By Justice Markandey Katju–
(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)
In 1908, Indian revolutionaries launched a series of bomb attacks on British officials in Bengal, in which several British people were killed.
The great Indian freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was critical of the moderate approach to the fight for independence from British rule, wrote in his newspaper ‘Kesari’: “Violence, however deplorable, becomes inevitable when the rulers, who have converted the entire nation into a prison, begin to overawe the people in an endeavour to create despondency among them by terrible oppression and unduly frightening them. Then the sound of the bomb is spontaneously produced to impart to the authorities the knowledge that the people have reached the limit of their tolerance of oppression.”
This explains the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and the continuing war since then.
Many people have condemned the Hamas attack, but they overlook the 75 year long history of atrocities and oppression of the Palestinian Arabs. Before the state of Israel was created (on the pretext that the persecuted Jews of Europe needed a homeland, but really to ensure safety of Middle East oil supplies for Western industries), about 90% people living there were Palestinian Arabs.
In 1948, Israeli attacks began on them, many of them including women and children were killed, and most of the remaining fled from their homeland out of fear in an exodus known as the Nakba.
As a result, today only about 20% people living in Israel are Palestinian Arabs, the remaining 70% having been driven out of their homeland, and still living in horrific conditions in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, often without employment, food, water, electricity, and healthcare.
After the Six Day War of 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank, the territory west of the Jordan river, which was part of Jordan, and is still occupying most of it, and building Jewish settlements there, thus driving out more Palestinians from their homes.
This was bound to create a reaction one day, for, as the adage goes, ‘wherever there is oppression there is resistance’, and the Hamas attack of October 7 must be understood in this context. It was an outburst of long existing grievances of Palestinians
Of course Hamas committed some atrocities, the true extent of which is still unknown, since in war truth is the first casualty. But the Israeli response has been both horrific and disproportionate. Reports suggest that up to 20,000 Gazans have been killed in Israeli air strikes including some on hospitals and residential complexes, and the Israeli army has occupied north Gaza, driving out the people there to the southern part of this congested strip of land.
Many Israeli leaders say they will destroy Hamas, but they forget that most Palestinians are supporting it, and have identified themselves with it. Even in the West Bank, part of which is under the Palestinian Authority (PA; earlier called Palestinian Liberation Organization or PLO) headed by Mahmoud Abbas, most Palestinians have shifted their support to Hamas, giving up their earlier support to the PLO, whose leaders are perceived as Western puppets.
If the Israelis thought that with the enormous fire power of their military they would easily and swiftly destroy Hamas and the Palestinian resistance, as in the Six Day War, by now they must be having second thoughts. It is not six days but six weeks since the hostilities began, with no sign of abatement.
It is going to be a long haul, as the Americans found in Vietnam, or the Russians in Afghanistan, and there is no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, as Gen Westmoreland, the US commander in Vietnam, proclaimed.
This time it will not be a short war. It will not be another 1948 war, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur war, or the ‘intifadas’.
It will be a long drawn conflict with huge casualties, until justice is done to the long suffering Palestinians.