The distribution of pain and pleasure: Public sentiment towards Ukraine and Palestine issues

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By: Ismail Rotimi Lawal

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The ongoing crisis between Gaza and Israel and the unrest between Ukraine and Russia has gotten the attention of the global community. Unfortunately, the situation in Gaza has been a major concern and crisis in 2023. Before our very eyes, thousands of Innocent lives have been lost mostly children, elderly, and helpless people in the country. While the loss of lives in Ukraine attracted global attention and reaction, the humanitarian crisis in Palestine has not been given an equal reaction.

The crisis in East Ukraine can be dated back to 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Originally, Crimea was part of the Russian Empire for hundreds of years before being transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. Russia saw the transfer as an unfair loss of territory and cultural heritage. The overthrow of Ukrainian President; Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 who had closer ties with Russia and fled to Russia where he has resided in exile ever since created a political vacuum in Ukraine. Crimea’s ethnic Russians were afraid of discrimination and marginalisation leading up to the annexation. Ever since, the humanitarian crisis has led to the loss of properties, critical infrastructure, and lives. Ukraine’s ties with other powerful nations in the West also fuel the crisis with Russia, especially in their bid to join NATO.

Similarly, the crisis between Palestine in particular in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank can be traced back to the mid-20th century, especially after the declaration of Israeli independence in 1948. I grew up knowing that there was a crisis between Israel and Palestine and the West Bank became so popular for bad news on TV that the Israeli occupation has remained a problem for the people and the expansion of the Israel in West Bank has remained a disturbing issue.

While the loss of lives in Palestine and Ukraine is worrisome and deserves great attention to resolve, the public’s consideration of which people deserve pain and who deserve pleasure is quite worrisome. The two nations have become victims of aggressors, both involved in geopolitical crises, historical issues, and humanitarian crises, and needed ongoing resolution and peacebuilding. However, the two cases are unfairly treated unequally by the public, especially among Western leaders. Public reactions towards Ukraine and Palestine evoke distinct emotional responses, reflecting varied sentiments and perspectives in each geopolitical scenario. In other words, the public reactions among countries have far shown the injustice inequity, and divisions of the world that we live in.

It calls for concern about how the world powers who vehemently condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine have suddenly kept a sealed lip or at best become neutral abrupt a similar fate of Palestine. While the world was united and firm in its language against this invasion, sadly, the opposite was the case when the same thing happened to Gaza. These same people and nations are now careful of their words, choice of language, and rebranding of their statements when addressing the Gaza killings. The indiscriminate killing of Palestinian children and women should make everyone sick of the hypocrisy, inhuman, and unkind behaviour of global powers.

In the publication made by the UN in February 2023, a total number of 141 nations comprising the most powerful countries came together to condemn Russian aggression against 7 nations that had voted in favour of Russia.

A comparative analysis of these two situations between Israel and Gaza will show the injustice of these nations despite the two nations having a similar geographical and humanitarian crisis. The nations that have a great effect in establishing peace and ending the war are further supporting Israel and even sending millions of dollars to the oppressor before our eyes.

Graphic presentation of Nations of pro-Israel and pro-Palestine

This presentation shows the political influence on the situation. Quite a large number of Arab nations have called for a ceasefire. However, the West and European nations have been soft on the situation as if the lives in Gaza were less of the same lives lost in Ukraine.

Those whose voices were loud during the invasion of Ukraine have now immediately lost their voices on the situation in Gaza. Their Media houses which were helping to amplify the situation in Ukraine suddenly became a tool to justify the loss of lives of Palestinian people in Gaza.

The president of the U.S. Joe Biden called Russia’s attack on Ukraine hospital as

“an injustice and a disgrace to the world.”

“The whole world is united to support Ukraine and make President Vladimir Putin pay a heavy price.” The President said.

However, in reaction to an attack on a hospital in Gaza, the same president who condemned the attack on a hospital in the Ukraine just a few months before took a different trajectory. While commenting on a hospital bomb in Gaza, President Biden said “deeply saddened by the explosion” at the facility. He furthered told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a news conference; “Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team (Palestinian group), not you,”

Comparing the casualties recorded in just a month in Gaza to 22 months of war between Russia and Ukraine, we should question the world leaders about who truly needs our sympathy and solidarity. In just a month, more than 24,000 people have been killed in Palestine and 10,022 people injured. On the other hand, it is reported that the casualty figure in Ukraine over the past 22 months is 10,022. While no life is worth being terminated, the staggering difference in both figures is a confirmation of the complicity of world leaders. Billions of humanitarian needs have been sent to Ukraine to relieve the people, while Gaza which suffers the most casualties is begging the world to persuade Israel to a ceasefire.

The atrocities in Gaza have attracted more enemies to Israel. The Iran-backed Houthis are fighting in proxy in the Red Sea and have attacked and seized ships with missiles heading to Israel in the Red Sea. Ships are taking another route through the southern tip of Africa, a longer route to escape missile attacks from Houthis which has pushed oil prices high leading to an increase in freight rates.

The US has launched Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG), the United States Navy-led coalition to secure ships through the Red Sea corridor from Houthi attack. The coalition that the US has openly announced has yet to be supported by its allies. They are all careful in taking part to avoid retaliation from the Houthis and avoid being a target.

The crisis in Gaza is taking a different dimension and getting more interest across the borders. The spread of war and its impact would not only affect those in war but every other occupant of the global village.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres while commenting on the loss of thousands of civilian lives in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, noted, “Killings of Civilians in Gaza unparalleled, unprecedented” since he took office in 2017.

Public sentiments played a crucial role in the crisis we are witnessing in Gaza and Ukraine. The sentiments of people across borders are expected to attract the attention of their politicians, institutions, and policymakers to try to address the redness of their people. Out of love for humanity, thousands of numbers protested peacefully in major cities and called the o of their government which is a major sympathiser of the oppressor to change their stands and end the destruction of hopes lives dreams and properties. Unfortunately, their government remained stubborn and even attacked some of their peaceful protesters.

The former UK’s right-wing Home Secretary Suella Braverman, described the demonstrators taking to the streets in support of a ceasefire in Gaza as being involved in “hate marches”.

To my mind, there is only one way to describe those marches: they are hate marches.” Suella Braverman

Similarly, despite the suffering the people of Gaza face and the cry of the UK citizens, the United Kingdom’s 293 parliamentarians voted against the motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

Similarly, despite the suffering the people of Gaza face and the cry of the UK citizens, the United Kingdom’s 293 parliamentarians voted against the motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

These people should remember the message of God the Almighty, the Quran

The hypocrites shall surely be in the lowest depth of the Fire; and thou shalt find no helper for them, except those who repent and amend and hold fast to Allah and are sincere in their obedience to Allah. These are among the believers. And Allah will soon bestow a great reward upon the believers.” Holy Quran 4:146

The Almighty has clearly warned the people against hypocrisy in all affairs. It’s crystal clear that it’s hypocrisy to condemn one nation for its atrocities while justifying the atrocities of another nation. This is again humanity’s moral value, justice. If we truly love humanity and we want peace in the world then absolute Justice must be observed.

“Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” Holy Quran 4:59

Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad, in 1924

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Ahmad (ra), explained the verse in the five-volume commentary of the Holy Quran;

The words, that you judge with justice, apply both to the head of the Muslim State and to all those persons who are entrusted with the work of administration. They are all enjoined to use their authority equitably and well.

Have these people observed justice in their reaction to the issues in Ukraine and Gaza? How have they been able to give the situations equal attention? Are there any lives more important than the other or on what basis should innocent lives who had no chance to choose where to be birthed be buried under the rubble?

Witnessing the daily aggression of the oppressor and the injustices of the word power presents that people have crossed all limits set by God Almighty in fulfilling justice and equity.

In the words of the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba)

His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba)

“The cruelties must be stopped, because if they are allowed to spread, then the flames of hatred will surely engulf the entire world to such an extent, that people will soon forget about the troubles caused by the current economic crisis.”

“In regard to international harmony, the religion of Islam further teaches that where retribution is required, it must be proportionate to the act of transgression. However, if forgiveness can lead to reformation, then the option to forgive should be taken. The true and overarching objectives should always be reformation, reconciliation, and the development of everlasting peace.”

The Israeli government said that it was Hamas that started the war and thought they had to take revenge. Looking at the level at which the Israel Defense Forces attacked Gaza has superseded the attack of Hamas on October 7th.

Thousands of innocent people have been killed by IDF in Gaza instead of Hamas members. Israel with the support of the US has the technology to deploy and trace the Hamas members. The question is why aren’t they using their resources to go after Hamas and save the people and their properties?

The attack of Hamas on Israel and the kidnap of people do not represent Islamic teachings even though the IDF has been killing Palestinians before this. The invasion of Israel by Hamas on 7th October is equally condemnable and should never have taken place.

The khalifa of Ahmadiyya stated that if retribution is required then an equal amount of aggression is required.

This is also the same teaching given in Exodus 21: 23-25;

“eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

However, these people do not even follow the guidance that is stipulated in their religious book. There are excesses in their retributions and it’s time to stop. Thousands of innocent people have lost their lives far higher than the casualties recorded in Israel.

Potential Avenue for improving global awareness and sympathy.

‘And let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness.’ Chapter 5:9

The Holy Quran has warned that we should not allow hate, and bias to overshadow our rights to discharge justice.

For justice to prevail and end atrocities perpetrated against humanity, there has to be unbiased education. Gaza and Ukraine have lost lives and properties.  Hence, the people who had derived pleasure from the pains of the oppressed and helpless need to unlearn their deep-rooted bias. There must be solidarity and unity in condemnation of the aggressor and sympathy for the oppressed. This is not the time to show support for an ally, or friends who have mercilessly violated the rules of war and have intentionally directed attacks against places of worship, schools, hospitals, and nongovernmental bodies. We all must be truthful in our analysis and actions in a critical time of our lives. If the people don’t come together to condemn the oppressor, more lives will be lost, and a generation of people who will further their atrocities across the borders will rise. This is the time to show solidarity and be decisive and upright in ending the killings of babies, journalists, the elderly, and women, and the further destruction of critical infrastructures.

Here is the time to show our absolute justice system and let go of our ego and self-aggrandisement, stand up to our responsibilities uphold one another to strive for the fulfilment of justice irrespective of the language skin colour, and beliefs of the victims.

We must also educate the people of the truth not to further hate a country for the other but to share sympathy and strive to be agents of peace.

The media also has a great role in furthering peace in our society. The media must ensure that they are truthful, and unbiased and report balanced and concise news to establish balanced judgements which can further help in de-escalating the unrest. Their work will help provide a holistic view, enhance global awareness of the issue, and generate sympathy and support.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has been the voice for Peace for many years. Just recently, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad in light of the ongoing Gaza and Israel conflict initiated the Voice for Peace campaign to bring an end to the war in Gaza and establish peace.

Since 2003, the Khalifa has been writing a series of letters to world leaders including the US, Israel, the UK, Germany, Russia, and China among others to persuade them to establish peace and security in local and global stages. In furthering peace, the #voicesforpeace Conference was held at Baitun Nur Mosque in northeast Calgary, where representatives from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindi, Sikh, and Muslim community groups presented their visions of peace and prosperity at the conference.

“Every religion is teaching us peace and harmony … Every year we host dozens of similar events, but this is very special because of the current situation in the Middle East,” said Majeed Ahmad, president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Calgary, during the conference.

Similarly, the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim communities have been trending the #voicesforpeace on social media, especially on X to get the attention of policymakers, government, and politicians to strive to establish peace and share awareness to people unlearn hate, and bias, while preaching peace and praying for global security for all.

Prayer for Peace

We need to pray for world leaders and the oppressor at this moment. Praying that God grants wisdom to the world leader to be able to intervene and end the war and also to the oppressor that God grants them the perseverance, and strength to overcome the catastrophe they have been thrown into.

The World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad on this Friday Sermon on 1st December 2023. He said:

“Keep praying for the Palestinians. After the temporary ceasefire, there will again be indiscriminate bombing and innocent civilians will again be martyred. How much oppression there will be, God knows best. The designs of the major powers about the future of the Palestinians are very perilous. This is why there is a great need for prayers for them. May Allah have mercy.”

In his previous sermons, the Khalifa (atba) has prayers that:

“May Allah the Almighty enable the major powers to establish justice on both sides and thereby establish peace. It should not be that they lean towards one side and thus usurp the rights of the other side. May they not commit injustices and cruelties.”

‘May Allah the Almighty grant us the opportunity to witness peace and security in the world.’ Amin

Conclusion

The distribution of pains and pleasure in public sentiment regarding the issues in Ukraine and Gaza reflects the loss of humanity, common global emotion, and perception. These conflicts expose the levels of injustice and public miseducation of real issues. It has further explicit the human distance away from peace and accelerated the chances for global war.

The real issues are not efficiently distributed. Politics, historical influence, media coverage, and personal experience have skewed the distributions leading to all forms of sentiments. A lot of innocent people are being killed, properties destroyed, institutions brought down, places of worship levelled, and pains deeply felt, leading to a humanitarian crisis. Yet, amidst these moments of pain, pleasure arises among some people which further strengthens the oppressor and takes away the voice of the oppressed.

Thus, without a great awakening from the heart of every individual especially policymakers and governments to become agents for peace and truth, we are going to leave a world of fear, hatred, insecurity, and unhabitable for the next generations.

Understanding the pains of others is important. This will help in establishing a process for peace. It requires all our efforts to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis of the oppressed which will help in amplifying peace, hope creation, and solidarity.

Love, empathy, and justice outweigh the negative narratives and help in strengthening global consciousness in moving away from catastrophic to a harmonious, peaceful, and prosperous world where justice and love for all will be served and hatred for none will be upheld.

References:

Holy Quran, Chapter 4:59

Holy Quran, Chapter 5:9

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Ahmad’s (ra) commentary on the Holy Quran in verse 4:59, explaining the duties of rulers and administrators to judge with justice.

His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) Friday Sermon on December 1st, 2023, urging prayers for Palestinians and calling for world leaders to establish justice.

Publication by the UN in February 2023, mentioning the number of nations condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Speech by US President Joe Biden on the hospital attack in Ukraine and Gaza.

Commentary on Exodus 21:23-25

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/03/16/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-assistance-the-united-states-is-providing-to-ukraine/