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Day 17

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The Vicious Cycle of Violence Goes On

The Carnage of Gaza

by RAOUF J. HALABY

Soon after the too-little too-late decision by Hamas and Palestinian Authority  (what a misnomer) to mend the fences between the rival dogmatically regressive Hamas and the ineptly corrupt Israeli/US lackey  Abbas and Co. was announced, Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu  and a bevvy of  his equally rabid, like-minded  fascists went on the offensive. As he’s done in the past, to punish the truant Palestinians,  King Bibi ordered the construction of new settlements on expropriated Palestinian lands. And, as the US has historically done, it tucked in its tail, cowered to the sidelines, and remained silent.

Silence is synonymous to acquiescence and complicity. And silence is the “price tag” exacted by AIPAC and their Christian Zionist consorts and the vise that keeps 535 U.S. congressmen and presidents at bay.

This protracted morbid trepidation by successive U.S. administrations  and the immoral acquiescence and support (financial, military, political, and otherwise) of Israel’s brutal, illegal, and inhumane occupation and treatment of Palestinians and the ingrained Israeli xenophobic thinking and policies are the underlying  reasons for the most recent tit for tat killings and mauling of Israeli and Palestinian children. In the aftermath, Hamas’  ill-advised and preposterously stupid rocketing of Israel and Israel’s retaliatory air strikes and impending land campaign are merely another act in an ongoing mortifying tragedy .

During a speech he delivered to his subordinates in the Congress of the United States of America in December of 2011, the subservient servants elevated Bibi to the status of an Olympian God and gave him 29 standing ovations, ovations that canonized him as Israel’s can-do–no-wrong American Saint.  This pandering affirmed to Bibi that, when it comes to foreign policy, he is more powerful  than the President of the United States. The power Bibi  wields  and the hegemonic  political clout he can exert on American foreign policy is more powerful than all the combined weapons in America’s military and diplomatic arsenals.  Thus, fully confident of his power to subdue the world’s super power, yet one more time,  Bibi neutered  Obama and Kerry and thumbed his nose at the latters’ repeated attempts to broker peace. Why not?  The ploy had worked for successive Israeli prime ministers of the labor and Likud proclivities. Soon after the recently announced so-called reconciliation between the warring Palestinian factions,  Bibi Netanyahu, a leader so enamored by his own sycophantic, self-aggrandizing and megalomaniacal  rhetoric, went into overdrive.

With Bibi’s 2009 re-election a fanatically fervent and politically regressive philosophy leached into and has permeated the Israeli political landscape as it has never done before. This fanatic mentality emanated itself in a fixated political, ideological, and religious parliamentary and public discourse whose tenor has reached a heretofore unprecedented openly hateful and blatantly xenophobic rhetoric akin to the rhetoric spewed by the Nazi propaganda machine of the 1930”s. This rhetoric has been matched by official Israeli actions such as political assassinations, mass arrests and torture,and especially the arrest/torture of children as young as five, human rights violations of the worst kind,  and the wanton destruction of the thread-bare fabric that holds Palestinian institutions and infrastructure in a tenuously  fragile paper-thin  band aid. The ethnic cleansing of some 80 thousand Palestinian Bedouins in the Negev Desert so as to build a new Jews-only city and the almost daily demolishing and razing of Palestinian homes and farms is a well-planned expansionist, facts-on-the-ground policy to ethnically cleanse what’s left of historic Palestine. This madness has gone unabated and unhindered by the US, the UN, the EU, and the oil-rich corrupt theocracies of the Near East.

Since its creation in 1948, Israeli politicians have refused to accept the existence of Palestinians by demonizing them in a variety of ways. As an example, in 1996 Golda Meir stated the following: “It was not as if there was [sic.] a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”  Later the same year she stated: “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.”   And, in a typically Israeli official pronouncement (one that blames the victim), Golda was quoted as having sanctimoniously stated that: “Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs learn to love their children more than they hate us. We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for FORCING US TO KILL THEIR CHILDREN [emphasis mine].”   Forcing us to kill their children?  How sick is that? And did not Hitler utter similar words?  By the time Golda reached her seventies she talked about her nightmarish dreams of sending young Israeli soldiers into the battle fields, including her most horrifying egregiously xenophobic catatonic fear: “She would lay awake at night terrified at the number of Palestinian children that would be conceived that night.”  Even Shimon Peres, Israel’s Mr. Nice Guy,  has repeatedly expressed concerns about the “Demographic Palestinian Time Bomb,” a recurring bigoted theme in Israeli discourse, planning, and policy.

Over the years an assortment of denigrating epithets have been used  to describe Palestinians: General Moshe Dayan called the Palestinians “Jackals”;  former PM Yitzhak Shamir: “grasshoppers;”  former PM Menahem Begin: “ two-legged vermin;”  General Eitan espoused the notion that “We [Israelis] need to keep Palestinians like drugged roaches in a bottle.”   (For more  information on such hate speech read Philip Weiss, Norman Finkelstein, John  Mearsheimer, and Stephen Walt.)  At the height of the second 1988 Intifada Yitzhak Katzir,  PM Yitzhak Shamir’s Deputy Prime minister, told a group of 15 fact-finding members of the American Coalition for Middle East Dialogue (idealistic American citizens of Jewish, Palestinian and other backgrounds)  the following: “We have the brains, they have the backs. We kill keep them on their knees and we will follow them  all over the world and kill them.”  To which I replied: “This is scary ! [meaning the ideas he espoused]”  To which he replied in a loud, angry, and sadistic voice: “Good!”  The smirk on his face was one of aberrant satisfaction. At the Allenby Bridge, Huda, a twenty-something American citizen born to Palestinian-America parents in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I were pulled out for the traditional Israeli welcome exclusively reserved for Americans of Palestinian origin. We were strip searched;  she had to put up with male soldiers gawking over her nubile and shapely body. The border police stole ( theft is always explained as a security concern) two large suitcases-full of granola and candy bars Huda had taken to feed starving Palestinian children in Ramallah.   They also made several attempts to steal my wife’s hair dryer and curling iron. Officers at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv informed my wife that “there is nothing we can do.”

Even as child, I learned that  Palestinians were not to be heard and, if seen, they were to behave in the most servile manner, and the epithet Aravi Melulah (Parasitic Arab) was used so frequently by the mishtara  (police) and in public discourse it became an accepted nomenclature to which  I readily adapted.  On occasion in the years 1951-1955 my uncle’s store on the Jerusalem Bethlehem highway in Upper Bakaa was vandalized, and many a time a newly-arrived  Israeli Khakhami (Orthodox) immigrant would stand in the doorway, spit his phlegm  as far as he could, and walk out.  Moroccan Jews were the most notorious; they would enter the store, fill their mouths with sunflower seeds, pretend they were looking at merchandise, deliberately spit the shells on the floor, with an occasional brazen character who’d spit his hatred on some of the linen materials lining the walls. I watched in pain as my uncle suffered the constant humiliation he experienced at the hands of these Oleem Hadasheem (new immigrants). Had they not suffered similar treatment in Europe and other places? And why, in the name of God, would my uncle not stand up for these sick thugs?  When I accompanied mother to the open market on Yehuda Street, I witnessed similar despicable practices. When mother paid  for the produce and fruit,  vendors occasionally motioned to her to place the money on one of the flat pans of the old style  scales, whereupon the money would be chucked into  cigar-like boxes. The change would be placed into the other pan,  held out for her inspection, and then deposited at the base of the scales. Instead of handing her the just-purchased items, as is the customary universal human conduct, the items were deposited on the stall stand. On occasion a vendor would take a rag, wipe the surfaces of the flat scale pans, and place them back on the scales. Was our money, too, meluhlah?   Was it not kosher enough?

In the aftermath of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination by a Jewish fanatic (to the cheerleading of Likudnic- types) and the ascendance of Netanyahu and his like-minded  cohorts, Israel has gone through a drastic transformation, a transformation that has openly promoted Jewish superiority and a recalcitrant mind-set whose aim is to pretend  to work towards peace while at the same time pursuing an illegal land-grab policy. The celebratory  rejoicing by Likudnic-types after Rabin’s death exposed the deeply rooted racism that had been deeply embedded in the fault line of Israeli society. And since that time the Israeli left and the peace movements have been sidelined by  a new breed of religious fanatics and a Settler mentality that perceives the Palestinians as a road block to a greater Israel, a demographic time bomb to an Israel that aspires to stretch from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

Even before the recent abduction of Naftali Frenkel, Gil’ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach,  Netanyahu stepped up his arrests of numerous West Bank Palestinians and Hamas types. He instituted numerous punitive actions that have had a detrimental effect on an already exhausted  and frightened Palestinian population in the deep abyss and pathos of a  47-year occupation; he also exponentially increased the settlement program. In like manner, he condoned the stepped up “price tag [revenge] attacks” by a Settler population gone wild (frequently supported by the Army). These have resulted in the destruction and vandalizing of churches, mosques, schools, homes, and vehicles, including the burning of farms and the uprooting of hundreds of trees.  Especially pugnacious are the graffiti and public discourse about population transfers;  “Death to the Arabs” and “Jesus is a monkey” in the form of graffiti and Facebook postings are carried out by mob cheerleading Settlers. Didn’t Hitler’s Youth behave in a similar manner? An attempted lynching of a Palestinian youth in a West Jerusalem shopping center has been glossed over, as have the personal attacks, maiming, and killing of Palestinians all over the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli Settler attacks had become such an accepted, common-day routine occurrences, they ceased to be newsworthy. And, instead of protecting  Palestinian civilians (the duty of an occupying force), the Israeli army has been serving as a shield and a cover for the Settlers. Hardly a week has gone by when Palestinians of all ages have been wounded, maimed, run over by cars, or killed.

In the aftermath of the dastardly abduction and killing of Naftali, Gil’ad, and Eyal, Bibi Netanyhu vowed “Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created. Neither has vengeance for the blood of 3 pure youths. .. Hamas is responsible.”   Over 500 West Bank Palestinians were immediately arrested,  protestors were shot at, several killed, and countless others  arrested, and beaten. Houses were demolished and a previously-planned clamp-down went into effect.  And yes, egged on by Netanyahu’s  rhetoric, vengeful retribution was swift and as equally merciless as it was for the three Israeli lads. Seventeen-year old Muhammad Abu Khdier was abducted, tortured, and burned — alive. How could people who’ve experienced mass annihilation in gas chambers do the same to an innocent  child?  Bibi Netanyahu  waxed eloquently about his and Israel’s moral superiority:  “A broad moral gulf separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death; we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion. This is our strength.”  Really?

The merciless and brutal burning /murder of Khdier  and the equally brutal  beating of Palestinian-American sixteen-year old  Khdier’s cousin, Tariq Khdier,  fly in the face of Bibi’s ”we sanctify life  …  and … [have] mercy.”  He fans the fire by uttering nothing but caustic, hollow and angry rhetoric.  While the brutalities inflicted on Palestinians have been going on unchecked for years now, this time Israel was caught with irrefutable  video evidence that exposed the psychotic and deranged clubbing and kicking, all of which was caught on tape.  After the repeated  beating and stomping  of an already unconscious limp body of a 16-year old youth, the Israeli soldiers carried him as one would  carry the carcass of a just-killed deer.  Each kick and each punch is ymbolic of the collective deep-seated xenophobic fear and hatred that has been  bred into an Israeli  society that has not learned  that what was done to them in Europe they are likewise doing to others in a land they are desperately trying to cleanse.

The world has finally come to recognize Bibi and his Settler supporters for what they are, a mentally deranged lot.

Depending on how the carnage in Gaza unfolds, the tragic drama of five innocent youth, three Israelis, and two Palestinians, may be the jolting wake-up call to the entire world. The Israel Palestine conflict is the cancer from which most of the regional problems have emanated,  rabidly cancerous spores  that have metastasized into  a regional virulent madness  that  is fed by fanatics, madmen, and megalomaniacs of the worst kind.

Unfortunately, I do not hold out any hope. The vicious cycle of violence will go on.

Raouf J. Halaby, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is about to launch his 42nd year as a Professor of English and Art at a private university in Arkansas. He is peace activist, a sculptor, a writer, a photographer, and an avid gardener. halabyr@obu.edu.