As a refreshing break from the recent past, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has strongly condemned the Israeli air strikes on Gaza in the last three days that have led to the deaths of 38 Palestinians so far. It would be recalled that since President Musharraf went on a mission to win over the Jewish community in the US, Pakistan had ceased to be so vocal in espousing the Palestinian cause for which it had been in the forefront right from the time the issue had initially surfaced. Prime Minister Ashraf was responding to a telephone call from Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi on Friday, who had sought Pakistan’s support for the Palestinians in this hour of crisis and for the quest of the State of Palestine for membership of the United Nations. Mr Mursi was assured of our wholehearted support, with Mr Ashraf adding that Palestine could no longer be denied the right to have state of their own.

Reports emanating from Tel Aviv suggest that Israel is making feverish preparations for a ground offensive in response to rocket attacks from Gaza and has called up 75,000 reservists of the armed forces to be ready to move into the Strip. To get an idea of the miserable plight the Gazans have to suffer, day in and day out, It would be instructive to glance through the comments of the noted thinker and columnist Noam Chomsky, who summed up his impression of a visit to Gaza barely three weeks back. Calling it “the world’s largest open air prison”, he says: “It hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to survive (there).....where a million and a half people.....are constantly subjected to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade.....” The ultimate aim is to try to snuff out any hope of the local population for a decent future. The Israelis have openly and in defiance of the world opinion have targeting the top Palestinian hierarchy; the latest victim in an air raid carried out on Wednesday was Ahmad Ja’bary, the operational commander of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. On Saturday, they targeted the Hamas Prime Minister’s office. Should Tel Aviv proceed to launch a ground offensive of Gaza, it could most likely turn the region, already in the grip of a revolution called the Arab Spring, into a veritable ball of fire.

While the international community owes it to its commitment for peace to intervene, the Muslim countries have a special obligation. This is the time for them to stand up, and firmly, against the Israelis’ untold atrocities and not only condemn them, but also form a united front to convince powerful and influential states of the world that the Muslims would no longer bear with this kind of outrageously criminal behaviour. Before the killer storm overwhelms them, they had better revitalise the moribund Arab League and OIC to pursue the cause and ensure for the Palestinians an honourable existence in an independent state of their own.