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Abuse of Jews Does Not Justify Abuse of Palestinians
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כדילתרגם לעברית
Posted on September 26, 2009
By Eitan Felner
Published: Thursday, August 20, 1998

Israeli society suffers from the syndrome of the abused child. That is the only reasonable answer to the frequently posed question of how a people that suffered so long, that was victimized for 3,000 years, can be indifferent to the suffering it inflicts on another people.

The state of Israel was formed against the backdrop of the most chilling act of genocide in modern history. Israel cannot escape that traumatic past. As in the case of an adult survivor of childhood abuse, a primal insecurity informs our perception of reality.

Every danger ؟ whether real or imagined, large or small ؟is experienced in terms ofour long history of persecution.Living in Israel, it is not hard to justify our self-perception as victims. Suicide bombings in Israeli cities have killed and maimed dozens of civilians in recent years. Israel remains in a state of war with half its neighbors. This reality is easily read in terms of our collective memory as victims.

Yet our identity as the eternal victim prevents us from realizing that today we are not only victims. Just as some victims of child abuse turn into victimizers as adults, we Israelis, having assumed a position of power over others, have ourselves become victimizers.

It is the syndrome of the abused child that informs the attitude of the Israeli public to human rights violations committed by our security forces in the Occupied Territories. Take, for example, the case of the public debate about torture in Israel.

The use of torture by the Israeli security service is routine. Thousands of Palestinian detainees are violently shaken, kept for days in excruciating positions, denied sleep for prolonged periods or subjected to extremes of noise, cold and filth. Israeli officials publicly acknowledge such practices.

Torture's stigma prompts most nations to deny any use of force in interrogations, but the Israeli public, at large, supports the use of torture as a legitimate means to defend security.

Israel's resort to collective forms of punishment provokes a similar response.

In the past 10 years, Israel has demolished more than 400 houses of family members of Palestinians suspected of violent acts against Israel. No public outcry has been raised about this policy, which has rendered homeless hundreds of innocent people, many of them children and the elderly.

Israeli public opinion has also remained indifferent to the blatantly discriminatory manner in which this policy is applied. Only Palestinians are subjected to collective punishments.

Four years ago, when 29 Palestinians were killed by an Israeli settler at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Israel took seriously the fundamental legal principle that every person is responsible for his or her own acts. It did not take reprisals against innocent people, such as the family or neighbors of the perpetrator of the massacre.

Israel's repressive policies cannot be compared to the horrors of the Holocaust. Yet neither can our suffering in the past, however terrible, be used to excuse present wrongs.

The syndrome of the abused child only exacerbates the cycle of violence in the Middle East. The experience of occupation and dispossession has turned Palestinians into the new generation of "abused children." As such, Palestinians often justify the sufferings caused by suicide bombs in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem by the affliction we cause to them. This in turn re-enforces our self-perception as perpetual victims.

This cycle of victimhood has profound effects on the potential for a negotiated settlement of the conflict. A peace process has begun, yet a peace based on human rights violations is fragile at its core. Collective punishment, brutality and needless humiliation diminish the willingness for reconciliation and compromise.

Milestones are often an occasion for introspection. This year Israel celebrated its 50th anniversary and the international community is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a timely opportunity to recognize and begin to address our syndrome.

We must not forget the past, but neither can we let our painful history make us complacent toward the suffering we cause to others.

The writer is executive director of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and a former chairperson of the Israel section of Amnesty International. He con-tributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

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Post Your Comment

Posted by any on July 27, 2010 #118403

it really touching what you wrote about abuse of jew doesn.t justify abuse of palestinian. so that means they will never get peace between palestians and israel because, that war is the big issue, and another one< israel will never leave> and they are supporting by the entire world,. peace be upon me,