JSalloum on 21 Oct 2000 08:36:10 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> 7.1 Article by Hannan Ashrawi

apologies for crossposting -js


Hannan Ashrawi 
Jerusalem, October 18, 2000

Anatomy of Racism

"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 

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 the "violence" of Palestinian civilians 
protesting their victimization and continued loss of rights, lands, and 

In addition, the Palestinians are called upon to be docile, to stop the 
"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 occupation.

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 "white man's burden"
syndrome. Palestinians should be "grateful" for whatever "generous offer" 
Israel chooses to "grant" them, regardless of the glaring injustice and 
illegality of the Israeli negotiating stance.

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 
"farthest" in "offering" the Palestinians almost 90% of their lands with 
some "responsibilities" in 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 version of
"peace" that "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 results-since
"Arabs understand only the language of violence."

Instant scare tactics or panic politics come into play with such labels as
the "terrorist" or "dictatorial" or "violent" Palestinians, while depicting
the reality of the Palestinian human will to resist subjugation and
oppression as proof of such misrepresentations.

A catch-22 situation is clearly visible: Arafat must "control" 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 "leader."

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 the US.

In parallel, other ready-made labels and stereotypical epithets are easily
pulled out as a convenient branding exercise to reduce the humanity of the

The historical and familiar slurs used by Israeli officials and public
figures (including cockroaches, two-legged vermin, dogs) have been expanded
to include "snakes" and "crocodiles."

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 "y" 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 "gun men." Then, he
was "caught in the crossfire." The worst version was in the cynical
depiction of the child Muhammad as a "trouble-maker" or 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

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 had
mistakenly "strayed" into Ramallah and then were "lynched" by the mob.
References to "slaughter" and "blood thirst" and "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 even guile.

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 "Death Squads" that had been responsible
for assassinations and provocations.

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 "release" our 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 "restraint."

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 "land 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?

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net