image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Gaza War: Should the Sikhs Remain Silent?

ਏਤੀ ਮਾਰ ਪਈ ਕਰਲਾਣੇ ਤੈਂ ਕੀ ਦਰਦੁ ਆਇਆ 

Did you not feel compassion, O Lord, when there was such beating, brutality and slaughter, that the people screamed in agony. Did You not feel compassion, O Lord? (Guru Nanak Sahib SGGS Ank 360)

A learned colleague advised recently that Sikhs had better learn to be silent about Gaza as the world was when Sikhs were burnt alive in Delhi in 1984.

A Canadian Sikh poet, Rupi Kaur, declined an invitation from the United States White House to attend a Diwali celebration. She felt that the Gaza invasion by Israel is collective punishment of a trapped civilian population, 50% of whom are children.

Guru Nanak Sahib did not remain silent when the Mughal aggressor Babar killed innocent local Hindu and Muslim populations. The Guru was imprisoned as a result. Guru Tegh Bahadur did not remain silent when leaders of Hinduism, a belief system he did not subscribe to, pleaded before Him for help. Similarly, Sikh charity and compassion does not discriminate and is for all. Bhai Ghanayia did not distinguish between friend and foe amongst the fallen in the field of battle at Anandpur.

We stay with the Gaza war topic as it continues to grab daily news headlines worldwide. We are continually reminded that Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on 7 October 2023 and indiscriminately killed over 1,400 Israeli civilians including children and took well over 200 hostages. The Hamas attack was well-planned, daring and ruthless.

In retaliation, regardless of the human cost, Israel, backed mainly by the US and the UK, regards its invasion of Gaza with overwhelming force to eliminate the terrorist group, Hamas, as lawful. Yet, the vast majority of experts believe that Israeli collective punishment of the people of Gaza is not justified under international law.

The historical background is that, following the killing of six millions Jews by Hitler during World War II, the state of Israel was created for the Jews by colonial Britain backed by the US and some other Western countries in 1947. The Palestinian Muslims refused to accept the deal and their position has continually weakened especially after the Six-Day War (5 to 10 June, 1967). Israel extended territorial control to the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. These territories remain under Israeli control as an occupying power. In this context, one is reminded of the British occupation of Panjab from 9 March 1846 to final annexation on 29 March 1849. Israeli intention about Gaza may be along similar lines.

Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians have lived in an apartheid system, that is a system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race, for many years.

Sikhs should not remain silent about the mass killing of ordinary people on both sides of this conflict. Collectively, as the Khalsa Panth, Sikhs have always claimed to be, and expect to be treated as, a political entity. Individually, they have their democratic right as citizens of the countries they live in, to speak out against injustice anywhere in the world.

Sikhs should totally condemn Hamas terrorism and Israeli collective punishment of the people of Palestine. Both, the Jews, over the centuries, and the Palestinians in recent decades, have suffered much injustice. Both should come to the realisation that their future lies in co-existing side-by-side as two independent nations while benefiting from each other.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd (UK)