Renewed violence in what is commonly called the “Holy Land” mobilizes political interests in the Middle East and The US in ways that have oft repeated themselves incessantly for the past 4 decades. The US State Department will unconditionally support Israel and come to its rescue. And the Arab States–often under the leadership of Egypt–will convene meetings to condemn Israel’s overreaction and vocalize solidarity for the Palestinian people. We’ve been here before. And even as a new Middle East unfolds in the wake of the Arab revolutions, not much has changed.
World sentiment, however, has been increasingly sympathetic to the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of the blockade on Gaza since 2006. The inhumanity and illegality of the blockade are apparent and warrant little commentary. Nor are the details of the exchange of fire between Hamas and the IDF my concern. Anyone with the meagrest internet access has ample resources to arrive at their reading of the truth. The wiles of politics and treachery of military tactics propel but do not explain this round of violence. But hunger does.
Among the American people whose taxes feed much of the violence in the Middle East, there is hunger, but a kind of forgetfulness and antipathy about how hunger has been deployed as a tool of suffering–both within and outside its borders. Martin Luther King said,
“Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when [we have] the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all [hu]mankind with the basic necessities of life? … There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will”
Hunger was–and remains–part of the struggle for civil rights in the US. There is something irrevocably cruel and criminal about letting one’s fellow human beings go hungry–about watching them suffer and remaining silent. For, “in the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Much of this is true in the context of Gaza. Hunger is used as a weapon; and its target are all Palestinian families. So to understand why much of the violence is, one need not fashion a religious extremist of their predilection nor search for a Syro-Iranian culprit. The renowned poet, Mahmoud Darwish, explained it best,
سجِّل.. برأسِ الصفحةِ الأولى
أنا لا أكرهُ الناسَ
ولا أسطو على أحدٍ
ولكنّي.. إذا ما جعتُ
آكلُ لحمَ مغتصبي
حذارِ.. حذارِ.. من جوعي
Record at the top of page one:
I do not hate people,
I do not trespass another’s property
But, if I were to hunger
I would eat the flesh of my usurper
Beware, beware of my hunger
And of my anger!