Challenging Questions

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The dynamic of violence, revenge, and all other forms of dehumanization seems to have taken hold as both Palestinians and Israelis are locked in a fatal embrace that promises to plunge both peoples into the abyss.

Objectively, the term “stranglehold” is a more appropriate description of the type of proximity between occupier and occupied, an abnormal grip that is both insanely obsessive and mutually destructive.

While immobilizing his “adversary,” Sharon is repeatedly calling on Arafat to do more to “end the violence and rein in the terrorists.” With mindless monotony, Israeli and American officials continue to chant this refrain like a blind chorus in a Greek tragedy, though lacking any critical distance or insight.

This bizarre and painful condition is no act of fate, no accident of history. Rather, it is the natural outcome of the deliberate distortion of history in the form of a festering colonial malady that has been allowed to infect both body and mind with no remedy in sight.

How else can one interpret the victimization of a whole captive and defenseless nation, with a no-holds-barred assault on their lives, lands, rights, freedoms, and aspirations?

How else can one interpret this incessant shelling, pounding, beating of a people who have nowhere to go beyond their homes and whose very homes are being demolished, burned, and besieged?

How else can one interpret this deliberate unraveling of the modest achievements of the peace process and the even more deliberate bulldozing of any prospects of a future peace?

How else can one interpret Sharon’s blind extremism if not in the settling of historical scores (particularly with his favorite scapegoat/punching bag, Pres. Yasser Arafat) and the stubborn compulsion of arrogance that can declare an “open season” on everything Palestinian and then order the Palestinians to do Israel’s bidding in abject submission?

How else can one interpret the blinders that have suddenly and collectively warped the vision of most Israeli media, simultaneously distorting their perspective, scope, depth, and field of vision? The banal litany of official jargon, processed language, and uniform allocation of blame seem to have had a fatal impact on their own critical perceptions as well as on the conscience of their readers/viewers/audience.

How else can one interpret the self-destruct political sado-masochism that has rendered most of the Israeli “peace camp” both voiceless and powerless, with the exception of Peres, Ben-Eliazer, and their ilk whose cooption by the extremist camp has rendered them hypocritically vociferous and militarily brutal?

Nowhere is this malady as apparent and potent as it is in the Sharon-on-the-rampage syndrome, an anachronism of history woefully bent on repeating the crimes of a dishonorable past while destroying the future of both peoples.

As Palestinians, albeit the victims, we too have to admit our share of the blame and ask ourselves those questions that have remained silent or whispered in the privacy of closed-door discussions.

Why and when did the drive for revenge overtake our pursuit of human rights and the struggle for human dignity and liberty, thereby making us fall in the trap of the reactive mode as deliberately set up by the occupation?

How did we allow Sharon to formulate our agenda and dictate our timing by responding to his calculated provocations specifically designed to draw us within his cycle of retribution? Pain, grief, and the impulse for revenge are negative motivations that give rise to mutually destructive acts of desperation. No relief and no remedy can be found in that course.

Why and when did we allow a few from our midst to interpret Israeli military attacks on innocent Palestinian lives as license to do the same to their civilians? Where are those voices and forces that should have stood up for the sanctity of innocent lives (ours and theirs), instead of allowing the horror of our own suffering to silence us?

How did some from amongst us take up the tools and weapons (however ineffectual) that are chosen by others and on their own terms instead of fending off and exposing Israeli military violence with our own empowerment as advocates of freedom, justice, and peace. Turning our reality into a battlefield plays directly into the Israeli government’s hand, not only by allowing it to use its superior military strength, but also by eradicating the fact of the occupation from public discourse and by creating false impressions depicting the Palestinians as aggressors and the Israelis as engaging in self-defense.

When and why did we allow the concept of resistance (and the right to resist) to become the exclusive domain of armed struggle rather than the expression of our human will and spirit in defiance of subjugation, intimidation, and coercion?

How did we allow ourselves those modes of behavior that we abhor or condemn in others?

When and why did our nation-building process become subject to the narrow agenda of the few who consider themselves above the law and beyond accountability, and who have persisted in their politics of proprietorship despite their dismal record and inability to deliver?

How did our principles of democracy and the rule of law become subsumed by practices of intimidation, exclusion, and lawlessness?

When and why did our elected legislative council become a political instrument for the few or a self-negating, powerless body for the many?

How did the right to hold free and fair elections become a one-time indulgence in some instances and a suspended exercise in others?

When and why did our Basic Law and other unsigned bills disappear, our judiciary become impotent, and our law enforcement agencies sever their ties with the law? 

How did we leave a whole people vulnerable, at the mercy of rhetorical bombast on the one hand and relentless military assaults on the other, with no political strategy and no reprieve or protection?

When and why did international public opinion become desensitized to the plight of Palestinians under occupation, with the silence of the Arabs and the duplicity of the rest?

How did the public presentation of the people and the cause become hostage to the excesses of the few, and fall victim to the distortions and fabrications of official Israeli malice?

Whether targeted by an immoral and brutal occupation, or suffering silently from internal inequities, the people of Palestine do not deserve their perpetual victimization.

Whether deafened and terrorized by exploding shells and missiles, or stunned by the silence of their officials and allies, the Palestinian people deserve better.

Whether grieving for their murdered children and their destroyed homes and crops, or smarting at the indignity and deliberate humiliation of the siege and checkpoints, the Palestinian people will not be dehumanized.

Who has the courage now to restore hope to a people whose spirit has never been broken and whose will remains undefeated despite intolerable adversity?

Who has the courage once again to intervene in the course of history and to change its direction from death and destruction to the promise and release of a just peace?

The current dynamic generated by the occupation and the Sharon government’s lethal agenda must not be allowed to run its course.

Freedom, democracy, statehood and human dignity are rights that can no longer be put on hold.

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