Hated Victims, Hidden Racism:

Palestinians and the Zionist Enterprise

(Part Four of Four)

- by M. Junaid Alam

Go to:  | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Palestinian 'Terror' and Israeli 'Democracy'

The expropriated refugees of 1948 did not forget their roots and could not be robbed of their strong desire to return home. Living in numerous squalid refugee camps in the remaining 22% of Palestine and elsewhere, they continued to be the occasional victims of Israeli violence even before the 1967 occupation. In 1953, for example, Israeli soldiers massacred 53 civilians, including women and children, in retaliation for the death of an Israeli family. In 1956, during a brief period of regional hostilities between Egypt and Israel, 51 more Palestinians within Israel were gunned down while returning home, for unwittingly breaking curfew. [31] Some Israeli Palestinians tried to regain their land through legal measures; in 1954 the Israeli court granted several Catholic Palestinians the right to return home, and the IDF laid out an early invitation by bombing and destroying their village shortly afterwards-on Christmas day. [32]

At the culmination of the 1967 war, the Israelis proceeded to occupy the remaining 22% of Palestine, and Palestinians haunted by Israel's past crimes now found themselves under Zionism's heel again. Israel immediately proceeded to initiate a heroic campaign of self-defense: 6,500 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem were destroyed by the end of '67, 48 Palestinian villages were erased by '71, and 20,000 more homes were reduced to rubble by '74. [33]

Yet despite this contextual historical background, leading American media and press outlets and columnists never cease to castigate the Palestinians and deliver moral sermons on the use of violence and the evils of terrorism. We will see the bias of this approach when viewing the actual statistics, and discover the convenient selectiveness of the pundits' moral outrage. Civilian casualty rates are the most obvious way to gauge the level of violence. According to the Israeli human rights group B'T Selem, from December 1987 to mid-August 2002 (both Intifadas), the number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israelis stood at 2,883; the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians stood at 677. In this same period, the number of Palestinian fatalities among minors stands at 529; Israeli deaths of minors stands at 86. [34] These figures include Israelis who live in illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories, and exclude several dozen Palestinians who have died due to delays created by Israeli harassment. September 29th Haaretz has cited a human rights group report showing a 100% increase in Palestinian casualties for the second year of the Intifada. The IDF maintains that since the beginning of the second Intifada, 4,576 Israelis, including security forces, have been injured, and the Palestine Red Crescent Society puts total Palestinian injuries in the same period at 20,322. These statistics reveal a disproportionate number of deaths, deaths among minors, and injuries among Palestinians.

We can also point to the means used to bring about these casualties. Israel wields a phalanx of fighter-bombers, armored tanks, and high-tech helicopters to help instill fear and terror into the heart of every native. The fighter pilot is coldly detached from the target he will incinerate; the tank gunner is secure in his armor-plated dome; the helicopter crew hovers above the scene of carnage like a suspended demon. Are such savage, powerful weapons necessary for 'self-defense' against an essentially civilian population armed with stones and old rifles, only able to deliver harm through self-implosion? During the first Intifada, twenty-five Palestinian civilians were killed by Israelis for every one Israeli killed by Palestinians in the Territories. During this whole six-year period the Palestinians did not use guns, while naturally the Israeli forces were equipped with automatic rifles. (B'TSelem.org)

At this point our terrorism expert and his cohorts appear uncomfortable: their confusion is only temporary. "Palestinians blow themselves up! They strap bombs around themselves and kill civilians; I don't see any Israeli blowing himself up." We must congratulate our most perspicacious friend: after having overseen the minor details of mass Israeli expropriations, massacres, killings, and tortures over the course of the last fifty years, he has at least noticed the difference in the methods of violence. But even in this remarkable epiphany of his he overlooks all else. He fails to note that his favorite outpost of civilization has received over $90 billion dollars from the United States since its creation, that it still receives billions of dollars in military aid, including hardware, technology, and expertise annually-and that he is paying for it. The Palestinian, on the other hand, is essentially a dispossessed former peasant. What small arms he has attained here and there include old rifles and some automatic weapons, nothing which can pierce armor or challenge air power. So when the Israeli army embarks on the proud mission of terrorizing the Palestinian people, it does so in the most modern tanks, the most expensive aircraft, with the deadliest missiles, and the most powerful bombs. Thus the Israeli need not "blow himself up"; he is quite content to blow the Palestinian up and leave himself entirely out of the equation.

The tightness of the Israeli death grip on Palestinian lives is made clear by the severe health and nutritional problems faced by civilians under military occupation. The US Agency for International Development recently issued a report showing that over half of all Palestinian children suffer from malnutrition, and that one-fifth suffers from chronic malnutrition, which includes stunted growth. [35] In order to provide food for their families, Palestinians have been reduced to selling off their personal assets. The World Bank now estimates that a full 62% of all Palestinians live on less than $2 a day. Naturally, this did not perturb IDF General Amos Gilad, who seems to feed himself on an ample diet of callousness: "hunger is when people have swollen bellies and fall over dead. There is no hunger yet." [36]

We can take comfort in the fact that other inhabitants of the Occupied Territories-namely, the occupiers-are doing quite well. Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has expanded rapidly in the last decade; today at least 41% of the West Bank and 50% of the Gaza Strip is effectively under the control of settlers. [37] The Israeli government provides Jewish-only 'bypass roads' so that settlers may commute at leisure while their Palestinian counterparts remain trapped for hours in traffic. The settlers have also hijacked over 90% of the regional water supply, leaving many Palestinian areas dry. John Pilger writes of the contrast between native and colonial worlds: "What struck me was the lushness: the constant sound of running water: sprinklers nourishing hothouse crops and manicured gardens. On the other side of what looks like the Berlin Wall, in impoverished Gaza, standpipes trickle and often run dry." [38]

The most barbaric feature of the settlements is the settler himself. In a rare article by Jack Kelley of USA Today in September 2001, we gain some insight of the settler's psychology. [39] Thirteen settlers of Hebron "grabbed their semiautomatic rifles and headed toward Highway 60" to set up a barricade to stop Palestinian taxis and, "Surround any taxi, 'open fire' and kill as many of the 'blood-sucking Arab' passengers as possible," as leader Avi Shapiro ordered. The aim outlined by Shapiro is indeed noble: "to drive these sons of Arab whores from the Land of Israel." We can perhaps forgive him for such daring romanticism given his deep ancestral attachment to the land: he is from Brooklyn. Citing Israeli and Palestinian officials Kelley informs us, "Jewish settlers are shooting and beating Palestinians, stealing and destroying their property and poisoning and diverting their water supplies," in this area comprising 450 Jews and at least 120,000 Palestinians. The article goes on to cite one instance where men load their rifles, women grab ammunition, and children gather up rocks, all to target a Palestinian car. It is needless to point out once again that this side of the conflict rarely makes the front pages, let alone the popular films replete with gun-toting Arab terrorists. What is noteworthy given the insanity of the settlers, however, is the observation made by Black nationalist Aime Cesaire:

colonization…dehumanizes even the most civilized man…the colonizer, who, in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal. [40]

The Palestinian native is subject not only to the brutality of the Israeli government's economic stranglehold and gangster settlers, but also to constant humiliation by the Israeli army. A recent documentary by John Pilger on British ITV showed footage of Israeli soldiers' excrement sickeningly smeared all over a room of paintings by Palestinian children. [41] An August 25th Reuters report made clear that soldiers were looting Palestinians frequently, a revelation for which the Israeli army "came under fire". One soldier explained, "When it came to commanding officers, some knew about it and some were involved. When it came to squad leaders, all of them knew and were involved." [42] In the July 24th edition of the Jerusalem Post, it was revealed that a Palestinian youth was "severely abused" during the IDF's rampage near Bethlehem. Two soldiers cornered the young boy. "The commander threatened the youth with a loaded rifle, before commanding him to remove his pants and underwear. The two then held a flame near the youth's genitalia."

One of the most demented aspects of the occupation is the need for a 'permit' or an 'ID Card'. Israeli professor Ran HaCohen recounted the following story at an event organized by Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the Territories on moral grounds:

"A refuser described the mission that made him refuse. Last year, he said, we were ordered to destroy a Palestinian house in the territories because of a balcony added to it without a permit. It was a clear Israeli provocation: it had been expected to develop into a battle, and it did. He described dragging crying children out of bed, wondering how long it would take before they become suicide-bombers. He described how, after a cease-fire order was given, fire went on….The battle ended with six Palestinians wounded and one soldier shot in his leg. The next day he heard it all on the radio: 'During a military operation, our soldiers were attacked and returned fire.'" [43]

When the Zionists plundered their way through Palestine in 1948, no permit was required. But today, any native without such precious documents is subject to organized violence.

Last October, a Palestinian couple was excitedly expecting their first child: "The news of the pregnancy had made us so happy," the would-be father said, "that we celebrated by replacing the tin sheeting on our home with a concrete roof." But when his wife, Fatima, went into labor, the Israeli soldiers refused to let her receive medical care. Instead, "The soldiers turned them back, even though Fatima was now haemorrhaging." Meanwhile, "one soldier mimicked Fatima's moans," as the expectant mother gave birth to her child in the backseat of a taxi. The soldiers "hurl[ed] her husband's ID into the blood on the floor." By the time the couple arrived at the nearby hospital, the baby was dead. [44] According to Israeli human rights group B'TSelem, similar incidents have occurred at least 33 times since the second Intifada began. The modern advocates of Zionism, who confine themselves to drowning in their own drivel about 'self-defense' and 'security', always take great care in ignoring the grim reality faced by Palestinian civilians on a daily basis.

Military occupation is in itself violent: that is now undeniable. The essence of the Palestinian 'problem' for Israel is that, inhabiting isolated ghettoes and refugee camps on one-tenth of what was once their land, the Palestinians still exist. They represent that portion of non-Jews who could not be totally expunged and liquidated from Palestine. This basic truth is reflected in the comments of Israel's new army chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, interviewed by Haaretz on August 30th. Ya'alon, a self-described "humanist", delivered his "professional diagnosis" of the Palestinian problem: "I maintain that it is a cancer." When asked by the interviewer if he was applying "chemotherapy" to this 'threat', the good doctor replied: "Some will say it is necessary to amputate organs. But at the moment, I am applying chemotherapy, yes." In other words, the Palestinian 'problem' remains one of an indigenous infection.

How is that the Palestinians, expropriated refugees daily subjected to violence and disproportionate casualties, are portrayed as the terrorists? The media plays a major role in this distortion, making skilled use of its Orwellian brushstrokes to paint a picture of a 'cycle of violence' which inevitably begins with Palestinian suicide attacks. Let us examine one supposed 'period of calm' that ensued before the suicide attacks of Sept. 19, 2002 which was followed by a siege of Arafat's residence and the murder of five unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.

August 29th, Washington Post: " Four members of a Palestinian family, including a woman and two of her sons, were killed early today when Israeli tanks opened fire on a house south of Gaza City." Eye-witnesses said "two tanks…fired four shells at a two-room house". Doctors explained that the IDF "prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded for about 40 minutes." September 9th, Haaretz summary: "On August 31, four young Palestinians were killed in the West Bank village of Tubas" in an assassination attempt. "Two teenage boys in the targeted car and two children playing nearby were killed by helicopter missiles." And, "On September 1, IDF soldiers shot and killed four Palestinians - 32-year-old twin brothers, their 21-year-old cousin, and a 20-year-old man - near the Beni Nai'im quarry in the Hebron area." B'Tselem notes that "in the space of five days, IDF forces…killed thirteen Palestinians and wounded twelve." September 2, Haaretz: Amira Hass notes that at least 39 Palestinian civilians were killed from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1, including seven children. September 18, CBS: "a bomb exploded in a Palestinian elementary school in the West Bank on Tuesday, slightly wounding five students"-the work of Jewish settlers. Here lies the full content of our 'period of calm', a period of murder and mayhem implemented by Israel's brutal army and rampaging settlers, cited by every single major American media outlet as a tranquil period 'shattered' by Palestinians. [45] Surely, though, the media is not to blame. If the Palestinians would only transcend their sub-human state-by smearing excrement on children's paintings, mimicking the moans of pregnant women in pain, and burning the genitalia of young boys-they could elevate themselves to the high plane of humanity to which the Israelis ascended long ago, and attain the warm sympathy of the civilized world.

Desperate to seek cover and evade responsibility for the grave crimes of Zionism, its proponents often invoke the image of Israel as "the only democracy in the Middle East." It is prudent to reiterate that after declaration of the partition and before the declaration of Israel, Jewish militia expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who would have been citizens of Israel, and then robbed those who did remain on a massive scale after the war ended. This thrusts the essence of incompatibility of Zionism and democracy into the light: how can a state, declared the Promised Land for a Chosen People, consider itself democratic? In other words, how can racial exclusivism and democratic universalism occupy the same space? More importantly, what is the relevance of the democratic claim in relation to the Palestinians? Democracy cannot be brandished like a massive mental mop used to wipe away the historical and present injustices foisted upon an oppressed people. Are the Palestinians being disinherited, beaten, tortured, and starved in a 'democratic' manner? Do soldiers and tank gunners go to the ballot before they decide to fire bullets and lob shells at native apartments and houses?

If we set aside the fact that Israel had to expel most of its non-Jewish population and has subjugated the remaining Arabs in its territory, it is accurate to say that the Israelis elect their own leaders rather freely. Let us briefly see whom they have chosen to represent them. Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion was the man who headed all militia before and throughout the massacre and ethnic cleansing campaigns of 1947-1949. The two main militia groups involved in the rape, plunder, and killing of Palestinians were Irgun and Haganah, led by Menachem Begin and Yitzakh Shamir, respectively. Begin, who told the Knesset that the Palestinians are "beasts walking on two legs" was elected PM in 1977, and Shamir's heroism earned him the same post in 1983. [46] Golda Meir, elected PM in 1969, is responsible for the famous saying, "There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed."

A resounding round of applause for the Israelis: they have elected to the highest offices a cohort of racists and war criminals. A May 14, Haaretz piece on the subject of the International Criminal Court noted that the Israeli elite have become "concerned", even "alarmed", by "the possibility that prominent Israelis, members of the security services as well as politicians, will have to stand trial…for committing war crimes." The article continues, "The legal and military leadership in Israel are becoming increasingly concerned that Israel will be well represented among the first suspects and accused." In the category of war crimes Israeli leaders will undeniably take home the gold.

But let us not leave out Ariel Sharon. Administrator of the Territories in the 1970's Sharon designed the settlements so that they would separate and isolate Palestinian villages from one another. In the 1980's he called for mass expulsion and destruction of a Palestinian village for rioting. [47] In 1982, the Israeli government held him "personally responsible" for the horrifying massacre carried out in the camps of Sabra and Shatilla, which left 1800 civilians dead. Today, as his list of crimes grows ever longer, as his own people refer to him as "The Bulldozer", he officially stands as the elected representative of the Israeli people. It turns out that Israeli democracy, whose very existence is invoked in order to demonstrate Palestinian inferiority, is in fact an indictment of Israeli society itself.

Let us now examine the political relationships of our staunch American Zionists, who deck themselves out as defenders of an innocent state surrounded by savages. It turns out that these fine gentlemen have allied themselves with a similar group of 'victims' of 'racism'-the white, ultra-religious right-wing Anglo-Saxon power base. The Zionist Organization of America, for instance, has recently bestowed the high honor of "the State of Israel Friendship Award" to televangelist Pat Robertson. Robertson's past anti-Semitic remarks or the "sinister caricatures of Jews" presented on his network cartoons, (as the ADL itself termed it) have been swept aside. After all, gushed ZOA leader A. Isaacs, Robertson is to be commended for his "benevolent work" in praising the glory of Israel. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, another hard-line Zionist, added that he has "an obligation" to defend esteemed folk like Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who are simply "stating their religious beliefs, which some of us as Jews do not hold." Lapin neglects to mention that one such "belief" of the Christian Right is the mass destruction or conversion of Jews on doomsday-an undoubtedly tiny detail for gentlemen so 'concerned' about anti-Semitism when it comes to discrediting the cause of suffering Palestinians. [48]

On the surface, such an alliance appears contradictory. But there is no contradiction, only consistency. The Zionist movement, unable to justify its brutality in any logical framework, has clung on to the insane religious rationalizations and racism propounded by the Christian Right. The most backward and reactionary elements of American society and serious Zionists both share the sacred values of racial supremacy in one form or the other. Zionism, after all, is a colonialist and apartheid movement in a neo-colonialist and ex-apartheid world, a movement enveloped in anachronisms which finds comfort in the embracing arms of Reaction.

The political implications of this trend stretch to the highest echelons of power. Kathleen Christison, a former CIA analyst, notes, "…it's safe to say Christian fundamentalism has an influence on the administration and specifically with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," and cites the rabidly pro-Israeli Defense Department heads as evidence. The links between Zionisn and the world's greatest purveyors of violence (exposed by Jason Vest of The Nation) prove most intriguing. A hard-line Zionist military think tank, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, wields enormous power among the neoconservative heads of American war planning. JINSA's board of advisors once included current Vice President Dick Cheney and still has former Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey at its side; it grooms similar American military leaders by sponsoring trips to meet Israel's own army heads. JINSA's grand vision of destroying the governments of the entire Middle East and occupying the whole region is prevalent among the war-mongers, and the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board is headed by a JINSA member, Richard Perle. JINSA also has crucial ties to the military industry, counting among its distinguished members former advisors and executives for Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Israeli Aircraft Industries. [49] These are the leading advocates of Zionism in America; our 'victims' of 'racism', protected against the 'anti-Semitic' hordes of Palestinians by the traditional allies of the oppressed-F-16s, 15,000 lb. bombs, and the far-right of American elite.

I believe that this all-sided analysis of the canards about Palestinian aggression and Israeli restraint, canards which flow directly from the already-exploded myths about the pivotal historical events of the conflict, exposes and reveals not only their inaccuracy but the underlying dynamic of the situation: the possessor of political and military power is also the possessor of the lies necessary to justify this power. The process which Malcolm X identified, whereby "the criminal is made to look like the victim and the victim made to look like the criminal" is not arbitrary; rather it is determined by power. As the strongest ally of the United States, Israel enjoys royal treatment and a free pass not only to commit injustice with pre-supplied American tanks and fighter jets, but-when it is even noticed-to label the acts of injustice as examples of heroism and moral rectitude.

By analyzing and understanding this process of intellectual manipulation, which is the hallmark of class society, not only as it occurs in Palestine but in many other spheres of social struggle, it is possible combat racial injustice in all its institutional manifestations. However worthwhile, it does not demand much moral effort and courage to sit at ease and philosophize about past episodes of oppression based on this or that historical report; ultimately the most rewarding act for those committed to social change is understanding existing injustices and working to eradicate them, thus affecting history preemptively and filling some of its chapters with one's own dedication and commitment.

This is the final part of a four-part, wide-ranging essay on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. M. Junaid Alam is co-editor and webmaster of Left Hook; he can be reached at alam@lefthook.org


31. "The Arab Refugee Dilemma" Foreign Affairs October 1994. p.137-138.

32. John Cogley, "Majority and Minorities", Commonweal, January 22, 1952, p.401

33. Edward S. Herman, "Israeli Apartheid And Terrorism". Z Magazine

34. Statistics compiled at B'TSelem (www.btselem.org).

35. John Pilger, "Palestine Is Still the Issue", Z Magazine. September 16, 2002.

36. Rannia Award, "Ethnic Cleansing By Starvation", Z Magazine, August 29, 2002.

37. For Gaza Strip: Washington Post. "Settlements Expand Under Sharon" May 31, 2002. For West Bank: Haaretz. "B'Tselem report: settlers control 41.9% of West Bank.", May 13, 2002.

38. See note 35.

39. Jack Kelley, USA Today, September 2001, "Settlers vow to expel 'Muslim filth'."

40. A Discourse on Colonialism, by Aime Cesaire

41. The Guardian. John Pilger, "Why my film is under fire", September 23, 2002.

42. Reuters, "Israeli Army Under Fire for Looting", August 25, 2002.

43. Antiwar.com, Ran HaCohen, "Fighter's Talk", September 16, 2002.

44. See note 37.

45. For direct citations of media claims about 'shattering', see The Electronic Intifada, "Killings of dozens once again called 'period of calm' by US media", September 20th. www.electronicintifada.net

46. New Statesman, United Kingdom, June 25, 1982.

47. Pg. 581. Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1999.

48. Bill Berkowitz's "Jewish Conservatives Join Forces With Christian Evangelicals", www.tompaine.com, August 1, 2002.

49. Christison quoted in National Catholic Reporter, "Will fundamentalist Jews and Christians Ignite Apocalypse?" October 11, 2002. For JINSA, see The Nation, "The Men from JINSA", August 15, 2002, by Jason A. Vest.

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