Does Malala Day Have Place For Victims of State Terror?

Indian Express on front page reported, Hamas rocket kills Delhi rabbi’s wife. This was in edition of 16 November 2012. Two more things of import we learn from the report, ^^The website of the orthodox Jewish group said Mirah Scharf, 25, was pregnant….The couple were also due to attend a memorial ceremony in Israel for their colleagues killed in the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008^^. Niti Central, another website which Google threw up while searching this news, led me to believe that it is an Israeli or Israeli-Centric website by the looks of its masthead. It has photos and quotes of Avigdor Lieberman, *Hamas leadership in Gaza should stop trying Israel*, and Benjamin Netanyahu, *I hope Hamas has got the message*.
Curiously, Niticentral news item said, ^^Among the three Israelis killed in a rocket attack by militant group Hamas on Thursday, was Mirah Scharf, wife of a Rabbi at New Delhi’s Chabad house. According to an Indian Express report, 25-year-old Schraf was pregnant^^. Now, why would an Israeli centric website rely on Indian Express, which itself had relied on the website of the orthodox Jewish group- Chabad. Further, as if to assault my illusion created by its masthead, its main news item for 17 November, Ponty and Monty kill each other in a shoot-out. Ponty is liquor baron from UP, and recently Supreme Court had showed its strong disapproval to a contract for mid-day meal scheme for school going children in UP that was awarded to his firm. Cursory browsing confirmed that Nidhi-Central is not Israeli-Centric, but very much India-Centric website run by The Pioneer journalist Kanchan Gupta, who also it seems served in the PMO as an aide to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His love of Israel is quite palpable. Returning to Express story, on 17 November, i.e. today, Shalini Narayan took the baton again on front page, where Shubhajit Roy left it yesterday: She went to Israel to have child in a ‘peaceful’ environment, recalls a shaken Chabad House.
^^Six months ago, when four-year-old Yousef, the eldest child of Mira and Schilach Rabbi Schumel Schraf, left Chabad House in Delhi’s Paharganj area for Israel, he drew a caricature of a man with a hat, three lines marking the contours of his face and his moustache half done in black ink on a piece of paper. Perhaps he would have completed it on his return to India two weeks from now….Before leaving, her last words to the acting Rabbi Akiva and his wife Chaya were spread happiness, help all^^. Such human interest stories are important. The irony in headline too is not lost. Mirah went to Israel to have baby in peaceful environment  Journalists who do them must be complimented. Reader is at once reminded of brutality of conflicts, their futility, and the real flesh and blood people who fall victim to these. Even children or aged or infirm, are not spared death or the mayhem. If they don’t die, they are maimed for life. If they are not maimed, then their minds are traumatised for life, which won’t let them live like simple, innocent, carefree people. The characters in this story are victims of a longest festering conflict in the world, between Israelis and Palestinians. In a way, it doesn’t concern us directly. It is too distant. Yet, it is important such stories come to the notice of Indian readers. We have our own conflicts. Quite a few of them. We have our own victims too. Cold statistics of conflicts, so many killed- so many wounded seriously – so many rendered homeless, do not touch our souls. In fact, statistic inures us, hardens us into callous, unfeeling zombies. Words like Body-parts or Collateral Damage, which are alien, inhumane, labels start sounding familiar, even in some ways comforting. They save us, the bystanders, from the trauma of facing real death and real destruction. This new vocabulary makes conflicts and wars palatable and digestible. So long as somebody else is paying the price of such conflicts and wars, it even assuages our conscience, if we have any left, and permits us to meekly fall in line behind the leadership, which wages such conflicts and wars for some hidden ulterior motives. Ain’t the leadership fighting Terror or some such Terrible enemy?- is what we all say to reassure ourselves, numbed as we are into unspeakable fear of a bogeyman. The Newspeak was designed  exactly for this effect. That is why such humane story telling comes as a dose of oxygen to our asphyxiated humanity.
Mirah Scharf was killed on 14 November when a rocket smashed into the top floor of an apartment in Kiryat Malachi – Southern Israel. Yousef, her 4 year old son, who left the unfinished caricature in Pahargunj’s Chabad house, is injured. He may never return to complete it. Nor would Mirah, who gave the message of Spread happiness, Help all. She had left India with her family 6 months, or some180 days ago; not recently. Still, the Express journalists found out India links of this unfortunate family and made their plight known on the front pages of Express. After all the family had been our guest. They lived among us. The story helped us to connect to our common humanity. Such stories show the joys, triumphs, aspirations, hopes, love, empathy, failures, losses, fears, sorrows that we all share.

Take a pause and a deep breadth. Are not these hapless beings victims of a conflict? Which is the other side to it? What is happening to them? We have seen the conflict as if we are embedded in Israel. What is happening in Gaza? Who are getting killed there? Maimed there? Who are loosing their homes there? Do we have any news on that? Plenty! Buried on page 14 of Express, we see the photograph Jihad Al Masharawi mourning over the loss of his 11 month old son Omar killed in an Israeli strike. We can’t see the poor child -his life snuffed out by forces he did not know or create- because his tiny body or what is left of it is bundled up in a white cloth.
Among other ten dead, the news continues to tell, there is a seven year old Palestinian girl, who would have happily played with four year old Yousef about whom we read earlier had they been neighbours in peace.    We don’t know the girl’s name, as we do not know the names of other victims of Israeli attack. Hamas run health ministry says 70 others are wounded, some of them seriously. Hamas fighters had reportedly fired over 700 rockets at Israel this year with very little damage to show until the attack that claimed Mirah. On another Thursday in early September this year, Israeli tank shell killed 3 civilians in Gaza ^^He said two were brothers – Akram al-Zaanin, 22, and Ihab al-Zaanin, 23. He added that the third, 26-year-old Tareq al-Kafarna, was on his way to work at Beit Hanun hospital when the shell struck^^. This came just 11 hours after Israeli air strike on a car had killed another 3 civilians and wounded one. Then in an air strike on 13 October, Israel claimed one more victim in Gaza. Al Jazeera has photos of victims and mourners of the last two days of violence on Gaza.
Whenever anybody is killed by Israel in Gaza, she is a terrorist or Hamas fighter. Whenever anybody is killed  in Israel by the largely ineffectual rockets fired by Hamas, she is an innocent victim. How could such characterization be justified? Much less swallowed credulously by those who read it. This is what beggars belief. Diana Buttu writing for Globe & Mail says, Israel’s attack underlines helplessness, hopelessness of Gaza Palestinians. Since one hardly hears human angle stories from the other side, it bears quoting at length: ^^It is with horror that I watch the latest events in Gaza unfold. As a Canadian based in the West Bank who once lived in Gaza, I know the fear that is currently running through the veins of each man, woman and especially child as they face Israel’s unrelenting aerial and naval bombardment. My time in Gaza was marked by long periods of aerial bombings and sonic booms. I still– 6 years later – live with those horrible memories and the sheer sense of helplessness and hopelessness that ensued….Today, the people of Gaza suffer from a brutal blockade that has lasted for more than 6 years and isolation that has lasted for more than 20 years. Israel strictly controls imports into Gaza and exports are virtually non-existent. Palestinian life is so controlled by Israel that the Israeli government even sets policies on the minimum number of calories needed to prevent malnutrition. Access to the sea – one of their main sources of livelihood – is strictly curtailed and the water of the Gaza Strip is barely drinkable, with less than 5 per cent of their water supply fit for human consumption. Today, Gaza is an open-air prison and it comes as little surprise that UN agencies recently concluded that, in a few years, Gaza will become unlivable^^.  Gaza has been described by many as the largest open prison. UN agencies say Gaza will become unlivable soon. Others say conditions are already deplorable. The Newspeak is also at work in full force: ^^Israeli Army officials have taken to Twitter and other social media to belittle death. In the aftermath of one assassination, the Israeli army participated in the twitter handle #HamasBumperStickers with one Israeli army official tweeting, My car is a stairway to heaven with a little help from Israel^^. Death becomes a joke and kills away the humanity of Palestinians. Such behaviour from Israeli army is not unexpected. Unless they learn to dehumanise and hate Palestinians, how could they kill unknown strangers without compunction? But do we find any difference in the attitude of our media? Ourselves?
I have seen many human angle stories, often simply reproduced, of the victims of Hamas, Taliban, or Al Qaeda. I have even seen human angle stories, definitely only reproduced, of Non-Muslim mass murderers from USA & Europe acting out their dance of death in distant Middle-East or even in their own countries. How these were good, responsible, community minded, family men and loving parents; and look what has happened to do them suddenly. Inexplicably. They just snapped. But I do not recollect seeing single human angle story emerging in Western or Indian media about victims of State Terror. That is the ruthless and at will killings carried out by Obama’s drone fired or Netanyahu’s aircraft fired missiles. Are not those killed by these two gentlemen by definition bad guys, terrorists, a scourge of humanity? Aren’t they like pestilence that is good riddance? Yet, there have been humane journalists, often from the very countries to which these two bloodthirsty gentlemen belong, who have showed exemplary courage to investigate the truth at great personal risk; and have dug out the facts of killings of unarmed civilians, in Afghanistan, Iraq, or in Gaza. Are those killed by State Terror less human? Don’t they have the same joys, triumphs, aspirations, hopes, love, empathy, failures, losses, fears, sorrows that make us all human? Yes. Yes. Yes. But, not one story to  show that humanity of victims of State Terror. Not one human angle story in Indian media based on a website by Palestinians.  Mind you, this is not by default, or oversight, or non-availability. But, this is a product of deliberate design. By making the victims of State Terror faceless, rootless, ageless, genderless, and emotionless; they are deprived of their humanity. By buying into this horrendous myth, the media partners the State in acts of terror. By credulously accepting such cultivated myths, we become mute sponsors of state terror.
Men who shot at the innocent and courageous Malala Yousafzai to kill her and terrorise others are the worst specimen of our dark side. They deserve the most stringent punishment. UN decision to celebrate 10 November as UN’s Malala Day is a fitting tribute to the young girl’s indomitable spirit. But her story has been high-jacked by the State Actors to serve their needs of portraying themselves as innocent defenders of humanity. Would Malala Day have place for the victims of State Terror? What would Malala decide if full facts were known to her? Would her word then carry the day? The answer is a resolute No; unless we fight the day light robbery of truth by State. If we don’t, then Malala Day would add one more artifice to State’s liturgy of War On Terror.
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