Israelis & Palestinians
used by Hamas in Gaza City. Photograph © Khalil Hamra/AP.
protest against the airstrikes on Gaza
Photograph © Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse -Getty Images.
I admire John Berger immensely. I came across this open letter from him protesting the latest conflagration between Israel and the Palestinians.
In Face of the Israeli Attacks on GazaBerger is too simplistic here by half. There is no excuse. There is no excuse for Palestinian attacks on Israelis. There is no excuse for Israeli attacks - whether those be perpetrated by the Defense Forces or by "settlers" - on Palestinians. I agree with Berger that 'we' must speak out.* We need to speak out against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. And we need to speak out against the Hamas provocateurs. Images of Palestinian youth attacking the IDF with slingshots juxtaposed with the results of Israeli bombings in Gaza may make it seem like this is David and Goliath. There is an asymmetry of force here to be sure. But there also is more than enough responsibility to go around. If the Israelis have made the calculation to which Berger rightly refers, so too has Hamas made the reciprocal calculation that rocket attacks on Israeli civilians are worth provoking predictable response. Not to see that is to disable oneself politically. Is there racism here? Surely. Does it work in one direction only? Hardly. Not to see that is to disable oneself yet again.
by John Berger
We are now spectators of the latest -- and perhaps penultimate -- chapter of the 60 year old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. About the complexities of this tragic conflict billions of words have been pronounced, defending one side or the other.
Today, in face of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the essential calculation, which was always covertly there, behind this conflict, has been blatantly revealed. The death of one Israeli victim justifies the killing of a hundred Palestinians. One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.
This is what the Israeli State and the world media more or less -- with marginal questioning -- mindlessly repeat. And this claim, which has accompanied and justified the longest Occupation of foreign territories in 20th C. European history, is viscerally racist. That the Jewish people should accept this, that the world should concur, that the Palestinians should submit to it -- is one of history's ironic jokes. There's no laughter anywhere. We can, however, refute it, more and more vocally.
Let's do so.
27 December 2008
As Berger rightly notes, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is indeed complex, perhaps even tragic. If we wait to sort out those complexities and vindicate one or another party we will be witnessing more attacks and counterattacks in perpetuity. Speak out - not by equating Israel and the Nazis or by screaming "Death to Israel" or by automatically identifying Palestinians as "terrorists" - but by demanding peace from both sides. It is time to define a 'we' - one consisting of those sick and tired of all perpetrators of violence in Israel & Palestine as well as their apologists.
Update: Monday 12/29/08: From John Nichols at The Nation here.
* I disagree with his calls for a boycott of Israel; if 'we' hope to persuade the Israels to cease and desist it is important to be in a position where they might well listen to our complaints and criticisms.