Tag Archives: Israeli government

Ecology of Hopelessness and Despair

Israeli-soldiers-guard-Pa-007There has been a lot of coverage in the US media regarding the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage settlers who were abducted last week while hitchhiking outside of the occupied city of al-Khalīl (Hebron) in the West Bank. Of course this incident is nothing less than abhorrent and every person of conscience hopes that these boys will be returned safely to their families. But once again the egregious bias that the US media displays in covering incidents like this in Gaza and the West Bank is rearing its ugly head.

In contrast to the kidnap story, little to nothing was reported about the shooting deaths of two Palestinian teens last month, who were protesting on Nakba Day (the day Palestinians remember the “catastrophe” when they were driven from their homes by Zionist militias in 1948). In fact what little attention it did receive was orchestrated by officials in the Israeli government. Former ambassador Michael Oren was given a prime spot on CNN to throw out repugnant claims including one that suggested the killings were “staged” and that these boys may not even be dead. In fact, the boys were killed and another wounded. And, according to CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts, they appeared to pose no visible danger to anyone. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) immediately claimed that no live fire was used, only rubber bullets. But an autopsy done on one of the boys revealed that this claim was patently false.

Children have become the saddest casualty of the occupation on both sides of the Green Line. Both Israeli and Palestinian children have been maimed or killed by indiscriminate violence. But Palestinian children have suffered far more by the numbers and by the extent of the violence they are subjected to on a daily basis by IDF forces and illegal settlers. According to a recent UN report, Israel has incarcerated thousands of children in the past decade, some as young as 12 years of age, and placed them in a military tribunal system which subjects them to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.” Children have been ripped from their homes in late night raids by the IDF and taken to detention centers far from their families, usually for the offense of throwing stones at army tanks. The report also pointed out that “in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

All people who care about justice and universal human rights hope for these kidnapped children to be returned safely to their families. But to report about this incident without context is both unjust and reckless. By many accounts Hebron is ground zero for the occupation. Settlers, with protection of the IDF, have been successful at making ordinary Palestinians’ lives a living hell. Scores of people along Shahuda Street, a once thriving thoroughfare in the city, have been literally sealed in their homes, their front doors having been welded shut by the IDF, with the only escape route being their rooftops. Intimidation and attacks from settlers have become the norm and this harassment is committed with impunity. Segregated roadways are enforced by military personnel, with settler roads being the more well maintained and widest. Palestinian children are routinely terrorized on their way to school, often having stones lobbed at them.

It is within this ecology of hopelessness and despair that this tragedy has emerged. It is the product of systemic bigotry, dehumanization and discrimination. It is the offspring of apartheid. And until the entire story is told, justice for all sides will continue to be submerged in a sea of oppressive jingoism and meaningless rhetoric.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(Photograph is of Palestinian children being detained by Israel Defense Forces in Hebron: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA)

The United States Has Everything to do with It

Palestinian child Feb 6 2013I have often heard it said in this country that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has “nothing to do with us.” Such statements reveal a troubling ignorance that so many Americans have in regard to this and other foreign policy issues. In fact the United States has everything to do with it.

It is the US which has inserted itself into the conflict as being the only foreign agent that can “broker” a peace deal. It is the US that has shut out or suppressed  the UN from having any effective voice. It is the US that has emboldened hardliners in Israel to run rip shod over any reasonable and fair settlement by continually declaring itself as an unequivocal supporter of Israel regardless of its human rights abuses and incredible intransigence. It is the US which shapes the language used to describe the issues, the problems and any of the solutions. It is the US which has reinforced a decades long system of apartheid, complete with home demolitions, walls and checkpoints that carve up Palestinian land into what amounts to South African style Bantustans.

The US has looked the other way as Israel built a separate system of justice for Israeli citizens and Palestinians, one more fairer than the other.  It has ignored the illegality of the Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and ignored the increasing racist rhetoric and violence emerging from them. It has whitewashed or downplayed a brutal and oppressive military occupation and the indefinite detention and torture of children. And it has justified the creation of the world’s biggest open air prison in Gaza, where punishment is meted out collectively on a captive population through bombings, the use of white phosphorus, indiscriminate shooting of farmers and fishermen, home demolitions and a draconian economic blockade that limits and restricts food, medicine and construction materials.

John Kerry recently expressed a sentiment that, aside from the circus-like histrionics of the US media and both Democratic and Republican politicians, is shared by many prominent Israelis, Palestinians and one former US president. When he said that Israel was on a course toward apartheid he was only incorrect in making such a claim as a potential future. True to form, Kerry capitulated to the “pro-Israel no matter what” fanatics and apologized. But the facts remain. An institutionalized ethnocracy has been allowed to flourish. As in apartheid South Africa, this kind of system grows like a cancer. And it eventually effects all aspects of civil life in society.

Insidiously, the US has perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to suit its own foreign policy objectives as a colonial foothold in the Middle-east. It has continued to support an untenable system because doing so is more advantageous to its neoliberal interests in the entire region.  And the recent, momentous failure in the so-called “peace process” should make it clear to everyone, as tensions are at an all time high, that the US has proven itself incapable of being an effective and fair mediator. For the sake of everyone, it is more than past the time for it to remove itself as the sole arbiter of peace.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(Photo: Palestinian child sobbing atop the ruins of his family’s home that was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina/AFP )