Thursday, July 24, 2014

Concerning Gaza

I often write for validation. My desires (nafs) need to be fed. Tonight is different. Tonight I am writing so that I can start making sense of everything. I feel conflicted, despondent and unsure of the world. I don't have any answers.

What is happening  in Gaza is shocking. Such unbridled aggression by a military power over a largely civilian populace.

 I don't think it is as reductionist as we sometimes frame it. I often wonder what the value of Hamas shooting rockets into Israel is - it does little more than 'justify' further attacks, and hands media outlets a 'balance' to contextualise the bombings. I'm actually against the rockets altogether, as their trajectory is indiscriminate. There is no military solution. Yes, the IDF has killed scores of Palestinians, but firing rockets into civilian areas - this is not the way. I don't have the answers, but I know this is not it. I wonder if a two-state solution will work. Something similar was proposed for South Africa - can you imagine how that would have worked out? Who gets Jerusalem? How do you pick up the pieces and rebuild? 

I remember the battle of Gaza that took place in 2007. Over a 100 people were killed (39 were civilians) as Fatah and Hamas fought. I remember Fatah militants killing the Imam of the Great Mosque (Omari Mosque in the old city). I remember Muslims throwing Muslims off rooftops (yes, saying people throwing people off should have the same gravitas, but I hold my people to higher account). Hospitals weren't safe back then either. The Beit Hanoun hospital had to be closed after a man was shot dead while doctors were operating on him. If Israel recedes to the 1967 borders and hand back land to the Palestinians, who will rule? I believe in the self-determination of Palestinians. I must, but I know what power does to people. I have lived through it in South Africa (during the Boipatong massacre). There is nothing civil about civil war. 

You can never justify killing a civilian. Why is my Islam so different to the thugs in Iraq who force Christians out of their homes in Mosul. What a bunch of dicks. Not in my name.

 I wonder why we as South African Muslims have not been as vociferous in our condemnation for what is happening in Syria - where civilian deaths far outnumber 100 000 (according to more than 4 Human Rights groups - the United Nations pegs it as slightly lower). Over 1700 people have been killed in the last seven days. They were also fasting. So were the 255 prisoners that Iraqi security forces killed 2 weeks ago. Is it because the aggressors are Muslim, and not Jewish? It is so much easier to make the boogeyman the 'other'.

Perhaps this is why we are so emotional when it comes to Israel and Palestine, because we make it a religious issue. I see it in the BDS campaigns and the boycott lists. Even these are sometimes framed for Muslims. Where are the alcohol brands that need to be boycotted. Golan Heights Wineries is listed as an Israeli export, but it isn't included in the forwarded messages I get - little indicators that we can't let go of faith-based action. I don't have any answers.

There are calls to boycott brands that do business in Israel - how far does that go? I'm being told to boycott brands on Facebook, yet Facebook has operations in Israel, and has invested in Israeli apps like Snaptu. Do we boycott Facebook? What about Google? I do not buy Israeli products, but I don't feel the need to pressure a retailer into not stocking any. I have a right not to purchase Israeli products, and I am allowed to make an informed decision when it comes to my consumption habits, why can I not extend this right to my fellow South Africans? 

Death is the great leveller, the lowest common denominator as some pundits would claim. I think its the highest common denominator. The finality of it all. What else matters after death. All injustices pail in comparison. 

I am proud that the ANC has spoken out so vociferously against what Israel is doing, but we have local problems we need to sort out. It's so much more than this condemnation. This is why I don't think its as simple as we paint it out to be. It doesn't wipe out the crime, corruption, poverty, inequity, Nkandla and a myriad of middle-class problems that start with 'e- and end with 'tolls'. Conspiracy theorists say that an Algerian and Malaysian plane were brought down to distract the world from what is happening in Gaza. Would they not think it was plausible that our government condemns what is happening in Gaza to shift focus from our internal issues? I put little stock into most conspiracy theories. 1350 South Africans are murdered every month. We aren't even occupied by a superior military nation. 

I wonder why some of us praise Hitler, the Third Reich and the Holocaust, when that, like this, remains a shame and a blight on humanity. 

Over the next few days I will write more. For now, all I can try to do is articulate my inadequacy in dealing with whats happening. In Gaza and other conflict areas. I pray for the people of Gaza and for the people of Israel - may they know peace with each other, and within themselves. Allahu Alam.

I yearn for a time outlined below, when Muslims were just, fair and compassionate. This is the Islam I want to believe in. 

"Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power" - Oliverus Scholasticus, praising the Islamic laws of war, commenting on Sultan Kamil feeding the defeated Frankish army (during the Crusades).

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَاءَ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا ۚ اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
"O you who believe, stand up as witnesses for God in all fairness, and do not let the hatred of a people deviate you from justice. Be just: This is closest to piety; and be mindful of God. Surely God is aware of all you do" - Surah Ma'ida (Chapter 5, verse 8 in the Holy Quran). 

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