Relationship between Israel and Palestine has to be one of the most enduring conflicts of our time. Not one year has passed since I first learned of the conflict without the announcement of a death linked to it. The countless deaths and the dead end of this vicious cycle of hostility repeats itself over and over again, and I am numb. As I read of others taking sides in the conflict, I can only sigh and question, ”Where is the wisdom in all of this?”

There is something almost juvenile about this whole business of taking sides. Many are more interested in pointing out who started the quarrel first when in fact, who started what first is a matter lost in time.

Those supportive of the Israeli attack and invasion on Gaza insist that Hamas had been hammering Israel with rockets, hence threatening the lives of Israelis. Sympathizers of Hamas in return point out that Israel had closed the border surrounding the Gaza Strip to create a humanitarian crisis as supplies ranging from food to medicine run short. In a counterpoint of a counterpoint, the Israeli government stated that Hamas was smuggling weapons into Gaza to strengthen itself.

There is yet another counterpoint to the counterpoint of a counterpoint. In the effort to reach the ultimate counterpoint, I would not be surprised if the argument went beyond the time when Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon first sacked Jerusalem more than two and a half millennia ago, just to prove who first owned that piece of coveted land.

While all the points raised are useful in understanding the conflict better, those who participate in the debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are so engrossed in searching other’s faults that they fail to realize that there are faults on both sides. The saddest part of all, neither side is willing to admit their side’s capability of atrocity and the other side’s capability of goodness.

Sympathizers of Hamas or perhaps Palestine as whole are quick to highlight the unfairness of the current conflict by stating Israel has suffered only one-digit casualties altogether while the Palestinian count lies in the three-digit range. Some juxtapose Hamas’s rudimentary equipment like Qassam rockets against Israel’s modern arsenal which includes the Merkava armored vehicles, F-16 jet fighters and Apache helicopters.

If it escapes anybody, Qassams, Merkavas, F-16 and Apaches all kill. Would it comfort you to be killed by a Qassam rocket instead of a shell fired by a Merkava?

Death is still death. What’s in a name?

The truth is, who is more wrong is a hopeless debate which does nothing to solve the conflict. The solution lies not in playing the game of war of attrition. On the contrary, both sides need to refrain from provoking each other. Both sides need to become more trustful of each other.

I do not pretend that this is easy to do especially when history builds reputation and the reputations of both sides in the past have proven to be far from being impeccable. Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, ”If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

Yet, there is hope in building that elusive bridge.

Hamas, for instance, managed to largely kept its word in maintaining a six-month truce. Israel meanwhile unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and evicted Israelis from settlements deemed illegal. There are other examples.

Then again, this is an easy thing to say for a person sitting behind a desk typing on his laptop with little risk of bullets finding their way to him. If I were standing in a street in Gaza right now, I would sooner be shot dead than be heard there. The desperate shout for peace could easily be drowned by the sounds of flying bullets and missiles and falling bombs.

Whatever happens in Gaza today, I am here and the least I can do is not to compound the problem. The least I can do is to realize both are at fault. The least I can do is to show how there is no angel or demon here. There are only us humans.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

This article was first published in The Malaysian Insider on January 6 2009.

2 Responses to “[1871] Of there is no angel or demon”

  1. on 08 Jan 2009 at 07:40 Andrew

    Hafiz I love you!!!!!

  2. on 21 Nov 2010 at 19:29 Ilia

    Actually Hafiz this is not a bad article I think (even though I am in fact a jew). I agree with much of what you said, especially trying to apportion blame. I want to particularly discuss your sentiment (that is very popular I think) that “both sides are to blame”.

    What is going on is by all accounts a war, and everybody in a war is a criminal. If you don’t fight, you will lose. And I think you will agree, it is better to fight and win than to not fight and lose. Nobody cares about the sportsmanship award in any contest. For some reference, the premier league sportsmanship award for team which gathers least red/yellow cards gets a uefa (losers’) cup spot, I believe.

    Also I like your point about it being easy to judge sitting behind a desk, in a country that hasn’t seen war in your lifetime. I think it is very easy to get a rosy outlook on life. As soon as there was a terror act in NY or Bali or London, suddenly people in those countries with little prior interest in any world conflict, took a different view.

    I’d just like to end by saying that war doesn’t end by one or both sides ‘growing up’. Wars end by one side ‘winning’, as unpleasant as that may be. I think it is more or less clear who is winning (or already won) this war, and yet the conflict goes on…

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