We return now to a subject touched upon briefly, if only by necessity, which has been distorted and manipulated to no end: the subject of violence. Fanon noted that “the settler paints the native as a sort of quintessence of evil.” Thus in our press and media, which takes the viewpoint of the settler, the Palestinian is branded a terrorist from the outset, intent upon nothing else but the destruction of Israeli democracy, lurking just beyond it, surrounding it, and waiting to strike. We can immediately recognize in this image an exact reflection of the viewpoint on Israel’s origins and the circumstances surrounding it. That viewpoint has been exploded. The mainstream outlook concerning violence has its underpinnings on the previous set of myths, but so much nonsense has been said and written about it that it deserves serious treatment.
We have seen in the examination of the Israeli occupation that the life of the Palestinian is almost defined by Israeli violence; his ability to move, to travel, to live in his home, to give birth, to call an ambulance: all of this is denied daily by Israel. Indeed, the Palestinian is given the opportunity to “move” only when Israeli military forces have either reduced his home to rubble, which has been done tens of thousands of times since 1967, or if he has been dispossessed in an ethnic cleansing campaign. The very location of the Palestinian population is a result of Israeli violence: he is confined to isolated ghettoes and squalid refugee camps resting on 1/5th of the land which rightfully belonged to him. But our “terrorism expert” and his colleagues at the editorial offices of Wall Street Journal and New York Times remain unimpressed, and cry out: “this is part of the ‘we must look at the roots’ of terror nonsense! The Palestinian purposely kills innocent civilians and is a terrorist!” For these gentlemen, to even mention the forced removal of millions, mass looting, pauperization and imprisonment of an entire population for decades is heresy. They try to prove that the Palestinian is a terrorist by defining his violence as terror and by defining terror as the only true violence, yet they succeed only in proving that Darwin’s theory of human evolution has a fair number of exceptions, located mainly in certain New York office buildings.
But let us descend to this primitive level-and what a descent it is-to see who is guilty of intentional murder of civilians. We are already aware-courtesy of recent Israeli historians-that deliberate massacres were carried out by Zionist militia from the outset. In fact, Segev’s aforementioned book contains a telling quotation: in the course of a Knesset debate in 1949, when Communist Member of Knesset Toubi accused a fellow MK of “preparing another Deir Yassin”, MK Meridor replied: “Thanks to Deir Yassin we won the war, sir!” Indeed. But there is hardly any need to travel so far back: during the first Intifada, twenty-five Palestinian civilians were killed by Israelis for every one Israeli killed by Palestinians in the Territories.7 During this whole six-year period the Palestinians rarely used guns, while naturally the Israeli forces were equipped with automatic rifles. In the first three weeks after the second Intifada had begun, 100 Palestinians had been killed, 30 of them children, and Amnesty International issued a report citing, “excessive use of lethal force in circumstances in which neither the lives of the security forces nor others were in imminent danger…” In other words: intentional murder of civilians.
The framework of intentional murder is, in fact, too narrow: if we include deliberate, systematic torture, we gain a finer appreciation for Israel’s moral conduct. Until very recently, torture was officially legal in Israel, and had its pinnacle year in 1991, during which five thousand Palestinians were tortured (BTSelem). We are graced with one example of judicial generosity cited below:
in 1992, a young man named Al-Akawi, brought to court after ‘moderate physical pressure’ looked so badly beaten and unwell that the judge took the ‘unusual step’ of giving the Shin Bet only eight more days for interrogation. But by 5 PM the next day the authorities summoned Al-Akawi’s father to come and remove his son’s body.8
The practice of cruel treatment of detainees has far from ended. After Israel’s April onslaught, hundreds of Palestinians had mysteriously ‘disappeared’ from the West Bank. The ‘mystery’ has been unraveled: Israel had deported them to torture camps “behind razor wire and lookout posts” at an Israeli army base. The approximately 1,000 prisoners were being “regularly beaten with wooden batonsforced to spend nights sitting in the dirt outside in the cold, in their underwearrefused food for days at a time”. One former inmate recalled the high level of professionalism displayed by his oppressors: “They made us stand in a group and drove an armoured personnel carries at us. It swerved away at the last minute.” Independent Israeli human rights organizations have apparently confirmed all of this. (The Independent, April 15)
At this point our terrorism expert and his cohorts appear uncomfortable: it is only temporary. “Palestinians blow themselves up! They strap bombs around themselves and kill civilians; I don’t see any Israeli blowing himself up.” We must congratulate our most perspicacious friend: after having overseen the minor details of mass Israeli expropriations, massacres, killings, and tortures over the course of the last fifty years, he has at least noticed the difference in the methods of violence. But even in this remarkable epiphany of his he overlooks all else. He fails to note that his favorite outpost of civilization has received over $90 billion dollars from the United States since its creation, that it still receives billions of dollars in military aid, including hardware, technology, and expertise annually-and that he is paying for it. The Palestinian, on the other hand, is essentially a dispossessed former peasant. What small arms he has attained here and there include old rifles and some automatic weapons, nothing which can pierce armor or challenge air power. So when the Israeli army embarks on the proud mission of terrorizing the Palestinian people, it does so in the most modern tanks, the most expensive aircraft, with the deadliest missiles, and the most powerful bombs. Thus the Israeli need not “blow himself up”; he is quite content to blow the Palestinian up and leave himself entirely out of the equation. The Palestinian, however, is well aware of his predicament: his entire six-year campaign without the use arms has brought him only twenty-five martyred brothers for every dead occupier-and worse-the farce of Oslo. Seeing that he is no match for the colossal colonial military, he strikes quickly and fatally at soft targets within Israel.
Yes, after facing at least four decades of relentless Israeli terror, in 1993 he begins to carry out suicide bombing campaigns inside Israel. His attacks are scenes of brutality, but also examples of despair. Malcolm X once said, “The price of freedom is death”; for the constantly dehumanized and brutalized native, the benefit of death is freedom. The attacks are terrible no doubt, but only drops of water in the vast Israeli ocean of terrorism that is both quantitatively and historically much more powerful and deadly. In pointing out the differing methods of violence the pro-Israeli pundits hopes to discover a hidden ‘culture of hate’ or ‘culture of evil’, but he has only helped us expose the disparity of power between one of the world’s most powerful militaries and the world’s last colonized people. He worries about “bombs strapped around waists” but should concern himself with removing the restraints strapped around his mind; perhaps he would then see that it is the colonizer who has strapped chains around the arms and ankles of the native and that this lends the conflict its explosive character.
Yet our expert is not entirely without weapons of his own. He is always equipped with phrases-marvelous phrases, no doubt-which wash away the facts of history with a wave of the hand. Today, he raises his favorite: “there is no moral equivalency here.” We are forced to agree-from the Palestinian perspective-that there is indeed no “moral equivalency” between a half-century of all-sided, all-encompassing criminality and recent acts born of desperation. But he immediately clarifies his thesis: “there is no moral equivalency between terror and the democracy of Western civilization”. Here he has introduced three fine terms in just one sentence; when “moral equivalency” does not suffice to crush dissent he brings in the bulldozers of “terror” and “democracy”. Permit us to remind him of the content of Israeli democracy in relation to the native.
If we set aside the fact that Israel had to expel most of its non-Jewish population and has subjugated the remaining Arabs in its territory, it is accurate to say that the Israelis elect their own leaders rather freely. Let us briefly see whom they have chosen to represent them. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was the man who headed all Jewish militia before and throughout the massacre and ethnic cleansing campaigns of 1947-1949. The two main militia groups involved in the rape, plunder, and killing of Palestinians were Irgun and Haganah, led by Menachem Begin and Yitzakh Shamir, respectively. Begin, who told the Knesset that the Palestinians are “beasts walking on two legs” was elected PM in 1977, and Shamir’s heroism earned him the same post in 1983. Golda Meir, elected PM in 1969, is responsible for the famous saying, “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed.” A resounding round of applause for the Israelis: they have elected to the highest offices a cohort of racists and war criminals. An May 14, Haaretz piece on the subject of the International Criminal Court noted that the Israeli elite have become “concerned”, even “alarmed”, by “the possibility that prominent Israelis, members of the security services as well as politicians, will have to stand trialfor committing war crimes.” The article continues, “The legal and military leadership in Israel are becoming increasingly concerned that Israel will be well represented among the first suspects and accused.” In the category of war crimes Israeli leaders will undeniably take home the gold.
But I almost forgot about the man who supports mass deportation. I almost forgot the epitome of savagery. I almost forgot Ariel Sharon. Administrator of the Territories in the 1970’s Sharon designed the settlements so that they would separate and isolate Palestinian villages from one another. In the 1980’s he called for mass expulsion and destruction of a Palestinian village for rioting.9 In 1982, the Israeli government held him “personally responsible” for the horrifying massacre carried out in the camps of Sabra and Shatilla, which left 1800 civilians dead. Today, as his list of crimes grows ever longer, as his own people refer to him as “The Bulldozer”, he officially stands as the elected representative of the Israeli people.
It turns out that Israeli democracy, whose existence is meant to shame those who support the Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom, is in fact an indictment of Israeli society itself. Those living under a dictatorship at least have the distinct advantage of not being indirectly involved in the unjust violence of their government. And what kind of violence is the present Israeli government exacting upon the Palestinians today?
April 22, The Times of India: IDF troops shot and wounded four Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip for throwing stones at Israeli bulldozers. One of the aggressors, a 3-year old Palestinian boy, was shot in the head and died. April 26, The Independent: two 14 and 15 year-old boys who approached Jewish settlements with knives were killed. Israeli vehicles ran over one of the children several times and left both bodies to be gnawed at by wild dogs. May 17th, AP: Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 7-year old boy in a Nablus refugee camp. Soldiers fired from tank-mounted machine guns in response to stones, injuring six civilians, including three children. Nevertheless the source informs us it was “accidental.” May 19th, Jerusalem Post: An Arab-Israeli doctor was shot and killed near Hebron for trying to bypass a checkpoint. An Arab-Israeli woman was shot dead by the IDF in Shuweikeh for trying to repair her car. We are informed the fatal bullet was a “warning shot” which “ricocheted.” An Arab-Israeli was shot and wounded at an IDF roadblock for failing to stop; he was deaf. May 30th, Haaretz: A 17 year-old Palestinian boy was killed while in custody. The boy was to undergo brain surgery when IDF forces beat and detained him, tied his hands with electrical wire while in custody, and beat him some more. After shooting him dead, soldiers threw his naked body into the street. His mother was not notified. Generously, the IDF offered to open a “special investigation.” June 27th, Guardian: Israeli military forces in the Balata refugee camp shot and killed a 17-year old Palestinian. He was firing a pistol at an Israeli tank. June 29th, CNN: A Palestinian woman and her husband were wounded by IDF bullets at Deir Balah refugee camp. We are informed that they were “in the crossfire.” The woman died soon after because “an ambulance was delayed from entering the area.” We are not informed if this is also because it was “in the crossfire”. July 2, Haaretz: a 10-year old Palestinian boy was shot dead by either settlers or soldiers. The army sent its condolences to the family: a bulldozer tore up their vegetable plot-“All of their livelihood for the summer and fall months was ruined”-and then destroyed “three motorized pumps that brought water from the well.”
This is the precious content of Israel’s coveted ‘democracy’: murdering Palestinian men, women, and children on a daily basis. Palestinians are finding themselves infused with ‘Western civilization’ one bullet at a time. As illustrated, in the past several months Israel’s guns have spoken and spoken loudly. Now let the men who have wielded them speak for themselves:
IDF sergeant first class reservist Asaf Oron.
[In the Territories] we have created an entirely hallucinatory reality, in which the true humans, members of the ‘Nation of Masters’, can move and settle freely and safely, while the sub-humans, the ‘Nation of Slaves’, have been shoved into the corners and kept invisible and controlled under our IDF boots.10
IDF staff sergeant reservist Shlomi Segall.
Sharon and his cronies are fighting a colonial war to keep their pet settlement project in place, to perpetuate the Israeli occupation and the subjugation of the Palestinian territories. It is a one-sided war with a not-so-covert purpose of destroying any hope of a Palestinian homeland and independent national life.11
IDF soldier Sergio Yahni.
This army does not exist to bring security to the citizens of Israel, it exists to guarantee the continuation of the theft of Palestinian land. As a Jew, I am repelled by the crimes this militia commits against the Palestinian people.12
To survive the checkpoint, you [the soldier] must become an animal. You become a machine of the checkpoint.13
IDF tank gunner reservist Shamai Lebowitz:
Can you expect a rape victim to negotiate with her attacker? Can you expect a slave to negotiate with his master a ‘contract of freedom’? 14
These men are among some 470 Israeli soldiers who have refused to serve in the Territories, citing their refusal to “dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.” Their accounts and testimonies speak to the utter brutality and violence Israel has displayed towards the Palestinians. No doubt they are the exception, as the vast majority of Israelis are content to fulfill their national duty by defecating in Palestinian civilian offices and firing tank shells at little children on bicycles, incidents which have been reported in the mainstream Israeli press.15 But the refuseniks have nevertheless freed themselves from the system and given us valuable insight into the dialectics of colonialism, confirming the realities of a system once described with unparalleled precision by Césaire and Fanon.
By now our terrorism expert, having nothing left to say, has fled the scene. There is no comparison between the systematic, powerful, and all-sided violence of the Israeli colonizer and the desperate reactions of the oppressed native. The original sin of colonization committed by the settler, compounded by the terror and brutality which has flowed from it for over fifty years, is the principal act of aggression. The Palestinian cannot be one-sidedly faulted for trying to prevent his ethnic cleansing and possible extermination, as he is fighting for his very existence. If one can criticize his tactics, which would be hard not to do given the tragic consequences of suicide bombings, it must be a complete criticism, that is, it must be made clear that what the native does out of lack of alternative options to regain his land cannot be placed on the same plane as what the robber of his land has always been doing entirely of his own volition and with incomparably greater force. The words of Mark Twain concerning the violence of the French Revolution could hardly find a more appropriate context:
There were two ‘Reigns of Terror’ if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand yearsbut our shudders are all for the ‘horrors’ of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the ax compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heartbreak?….that unspeakably bitter and awful terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.16
It has been the purpose of this article to expose the “unspeakably bitter and awful terror”, to grasp it and dig it out from under the stinking pile of racism and hatred which has smothered and covered up the suffering of the Palestinian people for so long.
But having peeled away at the many layers of lies and having exposed the inner workings of Israeli brutality, the question remains: what is to be done? There are, of course, certain international laws and norms which have been drawn up. Israel stands in violation of several articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely regarding the shifting of demographics and use of violence, which covers essentially every pertinent article of the document. Israel stands in violation of certain UN resolutions as well: 194, which calls for the right of return for refugees, and 242, which calls for Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders. But in examining these documents in relation to the question of “what is to be done”, a certain degree of bluntness is required: nothing has been done. These documents, which were not written up yesterday, were at any rate written up and codified only with the approval of the world’s five great powers and are disobeyed and discarded at will by the world’s main power. They are a reference point only in that they illustrate the hypocrisy of its supposed enforcers.
Throughout the history of mankind, liberation has been achieved not by brandishing this or that document, but through genuine struggle and solidarity among those who are being deprived of justice and are not afraid to fight for it. And who is being deprived of justice today? The Palestinian natives fighting Israeli colonialism, the unemployed masses of Argentina combating the system of greed heralded by the IMF, the poor of Venezuela defending Chavez against reactionary despots, and of course the American public which finds itself not only robbed by the corporate presidency, but robbed again for the purpose of funding wars abroad that will produce its own set of explosive consequences. Thus the chains burdening the Palestinian native will not be kindly unlocked by the system which forged them; they must be broken apart by the great majority of humanity which is bound and shackled by them through a collective will of resistance.
1. Cited in Erlich, Guy, ‘Not Only Deir Yassin’, Ha’ir, 6 May 1992.
2. Pg. 31. Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000.
3. See note 1.
4. June 28, Reuters. Quote cited by correspondent Elaine Monaghan.
5. May 31, 2002. Washington Post. “Settlements Expand Under Sharon.”
6. Statistics compiled by Israeli human rights group B’TSelem
7. July 01, 2002. Z Magazine. “A Conversation with Justin Podur in Gaza.”
8. May 1994, 2002. Cited in Z Magazine. “Israeli Apartheid and Terrorism”, by Edward S. Herman, media analyst and Professor at Univ. of Penn.
9. Pg. 581. Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1999.
10. April 10, 2002. Cited in Z Magazine. “Passover 2002: An Open Letter to American Jews”, by Asaf Oron
11. July 05, 2002. The Guardian. “Why I Won’t Serve Sharon”, Shlomi Segall.
12. March 19, 2002. Cited in World Social Forum. “To:Minister of Defence Ben-Eliezer”, Sergio Yahni.
13. Quote cited in July 05, 2002 Z Magazine article, “Breeding Points of Terror”, Jessica Azulay.
14. July 05, 2002. Cited in Middle East Times. “An Israeli Officer’s Response to Bush”, Shamai Leibowitz.
15. May 6, 2002, Haaretz. Amira Hass writes, “[The soldiers] defecated into plastic bags, and these were scattered in several places. Some of them had burst. Someone even managed to defecate into a photocopier.” There were “two toilets on every floor”.July 2, 2002. Haaretz. Gideon Levy. (Note: BBC recently acquired clear footage of the incident)
16. Quote cited in Monthly Review, June 2002, “Violence: A Tool of Order and Change”, by Leo Panitich. From Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
M. Junaid Alam’s Raping the Palesitians is continued in Part Three: Concerning Violence.
M. Junaid Alam is an undergraduate in political science at Northeastern University.
He can be reached at: email@example.com