Along these lines, I would like to point out the following highly important and largely underemphasized development pertaining to recent Israeli wars, manifested mostly in the latest War on Gaza. These wars have been incorporated into and set in motion through the global cultural wars paradigm, better known as the ‘clash of civilizations’ (henceforth, CoC). This development carries deep material implications due to its distinctive representation of Israel’s enemies. The latter is presented as an exceptional and utterly unique threat and therefore requires the deployment of exceptional force and techniques. More specifically, this representation resulted so far in two major consequences. First, it seems as apiriori authorizing and justifying virtually any level and type of cruelty Israel deploys and might deploy in the future against allegedly exceptional enemies it fights, as the War on Gaza vividly illustrated. Second, it untangles the entire ‘Question of Palestine,’ from its colonial context. That is to say, the CoC paradigm, at least in its Israeli idiom, metamorphosizes the Palestinian struggle from an anti-colonial and anti-racist one into yet another facet of supposedly broader cultural war between ‘Islam’ and the ‘West’ or (Islamic) ‘terror’ and the ‘free world.’
What makes Israeli’s discourse of CoC even more discussion-worthy is the fact that Israel, especially since September 11, 2001, has conceived itself and has been conceived by many policy makers, think tanks, terror experts and media commentators in the world as the exemplar in fighting ‘Islamic terrorism.’ The fact that this development enables and is enabled by the rehabilitation of an empire, emboldened orientalism, reinvigoration of racism, changing patterns of immigration, and the attacks against what is called ‘multiculturalism’ in key European nations makes its consideration all the more important. Given such importance, it is unfortunate that, to the best of my knowledge, there is not even a single piece of research that has seriously examined the Israeli discourse on the CoC. Particularly, what elements does this discourse include and foreground and what does it exclude and backward? What are the broader ontological and epistemological foundations underpinning it? What are the major features of the social context and power configuration in which it unfolds? Finally, what are the ramifications of this discourse when adopted as a guiding principle for foreign as well domestic policies, especially in multi-cultural and multi-racial nations?
In this essay, I take an initial step in this enterprise. Specifically, I provide general outlines of the ‘Israelization’ of the CoC and, highlighting its terribly crude nature, explain the sources of its increasing appeal in leading European nations and discuss how all this is changing official European position on the question of Palestine/ Israel. Finally, I bring into sharp focus the colonial context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine of which Israeli public discourse on CoC tries to gloss over.
Israelizing the CoC
The well known Anglo-Saxon Orientalist, Bernard Lewis, was the first to invoke the paradigm to best describe the relationship between the ‘West’ and ‘Islam in the Cold Warera. Yet, this paradigm was immeasurably popularized by Samuel Huntington, the late Harvard political scientist, in his now (in)famous treatise of the same title, The Clash of Civilizations. The bedrock of Huntington’s CoC is simple (or rather simplistic). “In the post-Cold War world the most important distinctions among peoples,” Huntington tells us, “are not ideological, political, or economic. They are cultural.” That is to say, cultural differences will eclipse ideological divides as the primary source conflicts with global consequences. Or simply, “the clash of ideologies will give way to a clash of civilizations—and between “the West and the Rest” in particular.” Hence, according to Huntington, cultural wars will be the trademark of the 21st century. However, following the September 11 attacks, the CoC paradigm has become virtually synonymous with a supposedly global confrontation between the West and its archetypical enemy—Islam. More bluntly, “September 11, 2001 further consolidated an understanding of the world drawing sharp oppositions between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and positing Islam as the “new enemy for a new world order.”
Since its first publication in 1993, Huntington’s paradigm of global cultural wars has received enormous attention not only in the United States but also in Europe and Israel. In the latter, the CoC paradigm was received with great enthusiasm and without the slightest skepticism. Furthermore, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 it has been deployed by Israeli politicians, military officers, media pundits, and to a lesser extent, by academics as a serious descriptive and analytical tool in general and assumed to explain virtually any encounter between Israel and its ‘enemies’ in particular. Against this backdrop, rewording Tomoko Masuzawa out of context, “we can say everybody in Israel today, in effect, seems to know… what CoC means, more or less, that is to say, generally, vaguely.”
Consider, for example, Benny Morris, a historian at Ben Gurion University. According to him, “the war between civilizations is the main characteristic of the 21st century. . .[and]Bush is wrong when he denies the very existence of that war.” Yossi Peled—Major General, former head of the IDF’s Northern Command and a newly elected Knesset Member (following the Israeli parliamentary elections on February 10th, 2009), echoed this position by maintaining: “Ever since the attack on the Twin Towers, I have lived with the sense that we are at the beginning of a war of cultures.” Likewise, it goes without saying that Israel conceives itself unmistakably as a part of Huntington’s West. Indeed, according to Oren Nahari, editor of the foreign news desk on Israeli public TV (Channel 1), Israel is, “the ‘wall,’ the ‘messenger’ of ‘Western Civilization’ in the Middle East.” Similarly, Benny Morris reiterates: “we are on the front line [of the clash of civilizations]. . . We are an extension of the West in the Middle East, which is also how Herzl saw the future Jewish state, and so we are the object of a large part of Islamic attack.” This (un)civilizational thinking, as I referred earlier, was unleashed in latest Israeli War on Gaza. The proclamation of the then Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni following a meeting with France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy on January 1, 2009 is exemplary. In this proclamation Livni asserted that War on Gaza, “is not the Israeli problem but in a way Israel is in the frontline of the free world and being attacked because it represents the values of the free world, including France.” In other words, Israel, we are told, not only had been “attacked” and therefore had been “forced” to respond with massive cruelty. Most importantly, it was attacked due to what it is and not what it does. In the same spirit, Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the third largest political party in Israeli Knesset—Yisrael Beiteinu and designated Foreign Minister, suggested in an interview with Haaretz newspaper that Israel should “explai[n] to the West that we are its frontline. That if we fall, God forbid[s], the West will fall too.” Finally, Ben Dror Yemini, a leading columnist in the second most circulated newspaper in Israel—Maariv, contended that Israel should intensify its hasbara (a Hebrew word that literally means explanation or explication, though in Israeli current usage it basically means propaganda) to the world by highlighting the following: “The confrontation in the Gaza Strip is not between Hamas and Israel, but rather between al-Qa’ida, Iran and radical Islam, and the free world.”
What is thedividing line between the above two allegedly opposing worlds? According to the leading political commentator of Haaretznewspaper—Yoel Markus, the dividing line is terribly simple: “Jewish tradition sanctifies life, whereas our adversaries belong to a society that sanctifies death and suicide…” Haifa University historian and Head of the Herzel Institute for the Research and Study of Zionism—Yoav Gelber, shares wholeheartedly Markus’ view. He maintains that the CoC generally and the Palestinian-Arab conflict in particular can be, at root, attributed to the unbridgeable difference between: “a culture that sanctifies life and a culture that encourages suicide and fosters martyrs…between a culture that examines exceptions and a culture that glorifies the murderers of children as freedom fighters.” Against this background, Benny Morris thus tells us that the current global CoC is not only a matter of bin Laden and al-Qa’ida, but a more all-encompassing Armageddon: “This is a struggle against a whole world that espouses different values.”
The above mindset is, obviously, animated by and predicated on racializing Muslims in general and the Palestinians in particular. In the case of the latter such operation,
“creates a specter of a people, desperate and beyond negotiation, inflamed by political and/or religious extremism, indifferent to human life including their own (a very important comin representations of the ‘war on terror’), willing and able to employ the young, the old, women and children in ‘battle’ (in an echo other imperial encounters with guerrilla resistance), motivated by mythical and/or religious goals and thus beyond reason or limit in their .”
In other words, the violence of ‘our’ enemies, as the Israeli narrative goes, emanates from their exceptionalist culture and religion and therefore negotiation with them is an absurdity. Furthermore, this type of enemy constitutes not only a concrete, immediate and monumental life-threatening danger. ‘Our’ civilization and values are under attack by their barbarity. Therefore, we, Israelis and Westerners, secular and reasonable (and excuse the redundancy), are all in a state of utmost exception, and incomparable measures should be deployed to defend our lives and way of life. In this order of things,
“Israel teaches occupying forces to view themselves as the embattled party under attack, forced to respond with excessive : due to facing an irrational enemy that seeks ‘our’ annihilation; part of a moral crusade to defend ‘our’ values and way of life; and in to beat back a new global threat (‘Islamic fascism’). . . [This enemy] any kind of in response. There is no limit to what can be done to fend off creatures…”
This way of thinking, obviously, underwrites assertions such as Benny Morris’ that “[t]he Americans may have been wrong to invade Iraq, and we may have been wrong to go to war with Lebanon. All this pales into insignificance when we look at the huge struggle between the crazy radicalism that wants to control the world and the West that must protect itself.” In other words, hundreds of thousands of people who were murdered or maimed with the most sophisticated military machines on the planet, in addition to the tens of thousands of those who were abducted, tortured and raped pales into insignificance in the minds of Morris and his ilk. This is, of course, not to mention the massive forced uprooting, destruction of civilian infrastructures, personal properties and the sources of livelihood that these wars had occasioned.
Still there is more in Morris’ ‘civilizational’ toolbox. In the context of monumental, one may even say metaphysical, clash between cultures, Morris wears the hat of a psychiatrist and offers the following diagnosis of the Palestinian people and society: “At the moment, that society is in the state of being a serial killer. It is a very sick society.” He also benignly concerns himself with the need to “heal” future generations of Palestinians. “Maybe over the years,” he muses, “the establishment of a Palestinian state will help in the healing process…In the meantime, until the medicine is found,” he prescribes the following ‘course of treatment’: “they have to be contained so that they will not succeed in murdering us.” When his interviewer pressed him to explain if this means, “To fence them in? To place them under closure?” His answer was positive: “Something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another.”
However, in reality Morris is breaking through an open door. His recommendations are already being implemented “on the ground,” particularly in everything concerning the death camp called Gaza. More pointedly, Israel’s continuous siege and throttle policy against Gaza and its people, writes the geographer Oren Yicogently, is in actuality a part of a broader strategy of,
“…political geography of mass incarceration increasingly evident in Israel/Palestine. Under this regime large populations are locked into specific areas against their will, and often against international law, and are then subject to the mercy of their wardens. As the [Israeli] leaders’ statements [during the War on Gaza] show, it seeks to lock them in the tiny strip and punish them with enormous force. At the same time Israel is further institutionalizing the geography of incarceration… Typically, when the conditions of imprisonment become unbearable a rebellion erupts, and is suppressed by violent collective punishment, which in turn sets the conditions for the next uprising.”
Moreover, Morris’s beast thinking, was echoed even more vehemently by Eli Yishai (Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister) during latest Israeli War on Gaza: “We have a great opportunity now in Gaza to smash and flatten them… we should destroy thousand of houses, tunnels and industries, and kill as many terrorists as possible…”
This way of thinking (and behaving) obviously cannot be sustained without, to use words of Edward Said slightly out of context, “[wi]thout a well-organized sense these people over [there] not like “us” and [don’t] appre”our” values—the very core of traditional Orientalist dogma.. [that] spirits away… suffering in all its density and pain…” Or, in the words of Tamas Pataki, “the terrifying unconcern for the lives and livelihood of [those on the ‘other side’] would seem inexplicable without reference to an underlying racist (and race-related) contempt.”
Finally, this mindset is shared and propagated by many Zionist neoconservatives in Europe and North America. Take for example the answer of the British actress, Maureen Lipman, to a question posed to her in an interview with the BBC Radio on July 13, 2006, whether the Israeli onslaughts against the Palestinians in the south and the Lebanese in the north were not somewhat disproportional to the attacks of Hizbullah and Hamas respectively. Lipman’s answer was: “’s proportion got to do with it? It’s about proportion is it? Human life is not cheap to the Israelis. human life on the other side is quite cheap actually because strap bombs to people and send them to blow themselves up.” Asad, after quoting Lipman, comments a characteristically illuminating way, “What Lipman meant by speaking of human life was, of course, not human but Jewish life. Indeed, it was not only that human life “on other side”—that is, Arab life—was quite cheap but precisely because it was cheap that it could be so treated by the Israeli army.” Likewise, it should not come as a major surprise that amongst the leading voices in the United States and Canada who “openly, publicly, and with detailed analysis supported, endorsed, rationalized, theorized and sought to legalize the systematic torturing of people…” as part of the ‘war on terror’ are the Zionists Alan Dershowitz and Michael Ignatieff. Systematic torture is considered by them “‘the lesser evil’…their civilization, they argued, was in danger, and they had to defend it against barbarians.”
Israeli public discourse on the CoC and its racialization of the Palestinians seem to fall on open ears in key European nations. However, this is not due to its intellectual rigor or exceptional explanatory power. Rather, this discourse is alluring due to its convergence with very particular foreign as well as domestic agendas that enjoy a vogue since September 11, 2001. Pertaining to foreign policies,
The “rehabilitation of empire includes acceptance of Israel’s terms of reference —yes, what we do is very regrettable, but it is the least bad . The ‘war on terror’ resurrects imperial ambition as a regrettable necessary ideological project and this cultural and political shift key western nations serves to further consolidate support for and Israeli accounts of the necessity of violent occupation.”
Israeli public discourse on the CoC likewise is equally alluring when it comes to the domestic issue of (Muslim) minorities’ status and demands in leading European countries. England under Tony Blair’s government is a case in point. The latter’s “of the ‘war on terror’ and its terms,” writes ,
“signaled a shift away from previous attempts to accommodate minority cultures. Now, we are pressed to believe, the is up. Multiculturalism has not worked and, in fact, could never . Instead we must learn the ugly lesson that ‘our’ culture and their ‘culture’ are absolutely incompatible – our ways of life cannot be reconand, more than this, the presence of this alien other is a direct to our own survival…is this account of the impossibility of coexistence—because of ‘us’, but due to the murderous nature of ‘them’—that echoes and Israel’s portrayal of the Palestinians…[More specifically], [a]particular representation of the Palestinian struggle to transform political conflict into impassable cultural conflict, a matter of ‘race’, not politics. At the point when western nations as Britain are learning to erase the idea of racism by suggesting that problem is really integration—meaning that minorities must learn to get along, accept the will of the majority and not annoy or people – Israel offers a model for transforming the justified of the racialized other into evidence that this otherness is , impassable and can only be contained and disciplined in the of the enlightened western state and its (full) citizens.
Moreover, this mode of thinking seems not only to validate Israeli claims regarding the Palestinians but the Israeli discourse on Muslims minorities in Europe as well. In Israeli mainstream discourse, Europe is conceived as particularly vulnerable to the ‘Islamic threat’ (in Israel, Europe and are most often invoked as interchangeable terms; yet, again, the focus is on Europe). The Israelis, as self-appointed guardians of Western civilization, seem to believe that it is on themto remind Europe of the nature of the Islamic threat she faces. This task has become particularly urgent, according to Benny Morris, due to the “Muslim penetration into the West and their settlement there [which] is creating a dangerous internal threat.” threat, Morris further ‘illuminates,’ mirrors the challenge encountered by “the Roman Empire of the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries. . .[In both cases] [t]hey let the barbarians in and they toppled the empire from within.”
Another example in this regard is the historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and former Advisor on Arab Affairs for the Israeli government—Moshe Sharon.In his tellingly titled essay “, Beware!—Muslim Europe in the Making” Sharon proclaims,
“Modern Muslim activists detected that Europe after World War II, began to show signs of old age frailty and weakness, and the mighty West in general proved to be surprisingly vulnerable. Islam emerged as a strong power waiting to be used. . . They soon discovered the ease with which they can use the European democratic system, the liberal ideologies, leftist intellectuals, the media, and even the governments, to achieve their objectives.”
Finally, Sharon’s colleague at the Hebrew University—Raphael Israeli, joins the chorus and further ‘illuminates’ on the Muslims’ perniciousaims and methods in Europe: “[T]hey [Muslims] use Western vocabulary (freedom, tolerance, democracy, human rights, etc.) to impress upon their [European] hosts that while they wish to play by the rules of their adoptive countries…” Muslims’ ultimate goal was and still, according to Israeli, is “to dominate through victory and enslavement of the others when the [raphic] so .”
Moreover, cardinal to the behavior of Muslims generally and their inherent (innate?) hostility towards non-Muslims in particular, we are told, is Islamic division of the world into the ‘realm of Islam’ (dar al-Islam) and the ‘realm of war’ (dar al-harb), with the governing principle of Jihad. Sharon again:
“Dar al-Harb – ‘the Land of War’ – [is] the term always used by the Muslims for all the territories not yet under Islamic rule. Legally speaking, it defines the relations between the Lands of Islam and the lands of the infidels. . .[that means]. .. all those who are not Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians. They are, therefore, regarded to be, both theoretically and actually, in a state of war with the Muslims. This war does not have to be declared, since in Muslim view, it is the only possible state of affairs between the two parties,”
‘the effective impact of a message by no means simply depends upon the internal of its intellectual structure or the coherence of its argument. depends quite as crucially upon the skill and force with which is communicated, the authority of the communicating agent, its to the wants of what Selznick calls ‘constituencies’,… in brief, the power of an ideology has as much to do with its social as it has to the ‘pure’ appeal of a set of ideas.”
In other words, major ‘global’ developments and transformations provided Israeli discourse on CoC is alluring quality. One of the major results of these transformations is a major shift in the official European position regarding the issue of Palestine/Israel in recent years. The current position is “gravitating closer to a US-Israeli framing of a war on terror, a ‘clash of civilizations,’ with a subtext of concern about the rise of Islam.” In truth, it is difficult today to identify substantial differences between the American-Israeli stance and that of the Europeans in everything concerning the Palestinian question. European governments, for instance, supported (and continues to support) the terrible siege on Gaza, provided justification, if only indirectly, for the latest Israeli War on Gaza in its unqualified acceptance of the Israeli narrative that this war was a defensive war and Israel has the right to defend itself, accepted the American-Israeli conceptualization that the fundamental problem in Gaza is not the mass imprisonment and the attempt to break the political will of the Palestinian people in order to accept Israeli colonial dictates but “smuggling weapons”, and finally major European nations enlisted their massive naval power not to, heaven forbid, impose sanctions on the occupying forces, which were engaged in wholesale killing and imposing a siege on 1.5 million people, but to end this smuggling.
“…is not a new phenomenon: European colonialism widely used mass incarceration of indigenous groups, condensing them in reserves and Bantustans, to enable Whites to freely exploit land, minerals and labor. Today too, racist governments attempt to deal with the existence of ‘unwanted populations’ by applying methods of spatial containment and violent ‘punishment,’ as evident in the cases of Chechnya, Kosovo, Kashmir, Darfur and Tamil Elam in Sri Lanka. The key to this spreading political order is the prevention of the rebelling region from gaining state sovereignty, leaving it ‘neither in nor out’ of the state’s control system. As a non-state entity, resistance of the jailed to colonial power is often criminalized, leading the state’s righteous claim that it has ‘no choice’ but to further oppress the anti-colonial struggle.”
“Gaza is a severe case, but it’s not unique. Since its establishment, Israel’s ethnocratic regime has worked incessantly to Judaize the country by confiscating Palestinian lands, constructing hundreds of Jewish settlements and restricting the Palestinians to small enclaves. This began with the military government inside the Green Line until 1966, and the establishment of a ‘fenced area’ for the Bedouins in the south, which operates until today. Since the 1990s, the ghettoisation of Palestinians continued with the marking of areas A-B-C in the occupied territories, with the advent of closures and checkpoints, and finally with the construction of ‘the wall’—all helping to fragment Palestine to dozens of isolated enclaves. The long-term geographical impact of the Judaization policy has been dramatic—the Palestinians in Israel, for example, constitute 18% of the population, but control less than three percent of the land. In the entire area between Jordan [River] and [the Mediterranean] Sea, the Palestinians constitute just under 50%, but control only 13% of the land.”
“From the viewpoint of power’s victims, the moment that power is directed to destroying, eliminating and dismantling their group, the decision about their life becomes a decision about their death. In other , this is the moment when (bio)power is transformed into (thanato)power. In this sense, thanatopower is not an independent or form of power, but is always already a supplement of biopower, which is called to action at those delicate moments of passage from callife to calculating death, from managing life to managing death, from the politicization of life to the politicization of death. At this of transformation from the bio to the thanato, the old archeform of power to ‘make die and let live’ reappears under the new form of’ giving death and bargaining living’, best reflected in our times the new form of military occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, the colonial occupation of Palestine…”
To put it otherwise, the colonies were and still are, as the case of Gaza painfully attests to, the ‘laboratories’ where virtually limitless and unrestrained violence is deployed, where the exception is the rule, hierarchy between ‘higher races,” and ‘lesser people’ (read native) is presupposed and ‘naturalized.’ “such, the colonies,” writes Achille Mbembe, “are the zone where the violence of the state of exception is deemed to operate in the service of “civilization.” That is to say,
“colonies might be ruled over in absolute lawlessness stems from the racial denial of any common bond between the conqueror and the native. In the eyes of the conqueror, savage life is just another form of animal life…The savages are, as it were, “natural” human beings who lack the specifically human character, the specifically human reality, “so that when European men massacred them they somehow were not aware that they had committed murder.”
March 29. 2009
*Mohammed, shot dead along with his mother by Israeli soldiers.Zeitoun, Eastern GazaThe “kill Arabs” hate grafitti reported in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz and numerous other news sources, and found throughout the Gaza Strip’s bombarded and militarily-occupied regions, is still scribbled on the walls of Mousa al Samouni (19) and the ten other members of his family’s home in the Zeitoun district east of Gaza city. On nearby walls are “you can run but you can’t hide” and “1948-2009″, references to the Nakba* and what many refer to as the new Nakba: the 3 weeks of war on Gaza. Into the walls of the family’s home Israeli soldiers punched five different snipers holes, behind which they propped themselves on bags filled with sand dug out from underneath tiles in the house. Like so many other houses occupied by the Israeli military, the house in which Mousa and his family lived was left a tangle of destroyed furniture, soiled clothing, and graffitied walls. At least 12 homes were bombed [residents cite 20 destroyed houses] or leveled in the area, and the orchards and chickens which generated incomes were razed and destroyed in the farming community, where the majority were living self-sufficiently.Mousa’s family had 1.5 dunams (1 dunam is 1,000 square metres) of fruit and olive trees and a modest 3,000 chicken farm, before all was destroyed by Israeli troops. Reports put around 100 farmers out of work and out of a livelihood in the Samouni quarter alone.Those houses which remained standing, like Mousa’s, did so largely because they served as sniper positions and military camps for the Israeli soldiers who desecrated the interiors and left them shells of their former home-selves.But the more glaring reminders of those days are the inescapable memories of two of Mousa’s brothers and both parents, and 44 relatives, suffering ghastly deaths at the hands the Israeli soldiers who imprisoned Mousa and his extended family in a small house before bombing it. Mousa and the elder two of his surviving 7 younger siblings, may be forced to bear the impossible burden of providing for a family instead of continuing in university or finishing high school.Mousa and the next oldest, Helmé (15), have told their gruesome story enough by now that they go through the details efficiently, pulling out photos of their dead parents and siblings, narrating meticulously how they came to be orphaned. One photo shows father and mother, Rachad and Rabab, standing smiling in front of a garden. Another has martyred Walid (17) posing in front of a backdrop of tranquility: a pond, a swan, birds, lilies… There’s no photo of Tawfiq (21), but he has left behind a wife and an infant boy.Helmé reveals the scar, several inches long, on his abdomen left by shrapnel from the bomb which brought down the house and killed his parents. A lasting reminder.Mousa leaves to sort out university bureaucracy, trying to continue with life, and an uncle, also named Helmé, takes over the narration, mentioning his personal losses: his dead wife and infant son, his dead mother and father, among other relatives. While he is able to tell the story, his sorrow and disbelief are evident. “I waited until I had money for a house before getting married. Now suddenly my house is gone and my wife and son dead.” He, too, pulls out photo mementos: his wife and his only child, asleep.
Helmé describes the lead-up to the house-bombing of January 5th.”We were all in my house on January 3rd. It has 3 floors: my wife, son and I were on the 3rd floor, my brothers on the 2nd, and my mother and father on the 1st.
During the night, the Israelis started firing from Apache helicopters and shelling from tanks. It was terrifying. We all came down to the ground floor.”
The next morning, Helmé recounts, the firing had stopped. Relatives fleeing Israeli shelling nearby came to the house, including Helmé’s brother, Rachad Samouni, and his family.
“There were about 50 of us,” Helmé continues. “We all stayed on the 1st floor. The Israelis bombed the 3rd floor while we were still inside the house. They bombed with other explosives which blew the walls out.
Then, Israeli soldiers came to our house. My father had worked in Israel and knew how to speak Hebrew. He told them we were just children and farmers, there were no fighters. They ordered us to leave.”Helmé’s uncle, Atiya, was in his own home nearby when Israeli soldiers arrived. “Who owns this home?” Helmé reports they asked, saying that the soldiers shot Atiya point-blank when he stepped out of the house, hands up.
Helmé’s allegation that Ahmed, Attiya’s 4 year old son, was the next shot by the soldiers is supported by other witness accounts from the day. Some have the toddler running out, grabbing hold of a soldier’s legs and crying out “why did you kill my father?”. Others say that Ahmed and his mother were killed, and many other injured, when the soldiers turned their fire to the interior of the house. Ahmed didn’t immediately die but instead bled to death over the course of the day, denied access to medical care.
Helmé’s narration continues, again corroborating what others have said and written. That the extended family was taken at gunpoint to the house of Wael Samouni, that others were brought, and that they remained captive inside during the day and night, without food and water, numbering roughly 100 people.
“We stayed 1 night in the new house, not sleeping because we were so scared and because of the firing,” Helmé says. Early the next morning (January 5), his brother Salah and a cousin Mohammed Samouni went outside to collect wood for a fire, to make bread. It was quiet and they thought the soldiers might have left.
“They were out between the wall on the street and the house when 2 Apaches above opened fire, firing a rocket at them. Mohammed was killed instantly.” Salah survived, but was injured, with shrapnel fragments in his forehead, back and legs.
“When the Apache fired the rocket, I grabbed Mohammed and got him inside, bandaged his head and tied a tourniquet around his wounded leg to stop the bleeding.”
It was then that Helmé saw his wife, son and cousin had been just been killed.
Maha (Helmé’s wife) and Masouda (Mohammed’s wife) had been standing at the door with their babies in their arms. An Israeli sniper on a neighbouring roof shot Maha, their 6 month old son Mohammed and Masouda’s nearly year-old baby Mu’tassim dead. Masouda survived with light injuries.
Minutes later, says Helmé, the Israeli army dropped 2 more shells on the house.
“All around me people were lying dead, like they were sleeping.”
Maysa’ Samouni, sister in law of ophans Mousa and Helmé, described the scene after the bombings.”The persons killed around me were my husband, who was hit in the back, my father-in-law, who was hit in the head and whose brain was on the floor, my mother-in-law Rabab, my father-in-law’s brother Talal, and his wife Rhama Muhammad a-Samuni, 45, Talal’s son’s wife, Maha Muhammad a-Samuni, 19, and her son, Muhammad Hamli a-Samuni, 5 months, whose whole brain was outside his body.”
The BBC reported that the Israeli military said forces allowed medical help “to the greatest extent possible subject to the perceived risks”.
Yet this is contested by the many survivors who watched loved ones bleed to death or returned to homes to find the injured dead, denied access to emergency medical care, like the family of 4 year old Ahmed who bled to death: (the family) tried to contact the Red Cross and ambulances, but they were told repeatedly that soldiers were blocking access to the area. All the while, Ahmad and his mother were bleeding heavily from their wounds. They continued calling for medical help but kept receiving the same answer ‘We cannot reach you.’”
And from the vantage point of volunteering in the Red Crescent’s ambulances I know countless calls for help went unanswered. Leila, who was present for the belated evacuation of some of the Samouni victims, also knows otherwise: the Israeli military actively prevented medics from reaching the wounded, in Zeitoun, in Ezbet Abed Rabbo, all over Gaza.
Mousa, his brother Helmé, and their 6 younger siblings continue to live in the house which Israeli soldiers occupied and in which their brother was shot dead. An uncle, Arafat Samouni, is living with the orphaned children, along with his wife and 1 child. But this is merely moral support. Financially and emotionally, Mousa and his siblings are devastated. [please consider helping]
*The Nakba is what Palestinians call the Zionists’ bloody expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from historic Palestine, along with the destruction of over 419 villages, for the creation of Israel in 1948.
REPORTS ON THE SAMOUNI MASSACRES:
Amid dust and death, a family’s story speaks for the terror of war
Gaza bombing witnesses describe horror of Israeli strike
‘As I ran I saw three of my children. All dead’
Gaza survivor describes day 48 members of family were killed in attack [VIDEO]
In pictures: Gaza’s Samouni Street
Israeli soldiers kill ‘Atiyyah a-Samuni at home, before his family, Gaza City, Jan. ’09
Testimony: Soldiers Killed and injured dozens of persons from a-Samuni family in a-Zeitun neighborhood, Gaza, Jan. ’09
*Helmé, 15, with a photo of his murdered parents.
*17 year old Walid, murdered at his home by Israeli soldiers.
*razed fruit trees, destroyed chicken farm, devastated land and houses in the Samouni area. [photo: Tales to Tell]
:: Article nr. 52990 sent on 29-mar-2009 21:27 ECT
“As part of the Syrian Cultural Lecture Series, The Jerusalem Fund Gallery and Dr. Rafif Al-Sayed Moustapha invite you to a lecture and film discussion entitled: ‘Palestinian Refugees: Identity Without a Homeland’ with Director Adam Shapiro and Dr. Laurie King-IraniFriday, 20 February 2009
The Jerusalem Fund Dr. Laurie King-Irani and Adam Shapiro will discuss the global Palestinian refugee experience as portrayed in the new 6-part documentary film series Chronicles of a Refugee. Several segments chosen by Adam Shapiro will be screened. Filmed in over 15 countries, with more than 250 interviews of Palestinian refugees who have lived in over 25 countries, Chronicles of a Refugee is the first documentary film to look at the global Palestinian refugee experience over the last 60 years. Produced by Perla Issa, Aseel Mansour and Adam Shapiro.
Adam Shapiro is a human rights activist, dedicated to fostering dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian youth through ‘Seeds of Peace’. Together with his wife, Shapiro founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an organization that attempts to bring civilians from around the world into non-violent resistance efforts in Palestine. His previous works include a documentary entitled About Baghdad.
Laurie King-Irani is an Adjunct Professor at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, and is a founding member of The Electronic Intifada. Currently, she serves as Managing Editor of The Journal for Palestine Studies. She is a frequent commentator on national and international news programs, including MSNBC and CNN, on political, cultural and military developments in the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy in the region.”
Palestine Video – A Palestine Vlog
The following is, in part, a post that appeared a year ago….
THE LAND THAT ‘CELEBRATES’ THE NEGATIVE
Unlike any other nation, Palestine has nothing positive to celebrate at this point in time. There are two ‘major holidays’ on the Palestinian calendar, the first being The Nakba, a commemoration of the day Palestine was literally wiped off the map by the zionists….
Internationally, no opportunity must be missed that can bring attention to the plight and suffering of the Palestinian people… they must not be forgotten. They deserve to celebrate life itself, not only death.
Also see the following brilliant essay at the
Today marks yet another black day in Palestinian history, known to all Palestinians as Land Day. On March 30, 1976, six Palestinians from Arab villages inside the Green Line were shot and killed by Israeli forces while protesting the order to confiscate 5,500 acres of land from the Galilee. Since then, Land Day has been commemorated by Palestinians inside Israel as well as Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.
Land Day is significant to the Palestinians on a number of levels. For the Palestinians who remained in their homes after the horrors of the 1948 War, it is a reminder of their existence, of the right to their own land and their own identity. The protests of March, 1976 marked the first major protest against Israeli rule by the indigenous population since the establishment of the Jewish state almost 30 years earlier. Still reeling from the atrocities Israel carried out during the war, the creation of the refugee problem, the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages, the horrific massacres and the Palestinians’ demotion to second-class citizens virtually overnight was perhaps the slow churning wheel that led up to the eventful day.
Hence, the threat of additional confiscation of land could not be tolerated and the people rose up, for the first time in unison and as one national body. People refused to go to work and the strike and protests took Israel by surprise. At the time, Israel revoked its decision and despite the six deaths and several injuries, the action was considered a success.
As it should be. Since then, Israel has whittled down Palestinian-owned land in historical Palestine from 94 percent pre-1948 to less than three percent today. However, Land Day has effectively kept the issue of Palestinian land on the agenda and in the collective minds of all Palestinians. It is also a reminder that our people inside the Green Line share a similar fate with all Palestinians whether they live inside what is now Israel, in the occupied Palestinian territories or in the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. For the Palestinians, it has and always will be about land. Land, which they rightfully owned and which was illegally taken from them, either in Israel’s wars on the Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 or through their more insidious measures ever since.
Israel understands just as well as the Palestinians that the conflict is about land. That is why illegal settlements continue to sprout up on occupied Palestinian land complete with their infrastructure and bypass roads that swallow up even more area. There is the separation wall, snaking through West Bank territory, cutting off Palestinians from one another and from their land off of which they live. The wall, when completed will directly affect 50 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank through its isolation or land expropriation. Then of course, there are the outright confiscations Israel declares are necessary for “Jewish communities” [i.e. settlements], checkpoints and roads, all land owned and passed down for generations by Palestinians.
For Israel, creating more facts on the ground in terms of usurping Palestinian land better serves their long-term goal of preventing any sustainable, viable and contiguous Palestinian entity in the future. Their rush to devour as much land as possible in the occupied Palestinian territories is for this very reason. The repeated impasses in the peace process are not coincidental nor are they a result of any “lack of a Palestinian partner.” They are a systematic and well-thought out policy by Israel’s Zionist establishment that aims to encroach on as much Palestinian territory as possible before any permanent settlement is finally imposed. This way, when the world grows tired of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and insists on a solution, Israel will already have completed its sinister workings and there will hardly be anything remaining over which to settle. One only has to look at the situation today vis-à-vis Palestinian land, to see how this policy has become fact. One only has to travel to Bilin and Niln each Friday to see the determination of the people not to let Israel take even more land than already gone.
In Palestinian communities inside the Green Line, it is much the same principle. In 1976, Palestinians found the strength to unite and remind Israel that their existence is not to be taken for granted. Every year since then, Palestinians everywhere hold rallies, activities and demonstrations to commemorate this day and stand witness to the ongoing struggle to retain land that is rightfully theirs.
It is not a choice. For every Palestinian, it is an obligation to hold the memory of those six who offered their lives for a greater cause close to our hearts and minds along with the tens of thousands of other Palestinians who did the same. It is a duty to fight this battle for our land to the bitter end because if not about land and existence, what are we really fighting for?
By Gilad Atzmon • Mar 30th, 2009 at 9:33 •
The following is an attempt to present my own personal dictionary of what seems to be the most charged terminology and concepts attached to the Palestinian solidarity and anti-war discourse.
Palestine– a piece of land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. For many years Palestine was the home of the Palestinian people: Muslims, Christians and Jews who lived in peace and harmony for hundred of years. In the late 19th century, in the light of emerging European nationalism, a few Jews had decided that Jews should not be left out. They then invented the notions of: ”Jewish people”, ”Jewish history” and ”Jewish nationalism”. They decided to settle the majority of world Jewry in Palestine.
Throughout the years the Jewish national project, i.e., Zionism, had become more and more sinister and ruthless. In 1949 70% of the indigenous Palestinian population had already been ethnically cleansed. Nowadays the majority of Palestinians are living behind barbed wire in a state of terror guarded by Israeli soldiers.
Jews– the people who happen to identify themselves as Jews. Jews are not a race, they do not follow a single belief system either. I made myself a rule. I categorically refrain from dealing with ”the Jews” as a collective or an ethnic group. Instead I restrict myself to criticism of Jewish politics, Jewish ideology and Jewish identity.
Judaism– one of the many religions practiced by the Jewish people (Jews for Jesus, Jews For Buddha, Jews For Allah and so on). Though Judaism contains some non-ethical aspects and teachings, the one and only peace-seeking collective amongst the Jewish people is actually a religious orthodox sect, namely Torah Jews. This fact is enough to make me very careful when criticising Judaism as a religion. When dealing with Judaism, I would restrict myself to criticism of interpretations of Talmudic racism and the biblically orientated Zionist genocidal plunder of Palestine.
Jewishness– Jewish ideology, the interpretations of the meaning of being a Jew by those who regard themselves as Jews. Jewishness is the core of Jewish identity, it is a dynamic notion. It is hard to pin down. While refraining from criticising Jews (the people) and Judaism (the religion), elaborating on Jewishness is a must, especially considering the crimes committed by the Jewish state in the name of Jewish people. As long as the Jewish state is shelling civilians with white phosphorous, it is our ethical duty to question: Who are the Jews? What does Judaism stand for? What is Jewishness all about?
Palestine vs Israel– Palestine is a country, Israel is a state.
Palestinians– currently the longest lasting sufferers of racist colonial abuse and state terrorism. Palestinians are the only true indigenous inhabitants of Palestine. 4,300,000 Palestinian refugees are scattered in the Middle East. There are Palestinians who managed to hold onto their land yet are denied equal civil rights, others live under military occupation. The Palestinian cause is largely the ethically grounded demand of the Palestinian people to return to their own land. The land that belongs to them and to them alone. The Palestinian cause is the demand to dismantle the Jewish state and to form a State of its Citizens instead.
Zionism– the national colonial practical interpretation of Jewish ideology. It asserts that Jews are entitled to a national home in Zion (Palestine) at the expense of the Palestinian people. Zionism is a colonial racist philosophy that practices genocidal tactics. It is a biblically orientated precept. Although Zionism portrayed itself initially as a secular movement, from the very beginning it transformed the Bible from a religious text into a land registry.
Israel– the Jewish state is a racist political concept. It is a place where Jewish supremacy is celebrated in an institutional manner. Israel is a place where 94% of the population supports dropping white phosphorus on innocent civilians. Israel is the place where Jews can pour their vengeance on the Goyim.
Palestinian resistance– the exercise of the ethical right to resist an invader, an ethnic cleanser and a racist.
Demographic bomb– Israel possesses many bombs, cluster bombs, petrol bombs, atomic bombs, WMD bombs, etc. The Palestinians have only one bomb, the demographic bomb. The Palestinians are the majority of the people between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. This fact itself defines the temporal quality of the Idea of Jewish state in Palestine.
Zionism vs Jewishness– it is difficult or maybe even impossible to determine where Zionism stops and Jewishness begins. Zionism and Jewishness establish a continuum. As it seems, Zionism has become the symbolic identifier of the contemporary Jew. Every Jew is identified by himself and others in reference to the Zionist compass (Zionist, anti-Zionist, oblivious to Zionism, love Zionism but hate Israel, love Israel but hate falafel and so on).
Secular Judaism and Jewish Secular Fundamentalism– secularity has been a very popular precept amongst Jews in the last two centuries. The Jewish form of secularity is very similar to rabbinical Judaism. It is fundamentally monotheistic, it believes in one truth (God is dead until further notice). It is supremacist, it is extremely intolerant of others in general and Muslims in particular, it even promotes wars in the name of enlightenment, liberalism, democracy and even in the name of the victims to come.
Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder– the kind of mental state that leads 94% of the Israeli population to support air raids against civilians. Within the condition of the Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Pre-TSD), the stress is the outcome of a phantasmic event, an imaginary episode set in the future; an event that has never taken place. Within Pre-TSD, an illusion pre-empts reality and the condition in which the fantasy of terror is itself becoming grave reality. If it is taken to extremes, even an agenda of total war against the rest of the world is not an unthinkable reaction. Unlike the case of paranoia, wherein the sufferer is subject to his own symptoms, in the case of Pre-TSD the sufferer actually celebrates his symptoms while others are left with the role of the audience or even victim. The sufferers of Pre-TSD within the press and media lobby for global conflict. Once they are in power they just spread death around. They manage to see a threat in almost anything. The Pre-TSD sufferer would call to flatten Iran, he would defend the IDF military campaign in Gaza for his own existential fears. The Pre-TSD sufferer is rather predictable and for one reason or other always to be found in the non-ethical cause.
Jihad– the struggle to improve one’s self and society. Jihad is the attempt to reach a harmony between the self and the world. It is there to bridge the gap between self loving, loving self and the love towards others. Jihad is the answer to chosenness.
Holocaust– an overwhelmingly devastating chapter in recent Jewish past. It would be difficult to imagine the formation of the Jewish state without the effect of the holocaust. Yet, it is impossible to deny the fact that Palestinians ended up paying the ultimate price for crimes that were committed against the Jews by other people (Europeans). Hence, it would make sense to argue that if Europeans feel guilty about the Holocaust, they better take extra care of its last victims, i.e., the Palestinians.
It must be mentioned that due to some legislation that restricts the scrutiny of the holocaust in an open academic manner, the holocaust is no longer treated as an historical chapter. Instead it is regarded by many scholars as a religious narrative (namely, Holocaust Religion). Those who do not obey the religion or follow its restrictions are chased, excluded and jailed. The failure to maintain the holocaust as a vivid historic chapter turned Jewish history into a Pandora’s box sealed by prohibitions, legal restrictions and different forms of threats. In an ideal ”free world”, we would be able to look into the holocaust, to regard it as an historical chapter and to draw some lessons out of it. That would mean also questioning its meaning. In an ideal (free) world, we may as well be allowed to wonder how come, time after time, Jews ended up despised and detested by their neighbours. In an ideal (free) world Jews may have a chance to learn from their mistakes in the past. For the time being, as long as we want to keep free, we better avoid questioning the past.
The Meaning of the Holocaust– the Holocaust provides the Jews and others with two obvious lessons. One is universal and almost simplistic, it says: ”NO to racism”. As some Jewish intellectuals predicted after the war, Jews were supposed to lead the fight against racism. Seemingly, it didn’t happen. Not only did it fail to happen, but the Jewish state had become the ultimate form of racist practice. Three years after the liberation of Auschwitz the newly formed Jewish state brutally ethnically cleansed the vast majority of indigenous Palestinians. As time goes by, the Jewish state doesn’t try to disguise its racist agenda, i.e., Jews only state.
The second lesson that can be drawn out of the holocaust is far less abstract, it is actually very pragmatic. It suggests to Jews ”to be aware of their deed”. It suggests to Jews ”to act ethically, or at least to pretend to do so”. Seemingly, this lesson is totally ignored. In the Jewish state young IDF soldiers wear T-shirts depicting pregnant Palestinian women caught in the crosshairs of a rifle, with the disturbing caption “1 shot 2 kills”. In the Jewish state, civilians had been caught picnicking watching their army dropping unconventional weapons on their Palestinian neighbours. The Israeli reality and the forceful Jewish lobbying around the world portray a complete dismissal of any ethical judgment or moral conduct. Whether it is the genocidal practice against the Palestinian people or the lobbying for more and more global conflicts. If the meaning of the holocaust would have been internalised, different appearances of such inhuman behaviour would have been addressed and tackled.
However, within the prohibition to re-visit our history we may still be entitled to reflect over Nazi brutality towards Jews in the light of the Jewish state’s crimes in Palestine. Seemingly, there is no legislation that prohibits us from doing that as yet.
Hamas– political party that was elected in 2006 by the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. Since then Israel has withheld payments owed to Gaza, causing the Palestinian economy to collapse. It has blockaded Gaza for months, starving the civilian population. And yet, Hamas proved once again that the Palestinian people are resilient. In spite of Israel’s genocidal tactics, in spite of the IDF targeting children, women and the elderly, Hamas’ popularity increases by the day and more so especially after the last Gaza conflict. It has now become clear that Israel does not possess the means of combating Islamic resistance. In other words. Israel’s days are numbered.
Gatekeepers– for many years the Palestinian solidarity discourse had been shattered by those who claimed to know what is right and what is wrong. They also claimed to know what should be discussed and what subject must be dropped. Initially, gatekeepers tried to recruit the Palestinian movement to fight antisemitism. Another bizarre agenda was to use the Palestinian people as another Guinea pig in a dogmatic socialist exercise.
Due to the growing success of Palestinian and Islamic resistance, the power of Gatekeepers is now reduced to none. Though gatekeeping operators still insist upon exercising their powers, their influence is totally restricted to primarily Jewish cells.
Antisemites– in the old days, antisemites were those who didn’t like Jews, nowadays, antisemites are those the Jews don’t like. Considering the growing chasm between the Jewish state and its lobbies and the rest of humanity, we have good reason to believe that before not too long, the entirety of humanity will be denounced as antisemitic by one Jewish lobby or another.
Antisemitism– a misleading signifier. Though it refers largely to anti-Jewish feelings, it gives the impression that these feelings are racially motivated or orientated. It must be clear that Jews are not a race and do not establish a racial continuum. Thus, no one hates the Jews for their race or their racial identity.
Bearing in mind Israeli crimes and Jewish lobbying around the world, anti-Jewish feeling should be realised as a political, ideological and ethical reaction. It is a response to a criminal state and its institutional support amongst world Jewry. Though resentment to Zionism, Israel and Jewish lobbying is rather rational, the failure to distinguish between the ”Jew”, and Zionism is indeed very problematic and dangerous especially considering the fact that many Jews have nothing to do with the Zionist crime. However, due to the extensive Jewish institutional support of Israel, it is far from easy to determine where the ”Jew” ends and the Zionist starts. In fact, there is no such demarcation line or spot of transition. The outcome is clear, Jews are implicated collectively by the crimes of their national project. One obvious solution for the Jew is to oppose Zionism as an individual, another option is to oppose Zionism in the name of the Torah, it is also possible for the Jew to shun the tribal ideologist in himself.
Self loving– the belief that something about oneself is categorically and fundamentally right, moral and unique. This is the secular interpretation of being chosen.
Self Hatred– the belief that something about oneself is categorically and fundamentally wrong, immoral and ordinary. This state of being may also be a point of departure of a spiritual ethical quest.
Chicken Soup– is what is left once you strip Jewish identity of Judaism, racism, chauvinism, White Phosphorous, supremacy, cluster bombs, secularity, Zionism, Israel, intolerance, Nuclear reactor in Dimona, cosmopolitanism, genocidal tendency, etc. The Jew can always revert to chicken soup, the iconic symbolic identifier of Jewish cultural affiliation. The Jew is always more than welcome to say: ”I am not religious nor am I a Zionist, I am not a banker, nor is my name Madoff. I am not a ”Labour friend of Israel” nor I am a Lord or look like a cash machine. I am just a little innocent Jew because my mama’le used to feed me with chicken soup when I was slightly unwell.” Let’s face it once and for all, chicken soup is not that dangerous (unless you are a chicken). My grandmother taught me that it was very healthy. In fact I tried it once in winter 1978, I had the flu then. It helped, I feel better now.
Gilad Atzmon is a jazz musician, composer, producer and writer.
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