As I am working on my dissertation, I try to isolate myself from the present and dig into the past, in the hope that something will be revealed. However, I can’t help but to be dragged back to the reality on the ground, because the topic of the past is relevant to the reading of the present.
Throughout this new round of atrocities and violence that is spreading throughout Palestine and Israel, one thing keeps ringing in my ears. According to the Israeli media, there was no choice but to hit the Gaza Strip with all the might of the Israeli Army because the violence that took the form of rocket fire came from the Gaza Strip. And to my amazement, the “civilized” world has reiterated that the State of Israel, as a sovereign and free country, has a right — even an obligation — to strike back against belligerence and protect its civilian population.
The question that must be asked is: who determines the operating chronological framework? According to Israel, the belligerence began with the firing of rockets. On the other hand, one could argue instead that the belligerence started when the State of Israel occupied land and started building on it and transferring its citizens to live in that land while at the same time stripping the Palestinians of the means to self-determination.
To this day, the only internationally recognized border to the State of Israel is that which was underlined in the Partition Plan of historic Palestine in 1947. Several wars have occurred since that time, with the result that the State of Israel found itself in a position of power that enabled it to grab more land and put the Palestinian population under siege.
The Palestinian population has been divided and discriminated against, and it continually faces new and creative oppressive measures that are meticulously crafted by the Israeli state. From the building of the Separation Wall to the disengagement of the Gaza Strip and an intricate network of checkpoints, surveillance and control characterizes the Israeli bureaucratic and military system that immobilizes and terrorizes a whole nation.
Israel has a right to defend itself and this is its justification for indiscriminately firing sophisticated and lethal weaponry into the Gaza Strip. The rising number of innocent civilians killed by this aggressive reaction is of no importance.
In Discipline and Punish, Foucault explains that in modern nation states, visible violence and torture was no longer welcomed and thus killing was no longer performed as a collective spectacle. Punishment transformed into a subtle and hidden enterprise. With the sophisticated technology of modern arms, a whole neighborhood, even a whole city, could be wiped out with the touch of a button.
The death of innocents is reduced to the result of a depersonalized video-game like action, and consequently it garners apathetic reactions. What else could characterize this silence in relation to what is happening in the Gaza Strip? Those people are in a cage and they are targeted in a “hunger games” kind of fashion. Even if the innocents want to escape this horrific situation, they have no way out. In the meantime, across the border the Israeli public has found a new entertaining pastime in which they meet in a public space overlooking the Gaza Strip with popcorn and beach chairs to watch and cheer the bombardment of its civilians.
There is no space here to give a detailed description of the lives and deaths of those who are being killed, especially as the number is rising. We can only acknowledge the biased reaction of the world that supports the belligerent power that has perfected the art of collective punishment.
One is left only with questions: What will be the end of it all? Do the officials of the State of Israel have any vision of how the conflict with Palestinians will end? Do they think that oppressive and violent action in all its forms will make the Palestinian people disappear? Are they seeing what these appalling and discriminatory, racist actions are doing to their own people?
Israeli State violence is penetrating into the Israeli the citizenry; for a long time now the Israeli Defense Force has cooperated with Jewish settlers in the West Bank to impose violence and inflict terror on the Palestinian population. Many such violations have been documented on video through B’Tselem’s “camera project” and through other private initiatives. The culture of violence is spreading throughout the country and it is further strengthened by the Prime Minister and his government, even as he urges the Jewish population not to take “the law into their own hands.” According to Netanyahu, the Israeli legal system allows for collective punishment of the Palestinian population even if they have not committed any act of violence. Thus, vengeance is legitimate, but he prefers to exercise it through the “proper” channels. After all, it is harder to criticize a state since it has a legitimate monopoly on the use of violence.
Thus acts such as the vandalizing of Palestinian property, the terrorizing of a whole population, chants of “Death to the Arabs,” and taking the law into one’s own hands – ultimately leading to the burning of an alive Palestinian teenager — is overlooked by the Israeli state. Soon this demagogic mob reaction will infect the whole Israeli society, as it has been taught by its government: those who have the muscle are always in the right.