Even when they are be­ing openly mas­sa­cred by Is­raeli gun­fire, the Pales­tini­ans are painted as cul­prits

Irish Independent - - World News - Robert Fisk

MON­STROUS. Fright­ful. Wicked. It’s strange how the words just run out in the Mid­dle East to­day. Sixty Pales­tini­ans dead. In one day.

Two thou­sand four hun­dred wounded, more than half by live fire. In one day.

The fig­ures are an out­rage, a turn­ing away from moral­ity, a dis­grace for any army to cre­ate.

And we are sup­posed to be­lieve that the Is­raeli army is one of “pu­rity of arms”?

And we have to ask an­other ques­tion. If it’s 60 Pales­tini­ans dead in a day this week, what if it’s 600 next week? Or 6,000 next month?

Is­rael’s bleak ex­cuses – and Amer­ica’s crude re­sponse – raise this very ques­tion.

If we can now ac­cept a mas­sacre on this scale, how far can our im­mune sys­tem go in the days and weeks and months to come?

Yes, we know all the ex­cuses. Ha­mas – cor­rupt, cyn­i­cal, no “pu­rity” there – was be­hind the Gaza demon­stra­tions.

Some of the pro­test­ers were vi­o­lent, sent burn­ing kites – kites, for heaven’s sake – across the border, oth­ers threw stones; though since when has stonethrow­ing been a cap­i­tal of­fence in any civilised coun­try?

If an eight-month-old baby dies af­ter tear gas in­hala­tion, what were her par­ents do­ing bring­ing their in­fant child to the Gaza border?

And so it goes on. Why com­plain about dead Pales­tini­ans when we have the Sis­sis in Egypt and the As­sads in Syria and the Saudis in Ye­men to con­tend with? But no, the Pales­tini­ans must al­ways be guilty.

The vic­tims are them­selves the cul­prits. This is ex­actly what the Pales­tini­ans have had to en­dure for 70 years.

Re­mem­ber how they were to blame for their own ex­o­dus seven decades ago, be­cause they fol­lowed the in­struc­tions of ra­dio sta­tions to leave their homes until the Jews of Is­rael were “driven into the sea”.

Only of course, the ra­dio broad­casts never ex­isted. We still must thank Is­rael’s “new his­to­ri­ans” for prov­ing this.

The broad­casts were a myth, part of Is­rael’s foun­da­tional na­tional his­tory in­vented to en­sure that the new state – far from be­ing founded on the ru­ins of oth­ers’ homes – was a land with­out peo­ple.

And it was a marvel to be­hold the way in which the same old re­port­ing cow­ardice be­gan to in­fect the me­dia’s ac­count of what hap­pened in Gaza. CNN called the Is­raeli killings a “crack­down”.

Ref­er­ences to the tragedy of the Pales­tini­ans in many news me­dia re­ferred to their “dis­place­ment” 70 years ago – as if they hap­pened to be on hol­i­day at the time of the ‘Nakba’, the catas­tro­phe, as it’s known – and just couldn’t make it home again.

The word to use should have been per­fectly clear: dis­pos­ses­sion. Be­cause that is what hap­pened to the Pales­tini­ans all those years ago and what is still hap­pen­ing in the West Bank – to­day, as you read this – cour­tesy of men like Jared Kush­ner, Don­ald Trump’s son-in-law, a sup­porter of these wretched and il­le­gal colonies built on Arab lands and ap­pro­pri­ated from Arabs who have owned and lived on the land for gen­er­a­tions.

And so we come to the most ghastly of all fate­ful events last week: the si­mul­ta­ne­ous blood­bath in Gaza and the glo­ri­ous open­ing of the new US em­bassy in Jerusalem.

“It’s a great day for peace,” Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu an­nounced.

When I heard that, I won­dered if my hear­ing was de­fec­tive. Did he ac­tu­ally say those words? Alas, he did.

At times like this, it is an im­mense re­lief to find that jour­nals like the Is­raeli daily ‘Haaretz’ main­tain their sense of hon­our.

And the most re­mark­able piece of re­portage came in ‘The New York Times’ where Michelle Gold­berg caught per­fectly the hor­ror of both Gaza and the em­bassy open­ing in Jerusalem.

The lat­ter, she wrote, was “grotesque… a con­sum­ma­tion of the cyn­i­cal al­liance be­tween hawk­ish Jews and Zion­ist evan­gel­i­cals who be­lieve that the re­turn of Jews to Is­rael will usher in the apoca­lypse and the re­turn of Christ, af­ter which Jews who don’t con­vert will burn for­ever.”

Gold­berg pointed out that Robert Jef­fress, a Dal­las pas­tor, gave the open­ing prayer at the em­bassy cer­e­mony.

And Jef­fress it was who once claimed re­li­gions like “Mor­monism, Is­lam, Ju­daism, Hin­duism” lead peo­ple “to an eter­nity of sep­a­ra­tion from God in hell”.

The clos­ing bene­dic­tion came from John Hagee, an end-times preacher who, Gold­berg re­called, once said Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their an­ces­tral home­land.

Of Gaza, she added: “Even if you com­pletely dis­miss the Pales­tinian right of re­turn – which I find harder to do now that Is­rael has all but aban­doned the pos­si­bil­ity of a Pales­tinian state – it hardly ex­cuses the Is­raeli mil­i­tary’s dis­pro­por­tion­ate vi­o­lence.”

I’m not so sure, though, that Democrats have be­come more em­bold­ened to dis­cuss Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion as she thinks. But I think she’s right when she says that as long as Trump is pres­i­dent, “it may be that Is­rael can kill Pales­tini­ans, de­mol­ish their homes and ap­pro­pri­ate their land with im­punity”.

Rarely in mod­ern times have we come across an en­tire peo­ple – the Pales­tini­ans – treated as a non-peo­ple.

Amid the trash and rats of the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Le­banon – oh, fate­ful names they re­main – there is a hut­mu­seum of items brought into Le­banon from Galilee by those first refugees of the late 1940s: cof­fee pots and front door keys to houses long de­stroyed. They locked up their houses, many of them, plan­ning to re­turn in a few days.

But they are dy­ing fast, that gen­er­a­tion, like the dead of the Sec­ond World War.

EVEN in the oral ar­chives of the Pales­tinian ex­pul­sion (at least 800 sur­vivors are recorded) or­gan­ised in the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Beirut, they are find­ing that many whose voices were recorded in the late 1990s have since died.

So will they go home? Will they “re­turn”?

That, I sus­pect, is Is­rael’s great­est fear, not be­cause there are homes to “re­turn” to but be­cause there are mil­lions of Pales­tini­ans who claim their right – un­der UN res­o­lu­tions – and who might turn up in their tens of thou­sands at the border fence in Gaza next time.

How many snipers will Is­rael need then?

And, of course, there are the piti­ful ironies.

For there are fam­i­lies in Gaza whose grand­fa­thers and grand­moth­ers were driven from their homes less than a mile from Gaza it­self, from two vil­lages which ex­isted pre­cisely where stands to­day the Is­raeli town of Sderot, so of­ten rock­eted by Ha­mas.

They can still see their lands. And when you can see your land, you want to go home.

Rarely in mod­ern times have we come across an en­tire peo­ple treated as a non-peo­ple

An elderly Pales­tinian man falls to the ground af­ter be­ing shot by Is­raeli troops dur­ing a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Is­rael on Mon­day. Photo: Adel Hana/AP

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