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Signpost
Victimhood Contest-II 
By M. Zeyaul Haque

As Palestinian death toll mounts, Israeli claims to victimhood begin to sound hollow

M. Zeyaul HaqueIn his review of The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, Dr. Leinweber argues that Jews were not particularly responsible for Black slavery on the American continent. He says that it was all part of a historical context in which the entire West was busy building the foundations of its prosperity with African slave labour. This sounds like a credible 'explanation' of slavery. However, it tends to de-emphasize the monumental injustice and violence of the entire project.

Jewish scholars would not allow any such explanation for the Nazi Holocaust, which has to remain the Greatest Evil ever against which all evils of history would be judged. This is the basic point. Even Nobel laureate Saul Bellow admits (To Jerusalem and Back) that Israel was created and has been sustained through violence, but explains away the monumental injustice and violence against Palestinians by saying that the creation of a state inevitably involves some violence. 

However, such 'explanation' is never allowed in the case of the Holocaust. The Jews needed a country and some space in the sun (lebensraum) and they got it by dispossessing Palestinians. The German lebensraum and urge for outward expansion does not have the same legitimacy. The Israeli state's violence is understandable to Bellow the Jew, the Nazi violence is not. Much of Bellow's writing centres on Jewish victimhood, which Noam Chomsky says, is merely a reproduction of Israeli Information Ministry's handouts. In the victimhood contest Palestinians are not allowed entry.

This infuriates Edward Said, a Palestinian intellectual settled in the United States. 'How come after victimizing and dispossessing us, you still claim to be the only victim?' he asks. The most significant point is that Israel is full of Jews from Europe and America (and other places) who settled there after physically driving out the Palestinians from their homes and hearths. Edward Said's home was misappropriated by a Jew. Even the present Palestinian ambassador in New Delhi has a sad story to tell of how Israelis drove him and his entire family (the entire village, of course) out and how they had to hide in mountains. This is how the state of Israel was created to accommodate the 'victims' of history.

Israeli Jews are one set of victims who have learnt the victimizing tactics of Nazis, their oppressors. Historian Arnold Toynbee, who was working in the British Foreign Office at the time of Balfour Declaration, has compared Israeli Jews to Nazis in his famous treatise, A History of the World.

Jewish exclusive claims to victimhood begin to sound hollow when you listen to their bragging. For instance, consider Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's arrogant declaration last fortnight: If Palestinians think 2000 dead Palestinians instead of 200 is the required number for them to get back to the negotiating table, Israel would start working for achieving that target. Is that Hitler's victim speaking? Or, is it Hitler himself?

The denial of Palestinian sorrow (and of even their existence) has been a long-trusted strategy of Israeli leaders. Golda Meir used to say that there was nothing like a Palestinian problem because there were no Palestinian people at all. It was much later that Israel began to acknowledge that there existed a people called Palestinians.

The denial of other people's pain and an exaggerated emphasis on one's own is, in fact, a major strand of Israeli (and Western) thinking today. This trend has entered political discourse originating in the West and Israel. In this post-modernist perspective 'reality' becomes enmeshed in TV images, film footage, advertising and media signs to create a 'virtual reality'. 

Jean Budillard cheekily pronounces that there was 'no Gulf war' at all, because all that happened were some media images, CNN showing 'surgical strikes' with laser-guided 'smart weapons' on Iraqi targets, a spectacular 'tele-visual reality' experienced all over the world. To that Peter Barry (Beginning Theory) asks '... if we accept the 'loss of the real' and the collapsing of reality and simulation into a kind of virtual reality, then what of the Holocaust?' No, the Holocaust will have to be looked at differently because it deals with the suffering of people who claim to be God's chosen ones. The suffering of lesser mortals like Palestinians and other Arabs can however be ignored. This is the central theme in Western and Israeli media discourse.
(to be concluded)
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