The most striking thing about the plight of Gaza and its people these days is not the complete paralysis of the Arabs in the face of the barbaric Israeli aggression, or even the satisfaction – if not outright scheming – of the Arab regimes with the attacks. It also is not the claims made by Al-Qassam Brigades of being able to have a military face-off with Israel, a claim that allows Israel to claim that it is fighting an equal army, while the children with stones in Jerusalem are better able to harm Israel than Hamas’s rockets. It is perhaps appropriate for the Hamas movement in Gaza to take a lead from the Brotherhood branch in Algeria and change its name to the “Movement for the Society of Peace”.
All of these matters require reflection, but what is truly striking is the tendency of the general Arab governments and people to task the weakest and most vulnerable people with defending the honour of the nation and its holy sites, while the others relax, trade and enjoy the pleasures of life. According to the teachings of Islam, there are communal obligations; duties that are required by all members of the Ummah or community and everyone is punished if no one carries out these duties. In contrast are the individual obligations that must be performed by every person under any circumstances. People are considered exempt from communal obligations if part of the nation performs them, and this encourages dependency and waiting for someone else to do the duty. However, it would be accurate to say that communal obligations are also individual obligations in the sense that it is the duty of every individual to make sure that they are carried out, either by the individual personally, or by making sure there are institutions that will do the job. Most importantly, we must ensure that the state and official institutions always have someone to perform these duties.
In every nation, communal duties are first and foremost the responsibility of the official state institutions, and secondly of the able-bodied people. Therefore, the duty of treating the ill, caring for orphans and the needy, and teaching the youth must all be carried out by the country’s leadership, followed by the rich, affluent and able-bodied. It is unreasonable in this regard to say that the sick must care for themselves or the orphan child must find himself a home, etc. Even the ultra-conservatives in America and Britain do not say this, but believe that civil society organisations, and not the state, must carry out these duties.
According to the aforementioned Islamic concept, these tasks are firstly the responsibility of every individual and there is no truth to what scholars are saying about people being exempt if these duties are performed by others, because if these duties are performed by third parties without an individual’s knowledge and contribution, the individual would fall short. It is not enough, for example, for a person to give alms or donate to charities; they must make sure that the duty that is meant to be carried out with these contributions is performed in the best manner.
There are duties today that no individual in the nation can claim have been carried out. Among the most important of these duties is the duty of defending vulnerable refugees and victims of oppression. None of us can claim on the Day of Judgement that we did not know that the Palestinians, Syrians and Iraqis are suffering these days under oppression and occupation. The Arabs have come up with a fad of tasking the poor and vulnerable refugees and displaced individuals with carrying out the collective obligation on behalf of the rich, the able-bodied and those with weapons. This began in the mid-sixties when the Arab regimes surrendered in defeat against Israel and formed the Palestinian “commando” organisations with the primary objectives of providing a cover for these regimes, hiding their scandals and embarrassment from the people, and threatening Israel with imminent demise.
These regimes knew before anyone else that such strategies would achieve nothing, because the same reasons that the regimes failed are also hindering the work of these organisations. If commando operations were launched from Arab land, Israel would strike the relevant state, and that is exactly what happened. This drove the Arab states to confront their own organisations instead of Israel, and they did so even more forcefully. Egypt and Syria did not allow these organisations to operate in their land, while Jordan and Lebanon acted against them in a manner that would please Israel.
Therefore, we find ourselves in a shameful situation by all standards, not only for the regimes, but shameful for the people as well. Those living in the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan were pushed to fight Israel alone, and then punished for it. In addition to this, the poorest and least able Palestinians have been piled into the prison that is the Gaza Strip and have been tasked with fighting Israel alone on behalf of a nation of a billion Muslims. As if this was not enough, they were also trapped in Gaza by the rest of the Arabs and were subjected to insults, provocation and all sorts of laughable but despairing accusations.
The best Arabs today are the ones cheering for the Hamas team in Gaza after, of course, they are done with cheering for their favourite team in the World Cup in Brazil; before they sit at their dinner table to have a delicious meal; and before paying attention to their families’ luxury needs. Some may donate a few dirhams to relief organisations in order to ease their consciences. Meanwhile, the rest of the people, who are many in number, smirk at the recklessness of Hamas and wish them a quick defeat and complete elimination so they do not have to worry about Netanyahu’s missiles any more and they can go back to living their life of luxury and relaxation. No nation can stoop to a level lower than this; a level where the “best” of its people charge the weakest members of the nation, that is, the displaced and besieged, with defending their honour, even though they have no honour, and the worst of this level are those who spite these vulnerable weak people. Therefore, the Qur’an mentioned that the hypocrites are in the lowest levels of hell and they will have no one to help them because they are the enemy.
The dilemma lies in the fact that the hypocrites are the ones who govern most Arab capitals nowadays after being victorious in the apostasy wars and the capital cities are now under their rule. The crimes of these individuals are not their failure to support Gaza, but their preoccupation with abusing the people of the city which has been under occupation more torturous than the occupation of the Persians and the Romans.
As such, Gaza is a symbol of the demise of the Arab nation, which has reached the lowest level; rock bottom. They have fallen morally after abandoning their duties, and politically after falling prisoner to tyrannical regimes that insult their dignity and mistreat them. If these nations had any dignity or honour, beginning with the governments that represent them, then these governments would have stepped up to defend the weak in Palestine and elsewhere. Even during the old days, the Arabs were able to help the weak. Moreover, when the nation first began to weaken, countries such as Russia, France and Britain stepped up to protect minorities in the Arab countries, even though there was no counter-authority to protect the Arabs and Muslims abroad.
The continuation of this shame will either lead to the demise of the Arabs by means of the fragmentation and collapse of their countries, as we are witnessing today with the spread of violent groups that claim to be carrying out the collective duty of defending the vulnerable, or it will lead to an Arab renaissance by means of the a true uprising of the free people of the world which will restore the honour of all Arabs, not just the Palestinians. Either the shameful and tyrannical regimes will fall or the Arabs will fall, if there is even a lower level than what we are witnessing today. We hope that the corrupt tyrants fall and that the Arabs will rise from the ashes.
Translated from Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 14 July, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.