Home Face-to-Face ‘What we are witnessing now is a Palestinian holocaust’

‘What we are witnessing now is a Palestinian holocaust’

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Exclusive Interview with renowned Saudi journalist Khaled Al Maeena

Abdul Bari Masoud

On October 7, when Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, launched a surprise widescale attack in Israel, it sent shockwaves world over, particularly in the Western capitals, which are the main backers of the occupier Zionist entity.

The attack, called “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” according to Mohammed Deif, the enigmatic head of Hamas’ military wing, was carried out in response to the Israeli occupation and continued aggression, the 16-year siege of Gaza, and a string of recent events that have escalated Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Deif, who doesn’t go out in public, stated in the recorded message, “Enough is enough.” Declaring that the attack was simply the beginning of “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” he urged Palestinians living in northern Israel and east Jerusalem to join the battle.

However, Israel retaliated in a disproportionate and brutal manner and continued bombing the besieged Gaza Strip, resulting in the loss of thousands of innocent lives and causing a dire humanitarian crisis. As a result, out of the 2.4 million people in Gaza, 1 million were displaced by the Israeli bombardment, and 3,000 Palestinians have been killed across the Strip since October 7.

Khaled Al- Maeena

In an exclusive interview with Radiance’s Abdul Bari Masoud, Khaled Al Maeena, a renowned Saudi journalist, commentator, intellectual, and former editor-in-chief of Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, shared his insights on the unfolding grim situation in the region and provided background information on the 75-year-old Palestine liberation question. Al Meena is a veteran commentator on West Asia affairs who received his education in different countries, including the United States, Britain, and Pakistan.
Main excerpts: 

How do you assess the current situation?
The recent attack by Hamas on Israel has exposed the perception of invincibility that some have associated with Israel. It has also triggered protests and raised concerns about the disproportionate response from Israel. The issue of normalizing ties between Arab countries and Israel has further complicated the situation. It is important to recognize that there are differing perspectives and narratives surrounding this conflict.

There is an attempt to build a narrative against Hamas following the attacks on Israel. In fact, the resistance group is being called a terrorist by several countries that have not officially designated it as such. How do you respond to this?
Put yourself in the shoes of Palestinians. What options do you have if you are thrown into such a situation? See, nobody condones violence, but rarely do I see anybody asking Israel for the brutalities it has perpetuated on Palestinian people for decades. It is not a religious war. It is a war of occupation, suppression, oppression, and depression. It is tyranny. Remember, you Indians fought against the British occupiers; the US fought in the 18th century against the British. In dozens of colonies, people fought the colonial powers. In fact, during the American War of Freedom, there was the slogan, ‘Give us liberty or death’. Is it not typical that the countries that fought their occupiers are now condemning the people who are fighting against their occupying forces? The Western nations are hypocrites.

One reason for the attack is said to be the normalization of ties between Arab countries and Israel. Only a couple of days before the deadly attack on October 7, the Israeli PM made a provocative speech at the UN, stating that the Middle East geopolitics is changing and centered around Israel, without mentioning Palestine. How do you interpret this?
The speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflects his perspective and political agenda. He is an extremist. By the way, he is an unstable person as well. There are several corruption cases against him. It is important to consider the broader context of Middle East geopolitics and the interests of the various countries involved. The normalization of ties between Arab countries and Israel has been a contentious issue, with differing opinions on its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ultimately, there cannot be peace without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

It is important to acknowledge that there is a significant disparity between Hamas and Israel, as Hamas is not a recognized state while Israel is. Even the prominent Israeli newspaper Haaretz has criticized the current situation, saying, ‘Israel takes its last breath’.

It is evident that there is a stark contrast between Israel and Gaza, with one being a state backed by the US and the other a small group. Gaza is not a state; its occupied territory is powerless. They (Israelis) are the shameless people. But believe me, people around the world, including individuals from the Jewish community, are standing up for justice and advocating for a fair resolution to the conflict. One thing I will add here is that it is painful to see the lack of coordination between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority on a political level.

What about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza? The Western world is silent, the UN is also unable to carry out humanitarian assistance, and the whole strip has been dubbed a concentration camp like Auschwitz in Nazi Germany.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is deeply concerning, and the international community must address the urgent needs of the affected population. Western countries are hypocrites.

The Western nations adopt double standards when it comes to handling the Middle East crisis. The diplomats, businesspeople, and politicians from Western countries talk lofty words and show empathy with the Arab people. But the Arab rulers need to understand that nobody is with them. Only your (Arab) people are your friends. What we are witnessing now is a Palestinian holocaust.

What about the response of the Arab world to the conflict?
Well, the response of the Arab world to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has varied over the years. While there have been instances of support and solidarity with the Palestinian cause, there have also been challenges and divisions within the Arab world.

Whenever Arab nations have demonstrated their spine, such as in the case of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s attack in 1973, it has posed significant challenges for the Israeli state. Israelis soon sought support from the US. Israel without America cannot exist. However, it is important to note that the Arab nations also desire a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. Numerous peace initiatives, accords, and UN resolutions have been attempted in the past, but unfortunately, they have not yielded the desired outcomes. In recent times, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has expressed a willingness to engage in discussions while emphasizing the importance of preserving Palestinian rights.

How do you view the Saudi role?
Since the creation of Israel, the Saudi population and government have always been very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It was done out of genuine goodwill for the Palestinian people. And who were oppressed and whose lands were occupied?

India has traditionally stood with Palestine, but there has been a tilt towards Israel in recent years. Do you expect any hope from India?
I have huge expectations from the South Asian region, especially from India and Pakistan. However, the response of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been on expected lines. Modi was very swift in extending support to Israel without mentioning Palestine. It is painful and disappointing. It raises concerns about whether current Indian politicians have forgotten the principles and values upheld by great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Mrs. Indira Gandhi, among others. The current administration indeed appears to have a biased stance against Muslims, but this approach will ultimately harm the interests of Indians. The Gulf countries employ over nine million people from India, and their remittances play a significant role in the nation’s economy. Many Arab countries also gave Modi awards, but he did not live up to the expectations. I know this is all because of the RSS and the hatred towards Muslims in India. However, it is worth noting that many Hindus have approached me to apologize for the mistreatment of minorities. Maintaining strong ties with the Gulf countries is in India’s best interest, considering the longstanding historical connections.

I want to ask the Hindutva hardliners to understand the grievances of the people in light of history, in light of truth, and in light of justice. I asked many Hindus, God forbid, what if any foreigners occupy India again? Will you not fight? Indians fought for a century. You are Indian; tell the Indian people that the Palestinians are fighting for justice. It is not a religious war. However, it is difficult to remove the hatred cherished by a section of people.

The Israelis are perpetuating crimes against Muslims despite the latter never having done anything to them until the early 20th century, when some Jews were killed in Turkey. The Jews also acknowledge the Golden Era of their exodus in Muslim Spain. But they are committing the worst crimes against Palestinians, worse than what the medieval-age ruler Genghis Khan did.
We need to differentiate between believing Jews and Zionists. Zionism is a political tool that seeks the dominance of Jews over others at all costs. Zionists do not respect human lives. They are the biggest deceivers. They are goons and have come from nations that emerged following the disintegration of the United States of Soviet Russia (USSR). They have donned the uniform of security officials.

The Jewish ideologues such as Issac Shamil and Ben Gurian have passed away. Currently, the Israeli state is being run by goons who came from eastern Europe and parts of central Asia. Some people who did not get jobs in New York or Brooklyn came to Israel and donned the army uniform. We do not have any sustainable plan to deal with them intellectually.

Only the other day, Netanyahu lied, saying that Hitler sought suggestions about the fate of Jews from a Muslim cleric who was standing to the left of him, Alhaj Mufti Amin al Hussaini, who suggested Hitler burn the Jews to death. Then Netanyahu removed the statement.

But Arabs too are not accommodating towards Jews and Christians?
See, the Arabs are more secular than Indians. You people sitting in India see us with a certain perception. In your country, there are different names and nomenclatures, and you can identify them by their languages and names. But in the Arab world, it is not so. several Christians and Jews live in Arab countries. They speak the Arabic language, have Arabic names, etc. I have observed that the Hindus in India have little knowledge about Palestine and the Arabs. They are being fed half-truths by the media.

Why is the Muslim world not coming out in support of Hamas, as the Western nations do for Israel? How do you see the response of the Arab countries in light of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza?
You must understand that it is not Israel, but the US with which the Arab countries ought to deal. US Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken is contacting leaders in the Middle East region. He is mainly batting for Israel. But the Arabs have so far not shown the spine, as they rightly believe that they will have to deal with the US. See, Israel is nothing without the US. They are expansionists. So, the Arab leaders believe tackling the US is important. What is happening today in Gaza is genocide. The powerful nations are backing Israel.

We need to run a sustained campaign. Israel is not the superpower, as it is being made out by the dominant section of the Western media. Unfortunately, the Arabs have no plan on how to deal with them politically, socially, or economically. There are intellectuals in Arab countries.

The UN unjustly divided the land and gave 56 percent of Arab land to Israel in 1948. After Israel continued to usurp the Palestinian lands by force, Now-occupied Palestine’s area is reduced to 22 percent. Despite this bitter fact, the PLO agreed in 1993 to Oslo accords with it. But why is Israel not ready to recognize Palestine? All the resolutions against Israel fail in the UN. What is the way forward?
Nobody can tell you, frankly. But history shows that the resistance against occupation finally wins. Time is not on our side now. But you will see that the day will come. Meanwhile, so much harm has been done. This is our murder. Only Allah knows what is in store for us.