Waking Up to Utter Absurdity in the Holy Land

It is a bizarre world we live in. Israelis kill Palestinian civilians and they call it retaliation. Palestinians kill Israeli civilians and it’s called terrorism. Israelis arrest and beat well-known peace and nonviolence activist, Dr. Mustapha Barghouti, twice in one day because he was allegedly in Jerusalem “illegally.” Palestinians raid Israeli soldiers and kill four but Israel retaliates by razing Gaza homes and making more than 700 Palestinians homeless. Israel must be the first country in the world to expect its soldiers to be protected by the enemy during a conflict.

Our media says that there is relative calm in the Holy Land, which usually translates to a decline in the numbers of Israelis killed. During this time of “calm” however, numerous Palestinians have been killed, including three teen-agers whose bodies showed signs of severe torture before death. Their eye balls were even taken out of their sockets. In addition, organs were removed by an Israeli forensic institute without the permission of their parents.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Secretary-General Ali Abu Mustapha, a visionary and proponent of a just peace, was assassinated with few condemnations. The targeted killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, who was a proponent of the deportation of Palestinian “lice,” and once referred to President George Bush, Sr. as an anti-Semite, elicited strong condemnations, including the use of the word “deplorable” by our own nation.

When Israeli teens grow up and hate Palestinians, it is seen as understandable because they live under constant threats and are unable to go to discos without fear for their lives. When Palestinian teens grow up and hate Israelis, who demolish their homes with bulldozers, it’s because of incitement in textbooks.

When the Israeli government announces that Israelis must limit the watering of their lawns due to a water shortage, there is outrage at municipal meetings. When Palestinians in Yatta, West Bank are limited to two buckets of water per person every three weeks, they must remain patient and peaceful. Water issues will be decided in future negotiations, after all.

When a Palestinian murders an Israeli settler, they are given long sentences and face brutality by their interrogators. When Israeli settlers murder Palestinians, as one settler confessed to stepping on the neck of a Palestinian child, their sentences can last less than one year.

When Israelis use F16 bombers, Apache helicopters, and other forms of warfare against unarmed Palestinians, it is legitimate because the two peoples are engaged in war. When Palestinians allegedly try to upgrade their equipment from rifles and mortars to stronger artillery, it is seen as an outrage by the Israeli public and further “proof” that the Palestinians plan to wage more “terror.”

When Palestinian teens use stones against an Occupying army, they are called terrorists and threats to well-armed IDF soldiers. When IDF soldiers kill Palestinian teens with stones, it is self-defense. Fewer lethal forms of restraint are clearly available, but not only are Palestinians generally shot, they are most often shot from the waist up.

When Israel prevents Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from worshiping at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity on Christmas Eve — a trip he has made yearly since 1995 é it is seen as necessary in the fight against terror. Besides, as Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert pointed out, Arafat is not even Christian and thus, he doesn’t have to be there. In the past, Israeli delegates attended Christmas Eve mass and they were neither Christian nor did they even believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.

It’s a crazy world in the Middle East. And while the slogan, “might makes right” was politically incorrect during the 20th century as it would have justified Adolph Hitler’s twisted war against millions of Jews and non-Jews, it has impliedly become a fashionable and trendy truism in the 21st century. There are even creative twists to certain words so that the “mighty” avoid PR black eyes. For example, Israeli assassinations are called targeted killings. Israeli calls for deportations are called “forcible transfers.’ An Occupying Army [Israel] is “legitimate” and doesn’t have to end its illegal presence until conditions are favorable. Further, whether Palestinians use violence or non-violence to achieve their freedom from Israeli Occupation, they are always called terrorists. Go figure.

As a Palestinian-American and peace activist, it is hard not to find the whole situation as utterly absurd. Someday, many others will wake to find the situation just as absurd, and the world will ask itself, “What in God’s name were we thinking?”

Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.

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