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Rallying around Palestine

  • Posted On: 11th June 2013
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The relentless attacks on the besieged population of Gaza have left over 1,000 dead and over 4,000 injured. As hospitals burst with fresh Palestinian casualties every hour, running desperately short of blood and essential medical supplies — the bleak reality of their displacement becomes all too clear.

Despite Israel’s continued assertions that the strikes are confined to targeting Hamas militants, the death toll largely comprises civilians, among them women and children. Rather than just attacking Hamas, the ferocity of the onslaught indicates Israel’s determination to obliterate the Palestinian presence from the region altogether.
The lack of a unified Muslim voice is starkly felt as Israel forces continue to batter the hapless Palestinians without compunction and the intractable problem of the Middle East remains unresolved. The Muslim world must ensure that the liberation of the Palestinians is recognized as a legitimate struggle — such atrocities can no longer be accepted with passive political disengagement. Bolivia’s exemplary move in cutting off diplomatic ties with Israel is a testament to Bolivian President Evo Morales’s bravery as he called for Israeli leaders to face charges at the international criminal court. The first indigenous Bolivian to rule his country, Evo Morales’s miraculous rise to power was led by his promise to liberate the indigenous masses from the injustice of economic imperialism. Similarly, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez strongly denounced the military action in Gaza and has severed diplomatic ties with Israel. The silent leaders of Islamic countries have much to learn from this brave act of moral imperative demonstrated by their Latin American counterparts in support of those being deprived of basic human rights irrespective of nationality or religion.
In accordance with the principles upon which Pakistan was founded, the Pakistan government must effectively condemn the carnage in Gaza and offer unequivocal support to the Palestinians who remain dispossessed under a brutal military occupation.
Describing the anarchy reigning in Gaza, the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, John Ging, said, “What you have in this hospital is the consequences of political failure and the complete absence of any accountability for actions that are being taken. It’s the rule of the gun now, and it has to stop.”
The Palestinians continue to suffer bombardment in their marginalised ghettoes. On January 4, a woman and her four children were among the dead. Thousands have no access to water and electricity. Israeli bombardment of UN schools left over 50 civilians dead including a family of seven. The UN had provided Israeli forces with the exact coordinates of these schools to protect them as these were packed with families seeking refuge from the Israeli onslaught. Yet, in spite of mounting international clamour, on January 11, Israel announced its intention to escalate the attacks on Gaza.
Israeli forces are said to be using the controversial white phosphorous, used as a smokescreen in warfare and capable of inflicting horrific burns on victims, bolstering the widely held belief that Israel harbours chemical and biological weapons among its deadly stockpile of arsenal.
But sadly, this pattern of aggression is nothing new: Ariel Sharon’s name will forever be sullied with masterminding the dreadful massacres of Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila in 1982 which resulted in the brutal deaths of between 700 and several thousand Palestinian civilians.
Israel has rejected European calls for an immediate ceasefire as urged by French President Sarkozy and insists that it is essential to dismantle Hamas’s military capacity if a durable ceasefire is to be negotiated. “We cannot accept a compromise that will allow Hamas to fire against Israeli towns in two months’ time,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Mr. Sarkozy.
Mr. Olmert’s rigid opposition to compromise in the face of international pressure is indicative of his government’s military strength and prowess due largely to the unlimited largesse enjoyed from Washington. As a result, Mr. Olmert is able to confidently dictate his terms to the rest of the world. In his compelling and insightful book, The Politics of Dispossession, the late Edward Said highlights the invincibility of the US-Israeli alliance: “Israel and its major backer the United States represent a formidable military and political power, seemingly unchallengeable regionally and, in the main, internationally.”
Causing massive death and destruction on the justification of eliminating unruly terrorist elements like Hamas makes no sense. However unpalatable the result, the international community must accept that Hamas is the result of the democratic elections that the West has been pushing so stridently for. Surely Israeli aggression will only result in breeding more violence, extremism and bloodshed. As Mahmoud Zahar said in a televised broadcast, “They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.”
The threat from Islam has been greatly inflated allowing horrific acts of violence to be justified on the basis of eradicating terrorism. In his bracing and proactive speech at the Interfaith Conference held in Madrid last year, King Abdullahbin Abdul Aziz Al Saud,Custodian of the Two Holy Mosquesemphasised that extremism is reprehensible to Islam which urges a moderate path: “It is therefore incumbent upon us to declare to the world that difference must not lead to conflict and confrontation, and to state that the tragedies that have occurred in human history were not due to religion, but were the result of extremism with which some adherents of every divinely revealed religion, and of every political ideology, have been afflicted.”,
Similarly, Imam Muslim narrates from Ibn Masud that the Holy Prophet Muhammad, May Allah’s Blessings be upon him, said, “Extremists shall perish.” So, the misperception of Islam as an inherently violent and intolerant faith is largely rooted in the politics of our time and the inability to stanch the flow of invective against the religion exposes the weakness of a fractious and divided Muslim world.
Israel’s chilling 39-year military occupation of Palestine and its ruinous effect on the lives of the occupied must come to an end if durable peace is ever to be achieved. Amid the charred buildings and mountains of rubble that now inhabit the Gaza Strip, Pakistan and the rest of the Muslim world must help rebuild the shattered lives of the Palestinians and reinvigorate the struggle for liberation and peace.

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