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The Politics of Language

It is commonplace to read each day in newspapers such as the Financial Times, New York Times, London Times and Washington Post of Israeli “retaliation”. The reportage frequently mentions the fetaliation as following a Palestinian attack on an Israeli colonial settlement in the West Bank or urban population center in Israel. The action and reaction always is located in a limited time frame. Palestinian action is always the initial moment and the Israeli military attack is always described as a response or “retaliatory” and therefore, presumably a form of defensive action, “justifiable”.

Thus what appears as objective reportage on two sets of military actions, is in fact an arbitrary selection of time frames which lays the basis for a highly biased interpretive framework. The pro-Israeli tilt, evident in the chosen time sequence, and the framework, are derived from the general ideological argument which portrays Israel as a democracy, defending itself from Arab-Muslim terrorists and not an expansionist colonial power engaged in violent ethnic cleansing and large-scale long-term forced population expulsion.

What is absent from the reportage in such “news” accounts is the sequence of events preceding the Palestinian attacks. Here we are likely to find a series of Israeli military incursions, bombings and killing of non-combatants, summary executions of political prisoners, as well as arbitrary arrests, home demolitions and illegal (even by colonial standards) land seizures.

An examination of readily available, well-documented weekly reports by Palestinian Center for Human Rights, throws a wholly different light on the context and framework for understanding the sequence of events and, equally important, the nature and goals of the Israeli state.

For the week of December 8-14, 2005, the PCHR recorded:

* 10 Palestinians killed by the IDF (which should of course be properly called the Iosareli Occupation Force) of which 7 of victims were extra-judicially executed by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

* 34 Palestinian civilians, including 17 children were wounded by the IDF.

* IDF attacked civilian targets in the Gaza Strip

* IDF conducted 40 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank

* Houses were raided and 91 Palestinian civilians; including, university professors, parliamentary candidates and 4 children were arrested.

* The closure of the Moslem Youth Association in Hebron for 2 years

* A Palestinian house was seized, its occupants evicted and it was transformed into an Israeli military site.

* IDF continued a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territory and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.

* IDF arrested 12 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children, at various checkpoints in the West Bank.

* IDF used rubber-coated metal bullets to disperse peaceful demonstrations protesting the Annexation Wall wounding a child and 6 demonstrators.

* Israeli settlers continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property in the occupied territories, while the IDF confiscated land from several Palestinian villages, near Bethlehem, Hebron and Jerusalem evicting 30 Palestinian families.

In this context Palestinian military actions are clearly defensive of community, family and livelihood.

A survey of previous reports covering 2005, indicates that the data for the week of December 8-14, 2005 were fairly representative of Israeli activity. If we were to multiply the weekly findings by years: 52 X 5 X military assaults? We would capture the magnitude of Israeli offensive military action. The overwhelming evidence, both in terms of scale, scope and time frame of Israeli military attacks clearly points to persistent Israeli offensive activities linked to territorial expansion, colonial oppression and ethnic cleansing.

The indiscriminate attacks on civilians and children, the systematic destruction and blockage of essential transportation and travel routes, and the berserk application of policies of collective guilt (arresting family members of suspected guerrillas, the blowing up of family homes of suspects) have everything to do with destroying the basis of economic activity, the social fabric of civil society and family networks.

The empirical evidence provides the basis for concluding that Israeli military attacks on Palestinians, by their systematic and continuous nature, are not retaliatory; they are clearly detonators of Palestinian military responses. Israelis are not victims rather victimizers, as it evident from a multiplicity of actions: seizing homes, land, prisoners, transport routes etc. The initiative and design of the Israeli actions are directed at intimidating and impoverishing Palestinians and ultimately forcing them to abandon their country to achieve the goal of a “pure Jewish state” based on rabbinically approved “blood ties” not dissimilar from previous racialist clerical regimes.

JAMES PETRAS, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu

 

 

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