Hillel the Elder is a prominent figure in Jewish history. He is perhaps one of the most quoted Rabbis. One day, a man approached him with a challenge. “Teach me all the Torah while I stand on one leg,” the man demanded. The Rabbi wisely responded “What is hateful to you, don’t do unto others – that’s the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
How are Hillel’s words, shared by all Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as well as many other faiths, relevant to our profoundly volatile world? And what role can people of conscience play in cultivating justice and peace around the world?
Alas, Hillel’s role is now filled by secularist Machiavellians who exploit faith and claim moral justification in order to advance a political end. And, carrying the flag for this group is none other than Charles Krauthammer- the syndicated columnist and diehard neocon ideological warrior.
In his piece “Moral Clarity in Gaza” which appeared on Washington Post, Krauthammer has this callously offensive declaration to offer: “Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.”
This kind of erroneous moral conviction, coupled with blind U.S. support, is what justifies Israel’s defiance of the International Law and its stubborn pursuit of the ever-failing approach of enforcing a military solution to a political problem.
With this backdrop, people of conscience must come to the realization that in their quest for justice– more particularly in the realm of peace and human rights–”they will inevitably come to face moments in history when it becomes profoundly incumbent upon them to assume the role of the prosecutor.
They must strive to make the case against those accused of abusing power in the universal court of ethics and moral conduct. This might be the only way to secure voice for voiceless, and to protect the common good of all societies.
However, these foot soldiers of justice must take a judicious approach that primarily affords the benefit of the doubt to the declared victims without denying the accused their right to representation. For, blindfolding justice spoils the equilibrium of law and order, and ultimately destroys peace and security.
As Gaza suffers a brutal collective punishment of economic strangulation and disproportionate death and destruction, the rest of occupied Palestine continues to undergo a daily routine of humiliation and inhumane treatment that many now compare to the old Apartheid system in South Africa.
As reported by different human rights groups –including many is Israel– the Palestinians are routinely subjected to harsh treatments that make life unbearable for them. Civilians are often subjected to prolonged detention without charges. They are subjected to strip searches at checkpoints, torture in prisons, and random home demolitions that throw families into conditions of instant homelessness.
In the meantime, Israel continues to forbid Palestinian civilians the right to return (a deal-breaker of a number of peace plans) while it continues the systematic implantation of “settlers” to “establish new facts on the ground” that would later justify annexation.
Such population transfer by an occupier against the will of the occupied is both illegal and immoral; yet, the state of Israel, driven by uncontrolled appetite for land-grab, insists on the legitimacy of its current ever-expanding policy.
This and other such provocative and humiliating policies push the Palestinians into a position of utter desperation; Hence the firing of rockets, however ineffective. And their actions in turn creates the impetus that sets the stage for Israel to continue its brutal oppression and bombardment of one of the most impoverished and indeed densely populated geographical areas in the world.
So, what “Moral scrupulousness” is there to be attributed to Israel, Mr. Krauthammer? Is it because Israel warned civilians? How can one accept reports by the very unrepentant invader who shuns transparency and deliberately denies the international media to cover the war and offer the world objective accounts? Are you troubled by Israel’s bombings of UN schools used as shelters, hospitals, mosques, etc.? Has your judgment been impaired by emotions, or been corroded by hate?
Nothing affirms our humanity more than our capacity to empathize. It is this frame of heart that enables us to feel the agony of the pains experienced by others, and to treat others as we like to be treated.
However, empathy seldom develops in vacuum. For, it requires a deliberate effort to look within oneself by way of reflection and observation on one’s attitude toward that which matters and that which seem to not matter. It requires a sense of introspection- the big mirror that all individuals, nations as well as religions need to put in front of themselves to see the image of their quintessential values. But, introspection also has a prerequisite named willingness. And as the human being has the capacity to block the entire sun with one or two fingers, so can nations and indeed faith communities.
Ironically, as a state founded by people escaping oppression, Israel seems to suffer from moral myopia as it paints itself in the pages of infamy as a symbol of the oppressed that morphed into an oppressor.
“We the Jewish people should know and feel more acutely than other populations that the murder of innocent civilians is inhuman,” said the Israeli musician and peace activist Daniel Bareboim.