The Case of Palestine Revisited
by Anis Hamadeh
April 14, 2012
A clearer conflict constellation can hardly be imagined: there are two societies, let's call them X and Y. Society X has a huge and very active army and far over 3 billion dollars of new weapons and military devices each year. Society Y has no army and hardly any weapons. X raids areas of Y, demolishes hundreds of homes of Y and keeps thousands of individuals of Y imprisoned, while there are no X prisoners in Y prisons, no raids by Y and no house demolitions. X occupies Y's territory and increases its own territory at Y's expense on a daily basis, while Y does not occupy any land of X. X takes water and other resources from Y, while Y does not take resources from X. X imposes heavy sanctions on Y and violates basic human rights like freedom of movement and the right of self-determination, while Y has no way of imposing sanctions. The (non-governmental) terrorists of X are not persecuted, the “terrorists” of Y are. X conducts "targeted killings", Y does not even have a legitimate government that could decide on such a measure. Y had free elections, but X did not recognize the results and, together with ally countries, imposed a collaborator government on Y. If this government resorted to targeted killings their members would be killed immediately themselves. X does not observe international law and does so with impunity. Y gets punished collectively even when it exercises democratic rights like elections and resistance in view of X's aggression. When you now consider that there are about two members of Y killed by X officials every day on average plus the fact that Y constitutes the largest group of refugees in the world due to expulsions carried out by X while X does not have a single refugee and, on the contrary, invites people from abroad to live in the country, then you will agree that the responsibility for the conflict overwhelmingly must be on X and in its allies and supporters.
Well, this is what Israel/Palestine is all about. It is the prime example, even the caricature of oppression and it has been going on for almost seventy years now. There are three questions posing themselves in this constellation: Why does the world let this happen? What are the mechanisms to maintain the status quo? How can justice be achieved?
Why does the world allow this to happen?
This question is not as straightforward as it may seem and it goes back to, at least, the year 1948, when expulsions and massacres preceded the formation of the state. The massacre of Deir Yassin, to mention a widely known example, was covered by the world press. Here, about 100 village inhabitants were killed and nobody was called to responsibility. It was a significant precedent. The Israeli view is that at the time there was a "civil war" going on, but in this "civil war" the astonishing amount of 750.000 Palestinians was expelled and their lands and property simply stolen by the militarily well-equipped Zionists. 1948 is the year when big lies began to unfold. Everybody in the world could see what was going on, but people did not react, mainly because the Zionist invaders were equated with the victims of the European genocide of the Jews and thus more than excused. Moreover, hegemonial interests of Europe and the West played a role. They gave Palestine to the Zionists as if they owned it and the local population had to pay the price as a scapegoat.
What are the Mechanisms to Maintain the Status Quo?
But how could this injustice be maintained over so many decades? It all started with myths. "A land without a people for a people without a land" is such a myth. "Making the desert bloom" is another one, and "the Jewish David against an Arab Goliath" yet another. Myths covered the 1967 expansion of Israel and the Oslo negotiations. "There is no partner for peace" is a myth. "The only democracy in the region" is but a myth, as are "the most moral army in the world" and "the safe haven of Israel". Arab anti-Semitism is a myth, an especially mean one, as it distracts from the perpetrators of the genocide. Evil Islam is another myth
"Evil Islam" is actually more than a myth. It is one of a set of ideological stereotypes ascribed to groups and peoples. The Arabs are aggressive, the (Zionist) Jews are always the victims. They are stereotypically conceptualized as defending themselves, no matter what they do. Thus we hardly read about Palestinian resistance, when Palestinians are attacked and defending themselves against Zionist perpetrators, because such a constellation is simply impossible in the prevailing ideology. When our media writes about hatred, then it is by rule always Arabs and Muslims who hate, never Jews - except, of course, "self-hating" Jews, i.e. those who do not support the Israeli policy of oppression.
Codes are another means of maintaining the status quo in which the Zionist Israelis have all the power. "Denying Israel the right to exist" is one of these codes; it appears whenever substantial criticism is expressed. The code "right to exist" actually stands for "right to do whatever they want, including attacking, killing and stealing". "Both sides" is a code to hush up the overwhelming military power of Israel that owns more than 99,9 % of the weapons in the country. "Historical responsibility" is a code for western countries to support Israeli violence by conjuring up the genocide. Our media language is full of these codes and ideological markers.
Another mechanism to maintain the status quo is the permanent reference to "the enemy". Today, Hamas and Iran are the favorite enemies of Israel's and whenever somebody fights for equal rights or for Palestinian freedom we hear the "argument" that this means supporting the evil enemy. It is a trick as cheap as the stereotyping of victims and perpetrators. Take Iran: Israel has nuclear weapons, Iran has none. Israel has not ratified the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Iran has. Israel openly declares that it considers waging a war against Iran because of Iran's nuclear threat. Peres in 2006 explicitly said Israel can "wipe Iran off the map", something Iran never said (Ahmadinejad called for a regime change in Israel). Every village idiot can see who is threatening whom here, but media and politicians in many countries mysteriously cannot. Neither do they insist on a nuclear-free Middle East, a reasonable and just proposition. No, they side with Israel, even though the recent Iraq experience started very similarly and it turned out that it was an aggressive US war based on a big lie. We witnessed the same warmongering from Israel's side in and before the war on Iraq. The powerful US and its major ally Israel see an “enemy” and build up an in-group-feeling and an identity by "defending themselves" against this enemy. Our media and politicians hardly ever doubt this "defense", although it is the oldest chestnut in political history. Even Adolf Hitler launched World War II by saying that Germany will now "shoot back". But did we learn to question this "defense" of the powerful? Obviously, not in the least.
There are other mechanisms like "highlighting and hiding" facts or omitting to speak about legal aspects and instead sticking to group aspects. In this way, "illegal occupation" can become "disputed territories" and human rights defenders are reduced to "pro-Palestinian activists"
Furthermore, we have something that can be called "mirror criticism". Here, people ascribe Israeli deeds to Palestinians. For example, there is a discussion about Palestinian textbooks, because Israeli textbooks have a clear racist basis. There is a discussion about Palestinian smuggling of arms, because Israel has almost all of the arms. The debate about Palestinian violence is vivid, because Israeli violence is as omnipresent as it is taboo. We find criticism of Palestinian victim behavior, because Israel displays victim behavior. Muslim religious influence is a big topic, because Jewish and Christian influences from the West are an integral part of the aggression. Israel critics are accused of mixing up the concepts "Israeli" and "Jew", because Zionists and their defenders do so (see below). "Anti-Semitic reflexes" are detected in reflex, etc. Psychologically, mirror criticism is a compensation: the powerful see and feel the bad, but they can only talk about it when the enemy is responsible for it, because self-criticism is distinctly missing in the powerful who stand beyond criticism and who are never taken to responsibility.
"False flag operations" and other political and military deceits are also part of the system (including defamations, lies etc.). They cannot be a big topic in the context of this essay, as they need long analyses. An example must suffice here. Concerning the Achille Lauro killing there is a clear statement by Ari Ben-Menashe, security counselor for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who claims in his book "Profits of War" (Sheridan Square Press, 1992, p. 122) that Rafi Eitan, head of the anti-terror department of the Israeli secret service, planned and conducted the brutal terror attack via an agent in a Palestinian terror organization. Why did Ben-Menashe write this? And why did the mainstream not ask further questions?
Critics are Labeled Anti-Semites
The most powerful of all mechanisms, though, is the reproach of anti-Semitism. Again, it is a trick. You say you criticize what Israel does? Oh no, what you really refer to is your attitude toward Jews. Occupation? No, you just hate Jews. The categories "Jew" and "Israeli" are melting into one here, and the same is true for the equation of Zionists and Jews in the labeling of anti-Zionism as being anti-Semitic. The boycott of illegal settlements thus becomes: "Don't buy from the Jew", and so on. There is absolutely no logic in that, but the public buys it, anyway - at the expense of the Palestinians and other nations. The legitimate rights of the Palestinians are denied mainly via the reproach of anti-Semitism.
A revealing recent example is the Günter Grass debate about his famous poem "What has to be said". The widely known German literary critic Hellmuth Karasek misquoted Grass in the newspaper Berliner Morgenpost by alleging Grass wrote "the Jews" endanger world peace. But Grass clearly wrote "Israel". The newspaper made it "the Jews", because this is what they wanted it to be. For one thing, they can belatedly fight the long gone Nazis in this way, and for another they can thus participate in the current power structure.
On a secondary level, criticism of Israel is labeled "anti-Semitic clichés". For example: when Israel arrogates to commit crimes in the name of all Jews it is predictable that this behavior will indeed fuel anti-Jewish sentiments. But try to speak about it. Some nerd will explain that it is an old anti-Semitic cliché that the Jews are responsible for their victimhood themselves - and the discussion is over. Israel actually relies heavily on anti-Semitism, for without it its whole legitimacy would vanish, according to the Zionists own measures and arguments. So they will rather fan it than fight it. Israel needs anti-Semitism for its power position.
The Arrogance of Power
Of course Israel criticism is allowed, say our media and politicians. And not only that: Israel is, in fact, constantly criticized. But when Israel actually is criticized - think of Grass - you see what really happens. And what did Grass say? He hardly even mentioned the Palestinians, for example, and only scratched the surface. Of course Israel criticism is allowed, as long as it does not provoke and irritate the arrogance of power. As long as it is not substantial and remains vague, full of constrictions, and without effect.
But fundamental and well-grounded criticism will always and principally be regarded as unbalanced, pro-enemy, anti-Semitic, insulting etc. by the powerful and their apologists. They will hysterically do every twist and turn to avert criticism and maintain the oppressive status quo. "Why pick on Israel and not on many other countries?", they will ask to change the subject. "Why don't you criticize the Palestinians as well?", they ask for the same reason. And what about "applause from the wrong side"?, they ask, as if this mattered.
All in all, we find the typical mechanisms of power here and this is the floor of the whole story. Whenever somebody challenges Zionist power there are two possibilities: either it is ignored in line with our repressive tolerance. Or, if ignorance is not enough, there comes a hysterical and knee-jerk response from the Zionists and their lobby. A reflex. Maybe the Zionists do not even notice that all they defend is their status of power, because they never ever had to pay for their crimes. So they just don't know what the concept of justice means and that they are part of the legal universe after all. You question my hegemony, my power and my rule? You must be an anti-Semite!
Power is attractive to many. This is a truism. Najem Wali, for example, an Iraqi-German writer, was a nobody until he publicly defended the US war of aggression on Iraq. Suddenly, he was invited and pampered. He found a renowned publishing house and he learned. He published a book "Journey into the Heart of the Enemy" (in German) in which he lauds Israel massively, explicitly ignoring the occupation and general oppression. It is no longer difficult for him to find readings and opportunities. At the same time, Oded Netivi's thriller "It is God's fault" (in German) with a critical view on Israel has a very hard time, despite its brilliance.
The essay at hand will, of course, face the same reactions: either it is not important enough and can be ignored, or it will be attacked in reflex. It is the rule of unfettered power and has nothing to do with Jews or Zionists or what have you. We know this very behavior from dictators and patriarchic family leaders. Arguments do not work against unfettered power, because it is not a discourse after all.
How can Change and Justice be Achieved?
There are three major innovations after almost seventy years of Zionist unquestioned power. The first one is the augmented public of the internet. It is only since a couple of years that this revolutionary free and uncensored public has been established. Whistle-blowing became much easier and it is much harder to conceal facts, when you have YouTube videos and the like. Of course, even the phosphorus attack on Gaza went over YouTube and newspaper front pages and people did not react, but the tendency is clear: you cannot hush up crimes as elegantly as you could in the pre-internet age. Consider that it takes a huge amount of energy and resources to distort the Middle Eastern facts so blatantly.
Point two is that Israel now is at a stage where it destroys itself and damages its allies immensely. Similar to the USA - the Israeli backbone that gives three billion annual tax dollars only for military presents to Israel without any US advantage - Israel has narrowed and cut basic democratic rights like the freedom of opinion or a free press. Religious zealots bring in their bit by questioning the law and trying to introduce "holy" laws instead. So everybody who ignores the danger of Israeli violence will support - willingly or not - the destruction of the State of Israel.
Thirdly, nonviolent resistance has multiplied over the past years. Popular committees have been constituted in many Palestinian villages and cities. They are independent of political parties. Individuals have emerged who foster creative forms of nonviolent political action, e.g. Ismail Khatib who donated organs of his son, who was killed by Israelis, to Israelis ("The Heart of Jenin"). There are Palestinian artists - musicians, painters, writers etc. - who are devoted to nonviolent action and there is a growing international support on the grassroots level with events like flotillas to overcome the Gaza siege, "flytillas" which are nonviolent fly-ins via airplanes into the country, the Global March to Jerusalem, the Welcome to Palestine campaign and many other events.
Jimmy Carter, Bishop Tutu, Helmut Schmidt, Günter Grass ... among celebrities we mostly find elder statesmen to criticize Israel in a fundamental and thus adequate way at the moment. They will soon die and have little to fear. But it can be supposed that a majority of people understands that Israel is the main problem when it comes to peace in the Middle East. Israel is constantly attacking by stealing land, it is based on racist ideas, it has no peace plan (the Arabs have a peace plan) and it does not even define its borders. It refuses to comply with UN resolutions. The majority is silent, though, in fear of personal and professional disadvantages. But the free public, the process of self-destruction in Israel and the growing international support will eventually lead to a paradigm shift, because it is more necessary than ever.
It is up to the individual to confront this problem. It is not enough to be angry. Some enter the country in solidarity and work with and for the oppressed there. Others donate money. Some boycott, divest and sanction the oppression, and others invest and conduct projects in and for Palestine. Some write educating articles and others promote journalists, politicians and artists who dare to speak up.
Right now one can get the impression that blind and total solidarity with the aggressive Zionist regime is the attitude of the 99 %, because critics are not tolerated in public. Yet this is far from the truth. The majority of people worldwide, even in the West, is critical of Israel - of course! They can see that the emperor wears no clothes. They can hear what Netanyahu and Lieberman and Barak, LivAni, Peres and all these people are actually saying. Therefore it is of major importance to bring and keep critics in the public and to support them. Openly, if possible, or silently, if necessary. Without public figures there cannot be a paradigm change. This is why the pressure on them is so high - the powerful by all means seek to maintain the status quo. So what about you?
The original of this essay can be found at: http://www.anis-online.de/1/essays/27.htm
Anis Hamadeh is a freelance German artist and publicist. Visit his wondrous website at http://www.anis-online.de/ There you will find a fascinating world full of music, colorful art, essays, interviews, short stories, songs, art club, a whole section devoted to Palestine, and a magnificent palace, with individual rooms for each writer!