Even when a moment arrives to single out a Palestinian from the mass of death, western corporate media show great reluctance to do so. Just take the case of Razan -Al-Najjar, the 21-year-old Palestinian medic, who was executed by a sniper’s bullet as she tended to the unarmed demonstrators, who were regularly being killed and wounded at the perimeter fence encaging them in the prison of Gaza.
For nearly two years now, I have been writing my posts with a single object in mind: to help open a door for readers, and encourage them to step through this. I have selected issues, to include those that dominate western media coverage. And also, those which represent a consensus, that we may refer as the Great Western Narrative. And then, I have tried to focus, how this narrative has been constructed……not to inform and enlighten, but to conceal and deceive.
Each one of us simply had a chance — an earlier one—to step through this kind of door individually, because of harsh life experience or because someone had held the door open for people to enter.
It is easy for me to identify my own process of awakening. It began with my sudden interest and my preference, for being immersed in someone else’s narrative – that of the Palestinians. Then, I faced for the first time, as a writer, an impenetrable wall of opposition, even from the platforms that I have frequently used, to make my contributions.
As I endeavored to explain that fact, I found that the Palestinian narrative was invariably misrepresented, and had reeked of anti-semitism. These had been the dark years of disillusionment, which provoked me to innocently lose my ideological compass.
It is in such a moment of my bereavement —deprived of the consolation of the Great Western Narrative —that one searches for a door to enlightenment. It can be a long journey to find it. My door had appeared while reading about Noam Chomsky, in his book ‘Manufacturing Consent’. This has helped me to understand that the narrative problem is just not restricted to Israel-Palestine, but can be seen on a much broader canvas.
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Once you are prepared to step through the door, to discard the old script, the new narrative takes its hold because it is so convenient. It actually explains the world, and human behavior, as it is experienced everywhere. It has genuine predictive power. And most importantly, it reveals the truth, understood by all figures of spiritual and intellectual enlightenment throughout human history: that human beings are equally human, whether they are Americans, Europeans, Israelis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Syrians, Russians, Venezuelans, or Iranians, whether they are North or South Koreans.
The term “human” is not meant simply as a description of us as a species or a biological entity. It also describes who we are, what drives us, what makes us cry, what makes us laugh, what makes us angry, what elicits compassion. And the truth is that we are all essentially the same. The same things upset us, and the same things amuse us. The same things inspire us, and the same things cause outrage. We want dignity, freedom, safety for us and our loved ones.
The book Great Western Narrative and The Kingdom of God, tells us something entirely different. It divides the world into a hierarchy of “peoples”, with different, even conflicting, virtues and vices. Some humans and westerners are more rational, more caring, more thoughtful, more fully human. And other humans – the rest – are more primitive, more emotional, more violent.
In this system of classification, those in the Western Hemisphere are the Good Guys while the others are the Bad Guys; west is Order, and Palestine is Chaos. The Great Western Narrative isn’t really new. It is simply a reformulation for a different era of the “white man’s burden”.
Once upon a time, the kings had told us they had blue blood and a divine right. Today, we do need a different kind of narrative, but one that is designed to achieve the same end. Just as the kings and barons, who once owned everything, and now a tiny corporate elite have ruled the world. They have to justify their rule to themselves and to us.
The king and the barons had their courtiers, the clergy and a wider circle of hangers-on, who most of the time benefited enough from the system not to disrupt it. The role of the clergy, in particular, was to sanction the gross imbalance of power, to argue that it was God’s will. Today, the media continues to function like the clergy of old. God may be dead, as Nietzsche observed, but the corporate media has taken his place.
To make this system more palatable and more democratic, we need to make an effort and start believing that there is equality of opportunity. And that, wealth can also trickle down, by virtue of gravity, to the poor. The western elite has had to allow a large domestic middle class to emerge, like the old courtiers. The spoils from the rape and pillage of distant societies had been shared sparingly with this class.
By way of nothing more than statistics did the western readers, for example, came to reconcile that a Palestinian is no different from an Israeli —apart from their opportunities and income —– then they might feel sympathy for a grieving Palestinian family, just as they do for an Israeli one. But the Great Western Narrative has existed there, precisely to ensure that readers shall not feel the same about the two cases.
That is why Palestinian deaths are invariably reported as nothing more than statistics – because Palestinians die in large numbers, like cattle in an abattoir. Israelis, by contrast, die much more rarely and their deaths are recorded individually. They are dignified with names, life stories, and pictures.
Gaza is slowly sinking into the sea, but who cares? Those primitive Palestinians live like cavemen amid the rubble of homes Israel has repeatedly destroyed. Their women are ‘hijabbed’ and they have too many children. Palestinians certainly do not look like someone in the West. Neither they speak like him.
And therefore without an iota of doubt, they do not think like someone in the West. So, they cannot have something to do with the West. Even those young Palestinian demonstrators, with their faces covered with strange scarves, launching flaming kites and throwing the odd stone, look different. Can we imagine someone from the West, standing in front of a sniper to protest like that?
Of course not. We cannot imagine what it is like to live in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, in an open-air prison over which another nation serves as jailers, in which the water is becoming as saline as seawater and there is no electricity.
So how can we put ourselves in the demonstrators’ shoes, and how can we empathize? It is so much easier to imagine being the powerful sniper, protecting the “border” and his home.
But al-Najjar undermined all that. A young, pretty woman with a beautiful smile – she could be our daughter. Selflessly tending to the wounded, thinking not of herself but of the welfare of others, we would love her to be our daughter. We can identify with her much better than the sniper. She is a door—-beckoning us to step through and see the world from a different location, from a different perspective
That was exactly why the corporate media has not invested al-Najjar’s death, with the emotional, empathetic coverage it would if a pretty young Israeli female medic had been gunned down by a Palestinian. It was that double standard in his own newspaper that outraged cartoonist Steve Bell last week. The newspaper Guardian had barely covered the story of al-Najjar. When Steve has tried to redress the imbalance, his own cartoon of her death was censored.
Israel-Palestine tug of war, offered me that door, just as it has, to so many others. It is not, what Israel’s apologists – and the upholders of the Great Western Narrative – will tell you because so many westerners are anti-semitic. It is because Israel lies in a grey zone of experience, one that is readily available to western tourists but can at the same time give them a chance to glimpse the dark underbelly of western privilege.
Israel is enthusiastically embraced by the Great Western Narrative: it is supposedly a liberal democracy, many of its inhabitants dress and sound like someone in the United States. its cities look rather like cities in Europe and its TV shows are given a makeover, only to become hits on British TV screens.
If you don’t stand too close, Israel could be Britain or the US. But there are clues galore, for those who bother to look a little beyond superficialities, that there is something profoundly awry about Israel.
A few miles from their homes, the sons of those western-looking families, regularly train their gun sights on unarmed demonstrators, on children, on women, on journalists, on medics, and pull the trigger with barely any compunction.
They do so not because they are monsters, but because they are exactly like us, exactly like our own sons. That is the true horror of Israel. We have a chance to see ourselves in Israel – because it is not exactly us, because most of us have some distance from it. And because it still looks a little strange despite the best efforts of the western media, and because its own local narrative – justifying its actions – is even more extreme, even more, entitled, even more, racist towards the ‘other’, than the Great Western Narrative.
It is that shocking realization – that we could be Israelis, that we could be those snipers that prevent many from stepping through the door to see what is on the other side. Or, more troubling still, halting at the threshold of the doorway, glimpsing a partial truth without understanding its full ramifications.
To explain what I mean, let us digress for a moment and consider the allegorical film The Matrix. Neo, the hero played by Keanu Reeves, starts to realize that the reality around him is not as solid as it once seemed.
Things have become peculiar, inconsistent, and mysterious. He is shown the door to an entirely different reality with the help of a mentor, Morpheus. Neo discovers that in truth he exists in a dark world taken over by computer-generated life forms that feed off the consciousnesses of him and the rest of mankind. Until then, he had been living in a dream world created to pacify him and other humans as they are exploited for their energy.
Neo and a small band of others who have liberated themselves from this false consciousness cannot hope to defeat their opponents directly. They must wage war through the Matrix, a digital world in which the computer life-forms always triumph. It is only when Neo finally grasps that the Matrix is an illusion too – that these life forms he is battling are simply binary code – that he becomes strong enough to triumph.
And now, back to ourselves. On the other side of the door lies a truth that humans are all equally human. From this vantage point, it is possible to understand that a privileged westerner or Israeli would react exactly like a Palestinian if he had to endure the experiences of living in Gaza.
From this location, it is possible to understand that my son might pull the trigger, just like most Israeli teenagers do, if he had been bombarded, like them, with brainwashing all his life from his media, school, and politicians depicting Palestinians as primitive and violent.
From the other side of the door, Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Bashar al-Assad look as irrational, or rational, and as questionable (or criminal) as George W Bush, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump. In fact, they look less criminal —-not because they are better humans than their western counterparts, but perhaps, because they enjoy less power and face more constraints, in trying to impose their will.
The issue is not about who is better or worse. They are the same as humans. It is about who has more force at his disposal —and more will to use it to perpetuate, pure power.
The conclusion is that the way to change our societies fundamentally for the better, depends on a change in our consciousness, on liberating ourselves from false perspectives, as we make our efforts to step through the door.
If we remain in a world of illusions, of false hierarchies of virtue, oblivious to the role of power, we will continue to be like Neo, living in his dream world. And if we step only to the threshold, glimpsing the shadows on the other side, we may well become slaves to these illusions, just as Neo has taken his battle back into the Matrix, fighting ghosts in the machine, as though they were flesh-and-blood enemies!
This danger can be seen in the context of Israel-Palestine too, where the horrors that Israel has inflicted on Palestinians, justifiably radicalized many observers. However, not all of us are able to step out comfortably through the door. They linger at the threshold, angry with Israel and Israelis, and continue sanctifying Palestinians, as nothing more than innocent victims.
Some, however, have managed to find false consolation. Again, this time they have accepted readymade conspiracies that “the Jews” are pulling the levers that make such outrages -– and the western inaction, possible.
To stand in the doorway is as bad as refusing to step through. The illusions are as dangerous, and the false consciousness, as profound.
Our planet and our children’s’ future depend on us. We need to liberate ourselves, seeing the ghosts in the machine, for what they truly are. We have to begin rebuilding our societies on the basis that we share a common humanity.
That other humans are not our enemies……only those who wish to enslave us to their power!
Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, compilation, Intern Shams Ahmed.