The brutal onslaught of the Israeli forces in Gaza continues relentlessly. Over 8000 Palestinians have lost their lives and thousands more are injured with countless others rendered homeless. There is no electricity, water or internet in the area. Medicines are not available and hospitals are closing down. The Palestinians of Gaza are being bombed back to the Stone Age, and public opinion is now fast turning against Israel with huge rallies of support for Palestine in almost all the major cites of the world, but ironically the Muslim nations or the so called Muslim Ummah appears to be rather indifferent to the situation, with just statements of condemnation and oral assault on Israel. On the other hand the USA and all Western democracies have shown complete and steadfast support for the Israeli aggression. In spite of the grim genocidal situation faced by the Gaza residents and the massacre of women and children, the USA and the EU leaders are not calling or asking Israel for an immediate ceasefire.
Israel now has even dared to launch a ground assault with armoured units and infantry divisions and the already battered and bruised Gaza strip is faced with a terrible catastrophic situation. Israel’s naked aggression is now spinning out of control and in fact posing a grave danger for the entire Middle East and the world at large. Israel has already bombed areas in Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, thus deliberately extending the theatre of war and poring oil on a very volatile and explosive situation.
The frontline states in the Arab-Israel conflict are Egypt, Jordan and Syria and by now most Israeli enemies of old have established diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Turkey have issued statements of condemnation but no practical steps have been taken by the Muslim world to help or assist the Palestinians and Israel is receiving huge supplies of arms and financial support from the USA and the EU. Saudi Arabia was on the brink of brokering a peace deal between Israel and Palestine and the Gaza conflict has now extinguished the likelihood of such a deal. Important Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have also not voiced any practical or helpful ways for the Palestinians, and perhaps Pakistan is the only Muslim country that is vehemently anti-Israel and pro Palestine.
The Gaza strip has largely been reduced to rubble and dust but with all the horrific losses, courageous Palestinians they are still resisting and fighting back with everything they have got even when the Israeli PM has stated that this will be a long and protracted war. In fact, it may be argued that the Palestinian resistance fighters are giving a fitting reply to the Israeli armed forces. Most of the Muslim countries have only issued very guarded statements and have avoided any severe condemnation of Israel aggression. Ironically support for the Palestinian cause has receded in the world and there has been a scramble to normalise relations with Israel for their own geo political reasons or to please the super powers backing Israel. Many Western democracies are now facing an outraged public at home because of the massacre in Gaza and there now appears a slight shift in their stance with muted calls for a ceasefire. The Israeli bombing of a hospital killing hundreds of civilians has increased tensions and the Arab countries of the Middle East have announced the cancellation of their summit meeting with the American President. Joe Biden visited Israel and demonstrated solidarity with Israel and justified Israel’s actions as their “right to defend itself.” The Arab countries have not even threatened to end diplomatic relations with Israel - and that is the least and most practical step that the Muslim countries could have taken but no such action appears to be even planned. The combined voice of the Arab countries or the Arab League called a meeting on 11 October and then issued a statement condemning the killings and massacre of civilians on “both sides” thus putting the blame squarely on both the Palestinians and Israel. Foreign Ministers of all the Arab countries present at this conference very vaguely discussed the need for immediate ceasefire while the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continued extinguishing more and more Palestinian lives.
Arab countries in particular and the Muslim nations at large are severely divided and split, with no common strategy for supporting the Palestinian cause. The collective voice of the Muslim world, the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) based in Saudi Arabia, called upon Israel to stop the killings of Palestinians and even here the differences of opinion about the diplomatic relations with Israel were very visible. However, recent normalisation deals between Israel and some nations in the group — as well as their own concerns about Hamas — saw diplomats at points instead criticise each other. The OIC statement called on Israel to respect Muslims’ access to Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, as well as stop settlers from forcibly evicting Palestinian families from their homes. But the video-conference meeting saw some delegates instead turn their fire toward countries like Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, that is, Muslim nations which reached normalisation deals last year to recognise Israel.
While Egypt and Jordan earlier reached peace deals, supporters of the Palestinians criticised the new countries for recognizing Israel before the formation of an independent Palestinian state. Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in 2007, didn’t take part in the meeting, which came before consultations at the United Nations over the crisis. Across the Arabian Peninsula, reactions to the fighting similarly has been mixed. In Qatar, home to the Al-Jazeera satellite network, hundreds turned out late Saturday night to listen to a speech by Hamas’ top leader Ismail Haniyeh. Kuwait’s parliament speaker reportedly spoke with Haniyeh on Saturday, as did Qatar’s foreign minister. There are murmurs of dissent though. In Bahrain, civil society groups signed a letter urging the kingdom to expel the Israeli ambassador. In the UAE, where political parties and protests are illegal, Palestinians have expressed their anger quietly, worried about losing their residency permits. Some Emiratis also have expressed concerns.
The situation will remain grim until the Muslim countries can hammer out a joint response to Israeli aggression.