In a region which conditions us that the Palestinian cause is an Arab and Muslim cause, my political ideals were pretty much thrust upon me. I grew up believing in these ideals but fortunately outgrew them when I realized I was polarizing the world and complicit in a matrix of divisiveness. This is not to say I no longer support the Palestinian cause, but that I no longer see the situation from only an Arab and Muslim perspective. I now see it through a more expansive lens, a lens in which I am not a Kuwaiti or an Arab or a Muslim, but a human being.
The most pressing political crisis in the region, one which seems never-ending, is the Palestinian cause. Of course, seeing only images of Israeli soldiers pointing machine guns at children, arresting juveniles, pushing elderly people and women, storming Al Aqsa Mosque, reducing buildings to rubble, displacing families, implementing legislation of undeniable apartheid, dehumanizing Palestinians at checkpoints, it was easy to stand with Palestine. And yet, I couldn’t shake off the silent whisper of compassion toward Israelis that was taking hold of me when I realized that for years Jews had been ostracized, killed, condemned, and kicked out of one land after another.
What was wrong with me? I asked myself. How can I embrace the enemy? Was I a traitor? And then I asked myself: A traitor to who? Who was I betraying? Was I betraying Palestinians? Kuwaitis? Arabs? Muslims? Then I realized: If we are all one family, then I am betraying all of us when I take sides. If I align myself to an ideology, an ideology of us vs. them, I am only betraying myself.
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I tried reading history. Arguably, as I researched, it was difficult not to take the side of Palestine, because of the Nakba (and consequent denial of the Nakba), and the treatment of Palestinians which continues up to today. And watching footage of a bus of entitled settlers coming to choose which house they would occupy in already occupied territories was visceral. Also, Palestine is under occupation and Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights of Syria have not been returned since the 1967 six-day war. Such factors made it difficult for me not to take sides. And yet…
Just as I was repulsed by Israeli soldiers for killing unarmed Palestinian children, teenagers, and adults, I was appalled by Palestinians who murdered Israelis in bars and restaurants and malls. I was appalled by Palestinians calling those who killed innocent Israeli or Jewish civilians martyrs and cheering the deaths of victims. And today I am appalled by the Hamas incursion into Israel. And I am appalled by anyone who supports taking civilians hostage, parading a disrobed woman’s body in the back of a jeep while passerby spit on her, taking the elderly and babies hostage, killing families and a dog, raiding a kibbutz, and burning it to the ground. And just as I am heartbroken that Jews chant hate toward Palestinians and Muslims, I am just as saddened when Palestinians chant death to Jews and Israelis. Just as I am revolted by Israel encroaching upon the land of Palestinians, it terrorizes me to know that if Palestinians (and a few other countries) were as powerful as Israel, they would wipe Israel off the entire map (and are proud to admit doing so). As I am equally shocked by what both sides inflict on the other, I take a step back. And dare I say it: I pray for peace in both countries.
I pray for peace in a region that hides behind religion to justify its hatred. Whether Jew or Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or whatever religion we hail from, we can no longer afford to use religion as an excuse to harm others. And Muslims who shout “Allahu Akbar” during their rampages are making a mockery of God. God radiates compassion, mercy, and divine love. Nothing, not even colonization, occupation, or an invasion justifies killing civilians, taking them hostage, and threatening to execute them. This is not religion or resistance. This is murder and hatred disguised as a cause. And anyone who supports this madness, regardless of which side they take, is as guilty as the resistance fighters and soldiers who continue to massacre and dehumanize the “other.” Nobody should utter: I stand with… Because standing with one side galvanizes enmity and renders those who perpetrate war crimes blameless. Standing with one country at the expense of the other robs the world of opportunities to forge diplomatic ties and peace. Besides, both Israel and Palestine have committed blatant war crimes (regardless of who the original perpetrator of the conflict was or is). Saying the so-called “enemy” deserves it because of years of persecution only keeps both countries stuck in a quagmire of war and revenge and fear and high states of alert and misery for both populations. Supporting resistance is dangerous because the anger and hatred that are carried while brandishing a weapon only results in bloodshed, the raping of women and the killing children and babies as we have seen time and time again throughout history. How is that ever justifiable? Ever?
Every country and people has the right to defend itself, as many supporters of violence will insist. But defending oneself can take the form of nonviolent resistance and peace. Only peace breeds peace. As far back as 494 BC, when the plebeians left the city and refused to work in order for amends to be made by the Roman consuls, and up to Gandhi’s pledge of “ahimsa,” nonviolent resistance has succeeded and will continue to succeed. Because war and violent resistance only creates more divisiveness and horrific retaliation.
In the same way that nobody wants to see Israeli soldiers raid Gaza and the West Bank, and kill families and children, how can anyone claim to be elated seeing the Hamas incursion into Israel in which peaceful festival goers were shot at point blank? Where is our humanity? If we shudder at murder, we should condemn it on all sides. We should never revel when an “enemy” is slaughtered.
Human beings create borders and then fight to the death to defend them. In any case, regardless of what many Arabs hope, Israel is not going away. For peace to become a reality, and for Israelis and Arabs to live side by side, we have no choice but to root for both. As Arabs, we can continue to support Palestine but should also insist on peace and give a platform to the many initiatives of Palestinians and Israelis who are coming together to work for peace. And Israelis and Zionists should extend the Abrahamic Accord first and foremost to Palestine and then to other countries which are considered their enemies.
We tried resistance. We tried retaliation. Nothing has worked. Pro-Palestinian or Pro-Israeli protests have only increased extremism and nationalism on both sides. We will never change anything until we recognize the hate that lurks beneath which needs to be alchemized into love. Love is the only solution we have never tried! We must coexist and teach our youth to accept one another rather than educate them to hate. We must begin to root for peace.
It’s time to root for both Palestine and Israel and wish for a peaceful future rather than rejoicing at recurring images of bloodshed and artillery. Enough!
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