By Dr. Haidar Eid in Gaza
How can one describe a situation such as Gaza’s bloodletting – described by a top Israeli army official as a ‘Holocaust’ – with language that has long been proven to be slippery?
Where is one to start and finish if one wants a semiological analysis of the ‘dramatic’ footage of the 10-month old Mohamed Al-Burai bleeding to death despite his father’s desperate attempts to save his only child’s life?
If there were any questions to be asked, they would be about the nature of a hegemonic modern ideology that dehumanizes toddlers and drives soldiers to shoot innocent civilians. It is definitely not the right time for such grandiose philosophical questions, but what is the Palestinian to do when she or he lives such a crude political ‘reality’?
This article does not claim to be a ‘reasonable’ political analysis of the ‘violent clashes’ that erupted recently in the Gaza Strip. Nor does it claim to be an analysis that investigates the background and expected outcome of what seems to be a third, albeit more violent, Intifada. It therefore, should not fall into the mind-body bourgeois dichotomy. Emotions at this historical junction cannot be ignored. Just rewind the Al Burai video once again to understand what I am getting at.
While writing this article, at least 120 Palestinians, many of whom are children below the age of 15, have been murdered in cold blood in only 5 days. More than 300 have been injured. Clashes seem to be on the rise. The (unpuzzling) question that Palestinians have been asking, and answering, is ‘How can a government which claims commitment to peace with its "Palestinian partner" order its soldiers to shoot and kill indiscriminately?’
The importance of the image in ‘the age of mechanical reproduction’ lies in its ability to convey an instant message. For many, the only source of information is what they see on their TV screens. The footage of Burai, and that of other toddlers, has, therefore, become the direct message that Palestinians want to use to convey: ‘This is our daily political reality. This is where we have reached two months after the Annapolis conference and 14 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords.’ So much for ‘the peace process’ and ‘the two-state solution.’
Within this context, the fact that main-stream media outlet such as BBC and CNN have declined showing the toddlers’ footage, is indicative of the extremely important issue of the biased, de-contextualized coverage of such events by the Western media. In fact, showing some of the dramatic footage of the Gaza massacre accompanied by the CNN reporter’s comments was an attempt to empty it of its criminal dimension and of the obvious responsibility of the Israeli forces – and hence government.
To echo Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, how can the international media-read western-be objective when they are controlled by five transnational corporations all of which have intimate relationships with the American defence industry? Was the 9-month Mohamed Al Burai only a ‘ regrettable collateral damage?’ What about the other 16, including the four Dardouna children targeted in day light while playing soccer? And the 11-years old Safaa Abu Shbak, who was shot inside her house in Jablia while her father had to watch her bleed to death for four hours after the Israeli soldiers turned the ambulance back? Samah and Salwa Asleeyeh sisters? And the entire Attalah family whose three-story house was targeted by an American F16 fighter? None of them survived. Who will bring back justice to them? Negotiations brokered by Bush and Rice? A non-sovereign state on parts of the 1967 borders, i.e. West Bank and Gaza? They lived, a very short life, and died refugees- a fate that seems to await many children in Gaza.
Gaza has become a war-zone: the biggest concentration camp on earth has become a burial site – a noisy graveyard. The Palestinian body has become the ultimate target of the Israeli bullet-the younger the better! The Palestinian body has, in other words, become the site of (in) justice: ‘eliminate the body, and it will leave a vacuum that can be occupied – a land without people for people without land.’
The Palestinian people have long realized that the so-called "peace process" does not challenge or change the long-held status quo, nor will it allow them to exercise their national and political rights. Whether Sharon, Barak or Olmert, the Israeli position is crystal clear: NO return to the borders of June 4, 1967, NO dismantling of Jewish settlements, NO return of Palestinian refugees, NO backing down on Jerusalem as ‘the undivided, eternal capital city of Israel, and NO sovereign, independent Palestinian state with its own military on the western bank of the Jordan river. The best that is on offer is a Bantustan, a reservoir for the Natives.
"Peace" within this context has led to more misery for the mere reason that it lacks justice. Palestinians get punished for being shot; for trying to protect themselves, and mostly, for just being where they are, as though they should not be there in the first place. Hence, the unprecedented brutality, the shelling with heavy artillery – what Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz calls ‘The horror! The horror!’- the horror that embodies itself in the faces of Mohammed, Safaa, Jacqueline, and the rest of those children who lost their lives in Matan Vilani’s death chambers. "The Holocaust! The Holocaust!"
– Dr. Haidar Eid teaches at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com