What can Muslims do?
But leaving all this history aside, if one were to ask, “What did we Muslims learn about the dangers of internal conflict and how is this learning reflected in our lives,” we would be hard put to find an answer. It is almost as if we learnt nothing because if there is one thing that characterizes us as people, it is our internal conflicts, our intolerance for difference of opinion, our unwillingness to accept diversity and our impatience and anger with anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Our societies are rife with one group of Muslims calling another apostate (Kafir and Murtad) and on that pretext attacking and seeking to destroy them.
There is no unity even among the Palestinians themselves – the Fatah and Hamas conflict being clear all along. Israel has utilized this conflict to its own advantage for decades but Fatah and Hamas are unable to see through this. Palestinian politics is rife with corrupt leaders ever ready to sell their own people down the drain for their personal interests. Their internal conflicts enable Israeli intelligence to know everything that happens there. The list of what is wrong in Palestine itself is long, but nothing different or particularly worse than the list for the rest of the Ummah. We can point a finger at Palestinians but three relentlessly point back at us.
As for the lack of unity among Muslim rulers – the only thing that they can agree on is that they can’t agree on anything. And by the look of it – not even a single statement against what is happening in Palestine/Gaza just now – it doesn’t seem that we are going to see any unity in a hurry. Muslim rulers are terrified of democracy in any form or shape and they will do anything in their power to stop anything that remotely looks like a democracy arising anywhere near them. Their sponsors and supporters, thanks to whom they retain their thrones, love to talk about democracy and posture as its protectors and promoters – but in reality democracy is the last thing they want in their client regimes. They would rather install or support dictators and deal with one man, no matter how corrupt or oppressive, than dealing with a democratically elected government of the people. Nothing is more clearly evidence of this than the reinstallation of dictatorship in Egypt.
Meanwhile Israel, the genesis of which was hatred and fear and which survives on this ideology and this image is what sustains it and ensures that it gets both an unlimited expense account and a James Bond License to Kill – will continue to do what it always did – keep that image of being the bastion of protection for the West. Israel has sold to the West the key message – WiiFM – What’s in it for Me? As somebody said, ‘Israel says that it is our only friend in the Middle East. But before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.’ Western leaders are not willing to look at this fact at all. The West considers Israel essential for its own safety. Israel will never do anything to debug this myth. It is not in the interest of Israel to do so. Its entire communication and propaganda machine is geared to ensuring that the Free Press is free to report only what is beneficial to keeping this myth alive, and that all real information that may threaten to lift the curtain is instantly suppressed and killed. One can hardly blame Israel for not wanting to kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
No matter how much one may wish for the natural cooperation that should be the logical outcome of population, skill and technology demographics of Israel-Palestine – where Jewish technology and Palestinian work could make the desert flower – the desert flowers on usurped land, stolen water and the blood of innocents. All because if Palestinians and Israelis cooperated, Western (American) Military aid would lose its meaning and the carte blanche in global morality would cease to exist. That would be a very expensive bargain, especially given the history of sixty years of brutal oppression that Israel has written into its story.
Also at stake is the largest fresh water aquifer on which Gaza and a lot of inconvenient Palestinians are sitting. That water is wealth beyond belief for water starved Israel and the lives of a few Palestinians which may be the cost that Israel has to pay is very easy to do. Killing is always easier than dying. Another carrot is the gas reserves on the Palestinian coast that have recently come to light, and which Israel has no intention of allowing Palestinians to benefit from.
To come to the aid of Israel is sixty years of planning, investment, intelligent use of natural and human resources to ensure that no decision is ever taken in any forum which can be remotely inimical to Israel’s interests. Israelis may have internal conflicts among themselves and Israeli politics is as dog eat dog as any other, but they are a unified force when it comes to Israel’s collective interests. I wish one could say that about Muslims – that they also unite when it comes to the interests of Islam. But we know the sad truth.
Hamas’s strategy of armed resistance is obviously not working and is instead being used as an excuse for Israel’s expansion plans, legitimizing (at least in the minds of their sponsors) genocide of civilian populations and massive destruction of humanity. Hamas’s ineffective toy rockets are answered by highly effective F16 and Apache helicopter bombing with catastrophic results. Why Hamas doesn’t rethink its strategy is something that I have no answer for. But obviously they need to do that urgently.
The comparison made with the armed struggle of South African people against its own apartheid regime doesn’t really fit because apartheid on the basis of color and race has lost all credibility and support and though it still remains in the hearts of many, it is simply untenable in public. No political leader can call for it and expect to remain in power. However, the same is not the case with religious and ethnic (Semitic only) prejudice. It is possible for Israeli leaders to call for ‘Death to all Arabs’, ‘Kill Muslim children’, ‘create concentration camps in Gaza’ and such things and still survive and thrive. The world doesn’t find this as reprehensible as it found white supremacy ideology of the South African apartheid regime. Whereas it sanctioned South Africa until the apartheid regime came to its knees, it doesn’t lift a finger against Israel, who despite being the killer, plays victim very successfully.
Secondly, what is different in this freedom struggle from that of South Africa is the attitude of neighboring countries. In the case of South Africa, neighboring countries opened their borders to freedom fighters to cross over into safe territory, permitted them to have training camps for their fighters, allowed equipment and supplies to come through their countries – all to support a cause they considered just. They also used all their diplomatic power to lobby for the freedom of Black people from the apartheid regime in all international fora. Countries in Europe, UK being at the forefront, stood firmly behind the freedom struggle and the leaders of the struggle operated from UK for years.
However in the case of the Palestinian struggle, their neighboring countries are doing the opposite. They are, if anything, more hostile to them than Israel. They have sealed their borders and are not even allowing medicines to go through. Their military personnel are infiltrating into Palestine to gather intelligence on behalf of Israel in order to destroy Hamas. The fact that Hamas is the duly elected government of Palestine means nothing to them or to their masters, who harp about democracy from the rooftops but strongly support dictatorships – all without batting an eyelid. As mentioned earlier, this is the same logic that prevailed in Egypt where the duly elected government was declared ‘terrorist’ and a dictator was installed and called the ‘elected President’. The Arab Spring – sprang into the lap of dictatorship once again. Palestinian freedom fighters therefore are completely alone without a single friend in any government, with the exception of the Government of South Africa and now several Latin American countries, which still support the anti- apartheid freedom struggle.
Another question that is often asked is why Gandhian non-violent civil disobedience didn’t work in the South African freedom struggle even though Gandhi started propagating it in South Africa. Gandhi’s philosophy was eventually tried and tested in India and it worked very well in getting rid of British Colonial Rule. But in South Africa it was tried and failed and so was abandoned and armed resistance was adopted and eventually succeeded in gaining freedom for the black people from white apartheid rule. I asked one of my friends, a famous senior freedom fighter in the South African freedom struggle, who spent over two decades in prison, this question. His answer, “The Apartheid Regime didn’t play by the rules like the British in India did.” And that is precisely the reason why a non-violent movement will probably not work in Palestine either – the Zionists don’t play by the rules. Rachel Corrie was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver while she was attempting to protest peacefully against the illegal demolition of a Palestinian home.
The bigger tragedy is that nobody, including her own government, supported her non-violent action, nor did they criticize or punish the bulldozer driver who murdered her. The message to the Palestinian people was clear – non-violence doesn’t work.
The final, unusual feature in this whole game is the situation of massive civilian support for Palestine and against Israeli aggression. What is amazing however is the extent of civilian support for Palestine, yet its apparent ineffectiveness in changing the situation on the ground. Social Media has played a vital role in exposing the truth to the general public so that, despite state control of so-called mainstream media and Israeli influence on major media channels like CNN, Fox, BBC and others, which enables them to use these channels as their propaganda machine, common people are able to get real information directly from the frontline, from people who are directly affected.
Another tactic which seems to be working very well and the success of which must be attributed to Social Media – especially Twitter and Facebook – is the movement to boycott products made in Israel and Occupied Palestine. YouTube brought images to the public that mainstream television was trying to hide. Boycotting products gave the public a way to take action that is legal and in their power to do. Social Media made it possible to connect across international boundaries. We hope that all this will bring about change on the ground before it is too late.
Problem definitions are always easy for someone who has the benefit of perspective, a function of distance. The solution is also very simple to envisage in this case All people of conscience must learn to unite on justice; understand that injustice to one is injustice to all. For Muslims, follow the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger and show the rest of the world how Arabs and Palestinians are not a threat but a big asset to the world. How to make it happen? Implementation is always the key. And only action can get results.
Justice to Palestine
Notwithstanding all of the above, it is entirely possible that we may all be in for a huge surprise – and I for one am praying for it – where the huge involvement of civil society in upholding human rights and speaking out against murder and genocide may bear fruit and give justice to the Palestinians.
The reality is that when the bombs stop falling the Palestinians will have the freedom to live in their land, minus their homes, without electricity, water, schools, hospitals and all the conveniences and security that we take for granted in even the poorer countries. And Israel will still have the wall, the check points, the right and power to humiliate, violate, imprison and kill Palestinians without question. So really what kind of life is that? And of course I am not even talking about dealing with the psychological trauma of bereavement and desolation in their lives for no fault other than being in the wrong place – so to speak.
It is essential for the world to remember that the challenge for all people of conscience is not merely to stop the bombing but to ensure that this never happens again. The only way to achieve that is to ensure that justice is done, murder is punished and its perpetrators are brought to book. Its supporters must be taught a lesson that they won’t forget in a hurry. Only then will a soldier think twice before pulling the trigger, when he has a child’s face in the cross hairs of his telescopic sight.
Only then will we once again dare to call ourselves human.
 “Balfour Declaration.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 25 July 2014. Web. 3 August 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration>  “Balfour Declaration.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 25 July 2014. Web. 3 August 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration>  Chossudovsky, Michel. “War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields.” Global Research. Global Research, 08 Jan. 2009. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.  Fadhel, Muhammad. “Israel Wants Palestine’s Water and Gas.” Newsletter. Gulfnews.com, 27 July 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.  Parry, Nigel. “Photostory: Israeli Bulldozer Driver Murders American Peace Activist.” The Electronic Intifada. The Electronic Intifada, 16 Mar. 2003. Web. 06 Aug. 2014.