Gaza, Islamic solidarity and divisions

Gaza, Islamic solidarity and divisions

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Israel’s total and brutal war on Gaza, the relentless bombing of civilian populations, hospitals and buildings, and the blockade of even humanitarian assistance for 10 days, has enraged concerned citizens throughout the world. Many groups and organizations have demonstrated their support for the helpless citizens of Gaza by holding rallies and calling for an end to hostilities by both sides. This is not a fight between any two equals, as Israel has rained thousands of bombs on the city, reducing larger parts of it to rubble and is reportedly amassing hundreds of troops in preparation for a planned ground invasion to root out a few thousand Hamas fighters. If it is not prevented, this may cause more devastation of Palestinian infrastructure, properties, and lives. 

In consequence, Israel may suffer equally worse consequences in the short and long term. Hamas and the Israelis have been in big conflicts before, and for a long time, Israel has maintained a blockade of this small piece of territories with too many people crammed into the most densely populated small piece of land in the world. With the most warmongering right-wing Jewish coalition in history ruling in Israel, its eviction of Palestinians from their villages, lands and orchids has increased to make room for gun-tottering, trigger happy settlers. 

The world community, especially powerful Western countries, have always turned a blind eye to the inhumane and brutal treatment of the Palestinians, paying only lip service to cries for justice, and even to see implementation of the agreements already reached with the Palestinians. One has to keep in mind this background to understand why there have been desperate acts to invite the attention of the world to their plight, as the weakest victims of any settler, apartheid colonialism in the world have always done. The resistance to colonization and land grabbing takes many forms by different groups according to their idea of what can or cannot work for them. 

In South Asia, resistance to colonization took many forms, violent and non-violent in the larger independence movement.

Rasul Bakhsh Rais

 In South Asia, the Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose and Hindustan Republican Association of Bhagat Singh did the same thing in response to violent repression by the British. However, in areas that constitute Pakistan, resistance to colonization took many forms, violent and non-violent, depending on the situation. That was in the larger climate of the independence movement. 

Quite opposite to the Indian and Pakistani two-state solution, Palestine went under Zionist settler colonialism around the same time.

Unfortunately, never has Israel, from its unjust establishment over Palestine to every act of war against the people to whom the country belongs been accountable, or any international rule applied to its behavior. It is not for the first time that it is committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian populations, hospitals, schools and shelters. It has done so many times before with full immunity. Sadly, the Western world has always seen a victim in Israel, endorsing its brutality against the Palestinians, seeing not much wrong in its expansionism, settlements, and denying the return of refugees expelled by it in successive wars.

On the other hand, we don’t see leaders of the Muslim world standing together with the Palestinians’ struggle for liberation of their land or even pushing hard enough for just peace and humane treatment of their population in occupied lands. Some of the Arab states, like Saudi Arabia, have always been generous with material support, and in the ongoing war, the Kingdom has used its diplomatic influence to get humanitarian assistance out to the people, with others using ‘quiet’ diplomacy.

The point is, while Western leaders are following one another to visit Israel to register their support, we don’t see the same spirit of solidarity with the Palestinians, and there is reason for that; even the Palestinians don’t happen to be on the same page, as Hamas has formulated an altogether different strategy with different backers from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. 

At the grassroots level, we see deep sympathy and support for all Palestinian groups and their just cause. They feel their pain and grieve, mourn, and agitate with and for them when something like what is happening to the people of Gaza now. During every conflict, we have seen many rallies in support of the Palestinians by different religious and civil society groups. But in most of them, the political class, particularly the ruling parties and groups are always conspicuous by their absence— political expediency fearing Western reaction. Perhaps for this reason, the Muslim world has not been able to effectively use their common forums.

With the second largest number of populations, number of states, collective landmass and resources, the Muslim world seems to still be fragmented within, and divided on the world stage.

- Rasul Bakhsh Rais is Professor of Political Science in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS, Lahore. His latest book is “Islam, Ethnicity and Power Politics: Constructing Pakistan’s National Identity” (Oxford University Press, 2017).
Twitter: @RasulRais

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