History and memory

Published February 21, 2024

THIS is with reference to the article “Yemen’s stand” (Feb 3). It is fasci-nating to observe how different nations across the world interpret and respond to their own historical narratives, especially when it comes to instances of suffering and oppression.

For instance, take Yemen and South Africa to comprehend this phenomenon. Rooted in histories marked by immense pain and hardship, these nations have made a conscious decision to stand against injustice. This is driven by a deep sense of empathy and a moral obligation to prevent others from enduring similar suffering. It is a remarkable display of empathy towards humanity, showing how the scars of the past can inspire actions that are rooted in compassion and solidarity.

Similarly, South Africa, having endured the oppressive apartheid, empathises with the plight and sufferings of Palestinians facing discrimination and occupation. This historical memory fuels South Africa’s solidarity with Palestine, leading to legal and diplomatic support for its cause.

Yemen’s historical experiences of colonialism and oppression by Western powers, such as the United Kingdom, have instilled a deep sense of injustice and empathy for the suffering of others. Yemen’s stand against Israel’s actions is a moral obligation, rooted in religious and historical narratives of resistance against oppression.

On the flip side, we have nations, like Israel, that have themselves faced grave injustices, notably the Holocaust. Despite this painful history, they have been perpetuating suffering on to others, particularly on to the Palestinians.

It is a stark contrast to the empathetic stance taken by Yemen and South Africa, raising important questions about how nations interpret their histories and the lessons they choose to learn from them.

By going through such experiences, what becomes clear is that historical memory is not just a collection of facts; it is a deeply personal and often emotive lens through which nations view themselves and the world around them. While some use their past as a rallying cry for justice and compassion, others may unfortunately fall into patterns of aggression and oppression. It is a reminder of the power of history to shape our present and future actions for better or for worse. It is up to nations to decide how they want to engage with their past and whether they will use it as a force for healing and reconciliation or as a justification for further harm.

Rakhshanda Abbas
Gilgit

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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