The uprising against Israeli Occupation has fundamentally changed the nature of Middle East discourse in the United States. For years, Israel had enjoyed a public relations advantage in the media. This advantage translated into controlling the actual topics to be discussed. Historically, this usually meant that “Palestinian violence” was the preferred discussion point, rather than the fundamental legitimacy of Israeli Occupation.
In fact, Israeli propaganda was so successful that few people in the US were even aware that Israel was illegally occupying the West Bank and Gaza. The word “Occupation” was not a term used by the mainstream press. But today we find Israel’s public relations machinery running into the cruel reality of Israeli brutality. Trying to crush a popular uprising using F-16s has not helped Israel’s image. Israel can no longer control the fundamental framework of discourse.
In short, the basic question of Occupation’s morality can no longer be put off. In the first eight months of this uprising, Israeli Occupation Forces have injured over 17,000 Palestinians, 31% under the age of fifteen. Supporters of Israel are uncharacteristically befuddled. As long as they controlled the parameters of debate, they were comfortable. But now they find themselves trying to defend policies of collective punishment, where entire Palestinian villages are under siege. They must defend apartheid policies that give economic and social preferences to one ethnic group over another. They must defend using F-16 planes against a civilian population. They must defend expropriating more land to build more colonial settlements that are internationally recognized as illegal. These are the realities of Occupation.
How do Israelis and their supporters defend these actions? The morality of Occupation is not defended. In fact it is not discussed by apologists. How often have you seen an editorial by an Israeli or Israeli supporter defend the right to defy international law and Occupy the West Bank and Gaza? Rather than discuss the merits of Occupation, Israeli sup- porters want to move the discussion from Occupation to the tactics of resistance.
Israeli apologists want to speak about Palestinian violence. But as long as ten Palestinians are killed for every Israeli, as long as there are fifty Palestinians injured for every Israeli, this public relations ploy will no longer be effective. The underlying morality of Occupation is the question of the day and this is tantamount to the “reckoning” for Israel. Try as they may, they are boxed in by the existential problem they have managed to previously avoid. Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is immoral.
One can see the desperation in the “Letters to the editors” pages in newspapers across the country. Israeli apologists are now pleading for editorial pages to “report both sides”. To the apologists, they attempt the age-old practice of blaming the victim…blame those who suffer under the oppression. This is because the oppression itself is rarely to be acknowledged. But what these apologists want is not a discussion of the fundamental issue, but to change the issue itself. Liberal Zionists try the “reasonable” approach by acknowledging “Israeli mistakes” but immediately segueing to “Palestinian mistakes”, as if the mistakes are somehow equivalent. This particular tactic once again attempts to skirt around the fundamental issue of Occupation by diverting discussion to the tactics of Occupation and the tactics of resistance. Can anyone defend Israeli Occupation (and here I exempt the fringe who make some sort of Biblical claim.)
Israel and its supporters will be no more successful in justifying Occupation than Afrikaners were in justifying apartheid…as Southern slaveholders were in justifying slavery…as Japan was in occupying China. It cannot be done with credibility. There are not two moral sides to every issue.