As the global community urges a halt to the ongoing Israeli-Gaza armed conflict, Israel, bolstered by unwavering support from the mighty United States of America (USA) and Western Europe, is providing only brief daily respites in the form of four to six hourly ceasefires. These pauses are aimed at facilitating the movement of beleaguered Gazans from the besieged northern region to the comparatively safer southern part of Gaza and for relief to flow into the besieged country.
But the Gaza Strip and its residents that are experiencing a devastating form of destruction reminiscent of an apocalypse, with Israel acting aggressively, in the manner that resembles a wounded lion attacking its evidently weaker neighbor for invading and killing unarmed civilians. Owing to the ferocity of the counter attack by Israel,and the gruesome deaths of mostly innocent human beings particularly children,the world is once more on edge with protesters against the lsraeli -Hamas war literally covering the surface of the earth as they marched on all the major cities around the world.
As it may be recalled on October 7, the less powerful neighboring Gaza militants- Hamas invaded Israel’s territory with the intent to harm and violate defenseless Israelis, resulting in the killing of Israelis initially estimated to be 1,400 , currently scaled down to 1,200 and abduction of nearly 240 people who are still in their custody in Gaza . Since that time, which has been a little over one month, a reprisal war has raged on with lsrael, gaining the upper hand as Hamas/Gaza / Palestinians are being literally pulverized.
In light of these atrocities, anyone with a conscience and a sense of humanity would undoubtedly call for a ceasefire, as is currently happening worldwide through street protests in both the Arab world and the Western Hemisphere as well.
Arising from the global outcry, the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has emphasized, “Far too many Palestinians have lost their lives.” And urged lsrael to be more conscious on its targeting to prevent the alarming collateral damage being incurred via human casualties.
Additionally, during the Arab World meeting in Saudi Arabia that was held last Saturday , there has been a unanimous call for a ceasefire. However, Israel appears unyielding, connecting the plea for a ceasefire to the condition of releasing approximately 240 Israelis allegedly held as hostages by Gaza fighters.
To comply with the global call for a ceasefire, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, would be akin to surrendering to terrorism.
“The war is moving forward with force that Hamas has never seen,” Netanyahu proclaimed in a vigorous address commemorating a month since the invasion. “There will not be a ceasefire without the return of our kidnapped.”
The Israeli prisoners are probably detained in a sophisticated network of underground tunnels, assumed to resemble the intricate overhead bridges in Los Angeles, California, USA commonly referred to as’spaghetti’ due to the complex interweaving of roads above and below each other. This network of tunnels in Gaza is believed to be impregnable.
As such, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) may find it challenging to access these locations easily, making it difficult to rescue Israeli citizens. Therefore, opting for negotiations over sheer force appears to be the most viable approach to ensuring the safe return of Israeli hostages after a ceasefire has been implemented.
In an apparent effort to exert public pressure on the Israeli leadership, Hamas, or Islamic jihadist fighters in Gaza, seem to be employing a psychological approach. This is evident in a video featuring Israeli hostages, a 70-year-old and a 13-year-old, who are urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cooperate with their captors. The hostages warned that if they were harmed, the responsibility would lie with the prime minister. This tactic underscores a shift toward psychological warfare by the abductors rather than conventional military strategies.
That move by Hamas is obviously aimed at softening the heart of PM Netanyahu, particularly following the emotional outpouring from the Israeli public, especially the family members of the kidnapped, whose emotions would be heightened by the distress call in the video clip. It is yet to be established if that strategy would work as envisaged by Hamas, or conversely, if it may become a justification for Israel to intensify its military onslaught on Gaza.
That notion is underscored by the fact that the IDF, may get fired up to redouble efforts to rescue the hostages after watching the contents of the video, making the prospect of storming Gaza to rescue the unfortunate 240 Israelis abducted more urgent.In light of the extremely delicate circumstances surrounding the recent hostage situation, the daring commando raid on Entebbe airport in Uganda, east Africa in 1976 comes to mind as a poignant reference point.
This historic event, which occurred in 1976, involved the rescue of hostages from a passenger plane en route from Israel that had been hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. The memory of this heroic operation may cast a significant shadow on the minds of Israelis who lived through it and on the global consciousness as a whole.
Recalling the renowned Entebbe Raid staged by Israel on July 3–4, 1976, as highlighted by Britannica.com, seems relevant at this point. The event involved the rescue of 103 hostages from a hijacked French jet airliner en route from Israel to France.
The airliner was hijacked on June 27 after stopping in Athens by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Red Army Faction, a West German radical leftist group. The plane was then flown to Entebbe, Uganda, where additional accomplices joined the hijackers.
At Entebbe, the hijackers selectively released 258 passengers who were not identified as Israeli or Jewish while keeping the remainder hostage. Their demand for the release of 53 militants imprisoned in Israel, Kenya, West Germany, and other locations added a complex layer to the crisis.
In response to this dire situation, Israel took swift and decisive action. On July 3, they deployed four Hercules C-130H cargo planes, each carrying 100–200 soldiers, escorted by Phantom jet fighters. Covering a distance of approximately 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Israel to Uganda, the Israeli force executed a meticulously planned rescue mission.
Within an hour of landing, they successfully liberated the hostages, showcasing the effectiveness of their strategic and operational prowess.
All seven militants were neutralized, and 11 MiG fighters, provided to Uganda by the Soviet Union, were obliterated. The Israeli forces incurred the loss of one soldier and three hostages during the operation. On their way back, the Israeli planes rendezvoused with a waiting hospital plane and refuelled in Nairobi, Kenya. The success of the Entebbe raid significantly bolstered Israeli morale.
However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that this event occurred approximately 47 years ago, and the global landscape has undergone significant transformations since 1976. The current hostages are not as visibly situated as the airline hostages were in 1976; instead, they are likely held in the earlier referenced intricate and concealed underground tunnels scattered throughout the Gaza Strip.
In light of the evolving situation, countries like the US and European nations supporting Israel are facing significant criticism from their citizens for their unwavering endorsement of what some view as the dehumanizing treatment of Palestinians, potentially amounting to war crimes. This backlash is exacerbated by the stark power asymmetry between Israel, a financially and militarily dominant nation, and the impoverished and fledging Hamas/Gaza, the victim of its military operations.
As a counter force to that psychological warfare of whipping up sentiments by Hamas against lsrael, damning information has been released by Israel and her allies (the US and European countries) indicating that a three years old American baby is amongst the Americans taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 after killing the parents. Somehow, that revelation about the American lad in captivity may temper the anger against Israel and her Western backers in the war as evidenced by the street marches reminiscent of Black Lives Matter, BLM which rocked the world in 2020 after the unfortunate killing of a black man ,Mr George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota, USA.
Regarding the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza due to the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), UN Special Rapporteur, Francesca Albanese expressed her concerns, especially in the context of the introduction of the daily 4-6 hour battle pause.
“Think of what it may have felt for the [people] trapped in Gaza, Palestinians [and] hostages alike, especially the children, to be bombed incessantly night and day for 33 days. Not even a few hours of respite.”
In light of Israel’s mission to clear civilians from the northern part of Gaza and dismantle infrastructure suspected to be operational bases for Hamas, with the goal of completely eliminating what it considers a terrorist group, the military campaign currently underway is being prosecuted without mercy, which is why the very grim optics has ignited expressions of indignation and outrage by men and women of goodwill across the world.
During this operation, following the unmitigated damage inflicted on both lives and infrastructure triggering public condemnation,Israel has commenced implementing a daily pause in the fighting, lasting 4–6 hours, to facilitate the evacuation of distressed Palestinians from North Gaza to the southern part of the country. However, Mr. Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Deputy Director of the Muslim Advocacy Group CAIR, has expressed reservations about the IDF’s decision to pause the battle on hourly basis , emphasizing that the rest of the world is calling for a ceasefire instead.
“Instituting a four hour pause on Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of northern Gaza so that Palestinians can flee their homes and face Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of southern Gaza makes no sense. We need a ceasefire across Gaza, not the ethnic cleansing of northern Gaza.”
The Muslim advocacy group’s accusation of ethnic bias introduces a new dimension, supporting suspicions in some quarters that Israel’s ultimate plan is to render North Gaza not only uninhabited but also uninhabitable This strategy is likely aimed at transforming the area into a demilitarized zone (DMZ), akin to the one between North and South Korea—an outcome stemming from the Korean Wars in the early 1950s.
The Korean War commenced on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea after years of tensions between the two nations. China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea, while the United States and its allies backed South Korea. The conflict concluded with an armistice on July 27, 1953, leading to the establishment of a demilitarized zone.
The current question is: would the Palestinians, who are likely to be further restricted into a much smaller area than the 365 square kilometers that they currently occupy in north and south Gaza, accept a situation where north Gaza is made into a demilitarized zone (DMZ) if Israel is successful in eliminating Hamas in the same way that the US and her allies defeated the extremely vicious and barbaric ISIS?
Additionally, there is the question of whether the Arab League would be willing to concede more land without a replacement for the territory that might be lost if the speculated creation of a DMZ in north Gaza becomes a reality.
In this dilemma also lies the question of whether the proposal to reclaim part of the Mediterranean Sea for the expansion of the homeland, as discussed in my previous column titled “Why the Israel-Hamas War Is the Consequence of Rebellion Against God’s Order,” is feasible and viable for the highly oppressed, ultra-sensitive, and extremely resistant Palestinians or not.
For far too long, Palestinians have borne the brunt of the conflict involving both their political leaders, Hamas and Fatah, embroiled in internal strife and their neighbour Israel. Despite a shared ancestry tracing back to the father of humankind, Abraham, Palestinians have consistently rejected acceptance by Israel and endured the consequences of engaging in wars with her neighbor intermittently resulting in massive loss of lives over the past Millenia.
It is intriguing to consider how the current crisis might have been an African challenge had Israel embraced the land offer in Uganda presented by the United Kingdom in 1903, coinciding with the proposal of Palestinian territory. In this alternate scenario, the United Nations could have legitimized Israel as a nation in Africa in 1948, mirroring its establishment in the Middle East.
The economic progress witnessed in the Middle East, primarily attributed to Israel’s innovative initiatives, could have potentially extended to Africa, and Uganda would have become celebrated for economic advancements instead of its notorious history under the despotic military rule of Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada.
Even now,the country continues to grapple with prolonged leadership and autocratic rule under civilian dictator Yoweri Museveni, who has held the presidency for over 37 years since assuming power in 1986.
However, when considering the establishment of a homeland, Israel favoured the land offered by Uganda over Palestine due to their historical connection to the Palestinians.
This preference stems from the fact that the land the forbear of Palestinians handed over to them is believed by Israelis to be the original homeland of the Israelites based on biblical accounts going back to Abraham, their forefather, that faced expulsion along with Isaac and Ishmael due to various calamities including famine,pogroms, as well as conflicts with the Ottoman Empire from Turkey, which ruled the region for an extended period.
This historical plight is compounded by the persecution of Jews during the inquisitions, their subsequent conquest by Islamists, and their eventual migration to Europe, where they endured the harrowing experience of Holocaust and genocide under the rule of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich in Germany.
In fact, the annals of Israel’s history are marked by adversity and oppression spanning a millennium. Remarkably, in the past 75 years since they were relocated to the Middle East and in the land where the Palestinians lay claim, they have managed a remarkable recovery since the United Nations officially recognized them as a nation through Resolution 181 in 1948.
It is worth pointing out that an alternative to the Palestinian land where they eventually got relocated to, there was the option of relocating lsrael to Africa. It is known as “The Uganda Scheme” which, according to historical records, was a proposal by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain to create a Jewish homeland in a portion of British East Africa. It was presented at the Sixth World Zionist Congress in Basel in 1903 by Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist movement. He presented it as a temporary refuge for Jews to escape rising antisemitism in Europe. The proposal faced opposition from both the Zionist movement and the British Colony.
That idea of lsreal located in Africa was the focus in a recent podcast that has gone viral featuring the erudite Professor of international relations and former minister of foreign affairs of Nigeria, professor Bolaji Akinyemi , an alumni of the Fletcher school of law and diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA and Oxford university, UK , who is a mentor to thousands of foreign relations scholars and enthusiasts in Nigeria and across the world.
One might ponder what could have transpired if Israelis had chosen relocation to Africa. They might have thrived on the African continent, perhaps in the area around Uganda, much like their success in the Middle East. Through remarkable ingenuity, this small nation, with a population of less than 10 million, has transformed its desert landscapes into fertile and productive farmlands. Notably, this relatively modest-sized country boasts one of the highest number of Nobel Prize winners for inventions by nationality.
It is remarkable that of the 965 individual recipients of the Nobel Prize and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences between 1901 and 2023, at least 214 have been Jews or people with at least one Jewish parent, representing 22% of all recipients.
Normally, a developed country triggers pockets of developments that would cascade down to neighboring countries as has been seen between the US, Mexico and Canada that are contiguous North America countries that developed a common trade zone to boost each other’s development . We have also seen it happening in Southeast Asia where countries around Japan such as Vietnam , Cambodia, and those around Korea , Taiwan, and Singapore started enjoying trickle-down benefits from the industrialized countries around them. Perhaps if Israel’s neighbours had been at peace with her, knowledge from high technological industries in the country of which Israel is a global leader might have been spread around to the neighbouring countries. But, such positive development could not happen in the Middle East due to the atmosphere of hostility prevalent in that geographical area and consequently the toxicity in the relationships between Israel and her neighbours .
Could lsreal have repeated the same astronomical ingenuity in technology if it was located in Africa? We would never know simply because it did not happen.
With all the energy that lsrael is currently investing in avenging the killing of lsraelis in their homes following the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, the energy and resources that could have been invested in ideas that could move the world forward are being wasted in the war against Hamas. The armed conflict that has precipitated catastrophic humanitarian crisis is not only costing precious Israeli lives ,but also exacting enormous pressure on the country’s financial resources and by extension constituting a burden on the world as the allies of lsrael ( US and Europe) are also bearing the burden, just as the creative time and space of Israel has been hobbled in the period that the war has been raging. Until the guns stop blazing, the world may not phantom the economic cost of the war, which lsrael has suffered, which would like to be colossal.
Considered from the prism above, no one is actually winning the war. Not lsrael, not Hamas/ Palestine and not even the world.
Rather, the whole world is losing the lives of the innocent just as the productive time and resources of the world are also being wasted owing to an avoidable war.
After all is said and done, despite the fact that it is Hamas that triggered the current unfortunate and sad attack and counter attack by IDF resulting in the loss of human lives of monumental proportions, there is a global plea directed at Israel and its supporters, (the U.S. and its Western allies) to grant Gazans/Palestinians the space to breathe. This phrase, akin to the oppressive act of a knee on a victim’s neck, draws parallels to the tragic incident involving police officer Derek Chauvin, who asphyxiated George Floyd in Minnesota, USA, in 2020 by kneeling on his neck.
In accordance with conventional wisdom, expressed in the Latin phrase “Vox populi, vox dei,” meaning the voice of the people is the voice of God, the global call for a ceasefire echoes loudly.
As such,I would like to reiterate, as I did in my last week’s column titled “Why the Israel-Hamas War Is a Consequence of Rebellion Against God’s Order,” my consistent position by urging both Israel and Hamas/Gaza/Palestine to heed the voice of the people across the word which is the voice of God and stop the senseless decimation of human lives and revert to negotiations. Obviously, going by past experiences from the more than five wars that had been fought over the matter, peace has not reigned in the land. That indicates that war is not the answer to the century long conflict.
As such, it is essential for both Israel and Hamas to sheath their swords and explore more creative and imaginative ways to put an end to the current unmitigated bloodshed in the land that was promised by God to be one flowing with milk and honey in the holy books of instruction of faith for Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike.
And the reclamation of part of the Mediterranean Sea of which Gaza has 41 kilometers coastline to create additional homeland for the Palestinians remains one viable option no matter how daunting the proposition may be in terms of financial and engineering costs as well as it’s possible negative effect on efforts to manage the impact of climate change crisis.
Despite its complexity,such a costly solution can not be off the table as solution to the crisis that has become a sort of open sore that has remained festooned on the conscience of the world except there are more viable alternatives.
● Magnus Onyibe,an entrepreneur,public policy analyst ,author,democracy advocate,development strategist,alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,Tufts University, Massachusetts,USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos, Nigeria.
To continue with this conversation and more ,please visit www.magnum.ng