Gaza: Finding The Voice Of Protest

January 12, 2009
3 mins read

The bombs are hitting Palestinian Arabs, Muslims and Christians, our fellow human beings as well as brothers and sisters in the faith; mosques and churches are in danger….Nothing can justify the scale of killings that we have been witnessing, the prevention of adequate medical attention to the thousands injured, the starving and slow strangulation of a whole people”- NIREC

This week, Nigeria witnessed one of the most important statements in recent times about the impact of a crisis in the international system and its reverberations into Nigeria’s own fractured political life. The reason for this statement from the Nigerian InterReligious Council (NIREC) is the frankly criminal and deliberate massacre and collective punishment of the Palestinian people by the racist, Zionist state of Israel. It is significant that the body led by the Sultan of Sokoto and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) will for the first time, jointly present a view, which reflects the genuine indignation of people around the world.


It is significant because some of the most steadfast supporters of the Zionist state have been Nigerian Christian groups who have a very literal reading of the bible which is now extrapolated to the Zionist state. I have received several texts in the past, whenever I have had cause to criticise the policies of the Zionist state, in respect of the plight of the Palestinian people. Often acerbic and couched in fundamentalist religious language, the Nigerian Christian supporters of Israel would interrogate why I thought a state which drew its “legitimacy” from the bible should ever be criticised. So the spectacle of massacre, collective punishment of Christian Palestinians and their Muslim cousins never bothers their Nigerian co-religionists who erroneously believe that every Arab is Muslim, and he extrapolates Nigerian religious politics into a support for the crimes of the Israeli state. This has been ruthlessly exploited by the Zionists for years in Nigeria, as indeed in other parts of the world. So by jointly issuing a denunciation of the crimes that Israel is daily perpetrating in Gaza, our religious leaders have provided us the opportunity to claim our humanity in a profound manner, including the religious/spiritual dimension of that humanity.


Contrary to the propaganda of Zionist Israel and the unconditional backing which it receives from the leading imperialist countries and their media, it is the Palestinians that are at the receiving end of injustice and the inhuman viciousness of the Israeli war machine. The world is expected to acquiesce in crimes that recall the barbarity of the Nazis in the Jewish ghettoes of Warsaw during the Second World War with the carpet bombing of city blocks, the killing of women and children and the same line of justification that they brought the suffering upon themselves for supporting resistance! We should also note that Israel for the umpteenth time chose to ignore relevant United Nations Resolutions as it has always done; of course, with the backing of the only hyper-power, US imperialism, it will not even get a mild rap on the knuckle. This is the pattern that we are likely to see under the coming Obama presidency, as many analysts have pointed out in recent weeks. It is not a surprise that Obama suddenly became a deaf mute, when it was time to denounce Zionist crimes against Gaza!


Another issue of interrogation for me in this narrative is the need to begin to nurture the culture of democratic dissent in Nigeria. In the wake of the Gaza killings, I have received many SMS texts asking us to recite certain verses of the Qur’an in aid of the Palestinian resistance. That might serve useful spiritual ends without question; but beyond that, we have to begin to build campaigns of boycott of goods and also the exercise of the right to demonstrate on our streets against all forms of injustice. During the anti-apartheid struggle, a massive movement of boycott of the economy of the racist state helped to hasten its end. So why have we not been talking of boycotting Israel if it continues in its ways? There have also been such demonstrations in England, France, the USA, the Muslim world, Kenya and even within the state of Israel itself! These manifestations are the hallmark of democratic dissent which constitutions, including the Nigerian, guarantee the citizenry. It is also true that it is one right which the state in Nigeria has been loath to accept as legitimate, using the Public Order laws to curtail or brutally suppress. If we want to deepen democracy in this land, then citizens should organise to actively construct platforms of dissent which assist us to build coalitions which go beyond primordial issues that more often than not, end up being used for very reactionary, anti-people ends.

By coming together to denounce the Israeli crimes in Gaza, our religious leaders have done a remarkable service for all of us which could open new possibilities for our collective understanding of the world we live in; they are opening apertures on how our humanity can be enhanced when we learn that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere! What religious difference can deaden any soul to the suffering of the children and mothers and old men of Palestine? What sentimental affinity can excuse or justify or support the death of almost 1000 people and the injury of about 5000 others in 17days of brutal attacks by one of the strongest armies in the world; a defenceless people really, who have no army, no armour, no anti-aircraft batteries; nothing! I feel truly proud and happy that Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar and Bishop John Onayekan spoke on my behalf and expressed my disgust at the crimes being committed in Gaza by the Zionist state of Israel. That is the way it should be; we must be able to feel and denounce injustice visited on any human on the surface of the earth!

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