On Saturday, January 31, a Jewish synagogue in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, was attacked by thugs and desecrated. The holy books were ripped up and the walls graffiti was spray painted, denouncing Israel’s attack on Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Although the government of Hugo Chavez had severed ties with the Jewish state because of the Israel assault, it was the very first time that ordinary people actually committed criminal acts as a result of the operation.
And, even more strangely, the people involved in the attacks were, probably, not even Arab or Muslim. They were probably Christian South Americans. What was it about the operation that had hackles rising all over the globe?
I’d like to hazard a few guesses. There is too much repression in the world. The poor get trampled by the rich, and the weak suffer under the high handedness of the powerful.
In nations like Rwanda, where there is a greater than usual sensitivity of just how vulnerable one can be to the powerful external forces that try to bend your collective will, the sight of an unarmed people being slowly squeezed to death is horrifying.
While some people can attempt to say that self-defence is a right guaranteed to all nations, I believe that this principle of international law has to be within reasonable bounds.
The principle of self defence is one of those things that can be manipulated by the more powerful voices in the world to the detriment of the weaker nations.
For example, let’s look at the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Certainly, the Americans had the absolute right to defend themselves against the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
However, if the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people was a manifestation of the principle of self defence, then maybe another word should be used in its stead. How can the killing of innocent lives be self defence?
How can the enforced imprisonment of an entire population be self defence? The reason the Israeli politicians gave to justify the operations was to halt the missile attacks on its towns and cities.
Certainly there is no problem with that. However, many people have a problem with the methods used. One cannot justify collective punishment-which was, in reality, what Israel was inflicting on the Gazan population.
I don’t presume to be an expert in international law and the law of war; however, even if the Jewish state had an absolute right to defend its people against terror from above, they had no right to inflict collective punishment as a method of breaking the back of Hamas and other terrorist groups.
One cannot be in violation of international law to defend against breaches of international law.
But that is, of course, an argument that is extremely modern day. How does a state defend itself, and its people, against entities that have absolutely no regard to international norms?
That is a conundrum that faces any nation that has, as an enemy, dedicated and ruthless fighters, who are willing to use any weapon to get their points across.
Is it possible to heed all the rules when your enemy isn’t willing to even follow a single one? Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, and our very own FDLR, have no qualms killing a few innocents just to get a point across, so how should civilised nations react to their plots.
Not, as I believe, as the American administration under former president, George W Bush. You cannot throw people in a prison in the middle of the Caribbean, a la Guantanamo, nor can you have suspects flown to murky places to get tortured (also known as extraordinary rendition).
All you do is to look like the bad guy, instead of the real terrorists.
That, I think is what is making people so incensed about the operation. For while there is every need to protect your people, proper, and humane, ways of dealing with certain threats have to be devised.
Very few people will say that they support Hamas as a political entity; most will have a major problem with their avowed aim to wipe Israel off the map and their present strategy of launching home-made missiles into civilian areas.
But instead of condemning Hamas for its nefarious tactic, the Israeli government is coming off as the villain. Why? Because it is perceived that their tactics are hurting normal, peace loving people instead and not the terrorists.
In many conflicts, perceptions are key to gaining support. Just after the 9-11 bombing of the Twin Towers, the entire world was with the U.S. Why? Because it could be easily seen that they were the victims.
However, the reaction to it, especially the Iraq war, caused a change in perception. This quick change in global public opinion is a lot more fickle when it looks like a militarily powerful nation is the one doing the damage.
Hence the outrage against Israel. It seems as if the Israeli’s are using their military might to subdue the entire Gazan population…illegally. So, we end up rooting for the small guy…who happens to be a terrorist.
Bloody shame that; if only the right methods were employed, we could actually see Hamas, rightly, vilified and not synagogues, instead, ransacked.