Confronting the West’s questionable ideas of what it means to be a victim

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

IMGP4840 copy The tragedy of the Palestinian people is that their suffering, somehow, by some horrible underlying logic, does not rate as equal.

The more I've come to see the dilemma in this light, the more the footage of carnage in Gaza has become impossibly heartrending to watch. A terrible dialectic is at play. As the Palestinians are battered to bits they rush, with camera in hand, to the scenes of devastation and to the hospitals where the wounded are being carried. They want to show the world. “Look,” they are saying, “we are human beings, just like everyone else. If you prick us, do we not bleed?” But the footage they capture gets perverted as it is conveyed. We see it on the other side as a chaos of bodies and activity that, while upsetting, is almost too kinetic. More tragically, the people sticking cameras into the scenes of injured children and families begin to look lewd. “Well,” we say, secretly in the dark whisperings of our private thoughts, “that's no way to act.” The very attempt by everyday Palestinians to express their common humanity, to show their essential vulnerability, begins to look to us like opportunism, like the uncouth acts of a people fundamentally different from us. Barbarians.

Most people of good conscience don't dispute the essential point: Israel is in the wrong for having pursued a strategy of occupation in the first place and for having forced the Palestinian people into prison-like camps and ghettos over which the Israeli Army has complete control. Nothing good comes of such an occupation and it constitutes a decades-long crime against humanity. The recent and ongoing tragedy in Gaza is but another episode in this longstanding evil. This in no way implies support of Hamas, which, for all its vaunted humanitarian works in Gaza, is a fundamentally despicable organization that only adds to Palestinian misery.

But the Palestinians are at a fundamental disadvantage because they are not as comfortable with the rules of humanity-showing as the West has defined them over the last couple of millennia. They do not, in our eyes, play the victim right. There is nothing, in principle, that should make the Palestinian struggle for autonomy and self-rule any less legitimate than the struggle to end apartheid, the American civil rights struggle, Gandhi's fight to end English colonialism in India, or any number of other struggles that were ultimately recognized as struggles of a common humanity.

More here.