The view of Palestine
When Mahatma Gandhi launched his nonviolent movement to end the British colonial rule in India, he made it clear why he rejected all calls for leading a violent freedom struggle: “If Indians take up guns to kill the British, given India’s great religious and ethnic divisions, they would still be using the same guns to kill each other long after the British had gone. If India makes violence her creed, I will not care to live in India.”
Similarly, Israel has vacated Gaza and yet two Palestinian factions – Hamas and Fatah – continue to slaughter each other. In the fighting for control of Gaza, Hamas was accused by Human Rights Watch of “violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes”.
Such unspeakable brutality by Hamas toward fellow Palestinians shows that it will not hesitate to kill its compatriots belonging to a rival camp. Hamas might think that by getting elected, the Palestinians have given it the mandate to eliminate its rivals. US President Barack Obama is trying to broker a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For that, he should prod the Palestinians to stop supporting Hamas and its violent policies and opt for a Gandhian nonviolent political movement. If the Palestinians cannot live peacefully with each other, it will be futile to think that a Palestinian state and a Jewish state can live peacefully side by side. If the Palestinians renounce violence, it will also reassure Israel that a Palestinian state will not be used as a staging post for further attacks on Israel.
Although Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist who thought he was too soft on the Muslim enemy, his ideas remain germane today. It may be interesting to note that one of the greatest tributes to Gandhi was paid by his former adversary the last British viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten: “His life was one of truth, tolerance and love. ... India, indeed the world, will not see the likes of him again, perhaps for centuries.”
The Middle East, torn by many conflicts, needs its own Gandhi.
MAHMOOD ELAHI. Ottawa, Canada