lunedì 21 marzo 2016

Bradley Burston :Israeli Apartheid Week and Bibi have the same lesson to teach the rest of us

Nothing will change until we acknowledge and take responsibility for our own side's crimes – yes, crimes. In the meanwhile, the least we can do is to remember the…

Every time I write something which is less than homogeneously positive about exclusively pro-Palestinian and avowedly anti-Israel movements and media outlets, my inbox floods with helpful suggestions.

I am instructed as to how I am racist, retarded, willfully stupid, a supporter of Nazi-like policies, and/or an irredeemably Zionist "U.S. settler in Palestine" who is a traitor to America and who clearly has no moral justification either to live where I do, to voice criticism of any degree or content about what Palestinians say or do, or to comment, unless approvingly, what properly and correctly-progressive Palestinians and those who support them unconditionally, suggest that others should say, do and think.
A man wearing a T-shirt with the message, "Boycott Israel Apartheid" holding a Palestinian flag during a protest on a bridge overlooking umbrellas placed along the artificial beach along the "Paris Plages" event, in Paris, France, August 13, 2015.
A man wearing a T-shirt with the message, "Boycott Israel Apartheid" holding a Palestinian flag during an anti-Israel protest in Paris, France, August 13, 2015.Reuters

Just as, when I write something negative about Israel's execrable government and prime minister, that same inbox is flushed out by people who worship Benjamin Netanyahu as God's own emissary on earth, who see the settlement movement as an instrument of the Messiah Son of David's own design for redemption, and who see me as a traitor to Israel and Judaism, an irredeemably anti-Zionist Kapo who has no justification for living where I do or voicing criticism of it, and a person who should just leave here, the sooner the better, and one who shouldn't let the door hit me on the way out.

So I figure I have little to lose by saying the following:

Israeli Apartheid Week is now underway on a rotating basis in 150 places around the world. This year, as innocent Israelis, Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, going about their daily lives, have for six months been butchered with hatchets, cleavers, switchblades, chef's knives, full-throttled sedans, third-rate submachine guns and first-rate pistols, the slogan of Israel Apartheid Week is the following:

"Inspired by the ongoing popular resistance across historic Palestine, we hope to make Israeli Apartheid Week a powerful contribution to the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice."

Not a single word about the killing of innocent people. Not one word about targeting pregnant women, men in their 80s, or cars carrying children.

Not even so much as the unfortunate argument – and there's certainly something to this, as the perceptive Israeli commentator Noam Sheizaf has demonstrated – that Palestinian violence may be the only thing that motivates Israeli voters and officials to opt for movement toward an eventual solution.

Not a single word.

They don't even sleaze out, as many journalists and websites have, by granting each attacker the status of "alleged" and every victim the fog of anonymity or the "they had it coming" presumption of living in a settlement.

Oddly enough, there's one valuable lesson which both Apartheid Week and Benjamin Netanyahu have to teach us about an eventual solution in Israel/Palestine, and why that solution seems as terribly distant as it probably will turn out to be.

The lesson has everything to do with the tragic deaths two weeks ago of six-year-old Yassin Saliman Abu Khousa and his sister Isra, aged eight.

The day before they died – the day before we killed them – gunners said to belong to a Salafist group opposed to Hamas fired four rockets across the Gaza border into an open area in southern Israel. The rockets hit nothing, damaged nothing, hurt no one.

Responding by talking with Hamas was not an option, because #Bibi. Instead, in the words of Netanyahu's defense minister "we responded with determination and a heavy hand, targeting Hamas assets, [and, in the future] we’ll know how to respond even more harshly."

The air force target was a training facility in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lehia. But a nearby shack was also hit. Two small, sweet children were killed. And what did a smug, puffed-up Netanyahu have to say about it the next morning?

"Our policy regarding the Gaza Strip is clear," he told the cabinet. "Israel will not accept rocket fire of any kind from the Strip, at [Israeli] territory. The IDF will respond to any such provocation. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel – Hamas must prevent such fire."

Not a single word about the killing of innocent children. Not a single expression of regret. Not the merest acceptance of any degree of responsibility. 

And yet.

Just this week, that same theatrically grim expression dragged at Netanyahu's features as his gave the cabinet a lesson about basic morality.

This time, the subject was terrorism. But it was the definition he gave that was instructive.

"The key point in the moral struggle against terrorism, is to make clear that terror – the murder of innocent people – has no justification anywhere. Not in Instanbul, not in the Ivory Coast, and not in Jerusalem.

"Whoever does not condemn terrorism, supports terrorism."

Accent on the "innocent."

This, then, is the lesson:

Whoever does not acknowledge the killing of innocent people by his own side – whoever blames the other side for the killings we ourselves have committed – supports the killing of innocent people.

So there you have it. There you have us.

One side is too self-congratulatively radical, too giddily middle-school wonderfully progressive for words, too reflexively condescending and exclusionist about it, to ever fix anything here.

The other side is too self-congratulatively hardline and egoist and messianic and militarist and oh-poor-little-me and We-Own-Zionism and We-Own-The-Truth and Everybody-Hates-Us and That-Proves-We're-Right about it, to ever fix anything here.

They are not going to solve one goddamned thing. Or save one life. But they'll feel so good about themselves while they're at it.

This is the lesson both Bibi and the Israeli Apartheid Week have to teach us:

Nothing will fundamentally change in this impossible place until we – both sides – truly honor the innocents killed on both sides.

Nothing will change until we honor them with remembrance and compassion. Nothing will change until we honor the victims rather than exalting or excusing away their killers.

Nothing will change until we acknowledge and take responsibility for our own side's crimes – yes, crimes.

In the meanwhile, the least we can do is to remember the names of the victims. Theirs as well as ours.

Bradley Burston

Haaretz Correspondent
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