Stop infantilising the 'Palestinians'

By Alan Johnson/Telegraph

The world treats the Palestinians as children – ‘the pathology of paternalism’ it has been called

payne_main_2229321a-454x288The jubilant reaction of many Palestinians to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage boys has been met in the West with a bit of a shrug. The official daily PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida has published cartoons mocking the three students and celebrating their capture. The Fatah Facebook page featured a cartoon of three rats dangling from a line.Sweets have been handed out on the streets (a traditional gesture of joy and celebration). Many children have been photographed by their parents, holding up three fingers and smiling. An internet campaign gathers pace and “popular support for the abduction has continued to proliferate on Palestinian social media” according to the journalist Elhanan Miller. Hamas, of course, is exultant. Yes, Abu Mazen has condemned the kidnap and there have been some brave Palestinian voices raised in defence of the three youngsters, but their voices are isolated; Palestinians calling for the return of the three students have been threatened.

4543845655_obama_palestinians_suffering-106404835969_xlargeAnd yet, despite all this whooping and cheering about the trauma and possible death of Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, the Palestinians will likely pay a very small price in the international community or global public opinion. Why?

In other news:

Intrafada: Hamas youths attack Ramallah police station (video)

A Fatah spokesman blamed Hamas for instigating these riots,saying “Hamas is seeking to create chaos in the West Bank in order to pave the way for a coup.”

In part, because an anti-Zionist mindset that has taken root in the West, and at its heart is unexamined assumption – that Israelis and Palestinians are different kinds of people. Israelis have agency, responsibility and choice, Palestinians do not. In short, the world treats the Palestinians as children – ‘the pathology of paternalism’ it has been called

The unarticulated assumption of anti-Zionism is that Palestinians are a driven people, dominated by circumstances and moved by emotions; qualities associated with the world of nature. Israelis are the opposite; masters of all circumstances, rational and calculating; qualities associated with the world of culture.

This dichotomous thinking has three bad consequences.

First, by granting only one side to the conflict agency and responsibility, the dichotomy distorts key events of the conflict (e.g. the war of 1948, the collapse of the Camp David peace talks in 2000, Gaza after the 2005 disengagement). The Palestinians are cast as passive victims; acompelled people (Haaretz writer Yitkhak Laor claims the second intifada was “instigated” by … Israeli policy); a duped people (activist Tikva Honig-Parnass writes of “Barak’s pre-planned collapse of the Camp David talks in October 2000”); and a people beyond the reach of judgement.Academic Jacqueline Rose views Palestinian suicide bombers as “people driven to extremes” and argues that Israel has “the responsibility for [the] dilemma” of the suicide bomber.

Second, the dichotomous understanding of Palestinians and Israelis distorts our understanding of Israel’s security. The threats Israel faces arediscounted and the security measures taken by Israel reframed as motiveless and cruel acts. For example, the writer Shlomo Sand arguesthat Israel falsely “portray[s] itself as a persecuted innocent” and he claims that this portrayal, not real threats, has given Israeli society “a well of deep-seated collective anxieties.” Ilan Pappe, an Israeli academic now teaching in the UK, claims that “Zionists” are “[c]ompelling a nation to be constantly at arms” by stimulating “continual angst” through the abuse of Holocaust memory. He dismisses “useful fabrications about Israelis suffering under intense rocketing” as a “fantasy of apologists.”  For the anti-Zionists, then, Israel’s concern with security is either a pathology (an unconscious psychological condition Israelis cannot break out of) or – this a contradiction, note – a case of manipulation (a conscious political ploy).

The third consequence of this dichotomous thinking about the nature of the two peoples is the infantalisation of the Palestinians: they remain perpetually below the age of responsibility; the source of their behaviour always external to themselves, always located in Israel’s actions.

For example, when the Israeli novelist and Left-wing Zionist Amos Oz complained that incitement by Palestinian intellectuals is one reason so many Palestinians are “suffocated and poisoned by blind hate,” Yitzhak Laor responded by accusing Oz of “incitement” against the Palestinians. Oz’s temerity in seeking to hold the Palestinians to account condemned him in Laor’s eyes.

The academic Jacqueline Rose has argued that Palestinian suicide bomber is a person compelled, before admonishing Israel a few lines later for failing to take note of Freud’s warning that “the forcefulness with which a group builds and defends and defends its identity was the central question of modern times.” (That’s just something for the cultured Israelis to worry about, it seems.)

Of course, Israel has to compromise and divide the land, making possible a Palestinian state. But if the Palestinians are treated as children, never held accountable for cultivating a culture of hate, then they will never make their own excruciating compromises for peace. And without those compromises – in a Middle East departing further from the norms of human behaviour by the day – Israel will not take risks for peace. Nor should it.

Update:

What the PCUSA is saying (Zvi)

I noted on Friday that PCUSA had passed a resolution that included this language:

In The Jewish Daily Forward, August 2013, Larry Derfner writes on racism in Israel:

The ADL [Anti-Defamation League] goes after anti-Semitism with a fist, it goes after Israeli racism with a sigh. As a matter of fact, the ADL and the entire American Jewish establishment should suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely and take a look at what’s going on in Israel.

Derfner, of course, is the columnist who was fired from the Jerusalem Post for writing thatPalestinian Arab terror is justified.

It would be hard to imagine PCUSA saying that African Americans must stop whining about racism because Zimbabwe is racist against whites, or that Muslims must shut up about Islamophobia as long as Bibles continue to be confiscated in Saudi Arabia. For some reason, PCUSA is only interested in attacking a single ethno-religious-national group.

Zvi commented:


They are saying that destroying Israel takes precedence over fighting hatred and anti-Semitism.

What the Presbyterian Church leadership has just demanded is that American Jews:

* Stop trying to fight against hate-mongers who preach hatred against us because we are Jews, and
* Stop trying to prevent people from spreading anti-Semitic blood libels in order to cause naive idiots like the PCUSA leadership to hate us because we are Jews, and
* Stop trying to prevent deranged followers of anti-Semitic ideologies from gunning us down in the streets because we are Jews, and
* Stop disputing their hateful fictions about our history, which we are better qualified to discuss than they are, and
* Instead, to help hate-mongers in the US to destroy the world’s only Jewish state, and
* Instead, to support thugs in the Middle East whose goal is the obliteration of the world’s only Jewish state and the slaughter of its people.