Diplomatic Eye-EP 11

A Tiny Ray of Hope amid Hamas-Israel War (Video)

It was October 7th, 2023. The time was 6.30 a.m. in Israel.

According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Hamas militants launched 2,200 rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well as southern and central Israel. Hamas asserted that at least 5,000 missiles had been launched, all of which had landed in southern and central Israel. Approximately an hour after the initial missile attacks, Hamas entered Israel via land, sea, and air.

Twenty-two Israeli towns and army bases were attacked, and both residents and troops were held hostages by Hamas. According to media report, around 350 Israelis, including women and children lost their lives, while hundreds more were abducted and brought to Gaza. In armed attacks by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, ten Nepali students were also killed and four others were injured on October 07.

The War between Israel and Hamas, which broke out in an unexpected onslaught on October 7, 2023, was the most recent of seven decades of bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians, which has attracted foreign countries and destabilized the larger Middle East.

Israel has 9.8 million people, with 73.6% of them Jews, 21.1% Arabs, and 5.3% others, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.

Arab-Israeli wars, a string of armed clashes between Israeli and other Arab forces, were most notable in 1948–1949, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006.

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War saw over 6,000 Israeli Jews and 10,000 Arab troops and civilians killed, while over 500,000 Palestinian Arabs were forcibly displaced. The Suez Crisis in 1956 saw a military assault on Egypt by Israel, France, and Britain, resulting in 3,200 deaths and 5,500 injuries. The Six-Day War in 1967 saw Egypt, Jordan, and Syria at war with Israel while Arab armies received men and weapons from Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and others. The war resulted in catastrophic losses for Arab nations with over 11,000 deaths in Egypt and over 11,000 in Jordan.

 The Yom Kippur War in 1973 marked the start of the war with Egypt and Syria violating cease-fire lines in the Sinai and Golan Heights. Israel eventually overcame Arab forces, but no significant geographical changes occurred. The 1982 Lebanon War resulted in 17,825 deaths and 30,203 injuries, with the highest death toll in southern Lebanon.

The 2006 Lebanon War began as a military action in retaliation for Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli reserve soldiers. The conflict began on July 12, 2006, and lasted until a ceasefire brokered by the UN took effect on August 14, 2006. The conflict reached a deadlock in 2006.

These instances demonstrate the ongoing hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.

Media reports, following the current Hamas-Israel war, revealed that more than 900 people have died at a hospital in Gaza that was struck by a rocket on October 18, 2023. The number of fatalities keeps going up. The Israel-Hamas War has already caused over 3,000 injuries and approximately 1228 dead in Israel. Similarly, more than 2300 individuals have already lost their lives and 10,583 more have been injured in Gaza. During the course of recording this presentation, over 4,000 people had lost their lives in Palestine and Israel combined after October 07, 2023.

What is Hamas?
Government of the Gaza Strip in the Palestinian Territories is carried out by Hamas, which is also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement. Because of its armed opposition to Israel, which has included suicide bombings and missile strikes, the US and EU have branded Hamas as a terrorist organization. It receives material and financial backing from Iran, and some of its top officials are purportedly housed in Turkey. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s dominant party and the government in the West Bank, Fatah, is its competitor and has renounced violence.

History reminds that five months before the Oslo Accords were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat in April 1993, Hamas used suicide bombing for the first time. In accordance with the historic agreement, certain areas of the West Bank and Gaza were granted limited autonomy by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas denounced the agreements as well as the recognition of one another by the PLO and Israel, which Arafat and Rabin had agreed to in letters written a few days prior to the Oslo Accord.

A cease-fire is essential
We were heartbroken to learn that 10 of our innocent Nepali students had died in a barbaric, inhumane attack by Hamas on October 07.

Only deaths occurred as a result of the protracted conflict, most of them were women, children, and elderly innocent civilians. For humanity, maintaining peace is the most lucrative endeavor. When the dispute is settled swiftly, future success is enhanced.

Israeli author, historian, and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Yuval Noah Harari, wrote in The Guardian that nothing could reverse what had already been done. Personal wounds would never fully heal, and the deceased could not be brought back to life. But we must stop the situation from worsening. He continued by saying that many reckless religious extremists control the region. To diffuse the crisis, outside powers must intervene.

According to Reuters, President Xi Jingping was quoted by Chinese state media as stating on October 19th that China wanted the Israel-Hamas conflict to end as soon as possible and that Beijing was eager to cooperate with Arab states to find a long-term solution. Xi was speaking following his meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, the senior Middle Eastern representative attended at China’s infrastructure Belt and Road Forum.The delivery of humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip “in a sustainable manner” through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was agreed upon by Egypt and the United States on October 18th, 2023.

Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza: Children, Journalists and UN Staff members are at higher risks
In order to help children and families in need, save lives, and stop further suffering, UNICEF is urging an immediate ceasefire as well as unfettered humanitarian access.

On October 25, UNICEF took to its social media page X’s handle in posting a statement detailing the horrifying toll: 2,360 children in Gaza had died and 5,364 had been injured, while over 30 Israeli children had also lost their lives.

UNICEF’s official webpage reads, “Time is running out. Children are dying at an alarming rate and being denied their basic rights. Even wars have rules. Hospitals and schools must be protected from bombings, and they must not be used for military purposes, in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

Recently, CNN stated in a statement issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on October 27 revealed that since Hamas’s initial strike on October 7, at least 29 journalists have died.

According to CPJ, as cited by CNN, at least 24 of the dead journalists were Palestinian, four were Israeli, and one was Lebanese.

CNN mentions in a separate story that as of Friday, October 27th, a statement from the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said that 14 UN staff members have died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of UN personnel murdered in Gaza to 53.

Amidst the current Middle East crisis, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is in Kathmandu for a four-day official visit.

Nepal’s initiative to bring Nepali people from Israel
People from Nepal living in Israel felt afraid as a result of the abrupt and unexpected attack by Hamas on October 7. Foreign Minister NP Saud travelled to Israel on October 12, 2023, with the goal of returning 250 Nepalis to the country. The Foreign Minister’s visit to Israel received mixed reviews. While some people praised his efforts, others criticized him because he arrived there without much planning. In addition to meeting with his Israeli counterpart, he ought to send a message from the head of the government asking to see the Prime Minister. His diplomatic behavior, according to some detractors, was juvenile.

In this situation, I was interested in learning from a few diplomats and a former army general whether or not the Foreign Minister should travel to Israel.

Prof Mohan Lohani, the former Ambassador of Nepal to Bangladesh suggests that it was not necessary for FM to fly for a few hours in order to escort back home stranded Nepalis from Israel. His personal presence in Israel could not solve the problem of bringing home 10 dead bodies of students killed by Hamas. He further asserts that the Government could have shown and should continue to show its concern over the safety of Nepali people in Israel through constant communication and coordination with the Nepal embassy in Israel and concerned line ministries in Kathmandu.

Dr. Purna Silwal also believes that there was no need to go Foreign Minister himself in the rescue flight unless there was a planned meeting with Israeli counterpart with a view to conveying Nepali Prime Minister´s message to Israeli PM about Nepal´s position on what has happened. In absence of such meeting, he could have given a brief interview to the Israeli /Nepali media at the Tel Aviv airport and expressed solidarity with the Israeli people in order to make his visit a fruitful one, according to Dr. Silwal.

It is important to keep in mind that Nepal and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1960, during the administration of Prime Minister B.P. Koirala. Israel was recognized as an independent state by BP in 1948, even though the rest of the world had not yet come to terms with its existence. As a matter of fact, Israel has a high admiration for Nepal.

Ambassador Pradhumna Bikram Shah states that one of the prime responsibilities of a nation is to safeguard the interest of Nepalese at home and foreign land and this move falls under the nation’s foreign policy. Shah reminds that we have had many such occurrences in the past weather in Iraq or Afghanistan. However, we are doing this on an Ad-hoc basis as we lack a guide-lines to follow when such evacuation affairs need to be performed. Shah candidly asserts that although leaders often use such occasions as political gimmick to win the hearts of people, the move should be purely humanitarian.

Let me draw your attention back to the Israel-Hamas confrontation.

What would be the long-term solution of the Hamas-Israel Conflict?
I posed this query to two professors from the west, a European and an American.

Amsterdam based Professor and Management Expert Loek Hopstaken recalls that this dispute is may be the most complex one we have ever seen. Its continual evolution has paralleled his lifetime (he was born in 1951). He further states that he has gone from supporting one side to the other over time. He remembers, “I’ve spoken to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Everyone I’ve met has been intelligent and well-intentioned”, further adding, “One thing they both agree on is that religious extremists on both sides of the conflict are the main cause of the conflict”.

Prof. Hopstaken candidly asserts that these same crazies now hold governmental power, which is a shame. With extremists, whether religious or political, he has never been able to have a two-way conversation or a respectable exchange of ideas and viewpoints. Everyone who is not on their side is inferior in their eyes. Professor believes that they have no problem getting rid of anyone who doesn’t entirely concur with their actions and beliefs. Therefore, any diplomatic attempt to persuade them to sit down for talks will end in failure. In the meantime, people who want a decent life for themselves and their families are the war’s victims.

Professor Hopstaken firmly believes that a permanent peace can only be achieved when the fanatics on both sides are exterminated. He is worried that this is only a dream. Generation after generation has seen violence on both sides, and even after the zealots are gone, there will still be profound wounds to mend. The only functions that the “world” can perform are to contain the damage and offer humanitarian aid. However, some world leaders see military conflict as a chance to wreak more havoc and profit from it. A remedy, then? All we can do is aid those working to numb the suffering and stop the fighting, according to Professor Hopstaken.

Forbes featured Professor Dr. Ted Sun, who serves as both the president and chief innovation officer of Transcontinental University, believes that this is a conflict based on belief systems that’s entrenched in rivalry. A long term solution would first need to address these beliefs – education based on a world view of a single species working together to thrive in this planet. Following that, a truly free market will enable people to learn to work together and see each other as people working to feed their families. Prof Sun suggests that many people on both sides can only perceive the other as enemies. They can’t see anything else because their belief systems have blinders on. Beliefs, in Dr. Sun’s words, are hard to break, especially after a long history of hardships.

At least 5,791 Palestinians have died in Gaza as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which reached 19th day on October 25. Since the October 7 attack by Hamas that murdered 1,400 Israelis, there have been 96 Palestinian deaths and 1,650 injuries due to unrest and Israeli operations in the occupied West Bank. Every day, the number has been rising, What Yuval Noah Harari wrote in Time Magazine is something I would want to add: “This struggle for souls must be won. Israel has a responsibility to defend its territory and its population in its conflict with Hamas, but it also has a responsibility to defend its humanity. We are at war with Hamas, not with the Palestinians. Even in the midst of hostilities, all parties should uphold the fundamental human rights of Palestinian civilians, who deserve to live in peace and prosperity in their own homeland. This is not only referring to Israel, but also to Egypt, which has partially sealed its border with the Gaza Strip and shares it with Israel.”

Any kind of terrorism is harmful to humanity. The world order will be shaped by a number of continuing global upheavals, including the intensifying Israel-Hamas conflict, the protracted war in Russia-Ukraine, and the tensions between the US and China. The continuous confrontation between Israel and Hamas is thought to have an impact on the next US election. The longer the conflicts persist, the more detrimental they will be to US politics. Media reports stated that Arab and Muslim Americans, along with their friends, have taken issue with US President Joe Biden’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict. They fear that if he doesn’t do more to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, they won’t support him in the 2024 election. So, America’s and its partners’ and allies’ role is crucial in reducing the confrontation between Israel and Hamas. Though given its geostrategic location, Nepal cannot do much to stop this conflict; it would be prudent if the political leadership demonstrated autonomous and non-aligned foreign policy in a consistent and responsible manner.