Whenever the media tells us that Sharon is a moderate the media is telling us that an extremist is a moderate. It is also telling us that war is peace and vegetable is meat. Israel and its supporting media, to literally cover the Palestinian Israeli conflict are abusing words. Certain important words are either being disconnected with their meaning or are simply being ignored and omitted. While some words have become to mean their opposites, other words are like hermaphrodites awaiting surgery to decide on gender. While some words got sublimated to give undue importance, other words act like subliminal messages with cues. To further confuse, distort and dissociate words from meanings, the media uses double negatives and double positives or an assortment of these doubles which in the end mean an opposite.
Imagine going to bed as a moderate secure in the knowledge that you know the meaning of the word moderate inside out, you live by it and for it. Only to wake up to a nightmare whereby you are standing at the center of a mock execution line for the moderates. Standing on that very same line, all the Sharons of the world. Arek, in what looks like a campaign for war, is telling the whole world, “I’ve always been a moderate. There is no difference from the old Sharon”. (Guardian archives, “Sharon in his own words”) You jump out of your depth and out of your wits. All the way to your dictionary, you are praying there has not been any mergers or acquisitions in the dictionary industry. Words have not been entered to mean their opposites. A moderate is a moderate. An extremist is an extremist and broccoli is a vegetable.
Words do change in meaning and value over centuries, but never in eleven months and never upon an Israeli request. One can redefine, rename, reinvent, reverse words but it is always a “re” against an original, almost never changing meaning. Even a far-fetched symbol calls to be reconnected to a specific meaning a word was born with. If the symbol cannot be connected, then it is meaningless. Since Language and History are uniquely human, any attempt to distort either involves great responsibility to both. Abuse of Language is directly proportional to our proximity to humanity. Every time we take that step and abuse Language, we take an equal step away from humanity.
To equate an extremist with a moderate is only to increase and give license to the level of abuse of Palestinians by Israel. An extremist’s “concession” is only in relation to what he would like to do if not stopped. He would settle for Palestine instead of “greater Israel”. He would settle for minor and major massacres instead of total annihilation of Palestinians. He would settle for a mere “transfer” instead of ” ethnic cleansing”. He would settle for brunch instead of having Palestinians for all meals. He can argue all the way to nuclear war, and call it peace. If peace stares him in the face he would stare back and call it war. An extremist does not have a “certain readiness” or a set of sensibilities that leads him to peace. What distinguishes him is not to have ever thought that peace is ever possible. An extremist can never be a moderate. If ever, it is only by being allowed to use the word moderate to mean an extremist. An article published July1, 2001, in the Observer, “Sharon Jnr the peacemaker”, Sharon Senior was quoted as saying in an interview with Ma’ariv “It took even me 70 years to realise that not everything is black and white.” At this rate of “realization”, the situation in the Occupied Territories will be like the “killing fields”, while Sharon is getting his thoughts on colors right. The most nightmarish thing about this “awakening” is that there is no evidence to show that the Sharon thinking is any different than what it has always been. Sharon’s colors of choice are still black and seemingly white. Except that Israel hired PR companies to polish images. For apart from depicting Sharon as “grandfatherly”, there is a lot of polishing to do after a warplane’s damages on the ground. There is also a great need for Israel to promote pretexts. If there is a great need to advertise anything, it is humanity and dignity and hope and other similar seemingly obsolete products.
When the rest of the world takes Israel and its supporting media’s play on words seriously, and adopts it to equate extremism with moderation, racism with democracy and linear with circular, misused words become a source of great suffering and injustice to Palestinians.
Israeli policies towards Palestinians in the occupied territories are a classical case of abuse. As with all cases of abuse, it does not stop at the discretion and judgement of the abuser. It is bottomless. The first step an abuser does is to dehumanize the subject of abuse. The last thing an abuser wants or will accept willingly is for a third party to intervene. The abuser wants to keep a lid on the act of abuse although it is usually an open secret with injuries and bruises to show for it. Contrary to many other issues that are better solved by disregarding details, in cases of abuse, details are extremely important. They give an accurate profile of the abuser and reflect the level of abuse and the amount of damage heaped on victims of abuse. To announce to the world what is only too evident is only to hide the deeper and hidden level of abuse. It matters a lot if an abusive mother forces her child to vomit or if she forces him to eat his vomit. (A Child called “it” Dave Pelzer) If the abused child tells the school about the act of abuse and the school “reproaches” the abusive mother to limit the abuse to mere forced vomiting, surely, something is wrong with the mother and the school and society in general. There is a huge difference if a jailer is only doing his duty by keeping inmates in prison or if he is making sure they never get free. There is no such thing as an abuser’s right to abuse. There is no such thing as an Occupier’s “legitimate right” to “fight to defend” in Occupied Palestine. When Israel declares to the world that it has “relaxed” its policies so the rest of the world can “relax” as well, the world has to know at which level of abuse it has started that relaxation.
It matters a lot if dug trenches and erected concrete road blocks or hilltops to separate Palestinian cities and villages are one or four meters in depth or height. It matters a lot if unemployment is 5% or 70%. It matters a lot if the majority of people in Gaza cannot afford to go to restaurants or if a big majority have barely any food to eat. It matters a lot if people can afford bottled water or if they don’t have running water. It matters a lot if demolished houses are unlicensed in Tel Aviv or in Palestinian controlled areas. It matters a lot if Palestinian students are on an everlasting summer vacation or if they will go back to schools one of these Septembers. It matters a lot if Israel uses four missiles or one bullet per person per killing. It matters a lot if people attend funerals once a year or twice a day. It matters a lot if the cause of death is good old-fashioned normal death or if killed by death of an unprocessed peace. For along with Palestinians, “peace” is a word that has been greatly abused by Israel and its supporting media. Peace was born pregnant with all kinds of meanings, one of which is settlement of disagreements. All is left of peace now are the “settlements” and the “disagreements”. At Oslo, “Peace” got intensely injected with artificial boosters so it would deliver. What little hope there was, got aborted. One can argue endlessly. The options are varied. One can always adopt a new word. One can always reconnect meaning to word. Or one can always start walking backward towards “peace”, forward towards war and get stuck for ever in that state of calling opposites equals.
The necessity for international monitoring in the Occupied Territories is a bare minimum to stop the abuse. The only explanation for lack of that presence is that while one party to the conflict is considered below humanity, the other is considered above humanity. Life gets to be intolerable when occupation treats people like an in between species. The problem with this forcefully given status is that the in between species would neither get the attention of animal humanitarians, who are specialized in the plight of whales and seals and road rage dog victims and earthquake stranded cats, and who are too focused to be interested in copycats of cats. Nor would they get the attention of normal people who lead normal every day life. For if things don’t hit home, they just don’t hit home. Some people think if they don’t see suffering, it does not exist and others don’t want to learn about it. This is a Phenomenon, Novelist José Saramago calls, “white blindness”. He describes that state of mind, in his novel “Blindness” as “blind people who can see, but do not see”.
When people are simply human and when there is a conflict, there is always a “third” party in the form of an old wise man in primitive societies and in the form of judicial courts in civilized societies. There are international laws and there is an international body that usually intervenes when conflicts are not national. But if all-important related words to that conflict are being redefined and reversed, then there is no occupation and no abuse and therefore there is no need for any international presence.
One thing is for certain, an extremist is never a moderate and war never meant its opposite and vegetable is never meat. If Israel and its supporting media were to use words and not mean their opposites, then may be readers wouldn’t have to read between the lines or diagonally and then turn the page upside down to recognize war, peace, extremism and moderation. It is only when people intend to say the truth that they don’t need to use opposites to mean equals. If we start calling opposites equal then broccoli must be meat.