A massacre is not a massacre

2 June 2010

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Occupation is not occupation (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

I don’t write poems but, in any case, poems are not poems.

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine; I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians; They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing. And when naive old me saw freedom fighters they patiently showed me that they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not resistance. And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not arrogance, oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not humiliation.

I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp. But they told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity and concentration camps and I have to take their word for it: this was not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp. Over the years they’ve taught me so many things: invasion was not invasion, occupation was not occupation, colonialism was not colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid.

They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths that my poor brain could not on its own compute like: “having nuclear weapons” was not “having nuclear weapons,” “not having weapons of mass destruction” was “having weapons of mass destruction.”

And, democracy (in the Gaza Strip) was not democracy. Having second class citizens (in Israel) was democracy. So you’ll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today that there were more things that I thought were evident that are not: peace activists are not peace activists, piracy is not piracy, the massacre of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.

I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited. And they’re so fucking intelligent. Really.

Ghassan Hage is professor of anthropology and social theory at the University of Melbourne.