Uncontroversial yet Taboo: Gaza in Context

Roger Sheety

From the December 2008 massacre in Palestine (Gaza). The
murderous siege still is in place and many people are dying.

The recent killing of 25 Palestinians in Gaza and the wounding of at least 80 more within four days—March 9-12—requires some context as the majority of western mainstream media outlets are either unwilling or unable to provide any.

More often than not these mainstream media reports in some form or another refer to the Palestinian dead as “militants.” The term militant is defined simply as “vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause” and “engaged in warfare; fighting.” Synonyms listed include “belligerent, combative, and contentious. See: fanatic.” Already then, Palestinians, even as they are killed in large numbers by the most sophisticated weapons money can buy, are marked as the aggressors. Further, as implied within the definition, they are fanatics, irrational and bent on destruction—the victim in this case being poor, nuclear-armed and US-protected Israel.

Virtually none of the major western media outlets ever ask questions such as: who exactly are these “militants”? Why are there so many of them in such a small place as Gaza? Why, if they are such an existential threat to poor Israel, are they always being killed in such substantial numbers? And why do the dead always include scores of women, children, the elderly and the sick? These, apparently, are taboo questions in the free western media and therefore beyond the realm of permitted discussion.

Here, however, is some background to help answer these supposedly unspeakable questions.

From Balfour to Obama: Colonial Thinking on Palestine

Roger Sheety

Nations that come into existence by dispossessing, imprisoning and slaughtering the indigenous population have two problems with history:
1. Its ugliness makes it hard to glorify.
2. Its shortness exposes the tenuousness of any claim that this is 'our land'.
~ Paul Woodward, American and Israeli Exceptionalism (WarInContext.org)

The phrase “British Mandate of Palestine” is as commonplace in Western and Zionist scholarship on Palestine as to be inoffensive and therefore barely given a second thought. Indeed, a quick internet search of this seemingly innocuous term reveals some two million results of wildly varying quality and usefulness.

There was, however, no such thing as “British Mandate” of Palestine; it was and remains a purely European/Western colonial construct, an abstraction with real and disastrous consequences. In reality, the Palestinian people never consented to be occupied by British colonials, never agreed to have their ancestral land partitioned and given away to other Europeans, and never asked to be “civilized” by an imperial government which was completely ignorant of their language, culture and history. The same could be said of “French Mandate” Syria and Lebanon or “British Mandate” Iraq.

The term “British Mandate” did have its uses, though. It allowed colonial historians and apologists to believe that Palestine was somehow destined for partition, which made it “legal” and thus sanctified. You see, there was a mandate to Britain given by the League of Nations in 1922 and so Britain, the greatest nation on earth, the model of Western enlightenment and progressive thought, was obligated to carry out its mission—or so the argument went. And what of the indigenous people of Palestine? As summed up by Lord Balfour in 1917, their aspirations, their rights and even their very existence were of little or no consequence:

“Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. We do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.”

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