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October 11, 2006

The Asinine Situation Rant

By Mike Cowie

Last night I watched Avi's fourth show on CBC (The Big Picture with Avi Lewis Part 4 - Hot House), which was about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and, more specifically, at least as a starting point, the Palestinian leaders in Israeli jails. It was, as you'd imagine, a fiery debate, the most intense of the four shows so far. Avi said at the outset that if you already have a fixed perception then you'll simply see what you already know, but I couldn't help being unable to see past the fact that there are 10,000 Palestinians wasting away in Israeli prisons for supposed crimes against Israel, but no Israelis in Palestinian jails serving time for crimes committed against Palestinians - even though far more innocent Palestinians have been killed over the years than Israelis. Like everything else in this conflict it's a ridiculously unfair, unjust and unbelievable reality. Once you reject the silly notion that Palestinians killing Israelis is "terrorism" while Israelis killing Palestinians is not, you're left with the pretty asinine situation of 10,000 Palestinians in jail, while all the Israeli killers walk free, often right into the highest posts of government.

As for that word "terrorist", either use it equally or don't use it at all, that's what I say. As the South African woman said during the debate: "Words are often used to distort the truth". But if you really want to use the word, then it should be used to describe the real terror that the Israeli miltary has inflicted on the Palestinian people for 40, or even 60, years now: the collective punishment, the destroyed homes and orchards, the bombings, the mass arrests, the assassinations, the humiliation, and the thousands of killings. In the face of all that, the Palestinian bombings of civilians, despicable as they may be, are hardly anything at all. Israelis can live their lives fully, albeit with some apprehension and fear, but the Palestinians, on the other hand, have had their whole society ravished and nearly destroyed.

There were two people in last night's show who defined the hatred and lack of compassion for the other side that has made this conflict seem so inextricable. First there was the Palestinian woman in the film who didn't seem to care one bit that the bombing she had helped plan and carry out had killed 8 children. I mean, what kind of person kills children and then feels no remorse whatsoever? And I believe she's even a mother herself. A perfect case of the hatred for the tormentor making someone become just as bad, if not worse, than that which she/he despises. And then there was that Moshe guy from the Canada-Israel Committee, who couldn't speak more than 3 or 4 words without spitting out the word "terrorist". It was "terrorist" this and "terrorist" that. Moshe Ronen, Ronin? I think the guy's got the wrong name. Ronin were samarai who had no master, but this Moshe guy is so dedicated, so devoted to Israel that he can't seem to feel even the slightest bit of compassion for the suffering the Palestinians have endured all these decades. I mean, the guy is so devoted he makes Olivia Newton John's hopeless devotion to John Travolta in "Grease" seem, well, not even worth singing about.

I thought it was great how they had so many Jews on the show standing up for the Palestinian people. I think it's important to show that this isn't simply a Jew vs. Arab conflict. This is a conflict of one state using its military might to oppress another. It's really that simple. This is something anyone with any real sense of justice can see and would clearly oppose, regardless of race or religion. But, that said, I really think they should have had a few more Palestinians on the show. Aside from the two Palestinian men who spoke quite briefly, there was only that one woman, Rafeef Ziadeh, who, I must say, was really well-spoken, and then Adam Hanieh, who was quite articulate as well. Again, I think it's really important for people here in North America to hear Jews passionately speaking up for the rights of the Palestinian people, but I believe the show also needed at least a couple more Palestinians speaking up for themselves.

One point that somebody made, which I thought was so true, was how the debate in Israel and Palestine is much wider than it is here in North America; especially down there in America, where justice for the Palestinians seems to mean nothing and where support for the oppressor - Israel - is given by most people without thought, without question. As I've asked before, who supports the oppressors, who supports the colonial masters? What sort of people supported the whites and were against the blacks in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa? Who supported the white settlers as they slaughtered the Natives here in North America? Who supported the colonial looters as they carved up Africa and much of Asia? Well, if you chose "Most of the Western world" as your answer, you'd be right. And that'd also be the correct answer to any question regarding who has supported Israel's continued oppression of the Palestinian people for most of the past 60 years. Is it simply racism, like in the case of South Africa? Is it simply because the Israelis - or at least those Israelis who came to Israel from Europe - look more like "us"? Or is it simply a numbness and acceptance of the status quo? Either way, it is repulsive and we should be ashamed.

Simply put, were Nelson Mandela and the ANC terrorists for fighting back against the apartheid regime? Were the Algerians terrorists for fighting to rid themselves of French colonial rule? Were the Vietnamese terrorists for fighting to free themselves first from the Japanese, then from the French and then, finally, from the Americans? And were the Afghans terrorists for fighting to get the Russians out of their country? If the answer is yes, then being a terrorist sure sounds like a glorious and heroic thing to be. And if the answer is no, then there's no bloody way the Palestinians are terrorists for fighting with whatever means they have available to free themselves from tyranny, occupation and oppression.

Open the gulags and let the 10,000 go. End the oppression. And let's get on with some real peace negotiations. The injustice simply must end.

Oredakedo (Mike)

Tag(s): Big Picture, Avi Lewis, Blogging

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Dedicated to music, film, sport, world travel, a far more just world, & Bob Dylan (not necessarily in that order), Mike is presently tangled up in the blues (& joys) of writing his first book, an account of his (and wife Sonoko's) 3-year trip across Asia.


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