Author's note: Who am I to worry about Israelis and Palestinians? What inspires me to be involved in the Israel Palestine conflict? The following is the story of my struggle to see a cohesive world, the story will take you through different emotions but at the end, I hope you feel a sense of completeness of the story. Due to its length, it is a three part article.
I believe at the heart of world peace is the Israel Palestine conflict. It is the mother of all conflicts, and if we can find a solution to this, peace is on the horizon, ready to shine on us.
When I was about 10, my Dad made me aware of the conflicts, not just around Bangalore, my home town; but around India, the Subcontinent, Asia and the world. My father is my hero and had opened the doors of wisdom to me. He taught one of the biggest lessons of my life in social cohesiveness and dealing with extremism that I continue to reflect in my speeches, acts and write ups.
During the communal (religious) riots in the early '60s, both Muslims and Hindus were killed in the mayhem. I wish every father in India, America and elsewhere teaches this lesson to his kids. He told us the "individuals" were responsible for the bloodshed and not the religions; he would emphasize that you cannot blame an intangible like religion and expect justice, we must blame the individuals who caused it and punish them accordingly for disturbing the peace and thus bring a resolution to the conflict by serving justice. He was crystal clear: You cannot annihilate, kill, hang or beat the religion, so why bark at it?
Fully cognizant of China's attack on India usurping large swaths of land in Kashmir and on the North Eastern Borders, my little mind recorded another devastating war between India and Pakistan followed by the 1967 war between Israel and Palestine. The Palestinian exodus was painful and I went through anger and then into mental exile trying to understand the inhumanity and the futility of wars. I was thinking about King Ashoka, who became a pacifist after witnessing blood shed on the fields of Kalinga. Who do we blame? How do we find solutions? I was 14.
The exodus of Palestinians remained clear on my mind and I wanted to find solutions.
Fast forwarding to the '80s, the destruction of Beirut was debilitating. The Sabra and Shatila massacres were harrowing, and I was seeing Israel as the Goliath and the Palestinians as the Davids with nothing but rocks to throw at the rolling tanks.
Ted Koppel's broadcasts of Intifada from Jerusalem were censored, particularly when he pitted Hanan Ashrawi against Benjamin Netanyahu. American media was determined to show Palestinians in the poor light and invariably showed and repeated the poor miserable performance of their poster boy Arafat, against the suave Netanyahu. My heart was crying out loud and was hoping the world could see the way I saw things and peace came to both the peoples.
It took me years to truly understand the nature of security that the Jews were craving for over a millennia, it is not the military power but a sense of security that a baby feels in the lap of a mother -- completely free. The Jews felt home in Spain after nearly 2,000 years of wandering, then the damned Ferdinand massacred (along with Muslims) and completely uprooted them in 1492. It took them another 450 years to feel home again in Germany, but the butcher Hitler was bent on annihilating them. Thanks to America for stepping in and preventing a full scale annihilation and Holocaust. Even here in the United States, every now and then a Swastika appears on some one's door. I have been a witness to it and have fought off two such incidents. Now they have a home in Israel sans security and they really need to feel that it is their eternal "home." Once they feel that sense of home in their bones, they will go back to becoming their self again -- a people who have stood up for social justice.
Ironically, the Israelis were busy in defending their right to survive up until 1967 and completely failed to articulate their need to the Palestinians, they should have poured their hearts out to them, who would have understood in an environment of mutual suffering and sharing.
On the other hand, the Palestinians were hurt, uprooted from their own homes, and were completely deprived of their basic need to have a sense of belonging, a sense of community and a sense of identity. Children have witnessed their parents and siblings butchered in front of them, and what do we expect them to do? What is their hope? For nearly three generations they lived in tents and squalor, and had to beg for food, clothing and an identity. It is depressing to see such humiliation in their own land.
We the people of the world were busy in punishing the weak and shamelessly enjoying the emotional and physical beating they were taking. We did not offer them any serious options but to fight for survival. Sadly, like the leaders of Israel had failed, the Palestinian leadership also failed to share their humility and humanness with the Israelis.
And we the people of the world found poor excuses to blame Palestinian and Israeli leadership, instead of taking the lead and guiding them in their most vulnerable moments of history. We succumbed to their plea of the moment and took sides and propped them to fight against each other. We Americans are as guilty as the Arabs in the mindless upmanship, shame on us for dumping our in-capabilities on to the next generation.
We should have gotten the families of Palestinians and Israelis to sit and eat together, talk with each other and let the kids play a game of soccer in their presence and dream about a future for them. We deprived them of their humanness and instead armed them to fight. What have they achieved and what have we achieved?
The hate multiplier has made the leaders on both sides to say shameful things about the other including cooking up things that weren't true. The world community took sides instead of finding the truth and solutions.
I feel the pain and wanted to do my share of work in doing the things I am capable of, and here is a partial accounting of it. It is not easy. You get beat both by the Palestinians and Israelis in the leadership front, and both want to blame the other.
I am deeply committed to the security of Israel and Justice for the Palestinians. A few ugly comments here and there matter to me but don't deter me from my commitment. I have chosen to be neutral for the sake of peace, and invariably about 1 percent of Israelis and 1 percent of Palestinians will never want to see neutrality in others. We cannot forget the desire for peace by the overwhelmingly silent majority. We need to hear them.
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