Israel can't be both abuser and saviour

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Last October, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was widely ridiculed for linking Palestinians to the Holocaust, suggesting the idea for the Final Solution came not from the Nazis themselves but from the Mufti of Jerusalem.

Israeli PM Benjamin NetanyahuThose comments were the latest in the long-running campaign to demonise Palestinians in order to ensure Israel maintains the winning edge in the public relations battle. Because Israel is the far greater military power, as evidenced by the skewed casualties suffered by each side over the course of the conflict, maintaining public support is incumbent on convincing people that the Palestinians deserve everything Israel throws at them.

At the time, I wrote, 'It's not surprising then that he chooses to keep raising the stakes to try and cement Israel's place as the long-suffering victim. But ... where can Netanyahu possibly go from here?'

This week, I got my answer. In response to Israel's allegations that World Vision Gaza manager Mohammed El-Halabi had siphoned $50 million to Hamas (a claim that World Vision has questioned but which Netanyahu is already treating as fact), Netanyahu released a short video in which he, in apparent seriousness, claims that although 'some of you will not believe' it, he 'cares more about Palestinians than their leaders do'.

He is right about one thing — I don't believe him.

This is not least because what he is saying is nothing new. Israel's government has long been claiming that it only harms Palestinians because Palestinians force them to do it.

A famous quote attributed to 60s-era Prime Minister Golda Meir, and invariably included among her greatest (though disputed by at least one historian), goes, 'We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can't forgive them for making us kill their children.'

As well as making Israel sound remarkably like an abusive partner (Why did you have to go and make me hit you?) this is Dehumanisation 101. If there is one thing humans feel distinguish and mark us as human, it is love; especially love for our children. If Arabs don't care for their kids, if they lack this vital capacity, then this paves the way for justifying all manner of violence committed against them.

 

"It's like punching someone repeatedly in the face and then boasting about offering some ice."

 

Netanyahu has merely applied Meir's words to Palestinian leaders, casting all the population as children. Missing, of course, is the role Israel plays in the conflict. Netanyahu pats himself on the back for facilitating 'the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza every single day', without actually mentioning why it is that the Gaza population — which he admits is 'innocent and impoverished' — needs this aid.

Gaza is under siege by Israel, with assistance from Egypt, and controls the borders, deciding what and who gets in or out (spoiler: very few people ever get out). In short, as the more powerful party, Israel controls the course of the conflict.

By this point, we have to realise that Netanyahu can get away with these incredible claims only because the discourse around the Israel-Palestine conflict is so dishonest and muddled. Decades of academic literature has consistently found that the reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict is skewed towards Israel, primarily because it is sorely lacking in context, either downplaying, or outright ignoring, Israel's military Occupation of Palestinian territory. This bias is not in doubt. Academically, the verdict has been in for years.

This decontextualistion guides the public to view Israel as the victim, and Palestinians as unprovoked aggressors driven, not by their poor living conditions or oppression, but purely by irrational hatred.

Indeed, information is so skewed that a recent online poll found that 49 per cent of Americans, 39 per cent of Mexicans, 37 per cent of Canadians, and 27 per cent of Britons think Palestine is occupying Israel. This is made all the more ludicrous given that Palestine is not even officially a country and lacks an army with which to defend itself, let alone occupy and tyrannise another sovereign nation.

We need to have an honest conversation about Israel and Palestine. Because the longer this conflict drags on, the less likely a Palestinian state will ever come into being. Everything that happens — including Netanyahu's comments — must be discussed against this backdrop of Israel's Occupation. To talk about Palestinian violence, or uprisings, or protests without making it clear what it is exactly that they are uprising against, is not only dishonest, it helps prolong this conflict.

Israel's supporters will counter that Gaza itself has not been occupied since 2005. This is technically true; there are no longer Israeli forces inside Gaza. However, Israel controls the borders and patrols the waters. Palestinian fishermen who stray more than a few kilometres out to sea are vulnerable to bullets from Israel's navy

With the Rafah border tightly controlled by Egypt, Gazans are trapped with no recourse. By leaving his own government's policies and actions out of the video, Netanyahu strips this vital context, leaving him free to brag about the small amount of aid that he lets through, even though, despite all their faults, it is not Hamas but Netanyahu himself that keeps Gazans trapped there.

It's like punching someone repeatedly in the face and then boasting about offering some ice to soothe the blows.

 


Ruby HamadRuby Hamad is a freelance writer and columnist for Daily Life. She holds a Masters in Media Practice from Sydney University where she wrote her thesis on objectivity and bias in the western media's coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. She currently runs workshops on this topic for Macquarie University's Global Leadership Program. She tweets @rubyhamad

Topic tags: Ruby Hamad, Israel, Palestine, Netanyahu

 

 

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Existing comments

Benjamin Netanyahu needs to sharpen his peace-making skills. That said, lasting peace will only be achieved in this entrenched conflict by each side showing respect and treating the peace process with due seriousness. Israel is part of the region, so is Palestine. Small expectations can be built upon.
Pam | 18 August 2016


Unfortunately, the author neither acknowledges nor addresses the rampant abuse of Palestinians by Hamas. Why not? It is well documented.
Noel Kapernick | 19 August 2016


Good article, Ruby. Additionally, I am always surprised that the Palestinians are urged by the US to come to the negotiating table and talk about peace with the Israelis whilst the Israelis are all the while taking the Palestinians' land on the West Bank bit by bit in a well defined chequerboard pattern to leave the remaining Palestinians fractured and vulnerable. How can they talk peace when the Israelis cynically continue to encroach and seize their land?
Marie Belcredi | 19 August 2016


Firstly look at a map of the area and the countries surrounding Israel, read their published agendas, statements and behaviour towards Israel and ask yourself whether Israel is being reasonable or not. Read about Hamas. Ask the question, which of these countries, Israel and the neighbouring countries, would you prefer to live in.
Jane | 19 August 2016


Interesting Ruby, On one hand I support the right of Israel to a 'homeland' as sadly the history of their treatment by many nations in Europe and Russia has been terrible. They need to feel safe. On the other hand, I feel uneasy about the policies of the Israeli Government towards the Palestinians .Lastly the activities of Hamas has effectively condemned the people of Gaza to unspeakable horrors. One can only hope that somewhere along the line all parties are going to have to accept the right of all peoples in the region to live in peace and harmony .Sadly the reality is that it will not happen in my life time. Of interest is the fact that Israel was founded on a date very close to my own birthday back in 1948!
Gavin | 19 August 2016


A close examination of Israel's attempt at striking a peace with Palestinians immediately exposes the farce that it is. It is akin to me bringing a cake to the table and inviting my partner to negotiate its division while I eat it piece by piece.
Brian Fox | 19 August 2016


It is good to see a progressive Christian magazine such as Eureka Street publish such an article critical of Israel's abuse of the Palestinians and the western media that tends to give credence to its propaganda. For too long many Christians have tended to believe the Israel propaganda and forget that many of the Palestinians who suffer because of Israel's policies are Christians and Jews. The state of Israel is on Palestinian land and was taken through the terrorist actions of the Zionist terrorist gangs after World War 2 . Some years ago, I heard a lecture given by the late Tanya Reinhart, a professor of Linguistics and a "righteous" Jew, talk about the Israel/Palestine question. She was very clear that the Israeli Government never negotiates in good faith and never keeps its promises about keeping the peace and stopping its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. She told her audience that, although she was a Jew by religion and ethnicity and was an Israeli citizen, she could no longer live in an unjust society and that she would leave. True ti her word, she shifted to New York, where she tragically died a few months after giving her lecture.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 19 August 2016


Great to see some truth spoken in any Australian media on Israel and its behaviour toward the people who are sharing the land with them. it seems as if the Palestinians are being treated just as the Jews were by the Nazis and Russians of the past. The persecuted becomes the persecutor.
John Regan | 19 August 2016


Hamad wrote a revealing piece about alleged cultural mis-appropriation in Daily Life (Jan '16). According to her the selling of lamb chops as 'Australian', even though the sheep is not even a native animal! becomes how the Israelis (i.e., the Jews, not the Israeli ARABS), have stolen hummus, somehow erasing the 'precious', indigenous link of the Palestinians to their national food; not 'cultural appreciation', but 'cultural erasure'. From this piece of nonsense we realise that Ruby Hamad is just another anti-Semite who has completely swallowed the canard of White Jewish colonialism, fed directly by the 'Palestinian narrative' aka the bullshit story negating any historic truth, which fuels the current conflict there today. She suggests in this piece here that "We need to have an honest conversation about Israel and Palestine" and on that score I agree with her. However pressing her own deceits and misconceptions about the conflict ain't going to help. Benjamin Netanyahu might have made a bit of a mess linking Palestinians to the Holocaust, but the fact of the matter is that the Palestinian leadership openly collaborated with the Nazi war machine and to this day the state-sanctioned Palestinian media spews out vicious, blatant Jew-hatred.
Jack | 20 August 2016


"he 'cares more about Palestinians than their leaders do'." Netanyahu is attending to the detail that 'Palestinians' are a different category of social reality from 'Hamas'. ‘Palestinians’ are victims of ‘Hamas’. Or perhaps 'Palestinians' and 'Hamas' are victims of another social reality. Things on the ground would be very different if the majority of Palestinians were Christians, Druze, Mandaeans, Samaritans, Zoroastrians or devotees of any other regional religious system except Islam.
Roy Chen Yee | 22 August 2016


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