Pummeling the victim

Palestinian friends and relatives attend the funeral of 14-year-old Ibrahim Sanaqra, the brother of an activist with the Al-Aqsa Brigades in Balata refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Nablus, 3 November 2006. (MaanImages/Rami Swidan)


The terrible imbalance of power between the Israelis and Palestinians makes it impossible for Israel, regardless of which government is in power, to deal with the Palestinians in any way except through a lens of assumed moral, cultural, and racial superiority, as though military prowess equates with civilization and home-made rockets equate with savagery and a sub-human status.

The savagery, though, belongs to Israel and to anyone who has the power to stop a bully in his bloody pummeling of a much weaker opponent but instead stands aside, watching under the cover of the manufactured excuse that the bully is defending himself against his hapless victim.

Europe may be looking askance at Iran’s attempt to arm itself, but really, that’s a coin Europe understands very well. When the Middle East and North Africa were under the control of the European powers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they certainly loved this notion that there is a hierarchy of races and civilizations and that they belonged to the superior one — primarily as a result of their military power. As a French writer put it, “The basic legitimation of conquest over native peoples is the conviction of our superiority, not merely our mechanical, economic, and military superiority, but our moral superiority.”

The current savage spectacle of the beating up of Gaza (“conquest” is too fancy a word for what’s happening) is rooted in this kind of thinking

The current savage spectacle of the beating up of Gaza (“conquest” is too fancy a word for what’s happening) is rooted in this kind of thinking. It’s what makes Moslems cheer for Iran’s attempts to arm itself to a point that will move it magically out of the shameful circle of terrorism/evil into the fancy circle of a “power”. It seems that’s the avenue that will bring it and the Islam it represents moral superiority in the eyes of the US and Europe.

The Israeli exercise of power over its subject people in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) takes on many different shapes. One is military, as in using its powerful arsenal of weapons to go into Palestinians towns and cities on a daily basis and find and slaughter selected people at will — as in sweeping into Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip and mowing whatever stands in its way, even people taking refuge from its civilized terror in a mosque. When Israel’s present campaign in Gaza is all over (is this still “Summer Rain” or have the Israelis moved into “Winter Blues”?), the Palestinians will no doubt crawl out from under the rubble and look for uncivilized ways to take revenge.

Then there are the refined democratic deliberations that Israel exercises through its various cabinets at the same time it has some Palestinian cabinet members under lock and key, the most recent of whom is the Palestinian Minister of Labor, kidnapped on November second.

The Israeli diplomatic-security cabinet (responsible for “strategic-political-defensive issues”, naturally, as Israel’s armed forces must constantly defend and subdue what they conquered by force) met the other day and voted to keep up the “military pressure” on Hamas in the Gaza Strip; to allow General Keith Dayton, the American security coordinator in the occupied territories, to arm and train forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas; and to grant the request of the US to allow the Badr Brigade, a wing of the Palestine Liberation Army that is currently stationed in Jordan, to relocate to the occupied territories.

And speaking of “relocations”, the Israeli diplomatic-security cabinet, which should be called “The Israeli Cabinet for the further Subjugation and Containment of the Palestinian People”, gave cursory attention to a tool the Israeli government has long used in order to effect what many justly see as ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the OPT, including Jerusalem. Since Israel controls the population registry of Palestinians in the OPT as well as the borders of the territories with the outside world, it controls who is permitted to have a Palestinian ID; who is permitted to enter the OPT; who is permitted to live there; who is permitted to work there; and who is permitted to live in Jerusalem specifically. Israel gives a very limited number of visas and permits - far, far below the need and the demand.

This power and control on Israel’s part manifests itself in various damaging and isolating ways for Palestinians, but the most egregious manifestation is family break-up

This power and control on Israel’s part manifests itself in various damaging and isolating ways for Palestinians, but the most egregious manifestation is family break-up. Israel is not issuing permits to thousands of spouses and close family members of Palestinians who hold various nationalities to reside in the OPT. This is a policy that Israel has practiced with various refinements since the Oslo Accords. One of these refinements foils the attempts (through the procuring of tourist visas at the border) of Palestinian expatriate nationals as well as regular nationals of every country in the world who are looking to live in the OPT in order to be united with their families or in order to work in the OPT and contribute to its development.

In response to “sharp” criticism from the US and EU for preventing their nationals from procuring residency permits in the OPT, the diplomatic-security cabinet ratified a request by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, according to Haaretz, “to ‘launder’ the presence in the West Bank of some 5,000 Palestinians who hold American or European passports.” Unfortunately, this gesture comprises barely a single underwear from the dirty wash that Israel needs to launder. Furthermore, it is bound to create internal conflict among the Palestinians. How are they supposed to fairly divvy up this gift of 5,000 permits? Perhaps they will organize a lottery.

There are thousands of nationals of less powerful countries than the US and the EU who have a right to live with their families in the occupied territories. Many of these, for example, are Jordanians. Even though Jordan has a so-called peace treaty with Israel, it apparently has no clout to ask the Israeli government to process the thousands of family unification applications that families have already filed on behalf of some of its citizens (Israel is currently sitting on more than 120,000 such applications). Thousands of other nationalities are currently living “illegally” in the OPT with their families afraid to speak up, imprisoned in their homes.

Back to Gaza, the majority of whose captive population is made up of refugees from cities and towns now within Israeli borders. One sadly notes no discussion in Israel’s diplomatic-security cabinet, as it was considering the Gaza Strip and Israel’s fancy “defensive” attacks on it, of a plan to return these people to their homes or to compensate them - a basic right for those people codified in international law.

Related Links

  • BY TOPIC: Banning of internationals and foreign passport-holding Palestinians (25 June 2006 onwards)