The Dogs who do not Bark in Palestine.

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*This essay is an excerpt from The Holocausts We All Deny.

 

A classic Sherlock Holmes story tells of a winning racehorse that is taken in the night and its owner killed. 

In his investigation, Holmes draws attention to “the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.” But his interlocutor interjects, “the dog did nothing in the nighttime.” To which Holmes replies, “that was the curious incident.”

Sometimes, it is the dogs who do not bark that are the real story.

When the watchdog press repeatedly fails to bark on a major issue, we would do well to ask why. Thousands of demonstrators on the Gaza border are shot by Israeli sharpshooters with live ammunition, over the course of the summer, with several young children among the murdered. Unicef releases a report condemning Israel for kidnapping Palestinian children in the night and beating them in an effort to turn them into informers. Human Rights Watch releases a report accusing Israel of using Palestinian children as human shields, and all the while, the watchdog press is silent.

It is enough to make one ask what tail is wagging these quiet dogs. But while supporters of Israel are well positioned to censor the truth about the occupation, and while many journalists like myself have tales to tell of their work on Israel being suppressed, it may be the case that the dogs have simply had their attention diverted. The language through which Israel’s actions are framed may be the real story of the dogs that didn’t bark.

Language shapes experience, it directs our attention, and tells us what is important. According to the cognitive scientist, George Lakoff, our ideas of the world are built up through cognitive frames. Frames shape perception through subtle metaphors concerning the way the world is ordered. When development is conceived of through the metaphor “higher,” and higher is equated with “better,” this is not an ethical argument but rather a set of frames.

It allows a person to jump from the argument that something is more developed to the argument that it is more moral without actually making a moral argument. This is dangerous because more developed nations are not always more moral. But this is precisely what supporters of Israel suggest, forgetting their own tragic history with a pathologically developed Germany.

There are countless frames distorting our perceptions of the issue. News sources tend to speak of a Middle East “conflict.” But the word conflict is a frame that perverts our understanding. There must be at least two sides to every conflict, but if there are two sides, then each deserves an equal hearing, and must take equal responsibility. Where there is conflict, fair-minded people listen and tell both sides, because when both sides are heard, conflicts can be resolved, and this leads to peace.

But the occupation of Palestinian territories is arguably more like a case of theft. Israeli courts have long recognized their state as engaged in an occupation. The occupation involves the theft of Palestinian groundwater and prime real estate. And according to a report issued by the Israeli Sharon administration, a third of the land that Israel’s so-called “settlements” have been built upon was actually stolen outright from Palestinian deed holders.

The idea of a settlement is another curious frame. To settle something is to resolve it and therefore calm the situation. Settling also refers to bringing civilization to a wilderness. But far from being unsettled, the Palestinian city of Jericho has been continually inhabited for 9,000 years, and Palestinian East Jerusalem is the cradle of the three Abrahamic faiths. Hence, the settlements are actually colonies, which far from calming the situation, have rather ignited one of the world’s longest standing “conflicts.”

But while theft involves conflict we do not tend to frame it as such. For doing so puts the thief on an equal footing with his victim. And this fails to capture what’s most important about theft. What is important in a case of theft is not peace but rather restitution. If the family of a thief were to begin speaking of the “conflict” with his victim, we would recognize at once that our perception of the situation is being manipulated. And since framing thefts as conflicts makes it easier for thieves to get away with their crimes, doing so only perpetuates their abuses.

The occupation is inherently abusive, as military occupations tend to be. Among other things, it involves arresting children, killing protesters, and searching civilians at checkpoints, as do most occupations. While cases of abuse are also conflicts, we do not tend to frame them as such. For framing abuse as conflict favors the abuser. A woman may struggle against her rapist, but we do not tend to call this conflict, for doing so would suggest a sort of moral equality between victim and perpetrator, and that would be unjust.

There is a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but it is a conflict that is perpetuated not through a failure to understand the other side but rather through theft and abuse. The failure to highlight this abuse distorts the nature of the relationship in the minds of onlookers.

Supporters of Israel often demand “balance” in discussing the issue but this is also a metaphor, which suggests two sides that need to be weighed equally in the scales of justice. However, giving equal weight to the arguments of an abuser is unjust, for it casts blame on the victim while allowing the perpetrator to get away with their crimes.

Giving equal weight to both sides might seem comprehensive, but when one side is lying, it is simply delusional. There are not two sides to be heard but rather a reality to be comprehended. Sometimes, this means listening to both sides, sometimes many, sometimes neutral fact-checkers. But in most cases, the voices of the oppressed will need to be sought out, for a substantial portion of oppression lies in the censorship of their side of the story. And failing that is neither just nor good but rather just ignorant.

Confucius was once asked what he would do if he were to rule China. He answered that he would begin by calling things by their true names. When things are called by their true names, the dogs can hear the criminals approaching and bark when the time is right. But up to now, our attention has been diverted with noise. It is time we take it upon ourselves to frame Israel—to catch them in the act by naming their actions more accurately.

We need to catch them at the scene of the crime and call their crimes by their true names.

*This essay is an excerpt from The Holocausts We All Deny.

author: Theo Horesh

Image: Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr

Editor: Naomi Boshari

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Theo Horesh

Theo Horesh is the author of the newly released, The Holocausts We All Deny, as well as, Convergence: The Globalization of Mind and The Inner Climate: Global Warming from the Inside Out, a book of interviews with leading thinkers, like Frances Moore Lappe, George Lakoff, Paul Ehrlich, Andrew Revkin, and Peter Senge. He is a human rights activist and host of the Conscious Business podcast, which was recently chosen by the Business Insider as one of 100 podcasts that will make you smarter and more successful. He has been meditating for 30 years and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado. The Holocausts We All Deny is now available for purchase.

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deannakell Jan 9, 2019 10:00am

This is fantastic.

michael mitchell Jan 9, 2019 8:37am

I knew many of these things but your thoughts were so logical and cut through loads of propaganda in a few paragraphs. Amazing how the truth does that.
Egotistical man fights with little thought of resolution.
Only Jehovah the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus can solve the earths problems. Man has the potential but not the ability.
Never give up hope and thank you for your passion!

    Theo Horesh Jan 18, 2019 7:11pm

    Thanks for following the logic, Michael. It is not always easy.

kiley marouf Jan 9, 2019 7:34am

Wonderful article that gives us all a lot to think about.

    anatfrie Jan 10, 2019 11:38am

    Every line in this article is a lie.
    This’s the Arab propaganda pure and simple..
    Following this article I don’t want to see Elephant journal anymore

      johnd_wallace Jan 11, 2019 10:20am

      I would urge you not to make a sweeping, absolutist change based on a philosophical difference with one author. Surely the site has other content you find valuable?
      I happen to agree with you in principle however. The author is framing the situation using the arguments of the Arab side. The Israeli policy of settlements is an outcome of the Arab-Israeli wars of the 20th century, which notably were sparked by a rejection of the establishment of the state of Israel by a transnational Arab movement. Israel was carved out of the Transjordan territories of the Ottoman Empire. From the Israeli perspective, they were surrounded on 3 sides by hostile nations, and their actions are survival tactics. De-escalating the conflict from the days of the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War has been the work of decades, and requires that people from both sides of the conflict speak with one another. We should listen to the arguments of pro-Arab writers to understand their perspective and find common ground, not to determine who we will ignore.

        Theo Horesh Jan 18, 2019 7:18pm

        Thanks for paying attention, Kiley.

        If this is propaganda, Anat, it is Jewish propaganda in this case, as I am of Jewish descent, and the observations are my own. Moreover, at least half of the books I have read on this issue have been written by Jewish authors. However, it would be impossible for every line of this piece to be a lie, because most lines are making a moral argument, which can be neither true nor false. Rather, the argument that is being set forth seeks to appeal to your moral reasoning. So, given that there are only a limited number of factual claims, perhaps you would like to begin debating this in sequential order; or if you lack the knowledge to do that, perhaps you could find some factual claim, any factual claim, that is false. If you can find one, you will make me a better writer, but I bet you can’t, because my sources and research have both been thorough.

        Theo Horesh Jan 18, 2019 7:28pm

        Thank you for your considered responses, John. You are right to point out that what I am doing is framing facts, which might be framed otherwise. So, if you want to argue against what has been written, the proper thing to do is to question the framing. However, as I point out in a comment above, you suggest that this is the Arab framing of things, and yet, these are my thoughts, and I am of Jewish descent, as are many of the authors I have read. Moreover, much of what I have been written has been based on personal observations in Israel and the West Bank. And yet, this does not really capture what is wrong with you saying this is the Arab point of view, because it is actually the point of view of most Muslims, Arab and non-Arab alike; most people who have experienced colonialism, Muslim or non-Muslim; most people who are concerned with oppression who know of the issue, first world or third world; and most people who believe in international law, whether they are concerned with oppression or not.

        It is true that Israel has security concerns, but it is also true that its neighbors do as well. After all, Israel has taken land from each of them; and far from normal, it is difficult to think of any other land grabs occurring anywhere in the world in the last half century except those of Saddam and Putin. So, Israel is viewed warily by its neighbors and as an international pariah by much of the world, because the crimes it engages in to defend itself are highly unusual. And they are incredibly oppressive as well. Moreover, if we are to base our foreign policies on what happened in the forties, Europe would once more become a powder keg; or if we choose the sixties, the whole of the third world might become a battleground.

        Any normal nation would expect to encounter stiff resistance if they were to occupy another, and they would expect the world to sanction them and treat them as an international pariah. It is strange to see so many supporters of Israel expecting others to tolerate what no one else would begin to accept.