Palestine and the objective conditions for the production of fury

Image: Khaled Hourani
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By BERENICE BENTO*

The drama of the Palestinian people did not begin a week ago. 75 years of wandering

The press repeats: “Nothing justifies killing civilians!” to refer to Hamas attacks in recent days. I agree. But why was Israel never condemned and exposed to a media massacre for its crimes against Palestinian civilians? Zionist coverage has a structure that is repeated: surgical cut to the events of the last few days. They refuse to make any reflection, any broader framework. The objective is clear: to isolate acts from a previous context that determines them. And in doing so, the way is opened for the pathologization and criminalization of Palestinians. In other words, by absolutizing the case, the political structure, in this case, Israeli colonialism, is preserved.

Still, there is no way to escape some data: 70% of the population of the two million and three hundred thousand inhabitants of Gaza, the largest prison in the world, are refugees. What does that mean? The State of Israel forced them to leave their homes, expelled them and handed them over to Zionist settlers. Let's try to connect the ends, try to tell a story. There are only millions of Palestinian refugees because there is a continued policy of colonization and genocide by the State of Israel.

The drama of the Palestinian people did not begin a week ago. It's been 75 years of wandering. The UN has already determined the right of Palestinians who had their homes stolen by Israel in 1948 to return to their homes. This and so many other UN Resolutions are dead letters for a State that treats the Palestinian people like cockroaches, like trash. Killing civilians constitutes a terrorist act, that's what we learned throughout this week. If Israel has been killing Palestinian civilians for 75 years, we are left with no alternative but a logical conclusion: Israel is a terrorist state. Right now it is committing a war crime under international law by collectively punishing the population of Gaza. For the State of Israel, however, “Palestinians” and “civilians” are terms that do not meet, they are like water and oil. Israelis are civilians, they have lives they deserve to live, Palestinians… well, as Ayelet Shaked, former Israeli Minister of Justice, said, they are “little snakes”, to refer to Palestinian children.

I have no doubt: if someone lives one day, just one day, as a Palestinian, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, they will ask themselves the same question that haunted me that winter of 2017: how do these people endure? It was 5 am and the queue to cross the Israeli military control was huge. There are almost 800 kilometers of concrete wall, 8 meters high. Workers who crowded into metal corrals to be subjected to yet another ritual of humiliation; on the other side, the mockery on the soldiers' faces. A man, faced with my perplexity and my crying, asked me: “Tell the world what you are seeing”.

It is impossible to understand the eruption of Palestinian fury last weekend without contextualizing it within broader frameworks. In the revolts of enslaved people here in Brazil, the murder of the master, family and overseer was common. The slave owners' newspapers of the time, anticipating Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, stated: “We are fighting animals and acting accordingly.” In the same interview in which he diagnosed the “non-humanity” of the Palestinian people, Minister Gallant ordered the “total siege” of the Gaza Strip: collective punishment. The only right the oppressed has is not having rights. But the fury arrives. Have the rulers not learned anything from their crimes and failures? The Zionist mantra that Palestine was a land without people became a political strategy. This is how it has been since 1948: expel, kill, torture, appropriate Palestinian lives and property.

The objective conditions for the production of fury were being generated daily by Israel. And, like a dam that is full of cracks on the inside but does not appear on the outside, it broke. With it, we see all the slave masters and ladies emerge. Only you have the right to life. And what about Palestinian animals? Total death. The process of dehumanization of the Palestinian people repeats the same structure responsible for keeping human beings in slavery: they are not people, they are animals, they are terrorists. And here's why the press doesn't talk, doesn't televise, doesn't interview the mothers who lose their children, their children, to Israeli terror: they are not human beings. I have no doubt that if it were possible for Brazilian mothers (especially those who lose their children executed by the terror of the Brazilian State), to look Palestinian mothers in the eyes, they would say “I am also Palestinian”.

Did they not understand anything about the meaning of the oppressed’s fury? How many intifadas will it take for the Western world and Israel to understand that the Palestinian people will not give up, that the pulse is still beating? When a Palestinian says: “I can't take it anymore”, it is not an isolated voice. They are generations that speak, they are echoes that reach the present, it is the past becoming “now”. So, don't ask us for the impossible. We, supporters of the Palestinian struggle for the right of refugees to return to their lands and self-determination, will continue to tell the story of the longest military occupation in modern history, we will continue to make the past speak in the present.

I refuse to discuss Hamas without broader historical frameworks. I refuse to make a historical overview that points to Netaniyahu as the principle of absolute evil. The solution seems simple: it would be enough to elect a left-wing Israeli and the situation of the Palestinian people would be resolved. The current government is not antithetical to the previous ones. It would not exist without Plano Dalet, without Levi Eshkol Shkolnik, without Golda Meir. Illegal settlements were not an invention of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. Nothing about it is original. Everything is copy and continuity.

Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian, concluded: “after the start of Operation 'Cast Lead' in 2009, I chose to call Israeli policy 'gradual genocide'”. Respected Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, from Haaretz, stated on October 8, 2023: “We thought we were allowed to do anything, that we would never pay a price, nor would we be punished. We arrest, kill, mistreat, rob, protect massacring colonists, shoot innocent people, gouge out their eyes and destroy their faces, deport them, confiscate their homes, lands, loot, kidnap them from their beds and practice ethnic cleansing…”.

The fury of these last few days was fueled by the bloodbaths of the massacres in Tantura, Deir Yassim, Dawayima, Sabra and Chatila, by the screams of the 800 Palestinians expelled from their homes. It was attended by the souls of those who lost their lives in the 31 massacres that took place in 1948, of the residents of the 511 villages destroyed to build houses for the Zionist settlers. The fury comes from the blood that flowed from the head of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, from the death of 230 Palestinian civilians this year, from the death of 2.410 civilians in 2014 in Gaza. The Western world has already forgiven Israel. But aren't crimes against civilians unforgivable? Fury, contrary to what the Zionists want, is not something inhumane. It is the non-intelligible in the grammar of colonialism. Fury is what I felt in that checkpoint in Qalandia and that I had an immense desire to, shouting, with my pulse in the air, cry out for “Free Palestine!”. After all, I didn't scream, I was scared. But, I keep telling you what I saw. I saw the terror before my eyes.

*Berenice Bento She is a professor of sociology at UnB. Author, among other books, of Brazil, year zero: State, gender, violence (UFBA Publisher). [https://amzn.to/3PU5WK1]

Originally published on the website Other words.

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