A sigh of relief as Talat Hussain and his colleagues arrived home safely. But this is a short sigh of relief. People around the world painfully have held their breath for the last 62 years over the plight of the Palestinians. Those who were killed in a brutal attack on the boat were also our people, hence anger of all the peace-loving people cannot be assuaged by the release of the Freedom Flotilla passengers.
Freedom Flotilla was jointly organised by the right and left wing activists. They have achieved theirs objective of drawing international attention of the inhuman blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. Commenting on the incident UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez said: “If repeated calls on Israel to end the counter-productive and unacceptable blockade had been heeded” this situation wouldn’t have arisen. But the UN Security Council resolution was watered down by the US government. Turkey-led resolution had proposed an investigation on the lines of Goldstone Commission’s inquiry of Israel attack on Gaza. The Israeli government did not like the results of this commission because it puts the blame of atrocities on it.
Let’s look at all these aspects dispassionately. Gaza is suffering from the continuous economic blockade of Gaza by Israel since 2007. Even the UN trucks with humanitarian aid were not allowed by Israel into Gaza. Only 25% of what were supplies to Gaza before the blockade are now allowed in by Israel. Timing of Freedom Flotilla has also highlighted that the US sponsored talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority cannot be successful without involving people of Gaza and Hamas.
It was a major mistake of Israel and its masters not to accept the Hamas government. Any student of political history knows that in most of the cases an extremist leadership acts responsibly once they are in power. The coalition government they formed with Al Fatah collapsed. Avi Shlaim, a Jew professor at Oxford University in a scathing article against Israel in the Guardian said: “aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007.”
The Gaza issue is directly linked with the universally accepted demand that Israel should withdraw from the areas occupied by it in 1967. An Israeli census had put the Gaza population at 380,000, at least half of whom were refugees from Israel. Today the population stands at about 1.5 million. According to U.N. over 1 million are refugees and their descendants.
In June 2007 Hamas violently seized control of Gaza after routing forces loyal to the rival Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas, which was a major mistake and only helped the Israeli hawks. Hamas has divided the Palestinian movement and is supported by some Islamic countries. On December 19, 2008 Hamas formally declared that the truce was over and started firing rockets on Israel. This move was a miscalculation and without taking into account that it would bring death and misery to the Gaza inhabitants.
Struggle for Palestinian rights is a pure and simple secular struggle and not a conflict between Islam and Judaism. There are a number of Jews in the world who condemn the Israeli atrocities like we do. There are more processions against Israel’s aggressive policies in the West where people from all religions participate. Recently, a leading critic of Israel Noam Chomsky, who is of a Jewish descent, was denied entry into Gaza by the Israeli government.
A workable solution realistically speaking has to be based on the acceptance of the fact that the two nations would have to learn co-existence. A Palestinian refugee in Nobel Laureate Le Clezio’s novel ‘Wandering Star’ wonders “Does the sun not shine for us all?” Well so far it has not shined. But this would only be possible if the US and European countries pressurize Israel’s leadership to abide by the previous truce terms and withdraw to the post 1967 position. And the leadership on both sides of the divide is truly secular. This is important because the extremist Jews believe that God has given them this land and till they don’t have total control over it the Messiah would not come. This is also supported by some US evangelists. Rabin tried to overrule this element and he was shot.
The problem with the states created in the name of religion is that they are held hostage by the Rabbis and Mullahs. The genesis of these states gives these extremists enough political space. Such religious extremists take their inspiration and guidance from their respective theology and not from today’s value system that provides for equal rights to all without any discrimination.
To sum up let me quote from Karen Armstrong’s book “The History of Jerusalem.” She says: “On 25 February 1994, Baruch Goldstein gunned down at least forty-eight Palestinian worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarch in Hebron; today he is revered as a martyr of Israel by the far right. Another martyr is the young woman member of the Islamic Group of Hamas, who died in the suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus on 25th August 1995, killing five people and injuring 107. Such actions are a travesty of religion ….. As soon as the prime duty to respect the divinity enshrined in other human beings is forgotten, “God” can be made to give the divine seal of absolute approval to our prejudices and desires. Religion then becomes a breeding ground for violence and cruelty.” (Closer to home we have also seen this on the black Friday).