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Tibet is here

Tibet is here

by Yael Paz-Melamed

On turning a blind eye and losing our humanity in everything that relates to Palestinian suffering and humiliation.

Try to imagine the outcry that would have reverberated around the world, including Israel, had we noticed the following news item: The Chinese army is honing its dog units’ alertness by conducting real-time training sessions on the people of Tibet. According to the report, which has not been denied, the Chinese are placing rifle ammunition-magazines in Tibetans’ cars and then dispatching the dogs to locate them. All this takes place at checkpoints that already make the residents’ lives miserable every time they move from village to village.

The Committee for the People of Tibet would have immediately turned up in one of the city’s major intersections carrying protest banners and posters. TV and radio commentators would have joined the fray, condemning the Chinese authorities in no uncertain terms and panning them for the abuse of the Tibetans and the violation of their human rights. Others would have called for the boycott of the Olympics that are to be held in a country that treats its citizens in this way. One would have wondered how anyone could ignore such a serious incident.

Well. it seems that it is possible to ignore, in fact it’s easy. All you need do is change the name of the protagonists. Immediately the whole thing turns into a humdrum event which is, in the best case scenario, repulsive or fully warranted in the not-so-good scenario. Substitute Israel for China and Palestinians for Tibetans and everyone loses interest. We are a real chosen people, crammed with values, while other countries are crude, serial violators of human rights.

This is the very wording of the news item in last Monday’s Ma’ariv: Female dog handlers, part of an IDF sting unit, are honing their dogs’ skills and causing unnecessary humiliation. The IDF spokesperson responded: the exercises are necessary to maintain the dogs’ skills.

Israeli eyes
Let each one of us imagine her/himself travelling with the family to visit the relatives with the baggage compartment crammed full of food and presents. When we reach the checkpoint a 19-year-old female soldier orders all the passengers out and lets go a dog. The hound leaps into the baggage compartment, rummages among the pies and cakes, turns the presents over and pulls out a rifle magazine that another soldier had planted earlier in the checkpoint.

Is there an Israeli who is willing to suffer such a humiliation, even once in a lifetime? This is not even to mention that this practice is a routine procedure that a Palestinian family is liable to encounter again and again on the West Bank.

But in Israeli eyes, which for 41 years have been unable to see Palestinians as human beings deserving respect, this story seems to be just another of the thousand stories that they have heard about the life of the Palestinians. Who has any energy left for this? “What do you want from us -- don’t you realise that they are all potential terrorists?” Of course one cannot totally ignore this argument, so what do you want?

Cycle of violence
“It’s a good thing that they do what they do -- inspections should be tightened.” Alas, no: even under the threat of terrorist bombing we must hang on to human dignity, ours and theirs. That is the case not only because of the (actually valid) cliché that every dog that tramples on the food and rummages through the Koran creates the next suicide bomber. No, human dignity needs to be maintained because of the high price (with compound interest) that we inside Israel pay for it.

When soldiers let go of a dog inside the house of a couple in their eighties, and that dog starts tearing their flesh off while the soldiers just stand there and watch, as we saw on Mabat Sheni [Second Glance] on Channel 1; it is not surprising that violence against the elderly in these parts has reached frightening dimensions.

When the dignity of ordinary civilians, the majority of whom are innocent, is crushed to the bottom, it is impossible for the dignity of Israeli civilians to be maintained. When a state loses basis values of human dignity, it loses them totally – even when its own citizens are involved.


[Translated form the Hebrew by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service.]

The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements.

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