Everybody's an Asshole About Palestine

That's it. I've had it. I've had it with Al-Jazeera.

While watching Al-Jazeera, I was fortunate enough to see this bit.

Here's a translation of what the anchor says at the beginning there before the violent clip is shown:
A video clip posted on Youtube revealed soldiers of the Israeli occupation engaged in the horrific assault of a Palestinian family in Jaffa, a city located within the '48 borders. The images show soldiers of the occupation breaking into the home of the Palestinian family and brutally beating its inhabitants, among them women and children, to force them out. We note that the images contain offensive and disturbing scenes of violence.
Upon seeing this, the first thing that jumped out at me was the awful police brutality in the clip. The second was the saddening fact that such treatment of Arabs during arrests is so common in Israel that I shouldn't even be surprised. The third, though, was the description, questionable at best and intentionally misleading at worst, of Israeli law-enforcement personnel operating in a city outside the occupied territories as "soldiers of the Israeli occupation" (جنود الاحتلال الاسرائيلي). But that can be charitably written off as the sort of rhetorical bias that all journalism suffers from to one degree or another (and, if one wishes to be really charitable, one can point to the fact that these weren't regular cops but Yasam, a national police unit specializing in riot-suppression, high-risk patrol and crowd control- it has no precise analogue outside Israel.) It is, after all, certainly no more idiotic than the CNN story which included an 85 year old Christian invalid among the 9 "Islamic militants" killed in an Israeli strike, to say nothing of the American journalistic habit of describing countries as being ruled by "governments" when we like them and "regimes" when we don't.

But further consideration reveals something far, far more disturbing.

Descriptions of the incident in the Israeli press (at least, such of it as is accessible online) seem to be sparse. This is not as enraging as it might otherwise be, given that the Israeli press is and has been engaged in the coverage of other anti-Arab activities (such as the desecration of Arab graveyards and the arson attacks on Israeli mosques, the former of which occurred in Jaffa as well) and the international response to them. Ha'aretz, for example, has no article dedicated to this incident in question (that I could find) but several devoted to the others I just mentioned. In fact, aside from Israeli activist blogs which posted some enlightening excerpts of interviews with the victims, the most complete coverage I could find in Hebrew was by YNet, a cesspool of piss-yellow journalism.

Outside the Hebrew blogosphere, the most noteworthy mention by a halfway (though by no means entirely) trustworthy Israeli source I could find was this article in English by Ben Hartman, in the Jerusalem Post (an Israeli newspaper catering to English-readers.) The police' rationalization, mentioned at the end of that article, that the guy threatened to blow up the building and that they were merely "rescuing" the daughter from her father, is in all likelihood utter crap. The police (not just in Israel, but in many countries including the US) often make up stories like this when caught red-handed in an act of unmitigated brutality. The far more revealing facts can be found in the body of the article, from which I quote excerpts below:
Kassem said his family has been homeless since May, when his mother, who used to help him with his expenses, died and he could no longer pay rent. He said that he, his wife, and their five children moved to the vacant house on Salameh Street about two weeks ago after someone set their tent on fire at Hashtayim Park.
He said his children were having trouble sleeping at the tent city, especially after it rained recently. Kassem’s sister had been living at the vacant house for a few weeks and invited him to stay there with his children he added.
According to Kassem, on Tuesday they were informed by police that they would arrive in the afternoon to evict them and he decided to begin packing their belongings in the meantime.
When police finally arrived, he said he decided to take his infant and hole up in the house, hoping that maybe police would relent and allow them to stay.
“At 2:30 p.m. they arrived to evict us and I didn’t know what to do – to evacuate or to stay – so I decided to take the little girl and not leave, hoping that they would give us more time. Then four or five police came in, didn’t say anything to me, just began hitting me from all directions.”
Kassem’s 10-year-old daughter Dunya said that she did not want to watch the video and that she was happy because no one at school had talked about it to her yet. She added that she has been doing her homework recently under a street-lamp in the park, and was very sad to return to the tent city on Tuesday.
This is entirely believable, given that the Israeli police have been brutally cracking down on squatters and the homeless of late (and given that Ben Hartman can usually be relied upon to present information as it comes to him.) 

In light of this, the way Al-Jazeera characterized the affair, as translated at the beginning of this post, is quite shocking. The portrayal of Palestinians being evicted from their own home (منزله), when in fact they were squatters driven to live in a vacant house through sheer penniless desperation, is too blatantly inaccurate to be unintentional. Add to that the puzzling mention of 1948 borders, and the aforementioned description of law-enforcement personnel as if they were soldiers of an occupying army, and it serves to imply that the eviction was no different in kind from the program of ethnic cleansing (yes, it really was ethnic cleansing) which Arab inhabitants of Palestine suffered in 1948.

But if anything, the truth is much more tragic, and even more of an impeachment of Israeli society. It wouldn't surprise me if it was racism that lead to this particular family having its tent burned down in Hashtayim Park, just as Israeli racism was likely a contributing factor in the guy's inability to find a job that would allow him to pay the rent. It has also long been obvious that Israeli racism is a major reason why, of those living in poverty in Israel, a hugely disproportionate number are Arabs and Mizrahim.

Al-Jazeera is basically screaming "Look! Israel is still kicking Arabs out of their homes, even the ones that live in Israel itself!" But in truth, Israeli society had seen to it that these Arabs no longer even had a home to be kicked out of. So why is Al-Jazeera low-balling the tragedy of the situation and misrepresenting it? My guess is that it would be less effective in demonizing Israel without it backfiring. After all, Israel is hardly the only country in the Near East ever to engage in the systemic marginalization of a despised group. We wouldn't want those uppity Bahraini Shi'ites getting any ideas, now would we?

Al-Jazeera's willingness to hijack the misery of a family to strike the most effective political blow against, of course, "the Zionist entity" (الكيان الصهيوني) is nauseating. Instead of giving an honest account of the incident in context as a tragedy and epiphenomenon of systemic racism, it makes the family's suffering even more obscene by repackaging it as political ammunition. Moreover, this treatment of individuals in Israel is not just limited to one incident. Among many other examples, I could cite Al-Jazeera's profile of Israeli Jews of Arab origin: an absurdity in which the true tragedy (Ashkenazi racism forcing Mizrahi Jews to assimilate on the one hand and, on the other, the Arab world's horrific treatment of Arab Jews from the early 40s onward) took a back seat to the portrayal of such Jews as identifying with their "Palestinian brothers" (when in fact such Jews in Israel, in my own experience, are among the most right-wing and nationalistic.) The result was less of a documentary and more of an Arab Nationalist fantasy. I won't accept this kind of reporting from Al-Jazeera anymore than from Fox News.

Israeli treatment of Arabs for the past 60 years, depending on the time and area, has taken the form of ethnic cleansing (e.g. the depopulation of 1948), disempowerment (in the form of racist laws, and bribing Arab citizens of Israel to vote against their own interests), wanton disregard for human life (e.g. the Kafr Qasim massacre), or simple racist humiliation.

But the Arab world's response to the above atrocities not only takes the form of the Arab media hijacking and decontextualizing honest-to-god tragedy for the sake of a political agenda (i.e. the main thing I'm complaining about in this post), but even worse kinds of tragedy-tokenization. Arab governments have shown a willingness to actually make Palestinians' lives harder in order to stick it to Israel (e.g. the Arab league instructing its members that Palestinians living in Arab countries must not be given citizenship, ostensibly "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland" thereby in effect prolonging the refugee status of Israel's victims), to say nothing of the godawful treatment that Palestinians have often been subjected to by citizens of the countries where they seek refuge.

Hell, Lebanon even barred Palestinian refugees from several professions, including medicine, law and engineering- and refused citizenship to Sunni Palestinians (while eventually naturalizing Christian Palestinians) for fear of tipping the country's sectarian balance.

Palestinian refugee camps are moreover kept woefully and intentionally squalid by a Lebanese government which fears the Palestinians' effect on the Lebanese population should they ever get uppity enough to leave the camps, leaving Hezbollah of all groups to minister to at least the refugees' most basic needs and feed them the same old "look what the Jews have done to you" line.

The latter especially is part of a grotesque constellation of factors leading to Arab mistreatment of Palestinians routinely blamed on Israel by Palestinians themselves! Sometimes, as in the Sabra and Shatila atrocity, Israel, or more accurately the Israeli military, indeed deserves a heavy amount of the blame (in this case for being an accessory to massacre.) But really, it is sick to hear ultimate blame for e.g. the squalid conditions of refugee camps in Lebanon being directed at Israel (the justification being that the camps' existence is a consequence of Israel's actions. Please realize how absurd that is.)

I could go on: there's Kuwait expelling its own Palestinian population (because a douchebag named Arafat pissed them off by siding with fellow-douchebag Saddam Hussein), Jordan revoking the Jordanian citizenship of thousands of Palestinian refugees (with the Jordanian Minister of the Interior daring to suggest that they "should be thanked" for this favor), and countless others. Oh yeah, the hearts of Arab leaders are just BLEEDING A RIVER for Palestine, aren't they?

Time and again, the governments of the Arab world have tormented Palestinians and the media have been complicit in the abuse of Palestinian misery, reducing humans to pawns on a political chessboard.

I really don't know which is worse, which is more hypocritical, or which to hate more: Israel acting like an asshole toward Palestinians, or the Arab world exploiting Palestinian suffering? When it comes to the Palestinian plight, they can both go fuck themselves.

It has become increasingly clear to me that hardly anyone with any real power or influence really cares about the Palestinian plight as such. Zionists deny/minimize it or even justify it, Arab governments shamelessly exploit it, the Arab media are often shamelessly complicit in that exploitation, and even many of those who would call themselves "Pro-Palestine" merely see in it the confirmation of their own ideology- whatever that may be (ironically enough, the greatest exception to this latter group in my experience tends to be the Israeli left. Then again, they'd have all the more reason and resources to be more informed.)

1 comment: