Unless you are living under a rock you are aware that once again Israel is launching an attack on Palestine. Gaza is once again covered in blood.
I have strong feelings on this issue; however due to the negative consequences that come with voicing an opinion, until recently, I have been publicly silent. Even though I am well aware that what is happening is a crime against humanity, my fear of being labelled has silenced me.
Much of Western politics is firmly aligned with Israel. Some of this is to maintain a secure foothold in the Middle East, and some of it exists from Holocaust guilt. To announce in anyway shape or form that you question your government’s unilateral support of Israel is to leave yourself open for an attack.
This stems largely from the fact that we have divided the Israeli/Palestinian debate into good and bad. According to the New York Times, Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said that Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, was responsible for the outbreak of violence and called its rocket attacks ”completely unacceptable. These people are nothing but thugs,” he said. “Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas.”
Palestinians are often referred to as terrorist; ignoring the disparity in power between the two combatants. This can clearly be seen when we examine the deaths on both sides. Few Israelis have died from Hamas rocket attacks; whereas hundreds of Palestinians have perished, or been injured in the last few days.
The American government has already condemned the actions of Hamas, ignoring the Palestinian blood that has been spilled, and the brutal siege that triggered the action to begin with. If you deny a people electricity, water, and food in an attempt to force them to capitulate, they will eventually be forced to defend themselves.
The Western media is content to play upon the fear of the so-called Arab terrorist forgetting that even that designation is definitely in the eye of the beholder. The ability to label, to decide exactly who is good and who is evil is often based on who holds the power. They count on us to be unaware of the history of this conflict. They count on us to make decisions out of fear. They count on us to believe the propagandaб because to question means we would have to assess our government’s culpability in this ongoing conflict.
We do not wish to open Pandora’s Box. The knowledge that questioning the blanket support of Israel often means being labelled an anti-Semite is enough to cause us to cease thinking about the issues involved. We choose purposeful ignorance, to shield ourselves not only from culpability, but from the certain knowledge that we will be assumed by some to be bigots.
No one wishes to receive such an ugly label. It instantly draws to mind images of pogroms in Russia and Nazi concentration camps. These events represent some of the worst cruelties that we have visited upon each other. The moment a charge of anti-Semitism is laid it immediately silences dissent.
Even when we realize that this labelling is nothing more than a silencing tactic, the words hang in the air like a fog that refuses to be dispelled. Declaring that someone is an anti-Semite when they dare to question Israeli policy as it relates to Palestinians is in no way different than calling a woman a misandrist when she questions patriarchy, or a person of color a “reverse racist” when they speak out about unacknowledged white privilege. It stifles conversation and renders the accused without power to defend themselves.
Who will hold the power? This is essentially what these exchanges are about. When arguing on the side of justice, one is often advocating from a position of marginalization. This is not a place where one can speak dispassionately, or without volumes of evidence.
The lies that we have told to support the evil in this world need little support, or validation, because we have accepted them as the norm; whereas restructuring the discourse demands an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of events, places and people. Even with overwhelming knowledge the discussion can still be prematurely ended by the uttering of four little words: “you’re an anti-Semite.”
Even the most basic points cannot be adequately discussed, due to the lack of general education on the Middle East and the centuries of conflict. Today, everything is viewed through a lens of oil, money, land, religion and power, without even the vaguest idea of the history involved. To the west the Middle East is simply the land of black gold, filled with “Arab others “who refuse to submit to their enlightened masters.
The media further perpetuates this ignorance by daily failing to provide background knowledge in its bid to paint all Palestinians as terrorists. The Palestinians’ humanity has been stripped from them as not a thought is given to the children that are dying, and mothers weeping over graves. The similarity to the white man’s vicious attack to indigenous North Americans is overlooked. Today, instead of killing with small pox blankets and forced marches, the weapons of choice are missiles and bombs all tracked live on CNN for our viewing pleasure. We have become desensitized to human suffering because we have created one group as “other” to benefit our geo-political position.
The very same people who refuse to question for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic will look askance one day, mystified as to why the West is so hated in the Middle East. As we return to our safe neighbourhoods, our largest worry being paying the rent, Palestinians will wonder when the next bombs will fall.
This cycle of violence will continue on while we announce to the world how much respect we have for freedom, and how much love we have for humanity. There is a proviso though, this respect must quickly be shelved if charged with anti-Semitism. Justice is only important if it costs us nothing.
The moment that there is a price to pay, those that made the picket signs quickly return to roost, unaware that the chickens will join them there on a later day. To stand for justice we must arm ourselves with knowledge and speak unabashedly even when there is an attempt to silence us. Conviction only means something when it is married to courage.