• Sunday, November 23, 2014

Food for Thought

CHOOSING HUMANITY OVER HATRED

Farah Ghuznavi
A general view taken on August 18, 2014, shows the destroyed and deserted terminals of the Gaza strips' former international airport in the southern city of Rafah.
A general view taken on August 18, 2014, shows the destroyed and deserted terminals of the Gaza strips' former international airport in the southern city of Rafah.

“Know thy enemy” is a very famous quote by the Chinese general Sun Tzu, but the full version of the quote is less well known. It reads: "Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle."

Shocked at the recent savage attacks on Gaza by Israel, I was reminded of the wisdom underlying this statement. The comments heard from most Israeli politicians (and many of the public) are truly horrifying in their dehumanisation of the people of Gaza. Thus, although Israel has been the one doing the bombing, civilian deaths have been blamed on Hamas because “they started it” by firing rockets at Israelis. The fact that the rockets are a pathetic weapon in comparison to Israel's hundreds of tons of bombs, suspected use of banned DIME weapons and the deaths of over a thousand civilians is of course ignored while this “argument” is being made by the Zionists (and supported by their American allies - even those, like John Kerry, who know better, but dare not say so). The Israeli government's shameful attempt to blame mass murders that they have committed on Hamas is about as convincing as the misbehaving child who says that the devil made him do it!

Social media has made it possible for almost everyone to have their say on any issue, for better or for worse. And while that has made it much easier to make the suffering of the Palestinians visible, it has also made it clear that a large part of the Israeli public is either brainwashed or genuinely ignorant about the deeper motives underlying current Israeli government policy. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the current group of war criminals who run the Israeli government would in fact like to depopulate Gaza by killing or reducing its population to stateless refugees elsewhere, so that they can take over the land.

The current crisis is not about Hamas or its rockets, whatever the (unconvincing) Israeli rhetoric on this.And it's clear that a sizeable portion of the Israeli population shares the views of the Netanyahu government. Perhaps the most appalling example of such attitudes was captured in the picture taken by a Danish journalist of the “Sderot Cinema”, a hilltop in Sderot where people gather to view the bombing in Gaza, as if it is a social occasion or an outing.

Coming back to the quote from Sun Tzu, all this makes it pretty clear that such individuals – and politicians – do not in fact know themselves! If they did, they could not cling to the self-identification of Jews in general and Israelis in particular as eternal victims. The current situation in Gaza is almost absurdly unequal – as illustrated in the death count of hundreds on one side, and a few dozen on the other. The Goliath in this version of “David and Goliath” is Israel, however loudly the Zionists claim otherwise. Of course, they are continually enabled in this false perception of victimhood by the unconditional support of the US, and the reluctant silence of much of the Western world. It seems to me that the guilt that the Europeans rightly feel for the injustice of the Holocaust is wrongly reflected in this silence.

Germany is one of the few nations to have worked hard to provide reparations for its past sins, and it continues to be one of the largest donors to Israel. But I personally think that a more just way for Europe to expiate the burden of its post-Holocaust guilt by providing for a homeland for the Jews would have been to give them part of Germany, rather than encourage them to emigrate to (and subsequently take over by force) populated areas of Palestine! Two wrongs do not make a right. And while the treatment suffered by the Jews during World War II was undoubtedly an atrocity, what is happening in Gaza today is precisely such an atrocity.

Palestinian boys play amidst the rubble of a destroyed house in Gaza City's Shejaiya neighbourhood.
Palestinian boys play amidst the rubble of a destroyed house in Gaza City's Shejaiya neighbourhood.

Amidst the inhuman bombardment of a defenceless civilian population in Gaza, we have seen the resurgence of another kind of hatred, as the Internet sees the re-emergence of cartoons featuring Hitler, with messages such as “I could have killed all the Jews, but I left some of them alive, so that you would see why I killed them.” I wonder if those who post these messages have actually thought about the fact that the only people Hitler considered worthy of life were physically perfect, white-skinned, blond Christian Aryan specimens. He would have had little mercy for those who are non-white and/or Muslims, and he is hardly worth making a hero of.

I must be honest and say that I have been struggling with hatred myself, watching some of the dispatches coming in from Gaza. So much so, that it made me wonder whether I could actually write this column at all. The misery and cruelty of the situation faced by the Gazans have left me speechless. And those images and testimonies make it easy to hate those who are responsible. But the truth is, that's too simple. And it puts us in a parallel, if opposite-leaning, situation to Zionist Israelis, who have lost all sense of humanity – and that thing most essential to the preservation of sanity: a sense of perspective.

So I have to remind myself that not all Jews are Israeli, and not all Israelis are Zionists. Some of the loudest voices speaking out against the Israeli government's actions are in fact Jewish voices. From those in the Orthodox Jewish community who believe that the state of Israel goes against everything that Judaism stands for, to liberal and/or secular Jews who are appalled by what is being done in their name. The political theorist Noam Chomsky has been a consistent critic of Israeli policies, as has the writer Gideon Levy, who has received numerous death threats for pointing out that anyone who professes to love Israel should be standing firm in protest against the government's warmongering and its inhuman treatment of the Palestinians.

In recent years, their mantle has been taken up by a new generation. Like the young American man, Lucas Koerner, who was badly beaten by the Israeli police for speaking out against the treatment of Palestinians at the recent Jerusalem Day rally - this despite the fact that Lucas himself is Jewish, and a US citizen. If anything is needed to convince me that the Israeli authorities have lost all sense of perspective, this is just one good example of that.

Nor is the entire world watching silently as the atrocities in Gaza continue apace, as some would have us believe. At a global level, huge demonstrations have taken place in cities like London, Chicago, New York, Brussels and elsewhere. It is the politicians in these countries who are to blame for the lack of support received by the people of Gaza, and the biased media who refuse to report such events properly - not the people of good faith, of whatever religion, who are doing their level best to make their voices heard. And there are others who are doing amazing things at the individual level. Like the Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who is not only a consistent and courageous supporter of the Palestinian people, but a man who has actually been working in Gaza doing what he can to help the victims of this massacre. Gilbert and others like him clearly live by the words of Bob Marley: “The people who are trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”

And that is what I would like to see more of us doing, something constructive and positive to help the people of Gaza. Providing relief donations and participating in consumer boycotts will be part of that process. We need to educate ourselves regarding those options, and share the information widely. I hope to write more about this in the near future.

Social mediahas played a key role in building support for the Palestinians in the most recent round of this conflict, especially in western countries. But that can and should be done without playing into simplistic stereotypes. It's important to remember that not all Jews support the Israeli war machine and not all Muslims support the Palestinian freedom struggle. If you doubt the latter statement, just consider the fact that Egypt has regularly refused to let medical supplies in or injured Palestinians out through the Rafah crossing. In general, most of the Gulf countries have provided the Palestinians with very little concrete political support and at best, very limited financial support. In fact, it is the (non-Muslim) South American government of Chile that has taken the drastic step of suspending its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with Israel and considering a complete withdrawal of its ambassador to Tel Aviv in protest!

Simplistic labels can too often lead to misreading more complex geo-political realities. Especially when there is a propaganda war underway to manipulate our perceptions by biased media and political forces. As Sun Tzu said, if we want to win this battle, we should know who the enemy really is. And we should learn to know ourselves better, too.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2014

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