Without Mercy

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,/  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/  Upon the place beneath:  It is twice blest:/  It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.”  (Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice).  Portia’s entreaty was ignored by the person to whom it was addressed, and mercy is seldom in the calculus of antagonists in the Middle East.  However, a truce is at hand and the work of repair and rebuilding begins … at a cost to the world usually.

It will cost a billion or two for Gaza, and Israel receives $3.8 billion annually from the US with which it buys sophisticated weaponry.  Most Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution.  Unfortunately, Israeli settlers now have settlements dotted throughout Palestinian areas.  Who will have the political will to move them?  Moreover, there is a problem with legitimate Palestinian negotiators.  Mahmoud Abbas who heads the Palestinian authority has been continuing in office although his term expired 12 years ago.  He also cancelled municipal elections recently.  On the other side is a hodge-podge of parties and no new government yet following Israel’s April elections.

The Palestinians are not the only oppressed example in our uneasy world:  Kashmiris are opressed in India; the ethnic Bengalis who settled in Burma — some as long ago as the 15th century — have had villages burned and residents slaughtered in what some called a genocide; the original inhabitants of China’s Xinjiang Province are now outnumbered by the Han Chinese who have moved there — the result has been friction and re-education camps.

Nature itself in Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ shows little mercy.  And if we consider the galactic future of life on our beautiful little blue ball, it is bleak though humans are likely to have ended their turn here by that time.  Before that there is climate change.  Logic requires humans to unite to face a common danger but when were humans logical.

Perhaps an asteroid large enough to pierce our shelter of the atmosphere might begin the end.  There are solar storms of course, called a coronal mass ejection (CME) when superheated gas shoots off the sun’s surface.  Coming in the direction of earth, these cause geomagnetic waves which while harmless to life on earth can cripple power grids, expose people flying frequently to dangerous levels of radiation, and disturb satellites on which we rely more than we realize — all enough to turn our comfortable lives topsy turvy.    

It is indeed a precarious world in an uncertain universe where the question of mercy does not arise — certainly not dropping from heaven, not even metaphorically.  So if Mr. Netanyahu drops a bomb or two, let his conscience be his guide.  He or his successors will have to settle with the Palestinians.  For the Israelis, the sooner the better and for a very simple reason:  the Palestinians tend to have a higher birth rate particularly in Gaza though less so in Israel proper.

Still, how long can a system, dubbed ‘apartheid’ only recently by Senator Bernie Sanders in an op-ed, surivive in the modern world?  Antiquated and anachronistic, it matches Mr. Netanyahu’s belief in bombing, and mercy has no place in his calculus.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.