Abraham’s seed

Published October 19, 2023
The writer is an author.
The writer is an author.

IN 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a bunker in Berlin. Seventy-eight years later, his destructive spirit has reincarnated itself in Benjamin Netanyahu, a US-trained Jew. Many of Hitler’s policies that led to World War II — lebensraum, contempt for treaties, unbridled militarisation, persecution of minorities, and the malevolent use of a ubiquitous security apparatus — have been reborn in modern Israel. Those violations of civilised norms — once a casus belli — are now kosher to the West.

Geography reveals the vulnerability of the Gaza Strip. It is only 365 square kilometres — one tenth the size of Indian Goa, once similarly trapped between a hostile mainland and an inhospitable sea. India resolved that by invading it in 1961. The Gaza Strip is dwarfed by Israel’s 22,145 sq km.

The present Palestine/ Israel contest is between an underfed David and a US-fattened Goliath. Since 1948, Palestinians have survived off scraps tossed from the tables of their wealthy Arab brethren, while Israel has been the recipient of some $260 billion in aid from the US. Every year, it receives about $3.3bn in foreign military financing from it.

Hamas’s surprise attack last week was a reprise of the Yom Kippur war of 1973, 50 years ago, when Egypt and Syria took advantage of the Yom Kippur holidays to launch an offensive. This attack by Hamas on a Sabbath caught Israel again off guard.

The contest is between an underfed David and a US-fattened Goliath.

It should not have. Over the past five years alone, Israel has invested over $80bn on its military defence. It must be galling, therefore, for the Israeli defence ministry to discover that 5,000 Hamas rockets could penetrate its expensive security shield with such precision.

In May 1987, an audacious German teenager, Mathias Rust, flew his Cessna aircraft from Helsinki and landed in Moscow’s Red Square. The Soviet defence minister Sokolov and other top officials were forced to resign. The Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant has no intention of going anywhere, except into the Gaza Strip, with a vengeance.

Netanyahu has told the residents of the Gaza Strip to leave before they are bombarded into non-existence. It is a cruel warning, as callous as if the Nazis had called on the Jews living in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940 to find alternative accommodation. The final death toll in that ghetto was estimated to be “300,000 killed by bullet or gas, combined with 92,000 victims of starvation and related diseases”.

The two million trapped in the Gaza Strip have nowhere to go. Their exodus is not through a Red Sea parted by Moses. It has to be through once Pharaonic Egypt, or the Mediterranean patrolled by two US aircraft carriers, or into oblivion.

The US, the UK and some European countries have leapt to Israel’s defence. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken went overboard in Tel Aviv by declaring in Netanyahu’s presence ‘I am a Jew’. It was more than J.F. Kennedy’s symbolic assertion: “Ich bin ein Berliner”, and far beyond what Henry Kissinger would have admitted. Kissinger sublimated his Jewishness throughout his tightrope negotiations between the Arabs and Israel.

Russia has growled from its lair, warning the West that it too has interests in the area. The Iranian foreign minister has cautioned Israel that “violence could spread to other parts of the Middle East”. The Iranians and the Saudis are holding talks “to prevent a broader surge in violence across the region”. Interestingly, China has remained relatively silent. Is it waiting for the situation to deteriorate until its intervention as a peacemaker becomes inevitable? For once, public demonstrations in world capitals have supported the Palestinians that go beyond the token keffiyeh. The slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ chanted in Paris has been replaced by ‘Je suis Palestinien[ne]’.

Meanwhile, an Armageddon waits in the wings.

Some who spot a comedy in every tragedy will have a field day on the predicament of Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf. His mother-in-law is trapped in Gaza, unable to escape. Forty years ago, the British cricketer Ian Botham remarked caustically that Pakistan was “the kind of place to send your mother-in-law for a month, all expenses paid”. Humza Yousaf must wish his mother-in-law had chosen anywhere — even Pakistan — for her foreign trip.

Those who have a reverence for God in whichever form will recall the Bhagavad Gita’s opening verses. In them, Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra expresses despair at seeing his kinsmen mixed with friends and honoured elders: “Some this side, some that side ranged: and, seeing those opposed, such kith grown enemies […] If we slay kinsfolk and friends for love of earthly power, Ahovat! What an evil fault it were!”

Is the Gaza Strip to become a Semitic Kurukhshetra, a battleground-turned-grave­yard for the warring seed of Abraham?

The writer is an author.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2023

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