Brave New World (The Star)
January 8, 2009
"The Jewish state seems not to want peace, but to stoke Palestinian fury. The lesson to civilised nations is that they must never behave like Israel."
Nineteen eighty-one was an election year in Israel. Then Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s campaign was not off to a good start. So he bombed “PLO strongholds” in Lebanon; nothing like the killing of a few Arab “terrorists” to get the electorate on your side.
The PLO retaliated by shelling northern Israel. The Israelis replied by bombing the living daylights out of Beirut. In this exchange, five Israelis died whereas the death toll of Lebanese and Palestinians was 500.
A truce was then signed between Israel and the PLO. This truce held for 11 months. Then Israel complained that the PLO was attacking its soldiers. Even America saw through this ruse by pointing out that the Israeli soldiers being shot at were in Lebanese territory, where they should not be in the first place.
But what were such minor details to Begin? Israel broke the truce and invaded Lebanon. And a few hours after promising the American Special Envoy that Syria would be left alone, it attacked Syria.
Thousands of Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese died. Hospitals, schools, school buses, civilian homes were bombed, shot at and crushed by tanks. It was an utter massacre and Israel got away scot-free.
In late 1987, in Gaza, four Pales- tinians were killed by an Israeli truck. This sparked the Intifada or people’s uprising.
After decades of torment, the Palestinians had nothing left but their fury and the stones at their feet. During this period, also as a reaction to Israeli atrocities, Hamas was formed.
Fast forward to 2006 and Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. Contrary to Israeli propaganda, Hamas was willing to give de facto recognition to Israel if it pulled back to its 1967 border.
Considering that the Israeli border was expanded via an illegal war in 1967 which it initiated, it was not a terribly unreasonable request. But this was rejected.
And because it did not like Hamas, Israel (with the blessings of America) blockaded the Palestinian territories, causing untold suffering and grief.
Then in June 2006, Israel bombed a beach in Gaza, killing 14 people. Hamas retaliated by shooting rockets into Israel. The latter, in turn, invaded Gaza and started capturing elected Hamas officials.
This little war stopped in June 2008 with a ceasefire. This truce came to an end recently and Hamas was willing to keep it going on the condition that the blockade was lifted and a ceasefire was initiated in the West Bank.
We know what Israel’s reaction was – it has been spilled all over our front pages for the past week.
The anger being expressed at Israel’s disproportionately barbaric attack on Gaza, its arrogance and utter refusal to accept its part in the creation of this bloody mess is, in my opinion, completely justified.
Israel seems to be single-mindedly determined not to make any concessions whatsoever; the only logical reason for this that I can see is that Israel does not want peace.
It wants to make sure that Pales- tine is kept impoverished and desperate by being in a state of perpetual conflict. It would appear that Israel wants war and by doing all that it can to cause the spilling of blood and keep the fury of the Palestinian people alive; that is what it will get.
There would not have been a PLO if Israel had not begun its offensives against Palestine in the 1940s. There would not have been a Hamas if Israel had not butchered innocents in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Who knows what new manifestation of desperation and anger this latest act of violence will create?
Here in Malaysia, a lot of effort has been initiated, with funds being collected for humanitarian purposes and calls being made on our Govern- ment to keep pressing for an international effort to stop Israel. Such efforts must continue.
It is a little sad, however, that it needs such a cruel act by Israel to generate such action. In “peace time”, the quiet work of the Malay- sian Sociological Research Institute, which has been organising the sponsorship of Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon for decades, has suffered because the number of donors has shrunk.
Efforts to help Palestine and the Palestinians have to be seen as an ongoing. It is not enough to take measures to help those who are suffering only sporadically.
Neither is it good enough that our ire is raised only for the Palestinian cause. There is much cruelty in the world, for example, the genocide in Darfur.
It is not expected of individuals to care for every cause, but our Government has a responsibility to speak out against injustice wherever and to whomever it may happen.
The Israeli government (note please that I do not at any time condemn either Israeli citizens or Jews in general; there are too many cases of individuals who despise Israeli aggression for broad generalisations to be made) has shown time and again their hypocrisy and selectiveness, where what is all right for them is not all right for anyone else.
We can’t go down that road of hypocrisy and selectiveness. What is wrong must be opposed.
In the end, Israel’s cruelty is nothing new. It has been sporting that for half a century. It must be opposed until it stops. To my mind, the lesson it gives to civilised nations is that we must never, ever, in any way behave like Israel.