- "When I said last week that the
Palestinians should end their violent uprising" begins
Marcus Gee, the international affairs columnist of Canada's
newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail, in his 22 March 2001
only path to peace: Palestinians must stop attacking, "many readers wrote to differ."
Among those readers were people like me.
In this week's column Mr. Gee argues that
Palestinian leaders reneged on their promise, made in the 1993 Oslo
accords, to renounce violence. But he doesn't mention Israel's
provocations, and bad faith, which are central to understanding why
Palestinians launched their Intifada. He says nothing of how Jewish
settlements continued to be established in the occupied territories,
and continue to be established to this day, or of Israel's refusal
to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their
Mr. Gee thinks that the right of return isn't
on, because it would change the ethnic character of Israel (a view
which says maintaining the ethnic homogeneity of a state is more
important than international law or what's just), but Israel's
intransigence on the matter, whether he think it's justified or not,
remains an important part of the explanation of why the Intifada
arose. It didn't just pop up, ex nihilis, or out of some Palestinian
predilection for violence.
Unfortunately, because Gee advances a
circular "the Palestinian uprising is caused by the uprising
of the Palestinians," his argument on the origins of the
Intifada is, at best, vacuous, and at worst, racist, inasmuch as
it implies that Palestinians are, well, just inherently violent.
He also passes over what Ariel Sharon, a
man many Palestinians consider a war criminal for his
involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacres, said at the Al
Aqsa mosque. Israel will never cede Jerusalem, he declared, as
provocative to Palestinians as a Palestinian saying Israel has
no right to exist is to Israelis.
Mr. Sharon's visit to the Al Aqsa mosque
was perfectly legal, Gee writes, dismissing the view that
Sharon's visit was a legitimate basis for the uprising that
ensued. But a neo-Nazi might make a perfectly legal, but
provocative, visit to a Jewish temple, decked out in neo-Nazi
regalia, declaring that the temple will be taken over. If he was
then set upon, would it be said, "His visit was perfectly
legal. The worshippers just chose to be violent"?
Gee has an admirable disdain for violence,
but one, it seems, reserved for the violence of the oppressed
against the powerful. Israel's military occupation, backed by
the barrel of a gun and helicopter gun-ships and extra-judicial
assassinations, is, by definition, violent, too.
But disdain for the violence of the
powerful against the oppressed is something, if Gee has it at
all, that he keeps safely locked away, preferring instead to
spin elaborate realpolitic rationalizations to justify the
violence of an important US client state. He could, I suspect,
bring forth a thousand justifications of Israeli mistreatment of
Palestinians -- Israel can't quit the occupied territories now
-- chaos would reign; Israel can't allow refugees to return --
it would no longer be a Jewish state -- but not a single
explanation of Palestinian reaction to their decades-long
mistreatment at the hands of the Israelis.
The violence would end tomorrow if
Palestinians put an end to their Intifada, he writes. But not
the violence of the military occupation.
Equally, it could be said, that the
violence would end tomorrow if Israel withdrew from the occupied
territories, where it is has no right to be, and if it allowed
Palestinian refugees to return to the land they never should
have been driven out of.
Mr. Gee probably won't begin next week's
column with "many readers wrote to differ," but I'll
let him know that this week's column is also one-sided , that it
emphasizes the Israeli perspective to the exclusion of the
Palestinian point of view, and that while it denounces the
violence of Palestinians, it accepts the violence of Israelis,
in support of an illegal occupation, as legitimate.