Wisam Rafeedie – Nov 3, 2023
The non-imperialist media discourse globally is better understanding the Palestinian struggle, especially as it continues to align with the people’s solidarity movements. This discourse reflects the conflict between two narratives: the narrative of the Zionist settler colony, and the narrative of the Palestinian people’s liberation. The conflict between these two narratives is a natural consequence of the realities of our existential struggle, and not merely the result of events since October 7. More and more international media outlets and discourses are coming to the realization on a daily basis that this clash is the outcome of the events leading up to 1948: the year of forced displacement of Palestinians and the Nakba, the establishment of the Zionist entity through ethnic cleansing, massacres, and colonizing the land.
Nevertheless, alongside the aforementioned discourse, there is the official discourse of the Arab regimes, some Oslo Accord leaders, and certain European countries that are antagonistic to the resistance. Whether overt or covert, it doesn’t make a difference; their discourse aims to be “balanced and objective.” They show sympathy towards civilians on “both sides” and make demands of “both sides” to cease bombing civilians. In numerous statements and positions, two terms are repeated. The first is the term “both sides.” Those who use this term appears to remain equidistant from both sides, convincing themselves [and the audience] of their objectivity, and unbiased by supporting neither side, or polluted by–God forbid–supporting the Palestinian resistance. The person who uses this term is not ignorant and they know that “both sides” involve the Zionist executioner and the Palestinian victim. One side represents the Zionist settler-colonial project, and the other side represents the Palestinian people and their liberation struggle. Therefore, discussing “both sides” at the same level of responsibility in the conflict is nothing more than, at best, a distortion of consciousness [and reality], even if one claims innocence. At worst, it aligns with the executioners, because in the face of ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and the genocide of the Palestinian people, neutrality means standing with the executioners and participating in their crimes. Regardless of one’s good intentions, the blood spilled in the Gaza Strip is not subject to good intentions, or any intentions at all.
As for the second term, it is “civilians.” Here as well, at the same level, the Zionist colonizer who occupied the land, displaced the Palestinian people, committed massacres, systematically exterminated them and built colonies on stolen land, is placed in an equal position with the Palestinian refugee who has been hunted and targeted through extermination, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.
However, the hypocrites who use the term “civilians” to describe the colonizers know that they are not civilians at all. The Zionist project, from its very inception, was established as a militarized state from head to toe. It was founded by armed gangs that were formed and developed in armed colonies before the year 1948. The “Jewish Settlement,” as it was historically called, is, in reality, a military outpost—in its composition, the education of its members, their military training, and their leading role in the success of the Zionist project. Within this militarized society, armed Zionist gangs such as the Haganah, Lehi, Irgun, and Etzel were formed, which later became an army and established the Zionist entity. It is a completely militarized state from its institutions to its settlers. Today, due to compulsory military conscription, there are no civilians in the entity’s state, except for children and the elderly. Everyone else is a reserve soldier. The image of armed colonizers and that of the fascist Ben Gvir distributing weapons to “civilians” are certainly not lost on those who advocate the term “civilians.” These “civilians” terrorize Palestinians in the West Bank in their fields and their neighborhoods and are carrying out ethnic cleansing, uprooting agricultural and Bedouin communities. However, the term “civilians” obscures the nature of the conflict and takes the same approach of equating the executioner with the victim.
Even some Palestinian journalists and intellectuals, for various reasons, called for the release of “civilian detainees” held by the resistance as a humanitarian gesture, without anything in exchange from the occupiers, in order to highlight the morality of the resistance. The resistance has now done this twice. But these journalists and intellectuals do not acknowledge that the 1948 territories are occupied and they fail to see Palestine beyond the West Bank and Gaza, monstrously distorting the reality of our homeland. Their suspicious attempts to distort Palestinian political consciousness was not popularly received, so those with this position remain completely isolated.
When discussing the possibility of a prisoner exchange deal, the discourse revolves around the necessity to release the “civilian” Zionist prisoners held by the resistance, without even mentioning once that thousands of Palestinian prisoners are civilians. The majority of Palestinian prisoners, numbering in the thousands, with over 1,200 of them being administrative detainees, are essentially civilian prisoners. Only a few hundred of them were detained due to armed resistance and they are freedom fighters. This definition is not only based on the logic of the conflict, ethics and the right to resist, this is according to international law.
The use of the two terms “civilians” and “both sides” has now, in the context of the ongoing conflict, equated those committing genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes with the victims of those crimes. This stance in itself is biased in favor of the criminals. While it might be “understandable” for European and US imperialists to take such a stance, some Arabs and Palestinians, who are socially isolated, will reap nothing but additional isolation from their own people with this stance.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Wisam Rafeedie is a former Palestinian political prisoner, full-time researcher and lecturer at the Department of Social Sciences at Bethlehem University – Palestine. He previously worked as a part-time lecturer in Sociology and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University. He holds two master’s degrees from Birzeit University, one in sociology for his thesis on the changes in the status of women in contemporary Palestinian literature before and after Oslo, and the other in contemporary Arab studies.