From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Tue Oct 24 12:06:43 2000
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2000 05:41:05 -0700
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Aaron <aarons@USERMAIL.COM>
Subject: Anatomy of Racism by Hannan Ashrawi
--------------- Begin Forwarded Message: ---------------
Altaf Bhimji <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 23:34:24 -0700
Subject: [change-links] (Fwd) the racist state
Blaming the victim has been the common resort of the guilty in
rationalizing and distorting the horror of the crime itself.
Whether battered wives, abused children, or Palestinians long subjected to the brutality of the horrendous Israeli military occupation, the first (and last) resort of the cowardly is in maligning the victim, in accusing him/her/them of having brought about the deserved cruelty of the crime.
The essential prerequisite, of course, is the total dehumanization of the victims and the elimination of their most basic rights and attributes as well as claims to protection.
Inevitably, the resultant compound victimization is further enhanced by increased vulnerability, distortion, and exclusion from the protection of human consideration and moral imperatives.
Hence, the latest eruption of confrontations between the Israeli
occupation army and civilian Palestinian protestors became the playing
field for the full force of the Israeli
spin machine in a most
deliberate, concentrated, and racist exercise of deception and
dehumanization directed against a whole people.
The most basic form of deception is in fabricating a false symmetry
between occupier and occupied, between oppressor and victim. The
violence of the powerful Israeli occupation army using live
ammunition, tanks and helicopter gun ships is (at best) equated with
violence of Palestinian civilians protesting their
victimization and continued loss of rights, lands, and lives.
In addition, the Palestinians are called upon to be docile, to stop
violence, to end the
siege of Israel-as though the
strongest army in the region is being
threatened by the unarmed
people's rejection of its occupation and brutality. The obvious and
simple solution, of course, is to withdraw the army and end the
This, ironically, is accompanied by a devaluation of Palestinian
rights and lives by translating our objective weakness into a
diminution of rights whereby the powerful determines the parameters of
justice for the weak.
The whole presentation constantly exhibits the
burden syndrome. Palestinians should be
generous offer Israel chooses to
regardless of the glaring injustice and illegality of the Israeli
Both the extreme right and extreme left in Israel (as well as the US)
have adopted this condescending, patronizing approach to peace-Barak
has gone the
offering the Palestinians
almost 90% of their lands with some
Jerusalem, and those
ungrateful Palestinians are being
intransigent and hard line.
Having compromised ourselves down to 22% of historical Palestine, we are no being asked to be party to Israel's illegal annexation of Jerusalem and its settlement policies-i.e. an unholy partnership for the violation of international law and the relevant UN resolutions.
Should we be unwilling to self-negate, to refuse the role of good
little natives, and to continue rejecting the Israeli unilateral
offers us a subservient statelet
of isolated Bantustans under Israel's apartheid system, then we will
be pounded into submission.
After all, if pressure and threat and political arm-twisting do not
work, sheer naked military aggression can produce the desired
Arabs understand only the language of violence.
Instant scare tactics or panic politics come into play with such
labels as the
Palestinians, while depicting the reality of the Palestinian human
will to resist subjugation and oppression as proof of such
A catch-22 situation is clearly visible: Arafat must
his people (nation of sheep?) and
order them to calm down and
accept their enslavement and repression by the Israelis, otherwise he
is no longer a
peace partner and cannot be considered a
At the same time, Israel cannot deal with Arafat or the Palestinians
because they are inherently
undemocratic and therefore have
nothing in common with such
civilized democracies as Israel and
In parallel, other ready-made labels and stereotypical epithets are easily pulled out as a convenient branding exercise to reduce the humanity of the Palestinians.
The historical and familiar slurs used by Israeli officials and public
figures (including cockroaches, two-legged vermin, dogs) have been
expanded to include
The reduction of our humanity to a series of abstractions is nowhere
as sinister as in the numerical game. Palestinian victims of Israeli
live fire are daily given as
x numbers killed and
numbers wounded. Their names, identities, dashed hopes, and shattered
dreams are nowhere mentioned. Absent too are the grief and anguish of
their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other loved ones who
will have to live with that tragic loss.
The visual documentation of the cold-blooded murder of the child Muhammad al-Durra shattered the complacency of those who had been comfortable with the anonymity of the Palestinians and the invisibility of their suffering. Even then, the Israeli propaganda machine tried to distort the truth even in the face of irrefutable evidence.
First, it was said that he was killed by Palestinian
Then, he was
caught in the crossfire. The worst version was in
the cynical depiction of the child Muhammad as a
mischievous child who brought it upon himself-as though
the proper response to a child living his childhood is deliberate
death. The last accusation involved a question:
What was he doing
there? The real question should have been
what was the Israeli
army doing there in the heart of Palestinian Gaza shooting at
civilians including a child and his father who had been caught red-
handed attempting to indulge in the
provocative act of shopping
Note the difference, however, when two Israeli under cover agents, belonging to the notorious Israeli death squads were killed by Palestinian protestors.
No Palestinian attempted to justify the act. Rather orders were issued to investigate and arrest those responsible. After all, there should be such a thing as the rule of law and due process.
Instead, Israel moved its tanks and armies even closer to tighten the siege and strangulation of Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps. Then it brought in its Apache helicopter gun ships and shelled Palestinian cities and towns in a most senseless and cruel form of collective punishment.
Its version of events presented the Israeli agents as reservists who
strayed into Ramallah and then were
lynched by the mob. References to
savagery became the prevalent verbal currency.
While no one would condone the killing of the soldiers, it is important however, to deal with the real facts and the context:
Ramallah, as a city under total Israeli military siege, was closed off
to all movement in or out of the city. Only one entrance was open,
entirely under the control of multiple Israeli military
checkpoints. Thus to
stray into Ramallah would require
deliberate and repeated attempts requiring tenacity, persistence, and
The two Israeli agents were clearly infiltrated and planted into the midst of a protest march in the heart of the city. The occasion was the funeral of a Palestinian man, Issam Joudeh Hamad, from the village of Umm Safa, who had been abducted by Israeli settlers and tortured to death in a most grisly manner.
Gruesome footage and photographs of the body, plus the testimony of the doctors who had examined it, were not repeatedly displayed before the eyes of the world for the sake of scoring points or dehumanizing the Israelis. Some Arab stations informed me that the images were so horrific that they refrained from using them.
Most of the people participating in the march (in the besieged
Palestinian city of Ramallah) knew the victim, and some had seen the
body. The two undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated the march
were recognized by the Palestinians as members of the
Squads that had been responsible for assassinations and
Despite the fact that the Palestinian police tried to protect them, the two were killed before the cameras.
This immediately became an instant justification for branding all Palestinians as murderers, and for the most systematic, venomous, hate campaign in recent history. It was also used as a justification for the Israeli aerial attacks on Ramallah and other Palestinian cities.
In his moving appeal to his compatriots (Oct. 13, 2000) not to exploit this incident to justify existing racism and hatred, Israeli poet Yitzhak Laor documents several lynchings of Palestinians by Israeli army and security forces. In all cases the perpetrators were never punished, and no moral outrage was expressed by the Israeli public, let alone a shelling of Israeli cities!
The same applies to the Israeli settler reign of terror that targets Palestinians in their own homes and towns, with full Israeli military protection and collusion.
Presented as helpless
Israeli civilians surrounded by
hostile Palestinians, the sinister and lethal nature of settler
violence, as armed extremists on the rampage, is often ignored. The
illegality of Israeli settlements, the fundamentalist extremist
character of the armed settlers, and the horrific acts of abduction,
torture, killing and just random violence that are committed with
impunity-rarely get a mention.
Throughout all this, the Palestinians continue to be blamed.
The most blatantly racist slur is the Israeli theft of our humanity as
parents. In an attempt to rob us of our most basic feelings for our
children, we are accused of
sending [our] children out to die
for the sake of
scoring media points.
The horror is further compounded by the total and unquestioning equanimity with which such a grand national slur is repeated by Israelis of all parties, with no critical distance or even awareness of the enormity of such a racist charge.
When Palestinian children became targets for Israeli snipers and other army violence, the ministry of education had no option but to close down the schools temporarily in order to minimize the students' exposure on the way to and from school.
That was immediately latched on by the Israeli spin machine as proof
that we closed down the schools in order to
children to go out and
riot thereby obstructing the free path
of Israeli bullets.
The safety of home and parents' attempts at protecting their children are not even considered.
Actually, the 18-month-old baby girl, Sara Abdel-Athim Hassan, was shot in the back seat of her father's car, while other child victims were killed in or around their own homes. Mu'ayyad al- Jawarish, 12 years old, was shot in the garden of his own home.
Most children were shot in the head or upper part of the body, mainly with high velocity bullets. The most common targets of rubber-coated steel bullets were the eyes of children.
A shoot-to-kill (or permanently impair) policy has been in force by the Israeli army-claiming the lives of more than 105 Palestinians and wounding more than 3000 (many of whom with permanent injuries).
Israeli officials claim that they had exercised
Of course they can do worse-they can commit genocide or complete the ethnic cleansing begun in 1948.
Still, it is Israeli
security that is at stake.
Israel's powerful army of occupation cowers in fear at the Palestinian people's cry for justice and freedom.
The Palestinian people have no need for security on their own land or in their own homes since they have been thoroughly dehumanized by their oppressor as to deserve whatever happens to them.
Worse than being
non-existent (as in the myth of the
without a people for a people without a land-which even Shimon
Peres now seems to espouse), in the minds of the official Israeli
narrative, we now seem to be existent on a lower plain as sub-human
species, bereft of the most elemental qualities and rights that guide
the conscience and moral values of humanity as a whole.
All this is for the sake of alleviating the guilt and responsibility of the real culprit.
Apologists for the Israeli occupation must find an alternative address to be blamed for the horror inflicted on the Palestinians-so who better than the victims themselves?