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CAN BDS END THE WAR?

By: Mazlan Hanafi Basharudin (MPRC & SoLLaT, USM)

Daily, there will be news reports on the conflict between the Palestinians and the occupying forces.

Locally, there is the call to continue with the boycott of products (part of the BDS movement) having connections to the ‘nation’ of the occupying forces.

An article by Mary Smith draws some lessons from the Anti-Apartheid Campaign against South Africa some time ago, arguing that more urgently than ever there is a need to build a global BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against the so-called ‘nation’. This is a ‘nation’ that has resorted to ‘terror’ and cruel tactics as means to achieve the ‘prescribed’ agenda.

Another news report in an online portal had previously stated that a hospital in Gaza was attacked and which had resulted in the number of casualties reaching 500. A recent news update reports on the attack that targeted schools and universities in Gaza in the name of ‘self defence’. The occupying forces had also used phosphorus bombs which are internationally prohibited on civilian locations.

A previous report states that Bolivia, Bahrain, Chile and Colombia have severed diplomatic ties with the occupying forces of the so-called ‘nation’ as it continues its attack on Palestine. Other nations have also voiced out their intentions to join the fray as calls for a ceasefire have gone unheeded. In other parts of the world, demonstrations can still be seen protesting the war on Palestine. They are protesting and continue to demand for a ceasefire and to end the occupation.

Thinkers in the ancient world, from China to Greece to Rome, regarded military might as essential for the maintenance of international order. The Chinese General Sun Tzu advised “In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace.” Aristotle noted that “We make war that we may live in peace;” while the Roman General Vegetius remarked “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Albert Einstein argued that “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

Ibn Taymiyyah, an Islamic scholar, asserted that the Quran and the majority of scholars only authorise warfare against others on the condition that they wage or threaten war first. According to him, all categories of people are exempted from aggression except for the ‘people of combat and destruction’, namely those who attack Muslims or who violently prevent them from practicing their religion. Non-combatants such as women, children, monks, elders, the blind and others may not be attacked unless they join the war effort.

The general world population may also understand what it means to go to war, and none in their right mind would engage in an endless and senseless fighting, all supposedly in the name of maintaining order. The conflict that is happening in Palestine has been going on for more than 70 years.

Hospitals, churches and international UN facilities were destroyed, and even clearly marked ambulance vehicles were targeted. Several journalists, identified by their press attire, were killed. Residents in Gaza have been living without water, electricity, fuel or internet for days. After more than a month into the conflict, more than 11,000 have died or injured, including women and children. At times, the Palestinians had to endure 8 hours of endless bombings, while their human rights have been blatantly denied. Will the Palestinians continued to be bombarded days on end, while the occupying forces are allowed to continue ignoring calls for ceasefire? Committing these acts of terror, is it not clear who are the terrorists then?

This war is more of a humanitarian issue, and not merely one that has religious undertones. It requires utmost attention and immediate action of the world governing body. The question therefore we face today may not be whether war is a prerequisite for peace, but whether war and peace can be disentangled.

In the context of Palestine, even the non-combatants are among the casualties who pay the price dearly daily, as they face the occupying forces. Where are the peace-loving people of the world who believe in humanity and peace? As the world moves toward diversity and inclusivity being part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will there be empathy and sympathy alongside, or will there be selective apathy all over again?

The problem may lie less in the soul of man than in the nations’ political constructs. A parallel situation can be seen in history, when the Native Americans were displaced by the so-called ‘settlers’ coming to claim the land as their own. Charles Tilly, a sociologist, has argued that war and the nation state are inextricably linked. War has been crucial for the formation of the nation state, and remains crucial for its continuation.

The BDS/boycott movement needs to be one that has a lasting impact and which requires strategic planning, as stated buy one local analyst. It needs to be done based on rational and logical grounds, rather than emotional ones. The war on terror attacks must be countered with the ‘war’ on economic resources.

To quote the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim as reported in the media: “...this isn’t about which God we pray to...the more than 11,000 victims in Gaza (comprising of) Muslims and Christians as well as nationalities of various countries,” it is a global humanitarian issue, and one that requires a firm and concerted effort by many to end it, once and for all.

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