seen by the world. In particular, no false image can live long when it goes too far beyond the truth, and the Middle East in the last two decades has seen all too many images made for political purposes.
First is the depiction of the Palestinian Authority as a corrupt institution. When asked about why the Middle East process stalled, Israeli scholars unanimously parrot the argument that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt. They mean that they cannot find a proper negotiating partner because the Palestine Authority had lost legitimacy. It was corrupted somehow, even though reasonable experts cannot see the connection.
A Google search for “corruption of Palestinian Authority” yields a huge number of articles and papers with sources from Israel, the United States, Western media and academics.
Second is to portray Hamas as a terrorist organization. It’s not just Israel and the United States doing this but also Europeans. The media and academics there sometimes label Hamas and various other organizations in the Gaza Strip as terrorist organizations. A very simple Google search yields similar outcomes.
Third is to tag Iran as a regional threat. Throughout the last two decades since the demise of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, we find discussions about Middle East issues disproportionately focused on an alleged Iran threat and how to deal with it. Scholars of Middle East studies have heard Israeli predictions that Iran would produce a nuclear bomb soon — in 2003, 2007, 2014 and 2022. It makes no difference that this has been disproved many times. The predictions just keep coming out.
It may be true that the Palestine Authority has some corrupt element, which is no different from any country, including Israel and the United States. It is true that Hamas is one of the most vociferous groups opposing Israel, but its accusers should not evade talking about the occupation as background. It is also true that Iran has been competing for geopolitical influence in the region, but Iran is far from representing the whole picture of the region.
The real intent of the image makers actually lies in the fact that one party of the conflict is unwilling to move forward with a negotiated two-state solution of the Palestine issue. The shrinking maps of the occupied Palestinian territories clearly indicate that Israel is far from ready to make concessions on territory, and would even seize more. By painting Iran as a major regional threat, Israel intends to divert the focus of the regional problems away from itself. By portraying the Palestinian Authority as corrupt and Hamas as a terrorist organization, Israel seeks to avoid any meaningful negotiations. The excuse is that that it does not have a counterpart.
However, the truth is simply out there, and image making can never escape the limits of truth. The real significance of the latest round of the Palestine-Israel conflict is that it brings the truth out of the picture painted by Israel, the U.S. and the West. The Palestine issue remains at the core of regional politics despite the many efforts to sideline the issue. So long as the occupation continues, the siege is there. Absent a solution, resistance will be there.
Despite the alienation of certain Western powers, Muslims in the Middle East and across the world strongly identify with the legitimate cause of Palestinian nationhood. They are also concerned about the Al Aqsa Mosque, which is one of the holy places in their religious tradition.
The Palestine issue is also about justice, which should the foundation of world order. The Palestinians have been deprived of their lands, where their ancestors have lived for more than a thousand years. Their traffic, their water and their electricity are frequently cut off, and their homes are frequently demolished by bombs and gunfire. Their human rights have been seriously undermined, as arrests, false imprisonment and even killings are frequently conducted. There are even generations of millions of refuges who desire to come back to their own lands. So long as justice is not implemented, people around the world will have an eye on the region.
Politicians, including those of some European countries, were following the steps of U.S. President Joe Biden, who visited Israel recently for political purposes. But those people on the streets are very clear about very simple truths. Cities across the world, from Washington to Cairo, recently have robust demonstrations. What the protesters are against is not just a humanitarian disaster but also the absence of justice.
The UN General Assembly voted recently for the Gaza resolution, which called for an immediate and sustained humanitarian truce on Oct. 26. The vote was telling, as 120 countries were in favor for the resolution, with 14 against and 45 abstaining under U.S. pressure.
Turning a blind eye to the problem does not make the problem disappear. If Israel and the United States do not reverse their Palestine policies, things on the ground will develop into not only a humanitarian disaster in the Palestine territories but also in other parts of the region and the world.
The undeniable realities are out there. First, Israel will not accept a one-state solution as that would turn it into an Arab country by virtue of its own voting system. Second, several million Palestinians are living there, and they will not just disappear in a day or two. Third, continuing suppression and a military siege will only result in resistance, as history has shown many times. Therefore, the only way out is a negotiated solution. Israel will have to accept this reality, and the United States will also.