Reflexive Racism in Israel and America
- by David Baake
When attempting to justify thirty years of oppressive occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel's advocates often attempt to portray Israel as being victimized by hostile Arabs who seek nothing but the destruction of the state of Israel. This grossly inaccurate narrative of the situation attempts to engender and exploit a reflexive racism that is present in the west; that is, the assumption that all members of a racial group, in this case Arabs, intrinsically hate another group, in this case Jews and westerners. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Israel's sympathizers have used this notion to manipulate public opinion in Israel and America in favor of Israel and its occupation which is otherwise unjustifiable.
Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment has been rampant throughout much of the western world since September 11th. It has particularly effective in inspiring racism in a 'post-racial society' because it has been constructed to appeal to those espousing liberal values, as it portrays Muslims and Arabs as intolerant, oppressive, misogynistic, racist, undemocratic, and religious extremists, an image which is highly alienating to liberal democrats in the west who value tolerance, freedom, gender and racial equality, democracy, and secularism.
There are some fringe elements in Arabic societies who do indeed fit the stereotypical western image, but there prominence is extremely exaggerated. The most oppressed and undemocratic societies are by far those governed by American allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Jordan. It is no coincidence that the most repressive regimes in the region are American allies; for the US to maintain economic control over a countries resources, its government must necessarily be undemocratic and oppressive in order to crush any popular movements to take control of the country and use its resources for the common good.
This general anti-Arab sentiment has been harnessed by the Zionist movement in order to portray the criminal perpetrator as the victim. As the Zionist narrative describes the situation: America experienced on September 11th what Israel has been dealing with for thirty years, the fury of barbaric, irrational, and hateful Muslim extremist; there is no difference essential between Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Laden, there is no essential difference between those involved in the intifada and those involved in terrorist organizations Al Qaeda, all Arabs are the same in their hatred of everything western and of freedom and democracy.
Several historical incidents are used to validate this assertion in their argument. The standard argument states that the Palestinians have on several been offered a state alongside a Jewish state, and in every case, they rejected the offer; this is offered as proof that they have no desire for a two state solution, and will settle for nothing but the absolute destruction of Israel. It is further claimed that since the very birth of the modern Israel, the state has been under attack because of what it is and who its people are, (just as terrorists attacked the US because they hate what America is and the ideals stands for). It is never considered in mainstream discourse that perhaps there are political motives for the violence, many of which may be legitimate.)
It is posited that the Arab states invaded Israel in 1948 because of pure hatred for Jews and unwillingness to live along side them, not because the UN partition plan allocated 55% of Palestine to 30% of the population who owned only 6 or 7% of the land. Similarly it is said that the Camp David peace talks in 2000 fell apart not because of a failure to compromise on both sides on key issues such as the state of Jerusalem, the refugee problem, and the military rights of a potential Palestinian state, but because Yasser Arafat deliberately sabotaged negotiations because he had no interest in a Palestinian state but wanted to crush Israel forever.
The Israeli narrative suggests that all Arabs and in particular Palestinians are intrinsically hateful people who are not capable of living peacefully. No one should ever make the mistake of depicting another group as essentially hateful; this is the most terrible thing that can be said about a person or a group of people.
The Israeli narrative is obviously inaccurate and based on a mixture of legitimate paranoia and cynical posturing to depict the oppressor as the victim in the eyes of the world. While Jews have historical reason to fear those who wish to annihilate them, it is quite clear that in this situation, Palestinians seek only a homeland (like the Jews did during the early 20th century) and not violence or destruction. Israel's Arab neighbors are not a threat to its existence, as all have now recognized its existence, and none of these countries would be militarily capable of attacking the greatest ally of the world's only superpower. Neither do the Palestinians wish to destroy Israel; a poll taken recently by PCPO found that 57% of those surveyed favored an end to the militarization of the intifada . Would a similar poll in the US or Israel have found that nearly 3/5ths of the population was opposed to the use of political violence against Arabs? This number is incredibly high, when the situation of those living in the occupied territories is taken into perspective.
Unfortunately, there are some on both sides that are openly and vehemently racist, and while racism can never be justified, it can at least be understood, given that both sides have suffered atrocities during the conflict. This racism will never cease to exist as long as a peaceful agreement is not met that satisfies the legitimate concerns of people on both sides.
David Baake, 15 years old, is at Lubbock High School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.