by Salvatore Murtas

The heinous terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas on Saturday, October 7, which claimed hundreds of innocent lives has precipitated the situation between Israel and Palestine, has effectively reopened hostilities in the Middle East. Reports and debates centered on the current events, which to date sees more than a thousand Israeli and more than three thousand Palestinian victims, are being reported in the international media. A carnage on both sides that does not seem likely to cease in the short term. But as is often the case, it all descends into stadium cheers. And the moment one side has decided to embrace ideology and condone Hamas' barbaric acts of terrorism against the defenseless population, dialogue becomes a chimera.

As a result, the war between Israel and Hamas, which is having a disruptive effect even thousands of miles away in various European capitals and overseas due to street demonstrations and tensions between the Jewish and Muslim communities, has been mistakenly transformed in the eyes of the world into a conflict between Israel and Palestine.

And this is where one of several misunderstandings arises. Since the 2006 elections, Palestine has been experiencing a dramatic situation internally, with Fatah, the moderate Palestinian movement, defeated at the polls and entrenched in the West Bank, and Hamas, which in 2007 took control of the Gaza Strip (completely evacuated by Israel in 2005) after winning the elections. A season of armed struggle opened between the two factions that saw Hamas' extremism prevail, and the Palestinian president declaring a state of emergency leading Egypt and Israel to impose a blockade of Gaza by reinforcing border security. It should be pointed out that particularly after Arafat's death and with the 2006 elections, the majority of Palestinians decided to reject international law, legality and democracy, entrusting their fate to the domestic terrorism of Hamas (and that supported in neighboring countries by Hezbollah). In doing so, it subscribed to Hamas' goal, which is the destruction of Israel and the extermination of the Jewish population. Hamas, it should be remembered, considered by the international community to be a terrorist organization.

And these days in Gaza people are praising Hamas, while the streets and squares of Europe are daily invaded by those who take to the streets to defend Palestine's right to free itself from Israeli occupation, when in Gaza of the more than 2 million inhabitants, not one is Jewish. Now it seems clear that there is blatant confusion among the hordes of Western protesters, and that few know or want to acknowledge that the Palestinian cause has been replaced by that of Hamas. And what we have seen in the international media in recent days unfortunately seems to confirm that those who take to the streets for Palestine in Europe and America are only lending support to Hamas.

The Holy Land: land of Muslim Arabs and Jews (and Christians) in equal measure

How did the current situation come about? Few commentators have the intellectual honesty to set aside an ideological approach, or fear being seen as on the side of the "colonizers." Few speak impartially about the troubled history of this region. A history that tells us that the right to inhabit this land is not the exclusive prerogative of one side or the other, but is of Muslim Arabs and Jews (and Christians) equally.

Historical reality must prevail, and historical reality tells of a Jewish population that has inhabited this region since the second millennium B.C., at least since the same time as the Arab populations, often nomadic, and only since the seventh century A.D. converted to Islam, chronologically the last of the three great monotheistic religions. History tells us that with the conquest of the Levant by the Arab Islamic empire in the late 7th century, the Jewish population exceeded 300,000. With the passage of centuries, and the ethnic replacement and persecution perpetrated by the various Islamic kingdoms first, by the Crusaders between the 12th and 13th centuries, and by the Ottoman Empire beginning in the 15th century, the Jewish population has always had a presence in the region, albeit with mixed fortunes.

With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, Britain was given control of what came to be called the Palestinian Mandate. The 1917 Balfour Declaration, drafted by British Crown Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, promised the creation of a Jewish nation in the Palestine Mandate, and had the effect of inspiring many Jews from Europe and Russia to repopulate existing Jewish communities in the Holy Land and to establish new ones. In 1922 the League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations) entrusted England with the role of creating a nation for the Jewish community, and one for the Muslim Arab community, a commitment that was remitted by the British and taken over by the United Nations in 1947.

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The history of the 1930s and the persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany is well known, as is the postwar history, with Israel under attack from neighboring Arab countries in the Six-Day War of '67 and multiple terrorist attacks, and various attempts at agreements promoted by the international community that produced limited results. But beyond the dates and numbers, the history of this region tells us two irrefutable facts. First, this land has been inhabited by Muslim Arabs and Jews for thousands of years, which gives equal rights to both sides. Second, Israel finds its right to exist in UN resolutions. From the moment it declared its independence in 1948, Israel has always agreed, unlike Palestine, to subscribe to the "two-state solution."

What future for peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine?

In analyzing possible future scenarios, one fundamental fact appears as obvious as it is ignored: the State of Israel and Hamas are two entities that operate according to completely different rules and with completely different goals. On the one hand, Israel seeks a permanent solution to Hamas violence, acting as much as possible according to the principles of a Rule of Law; on the other hand, Hamas, which uses terrorism to achieve the goal of ridding itself of the presence of Israel and Jews from the region, when its goal should be to achieve the total emancipation of Palestine according to international law. In essence, Israel wants the security of being able to conduct its existence without being attacked; Hamas wants the disappearance of Israel. It seems logical to conclude that the "two-state solution" is not feasible at present. As long as Hamas has as its goal the extinction of Israel, coexistence and peace remain hopelessly a mirage.

So where does the solution lie? Paradoxically, in the "two peoples, two states" solution. But the burden of defeating Hamas must be placed entirely on the Palestinian Authority and moderate forces like Fatah. Indeed, although Israel's right to defend itself and prosecute Hamas terrorists according to its military capability is sacrosanct, as also reiterated by U.S. President Biden and British Prime Minister Sunak, it seems unlikely that the total and permanent defeat of Hamas can be achieved by outside forces, be they the IDF, the United States or the United Nations. Any victories by agents outside Palestine would be short-lived, and would be experienced by the population as defeat and humiliation, giving rise to new recriminations, revenge and new violence.

The future of the "two-state solution" lies solely in the ability of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah to finally rid themselves of Hamas and the armed struggle, committing Palestine to behave as a civilized and democratic country while respecting international law. The history of this region is complicated by diversity in ethnicity, religion, culture and sense of belonging. The permanent defeat of Hamas can only happen when moderate Palestine decides to completely abandon the terrorism and hatred promoted by Hamas. As long as the Palestinian leadership has as its goal the disappearance of Israel and the Jews, there will be no peace.

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A communications professional based in London, he is involved in British politics (he was a candidate with the Conservative Party). He founded and runs "Blackfriars Consulting", a communications and public relations agency.