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Israel is the Opium of the People and Other Taboos

Collective amnesia in the Middle East is leading to moral bankruptcy.

new york

“Why aren’t you as an Arab lady writing about Gaza?”
“Where are your columns about Gaza?”
“Say the Israelis are wrong!”

The messages started to arrive soon after Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed close to 300 Palestinians. Implicit was the pressure to toe the party line, Hamas is good, Israel is bad. Say it, say it! Or else you’re not Arab enough, you’re not Muslim enough, you’re not enough.

But what to say about a conflict that for more than 60 years now has fed Arab and Israeli senses of victimhood and their respective demands to stop everything else we’re doing and pay attention to their fights because what’s the slaughter of anyone else – be they in Darfur, Congo or anywhere else – compared to their often avoidable bloodletting?

Hasn’t it all been said before? Has nothing been learned?

And then the suicide cyclist in Iraq made me snap and I had to write, not to take sides but to lament the moral bankruptcy that is born from the amnesia rife in the Middle East.

On Sunday, a man on a bicycle blew himself up in the middle of an anti-Israel demonstration in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The technique legitimized and blessed by clerics throughout the Arab world as a weapon against Israel had gone haywire and was used against Arabs protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

That twisted and morbid full circle completed on the streets of Mosul can be captured only by paraphrasing Karl Marx - Israel is the opium of the people.

What else explains the collective amnesia on display this weekend in the Middle East?

Has Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni forgotten already that just last year she was close to ousting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his handling of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon launched under very similar circumstances to those that preceded the bombardment of Gaza? And yet there she was making the rounds of U.S. Sunday news shows to explain why Israel had to act against the Muslim militant Hamas movement in power in Gaza.

Does Israel want to make heroes of Hamas in the way it did Hizbollah? What has been achieved from the blockade of Gaza except for suffering of civilians whose leaders care for them as little as Israel does?

Talking about Hizbollah and unwise leaders, has Hassan Nasrallah forgotten that while he rails against Egypt for aiding the blockade of Gaza that he lives in a country, Lebanon, keeps generations of Palestinian refugees in camps that serve as virtual jails?

And the demonstrators in Jordan and Lebanon? Who reminds them that in 1970, Jordan killed tens of thousands as it tried to control Palestinian groups based there, forcing the Palestine Liberation Army into Lebanon where in 1982, the Phalangists, Christian Lebanese militiamen, slaughtered 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camp?

Not a single Phalangist has been held accountable for that massacre. An Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Ariel Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killings at the refugee camps during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But don’t hold your breath for an Arab inquiry. It is Israel that gives sense to our victimhood. The horrors we visit upon each other are irrelevant.

It is difficult to criticize Palestinians when so many have died this weekend but the Hamas rulers of Gaza are just the latest of their leaders to fail them. For those of us who long to separate religion from politics, Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people. The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel.

Where was the anger when two Palestinian schoolgirls were killed in Gaza when Hamas rockets meant for Israel misfired, just a day before Israel’s bombardment?

As for my country of birth, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, in power for more than 27 years, has presided over a disastrous policy that on the one hand maintains a 1979 peace treaty his predecessor Anwar Sadat signed with Israel and on the other unleashes state-owned media fury at Israel that has fanned a near-hysterical hatred for the country among ordinary Egyptians.

Yes, Israel’s occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians but there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media, culture or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy. And neither is there an attempt to forge it.

And now Mubarak, old, tired and out of new ideas, is reaping a policy that plays all sides against each other in an attempt to make his regime indispensable.

But my question to Egyptians and others across the region incensed at Israel is where is their anger at the human rights violations, torture, and oppression in their respective countries? If such large crowds turned out onto Arab capitals every week, they could’ve toppled their dictators years ago!

It is the ultimate dishonor to the memory of Palestinians killed this weekend to call for more violence. It has failed to deliver for 60 years.

We honor the dead by smashing through the region’s amnesia until we break through to the taboos and continue to smash. Talking to Hamas? Israel should do it if it will end the violence. Focusing on internal issues in each Arab country and ignoring the opium that is Israel? Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians et al should do it before their respective states fail for the sake of Palestine.

Palestinians still have no state. What a shame it would be for one Arab state after the other to fail in the name of Palestine.

_Mona Eltahawy is a columnist for Egypt's Al Masry Al Youm and Qatar's Al Arab. She is based in New York City.
www.monaeltahawy.com | www.monaeltahawy.com/blog

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132 comments on the article “Israel is the Opium of the People and Other Taboos”

Displaying 11 - 20 of 132

Page 2 of 14

koop

huh? never thought i'd live to see the day...
yitzak, you've got some nerve to in any manner compare, or suggest similarities between mlk's "imperfections" and these murderous bastards' bullshit plight, ahem, 'religion'.
typical y. arafat tactic: the middle east was roses til the goddamned jews moved in. i mean, settled in, right? which by the way was in... 1967, anybody?
my neighbors here in posh brooklyn, pakistanis, got three little children, two boys, a little girl, who during the summer has to stand and watch, fully clad in black rags as her brothers play nearly nude in their backyard pool.
silly example i know but, at what point do the muslim-islamic ("thought they were all arabs", g. w. bush) peoples so much as commence to address the several fold manners in which their constitution... i mean their central political document... goddamn it, silly me i was about to ask a political question of peoples who inherently do not believe in politics, for whom their bible is their constitution.
in this country we recently elected a black man to the presidency, how long, do you reckon, 'til any country in the middle east elect (there i go again...) a white man, a black man... A WOMAN... what political initiative or action or idea have any of these 'governments' implemented in your lifetime- aside from calling for the beheadings of authors and good will workers who name teddy bears muhammad- to address social compatibility in our times?
h. kissinger once asked, with regards to europe, who do you call if you want to speak to its leader?
who the fuck do you call if you want to speak to hamas?
you take out one "leader" today, and five pop up tomorrow, are those legitimate elections? 20 sons of a man's four wives?
can't be sentimental here (and seriously, do you not think most, if not all islamic fundamentalists rely on their synoptic understanding of western peoples as 'overtly sentimental'? what was that s. hussein jive about the americans suffering a perpetual, vietnam induced self-hatred and therefore being unable to stick around anywhere for long?), and if anything livni hit it right on the nail: proportionality goes out the window when some anonymous "rebel" is COUNTING on its adversaries to take as many lives as possible, be it civilian or otherwise, if only to then turn around and feed those very same unfortunate fatalities, the same he's instigated, to the masses he despises in hopes of, not sympathy but worse, empathy and lassitude... guilt... ('let me do my thing cause look at the thing you do... or, don't do your thing so i can do... errhhh, damn you bob marley!).
i for one hope the israelis do not buckle this time, get in there and clean it up already, and get to the source of the matter, early education and the possibility of a massive socio-cultural shift which at its minimum will take generations to so much as begin to be noticeable. THAT is martyrdom brother, supplant the biblical with the modern (i know you probably hate that term). and jump in to the pool, you might find yourself having a good time... and a big dumb american blonde to make it aaaallllll better now!

peace (yeah i said it!).

koop

huh? never thought i'd live to see the day...
yitzak, you've got some nerve to in any manner compare, or suggest similarities between mlk's "imperfections" and these murderous bastards' bullshit plight, ahem, 'religion'.
typical y. arafat tactic: the middle east was roses til the goddamned jews moved in. i mean, settled in, right? which by the way was in... 1967, anybody?
my neighbors here in posh brooklyn, pakistanis, got three little children, two boys, a little girl, who during the summer has to stand and watch, fully clad in black rags as her brothers play nearly nude in their backyard pool.
silly example i know but, at what point do the muslim-islamic ("thought they were all arabs", g. w. bush) peoples so much as commence to address the several fold manners in which their constitution... i mean their central political document... goddamn it, silly me i was about to ask a political question of peoples who inherently do not believe in politics, for whom their bible is their constitution.
in this country we recently elected a black man to the presidency, how long, do you reckon, 'til any country in the middle east elect (there i go again...) a white man, a black man... A WOMAN... what political initiative or action or idea have any of these 'governments' implemented in your lifetime- aside from calling for the beheadings of authors and good will workers who name teddy bears muhammad- to address social compatibility in our times?
h. kissinger once asked, with regards to europe, who do you call if you want to speak to its leader?
who the fuck do you call if you want to speak to hamas?
you take out one "leader" today, and five pop up tomorrow, are those legitimate elections? 20 sons of a man's four wives?
can't be sentimental here (and seriously, do you not think most, if not all islamic fundamentalists rely on their synoptic understanding of western peoples as 'overtly sentimental'? what was that s. hussein jive about the americans suffering a perpetual, vietnam induced self-hatred and therefore being unable to stick around anywhere for long?), and if anything livni hit it right on the nail: proportionality goes out the window when some anonymous "rebel" is COUNTING on its adversaries to take as many lives as possible, be it civilian or otherwise, if only to then turn around and feed those very same unfortunate fatalities, the same he's instigated, to the masses he despises in hopes of, not sympathy but worse, empathy and lassitude... guilt... ('let me do my thing cause look at the thing you do... or, don't do your thing so i can do... errhhh, damn you bob marley!).
i for one hope the israelis do not buckle this time, get in there and clean it up already, and get to the source of the matter, early education and the possibility of a massive socio-cultural shift which at its minimum will take generations to so much as begin to be noticeable. THAT is martyrdom brother, supplant the biblical with the modern (i know you probably hate that term). and jump in to the pool, you might find yourself having a good time... and a big dumb american blonde to make it aaaallllll better now!

peace (yeah i said it!).

Yitzak Shamir

Unfortunately your history is woefully inaccurate.
The European practitioners of Judaism began their migration to Palestine in the late 1800s when Zionism was invented in Europe. They didn't begin arriving en masse though til the 1940s during and especially after the war where they bought land from the Ottomans who occupied Palestine from Turkey. Then after World War II they sprung the partition plan on the local population of Palestinians telling them they had no choice but to give up half their country.
But lets be clear. There were Palestinian Jews living in peaceful coexistence with the Muslim and Christian Palestinians for thousands of years. Yes they were a small minority but there was no strife. There was no animosity. They lived peacefully until the European Jews showed up acting like entitled colonizers and effectively ruined things for everyone which inspired famous Jewish essayist and pre-state Zionist thinker Asher Ginsberg to write

"We abroad are used to believing that Eretz Israel is now almost totally desolate, a desert that is not sowed, and that anyone who wishes to purchase land there may come and purchase as much as he desires. But in truth this is not the case. Throughout the country it is difficult to find fields that are not sowed. Only sand dunes and stony mountains that are not fir to grow anything but fruit trees-and this only after hard labor and great expense of clearing and reclamation - only these are not cultivated. "...[the Zionists] treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds. If this is the "Messiah", then I do not wish to see his coming."

--Asher Ginsberg (Ahad Ha=am) 1891

Asher Ginsberg a Syrian Jew before the European Zionists terrorized all the Syrian Jews to flee was famously at odds with Theodore Hertzle over the concept of Zionism and wanted a spiritual center in Palestine for Jews as opposed to an exclusive state at the expense of the native ecumenical population of Palestine. As you can see the greedy, Nazi sympathizing Zionists from Europe and America muscled out the likes of Ginsberg and the mess that is Israel today is a testament to the vitriol and hated they brought with them and foisted on the people of Palestine.

1967 is a different story all together. The criminal state fo Israel had already been formed by the Nazi Sympathizing European Jews with Machine guns and mass graves and ethnic cleansing. This is the context for the 1967 war. As usual people like you leave out this context specificity in your appraisal of the Zionist Death Machine and it's occupation of Palestine.
For more on the Nazi dreams of Zionists Google this very man Yitzak Shamir and the Stern Gang and Irgun. You will find well documented links between them and the Nazis. They did regular business with the Nazis through out the war and famously applied to the Third Reich for recognition as a wing of the Reich in Palestine who could serve the purposes of Germany and it's occupation through out Europe and the Middle east!
Shocking. But sadly, true. Read your Chomsky people.

Yitzak Shamir

Unfortunately your history is woefully inaccurate.
The European practitioners of Judaism began their migration to Palestine in the late 1800s when Zionism was invented in Europe. They didn't begin arriving en masse though til the 1940s during and especially after the war where they bought land from the Ottomans who occupied Palestine from Turkey. Then after World War II they sprung the partition plan on the local population of Palestinians telling them they had no choice but to give up half their country.
But lets be clear. There were Palestinian Jews living in peaceful coexistence with the Muslim and Christian Palestinians for thousands of years. Yes they were a small minority but there was no strife. There was no animosity. They lived peacefully until the European Jews showed up acting like entitled colonizers and effectively ruined things for everyone which inspired famous Jewish essayist and pre-state Zionist thinker Asher Ginsberg to write

"We abroad are used to believing that Eretz Israel is now almost totally desolate, a desert that is not sowed, and that anyone who wishes to purchase land there may come and purchase as much as he desires. But in truth this is not the case. Throughout the country it is difficult to find fields that are not sowed. Only sand dunes and stony mountains that are not fir to grow anything but fruit trees-and this only after hard labor and great expense of clearing and reclamation - only these are not cultivated. "...[the Zionists] treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds. If this is the "Messiah", then I do not wish to see his coming."

--Asher Ginsberg (Ahad Ha=am) 1891

Asher Ginsberg a Syrian Jew before the European Zionists terrorized all the Syrian Jews to flee was famously at odds with Theodore Hertzle over the concept of Zionism and wanted a spiritual center in Palestine for Jews as opposed to an exclusive state at the expense of the native ecumenical population of Palestine. As you can see the greedy, Nazi sympathizing Zionists from Europe and America muscled out the likes of Ginsberg and the mess that is Israel today is a testament to the vitriol and hated they brought with them and foisted on the people of Palestine.

1967 is a different story all together. The criminal state fo Israel had already been formed by the Nazi Sympathizing European Jews with Machine guns and mass graves and ethnic cleansing. This is the context for the 1967 war. As usual people like you leave out this context specificity in your appraisal of the Zionist Death Machine and it's occupation of Palestine.
For more on the Nazi dreams of Zionists Google this very man Yitzak Shamir and the Stern Gang and Irgun. You will find well documented links between them and the Nazis. They did regular business with the Nazis through out the war and famously applied to the Third Reich for recognition as a wing of the Reich in Palestine who could serve the purposes of Germany and it's occupation through out Europe and the Middle east!
Shocking. But sadly, true. Read your Chomsky people.

C.B. Clough-Hunter

Refreshing, insightful and well thought out. Your words ring truer everyday.

Indeed, where is the space, other than here, to see the conflict from its interior angles and exterior complexities. It is not about sides but about the failure of our intentions. Why must we always invoke a historicist displacement of the present by solidifying identity (or narratives) through a one-dimensional appropriation of violence as legitimate or illegitimate, justified/unjust appropriations of power, or who/m is acting in the "absolute"?

Isn't it time to stop reading "the book" as the justification, the History, the interpretation of the violence in the present? Isn't it time to reread this event and see where we can honor peace, acceptance and co-existance? And, why aren't the voices that do seek these aims not honored or heard?

Indeed, Yitzak Shamir, why must the first response to this voice of balance be a sexists, condescending and rigid attack? Why is your first response seek to combat an article that highlights complexity and seeks to find a common economy to the situation?

C.B. Clough-Hunter

Refreshing, insightful and well thought out. Your words ring truer everyday.

Indeed, where is the space, other than here, to see the conflict from its interior angles and exterior complexities. It is not about sides but about the failure of our intentions. Why must we always invoke a historicist displacement of the present by solidifying identity (or narratives) through a one-dimensional appropriation of violence as legitimate or illegitimate, justified/unjust appropriations of power, or who/m is acting in the "absolute"?

Isn't it time to stop reading "the book" as the justification, the History, the interpretation of the violence in the present? Isn't it time to reread this event and see where we can honor peace, acceptance and co-existance? And, why aren't the voices that do seek these aims not honored or heard?

Indeed, Yitzak Shamir, why must the first response to this voice of balance be a sexists, condescending and rigid attack? Why is your first response seek to combat an article that highlights complexity and seeks to find a common economy to the situation?

Yitzak Shamir

Again, your platitudes and high-minded waxing are lovely additions to tomes on the idealism of human behavior. But what ol chum are you doing to stop the bleeding here on the ground?
Come down from your ivory tower and feel the earth shake with 2000 pound bombs sucking the life from everyone you know and love. Watch your children die from bloody Zionist cluster bombs and then lets hear what flower poetics you recite...
I think you as well as Mona are missing some key points not only about human history but the current, very present situation that is unfolding as before your eyes.
Get out in the streets champ. Do something least you be the subject of scorn when the equation is made between those who did nothing and those who were complicit as is often made of the Germans who stood idly by.
Get off your ass!

Yitzak Shamir

Again, your platitudes and high-minded waxing are lovely additions to tomes on the idealism of human behavior. But what ol chum are you doing to stop the bleeding here on the ground?
Come down from your ivory tower and feel the earth shake with 2000 pound bombs sucking the life from everyone you know and love. Watch your children die from bloody Zionist cluster bombs and then lets hear what flower poetics you recite...
I think you as well as Mona are missing some key points not only about human history but the current, very present situation that is unfolding as before your eyes.
Get out in the streets champ. Do something least you be the subject of scorn when the equation is made between those who did nothing and those who were complicit as is often made of the Germans who stood idly by.
Get off your ass!

Anonymous

Unfortunately there will be violence as long as there is Palestine and there is Israel. M'Fuckers will keep blowing themselves up as long as its fashionable and the clerics will continue to keep this "martyrdom" the in-thing for the poor and fanatic.

Anonymous

Unfortunately there will be violence as long as there is Palestine and there is Israel. M'Fuckers will keep blowing themselves up as long as its fashionable and the clerics will continue to keep this "martyrdom" the in-thing for the poor and fanatic.

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