Monday, June 06, 2011

Ruins amid the hope

For the second time in three weeks, Israeli troops have shot down unarmed Palestinian protesters.

This time it was at the Golan Heights, where, the BBC says,
[t]he protesters defied razor-wire fences and ditches along the Syrian border in Golan to mark the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Middle-East war. ...

Several hundred demonstrators - Palestinians and their Syrian supporters - marched to the razor-wired fencing and trenches close to the frontier village of Majdal Shams at around noon.

Many carried Palestinian flags and threw rocks and rubbish over the fence.
The Israelis insist they acted with "restraint," shouting warnings and firing warning shots, but doggone it, those evil Palestinians "chose instead to clash with the soldiers," in the words of Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, by evilly continuing to walk forward, evilly waving their evil flags, and evilly trying to cut through the noble and peaceful razor wire at the border of Israeli-occupied territory.

So, like the mugger who tells you it's your own fault that you got robbed because yoe chose to walk down that street at that time, having established to their own satisfaction that anything that happened now was the Palestinians' own fault and they themselves were entirely blameless and had "no choice," the Israelis opened fire.

The numbers killed and wounded are unclear; Syrian media claims 20 or more dead while the Israelis say the Syrians' number can't be trusted even while admitting they have no count of their own and didn't even try to establish one.

But here's the "really good" part:
After live gunfire failed to disperse the crowds, Israeli troops fired volleys of tear gas over the border. Many people fled while others lay on the ground.
After? After?? They used tear gas after live gunfire? Even assuming - and it is a big assumption - that some kind of aggressive response to what was clearly a nonviolent action was necessary, by what bizarre definition of "restraint" or "measured response" does live gunfire come before tear gas?

The Israelis, not used to dealing with coordinated nonviolent actions, are responding as many other regimes have down through history: increased violence, both physical and verbal. After last month's marches,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said the protests had been aimed at destroying Israel, not creating a Palestinian state alongside it.

“The leaders of these violent demonstrations, their struggle is not over the 1967 borders but over the very existence of Israel, which they describe as a catastrophe that must be resolved,” he said.
The intensity of the response shows that Israel is feeling the pressure. I can only hope - and I do hope even if that's all I have, which it is - that the Palestinians have the resolve and the courage and yes, the self-control to not give in to the temptation to violence born of frustration and to continue this agressive but still peaceful campaign.

For I don't know how long all sorts of people, including the Israeli apologists, have been demanding the Palestinians use nonviolent action. Many of those voices - Tom Friedman, for example, just a couple of weeks ago - have said that if only that would happen, it would be "a global news event" that would pressure Israel into a just peace settlement.

Okay, here's the nonviolence. Where is the pressure?

Footnote A: The Israelis said they were better prepared this time than as compared to last month. That time, there were four major actions involving thousands of people. This time there were only two, involving significantly fewer people. (The other was in the West Bank and was broken up by Israeli tear gas and sound grenades even before it got started.)

Last month, twelve people were killed. This time, it might have been more than 20.

Puts a different spin on "better prepared," I think.

Footnote B: An exercise in "compare and contrast." This is how the BBC report on the Golan Heights events began:
Israeli troops have fired on pro-Palestinian protesters in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, with Syrian state TV saying 20 are dead.

The protesters defied razor-wire fences and ditches along the Syrian border in Golan to mark the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Middle-East war.
This is how the report in The Independent (UK) opened:
Israel's northern border with Syria was a scene of bloodshed yesterday after Israeli troops fired on pro-Palestinian protesters attempting to cross its ceasefire lines in the occupied Golan Heights. Syrian reports claimed that as many as 20 were killed, including a 12-year-old boy.
And this is how the Associated Press chose to begin its coverage:
Israeli troops on Sunday battled hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters who tried to burst across Syria's frontier with the Golan Heights, killing a reported 20 people and wounding scores more in the second outbreak of deadly violence in the border area in less than a month.

The clashes, marking the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the 1967 Mideast war, drew Israeli accusations that Syria was orchestrating the violence to shift attention away from a bloody crackdown on opposition protests at home. The marchers, who had organized on Facebook, passed by Syrian and U.N. outposts on their way to the front lines.
The first half of the article wasn't even about what happened at the Golan Heights, being largely given over to references to the struggle against Assad. Something of a different tone, I'd say.

And as a Footnote to the Footnote, as I expect you know, the headlines to wire service stories usually are not written by the service but by the publishing outlet. The link above is to FauxNews, which chose to headline the AP story this way:
Heavy Fighting Erupts Along Syrian Border Between Israeli Troops and Pro-Palestinian Protesters
A different tone, indeed.

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