Osman Softić || 11 October 2023
What happened last weekend on 7th October 2023. On the Gaza-Israel border was surprising and to one’s eyes and taste even horrifying. However, one should not bury one’s head in the sand, but should look beyond the wider context and appreciate the causes and consequences of events that unfolded.
The problem is that the horror of the oppression of the Palestinians has been going on for too long, at least for 75 years, so the world powers and their subject populations have gotten used to that kind of horror that has become normal for them, because it is not unusual for their taste that horror happens in the so-called uncivilized “jungles”, but it is unusual if the horror from the jungle or an open prison which Gaza is, is transferred and overflowed to the “garden”, which Israeli desert is sometimes referred to by some European leaders.
The residents of Gaza and other occupied Palestinian territories, which Israel oppresses, keeps under siege, bombs and whose population it arrests, abuses, imprisons, kills, dehumanizes and desecrates their religious sanctuaries such as Al-Aqsa Mosque, suffer horror for decades without the world powers asking whether the Palestinians are people too. Do they also have the right to life, dignity, honor, pride, freedom and peace? Do the citizens of the world and their elected leaders wonder why the gross national income in the so called “garden” of the occupier is 56,000 US dollars per capita and in the occupied and subjugated “jungle” under siege is measured only 1,000 US dollars.
Gaza has been under total siege for 17 years, and shouldn’t everyone wonder how the beleaguered and humiliated residents of Gaza could control their anger for so long. Every human patience has its limit. Accumulated injustices and cruelty had to find its way and it was only a matter of time when it would erupt and how it would manifest itself.
As a result of accumulated injustice and anger, human deprivation and humiliation on a daily basis Hamas, for the first time managed to break through the invincible walls of confinement Israel put them in and did what they did. Mainstream western media described it as a stunning attack thus far unimaginable. Besides military targets and personal, tragically, civilian victims also died as a result of Hamas operation. In professional terminology, this is called “collateral damage”. This does not mean that we condone and justify the loss of civilian life. Not at all, any killing of civilians is an unforgivable offense and a crime, indeed a sin which must be condemned and punished.
The problem, however, is that crimes are condemned only when they are committed by a side which we don’t like and that we have already dehumanized so much that the killing of its civilian victims has become completely internalized and accepted without much disturbance.
Israel is not above international law, but that law has never been applied against this UN member state. There can be good and bad people, humanists, believers, benefactors, but there are no chosen, good or bad nations or states. There are bad regimes, policies and criminal enterprises. The latest situation in Gaza and Israel was recently succinctly described by an Australian retired Anglican bishop Dr. George Browning, who wrote that: “It is surprising and understandable that Joseph Biden, Anthony Albanese, Justin Trudeau and other Western leaders have condemned the Hamas attack in the strongest possible terms”. However, dr. Browning wonders “if that will be all they will do”. Are we just expected to reaffirm our support for Israel by endorsing Israel’s narrative of the Palestinians as “vicious terrorists” who need to be taught a lesson or worse, be eliminated”?
Browning poses a question and continues: “what do you want the Palestinians to do? those who live in the Gaza Strip, do you want them to be animals in cages forever, and to continue to live in the most inhumane and intolerable conditions unimaginable in this day and age, with no hope for countless generations of realization of the way of life we consider normal? Should they live forever without work for their children? What do you expect these young people to do when they grow up, to behave humbly and without anger and resentment?
Like those in the West Bank, what do you want them to do? Do you want them to humbly accept their fate under occupation, repression and terror. Should they accept their fate and have their land arbitrarily taken from them in order to build illegal settlements for armed extremist migrants with extreme ideological views that totally exclude Palestinians from the human rights equation that usually apply to all humans.
Should the Palestinian land and people be dismembered and divided into as many small Bantustans as possible? Should the Palestinian people be systematically ethnically cleansed and removed from Area C (which comprises approximately 70 percent of the occupied West Bank). This would mean that the Palestinians should live forever huddled in refugee settlements (camps) such as one in Jenin. Should the Palestinians living in Hebron be daily targets of intimidation and attacks at the hands of illegal settlers. Should they be permanently blocked off from access to the main shopping street of the city.
Do you expect Palestinians to have to be endlessly subjected to security checks for no other reason than to be humiliated, insulted and dehumanized. Should the Palestinians drink polluted water below normal hygiene and health standards, while illegal Jewish settlers have the exclusive right to water their lawns and wash their cars with potable water unavailable to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
Is it normal that Palestinians are required to have special identity documents that restrict their access to even parts of their own Palestinian territories. Is it normal that in their occupied country there are special highways where only Jews are allowed to drive, and that Palestinians cannot cross from one part of their territory to another using the same roads. And, if you live in East Jerusalem, it’s a life that involves constant harassment, intimidation, and living under the threat that your home will be confiscated at any moment.
Mr. Biden, Albanese Trudeau and others, you gentlemen, says bishop Dr. Browning, are also partly responsible for this fury of violence, because you failed to do your duty, because you did not hold Israel accountable. Peace will never be possible as long as grave injustice prevails. Peace comes from justice, not the other way around. It is easy for you to hold the Palestinians accountable, and no doubt you will continue to do so. But what will you do to hold Israel accountable?
We can only tremble as we await the terrible vengeance that Israel will inflict on the Palestinian people. It will be swift and merciless. What will you all do in response to that? If Israel decides, and succeeds, to take direct control of Gaza, and the international community decides to treat the entire area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean as a single territorial unit that requires a democratic and humane form of governance that provides equal respect and opportunity to all its citizens in matters of religion, language, culture, economic opportunities and human rights. If that happened, then, maybe, peace would be possible.
Mr. Biden, Mr. Albanese and Mr. Trudeau, you have the honor of leading your nations that are, one and all, founded Christian traditions of compassion, respect, inclusiveness and freedom. The traditions upon which your country rests are known for standing up for the weak, oppressed and vulnerable.
If you continue to offer unquestioning support only to the strong this time, and if you turn a blind eye to their oppression of the weak (e.g. Palestinians), you will go down in history as traitors to these Christian traditions,” appealed bishop Browning to the Western Anglo-Saxon leaders.
Osman Softić is a Research Fellow at the Islamic Renaissance Front. He holds a BA degree in Islamic Studies from the Faculty of Islamic Studies of the University of Sarajevo and has a Master degree in International Relations from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He contributed commentaries on Middle Eastern and Islamic Affairs for the web portal Al Jazeera Balkans, Online Opinion, Engage and Open Democracy. Osman holds dual Bosnian and Australian citizenship.