Friday, May 25, 2007

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

Israel continues its war against Palestinians relentlessly. When I was growing up in India, we learned that the Palestinian people were struggling for freedom and independence under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world. Having itself borne the brunt of Colonial demarcations foisted on local populations, perhaps India saw in the mid-east situation- where a militarily strong group (the Israelis) supported by the west had not only wrested land from the inhabitants of the land but were continuing to subjugate them- a repeat of the might is right argument. All I remember is the feeling that there were still groups around the world fighting for independence as India had done decades before I was born.

Moving to America resulted in a change in my view-point. I read about the history of discrimination faced by the Jewish diaspora (pogroms in Russia, pre Soviet as well as Soviet; and ghettos all over Europe) eventually culminating in the holocaust. How enterprising as a people the Jews were and how this often lead to their being persecuted and restrained (this from a dear Jewish friend from long ago). And now, here were these same people at last in the place they could call Israel, which is where they originated from millenia ago. They were hemmed in all sides by vicious and opposing Islamic forces and had to fight for their very existence.

It has taken me many years again to see that the colonials tore out a chunk of land where lives were being lived and gave it as their "gift" to a people who were owed compensation for the mistreatment meted out to them collectively by the west (I include Russia here since it does want so badly to be counted in Europe than Asia and aspires to be G8). So how come the Palestinian people, who were at the time the indigenous population of present day Israel, ended up being the bad guys? Palestine has been a festering wound in the middle east that has served as a focal rallying cry. If you were to meet your average Palestinian, they are not fundamentalist. In fact, Palestineans were and are considered more progressive than many other Islamic people in the mid-east.

Palestine has been under siege for a very long time and in all that time, Israel has only kept creeping out of its borders, and restricting Palestinian lives. Palestinians who go abroad to find a livelihood are severely restricted from returning and even lose their residency rights. But what is there to stay in Palestine for? Israel has done its best to try and settle Israeli families and drive Palestinians out through economic, geographical and financial restrictions. The fabric of a whole society torn asunder! Families separated, hospitals destroyed, self-esteems destroyed, checkposts created, children scattered, schools destroyed, guns distributed. You would think the one people who would have learned the meaning of compassion based on their own horrific past would know better than to visit such pain on others.

I don't condone violence. It was wrong for it to have been used against the Jews in the first place. But their historic suffering does not give them a free pass to do violence unto others in the name of protecting themselves. Israel's actions have been egregiously violent and we have not had enough leaders stand up and call it to task for it.

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