Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hypocrisy begins at home

Salman Masalha

Hypocrisy begins at home

It may be that the whole world is dazzlingly two-faced, but we should nevertheless focus on the hypocrites in our own region, since after all, hypocrisy begins at home.

Some six months ago, while it was still licking the wounds caused by the barbs hurled at it from all sides because of the lead it cast in Gaza, Israel was given a chance to improve its image. It seized the opportunity presented by the horrendous earthquake that devastated Haiti and rapidly dispatched a relief delegation. Thus, while denying the children of Gaza pencils and notebooks, Israel poured aid into a country thousands of kilometers away.

Perhaps now, in the wake of the Turkish flotilla affair, there are specimens of the local breed of hypocrites who are silently praying for some natural disaster to strike somewhere in the world that will enable Israel to unsheathe this rusty propaganda weapon once again.

But hypocrisy is not confined to Israelis. It seems that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has learned a lesson from Israel: The Turkish flotilla to Gaza was in fact one big public relations exercise. Erdogan noticed that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was raking in the whole popular Arab jackpot called Palestine, and he also wanted to grab some of it. The Palestinian-Israeli jackpot is a photogenic one, and every home with a satellite dish on its roof watches what happens to it.

And now there's talk of another "humanitarian" flotilla in aid of Gaza. Another convoy of hypocrisy, well-covered by the media, is setting sail, this time from Lebanon, of all places. Now that the Lebanese have boosted their national pride by registering the world's biggest dish of hummus in the Guinness Book of Records, they are bidding for the record in hypocrisy, soon to be seen on television screens everywhere. For it is not humanitarian motives or concern for the Palestinians that are making all these hypocrites restless. All they want is spectacle, footage and headlines. Because as we have already said, the Israeli-Palestinian arena is the most photogenic arena in the world.

If they had any genuine humanitarian concern, the Lebanese would stage protests against the harsh blockade that has been imposed on the Palestinian refugee camps in their country for decades. You have to read Amnesty International's reports on the situation of the Palestinians in Lebanon to comprehend the humanitarian disaster there. This hypocrisy was best described by a European volunteer in those camps, who told the organizers of the new flotilla: "You love the Palestinians in Gaza and hate your own Palestinians."

Since 1948, the Palestinians have been a pawn in the hands of the Arab and Muslim regimes. The problem was exacerbated because the Palestinians themselves willingly accepted that role. And so we are witnessing a situation in which the Palestinian nation, even before it has taken on a coherent shape, has split into two: Gaza, backed by Iran and Syria, and the West Bank, backed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And then there are the "opsimists" (to use the oxymoron coined by the late Palestinian author Emil Habibi ) - the Israeli Palestinians sitting on the fence and trying to please everyone.

One reason for all this is the absence of a Palestinian leadership - political, social or cultural - worthy of the name. Six decades after the Nakba, the Palestinians have not even managed to turn themselves into a nation with a clear national agenda.

It looks as if this place, the cradle of monotheism, will continue to be a pawn in the hands of regional and international powers, a region so well covered by the media that all of the world's hypocrites rush over here to try to wipe away the moral stains that have tarnished them.
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Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, June 24, 2010



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