Less than a month ago, Victoria University of Wellington hosted a talk event given by a couple of former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers. As expected, students opposing the talk protested outside the venue where the talk was given. The security was tight. Verbal shots were exchanged between both camps. Chants of “Free, free Palestine!” and “Shame Vic Uni Shame!” continuously reverberated the hallway while the talk was ongoing. With the coming of the IDF soldiers, the atmosphere of protest that permeated in Palestine hovers briefly in the usually quiet university hallway.
Occasionally, some of the students slipped into the lecture hall. Many of them stayed throughout the talk. Others left – quietly or not. Those who do not leave quietly shouted to the speakers. Although they were being shouted at, the former IDF soldiers remained polite. They urged ‘restraint’ and ‘respectful debate’. That night, the Israelis appeared civilised and reasonable. The students who protested, meanwhile, appeared angry, irrational and disruptive. It is as if the citizens of a benevolent empire are calmly facing a horde of barbarians.
In fact, this is the image the Israeli state as trying to portray itself: as an outpost of civilisation, defending itself against uncivilized natives who do not wish to negotiate and compromise.
Forget the fact that this outpost civilisation was forcibly build upon the ruins and suffering of those ‘uncivilized natives’, without any form of negotiation and compromise whatsoever, beginning with the forcible expulsions of Arab villagers from their homes in 1948, until the recent attempts to evict Palestinian residents to make way for the expansion of Israeli settlement. The ‘defenders’ are merely defending the lands that they conquered, and often through excessive forces.
From 1948 until today, the history between the Palestinians and the Israelis have been a series of occupation, displacements and killings. Often, the violence are perpetrated by forces acting for the state of Israel, whose representatives urged for ‘restraint’ and ‘respectful’ debate at the Victoria University around a month ago.
Recently, 50 Palestinians and 9 Israelis have been killed since early October. The deaths include an Eritrean man mistakenly killed by Israeli forces after being mistaken as an Arab, an 11 year old boy and a 65 year old woman. Most of the Palestinians were killed after they allegedly tried to stab members of the Israeli security forces.
Despite the disparity of the number of deaths, the Israeli deaths in the mainstream media are commemorated, while the Palestinian deaths are ignored. After all, vigils are held for the victims, not the perpetrators. In this context, the Israelis are the victims, and the Palestinians are the perpetrators.
Firstly, one might ask the question: why knives? What motivated them to stab heavily armed members of the IDF, with mere knives? There are two possibilities. Firstly, the ‘stabbing attempts’ are just excuses to cover up extrajudicial killings committed by the Israeli security force. Secondly, 60 years of systematic oppression might motivate any sane human being to commit any act of resistance possible, even when you only have knife and stones.
However, the excessive media coverage on the violence occurring in Jerusalem and Gaza tend to displace another phenomenon that is happening.
Throughout Palestine, another Intifada is brewing.
Every Friday, young people across Palestine are marching peacefully to demand an end to Israeli’s occupation of their territories. They demand for normal lives, without sanctions and military checkpoints. They are young people who had been born under occupation, with no memories of freedom. They are demanding something that they have never really experienced in their lives.
These protests are not organised by any political party. Most importantly, they are also non-violent.
Sadly, their voices are not heard by the mainstream media. They do not fit the narrative of ‘violent, bloodthirsty Palestinians’ against the ‘benevolent Israelis who are forced to use force’.
They are angry. Every right thinking Palestinian has the right to be angry. Every conscientious human being should have the right to be angry too, at seeing injustice being prolonged without any end to another human being.
If you ignore their right to speak of their anger, then the only language that they will be able to speak is the language of violence.