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Language is Criminal

Ramzy Baroud

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A solemn message was delivered on behalf of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Seville, Spain. “Suicide bombings are immoral. They are counter-productive. They must be stopped,” he said. Annan’s seemingly upright observations however, underscored a profound, even a formidable presentation of a political and intellectual trend, essential for Israel to sustain its genocidal war against the Palestinians.

Having seen his presecessor, Boutros Gali, hounded out of a job by the USA, Annan knows only too well which side of Colin Powell to butter.
Oddly, according to Annan’s vision, the ills of the Middle East start at that critical moment when a young Palestinian detonates himself in a crowded Israeli street. The historically attentive Annan, must’ve know that he deliberately omitted a vital sequence from the equation. 

The Secretary-General’s observation is certainly not the exception, but the overpowering norm. He is only a block in a grotesque edifice of, if not bigotry, then intellectual gutlessness: if one’s peace vision is not set in motion with a ruthless condemnation of Palestinian violence then it’s chances of being embraced are diminutive.

Censuring Palestinian violence is nothing to frown upon, granted that such violence was not employed in cases of self-defence and targeted innocent civilians whose correlation with the conflict was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the trend of intellectual, and thus political gutlessness appears to place Palestinian violence in a vacuum, and undresses it from any meaningful relevance to the larger political and historic spectrum of the overall conflict. Indeed, Palestinian violence becomes the inventor of the conflict rather than one of its wretched, albeit predictable outcomes.

Bush, expectedly, is the most obvious and applicable example. “I condemn unequivocally the vicious act of terrorism committed today in Haifa,” he said, speaking of the “murderous action, aimed at families gathered to enjoy a Sabbath lunch, killed and injured dozens of men, women and children.” The Haifa bombing struck on October 04. Israel ‘retaliated’ by bombing Syria, marching into a destitute refugee camp in Gaza, killing a total of 15 Palestinians. Bush’s pathos hurriedly evaporated. Israel “must not feel constrained” in defending itself, he said of the Syria attack, while other administration officials drew on the same logic following the Gaza onslaught.

The master of the lowest common denominator, USA President Bush can strike a chord with the Christian fundamentalist, and godless pool-hall drunk alike.
What Annan and Bush have in common is that both are members of the so-called ‘quartet’ for Middle East peace. They, along with the European Union and Russia are now the godfathers of the dormant peace process. To activate it, the quartet’s impartiality is key. 

But statements, routinely issued by European and UN officials, and of course American, contest the presence of such partiality. While Palestinians are enduring the brunt of the Israeli aggressions unprotected, their humble, and often-desperate self-defence endeavours never escape the harshest condemnation. Israel, in the meantime, is hardly reprimanded if it goes too far punishing its subjects. Only the ‘disproportionate use of force’ that concerns Annan for instance, while Palestinian violence is to be abhorred without any qualification.

Just a week after the ensuing of the Israeli ‘operation’ in Gaza, the Israeli army carried out deadly strikes focused on another refugee camp: Nuseirat. The death toll swelled to 13 and the wounded exceeded the one hundred mark.

Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for Common Policy was one of very few who kindly protested the strikes. He laid down his argument with the almost ritual pacification: “The EU fully recognizes the Israeli right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.” But “I urge the Israeli government, to exert maximum effort to avoid civilian casualties.” It was not the missiles tossed at a refugee camp that posed Solana’s dilemma, but the lack of precision that resulted in the high death toll among civilians. Under international law, Israel’s mere presence in the refugee camp is illegal, let alone its decades-long occupation, but this seems to bother no one. The EU is often dubbed a ‘partner’ in the peace process.

With the lack of concrete denunciation, Sharon’s military machine could hardly fight the temptations, railing against Ramallah two days later: issuing a curfew, closing down media offices, raiding a mosque and, of course, robbing the lives of a few during the raid.

This BBC News 24 glamour-girl presenter would be pitiable, if it were not for the corporate lies written on the autocue that she desparately depends on.

This BBC News 24 glamour-girl presenter would be pitiable, if it were not for the corporate lies written on the autocue that she desparately depends on.

The intellectual gutlessness is of course not enough to smother the international uproar that such Israeli aggressions are deemed to generate. That’s what the media is precisely used for.  The Haifa bombing, for instance, was described as “holiday horror”, on a British Observer headline, a heading that reincarnated itself with gruesome images and angry bolded words across Europe and North America. The Gaza invasion coverage was hardly as fumed, and even repeatedly accredited Israel’s ‘security concerns’ over alleged tunnels used in the camp to smuggle weapons. Shortly after, the bombing of Nuseirat was not what interested the New York Times, who chose a different angle to lessen the horrific nature of the Israeli bombing: “2 sides sharply split on how Israelis killed 7 at Gaza camp.”

Even the disapproval of Israel in mainstream western media, mostly displayed in editorials and the carefully chosen commentary, is often a result of wallowing on behalf of the occupier, not out of empathy for the occupied: ‘construction of settlements threatens Israel’s Jewish identity’; ‘apartheid wall endangers two state solution’, hence Israel’s ‘demographic needs’; ‘violence damages Israeli economy’ the state of mind of its ever-anxious population, and so on. In short, the presentation of the Arab Israeli conflict in its most critical stages is governed by a xenophobic pattern, that, even in its healthiest formation, remains consumed by the interest of the aggressor, rather than the subjugation of the victim. 

The explanation of this chauvinistic tact cannot simply remain confounded to a set of individuals, organization or religious dogmas, nor it can be erased by the mere realization of its existence. Nonetheless, it ought to be branded with designation it deservingly earned: racism, in its most raw definitions.

Without the endorsement of Western apologists of its state-practiced terrorism, Israel could not have possibly sustained its military occupation of Palestinian land all of these years. While the political circle, presently manifested in the “quartet”, pacifies, even justifies the Israeli aggressions, the media devises a reversed reality, depicting the cruel oppressor as a blameless seeker of security swindled by a hostile, malicious nation, vested with militants and afflicted with anti-Semitism. 

While such generalized conclusions might for now provide a somewhat gratifying answer, at least for me, it can hardly soothe the pain of a refugee from Nuseirat, shocked by the scene of blood and haunting screams of hurt innocents: “Where is the world, where is the United States and the United Nations? Why do they keep silent to see us being slaughtered like sheep?”

Published Friday, October 24th, 2003 - 03:12pm GMT

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American journalist, whose articles have been published in newspapers around the world, including the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune and the Japan Times, among others. 

Article courtesy of Islamic Association for Palestine

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