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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 51 - 60 of 132

Page 6 of 14

Anonymous

A "proportional response" by Israel would be to fire thousands of rockets into civilian areas of Palestine. Somehow I don't think that would go over any better than their response now.

Anonymous

A "proportional response" by Israel would be to fire thousands of rockets into civilian areas of Palestine. Somehow I don't think that would go over any better than their response now.

Anonymous

Your opinions just show further that you've been actually
BRAINWASHED.
You think that most of the Jews had the opportunity to choose where they would flee from Nazi persecution? (No country agreed to welcome them en masse after 1924's immigration laws passed in the US)
=
And after the horrid atrocities, do you think they could've just went back to their homes, leaving themselves open to blatant antisemitism again? of course they'll try to build a country of their own in a land of THEIR HISTORICAL ANCESTORS.
=
The division plan didn't land out of nowhere. jews were 30% of the Palestinian mandate at the time (and occupying the territory they were given by the UN, LEGALLY mind you)
=
in 1967 (and in 1948 before that) the newly formed state of Israel was attacked ON ALL fronts from a coalition of ARAB countries that wanted to... what's the right term to describe it? TO DRIVE THE JEWS TO THE SEA (and I'm quoting newspapers AND Arab leaders)
=
And don't bulls**t me about all those holocaust conspiracy theories, Hitler (and the 3rd Reich) hated Jews guts and would've NEVER EVER talked to one, not even talking about forming some devious demise with them (he was in the illusion that they run the world, a similarity between him and you).
=
I'm not saying that this military operation is justified, Im just saying that you need to get your facts straight and stop victimizing the Palestinians.

Anonymous

Your opinions just show further that you've been actually
BRAINWASHED.
You think that most of the Jews had the opportunity to choose where they would flee from Nazi persecution? (No country agreed to welcome them en masse after 1924's immigration laws passed in the US)
=
And after the horrid atrocities, do you think they could've just went back to their homes, leaving themselves open to blatant antisemitism again? of course they'll try to build a country of their own in a land of THEIR HISTORICAL ANCESTORS.
=
The division plan didn't land out of nowhere. jews were 30% of the Palestinian mandate at the time (and occupying the territory they were given by the UN, LEGALLY mind you)
=
in 1967 (and in 1948 before that) the newly formed state of Israel was attacked ON ALL fronts from a coalition of ARAB countries that wanted to... what's the right term to describe it? TO DRIVE THE JEWS TO THE SEA (and I'm quoting newspapers AND Arab leaders)
=
And don't bulls**t me about all those holocaust conspiracy theories, Hitler (and the 3rd Reich) hated Jews guts and would've NEVER EVER talked to one, not even talking about forming some devious demise with them (he was in the illusion that they run the world, a similarity between him and you).
=
I'm not saying that this military operation is justified, Im just saying that you need to get your facts straight and stop victimizing the Palestinians.

Anonymous

Your history is powerfully askew. Dangerously distended.
Yitzak Shamir is most certainly and factually linked to efforts by the Zionist Jews to JOIN THE THIRD REICH. I know you don't want it to be true. I know you struggle daily to keep the painful truth away from the masses but it is, at the end of the long hard day, as true as the ongoing media bias toward Israel, as true as the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians. No amount of Zionist Trolling by Jewish fledglings from Universities in Tel Aviv will be able to rewrite histroy, though you try and try and try.

Anonymous

Your history is powerfully askew. Dangerously distended.
Yitzak Shamir is most certainly and factually linked to efforts by the Zionist Jews to JOIN THE THIRD REICH. I know you don't want it to be true. I know you struggle daily to keep the painful truth away from the masses but it is, at the end of the long hard day, as true as the ongoing media bias toward Israel, as true as the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians. No amount of Zionist Trolling by Jewish fledglings from Universities in Tel Aviv will be able to rewrite histroy, though you try and try and try.

Anonymous

I think it's you who try to spew a web of conspiracy theories, it's actually funny how hard people try to defend un-based opinions

SHOW ME PROOF

Anonymous

I think it's you who try to spew a web of conspiracy theories, it's actually funny how hard people try to defend un-based opinions

SHOW ME PROOF

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