How it was Palestine: the Ottomans and the British

For 400 years the land of Palestine was a territory of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. That empire vanished into history at the end of the First World War. The Palestinians suddenly found themselves a League of Nations territory mandated to the control of Britain.

Most of the Palestinian people were and are Sunni Muslims, itself the tradition of most Islamic people. For these people, the British mandate ended in literal catastrophe – the Nakba in Arabic. From the beginning to its abandonment of the mandate in 1948, Britain facilitated Jewish migration to Palestine with the intent that there be a Jewish “homeland”.

In 1949, after three years of ferocious ethnic cleansing, the Zionist view that this homeland should be a Jewish nation state came to fruition. About 800,000 Palestinian Arabs were driven out of their lands which lay within the self-proclaimed State of Israel. 150,000 remained in what was now Israel. This was also, for Palestinian Arabs, the death of a British First World War promise to the Arabs that, if the Arabs revolted against the Ottomans, Britain would support Arab independence.

From 1949 on, Arab failures in subsequent conflicts with Israel left Israel in military occupation of West Bank Palestine and Gaza.

Oslo: Promise and Failure

In the 1990’s, United States President, Bill Clinton worked with then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat to resolve the long-standing conflict. The first Oslo agreement was signed between the two leaders in Washington, D.C. in 1993; and the second Oslo agreement was signed in Taba, Egypt, in 1995.

The Oslo process sought to achieve a peace treaty based on Resolution 242 and Resolution 338 of the United Nations Security Council. As part of the process the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) recognised the State of Israel and ended armed resistance against Israel in favour of a two-state solution. However, Israel did not recognize the state of Palestine.

Rabin was murdered by a Jewish extremist and far right Israeli leaders killed the Oslo peace process. Subsequently, Israeli occupation gathered momentum via illegal Jewish settlements in occupied territories. Israel now maintains a heavy handed and oppressive control over Palestinians. Palestinians widely considered that they were betrayed both by Israel and the PLO. How would the struggle for a free Palestine continue?

Hamas

This is the background which led frustrated Palestinians in Gaza to support a new resistance group, Hamas.

Hamas is a Gaza based armed resistance movement committed to free Palestine. For its Palestinian supporters, it represented hope of resistance to an oppressive occupation.

On 7 October 2023, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing 1200 and taking hostage 250 Israelis and foreign nationals. Hamas justified its attack as a response to what it called Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people. Such a brutal attack, by anyone, should never have happened, and must not be justified or defended.

Israel

That Israel’s response would be ferocious was inevitable. That it would become an unbridled rampage against all of Gaza was not. That it would become the unrestrained slaughter of women and children was not. That it would become a genocide against the people of Gaza was not.

That the United States would supply and continue to supply 2000 pound (900 kg) bombs which have been recklessly dropped on crowded Gaza was a shock to those of us who believed in America as a force for good. It is not a surprise that seven months of Israeli bombardment with these weapons of terror and mass destruction has killed more than 34,000 people and wounded more than 77,000, the majority women and children. More uncounted dead lie buried under the ruins of the homes, schools and hospitals of Gaza.

US Senator, Bernie Sanders told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: “It Is not antisemitic to hold you accountable. Please, do not insult the intelligence of the American people by attempting to distract us from the immoral and illegal war policies of your extremist and racist government.

No, Mr. Netanyahu. It is not antisemitic or pro-Hamas to point out that in a little over six months, your extremist government has killed 34,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 77,000—70% of whom are women and children. It is not antisemitic to point out that your bombing has completely destroyed more than 221,000 housing units in Gaza, leaving more than one million people homeless—almost half the population.”

Role of USA 

For a long time, the whole world was hoping that USA will be a peacemaker in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The peace-loving people in the world became frustrated when USA took a side rather than resolving the problem. Israel would not have been able to defy UNSC resolution and ICJ preliminary verdicts without US backing. It was really hard to believe that the champion of human right would supply arms to an army knowing well that it would be used to kill children and destroy hospitals, schools and homes.

The call for immediate ceasefire and ensure continuous supply of essential goods in Gaza have become a genuine demand of US conscious, especially to the young generation. If the superpower wishes to remain relevant in the world stage, let alone to its own citizens, now is the time to pay due attention to the voice of peace with two-state solution which is loud and clear from all corners of the world.

Recognition of Palestine by UN  

As reported by Al-Jazeera on 10 May 2024, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) backed a Palestinian bid for membership of the UN. The vote by the 193-member UNGA on Friday was a global survey of support for the Palestinian bid to become a full UN member. This is a move that would effectively recognise a Palestinian state, although the US vetoed it in the UNSC last month.

This time Australia and New Zealand have made the right choice of a ‘Yes’ vote along with European nations such as France, Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Slovakia. As usual, the US joined Israel for a ‘No’ vote, but UK, Canada and most of Europe abstained. There were 143 yes and 9 no votes, and 25 abstentions.

This resolution does not give Palestine full UN membership, but recognises them as qualified to join and extends rights.

Opportunity for peace

On 26 April 2024, CNN reported that Hamas was willing to give up armed struggle against Israel if Palestine becomes an independent state under the agreed upon 1967 Israel-Palestine borders. Basem Naim, a spokesman for the Political Bureau of Hamas, said that the group would agree to disarm if an independent Palestinian state was established.

Any imposed foreign peace proposal via USA on Hamas and Palestine coated as Arab peace initiative is unlikely to work. The only way to achieve sustainable peace is not only to include people of Gaza and West Bank in the negotiation but also take them in confidence. Only the Palestinians could speak for themselves, not their neighbouring Arab states or any other powerful nations, and reshape their future.

Australia as a Peacemaker

The Hamas declaration on disarmament in favour of transitioning to peaceful political action is a game changer for all those who sincerely want an end to the conflict.

Australian governments have traditionally supported the US position on this conflict. Although Australia speaks of supporting two-state solutions, so far it has only recognized Israel but not Palestine. The actions of Australian governments have not demonstrated commitment to two states. Australia has yet to recognize the state of Palestine.

However, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong has lit a candle in the darkness. Earlier this year, Ms Wong courageously stated her view that a two-state solution is a necessity for a peaceful outcome in Palestine.

Australia now has an opportunity to be a leader on this issue: Years of fruitless and costly military interventions in the Middle East and Asia have overshadowed the great work of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in disaster relief and peacemaking in places such as Rwanda, throughout the Pacific and in Timor-Leste.

Let Australia be seen as the reliable friend of those stricken by disaster. I do not claim expertise, but my encounters with the coming generation of Australian students persuade me that they have big hearts, a generosity of spirit and contempt for those who engineer the slaughter of the innocents.

As a concern Australian, I propose to Albanese goernemnt:

Firstly, with those states, which include Spain and Ireland, who have decided to recognize Palestine, Australia could make a historic shift towards resolving the longest lasting humanitarian issue on earth. Remember Australia’s courageous support of the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia and the work of the ADF towards resolving the Timor Leste crisis in 1999. This is the moment to show that the foremost aim of Australia’s foreign policy is for the good and the welfare of humanity.

Secondly, Australia should support the new state’s establishment as a United Nations Protectorate, demilitarized and protected from overflight of military aircraft and ordinance of all kinds and wherever originating.

Thirdly, there is in now Gaza a generation of maimed, wounded and orphaned children. Let Australia lead the way in helping these suffering innocent victims of atrocity and human cruelty. Whatever one’s views of the cause, no words can excuse the wickedness of those who kill, maim and cripple little children.

Fourthly, let Australia work with our neighbours and friends to rebuild the destroyed schools and hospitals of Gaza, such as the now destroyed Indonesian Hospital. That will build enduring bonds of friendship and respect both in the Middle East and with our own neighbours.

 

Zomi Frankcom stands for the very best in young Australia. Returning from a food delivery in aid of starving Palestinians, Zomi and other heroes from around the world were killed by an air strike on their supposedly safe route home. Zomi and each of her friends was a martyr in the cause of humanity.

There could be no better tribute to this wonderful woman than Australia’s wholehearted commitment to relieving and ending the suffering in Gaza, a place she loved so much. And let Australia build in Gaza a school or hospital in Zomi’s memory.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are exclusively  the author’s and in no way reflect that of any of his affiliated institutions.