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I'm not a regular diarist or commenter at DK, both because I'm often too busy to write and because this community is so full of active, erudite members with well-developed opinions on world matters that, whenever I feel inspired to add something to the discussion, I typically find that someone else has already said it, and better. While I am an obsessive lurker here, relying on the Kossack family for some of the best community-based reporting and opinion pieces on issues that are overlooked by both the traditional media and the larger blogosphere, I tend to add my voice only when I feel there is something important to be said that I haven't seen articulated elsewhere.

Over the past few days, I've been following the many lively discussions concerning the current conflict in Gaza with a great deal of interest, and have found a few opportunities to add something new to the discussion by commenting. Consequently, I've seen a trend in the language used in said discussion that I feel warrants a diary. I'm not talking about ad hominem attacks or Godwinism or any of the other rhetorical misconduct that is (thankfully) largely absent from the activity here. I'm talking about the labels we use to classify the belligerents in this conflict - namely "Palestinian" and "Israeli" - and I am appealing to the DK community to be more careful about the broad employment of those terms.

The Palestinian people are not lobbing missiles over the border into Israel. The Hamas authorities and militants with the support of Hamas (and myriad other militant groups) are the ones responsible for the attacks on Israel, just as the Palestinian people didn’t kidnap and murder those Israeli teenagers. Likewise, the Israeli people are not as a nation responsible for the brutal war currently being waged against Gaza. The Likud government and its hawkish coalition are the ones that have instituted the policies that set up the blockade and used the kidnappings as a pretense for their actions in Gaza that (arguably) initiated the latest round of fighting. I understand that both Hamas and Likud were democratically elected by their respective constituencies, and that there is an argument to be made that their policies reflect the will of the people they represent. I would respond by asking the members of this community how they felt about the actions of the Bush administration, and whether they were comfortable with any implication that all Americans were complicit in the invasion of Iraq. The point is that, as with any action taken by a government, there is dissent and disapproval of the behavior of the decision-makers in this conflict, and the idea that the entirety of either the Israeli or Palestinian people agree with what their leaders are doing is a dangerous and harmful simplification that creates yet another obstacle on the road to peace.

To paint the population of either nation with so broad a brush is not only inaccurate, it's detrimental to the discussion here and to the cause of a peaceful and lasting resolution to the decades-old conflict between these two nations. As long as these generalized labels are used to describe the two sides in this conflict, the world community - and the nations themselves - will continue to see the picture in black and white. As long as we continue to condemn the Palestinians and Israelis for the actions of Hamas and Likud, we perpetuate the simplistic lies that all Palestinians are Jihadi terrorists and that all Israelis are warmongering imperialists. The result is that the two sides (and their respective supporters and detractors around the world) feel increasing solidarity with the violent and extremist elements amongst them. When a lie (or in this case, a miscategorization) is repeated often enough, it starts to gain credibility. When a group is misidentified in a certain way frequently enough, that group eventually starts to think of itself in that way, and the nuance of the situation - the very thing that would allow the Palestinians and Israelis to recognize that their shared plight is the result of the decisions made by their leaders and that they would be better served by a permanent and just peace - gets lost in an increasingly polarized game of Us versus Them.

My hope is that a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine can be achieved in my lifetime. In order for that to happen, there are many difficult choices that need to be made by both countries and by the international community. One of the easier decisions is the way we use our words to define individuals, groups, governments and populations as a whole. Language is much more powerful than many of us recognize. Let's make sure we're using it for the cause of peace.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent post. (15+ / 0-)

    I would add that neither Palestinian nor Israeli are inherently evil.  Hatred of either people is a moral wrong.  Individuals may do evil, but peoples do not.  

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 11:51:00 AM PDT

    •  I firmly believe that each tribe would (4+ / 0-)

      act almost exactly the same way as the other, if their situations were reversed. People are people and they act in what they perceive as their self interest. It was a combination of western powers that set the table for the current untenable situation at the end of World War Two. It really isn't the fault of either party - the current situation seems like it was inevitable.

      •  I disagree with you, it's not a both sides thing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jerseygirltoo, jqb

        "Both sides do it, or would do it if they can" seems like a way to see the humanity of each of the combatants.
        In this case it fogs things up, it makes them less clear. You see a wrong, and you look for a similar wrong on the other side. But that doesn't work here, that only works in a setting where both sides are in similar circumstances.
        A better way to look at this conflict is to set aside the religious differences and the history, and look at the conflict as it is now happening, today.
        Today a first world government army had their tank shell a hospital operating room during surgery. They also "took out" the E.R. and the reception area. This is a state act, a group decision, that killing doctors and destroying hospitals is o.k. IF you believe their are rockets "nearby". Nearby, not inside.
        The world holds Israel in a special place, because of the history of suffering of the Jewish people. It's a wonderful ideal, after hundreds of years for this group to again be in their ancient homeland. Everyone knows Israel is "tough". They don't mess around. They have to defend themselves. But the ship on the beach targeted those kids while they ran. The tank knew where the operating room was when it fired. The government knew that Israeli young man had forced the Palestinian teen to swallow gasoline and then lit him on fire while he was alive. That young man was released to his parents. These acts have no "and the other side did this" to compare to. If this was happening in any other country the world would be horrified. Yet so many can't get past their compassion for Israel's history to see what is really going on.
        Without truth there can be no justice. There are individual terrorists in both Gaza and Israel. There is a terrorist government in Israel. They have a modern army, we supply 50% of their defense budget, and they are shelling hospitals during surgery. We are shelling hospitals during surgery.
        Hamas is verbally evil and murderously incompetent. Israel is verbally civilized, but their official acts are very effective war crimes.

        •  I am not implying that there is moral (0+ / 0-)

          symmetry. The "side" with the most power, in this case Israel, is the one in charge and bears the majority of the culpability.

          It is similar to manifest destiny and the theft of Native american lands. Sure, many on both sides engaged in unspeakable violence, but hopefully we agree on which side had the moral high ground.

          •  As a mother, I react to "but he hit me first" (0+ / 0-)

            Right now the most important thing is to get Israel to stop. The quicker that is understood by all the more likely Israel is to stop. Each allowance made for them, each piece of the past brought forward only justifies this completely evil and senseless conduct. They are now killing protesters, U.N. personal, ambulance drivers and doctors in operating rooms. There is no action by others, in the near or far past that can justify this. Once the world begins to speak clearly without making allowances for the past Israel may begin to pull back. If they don't BDS and sanctions may work, but they will be condemned for these specific evil deeds for years, and many innocent people along with them. Americans abroad took up the habit of saying they were Canadian, that option will not available here.

  •  Well said. (5+ / 0-)

    I was just thinking something similar today. And your point about our government and the invasion of Iraq is spot on.

    Thanks for posting this.

    "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

    by just another vet on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 12:04:13 PM PDT

  •  Complicity (6+ / 0-)
    I would respond by asking the members of this community how they felt about the actions of the Bush administration, and whether they were comfortable with any implication that all Americans were complicit in the invasion of Iraq.
    Well, that sure gets to the heart of the matter. And I'm happy to discuss the issue from the point of view of American rather than Israeli policies.

    No, I wholeheartedly disapproved of the War in Iraq from the time it was first floated as an idea. But I don't think that absolves me of complicity however uncomfortable it might make me feel. There is such a thing as corporate or shared responsibility. It's very comfortable to say I'm only responsible for American policies and actions that I like or that benefit me. But it's the very epitome of self-serving rationalization.

    I regard the whole war as an unmitigated crime against humanity. It is a stain on our national character and I may not shirk my share in it.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 12:08:29 PM PDT

    •  I understand what you are saying... (7+ / 0-)

      ..and on a certain level I agree..

      Its when people turn that around and say that all of Palestine or all of Israel is responsible then its not to long before its reduced to Extremist Muslims or Zionist War Mongers.

      I think a little more precision of language would help reduce some of the heat here.

      Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

      by Arilca Mockingbird on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 12:22:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Valid point (5+ / 0-)

      It's important for the electorate of a country to take responsibility for the actions of the leaders they elect. I hope that if any good comes out of the current conflict, it's a realization on the part of the Israeli and Palestinian people that their leaders aren't representing their interests and an effort to remove them from power. Again, to use the Bush analogy, the 2006 and 2008 elections were a response to the American electorate's disapproval of the Bush administration. I'd like to see a similar response from the Palestinians and the Israelis.

      My point is only that to blame an entire population for the actions of their leaders - especially when, as in 2000 and 2004, half the population voted against those leaders - is an oversimplification that leads to damaging perceptions. Not all Americans supported the war in Iraq, and many of us fought hard to prevent and end it. Not all Palestinians support Hamas or the militant groups that seek to destroy the state of Israel. Not all Israelis support the blockade, the settlements, or the disproportionate military response by the Likud government. In the same way that our government was able to justify immoral military actions in Iraq (and Vietnam, and Cambodia, and Grenada, and so on) by projecting the beliefs and actions of smaller groups onto the larger population, the Israeli and Palestinian powers are able to rationalize their reprehensible attacks on civilian populations by attributing the actions and beliefs of the few to the population as a whole. Which does two things: it emboldens the more extremist elements within those populations (and among their supporters) by assuring them that their actions have the broad support of their peers, and it prevents the international community from recognizing that any dissent exists within those populations. This allows extremists to justify their actions toward people that have nothing to do with the conflict (like the recent attacks on Jewish businesses and synagogues in Europe, or the profiling of   anyone that looks even slightly Arabic by both law enforcement and racists in the US) because they've had confirmation of their belief that all Jews/Israelis/Arabs/Muslims are complicit in the atrocities. It also gives the less informed the wrong idea about who Jews/Israelis/Arabs/Muslims really are.

      If there is ever to be peace in the Middle East, the non-extremist majorities in the Palestinian and Israeli populations need to be shown that the rest of the world recognizes and supports them. That's not going to happen if we keep lumping them in with the warmongers.

      A List of the Most Common Logical Fallacies: http://www.nobeliefs.com/fallacies.htm

      by mnemosyne42 on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 02:45:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nothing to add except I agree. (7+ / 0-)

    I hope that your diary is read by everyone with interest in this conflict.

    Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

    by Arilca Mockingbird on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 12:09:01 PM PDT

  •  What I don't understand about the I/P conflict (4+ / 0-)

    is a lot; but I know that those in power who are inflicting murder and destruction on each other's people are in power with the tacit approval of their own people.  No, not every individual Israeli or Palestinian is complicit; but as a whole, yes, they are responsible for choosing who will lead them and for allowing them to stay in power just as we as Americans are resonsible for W's war crimes.

    If I were to meet an Israeli or Palestinian on the street, I would not blame them individually for the I/P conflict as I would hope they wouldn't blame me for Bush's wars; but none of us can escape the blame we collectively share.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 12:21:49 PM PDT

  •  Excellent diary, excellent points made. (3+ / 0-)

    From now on I'll refer to Likud or Israeli extremists in lieu of simply Israelis, to differentiate from the many Israelis who oppose the military action and the many who are involved in peace and justice groups.

    To my mind, Hamas and the various militant factions are separate from Palestinian citizens, no different than the distinction between Republicans and Americans. I'll be more careful to make that distinction.

    •  Thank you so much (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCalSal, mettle fatigue

      I'm really glad to hear you agree. I've been following your interactions on these threads with interest, and while we don't always agree, I'm impressed with how informed and well-spoken you are on the topic, and the fact that you consistently manage to keep your comments civil and reasonable.

      A List of the Most Common Logical Fallacies: http://www.nobeliefs.com/fallacies.htm

      by mnemosyne42 on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 02:49:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You wrote on a topic that has nagged at me (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mettle fatigue

        for some time, and you wrote very eloquently. So I thank you for that and for your kind comment here. I feel alternately sad, angry, disgusted with the lack of humanity towards civilians in Palestine and Israel, so if my comments can be perceived as civil and reasonable, that's an accomplishment.  

        •  Again, I appreciate your kind words (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SoCalSal

          and yes, it can be difficult to remain unemotional when discussing the deaths of other human beings. But I stand by my description: civil and reasonable.

          A List of the Most Common Logical Fallacies: http://www.nobeliefs.com/fallacies.htm

          by mnemosyne42 on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 09:37:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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