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  • Palestinians are rarely depicted as victims of a century-long colonization project.

    Palestinians are rarely depicted as victims of a century-long colonization project. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 July 2017
Israeli discursive hegemony has aggressively promoted the dehumanization of Palestinians in the Western imaginary.

The current events in Jerusalem have been depicted as "violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians," or "Arab-Israeli clashes," often portrayed as part of a religious war and the so-called "Israeli-Palestinian conflict," through Orientalist announcements like "Palestinians and Israelis are killing each other over Jerusalem's holiest site" in corporate media. 

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These framings present euro-centric narratives that firmly ignore political and historical realities behind these "clashes."

The immediate circumstance is that Israeli provocatively widened its control of Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount in occupied Jerusalem after three Palestinian citizens of Israel shot two Israeli officers and were subsequently themselves shot.

Israel claimed to be responding in self-defense by imposing metal detectors, which it took down and replaced with newer technology. Protesting Israel's policies, Palestinians - Muslims and the Christians who are usually ignored in corporate media - prayed on Jerusalem's streets instead and were attacked by Israeli state violence.

Israeli forces killed several, detained dozens, and injured 1,000+ protestors so far, while the usual Israeli raids all over occupied Palestine continued. The Israeli government eventually removed these security measures but it is seizing the moment to expand its control otherwise. For example, disturbed by Al Jazeera's intensive coverage, Netanyahu reiterated his threats to close the network's Jerusalem office. Once Palestinians returned to pray at Al Aqsa, Israeli soldiers attacked them throwing stun grenades and tear gas into crowds of Palestinians, injuring over 100.

Palestinians are not just protesting because they might be uncomfortable with metal detectors. In fact, Israeli-imposed 'security measures' and checkpoints are part of everyday Palestinian reality. Rather, the detectors symbolize yet another Israeli step to extend its control not only of holy sites but of all of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel has effectively pursued a system of de-Arabization through official policies that are particularly visible in Jerusalem, where urban planning is instrumentalized to reduce the number of Palestinians, within a broader ongoing erasure of the Palestinian population, their history, memory and mere existence.

The discourse on "clashes" implies parity, while ignoring the actual power relations: one side is a heavily armed first-world colonizer and an ethnocratic state in which members of the government advocate a genocide of the other side which is a third-world population colonized and controlled by Israel. When discussing the "clashes" in Jerusalem, the media fails to mention that Jerusalem has been illegally occupied by Israel for half a century and that the ongoing occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza violates international law and several UN resolutions, such as Resolution 242 from 1967 which demanded Israel's withdrawal from these territories. Neither does the media question the presence of the Israeli army in Palestinian territories, while comfortably perpetuating Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

While Palestinians remain misunderstood and/or ignored and appear at best as participants in a circle of violence, Palestinian life has been characterized by the constant lack of rights, physical and emotional humiliation, harassment, threats, arbitrary violence, extrajudicial killings, torture, incarceration, expulsion, dispossession, displacement, and other colonial phenomena within a system of apartheid.

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Meanwhile, IDF soldiers are enjoying a general impunity and public support for their actions - see Amnesty International's current human rights report. Israel's apartheid and military occupation have produced walls which have ghettoized Palestinians and segregated them from the world. Simultaneously, Israel is conducting a systematic destruction of Palestinian houses, having demolished over 100,000 Palestinian homes since 1948. Most of the time, Israel applies similar rhetoric as it used around Jerusalem this week: the language of security measures. And while media is focusing on the "clashes" in Jerusalem, the IDF is assisting extremist settlers in seizing Palestinian homes in Hebron and Gazans are struggling to survive under unlivable circumstances. The situation in all of occupied Palestine can be best described as an omnipresence of death.

The "clashes" are accompanied by another rise in genocidal fantasies that have by now become ubiquitous in Israel, when once again elected members of the Knesset incited to genocide. Tzachi Hanegbi warned Palestinians of another Nakba in a Facebook post: "This is how a ‘Nakba’ begins. Just like this. Remember ’48. Remember ’67. Don’t try us again because the result won’t be any different. You’ve been warned!," (Translation) pointing to a very schizophrenic approach towards Palestinian life: while denying the Nakba to both the Israeli public and the outside world, Israeli politicians continue projecting another Nakba, and thereby not only admitting historical injustices done to the Palestinians, but also affirming the contemporaneity of a violent and racist intent. 

By saying, "I pray that they do not bring a third Nakba on themselves," Hanegbi, like many before him, blames Palestinians a priori as perpetrators of their own genocide. However, even Hanegbi's vision of another Nakba does not capture the magnitude of the Palestinian reality which in fact is an ongoing Nakba that daily reproduces instances of different "-cides," encompassing politicide, historicide, memoricide, or in short: Palestinicide.

Still, Palestinians are rarely depicted as victims of a century-long colonization project. Israeli discursive hegemony has aggressively promoted the dehumanization of Palestinians in the Western imaginary. If Palestinians become visible, they are shown as a backward collective and terrorists by definition. Accordingly, 19-year old Omar Al Abed who stabbed three Israelis appears as a terrorist, who killed because of his Palestinian ethnicity. A whole Wikipedia article is dedicated to this tragedy.

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The fact that the stabbing occurred in an illegal settlement and that the victims were settlers who lived on privately-owned Palestinian land, remains absent. While this fact should never justify the killing of civilians, it does provide a context. Furthermore, in a Facebook post published shortly before the stabbing, Al Abed outlined his personal misery that was caused by the violent occupation, showing that he did not kill for pleasure. There is a colonial genealogy to this sort of violence. Israeli commentator Gideon Levy, who relates Al Abed's words to similar words written in other liberation struggles, asks: "What could an Israeli say to a desperate young Palestinian who indeed has no future, no opportunity for change, no hopeful scenario, a man whose life is one long humiliation?"

Palestinian protests are not seen as articulations of resistance against a constantly intensifying injustice. The Palestinian struggle is not viewed as a freedom struggle, or a struggle against colonialism, or a struggle for basic human rights, or the struggle for mere survival. Although the "legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle" has been repeated in UN resolutions over time, every attempt of Palestinians to exercise their right to resist is labeled as a form of terrorism. Instead of allegedly surreal outbreaks of violence, one needs to discuss the omnipresence of violence experienced by Palestinians not just this week, but every day for the last century.

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