Gaza and the Liberal Conscience- The Question of Parity

(Part II)

By Farish A. Noor

As the death toll in Gaza mounts by the hour, there are still faint Liberal voices around us that bemoan the violence and deaths on both sides. We hear and read in the internet again and again about the violence of Hamas and the fact that there have been Israeli casualties in the fighting as well, as if the death of a dozen Israelis can be equated with the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and the wounding and maiming of thousands. At times such as these, liberals tend to demonstrate an acute lack of understanding of mathematics and seem to have trouble counting…

The most common refrain that we get from the liberals comes in the form of the argument: “Yes, but doesn’t Hamas have weapons too and haven’t the Palestinians killed Israelis?”

Here the moral dilemma of the Liberal stems from a misunderstanding of power-relations and parity. It is based on the idea that killing is wrong (which many would find difficulty in arguing against) and the idea that no attack on civilians is ever justified. Due to the fact that Hamas and other Palestinian groups have attacked Israeli civilian settlements, the conclusion they come to is that all Palestinians are equally guilty.

Let us clear up this confusion by raising a few questions ourselves and pointing to a few facts:

Firstly, let us remember that many of the attacks on Israeli civilian settlements were also focused on illegal settlements that have been universally condemned by the UN and practically every civilised country in the world. It is a foregone conclusion that no country on the planet would welcome the intrusion of any other foreign power, and that any nation that has been deprived of its territory would retaliate. (In fact, not to do so would be unnatural and illogical.) How then can those Israelis who have settled in illegal settlements, built on stolen land, expect to be left in peace? And how can these illegal settlers continue to wonder why they are being attacked? The incredulity of these illegal settlers is astounding, and akin to a situation where a thief wonders why his victim is fighting back…

Secondly, let us look at the question of parity. The fact is that there is NO parity between the trained colonial army of Israel and the irregular forces that have been assembled by the Palestinians. One can be in a genuine moral dilemma if both the Israelis and Palestinians possess the same military might and armed power; and we would be faced by a moral dilemma if – and only if – we see Palestinian jet planes bombing hospitals and schools in Israel; Palestinian tanks attacking Tel Aviv; Palestinian helicopters strafing the suburbs of Israel and Palestinian bulldozers smashing down civilian homes in Israel.

But tell me when did you last see a Palestinian jet fighter plane, attack helicopter, tank or bulldozer? The answer is there simply aren’t any because there is simply no parity between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The delay with which the Liberal conscience acts is therefore unpardonable under the circumstances, when we are witnessing what can only be described as a totally uneven and unequal contest between an aggressive colonial state and a colonised people fighting back. But for Liberals to assume a neutral stance in the face of a decidedly un-neutral situation beggars belief, and points to the moral hypocrisy of liberals under such circumstances.

Finally there is the question of WHY the Palestinians (Hamas, Hizbullah, Fatah and other civilian groups) have been fighting against this Israeli colonial goliath despite the fact that they have been outgunned time and again. Well, the history of anti-colonial struggles worldwide will show that all nations fighting for freedom have gone up against Empires and Imperial forces infinitely stronger than them. During the Indonesian and Vietnamese wars of Independence , as well as the anti-colonial wars of Africa , local insurgent forces fought with all they had against modern western colonial armies that were better armed.

The record of anti-colonial wars in Asia and Africa shows that it was always the local insurgents who suffered the most. For every Dutch colonial soldier killed by the Indonesian freedom-fighters, hundreds of Indonesians were killed. Yet they fought on relentlessly til they won their independence despite the human costs they were forced to bear. Today the people of Palestine are fighting a war of national liberation against a colonial Zionist state that has the tacit backing of the most powerful hegemon of the planet, the USA . Yet they do so despite the odds because they know that to lay down their arms would be to capitulate to imperialism and colonialism.

So the confused liberal who cannot decide should consider this: Had the freedom fighters of Indonesia , Vietnam , Burma as well as their comrades across Asia and Africa not fought against the odds, would the colonial powers have relented and unilaterally given them their independence? If one is naïve enough to believe that the colonial ambitions of a state like Israel can be appeased by surrendering the struggle, then one deserves to lose one’s country!


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