Arbitrary borders — lines drawn by men in the annals of history — hold the power to bestow names like Leila, Ahmed, Mary, Joseph, David and Esther. Our names do not truly belong to us. We arrive by chance in places that mold and christen us. From the moment we are born, we are thrust into a world unknown, where foreign languages, cultures and religions are imposed upon us.
The children dying in Gaza did not choose to be born in an open-air prison, trapped by the ambitions of a colonizing nation that has disregarded their basic humanity. They did not choose to be born in a long-coveted land of great religious significance, yet seemingly destined for perpetual turmoil.
Israel is the darling of the West, a child spoiled by countries with a guilt complex about the extermination of European Jews during World War II. Some allowed it to happen, others even collaborated in the genocide. Yet, Palestine is left to pay the price for Nazi infamy.
We have mistakenly believed that those who endured the Shoah would never perpetrate the same atrocities as their ancestors. How would the victims of Nazi concentration camps view the crimes against humanity committed by their descendants? How would they view the war criminals exploiting the Holocaust to monopolize the exclusive status of eternal victims deserving of compassion?
A nation that has settled on foreign lands, disregarding U.N. resolutions since its inception, cannot be considered an exemplar of democracy or human rights. It is a supremacist nation that prioritizes one religion over others, endorsing racism and inequality. The cruelty inflicted upon Israel’s Arab population, from a historical perspective, becomes even more unjustifiable. The magnitude of the hatred directed towards those who have given little cause for revenge is incomprehensible. We shouldn’t overlook the historical tensions between Muslim and Jewish communities in the Arab world. Yet, compared to European nations, their coexistence was relatively peaceful.
Many Jews of Moroccan origin are part of the extremist wing of the Israeli right, and their leaders serve in a government waging war with Hamas in Gaza. Judaism has a long history in the Maghreb, predating Islam. In addition to the native Amazigh Jews, Sephardic Jews arrived in Morocco fleeing persecution and the Spanish Inquisition. One notable example from recent history is Sultan Mohammed V, the grandfather of the current Moroccan king, who defended his Jewish subjects against the French Vichy government’s plan to send them to concentration camps. The sultan’s strong opposition prevented this, saving Moroccan Jews from Nazi barbarity.
A Muslim Moroccan surely has more in common with an Israeli of Moroccan origin than with a Palestinian (some of whom are Christians). While the latter is united by language, religion and culture, the former is united by genes, language, culture, gastronomy and more. The only thing that divides them is religion. Religions, contrary to Marx’s belief, are not the opium of the people. For centuries, religion has ignited war and fostered animosity in the name of God.
Which side of the border we end up on is determined by chance. However, a sense of justice, empathy for the suffering of others, and discernment can save us from succumbing to community and religious biases, hatred, manipulation and propaganda. When rulers manipulate their own legitimacy and the media bombard us with biased images and information, we must close our eyes and seek answers within ourselves. Our humanity is often obscured by imposed beliefs, rigid dogmas, ingrained prejudices and inherited resentments. Imagine yourself with a different name. If my name were Esther, would I have written the same editorial?
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