UPDATED: Whither a Voice: Sikhs and Palestine

While emotions often run high on this issue, an email from a friend struck me enough to think about and create a forum for the issue.sikhactivist1.jpg

As current estimates has over 850 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths, the tragedy in Gaza will be continued with Israeli strikes. Throughout the world, we have seen breath-taking numbers of individuals take to the streets (Professor Juan Cole of Informed Comment provides a cogent argument that street protests are overall useless and believes better lobbying for the future of the struggle) denouncing and calling for an end to the current strikes.

During the summer, on the eve of the Olympic Games, a fellow Langa(w)riter asked about the question of the shaheed (the witness) in the case of injustice and abuse.

While there will be varied Sikh perspectives on the issue of the current violence (often according to age, but not always) certain Sikh groups have taken an active stand.

The Canadian-based Sikh Activist Network worked to make sure a Sikh attendance would be seen at various protests. Certain facebook groups urging Sikhs to recognize the Palestine state have popped up. Another website shows a group of Sikhs that visited the Palestinian territories and Israeli state on a peace mission.

I wonder about other Sikhs participation on this particular issue (low, I would assume) and thoughts on institutional Sikh voices/individual Sikh voices responses and engagement with non-Sikh issues. How do we define those issues that call for a shaheed?

————————————————————-

No sooner had I asked these questions and posted this blog, when I received an email from a friend.

If interested, please sign on to this online note of solidarity called “Sikh Solidarity with Palestine” that is circulating through Facebook. I reproduce it verbatim below.

Sikh Solidarity with Palestine

January 12, 2009

Kal kaati raaje kaasaa-ee dharma pankh kar udriaa.
Koorh amaavas sach chandramaa deesai naahee kah charhiaa.

This age is a knife, kings are butchers; justice hath taken wings and fled.
In this completely dark night of falsehood the truth is never seen to rise.

– Guru Nanak Sahib, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 145

After two weeks of relentless attacks and an ongoing siege, the results are sobering: over 880 people dead, 30% of whom are children, and more than 4000 injured; hospitals, schools, universities, local markets, streets, homes and communities crushed to rubble; a blockade on humanitarian relief including food and life-saving medical supplies; a ban on foreign journalists and media entering the area; and a sealed border rendering 1.5 million people imprisoned within the boundaries of a siege. Hundreds of thousands of lives are being destroyed as they are marked dispensable for one reason only: they are Palestinian. The death toll is rising, and Israel has hinted to no end in sight as it continues to expand its offensive by air, land, and sea. The above words of Guru Nanak Sahib, the first Guru and founder of the Sikh faith, ring painfully true today, 500 years after he wrote them.

According to Sikhi, all human lives are equal and should be cherished. Right now in Gaza, the lives of an entire people are being deemed worthless. We mourn the recent loss of over 880 Palestinian lives taken by the Israeli military. We also mourn the loss of the 9 Israeli lives taken by Hamas rockets.

We are Sikhs who stand against the brutality of Israeli occupation and the ongoing siege, blockade, and massacre of Gaza. Now more than ever, we call on our Sikh sisters and brothers to think about what our faith and our Sikh identity really means. Why did Guru Nanak Sahib seek to abolish the caste system in South Asia? Why did Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib sacrifice his life for the sake of others (non-Sikhs) right to freely practice their religion and live free of persecution? Why did Guru Gobind Singh, our tenth Guru, give birth to the Khalsa an armed body of full-time revolutionaries in 1699?

Because for Sikhs, fighting against all forms of tyranny and oppression is a spiritual obligation.

We are inspired by this Sikh tradition of fighting not only for our own rights and our own sovereignty as Sikhs, but for the freedom and rights of all people sarbat da bhala. Historically, Sikhs have known all too well what state repression and violent hatred look like. Sikhs too, like Palestinians, have faced campaigns of ethnic cleansing by emperors and prime ministers, dictators and elected leaders. Without a doubt, we have struggled and we must continue to struggle for our right to exist and our right to be Sikhs. But we must bring to the forefront our responsibility to fight for the liberation and freedom of all people. When we end ardas with, Nanak naam chardi kala, tere bane sarbat da bhala, we must pay attention to the power and weight of these words, take them to heart, and put the concept of sarbat da bhala into practice.

What that means for us now, as Sikhs and as people of conscience, is to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza, the Palestinians around the world fighting for their right to return home, and the thousands of Jewish and Israeli activists calling for an immediate end to the siege and an end to Israeli apartheid. Together, we must all demand peace and justice.

We encourage all Sikhs to learn more about what is going on in Gaza and about the history of Israeli occupation of Palestine. We encourage you to organize discussions about this issue amongst your sangat in and outside of the gurdwara, in your Sikh Student Associations, and in your families. Below are a few articles and resources that provide perspectives usually left out of the mainstream media:
http://electronicintifada.net
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/08/opinion/08khalidi.html
http://gazasiege.org
http://ajjp.org
http://stopthewall.org

Most importantly, we encourage you to take action. Get together with others in your community, Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, and attend a local demonstration against the siege of Gaza. Make a donation to send medical supplies and other humanitarian relief to Gaza (http://www.freegaza.org; http://www.mecaforpeace.org). For those in the United States, call on the Obama administration to make his promise of change a reality by stopping the spending of U.S. tax dollars on bombs that kill Palestinians. For those in Canada, call on Harper to condemn Israels crimes against humanity and demand an immediate stop to the siege. Pressure both governments to urgently support the global movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israela strategy that helped to end apartheid in South Africa 15 years ago (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/01/09-0).

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

To sign on to this statement, send an email with your name and city to: [email protected].


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203 Responses to “UPDATED: Whither a Voice: Sikhs and Palestine”

  1. kaptaan says:

    I guess they don’t want to respond to Harinder pointing out the obvious… BTW, why don’t we ask Theo Van Gogh about Islamic supremacism?

  2. sonny says:

    folks might be interested in this new resource for more information and ideas for action:
    http://thinkpalestineact.org/

  3. sonny says:

    folks might be interested in this new resource for more information and ideas for action:
    http://thinkpalestineact.org/

  4. Hardeep says:

    Earlier, I predicted

    You really think the current attacks has undercut Gazan support for HAMAS in Gaza? Now that truly is a joke. Palestinians do not blame HAMAS for the attacks. If they can weather the storm, they will emerge even more popular.

    Just as I previously noted, new information has come out with regards to Palestinian popular opinion due to the war in Gaza.

    Who won? 9.8% said Israel, 46.7% said Hamas, and 37.4% said neither. Interesting: Gazans were more likely to say "neither" (48.4%) and West Bankers more likely to say "Hamas" (53.3%)

    Were Palestinians convinced by the Israeli argument that Palestinian civilians were killed because Hamas was hiding among them? No. Only 5.1% in the West Bank and 5.9% overall agreed with that, while 72% blamed Israel for targeting civilians.

    Palestinian winners and losers? Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas didn't fare well: 13.2% very satisfied, 49.9% very dissatisfied; adding in the "somewhat" responses gives Mahmoud Abbas a rating of 33.6% satisfaction. Gazans were marginally more satisfied than West Bankers (39.7% to 30%). Isma'il Haniya of Hamas is now the most trusted figure in Palestinian politics, with 21.1%, followed by Abbas with 13.4%. But perhaps the main tell: "Don't trust anyone" is the runaway winner with 31.1%. If Parliamentary elections were held today, Hamas now enjoys a slim lead over Fatah, 28.6% to 27.9%. Hamas support is up from 19.3% last April.

    And of course, the violence. Support for using locally-made rockets has increased from 39.3% in April to 50.8%, and support for military operations against Israeli targets is up from 49.5% to 53.5%. 41% now oppose peace negotiations, compared to 34.7% last year.

    For more information, see Foreign Policy magazine.

    Also some more interesting news out of Malaysia:

    Five years later the public mood has changed and not only Muslims but Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus have joined hands with Muslims to organise protests and raise funds for the injured.

    In scenes not seen before, scores of Sikh temples are raising funds for the Palestinians; sending doctors to the border with Egypt along with Christian churches and Hindu temples in a show of unity not seen before.

  5. Hardeep says:

    Earlier, I predicted

    You really think the current attacks has undercut Gazan support for HAMAS in Gaza? Now that truly is a joke. Palestinians do not blame HAMAS for the attacks. If they can weather the storm, they will emerge even more popular.

    Just as I previously noted, new information has come out with regards to Palestinian popular opinion due to the war in Gaza.

    Who won? 9.8% said Israel, 46.7% said Hamas, and 37.4% said neither. Interesting: Gazans were more likely to say “neither” (48.4%) and West Bankers more likely to say “Hamas” (53.3%)

    Were Palestinians convinced by the Israeli argument that Palestinian civilians were killed because Hamas was hiding among them? No. Only 5.1% in the West Bank and 5.9% overall agreed with that, while 72% blamed Israel for targeting civilians.

    Palestinian winners and losers? Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas didn’t fare well: 13.2% very satisfied, 49.9% very dissatisfied; adding in the “somewhat” responses gives Mahmoud Abbas a rating of 33.6% satisfaction. Gazans were marginally more satisfied than West Bankers (39.7% to 30%). Isma’il Haniya of Hamas is now the most trusted figure in Palestinian politics, with 21.1%, followed by Abbas with 13.4%. But perhaps the main tell: “Don’t trust anyone” is the runaway winner with 31.1%. If Parliamentary elections were held today, Hamas now enjoys a slim lead over Fatah, 28.6% to 27.9%. Hamas support is up from 19.3% last April.

    And of course, the violence. Support for using locally-made rockets has increased from 39.3% in April to 50.8%, and support for military operations against Israeli targets is up from 49.5% to 53.5%. 41% now oppose peace negotiations, compared to 34.7% last year.

    For more information, see Foreign Policy magazine.

    Also some more interesting news out of Malaysia:

    Five years later the public mood has changed and not only Muslims but Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus have joined hands with Muslims to organise protests and raise funds for the injured.

    In scenes not seen before, scores of Sikh temples are raising funds for the Palestinians; sending doctors to the border with Egypt along with Christian churches and Hindu temples in a show of unity not seen before.

  6. Harinder says:

    Plaestinian in agony musth be helped by all.

    However the right of JEWS ( and muslims also ) to exist on this planet without fear or hate is enshrined in

    " Sri Guru Granth Sahib " and must be ensured.

    We have Dharma toward both the warring groups and not to get carried by "Bhed chal " or excessive publicity by one group.

    Palestine is a dynamic state wtih many claimants to it.

  7. Harinder says:

    Plaestinian in agony musth be helped by all.

    However the right of JEWS ( and muslims also ) to exist on this planet without fear or hate is enshrined in

    ” Sri Guru Granth Sahib ” and must be ensured.

    We have Dharma toward both the warring groups and not to get carried by “Bhed chal ” or excessive publicity by one group.

    Palestine is a dynamic state wtih many claimants to it.

  8. […] Some Sikhs that I have lauded about in the past are making their feelings felt and are taking part in a protest against the inhumane Israeli government actions. What has been your reaction on the events? swfobject.embedSWF("http://www.youtube.com/v/Scf5K0ZHdxE&rel=0&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=0", "vvq-6149-youtube-1", "425", "344", "9", vvqexpressinstall, vvqflashvars, vvqparams, vvqattributes); ? […]

  9. […] question of sovereignty is nothing new for us as Sikhs, and many Sikhs have pledged solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people. Now more than ever is the time to raise our voices. The US Campaign to End the Occupation is […]

  10. […] question of sovereignty is nothing new for us as Sikhs, and many Sikhs have pledged solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people. Now more than ever is the time to raise our voices. The US Campaign to End the Occupation is […]

  11. […] with no simple answers. Our community is not a monolith either. In 2009, over 100 Sikhs signed a “Sikh Solidarity with Palestine” statement in the midst of Israel’s siege of Gaza, which killed nearly 1,000 Palestinians. […]

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