Tragic world hit by two calamities

opinion July 22, 2014 00:00

By Martin Khor
The Star

We are in the midst of two calamities - the crash of MH17 and the worsening plight of Palestinians - that make this an even more tragic world.

News that another Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane was lost with 298 people on board gave Malaysians and indeed the world the combined feelings of shock, déjà vu and grief.
The first natural reaction on hearing news of MH17’s fate was “it can’t be true”. When the news was verified, it changed to “Oh, no. Not again!”.
And when reality sank in, the priorities turned to finding out what caused it and who was on board, and the feelings gave way to grief for those who perished and their families.
It really is both unbelievable and unfortunate that two catastrophes of such magnitude could have happened to MAS planes within such a short time.
What happened to each of them are among the strangest mysteries of all time. What happened to MH370 and why may remain unsolved for quite some time.
The chances of knowing what happened to MH17 and who is responsible are much better. But it will remain incredible that such a calamity can befall a Malaysia Airlines flight so soon after the first calamity just four months ago.
It is really an outrage that a commercial flight and almost 300 innocent souls on board should be made victims of a conflict that none of them are a party to. Those responsible must be brought to justice as swiftly as possible.
But that will not be sufficient consolation for the families and friends of those who perished.
We are often told that flying by plane is much safer than driving a car, and I am sure that statistically that is true.
But the statistics of chances are of no comfort to those whose loved ones have been lost on MH370 and MH17.
The dangers of perishing on a flight seem to have gone up a lot, at least in the popular imagination and especially in Malaysia.
Who would have ever imagined that a plane with almost 300 on board could have disappeared and not be found for months, and then that another plane from the same airline with another 300 on board could have been shot down, within such a short time span?
The other current calamity is the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, after weeks of killing Palestinians and bombing their homes and infrastructure.
Palestinians must be the most unfortunate and tragedy-laden people in the world, for whom it is said that “even God cried”.
What is even more unfair and infuriating is how many Western leaders and many Western media outlets have been so courteous to Israel, making sure to preface their statements on the conflict by condemning the rockets fired by Palestinians at Israel, recognising the right of Israel to self-defence, and asking both sides to have a ceasefire.
They fail to acknowledge, let alone condemn, the killing of Palestinians, most of them civilians including children, by Israeli missiles and bombs that are supposed to be smart and accurate.
If they are indeed accurate, then the civilians and children are deliberately targeted and it is a war crime, and if not, then they are indiscriminate and thus irresponsible. In any case, this should never have been done.
There is no acknowledgement from these leaders and media, that Israel is the occupying force, that the Palestinians have been driven from their land or are now under occupation, that in Gaza they have been under siege with little or no access to electricity, food, fuel and other essentials and unable to cross their borders.
People under colonialism, occupation and brutal aggression have always resisted.
This resistance is always portrayed as illegal and acts of terror by their oppressors, as the masters did against the slaves, as the colonial regimes did to the independence movements all over the world, and as the apartheid regime in South Africa did to the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela.
Israel says its bombings are in retaliation for the rockets from Gaza towards Israel which must be taken out. Those firing the rockets say it is a response to the Israeli bombings.
Whatever one’s view of who started it all, there is the brutality of the blanket bombings and such killing of civilians, which must be condemned.
Last week brought news of Palestinian families being killed in their homes in Gaza and four Palestinian children also killed by bombs or missiles while playing at the beach.
Merely calling on Israel to be more careful to minimise civilian casualties is out of place. At least a condemnation is the bare minimum. And actions to stop further deadly attacks are needed.
The ending of the occupation and siege of Palestine and the effective establishment of an independent Palestine should be on top of the international agenda.
Failure to achieve this, and opposition to it, is the root cause of the conflict. Blaming the victims for resisting is doing double or manifold injustice to them.