The events of the past week seem like scenes from the Theatre of the Absurd. First there was the rhetoric that Israel attacked a boat filled with ‘unarmed civilians’. But, how were Israeli soldiers then injured? So the move was on to rhetoric #2 that while there were individuals on the boat armed with pipes and even knives, the force of the Israeli response was clearly disproportionate. But how then were Israeli soldiers injured through gunfire? In any event, how were the Israeli soldiers supposed to determine what is ‘appropriate’ given that they did not know what they were facing? Weren’t these boats, knowing that they would face the blockade, still presented as peaceful? Once the soldiers recognized that they were facing a lie, what were they supposed to do? In our world, of course, defending yourself is now a problem. If you really want to avoid the label of applying ‘disproportionate force’, make sure that you have more casualties than your enemy.
Then there was rhetoric #3 which admitted that the Israeli soldiers were fired upon and even that there were indeed a small minority on one of the boats that were preparing for violence – but still the Israeli response was inappropriate for the vast majority on the boats were peaceable. Israel should have considered that and withheld their response. And with the same logic we should protest against the Canadian government for ‘wasting’ one billion dollars on security for the upcoming G20 summit for, after all, 99%, even 99.9%, of the people who will be in downtown Toronto during this time will be non-violent. In the same vein, we should stop ‘wasting’ money on airport security for the vast majority of passengers truly have no intention towards violence. Absurd is indeed the one word that comes to mind.
The question, though, still emerges; what are these vocal critics thinking? The ridiculousness of their charges, the clear evidence from videos of what happened—how can people still present such divisive and unsupportable arguments? Of course, this rhetoric from those who hate Israel is to be expected; we don’t expect the facts to get in the way of their agenda, of what they want to scream. But can we project this motivation, an inherent anti-Semitism, as the sole basis for this rhetoric? Many from the West, who, at times, have supported Israel, also continue to advocate for this absurdity, joining, it would seem, in this declaration– ‘please do not confuse us with the facts’. What this may reflect is a broader problem of which we must be aware.
At issue is the perception of oppression as the main motivation for violence with the subsequent view of a potential utopia if oppression is defeated. Buttressed by the words of Marx, many want to believe that violence, and subsequently modern terrorism, is basically a response to oppression. The argument thus is that with the end of tyranny, the violence will also end; even these vicious terrorists do not really want to act in this manner, they really want to be peaceable. So the solution for bringing about peace is always deemed to be through the instrumental end of oppression – after all why would people be violent if they are not oppressed? All we have to do is eliminate oppression; all people are basically good and we all desire peace. The problem is, though, that in order to apply this model you need an oppressor and an oppressed.
It is this mistaken utopian view that is challenging us. If oppression is solely that which leads to negative behaviour, then there is a potentially easy solution to the challenge of peace: remove oppression and everything will eventually be fine. This dominates how many look, and wish to look, at the situation in Israel. It is not surprising that South Africa becomes the model, no matter how different and much more complex the situation is on the banks of the Mediterranean. As long as Israel can be labeled the oppressor, this vision of humanity and a harmonious world can be upheld. Recognize that Israel is not an oppressor and you have to find another reason for the violence and you have to confront a much more difficult truth.
The reality of the devastating effects emerging from the theology of radical Islam thus, for example, cannot be accepted by proponents of this rhetoric. They will retort that people are only turning to radical Islam because they are oppressed. There may also be an additional intent not to assign any real power or value to religious influences or desire. In any event, the overriding need, in order to maintain this utopian hope, is to maintain the picture of oppressor and oppressed. It must be maintained above all else – and please don’t confuse advocates of this perspective with the facts.
The Arabs understand this and thus recognize the value and possibility of maintaining, no matter how flimsy the argument, this perception of oppressor and oppressed. And as much as Israel may take action to help the average Palestinian, the Arabs will act to block that aid – the goal is to maintain the image of oppression. And with such a perception, certain segments of the media will continue their slant; to portray another problem will challenge their whole vision of the world and life. Terrorists, it must be maintained, really do not want to hurt others; all people—except of course, they’ll admit, for some psychopathic individuals – really just want to live in generic peace. Individuals with this surmise do not want to confront the reality of a growing radical Islam which adheres to a dissenting view of life, humanity and vision of utopia. Our response must be, though, to challenge individuals to start seeing what is really happening and to start recognizing, no matter how destructive it may be to one’s specific dream of a utopia for humanity, what the truth is. We must make it clear to them that abiding by, allowing, this Theater of the Absurd will just engender a new violence against any restorative ambitions and hope. If you see what you want to see and not what is there – you are a terrorist. Your victim is truth and your victims are the innocent