Repugnant racism

Published October 15, 2023

THE ongoing conflict in Palestine has brought out the worst amongst many self-professed democrats in the West, as they have cheered on Israel’s excesses, and participated in the dehumanisation of the Palestinians.

Particularly galling are efforts by the US administration to block a ceasefire and give Gaza’s besieged population a breather. When asked recently about calls for a ceasefire, the White House press secretary termed these calls “repugnant … and disgraceful”.

Moreover, as reported in the American media, a State Department memo has advised US diplomats against using phrases such as “restoring calm, end to violence/ bloodshed” and “de-escalation/ ceasefire”. From the looks of it, Washington has given Israel the green light to carry on its butchery of the Palestinian people, while drowning out calls for ending the violence.

Other members of the Western fraternity are no better. France has banned pro-Palestine rallies to preserve “public order”. Ironically, in the land of liberté, egalité and fraternité, these vaunted ideals are out of bounds for Palestinians or those who sympathise with them.

In the UK, the ultra-hawkish home secretary has asked police to consider banning Palestinian flags and chants. While the Western states never tire of touting the sanctity of free speech, apparently this right is again only reserved for those critical of Palestine, and supportive of Israel. Back in the US, there have been reports that students and activists who have participated in pro-Palestine events have been harassed, or visited by FBI agents.

These developments seem to indicate that to the Western elite, Israel represents ‘us’, to be mourned and avenged, while the Palestinians are symbolic of ‘them’, to be damned and preferably eliminated.

While anti-Semitism — reviling Jewish people — is unacceptable, anti-Zionism — the critique of Israel’s founding philosophy — is kosher, as is criticism of Israel’s violent history of Palestinian repression. Israel is a colonial settler state that was established with the blessings of empire, by ethnically cleansing the native Arab population.

Over the past seven decades, it has fine-tuned violence against the Palestinian people, and what occurred last Saturday was the result of 75 years of repression, humiliation and murder. At its core, the Palestinian struggle is one of liberation and dignity. Perhaps that is why people across the Muslim world, as well as the Global South, and conscientious citizens in the West, stand in solidarity with Palestine.

What is repugnant is not the call to end violence in Gaza, but Western hypocrisy and racism towards the Palestinians. Quite obviously, many Western governments — and segments of the Western media — have shown that they stand with the oppressor, and refuse to consider Palestinians as human beings.

Next time the great and the good in the West lecture others about human rights, their stand on Palestine’s civilian population will render their rhetoric hollow.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2023

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