Deconstruction Zone: The War on Palestinian Agency
Jun 4, 2018 | Sohrab Ahmari
Palestinian Arabs are human beings, which means they are possessed of free will, agency, and the natural capacity to reason like any other people. This basic, incontestable anthropological reality needs to be frequently restated today since our media and foreign-policy establishment has apparently concluded the opposite.
The latest media assault on Palestinian agency came on May 15, as Israelis celebrated the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, while Palestinians attempted to infiltrate en masse the barrier fence that separates the Jewish state from the terrorist-run Gaza Strip to the south.
By the Western media’s dim lights, the blame for Hamas’ criminal stunt and the casualties it caused lay with anybody and everybody but Hamas and the Palestinians.
The narrative emerged early on Twitter, and the social-media platform’s deplorable tendency to flatten reality into cheap, emotive images no doubt accelerated its dissemination. The juxtaposition – of “Javanka”, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Benjamin Netanyahu celebrating in Jerusalem while Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians at the Gaza border – proved irresistible to reporters.
The BBC’s Katty Kay, for example, was quick to point out that President Trump’s warm words for the Jewish state came while there were “41 dead on the Israel Gaza border today.” An AFP White House correspondent posted the two sets of images side-by-side – a smiling and clapping Bibi next to a photo of fire and smoke from Gaza – with the words: “Quite the disconnect.” He garnered more than 2,600 retweets in 24 hours.
Then there was writer Peter Beinart: “While Jewish + Christian bigots celebrate an occupied city, Jewish soldiers kill people fleeing an open-air prison. As a great lover of Zion said long ago, ‘This is not the way.'” Yes, “fleeing.” That is an interesting way to describe a concerted, Iranian-regime-funded operation to violate Israeli sovereignty and do “whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones,” as the Washington Post quoted one of the “protesters” describing the movement’s goals.
The Palestinians’ more sophisticated friends know what Hamas is all about. They understand that young men whipped into a frenzy by an organisation that exists to destroy world Jewry, as per its charter, aren’t exactly latter-day Freedom Riders. But they think that the Palestinians can’t help themselves. While they expect Israel – a state encircled by hostile populations and threatened with nuclear extinction by the Iranian mullahs – to behave like Norway, of the Palestinians they have the most dismal, if any, expectations.
Thus Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer tweeted: “The Palestinians killed today knew Israeli Defence Forces would use lethal force in response to their demonstrations. It didn’t stop them. They felt hopeless.” The Mideast reporter Sulome Anderson echoed his sentiments: “Imagine the desperation it takes to walk into live gunfire from the Middle East’s most powerful fighting force, armed with nothing more than rocks & the occasional Molotov or grenade. Try to conceive of the circumstances that could drive so many human beings to such an act.”
Or maybe try to conceive of the poisonous power of Hamas’ antisemitic ideology and the Palestinians’ permanently aggrieved mentality, which has allowed the conflict to fester despite numerous peace offers from the Israeli side. There are desperate people all over the world who never translate their frustration into suicide bombing, stone throwing, border-rushing, and violent “Days of Rage.”
It does the Palestinians no good to treat them as children entitled to tantrums, as permanent wards of the international community or, worst, as wild men bereft of reason. Then again, such high-handed pity isn’t really about helping the Palestinians so much as it is about flattering their Western friends.
Meanwhile, Israel has good reason to celebrate: 70 years of independence, a dynamic economy, an innovative tech industry, a vibrant public square, a globally influential culture, demographics that are the envy of the West, burgeoning alliances with former enemies, and now American recognition of its capital. Leave it to the New York Times to frame the anniversary as a moment of “peril” and a “nightmare taking shape.” The Times’ dispatch, by David Halbfinger, acknowledges these successes. But it claims that “Israelis seem not to know what to feel” and quotes historian Tom Segev, who says that the “future is very bleak.”
This is a distorted picture of Israeli sentiment. Massive celebrations have been going on for weeks, involving hundreds of thousands of people. It does, however, reveal the psychological anguish in the Times newsroom over the Jewish state’s triumph.
Sohrab Ahmari is a senior writer at Commentary magazine. Previously he was an editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal. © Commentary (www.commentarymagazine.com), all rights reserved, reprinted by permission.