Saturday, March 21, 2009

A sane voice for peace in the Middle East

On December 28, 2008, as I watched first on the BBC, and later on the Aljazeera channel the IDF's(Israel's Defence Force's) assault on the Palestinians in the Gaza, I was shocked and deeply traumatized. As the missiles flew from the Israeli jets and the bombs dropped, buildings crumbled. Houses, mosques, schools, and police stations turned into rubble and ruins. Even hospitals were not spared. Chunks of concrete and bricks, and pulverized roofs and walls of Palestinians' homes flew up in the air. Thick clouds of dust rose up in the air also, and a strange, white, mist-like haze pervaded and lingered in the air. Only about a week later did I learn that the strange, white, mist-like haze was caused by burning phosphorus; the Israelis had dropped white phosphorus bombs on the densely populated areas of Gaza.

As the haze slowly cleared, I saw screaming and terrified people running helter-skelter, and away from the explosions, only to encounter more explosions in front of them. I was horrified and I felt numb from shock. Women clutching infants and dragging toddlers befind them, screaming children trying to follow their mothers and grand mothers, and wounded, bleeding people desperately trying to run for their lives.

"This is not right," I said to myself, shaking my head.
"This is terribly wrong. And unjust, and immoral," a voice within me - my conscience - said. I felt as if I were witnessing a hunter shooting a fenced-in animal, an animal that could not escape. The Palestinians had no safe place to escape to.

But this was only the beginning. The worse was yet to come. And it came when I saw more than a dozen tiny, neatly wrapped bundles, the dead infants wrapped in tiny white shrouds and displayed in a morgue for all to see. The infants had been killed by the IDF in its bombing raids. And when I saw the tiny bundles meticulously laid down in a line, it broke my heart. Some of the bundles were stained with blood that oozed from the infants' war-inflicted wounds. And then I heard on the BBC that some of the children were burnt alive by phosphorus bombs. When phosphorus comes in contact with skin, it burns through skin and flesh, and down to the bones. Death by burning phosphorus is a most painful and agonizing experience. Eye witnesses have described the children screaming as they burnt in sight of their parents.

How could our government allow this war to proceed? I wondered. And when I read in the news papers that Mr. Obama had chosen to remain silent about Israeli's assault on the Palestinians because he felt that we have only one President at a time, and it wouldn't be proper for him to comment on the situation. I felt very sad and also a deep sense of revulsion at what I had seen on the TV. The biased and extremely pro-Israel coverage of the Gaza War on all major TV channels, and radio stations, and even in newspapers such as The New York Times, added to my sense of gloom.

My deep gloom lasted for over ten weeks. And then today, finally, I decided that instead of just wallowing myself in sorrow at the 1417 Palestinians senselessly killed, more than 15,000 senselessly wounded, and 20,000 rendered homeless, and 14,000 homes destroyed, I should work for peace, and ask for fairness and justice for the brutalized Palestinians, who feel oppressed under Israeli occupation of their ancestral lands for over forty years. People - both the Israelis and the Palestinians - deserve to live in peace. A three thousand years old Hindu prayer in Sanskrit, a simple prayer of great beauty is: Sarve' Janaah sukhino bhavantu! Which means: Let all people around the world live happily! How I wish a man of stature and principles, a man like Mahatma Gandhi, who was the embodiment of non-violence, were born in the Middle East to bring peace to the region!. Instead of Mahatma Gandhi, we have had the likes of Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon, and now we have Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert and the ultra-right wing party leader, Avigdor Lieberman.

Over the last ten or more years, I have thought long and hard about how to bring peace to the Middle East. I know and I admit that because I am neither an influential columnist nor a well-known editorial writer at a major magazine or newspaper, what I write in this blog will barely cause a ripple, much less a deep introspection and change of heart regarding the plight of the Palestinians. Nevertheless, I intend to express my thoughts clearly, precisely and freely. I am not running for any public office, nor am I beholden to AIPAC, the Jewish Lobby; so, unlike most US politicians and some commentators and columnists, I can afford to say clearly what I think, and mean what I say.

To those who wish to know who I am, I have this to say: I am a chemist by profession, and a writer by choice. For over thirty years I have worked at two major pharmaceutical companies and one biomedical devices manufacturer, here in NJ, in their analytical labs and also in their Regulatory Affairs departments. My novel titled "The Beach Tree" was published in March 2004 by Author House. I am now working on my second novel. V. S. Naipaul, Joseph Conrad, Jane Austen, J. D. Salinger, Arundhati Roy, and Rudyard Kipling are my favorite authors. I am an avid gardener, and grow orchids on my window sills to remind me that miracles bloom even on slender twigs. And at night I meditate for peace of mind. I have been a life-long vegetarian because I was born in a Hindu vegetarian family. I am totally non-violent; I do not harm, much less kill, even ants, flies, spiders and insects. Like Mahatma Gandhi, I am committed to the principle of Ahimsa(non-violence).

Your comments regarding my posts are welcome.


  1. I was deeply touched by your verve and passion to fight for peace in the Middle East. It is very well expressed and brought to attention. It goes without saying that there can be no two opinions about the injustice .However justice seldom prevails when self interest motivates human actions It is not that the irrational act of injustice of one human, or, for that matter ,one nation to another is a unique happening in our life time. This kind of human trait, from time immemorial, has never taught the humans any lesson and so the utopian “Ram Rajya” could remain only a fantasy and hallucination. History tells us, there will always be some fighting for justice, while there will always be some making a mockery of it. Souls of Mahathma, Jesus, Buddha and Shankara must be having a hearty laugh at us at our stupidity.

    I congratulate you on your tenacity.

    Havertown, Pa USA

  2. Your writings are truly mind-blowing.

    There is a Latin phrase that has truly been a wonderful teacher for my life: "Vince in bono malum". It means "overcome evil with good".

    I really want to shout those out to the younger generation in Israel and Palestine, to stop any kind of revenge; and perhaps also to my own motherland, Indonesia, where ethnic and religious conflicts are almost never-ending.

    Sabina Satriyani
    Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

  3. Hi Sabina Satriyani,
    Thank you very much for your comment. I was very happy to read it. I was thrilled, too, because I did not really expect to hear kind words about my writing. Here in the US, a large number of people and almost 95 percent of politicians - congressmen and senators, blindly love Israel and they support every thing that Israel does. So, when a person criticizes Israel, people generally gang up on the person and immediately label him/her as anti-Semite. See what they did to Mr. Charles Freeman. They called him anti-Israel and tore him up. They did the very same thing to President Jimmy Carter too, when his book - "Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid" was published. So your comment was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
    Thank you very much.
    Yesh Prabhu