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Challenging the Language of Violence   
by Mike Whitney
March 10, 2005

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a straightforward territorial dispute obscured by decades of Israeli mythmaking. The language that surrounds the conflict has been purposefully crafted to condition the public into accepting perennial violence. Even a superficial evaluation of the euphemism “cycle of violence” indicates the political agenda of the people who created the expression. The term implies that the problem between the warring parties is insoluble; emerging from either historical exigencies or deep-seated ethnic hatred. Neither of these is true, but they support the rationale for endless hostilities.

Let’s look at the facts: A recent James Zogby article cites a February 2005 poll that “shows that 80% of Israelis now want negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and almost two-thirds now believe that a real comprehensive peace is possible.” These numbers show that the vast majority of Israelis still want peace and are willing to work with newly elected Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. The problem is at the top of government where the plans for peace run counter to the interests of elites on both sides of the aisle. (Likud and Labor) Neither political party is prepared to give an inch to the demands of their own people. Their agenda is clear; the continued settlement of the West Bank and the Balkanization of the Palestinian people into isolated reservations spread throughout the territories. To accomplish this goal they will have to create another scapegoat, like Arafat, to excuse their unwillingness to negotiate with the PA. This shouldn’t be too difficult. The Israeli spin doctors are every bit as qualified for such a task as their counterparts in the US. The plan to subvert the peace process is invariably disguised by (what Noam Chomsky calls) “necessary illusions”.  The “cycle of violence” is one such fantasy. The term is a diversionary tactic to shift the blame onto both parties and to suggest that violence is the unavoidable consequence of two ethnically dissimilar people living in such close proximity.  In truth, the blame rests squarely on Israel, the perpetrators of the 37 year long occupation that has been roundly condemned by nearly every nation in the world. Any candid examination of the facts will show that the roots of the violence can be traced directly to the occupation.

The language of Violence

The falsehoods fueling the Middle East crisis are implicit in the language of the debate; the “cycle of violence”, “partner in peace”, “the generous offer” and, now, the equally mendacious “window of opportunity”. These euphemisms are minted in Israeli think tanks with the expressed purpose of obscuring the facts on the ground, that is, ongoing occupation and repression. The language becomes the window through which the world sees the conflict, but the view is distorted by the corrupting influence of political bias and sloganeering. Outsiders cannot be expected to grasp the issues without clear analysis and transparent language.

Window of Opportunity?

Sharon’s unilateralism doesn’t represent a “window of opportunity”, but continued frustration and conflict.  Just last week, he refused to even send low-ranking representatives to the Palestinian conference in Britain. Does that sound like a leader who respects the collective will of 80% of his people?

Of course, not.

So, what does “window of opportunity” actually mean?

Regrettably, Sharon’s actions tell us exactly what it means. It means that Abbas has been given an ultimatum to rein in the violence and disarm the militias or else. In return, Sharon will reward him by stopping the targeted assignations, ceasing the housing demolitions, releasing a small number of the prisoners and removing the settlements from Gaza. The only concession Sharon has made in this new arrangement is to stop killing Palestinians and stop destroying their property. It doesn’t mean that Sharon will work on the key issues of “right of return”, sovereignty, borders, water, airspace or settlements. Sharon remains staunchly opposed to negotiating with the Palestinians and that will not change. So, in this context, the “window of opportunity” simply implies that the Palestinians will be given the opportunity to lay down their weapons and surrender.

Some opportunity!

The real objective continues to be a negotiated settlement that respects the legitimate security needs and political aspirations of both parties. That will only come about by replacing the language of lies with the language of peace; calling things by their real names and tearing down the illusions that are propagated by political elites.

The “cycle of violence” embraces a sense of hopelessness that Israeli leadership wants to perpetuate so they can achieve their narrow (territorial) objectives. These are not the goals of the Palestinians or the Israeli people, but of a small minority trying to impose their will on the majority. The language is intended to manipulate public perceptions and, thus, increase support for unpopular policies. It’s up to all of us to see through smokescreen state-sponsored deception so the obstacles to negotiation can be removed and peace can finally be realized.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

Other Articles by Mike Whitney

* Jose Padilla and the 10 Commandments
* Crushing the UN for a Stronger America
* Europe to Bush: “Hands Off Iran”?
* The Incredible Shrinking Dollar
* Assassinating Al-Hariri Fits Washington’s Plan
* Washington’s Plan to Foment Civil War in Iraq
* Condi’s Euro-Tour
* Folksy Tom Friedman and New Age Imperialism
* Government Without Consent
* The Desperate State of the Union
* Iraq’s Election Fiasco
* Boarding Up the “Window of Opportunity”
* KGB Chieftain Finds Home at Homeland Security
* Bush’s Grand Plan: Incite Civil War
* Pink Slips at CBS