Madness in the Middle-East

Anand Kamalakar
6 min readOct 12, 2023

--

CNN and BBC called it a “terrorist attack”. Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya News called it a “military operation”. Therein lies the contradiction and tragedy of what this hundred year old tribal war has come to define. Two different narratives, two opposing viewpoints and the mangling of history.

What happened here this past weekend was unadulterated barbarism. A kind of brutality this part of the world is much too familiar with from the time of the Crusades.

President Biden defined the act as “pure evil”. Someone else called it “Israel’s 9/11” and compared it to the Holocaust. Senator Lindsey Graham asked Israel to level Gaza if they needed to, to get rid of Hamas. Republican Niki Haley said Israel needs to do whatever it takes to eliminate Hamas from the earth. Obama said we must squarely stand alongside our ally, Israel, as it dismantles Hamas. Secretary Blinken said Israel would have all the weapons it needs to deal with the situation including warships in the Mediterranean on stand by. And Benjamin Netanyahu said the middle east would never be the same after Israel did whatever it needed, to eradicate Hamas.

No sooner did these statements make the news cycle, bombs were being unloaded from an American airplane at an Israeli airport as Hamas fired rockets from rooftops.

So yet again the war cries were loud and clear. Bombs were being seen as the solution.

Two million Palestinians who live in poverty and deplorable conditions, as refugees under UN protection and have been dealing with a siege for sixteen years, were again made to run as bombs rained down. Gaza, the bleak prison camp that it has been for so long, has now been pushed into further despair as all supplies have been cut off. Doctors Without Borders declared the situation a “collective punishment” inflicted on innocent civilians, which amounts to a war crime. Hospitals without power are on the brink of turning into morgues.

The Israeli families and others who have lost loved ones, are distraught in their grief. Many want revenge. The politics of the land needs to respond, and the only way to do that is with overwhelming force. Which has been the norm here. And so madness has taken root. The end of Hamas, if that is even possible, is the only answer before many. This, as everyone knows, can only come with more blood shed and more death of women and children. Many of whose faces will not be seen on CNN, in feature stories by Clarissa Ward.

To the right wing populist leaders in Israel, who have been emboldened the last few months, this moment may be the one they have been waiting for.

Many have been openly wishing and hoping Palestinians would miraculously disappear from their land. Now it seems like they have found a reason to push them into the sea by effectively cutting them off from civilization.

For many Israelis what is happening is something the Palestinians have brought upon themselves by supporting an infernal enterprise. But for many Palestinians, it is a choice they never had. When you are occupied, oppressed and denied freedom, your options are limited.

Hamas to many in the Arab world, is a resistance group. Much like the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) from the early days of the struggle. The PLO was designated a terrorist organization by the west then, but in the Arab world, they were freedom fighters and their leaders are still worshipped.

In the first nine months of 2023 alone, Israel has killed at least 230 Palestinians, a level of violence that has already exceeded the total death toll during 2022. It is also the highest recorded number of casualties in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians since 2005, according to the United Nations. This rise in Israeli military and settler brutality signifies an unprecedented level of violence across all the Palestinian territories, fueled and encouraged by a troubling sense of impunity and a lack of accountability for those responsible.

Recently Benjamin Netanyahu showed a picture of Israel at the UN which sent shockwaves through the Arab world.

He showed a map of Israel which did not demarcate Gaza and The West Bank, effectively sending a message, that this was the ultimate aim.

The normalization of the siege of Gaza by the international community, had become something many Arabs and Palestinians could not tolerate. The indefinite detention of Palestinian political prisoners without due process was another violation that had gone ignored for much too long. And the many incursions by the IDF at Al-Aqsa mosque has always riled up tensions and Hamas gave that as one of the reasons for their latest carnage.

This tribal war that started more than a century ago seems to have no end in sight. It certainly escalated to an appalling level this time, fueled by the drip-drip nature of the conflict and generation after generation, accumulated deep-seated traumas.

When the people in power cannot broker peace it is the innocent who pay with their lives, and often they are the young. Like the ones who were celebrating life at the music festival and were butchered by those who came from beyond the wall. From a place where there is no future but only hate, despair and violence. Where the young have no festivals to attend and are ripe fodder for those who want to kill and cause pain.

In 1993, Yossi Beilin, the Israeli deputy minister of foreign affairs, recruited two college professors, Yair Hirschfeld and Ron Pundak, for back-channel negotiations with the Palestinians to find a viable path to peace. He specifically told them, “if you get caught you will be charged with treason and espionage and I cannot protect you.” They took the cue and decided to dream the unthinkable.

The 2018 HBO documentary “The Oslo Diaries” takes you on an intimate journey revealing how close the negotiators came in achieving the impossible.

Told through the diaries of the chief negotiators and interviews of others involved, the documentary charts the journey to the Oslo Peace Accords and shows how Yitzak Rabin and Yaseer Arafat agreed to set aside their deep mistrust and hatred to bring an end to decades of bloodshed.

Through secretly filmed footage and news archives from the time, the film tells a gripping story of how peace was within grasp before it was wrecked by an assassin’s bullet. The hardliners won by killing Yitzak Rabin and quashing the dreams of millions of Israelis and Palestinians who wanted to live side by side in peace.

As ground realities shifted Benjamin Netanyahu came to power defeating Shimon Peres by a slender margin. The Oslo Accords were abandoned. Hamas became a formidable force and more than 16,000 people have lost their lives since. This number spiked this week all over again.

The people who dreamed of peace are still around. But the audacity of hope seems to have vanished.

At the end of the documentary, Shimon Peres, who was one of the chief negotiators of the Oslo Accords and later became Prime Minister after Yitzak Rabin’s assassination and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is asked if he is optimistic about peace. He says,

“I don’t think there is an alternative, neither for the Palestinians nor us. The only alternative is an ongoing war. In war there are no victors, only victims. No war is ever finished. Unless it is being replaced by peace.”

This was his last interview. Shimon Peres passed away in 2016.

America has Israel’s back, as it should. But it needs to know that the world is watching and a double standard does not bode well. In Ukraine an occupation is being responded to, by providing military support to the underdog. In the middle east, Israel is seen as the occupier and aggressor, virulent under the current regime.

Hamas’ butchery is inexcusable and abhorrent to anyone with a conscience or an iota of humanity. But dropping bombs and destroying civilian infrastructure, plunging millions into darkness and not opening humanitarian aid corridors, also goes against the Geneva conventions and the laws of humanity.

The ones with the bigger guns always have the greater responsibility in the eyes of the world.

--

--

Anand Kamalakar

Anand Kamalakar is a Brooklyn based documentary film director, producer and editor. His latest film is Colonel Kalsi (colonelkalsifilm.com)