The Jerusalem Post
The provocation principle of Palestinianism
The New York Times’s Patrick Kingsley wrote in the June 15 edition of his newspaper that the Jerusalem flag march was considered by Arab and leftwing members of the coalition to be “a provocative gesture” as “it offends Palestinians.” He quoted Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas as saying the parade should never have been allowed to go ahead as the “march in Jerusalem is a wild provocation.”
The previous month, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had described the march as “a provocation of our people” and the PA called on the US administration to intervene to stop “Israeli provocations in occupied East Jerusalem.”
The placement of metal barriers at Damascus Gate in April was seen as a provocation, as were the metal detectors at the Temple Mount four years ago and surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount walls back in 2015. The Arab League condemned Israeli airstrikes on Gaza this May, stating that Israel “had provoked the escalation” and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation warned also that month of “the provocation of Palestinians and the Islamic Ummah.”
Linguistically, the choice of “provocation” is based on the etymological origin of the word in that it describes an action purposefully intended to cause a reaction. Its Latin source, provocativus, indicates an act that “calls forth.” In other words, what is done by Arab Palestinians is not their fault. It is the result of what Zionists do. The Arabs are released from responsibility. They are innocent and the Jews are guilty. Arabs were enticed in that the Jew initiated a strong negative feeling and Arabs are but drawn into reacting to the provocation.
Moreover, the Arabs must react. They are forced to do so. The act of the Zionists is prima facie wrong because it draws a reaction. It is the Zionists’ act that disturbs a status quo and a normal reality. They Arabs have no option. And in reacting they cannot be but blameless. All was fine and dandy and good until the Zionists provoked the Arabs.
And the Western media, as well as diplomats and their spokespersons, the Western intellectual and cultural elite – from political scientists to anthropologists, from movie directors to playwrights – accept this positioning of events. The flag march was projected that way by The Globe and Mail reporter Eric Reguly and dozens of his colleagues on his Twitter account. Marwan Bishara, a senior political analyst at Al Jazeera, wrote on May 11 that “Israel is a colonial war machine... [and] its mounting provocations in Jerusalem have predictably driven Palestinians to protest.” As if an unalterable fact of life.
Back in October 2014, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said during his visit to what he called the “West Bank” that he was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem.” On March 18, 1982, the Christian Science Monitor’s Robin Wright observed that “Israeli forces appear to have launched a campaign... bait the Palestinians into provoking a confrontation in southern Lebanon.”
The UN search engine provides hundreds of examples. One, in a letter of protest dated October 14, 2014, from the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, I counted 10 “provocations” and UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted on December 23, 2016 employed the term thrice.
Even US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on June 9, responding to AFP’s Shaun Tandon’s query, “Could the march be among those [provocations that might provide a spark to renewed violence]?” noted “it is important that all sides... actively take steps to avoid provocations or escalations.”
There are other “provocations” in which Jews are portrayed as participating. Jews provocatively enter the Temple Mount nowadays, whereas during the Mandate period they provocatively sat on benches at the Western Wall and blew the shofar there.
Resettling the Jewish homeland is, according to the UN’s Department of Public Information on November 2, 2011, “provocations on the ground.”
The success in framing Israel as engaged in myriad “provocations” is a mighty victory of conflict terminology. The negativity of the language framing any Israeli action, the casting of the first blame on Israel and the releasing the Arabs from any culpability for their violence – for after all, they were only reacting – is one of the elements of Palestinian privilege.
Like the current frenzy of “white privilege,” which is a negative, Palestinian privilege is characterized by a positive twist. It awards the Arabs who term themselves Palestinians the presumption that they are a special group of people who can gain advantage or become entitled through an unearned, exclusive and socially conferred gift to the detriment of others simply by belonging to the group. This privilege provides dominance, identification and centeredness.
It is the privilege of a self-assumed status of being able to initiate aggressive hostilities on the flimsiest of excuses and then demand consideration for being the victim. It is the privilege of being able to promote against your opponent an eliminationist ideology while insisting human-rights groups must support the schools, summer camps and social programs that develop and maintain that ideology as well as tolerating the violent protests and even justifying them.
For too long, Israel’s official information efforts have not consistently approached this problem of portrayed provocations combined with the privilege the Arabs have gained for themselves. This need be changed.
A step in the right direction was Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s words that “we believe we have a right to be here, that we have a right to march with our flags in Jerusalem.” Having rights is not being provocative.