Call it a revolution. Like the Russian Revolution or the French Revolution. Only this is the revolution of a people who had their country stolen — a theft sanctioned by powerful empires, nations, and the UN — and then increasingly occupied. A people who have been suppressed and humiliated for over 75 years — successive generations of grandparents, parents, and children. A people who tried various avenues and times to get the international community to listen to them but failed. The uprising of a frustrated, downtrodden, desperate people, driven to desperate measures.
The West condemns Palestine’s actions, but turns a blind eye to Israel’s
Many Western countries, including UK and US, have condemned last weekend’s Palestinian attack on Israel as “terrorism.” Call it a fight for justice and freedom. After all, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.
Britain was instrumental in the creation of Israel, an event that resulted in the creation of nearly 6 million Palestinian refugees and the subjugation of those left behind. Call it the destruction of Palestine. Following the recent Palestinian attack, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that Israel has “an absolute right to defend itself,” as if Israel had been shy to do so in the past or had been waiting for anyone’s permission. But what about Palestine’s right to defend itself?
US President Biden has said “the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back.” The US has always given Israel unconditional support and a tacit carte blanche to do whatever it wishes — including expanding its settlements, which has exacerbated and prolonged the conflict. Hardly the stance of a credible and objective peace broker.
The Western press seems shocked by the recent attack. Why would Palestinians want to lash out against Israelis? Why would the oppressed want to lash out against their oppressors? Western press seems surprised that some Palestinians the world over seem to be celebrating the attack. Why would people oppressed for over 75 years celebrate after managing to strike a blow at their oppressors? Such questions show the West’s purposeful ignorance of the Palestinians’ situation as well as their uncritical support of Israel.
No one would tolerate the treatment that Palestinians have received
Edward Said, an academic and activist, has often said that it is difficult to be the victim of “the Victim.”
The Western world felt supremely sorry for the Jewish people after the Holocaust, and rightfully so. They offered them as a homeland: not a county in the UK, not a state in the US, not land in Germany, but the country of Palestine. To use a Zionist slogan, “A land without a people for a people without a land”. The crucial fact that Palestine already had a people was ignored. And thus, the Palestinians became the victims of the ultimate victims.
It’s as if I give your house (which you and your family have occupied for millennia) to a homeless family (because their ancestors lived on that land even before). Using this reasoning of a historical claim, we should give North America back to the Native Americans, Australia back to the Aboriginals and Central and South America back to their indigenous peoples.
So the homeless family moves into the top floor of your house. I allow you to live in the basement of what was once your house, but as per the rules of your new upstairs occupant. When you complain to me about these new arrangements, I tell you to be nice and share. When you complain to your other neighbors and the authorities, they politely look away. When you shout and throw stones, the upstairs occupant rains down ten stones for each one you throw.
I wonder why you’re so recalcitrant and I call you a terrorist; meanwhile, I invite the upstairs occupant over for supper. Emboldened, the upstairs occupant controls your entry and exit from your house, limits your access to electricity and clean water, and then slowly starts encroaching downstairs as well. Call it an occupation.
Over the course of decades, having lived in relative comfort and freedom, above ground and with unbridled support from powerful friends, the upstairs occupant becomes affluent, strong and well-connected. You, on the other hand, grow poorer, weaker, and more isolated. Call it apartheid.
After 75 years of living in increasingly cramped quarters in the basement and undergoing daily deprivation and humiliation, one day, out of utter frustration — you throw a bomb onto the upper floor. And that last act is all that the western powers and media see; call it short-sightedness.
Edward Said noted that “you cannot continue to victimize someone else just because you yourself were a victim once — there has to be a limit.” The Palestinians seem to have reached their limit. Their actions are easily understandable to anyone with vision, reason, compassion and a sense of fairness. Stripped of country and dignity, oppressed for decades and forgotten by an unjust world, Palestinians now feel that they have nothing left to lose.
Israel will come down hard on a Palestine that has lashed out
On the other side, in response to the Palestinian attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared, “We are at war.” If so, he’s at war with a section of his own populace; call it a civil war.
After last weekend’s attack, the Israelis will indeed retaliate, as they have always done, by lobbing ten bombs for each one from the Palestinians, and exacting 20 Palestinian lives for each Israeli life. (Between 2008 and 2020, the death toll in the Israel-Palestine conflict was 251 Israelis to 5590 Palestinians.)
This time, Netanyahu has said, “We will forcefully avenge this dark day,” “We will turn them into rubble” and, “We will exact a price that will be remembered by them and Israel’s other enemies for decades to come.” While Gaza has been under partial blockade since 2007, Israel has now implemented a total blockade, preventing the entry of electricity, fuel and even food. The UN is saying this violates international law and demands that Israel allow humanitarian aid in. The potential death and suffering to be inflicted on the Palestinians this time is indeed frightening. Some fear a genocide.
Instead of focusing on how to constrain Israel’s massive retaliation and calm the situation, the talking heads are busy analyzing Israel’s failure in security and intelligence. However, Israel’s need for such intense security and intelligence to protect it from a section of its own populace points to a greater failure: a failure of decades caused by occupying Palestine, oppressing its inhabitants and not allowing them a respectful existence in their own country.
However, this need not be the precipice of a destructive war; this could be a moment of pivotal positive change. Now is the time for the neighbors, near and far, to come together in earnest, to hear and acknowledge the desperation of the long-oppressed downstairs occupant and to ensure that the upstairs occupant behaves in a constrained manner and does not brutally slay the long-oppressed downstairs occupant. Now is the time for the neighbors to help these two work towards a truly equitable solution. Call it an opportunity for peace — perhaps the last one.
[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.