- Published on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 21:43
By Kay Lunde for PNN
I'm worried about the recent exposure of the incident involving the Danish activist who was struck violently by an IOF soldier...and I think he might be too.
Yes, this was an intolerable move on the part of IOF Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner (seriously ironic name), who in a fit rage, seemed to garner the strength of five men and in one swift and staggering move, smashed the magazine and pistol grip of his M-16 rifle into the face of a handsome, blond, 20-year-old Dane. In the midst of the controversy, Andreas Ias has demonstrated a prudent sense of it all. More than his sutured lip, or the graphic video, what I think might be the most important aspect of all this is the following quote, taken from a recent interview with The Guardian:
"What happened to me is nothing compared to the systematic violence carried out on Palestinians. This is not a single incident, it's what we see every day. But it's very difficult to move the focus from me to the issues of the Palestinian struggle in the West Bank."
The banality of human rights abuses here in Palestine leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth when I see The Guardian, Al Jazeera, BBC and New York Times all inadvertently contributing to the illusion that justice has been served, by reporting that Eisner has been dismissed. In reality, Lt. Col. Eisner still retains his title; he has simply been suspended from commanding troops on the field for two years. He will keep his career in the military. Meanwhile, politicians clamor to condemn the act publicly with Netanyahu citing that Eisner's actions "do not represent the IDF, its officers and soldiers..."
Actually, Mr. Prime Minister, I've only been to a few protests but I'm afraid Lt. Col. Shalom's little tiff didn't surprise me in the least. I think you are playing a shrewd game of politics, placating the international community while creating a mirage of democracy. I think the unease my mother feels every Friday when I go out to cover protests is, well, warranted. I don't feel safe around your soldiers. I don't think they have the slightest clue that most of the world considers all humans to carry with them, the right to protest peacefully. Your government has taught them that all Palestinians are terrorists. As activists from abroad arrived in Tel Aviv last week for the Welcome to Palestine Campaign, scores were deported for intending to do things like build schools and drink tea with locals. You sent them home with a derisive letter claiming Israel as "the Middle East's sole democracy," where "minorities don't live in fear."
I don't know what utopian parallel universe Netanyahu writes his statements in but I'm afraid it's not Israel.
On a single day last month, March 30th, Palestinian Land Day, an 8-year-old Palestinian was hit in the face with a tear gas canister during a protest in Nabi Saleh. A Palestinian man was shot in the head with a rubber bullet after climbing the apartheid wall in Bethlehem and hanging a Palestinian flag. A 20-year-old Palestinian was killed while protesting near the Erez crossing in Northern Gaza.
Along with the headline, "Danish Activist Assaulted by IDF Soldier," it should read, "His Blond Hair is Why This is News."
In e-mails sent home to friends and family, I use words like "absolutely nuts," and "freaking crazy," to describe what I have witnessed in my two months here in Palestine. I don't have much internal patience for people who wish me to be more "balanced," and consider the other side. The few Jewish Israelis I know are passionately against the occupation and actively working against it. In Tel Aviv last weekend, after my trip to the airport where I was searched and questioned for wanting simply step foot in the terminal, I met a delightful boutique owner who told me to avoid the Muslim terrorists in the West Bank. And I'm afraid the "liberal" atmosphere of Tel Aviv more often finds its citizens shockingly ingnorant of the realities of Palestinians rather than sympathetic towards their cause. At the risk of sounding unprofessional, here are some big words to describe life under Israeli government policies. Absurd, farcical, fictional, infuriating, disparaging, tragic.
If it were up to me, publications like Huffington Post would have an online tab solely dedicated to human rights abuses of the Palestinians. I am not foolish enough to believe Israel, Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories are the only places where egregious human rights abuses take place, but I do think most people, at least where I call home in the good old USA, still consider Israel to be a vulnerable democracy surrounded by sadistic Arab states. And more importantly, the United States has funded Israel's economy and military more than any other foreign state since its inception over six decades ago. I hope that's not news to anyone. Did I mention we make a lot of their weapons and military equipment? Perusing the Wikipedia page for "Israel-United States military relations," has routinely brought me to the mental equivalent of curling up into a ball in the corner, burying my face in my hands and rocking back and forth like a scorned 4-year-old. I want my taxes back please.
I think that recognizing and seeking justice for the assault of one international activist is good. But if we believe this act is somehow exceptional or that the institutions that investigated and processed this violation are moral and ethical, then I think it has all served to normalize the occupation and bolster apartheid.