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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 45 November 4, 2023

The metamorphosis overdue | Sukumaran C V

Saturday 4 November 2023


Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in a final sense a theft from those who are hungry and not fed.—Dwight Eisenhower.

War may be the only thing that humans keep with them from the very beginning of ’civilization’. Humans have always warred, wars have always resulted in horrible sufferings, and yet the warring urge still remains intact in the humans. Humans claim they are the only civilised animals, but no other animal species wages wars against themselves and causes great damage and suffering as the human species does.

The Russia-Ukraine war is hardly over. Before we have stopped seeing the wounded, killed, and fleeing people from Ukraine, we see the same from Israel and Gaza as the result of the Israel-Hamas face-off.

Wars and war talks always remind me of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, ’the single most poignant true-life story to emerge from the Second World War’, which describes the misery and destruction wars bring on the innocent. On July 15, 1944, the hardly sixteen-year-old Anne wrote in her Diary named Kitty: "It is utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of the millions." After that she could confide to her dearest Kitty only on July 21 and August 1, 1944. On August 4, 1944, Anne, together with her father, mother, sister and others was captured by Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, from the Secret Annexe where they had been hiding for two years. She was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and died there in March 1945, three months before her 16th birthday and barely one month before Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the Allied Forces.

Still, even seventy-eight years after the ’democratic’ victory over Nazis, we don’t have answers to the pertinent questions the little girl asked. On 3rd May 1944, she wrote: "Why are millions spent on the war each day, while not a penny is available for medical science, artists or the poor? Why do people have to starve when mountains of food are rotting away in other parts of the world? Oh, why are people so crazy? I don’t believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago! There is a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown-up will be cut down and destroyed..."

Humanity is still not ready to have the metamorphosis the little girl spoke about and millions are still spent on war each day! The difference is that today it is not millions but billions and trillions. War industry or the industry of weapons of destruction thrives and humanity always fails.

Every innocent Israeli killed by the Hamas death squad, every Palestinian killed and wounded and every building destroyed in Gaza by Israeli bombing reminds me of the "destructive urge in people" about which Anne wrote—"the urge to rage, murder and kill."

It’s high time humanity underwent the metamorphosis.

o o o

The irony of Israel-Palestine conflict is that the Israelis or the Jews, a people who have been hunted for over two millenniums, are now hunting the Palestinians. The Jews have always been driven out from everywhere they went. Throughout the history of Europe, Jews were persecuted, and Europe, may be to atone its sins against the Jews, planted them in Palestine by uprooting the Palestinians and making the hitherto hunted Jews the hunters.
As H.G. Wells says in A Short History of the World, “Not only a new kind of community but a new kind of man comes into history with the development of the Jews....They carried the common man past priest and temple, past court and king and brought him face to face with the rule of Righteousness...this was a new idea, this God of the Jews, in the Heavens, high above priests and sacrifices. And this God of Abraham, the Jews believed, had chosen them to be his peculiar people, to restore Jerusalem and make it the capital of Righteousness in the world...The Jews were a new thing, a people without a king and presently without a temple, held together and consolidated out of heterogeneous elements by nothing but the power of the written word.” (Chapter 22—Priests and Prophets in Judea).

In his Glimpses of World History Jawaharlal Nehru reveals the crux of the Israel-Palestine issue: "The Jews are a very remarkable people. Originally they were a small tribe, or several tribes, in Palestine, and their early story is told in the Old Testament of the Bible. They were repeatedly conquered and suppressed and enslaved, and some of the most beautiful and moving poems in English are the songs and laments of these Jews given in the authorised translation of the Bible. I suppose in the original Hebrew they are equally, or even more, beautiful.

These Jews were finally dispersed all over the world. They had no home or nation, and everywhere they went they were treated as unwelcome and undesirable strangers. They were made to live in special areas of cities, apart from the others—"ghettos" these areas were called—so that they might not pollute others. They were humiliated, reviled, tortured, and massacred; the very word "Jew" became a word of abuse, a synonym for a miser and a grasping money-lender. And yet these amazing people not only survived all this, but managed to keep their racial and cultural characteristics, and prospered and produced a host of great men....These people without home or country, and especially the poor among them, have never ceased to dream of old Jerusalem, which appears to their imagination greater and more magnificent than it ever was in fact. Zion they call Jerusalem, a kind of promised land, and Zionism is this call of the past which pulls them to Jerusalem and Palestine.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, this Zionist movement took gradual shape as a colonising movement, and many Jews went to settle in Palestine. There was also a renaissance of the Hebrew language. During the World War the British armies invaded Palestine and, as they were marching on Jerusalem, the British government made a declaration in November 1917, called the Belfour Declaration. They declared that it was their intention to declare a "Jewish National Home" in Palestine. This declaration was done to win the goodwill of international Jewry, and this was important from the money point of view. It was welcomed by Jews. But there was one little drawback, one not-unimportant fact that seems to have been overlooked. Palestine was not a wilderness, or an empty, uninhabited place. It was already somebody else’s home...."(Chapter 167—Palestine and Trans-Jordan).

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