Modern oppression

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire writes that, in order to be successful, an oppressive regime must hide its oppression and utilize propaganda to justify its practices – an argument that is particularly pertinent to the modern actions of Israel. As with all oppressive entities, the Israeli regime employs certain tactics to victimize itself in front of the rest of the world. On our academic pedestal, if we view the Israeli-Palestinian issue historically, we may be better able to comprehend the Machiavellian measures taken by the Israeli regime to dehumanize and destroy the Palestinian population. But because we are in the midst of the propaganda, even as students, we remain trapped within what we’re supposed to believe. The powerful Israeli lobby doesn’t help either, nor does the bias media coverage of events. In fact, these means have given the Israeli regime the opportunity to further oppress a whole people, and continue with an apartheid, which to this day is supported by American tax dollars.

While Freire had written to describe colonial oppression in Brazil, with little study of the Israeli oppression of Palestinians, he points to the similarities found in all oppressive regimes. It seems that denial of the oppressor’s actions is a fundamental basis for the non-interference of “impartial” outside powers. All attempts at exposing the truth to the general masses are quieted, and in some cases, illegal measures are taken to stop the opposing voice, ironically rendering any criticism of Israeli oppression of Palestinians – who themselves are Semites – as anti-Semitic.

Naturally, any sort of exposure is largely frowned upon by the Israeli regime. Here, another similarity can be inferred from the history of oppression: Resistance to criticism during the most oppressive of times is a natural response by the oppressor. The regime must be in a state of power and supported by international entities, to be able to rise to carry out its oppression. This article, whether in public or private, will probably be criticized in an attempt to get rid of the opposing voice by those who choose to ignore the reality and remain loyal to Israeli ideals.

This type of silencing has taken a more physical form on our own campus. After the Williams College Students for Palestinian Awareness group put up a few posters, including a comparison of Palestinian and Israeli death tolls (taken from Jewish and Israeli sources), it received racist comments, laced with polemics and implicit condemnations of students and faculty who supported the cause. Posters were vandalized and torn down.

To add a bit of personal history: In 1948, the home my family had lived in for hundreds of years was taken over by the forces of the Israeli regime. My grandfather fled with his family, thinking he’d be able to return in a week or two, but the occupation continued. In the next 62 years, the Israelis, instead of granting the right of return to the millions of displaced Palestinians, continued expanding into Palestinian territories, raiding villages, killing inhabitants and taking their homes. They changed the names of rivers and streets from Arabic to Hebrew, making it seem they had occupied the land for a longer time, and quickening the literal erasing of a whole culture. The ones who remained were either murdered or displaced.

In the coming month, this regime will celebrate its 62nd birthday – with cake and parades. For the most part, the rest of the world will celebrate with it, whether conscious or not of the reality of the situation.

As a student read the names of some of the Jews murdered by the Nazi regime to a desolate Paresky lawn on Monday morning, the world celebrates the creation of a state that continues to impose a sense of inhumanity by killing innocent children, women and old men (justified to the rest of the world with the popular “self-defense” rhetoric), using internationally outlawed weapons and means of persecution and creating monstrous barriers, hundreds of kilometers long, enclosing millions of people with little resources in a mega-concentration camp.
As members of a privileged institution that strives for equality and justice, we must face the reality we inhabit – oppression in Palestine exists. If we are unsure of any conflict – of its actual nature – we ought to seek more knowledge and understand what is happening. It is terrifying to think of what Jews went through under the Nazi regime, but even more terrifying to know that oppression – granted, of a different and less severe kind – exists right now, and is not only ignored, but celebrated.

One comment

  1. Abdullah Awad, like you I am an Eph, and like you I care about achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. However, I believe that the road to peace is paved by mutual understanding. Demonizing “the other” and ignoring important facts and perspectives is counterproductive. Just as most Palestinians are not terrorists, most Israelis are not occupiers. And while there have been many injustices perpetuated by both Israelis and Palestinians, you can no more hold me accountable for the loss of your grandfather’s home than I can hold you accountable for the Qassam rockets that have destroyed my peoples’ homes. During your time at Williams I encourage you to question your ingrained beliefs and perceptions. As Ephs, we are privileged to have a chance to do so. I think you will come to realize that people like me are very similar to people like you. I may celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut while you commemorate al-Nakba, but we have a shared history and a shared future. Salam Aleikum/Shalom Aleichem.

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