Friday, January 9, 2009
Pride, Power and Privilege in Palestine
Since the Israeli New Year invasion of the overcrowded concentration camp which once represented the beautiful Mediterranean beach of Gaza the international public has been sickened by the hypocrisy and tragedy of the saga unfolding on its screens nightly. It has also been confusing with claim and counter claim in a war for the minds of the international community carried out in the media as much as in the streets and homes of the victims. For once we have a brief respite from the media’s never ending reference to the Jewish holocaust - perhaps because (for once) it does not suit to remind Western audiences and have them conflate the Jewish trauma with the modern Palestinian trauma. The history from each perspective of rightful possession of Palestine however has been explained along with the history of peace efforts and much of the political background to the recent crisis which has been pored over in every detail. Yet it is the emotional factors that have as much a part to play in the recent crisis as the historical and political detail – the emotions relating to Israeli and Arab pride, the emotional drive for power at all cost, the emotional effect of the unjust distribution of privilege and finally the complete absence of human or spiritual compassion accompanying these emotions that really needs to be addressed.
Let me first begin with pride and its accompanying vice – hypocrisy. Pride breeds arrogance and can begin – as it has historically done with the Jewish/Arab family saga –with an insult that is never forgiven. When Abraham (Ibrahim a.s.) took his second wife Haaja – by some accounts for political reasons and to ensure the safety of his existing wife – he began the epic family tragedy which continues today. Abraham’s first wife was barren, and the insult of taking a second wife was compounded by Haaja (Abraham’s second wife) delivering a son to the patriarch. The conflict was so great that Haaja had to be removed far away – in fact to begin a new nation, and with her son to build the Kaabah which is still revered by Muslims until today as the central unifying structure of Islam - at the centre of every formal prayer and pilgrimage. This same pride and self-centred belief in who has a greater right to God’s message and authority is at the heart of much of tragedy of Palestine. Israeli’s believe that as the rightful heirs of Abraham they have a God-given access to the land of Palestine – a claim apparently rejected by many of their own rabbis. They forcefully substantiate their claim in modern history as part of a just retribution for the Jewish holocaust – but hypocritically inflict a slower and more insidious holocaust on the usurped Palestinians. Islamist militants – rightfully angry at the misappropriation of their land and resources – steadfastly reject the right of Israel to exist, regardless of the size of its modern existence, and hypocritically claim their God-given superiority over the misguided People of the Book despite historical and theological evidence in Islam that Jews could and should be dealt with in a respectful and peaceful manner.
The same pride and hypocrisy is clearly evident in the defiant unleashing of rockets into Israel from within civilian areas – in defence of the Palestinian children who minutes later die of return fire from Israel. The humiliated Palestinian population – particularly the unemployed, frequently detained and tortured, impotent Arab males - see the restoration of their pride in defiance at all costs, even at the cost of the horrific injury and morbid blood letting of their families. The Israeli leadership hypocritically continues to state that it is not targeting civilians and has no evil intent against the Palestinian people – yet its actions are clearly contrary and hypocritical to its statements. Targeting UN Aid convoys, informing women and children to shelter in schools and homes that are then deliberately bombed – not to mention the decades of deliberate and continuous humiliation and deliberate eradication of any hope or aspiration other than martyrdom of their Arab cousins. Yet again hypocritically the Israeli Zionist leaders claim to be God’s chosen people – what kind of a Satanic, unjust and cruel god are they then claiming to represent? Certainly not the God of the Old, New and Quranic testaments who was and is a God of Compassion, bringing judgement on the arrogant (often transgressing Jewish people), a God of justice who freed the children of Nabi Yusuf from Egypt, and a God who delivered through His Messengers - including Moses, Jesus (a.s.) and Muhammad s.a.w. – a just and comprehensive law. All this explains why today, both sides have refused to lay down their arms and consider peace – the pride of the men on both sides is at stake.
However, pride cannot act alone as the central contributor to such a ghastly fiasco. Power and privilege are also at stake. In this crucible of religious, political and racial controversy, the control of one people by another and the privileges that are metered out by those in control is a critical element that must be addressed immediately for any solution. The situation here becomes far more complex than simply the power exercised over the Palestinian people in terms of checkpoints, home demolition, the detention of hundreds of thousands of young men as ‘political prisoners’, theft of water resources, theft of land, and domination of every corner of what was once the beautiful land of Palestine by settlements on every hilltop to intimidate the surviving Palestinian rural population. In fact, as so often in the known history of mankind, Palestine is at the centre of a more global fight over the hearts and minds of humanity. Why is that Iran is supporting Hamas? Iran – representing the virulent version of a hardline Islamist view of the world is using a surrogate army – Hamas to face off against the hegemonic power of ‘the West’ represented by the surrogate government of Israel. The corrupt and Western backed Arab leaders are vacillating in the face of an Islamist presence throughout the Muslim world, while their disenfranchised and suffering population are backing the Hamas/Hizbullah challengers – albeit that they represent a militant and harsh future not too distant from the uncompromising Taliban. This ideological, political and economic fight then may be based in Palestine, but in fact stretches into every continent of the world as Muslims of the global Ummah redefine their changing role in the 21st century.
In the Quranic story of the creation of man, Iblis or Satan refused to bow as ordered to the first man – Adam a.s. He knew – as did the angels – that this creature would be capable of destroying God’s beautiful creation – wreaking death and destruction in Paradise. But Iblis’s greatest crime, and one that he was determined to encourage all men to also commit, was arrogance. Iblis felt that he knew more than to follow the instructions of God and as a result he was condemned for ever. Right now, in Palestine, this sin of arrogance, of pride in interpreting the instructions of God – is being staged catastrophically in the universal media. It is time to return to the true underlying message of all of the Scriptures – humility, compassion, and the rejection of arrogance. The Israeli’s according to their Rabbis are not willing to accept the exile imposed on them by God – but they must. The Arabs are not willing to let go of their land and accept the humiliation imposed on them by the Israeli’s – but they will have to swallow their pride once again for peace. The Israeli’s are not willing to justly share the resources they have illegally accessed – and neither in truth are the Islamists. But they must both learn to live together. And ultimately, those who claim to represent Jewish, Christian and Muslim governments must be brought to account by their people and forced to accept the laws of their respective religion in relation to justice and compassion as dictated by God. Only then will we build a future for our children without fear.(picture of Gaza under attack - compliments of SBS website)