Week of Horrors in Palestine

Palestinian injured in Gaza protests

by James J. Zogby

This has been a week of horrors in Palestine. On Monday, 63 mostly young Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli snipers. Another 2,700 were injured, mostly by live fire or tear gas. Adding insult to this injury, on the same day, the US opened it’s Embassy in Jerusalem, pounding what may be the final nail in the coffin of the hopes for just Israeli/Palestinian peace.

For hours on Monday, we sat glued to our televisions, watching these two events playing out, on split screen, in real time. The juxtaposition of the scenes from Jerusalem and Gaza couldn’t have been more stark and revealing.

In Jerusalem, the mood was celebratory, almost gloating. A very white and wealthy crowd of Israeli and American dignitaries and their guests, dressed in their finest, attended the Embassy dedication event. They were on the left side of the screen.

On the right side, we saw young Palestinians, their haggard faces showing a range of emotions from anger to fear. Most often, they were running, choking on tear gas or dodging bullets. Periodically, the camera would catch one of them suddenly dropping to the ground clutching a leg or an arm, or a side that had been hit by an Israeli sniper.

At the Jerusalem event and later at a White House briefing, we were told that the Embassy opening was making a contribution to peace and the violence occurring less than 50 miles away at the Gaza border was the fault of the Palestinians. The images that we saw playing out before us, however, laid bare that horrible lie.

It was as if the participants in the two events inhabited very separate worlds. I was reminded of the way the British lived in colonial India or scenes of life on Southern plantations where the “cultured ways” of the white gentility coexisted alongside slavery. Closer to home, I thought of the disparate realities that define so many American cities – one of moneyed, self-satisfied, white elites and the other of poor and struggling people of color.

Part of me (a very small part, to be sure) could almost feel bad for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Having grown up in the rarefied world of wealth and privilege, looking down from their 50th story plush penthouses, what could they understand of life in Gaza – with its open sewage, its 70% youth employment, its two decades-long closure and now a full blockade.

But then I ask – “Why, without that awareness or the sensitivity it would bring, would Kushner even attempt to sit in judgment of these Palestinians or feel even the slightest bit qualified to construct ‘the ultimate deal’ that will bring peace between one group of people whom he knows and the other about whom he knows so very little?”

The day’s casualty toll was devastating and will leave long-lasting scars on the consciousness of a generation of Palestinians.     But the cruelty of the disconnect, the juxtaposition of gloating and arrogance with despair and suffering took another toll. It too will last for a generation.

In polling we have long noted a growing partisan divide on issues involving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. To be sure, Israel continues to have an upper hand in US public opinion – the result of two generations of effective propaganda in which they have presented their story and humanized their image while discrediting the Palestinian narrative, dehumanizing and reducing them to a threatening and dangerous caricature.

As a result of this sustained propaganda effort, Americans are still inclined to support Israelis over Palestinians. But, increasingly, Americans, especially Democrats, question Israeli behaviors. This partisan split is, in fact, a demographic split with white, middle age, middle class, male, “born-again” Christians more strongly supporting Israel,  and younger and more educated Americans and black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans more inclined toward Palestinians and more likely to oppose Israeli policies.

This gap began to develop 30 years ago when right-wing Christians evangelicals, with their ideological attachment to Israel, started their takeover of the Republican party. When Bill Clinton took ownership the Oslo peace process and brought Yitzak Rabin and Yasser Arafat under his wing, Democrats embraced his stance. Republicans countered by embracing the Likud’s anti-peace agenda and passing legislation designed to impede Clinton’s efforts.

The gap widened under Obama, as he found himself stymied by both Republicans and Netanyahu’s obstructionism. Now with Trump and Netanyahu in full accord, the partisan divide has deepened.

I’ve been at this too long and therefore have learned to be cautious before suggesting that the changes in attitudes created by the events of this week will be decisive. But from the initial responses I have seen, I feel confident enough to say that an they will have an unsettling impact.

Trump, Republicans, and their right-wing Christian support base have become wedded to Netanyahu. This is deeply alienating to Democrats and the constituencies that make up the Democratic party. It’s worth noting that there were no Democratic officials present in Jerusalem and, despite being invited, no Congressional Democrats attended the Washington celebration hosted by the Israeli Embassy.

A cautionary note:  Democrats in Congress may be repulsed by the Trump/Netanyahu embrace, but they will, nevertheless, face pressures from the Israel lobby to demonstrate their commitment to Israeli policies – most likely by passing extreme legislative measures and/or issuing bizarre testimonials to the Israeli cause.

But many Democratic elected officials will be concerned about getting too out of sync with their party’s core constituencies. They will need to pay attention to the growth of alternative voices in the progressive Jewish community, the increased involvement of young black Americans in support of Palestinian rights, and the movement launched by Bernie Sanders and the House of Representatives’ Progressive Caucus.

Change will not come overnight. But when it does come, the horrific events of this week will be seen as having played a role in further shifting attitudes toward Israeli policies.

James J. Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute.

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  1. “The day’s casualty toll was devastating and will leave long-lasting scars on the consciousness of a generation of Palestinians.”

    “Change will not come overnight. But when it does come, the horrific events of this week will be seen as having played a role in further shifting attitudes toward Israeli policies.”

    The Palestinians have had many long-lasting scars on their consciousness, and the Zionists know this too well but they know no change will be coming because of the assured full support they get not only from the US but from major European governments – no matter what the ‘diplomatic’ condemnation of the slaughter might be; after decades of committing mass murder with impunity the Zionists have grown used to such well publicized ‘critical’ lip services!

    Has any Zionist politician or war criminal ever been indicted and prosecuted at the International Criminal Court? Has any European government ever severed ties with Israel or boycotted Israel, no matter how shocking the past mass murders of the Palestinian children? Strange, isn’t it?!

    Germany, France and Britain are good examples: for instance, for several years the Israeli generals and politicians who had been blacklisted (because of their appalling war crimes in Palestine) were smuggled into Britain at night, so that they would not be arrested and tried for their brutal war crimes! Then the Conservative politicians, instead of smuggling them at night, passed a law that gave these criminal full impunity; hence the Israeli mass murderers entered Britain publically without fearing arrest or prosecution. The media also deploys its usual tactics: every time the Zionists murder the Palestinians, in Lebanon or Gaza, the British mass media, including the BBC, intensify their focus (interviews, feature films, documentary, music, etc.) on the suffering of the Jews during the ‘Holocaust’! or they stir the ‘Antisemitism’ debates in Britain to hijack the news, so that the British public would forget the shocking crimes against the Palestinians being perpetrated by the Israelis in Palestine, or Lebanon or Syria!

    The only reason these major European powers have recently begun to react by ‘softly’/ ‘diplomatically’ criticising/advising the Israelis is not because these racist Western Powers give a damn how many Palestinian children and women are slaughtered: the reason is their own fear of violent backlash with their own Muslim citizens who have refused to remain silent despite the draconian ‘anti-terror’ laws that are arbitrarily used to silence the critics.

  2. Has any Arab terrorist faced Justice fro the World Courts? Was Iran punished for public hangings of its Jewish citizens? Rejectionist Hamas sacrificed its children to win a propaganda victory, rather than sitting down at a table and working out a bit by bit solution that would benefit both sides.

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