Ekho Kavkaza ― The attack on Israel by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, resulted in significant civilian and military casualties. In response, Israel declared war and launched an operation against Hamas. We spoke with public figure and veteran of the Patriotic War of Abkhazia, Akhra Bzhania, to understand Abkhazia's perspective on these events.
Akhra, can you share your views on the recent events in Israel surrounding the Hamas attack?
– Firstly, I do not condone terrorist actions in any form. From my understanding, the broader Arab world also did not endorse such a brutal and, in my view, senseless act. If their intent was to safeguard the Palestinian people's interests, it appears they did quite the opposite for the time being. Targeting civilians, women, children, and even a music festival is not a defence of their interests—it's terrorism. I can't fathom which ideologues might have influenced this course of action, but I can't stand behind it. I'm of the belief that the global civilised community, regardless of their faith, should unanimously condemn such acts. Determining historical rights and wrongs in this situation is intricate. The debate has become so entangled that it's almost impossible to ascertain the rightful historical claim to the land.
Akhra, in one of yourb posts, you reference views circulating within the Abkhazian section of social media. What's the sentiment there?
I have observed a prevalent, and frankly, biassed stance in the Abkhazian online community—a pro-Arab and anti-Israeli sentiment. Many support the Palestinians against the Jews. They draw a parallel, likening the Palestinians to us, the Abkhazians, and the Jews to Georgians. I believe this comparison is entirely misplaced and doesn't reflect the reality. Each interethnic conflict possesses its unique characteristics and historical background. It's overly simplistic and misleading to say: "Palestinians are like Abkhazians, so let's back them, while Jews are like Georgians, so let's oppose them." Such a perspective is flawed. The history of their relations is intricate, and we shouldn't rush to pass judgement. Additionally, I harbour no resentment towards the Jewish state. While they haven't acknowledged us, neither has the Arab League, and Palestine hasn't recognised us either. My perspective, both as a citizen and an individual, remains consistent towards all nations, cultures, and states. I admire the Jewish state, not based on who's historically right or wrong, but because I discern many parallels with our own situation.
Akhra, can you elaborate on the parallels you see?
Each country is unique, but parallels exist: both we and the Jews are few in number. Reflecting on the inception of our state and the establishment of the Jewish state, in both scenarios, we found ourselves encircled by adversaries and sceptics who were not in favour of our historical choices. In essence, no neighbouring nation endorsed our historical decisions — a situation that mirrored Israel's own. Furthermore, we asserted our legitimacy and protected our choices in battles against the odds. Indeed, the Georgian media occasionally insinuates that it was Russia that triumphed on our behalf. I invite them to visit our graveyards to witness the number of Abkhazian youths buried there before jumping to such conclusions. Israel, too, faced foes who outnumbered and outmatched them technologically. While the U.S. and the USSR backed Israel, mere support is insufficient without a resolve to resist and stand one's ground. That zeal to safeguard our sovereignty was present in both our spirits.
I observe similarities in the manner Israel established its nation relying on its Diaspora. We have our own Diaspora, our ancestral connections, and mechanisms which we ought to harness as well. Israel managed to revive various cultural elements that were on the verge of extinction or entirely forgotten. We share this experience too. We have a rejuvenation journey ahead. Their unyielding spirit of liberty — the determination to never trade freedom for any reward, gain, alliance, or advantage — is a sentiment we deeply resonate with. I admire them and wish for our nation to emulate their trajectory. They have achieved what we fundamentally aspire to. Instead of criticising or maligning them on any front, we should be drawing inspiration from their successes. Who's to say we won't ally with them in the future or gain their recognition?
The prospect of recognition from the Arab League thrills me, as does potential acknowledgment from Israel. Yet, I find it puzzling that we seem to be trapped in a third-world mindset, leaning towards supporting those perceived as underdogs or oppressed. Why? Do we view ourselves similarly? We should be setting our sights higher, aiming to lead in progress wherever feasible. We shouldn't embrace a narrative of self-pity or extend sympathy solely to those in distress.
We ought to learn from Israel's journey and seek friendship universally, avoiding any animosity.
I refrain from debating who is right or wrong. The extensive civilian and military casualties deeply sadden me. The magnitude of suffering is unbearable. My heart goes out to all. It's profoundly unfortunate that these nations and groups couldn't discover an enlightened, civil, and political path to reconcile their differences. My goal isn't to play favourites. I yearn for our nation to mirror Israel's strengths. My desire is to foster a bond, not just with them, but inclusive of them. Taking arbitrary sides today, influenced by propaganda, hampers potential amicable ties tomorrow. I voiced these views on social media and faced backlash, though Aslan Kobakhia stood by me. I commend him.
There are those who label others as Zionists or fascists. Why brand an entire people? The UN, with the consensus of nations, granted them statehood. Regarding historical references like the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem and Judea, these regions were under Roman jurisdiction. The historical claims of these people to these lands are undeniable. The UN's decision to designate this territory to the Jews was a collective one, with the Soviet Union playing a pivotal role. Just because some don't concur, should they resort to violence? These people are merely defending their homeland. While I am no historian or expert on Arab-Israeli dynamics, I am firmly against picking sides without full understanding. Our likenesses lie as much with the Jews and Israel as they do with any other. Both of us stood resilient against global opposition, bolstered solely by our kin. We ought to learn from Israel's journey and seek friendship universally, avoiding any animosity.
This interview was published by Ekho Kavkaza and is translated from Russian.