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Genocide in Gaza: Time for a more inclusive mindset

We need to stress the progressive, inclusive nature in all the major religions if we are to surmount the atrocities we witness today

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We continue to witness the grave loss of lives and the Israeli military’s unceasing bombardment of Gaza.

With no food, water or humanitarian support, the people trapped in Gaza are suffering tragic losses.

Having personally lost a child in Malaysia recently, I cannot but feel deeply for those who have lost several children because of the chain of events in Israel-Palestine. Many have also lost their homes and others forced to flee further south in Gaza – an unimaginable catastrophe.

Yet this crisis continues unabated. Media presentation is such that recent events only started on 7 October, when Hamas launched an attack on Israel. We forget that Gaza is part of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Indian historian and Columbia University professor Vijay Prashad made an interesting comment: “Yes, every nation has the right to defend itself. This is a fundamental principle of international law. However, they miss the point that Gaza is not another country. It is part of areas described as ‘occupied Palestinian territories’. It has no legal status as a nation.”

For essential provisions like water, electricity and fuel, they are reliant on Israel’s approval and control. Gaza has often been described as the largest open-air prison in the world. Is it morally wrong to fight for one’s freedom?

Globally, Gaza remains one of the most densely populated areas. The relentless disproportionate bombing has led to over 10,000 deaths, with almost 4,500 of them children. The collateral damage to infrastructure will take its toll on the people of Gaza for years to come.

In this day and age, we are all collectively responsible for this. Recall the Cultural Revolution in China, genocide in Africa, the harsh realities in Kampuchea (as Cambodia was known in 1975-79), the Ukraine war and the present events in Myanmar. People were displaced and many died.

National interests often override human concerns and the cold war today worsens the situation. With veto power in the UN, everything is reduced to the lowest common denominator – acceptance or appeasement rather than agreement for decisive action.

Despite modern approaches to conflict resolution and mediation, expressions of humankind’s inhumanity towards their fellow humans continue. Colonies have the right to fight for their independence. To deny this to the people of Gaza, who have suffered this occupation for decades, is to deny them a basic sense of human rights and freedom.

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It is tragic that the US and European nations that espouse democracy do not seem to get this point: such disproportionate retaliation amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza. By these nations’ inaction, they condone what is happening in Gaza and the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has been arrogant in its response to the UN. Several UN staff have died in the latest attack on Gaza. Israel’s call for the resignation of the UN secretary general reveals its contempt for the UN.

Yet, with cover from the US and Europe, Israel continues to defend the indefensible.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu pushes forward, challenging both US and European powers.

No one takes a stand that makes it painful for Israel to go down this road. Instead, it is all about appeasement, buying time for the Israeli military to secure its objectives.

Warmonger Netanyahu has no interest in seeking peace. He seeks conflicts with Gaza, and his focus on Hamas is seen as a means to sustain himself in power. This Zionist has to go if peace is to have a chance.

Sayeeda Warsi, a member of the UK House of Lords, spoke of Netanyahu’s earlier support for Hamas. “Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support the establishment of Hamas and transferring money to them. This is part of our strategy to isolate the Palestinians from Gaza from those in the West Bank,” Netanyahu had said.

His divide-and-rule approach shows his insincerity in seeking peace. Following the assassination of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally in Tel Aviv in 1995, the Oslo accords ended. Later, John Kerry, the the US secretary of state in 2013-17, also saw his efforts fail.

So long as Hamas remains, Netanyahu could argue he has no partner for peace in Gaza and this justifies his war-mongering.

Netanyahu would even contract with the devil to ensure his political future, as his present coalition government contains a self-confessed fascist and another convicted of supporting a “terror” organisation. Talk of using the nuclear bomb on Gaza recently led to the sacking of one of his ministers.

READ MORE:  Lessons from Gaza

Then there are the corruption charges that Netanyahu still has to face and the draconian legal changes – which the people of Israel have stood up against – that could curb judicial oversight. Only an ideologue committed to Zionism could rationalise the devastating actions and the immense loss of life in the Gaza area. He is not conscience-stricken.

Yet the US and the West do not have the moral guts to stand up to this modern-day tyrant. There is no way the US and European governments can clear the blood that is now also on their hands. It is their own prejudice and guilt that has blinded them from taking a clear stand. This appeasement of the Israeli government must stop.

It is appropriate for nations to file actions at the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. The time has come for these international institutions to reveal their worth in terms of independence and fairness. They have to hold Netanyahu accountable for war crimes. Failing this, they embolden others to commit similar crimes.

My friend Peter Shambrook, in his recent book Policy of Deceit – Britain and Palestine 1914-1939, analyses primary sources in the UK’s dealings with Arab leaders, particularly the correspondence of 1915-17, which nails Britain’s double dealing. This highlights the UK’s complicity in contributing to today’s Israel-Palestine issue.

The key problem was that in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain made a promise to the Zionist organisation that was incompatible with the promises they had made to Arabs leaders then.

The letter, written by Arthur Balfour, promised to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine as long as “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

Britain’s failure regarding this latter proviso is obvious to this day.

The European nations and the US will have to take a strong stand against Netanyahu, failing which recent events could develop into a more serious crisis drawing in other players like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Iran. This will cause a total collapse of US policy on the Middle East.

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It is time these nations grasp the global sense of disconnect between their national interest and their people’s disgust over their policies and realities.

Zionism is all about an ethno-nationalistic state. It is exclusively about the Jews and sadly, it has assumed greater prominence than Judaism. When an ideology trumps the inherent faith of a people, then it poses serious challenges.

It is all about a “chosen people”, their right to their land of origin, and this gives rise to an exclusive view of humanity. The other is reduced to something less, and this, in their mind, justifies treating the other in an inhumane manner.

We witness this being played out presently in many places. That is why ethno-centred causes – whether it is Zionism or “Hindutva” in India or “ketuanan Melayu” (Malay supremacy) – are ideas that fundamentally divide people.

Such ideas give rise to a mental apartheid or segregation and divisiveness that is then seen in policies that demean the other – policies that are unilateral and subvert the interest and rights of the other. Fear of the other then becomes a driving force.

These populist ideas are today undercutting the fabric of democracy.

We need to focus on issues that build and bring people together, meet their needs and enhance their sense of respect for one another beyond the fault lines of race, religion, class or colour.

In today’s interconnected and interdependent world, the call is to honour humanity and to create humane societies. This is possible only when faith defines love and the other becomes important.

We need to stress this progressive and inclusive nature inherent in all the major religions if we are to surmount the negative aspects of human nature and the atrocities we witness today. Can the lessons of history contribute to a better future?

K Haridas
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
13 November 2023

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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K Haridas, an Aliran executive committee member, is the current honorary secretary of the Business Ethics Institute of Malaysia, chairperson of the Association For The Promotion Of Higher Education In Malaysia and chairperson of the Malaysian chapter of Initiatives of Change International.
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