by Pancho McFarland
“I don’t get the Israelis. It’s like…I pinch you and you hit me in the face with a baseball bat. It doesn’t make sense.” Last night my friend articulated his confusion and concern with this statement. I had to agree. Doesn’t it seem a bit of overkill for the Israeli government to drop one-ton bombs on the most densely populated city in the world? What did the people of Gaza do to deserve such a fate? What crimes did they commit? Was their crime simply not being backed by the United States of America?
This is really the crux of the issue for me. As I watch and read about the devastation taking place in Gaza I am filled with sadness and confusion. Why so much carnage? Why must my tax dollars pay for this? Why isn’t the “change agent,” President-elect Barack Obama, saying anything?
As I am reminded by friends and colleagues, the situation in Palestine/Israel is very complicated. It is not a matter of simply supporting the Palestinians because they are the weaker party. Such knee-jerk reactions make for bad analysis and bad politics. Then, I hear the voice of Howard Zinn reminding me from the pages of A People’s History of the United States that “The cry of the poor isn’t always just. But if we don’t listen, we will never know what justice is.” So, as I typically do in my thinking and writing, I listen to the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed. I try to imagine the bombing from their perspective. I search for their voices in all the noise that is the news reporting on this tragic event. Because to listen to Bush or Barack or Israeli officials or the U.S. media tell it, this is simply war and war is violent; war causes many deaths; and there is always “collateral damage.”
But, of course, for Palestinian mothers the deaths and the physical and psychic injuries to their children caused by this Israeli version of “shock and awe” is not simply collateral damage. It is punishment. But, punishment for what? What did these mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers do? Is it simply being Arab, non-Western, in a land coveted by the West? Because it can’t simply be for sending rockets into Israel. Only a small-handful have landed and then, only a few Israelis have died as a result. Clearly the hundreds of thousands being bombarded by U.S.-made F-16 war craft are not involved in the highly ineffective rocket attacks. So, what is it? Are the Palestinians cannon fodder for the upcoming Israeli elections? What does the Israeli government get from such extreme levels of violence? What do its backers get? And finally, is this just?
So, while I am left with dozens of questions I urge all of us to find out more. Learn about the current situation in Palestine/Israel as well as its long history. Turn off the corporate media in the United States that asks none of the hard questions and shows little of the devastation. Turn to other coverage of the bombardment. Seek out the voices of the Palestinian mothers. And act for justice.
Pancho McFarland is assistant professor of sociology at Chicago State University and author of Chicano Rap: Gender and Violence in the Postindustrial Barrio