Palestine and the long arm of the Occupation

A shattered window in a Palestinian shop after unknown gunmen shot at it early in the morning in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 12 January 2007. (MaanImages/Luay Sababa)

The Palestinians, as they have been for so many years, are these days once again the protagonists of news involving violent events. Most recently, the Palestinians are killing one another other, which, according to newspapers and TV reports, just confirms their extremist, bloodthirsty, aggressive nature and that of Arabs and Muslims in general, since the Iraqis are immersed in a bloody fraticidal struggle as well.

In the past, the media have habitually reported Palestinian attacks against Israelis, so it is not strange today for news-consumers that the Palestinians, just like the Iraqis, have tipped over into civil war, as if this were the most natural thing in the world, the logical, inevitable consequence of the politics and, as likely as not, the character of Arabs and Muslims — that is to say, backward, when compared with Western politics and culture, which, by definition, are advanced and democratic.

What these reports habitually fail to report is the role of those Western governments in the political situation of the Middle East. If something is mentioned, it is to write, without trace of shame or awareness, that the Isaeli government cannot possibly negotiate with Hamas extremists because they do not meet the conditions the international community demands so as to undertake a dialogue with them.

This manoeuvre is shared by a minority of citizens, who follow the conflict and are pro-Israeli, and accepted by the great majority who are unaware of the nub of the problem because they have been cleverly confused by the false and biased information supplied to them by the media. For their part, the Palestinians are turning into the paradigmatic case of a victim, blamed by their persecutor and left to their fate by the persecutor’s supporters.

It seems almost impossible to believe that a population, which according to international law enjoys special protection as a result of being mostly refugees and living totally under military occupation, should be the object of political and economic sanctions instead of receiving protection and justice from the international community, whom one supposes has to obey that law and see it is respected rather than align itself with the occupier and abuser of the human, political and social rights of the Palestinians.

Since what is happening in Palestine is a total outrage, the average citizen, just as Hitler’s propaganda minister Goebbels planned, chooses to believe the simplified information presented to them which their mind can grasp and understand at a glance, instead of facing up to a somewhat complex reality that is hidden from or obscured for them and whose understanding demands reflection for which there is no time.

Time after time the Palestinians are landed with responsibility for keeping the conflict stagnant, today it is the Hamas government, a couple of years ago it was Arafat himself, a few years more back it was Palestinian attacks (as it continues to be) and before then the Intifada and so on in an unending and varied list which emphasises Palestinian violence and opposition to Israel. That this State is an occupying power and that its Occupation, bloodthirsty and brutal, as well as illegal, is the origin of the problem and the fundamental cause of its progressive deterioration stays unsaid.

For decades people have gone around in dizzy circles after reasons and a thousand and one more or less fanciful political formulas so as to come up with a solution which turns out to be impossible precisely because the nub of the problem is never addressed: the Occupation. Peace talks (no more than impositions of the strong on the weak) are designed, some leaders are preferred (who blatantly describe themselves as pro-Western as if this were the quality that lends them legitimacy for the Palestinians), the Palestinians are subject to inhuman living condtiions (accept the Israeli occupation and call it dialogue or else face death and immiseration), in fact everything is tried except ensuring justice and respect for human rights.

In 2006, the year that has just ended, a well known imperialist policy has been tried in Palestine (although not for the first time then certainly with particular virulence) which is also being carried out in Iraq with the same aim: for the Palestinians to kill each other. It is hoped to achieve a double result: on the one hand the elimination of the enemy without imperialist military intervention (at least directly) and on the other the justification of a political intervention (at least, indirectly)

Internal conflicts are a gift from heaven for the defenders of imperialism and Western cultural, religious and democratic supremacy and hence a gift on a platter for the governments of Israel and the United States, and likewise for the Zionist movement. It is just tragic that the Palestinians fall into this trap and especially shameful for some Fatah leaders who have been incapable of advancing the Palestinian cause, have got rich during their rule and, so as not to lose their privileges, ally themselves now with the oppressors of their compatriots against the interests of the majority of the Palestinians.

There is no need for Sherlock Holmes to guess the true intentions of the European Union and the United States as regards democracy and human rights in Palestine (or anywhere else) on observing the coordinated response to the last elections in the Occupied Territories: Hamas wins and the immediate response is political isolation of their government, blockade of the Palestinian economy, fomenting of internal dissent, arming and training of the losing party and maintenance of support for Israel while it continues to murder Palestinians, occupy their land and oppress or imprison those who resist (including democratically elected leaders and children).

At the same time, the average European and United States citizen feels themselves superior to the Palestinians because in their judgement, as informed by the Western media, the Palestinians are incapable of living in democracy like us and kill each other out of their deeply rooted fundamentalism, lack of tolerance and democratic habits and for their age-old anti-western, anti-modern traditions.

Agustin Velloso is a lecturer at the Spanish Open University in Madrid. He teaches about educational issues in Palestine and Iraq. Translation copyleft by Tortilla con Sal.

Related Links