The Palestinian unpeople

The vulgarity of what-aboutism in the western media would cause the pictures of dead children to be lost into oblivion

Imran Jan May 20, 2021
The writer is a political analyst. Email: Twitter @Imran_Jan

Let me begin by plagiarising the words of Steve Jobs for his ad, which created a certain personality for Apple. Bizarrely, those words could be applied to Israel and the West too. “Here’s to the crazy ones, the rebels, the misfits, the troublemakers… the ones who see things differently (because the world doesn’t see the Palestinians’ misery but sees Israeli victimhood)… They are not fond of rules and have no respect for the status quo (the rules require that Israel does not bring any parts of their civilian population into the occupied territory and they do not like the status quo because they are loath to define their permanent borders so they can keep grabbing more Palestinian land).

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them… About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things (Yes, doesn’t matter if you disagree with them. Yes, they have changed things. They have pushed the Palestinians away from their own land and changed the demographics of those lands. They have created an open-air prison in Gaza and turned the land into an unrecognisable place).

George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, had a term for people whose lives didn’t matter and whose deaths and disappearances could not be discussed: they were called unpeople. The Palestinians and the Kashmiris are the real-life unpeople. Scholars have written extensively about the need for recognising the rights of the Palestinian people. Musicians have created songs. Legal experts have reminded the world about the illegality of Israeli actions. Adventuring prosecutors of war crimes have been ignored or threatened, like Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court. Even Jews such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein have strongly opposed Israel’s actions. The nations with enough power to right this wrong have become the black holes of wrong where morality comes to die.

The Israel-Palestine “conflict”, whichever side you stand on, is the making of the West owing to the Balfour declaration. The West gave us this never-ending conflict, including the morals with which we judge it. If the dispute is viewed from the lens of religion and its immorality judged that way, which is what people in Pakistan do, the West makes noise about the extremist mindset of the crazy Muslims. If the western-preferred standard of morality, such as human rights violations, become the fighting strategy for the Palestinian cause, the West prefers silence. At best, they call for restraint on both sides as if it’s a symmetrical situation, which makes the silence a therapeutic expression.

The vulgarity of what-aboutism in the western media would cause the pictures of dead children to be lost into oblivion. Seeing children dying is deeply upsetting but shifting that energy toward Hamas by blaming it for the misery is a bonus for the western media because the bad Hamas sending rockets from civilian population causes the moral and ethical Israeli soldiers to reluctantly unleash hellfire missiles in retaliation at those civilian areas. In the end, the dead children caused by Hamas helps the average western news consumer to continue enjoying their Cheerios while catching the morning news. Those who vow revenge against Israel are dehumanised anyway.

Truth be told, this shows a dehumanised mindset of the West. Defending an occupying army after arming them to the teeth with the most sophisticated weapons against a defenceless population with slingshots at their disposal stinks of mental rot. If the Palestinians say they have been under a brutal occupation for more than half a century and they have a right to defend themselves by using rockets, then nobody accepts that position. Yet, everyone accepts the Israeli position, which is far weaker because once again, they are the occupying army not the other way around. They don’t have a leg to stand on.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2021.

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