The facile idea that we should be polite and quiet in the face of genocide hinders progressive actions and favours bleak passivity.
Israel’s genocide in Palestine has raged on, unchecked and actively supported by the bloodthirsty powers of Europe and the United States, for four months and counting. As I write, the butcher Netanyahu has begun the ethnic cleansing of the Rafah border, a tiny slip of land which the murderous thugs of the Israeli Occupational Forces are obliterating in their vile desire to slaughter the 1.4 million Palestinians who have been driven there.
Every day brings with it a depressingly familiar and brutal formula. First comes the evidence; countless videos of the maimed remains of Palestinian civilians (the death toll is currently 28,000+ and counting), and the gloating faces of the rabid murderers of the IOF, gleefully posing as they bomb more houses, and steal the possessions of those whose stolen land their foul state is built upon.
Then comes the ludicrous lies from Israeli spokespeople. One would think Hamas have cracked the secrets of quantum mechanics, with their apparent propensity and skill at hiding in the least likely places according to Israel. Based on their targets, Hamas are everywhere; inside the historical records of the Palestinian archives (bombed), the gluten of Gaza’s bakeries (destroyed), and the anaesthetics used in a children’s cancer ward (abandoned after Israel assaulted it, leaving premature babies to rot to death) to name but a few.
And finally, comes the Western institutional co-signing of the Israeli death machine. European and American politicians obstinately continue to pretend there is a justification for genocide (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the foundation of their misbegotten culture and history for the past 500 years). Western media outlets continue to use the passive voice when it is brown children being killed by Israeli settlers — brazenly demonstrating their support for ethnic cleansing when it suits their geopolitical interests.
So the cycle repeats. The Israelis continue to decimate Palestinian children and civilians; the West continues to provide them the weapons and funding to do so; and their risible media continue to be stenographers masquerading as reporters blithely quoting the words of killers and murderers.
What also repeats is the public reaction to Israel’s aggression. One does not need a degree to know evil; and Israel is nothing but evil. Any nation whose “defence” requires the mass killing of children does not deserve to exist; instead, it must be challenged and brought to justice.
A common response from our private, personal, professional and public circles is to discourage our demonstrations and support for Palestine.
When that fails, there is a feeble demand for some sort of decorum; as if it is normal to be courteous when confronted by the growing mountain of footage of Israel’s barbaric crimes against humanity.
It’s a particularly grotesque volte-face. The unjustifiable is seen as legitimate, whilst efforts to oppose it, to halt it, to bring it to justice, are seen as being inconceivable.
To maintain composure in the face of genocide is to tacitly say you do not care about some people, and that your feeble claims of universal humanism never have valued all human being as having equal worth. To espouse silence in the face of injustice is to be a coward and side with the oppressor.
Anger is a perfectly acceptable response to the horrors we have all witnessed over the past four months as Israel’s brutalisation of Palestine continues.
However, that anger must be complemented with understanding and action to ensure our continued protests and voices for Palestine are impactful.
The Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire defined revolutionary theory in his 1970 work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, stating that it was a praxis formed of “reflection and action upon the world to transform it”.
The two, reflection and action, work in tandem. The former without the latter, Freire argued, is mere verbiage; the latter without the former is performative (the word Freire used was “activism”, referring to a superficial show rather than principled activism.)
Israel’s savagery is the culmination of the necropolitics of 500 years of Western colonialism; a power structure in which power and legitimacy is predicated upon one’s willingness to massacre the Other.
Therefore, to object to posts, words, demonstrations, and actions about Palestine because they make you feel “uncomfortable” is to not be human, but instead live in the world as a passive entity, uninterested and violently ignorant of the possibilities of hope and a better future.
“Hope, however, does not consist in crossing one’s arms and waiting”, Freire concluded in 1970. The dialogue that renders us more human, that transforms us from living to existing (that is from simply being to actively engaging), he argued, cannot be “…carried on in a climate of hopelessness.”
Better times do not come from being comfortably numb to the horrors of the world. They do not come from being polite in the face of gross injustice. And they most certainly do not come from choosing to look away from the truth of what is happening now if only to swear it must never happen again.
There is not a single right any of us (with the exception of wealthy, upper-class White men) currently enjoy in the world that is not the product of principled dissent against the status quo.
We must never forget that as we continue to march, to chant, to speak, and support Palestine and its people.