AS for Hamas, it and its supporters should be excommunicated by humanity,” wrote Yuval Noah Harari, the celebrated historian and author of Sapiens, in the latest issue of Time magazine. As an Israeli, he admitted that at this moment of pain — first inflicted by Hamas terrorists on Israeli civilians and then countered by cruelly vengeful Israelis on Palestinian civilians — one group cannot empathise with the greater pain of the other. This is the tragedy of all communal or tribal wars over group identities. One group’s mind is filled with such debilitating pain that it cannot see the grief that it is causing another.
Call Hamas out, denounce the Israeli govt and seek a two-state solution and space for coexistence, but do not root for someone simply because of his religion and yours!
Harari wants “outsiders who are not themselves immersed in pain” to maintain a space for peace “so that one day, when the pain begins to heal, both Israelis and Palestinians might inhabit that space.” That space for peace can only be created with the coexistence of communities, where hatred gives way for accommodation. But where hatred is the raison d’etre for politics and governance, there can never be a habitable common ground for two groups with grievances. Hamas and the Hamas-like Israeli government live and die for hatred for the Other, with the group that has Western support remaining the winner.
In this contest of hatred, only absolute qualities of humanity can create a space for cohabitation of the aggrieved and the aggressor — who are in many ways the mirror image of each other with their roles of relative strength getting reversed over decades and centuries. Unfortunately, the tribal or communal group’s grievances become geopolitical tools for great power games. And it is so familiar for Indians who still have not lived down the Hindu-Muslim rivalry fostered by the British as their only mechanism to manipulate and defeat the independence movement. Yet, the Israel-Palestine conflict in the context of the immense pain it has caused brings back the memory of the one man who tried to create a ‘space for peace’.
Unlike Harari’s idea of partisan grief, even while immersed in immense pain during the worst days of the British-designed Partition, Gandhi made Hindus and Sikhs take the first step to restore communal trust. Two lakh people signed a letter asking him to stop his fast-unto-death in January 1948, promising that, “We the Hindu, Sikh, Christian and other citizens of Delhi declare solemnly on conviction that Muslim citizens of the Indian Union should be as free as the rest of us to live in Delhi in peace and security and with self-respect and to work for the good and well-being of the Indian union.” This peace pledge came before the Indian Constitution, while the subcontinent was still drowning in the blood of at least 10 lakh dead Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and in the misery of one crore homeless people.
All those democrats who cry hoarse upholding the Constitution should pause and search its soul, for it actually belongs to the frail 78-year-old man who put humanity first and identity last. Partisan pain and communal grief can only create faultlines of hatred to be exacerbated by imperialists, old and new. Even in Gandhi’s worst hour, even when he knew that only the British and Jinnah were at fault and despite his understanding of the anguish of the Hindu and Sikh refugees who swam the rivers of Hades to reach Delhi, he got them to agree to his seven conditions that restored peace for Muslims in Delhi.
Only virtues and standards of universal morality can be made applicable to clashing groups of inimical belief systems in times of distrust. And all-encompassing humanity is the sole criterion for drafting such standards of universal morality. Unfortunately, those who are getting inordinately interested in Palestinian issues in India are displaying the worst kind of identity affiliation, with no concern for non-denominational human kindness. Two incidents that happened recently down south are extremely disturbing. One, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, while participating in an anti-war rally, was ‘corrected’ for referring to Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Soon after, former Hamas chief Khaled Mashal spoke (online or recorded) at an event organised by Jamaat-e-Islami’s youth wing.
All those self-appointed progressive Muslim and Marxist leaders of India should understand that when they take Hamas’ side in this brutal conflict in West Asia, they are abandoning their morality and losing their humanity. Killing of children, mindless murder of civilians and abduction and rape of women, done for the extermination of the Other, can only be termed terrorism. If Hamas is justified in killing 1,400 and kidnapping 200 Israelis because they were all Jews, the apartheid government of Israel gets justified in pulverising Gaza and killing 10,000 Palestinians. For all we know, the Israeli intelligence could have lured the Hamas into a trap to ensure the complete devastation of Gaza. In the end, Hamas has only succeeded in legitimising Israeli bombardments of a hospital and a refugee camp. Hamas spells doom for Palestinians.
The Indian Union Muslim League leader who corrected Tharoor, terming Hamas as resistance fighters, did it because of his communal affiliation. For the Jamaat-e-Islami organisers who brought in the Hamas leader’s recorded or livestreamed speech, did it not out of humanity that binds them to the victims, but identity — the fact that they are Muslims and so are the Hamas. What they fail to appreciate is that going by this logic of identity affiliation, they all should have identified with the Israeli government had they been born Jews. The idea of denigrating a Jewish life against a Muslim’s has serious ramifications in Indian politics.
There cannot be a lower level of morality than that which seeks religious affiliations in times of misery. And all political parties that ask for votes in the name of such religious affiliations stand exposed in their pathetic attempt to make saints out of child killers. Call Hamas out, denounce the Israeli government and seek a two-state solution and space for coexistence, but do not root for someone simply because of his religion and yours!
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