As Israel and US wrongly claim ‘incitement’ to justify their actions against Palestinians, the oppressed may resort to new forms of struggle
"Give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry declared in a speech he made to the Virginia Convention in 1775, at St John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. Fast forward 240 years, and if Israel and the US were able to pin those words to a Palestinian and decry incitement, they would do so in a heartbeat.
Like “terrorism,” “incitement” is a word that works great in conflict zones because it means everything and nothing at the same time. However, its misuse as a justification to perpetrate blatant human rights violations and maintain an illegal state of affairs that contributes to conflict being fanned, not diffused.
Both Israel and the US are guilty of misusing the claim of incitement in an attempt to justify their punishment of Palestinians.
For Israel to point to Palestinian incitement, which does exist, as the source of the present violence across Israel and Palestine is pathetic, at best.
After dispossessing Palestinians numerous times and leaving more than half the population locked out of their homeland and scattered across the region to live a life of misery as refugees; after installing a system of institutionalized and structural discrimination inside Israel against the Palestinian Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel who remained in the country after Israel’s establishment; after placing (and pressing) a boot of military occupation on the necks of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for the past 48 years; after expanding an illegal settlement enterprise from 100,000 settlers to 580,000 settlers, all the while pretending to be engaged in bilateral negotiations to resolve the conflict; and while Israeli prime ministers and ministers continually claim that no Palestinian state will ever be allowed to emerge, while also claiming Palestinians are everything from snakes to subhuman, Israel has no right whatsoever to even hint at incitement as being a factor in this outbreak of violence.
For the US, be it Congress or the administration, to ignore history and the facts on the ground and point to Palestinian incitement in a knee-jerk reaction to the current violence is criminal.
Secretary of State John Kerry, addressing the current deterioration of security in the region, tells NPR News: “There’s no excuse for the violence. No amount of frustration is appropriate to license any violence anywhere at any time. No violence should occur. And the Palestinians need to understand.” Really?
Palestinians need to “understand” when they are at the receiving end of all the violence mentioned above? And this coming from a country that underwrites Israel to the tune of $10.2 million in military aid each day, that has just completed the total destruction of two sovereign states in the region (Iraq and Afghanistan), and has been Addicted to War since its founding.
Indeed, “no violence should occur,” but regrettably Palestinians will not make world history by being the first people that falls under military occupation and wakes up one morning and accepts it by throwing roses and chocolate at their occupier. The longest military occupation in modern history will be resisted until it ends.
The challenge for everyone is how nonviolently to face the horrendous violence of the occupation, much of which is bloodless violence, violence that does not make the headline news but rather simmers on a slow burner, like the never-ending settlement enterprise or the suffocation of the Palestinian economy.
All of this is not to say that targeting civilians is justified. It is not. But all the stakeholders in this conflict know very well that there are two dynamics at play in this most recent Palestinian outbreak of frustration.
On the one hand, the level of loss of hope has pushed a very small number of Palestinians to undertake violent and horrendous acts against Israeli civilians, many targeting illegal Israeli settlers. This was totally predictable and I, for one, have been speaking in public about the fear of individual, lone-wolf, acts of violence for years.
On the other hand, an entirely new generation of Palestinians has reached a boiling point, and some have taken to the streets in an uncoordinated and disparate fashion to express their outrage at being locked into open-air cages, suffocated economically, and humiliated on a daily basis.
Some claim this latter dynamic is a new intifada, or uprising, but regardless of how it is coined or if it is sustainable or not its message is crystal clear: there is no status quo under Israeli occupation, only the facade of calm while Israel continues literally and figuratively to cement new facts on the ground that are in total violation of international law.
Blaming the victim
The US State Department, claiming Palestinians are engaged in almighty and undefinable incitement, has cut aid to Palestinians by $80mn as a “message” to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This funding cut will bring the US’s annual economic assistance to Palestinians from $370mn to $290mn, peanuts in the larger picture and, for many, a sore source of the artificial prop-up which maintains an expired Palestinian Authority.
So as the situation on the ground boils over, and the Israeli government’s intransigence and determination to “forever live by the sword” continues, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recently reported telling a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, the US is making itself more and more irrelevant to the reality on the ground by blindly adopting Israel’s well-crafted incitement mantra.
Israeli adoption of the “incitement” claim to cover up its blatant and systematic violations of international law is not surprising; however, the US jumping on this bandwagon to lay blame on the Palestinian leadership for the current violence is more troubling than the violence itself.
Indeed, former Palestinian diplomat Afif Safieh puts it most succinctly when he says: “Palestinians have become unreasonably reasonable."
I would add that if the US does not finally act, instead of paying only lip service to a two-state solution, no one in Congress should be surprised when Palestinians drop their bid for statehood and convert this struggle for freedom to a civil rights struggle.
-Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant living in the occupied West Bank. He serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and is chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy. He was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and blogs at ePalestine.com.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Israeli security forces stand and Palestinians gather at the scene where a Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces after an alleged knife attack in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank (AFP).