They both claim Abraham as their progenitor. Physically alike to the outside eye, it is difficult to tell one from the other but for ethnic differences such as the shape of the beard, Muslim skullcap (Taqiyah) or Jewish kippah, and other cultural peculiarities, they are cousins but can hardly tolerate each other. Providence has fated them to co-exist side by side. However, a seething revulsion has been existing between both parties since present-day Israel was carved out of Palestine after World War II. Now, the world is treating the current war between both brothers as a spat between a cobra and a mongoose.
I am involved in humanity. I cannot look away. It is not convenient for me to simply buy the loads of propaganda designed to justify genocide. Granted that the whole world is aware of the horrendous apartheid system forced down the throats of Palestinians by Israeli forceful occupation, I cannot justify the savage attack launched by Hamas against Israelis living in the occupied territory. I have read many op-ed pieces that tend to use pre-existing undercurrents to justify the killing of 1,200 people in the Hamas raid, but I say killing innocent people under any circumstance is condemnable.
In the same vein, Israel’s attempt to seize the opportunity of the Hamas attack to punish all Palestinians cannot be right. No life is more sacred than another. When we speak or act as if one particular life is more precious than another, we commit a grave error, which leads us to reduce the object of our hatred to a thing and not a person.
Hitler did not suddenly wake up overnight to order the extermination of six million Jews. No, he started by disrobing them of their humanity in word and deed. The Nazis referred to Jews as rats. In a similar fashion, Hutus who participated in the Rwanda genocide called Tutsis cockroaches. Throughout history, slave owners considered slaves subhuman animals.
When photos of American troops posing with dead Afghans recently surfaced online, in connection with ongoing court-martial cases of soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, it became clear that the Afghans were seen as things, not humans. According to Smith, “The US soldiers also took body parts as trophies”. He further argues that “when people dehumanise others, they conceive of them as subhuman creatures”.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s characterisation of Palestinians as animals and the comparisons of Palestinians to “rats or snakes” on Israeli social media are an effort to “dehumanise” them and “legitimise civilian deaths”, says Israeli professor of international law and human rights, Neve Gordon.
These children of Abraham on both sides of the conflict are equally villains and saints, depending on where or when you want to start tracing their history. Their circumstances and pathological short fuse have over the ages ensured that they remain perpetual enemies sworn to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) while insisting on a revised standard version of when and where the rain started to beat each tribe.
As always in such circumstances, the truth has taken a bashing in this conflict, with both sides employing vile propaganda. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week rejected accusations by Israel that, in a statement to the Security Council, he had justified attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel.
“I am shocked by the misrepresentations of some of my statements…as if I were justifying acts of terror by Hamas. This is false. It was the opposite,” he told reporters. He told the 15-member UN Security Council that it was vital to be clear that war has rules, starting with the fundamental principle of respecting and protecting civilians.
“It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Guterres said. “But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said.
The balancing act failed woefully because as far as Israel is concerned, there can be no middle course in this war; he who is not expressly for them is against them.
The Palestinians, too, have been accused of using their civilian population as human shields and locating their assault weapons in civilian areas. Their supporters say where else could Hamas have located their weapons when Israel has forcefully annexed most of their land.
Fact-checkers from the French news agency AFP debunked videos of the initial Hamas attack, which turned out to be clips taken from the military simulation game Arma 3, clips from a concert in Tel Aviv, footage from Mexico, and footage of paragliders in Egypt. Before facts had been established about the hostages taken by Palestinian group Hamas, social media accounts posted footage of hostages in Turkey in 2016, and photos of troops in Gaza in 2022, claiming they were from the Hamas attack, AFP said.
Remarkably, both sides have been playing the religious card to win the sympathy of Muslims and Christians. Hamas propagandists initially gave the impression that Israel had destroyed part of the walls of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It was not true.
Israel, too, started distributing videos showing an Israeli commander marking his troops with signs of the cross to give the impression that they were Christians. It is well known that about 73.8 per cent of the Israeli population is Jewish, 18 per cent Muslim, 1.9 per cent Christian, and 1.6 per cent Druze. The internet is rife with videos of Jews denouncing Christianity and expressing their preference for Islam over Christianity which they see as idolatry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPzjvmFZ1B4). Rabbi Yosef Misrachi is not alone in thinking that six billion people (including Christians, Hindus, Buddhists etc) ought to be summarily executed.
Many Africans have misguidedly thought that the Jews were fighting for Christians just as many Muslims had been deceived to think that the Palestinian war is about religion. No, it’s all about land and the struggle for possession among extremist cousins. There is plenty of racism in Israel just as Arabs have been known to enslave black people over the ages. Only recently, Israeli police arrested five Orthodox Jews for spitting at Christian worshippers, priests and pilgrims in the Old City of Jerusalem. They call black people Schvartze (their N-word) while Arabs routinely use words like ‘abid’ and ‘kafir’.
We don’t have a dog in their war. America is free to back whoever it wants while the backers of Palestine are also within their rights to do so.
Palestinians deserve to have a country they can call their own. And Israelis deserve to have a homeland too. I believe there is enough land to share if real humane humans were to arbitrate. Labels won’t do the trick. Mandela was called a terrorist by the West but when he became the president of South Africa, they were all over him as if he was their ancestor. Hypocrisy is the way of the world!
I pray that these children of Abraham will, someday, devise a way to live together in peace.
- Wole Olaoye is a Public Relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)