Thursday, August 26, 2010

Arun Gandhi and the Palestinian Question. . . . .

A few years ago Gandhi's grandson, Arun Gandhi became imbroiled in a controversy when he had the gall to criticize the State of Israel for using the memory of the Holocaust as an excuse to oppress the Palestinian people. Arun quickly learned the incredible power of the Israel Lobby in the US as he was essentially hounded out of his position as the president of the Gandhi Institute for Non-violence for daring to question the intentions of the Israeli State.  I remember reading of the controversy at the time and being quite depressed by the fact that it has come to the point in much of the West that if anyone dares speak against the blatantly expansionist policies of Israel one is instantly branded an Anti-Semite in a sad effort to silence the truth. But Arun Gandhi's credentials for the cause of peace are unimpeachable in my mind and though I would not have used the same words as he did, I think his central point was correct. We have indeed created a culture of violence from which no one is totally immune. Many in the state of Israel have used the Holocaust as an excuse to take the land of the Palestinians and ensure that they live in a state of terrible degradation and indignity. Arun was raised in South Africa during the age of Apartheid and, having seen the Palestinian refugee camps, he said that the Palestinians were suffering even greater indignities than the Blacks in South Africa. There is no doubt that many of the leaders of the Palestinian people have also succumbed to the global culture of violence. But they have practiced violence from a position of extreme weakness and poverty. It seems that any peoples, robbed of their land and identities and dignity will eventually respond with violence. This is why Arun Gandhi advocated a completely peaceful resistance on the part of the Palestinian peoples to the State of Israel. A kind of modern day Salt March. Most famously he advocated a peaceful march of fifty thousand Palestinians crossing the River of Jordan to return to their homeland. I believe that such a nonviolent resistance would be remarkably successful strategy against the State of Israel because I think it would expose the brutality and chauvinism of the Israeli State. This exposure would demonstrate to the world that Israel has also succumbed to the culture of violence. Every settlement in the occupied territory is another act of violence to the people of Palestine and to the people of Israel because it is an extension of the violence that ravages us all.

 I believe that the Jews and Palestinians can live in peace and harmony and even prosper together. But it means a genuine commitment to humanity, and the leaders of Israel, no less than the leaders of Palestine, have demonstrated that they are not interested in mutual prosperity. While the West invests billions in Israeli weapons in a country with a remarkably high standard of living, a relatively small trickle flows into Palestine which is barely enough to keep malnutrition from the door of the occupied territories. Enough is enough.

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