Through the haze of self-righteousness, media propaganda, incitement, distraction, brainwashing and victimhood of the past few days, the simple question returns in full force: Who’s right?
There are no justified arguments left in Israel’s arsenal, the kind a decent person could accept. Even Mahatma Gandhi would understand the reasons for this outburst of Palestinian violence. Even those who recoil from violence, who see it as immoral and useless, can’t help but understand how it breaks out periodically. The question is why it doesn’t break out more often.
From the question of who started it to the question of who’s to blame, the finger is rightfully pointed at Israel, at Israel alone. It’s not that the Palestinians are blameless, but the main blame lies on Israel’s shoulders. As long as Israel doesn’t shake off this blame, it has no basis for making even a scrap of a demand from the Palestinians. Everything else is false propaganda.
As veteran Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi wrote recently, the Palestinians are the only people on earth required to guarantee the security of the occupier, while Israel is the only country that demands protection from its victims. And how can we respond?
As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked in a Haaretz interview, “How do you expect the Palestinian street to react after the burning of the teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the torching of the Dawabsheh home, the settlers’ aggression and the damage to property under the eyes of the soldiers?” And what are we to answer?
To the 100 years of dispossession and 50 years of oppression we can add the past few years, marked by intolerable Israeli arrogance that’s exploding once again in our faces.
These were the years Israel thought it could do anything and pay no price. It thought the defense minister could boast he knew the identity of the Dawabsheh murderers and not arrest them, and the Palestinians would restrain themselves. It thought that nearly every week a boy or teenager could be killed by soldiers, and the Palestinians would stay quiet.
It thought military and political leaders could back the crimes and no one would be prosecuted. It thought houses could be demolished and shepherds expelled, and the Palestinians would accept it all humbly. It thought settler thugs could damage, burn and act as if Palestinian property were theirs, and the Palestinians would bow their heads.
It thought that Israeli soldiers could burst into Palestinian homes every night and terrorize, humiliate and arrest people. That hundreds could be arrested without trial. That the Shin Bet security service could resume torturing suspects with methods handed down by Satan.
It thought that hunger strikers and freed prisoners could be rearrested, often for no reason. That Israel could destroy Gaza once every two to three years and Gaza would surrender and the West Bank remain calm. That Israeli public opinion would applaud all this, with cheers at best and demands for more Palestinian blood at worst, with a thirst that’s hard to understand. And the Palestinians would forgive.
This could go on for many more years. Why? Because Israel is stronger than ever and the West is indifferent and letting it run wild as it never has. The Palestinians, meanwhile, are weak, divided, isolated and bleeding as they haven’t been since the Nakba.
So this could continue because Israel can — and the people want it to. No one will try to stop it other than international public opinion, which Israel dismisses as Jew-hatred.
And we haven’t said a word about the occupation itself and the inability to end it. We’re tired. We haven’t said a word about the injustice of 1948, which should have ended then and not resumed with even more force in 1967 and continued with no end in sight. We haven’t spoken about international law, natural justice and human morality, which can’t accept any of this in any way.
When young people kill settlers, throw firebombs at soldiers or hurl rocks at Israelis, this is the background. You need a great deal of obtuseness, ignorance, nationalism and arrogance – or all the above – to ignore this.