Violence Only Begets More Violence
The media continue to misreport the situation in the Middle East as the conflict of neighbors, rather than that of an occupier and the occupied, without demonstrating the true origins of the conflict. The American media rarely, if ever, allow us to see that the Palestinians have a true grievance. Their homeland was taken without their consent and mostly by force for the creation of Israel, a state whose very nationhood has been shaped by a flawed colonialist world-view. All subsequent violent and criminal activity from both sides must point back to the origins of the conflict.
Violence only begets more violence. Colonialism is a violent project. Israel was founded on such violence--the state tore into the homes of indigenous people, put the Palestinians in exile, tortured them, abused them, stole their land, their resources, and now make them work for the betterment of Israel.
To make matters worse, injustice against the Palestinian people and their dispossession is justified in popular American discourse. The exploitation of Jewish suffering has been unimaginable since it is the Holocaust that has justified Israel's human rights violations against the Palestinians in the popular imagination of the West--to be against Israel was (and still is, to a certain extent) was to be against the very notion of civilization itself. In fact, individuals who are critical of Israel's policies or point to the distribution of power, or the power of the pro-Israeli lobby in this country, are accused of being anti-Semitic. But to paraphrase one writer, "Anti-Semitic no longer means you hate Jews--it means that Jews hate you."
Violence comes in many shapes and forms. Historical re-invention to the effect that one party's history is completely dismantled and of little worth is one way. The founders of Israel laid claim to a land that once belonged to the Jewish people over two thousand years ago. If everyone laid claim to lands based on that kind of invented history and ancestry, the world would be a messy place. We can already see the disastrous effects of such political philosophies where a nationalist rhetoric gives exclusive rights to only one religious or ethnic group and wants to re-claim the land of their "ancestors" (i.e. Serbian nationalism and BJP or RSS in India).
Unfortunately, being Israeli or pro-Israeli means never having to say you're sorry. That is also part of the violence of a colonial establishment--as is the continuation of building settlements despite agreements that banned them. In fact, since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, the building of illegal Jewish settlements has increased by forty percent in the West Bank and Gaza. I could go on and on about the ineffectual nature of the Oslo Accords, how they were unfair and engineered to further silence Palestinians, but here is neither the time nor the place to go into such detail. The main point is that the Accords were also a form of violence. As the U.S. attends to the pro-Israeli lobby and Israel's every whim, the Palestinians suffer. It was always the Palestinians, and the PLO, that had to recognize "Israel's right to exist" at the expense of their own national rights.
The Palestinians are harassed daily at checkpoints, and thousands are detained without trial. Palestinians face daily humiliation at the hands of Israeli occupation forces. Israeli-Arabs too face prejudice within Israel because of laws that discriminate against non-Jews. Israeli settlers have also been guilty of terrorist activity against Palestinians and are given much less harsher sentences, but this is rarely reported. As for Israel's state terror activity, it is simply too long to list them all here, but some of them include the Shatila and Sabra massacres, invasion of Lebanon and the loss of 20,000 lives--mostly civilians, the continual "transfer" (ethnocide) of the Palestinians, the bombing of the USS Liberty and on and on. Israel's record makes so-called Palestinian terrorists look like angels--a view any uninformed reader will simply not get from the news.
Thus, the violence against the Palestinian people continues, not only in the shape of tanks and guns that Ehud Barak has rained down upon the Palestinian people--but by economic exploitation and empty political rhetoric. Israel depends upon cheap Palestinian labor--Palestinian workers are hired by Israel to build the very roads that further destroy Palestinian sense of space. This is violence. The violence is also exercised in the shape of U.S. media reports, U.S. foreign policy, the pathetic and hypocritical "brokering" that Clinton has done from the Oslo Accords to Sharm-Al-Sheikh. The fact that Clinton wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem evidences that. The U.S. is completely united in its violence against the Palestinians. It recently reiterated that by completely condoning Israel's gross violations of the 4th Geneva conventions, by abstaining from a UN vote that condemned violence against the Palestinians. Madeline Albright has still not given her condolences to the Palestinians for the loss of Muhammad Al-Durra, the 12-year-old boy whose horrific death was captured on film.
When it comes to Israel, there is no blame--they continue to be immune to it, it seems. As for Clinton's sadly assuaging "tomorrow and the next day": how can one look to a positive and just future, when one side's version of the past is either completely ignored or falsified? The Palestinians are always the ones who "instigate", "threaten", who "lay siege" upon Israel. Their violence is always deemed as irrational, while Israeli violence is always in "retaliation", to protect Israeli settlers from harm. This is the dominant, but completely false, story.
The mob slayings of the two Israeli soldiers are regrettable, but that is the price that Israel has chosen to pay for its persecution of the Palestinian people. The American media has been irresponsible in their coverage of the events in the Middle East, parroting the State Department and the Pentagon (i.e. U.S. foreign policy) rather than critiquing it and showing fair coverage. Very recently on NPR, Linda Gradstein covered the funeral of one of the Israeli soldiers slain by the mob in great detail, interviewing the family of the deceased. In sharp contrast, NPR has never covered the funeral of a Palestinian, which would not be hard to do, since over 100 of them have died. This sort of biased coverage especially from a prestigious radio network known for its insightful news analysis reveals not only the government's one-sided support for Israel, but also shows how the media is completely in sync with the US government as well. All of this is violence.
Violence does not simply mean that blood is being shed. Violence means injury, it means assault, coercion, and attack--upon one's identity, psyche, and personhood. It means to steal Palestinian homes and their sense of belonging, their peace, their history, their identities, and when they cried out, their voices. That is the violence that must end.
(Sarah Waheed is a freelance writer currently residing in Chicago. She recently received her graduate degree from University of Chicago in Social Sciences.)
Topics: Conflicts And War, Occupation, Palestine