jordan gaza protests 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The world has become used to seeing scenes of terrorist carnage. From Bali to Mumbai and by way of Madrid and London, few terrorist attacks truly shock people. Most pale in comparison to that of 9/11. Whereas once they spoke of "Black Friday" in Mumbai in regard to the 1993 bombings, they can hardly have so many black days for all the terrorism.
Similarly in this country people became "used to" terrorism and rockets in Sderot. Now Israel and its supporters and enemies have gotten used to the violent outburst of protesters in Europe. Few people more than winced at the "Stop the Holocaust in Gaza" placards churned out during Operation Cast Lead. It was expected. Israel apartheid week? Durban II? Its been done before. The riots in Malmo, Sweden, over the appearance of something as innocent as an Israeli tennis team came and went.
The hatred and vitriol and extreme violence has become routine. While organizations still monitor anti-Semitic incidents such as synagogue bombings and assaults on Jewish institutions and persons, there is a great deal of normalcy to the entire spectrum of extremism that issues forth from Western protesters and their allies. But there is a need to challenge the hatred and to be surprised by it. Getting used to terrorism and allowing it to be part of "life as usual" may seem like not letting it affect us. But it also excuses it through silence and allows it to creep into everyday life until people cannot recall a time when it was not there. It is like so many ills in society, such as domestic abuse or public displays of racism. A few too many and it is just "normal." This is the way the extreme outbursts against Israel have become.
A RECENT COMMENT I received from an American after posting photos from Wadi Kelt on Facebook: "By your look I see your people were European peasants that converted to Judaism during the time of Genghis Khan - not part of any mass exodus out of 'biblical' Israel. The Europeans didn't know what to do with all the Jews from the camps coming back into Europe, so they loaded them onto ships and gave them Palestine, a country that was never theirs... They [the Jews] learned very well from the Nazis."
The poster described herself as a "good human being" who was "standing up" for "grievous wrongs wherever Israel is a terrorist state." She claimed "we will never be silent." But the last statement struck home: "Free Palestine from the river to the sea."
Consider the numerous claims being sandwiched together by this critic of Israel. First there is a little racism about "your looks" and then there is a claim about Jews not being the same as the biblical Jews. Then there is some false history of the Holocaust about Jews "coming back to Europe." The Jews are then compared to Nazis. But it supposedly all comes in the spirit of doing good and "standing up" for the oppressed. But standing up for the weak doesn't end with calls for self-determination, it ends with calls for the destruction of Israel.
THIS WAS ONE of a number of recent incidents I have witnessed. Another one involved a British keffiyeh-clad student studying in Cairo who asked a local Palestinian, "Why do you speak Hebrew, the language of your enemy?" I'll never forget another student who lectured a secular Palestinian about the Koran and the connection of Arabs to the Temple Mount. In one experience after another I witnessed Western tourists in the Holy Land encouraging Palestinians to adhere to extreme interpretations of history and shaming Palestinians that they were not patriotic enough.
The extremism that grows year by year on college campuses in the West, among Western volunteers in the Middle East and among Western "activists" in Europe is not something that should be accepted and ignored. It is a dangerous development because the extremism of the protests today exceeds the extremism of the Palestinians themselves. The support for "Palestine free from the river to the sea" is more expansionist than the feelings of the Palestinian public.
This means that in the near future, barring an attempt to stop the anger and hatred, the main engine of Palestinian irredentism and intransigency may well be foreign voices, not local ones. Many Palestinians have grown tired of the fight and the cycles of violence. Prominent voices and moderates are prepared for some form of coexistence, not peace, but acceptance of the situation and the existence of the other. Foreign voices, who do not experience the terror and do not have to live in the area, have not tired. They grow more angry by the day, funneling their paucity of causes at home into adherence and conversion to support of causes abroad.
The writer, a PhD student in geography at the Hebrew University, runs the Terra Incognita blog. firstname.lastname@example.org