Why Israel is blind to Palestinian suffering

10 July 2014

Lots of people have been wondering over on my Facebook page how it is that Israelis are so incapable of understanding what bombing one of the most crowded places on earth entails: lots of Palestinian civilian casualties. Well, this Israeli TV interview with Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi should help.

The programme is Meet the Press and was conducted before Israel’s attack on Gaza. The refusal of the interviewer to listen or engage with Zoabi’s argument is eye-opening and stomach-turning at the same time. Much of this ends up being a shouting match, with the interviewer trying to force-feed Zoabi the Zionist narrative.

Israelis hear this narrative day in day out from primary school onwards. Their media almost never interview Palestinians, and when they do, as here, they simply try to drown them out.

The interviewer, Rina Matzliach, says several times: “I do not understand you.” And she means it. Her mind is so rigidly programmed that logical arguments from the other side are quite beyond her comprehension.

Let’s not forget too that this is the role of all mainstream media everywhere. To keep our minds tightly constained by narratives that serve our own elites’ interests. Israeli narratives, to those of us not raised on them, appear preposterous. But our own narratives would sound equally preposterous to a Martian – or to us could we wean ourselves off the comforting illusions they afford us.

Finally, there is a wonderful comment about Israeli democracy from Zoabi at about 14 mins in.

Matzliach tells her she enjoys “the benefits of Israeli democracy”:

Zoabi: I do not enjoy the benefits of democracy. I suffer from a racist democracy, which seizes my land and permits me one thing, Rina: the freedom of expression. And freedom of expression is not an indication of democracy, it is an indication of the strength of the state of Israel.* It is strong enough to grant me freedom of expression, knowing that my freedom to express myself will change nothing.

Matzliach interrupts: But you don’t appreciate it.

Zoabi: Look: see the incitement. The very moment that this freedom of expression disputes the red line, that is when the incitement starts.

Watching Meet the Press, one wonders – like Zoabi – what the extent of freedom of expression really is in Israel.

* I would add: Israel’s strength derives from its success in having ethnically cleansed Palestinians from their homeland.

[h/t Richard Silverstein - and thanks to him and others for the English subtitles]

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