On Tuesday, June 30, 2009, Cynthia McKinney, a former United States Congresswoman, and a recent presidential candidate, was taken prisoner, along with a group of noted human rights and peace activists, including a Nobel laureate, while sailing in international waters, headed for the Gaza Strip. Their abduction was carried out by ships operated by the Israeli Navy. Their ship was carrying medicine, medical supplies, building materiel, olive seedlings and food to the suffocating people of Gaza.
This illegal and unprovoked action can be added to a long list of unjust, and in many instances, outrageous acts carried out by the State of Israel. That list includes the ongoing and illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, and all of the draconian measures that occupation dictates. Those measures include home demolitions and other forms of collective punishment, usurped water rights, bull-dozed farms, humiliating check points, the ever present threat of aerial bombardment, and bone-jarring sonic booms. Collectively, along with other measures, they are designed to destroy the will of the Palestinian people to resist an illegal and unjust occupation.
That list includes the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, along with the gradual encircling of Jerusalem and the steady erosion of the Arab character of the surrounding districts. It also includes Israel’s disregard for dozens of United Nations resolutions. The list of Israeli injustices is long and requires no heroic portions of moral courage to delineate or condemn.
The fact that the mainstream corporate-dominated media in this country refuses to cover outrages such as the kidnapping of a former US Congresswoman, while on a humanitarian relief mission, is well-known and requires no further elaboration. We can condemn this fact as long as we wish. However, unless we do the hard work of putting our minds and money together to develop our own powerful media outlets, our condemnations are meaningless.
Likewise, the complicity of the American government in many if not most of Israel’s crimes in recent history is an established fact. The UN vetoes that amount to a rejection in some instances of the unified opinion of the entire world, the weapons shipments, the tactic or explicit endorsements of campaigns of murder unleashed against Palestinian civilians, the ignoring of US law governing the use of American weapons against civilian or occupied populations. All of these issues are no secret. We can repeat them ad nausea, and we will return to a fundamental question. Now what?
The question before us is not how vociferously we can condemn Israeli injustices. The question is how we are going to address the powerlessness of our community in the Israeli/Palestinian arena, and what pragmatic steps are we going to take towards the creation of a more just and equitable social and political order, domestically and internationally. There are several courses available to us.
Here in the West we can engage in irresponsible and reckless rhetoric and actions that will only serve to elicit an anti-Muslim backlash that threatens our communities, and help to generate popular support for militaristic policies that could have genocidal implications.
We can also choose to ignore our own moral and political failures, thereby stripping ourselves of any real agency or accountability for our fate, and possibly attributing everything befalling us in the international arena to the actions of Israel, or America. To elaborate on this particular point, had not Muslim betrayal undermined the efficacy of the Palestinian resistance movement in the 1930s, epitomized by the developments leading to the killing of al-Qassam, there might not be any reason to pen these words. That betrayal and its consequences are real.
Had not Muslims provided a staging area, forward bases, and financial support for America, the destruction of Iraq in 1991 and the ongoing invasion and occupation began in 2003 would not have been possible. Had the Afghan Mujahideen not betrayed their own people through a senseless power struggle in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal, beginning with the rocket bombardment of the civilian population of Kabul, an atrocity that many Mujahideen commanders mindlessly participated in, the developments that culminated in the current American-led war and occupation would likely not have occurred in Afghanistan.
I can no more pretend that these events and similar ones have not occurred, and that they have penetrating implications for our situation today, than I can deny the hubris, ignorance, and disdain for innocent life that has historically been displayed by the politicians and military planners in Tel Aviv and Washington.
We can also attempt, in meaningful ways, to educate our fellow citizens to the excesses and abuses that our consumerist “way of life,” our unbridled militarism, our oftentimes racist policies, our corporate dominated political system, our disregard for international conventions, and how these have combined to wreak havoc not only on Palestinians, but on people throughout the developing world –and we can enter the murky fray to build the kind of institutional and financial strength needed to help foster a different kind of politics and policy outcomes in this country.
My personal experience, study of Islam, history, warfare, and society have led me to understand that the latter course, education and institution building, is the most viable course of action for me at this juncture of my life. It is my hope and prayer that this work will help to foster a more just, equitable, and safe world for all people, based on mutual respect and an acknowledgment of our common origins and shared destiny.
Others are free to choose different paths of action. God has pointed all of us in a particular direction, and He enjoins upon us to pursue good in whatever path we tread. In the end, it is He that will be our judge.