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‘Cycle of violence’ is the new narrative (and inaccurate, but a step forward)

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Chappatte cartoon

Today I saw this cartoon by Chappatte tweeted by the director of Human Rights Watch in Europe.

— Lotte Leicht (@LotteLeicht1) July 6, 2014

Yes, it’s a great visual, a moving and effective cartoon. It suggests that the trouble is that the Jews and Palestinians are stubbornly hostile to one another, and underlying the conflict is a problem like the story of King Solomon and the two women arguing over who’s the mother.

Chappatte’s point is, there’s a cycle of violence. And there’s an element of truth to it; obviously there’s a cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine.

But the cartoon is actually inaccurate. Cycle of violence is a much lesser part of the story. As Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement on this very issue, the story is occupation and resistance, one people occupying and oppressing another, not a cycle of violence. (Chappatte himself described the problem in this great cartoon.)

Still, I’m pleased by the cartoon. Cycle of violence is now becoming the mainstream narrative, and it’s a step forward from the old story: the Arabs want to push the Jews into the sea or kill them all.

Now the narrative is, an eye for an eye, a limb for a limb. A small truth, but incomplete.

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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32 Responses

  1. Tom Suarez on July 6, 2014, 11:45 am

    I think that toppling the myth that the “conflict” has much of anything to do with tit-for-tat violence is key…

  2. Donald on July 6, 2014, 11:58 am

    “Cycle of violence” is as close to accurate (and of course it’s not very accurate) as the US MSM generally gets on this subject. More commonly it’s “Palestinian terror followed by Israeli retaliation”, which is “cycle of violence” with a more blatant pro-Israel spin. I think “the Arabs want to push the Jews into the sea” is usually not found in the NYT, to be fair to them. It’s more of a pro-Israel meme in the dumber regions of pundit-land. Related to it is the one where a map is shown with tiny little Israel surrounded by a sea of Arab countries, the implication being that it’s David and Goliath. I’ve seen that one on Maddow (I haven’t watched her lately–anyone know if she’s said anything about recent events?)

  3. hophmi on July 6, 2014, 12:10 pm

    Cycle of violence is a new narrative? In what universe? Not this one. It’s been the mainstream media narrative for, oh, maybe 75 years.

    • Woody Tanaka on July 6, 2014, 12:25 pm

      No it hasn’t. The prevailing, false, and racist narrative (forwarded by the Zionists, of course) has been the lie of “Jews ‘miraculously’ come ‘home’ to their ‘homeland’ and the Arabs try to kill them,” rather than the truth: “hordes of European Jews invade a land solely belonging to another people, attempt a genocide and when unsuccessful, oppress them for generations without a shred of human mercy or decency.”

      • hophmi on July 6, 2014, 2:51 pm

        “hordes of European Jews ”

        Yeah, hordes. Nothing racist about that word. Listen to yourself. You’re talking about persecuted people, many of them Holocaust survivors.

      • annie on July 6, 2014, 3:08 pm

        Yeah, hordes. Nothing racist about that word.

        actually, there isn’t.

        horde noun \ˈhȯrd\
        : a large group of people

        Examples of HORDE

        A horde of tourists entered the museum.
        Hordes of reporters were shouting questions.

        See Synonym Discussion at crowd

        Listen to yourself.

        maybe you should take you’re own advice. and by all means consult a dictionary!

      • hophmi on July 6, 2014, 3:37 pm

        Ok, Annie, ignore the context. Whatever you need to do. It’s your humanity and your morality that you’re losing.

      • piotr on July 6, 2014, 11:34 pm

        There is nothing pejorative about Golden Horde, but non-capitalized hordes are disorganized and/or rapacious mobs etc. For example, when you mention a “horde of reporters” you imagine precisely the kind that are pests. And when you are in a museum, you prefer if the other people there do not come in hordes so you can take your time contemplating your favorite pieces.

        On the other hands, historically, invading hordes were very often fleeing persecution. Goths, fleeing from Huns, were invading Rome, trying their luck against the legions after getting whacked and so on.

      • Kris on July 6, 2014, 3:51 pm

        @hophmi, since you brought up Holocaust survivors, could you explain why so many actual Holocaust survivors in Israel have had to choose between buying food and medicine?

        I don’t think this is too off-topic, because apologists for Israel love to use the Holocaust survivors in their indignant responses to criticism. Yet even with $9 million dollars per day of U.S. taxes, Israel treats these elderly victims so shabbily. Maybe “Honor thy father and mother…” is now interpreted in the same way as “Never again!” is?

      • Kay24 on July 6, 2014, 6:28 pm

        A very good point Kris, it has been found that these real victims of the Holocaust are living in poverty, neglected, and struggling. Israel prefers to make/buy weapons and wage wars, instead of taking care of those who they constantly use, to get aid and sympathy from the entire world.

      • hophmi on July 6, 2014, 6:44 pm

        LOL. I’ll convey your concern about the Holocaust survivors to the proper authorities. There are quite a few in poverty in the United States as well. Most are old, have little family to help them out, and aren’t always aware of the available resources. Feel free to visit them and help them out. I’m glad to put you in touch with the organizations in the States that work with them.

        You’re not fooling anyone. The vast majority of Israeli Holocaust survivors are proud Israelis (and the ones living in the United States are proud Americans), and glad to be where they are.

      • Kris on July 6, 2014, 7:01 pm

        @hophmi’s non-answer: “There are quite a few in poverty in the United States as well. ”

        The Holocaust survivors are the ones whose suffering was exploited by the Zionists as justification for stealing Palestine. Without the suffering of the Holocaust victims, there would be no Israel.

        Yet these old people with their painful memories have had to choose between food and medicine in Israel. Just wondering why, in the “Jewish” state, the commandment given to Moses to “Honor thy father and thy mother” is disregarded, even in this case, where Israel owes these poor old people so much.

        It’s not as if Israel can’t afford food and medicine for these Holocaust survivors; consider the $9 million dollars daily the U.S. gives Israel. Maybe Israel just wants to get rid of them? Old people can be tiresome and non-productive?

        Not to mention that if we stopped giving Israel $9 million dollars per day, we could do a better job of taking care of our own old people here in the U.S.

      • Walid on July 6, 2014, 3:59 pm

        “… many of them Holocaust survivors.”

        Who dispossessed the survivors, hophmi?

      • Mooser on July 7, 2014, 11:51 am

        “There are quite a few (Holacaust survivors) in poverty in the United States as well. Most are old, have little family to help them out, and aren’t always aware of the available resources.”

        Gosh, if only the had coreligionists who appreciated what they had been through, and wanted to help them. Too bad they are out there all alone.

      • just on July 6, 2014, 5:14 pm

        hophmi– I’m not entirely sure that you know anything about humanity and morality.

        otoh, annie has both in spades.

      • on July 6, 2014, 6:23 pm

        The Holocaust trump card. Allows the Zionists to do any damn thing they please and nobody can criticize them.

      • hophmi on July 7, 2014, 12:13 pm

        “Gosh, if only the had coreligionists who appreciated what they had been through, and wanted to help them. Too bad they are out there all alone.”

        Again, Mooser, if you’re interested in this issue beyond politicizing it, I’m glad to direct you to proper organizations.

        The Jewish community in the United States has done the vast majority of the work in achieving both reparations and welfare resources for the survivors. The survivors still living in the FSU (and the recipients, controversially, of the largest chunk of the Swiss bank settlement), are in the worst position. Most American survivors living below the poverty line are in New York are members of the Russian community. Many of them may not have access to Social Security, and other anti-poverty resources most American seniors rely on. A good percentage live in Chassidic communities, where most of the community is technically in poverty, but takes care of one another through self-contained communal institutions.

        So, if you’re interested in this issue, you can contact OHEL about volunteering with survivors, or get involved with the Claims Conference, which distributes some of the money, or with the Joint, which does a massive amount of relief work abroad.

        Let me know, and I will post relevant contact information.

      • Mooser on July 7, 2014, 12:04 pm

        “You’re talking about persecuted people, many of them Holocaust survivors.”

        So why are you making them dance a hora for Zionism? Ever think of maybe leaving them alone? Now you own them, too?

      • hophmi on July 7, 2014, 12:16 pm

        “So why are you making them dance a hora for Zionism? Ever think of maybe leaving them alone? Now you own them, too?”

        Own them? Most Holocaust survivors strongly support the Jewish state. That’s why many went there. You know, the hordes of them.

    • Donald on July 6, 2014, 1:03 pm

      “It’s been the mainstream media narrative for, oh, maybe 75 years.”

      I can’t speak about 75 years, but yeah, for decades at least.

  4. a blah chick on July 6, 2014, 12:30 pm

    Someone with better posting skills than me needs to post Latuff’s latest. It leaves this one in the dirt.

  5. Baldur on July 6, 2014, 12:46 pm

    Well, there is a cycle of violence, so I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t discuss it. It’s just that the occupation/colonialism aspect is the lens through which the conflict has to be understood. It’s certainly interesting to spend all day talking and thinking about cycles of violence and their psychology, but you will never understand the conflict if you forget the occupation and think the conflict is one between two equals like in the cartoon.

  6. strangefriend on July 6, 2014, 1:24 pm

    TalkingPointMemo has this article Israel’s Self-Constructed Image Is Crumbling, which I think is a start.

    • Mooser on July 7, 2014, 12:01 pm

      Im not sure I’d like to rely on TPM, since the owner declares himself a Zionist.

      And he’s always waking up to the fact that maybe something is wrong over there. He’ll be waking up to the fact that there’s a problem till the day Israel crumbles. I don’t have a name for that kind of Hasbara, you could call it “That-train-left-the-station-years-ago Hasbara” It’s akin to being “serious” about the US War on Iraq.

  7. a blah chick on July 6, 2014, 3:25 pm

    Netanyahu said. “I wish to send condolences to the family of the boy and promise you that we will wield the full weight of the law against those who committed this heinous crime, which deserves all condemnation. Such murderers have no place in Israeli society.”

    Okay, the man’s on record. Let’s see what the “full weight if the law” looks like when applied to his base.

    • Kay24 on July 6, 2014, 6:48 pm

      It will be very interesting to see what the full weight of the law is when applied to Israelis. So far no one seems to be impressed by it, when illegal settlers do not feel any weight of it, when and if they are arrested for any crimes against the Palestinians. Not even kidnapping them in the middle of the night and dumping them in their dungeons.

  8. seafoid on July 6, 2014, 4:25 pm

    Intractable is another word often used to describe the occupation. Nothing to do with incentives in the system the bots run.

  9. LuLu on July 6, 2014, 5:53 pm

    The problem is not the Jews living along side with the Palestinians… It is the Zionist evil oppression and regime. I swear to God, there is absolutely NOTHING to compare between Jews and Zionist. It is like Zionist is a totally different race. They are not just doing this to Palestinians, but to Jews as well, You Tube is full of them beating and taunting the Jews, Africans, they absolutely are brutal and evil. The Holocaust was a very horrible thing, I can not even watch documentaries of it, as it terrorizes my mind for weeks of brutal, cruel and evil images, but the whole land give away was WAY BEFORE the holocaust even happen. Besides, victims of the Holocaust or ones who were actually around when it was happening, are completely AGAINST the Zionist regime towards the Palestinians. These Zionist who are like a dictator fascist running Israel, were born way after the Holocaust or were NEVER effected as “survivors” or “victims” of the holocaust. The survivors and victims of the Holocaust are still victims, to a different regime now thou, the Zionist regime. There was a article I read over a year ago on how poor they were, barely making it financially, treated badly… I really really believe Jews need to come together and rid themselves of the Zionist, they hijacked Judaism. I really believe there is NO WAY there will ever be peace as long as Zionist are running the show… They seem not to have any souls or fear of God, or anyone for that matter to behave barbaric. Miko Peled should be the PM, and recreate the entire Israeli Govt. and have a one state for all. Get rid of the settlers who behave like thugs, send them back to Europe, they are not just a threat to Palestinians, but also to the Jews who just want to live their life peacefully..

  10. just on July 7, 2014, 7:58 am

    “Lieberman ends partnership with Netanyahu, dismantles Likud-Beiteinu

    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced on Monday that he is ending his partnership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and dismantling the Likud-Beiteinu faction.

    In a press conference, Lieberman suggested that Netanyahu is not handling the recent outbreak in violence suitably and said that the law must be enforced on Israeli Arabs.”

    Read about it here:

    More trouble in paradise. Seems that the serial abusers are distancing themselves from each other, and the split has come. Seems that they disagree on how to best annihilate the Palestinians…

  11. piotr on July 8, 2014, 8:58 am

    I think cycle of violence is an accurate statement, or perhaps “spiral of violence” since events never repeat in the same way. But violence is in a major part perpetuated by reactions to previous acts and methods, so a recognition of that is a necessary step in a proper description of what is going on, and in offering prescriptions.

    One could postulate that violence is a combination of social needs (insecurities etc.) with obnoxious ideas. And if we observe more clearly, we can see that ideas introduced by one side are adopted and incrementally expanded by the other side, and thus the conflict can spiral out or spiral in (additional to the obvious dynamic that acts in response to stresses felt by one side create stresses on the other).

    The cycle of violence paradigm posits we should seek the origin of the obnoxious ideas in the cycle, paying attention to the dynamic of innovation and imitation modification. However we characterize the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries in the aftermath of 1949, (voluntary but fostered by the governments or forcible) it WAS in the aftermath and it was an imitation/modification. Most currently we observe the idea that the GOOD way to redress certain kinds of deprivation is to inflict violence on random members of the “opponent community”. In a cycle/spiral of violence that key idea is waxing or waning, so observing and explaining the dynamics of that idea is very important.

    But there is also more frequent use of “cycle of violence”, which is that our side has good ideas and has to suffer the violence from the other side, which has bad ideas, until the time that the other side is eliminated (if ever). This is a static, incorrect view (in my humble opinion), so perhaps “spiral of violence” could be a better term.

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