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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Killing Boat People

As I was born in India, I have a great regard for Ghandi’s peaceful protests in Africa and in his homeland. My father, who trained Indian military during the second world war, saw things differently. Ghandi, as far as he was concerned, was ‘troublesome’. I am sure that the Greek women (as depicted in Lysistrata) who refused their husbands sex unless they stopped fighting, were also called troublesome. However, these days, to be troublesome can be, in some eyes, synonymous with terrorism and it can lead to death.

Non-violent acts are and have, in recent years, been punished by deadly violence in a whole host of countries where the State has felt its authority is in question. Tiananmen Square, Iran, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Russia and in many parts of Africa here, have all seen peaceful, protesting people mown down in the midst of their outpourings of hope for better times.

It is as wholly evil as it is inexcusable.

The latest example was the assault on the humanitarian aid flotilla as it sailed indomitably towards Gaza. Israeli gunboat diplomacy was illegal, it was cynical and it was predictably bloody. However the scales are set in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, they weigh more heavily on the Israeli side which seems to have contempt for lives other than those that, they assume, share their own blood. Gaza has been made a prison, a concentration camp. Hit squads on the sovereign territory of other nations, the killing of non-military medical volunteers and air assaults in cross-border battles with their neighbours, are hardly the work of a humane, peaceful and civilised people. And yet the Israeli Government seems unperturbed by opinions beyond their boundaries, whatever reservations some of its own population might have.

The point is this. Peaceful protest can only be effective in countries where the rule of law and a sense of decency prevents soldiers or police from killing those who are merely voicing their protest. Building a population profile which legitimises peaceful protest takes decades. It involves independent courts, freedom of speech, a democratic education system and a belief that to take from others, whether it be their land, their wealth or their dignity, is unacceptable.
Israel is, therefore, uncivilised. Anyone who says different is troublesome.


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