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The Agonies of a Tortured Palestinian Soul

World  (tags: israel, middle-east, palestine, Human Rights, Israel/Palestine, Prejudice, Satire, Zionism )

- 3775 days ago -
I woke up this morning with an abject pain in my soul. This pain has been nagging me lately, sometimes even preoccupying my moral sensibilities, especially since Israel tightened its economic stranglehold on the Gaza Strip and commenced a bombing campaign


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Madalena Lobaotello (448)
Monday March 16, 2009, 12:22 pm
I woke up this morning with an abject pain in my soul. This pain has been nagging me lately, sometimes even preoccupying my moral sensibilities, especially since Israel tightened its economic stranglehold on the Gaza Strip and commenced a bombing campaign that killed over 1000 Palestinian civilians. I am an educated man; I read the appropriate progressive magazines, so I know just how hard this genocide has been on Israeli liberals.

It has been especially difficult for Israel’s doves to reside in a state being accused by leftist fanatics and furtive anti-Semites of such a horrible thing. That’s why I always take a moment to keep the true victims of Israel’s aggression in my thoughts. It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s the civilized perspective, the type of moral reckoning that matters. Such a terrible fate as the liberal Israelis’ should be illegal. Yet so-called human rights groups, with their tendentious prejudices, continue to bombard them with facts implicating their supposedly ugly behavior.

The testimonials of my liberal protectors break my unevolved Palestinian heart. In The Nation, always impressive for its proper sensitivity, Naomi Chazan declares, "These are bleak days for progressive Israelis." And no wonder: the horrors in Gaza are clear in Israel "where bravado and intolerance threaten to eat away at the country’s democratic core and consume its internal moral compass." Chazan is a woman who knows not to let silly things like ethnic cleansing detract from the need to save Israel from its occasional failure to light up other nations with inspiration instead of bombs and white phosphorous.

David Grossman is even more eloquent. He points out, "We cannot pardon the Palestinians or treat them forgivingly, as if it were obvious that whenever they feel put upon, violence will always be their sole response, the one they embrace almost automatically." It’s clear why Grossman is a leading novelist and heir to Amos Oz’s dovish brilliance: he reminds us that we cannot forget that the Palestinians merely feel put upon (it’s not only the Crescent that’s fertile). His readers will understand that surely the Palestinians are mistaken, given as we are to uncouth hyperbole and fits of irrational violence. I must admit that Grossman is correct: I frequently complain, feel angry even, when I see Israel doing something loathsome. I remind myself that I shouldn’t merely focus on images of dead Palestinian babies—their skin peeled back from petrified faces, their organs spattered onto bloody asphalt—but I should also spare sympathy for my troubled Israeli friends.

I know it must be terribly difficult supporting an ethnonationalist state that wantonly slaughters little brown civilians. I know that it is excruciating to have democratic ideals disrupted by ungrateful natives. And I know how tough it must be to witness the death of other people’s children.

In respect for troubled Israeli liberals, then, I would like to forget about the Palestinians and focus on them instead. I may be able to help them solve their dreadful quandary. I would suggest—humbly and respectfully, of course—that they emulate American liberals, who have perfected the art of dispossessing indigenous peoples while pretending to love them. There’s no need to antagonize the savages so crudely when you can displace them quietly and simultaneously appropriate all they hold sacred. Hummus was a good start. And tabbouli was a bold move, one that has been improbably successful. I know this is difficult for you to hear, but now you must quit emphasizing your own feelings and say that everything Israel does actually helps the Palestinians. It’s a great way to enhance your humanitarian credentials, without—get this—having to give up any of your entrenched authority.

In the meantime, I will continue to urge my Palestinian compatriots to do the right thing. We are not merely Israel’s enemies; we are in the way of progress, stubborn impediments to the dream of modernity. So let’s go ahead and drop this irrational emphasis of ours on freedom, dignity, self-determination, and survival, and instead start praying that Israel’s true peacemakers finally learn how to overcome the travails of their colonial privilege.

Steven Salaita is assistant professor of English at Virginia Tech. His latest book is The Uncultured Wars: Arabs, Muslims, and the Poverty of Liberal Thought. Read other articles by Steven.

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