11 January 2009

Today we are all Palestinians

Today was the 16th day of Israel's murderous Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. In order to stop Hamas and other rockets that, over the last several years, have killed 13 Israelis (including three children), the Israeli government has, to date, killed over 800 Palestinians. According to Palestinian Ministry of Health figures accepted by the UN, as of 8 January, the Israeli offensive had killed 257 children and 56 women. And who knows how many of the men killed by Israel were civilians? So who is the terrorist?

I am certainly not taking any kind of ambiguous stance towards the killing of civilians. When Hamas or another Palestinian militant group kills even one Israeli civilian, that is wrong. But what happens when Israel blatantly kills hundreds of Palestinian civilians in a few days? When are we all going to admit that an innocent Palestinian life is just as precious as an Israeli one? When are we going to proclaim loudly that killing a hundred Palestinians is no less evil than killing one Israeli?

As we are told by our Creator in the Qur'an,

We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people (Qur'an, 5:32; Abdullah Yusuf Ali's interpretation).

This is something that Hamas would do well to remember. But, in the current circumstances, these words from the sacred text of Islam apply especially to those who are mentioned in them in the first place. Over the years, the thing that has angered me the most about Hamas is their refusal to draw a distinction between the Israeli armed ("defence") forces and Israeli civilians. According to Hamas's logic, since most Israelis, at one time or another, serve in the armed forces, they are all legitimate military tactics. This interpretation, IMHO, very clearly runs counter to the long-established Islamic tradition of limiting warfare to clear military targets. However, Israel, which, despite its occupation of Palestine, has, for decades, been claiming the moral high ground on the issue of terrorism, is now, quite obviously, deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians in order to make Hamas look bad in the eyes of its civilian supporters.

This is an exceedingly slippery slope. Pretty much the only sympathy Israel enjoys outside the US is related to its civilians coming under attack every once in a while from Palestinian extremists. It has now proven that it is willing to do the same to the Palestinians, and on a massively higher scale. It may well be that the only well wishers Israel will have left if it continues down this path are going to be American Republicans.

Meanwhile, the mood on the streets of the world is decidedly pro-Palestinian. A demonstration here in Montréal, which my wife and I attended yesterday, drew "almost 10,000 people" according to the normally pro-Israeli Gazette. This time around, even the Gazette looked decidedly pro-Palestinian. And in London, somewhere between 4,000 and 15,000 pro-Israeli, largely Jewish, demonstrators, demanded a cessation of hostilities.

Olmert said to the Israeli Cabinet today that "Israel is nearing the goals which it set itself." If that goal is the destruction of Hamas, Israel has, in fact, taken a step back. If it is a secure future for Israel, Olmert has taken one giant leap back. One can only hope that he'll come to his senses.

Something Even More Magical

In other news...