The Electronic Intifada

The Israeli Armored CAT D9R bulldozer. (Photo: קרלוס הגדול/CC)

Not even the great Italian cinematic genius Fellini could have choreographed a more surreal and circus-like situation in the West Bank—the absurd siege of Arafat’s compound and the doubly absurd calls from Ariel Sharon and George Bush, Jr., that Arafat—confined to an office lacking electricity, running water, or a spare cell phone battery— ‘do more to stop the violence.’

If it were not so deadly frightening for the unarmed civilians facing tanks, snipers, F-16s and the blind wrath of Ariel Sharon, the IDF’s current drive to reoccupy key cities in the West Bank might be comic, another reminder that “o what fools these mortals be.” But such mortal foolishness is no laughing matter.

We still don’t know how many were executed in Ramallah. Anyone walking on the street is risking his or her life, as the Boston Globe’s award-winning journalist, Anthony Shadid discovered when he was shot in the shoulder two days ago. And despite Sharon’s brutal offensive, the suicide bombers just keep coming: five in five days, and no one imagines it is over.

At an Easter gathering the other day, a friend jokingly suggested that perhaps a good short-term solution would be to ‘introduce Paxil and Zoloft to the Palestinian and Israeli water supply,’ indicating that abnormal psychology might provide a more useful approach than that of political science for making sense of recent events in the Middle East.

And truly, one need not be a rocket scientist, let alone hold a Ph.D. in International Relations or Psychiatry to realize that something is seriously, dangerously wrong in Israel and Palestine. Only the daft and the ideologically blinded, such as US President George W. Bush and most mainstream US media pundits are unable to see that Sharon has already lost his battle and that a key turning point may have been reached in this long, painful, tragic and exhausting conflict.

Although suicide bombings directed against civilian targets are indeed horrific and, in this writer’s view, immoral, illegal, inexcusable and counter-productive, the key issue is not the daily carnage visited upon Israelis by young Palestinians so poisoned by anger, bitterness and despair that they decide to end their lives while taking out as many of those they perceive as causing their distress with them.

Rather, the key, overriding issue is—now as it has been since June 1967—Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestine. And here we see a different, more insidious type of violence, one apparently not photogenic, simplistic, or dramatic enough to attract the attention of CNN: The structural violence of three decades’ worth of dispossession, disenfranchisement, injustice, humiliation, and misery that Israel has subjected Palestinians to—directly or indirectly, and one must note that the Oslo Accords were an attempt to subcontract the occupation to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.

It did not work, nor will any attempt to solve this conflict using the tired old approach of Oslo. The only way to end this conflict, to restore justice, peace, dignity, and a sense of a future, is through the available international laws and UN resolutions that directly address this ongoing tragedy. The bypassing of international law through Oslo consolidated inherently unjust and unbalanced power relations, giving the Palestinians the ‘short end of the stick’ for over a decade.

If nothing else, the events of the last 18 months, and especially the events of the last 18 days, clearly indicate that only international law, not US geostrategic interests or Zionist dreams of expansionism and ethnic purity, or Hamas hopes for all Jews to leave once and for all, can stop the madness and bring down the tent on the obscene and absurd circus acts now playing on worldwide television. The point is not to be pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, but to be pro-justice and pro-sanity.

To quote another master of the absurd, American novelist Tom Robbins, ‘The true enemy of Arab is not Jew, the true enemy of Black is not White; the true enemy of all is dull-mindedness’ (Even Cowgirls get the Blues). And as is so painfully obvious to anyone watching one of the most-dull minded US administrations ever to control Washington DC, a primary characteristic of dull-mindedness is violence as the main method of problem solving, the adoption of revenge instead of justice as a guiding political principle, and the erosion of truth and moral complexity through the deadening repetition of such mantras as ‘You are either with us or against us.’ Dull-mindedness comes in only two shades: Black and White.

Notice that Fellini’s most absurd and troubling films were all in black and white: La Dolce Vita and 8 and 1/2. In these films, men and women had lost their way through selfishness, greed, pride and lust. Their hearts and minds had frozen. But all of his life-affirming films imbued with justice, decency, hope and—the greatest virtue of all—compassion were shot in glorious and luscious Technicolor: Amarcord, Amore por Tutti and Ginger and Fred.

Perhaps by enforcing international law and UN resolutions, rather than rewarding Israeli war crimes and thus fueling Palestinian suicide bombers, Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live a glorious life in Technicolor in one of the most beautiful places on the face of this troubled planet. Whether they are Jews, Muslims, or Christians, the multi-cultural mix of peoples doomed to share that lovely land together deserve to live fully, in color, rather than to rot away in the half-lives of fear and hate and the deadening hell of black and white ideologies interrupted only by red flashes of fire and the flowing of crimson blood.

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