Palestine / Israel
The risks of de-contextualizing Gaza war crimes
Goncalo de Almeida Ribeiro, Vishaal Kishore and Nimer Sultany, The Electronic Intifada, 26 September 2009
"By drawing attention to one short but bloody outburst of violence, an outburst that is cast and investigated as unusual, other periods may implicitly be rendered normal." (MaanImages)
The recent release of a report by the United Nations fact-finding mission chaired by jurist Richard Goldstone concerning the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in late December 2008 through January 2009 sheds important light on human rights violations in Israel/Palestine. One would hope that upon reading this report (or indeed any other from the long list of reports concerning the Occupied Palestinian Territories released by various human rights organizations) readers will be outraged by the ongoing atrocities committed in the region.
Despite expressly claiming to take into account the historical background to the Gaza events, the report, by its very nature, singles out a particular set of facts, and a limited period of time as the primary locus for investigation. In part this is justified. The conflict in Gaza involved levels of violence that are more or less exceptional. Yet, we fear that such a high-profile report, crafted specifically to address what is perceived to be an extreme or peculiar period of time in the lives of Palestinians under occupation, might have significant negative consequences. Particularly, we maintain that such a report, by focusing on one "drastic" period in the Israeli occupation, might in fact have the effect of overshadowing or downplaying the harsh and ongoing reality of the last 43 years of Israeli occupation.
By drawing attention to one short but bloody outburst of violence, an outburst that is cast and investigated as unusual, other periods may implicitly be rendered normal. But these "normal" periods involve Palestinian suffering and hardship that are well beyond the pale of decency. These periods -- which involve low-level Palestinian resistance to occupation and low-level Israeli oppression -- are the deeply implicated historical and contextual backdrop for all of the events that follow. While many tragically lose their lives in conflict, the less dramatic but longstanding and profoundly soul-crushing policies pursued by the Israeli state hinder not only Palestinians' freedom, but also warp and truncate their life prospects.