Blaming the victim is nothing new to criminals who desperately try to justify their crimes. Not one occupying force throughout the world has failed to point at its victims as the ones who deserve the blame for their acts of resistance. The Libyan resistance of the Italian military occupation was described as “barbaric,” as was the Angolan resistance against the Portuguese.
A more recent example is the ongoing human tragedy in Iraq. For the last ten years, Iraq has been held solely responsible by the United States government for the death of its people. The United States, in fact, claims that its sanctions on Iraq are aimed at weakening Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and destroying his regime’s “weapons of mass destruction” arsenal. Moreover, American officials have repeatedly alleged that their country is actually striving to “save the Iraqi children”. Such claims contradict many statistics, including UN figures, that estimate the death of Iraqi children as a result of the US championed UN sanctions at over one million.
But Israel’s version of the “blaming the victim” strategy is much more provoking and insulting to human intelligence than any other strategy.
Israel blamed Arabs in 1948 for plotting to destroy it, obliterating therefore 418 villages, driving a million out of their land and killing thousands. In 1982, Israel blamed Lebanon for allowing “terrorists” to infiltrate its northern borders, which resulted in the invasion of Lebanon, the totaling of the country’s infrastructure, the killing of 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, and the decades of occupation of large parts of the country as a “security zone” for Israel.
And now Israel is again blaming the victim. During the most recent Palestinian uprising which was evidently provoked by Israeli leader Ariel Sharon’s antagonizing visit to the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, Israel has managed to blame Palestinians for the clashes where thousands of Palestinians have been injured and killed.
Israeli officials and media propagated that Palestinian parents are responsible for sending their children to die in clashes so that Palestinians could score cheap political points. The propaganda spread quickly and was uttered by presumably respected figures. Even the queen of Sweden expressed concern in a recent speech regarding the deaths of Palestinian children, blaming their parents for exposing their offspring to such harm, not the Israeli snipers who killed them.
Horrifyingly, what should have been dismissed as a racist allegation quickly echoed in Western media. On the American TV show “60 Minutes” PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was asked by the host, Mike Wallace, what he hopes to gain by the death of his young people, another devious attempt to blame Palestinians for the death of their young, rather than the Israeli occupation forces.
The relative success of the Israeli propaganda shows that much of the western world is still receptive to racism and shameful perceptions of non-westerners, as if they are lesser beings. In fact, an Israeli settler stated that there is a relationship between Arabs and Animals when he was interviewed on television in the early days of the Intifada. He said “They [Palestinians] are not humans…they are animals.” Another lamented “In a way, those Palestinians aren’t even animals. Animals care for their offspring. Palestinians send their children out to kill or be killed.”
Arguing that Palestinian mothers in fact love and care for their children is equally degrading, for it dares to recognize the Israeli argument, or at least some of its false premises and racist conclusions.
To avoid trying to prove that Palestinian parents are not sub-human, and at the same time emphasize the racist Israeli claims, I find it most suitable to turn to Charles Dickens’, “A Tale of Two Cities,” a reminder of a dark history that still reveals itself through Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
In “Book the Second, Chapter VII”, Dickens describes a common scene in France upon the turn of the 18th century, where rich masters enjoyed driving their wild horse carriages into Paris’ poor neighborhoods. As part of their daily routine, the storming carriages often killed passersby, mostly children playing in the narrow dirty streets.
In the story, the carriage of Monsieur the Marquise, a man of wealth and power ran over a poor child, killing him. The father who took his son’s body from beneath the horses feet, laid it on the base of a small fountain and began to “howl” over his deep loss. The master, Monsieur the Marguis looked at the crying father, the gathered crowd and said with disgust, ” It is extraordinary to me ..that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is forever in the way. How do I know of what injury you have done to my horses?”
While I am certain that the words of this cruel master would anger every one of us, similar blame cast by Israel on Palestinians for putting their children in the range of the Israeli occupation bullets seems less provoking, and to many a sound argument.
In the novel, the master angrily addresses the crowd, ” You dogs, I would ride over any of you willingly, and exterminate you from the earth.” Similar messages have been conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and other Israeli army officials, who vowed to use additional forces to suppress the Palestinian peoples’ uprising.
A Tale of Two Cities, although it narrated a dark segment of Europe’s history was in many ways fictional. And if it was true, it’s a folded chapter in history. Yet, despite such facts, the horror portrayed in the novel somehow manages to bring us to tears, to fill us with rage and make us sympathize with fictitious characters who inhabited Paris hundreds of years ago. Thousands of Palestinian victims who are blamed for fighting for their freedom have fallen, and more are falling everyday. But they are real, and their story is not a folded chapter in history. The Palestinian tragedy is a “tale of one nation”, non-fictional and more tragic that any other, but sadly a story that not so many care to read.