By Mohamed Harees –
“The Zionists indeed learnt well from the Nazis. So well that it seems that their morally repugnant treatment of the Palestinians, and their attempts to destroy Palestinian society within Israel and the occupied territories, reveals them as basically Nazis with beards and black hats” ~ Norman Finkelstein (An American political scientist whose primary fields of research are the politics of the Holocaust and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Finkelstein was born to parents who are both Jewish Holocaust survivors in New York City in 1953)
The date of 29 November is observed as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People since 1978. This date, which was chosen because of its meaning and significance to the Palestinian people, is based on the call by the United Nations General Assembly for an annual observance of the resolution on the partition of Palestine. What has become known as the Partition Plan or the Resolution 181 (II), intended to establish an Arab State and a Jewish State, and was adopted on 29 November 1947. The International Day of Solidarity traditionally provides an opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine remains unresolved and that the Palestinian people have yet to attain their inalienable rights as defined by the General Assembly, namely, the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property, from which they have been displaced.
For people of the world who are non-Palestinians living thousands of miles away from Gaza but watching the deadly Israeli atrocity and war crimes in Gaza, from afar, it’s more than grief that grips them – it’s also guilt. In fact, guilt is a feeling that majority of the humanity feel when they see the devastation, the indiscriminate killings, and inherently they feel the empathy generated with ‘Palestine’ in their hearts. Survivor’s guilt is real. Nowadays, when we open the social media apps on our phones, we usually see content of a similar nature: graphic images and videos of dead or seriously injured Palestinians. Often, the people in these posts are babies and children, and it is heartbreaking to see the plight of these innocent, young souls. the survivor’s guilt that many of us around the world are experiencing today is really awful. One would wonder why innocent people like you and I are experiencing survivor’s guilt. Well, this is the first time in history that we are witnessing war atrocities in real-time. According to therapists, seeing these traumatic visuals day after day and being unable to do anything to help the people who are suffering is causing widespread survivor’s guilt. And fortunately, not just Palestinians, but a world emerging from its historic guilt are refusing to be its silent victims no longer. However, it is not just Israeli atrocities which the world should put a stop to, but the arrogant patronage given to the regime by their Western backers, financiers and supporters as well.
On 7 October, the national security council spokesperson Adrienne Watson stated that the US “unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians”. True! People must stand up and denounce the killing of every civilian, Israeli or Palestinian or otherwise. But Watson’s use of the word “unprovoked” lacks historic context. What exactly counts as a provocation? Not, apparently, the denial of Palestinian human rights and national aspirations for decades, the large number of illegal settlers robbing Palestine lands, or recently those who stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound on 5 October, or not the 248 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or settlers between 1 January and 4 October of this year.
The deep and lasting human consequences of Israel’s terrifying, perpetual war on Palestinians – prosecuted with indiscriminate cruelty by an occupying army and its de facto proxies, fanatical settler militias – have been plain for anyone willing or inclined to see, for generations. Countless lives lost and maimed in body and spirit. Land and homes stolen. Livelihoods and ancient traditions destroyed. The exhausting cycle of having to rebuild, then watching all the promise and possibility turn, in an instant, to dust. The wholesale imprisonment of a people penned like cattle behind walls and barbed wire fences, where water and electricity, food and fuel, are switched on and off on a colonial power’s whim.
Watching US or some mainstream Western Media, people would be likely to presume that Palestinians always act while Israel only reacts. Or that Palestinians are the ones colonizing the land of Israel, and that this occupier State, which holds ultimate control over the lives of 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and yet denies them the right to vote in Israeli elections, is a democracy. Besides, there’s also the nagging hypocrisy and double standards to grapple with too. For example, the West made lot of noises to support Ukraine’s resistance to foreign occupation (as they should) but blithely deny Palestinians any way to resist their Zionist occupation. Even non-violent methods of resistance like the BDS campaign is being strongly vilified and even criminalized.
However, these double standards are to be expected, considering how the West looked at the plight of the Palestinians discussed in the past, but that doesn’t eliminate its moral darkness. The West is also particularly tone-deaf at this moment, when Israel has been using unprecedented violence on a largely defenceless and penned-in population, in part to cover for its own fatal mistakes and embarrassment. This is not a two sided conflict as Western media attempt to portray the pogrom in Gaza: there is a massive asymmetry – one dominates while the other is dominated. One colonizes. The other is colonized. Not just the West, but the and the rest of world too through its complicit silence, should bear a large portion of the blame, through their desperate attachment to morally bankrupt double standards.
When the Israeli military kills Palestinians, they speak of “collateral damage,” not families blown apart. When their defence minister talks about cutting off electricity and water to Gaza, he speaks only of fighting Hamas “animals” — not of the hospital patients and formula-fed babies likely to die as a consequence.
Today, the label anti-Semitism is hijacked and redefined by expanding its scope to include criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism. Many Western governments, particularly Germany (which carries its historic guilt for the Holocaust) has declared a monopoly on deciding who to label as anti-Semitic. As a consequence, all persons, slogans, actions, writings, films, art, and intellectual discussions that criticize Israel, call for Palestinian rights, or discuss the Palestinian perspective are deemed anti-Semitic. Even the slogan “Free Palestine” has absurdly been redefined as anti-Semitic! Little does the West realise that Palestinian wounds are opened by each prohibition of the call for Palestinian rights. Germany in particular and the West in general should free Palestine from their guilt!
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, recently said “History begins for some media and politicians when Israelis are killed. Our people have endured one deadly year after another, recounting the repeated warnings he and other exasperated Palestinians have issued – time and again – of the potential “consequences of Israeli impunity and international inaction…We are not sub-humans. We will never accept a rhetoric that denigrates our humanity and reneges our rights. A rhetoric that ignores the occupation of our land and oppression of our people.” Human rights groups based in Israel, London and New York have published numerous reports that establishes, as a matter of international law, that Israel has, for a long time, been enjoying impunity, guilty of apartheid – a state-sanctioned, systemic policy to impose ethnic supremacy over besieged Palestinians with brutal, grinding efficiency.
The UN estimates that 670,000 Israeli citizens live in 130 illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and this year had already set an all-time record for settlement construction in the West Bank. The people of Gaza have lived for 16 years under a blockade that the UN has called an illegal act of collective punishment that has made their territory ‘unliveable’ However, thanks to US veto power in virtually all international bodies, Israel is not meaningfully accountable to international law. With the complicity of the Western governments and media. Israel’s deliberate, organised oppression is simply unsustainable. Israel now sits, occupying its swollen territory, pulverizing houses and villages containing snipers, outlawing protests/strikes of Arabs, killing Palestinians indiscriminately in the name of checking terrorism or defending itself. Nevertheless, Western columnists will defend Israel – without so much as a hint of doubt or equivocation – despite its demonstrable record of erasing Palestinians whenever it wants, wherever it wants, for whatever reason it wants.
In fact, Europe too has played a pivotal — and guilt-ridden — role from the start in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Zionism, the late 19th-century movement to create a Jewish homeland, grew from Europe’s pogroms. The content of the Balfour declaration Britian expounded, seems no less distant or downright baffling. The prominent Jewish intellectual Arthur Koestler, repeating a frequent mantra, would call it “one the most improbable political documents of all time,” in which “one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.” The fact that it included no explicit rationale for itself has also fuelled the suspicion that its authors had dark or disreputable motives. In finality, when the fuller story is told, the Balfour Declaration looks very different. It is no longer a British imperial grab but the outcome of a carefully constructed consensus of the leading democracies of the day. Despite appearances, the Balfour Declaration was more than the chess move of a single power. Behind it stood the Allies, each of whom gave it some push forward.
Israel cannot wage a full-scale war on a nation, its people, its land, its holy sites and expect peace in exchange. The atrocities that were allowed to happen under criminal Bibi’s watch, alongside the upcoming brutal invasion of Gaza he plans to oversee, seem likely to ensure that any two-state solution will remain out of reach even after he is no longer in power. The enmity and mistrust between the parties will be too strong–the damage too profound. There is no inherent enmity or conflict between Arab and Jew. In the great centuries of Arab civilization in North Africa and Spain, Jews took a happy and prominent part–in contrast to their ongoing persecution by the fanatics of the Christian West. Shorn of Western influence and Western imperialism, that harmony can reign once more.
The window to prevent a full scale genocide is narrowing by the day. If the truth is important, now is the time to tell it. If facts matter at all, now is the time to be clear on them—including and especially with respect to facts that are inconvenient for one’s own side. As people of the world, one of the most effective ways to fight survivor’s guilt is to use it as a tool to take action. We can take the guilt we are feeling and use it to support an organization that, for example, feeds displaced Palestinian children. Or, if we cannot afford to part with any, we can support the BDS campaign by boycotting brands that are supporting the genocide in Palestine. Or we can also join local marches and rallies protesting the Israeli instigated war in Gaza and demanding a ceasefire and force the hands of the governments to act with clear conscience and punish Israeli impunity. There are similar actions we can take to stop feeling helpless or at least feel more in control than we are right now. These actions, although small, have a ripple effect, and they will matter in the long run. Plus, it’s the least we can do as human beings with a functioning moral compass.
A colonized Palestine isn’t the answer to the world’s guilt. Zionism’s synergy with right-wing populists has exploited antisemitism to justify apartheid and criticism of the terror State of Israel. One meaningful contribution the people in the West and outside can make to stopping the violence is by confronting at every opportunity the vast public conspiracy of silence about the [Israeli] occupation. That’s the only thing we can do that has any consequence beyond seeing to our own conscience. Our role, as people outside the area of conflict and war should be to help and demand our governments to support the Palestine in their quest for peace and justice. This does not mean mealy-mouthed statements about peace, but specific interventions designed to push our individual governments toward fostering that sense of reality. Not just a ceasefire, but a comprehensive resolution of this long standing conflict – Realising a Palestine dream of a homeland of their own and resolving the related issues. A military solution followed by another illusion of stability is only likely to fall apart once again, killing more thousands along the way.
“The UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.“~ Nelson Mandela