Gaza – A Crisis Of Perception

Gaza is burning. From Israel’s perspective, and in realpolitik term where national interest and security are above everything else, the war against Hamas is justified. In reality, no country will sit and do nothing when its citizens are under constant threat of mortar and missile fire from across the border. But what is unacceptable is the manner of response to this threat. It is disproportionate. It is sledgehammering a mosquito. More than 2000 people mostly civilians and many were children have been killed in an operation that has been described as brutal and un-clinical.

What is more upsetting is the world’s response to this seeming brutality. Apart from the vociferous protests, online campaigns and world leaders providing lip-service to end the conflict and offering some monetary tokens to help the Gazans, there has been little concrete effort to pressure the Israelis to take a less destructive approach to the conflict. And the relatively muted response from the general non-Muslim community is deafening. Why?

One reason for this is that the world is looking at the Muslim world, particularly the Arabs to take the lead, simply because they see it as an Arab problem. The question then is, `what are the Arabs doing?’ Nothing much apart from posturing, lip-service, street and online protests and with the added distractions of constructing more grandiose buildings and organising a World Cup.  But these actions are too easy and lazy and are not effective. Political manoeuvring on the other hand requires more sophistication and surgical skill and this is where the Arabs are lacking.

The Arabs control most of the world’s supply of oil and gas. It straddles the world’s greatest trade route. Its population outnumbers the Israelis by the millions. One of its Muslim brothers, Pakistan, is a nuclear power. In short, the Arabs have in their sleeves, good cards to play. But they did not. And the reasons for this reticence are that firstly they are afraid to antagonise the Americans. Secondly they themselves are not united and thirdly and most importantly, they don’t see the Gaza conflict as important enough to warrant anything more than the standard diplomatic response. They are not willing to sacrifice their own national interests for the sake of the Gazans. So why should others care?

A second crisis of perception is the Muslims’ particularly the Arabs’ response to similar brutalities conducted by Muslims on fellow Muslims in other parts of the world. The gassing of hundreds of children in Syria did not solicit as much disgust from the Muslim world. It needed the intervention from the Americans and its Western allies, non-Muslim countries, to ensure that the atrocity would not be repeated. Even today, hundreds in Syria still die from the war. Many were women and children. Muslims killing Muslims. Millions more were made refugees. While in the streets of Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, bombs exploded on a daily basis killing innocent lives. Suicide bombers are constant threats in Pakistan and Boko Haram, a Muslim group in Nigeria kidnapped a group of girls. Not forgetting, the mortars and rockets fired into Israel by Hamas are not targeting Israeli’s military capabilities but onto the streets of Tel Aviv. Compared to the response of the Muslims to the Gazan conflict, the Muslims’ response to these atrocities is relatively muted. They didn’t call the perpetrators animals or savages. They didn’t campaign to save the children in these countries. So what’s the difference? Why should they be horrified at Israel’s actions in Gaza when the Muslims themselves are nonchalant towards the atrocities conducted by fellow Muslims elsewhere? To the neutrals and the non-Muslims in general, they simply could not wrap their minds around this apparent contradiction.

So unless the Muslims particularly the Arabs are united and unless they are consistent in condemning and putting a stop to the atrocities conducted by fellow Muslims, Gaza will continue to burn while the world watches.



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