A Palestinian reflects on the lifelong experience of Israeli viciousness

Anees in an email: I am still wondering about the criticism of the use of the term genocide by EI in the Martin Kramer flap. I cannot decide if it is unwarranted or hyperbolic. After all, Israel’s blockade of Gaza is in fact directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds (or more?) of Palestinians, and Kramer is adamantly supportive of it in the context of ‘limiting birth rates’. (See Sara Roy’s very recent detailing of such things as Gaza’s infant mortality rate post-blockade.)

Weiss responded: Myself, I don’t like to use the word genocide. It stops conversation. But I think Palestinians who live under these conditions have a different understanding than I do.

Anees: You bet they do. I think we experience and feel Israeli viciousness more than you do because it’s something that shakes one inside and gradually forms ‘an understanding’ over a lifetime. It’s there when you get yelled upon at a checkpoint, get serviced by a racist nurse, get arbitrarily stopped and harassed on the street by bored soldiers, and when you see others get treated like that and much much worse.
The viciousness comes in many flavors, as you know. My friend S—, who studied at Hebrew U and most of whose friends are Jewish Israelis, recently relayed to me a story a Russian Israeli friend of his told him. He (his friend) and other IDF soldiers would be bored patrolling a checkpoint in or around Gaza, and for fun they’d: stop a car, have one of them divert the driver with the usual questioning and ask him to lower all windows, while another throws a few bullets in the back seat from a back window; then they’d ask him if he’s carrying any weapons or ammo for Hamas… and then you know.. "What’s this you have in the back seat?" … the bewildered driver becomes terrified of what the soldier is about to do to him … all the soldiers standing at the rear get a good laugh.
The viciousness directed at Gaza has been homicidal on a grand scale. No one can deny this. Whether it’s ‘genocide’ or not seems in part like an argument about a different matter. I do think it’s enough sometimes to point out the facts and not use names—but sometimes, like when Sara Roy wrote on the Gaza assault, calling it a massacre with some surprise of her own at having to go there, you just have to use ‘a strong word’.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine

{ 27 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi says:

    Words convey meaning, feelings, actions, individual styles and so on.

    On the one hand I appreciate the fact that such terminology can stop debate. It’s similar in a way to the treatment Saddam received at the hands of the US media in the early 1990s. He was often dismissed as a maniac, a crazed, unstable man. Such terminology stopped any sober conversation in its tracks. Suddenly, there was no need to understand how the decades leading up to that point in time shaped the political climate in Iraq.

    At the same time, when I read about “enhanced interrogations” knowing that it’s a gentler more sugar-coated — if you will — term for “torture” I can’t help but point to the hypocrisy of such journalists.

    I think the focus on the Israel-Palestinian issue and the accompanying narrative should be on educating and getting the message out, explaining the facts, the reality on the ground to those who are not familiar with the subject matter. For example, simply describing the Israeli occupation as an apartheid system conveys very little meaning to the average listener/reader. But, if the separate road system is explained, if the endless checkpoints, the wall, the land grab, the house demolitions, the random arrests, the absence of basic rights, freedoms and safety are conveyed, then the person conveying the message has done the reality on the ground justice.

    But, again, just like newspapers and the media often do, attention grabbing headlines are usually essential to any debate.

  2. Chaos4700 says:

    I wish had had words to adequate describe how reading this makes me feel. It’s hard to have to confront that this happens, to people, in the world… but thank you for sharing. It is important that we confront what is being done to other people, especially at our expense.

  3. Avi says:

    Speaking of abuses. A former friend of mine who served in the Israeli army once told me that whenever he and his squad were bored while patrolling in Gaza (this was before 2005) they would pull behind trees to the side of the road and wait for oncoming traffic. When the oncoming vehicle (driven by a Palestinian and identified by a non-yellow license plate) was within 50 feet or so, they’d shine a bright spotlight directly at the driver to blind him and cause an accident. And that’s how a friend became a former friend.

    • Avi says:

      * Obviously, this was done at night.

      • Pamela Olson says:

        I don’t think it’s constructive to demonize anyone or use inflammatory words, but I’ve lived in the West Bank for nearly three years, and the viciousness is endless, truly like nothing I’ve ever seen or even dreamt of. Even long after I should have been jaded, I still kept seeing things that choked me with rage.

        Sometimes I wonder if their tactic is to be so unbelievably vicious, anyone who talks about what they’ve done sounds insane to the outside world who’s never seen this stuff first hand. I’ve found myself scaling back a lot of stories and things I’ve witnessed just so people in America wouldn’t dismiss me out of hand as a lunatic. When I tell the full stories, I can just see people thinking, “She has to be making that up. No human being would ever do that. It doesn’t even make sense!”

        If this is their tactic, I have to admit it’s ingenious.


  4. Citizen says:

    Maybe the Palestinians need their own superhero? Pictures speak louder than words. Streicher never had a smidgeon of the circulation of Superman. Sacco might need to
    do a new version of Maus. Americans are quite primitive. Anyway, maybe Aqua Teen
    needs to add a Palestinian talking icon to Meatwad, Shake, And Fries? And Family Guy really needs to be less PC when it comes to the I-P situation? Check this out,
    from 1940; scroll down:
    link to ia351441.us.archive.org

    • Chaos4700 says:

      You’re actually hitting on something that occurred to me early on when I decided to seriously pursue art. The problem is that perceptions are engineered on a very comprehensive level in the United States.

      Think about it. Have you ever seen a Palestinian portrayed in any Hollywood film who was not an explicitly anti-American terrorist militant thug? There’s this artificial “culture clash” mantra that has been enforced on American discourse for decades — stretching back even to the Roosevelt era, or farther back still, when you look at some of the comments about Palestine from then.

      I still think one of the biggest stepping stones that needs to be crossed is to connect real American hip-hop artists and audiences (as opposed to the corporatized, racialized junk that gets peddled cynically by the big labels) with their counterparts in Palestine.

    • Citizen says:

      Imagine just one video still with Shake flying an Israeli flag from his straw, shouting out, “The whole planet’s out to get me!” Meanwhile, Shake is standing knee deep on the head of the cute Meatwad, wearing a Palestinian bandana. Fries is in the background, babbling about soprhosyne, the classical Greek term for moderation, balance–but his french fry hair is all skewed to one side. Then, of course we got the
      stupid and slovenly neighbor–is it Carl? He’s the average American. Think you will ever get to surf that? LOL.

  5. Shmuel says:

    Thanks, Anees. This is as good a thread as any to report that BDS appears to be gaining momentum in Italy. I just got a message entitled “Let us not Forget Gaza – Let us not Forget the Palestinians” from a pretty mainstream left-wing mailing list. The campaign is focusing particularly on Israeli agricultural exports, under the slogan “Boycott the Fruits of Israeli Apartheid – Boycott Carmel-Agrexco”.

    link to boicottaisraele.it (in Italian)

  6. sky7i says:

    When I wrote a letter to Weatherhead, I too was leery of using the word ‘genocide’ as it does sound hyperbolic. I used the EI passage anyways, because although Kramer may not be intending a genocide (that is debatable), there is no question that such actions are a significant step in that direction. The most charitable way of interpreting his message is that he (a) wishes to see food aid disappear so that reproduction becomes infeasible (implying starvation/malnutrition is acceptable, as that is already an outcome of the siege)) and (b) he believes Israeli actions are not the cause of the refugee status and desperation in the first place.

    Even if this falls short of genocide, it is certainly evil enough to be deemed a crime against humanity. Maybe using the term ‘genocide’ gave Weatherhead wiggle room to deny and defend the indefensible. Even so, pointing out that birth policies are part of genocidal practice is not itself hyperbolic, upon careful reading.

  7. seafoid says:

    It’s not just Palestinians who get shafted either.

    “783,600 children in Israel went to bed hungry last night!”
    link to meirpanim.net

  8. seafoid says:

    It’s going to be very hard for Israeli society to move on from the conflict into a peaceful future. The mental hardcoding behind the viciousness of the army conscript or even the citizen on the street towards Palestinians (try speaking arabic in West Jerusalem) goes very deep. It’s there for a reason which will cease to exist once Palestinians get their rights, as they inevitably will.

    Real peace (which will probably have to be imposed via economic sanctions) is going to shake Israeli society to its foundations.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      My take on it is there is no moving on to a peaceful future for Israel because, as I said elsewhere, Israel is the occupation. Israel, literally, does not exist unless they are grinding Palestinians under their heel and making them bow down to a “Jewish state.”

  9. radii says:

    hungry israeli children? didn’t they get that $1000 US per person James Baker said we give them every year? Oh year, Obama just added on another $30 billion for the country so when you add what they make selling our military technology to our enemies they should all be dining on caviar and champagne on our dime

    • Shmuel says:

      Massive “investment” in killing tools aside, greed and corruption – like racism – can never be satisfied with just one object of hatred/exploitation. Like it’s mentor and benefactor, Israeli is a wealthy country that allows its own children to go to bed hungry.

  10. JSC says:

    Is there genocide in Palestine? Possibly. Evil, racist, you could call it anything. But stories like those Anees mentions get the point across better than slogans.

    • Citizen says:

      Imagine what one tv show or Hollywood movie shown across the USA would do to change hearts and minds by depicting Anees’s scenarios–or even a satirical cartoon show episode or two.

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