What do you know about Palestine? What do you know about Israel? How about Zionism? Have you ever thought about how all these things are tied together? Or how Zionist ideology is employed in promoting epistemic violence? All throughout the world, and specifically in the U.S., the Zionist project has been largely successful in making people believe in the right of Zionist Jews to reside within Palestine. This success and its multifaceted forms of creating false moral equivalences, lays on the roots of what is the Israeli State.
The existence of Israel as a nation state creates a Zionist sponsored conflation between Jews and Israeli Jews. This conflation is one of the first ways by which arguments against the state’s oppression, dispossession, ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people has always been repressed. Every time someone dares to speak against Israel, they’re immediately labeled as anti-semitic, as if speaking against oppression that is sponsored and carried out by the Israeli state means that one hates Jews.
This well developed gagging tool is one that is stuck right into the mouths of anyone that questions the legitimacy of this settler colony. When we deconstruct this tool, we can clearly see that it relies on people’s fear of sounding anti-Semitic, and manipulates them to blatantly silence criticism.
The criticism that is silenced is also subsequently condemned with the liberals’ favorite centrist attribute of drawing false moral equivalences between two sides that were never equal. For that reason it is often heard within classes that both the Israelis and Palestinians have a ‘story,’ often without attaching their respective power positions to one another. Ignoring the drastic power dynamics that are intrinsic in the Palestinian – Israeli conflict is the way in which false moral equivalences begin their formation. This formation is made under the false pretense that the resolution of this conflict is only a matter of putting your differences in the past, from which the misconstrued and glorified idea of coexistence is born.
The idea of coexistence has been so widely misunderstood and misused that it’s become another norm people ought to abide by. Coexistence is an ill-conceived liberal term which encourages people to wish for an unrealistic ideal by demanding that one group of people must “coexist” with those who believe in dangerously flawed ideologies.
What coexistence does is undermine the greater problem by shifting blame onto those unwilling to “coexist” and point fingers at those people as the problem because they’re not cooperating and putting the root cause of the problem behind them. Ethnic cleansing, ongoing detainments, brutal solitary confinement and constant expansion of the settlement projects are ways used by the oppressor to dehumanize the oppressed, quickly concealing them by defecating the misconstrued notion of coexistence.
The narrative of coexistence assumes that both sides are equal, and therefore have an equal right to the land. The fact that the essence of the struggle is being disregarded by calling for and encouraging “coexistence” is in itself normalization of oppression and perpetuates a false reality.
Normalization in a Palestinian context is defined as the participation in any project, initiative or activity that aims either implicitly or explicitly to bring together Palestinians and Israelis for simple “dialogue” without taking into consideration that there’s a struggle still going on, there is resistance that needs to be nurtured and there is oppression that needs to end.
There is no point of creating dialogue and exchanging conversations when there is a bigger issue at hand. The treatment of the Israeli state as “normal” and giving it a place in regular interactions allows oppressive parties to jump right into “coexistence” because people had already forgotten the real struggle, and started moving into “coexisting” with the oppressor because that is what has become normalized.
We are not at the point of moving from mindless complacency of the oppressor and imposed existence of the oppressed. The lives Palestinians live under oppression is not their choice; the Israelis decide when they want to make the Palestinians visible and when to make their suffering invisible.
Until both parties are equal in terms of basic rights and freedom of living, coexistence is out of the question. Coexistence will only be considered when people acknowledge that the “other” is human, and stop stripping the humanity from the oppressed because they’re oppressed. When people become more than just a number and a case, and start being acknowledged as a person with a history and a story, then coexi
stence could be revisited, although to a large extent would still be unachievable.
Laura Tannous ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Ramallah, Palestine. She majors in political science.
Or Pansky ’20 (pansky12stolaf.edu) was born in Israel. His major is undecided.