The International Committee of the Red Cross released the following statement on April 14, 1989: Geneva (ICRC)—On 13 April 1989, six Arab inhabitants of the village of Nahalin, in the Israeli-occupied territories, were killed and about thirty others were wounded in the course of an operation by the Israeli armed forces. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) vigorously protests against this latest tragic incident, during which troops opened fire without discrimination and without restraint.
For several months the ICRC has been extremely concerned by the increasingly frequent use of firearms and by acts of physical violence against defenseless civilians. In addition, the evacuation of the injured has been hampered, as well as the work of medical staff and hospitals in the occupied territories. (New York Review of Books, May 18,1989).
Israel by all economic measures is a giant success. The per capita income, education level, number of published papers in science and technology are the top notch in the world. On a deeper level, however, Israel is a rogue nation guilty of violating human rights and oppressing nearly 2 million Palestinians trapped into existence of poverty. The asymmetry of Israeli power over Palestinians is not only part of everyday life throughout Gaza and the West Bank, but is most blatant in the current use of Israeli military force to resolve issues that are essentially social and political. This asymmetry has prevailed for over 70 years of psychological betrayal and colonial remnants.
While a room full of activists, scholars and historians could argue for endless hours about land ownership and rights, and political claims of ‘who was here first’, the primal need is to grasp the underlying psychological conditions driving the current destruction to move forward.
Both Jews and Palestinians are stuck in a mirror image of pain and loss that must be articulated and processed. Mirror images of suffering, and blame, who is guiltier of human transgressions, will only result in more large-scale, unnecessary destruction and deaths. Body counts, as a measure of power, failed the US in the Vietnam War and will fail all countries in the Middle East today.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Hamas leaders who fire rockets are two sides of the same authoritarian coin; reciting until death do us part. Mr. Netanyahu had no intention of picking up the telephone and calling for talks, better to bomb people as a demonstration of prowess until they are more desperate and homeless.
Arab lands were first confiscated after WWII. Israel, with the help of powerful Jordanian families, the British, and the United Nations expropriated Arab lands, and homes, moving in and claiming rights that were not theirs to give or take. An essentially agrarian and nomadic population was subject to the vagaries of a new Western colonial administration backed by Jews in the United States.
The psychological wounds created by this new colonial administration are clearly articulated by Palestinian children who tried later to return to the homes of their grandparents and childhood only to be told that if they didn’t leave they would be arrested. The Jews that occupied their homes now didn’t deny the historical ownership by Palestinians; they invoked the rule of law, the law of the victorious.
Palestinian memories of Jewish settlements are shaped by loss of home and undeniable pain, becoming refugees, while the other side, Jews, celebrate victory.
The Jews who settled in Israel came from all over Europe. They were running from the Holocaust, cognitively and emotionally. They were condemned to live in a desert land that few would have willfully chosen to call home. Russians, Poles, Germans, Italians and French to mention a few nationalities desperately needed a homeland after the majority of Germans in Germany murdered six million of them for simply being Jewish.
Germany’s first act in preparing for the mass extermination of Jews was to render them stateless; take away their national identity, they were an inferior sub-race, not Germans, eliminate their ability to securely own land or generate a livelihood and finally, place them into vast territories of prisons with no civil rights. They were persona non-gratis.
Jewish consciousness is fundamentally shaped by the Holocaust. Every Jew has grown up with the story of the Holocaust and warnings that it could happen again. Every time Hamas fires a rocket into Israel it triggers this primal memory of what happened in Germany and the response of ‘never again’. The only problem is that the majority of Jews have identified with the aggressor, and adopted the tactics of the German state. They are attempting to render Palestinians stateless and person non-gratis.
My Father’s Memories:
Our family is Jewish. During WWII, my father was a bombardier aboard a B-17 bomber on a bombing mission over Bremen, Germany when his plane was shot down. He and his crew parachuted safely. Once on the ground, they were rounded up by townspeople and put up against a wall to be shot at by Germans.
A German officer with a small squadron of men was marching up the street and told the leader of the townspeople to stop. He pointed to my father, “That man is an officer and under the Geneva Accords, it’s against the law to shoot him or his men.” He marched them all to a prison camp where they stayed for roughly one year.
Years later, when I was visiting my parents in Los Angeles, we were sitting in the living room watching the six o’clock news on TV. The news featured Israeli military shooting and killing unarmed Palestinians who were protesting against the occupation. The Israeli military was also protecting a bulldozer that was demolishing a Palestinian home, ostensibly because the owners lacked building permits. Later the reporter stated that it was virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain such permits. In many cases, neighborhoods were being destroyed in order to make way for Jews.
My father turned to me and said; “They learned it from the Germans; that’s the way the Germans dealt with Jews and Partisans. It was immoral then, and it’s immoral now. I can’t believe that I almost gave my life so that the US could support this kind of activity. It’s disgusting.”
Israel has systematically violated international law for eons according to the United Nations, International Laws and Agreements, and Human Rights Organizations. As of 2016, the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel in over 50 resolutions, more than the rest of the world combined.
These condemnations include building housing for Jews in the territories—5, 618 in 2018, and 5,995 approved plans for housing 2019 and more built in 2020—which according to UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process is “a flagrant violation under international law”.
Recently demolishing 30 Palestinian homes and 504 in 2019 on the excuse that they weren’t permitted, even though the land belongs to Palestinians, not the Israelis; airstrikes and shelling in the Gaza strip, killing 28 civilians; a military policy which approves shoot to kill Palestinians who protest or are perceived as a threat, resulting in the deaths of children and youth of all ages; the use of exploding bullets that expand upon hitting the human body, causing irreparable damage to organs.
The dropping of cluster bombs in Lebanon upon exit; execution of unarmed Palestinians flying a white flag of surrender and captured on film by Israeli soldiers; records of torturing of captured prisoners using electricity and internationally outlawed methods, the practice of systematic racism against Arabs, part of which is evidenced by the theft and destruction of their farmlands—-tens of thousands of productive acres. And so-called religious individuals attacking Palestinians while they try to harvest their olive crops, is a cause for more outrage.
Each time issues of human rights violations are raised at the UN or by organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the US steps in and guarantees impunity; even though violations of human rights have been captured on film, recorded in dairies and military records, and doctors reports, and presented as well-researched legal cases. In addition, Israel exempts soldiers from adjudication for committing atrocities, any atrocities can be forgiven or passed over.
Given a consciousness formed by the Holocaust and fears of extinction triggered by attacks, violations of laws are understandable, albeit unacceptable. Most Israelis however, including Mr. Netanyahu, rationalize or deny facts presented by the United Nations. They are presented as propaganda voiced by enemies of Israel, a state based on power, without moral or ethical standing, in fact, a rogue nation.
It’s time to form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission populated by local and international representatives and for Israelis to mourn their actions against Palestinians. Both sides must overcome their anger, and fears and move on to real solutions. The model of South Africa can be used to guide the process.
Killing and oppressing Palestinians will not solve problems inherent in fear and differences in culture, religion, colonial administration, and social and economic practices. Identifying with the aggressor is a dead-end emotionally and strategically as it keeps the mirror image intact.
It’s time for both sides, Hamas as well, to grasp how they mirror each other and stop psychologically fomenting and triggering deadly responses that kill civilians and children. The US should intervene to help implement a two-state solution, which was possible as far back as Rabin and Arafat. Imagine the difficulty of these two men who fought each other shaking hands to proceed forward together. It was, after all, a Jewish fundamentalist who shot and killed Rabin at close range.
The rise of right-wing politicians like Netanyahu supported by right-wing secular and religious parties must be defeated. The US must stop selling Israel weapons, and ban weapon sales from all parties. Most recently, the US continues to propose selling Israel over $700 million dollars worth of new weapons.
We must all stop rationalizing and supporting the asymmetry of power deployed by Israel over Palestinians, and condemn Hamas simultaneously. Every day practices of Israelis destroying Palestinian homes must be stopped; Israelis must gain insight into their behavior and move beyond the tactics of Germans in WWII. Tell your representative to hold Israel accountable for their behavior.