What Must Israel Do? – OpEd

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The commercially successful movie World War Z (2013) with Brad Pitt in the main role is about a “zombie apocalypse.” It has one particular episode that takes place in Jerusalem. A large wall is built around the country to quarantine itself and prevent zombies from entering it. The zombies are in the meantime trying to pull the wall down. I am certain that I am not the only one, who for a second wondered if the zombies were somehow not connected to the Arab Palestinians. The zombies of course manage to breach the wall and enter the country. This is more or less what Hamas accomplished on 7th October when they broke through the barrier and entered Israel causing a disruption that nobody in their wildest dreams could have imagined. To the Israeli politicians and military agencies, this was nothing short of a zombie apocalypse.

What the extremist group Hamas has done by killing innocent civilians cannot be justified in the remotest of terms. Neither is there any justification for taking ordinary people as hostages to be used to bargain with Israel, pressuring it to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange. Releasing the hostages unconditionally is the first step in the right direction. You cannot claim to believe in a God and not see that the Israeli is as much a human being as the Palestinian, created by the very God that you believe in. People are human beings. Period. You cannot treat them that way no matter what the provocation.

Two things have to be noted here: one is that Hamas is replicating the deadly violence of its oppressors, in this case the state of Israel. Shylock in The Merchant of Venice couldn’t have put it better when he says, “And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that…The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.” Shylock is voicing the feelings of all suppressed people in history. You cannot crush their bodies and souls and expect them to act in humane ways. With its brutal occupation, this is the ‘villainy’ that Israel for decades has taught Palestinians in general and Hamas in particular and continues to do so with its unpardonable aerial bombing of Gaza. Hamas proved a point by bettering the instruction. 

The second thing is about the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The level of dehumanization of the Palestinians only needs to be imagined. You create a country in another person’s land while pushing them to the margins. You defeat them, take away the little piece of land that belongs to them by building settlements, while turning the original inhabitants into prisoners in their own homes? To top it all, you are so convinced in your “intelligence” agencies and your technological superiority so much so that you’re blinded from learning the most important lesson that comes from history: power is a transient phenomenon. It does not last forever. There is no power or oppression so great that it will not ultimately bow down before the human will to resist such a power at all costs. That’s how women survived patriarchal violence for thousands of years.

Israel has built a whole industry around its so-called invincibility. You only have to read history carefully in order to realize that invincibility is a myth that every power-monger wants to believe about himself. He also desperately wants others, especially his victims, to believe in it. That’s when the system of propaganda comes into play. For some time most people believe in the lies and half-truths spread on a daily basis by the propaganda machine. No matter how gullible and passive the public might be, at some point they are going to figure out how they have been lied to. That’s when they fight back. 

The eminent English writer from the 18th century, Dr. Johnson says, “I consider that in no government power can be abused long. Mankind will not bear it. If a sovereign oppresses his people to a great degree, they will rise and cut off his head. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny that will keep us safe under every form of government.” There is something in human nature that will resist tyranny. People will put up with only so much oppression. When the oppression becomes unbearable they will rise and cut off the head of the tyrant. 

Israel’s tyranny is bound to come to an end along with the tyranny of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where repression against their own people is the norm. How many bombs will Israel drop on Gaza? How many Palestinians will they kill and maim? These kinds of atrocities are only bound to make what is worse into terrible. What Israel must do is very simple: Get out of the occupied territories. Vacate those settlements. End the occupation and let Palestinians have their own country. It doesn’t mean that peace will prevail in a day or two. Maybe it will take months, years and decades until a new generation of Israeli and Palestinian boys and girls arrive, who are not interested in holding on to the wounds of the past and wish to simply move on and get on with their lives. However abstract and dreamy such a peace might seem, it is still worth every bit of it. Real Security can only come from another human being’s welfare, not their suffering.

In general, I think highly of Jewish people. They’re the most remarkable minority in history. At least until the formation of the state of Israel. Despite the horrendous oppression they suffered in Europe for more than a thousand years, they managed to remain rooted, sane and creative. These are not achievements of normal human beings. These are achievements of extraordinary people. Some of the extraordinariness can be seen in a number of Jewish men and women who are convinced that Israeli occupation is wrong. Ordinary Israelis should therefore remember their proud legacy of being a minority, without losing the sense of who they are as a people. They should take to the streets and go on a civil disobedience campaign until their government resolves the Palestinian issue for good.  

(My sincerest regards for the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups. You can see how the CEOs of top companies want to use their clout to blacklist the students for their support to Palestinians and prevent them from getting jobs. This is happening in supposedly the “freest” country in the world. Normally, I object to students acting in ways that are detrimental to the functioning of the university. But, as individuals, people are entitled to views on subjects of their preference and free to express them. Why not? Merely because they have political views that go against the mainstream, it doesn’t mean that their names should be outed and they should be prevented from getting jobs. How does that work?) 

Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona is an independent scholar from Hyderabad, India.

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