Dehumanizing settlers – and Palestinians

By whitewashing events, we in West implicitly indicates that we expect lower behavior from Palestinians than from Israelis, ourselves.

March 16, 2011 22:32
4 minute read.
The Fogel family, stabbed to death in Itamar

fogel itamar attack body bags 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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I ask the same question Bret Stephens asked in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday: “Are Israeli settlers human?” Why was the savage attack in Itamar, in which five member of a family were murdered, couched in terms like “settlers” and “occupied territories”? Do these (albeit inaccurate) epithets directed toward this group in the hills of Samaria somehow lessen the severity of the killings?

How is the murder of a three-month-old baby girl, along with her four-year-old and 11-year-old brothers and her parents, any different from one in Dublin or London? Would the Irish have slept any easier knowing that an IRA man had slashed the throat of a Protestant baby in Belfast, rather than shooting a soldier? I ask this as an Irishman, with childhood memories of daily news reports of murders and bombings.

A Palestinian man interviewed in Rafah stated that this massacre was a “natural response” to the actions of Israel. Now, my compatriots – ever-sympathetic of the Palestinian “cause” – need to place themselves in that situation: How would they have felt if their neighbor said such a thing, following such an act by a coreligionist or compatriot. The man had it completely upside down. There was nothing “natural” about this. And that’s what civilized society should always maintain. Nothing excused the Omagh bombing in 1998 to the vast majority of Irish. Nothing.

Likewise, there is nothing “natural” about naming summer camps, soccer tournaments and a public square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi. While some mourn the death of IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands in prison in 1981, his actions were relatively benign by comparison to Mughrabi’s.

What we – and most in the West – are doing, in the midst of our latest whitewash of terrorism, is refusing to look evil straight in the face. As American columnist Dennis Prager said, it is just too bright. It is easier to look at the less severe forms. So, we pander to the propaganda and convince ourselves that Israel’s security barrier is in some bizarre way the worse manifestation of evil in that region. It’s just easier that way.

Example: The same news agencies who reported on the Itamar massacre whitewash reports about car-torching “youths” in French suburbs, or “honor killings” in Burnley and Eindhoven. You have to decode these news items yourself to uncover the specifics of the crimes.

By performing this whitewash, however, we in the West not only dehumanize the “settlers”; we dehumanize the Palestinians. We do this by implicitly expecting a lower standard of behavior than that of the Israelis – and, indeed, ourselves. Whereas one solitary act of terrorism that Israel has suffered – one rocket attack, one stabbing, one suicide bombing – would have Ireland in a state of national emergency, we shrug our shoulders when it happens east of Europe’s Asian borders.

PART OF why the Northern Irish Troubles went away was that Ireland had its own “Not in Our Name” movement, much like the anti-Iraq war movement in the US today. But where are such movements in Gaza or Hebron or Nablus? No, they’re more likely to be the ones passing out sweets in Gaza, as pictured last Sunday.

Again, bring the issue closer to home: Can my fellow Irish imagine if, after a similarly horrific killing in Belfast, some gleeful, wide-eyed youth gave them a sweet? Would you be, to quote Ireland’s independence leader Eamonn de Valera, dancing at the crossroads in celebration of another strike toward national liberation? And the problem is, there is no “national” in the Palestinian question. What could at least have been said about the IRA is that it wanted a united Ireland and the British to quit Ireland’s shores. There is simply no question that bombings in London or Manchester or Birmingham would have ceased.

But, to draw comparisons about Northern Ireland’s Troubles with those of Israel and the Palestinians is specious and misleading. While there are some groups of genuine peace-loving nation-builders among the Palestinians, for the most part the “nationalism” is based on one issue: destroying Israel.

To return to Ireland, it is as if, once we got the 1921- 22 civil war out of the way, we’d spent the subsequent nine decades continuing to attack – militarily and politically – Britain. It would be as if we developed no national, civil institutions, and spent all our financial and moral means on the destruction of our neighbors.

Say what you want about the Celtic tiger, and subsequent crash, it never would have happened had our nationalism reflected that of the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are kept in a perpetual welfare state – each bombing and rocket attack funded, largely, by the EU. This has enabled the most vile indoctrination of anti-Semitism, through their state-run media and state-run school curriculum, to fester unchecked. (I wonder how many Irish have looked up “Palestinian indoctrination” on YouTube to see what education means to Hamas and Fatah.) And what have the Palestinians’ donors gotten in return? A mentality that not simply enabled the Itamar massacre to occur. Worse. It allowed people to view it as “natural.”

The writer is an Irish clinical psychologist living in Switzerland.

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