Saturday, January 17, 2009


Clarence E Pilgrim, is an enviromentalist, advocate for human rights, educator, a senior officer in the Antigua & Barbuda Civil service and volunteer for various non-profit organisations. His pen and speeches are consistent platforms for Caribbean Integration, social policy issues, enviornmental protection, development of alternative energy and the careful management of our natural resources.

Commentary: The Gaza conflict: A lesson of hate, power and religion NET NEWS.
Published on Saturday, January 17, 2009
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By Clarence E PilgrimI believe that the value of land increases to incredible heights when ownership is sought by one person or a group of persons, who attach a great degree of interest, motivation and determination to acquire it. If you add religion, politics, weapons and a bitter history to the dynamics of the land issue, then you are on the road to understanding the volatile nature of the Middle East, and the re-occurring problems which seem to have no immediate solution.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict reduced to its simplest denominator is about who should legitimately posses that parcel of land which is in dispute between these two principal combatants and their allies. The latest round of the continuing dispute saw Israel launching a military campaign against Gaza on 27th December, in response to Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. The Gaza Strip is a narrow piece of land along the Mediterranean coast separating Israel from Egypt. It is about 365 sq km (141 sq miles) and has a population of around 1.5 million Palestinians. Since the Jewish state of Israel came into being in 1948, its history has been punctuated with armed conflict with the Palestinian peoples and Arab Nations. The Gaza strip became occupied through Israel's successes in a number of wars with its neighbours and in 2005, it ended its military occupation. The militant Islamic group known as Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007 and is dedicated to the defeat of the state of Israel's 6.9 million people, by using any means necessary, inclusive of suicidal bombings and rocket attacks. The main inhibitors to a peaceful coexistence solution include the status of the holy city of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees who were displaced during the numerous conflicts and the continued existence of the settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank for under half million people. In all of the years of this conflict, what is quite clear is that the real victims are the innocent, caught in the cross-fire of two determined antagonist. Recently the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded a full explanation when Israeli artillery fired shells on the UN compound, destroying humanitarian supplies including thousands of pounds of food. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, apologized for this action, but claimed that Hamas was using the compound as a cover from which to attack. It is estimated that, since the military action started, sources indicate that around 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, with a suggestion that half of them are civilians. The Israelis have suffered a significant smaller loss from rocket attacks and in the deaths of military personnel participating in this offensive. The danger of this conflict is that it has the potential to engulf more than the middle-eastern countries. There is the real threat that it could erupt into a full-scale battle where fringe groups eager to cause chaos and mayhem use this opportunity to promote and implement terrorist plots and actual attacks. Such is the dilemma facing the United Nations. The only solution at this time is for all sides to agree to allow Egypt to mediate a cease fire and both sides agree not to engage in hostilities for a period of 90 days. During this time UN peacekeeping troops should create a "zone of peace" with regular patrols to see that the terms and conditions of the ceasefire are kept. This is simply a short term solution which I am suggesting. The longer term will require the diplomacy to get an agreement and the strength to enforce what is contained in such an agreement. It is important that we all come together in a common bond to resist the hate and prejudice which is part of the root cause which brought about this terrible situation.

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