A Letter to Israel and Its Loyal PatronJanuary 18, 2009 at 6:46 am | Posted in katarsis | 9 Comments
Tags: Barack Obama, Extremism, Gaza, Israel, the United States, Tzipi Livni
“I don’t want to embarrass anybody, but I know I represent their interests as well. It is no longer the Israeli-Palestinian or the Jewish-Arab conflict, but it is a conflict between moderates and extremists. This is the way this region is now divided,” Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, told Newsweek.”
Dear leaders of Israel and the US. I am not a Middle East expert and only recently have I seriously read stories on the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. And that’s perhaps simply because news agencies are feeding the world with a tableau of death in the Gaza Strip – a land whose name I’ve heard since I was an elementary school student but only a few weeks ago have I been able to locate in a map. I am an Indonesian-Muslim, a moderate one. I write to you this letter because I think I — like many other Muslims in the world — need to say something about the bloodshed in Gaza. No, I never burn your flags and I will never do it. I just want to write to let you know what I think about Gaza. You and many Muslims as well will probably think I’m being naïve for what I’m going to say here is based only on media reports and common sense, and you’ll notice that I don’t think that you’re inherently evil like many Muslims do. I don’t know if you’re going to read this blog-letter. I don’t really care about it. I do this to console myself.
I hate extremism as you do. I want peace. I want freedom. I want people, be they liberals or conservatives, to respect my way of life as I respect theirs. I believe that we share these values. Indonesia, like the US and Israel, is a secular country that is based on democratic principles, though we don’t deny the fact that Indonesia is led by a Muslim, like Israel led by a Jew and the US a Christian. Abrahamic religions, no matter how irrational they are to our atheist friends, are not considered as our foes. Our enemy is extremism, be it the Islamic one, the Christian one or the Jewish one. I agree that we have to do something to prevent it from disrupting the peace we value so greatly. This is not an easy task. Religious scholars have been trying so hard to reinterpret Holy Books to make them more contextual and relevant to the current zeitgeist or, let’s be frank about it, to make religions less violent, less racist and less backward. Sadly, you, Israel and the US, decided to wage a war against it, and you mean it literally by deploying military armed forces to kill, punish and wipe from this world the people you believe as “extremists”.
But you can never win a war against an ideology with weapons. When George Bush launched his “war on terror” campaign, he created a specter: Al-Qaeda, a global political entity, real or imagined, led by someone named Osama bin Laden, who appears to be perennially in hiding somewhere in a cave in Afghanistan. The US citizens were haunted by this specter. It was easy for the outgoing US President to get the approval he needed from his citizens to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. And he did it. Well done. That man gave a good reason for would-be extremists to join bin Laden and his gang. Here’s the logic: “The US callously killed our Muslim brothers, and therefore we must fight against it and those who support it, including our own government!” The attack did not weaken terrorism: Instead, it has made it stronger! The more Indonesian Muslims hate the US, the more they favor its enemies, including Al-Qaeda. The supports for the three Bali bombers evidenced the connection between how bad the image of the US is to Muslims and their supports for extremism. Can you see that, Mr. Bush?
And Israel, you do not take any lessons from your patron’s mistakes. Hizbullah is not dead, and neither is Hamas. If you think you can diminish Hamas’ Islamism by attacking Gaza — not to mention killing innocent Palestinian civilians and a journalist, and shelling a UN compound! – you’re dreaming! Hamas’ flying rockets may cease for a while, a year or two perhaps, but the deep hatred of the Muslims who are badly wounded, physically or morally, because of the massive offensive you carried on Gaza will stay longer, if not forever. The scars of the Palestinian children will produce more rockets in the future. And you’ll live in the Middle East anxiously for the rest of your lives. This is not a threat. I’m just trying to say that the Gaza attack produces nothing but militarily-crippled but ideologically stronger extremists.
What you, the US and Israel, do in Gaza is reprehensible and stupid. It is more atrocious than what the Bali bombers did here in 2002. I cannot tolerate the death of the civilians, especially children. It hurts my belief in humanity. The logic of self-defense does not work here. Really, it just doesn’t work. You cannot blame Hamas, even if they deliberately use the Palestinian civilians as human shields. You are not allowed to shoot the hostage in order to kill the bad guy. Ask Bruce Willis in Die Hard! You have committed a crime. Period. And I seek justice for this, not for myself but for all the people who still believe that with democracy we can make a better world. The US (YOU, Mr. Obama!) and the world must recognize the heinous crime committed by Israeli armed forces in Gaza, or face the consequence of the increasing sympathy for the victims of the regretfully sanctioned atrocity: more angry extremists seeking revenge.
As for Hamas launching their rockets to your homes, I agree that it has to be stopped. Hamas must learn to negotiate. I think the Muslim world should also press Hamas to adopt peaceful strategies to get what they want. No more rockets! If they condemn Israel, they must condemn Hamas too. Unity is a necessity for the Palestinians if they want a state that is politically strong enough to live side by side with Israel. But, Miss Livni, I have to say that however militant, defiant and dangerous Hamas is to Israel what is now happening in Gaza is not exclusively “a conflict between moderates and extremists”; Gaza has been vehemently bombarded and such a disheartening devastation we see on televisions, Internet, magazines and newspapers is just too much that I can’t see it as an attack aimed solely at the “extremists”, let alone Hamas.
We owe a lot to the Jews as we do to the Greeks. I don’t hate the Jews and neither do many other Muslims I guess if they realize that the great Qur’anic prophets like Moses, David and Jesus were ethnically Jewish – although they are spiritually ‘Muslims’ or “neither Jewish nor Christian”, according to the Qur’an. But I do hate oppression, tyranny and injustice. Ah, yes, to put it simple, I don’t hate you but I hate what you are now doing in Gaza. It’s nothing personal. I’m writing you this complaint letter not because I’m a Muslim and you’re a Jewish and a Christian. The fight against extremism will be much easier if you, the US and Israel, stop giving the extremists reasons to fight against us, the promoter of freedom and democracy, and start giving them reasons why they should join us to create peace in the world. Stop being the problem, and start being part of the solution.