Both Israel and Palestinians Are in a State of Denial and Emulation

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Olivier Fitoussi / 2012 / Outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City during Land Day demonstrations.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Both Israeli and Palestinian societies are in a state of repression and denial. But that is where the symmetry ends. The repression and the denial are currently helping the ruler; it’s doubtful that they are helping the self-evident struggle against foreign rule.

The Palestinians suffer from schizophrenia. On one hand, they accept the term “intifada of the knives,” and some even glorify it. After all, it’s impossible to deny the existence of Israelis killed and wounded in stabbing and car-ramming attacks. On the other hand, they don’t believe the reports and complain that the army and police are fabricating evidence.

The Israelis repress the implication of their fear of anyone who looks Arab. A society sure of itself, its justness and its power wouldn’t fall into such pits of collective hysteria. Evidently, deep down, the Israelis know the Palestinians have every reason to rise up.

Israeli paramedics evacuate a wounded Palestinian boy, who was shot after allegedly stabbing an Israeli security guard, on the Jerusalem light rail near Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, November 10, 2015.Credit: AFP

Nevertheless, our official armed men (policemen and soldiers) are always heroes in Israel: the anonymous people who killed 500 children in Gaza during their summer vacation by pressing a button, and the known ones who were afraid of a knife (real or imagined) and therefore did death-checking when the alleged assailant was already lying on the ground wounded. The recurrence of such incidents shows that soldiers and policemen have received permission to commit extrajuridicial executions — not just from our hysterical society, but also from their commanders. Between fear and hysteria, Israeli society is denying its deep-rooted violence.

Like automatons, every media outlet categorizes the Palestinians who are killed or wounded at checkpoints under the generic label “terrorists,” even before trying to find out whether a knife was even present. Who is a terrorist? A Palestinian killed by armed Israelis or whom the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit says is a terrorist.

The husband of Sarwat al-Sharawi of Hebron — a woman who was killed by soldiers last week and accused of attempting to run them over — died of suffocation from inhaling tear gas during the first intifada. Several Israeli news sites hastened to term him a “terrorist” and thereby incriminate his widow.

We, after all, are the eternal victims. So let’s take over additional Palestinian land, forget the murder of the Dawabsheh family and say everything is due to incitement. Israel, addicted to its enterprise of settlement and dispossession, has no motive to look too closely at its hysteria as long as it strengthens that enterprise.

A justified revulsion and fear at the practice of extrajuridicial executions has enabled the Palestinians to deny reality: There is a wave of young people, some of them children, going out to commit suicide while attempting to carry out an attack. The IDF’s control of the evidence doesn’t enable independent investigations to be conducted into most of these incidents. And the ease with which they were killed doesn’t enable their parents or their society to determine their motives, so it’s easier — psychologically — to say that Israel is lying.

Loathing the occupier is the default option and the foundation of their actions. The lack of a unified and trustworthy leadership also helps explain these lone-wolf attacks.

Nevertheless, why precisely these youngsters? Why precisely now? Is it a childish, megalomaniac expectation that the individual’s action will spur others? To what extent does the glorification of the heroes/victims encourage others to emulate them? Were there personal or family reasons pushing them, and if so, what were they?

Far from the microphones and the mourners’ houses, some Palestinians are asking questions like these, and some are opposed to the knifings — to harming civilians (when civilians are the victims) and to the wave of copycat attacks. Solidarity with the bereaved families and anger at the Israeli security forces and the settlers silence these voices and blur a key fact: As of now, most Palestinians are refraining from embarking on a mass, popular uprising with defined goals, despite the many reasons Israel has given them for doing so.

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