International

Time to recognise the great injustice done to the Palestinians

By M. Azhar Ali Khan

When I was a child my aunt wrote an Urdu verse in my autograph that, roughly translated,  said: “Everything is happening in this age of progress, what a horror, then, that Man does not become a Human Being.”

 The world was then gripped by the Second World War. Then followed by the dismantling of the British empire -- and the slaughter of a million people, simply because the killers viewed them as having been born in the wrong religion, and the uprooting of 15 million people.

Though the United Nations was established to bring about world peace, freedom and human rights, occupation, wars and human rights violations continued.

I grew up in Bhopal, India, where Hindus, Muslims and others lived in friendship. The ruler was a Muslim, most people were Hindu. My father taught me Islam by his own example. Not only did he pray, he valued integrity and helped people. He sent me to a Christian school before shifting me to a public school. He hired private Hindu and Muslim tutors for me. We had Hindu and Muslim servants. The Holy Quran taught me that the best human was not necessarily born a Muslim but whose words and actions were the noblest. Some of my Hindu and Christian friends were better persons than my Muslim pals.

This remained my experience when I studied in the Philippines and the U. S. and lived in Pakistan and then in Canada. I have witnessed enormous technological advances, man landing on the moon, the internet connecting the world instantly, and medications that produce miraculous recoveries, however temporary.

In the United States and Canada I saw the rule of law, freedom of religion and expression, democratic and free elections and the equality of citizens irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity.

But as a Canadian journalist and a refugee judge deciding on asylum requests I also observed discrimination, hypocrisy, hate, occupation, oppression, torture and wars. I saw that democracy enables people to choose their leaders but that these leaders are often swayed by political expediency, not by principles, integrity, justice, wisdom and accountability.

Not long ago, Palestinians sought membership in the United Nations. All hell broke loose. Some Western governments, including Canada, were horrified, as if membership in the UN was a crime, or a terrorist attack. They told the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel to seek an end to Israeli occupation and to negotiate borders with the Israelis. This advice would have made sense if there was a realistic prospect of a just peace or if the Western governments had pushed energetically for a settlement. In the absence of both this amounts to advising the Palestinians to continue to suffer an oppressive occupation. If they resist they’d be branded terrorist. If they turn to the United Nations they’d face Western opposition.

West Bank and Gaza Palestinians have been under occupation since 1967. There have been negotiations. But Israel keeps violating United Nations resolutions and violating international laws. It continues to build illegal settlements. A half a million illegal Israeli settlers live in occupied territories, subsidized by the state, harassing Palestinians. They are protected by Israeli forces and roads have been built for their exclusive use. Israel is building a massive wall that goes well beyond the 1967 borders and grabs more of the already fractured Palestinian land. Palestinians are arrested at will and detained indefinitely without charges. Numerous checkpoints control their movements disrupting their everyday lives. Gaza is kept under a strict siege. There is no evidence that the Likud government has any interest in a just peace.

The U. S. response is to grant Israel every year billions of dollars in military and economic aid and intelligence, diplomatic and other assistance that enables the Israelis to defy the UN, control the Palestinians and dictate to other neighbors.

Israeli leaders are now stating that they might attack Iran if it continues its nuclear program. The U. S. states that Israel has the right to do whatever it wants for its security and the U. S. will support it fully. Only Israel will determine what it sees as a threat.

Specialists agree that even if Iran wishes to build nuclear weapons it won’t have that capacity for at least one year. Israel and the U. S. have the capability to down any missile or plane heading towards Israel. There is no credible evidence that Israel faces a military threat from Iran or elsewhere. But it is targeting Iranian scientists and researchers and sees them as a threat.

On the other hand, Israel is the only Middle East country that has nuclear weapons, hundreds of them. The U. S. is the only country that has dropped nuclear bombs on the civilian cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the Second World War. That hastened Japan’s surrender, incinerated civilians and levelled the two cities.

Israel and the U. S. possess huge numbers of mass weapons of destruction. Israel has used them without restraint, even in civilian areas. The U. S., prodded by Israel, attacked and occupied Iraq on the basis of false claims, wreaking massive destruction and deaths.

Undaunted, and their own nuclear arsenals notwithstanding, they are talking of attacking Iran. The U. S. is urging restraint on Israel for now saying it hopes that Iran will give up its plan because of sanctions and that, if it does not, the U. S. will use force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The U. S., meanwhile, will keep showering massive aid on Israel, its nuclear weapons, defiance of the UN and obstruction of a just and peaceful settlement with the Palestinians notwithstanding.

Democracy gives people the right to choose their leaders and enjoy freedom of expression and vote. But the system also makes politicians compete for the support of lobbies for votes, volunteers and donations. This results in hypocrisy, injustice and conflicts. After all, Britain and France were democracies when they built their empires and the U. S. is a democracy though it attacks other countries, seeks to topple governments it doesn’t like, and tries to have its way.

My aunt passed away decades ago. But the words she wrote remain with me and remind me of the imperfections of man even in this age of technological sophistication.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian newspaperman, public servant and refugee judge.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2012 on page no. 16

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