The Guardian published an article by Gaby Hinsliff entitled “If we’re forbidden from looking history in the eye during this horrific war, we’re doomed to repeat it”.
Hinsliff says that Palestinians and Israelis are bound together in suffering, and that seeking to resolve this problem, as the UN has done, shouldn’t be seen as making excuses for Hamas.
When the United Nations was originally founded from the ashes of World War II, the first treaty ever adopted, thanks to the efforts of a Polish-Jew named Raphael Lemkin, who lost more than 40 family members in the Holocaust, was the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
From Rwanda to Srebrenica, the United Nations itself admits that it hasn’t always lived up to Lemkin’s principles.
However, its primary mission remains to learn from history, not repeat it, but whose history exactly?
This week, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, strongly accused the organization of becoming a “disgrace on humanity” after the statements of its Secretary-General, in which he saw justification for what Hamas had done, and his statements in which he said that these steps came after 56 years from the stifling occupation.
In other words, history matters; This may be particularly so in the Middle East, where some trace the roots of the conflict back to the Bible.
But this is not the kind of history the Israeli government wants to discuss, perhaps especially in the context of UN calls for a ceasefire.
Why hasn’t anyone talked about history yet?
In a conflict shaped by inter-generational memories of persecution, exile, suffering, mourning, the Nakba and the Holocaust?
These stories are so intertwined that one cannot be understood without mentioning the other, and it’s possible to say that without being accused of making excuses for Hamas.
Some may feel that it is still too early to hold such talks in the case of Israel, but the war imposes its own unforgiving timetable.
Supporters of the ceasefire must accept the fact that Israelis cannot be expected to live comfortably with the fear of the return of Hamas, but proponents of crushing Hamas in a ground war must also acknowledge that the Palestinians cannot simply continue to live in squalor, otherwise a new Hamas will eventually arise to feed on this perpetual pain and the cycle will begin again.
Past suffering doesn’t absolve any individual from moral responsibility for his or her actions, but those who cannot look their history in the eye are often doomed to repeat it.
If an organization founded on learning from the past cannot be allowed to say so, who has the right?