How not to talk about Gaza

Colin Dayan writes: Talking about Gaza is like talking about God. We face the ineffable. We cannot talk about what we see. Or if we do, we are accused of lacking common sense, failing to take a realistic approach to an unmanageable problem.

What is that problem? Palestinians are the problem. Like so many others in our world today, Palestinians are labeled as “terrorists” by the powerful, so that lethal force is the rule and extreme violence — or exemplary disregard — may be directed indiscriminately against civilians and non-civilians alike. The problem is not a simple one. If we pretend it is, then we risk validating those who hold Israel to an unfair standard, or worse, who question its right to exist. And in protesting Israeli government policy, expressing horror at its brutal excesses, we risk being condemned as “anti-Semitic” or worse, as “self-hating Jews.”

The tired debates about the history of Zionism and the threat of the Palestinian national movement—or, put more bluntly, about the end of Israel and what Jonathan S. Tobin calls “a war with Palestinian Islamists that has no end in sight” — ignore what is specific about more than four decades of Israeli domination in the Occupied Territories. Especially masked in these debates are the unique and various forms of violence used to control the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000. In the name of “security,” Israel has implemented something like a permanent state of emergency. Brute force coexists with, to a sometimes-calamitous degree, a systematic practice of discrimination, surveillance, and disappearance. Behind the barriers — and they are everywhere — live the confined, sealed off from the zone of inclusion, the Israeli state. [Continue reading…]

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