Ismail Patel

Ismail Patel is the chairman and founding member of the Friends of Al-Aqsa, a UK-based voluntary organisation working for the human rights of Palestinians.
Ismail Patel
By Ismail Patel
Sun 11 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

Israel's war on Gaza has brought condemnation from people all over the world in a manner not witnessed before. While this condemnation is not echoed by the world governments, the voices of protest from Tokyo to Mexico City, and Johannesburg to Oslo are loud and resounding, resonating the feelings of horror and outrage felt right across the globe.

This outpouring of criticism has occurred despite Israel's best endeavours to convince the world that this is a legitimate and defensive war. The perspective presented by the established media such as the BBC, CNN, Sky News and state-owned channels in some Middle East countries, has been very much in line with Israel's narrative of a war against Hamas.

Yet despite this over-zealous attempt to indoctrinate the global community with the notion that Israel is the victim and Palestinians the aggressors, ordinary people around the world have not been convinced and do not believe everything Israel claims.

Most ordinary people have opted for testimonies on various blogs and internet video sites to provide them with the facts on the ground. Thus, Israel is being seen as an army with a state reaching new heights in barbarity and an entity that totally dismisses international norms.

In Europe and particularly in Britain, daily vigils and protests have taken place throughout the country. In London, crowds of thousands have turned out consistently, despite freezing temperatures to make clear their frustrations.

On Saturday January 3, further demonstrations took place in 26 cities across Britain, with the demonstration in London being attended by over 60,000. Even in Cairo, where the government is severely restricting any overt display of Palestinian support, three demonstrations took place.

The images coming out of Gaza, which Israel is trying its best to ensure the world does not see, are of maimed and blood-soaked bodies of young children and women.

As these images are being beamed across the globe, most Arab citizens are astounded by Egypt's continuing direct collaboration with Israel, and the incompetence of the Arab League and the OIC to challenge either Egypt or Israel.

For many, the inability of the Arab world and its umbrella organisations to even provide the Palestinians with humanitarian aid is a detachment too far, and a reflection of its prostrate position in the world community.

As the British public have almost abandoned any hope in its government responding adequately to the war on Gaza, they are now independently seeking to raise private arrest warrants against Israeli generals for war crimes.

Other avenues of direct action are also being pursued in order to redress the Israeli aggression against Palestinians, such as getting aid to Gaza through the ‘Free Gaza Boat' and Aloha projects.

In the Arab world, on the other hand, the initial readings of the sentiments from the Arab streets appear to be mixed. A gulf has emerged between the public and its leadership in most countries and there is a further divide between those states which appear, to a lesser or greater degree, to concur with Israel; and those who wish to provide assistance to the occupied Palestinians.

The Arab leaders, Egypt in particular, do not seem to have heeded lessons from the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon. During this war, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was initially one of several Arab leaders who condemned Hizbullah's actions.

However, as the chorus of popular support for Hizbullah grew larger and more passionate, the other leaders began to retract their condemnation.

By the time victory to Hizbullah was being widely recognised, Mubarak did a dramatic u-turn and began to denounce the Israeli actions.

It appears the impact of Israel's ground troop invasion of Gaza is likely to create a new political era in Palestine, and it is possible the fallout may traverse its borders to neighbouring states. We wait to see whether this takes us towards an Israeli view or an independent Arab perspective.

The political fallout of this war is yet to be seen, and certainly it will mark the start of a new era in Palestinian politics. Irrespective of this, the war has without a doubt galvanised the British and international civil society towards supporting the Palestinians.

Supporters of the cause now include a whole spectrum of individuals including celebrities, academics and politicians, as well as ordinary people on the ground. Faith is not an issue, as the Palestinians' cause has become a worldwide human concern.

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