JSalloum on 20 Oct 2000 17:40:08 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] 7.1 Article by Hannan Ashrawi

apologies for crossposting -js


Hannan Ashrawi 
Jerusalem, October 18, 2000

Anatomy of Racism

"Blaming the victim" has been the common resort of the guilty in

rationalizing and distorting the horror of the crime itself.

Whether battered wives, abused children, or Palestinians long subjected to 

the brutality of the horrendous Israeli military occupation, the first (and 

last) resort of the cowardly is in maligning the victim, in accusing 

him/her/them of having brought about the deserved cruelty of the crime.

The essential prerequisite, of course, is the total dehumanization of the 

victims and the elimination of their most basic rights and attributes as 

well as claims to protection.

Inevitably, the resultant compound victimization is further enhanced by 

increased vulnerability, distortion, and exclusion from the protection of 

human consideration and moral imperatives.

Hence, the latest eruption of confrontations between the Israeli occupation 

army and civilian Palestinian protestors became the playing field for the 

full force of the Israeli "spin machine" in a most deliberate, concentrated, 

and racist exercise of deception and dehumanization directed against a whole 


The most basic form of deception is in fabricating a false symmetry between 

occupier and occupied, between oppressor and victim. The "violence" of the 

powerful Israeli occupation army using live ammunition, tanks and helicopter 

gun ships is (at best) equated with the "violence" of Palestinian civilians 

protesting their victimization and continued loss of rights, lands, and 


In addition, the Palestinians are called upon to be docile, to stop the 

"violence," to end the "siege" of Israel-as though the strongest army in the 

region is being "threatened" by the unarmed people's rejection of its 

occupation and brutality. The obvious and simple solution, of course, is to 

withdraw the army and end the occupation.

This, ironically, is accompanied by a devaluation of Palestinian rights and 

lives by translating our objective weakness into a diminution of rights 

whereby the powerful determines the parameters of "justice" for the weak.

The whole presentation constantly exhibits the "white man's burden"

syndrome. Palestinians should be "grateful" for whatever "generous offer" 

Israel chooses to "grant" them, regardless of the glaring injustice and 

illegality of the Israeli negotiating stance.

Both the extreme right and extreme left in Israel (as well as the US) have 

adopted this condescending, patronizing approach to peace-Barak has gone the 

"farthest" in "offering" the Palestinians almost 90% of their lands with 

some "responsibilities" in Jerusalem, and those "ungrateful"

Palestinians are being "intransigent" and hard line.

Having compromised ourselves down to 22% of historical Palestine, we are no

being asked to be party to Israel's illegal annexation of Jerusalem and its

settlement policies-i.e. an unholy partnership for the violation of

international law and the relevant UN resolutions.

Should we be unwilling to self-negate, to refuse the role of good little

natives, and to continue rejecting the Israeli unilateral version of

"peace" that "offers" us a subservient statelet of isolated Bantustans

under Israel's apartheid system, then we will be pounded into submission.

After all, if pressure and threat and political arm-twisting do not work,

sheer naked military aggression can produce the desired results-since

"Arabs understand only the language of violence."

Instant scare tactics or panic politics come into play with such labels as

the "terrorist" or "dictatorial" or "violent" Palestinians, while depicting

the reality of the Palestinian human will to resist subjugation and

oppression as proof of such misrepresentations.

A catch-22 situation is clearly visible: Arafat must "control" his people

(nation of sheep?) and "order" them to calm down and accept their

enslavement and repression by the Israelis, otherwise he is no longer a

"peace partner" and cannot be considered a "leader."

At the same time, Israel cannot deal with Arafat or the Palestinians

because they are inherently "undemocratic" and therefore have nothing in

common with such "civilized" democracies as Israel and the US.

In parallel, other ready-made labels and stereotypical epithets are easily

pulled out as a convenient branding exercise to reduce the humanity of the


The historical and familiar slurs used by Israeli officials and public

figures (including cockroaches, two-legged vermin, dogs) have been expanded

to include "snakes" and "crocodiles."

The reduction of our humanity to a series of abstractions is nowhere as

sinister as in the numerical game. Palestinian victims of Israeli live fire

are daily given as "x" numbers killed and "y" numbers wounded. Their names,

identities, dashed hopes, and shattered dreams are nowhere mentioned.

Absent too are the grief and anguish of their mothers, fathers, sisters,

brothers, and other loved ones who will have to live with that tragic loss.

The visual documentation of the cold-blooded murder of the child Muhammad

al-Durra shattered the complacency of those who had been comfortable with

the anonymity of the Palestinians and the invisibility of their suffering.

Even then, the Israeli propaganda machine tried to distort the truth even

in the face of irrefutable evidence.

First, it was said that he was killed by Palestinian "gun men." Then, he

was "caught in the crossfire." The worst version was in the cynical

depiction of the child Muhammad as a "trouble-maker" or a "mischievous"

child who brought it upon himself-as though the proper response to a child

living his childhood is deliberate death. The last accusation involved a

question: "What was he doing there?" The real question should have been

"what was the Israeli army doing there" in the heart of Palestinian Gaza

shooting at civilians including a child and his father who had been caught

red-handed attempting to indulge in the "provocative" act of shopping


Note the difference, however, when two Israeli under cover agents,

belonging to the notorious Israeli death squads were killed by Palestinian


No Palestinian attempted to justify the act. Rather orders were issued to

investigate and arrest those responsible. After all, there should be such a

thing as the rule of law and due process.

Instead, Israel moved its tanks and armies even closer to tighten the siege

and strangulation of Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps. Then it

brought in its Apache helicopter gun ships and shelled Palestinian cities

and towns in a most senseless and cruel form of collective punishment.

Its version of events presented the Israeli agents as reservists who had

mistakenly "strayed" into Ramallah and then were "lynched" by the mob.

References to "slaughter" and "blood thirst" and "savagery" became the

prevalent verbal currency.

While no one would condone the killing of the soldiers, it is important

however, to deal with the real facts and the context:

Ramallah, as a city under total Israeli military siege, was closed off to

all movement in or out of the city. Only one entrance was open, entirely

under the control of multiple Israeli military checkpoints. Thus to "stray"

into Ramallah would require deliberate and repeated attempts requiring

tenacity, persistence, and even guile.

The two Israeli agents were clearly infiltrated and planted into the midst

of a protest march in the heart of the city. The occasion was the funeral

of a Palestinian man, Issam Joudeh Hamad, from the village of Umm Safa, who

had been abducted by Israeli settlers and tortured to death in a most

grisly manner.

Gruesome footage and photographs of the body, plus the testimony of the

doctors who had examined it, were not repeatedly displayed before the eyes

of the world for the sake of scoring points or dehumanizing the Israelis.

Some Arab stations informed me that the images were so horrific that they

refrained from using them.

Most of the people participating in the march (in the besieged Palestinian

city of Ramallah) knew the victim, and some had seen the body. The two

undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated the march were recognized by

the Palestinians as members of the "Death Squads" that had been responsible

for assassinations and provocations.

Despite the fact that the Palestinian police tried to protect them, the two

were killed before the cameras.

This immediately became an instant justification for branding all

Palestinians as murderers, and for the most systematic, venomous, hate

campaign in recent history. It was also used as a justification for the

Israeli aerial attacks on Ramallah and other Palestinian cities.

In his moving appeal to his compatriots (Oct. 13, 2000) not to exploit this

incident to justify existing racism and hatred, Israeli poet Yitzhak Laor

documents several lynchings of Palestinians by Israeli army and security

forces. In all cases the perpetrators were never punished, and no moral

outrage was expressed by the Israeli public, let alone a shelling of

Israeli cities!

The same applies to the Israeli settler reign of terror that targets

Palestinians in their own homes and towns, with full Israeli military

protection and collusion.

Presented as helpless "Israeli civilians" surrounded by "hostile"

Palestinians, the sinister and lethal nature of settler violence, as armed

extremists on the rampage, is often ignored. The illegality of Israeli

settlements, the fundamentalist extremist character of the armed settlers,

and the horrific acts of abduction, torture, killing and just random

violence that are committed with impunity-rarely get a mention.

Throughout all this, the Palestinians continue to be blamed.

The most blatantly racist slur is the Israeli theft of our humanity as

parents. In an attempt to rob us of our most basic feelings for our

children, we are accused of "sending [our] children out to die" for the

sake of "scoring media points."

The horror is further compounded by the total and unquestioning equanimity

with which such a grand national slur is repeated by Israelis of all

parties, with no critical distance or even awareness of the enormity of

such a racist charge.

When Palestinian children became targets for Israeli snipers and other army

violence, the ministry of education had no option but to close down the

schools temporarily in order to minimize the students' exposure on the way

to and from school.

That was immediately latched on by the Israeli spin machine as proof that

we closed down the schools in order to "release" our children to go out and

"riot" thereby obstructing the free path of Israeli bullets.

The safety of home and parents' attempts at protecting their children are

not even considered.

Actually, the 18-month-old baby girl, Sara Abdel-Athim Hassan, was shot in

the back seat of her father's car, while other child victims were killed in

or around their own homes. Mu'ayyad al-Jawarish, 12 years old, was shot in

the garden of his own home.

Most children were shot in the head or upper part of the body, mainly with

high velocity bullets. The most common targets of rubber-coated steel

bullets were the eyes of children.

A shoot-to-kill (or permanently impair) policy has been in force by the

Israeli army-claiming the lives of more than 105 Palestinians and wounding

more than 3000 (many of whom with permanent injuries).

Israeli officials claim that they had exercised "restraint."

Of course they can do worse-they can commit genocide or complete the ethnic

cleansing begun in 1948.

Still, it is Israeli "security" that is at stake.

Israel's powerful army of occupation cowers in fear at the Palestinian

people's cry for justice and freedom.

The Palestinian people have no need for security on their own land or in

their own homes since they have been thoroughly dehumanized by their

oppressor as to deserve whatever happens to them.

Worse than being "non-existent" (as in the myth of the "land without a

people for a people without a land"-which even Shimon Peres now seems to

espouse), in the minds of the official Israeli narrative, we now seem to be

existent on a lower plain as sub-human species, bereft of the most

elemental qualities and rights that guide the conscience and moral values

of humanity as a whole.

All this is for the sake of alleviating the guilt and responsibility of the

real culprit.

Apologists for the Israeli occupation must find an alternative address to

be blamed for the horror inflicted on the Palestinians-so who better than

the victims themselves?

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