More than 60 days have lapsed since Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. Two million Palestinians have been displaced and thousands of children have been massacred by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). 

We have all seen this unfolding on big and small screens, many of us viewing footage straight from the phones of Gazans themselves. 

We have seen even the United Nations (UN) struggling to hold Israel accountable. After two months of the collective punishment of Gazans (international humanitarian law experts have called it collective punishment), UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has finally invoked Article 99 – a rare and powerful move. 

Article 99 allows the UN Secretary-General to bring matters threatening international peace and security to the attention of the Security Council.

This article has been invoked only three times before. What remains to be seen is if the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC) is in agreement. 

If in agreement, the UNSC will have the power to implement the ceasefire resolution including the imposition of sanctions and the deployment of international forces. Sadly, the United States, which is 100 per cent behind Israel and provides them with weapons support, is a permanent member of the UNSC with veto power. 

What Western politicians and media call the “Israel-Palestine conflict” did not start Oct 7. Israel has occupied Palestinian lands for the last 75 years. The formation of Israel took place after the forcible displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians during the “Nakba” (meaning catastrophe in Arabic) in 1948. What is happening today is being called the second Nakba. 

We must also be aware that Israel has blocked all foreign journalists from entering Gaza during this aggression. 

One must therefore question the sources of information of all media, except Al Jazeera who is the only media to have reporters on the ground. Gaza is also known as the largest open-air prison in the world. The territory survived four wars before this genocide (as described by hundreds of genocide experts). 

One of Gaza’s most prominent writers and poets, Refaat al-Areer, who was killed in a targeted attack on Dec 7, wrote about Gazan time. It is one’s age being determined by the wars that one has survived. He wrote of his 8-year-old daughter being two wars old.

We are only now witnessing the resilience of Palestinians in Gaza. Despite the wars, they kept building their lives, again and again and again. 

It is impossible, as a human being, to not be affected by the depraved killing of innocents and the mass destruction of Gaza by Israel.

This is unless you’ve been doing what many Buddhists and Bhutanese have been doing, such as saying “The images are too disturbing, so I skip them or look away” or the classic Buddhist response: “This is their bad/negative karma. What can we do?” 

“Intention is key in Buddhism, especially in Mahayana Buddhism,” says Dr Dorji Wangchuk, an award-winning academic and scholar. 

The Buddha tells a story of being in a hijacked ship in his previous life. He kills the hijacker to save 500 passengers. He said not having done so would have meant that he would suffer the negative karma or in Christian terms, the sin of not saving the passengers. Even the Buddha would accumulate the same level of negative karma as the hijacker.

Imagine the amount of negative karma we are accumulating by turning away from Palestine. 

Just the taking of one life or abetting it requires 500 lifetimes of cleansing the negative karma. We are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Palestinians by not doing anything. 

“One’s intention and motivation should be to pull oneself and others out of this samsara of suffering (the cycle of killing and being killed). This is the core teaching of Mahayana Buddhism,” Dr Wangchuk states. 

Unknowingly, so many of us have been influenced by Anglo-Buddhism which is widespread on social media. I call this “convenient Buddhism”. 

This is the kind of Buddhism that encourages you to disconnect, disengage, and detach from reality when it gets ugly or has too much “negative energy”.

The “negative energy” reality that many Bhutanese and Buddhists are disconnecting from is the genocide of Gaza. 

Hamas are not terrorists to the Gazans. They are the resistance. From the videos that have been released since Oct 7, the only terrorism I see being committed is by the IDF. Hamas has even cleaned the poop of a dog that an Israeli hostage had with her. She said so herself.

Having written that, I hope all hostages are returned safely to their families. Innocent civilians on both sides should not be killed. 

But we do not know if hostages can be safely returned since Israel has been bombing indiscriminately, in the pretext of looking for Hamas, not just in tunnels, but also in the bellies of pregnant women and the bodies of premature babies in hospitals. 

As Bhutanese, we must remember that our beloved Fourth Druk Gyalpo, in his address at the sixth Non-Aligned Summit in 1979 stated: “We believe that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East can only be achieved based on total and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories and restoration to the Palestinian people of their national inalienable rights, including the right to return to their homeland and to self-determination.” 

This was in the same year that His Majesty introduced our development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. This is our history. 

It is also our history that we established diplomatic relations with Israel only in December 2020, but we voted in favour of the protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations during the Arab-backed UN General Assembly Resolution over Gaza in October. 

It isn’t only the Palestinians who are oppressed. We are being oppressed here in Bhutan too, as users of Facebook and Instagram. 

Meta owner Mark Zuckerberg has not declared being a Zionist, but both social media platforms suppressing any content on Palestine suggest otherwise. My accounts have been shadow banned for posting on Palestine like many other accounts the world over. 

We cannot be ignorant or in denial in this state of visible and invisible interconnectedness. Leaving Palestinians to account for their perceived bad karma is not Buddhist. It is indifference and apathy. We need to practise compassion and from there find the motivation to act to end suffering. 

So what can we do? We must do what we can within our limited means. Acknowledge the genocide. Call for a ceasefire. Post solidarity. Protest online since we do not do street protests or rallies. This is what Palestinians in Gaza have asked of us. In the words of a Palestine supporter: “Speaking up is also a prayer.” The least we can do is correctly educate ourselves on Palestine.

An interesting Buddhist counterpoint shared by Dr Wangchuk: This could be the start of bad karma for Israelis. We must do everything within our power to not let that happen. We must stop the cycle of killing and being killed. 

As a Buddhist, there are no two ways about it. CEASEFIRE NOW!

Contributed by 

Namgay Zam