Adbusters

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 111 - 120 of 132

Page 12 of 14

Anonymous

It is like doublethink. When an entire body of people can accept in one moment that they have been fighting EastAsia, nor Eurasia, all along.

Just people killing people. It is meaningless ultimately, the futile death throes of a species that refuses to accept what it will become.

Anonymous

It is like doublethink. When an entire body of people can accept in one moment that they have been fighting EastAsia, nor Eurasia, all along.

Just people killing people. It is meaningless ultimately, the futile death throes of a species that refuses to accept what it will become.

joe

'The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel.' you can't be serious?!

Where were you Mona Eltahawy when USA was convicted, as the only country in the world, by the jury in Haag for international terrorism - the same country financing the shells and bombs killing palestinians as we speak?

And where were you when USA and Israel refused to verify several UN resolutions opting for diplomatic negotiations?

Saying that Hamas and Israel is equally responsible is saying that both Palestine (Hamas) and Israel are sovereign states with equal military and economic resources. They are not. USA, the biggest military force in the world, and Israel are indistinguishable in this case.

You might have heard of a guy called Noam Chomsky. You should check him out. You've had too much opium, obviously. Me, I'm going for a beer.

joe

'The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel.' you can't be serious?!

Where were you Mona Eltahawy when USA was convicted, as the only country in the world, by the jury in Haag for international terrorism - the same country financing the shells and bombs killing palestinians as we speak?

And where were you when USA and Israel refused to verify several UN resolutions opting for diplomatic negotiations?

Saying that Hamas and Israel is equally responsible is saying that both Palestine (Hamas) and Israel are sovereign states with equal military and economic resources. They are not. USA, the biggest military force in the world, and Israel are indistinguishable in this case.

You might have heard of a guy called Noam Chomsky. You should check him out. You've had too much opium, obviously. Me, I'm going for a beer.

Anonymous

Why is this article in Adbusters? Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict certainly is important, but to me, it falls far outside the parameters of Adbusters' mission statement "Adbusters is . . . concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces."

Anonymous

Why is this article in Adbusters? Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict certainly is important, but to me, it falls far outside the parameters of Adbusters' mission statement "Adbusters is . . . concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces."

Brendan

You could take the perspective that Adbusters is about outrage and manipulation. Commercial forces manipulate us and we are outraged.

Are commercial forces really so different from media forces? It seems to me that the media is doing a great job of manipulating our understanding of current affairs for one reason or another. Political agenda's, editorial bias, news stand sales, who cares. It's manipulation and I am outraged. Good work Adbusters.

Brendan

You could take the perspective that Adbusters is about outrage and manipulation. Commercial forces manipulate us and we are outraged.

Are commercial forces really so different from media forces? It seems to me that the media is doing a great job of manipulating our understanding of current affairs for one reason or another. Political agenda's, editorial bias, news stand sales, who cares. It's manipulation and I am outraged. Good work Adbusters.

Motorod

From Juan Cole at Informed Comment:

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation--with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center. (Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, p. 307: "On April 11, 1996, when Atta was twenty-seven years old, he signed a standardized will he got from the al-Quds mosque.l It was the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation grapes of Wrath. According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged,and by filling out his last testamentd during the attack he was offering his life in response."

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660.

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.

http://www.juancole.com/2009/01/al-fakhoura-school-bombed-42-killed.html

Motorod

From Juan Cole at Informed Comment:

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation--with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center. (Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, p. 307: "On April 11, 1996, when Atta was twenty-seven years old, he signed a standardized will he got from the al-Quds mosque.l It was the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation grapes of Wrath. According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged,and by filling out his last testamentd during the attack he was offering his life in response."

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660.

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.

http://www.juancole.com/2009/01/al-fakhoura-school-bombed-42-killed.html

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