Donald Sensing notes that since 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada (which followed the breakdown of Camp David, when Arafat failed to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity), Palestinians have desired to escape from Gaza and the West Bank in greater numbers. Many have filed to leave, but lately a Muslim cleric—actually, the Palestinian Authority’s chief mufti—has become alarmed at the prospect and issued a fatwa forbidding them to do so.
The desire to get away is hardly surprising; the place has been mired in ever-escalating ruin and murder for quite some time now. I remain convinced that the majority of people (even Palestinian Muslims, who’ve been brainwashed into a cult of death and dying for a long time) still want to live and have a more pleasant experience while they’re about it. Emigrating from Palestine probably sounds like an excellent way to do that.
I’m also not surprised that the PA cleric issued a fatwa to try to stop them, although I have no idea how much he will be listened to. The prospect of the local population shrinking down to near-nothingness would be an interesting twist on the old saying, from “what if they gave a war and nobody came?” to “what if they gave a war and nobody stayed?”
The PA cleric’s admonition rang a bell with me, and I realized that sound emanated from what would appear to be an unlikely source: Gandhi. Yes, folks, that man of peace (whom I’ve written about at great length before, here), had a similar message in a similar time of civil war.
Of course, Gandhi’s motive was utterly different from that of the PA cleric; you might say it was the opposite. But the effect of his plea—if heeded—would have, strangely enough, been the same: to keep potentially victimized people from saving their own skins, and to what purpose?
Gandhi was speaking to Hindus on the occasion of the partition of India and Pakistan, an event marked by migrations and horrific violence on both sides. Gandhi, who had opposed partition, reacted in the following manner:
During [Gandhi's] prayer meeting on 1 May 1947, he prepared the Hindus and Sikhs for the anticipated massacres of their kind in the upcoming state of Pakistan with these words: “I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them. I would be a real sinner if after being stabbed I wished in my last moment that my son should seek revenge. I must die without rancour. You may turn round and ask whether all Hindus and all Sikhs should die. Yes, I would say. Such martyrdom will not be in vain.” (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol.LXXXVII, p.394-5) It is left unexplained what purpose would be served by this senseless and avoidable surrender to murder.
Even when the killing had started, Gandhi refused to take pity on the Hindu victims, much less to point fingers at the Pakistani aggressors. More importantly for the principle of non-violence, he failed to offer them a non-violent technique of countering and dissuading the murderers. Instead, he told the Hindu refugees from Pakistan to go back and die. On 6 August 1947, Gandhiji commented to Congress workers on the incipient communal conflagration in Lahore thus: “I am grieved to learn that people are running away from the West Punjab and I am told that Lahore is being evacuated by the non-Muslims. I must say that this is what it should not be. If you think Lahore is dead or is dying, do not run away from it, but die with what you think is the dying Lahore…
“Die with the dying Lahore” is a phrase that resonates with the ring of fanaticism. The PA mufti is also a fanatic, dedicated to an idea of war that is very different from Gandhi’s. Gandhi was a fanatic dedicated to an ideal of peace—but one that uses methods that run so counter to human nature it can never be realized on earth, and in the name of that dream he made suggestions that can only be described as insane.
Despite the desire of most people to continue living, human beings can—and regularly do—lay down their lives for a greater good. That is something we all applaud, and we call those people “heroes.” But there is nothing heroic in staying in a failed and miserable country being torn apart by a civil and/or gang war between corrupt and vicious leaders, just as there is nothing heroic in being asked to stay in a country to be slaughtered by marauding mobs. Fanatics will sometimes ask it of us, nevertheless.