"One man's terrorist and another man's freedom fighter" - How often have we heard this phrase, and yet how little do we empathise with it?
I've been attending a reporting course the last couple of days and today's session really struck a chord. One of the speakers spoke (among other things) about his reporting experience in Palestine and for once, I heard someone put a "human face" to this 2000 year old conflict.
He spoke of a family which had one brother in Hamas, the second one in Fatah (which is a rival Palestinian faction), the third brother was a suicide bomber (obviously dead) and the father who works for the UN.
For once, I heard someone speak with a much deeper understanding of the root of this whole war on terrorism. Palestinians have been living under siege for decades, at least since the 1967 war and even before that.
The people we call terrorists today are the children of that generation. They've grown up in an environment of not only constant war and chronic poverty, but worse, they've grown up under constant humiliation and ignominy.
The Palestinian economy is entirely under the control of Israel and they have done well to ensure that the Palestinian's unemployment rates are kept high and their economy remains in the shambles. Simple example is Israel controls the supply of fuel to Palestine. With no fuel, there can be no industry, much less basic utilities for the civilians.
With absolutely no hope or prospect for a decent life, an opportunity to even carve out a career with one's own hard work, what are the young and the future generation to do?
The west, the US in particular and Israel themselves are responsible for this crazy "war on terrorism". They have created the perfect conditions that feed such acts and groups of terrorism. They have fostered an environment where the youth grow up frustrated, hopeless, angry, oppressed, and worst of all, with nothing to lose, because everything, especially their future, has been taken from them.
It is not difficult to see why they would be happy to blow themselves up, along with a few of those perceived to be responsible for their destitution. If this world has been cruel to them, and God promises a better world in the after life, why should they stick around and show us sympathy?
Is that not what our God promise us too? Only, for us, it's easier to like this current life too because we have it good, and we at least have an opportunity to make good in life, have a good career, have family, and be able to provide for it.
It's shocking here in Singapore, how easily we categorise Palestinians as the antagonists and terrorists. We secretly or subconsciously treat Islam and terrorism as synonymous to each other, or we are at least quite convinced that the religion perpetuates and promotes acts of terrorism.
And this perception is not surprising considering how often we hear the terms "Muslim terrorists" and "muslim fundamentalists" in the same breath on the news or in the papers all the time. We forget that terrorism is not an issue of religion, but of social, political and economic inequality.
Why do we not consider Israel or the US as terrorists? Just because they went in with conventional war crafts and bull dosed their way into other people's homes with soldiers wearing uniform, are their acts of aggression not considered acts of terrorism as well?
I'm not saying that we should label Israel and the US as terrorists. But maybe we should pause to think about who we really are calling terrorists. And WHY after so many years, are we still fighting "terrorism"? Perhaps we've gotten this whole terrorism thing all wrong, and it's time we deal with it differently.
Pump money into the Palestinian economy to create jobs and schools, instead of funding Israel's military arsenal for a start.