I have read countless articles, news reports, posts etc telling us who to point the finger of shame and blame at. It’s Israel! It’s Hamas! It’s Palestine! It’s Muslims! It’s America! It’s Hossni Mubarak! It’s you! It’s me!
Far be it from me, currently sitting with a full stomach in my apartment in upper-class Syria, with no fear of a bomb ripping through my walls and tearing my family members limb from limb, to understand the sentiments behind the actions of the people involved. I do not have that right.
I do not fully condone Hamas’s actions. And I’m not saying this gain brownie points from whoever it is that condemns them. But for those blaming Hamas, or unsure about whether or not to blame Hamas, I want to share this with post you. Please, take this into careful consideration before you judge their actions. And fall not into the trap others have carefully set for you…
I have had the opportunity to speak with a woman who has only recently left Gaza. She has been in Syria for a few years, yet she left three of her sons there – buried. She has four more with her today. She, who has been through the pain, suffering, and oppression has the right to judge. And to my surprise, when another lady offered her condolences over the loss of her three sons, she shook her head sadly. And her words slapped me awake. Her only regret, she says, was that she could not be there now, and that her remaining four sons could not be there to sacrifice their lives for their country and for justice.
Does that seem shocking to you? Cold-hearted? Extremist or barbaric even?
Humans are known for their tenacious hold on life. Why else would humans experience that rush of adrenaline when fearing for their lives? And why should you and I be any different? Speaking from both a Western and Muslim viewpoint I know how important this life is to us. Carpe diem. Live each day as though it were your last. And, Islamically speaking, our entire faith is based on one concept – letting go of what we value most for the sake of the afterlife. And before all the Islamophobes start jumping for joy because they’ve stumbled upon a justification for suicide-bombing or quote unquote jihadists, and possibly speed dialing 1-800-Jihadist-Alert, please try and understand my point.
What I’m referring to is so much more implicit than that. As a Muslim woman I pray five times a day, wear hijab, fast the month of Ramadan, refrain from drinking, drugs, premarital or extramarital sex. In other words, I curb my ‘worldly’ impulses for the sake of something greater. That is jihad, which literally translates to struggle. There is jihad of the nafis (the soul) when you go against your desires. There is regular old jihad when your friends are going out for drinks and you have to graciously decline and stick out like a backwards, sore thumb. There is jihad of your ego when you’re rushed for time and are forced to pray in a public place with the mocking eyes of the crowd boring into your prostrated back. I’m talking of smaller scale things I know, but this concept isn’t limited to Islam! I know many people who do the same, or something similar, for their religion or their belief. Spending sleepless nights because of work, or a term paper. Refusing to drink and drive, saying no to drugs. We are all taught to rise above our worldly needs. Hasn’t this woman done just that?
I’m sure you’ve all heard the Palestinian justification. And if you haven’t then here it is: If someone were to break into your house, abuse you and your children, and then either kick you out or restrict a single room for your usage and control your every move and decision while they wallow in the rest of your home, what would you do?
I’ve replied to and convinced many people using that argument. When God wanted to test Job (Ayyoub) what did he test him with? His wealth, his health, and his children – the three things man values most.
But what if one were to sacrifice those three things willingly – for the sake of something greater? Isn’t that what American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are doing? When they believed that these men or countries posed a threat to the security and well-being of their homes and families what did they do? They enrolled in the military and, at risk of what we all value most, fought for what they believed. And many have payed that price.
I remember one instance when we were camping. We were a large group of Muslim women, about thirty, and we set up three impressive eight-man tents. The RV next to us belonged to your average Canadian family who were kind enough to lend us a plier and a pair of hands to assist in setting up one particular tent. We got to talking, and I remember him commenting on how happy he was that a group of Muslims women were out and about and camping, of all things. He said his respect for Muslims had gone up in leaps and bounds since meeting us, and wished that more would follow in our example.
But one thing stuck in his craw, if we didn’t mind him saying. He would never understand the insistence of those Palestinians in throwing rocks at the Israelis and rejecting peace! What good would their rocks do? Why couldn’t they agree to live in peace?
My mum looked him square in the eye. That’s a pretty nice RV you got there. Fully equipped? He, thinking she was evading the topic, agreed. She was his pride and joy. My mum looks at our tents and then shoots a wistful glance at his RV. Must be very comfortable in there, especially at night. Sure is, he agreed. You wouldn’t mind seeing as how we’re thirty Muslim women if we take over your RV, would you? You could keep our tents as part of the bargain. He doesn’t understand. Well, let’s say we took it by force, your RV. What would you do? I’d call the authorities. There are no authorities. No one will answer you. What will you do? I’ll take it back! How? Anyhow! Even with rocks? He looks pleased. Point taken.
Be it a curse or a blessing, I have never feared for my life. Sure, I have walked down the occasional deserted alley my heart beating to the sound of the suddenly morbid footsteps behind me, breath harsh in my throat. But never constant, mind-numbing fear. I’ve never feared for the life of my brother, let alone children. I leave my house never worrying that it’ll be reduced to a pile of rubble and broken dreams upon my return. My stomach rarely goes empty, my thirst rarely unquenched. And, as measures of personal security, I have a loaded bank account and a Canadian passport in my pocket. Those of my family members and loved ones who have passed on, have done so in a most regular manner. Even those deaths, I have never witnessed. I have never had to watch, helplessly, as someone I loved bled out in front of my eyes, or screamed in agony from a torn and tattered body. I have never felt abjectly humiliated. I have never been forced to leave home and hearth.
Yet, even without being in those situations I know, without a doubt, that I would die for those I love. I cannot stand the sight of a mother hitting her child – a mother who cares for her child. I’d happily rip her to shreds for abusing her right as a mother. How would I react if it were my brother? My child? The neighbourhood I lived in and my house with all my worldly belongings? My rights? If you can’t stay silent over that, how then the fate of a people at the hands of a nation who could care less if they were left to rot in subhumane conditions?
Would you not hurt the man who dared lay a finger on your family? I admit I’d break that finger off and shove it down their throats. A part of me likes to think that I would be the better person. That I would ‘turn the other cheek’ rather than insist on ‘an eye for an eye.’ For myself I may be able to. But not for those I love. Never for injustice against those I love.
Injustice. What an abstract, intangible concept. How far would or should one go in the name of justice? I do not have the answer to that question. Yet I cannot blame people who have had to live with injustice and oppression for sixty years when they pick up that small, insignificant rock and turn it into a symbol to reclaim their humanity. The list of Palestinian massacres and deaths is devastating. Add to that the slow yet sure shrinkage of the land ordained to the Palestinians by the Israelis.
So many people have forgotten that once upon a time, in a land long ago, Palestine belonged fully and without a doubt to Palestinians. Enter Britain and its crucifix of the white man’s burden followed by an extensive guilt-trip over the fate of the Jewish people at the hands of Nazi Germany and you have Palestine today – two segmented strips of land encased in walls of concrete where the prying eyes of those who care to even look cannot see.
But the issue of land is only a small segment of the story. There are jokes about building a Holy Land somewhere else – in South America perhaps, where either people could be shipped to live out the reminder of their days in peace. If only it were that simple. Each and every bomb by either side does more than just kill and maim and destroy. It is the hammer blow that digs their heels in deeper and provides justification for their actions. And the land we speak of is now soaked in blood – leaving now would effectively make those deaths in vain. And the higher the death toll rises the more tenaciously they dig their feet into what little land they have left. The more deaths they witness the more youth will sign up to fight for Hamas, to become either ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom-fighters’ depending on your view.
From a personal stance, I believe there is a slight, often over-looked difference between the two sides. One side has no choice – their land was taken from them and their people strung out in refugee camps across the world, waiting for the day to come home. They are the owners of the house. The other side is the one who came in and declared war, slowly but surely pushing them back into smaller and smaller segments of land. They then proceeded to build their settlements and live a lie they and the rest of the world came to believe – that they are at peace with Palestine. They forgot the Palestinians nursing their wounds and plotting for the day when they would have their land back. And so, when the Palestinians began to lob their crude rockets over, the Israeli settlers were shocked. Where did all the animosity and hatred come from? What blockade? What wall? We were supposed to be at peace – get over it and move on!
The fact that those settlements are built on stolen land – and are thus in the war zone – is insignificant. Isn’t that the same excuse Israel uses? Collateral damage, causalities. They blame Hamas for hiding behind the skirts of civilians, and claim they are not at fault when one or two – or sixty – die in the process. It’s Hamas’s fault. But when Hamas targets settlements, it’s a terrorist action. Does that make any sense?
They seem to gloss over these facts. The UN claims that more than half the residents of Gaza live below poverty while in contrast Tel Aviv is a flourishing, prosperous city. Compare:
Here are some facts about before and after the blockade. The phrase ‘starved to death’ is no exaggeration. These people had nothing left to lose. Nothing other than the one thing that was already at risk – their lives.
Furthermore, many people blame Hamas for putting the lives of the civilian Palestinians at risk, by hiding their weapons in homes and schools. The fact is though, that Hamas does not have a military base. It is restricted to the small strip of land it is defending. A few days ago a mosque was bombed, killing seventeen and wounding thirty while they were praying, because it was believed by Israeli officials to contain weapons. A Hamas leader’s house was bombed murdering him, ten of his children, and two of his wives
Who is to blame? Hamas for (questionably) hiding weapons in places which place the civilians at risk? Or Israel for failing to use discretion when deciding which buildings and when to bomb? Can you justify that? And can you honestly say that were those two children above your children you would be able to demonstrate peacefully afterwards? That you wouldn’t demand justice and vengeance in any way possible?
Here is the difference between the two: The weapon used and the damage caused.
Hamas rockets and the damage caused
Israel fighter jet and the damage caused (that pile of rubble is the house of the Hamas leader whose murdered children are pictured above)
So do I blame Hamas? Well I do for one thing. For resorting to lobbing their ‘kassams’ into what is, regardless of how it was attained, civilian territory because they do not have the means and weaponry to target Israel’s military bases. Both in humanity and Islam, two rights will never make a wrong and a child is a child no matter what faith or religion. When the Prophet (pbuh) used to wage war, he would command that no tree branch be broken. Israeli’s blatant disregard of this does not mean the Muslims should follow suit. We are better than that.
But, that aside, I cannot blame them for resisting. For not passively giving in against the injustice waged against them.
The Palestinian woman I spoke of earlier obviously loved her sons. The pain she felt over the loss of her sons is plain to see. Yet she insists with a cool eye and a calm face that she would be willing to lose four more. How can I look her in the face and tell her I blame her, for valuing sovereignty and justice over the lives of her sons when they are her sons? Were Syria to be occupied today I would fight to the last drop of blood in me to see it free. And the Palestinians and anyone who agrees with them, myself included, are not the minority. We are not exempt from ordinary human nature. Quite the contrary, our actions are norm. Why else did Martian Luther King Jr. demand equality for his people? Why else do countries fight for sovereignty? Why else did men and women in America sign up to fight what they believed to be threats to their security? Why, why, why. Histories pages are soaked in the blood of those who fought against oppression and injustice. Why should the Palestinian people be any different?
So before blaming Hamas for their ‘terrorist’ actions, try to understand their pain. Try to walk a day in their shoes. Sixty years of estrangement and suffering, sixty years of watching your parents, siblings, and children die does not breed understanding and a thirst for “treaties.” Violence begets violence. Look at the map and those pictures again, and tell me that speaks of justice. How is a country being resorted to two small, detached pieces of land justice?? How is burning children alive justice? Have people forgotten the blockade? The wall in the West Bank? Hamas’ actions are nothing more than retaliation against Israeli’s cruel, inhumane policies.
Think about it.