SUMMARY: The underlying assumption of every caller to a recent al-Jazeera program on the humanitarian situation in Gaza was that Israel harbors enmity and ill-will towards Muslims and Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular. Another commonly stated theme was that the Arab rulers are to blame for the Gaza blockade because of their unwillingness to confront Israel. One caller said that the reason for the situation was the rockets fired into Israel, but quickly added that Israel really wanted those rockets to continue so they could use them as an excuse to extend the blockade and build more settlements. Another caller berated the Egyptian closing of Palestinian tunnels dug under the borders, not mentioning that these tunnels are often used to smuggle weapons and other explosives.
COMMENT: I was waiting for the question that never came. “The preamble to the Hamas Charter states that “Israel will continue to exist until Islam obliterates it, just as Islam has obliterated others before it”. Is there any other country in the world that provides food, water, and electricity to an enemy whose constitution contains a vow to destroy it?” I think the Gazans could have peace with Israel tomorrow if the Palestinian leaders wanted it, and the result of that peace would be an economic, social, and political prosperity that would be the envy of millions throughout the Middle East. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.
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After showing scenes of children scrounging for scraps of food and describing women baking bread from wheat intended for cows and chickens, hostess Muna Sulman asked her viewers how their consciences could allow them to do nothing while Palestinian mothers were listening to the last gasping breaths of their children. What can we do, was Muna’s question, to help the Palestinians?
The first caller, a Palestinian, felt there was no hope to be found with the “midget Palestinian officials”, who were willing to obey the leaders of Israel as long as they could “sit on their crooked chairs of power”. The only solution was a military one. He quoted Quran 4:141, “Allah will never give the infidels victory over the believers”. The Jews were now experiencing victory over the Muslims in Palestine, but this victory would be quickly overturned if the Muslims armies attacked Israel. It was particularly shameful that Egypt, a country of 70 million people, was unwilling to fight.
The next caller was from Syria. “We all know,” he said, “That the Zionist entity is the enemy of Islam and the Arabs. What is particularly sad is the fearful silence of the Arabs. Egypt searches day and night to close the tunnels used by the Palestinians to bring food and medicine into their country, and then Egypt informs the Israelis of what they have done.”
A caller from Libya praised the Hamas leaders fighting for victory against the “Zionists who killed 400 prophets, these Zionist tyrants who humiliate the Arabs and trample their Quran under their feet and who reach out with their filthy and treacherous hands to…....”
Muna quickly cut him off, as she often does with callers who go over the limit, to ask what he thought the solution was. He told the story of the Caliph Umar whose stomach was growling from hunger while he was delivering a sermon. “Growl on,” said Umar to his stomach, “But you will not be filled until the stomachs of the Muslim children are satisfied.”
A caller from Paris joined the criticism of Arab leaders. He would like to help the Palestinians, but French Jews would not allow him to. “This is the responsibility of the Arab rulers,” he repeated four times, “But we here in Paris can do nothing because the French government will not allow us to. There are many Jews in the government here, and they won’t even let us hold a demonstration or raise funds for the people of Gaza.”
Ahmad from Egypt had a different perspective. “Rather than just blaming each other,” he said, “Why don’t we look at the reason for the blockade? It is the rockets that are being fired from Gaza into Israel. If the Palestinians want the blockade to be lifted, stop launching their rockets.” Ahmad continued by saying that Israel really desired these rocket attacks, because it gave Israel the excuse to continue building settlements. He thought the Palestinian resistance was necessary, but it needed to be a peaceful resistance so that Israel would show its true colors by opposing it.
An Egyptian living in Saudi Arabia thought there was nothing he could do. “If I went to Gaza to help the Palestinians,” he said, “My government wouldn’t even allow me to cross the border. Besides, there’s nothing I can do to even change the government in my own country, so how can I help change things in another country?” And the Arabs don’t even care. They’ve been absent from the global scene for a hundred years. They’ve become a hard, cold body unable to move. We need a Saladin.”
Mary, a Palestinian living in Norway, was the first female caller. “We know,” she said, “That the governments won’t do anything. These are the governments who starve their people so they are incapable of movement. But the people could rise up if they really wanted to. What would their governments do, kill all of them? We all know that the first criminal is Israel. But right behind it are the people who collude with Israel, such as Mahmud Abbas and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Those three are Satans; I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. All of them are united against Hamas. Someone called in earlier to blame Hamas. Shame on them for saying that! Shame on them for blaming Hamas!” Mary went on to say that the Shaykhs of Islam, the ulema, should be the ones leading the way on boats from Cyprus to break the blockade. That would provide a real example for Muslims to follow.
Umar from Egypt expressed a view that is common throughout the Arab world. “We need to unite in prayer for our brothers in Gaza,” he said, “And we need to truly return to the roots of our religion.” A caller from Mauritania read a poem similar to the English expression “God helps those who help themselves.” “If the people are determined to live,” he recited, “Destiny will respond.” He then began to defame the Palestinian and Egyptian presidents, but Muna quickly cut him off. “The Prophet Muhammad said,” she reminded the caller, “We should not use expressions like this to describe people.”