The Israel-Palestine conflict is characterised by territorial disputes, historical grievances, and political, religious, and cultural complexities.
It is a long-standing and deeply complex issue that has unfortunately resulted in the suffering of many innocent Palestinians and Israelis.
Naturally, supporting Palestine and its people is a cause that many individuals around the world feel passionate about. However, recent events have revealed the necessity of the pro-Palestine side not coming across as pro-Hamas. Being pro-Hamas essentially makes you pro-terror, a tag that would render your opinion invalid in any civilised grouping.
Hamas is not Palestine
Over the years, various Palestinian organisations have been involved in a struggle for rights and statehood. While some of them engage in peaceful advocacy, others employ violent means, such as suicide bombings and rocket attacks.
It's essential to draw a distinction, therefore, between the ordinary Palestinian people and the various groups that operate within their territory.
While it is true that Hamas was elected to power in the Gaza strip, many Palestinians (including West Bank also) do not endorse or support terrorism. They, too, suffer at the hands of the violence and instability that terrorism brings.
In using the people whose wishes it supposedly represents, as cannon fodder, Hamas is similar to the Islamist groups that operated in Kashmir.
Ismail Haniyeh, a senior leader of Hamas based in Qatar, has served as the head of Hamas’ political bureau since 2017. Living a luxurious life in Qatar since 2012, Haniyeh is involved in leading and coordinating Hamas' political activities and decisions.
Qatar has been known to have close ties with Hamas and has provided support to the organisation, including financial aid, and played host to its leaders.
Many Hamas leaders, over the years have amassed massive wealth from legacies, charity funds, donations, and fundraisers in the US.
Fundraiser Dr Musa Abu Marzook, for instance, became a conglomerate with extensive financial enterprises. Some estimates suggest that Dr Marzook is worth $2-3 billion.
Khaled Mashaal, another Hamas leader, is estimated to be worth around $2.6 billion. Some sources say Mashaal has invested in Egyptian and Persian Gulf banks and real estate projects.
Haniyeh himself has assets estimated at $4 million, held in his and family members' names.
Money for Hamas leaders come from various sources, including tunnel deals and smuggling markets. Hamas leaders also profit by taking over land, taxing merchants, and using fictitious recruitment for overseas payments. Some of Mashaal's wealth allegedly came from embezzling a Syrian fund.
This is similar to Kashmiri separatist leaders, mainstream politicians, and religious leaders who amassed a lot of wealth from the conflict industry that arose out of the three-decade proxy war of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
Their children landed cushy government jobs, grew real estate wealth in various cities in India and abroad, and were admitted in Ivy League universities that were left-dominated, while they roamed across India and around the world advocating for “self-determination” of Kashmir, which translates to merger with Pakistan.
On the other hand, common Kashmiris suffered not just bullets, bombs, IEDs, and grenades, but also economic bankruptcy from the daily strikes announced by the Hurriyat folk.
In such a scenario, it was critical that common Kashmiris are not equated with cadres of terror groups. One of the hazards of such an equivalence would have been that Muslim Kashmiris who dared to speak out against the separatists and terrorists would have felt that they were thrown to the wolves.
There is already little space or culture of dissent or critical thinking in the Muslim world since the twelfth century. Asking questions or expressing dissent means immediate, often brutal, reprisals, including ostracism, threats, coercion to change statements, and even murder.
The Palestinian People
The Palestinian people and the cause for a Palestinian state can well be supported without justifying the terror of Hamas. A strong case for a Palestinian state can go hand-in-hand with an even stronger criticism of Hamas terror.
Alongside, supporting the Palestinian people can be achieved through a range of other constructive measures as well.
For example, one could help those in need by providing humanitarian aid to organisations working to improve the living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, thereby offering essential services like health care and education.
Advocating for peaceful solutions is equally crucial, emphasising diplomacy, dialogue, and a two-state coexistence.
Engaging with grassroots initiatives, too, can go a long way in supporting the Palestinian people.
Some X (formerly Twitter) Spaces have been doing that these past few difficult days and there have been remarkable messages of solidarity exchanged between Palestinians and Israelis from all over in these spaces.
Additionally, raising awareness about the challenges Palestinians face, engaging in interfaith dialogue, and supporting Palestinian art and culture are all means of supporting the Palestinian cause without endorsing terrorism.
India's official position has always been in support of the rights of the Palestinian people, while at the same time acknowledging the right of Israel to exist and defend itself.
The approaches mentioned above can contribute to creating an environment that respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved. Indians, themselves victims of Islamic terrorism from time to time, are leading the way.
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