Sunday, January 11, 2009

What hope is there?

History has proven that silence is the greatest propagator of injustice in the world. Over the past eleven days as Israeli bombs rain down on Gaza, I have thought much about this silence and waited in vain for that tremendous outcry of dissent one would expect to hear from the world in response to such an aggression. I have anguished in my helplessness and so I do the only thing I am capable of doing. I break my silence. I break my silence so that I will never have to tell my son that I did not speak out against what I believe to be one of the greatest violations of human rights which has been going on now for 60 long years.

Unfortunately to take issue with the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is most always in America oversimplified to be a form of anti-Semitism or in the least, a defending of the terrorism that Israelis face in the region. I could not more honestly and sincerely express that my firm rejection of Zionist nationalism is NOT in any way a grievance towards the Jewish people. Furthermore I wholeheartedly believe that like every human being, as a birthright, they deserve to exist and live out their lives in peace. But peace cannot exist where there is injustice and the political movement of Zionism to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine where Arab families had been living for generations, has given rise to one of the greatest injustices committed in the 20th century. This injustice enacted by the forced expulsion and murder of innocents has left millions of Palestinians destitute, permanently exiled, most living in refugee camps in a state of indigence and hopelessness. With over 4 million refugees registered with the UN and an estimated 2 million more unregistered, all of which are excluded from any Israeli peace efforts, Palestinians are one of the largest displaced people in the world.

The question that has plagued me for so many years is how can the Jewish people let this happen? How can a people who survived the atrocities of the holocaust subject anyone to the same degradation, depravation and dehumanization that was inflicted upon them? How could a people who lost 6 million in the holocaust justify their right to exist by destroying 6 million innocent lives? If the answer is that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism then it is hard to comprehend how systematic acts of murder and aggression will do little but birth a new generation of irreversible radical idealism which will continue to manifest in various form of violence against the Israeli people. .

Terrorism is defined as "the use of violence and threats to intimidate for political purposes". Does the slaughter of innocent Palestinian children, women and men not constitute a form of terrorism? How does the killing of over four hundred Palestinians in one week justify the deaths of eleven Israelis by Hamas rockets over the past eight years? When did an Israeli life become more precious than a Palestinian life? Is it not a huge double standard for the US government to demonize Iran for transporting weapons to Iraq when it is US made bombs and guns that are killing innocent children and women in Gaza? The answer is clear as we have seen in the Bush administration’s illegal invasion and decimation of Iraq, that the mightier often feel their crimes are justified so as long as they believe in the righteousness of their cause. And it is this sense of self-righteousness that has given way to the depraved indifference we see for innocent lives, threatening the most basic moral codes of human existence.

As illusive as peace may seem at this time given the rancor of sixty year old wounds on both sides, for many of us who believe in the significance of justice in the resolution of this conflict, a major step towards reconciliation and eventually peace would be for Israel to withdraw form the Palestinian territories it has been unlawfully occupying since 1967 and to abide by international law and dismantle the hundreds of illegal settlements it built and continues to build in these undisputed areas. The Palestinians like the Israelis deserve to live in security, with dignity and more importantly with hope. Without hope, without a reason to live, it would be difficult for any human being to engender a value for life, and if there is no value for life, it is easy to succumb to nihilistic delusions and imperil the lives of innocents on the path to self- destruction.

What hope is there for us as a race if we do not see the interconnectedness of our fate? What hope is there for us as a race if we do not speak up for those whose voices have been silenced? What hope is there for us as a race if we identify ourselves more with our culture and our religion than with our humanity? What hope is there…

Azam Ali

My love, admiration and immeasurable respect for Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of non-violent struggle against imperialism, is no secret. Gandhi had great sympathy for the persecution of the Jews, yet he was always politically and religiously against imposing a Jewish national home on the Palestinians. In an article published in the Harijan in 1938 he expressed his views very clearly on this issue and I find it to be some of the most profound words ever expressed on this subject.

" My sympathy does not blind me to the requirements for justice. Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any code of conduct. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews as their national home. "

" And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. There are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will only discard the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. According to the canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth." – Mahatma Gandhi (Published in The Harijan November 1938)