French writer, philosopher and historian, Francois-Marie Arouet, better known by his nom de plume, Voltaire, famously said, “History is a pack of lies we play on the dead.” As one studies conflict ridden regions of Palestine, Ukraine, Iran to Taiwan (or any other place in the world), the fundamental bone of contention is always the differences of history, as understood by one set of people, versus the history as understood by another set of people.

Therefore, history is a very powerful, vital, and sensitive currency that needs to be “managed” by those in power. It differs violently, especially amongst neighbours. History legitimises so many governmental actions and delegitimises so many others of the proverbial ‘others’. It is a foremost tool in the task of ‘enemising’.

Very rarely does history remain constant and irrefutable. It is frequently subjected to reinterpretation, reimagination, or even rewriting to suit the dominant narrative as preferred by the dispensation of the day. Anything inconvenient or not supporting an essential plot can be artificially blocked, banned, suppressed, or simply denied.

The Indian-Subcontinent is a great example of ‘managed’ history. In 1947, the brutal vivisection of the civilisational land of common culture, ethos, and traditions needed sharp ‘divides’, and therefore the history pertaining to the wounds around partition were woven very differently across the Line-of-Control.

Even the imagined history prior to that needed to be aligned and retrofitted. The urgency to ‘manage’ changes in history was more onto Pakistan, as the ‘Idea of India’ had reposed faith in continuing with the civilisational truth.

Pakistan had to rationalise the fundamentally flawed ‘two-nation theory’ by cherry-picking and investing in some wounded events, ‘manufacturing’ some narrative, and then finally deciding a supportive start-date of their history.

That date of start of history in Pakistan is with the conquest of Sindh by Arab invader Mohammad Bin Qasim (8th Century CE). He has incredulously been perceived as the ‘first Pakistani’. Understandably, some religious organisations like the Jamaat-i-Islami have lionised Mohammad Bin Qasim out of proportion by celebrating ‘Yaum Babul Islam’ or advent of Islam in South Asia.

Serious and independent historians scoff at such supremacist and exclusivist instinct at play, in the management of Pakistani history.

This manipulation or fixing of dates for the beginning of history is a dangerous and powerful weapon in the hands of politicians and governments. In the larger American conscience, history pertaining to the 6000-year Persian Civilisation starts effectively from 1979 (the year of Iranian Revolution) with the accompanying US Embassy hostage drama that lasted 444 days, as a definitive imprint.

This period has emerged as the start period that the governed America’s subsequent actions, including supporting Saddam Hussien (later bumping him off too) in the decade long Iran-Iraq War, demonising Tehran when it had nothing to do with 9/11, Al Qaeda or Taliban, designating it as ‘terror sponsor number one’ even though Iran and its proxies were in the forefront to decimate the menace of ISIS, sanctioning Iran (even during Covid pandemic), and unilaterally reneging from the Iran Nuclear Deal, even though all other signatories to the deal confirmed Iran’s compliances with the Iran Nuclear Deal.

What the leadership at the top of Capitol Hill in Washington DC had not informed its citizenry was about the lead up to the Iranian Revolution and the role that it had played is supporting the increasingly unpopular, beholden, and profligate monarch.

What it did not inform the Americans was that beyond the questionable politics and extremism of the Ayatollahs – the Iranians/Persians were proud, culturally sophisticated, and noble people of a civilization, and not some uncouth, bloodlusting and uncivilised barbarians, as Americans had made them out to be.

The streets of Tehran still cannot come to terms with the ignorance in the American mind about the devious and amoral role played by the American CIA in removing the much loved and respected nationalist in Mohammed Mossadegh in the 1953 coup d’etat.

What it still doesn’t tell them is that despite many disconcerting stands, curbs and illiberalities of the Iranian system – it does hold a semblance of democratic elections (unlike Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar etc.).

For all its purported anti-Israeli perceptions, it remains the only Arab country with over 50,000 Iranian Jews, a functional synagogue and even a seat reserved for the Jews in the Iranian parliament. But if this history and reality are made available to the Americans, then that would delegitimise the American stand of demonising Iran, irrespective.

Similarly for Benjamin Netanyahu and the State of Israel (not including the well-read, reasonable, and many peace-loving Jews world over, including in Israel), the complex, bloody, and relentless Israeli-Palestinian War started on October 7 2023. As per the Netanyahu types, it started with Palestinians. But it didn’t.

For starters, the start date wasn’t October 7 2023, but much earlier. However, even on that date, it wasn’t started by Palestinians as a generic denomination, but specifically by a terrorist group called Hamas. There is a difference between Palestinians and Hamas, and it is not interchangeable.

The Israeli retaliation that followed with over 36,000 dead and counting, wasn’t on Hamas. it was on Palestinians, collectively. It is estimated over half of the Palestinian dead are children. Seemingly the Palestinians are paying the price for the Holocaust and the need for a Jewish State when they had absolutely no role to play in that.

But for the Palestinians (like the Iranians) the start date of wounded history could be much much earlier than October 7. It includes dates and events like the 1937 Jerusalem Massacre, 1947 Al-Khisas Massacre, 1948 Yazur Massacre, 1948 Ramla Massacre, 1956 Qibya Massacre, 1956 Kafr Qasim Massacre… the list can go endlessly.

While it tantamount to whataboutery, it is important to remember that while nothing justifies the October 7 violence by Hamas terrorists, nothing justifies bloodlust unleashed by Israeli forces.

History is wounded, complex, and inconclusive. To reduce it to simplistic binaries or linear logic is fraught with dangerous risks of manipulations, and to cherry-pick from History, even worse.

History has to be read, understood, and not allowed to consume passions as it can unleash terrible consequences. While respect to faith is a must – there ought to be a fine difference and treatment between mythology, and recorded history.

Sometimes History must also be allowed to rest in order to enable ‘moving on’, else the bitter past becomes more important than the future. Only a well-read and wise individual can make peace with history – and the formula is often reconciliation, respect, and compromise.

A ‘two-state’ formula with Palestine and Israel (an idea dismissed and diminished by the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas, jointly) can make way for peace. The way forward must be to delegitimise and remove both, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Hamas, from the picture – their narrative regrettably feeds into each other and has caused the current morass.

Neither can ‘finish’ each other, and nor should they try to do so. Only a ‘two-state’ solution, as once agreed by better people from both sides, can break the tragic deadlock.

Lt. Gen. Bhopinder Singh is the former Lieutenant Governor of The Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Pondicherry and an Indian Army officer who was awarded the PVSM. Views are the writer’s own.