North Africa, West Asia

Adding insult to injury: when Israel and Britain celebrate the historical trauma of Palestinians

Palestinians will not be silenced. We will voice our historical testimony and tell our narrative to make sense of the senseless grievances of colonialism.

Samah Jabr
15 March 2017
DAVID MOIR/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved.

Pro-Palestine protesters gather during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Australia outside the Town Hall in Sydney, Feb. 23, 2017. DAVID MOIR/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved.After one hundred years, Britain seems to be at the same moral stage it was at when UK Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote to the leader of the British Jewish community, Baron Rothschild, promising the establishment of a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine.

Instead of making redress, creating historical transformations, social developments and repairs to the Palestinians, the British prime minister has invited the Israeli prime minister to a celebration to mark the centile anniversary of the Balfour declaration.

This celebration triggers the historical trauma that has left significant scars on Palestinian collective memory; over a century of displacement and military domination that have deprived Palestinians politically and culturally and treated them as problematic and inferior beings.

Britain is also responsible for imposing massive Jewish immigration to Palestine, while the Palestinians who aspired for independence after 30 years of British mandate were crushed. The violence and defeat that was brought upon the Palestinian people was facilitated by Britain. The effects of which don’t only harm the people of that generation, who were killed or displaced and whose property was stolen, but all members of society till this day. The generations that have followed shoulder the burden of this historical trauma, and their future has changed ever since.

Now, with the US' unprecedented financial and political support, and global powers' silence or collusion with the occupation and international acclaim of its criminals (the funeral of Shimon Peres, as an example), Palestinians realize that they live in a world where bullying prevails over reason, and hegemony over ethics. Israel is imposing its discourse with power.

Racist laws

During last year alone, Israel issued five racist laws: the “Expulsion Law,” which stipulates that a member of Knesset can be expelled from parliament through a majority vote of 90 legislators, a law that is aimed at the minority Arab Knesset members.

The “incitement” law incriminates political views and restricts freedom of expression. This law was passed to target those who utter opposition against the occupation, or oppose the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The third is the NGO law, which is mainly targeting human rights organizations, mandating that they reveal the sources of their funding.

The fourth, and probably worst, is the “Regulation Law” which will eventually allow the annexation of 60 percent of land in the West Bank to Israeli settlers. 

More recently, the “Muezzen law” which muffles the Muslim character of Palestine by banning the use of speakers for the call to prayer by mosques, calling it “pollution”.

Trauma is the disaster of helplessness

While Israel is expanding geographically and demographically at the expense of Palestinians, Palestinian leaders are making empty condemnations.

In fact, the Palestinian leadership is coexisting with the settlements and only rivals with Israel in the media. When Palestinian leaders complain of settlements, yet remain gatekeepers and passive recipients of colonial domination of the occupation, supposed friends of Palestine can only think "you deserve what you get."

Blaming the victim

Victim-blaming attitudes make it harder for the abused to protest and remind the world of their trauma. The world blames the occupied Palestinians for their ill fate and for disturbing the peace of the occupation whenever they make any efforts to stand up to Israel.

They reinforce the occupation’s narrative that it is the Palestinian’s fault the occupation prevails, absolving the occupation from responsibility or accountability for its actions, and allowing Israel to repeat and replicate the atrocities it perpetrated to displace Palestinians from their homes and towns.  

But like a cunning abuser, Israel uses tactics to maintain good public appearances. Recently, for example, it announced that it would be taking in one hundred Syrian orphans, while Palestinians are denied the right of return and hundreds of Palestinian children are orphaned.

In the "Amona" settlement Israel broadcasted dramatic scenes to the world, depicting itself as a state of law that expels settlers out of private Palestinian land. Neglecting the fact that private Palestinian land is being confiscated to build these settlements in the first place.

Even the Arab powers of today blame the occupied Palestinians for confronting the occupation; an impotent strategy to distance themselves from the potential fate like that of the Palestinians. This gives the false feeling that if they ally with the perpetrators, occupation will never knock on thier doors. One only needs to look at Iraq, Lybia, Syria and Yemen to see the failure of such a strategy.

The arbitrary propaganda that Palestinians sold their land to Israel, which is gaining popularity in Egyptian media, is evidence of victim blaming and siding with the perpetrators. By labeling and accusing the Palestinians, these powers are hopelessly trying to make the Arab people see the Palestinians as different from themselves, which results in less empathy. 

Denial is an obstacle to peace

When the historical trauma of the Palestinians is utterly nullified, it makes it impossible to discuss, mourn and express their plight symbolically, thus preventing repair.

The Balfour celebration represents a denial of the harm caused to Palestinians. It fails to acknowledge the trauma and human suffering or take moral responsibility for it. Britain has no shame in their imperialist history, its hegemonic attitude continues to consider the Israelis as culturally and racially superior to Palestinians. It is not the Israelis who are occupied and oppressed and deserve Britain’s solidarity (in celebration), but the occupied Palestinians!

If the very existence of traumatic occupation is denied, responsibility, remorse and solidarity are repudiated. However, full immunity for Israel’s violations continues to be granted and the suffering of Palestinians is hardly acknowledged.

The occupation always betted to break Palestinian collective consciousness through massacres and wars, maintaining the pain fresh in our memory. Nowadays, General Yoav Galant, the Minister of Housing, former commander of the southern region, and commander of the 2008 war speaks of “a fourth war next spring," on Israeli radio. Israeli Security Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview mid-February on an Israeli/Arab radio station that if the government decided to fight a new war, this confrontation must end with a great Israeli victory and crush the Palestinian resistance in Gaza forever.

In fact, it is not the resistance preparations that Israel should fear, but the desensitization and declining levels of fear among the citizens as a result of repeated strikes, shocks and losses that affect most Palestinians. 

Acknowledgment rather than denial is capable of humanizing all involved parties. Cultivating empathy and trust could pave the way for healing history and reconciliation to build peace. Urging Israel to stop its colonial policies rather than celebrating the theft of Palestinian land is an important domain of trauma intervention and peace making. 

History will not be written by the powerful alone, no matter how irresistible Israel and its allies seem to be. Palestinians will not be silenced by the dreadful occupation of Palestine. We will voice our historical testimony and tell our narrative to make sense of the senseless grievances of colonialism.

Anti-oppression activism is our remedy against political trauma and it will heal us as individuals and help us heal the injured history of our homeland.

A version of this piece was first published on Middle East Monitor on 16 February 2017.

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