Since the start of the current conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, we have witnessed Muslims, in social, print and electronic media, claiming Israel is an occupier, an aggressor, and blaming it for involvement in massive human rights violations.
But when it comes to The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq’s (ISIS) adventures in Iraq, Syria and other parts of western Asia, where it has been destroying shrines, targeting Shi’ite Muslims, destroying Muslims’ heritage and forcing Christians from their homes (which are marked “infidel’s house”), Muslims have not uttered a word.
ISIS has not been called a usurper, occupier or aggressor because we Muslims have dual standards. We have been condemning Israel, even though we know that this terrible war in Gaza started after the killing of three Israeli nationals, allegedly by Hamas, prior to which there was a cease-fire in effect between the two sides despite their historic enmity. Another point we are unwilling to dwell on is that since the start of the war three cease-fire proposals have been made, the first by Egypt, the second by the UN and the third by the International Red Cross, each of which was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas. Does that not mean that Hamas wants this war to continue? And that it must thus be held accountable for the loss of over 600 precious lives? At this stage we Muslims must be practical. We must discard the distorted history taught to us, that was designed to paint Israel as a usurper and occupier of Palestinian land, even though the reality is much harder for us to digest. We must dig into the consequences of the Arab Revolt of 1916-1918, which was initiated by the Hussein bin Ali, then the Sherif of Mecca, with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a unified Arab state. As a result of that revolt, various parts of western Asia, including Palestine, fell into the hands of Britain, which had assured the Arabs of an independent Arab state in exchange for Arab assistance in overthrowing the Ottoman Empire – a promise it did not keep. It was thus the Arab Revolt that ultimately, if indirectly, led to the establishment of Israel.
Amid the Arab revolt against their Ottoman rulers, the self-interested actions of the Allied Powers including Britain and the Jews of that time making their claim to the land, from which they believed they had been ousted, who can truly say who is the occupied and who the occupier? Both the Muslims and the Jews have historic and religious connections to Jerusalem. But in terms of modern-day politics the Muslim claim is vague; Israel is now an independent state, with a strong military and government. Muslims should accept its existence as an independent and sovereign state, while for its part Israel must cease its blockade on Gaza, which is a step that must be taken for the sake of peace in the region.
On both sides of the Gaza border, it’s people who have been suffering. Judaism has not been strengthened in the world nor Islam weakened in Gaza as a result of the conflict. There is no doubt that civilians are being used by Hamas as human shields, but Israel must nevertheless further restrict its military operation amid a civilian population because these deaths are being used by Hamas to gain the sympathy of both the Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
Israel has every moral right not to agree to any proposal for a cease-fire until these tunnels are eliminated, but nevertheless, as it is conflict which ensures the continued relevance of militant organizations such as Hamas, as well as sympathy for them, to exercise that right may not be in Israel’s best interest. An alternative might be for an independent UN commission to be engineered for the express purpose of inspecting and destroying these tunnels. Israel must avoid civilian casualties at all costs.
And on our part, if we Muslims are hell-bent on waging war against Israel and the Jews, we must endeavour to do so in the field of science and technology, as real war will only spoil the future for all our children.
Indeed the very idea of defeating Israel on the ground is vague and absurd; Israel is neither Afghanistan nor Iraq, and the only result of the wars fought against Israel to date was the loss of Arab territory. There must be a solution other than war, and opening diplomatic relations with Israel could be one way out, for the peaceful and permanent settlement of Palestine.
The author is a media figure and junior politician.