Letters from Readers
Thoughts on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East
The tragic and barbaric actions of Hamas in Israel on October 7, 2023, deserve unambiguous condemnation. Hamas’s atrocities of that day—killing of innocent civilians including children, kidnappings, and sexual assaults—are reprehensible. Israel, as any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, take action when its citizens were mercilessly massacred, secure release of the kidnapped, and eliminate future threat. I firmly believe that any equivocation will be an uneven application of our values and expose the character of the individual expressing the opinion.
Many of my fellow Americans would want that to be the end of the conversation and squarely focus on the barbarity of Hamas. To do otherwise is considered antisemitism and inhumane, and those individuals and groups should be exposed. It is an understandable reaction following such heinous acts.
Racism, antisemitism, and hatred directed toward fellow humans are real and must be dealt with. But every opinion that contradicts our view of the situation doesn’t belong in that category. There are many Jews in Israel and elsewhere who recognize the decades long suffering of the Palestinians. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Jew himself, noted that Israel’s blockade of Gaza resulting in the suffering of two million people violates international law. What’s the likelihood that he is an antisemite? Some argue that Gazans enabled Hamas and should face consequences for their actions. It may be difficult to appreciate it in the wake of such barbarism, but we cannot lose sight that there are innocent civilians including children in Gaza who don’t deserve to die or endure generations of suffering.
A group of Harvard student organizations released a statement holding Israel solely responsible for the atrocities committed by Hamas. While acknowledging that major events do not occur in a vacuum and there is historical context, assigning sole responsibility to the side at the receiving end of such a devastating blow is ill-conceived and repugnant to many. On the flip side, ignoring decades long Palestinian suffering is a disservice to humanity. However, the history, complexity of geopolitical issues, the nature of atrocities committed, religious fervor, and national interests make it difficult to decide which came first— the chicken or the egg. Both sides tend to start their justifications from convenient reference points of their choosing and there are many such reference points in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
I wondered, which I often do following major political and international events, why people hold such diverse views of this world, develop divergent political ideology, view the same event through different prisms, and sometimes become enablers of people with behaviors and actions unbecoming. This is not just a left or right, conservative or progressive, Democrat or Republican issue. We all do it, at least sometimes. Neither is it just a matter of right or wrong, nor good or bad. Most believe that they are right no matter what the circumstances are.
In a broader sense, the following generally determine our world view. Knowing our own biases may help understand other people’s views and opinions better. We don’t have to accept but at least attempt to understand what is behind those views. In a nutshell, our upbringing, culture, understanding of issues, influences, and influencers shape our thinking and judgment at an early age which continues into later life. We generally believe our values, opinions, and actions are virtuous. Often those values are conditioned. Most, if not all, assign different value to some lives over others, often based on their experiences, personal circumstances, beliefs, and prejudices. Our chosen reference points may vary in a series of events which often influence our feelings and actions. In this instance, the reference point for Israel is the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th, whereas for pro-Palestinian groups it is decades of oppression and human suffering spanning multiple generations. Neither can be discounted if fairness matters.
Israel has great military capabilities, in spite of its recent failure to stop Hamas’s surprise attack. It has an obligation to free hostages held in Gaza and whittle down Hamas’s capabilities to launch another attack. It would not be easy or without further bloodshed. Israel enjoys enormous support from the American public. While supporting legitimate needs of Israel to remedy the situation, America must urge restraint in order to minimize human suffering and prevent wider conflict, something only American leaders can do. Some politicians may be tempted to further escalate and gain one-upmanship in the current situation. Let us hope that cooler heads prevail.
C. N. Rao
What is really happening in Manipur?
As usual, I went through the latest issue of Khabar. It was very informative.
Shashi Tharoor’s article (“Manipur: A State of Siege,” September issue) interested me. The author, a Congress MP, gave details on the Manipur violence issue but failed to give the history behind the current situation. Being a Congressman, he blamed the BJP government but failed to add the role of Congress/UPA in the last 60+ years. It was the Congress Party that sowed the seeds of division and favored a particular community over the other, resulting in permanent enmity between the communities. The current Chief Minister in Manipur is facing the situation created by his predecessors. He also mentioned a visit by Rahul Gandhi, an irresponsible leader who can add only fuel to the fire. Opposition leaders in Bharat routinely do this. Shashi Tharoor has many constituents from a so-called minority community—and that makes his article unfair, one-sided, and far from the reality. We deserve to have a fair analysis of the situation.
Girish B. Desai
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