Marcus Gee, international affairs columnist for Canada’s newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail, begins his March 15 column (The roots of the intifada) by asking who started the latest intifada, and then proceeds to supply the answer. Why, the Palestinians, of course. His reasoning: The intifada, the uprising of Palestinians against the Israeli military occupation started “because the Palestinians rose up against the Israeli occupation,” a bit of reasoning which puts him in the company of a former US president who once pointed out that unemployment happens when people lose their jobs. His argument is a tautology. It’s necessarily true, on par with pointing out that bachelors are unmarried, but not very helpful, for it side-steps the question of why Palestinians launched their intifada in the first place, or, to go further, why Israel is occupying the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, in defiance of international law.
In all of this, the Israeli military occupation, the settlements, the refusal of the right of return, the refusal to relinquish East Jerusalem, seems to be taken as a given. It’s up to the Palestinians to bend, he seems to say, because the Israelis have the upper hand, although only so, it might be added, insofar as the international community lets Israel have the upper hand. To that end, columns that pin the blame on victims, and side step the roots of the violence, let the injustice live another day, and ensure the military occupation and the intifada it spawned, with all their bloody and sorry consequences, continue.
One is reminded of the wartime French resistance fighters, or of the Yugoslav partisans, who also initiated violent campaigns tantamount to an intifada against German military occupation, or of the ANC resistance to South Africa’s apartheid regime. Few would pin blame for the violence of those campaigns on the resistance, and few would have urged, as Gee does, that the military occupation, or apartheid, be accommodated in the interests of bringing the violence of the oppressed against the oppressors to an end.
The violence is more likely to be brought to an end if a just solution is implemented that sees Israel withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, the settlements dismantled, Palestinian refugees returned to their homes and East Jerusalem returned to the Palestinians nothing more than what’s mandated by international law.
But what chance has a just solution if those who perpetrate an injustice are not called to account, while the victims are blamed for their own oppression?
Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.