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Wed

14

Jan

2009

The Fatal Fallacy of Objectivity
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 23:17
by Jennifer Matsui

Seldom a day goes by that I am not reminded of how much easier life would be if we all just applied ourselves to the simple task of recognizing the benefits of siding with power and took comfort from the false sense of privilege and entitlement that comes with championing the status-quo. One more than one occasion, I've been encouraged to tone down the "rage" element in my writing, concentrating instead on jotting down my thoughts on current affairs in the hopes of one day seeing them in a "real" magazine. But in order to realize this non-ambition of mine, I will have to be sure to maintain a tone of cool "objectivity" and stick to topics that will better guarantee my smooth passage into "nice" society among people who avoid words like "atrocity" when they don't apply to Tibetan monks or Darfur refugees.

And when the subject of the conflict in the Middle East is broached, I should manage a discreet and "knowing" little sigh, having recognized the signal to return to the much more pressing issues of the day like gay marriage or this year's Oscar nominees. Unluckily for me, I have no intention of being a "fair and impartial" observer of anything - least of all injustice. After all, "objectivity" in the political context usually functions as passivity and an inability (or unwillingness) to confront power, which is never "objective" about anything. Truth, on the other hand, can never be underestimated, however much its detractors protest the unwelcome incursion of inconvenient facts into their power-serving narratives, using subterfuge and fraudulent notions of "objectivity" to defend the indefensible. Worst of all, truth provides the basis for courage, and without courage, power cannot be confronted.

Indeed there is no shortage of facts that could lead one to conclude that the unmitigated tragedy that is unfolding right now in Gaza is anything but a singular act of violence and state terror perpetrated by a heavily armed and funded military power against a defenseless and imprisoned population - as opposed to a two-sided, evenly matched conflict between equal powers as our fact-filtering media takes great pains to imply, even insisting in some cases that small, fertilizer based Qassam rockets launched over a prison wall pose a credible threat to Israel's continuing existence as a political and geographical entity.

But for now, I will leave the heavy lifting required to properly analyze the unfolding and escalating atrocities being inflicted upon the people of Gaza in the capable hands of all the worthy scholars and activists who provide a much better service to the cause of justice than I ever will. In fact, I will be the first to admit that I lack the brain power to truly grasp the scope and complexity of this horror, or the imagination to fully appreciate the depraved ingenuity of its architects. In many ways, I am even thankful that I don't have the faculties necessary to truly comprehend the levels of fear and despair every Palestinian is experiencing right now as their homes are being rubbled, their children slaughtered, and their dignity and honor defiled by the monsters who wear the Israeli army uniform.

These seemingly endless reserves of contempt (not to mention, bewilderment) I am learning to live with are no match, either, for how the Palestinians (and Israelis of conscience) are feeling towards the leaders who robbed these soldiers of every last shred of their humanity in the first place. Nor do I have the stamina to endure even for a day the frustrations and humiliations the Israelis relentlessly inflict upon Palestinians in the "best" of times, whether it's through direct intimidation, harassment, or just as brutally, all those punishing bureaucratic procedures like checkpoints and constant demands for documentation, the interminable waiting, the endless lines. . . We can only interpret the ever-changing and maliciously implemented rules Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have to submit to, even as they are being denied a human being's most basic, fundamental needs like going to work, visiting nearby friends and relatives, or seeking medical services, as constant reminders that they are not merely prisoners, but a contained "livestock" herd facing the same fate as farm animals suspected of posing the risk of contagion to "human" populations.


I don't have the expertise, so to speak, (or even the bandwidth) to list every "minor" act of cruelty that is inflicted upon the Palestinians as collective punishment every day for the crime of not being Jewish in the "Holy Land". Comparing this system of state brutality against an ethnic "other" to Apartheid is a euphemistic understatement. Holocaust is a more accurate term, but this holocaust, unlike its more famous predecessor with a capital 'H', has continued unabated for sixty years and intensifies every passing day, while we wring our hands and mumble some platitude about the failures of both sides to seek more peaceful means towards ending the conflict. Implicit in this simplistic view of the situation is the notion that total submission to Israel's continuing occupation of Palestinian land and its brutal control over every aspect of Palestinian life is the only course of "action" Palestinians should pursue if "peace" is to be achieved.

Let's not forget, though, that "peace" in this context is a subterfuge term to describe the abject capitulation to the enhanced measures of domination that is incumbent upon Palestinians to submit to, with little or no regard to their rights to self-defense. What well-meaning hand wringers most conveniently overlook as they lament over the wrongs inflicted on and by both sides (in the name of "objectivity", of course) is the seldom discussed fact that Israel had already violated the terms of its illusory "ceasefire" with Hamas when it implemented its deadly blockade of Gaza six months earlier - an internationally recognized violation of its responsibilites as an occupying power - and an obvious attempt to provoke a cross "border" assault by Hamas militants in order to justify its own brute measures of "containing" its unwanted and slaughter-ready "livestock" population. Never mind, either, that Israeli soldiers murdered six Palestinians during this so-called ceasefire in November 2008, citing the victims' affiliation to Hamas as a justification for this slaughter.

Again, the "objectivity" our society's privileged sector insists is integral to our understanding of the conflict merely stands as tragic testament to the American media/military/entertainment complex's success in shaping public discourse to serve the needs of wealth and power, providing an exclusive, cushy forum from which war criminals can air their grievances 24/7.

For those who don't enjoy the luxury of inhaling the fine cigar aroma of the nation's op-ed pages, but rather get their "news" first hand from from the mortar shells raining down on their homes, "objectivity" is merely an other rhetorical ploy to bring them in line with Tel-Aviv and Washington's larger aims of expanding their sphere of dominance in an oil rich region.

We shouldn't be surprised at the scale and scope of this tragedy since it goes back decades with the slow destruction of the economy, infrastructure, institutions and overall sustainability of the occupied territories, the fragmentation of Palestinian land into isolated and locked down Bantustans disconnected from the surrounding economies of its neighbors. So far Israel has achieved its intended goal of creating a failed non-state almost wholly dependent on the scant food aid "allowed" in at the whim and mercy of its jailers. Adding insult to injury, these starvation measures are lauded in the media as "humanitarian" interventions, carried out under the auspices of an International law-abiding nation, going that extra mile to observe the protocols of the Geneva Conventions.

Worse even, this deliberate dismantling of Palestinian society and the institutions that sustain it, has been carried out with the full cooperation of the so-called "International Community". Even among Arab leaders in the region, corrupt politicians offer their complicit support to the genocide through discreet diplomatic channels. In the meantime, the criminals we have elevated to levels of leadership stand united in condemning the Palestinians for the least resistance to their worsening plight, while condoning Israel's war crimes as acts of "self defense". I could go on, but I know I haven't even begun to scratch the surface.

I will also be the first to admit that I am neither burdened by history or displacement, but merely a casual observer with the remote control easily within reach. And to my shame, I don't hesitate to use it. It's hard enough to fathom any of the atrocities going on in the world on any given day, let alone imagine one that is endless, deliberately worsening, and with the intended goal of provoking a humanitarian crisis. It is no longer possible to deny the fact that Israel's long standing strategy is to derail the prospect for peace with the Palestinians altogether in the belief that a viable, democratic Palestinian state would only impede its ultimate geo-political aims of further expanding its ill-gained and legally unrecognized borders. For all its talk of "peace" and "co-existence", Israel's road maps only lead to more enhanced measures of forced expulsion of the human shaped pot-holes its artillery tanks absorb along the otherwise smooth paths leading to its targets of annihilation.

I wish I knew how to compartmentalize my empathy (and yes, my sense of outrage) into neat little packages to be doled out on a "time and place" basis. And again, only to those who "deserve" it most, based on their proximity to high profile advocates like Bono and the Dalai Lama. Or at least conform visually to our standards of "victims" like those wizened, semi-comatose African babies whose blighted existence can never be expressed through acts of defiance or resistance, but rather compliancy and helplessness in the face of "unavoidable" tragedy. We in the West approve of these kinds of victims because they pose no threat. On the contrary, they remind us how "good we have it" and provide countless opportunities to throw a celebrity-studded shindig in their honor. For the bargain basement price of what it would cost to feed and educate an African child well into adulthood, we can pick one up as the ultimate red carpet accessory. Conveniently, we read only gratitude for our beneficence in those terrified, staring eyes, rather than see a mirror upon which are own depravities are reflected. When Palestinians are reduced to this state, perhaps then we can spare a thought to their predicament.

As the images of terrorized and slaughtered children make their way out of Gaza through some of the more unfiltered media portals, the endless litany of absurdities dribbling from the mouths of Israeli government officials and their faithful scribes in the US media in the meantime, have become as blood chillingly surreal as any government radio broadcast in Rwanda during another genocide the world just happened to tune into between sit-coms and commercials for suppositories and teeth whiteners.

In the face of this ceaseless barrage of misinformation, we can only exercise our own right to self-defense against these relentless assaults to our intelligence and integrity before we become casualties ourselves. After all, when we choose to put our humanity on hold by adhering to some self-serving notion of "objectivity" in the face of avoidable tragedy, shouldn't that count as a death of sorts?
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