The most recent Israeli assault on the Palestinian people looks like an all-too-familiar and all-too-tragic event, writes CND Vice-Chair Tom Unterrainer in this guest blog.
Every few years the gross ‘normality’ of the protracted oppression of the Palestinian people is punctured by an intense assault at the hands of the Israeli military. Every few years the State of Israel pushes at the boundaries of what has previously been accepted by the international community and demands more. It deploys a highly organised, heavily equipped military and demands one bit more: more Palestinian territory, more Palestinian lives, more traumatised children, more concessions from world opinion.
Rather than maintain a balance between coercion and consent as is the norm in many states – ‘liberal’ or otherwise – Israel employs brutal coercive measures and demands consent from the world. The death, trauma and suffering of the Palestinian people are secondary to the drive for one more cluster of houses, one more stretch of land. The wishes of the Palestinian people or the calculable reaction of an oppressed people are not accounted for. All-too-often the death, trauma and suffering are not recorded on the balance sheet of world opinion.
When the reaction comes in the form of children throwing stones at soldiers in bullet-proof vests with machine guns slung over their shoulders, or in the firing of scores of missiles in the expectation that some of them will penetrate Israel’s sophisticated missile defence system, we are expected to draw an equals sign. We are expected to kneel at the altar of ‘reasonableness’ and condemn an occupied and oppressed people who refuse to kneel in the face of occupation and oppression. We might be tempted to draw an equals sign in the name of peace, in the name of opposition to violence whatever its source.
However, we cannot talk sensibly of peace unless we can identify and understand the roadblocks to peace. We cannot talk sensibly of peace unless we are clear that powerful forces are ranged against the conquest of peace. We cannot talk sensibly of peace in Palestine or the Middle East more widely without a clear recognition that in Palestine we are talking about a nuclear-armed state against a people denied a state of their own.
We cannot talk sensibly about peace in this region unless we are clear that the ‘double-standard’ policy employed by the US and allies with respect to Israel’s nuclear weapons is mirrored in the double-standards deployed in the treatment of Palestinians on the streets of Gaza, the West Bank and within the Palestinian community in Israel itself.
When Israel is allowed to maintain obscurity around its nuclear weapons arsenal when other states face threats of attack, sanctions and international opprobrium for seeking the bomb, a double-standard policy is at work. When Israel refuses to sign up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but threatens NPT member states with attack for developing a nuclear programme, a double-standard policy is at work. When Israel refuses to constructively engage in efforts towards a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East and finds encouragement for doing so, a double-standard policy is at work.
Where is the room for an equals sign? To draw such a sign would not only be a crime against mathematics but a crime against reality, a crime against morals and a crime against reason.
When a people stands up against decades of dispossession, occupation, trauma and oppression the peace movement must stand with them. When a nuclear-armed state, armed to the teeth with ‘conventional’ weapons with the help of foreign aid from the US, UK and elsewhere wages war then the peace movements are clear where we stand.
When we learn of the deaths and terrible suffering and sorrow of innocent civilians, of children, of so many families, then we know where we stand.
When we understand that a thick strand connects the most recent killings to the lived experience of millions of Palestinians, to the fate of the Middle East and all the way to the murderous hum of Israel’s nuclear warhead stockpile, we know where we stand.
Stand with Palestine.