I recall hearing a senior of mine once say that he lacked the “emotional energy” for the Palestine conflict. Having always been a supporter of the Palestinian cause, for the multitude of reasons with which the readers of this newspaper will probably relate (and hence need not be stated), I felt the statement reflected a lack of spine and moral clarity on the part of its speaker.

Several years, numerous “operations” and a full-scale embargo on Palestine have followed since. When the current round of hostilities began, I realized that the thought of watching news coverage on the conflict, or reading an article (whether leaning towards the Israeli or Palestinian pole of the conflict) filled me with a sense of dread; of being sucked into an exhausting spiral of rage, hurt, disgust and helplessness. Perhaps I lacked the emotional time and energy to expend on the hopeless state of affairs which has been the Palestine-Israel conflict. Gradually, driven by a sense of guilt at the onset of this indifference and the unavoidability of the conflict in today’s hyper connected world, I allowed myself to get sucked in.

Looking at the current hostilities from a historical perspective, certain constants of the Palestine-Israel conflict and the stage upon which it plays out still remain, underpinning the fresh round of protracted violence: the imperialistic nature of the Zionist movement and its aim of colonizing Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights as part of Eretz Israel; the racialized and exclusionary ideology of Zionism which attempts to interpret and present Arabs and Islam to the western world as “backward”,  “despotic” and “terrorist”, from a standpoint of westernization and emancipation; the stark asymmetry of power between the materially and technologically endowed state of Israel, and the besieged and emaciated residents of Gaza; the impotence of the United Nations and the international community in the face of Israel’s national aims. Unsurprisingly, the weakness and moral bankruptcy of the Arab world has also not changed much (though much else has) since Eqbal Ahmad wrote of its role, or lack thereof, in the First Lebanon War in the following terms, “Its rulers are too cautious to wage war except on their own peoples, too insecure to initiate peace, too dependent to protect state sovereignty, too corrupt to reclaim national honor ... State power has rendered Muslim societies impotent...”

What has changed however, is the monopoly over the truth which the Zionist cause came to enjoy through the traditional press and its hold over the liberal intelligentsia. The advent of social media on an international level and establishment of non-western media outlets with a global audience has democratized the field by creating a multitude of content creators, able to share competing narratives of political events such as the Israel-Palestine conflict. The extent to which the current round of hostilities has been played out on two fronts, the territorial and the ideological, is plain to see. The Palestinian side of the picture, with the colossal loss of life and indiscriminate destruction of property and infrastructure, is plastered over social media sites, blogs and now (reluctantly) even mainstream western newspapers and television channels confronted with the choice of either maintaining the status quo and losing face and consumers, or presenting at least a semblance of impartiality (if that is at all possible). What is certain is that the dominant narrative is no longer uncontested, and it can only be hoped that this will have some bearing, however slight, on the long-term chances for a resolution of the conflict. That is not to say that Israel’s aggression lacks widespread support. However, the current ideological battle has been hard fought with an attention to detail which may not have been required in the past. Though Israel’s “right to self-defence” still enjoys ideological mileage, it does far less to the gallon, and the road to be navigated is far bumpier.

Over the past few weeks, the world has been turned into a horror-show of violence and destruction. There is no conflict in the world today which unravels so perfectly the deepest and ugliest realities of the post-colonial political order. Perhaps because the Zionist agenda is the final vestige of the age of imperialism – relentlessly driven by its internal dialectic (the ascendancy of the Jew and the negation of the Arab) – whereas the erstwhile colonial powers long ago altered their modi operandi. The Zionist project marches on, understandably, given that the Zionist aim (though not programme) was always distinct in that it sought the expropriation of the land and expulsion of the natives, as opposed to their complete political and economic subjugation. Today, the embarrassment and panic caused by this remnant of a bygone era is written all over the faces of the leaders of the western world and the custodians of the order which the age of colonialism bequeathed. As Netanyahu lets them know who calls the shots where Israel’s interests are concerned – and the pictures of maimed children and mountains of rubble give the world a glimpse of what that entails – they frantically attempt to broker a cessation of violence (however brief) and have the unenviable task of holding up a banner of political truisms such as the rule of law and the legitimate use of force whilst they do so. No one is impressed; and so the world watches on in shock as the casualties pile up and accusations of barbarity fly to and fro. It’s as if one had been forced to watch an Irish Stand Down with both pugilists having too much pride, mutual hatred and support to stand down. And that is the aspect of this conflict which will remain after the deceased have long been buried, the buildings rebuilt, and the armaments restocked.

With each missile fired and tunnel imploded, the Israelis and the Palestinians are farther away from a lasting solution to their collective predicament. The courses of history have dictated that their fates be intertwined. Till such time that majorities on both sides can force themselves – however difficult and unsavoury it may seem – to acknowledge their mutual humanity and eventually transcend their pasts, the world will continue to play the reluctant spectator, powerless to affect, unable to turn away, and exhausted emotionally.

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore.