From the River to the Sea, Both People Should Be Free

Mustafa Akyol

5 mins - 14 de Noviembre de 2023, 07:00

On Nov 5, in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for a huge pro-Palestine rally called “Solidarity for Humanity.” Most of them were Muslims, but others were Christians and even Buddhists. They were alarmed about the horrific news and images of thousands of children in the Gaza Strip that have been killed by Israeli bombs in the past three weeks. They called for an immediate ceasefire and ultimately a “free Palestine.”

Now, Jakarta is some 8700 kilometers away from Gaza. Its people share no common language or history with the Palestinians, yet they deeply care about them. And they certainly are not the only one. No wonder similar rallies have been held all across the Muslim world, from Egypt Turkey, from Tunisia to Pakistan, in addition to many Western capitals. It shows how that long and painful conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has become a truly global trauma. 

[Recibe los análisis de más actualidad en tu correo electrónico o en tu teléfono a través de nuestro canal de Telegram]

What is more, most of the world’s two billion Muslims are angry at not just Israel, but the United States and even the whole “West.” They think while the West is always eager to champion “Israel’s right to defend itself,” even at the cost of killing thousands of innocent bystanders, the Palestinians’ equal right to freedom, security and dignity is ever delayed, if not even denied.

Jordan’s Queen Rania condemned this “glaring double standard” plainly on CNN, when she said most people in the Middle East “are just shocked and disappointed” by the Western stance on Gaza. And note that she represents the most moderate view in her part of the world. Other actors in the same region will certainly use this “shock” to support more militant views and causes — for years and decades to come.

That is why, as a Muslim who has long advocated peace in the Middle East, reconciliation between the West and the East, and the rise of liberal democracies in the latter, these days I am depressed. First, I was depressed by the Oct 7 attacks by Hamas which killed roughly 1400 Israelis, most of them innocent civilians, while also seizing some 240 people as hostages. Then, I have been depressed by the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 10 thousand Palestinians, most of them innocent civilians, about half of them children.

Moreover, I see that this worsening catastrophe in Gaza will leave deep scars in all Muslim societies. Anti-Western views will proliferate, while universal values often championed by the West, such as human rights and liberties, will be easily dismissed. As Turkish-American scholar Ahmet Kuru also warns, if the current mood continues, “Muslim advocates of liberalism and democracy will be further marginalized by the Islamists, nationalists and other supporters of authoritarian alternatives.” Meanwhile, “Russia and China will expand their influence on Muslim countries.”

That is all why, for both humanitarian and strategic reasons, it is imperative to stop Israel’s catastrophic collective punishment on Gaza. This is not to deny the horror that provoked it: on Oct 7, Hamas has proven that it is a ruthless terrorist organization, against which Israel has a legitimate right to fight — just like Turkey has against the PKK, or Spain had against ETA. But no war on terrorism can legitimately kill so many innocent people. It is morally indefensible. It is also strategically blind, because every innocent soul destroyed while “fighting terrorism” will be replaced by many others who want to take revenge. 

Instead of help deepen this doomed cycle of violence, Western governments should try to restrain and ultimately end it. That requires effectively calling on Israel, which understandably is at a moment of rage, to respect international humanitarian law, as desperately called for by the United Nations and many human rights organizations. It also requires the recognition that there is actually no real military remedy to Israel’s security. The only remedy is a political solution, which will give not only Israelis but also the Palestinians a country of their own.  

Meanwhile, among Muslims and others across the world who sympathize with Palestinians, we need another recognition: the Hamas way is not the way. First, by killing, tormenting, and kidnapping innocent civilians, Hamas violated every ethical rule of war, including that of Islam. We should be clear in condemning such savagery, evoking the Prophet Muhammad’s commandment to his own soldiers at war: “Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm.”

Second, by aiming for the destruction of Israel, Hamas is making any political solution impossible. By empowering the most hawkish views in Israel, and provoking retaliations like the one that is ruining Gaza, it is rather sacrificing the Palestinian people to its ideological utopia.

Instead, the only ethical and feasible way is to promise security and dignity to both Israelis and Palestinians. It is a vision that should offer this contested land between “the river to the sea” to not one of these peoples, but both. “From the river to the sea,” we should cry, “all children will be safe, and both people will be free.”
Se puede leer el artículo en español

¿Qué te ha parecido el artículo?