People demonstrate in support of Palestinians in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on Nov. 19 as Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and attacked it on Oct. 7. (Photo: AFP)
The Palestine-Israel war raises many questions for the thoughtful observer. We articulate some of them here; others will arise of themselves as you read on.
Perhaps one can begin with the obvious question, reiterated time and time again by Israel and its allies in the West: “Israel has the right to defend itself against its enemies,” especially against terrorist attacks.
But this very quickly leads us to the next question, what is terrorism?
The many forms of terrorism
Terrorism is any act of violence, whether physical or verbal, like “hate speech,” which inspires fear and terror in another, and usually but not only, in a political context.
The political context varies, of course: one man’s “terrorist” is another's “freedom fighter,” or “militant.”
Nor should we forget that most acts of terrorism whether perpetrated by individuals or groups, are usually in response to larger acts of violence and oppression instigated by governments against sections of their population, and which are generally concealed from the public eye. Pogroms for instance.
Many governments are actually terrorists in all but name.
The United States (US) has repeatedly gone to war against countries it disagrees with and has also organized the murder of its so-called enemies either through paid assassins or through drones. It refuses to be held to account by the United Nations (UN) or any other world body.
In this context, isn’t it true — as Noam Chomsky has repeatedly said — that the US is the world’s greatest terrorist?
Today, Muslim groups like Hamas are publicly designated as terrorists by the West, and hunted down. In fact, such is the public perception crafted by the international media, that all Muslims are generally viewed as terrorists.
This is an erroneous assumption, for terrorism is not the prerogative of any one religious community. In fact, one of the oldest terrorist groups in the world (now happily defunct) was the Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA).
And in the Sri Lanka of yesteryear, the dreaded Tamil Tigers were Hindus.
Nor are the Jews exempt from the terrorist label. In Palestine in 1948, Zionist groups like the Haganah and the Irgun grabbed territory and fought the Arabs. They were responsible for assassinations (Count Folke Bernadotte) and the slaughter of Palestinian civilians (Deir Yassin).
Some of their members later became prime ministers in Israel.
America and Israel: The similarities
Many from other parts of the world keep asking, why is it that the US helps the Israelis so much? The reasons are complex.
In part, this is because of the baleful influence of the Jewish lobby, a powerful conglomerate of pro-Israeli groups that continually pressures American lawmakers in favor of that country.
But West Asia is also the source of much of the world’s oil, the lifeblood of all modern economies, and so of key importance to the US. Israel has promoted itself as an important guardian of American interests in this part of the world.
But perhaps the deeper reason, not known to many, is that the “settler colony” mentality of Zionist Israel fits in so well with how Americans themselves built their own country.
Just like the settlers in America, the Zionists are Europeans and not Palestinian Jews. What they want is all of Palestine for themselves alone. The native Palestinians are to be either driven out by force or shunted into “concentration camps” (Gaza has become one), or retained as Untermenschen, without civil rights, without privileges as blacks once were in America and in South Africa.
And just as white Americans once wrested their lands from the Native Americans by false treaties, steady encroachment and wars — so too does Zionist Israel today.
Today, there are hardly any original inhabitants left in northern America or Australia. Almost all have been exterminated, or interned in impoverished “reservations.”
This is Israel’s precise plan for the Palestinians and not the two-state formula.
Therefore to be anti-Zionist is not to be anti-Semitic. Israel is in fact an apartheid state.
How do we view the Holy Land?
To begin with a disclaimer: there’s no such thing as a “holy land,” whether for Jews, Christians or for Hindus.
Our growing ecological awareness has meant that we treat all of the Earth as holy, worthy of respect and care; and that the despoliation of one element in nature injures us all. All the Earth — land, sea and sky — is sacred, and each part of it.
So the claims of any people that “God has promised this land to us alone” are literary fiction, and must be viewed as such.
Nevertheless, so many European, American and Indians visit Jerusalem and wax eloquently over the places associated with Jesus’ life and sufferings.
But how is it that they turn a blind eye to the actual oppression of the Palestinians there?
Is there a deficiency in contemporary Catholic devotion, so that it is easily stirred by the imaginary sufferings of Jesus along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, but is oblivious to the real suffering of fellow human beings?
This is the great challenge today.
If we say that the world has become smaller and that ours is a “global village,” it must surely mean that the joys and pains of other races and peoples are now felt as our own.
One can understand the guilty feelings of older Europeans. Their anti-Semitism distorts their attitude to Israel and to the Palestinians.
But notice how thousands upon thousands of young, ordinary people have thronged the public places of so many cities, challenging the stance of their governments, and making a cause on behalf of oppressed Palestinian men, women and children.
Something is changing in human society and for the better. Something irresistible is moving in the streets, in spite of the tear gas and water cannons.
May it spread widely, and bear us along in its flow.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.