The ABC’s of Occupation Redux

Casually-asserted aside in an article on Israel’s vaccination program and its effect on the Palestinians:

The Palestine Authority governs the semiautonomous West Bank…

This is PBS, no less–Flat Earth political geography of a kind that makes no pretense of accuracy or even minimal coherence. How can a “semiautonomous” territory be governed at all? What does “semiautonomous” even mean? Is it a legitimate synonym for “under (military) occupation,” which is how the United Nations and most human rights organizations characterize the West Bank and Gaza? Doesn’t seem like it could be. No, what we’re dealing with is outright nonsense, doublespeak worth of Orwell’s 1984, but presented to the American public as uncontroversial fact, and as the basis of PBS’s reporting on the subject.

Just another illustration of a commonplace fact: Americans are fed culpable ignorance about Israel and Palestine with virtually every news item they read on the subject, at least in the mainstream media. I recently read an article about a Colorado judge who was effectively forced to resign from the bench for mentioning (not using) the so-called “n-word” on the job. If Americans brought even half of that degree of sensitivity to news stories about Israel and Palestine, or to the comments of public figures on that topic, we’d be living in a different discursive universe.

But don’t hold your breath. On this subject, Americans (and Americans turn out to be exceptional for once) have ideological wax in their years. The truth hurts, whether they want to hear it or not: Americans have supported Israeli apartheid for more than five decades on the pretense that they’re supporting freedom and democracy, opposing anti-Semitism, and following through on the defeat of the Third Reich. It’s a series of collective self-deceptions inspired in part by the fact that we are at root a nation of liars on this subject, unable to come to terms with our own genocidal, settler-colonial history. So no surprises that we’re on the wrong side of someone else’s settler-colonial project. But we decidedly are.

Here’s a blog post of mine, “The ABCs of Occupation,” that offers a primer-level corrective to the half-sentence nonsense I’ve quoted above. It only scratches the surface, but better superficial truth than abject falsehood. I’m tempted to re-blog it whenever I encounter claims like the preceding sort. I’m sure that would become tiresome, but that, I suppose, is the point.

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