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 121 - 130 of 132

Page 13 of 14

Anonymous

Terrific article - you've transcended the tit-for-tat journalism to address the larger issue.

All too often it seems that liberal journalism is quick to condemn Israel as a knee-jerk reaction against a more powerful force.

Arab nations are quick to demonize Israel for crimes they have absolutely no quams committing themselves, sometimes openly in the light of day.

A handful of Arab nations celebrate ridiculous opulence, the very zenith of over-consumption that this publication despises. Meanwhile, their Gazan compatriots live in squalor.

The media does more to accentuate the rife between Israel and other Arab nations than anything, and rarely sheds light on relations amongst Arab nations themselves. Its almost as tho we hold Israel to higher moral standards than what we expect of their neighbours.

There is clearly a lack of balance on all sides, and it is this amnesia that has sent leaders back to the drawing board for 60 years.

Anonymous

Terrific article - you've transcended the tit-for-tat journalism to address the larger issue.

All too often it seems that liberal journalism is quick to condemn Israel as a knee-jerk reaction against a more powerful force.

Arab nations are quick to demonize Israel for crimes they have absolutely no quams committing themselves, sometimes openly in the light of day.

A handful of Arab nations celebrate ridiculous opulence, the very zenith of over-consumption that this publication despises. Meanwhile, their Gazan compatriots live in squalor.

The media does more to accentuate the rife between Israel and other Arab nations than anything, and rarely sheds light on relations amongst Arab nations themselves. Its almost as tho we hold Israel to higher moral standards than what we expect of their neighbours.

There is clearly a lack of balance on all sides, and it is this amnesia that has sent leaders back to the drawing board for 60 years.

koop

under water hotels; universe's (no, not just world's) tallest tower; solid-gold palaces; personalized islands metaphorically as palms open to receive... us.
not to mention the region (and history) spanning hold of oligarchic gerontocracies.
and from afar i am watching in horror as a less fortunate, yet equally and similarly faithfull population is cajoled and slaughtered where there is no haven to run to, helas!
thing is, it's not only a geographically disproportioned, material excess, is it?
is the matter of so overwhelming, so excessive a birth rate across the gaza strip not past the point of examination?
am i missing, or being denied a concealed statistic pertinent to gaza's economic prosperity, or quality of life? could it be that, all arguments presented and done with, gaza remains, inexplicably and irrefutably, so endearing and apt a part of the world to raise and ultimately educate one's children, you know, should a parent ever reconcile the occassional, incoming raid or bombarment that comes accompanied by the certainty of unnecessary destruction and perilous death, to self, to his or her children, or fellow citizens?

nor mind its provocation?

is there wisdom to the plight of palestinians in gaza if i, if we, are expected to honor palestinian life, and avert palestinian death, more than palestinians themselves are willing, or capable, to?

oh!

koop

under water hotels; universe's (no, not just world's) tallest tower; solid-gold palaces; personalized islands metaphorically as palms open to receive... us.
not to mention the region (and history) spanning hold of oligarchic gerontocracies.
and from afar i am watching in horror as a less fortunate, yet equally and similarly faithfull population is cajoled and slaughtered where there is no haven to run to, helas!
thing is, it's not only a geographically disproportioned, material excess, is it?
is the matter of so overwhelming, so excessive a birth rate across the gaza strip not past the point of examination?
am i missing, or being denied a concealed statistic pertinent to gaza's economic prosperity, or quality of life? could it be that, all arguments presented and done with, gaza remains, inexplicably and irrefutably, so endearing and apt a part of the world to raise and ultimately educate one's children, you know, should a parent ever reconcile the occassional, incoming raid or bombarment that comes accompanied by the certainty of unnecessary destruction and perilous death, to self, to his or her children, or fellow citizens?

nor mind its provocation?

is there wisdom to the plight of palestinians in gaza if i, if we, are expected to honor palestinian life, and avert palestinian death, more than palestinians themselves are willing, or capable, to?

oh!

Anonymous

and now for something completely different, did i see a yankees teixeira jersey being worn by a gazan protester? did anybody else see that?

Anonymous

and now for something completely different, did i see a yankees teixeira jersey being worn by a gazan protester? did anybody else see that?

anomalous

This is a lot of tepid, juvenile, morally vacuous thumb-twiddling passing itself off as soul-searching commentary. I am really disappointed that Adbusters would choose the occasion of one of Israel's most horrific massacres as a brave moment to air such odious racist crap.

I mean its not just that she jots down baloney like this: "Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people" - a steaming nugget of stupid pop wisdom guaranteed to send zionist hearts aflutter with woozy delight: 'At last The Arab understands what we have been trying to tell them all these years!!

I know nothing about the author - beyond that her essay makes her sound like a shallow teenager who has read too many self-help books and far too little about this conflict that her silly essay meanders around. But really, when she barfs up blame-the-victimology like "The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel" and characterizes Hamas as "obsessed with Israel" she goes way too fucking far.

Shame on her. Really, shame on her. If this condoleeza-wanna-be is so pathetically desperate to win the approval of the kind of scumbags who would applaud such bilious juvenile mantras, let her go publish her hateful job-hunting-disguised-as-commentary at JINSA, or Al-Arabiya, where she will find all sorts of readers to endorse this kind of silly teenage posturing. There's never a shortage of rave reviews for people willing to parrot the slogans of oppressors while passing them off as brave auto-critique, just as there are always great advancement opportunities for those who - like Mona herself - take pride in referring to themselves as "self-hating arabs".

anomalous

This is a lot of tepid, juvenile, morally vacuous thumb-twiddling passing itself off as soul-searching commentary. I am really disappointed that Adbusters would choose the occasion of one of Israel's most horrific massacres as a brave moment to air such odious racist crap.

I mean its not just that she jots down baloney like this: "Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people" - a steaming nugget of stupid pop wisdom guaranteed to send zionist hearts aflutter with woozy delight: 'At last The Arab understands what we have been trying to tell them all these years!!

I know nothing about the author - beyond that her essay makes her sound like a shallow teenager who has read too many self-help books and far too little about this conflict that her silly essay meanders around. But really, when she barfs up blame-the-victimology like "The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel" and characterizes Hamas as "obsessed with Israel" she goes way too fucking far.

Shame on her. Really, shame on her. If this condoleeza-wanna-be is so pathetically desperate to win the approval of the kind of scumbags who would applaud such bilious juvenile mantras, let her go publish her hateful job-hunting-disguised-as-commentary at JINSA, or Al-Arabiya, where she will find all sorts of readers to endorse this kind of silly teenage posturing. There's never a shortage of rave reviews for people willing to parrot the slogans of oppressors while passing them off as brave auto-critique, just as there are always great advancement opportunities for those who - like Mona herself - take pride in referring to themselves as "self-hating arabs".

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