In Defense Of Opression


The cycle of death goes on and on. Nearly 50 Palestinians dead in the Israeli army attacks on refugee camps over the past couple of days; 10 Israeli soldiers dead at an army checkpoint near Ramallah. In the west there is a universal shaking of sophisticated heads and a weary, liberal sigh.

Tut tut, there they go again. Two enemy peoples in a far-off land, caught up in an age-old conflict, swapping atrocity for atrocity, and endlessly killing each other out of some primeval hatred. There is nothing civilised and humane observers can do about it, apparently, except perhaps to hope that sooner or later one side (the strong) will annihilate the other (the weak).

The beauty of this approach is that it requires no intellectual effort, no analysis, no history, above all no need to distinguish between the violence of the oppressed and the violence of the oppressor. Nothing could be clearer from the conflict over Palestine than that the Israelis are the oppressors and the Palestinians the oppressed.

The refugee camps invaded by Israeli troops last week are inhabited by people whose parents or grandparents were flung out of their homes and their lands more than half a century ago and have had to watch those lands being occupied and confiscated by Israelis. The reason Israeli troops have the audacity to invade those camps today is that their predecessors, by means of entirely illegal military invasions, conquered the West Bank of Jordan, divided it up into cantons or bantustans and imposed on them equally illegal and ludicrously privileged “settlements”.

The violence of the Israeli army and police in those regions is the violence of the oppressor, and the consequent violence of the Palestinians is the resistance of the oppressed. Anyone who favours the Israeli occupation of the areas, or the settlements, or who denies the right of violent resistance to the Palestinians is siding unequivocally with the oppressor against the oppressed.

Assuming a “plague on both your houses” approach is not just a travesty of the facts. It shuts out all prospect of a solution. If one side is as bad as the other, then any settlement is out of the question since both sides will go on killing each other in any event. A rational assessment of the roles of oppressed and oppressor, on the other hand, tells us not only why people are killing each other, but also how they can be stopped from doing so.

If the reason for the violence is the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, then the obvious solution is for the Israelis to get out of that territory and disband the settlements. If the Israeli government just won’t budge on either withdrawal or the settlements, then the obvious answer is for the west to impose sanctions – to cut off the massive economic subsidies and arms shipments that have built up the Israeli economy and its military machine.

Remember the indignant hullabaloo when a shipment of arms, bound apparently for the Palestinians, was intercepted. Whoever complains about arms shipments a hundred times greater that pour regularly from our factories and those of the US into Israel? Anyone in the United States or Britain who opposes such sanctions is taking up an unequivocal stand on the side of illegal occupation, military conquest and economic oppression.

Especially pathetic on the part of our apologists for Israeli oppression is their bleating about anti-semitism. For the sort of oppression they favour is the seed from which all racialism, including anti-semitism, grows. There is a solution to the Palestine conflict. It depends on the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the disbandment of the settlements. Such a solution is easily within the grasp of western diplomacy, and would stop the killing.

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