First, you'll have to excuse my blatantly plagiarized title, as I borrow the headline of this post from a collection of writings from Steve Biko, a Black Consciousness leader who was brutally killed while in detention by South African Police in the 1970's. Since it is the new year, I've made several resolutions, including putting my oft internally kept opinions out there in written form. Rather than worrying about the criticisms of others, I've instead resolved to periodically publish my views on current events in the world. Not because I believe that I alone know the truth of a situation or have workable solutions to the world's innumerable problems, but simply so that I can clarify my own thoughts through the writing process. I also hope that my ideas and insights will be strengthened and transformed by the the constructive input of others, those who may think similarly, but more importantly by those who are of a different mind.
Having communicated my reason for writing, perhaps it's ironic that I've cited Biko due to his South Africa connection in a post about the situation in Gaza. I do not claim to be an expert on either South African history nor Israel/Palestine, although I claim an interest in both areas, even having lived in Cape Town for six months in 2006. Often when many critics of the Israeli occupation of Palestine speak, they liken the occupation to apartheid. It's a fairly easy claim to make, just replace the Afrikaner with the Jewish settler, Afrikaner Nationalism with Zionism, and Bantustans with the occupied territories. Yet, while on the surface of things there may be numerous similarities, there is one glaring difference. A huge difference.
In South Africa, there was the ANC, with great leaders like Mandela, but also Sisulu, Tambo, and many many others. In its historic Freedom Charter dating to 1955, the ANC proclaimed:
South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;
that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality;
that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities;
that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;
And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter;
And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.
The Freedom Charter guided the ANC's struggle, both non-violent and violent, until its just cause eventually prevailed. The Afrikaners had a negotiating partner committed to democratic principles and mutual coexistence. Sadly, it appears that there is no Palestinian ANC, Freedom Charter, nor Mandelas. Instead, at least in Gaza, there is Hamas, which has the stated objective of "discarding the evil, crushing it and defeating it, so that truth may prevail, homelands revert [to their owners], calls for prayer be heard from their mosques, announcing the reinstitution of the Muslim state. Thus, people and things will revert to their true place." (Hamas Charter, Part 2 Article 9)
For Hamas, then, there is no place for Israel and attempts at peace through negotiation are foolhardy. As it again states in its Charter, "[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion." (Hamas Charter, Part 3 Article 13)
That said, I must support Israel's recent invasion of Gaza, which has led to the death of nearly 500 Palestinians as I write, including around 100 civilians. Correct? While sympathetic to Israel's (or any nation-state for that matter) right to protect its security, its declaration of war should be condemned in the harshest words possible. In fact, condemnation should be followed with real action dedicated to ending the war by the international community and a recommitment to peace. Thus, it is exceptionally difficult as an American to know that my own government blocked a UN attempt to pass a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, for Israel's attack is a grossly disproportionate response to the mild threat Hamas poses to its viability as a state. Further, from a practical standpoint I fail to see how Israel's invasion will do anything but enflame the conflict, embolden Hamas, and lead many people of goodwill to question whether Israel has decided to embark on a program whose ultimate goal is nothing less than the ethnic cleansing of Gaza.
What is to be done? In an ideal world, a binational state would exist where Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Muslim would live together in mutual peace and cooperation. No settler Zionists aimed at recreating Biblical Israel nor radical Jihadists dedicated to an Islamic state. Yet, the trauma of the past sixty years plus prevents this from being a practical reality. But, at the same time, is a two state solution possible? Hamas' ideology is antithetical to such a compromise. On the other hand, I fear that the Palestinian Authority is increasingly happy to play a role similar to those blacks in South Africa who collaborated with the apartheid regime rather than representing the authentic national aspirations of Palestinians. So, I finish with no answers, just questions. Any thoughts?