Crime against humanity in Gaza

Wonder what B P Koirala would say today about the annihilation of Gaza.

Nepali Prime Minister B P Koirala meeting his Israeli counterpart David Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv in 1960. Photo: NATIONAL PHOTO COLLECTION OF ISRAEL

The 7 October Hamas attack on southern Israel near the Gaza border killed 1,139 people, 764 of them civilians, 251 were taken hostage, with Nepali student Bipin Joshi possibly among them. 

Of the 17 work-study Nepalis at Kibbutz Alumim, 10 were mercilessly murdered by Hamas. This newspaper covered the tragic deaths, profiled the students describing their hopes and dreams, and spoke to their grief-stricken families in western Nepal. 

Although the conflicts in West Asia may seem distant, the deaths proved that they directly impact Nepalis. There are thousands of Nepali caregivers and students in Israel, and at least 2.5 million others employed in the Gulf region who will be affected in case the conflict spreads. A larger conflagration would affect food and fuel prices, and further harm Nepal’s struggling remittance-driven economy.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is rooted in history that goes back to the British mandate by the League of Nations and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 following the Holocaust. Although the Jewish people were granted a national home, they were also supposed to protect the rights of the Arab majority in the land.

The conflicts in Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq today are essentially proxy wars between Saudi-UAE vs Iran. And because an enemy of an enemy is considered a friend, Israel patched up with Saudi-Emirates which explains the muted response from Gulf governments (and the West) about what is happening in Gaza. 

Since 7 October, the world has watched the unending horror of Israel’s asymmetric and disproportionate retaliation against Palestinian civilians. Nearly 38,000 people have been killed in Gaza alone, more than 15,000 of them babies and children. 

The Israeli state cannot use Hamas terrorism as an excuse for its own war crimes. The air time and column inches the Western media devoted last week to the freeing of four Israeli hostages was much more than the collateral killing of 274 Palestinians during the rescue. 

More journalists (mostly Palestinians) have been killed in 8 months than in all the six years of World War II. Nearly all schools and hospitals have been destroyed. Journalists in Gaza are risking their lives to bring the humanitarian catastrophe to the world's attention. Without them, we would not know the truth. 

But even as a military strategy this is not smart. Israel does not have an exit plan.This is not war, it flouts all international conventions on the rules of warfare. A genocide perpetrated 80 years ago cannot justify another one today. 

The Israeli government must know what it is doing is wrong because it is thin-skinned about any reference to ‘genocide’ and label everyone from student protesters at US universities to world leaders who speak out ‘anti-Semites’. 

When António Guterres only obliquely said the Hamas attack “did not happen in a vacuum”, it was intolerable for the Israelis. The government lashed back at the United Nations Secretary-General. Israel has also hit back at South Africa for filing a genocide case at International Court of Justice in The Hague for its conduct of the war. 

After nearly eight months of relentless bombardment, many Gazans are so fed up that there is reported to be growing resentment against Hamas for using them as human shields. It is clear Hamas does not care much about civilian lives either. 

But there is also deep distress among ordinary Israelis about how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sullied their country’s international image. 

Netanyahu himself is not fighting Hamas, he is fighting for his political longevity by appeasing extremist coalition partners.

On Monday he dissolved the war cabinet after former general and opposition leader Benny Gantz resigned, Netanyahu is replacing it with a smaller war council made up of hard-right members who now want to go after Hezbollah in Lebanon.

During his acceptance speech at this year’s Oscars in March, Jonathan Glazer, the Jewish director of the movie Zone of Interest set in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, said: “Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October 7 in Israel or the on-going attack on Gaza — all the victims of this dehumanisation, how do we resist?”

Nepal recognised the Palestinian state in 1988, and was only the second Asian country to establish bilateral relations with Israel in 1960 at a time when the Jewish state was regarded as a pariah by most of the world. B P Koirala’s friendship with David Ben Gurion was an important factor behind the move. 

We wonder what B P would say today of the annihilation of Gaza.

Sonia Awale