About: the world this week, 9th May to 15th May 2021, various kinds of flares and surges.


Oh, Jerusalem!

A real-estate land dispute ignited simmering old flames, opened scars of never-healing wounds, and returned Palestinians and Israelis to their old ways-the unforgiving war path. For more than a century, Jews and Arabs have struggled to be the masters of the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, each claiming it to be their ancestral land…and it continues.

Israel had occupied East Jerusalem following its victory over neighbouring Arab countries in the 1967 Six-Day Middle East War and considers the entire city as its capital. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the future capital of a possible Palestine State. Last year, the United States of America shifted its Embassy to West Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv, recognising it as Israel’s capital and ignited another flame.

Palestinians, mostly refugees, have been living in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheik Jarrah since the 1950s. An Israeli pro-settler organization called Nahalat Shimon dug-out a 1970 Israeli Law to argue that the owners of the land before 1948 were Jewish families-ancestral land, and hence the current Palestinian landowners, about six families, should be evicted and their properties handed-over to Israeli Jews. A local Israeli court ruled it as legal, and an appeal has since been made to the Israeli Supreme Court, which is putting its head to the matter. A final ruling is awaited.

The current round of fighting between Israel and the Arabs, led by the militant Palestinian Organization, Hamas, which rules Gaza, was triggered by days of escalating clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at a holy hilltop compound in East Jerusalem. The site is revered by both Muslims, who call it the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), and Jews, for whom it is known as the Temple Mount. Hamas demanded Israel remove its police from the hilltop and the nearby Sheikh Jarrah.

Added to this, in the past few weeks was heavy-handed Israeli policing of Palestinians during the Holy Festival of Ramzan, culminating with the use of gas and stun grenades inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest place for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. About this time Israel holds its annual Jerusalem Day parade to commemorate the return to Jerusalem after the 6-Day War. And tensions between the Arabs and Jews mounted to new heights.

Then Hamas took the unusual step of issuing an ultimatum to Israel to remove its forces from the Al-Aqsa compound and Sheikh Jarrah, and then promptly started firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. And Israel is responding ferociously, in the way only it can.

How did we get here! Let me try, going deep into the background and to the bottom of this century old story.

The land of Israel, also known as the Holy Land or Palestine is the birthplace of the Jewish people, the birthplace of Judaism, and Christianity. It was predominantly Jewish about 1000 years BCE after which it gradually became mostly Muslim and from the year 1516 onwards became part of the Great Ottoman Empire. Then the British conquered the Holy Land in 1917-18, at the end of the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed, during which time the land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and an Arab majority.

Tensions between the Arabs and the Jews grew when the international community gave Britain the task of establishing a ‘National Home’ for the Jewish people in Palestine. For Jews, it was a ‘return’ to their ancestral home, but Palestinian Arabs also claimed the land and resisted the move.

Between the 1920s and 1940s, Jews began arriving in Palestine from all over the World: many fleeing persecution in Europe and seeking a homeland after the horrific Holocaust of World War-II, a genocide during which over six million Jews were systematically murdered across German occupied Europe, by Hitler’s Nazis. In this scenario, a Jewish National Movement, Zionism, emerged in late 19th Century due to growing antisemitism and a history of persecution of Jews, and fired the imagination of the Jews that the only possible solution is, creation of a Jewish State where they could live in peace. The desire to achieve this became unstoppable.

Meanwhile, violence between Jews and Arabs, and against British rule in Palestine grew exponentially. In 1947, the United Nations voted for Palestine to be split into separate Jewish and Arab States, with Jerusalem becoming an International City. The plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but was rejected by the Arab side and never fully implemented. I wish the Arabs had accepted and settled to make a life in their part of Palestine. It would have been something to start with.

In 1948 the British left the region without solving the problem, and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the State of Israel on 14th May 1948, which was promptly recognised by America and Russia. Palestinians and the Arab World objected, refused to recognise Israel, and decided to attack Israel. Troops from five neighbouring Arab countries of Egypt, Jordon, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon invaded Israel from all sides with the single-minded objective of obliterating and swallowing the newly formed Country. The Armies of the Arab States was repulsed, beaten, driven out, and defeated in an outstanding warfare by the Israeli Defence Forces. Israel survived, and over the years built one of the most formidable Army and Air Force anywhere in the world. Military service was compulsory and Reserves were always on standby to defeat any attack on the country. Israel inflicted a series of crushing defeats on the Palestinians since it became independent in 1948, becoming a well-oiled war machine in the process.

With the formation of Israel there was an exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were forced out of their homes in the new State of Israel. A reverse exodus saw Jews pile into Israel. By the time the fighting ended in a ceasefire the following year, Israel controlled most of the territory it won as a result of the war. Jordan occupied land, which became known as the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza-both of which would have been Arab Palestine. Jerusalem was divided between Israeli forces in the West, and Jordanian forces in the East.

There was never a peace agreement, with each side blaming the other and there were more wars and fighting in the decades that followed.

Then in 1967, in what is called the Six-Day war, Israel comprehensively defeated and severely crushed yet another attempt by Egypt, Jordon, Syria to finish-off ‘Zionist’ Israel, in a period of six days. This time, Israel took control of Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem, what it calls ‘disputed territory’ (not occupied) as the ‘Law of Occupation’ does not apply – interpreted by its Supreme Court. There was no Sovereign Ruler of these parts hence nothing to occupy! This makes the ‘disputed occupation’ a classic example of an intractable law.

While Israel was growing-up, The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964 to liberate Palestine (from Israel) through armed struggle. It gradually became the accepted voice and recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by most countries and enjoyed Observer Status in the United Nations. The PLO did not recognise Israel, when first born, and due to its condemnable activities, including violence against Israel civilians went on to being declared as a terrorist organization by the United States in 1987.

In 1993 the PLO finally recognised Israel’s right to exist, accepted UN Security Council Resolutions and rejected violence and terrorism. Israel returned the favour by officially recognising the PLO as the representative the Palestinian People. This wasn’t to last and in October 2018 (after doing the same earlier in January) the PLO suspended its recognition of Israel and all security coordination with the Israeli Defence.

Israel holds on to the disputed territories as a bargaining chip to negotiate peace for its people on the condition that all Arab countries recognise Israel and allow it to co-exist peacefully in the world. ‘Come, let’s negotiate and arrive at a solution’, was the stance adopted by Israel. This wasn’t to be, but grudgingly, it is happening in parts, taking an awfully long time.

Let me take a detour to amplify the Israeli spirit.

Over the years we have read many stories of the Israeli-Palestine conflict being played outside the Holy Land, mainly by fanatical Palestine Groups targeting Israel. One such was by the Black September Group in the 1972 Munich Olympics in Germany, when eight Palestine terrorists stormed the Olympic Village and took nine Israeli athletes hostage, killing two. In a failed rescue attempt the remaining nine were killed. Later, Israel’s deadly Mossad went after the killers in a secret mission and killed most of them.

Another story is the incredible Israeli military mission that rescued 103 Israeli hostages when an Air France Jetliner was hijacked to Entebbe Airport in Idi-Amin ruled Uganda in June 1976, by Palestine Terrorists. Israeli planes with 100 commandos-including one empty Plane for taking back the hostages-travelled over 4000 km to Uganda, flying low, at no more than 30 metres, undetected by radar, landed in Entebbe Airport, rolled-out an Idi Amin look-alike Mercedes-Benz car and two Land Rover escort Jeeps, drove to the Terminal dressed as Ugandan Forces, shot all seven Terrorists, rescued the hostages, and took them back to the plane, all within 90 minutes. They returned safely to Israel to a heroic welcome. Only one Israeli commander was killed in the operation, along with three hostages. He was the older brother of the current Prime Minister of Israel, Bejamim Netanyahu. Given the huge distance between Israel and Uganda, mid-air refuelling logistical capacity being unavailable at that time, Kenya allowed refuelling at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for which it faced the wrath of Idi-Amin, a despot and a Dictator.

Back to the main story.

In 1979, Egypt melted, saw wisdom, and struck a peace deal with Israel, recognising it-becoming the first Arab State to do so. In return, Israel handed back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt removing its military bases and the business that it had established. The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed by Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the presence of US President Jimmy Carter, at the famous Camp David Summit. Israeli won free passage of its ships through the Suez Canal. This Treaty, decried by many Arab counties and the PLO, has held and lasts to this day. On the fallout, Egypt was suspended from the Arab League and President Sadat ended up being tragically assassinated by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

In October 1994 the Israel-Jordon Peace Treaty came into being with Jordon recognising Israel (only the second Arab State to do so) and ending the state of war between them.

In August 2005 Israel under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally planned to disengage from the Gaza Strip (and North Samaria) which it had captured and occupied following the 1967 war, and where it had established 21 settlements over a period of 38 years. This was to improve Israel’s security and international status in the absence of any sensible peace negotiations with the Palestinians. About nine thousand Israeli residents within Gaza were evicted and Israeli forces bulldozed thousands of houses of its people, community buildings and synagogues; even corpses in jewish cemeteries were exhumed and reburied in Israel. The terms of disengagement were that Israel would maintain control of the land borders, access to sea and airspace ‘until relations improve’.

This was to become a historic mistake as Hamas could not change its stripes.

With Palestinians returning and getting control of the Gaza Strip, the PLO held elections in the West Bank and the Gaza. While the PLO’s Fatah Party won in the West Bank it lost to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, which, over the years, has fought Israel many times. Further infighting between various Palestine Groups, especially between Hamas and PLO’s Fatah led to Israel and Egypt tightly controlling Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas, who refused to disarm. Further actions of Hamas have led to economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, by Israel, where living conditions have become abysmal.

Hamas refuses to recognise the State of Israel and finds every opportunity to strike at Israel at the slightest provocation, typically launching rockets into Israel. Hamas has been declared a terrorist organization by the USA.

Going over to the West Bank, Israel converted its direct military rule into a semi-civil authority one, giving varying levels of autonomy to the Palestinian Authority, which controls 40% and the rest by Israel. Israeli settlers in the West Bank-vehemently opposed by the International Community-are subject to Israeli civilian law whereas Palestinians are subject to Military Law-with no voting rights.

This is where we are. I hope you could make sense of the stakes involved.

It is my firm opinion that few other races and people in this world have suffered the kind of genocide and annihilation that the Jews has been subjected to, and the ‘tiny State’ of Israel deserves peace on its terms. Nothing less nothing more.

The other players in the picture have been given every chance to accept a reasonable choice, and failed time and again, and have continued to be provocative and belligerent-whatever the history and however strong the reasons behind. A farewell to arms and determined negotiation is perhaps the only way to resolve this intractable issue. My sensing is that Israel has always been ready to negotiate-it has demonstrated this intent with its actions in handing over the Gaza (strings attached), and the Sinai Peninsula, among other things. Is the Arab world ready?

Rocketing back to Earth

Homing core debris from a Chinese Rocket, which launched the first module of China’s new Space Station, in April 2021, safely returned to Earth last Saturday splashing into the Indian Ocean, near Maldives. America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) disapproved of the Chinese method of sending back such uncontrolled, unwelcome debris, which could be dangerous if better methods of control are not deployed.

We all need to keep a permanent eye on China, do we?

The Sounds on Mars

The Ingenuity Helicopter-that little fellow-of America’s NASA is have a rolling time on Mars, flying like crazy in increasingly bolder flights, and doing great dance moves. No Martians discovered as yet. But last week, its best friend, Perseverance Rover, send back to Earth the first sounds on Mars from the microphone on its Super-camera. The rumbling of the Martian winds and the rhythmic hums of Ingenuity’s whizzing blades were a delight to hear. If seeing is believing, hearing ‘is sound’.

This Saturday, in a remarkable achievement China has successfully landed its six-wheeled Zhurong Robot spacecraft on Mars, The vehicle used a combination of a protective capsule, a parachute, and a rocket platform to make the descent.

Zhurong, meaning; ‘God of Fire’, was carried to Mars on the Tianwen-1 Orbiter, which arrived above Mars in February this year.

If we thought only America has mastered the art of landing on Mars, China has done it too, becoming the second country to do so.

I hear the sounds…It’s beginning to get crowded in Mars.

Truly married-and fused-for Life: Glorious & Wonderful

One rarely gets to see an angry-looking Anglerfish, but they are among the most known deep-sea creatures living in the cruelly cold, lightless depths of our Oceans. With the spiny, pointy black fangs-like teeth, a large fluorescent bulb like antennae protruding and dangling from its head-a piece of dorsal spine protruding above the mouth like a fishing pole-surrounded by a series of slender, flashy tentacles, it resembles something out of a horror film. Well, it has actually acted in a Film by Pixar, ‘Finding Nemo’.

Last Friday, an 18-inch wide Anglerfish somehow found its way from the depths of the Pacific to the shores of Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach, California, USA, in a perfectly preserved condition. It was real and very a rare find spotted by a beachgoer.

The flashy phosphorescent bulbs of the Anglerfish, which glow underwater due to light-emitting bacteria, sweep up other fish, squid, and crustaceans, that dwell at depths of 2000 to 3300 Feet. Tipped with a lure of luminous flesh the built-in antenna baits prey close enough to be snatched. Their mouths are so big and their bodies so pliable, they can actually swallow prey up to twice their own size.

While the females are large with all kinds of sexy ‘Fashion TV’ gear, the males are much smaller in size-not worth a puny second look. The males have conveniently evolved into ‘sexual parasites’, which after fusing themselves to females, lose all their internal organs, including their eyes and are left with nothing but testes. Forever fused, the male provides sperm in exchange for nutrition. A female typically carries about six males attached to her body-providing the life-giving juices, both ways? Truly blinded with love, married, and attached for life. No Windows or doors to rush out of this marriage.

This Pandemic Could Have Been Prevented

In a chilling report, published this Wednesday, The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), concluded that the catastrophic scale of the COVID-19 pandemic could have been prevented, but a ‘toxic cocktail of dithering and poor coordination’ meant the warning signals went unheeded and a series of bad decisions meant COVID-19 went on to kill more than 3.3 million people and devastate the global economy. Institutions failed to protect people and science-denying leaders eroded public trust in health interventions.

We see this everywhere in the everyday governance with politics and blaming seeping through every fault line. Time we listen and understand that nobody is safe from pandemics of this kind until everyone is safe. Sink those petty differences and work together with the best skills that we have to make this world a better place-for humans, flora and fauna.

Fighting the Virus in India

India continued grappling with the coronavirus, grasping for breath. And help poured in for all over the world in the form of Oxygen Concentrators, medicines, Vaccines, medical gear, equipment, and the kind.

There is still a dearth of many essential supplies across the COVID-19 treatment spectrum but the Healthcare workers, Doctors, Hospitals, and the Government will ultimately triumph in bringing this under control.

Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine finally started finding arms to jab an entry, since this Friday, and the Vaccination is expected to swell. The Government announced a widening of the gap between the first and second shots of the Covishield Vaccine increasing the physical distance between shots from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks, based on available real-life evidence, particularly in the United Kingdom, of better efficacy levels.

The total vaccination is India stands at over 18 crore. New daily Infections are at about 3.26 Lakh and deaths under 4000.

Maharashtra, one of the worst-infected States, saw a downturn in the infections and maybe the situation is beginning to look-up. Hope it does.

New State Governments took oath to work for the people and this is a wish that new brooms indeed sweep well. Some of them quickly tuned-in the Lockdown Channel and the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are signing this tune.

Things will get OK, mind it. We should diligently hold on to the coronavirus prevention protocols and follow Government stipulations, and the Science of things.

Lots of peaceful stories coming up in the weeks ahead.


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