Monday, July 12, 2010

The Palestinians' chance to win a moral victory

Salman Masalha

The Palestinians' chance
to win a moral victory


In an era of political correctness, there are those who think it appropriate to adjust the message to the audience to which it is directed. I don't agree. In my view, political correctness is a defilement - sweet talk that obscures blatant racism. There is a universal morality that transcends religions, peoples and nations, and is binding on anyone who belongs to the community of humankind.

So when I speak about Gilad Shalit, for example, I call him "the captive Israeli soldier." That's right. Captive and not abducted, which is the term they try to feed the public here. In Israel, they prefer to forget, or deliberately try to make others forget, that Shalit was not abducted. He was taken captive as a soldier in a military operation carried out against an army, in the context of the Palestinian national struggle against the decades-long Israeli occupation. That basic fact turns the act into a legitimate one, carried out by a people fighting for its national liberation.

So far so good, but from this point forward there are other things that have to be said. I have already published them in Arabic for an Arab audience, because it's important for the Palestinians to hear that the Shalit case belongs to them too. It is appropriate that these things be heard in Hebrew as well, and read by all manner of brainwashed Hebrew speakers. The remarks also have to do with the Israeli Palestinians (yes, there are such creatures, who also read and speak Hebrew ).

There is no doubt - this I believe, this I want to believe - that Israeli captive Gilad Shalit is being treated humanely by his captors in Gaza. All of us hope a prisoner exchange deal is carried out quickly, and that the Israeli captive returns to his family and the Palestinian prisoners return to theirs.

Nonetheless, the silence by Palestinian intellectuals over the case is troubling. Hamas is demanding a large number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit's release.

No one has asked himself what this means from a moral standpoint, in terms of the way the Arabs view the value of each individual Arab. How much is an Israeli prisoner worth compared to Arab or Palestinian prisoners?

The silence of Arab Knesset members is also conspicuous. They cry out, and rightly so, about the injustices of the Israeli occupation and the suffering it causes the Palestinian people, but not a word is heard from them taking a clear moral stand on Shalit. That is their duty. They must rise and wholeheartedly tell the Hamas government in Gaza and Khaled Meshal, who pulls the strings in Damascus, that there are things that are simply unacceptable. They can and must say that refusing to allow the Red Cross to visit the Israeli prisoner is a moral stain on the Palestinian struggle as a whole. If Shalit is a prisoner of war, and he is, then he is certainly entitled to all the rights accorded prisoners of war under international law.

The Palestinian side, which has suffered for decades from the Israeli occupation, can demonstrate moral superiority over the occupier by allowing Shalit's family to visit him, or at least by allowing Red Cross representatives to visit him, just as they visit Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

I have never understood why the Arab side is forsaking the moral arena, leaving it for others. It is acting as though matters of morality are none of its concern. Those who choose to abandon the moral arena should not be indignant over their poor image in the eyes of the world.

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Published: Opinion - Haaretz, July 12, 2010



For Hebrew, press here

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For Greek, press here

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Arabic article about the issue, press here

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