The city of Sderot in Israel has become synonymous with relentless rocket attacks and missile strikes. For years, its residents have endured this terrifying ordeal, but the large-scale invasion by Hamas on October 7, 2023, marked an unprecedented escalation in the conflict. The toll in terms of lives lost and the brutality of the violence has reached a level that surpasses previous memories of such conflict in the region.
Sderot, ironically, was intended to represent “order” or “boulevards” when it was established. With a population of just under 30,000, it was envisioned as a haven for the descendants of Jewish Holocaust survivors. However, the very fabric of this vision was woven from the harsh realities of demographic and geopolitical brutality. It involved the eviction of Palestinians from their homes, the violent suppression of resistance, and the labeling of any Palestinian seeking justice as a militant or, worse, a terrorist.
The town of Sderot itself is a product of rewriting history, built upon the ruins of a Palestinian village called Najd. Instead of standing far away from the descendants of those it dispossessed, Sderot is situated less than 850 meters from Gaza, described by Human Rights Watch as “the world’s largest open-air prison.” It’s a place where the skies rain down fire and terror.
This poorly conceived and arrogantly sustained fiction of Sderot has become a nightmare for Palestinians and a source of unfulfilled dreams for Israelis. The people of Palestine have long been failed by the world, but in Sderot, it’s the people of Israel who have been failed by their own institutions, politicians wielding apartheid policies, settlers involved in ethnic cleansing, and strategists who believe that distant deals can end the struggles of Palestinians.
The recent events in Sderot, causing innocent women and children to be kidnapped and prisoners to be paraded, have horrified many Pakistanis. It’s a stark reminder of the ongoing injustices faced by Palestinians, with 560 Israeli checkpoints in Gaza alone and the West Bank fragmented into 224 separate ghettos.
To be born Palestinian in Palestine is almost a criminal offense, with basic human needs like air and water becoming scarce commodities. When brutality is the language spoken to Palestinians, it should come as no surprise that some might respond in kind.
In the days and weeks to come, Israel is likely to enjoy unprecedented freedom for its brutal actions. Neighborhoods and buildings deemed to house Hamas leaders will be flattened, and thousands of innocent Palestinians may lose their lives. Unfortunately, such violence will only further intensify Israel’s aggressive stance.
Amidst Pakistan’s multifaceted challenges, its leaders cannot afford to be distracted by events in the Middle East. However, they can even less afford to ignore the crucial lessons from Sderot. One key lesson is the impact of right-wing extremism on a nation. Israel’s right-wing extremists, some of whom hold key ministerial positions, have fueled the recent violence through their hatred for Arabs and Palestinians. Pakistan must take heed, for it faces similar extremist elements.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s approach to the Kashmir issue has been marked by strategic indecision and tactical incompetence for two decades. Normalizing the idea of surrender to India on the Kashmir issue since 2016 has weakened Pakistan’s stance. The reward for this restraint has been India’s aggressive actions in Kashmir, including the 2019 annexation and missile firings.
Pakistan has repeatedly sought dialogue with India’s right-wing extremists, but it has received little in return. However, beneath the cold shoulder lies a simmering hatred that seeks any pretext to unleash violence. Pakistan must prepare to defend itself from India’s destructive impulses and ensure that Kashmiris under Indian occupation do not lose all hope.
In conclusion, Pakistan faces significant challenges both domestically and internationally. It must be vigilant in addressing these challenges and draw essential lessons from events in Sderot, understanding the dangers of right-wing extremism and the consequences of strategic indecision. The nation’s security and the well-being of those living under oppression depend on it.