This never-ending war between the Jews and the Muslims took place from 14 to 21 November 2012, with rockets and artillery fire launching back and forth between Israel and Palestine. This has come at a time when the Arab Spring—the revolutionary wave that led to the ousting of many dictators including Hosni Mubarak and that provided hope—has lost its influence over young Muslims, who once hoped to create a modern and secular Middle East based on the ideologies espoused by Kamal Ataturk, Gandhi, and Nazrul. President Obama should not only use this recent violence to put his Cairo speech in action but also to prove that the Norwegian Nobel Committee did not choose the wrong person in 2009 to spread Gandhi’s philosophy.
The violence that began on November 14—after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh—who read Hitler for inspiration—deliberately fired rockets into civilian areas of Israel to kill as many Jews as possible, ignoring the fact that most of the victims would be women and children. Instead of embracing Gandhi’s nonviolent approach to persuade the Jews to leave Palestine, Hamas—a political party that celebrated 9/11 and mourned the death of Osama bin Laden—has chosen Adolf Hitler’s philosophy in the hope of killing every Jew in Israel. Hamas’ motivation should have come from Nazrul’s pluralist philosophy: “Come brother Jews! Come Muslims! Come Hindus! Come Christians! Let us transcend all barriers; let us forsake forever all smallness, all lies, all selfishness, and let us call brothers as brothers. We shall quarrel no more.” Instead, Hamas’ Charter is deeply rooted in the philosophies of Hitler and bin Laden: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out, ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him’.” This is totally contrary to the lesson of the Koran—that teaches us that if one kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. So, clearly, Islam is not part of the problem of securing peace in the Middle East—Hamas is. That being said, those on the other side of the border are no angels either.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also not a fan of Gandhi. And he does not seem to have heard the name Nazrul either. If he had, he would not drop bombs on Gaza—which has caused the deaths of 133 civilians, most of whom are women and children. He has failed to realize that a dead child is a dead human child—not a Jewish or Muslim child. I am the father of two beautiful children, and if I was in Gaza and his bombs killed my children, I would probably hate him too—regardless of my political and religious affiliations. In fact, every bomb that Netanyahu sends to Palestine makes Hamas stronger by creating more Osama bin Ladens. However, we should also remember that some of the blame for the crime committed by Netanyahu and his allies must be accorded to his predecessors—especially Ariel Sharon, whose son Gilad Sharon continues to spread his father’s violence. In Jerusalem Times, he recently summed up the agenda of Netanyahu’s regime: “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.” This rhetoric is contrary to the Jewish-Christian tradition: One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated”. However, who is the winner in Israel’s violence against Gaza? The answer is simple: evil men like President Asad and terrorist organizations like Hamas. In fact, this has given Asad a reprieve, because what’s going on in Syria is now getting little press due to Israel’s aggression against Gaza.
Netanyahu’s Zionist approach has also given Hamas the opportunity to exploit the Arab youth. Once again, they find it thrilling to dream of rockets falling on Israel. Some of my Muslim brothers in the Middle East—who initially supported the Arab Spring—have recently changed their secular tone, regarding rocket launching as a great lesson for the Jews. In fact, they are now busy singing a divisive song: “Strike a blow on Tel Aviv. Don’t let the Zionists sleep! We don’t want a truce or a solution! Oh, Palestinians—you can be proud!” We need to ask an important question: Are the Arab youth going back to square one? The answer is yes. In this time of stridency, I remember Yeats’ lament: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” This is why both parties—Hamas and Likud—should understand that there will be no end to terrorism in the Middle East until they accept the two-state solution. However, such a solution requires that both parties reject violence and adopt strategies based on the philosophies of Gandhi and Nazrul. However, they will not change their habits unless there is external pressure from the United States—more specifically from President Obama.
In fact, this crisis gives Obama a second chance to implement the promise he made three years ago in his Cairo speech. Since then, he has achieved many successes—including the killing of Osama Bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi—but failed to end the violence in the Middle East. Why is that? In Deterring Democracy, Noam Chomsky blames the double standard of US foreign policy for the violence in the Middle East. I like Obama. I do not want to lose my hope in him. I hope his foreign policy will not be guided by a double standard like his predecessor Bush: humanitarian rhetoric and the imperialistic reality. Unlike Chomsky, I refuse to believe that Obama’s Cairo speech was nothing but humanitarian rhetoric. However, what would happen if Obama fails to abandon the American double standard policy? The answer is simple: If Obama is going to practice double standards, Muslims—especially Hamas’ followers will repay him with a double standard. However, it seems like he will try sincerely this time to bring about peace in the Middle East. In fact, it is good to see him managing this situation in the background, dispatching Hillary Clinton to implement a cease-fire deal. However, this won’t resolve the underlying causes of the conflict unless a two-state solution to the Palestine problem can be implemented. Israel also needs to stop its expansionist policy in the Palestinian territory; agree to give the Palestinians at least the non-Jewish parts of Jerusalem as their future capital;
permanently lift the siege of the Gaza Strip, which has essentially imprisoned 1.6 million Palestinians in a narrow strip of land; and all of this includes Palestinians’ acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist. Let’s use Nazrul’s philosophy to overcome this crisis: Let the people of Palestine and Israel come together in one great union of humanity. Let them listen to the flute music of one great unity. Should one Palestinian be hurt, all Israeli hearts should feel it equally. If one Israeli is insulted, it should be a shame on all Palestinians. Today marks the grand uprising of the agony of all Muslims and Jews.
Solving the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict by creating two nation states and integrating Jews and Muslims through the spirit of Nazrul’s pluralism would not only remove much of the motivation for terrorism around the world, but also cut the violence in half. The sooner Obama, Netanyahu, and Ismail Haniyeh realize this, the better it will be for the world.
Rashidul Bari , a biographer of Muhammad Yunus, most recently authored the Grameen Social Business Model: A Manifesto for Proletariat Revolution. He is currently collaborating with Dr. Daniel Kabat to complete a physics book.