I’m not sure what the editors at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald were thinking. Perhaps in response to the criticism of their coverage of the recent violence in Israel, they decided to publish an opinion piece written by an Israeli, and in their wisdom, they chose writer Assaf Gavron.
His article in Saturday’s edition: “Israel and the Palestinians: spiralling into savagery” is a diatribe that takes claims of victimhood and absolution of responsibility to new levels, and invokes false cause-and-effect tropes.
While at least he characterises the current violence as “wave of Palestinian attacks” rather than using the inane “cycle of violence”, his simplistic explanation is “a desperate and humiliated answer to the election of a hostile Israeli government that emboldens extremist settlers to attack Palestinians”. This is a nothing less than a geopolitical incarnation of the “twinkie defence” – that excuses the perpetrators of violence of responsibility for their actions. It’s not their fault, he claims, as they are driven to this behaviour by their desperation and humiliation at the hands of the evil Israeli government.
His disdain for the democratically elected government of Israel doesn’t stop there. It’s not just the Palestinians who are victims, it’s also the Left. They are the few dissenters who dare to contradict the party line. He claims they are threatened and vilified for not “supporting our troops”. It gets worse from here, as he leaps toward an awful equivalence: there has been anti-leftist violence which “goes along” with the attacks against Palestinians. And yet the left has not been driven to violent behaviour in response to their oppression.
As he points to the calls for an aggressive response to the street stabbings from ministers and officials, he refuses to apply a common standard to Jews and Palestinians. He excuses the Palestinians for their wave of attacks, but not Israel for their response. In any other country, taking down a rampaging attacker with deadly force would be fully acceptable. Indeed, following the recent attack at Parramatta Police Station, Council board member Amarinder Bajwa wanted to honour the bravery of the special constable who shot dead attacker Farhad Jabar. In Israel, the authorities are condemned for shooting attackers, and here in Australia they are honoured for bravery!
The ‘root cause’, according to Gavron, is in fact the occupation, which he claims is leading Israel to savagery. Indeed, the online slug for the article, “West Bank Occupation paid for in Vitriol and Bloodlust”, conveys the same sentiment, that the occupation is turning Israel into a monster state. Not all of Israel, of course. Just the right wing who insist on protecting its citizens from terror. Those who share his thinking remain morally superior and are the only ones who can see what is happening to the rest of the country.
Gavron continues to play the blame game, hunting for someone to blame until he reaches a satisfactory target. It’s not the Palestinians, perennial victims, who have been fully absolved of responsibility for their actions. It’s not the surrounding Arab states who have regularly acted to perpetuate the status of Palestinians refugees by refusing to accept them. It’s certainly not Jordan, which is the de facto Palestinian state anticipated by the original partition plan, but whose Hashemite leaders weaselled their way out of that obligation. It’s not the UNRWA, whose sole purpose appears to be to bring up the next generation of refugees. It’s not even the political left, who, in his view, have also become victims of his real target, the right.
I was in Israel during the recent election in March, and saw firsthand how shell-shocked the left was by the result. They woke up in the morning with the sad realization that despite their loud voice, they were a political minority. Surely they could respect the wishes of the majority, rather than add them to the ever-growing list of who to blame?
This delusionary thinking, that everything would be fixed if only Israel ended the occupation, has been going on for decades. It has been proved empirically false time and again as Israel has indeed withdrawn from areas only to see them transformed into hotbeds of terrorism. And despite investment of billions of dollars into the Oslo plan and the Palestinian Authority, it too has failed to create anything that could be a future Palestinian state. It’s time the left stopped playing the blame game and instead applied standards of responsibility for actions to all parties.
David Werdiger launches a strident critique of Assaf Gavron’s opinion piece published in The Age and SMH as yet another example of playing the victim game and absolving others of responsibility for their actions.
This was originally posted at [J-Wire].