Veiling Israeli Occupation

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The recent tragedies in Palestine, such as the utter destruction of the Jenin refugee camp and the Palestinian social infrastructure in general, demonstrates not only the sheer brutality and oppression of the Israeli military, but also the effectiveness of the Western media in suppressing all constructive criticism of the Zionist state. This is especially evident in the North American media, and less so (but equally evident) in the general European news outlets.

So one may notice, for example, the hypocrisy with which supposedly “objective” commentators, intellectuals, and journalists can systematically condemn as unjustifiable any and all forms of Palestinian resistance, and yet simultaneously and paradoxically attempt to justify Israeli state terror. Easily digested are the popular myths about “Israeli security” which wrap everything up in the neatly packaged cloak of “self-defense”. That the situation in Palestine is almost always staged as initial Palestinian “terror” which causes and justifies Israeli “retaliation” is just one such oft-repeated myth. Such statements allow for linguistic maneuvering on the part of Israel’s defenders in that they can be used as excuses that redeem every act of Israeli terror as necessary, rational, and only retaliatory – while the original act of Palestinian violence is, by extension, irrational and completely illegitimate. It is fervently argued that Palestinians must, by their very nature, always be the ones who attack and cause trouble, and that the Israelis, presumably by their inherent superiority, always respond with restraint and moral right.

The ideological contentions, and their racist presumptions, are thus made manifest. Hence the situation resembles what George Orwell described in 1946 (in his essay Politics and the English Language) as “the defense of the indefensible”, where indeed we find that “political language” consists “largely of euphemism, question-begging, and sheer cloudy vagueness”. The logic of these ideological tendencies runs as follows: the cycle of violence is always necessarily commenced by the Palestinians and never by the Israelis. It is in the inherent nature and culture of the Palestinian people to incite hatred and violence, while the Israeli culture is dialectically more noble and superior. The Palestinians are consumed by raging anti-Semitism and bigotry while the Israelis are, it is implicitly assumed, by their superior nature more inclined towards tolerance. Palestinians are adamantly opposed to any notion of peace and are intent on the total destruction of the Israeli people and their state, while, by noticeable contrast, the Israelis are sincerely in search of a lasting peace and settlement. The list is quite exhaustive.

In all of this endless demoralization and dehumanization of the Palestinian people, one rarely reads accounts of the extremist tendencies of Israeli settlers, of the brutality of the Israeli military’s collective punishments, of the humiliation of the Palestinian people at checkpoints by Israeli soldiers, of the ceaseless demolition of homes and olive plantations by Israeli bulldozers, of the systematic torture of Palestinian resistant fighters (whether secular or religious) at the hands of Israeli secret intelligence services, of the inhumane nature of the curfews inflicted upon the Palestinian people by the occupying force, and on and on ad infinitum.

Indeed, the routine indiscriminate killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Territories, which far outweighs the scale of deaths and casualties of Israelis by Palestinians, is ignored by most mainstream commentators. The result is that the mass media manufactures a distorted image of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which Israel is seen as the victim of Palestinian terror. By ignoring widely available statistical data to the contrary é (statistics from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem show that between the beginning of the Intifada [9th December 1987] and the end of January 2002, a total of 2,166 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli security forces and settlers. In the same period, a total of 454 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians) é a false portrayal of the conflict is created in favor of the principal aggressor. Israel is thus exonerated from its primary responsibility for terrorism against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.

More damaging is the fact that the entire conflict is stripped of its historical context. For by brushing away as irrelevant the question of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land é secured through the mass expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes in 1948 and their continued repression under Israeli military occupation thereafter – it becomes in effect easier to rationalize the dogmatic and self-serving claim of Israel’s “right to self-defense” and “struggle for survival”. On the drastically rare occasions when there is a meek attempt to mention this context, it is often negated and perverted with historical inaccuracies which are in total contradiction to the factual historical record.

Again we can see evidence of this in the recently popular but factually inaccurate trend that states that Israel’s illegal occupation is in fact legal and acceptable under international law and standards. It is highly unlikely that any similar claims by the Western intelligentsia were advocated in relation to the Nazi occupation of Poland (and France) or the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. One notices therefore that the reporting and commentary on the Palestinian issue consists more of ideological semantics than of any true factual reporting. This is not as surprising as it seems at first glance. As statements with ideological connotations, it matters little whether they conform to the factual historical record or not. And as is obvious, they usually do not. This indoctrination of the Western intellectual community is so blatantly evident in it’s hypocrisy and dishonesty, that it provides the greatest rebuttal of all deceptive claims to “objectivity” and “honest reporting” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Orwell himself would have been genuinely impressed by the vitality of the system of “historical engineering” which dominates the Western media and intellectual community.

Mohamed Ahmad is a Canadian political commentator and an analyst at the Institute for Policy Research & Development (IPRD) in Brighton, UK.

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