Israel’s wanton, daily aggression
against Palestinians remains
No matter who you are, no matter
what greatness you’ve achieved in your life or what gifts you’ve
given to the rest of humanity, if you criticize Israel, you must
expect to become persona non grata.
You should expect an utter onslaught of attacks. Otherwise
rational and decent people will, one by one, genuflect and sign
onto the stupid clichés and tiresome accusations that question
your character, integrity and even sanity. You will be called an
anti-Semite, or a self-hating Jew if you happen to be Jewish. The
Holocaust will be invoked. You’ll be reminded of Hitler and
Himmler and Goebbels and perhaps likened to Nazis, or capos if
you’re Jewish. You’ll be accused explicitly or implicitly of
secretly supporting the genocide of Jews and having a deep-seated
desire for it.
Incredibly, this nonsense does not occur among the paranoid
fringe, but in mainstream culture.
It happened to moral authorities like Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu
and Jimmy Carter, both of whom were called anti-Semites, crazy old
fools and worse, for daring to criticize Israel’s criminal
policies toward Palestinians — the natives of the Holy Land.
It happened to renowned scholars like John Mearsheimer and Steven
Walt for publishing a well-documented and supported audit of
Israel’s manipulation of US foreign policy through their domestic
Judge Richard Goldstone was chastised, shunned and punished by his
own community for reporting his findings which stated that Israel
had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. In
response, he then utterly discredited himself as a jurist by
retracting his well-reasoned legal conclusions based on
irrefutable evidence, which was nonetheless upheld by all his
colleagues and by the international legal community.
Among many abuses, they called him a “capo” and a “self-hating
Jew” and he was told he would not be welcome at his grandson’s bar
mitzvah. Those labels too have been hurled at intellectuals like
Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky — the latter actually banned
by Israel from entering the West Bank to speak at Birzeit
University. The list is too long for one article, but it stretches
the full breadth of international thinkers, artists,
intellectuals, clergy, moral authorities and political figures. No
one is immune from this insanity.
Günter Grass and obvious truths
But the world still has brave people who are willing to take
significant risks for the rest of humanity. Pulitzer Prize-winning
author Alice Walker, renowned crime fiction writer Henning Mankel,
84-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and many like them
risked their lives to break the siege of Gaza when they boarded
the Freedom Flotilla, joining an unarmed group of people carrying
humanitarian aid who were attacked, and, in some cases, killed by
Others, like Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire, likewise have risked
the abuse and attacks that come with speaking up for the rights of
Palestinians against Israel’s unchecked aggression.
The latest case in point is Günter Grass, the German Nobel
laureate who dared to suggest glaringly obvious truths: that
Israel has a robust nuclear program and its hinted intention to
attack Iran is a threat to world stability.
Of course, the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East” is
banning him from ever entering the Holy Land, which happens to be
my homeland. I’m barred from living there, too, but for different
reasons. By the laws of the State of Israel, I am not the right
kind of human being to inherit my family’s property and live where
all my ancestors have dwelled for millennia. But I digress.
Germany sits on sidelines
Günter Grass has entered forbidden intellectual and political
territory, and the criticism against him has been intense. The
other side of Germany’s silence when it comes to Israel is loud
and sure chastising of Israel’s critics. Every article here in the
mainstream US press mentions Germany’s “understandable” reluctance
to criticize Israel, as if it’s a foregone and logical conclusion
that it’s perfectly fine for Germany to sit on the sidelines —
eyes, ears and lips sealed — sending aid and weapons to a country
that has placed itself above the law, a country with one of the
worst human rights records in the world, and one that is engaged
in systematic ethnic cleansing of the native population of the
land it occupies.
As a member of that native population, I do not accept that it is
“understandable” for Germany to continue unreservedly support
Israel no matter what. It is convenient, for sure. Because Germany
is not the one paying for its sins. We, the Palestinians, are.
Everything — home, heritage, life, resources, hope — has been
robbed from us to atone for Germany’s sins. To this day, we
languish in refugee camps that are not fit for human beings so
that every Jewish man and woman can have dual citizenship, one in
their own country and one in mine.
We are the ones who find ourselves at the other end of the weapons
that Germany supplies to Israel. It is Palestine that is being
wiped off the map. It is our society that is being destroyed. Of
course, Germany’s silence is easy and convenient, but
“understandable” it is not.
Israel is not Judaism. It is a nuclear power with the most
advanced death machines ever known to man, which it unleashes
frequently against a principally unarmed civilian population that
dares to demand freedom. It is a country that is currently in
violation of hundreds of UN resolutions and nearly every tenet of
international law. It is a country that has been condemned by
every human rights organization that has ever investigated the
situation on the ground there.
It is a country with multi-tiered legal and social infrastructure
that measures the worth of a human being by his or her religion.
It is the regional bully that has refused a comprehensive peace
proposal set forth by all Arab states. It has in the past attacked
Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, all on the pretext of
pre-emption. And now it wants to attack Iran under the same
pretext, citing the tired “existential threat” mantra.
We are reminded of the Jewish Holocaust. But there is no need
because we remember it. We also remember the Armenians, the Serbs,
and we remember Rwanda. We remember the holocaust of the
extermination of Native Americans and we remember the holocaust of
slavery — 200 years of kidnapping, buying and selling human beings
as a commodity. And we remember Deir Yassin, Sabra and Shatila,
Qibya and the many other atrocities Israel has committed against
But no matter how great or unspeakable the crimes, victims are
not, and should not be, granted license to commit crimes against
others with impunity.
None of us can fully predict the ramifications of an Israeli
attack on Iran but we can all imagine the immensity of loss,
blood, upheaval and instability that will reverberate far beyond
the region. All so that Israel can maintain unchecked military
dominance in the region.
I can only thank Günter Grass for making a minimal gesture that
Germany should take measures not to remain complicit in the
destruction of Arab or Persian life.
Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestselling
novel Mornings in Jenin.