A letter to Shlomo from Gaza

Mareeg.com-THE carnage that the Israeli forces have been inflicting on the people of Gaza and in particular the women and children has evoked many strong emotions in conscientious people everywhere. Many have taken to the streets in major capitals of the world to protest the massacre of Palestinian civilians taking place without pause. Others have chosen to express their remorse through words.

One such piece was sent to me by a Kashmiri Muslim mortified by the slaughter of the people in Gaza. He had initially sent it to several major Indian news agencies, but it was not picked up perhaps because of the new government’s suspicious sentiments towards Muslims in general. Creating a setting of a Palestinian in Gaza responding to an Israeli, Wajahat Qazi brings a very poignant piece and bringing the horrors of this conflict closer to us. He writes:

“Dear Shlomo: I write to you at a dark time. Your country has gone on a rampage in Gaza. Hundreds have been killed; most have been civilians including women and babies. I can’t even describe the frightening and terrible conditions that we are under. The wails of babies, frightened pregnant women are even more terrible and scary than the bombs that the IDF is hurtling at us. I hear that Israel is preparing for a ground offensive now. It’s scary, Shlomo, very scary. Only yesterday a pregnant woman died in my arms. We are running short on supplies, there’s hardly any electricity and water; the wounded and the maimed are fighting for their lives in ramshackle hospitals. I tell you, Shlomo, I am a peacenik; I want peace for Palestine, Gaza and the world but the conditions created by Israel makes me fear the worst. Our children are growing up in the cradle of fear and hostility and even a person like me — peaceful, peaceable and non-violent-is tempted to wear the Keffiyeh again and throw stones. Yes, Shlomo, throw stones.

“Amid this fear, hostility and killings, I have managed to access the Internet-only intermittently and sporadically. I read that there are people in Israel who are telling us, instead of focusing on Israel, to look within or look at the world of Islam and then act soberly. On the face of it, Shlomo, this is indeed what we Muslims, have to do: Introspect and formulate a strategy that helps us reclaim a proud, peaceable and peaceful future in the comity of nations. The world of Islam is in the throes of civil and sectarian war; this is a shame we carry and hold in our hearts. Our political decay stems from a wide variety of reasons and sources: imperialism — the divide and rule strategies employed by the colonials and the artificial carve-up of our lands —, geo-political maneuverings premised on crude real politik, tribal nature of many Arab societies, authoritarian political systems and their continuing legacies and insipid economic growth, the wars of choice led by powers that are hubristic and disdainful of other cultures and cultural systems; they just want to impose their own sets of beliefs and ideologies on us rather than allowing us to find our own way(s).

“Yes, Shlomo, these people are right in telling us there are huge problems in the Islamic world and that these need to be remedied. I thank them for pointing this out. We are and will, with God’s help, find ways to be at peace within and without. But, Shlomo let me tell you, our immediate problem is your country: Israel. And this problem needs to be resolved. Don’t get me wrong here, Shlomo: I am not calling for the destruction of Jews but merely pointing out that your country has evolved into a regional bully. And, we Palestinians are the victims of choice of this bullying.

What have we, Palestinians, done to you to harass, kill and maim us incessantly? If there are killings in many Muslim countries, do these absolve Israel for its aggression? Do two wrongs make a right? Do the happenings in the Muslim world make it right for Israel to kill Palestinians? Moreover, Shlomo, why are you people equating what is happening in the Muslim world with Palestine? Yes: we are Muslims and as Muslims we feel for the tragedies of other Muslims as is evident from the emotions that the latest Israeli aggression has generated but how this leads to equivalence, I am unable to understand.

“We lost the support of the Arabs ages ago, Shlomo. We are alone in this battle against a state that is not only heavily militarized but that also knows very well the nuances of international politics and public opinion. It, to repeat, is a typical David versus Goliath parallel panning out. We are an emotional people and our reactions sometimes rebound against us. In short, our problem is the neo-colonialism practiced by Israel. Can you, in good, faith do something about it?

“Can I, by way of a suggestion, say that you instead of hectoring us build a lobby in Israel for peace? We will, to use an Eastern saying, walk two steps if you walk one? And can you be clear about the nature of your identity Shlomo? We hear that you tell the West that Israel and Israeli’s are western (or occidental) outposts in an oriental sea. This makes us wonder whether you really are part of this region or are outsiders foisted on us. You claim to be a democracy. It should then be easy for you to garner support for peace and a two state solution. Don’t believe the propaganda that portrays us as inherently violent and aggressive. We are humans too, Shlomo. Trust me Shlomo, if Israel sheds its nature as a militarized entity and opts for peace with us and the broader Arab world, most problems, including militarization of the region and the conflict between us and you guys will be resolved.

“Shlomo, I trust in your integrity and good faith. Please, for the sake of humanity, impress upon your fellow citizens, to sue for peace, within and without. All of us need it and our future generations will be the beneficiaries of peace and prosperity — a legacy that is noble and ethical. You will discover me to be a partner in the quest for peace. I have to cut short this letter and leave rather brusquely: an Israeli bomb has just destroyed a home and killed a family of six. Sorry Shlomo, my humanitarian impulse beckons.

Peace…Mahmoud from Gaza”