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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.

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“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 41 - 50 of 132

Page 5 of 14

Anonymous

Coming from a reluctant reader who usually finds Adbuster's articles a tad too anarchistic for my taste, I could not agree more with the perspective that this article takes on the conflict in Palestine; the blinding frustration and failure of generations to provide for a two-state solution that continually breeds more frustration, violence, and blinding anger.

Anonymous

Coming from a reluctant reader who usually finds Adbuster's articles a tad too anarchistic for my taste, I could not agree more with the perspective that this article takes on the conflict in Palestine; the blinding frustration and failure of generations to provide for a two-state solution that continually breeds more frustration, violence, and blinding anger.

Anonymous

It would be a powerful spectacle to see Israeli citizens protest their own government's response to the conflict. Surely some Israelis must be horrified by their government's blatant dehumanization and destruction of the Palestinian people, country and culture. Why, after enduring such bitter hatred under the Nazis, do Israeli's unwittingly apply the same tactics to others? The Israeli response to Jewish persecution is to persecute others, which shows no spiritual maturity on their part.

Anonymous

It would be a powerful spectacle to see Israeli citizens protest their own government's response to the conflict. Surely some Israelis must be horrified by their government's blatant dehumanization and destruction of the Palestinian people, country and culture. Why, after enduring such bitter hatred under the Nazis, do Israeli's unwittingly apply the same tactics to others? The Israeli response to Jewish persecution is to persecute others, which shows no spiritual maturity on their part.

Anonymous

oh we're here... but you do have to understand the enormous pressures that Israeli media and society put on it's citizens to think a certain way, thus protesting is counted as betrayal.

Though the utmost reason is that Israelis just DONT CARE - most of us are safe behind our armies, and seriously (and do think hard before you answer), would you protest after suicide bombers killed someone you know or terrorized your city?

"The Israeli response to Jewish persecution is to persecute others, which shows no spiritual maturity on their part." did you just say that?
This war has NO connection to the holocaust - its like saying that Americans picked Obama because they felt sorry for enslaving Africans.
People that rush into conclusions is one of the serious problems of this war, youre just fueling the hate, ignoring the article's meaning.

Finally there's a decent article on Adbusters!

Anonymous

oh we're here... but you do have to understand the enormous pressures that Israeli media and society put on it's citizens to think a certain way, thus protesting is counted as betrayal.

Though the utmost reason is that Israelis just DONT CARE - most of us are safe behind our armies, and seriously (and do think hard before you answer), would you protest after suicide bombers killed someone you know or terrorized your city?

"The Israeli response to Jewish persecution is to persecute others, which shows no spiritual maturity on their part." did you just say that?
This war has NO connection to the holocaust - its like saying that Americans picked Obama because they felt sorry for enslaving Africans.
People that rush into conclusions is one of the serious problems of this war, youre just fueling the hate, ignoring the article's meaning.

Finally there's a decent article on Adbusters!

Anonymous

I'm sorry to say this but you sound like a cry baby.
You have blood on your hands. Maybe you didn't put it there but in the night your brethren dipped your hands in the blood as well to protect themselves. You cannot escape your destiny. You may not want to be involved but you ARE. So live up to the challenge that destiny has cast before you.
Read Howard Zinn "The Changing of the Guard."
Nothing will change until people like you challenge your own kind. YOU are the link and the zionist know it which is why they brainwash you and try to keep you scared.
Remember this is being done in your good name and the good name of all the Jews who came before you and died for your internet access there sparky.

Anonymous

I'm sorry to say this but you sound like a cry baby.
You have blood on your hands. Maybe you didn't put it there but in the night your brethren dipped your hands in the blood as well to protect themselves. You cannot escape your destiny. You may not want to be involved but you ARE. So live up to the challenge that destiny has cast before you.
Read Howard Zinn "The Changing of the Guard."
Nothing will change until people like you challenge your own kind. YOU are the link and the zionist know it which is why they brainwash you and try to keep you scared.
Remember this is being done in your good name and the good name of all the Jews who came before you and died for your internet access there sparky.

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