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Israel's Suffering?

Vincenzo | 21.07.2006 12:24 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Repression | Birmingham | World

As the latest round of Israeli mass punishment escalates, as the Lebanese people are once again subjected to a taste of the brutality meted out to the Palestinians, and as George Bush and Tony Blair give their tacit approval, the question posed by Robert Fisk in a recent article surely warrants further consideration. 'What does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?'

The suffering and pain of the Palestinians and the Lebanese is well known and well documented within our community. This essay will in part consider that less documented phenomena, the pain and the suffering of the Israelis, or rather, to put it another way, what is it that makes Israel behave as it does? And further what is it that allows the international community to let Israel get away with it?
Turn to the Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz, speaking on Monday to the BBC World Service, defending Israeli actions in Lebanon in terms of the enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which refers to the disbanding and disarming of the militias in Lebanon, including Hizbollah, while calling for the international community to live up to these commitments. Or how about the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni on Wednesday, again speaking to the BBC World Service, accusing Hizbollah of attempting to destabilise the region.
On the one hand a preliminary answer to Fisk's question could note that psychological denial and selective memory have become the norm with regard to Israeli spokespeople. On the other hand it should come as no surprise that in these interviews both BBC reporters failed to raise either the question of the numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions relating to Palestine, which Israel is itself guilty of breaking, or the matter of the Geneva convention and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in both Palestine and now Lebanon, nor the question of Israel's own and very real destabilisation of the region.
Such perverse double standards are perhaps, and unfortunately, to be expected when we take into account the mind games that the Israeli state must play with itself in order to perpetuate its war crimes. Mind games that the US, the ever acquiescent Tony Blair and the corporate media are only too happy to play along with. With regard to Israel itself, the cliche of a spoilt and arrogant bully in the playground is perhaps appropriate here, throwing its weight around as it forcefully asserts that it is the aggrieved party.
Bearing in mind the perversity apparently inherent in the Israeli mindset, we should perhaps remember that it cannot be easy to have suffered a holocaust and in escaping that, in attempting to ensure that the same never happens to you again, to then find that in turn you have allowed yourself to become the cause of one. I remember seeing an interview with a young Israeli soldier, talking about the importance of Israel having military strength, in order to ensure that there could be no repeat of the Jewish holocaust. Regrettably it is this US funded military strength that has enabled the Israeli state to make the transformation from victim to victimiser.
Such a turnabout cannot sit easily in the mind. While the case of victims turned victimisers may be a common historical phenomena, it seems hard to accept that on some level, be that conscious or unconscious, the Israeli state and the Israeli people are not aware that they are currently, and have for a long time being committing similar crimes to those that were perpetuated against the Jewish people during the second world war.
At least a quarter of a million Lebanese people are currently on the move, trying to find safety from Israel's 'targeted' attacks. At least 319 Lebanese have been killed by these same attacks, while 34 Israelis have been killed by Hizbollah rockets. How can this be a proportionate response, unless you consider Israeli lives to be of more value than Lebanese? What state of denial must you be in to be able to even attempt to justify the massacre we are currently witnessing?
Given that it is the strongest military power in the region, why is Israel so afraid? What is it so terrified of? What ontological insecurity lies at the heart of Israel's fear? Is it this underlying knowledge of crimes committed, of the theft of a nation, the racist subjugation of a people? Or perhaps this fear of the other, this xenophobia is also born of the fact that the Israeli identity is itself nowhere near as homogeneous as those who identify themselves with it would like? Perhaps it is Israel's diverse racial make up, its miss match of racial groupings, that feeds its fear that it does not have and cannot attain a singular and coherent identity for itself, which in turn propels its xenophobia and its need to strike out?

And so, to turn to Fisk's second question, what does this act of destruction tell us about ourselves? Or more to the point what does it tell us about the state of humanity at the beginning of the 21st Century?
In the first place we could note that as usual, completely disproportionate is also an accurate assessment of the 'news' that is currently being spun by the corporate media. Their reporting of the current crisis is following a tried and tested path: presenting Israeli aggression as retaliation, personalising Israeli victims through interviews with witnesses, and the provision of names, ages and contexts of Israeli deaths, while merely glossing over with a mention the number of Lebanese dead, and now, in the last few days, focusing upon the 'heroic' evacuation efforts as our 'fellow citizens' are rescued and we leave the Lebanese to rot.
Anyone watching, or is that believing, the corporate media is liable to come away with the impression that mass punishment is a legitimate tactic. And alongside this media environment, there is the obvious inability of the international community to deal with this crisis, given the US administration's unwillingness or tacit approval; we have once again the impotence of the UN and Tony Blair is also stepping into line behind George Bush. All of which naturally goes hand in hand with the apathy of the vast majority of western people, who in a state of mind perhaps similar to that of Israel, seem to be able to deny that this is being done in our name.
Then there is Iran and Syria, whose behind the scenes machinations we can only guess at. For who has provided the merest shred of concrete evidence to back up the allegations that these are the controlling hands which have specifically guided Hizbollah on its recent course of action? One thing is for sure, it all plays nicely into the hands of the increasingly apparent plan of the US administration: War on Iran. Leave the Iraqi's to their civil war, time to bring 'freedom and democracy' to the next client nation.
In many respects this all smacks of the merging of the colonial and imperial adventures, despite the much heralded demise of colonialism. For while America has one eye upon the spoils of war, the corporate carve up and the continued expansion of its economic empire, is its bankrolling of Israel not in reality the most horrendous of the remaining colonial enterprises? Can we really expect a resolution of the Middle East's troubles until Israel faces up to this fact and what it has done to the Palestinian people?
And furthermore can we expect a lasting peace in the Middle East while Europe continues to sit on the fence? While the Jewish people may be in the unenviable position of having suffered a holocaust, only for the Israeli state to now be in the process of causing one, what of the Europeans? What of the collective guilt of Europe, the continent that turned away and allowed this holocaust to happen? Is this collective guilt a factor in Europe's constant prevarication?
However let us not forget the anger and passion apparent at Tuesdays demonstration in Parliament Square, which shows that not everyone is blinded by the innocuous nature of the corporate media's coverage. We know that 'our' government shares responsibility for the atrocities in Lebanon and Palestine. We must ensure that the numerous demonstrations on Saturday are so much bigger, so much more obvious, that in no way can it be taken that we consent to 'our' governments hypocrisy.
On the other hand it is important that we also have the courage to remember the anger and passion that has previously been displayed with regard to Afghanistan and Iraq. To remember the manner in which world opinion has been ignored, and to state it bluntly the apparent impotence of those of us opposed to this insanity, to have any real effect upon the actions of this war machine.

In short our situation does not sound hopeful. And yet hope is the one thing we must have, the most important thing, that which we must never allow ourselves to lose, not if this seemingly interminable situation is to be transformed.
Such a transformation can only be effective if it begins from within, if we are brave enough to look inwards and face our own pain, our own guilt, and our own complicity with regard to this state of affairs, and further to have the courage to respond to ourselves with love and compassion.
Anger and outrage are one thing, and in this situation they are certainly justified, but to respond with more hate, more bitterness, or to withdraw into negativity and depression, these are ways to avoid truly looking ourselves in the eye.
You cannot end a war through hate, you cannot soothe a regions hurt with bitterness, only love and compassion can do these things. If humanity is to find its way out of this quagmire we must find this courage within ourselves, despite and perhaps because of the darkness that currently consumes us.
How else can we respond to this without becoming that which we oppose? How else can we meaningfully show solidarity with Lebanon and Palestine?



Display the following 3 comments

  1. Correct Vincenzo! — Henk Ruyssenaars
  2. Swamp the Israelis with Civilians? — Ilyan
  3. Old Time ... anticipation of the Israel problem. — Surfer