[Reader-list] Yazad Jal's postings

aditya sarkar bhochka at yahoo.co.uk
Sat Jun 29 19:21:17 IST 2002

This is a response to Yazad Jal's latest posting on

"I feel that posts on Israel to the sarai list are way
too one sided largely
equating everything Palestinian with "good" and
everything Israeli with
"evil." "

I don't think that this is the way people like Edward
Said and others whose writings are regularly posted on
the sarai list, view the issues in the Middle East.
There's no question of an unthinking support for
`everything Palestinian'. The point remains - the
Israeli state is involved in the longest official
military occupation the world has seen. Said - and he
isn't alone - has been consistently vocal in his
denunciation of Arafat and the corruption of the
Palestinian leadership. Nor do all those who are
horrified by the murderous nature of the Israeli
occupation support fundamentalist responses to the
same, as Yazad Jal seems to believe. Since the
Intifada began, the number of Palestinian deaths has
been four times the number of Israeli deaths. One and
a half million people in the Gaza Strip are packed by
the Israeli state into a tiny barbed-wire enclosure.
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are subjected
to restrictions and humiliations worse than those
suffered by the victims of apartheid. Within Israeli
territories, Palestinians are treated much the same,
ironically, as Jews were treated in 1930s Germany.
It's the same logic at work. 

"We may critique Ariel Sharon's policies forever, but
the fault lies on both
sides. I don't see Palestinian suicide bombings as "a
holy duty" as some
mothers of future suicide bombers too (see "I hope to
be a martyr," posted
today). Israeli over reactions do not help."

Here we have the arguments that enjoy hegemony in the
Western media - and, frighteningly, almost entirely
unchallenged hegemony in the US media - repackaged in
their crudest form. It's difficult to know exactly how
to respond to this, but some points do occur.

1. It is not a matter of critiquing Ariel Sharon's
policies, as opposed to Barak's or Rabin's. Yes, there
are degrees of cruelty and butchery involved, but the
logic of successive Israeli governments - of the
Israeli state since its inception - is the same. The
assumption is this: it is permissible for the Israeli
state to hound out people who live legitimately on
their land, to extend colonial occupation through wave
after wave of brutal land grabs, and to subject
Palestinians to a system of apartheid - AND YET NEVER
point - Palestinian suicide bombings are routinely
condemned, and rightly so - both for the destruction
they cause and the mindset they breed. No one is
negotiating deals with suicide bombers, or according
them a place in the UN. Suicide bombers are NOT
legitimized by the discourse of international
relations. What, then, about a state that respects the
lives and rights of millions of Palestinians as little
as suicide bombers respect those of Israelis? It's
Bush's recently demonstrated logic - `American lives
are worth more than Afghan lives' - in a different,
but not very different, context. How can Israel be
accorded this kind of monstrous legitimacy in its
destructive and repressive mission?
2. `Israeli over-reactions do not help.'
How, how, HOW does someone respond to this, to the
RIDICULOUS notion that Israeli military action is
merely a necessary though somewhat excessive
`reaction' to suicide bombings and Palestinian
terrorism? A few basic facts - the recitation of which
should be completely unnecessary - might help a
a) Israel was founded in 1948. Very soon, 68 per cent
of the native population of the land had been
expelled. Since 1967, Palestinians have been living in
the grip of a colonial military occupation that has no
justification ( forget the question of human rights,
those dispensable and irritating variables ) in any
system or interpretation of international law. This
occupation has been consolidated, extended, and
progressively brutalized since 1967. Successive
international appeals by the Palestinians for justice
and humanity were blithely ignored by the
powers-that-matter. It was in this context - not
before this - that violence emerged in the Palestinian
  Who's `reacting' here? And who is it who's being
 The Israeli military, nurtured lovingly by the
protector of world democracy, commands
state-of-the-art military technology: fighter-bombers,
helicopter gunships, a superb and tested intelligence
service. And it makes use of it: F-16 jets are
routinely sent to bomb Palestinians. 
 Who's `reacting' here? Who are the greater victims?

It should seem ludicrous, and at best laboured and
tedious, to make points like these and raise questions
like this. Sadly, it seems it isn't.
 I am expressing no support or sympathy for the morbid
fanaticism of Palestinian suicide bombers. I'm
detached enough to be able to hate Israel's guts but
also take a stand against terrorism of this kind.
Would I react in this way if I were a Palestinian? I'm
not sure. And this in a way is the greatest crime of
the Israeli state - to have created ( and YES, it was
THEY who created it ) an atmosphere of brutality and
terror and an ethic of murder that is so overwhelming
that, to its victims, there can be no responses,
however brutal, that seem unjustified.
 Needless to say, I do not sympathize with terrorist
 Needless to say, my house and my family weren't
bombed into atoms by an Israeli air attack yesterday.

One last word. Recently, Cherie Blair publicly
bemoaned the fact that Palestinians were forced to
live in an atmosphere where their youth felt there was
no alternative to terrorism. There was a huge
hullaballoo about this, she was forced to detract her
`insensitive' statements, which apparently betrayed
sympathy for the suicide bombers ( I didn't read it
that way ), and apologize.
Would she have been forced to detract if she had ( let
us say ) saluted the Israeli government for dealing
with terrorism in the way that it does, and for the
way it has furthered the `peace process' ( that
strange and mythical animal )?

I think it all comes back to what Chomsky has said,
repeatedly - as with everything he says, it's obvious
but no one seems to have the eyes to see.
Terrorist actions that are small enough will get
noticed, routinely and rightly condemned. But if you -
aka the United States, Israel or Pinochet - manage to
kill people in sufficiently large numbers, oppress
them successfully in adequately brutal ways for a
sufficient period of time ( and, of course, if you're
on the Right side - terrible pun, but intended ),
there's a fair chance that you'll just be seen as a
bold statesman who takes difficult decisions, maybe a
little crass in your methods, but essentially open to
reason. That's all.
Once again, every line of this should have been
unnecessary, but it isn't. That's the biggest tragedy
of all. 

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