quarta-feira, 6 de agosto de 2014

An all-too-familiar prejudice and a personal stand

There’s an on-going online petition asking the Portuguese government to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel (closing embassies, etc.) until the “genocide in Gaza” ends.
This choice of terms and the appeal for diplomatic sanctions made me advance the publishing of the following infographics:

(click to enlarge)

Because the reality is this: thanks to an all-too-familiar prejudice, the “value” of an Arab corpse is greater — much greater — if a finger could (with more or less propriety) be pointed at Israel.

Fewer than 2,000 dead in Gaza constitute “genocide” — while the Syrian civil war, with over 200,000 dead, is but a detail we hardly hear about on the news.
This pattern is not new, by the way: we often hear about the Israeli army’s complicity (sometimes, misleadingly, the authorship) in the Sabra and Shatila massacre (1982), when 750 to 3,500 civilians were killed by Lebanese Christian militias — but more often we forget, in that same year, the Hama massacre, when 10,000 to 40,000 Syrian civilians were massacred by their own government.
And, as the Israeli offensive unfolds in Gaza, the Muslim radicals of ISIS behead and crucify “heretics” in Syria, and recently conquered the town of Sinjar, the last refuge for numerous ethno-religious minorities (yezidi, shabak, shia...) in North-western Iraq, casting a dark shadow over the fate of those people.
Unfortunately, the examples could go on and on almost indefinitely, visiting virtually the entire Arab and Muslim world.
Who cares! Israel is not involved, is it?

I’m not saying every single person who signed and shared the petition, or in any other way demonstrates against Israel, is anti-Semite or anti-Jew. Most definitely not: click-and-share activism thrives in ignorance and intellectual laziness, too. But many gleefully jump, as if from flower to flower, from protesting against Israel’s actions to opposing Israel’s existence and, from there, to advocating the persecution of Jews. (“Adolf was right” was something I read recently painted on some wall.)
Because, however hard it may be to admit it, anti-Semitism’s roots haven’t withered yet and there is plenty of fertile ground for them. (I’m not referring to criticism towards Israel, much of which is legitimate.) We could see it recently, in a particularly caricaturial way, with the disappearance of flight MH370: it wasn’t too long before some crazy conspiracy theories arose, linking it to some alleged interests of a famous Jewish banker; a few online comments down, and there we had the accusatory finger passing from that specific banker to “the Jews”. The fact that said “theory” couldn’t stand the slightest rational inquiry was irrelevant (including for news outlets, always looking for “colourful” ways to spice up their reports, who made the disservice of acritically passing along the accusation.)

As I said earlier, I’m publishing this infographics sooner than planned. In fact, I was working on an extensive article where I would present in a systematic way my standing on this whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s a particularly depressing exercise, because it’s about making choices in a conflict where both sides fail to look good on the picture. In that article I would discuss, among other things, what I consider to be Israel’s mistakes (and, in some cases, crimes). Because I’m not for brainless Manichaeism: it’s not because I support Israel that I’ll portrait its army as knights in shining armour.

Both sides fail to look good on the picture, that’s a fact — but both sides do not look the same on the picture.
The Israeli army committed war crimes, for sure. (Was there ever an army, in an actual war zone, that never ever committed any? I doubt.) But the majority of those crimes were deliberately provoked by Hamas, as a public relations strategy — a criminal strategy in itself. A crime is always a crime, even if it’s a reaction to a previous crime, but even so Israel clearly retains the moral high ground: there is a huge — abysmal, insurmountable — moral difference between being ruthless with our enemies and promoting in a Machiavellian way the telegenic massacre of our own people.
Israel’s biggest sin was letting itself fall in the media ambush set up by Hamas.

So let it be clear: I support Israel. Because, even with some not-so-acceptable decisions, the Israeli government has a legitimate goal: to defence and security of its own people. And, with all its imperfections, Israel is a free and democratic country: even its Arab citizens (20% of its population), though victims of some distrust vis-a-vis their loyalty, are freer in Israel than in any Arab country.
The same cannot be said about Hamas. For Hamas, the goal is not the defence of the Palestinian people, whom they gleefully sacrifice, but the nihilistic promotion of a Faith Cause. Should they ever defeat the “Zionist enemy”, the movement would devote itself to oppressing its own people in the name of some “religious purity” that is nothing more than an alternative name for obscurantist barbarity. (In fact, they’ve been doing it in Gaza already.) Because Hamas is not a Palestinian resistance movement or even some Palestine Liberation Organization (however imperfect this may be). Hamas is, in its own words, an “Islamic Resistance Movement” (specifically, of the Sunni kind): a whole spectrum of Palestinians — Christians, Druze, Baha’i, Shiite Muslims — would, with greater or smaller severity, be excluded, subjugated or persecuted.
(The same can be said of Hezbollah, the self-proclaimed “Party of God”, this one of the Shiite kind, which is particularly active in Southern Lebanon.)

But all this can be reduced to this: I support Israel because an Israeli version of me — an atheist and a critic of many actions of the government and army — could live a life in Israel with little fear of reprisals. (I concede: there are some fringes in Israeli society that, morally, I equal to Hamas — an example being the murdered of Rabin.)
But, what about Hamas’s or Hezbollah’s Palestine? (Or, truth be told, almost all Arab and Muslim countries...) Could the same be said? No, we all know it could not. Someone like me, should he be Palestinian, would plain and simply be wiped out by his own government (not by a free-range lunatic: in Gaza the lunatics are in power) long before the ink had dried out in the word “atheist”.

Disclaimer: This is a translation of a text originally written in Portuguese, and I'm not a trained translator.

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