Banality of the West
10 July, 2014, Counterpunch
On June 30th, 2014, the bodies of three kidnapped Jewish-Israeli boys, Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, were found in a shallow grave. In response, Israeli authorities and vigilantes killed ten Palestinians, “including at least three children, a pregnant woman, and a mentally ill man.” Recently, Israeli officials arrested six Jewish suspects in the kidnapping and murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, reportedly as “extremist revenge” for the prior kidnapping and murder. Around the same time, two videos surfaced on social media showing the brutalization of Black American women by American police. In one, a professor is arrested and beaten for jaywalking and in the other an older Black woman is severely beaten.
The rhetoric and events surrounding the Israeli and Palestinian tragedies have sparked comparisons of historic and current structural injustices against American minority communities. Israel and the US, and other “Western”-identified nations, are fueling a racial superiority and complicity to apartheid conditions that cannot be tolerated in civilized society. Our moral outrage for murdered Israeli boys should extend to murdered Palestinians and people of color around the world, and we must begin building a new culture that no longer condones such brutality.
Israel’s response to the loss of its three youths – the detention and extrajudicial execution of Palestinians – is fueled by a socio-cultural environment in which the public’s outspoken hatred towards Palestinians is being stoked by divisive rhetoric by political and religious leaders. In the US, politicians use racially coded language and negatively stereotypical characterizations, arguably resulting in fear of Black and Latino boys and “justifiable” violence against people of color.
How is this violence tolerated in a “civilized” global society? In our global culture, the use of violence to manage or resolve conflict is acceptable. Many are numb to violence, especially if it is used against Palestinians or persons of color in Western-European nations. Underlying this arbitrary use of violence is a belief in the cultural, moral and racial superiority of “Western” identities. There is a profound failure to respect human life and dignity because our society teaches us to disrespect others by stereotyping all Arabs as terrorists and Black and Latino boys as criminals. Thus, violence against these groups is justifiable. We have yet to develop the capacity for moral outrage of injustice and violence against those who are different from us. There is a hypocrisy at work when there is outrage for the lost lives of Israelis and none for the thousands of Palestinian, Black and Latino youth who are brutally beaten, submitted to checkpoints on their native lands, stopped, frisked and jailed in Israeli and American adult prisons.
We shouldn’t divert attention from the murder of the Israeli teens, the apartheid conditions or the most recent brutal attacks on Palestinians but these episodes of violence should spark moral outrage at the lack of attention to human dignity and double standards imposed on people of color throughout the world.
Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Bishop Tutu, and the Presbyterian Church acknowledge that the illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinians is immoral. Still, US tax dollars continue to support the Israeli military. The only ethical response for persons of conscious is to boycott Israel, divest and avoid any kind of financial support of this Apartheid Regime.
Contact your politicians to pressure Israel to stop the irrational, revenge violence against Palestinians. Contact your politicians and demand an end to police and vigilante murders, brutality and racial profiling. As Hannah Arendt reminds us, evil is not black and white, but an absence of moral capacities to see each other in our full humanity. To see the “Other” as human means to respect their dignity and culture, to stand with the oppressed in solidarity and to oppose the blind rage of police and military brutality that creates the environment for such horrific acts of violence against our fellow human beings.
David Ragland is a visiting Assistant Professor of education at Bucknell University, board member for the Peace and Justice Association and United Nations representative for the International Peace Research Association.