In my previous post I suggested that there has always been a considerable amount of ignorance on the background to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and that this has done little to help an informed discussion of the relative rights and wrongs of both sides. As a consequence, there is often an unquestioned acceptance in the West – particularly in the US and Britain – of the Israeli position on the issue. This is hardly surprising, given the media’s stance, which all too often is biased heavily in favour of the Israeli narrative.
In my own case, growing up in America in the 1950s and 60s, and attending a school with a large proportion of Jewish kids, I was entirely unaware that there even was a Palestinian population, or a “Palestinian issue”. American media at the time – and to some extent still – spoke only of plucky little Israel standing firm against the combined might of its many Arab neighbours who were intent on “pushing it into the sea”. It wasn’t until I first travelled to the area in 1971 and met these Palestinians that my eyes were opened to another whole new narrative, and it has given me a perspective which ever since has put me at odds with mainstream thought on the issue.
Public awareness of the Palestinian plight has improved dramatically since that time, and there is now widespread support for providing the Palestinians at long last with some measure of justice. It’s vital to understand that this awareness has developed only as the Palestinians have offered determined resistance to Israeli occupation and encroachment, which has provoked the most extreme kinds of Israeli retribution and oppression, such as what we’re witnessing once again in Gaza.
Despite the understandable condemnation of violence on either side, it is only because of the Palestinians’ determination to resist that the world knows anything at all about them and of the injustices they have suffered over the past century. If they had, as is so often suggested, foregone resistance and left the Israelis to pursue their own agenda, there would be peace in the area now. But would there be justice?
It’s only because of their continued resistance that the world knows anything at all about the Palestinian people. Without it they would have disappeared from the scene altogether, and for all intents and purposes ceased to exist as a people. This, of course, is exactly what Israeli would like.
So what is this other narrative that so many of us are unaware of?
For that, please proceed to part 3.