Colonialism’s latest victim

The Palestinian man killed in Kafr Qasim this week was just the latest casualty of a colonial system whose masters feel forever threatened by the natives they rule over.

By Marzuq Al-Halabi

Mahmoud Mahmoud Salim Taha, who was shot and killed by a security guard in Kafr Qasem, June 5, 2017.
Mahmoud Mahmoud Salim Taha, who was shot and killed by a security guard in Kafr Qasem, June 5, 2017.

The killing of a Palestinian man in Kafr Qasim by an Israeli security guard earlier this week was more than just a regrettable incident that raised questions about police conduct. It was also a near-exact repetition of other such episodes in which the victim was Palestinian and the killer a member of the security forces.

Fifty-two young Arab citizens have been shot dead by Israeli security forces since October 2000. They are classified in legal terms as separate cases, each assessed on its own merits, but they’re not. These killings are part of an ongoing phenomenon — a creeping process that has resulted not from the conduct of native Palestinian Arabs, but from the structural relations between them and Jewish society, which adopted a colonialist approach toward the native Arab population in the region.

Official spokespersons in Israel tell us that the killings of Muhammad Taha in Kfar Qasim, of Yaqoub Abu al-Qi’an in Umm al-Hiran, and of many others besides, resulted from security forces feeling that their lives were in danger and therefore they had no choice but to kill them. This story is invariably helped along by a fawning media and other advocates. And added to it will be the Kafr Qasim security guard’s defense attorney’s claim: “If the security guard hadn’t opened fire, he probably wouldn’t be alive now!”

When the master feels threatened

These classic colonial power relations, which are developing anew around us, always assert themselves as a paradigm in which the Jewish “master” feels endlessly feels threatened by any movement, utterance, gathering, singing or shouting by the natives.

This sense of threat invariably turns lethal when the friction between the native and the ruler becomes a reality, such as during home demolitions, crowd dispersal — even for gatherings with a permit — and so on. Every member of the Israeli security forces and every police unit is equipped with the most sophisticated military technology, which is particularly conspicuous to the Arab Palestinian public.

It’s no stretch to say that this army gear is intended to oppress those very natives who are the source of this constant threat, especially if they don’t acquiesce to the aggressive and provocative actions of a police officer who feels like a God compared to them. The assumption is that they must surrender and obey, without so much as a peep.

Family and friends carry the body of Muhammad Taha during his funeral ceremony in Kfar Qasim in central Israel, June 6, 2017. (Flash90)
Family and friends carry the body of Muhammad Taha during his funeral ceremony in Kfar Qasim in central Israel, June 6, 2017. (Flash90)

This threat can always be “neutralized” (read: killed) by frightened people with sophisticated weapons, even if they are supposed to be maintaining their longed-for security.

In a colonial situation, the rulers will always try to subordinate the natives to “their” agenda. Otherwise, as per the existential, security-oriented colonial worldview, those same natives will believe them weak and cowardly. As such, the ruler has to deter the natives by applying force every now and then in order to exact further casualties among the natives.

Sadly, this perception is programmed into the entire ruling apparatus, along with most of the media and the public. Every time another killing occurs, officials in various roles use the same hollow words, and the media recycles these sentences under the guise of neutrality — while actually whitewashing loaded terms. Meanwhile, the shooters among the Israeli forces are rewarded with total silence from the judicial system.

This is why investigations into killings by security forces are always closed — not because there’s no guilty party, but because they have been helped along by a system whose purpose is to guarantee control over the natives, who themselves can be accused of anything. In the age of “fake news,” the ruling establishment and journalists carry out this task gladly, and even with a sense of mission.

The mental, legal and governmental structures created by colonialism generate endless day-to-day practicalities. It creates a walled-off discourse in which every statement is known in advance, and in which people drunk on power and a sense of their own dominance nonetheless feel constantly threatened and afraid. And all the while they are faced by people who have been robbed of human dignity, dead, sprawled in their own blood.

I am well aware that there are relatively broad circles trying to free Israel from the grip of the colonialist mindset, while working towards an agreement and coexistence in the region. But what is there to be done, when Israel’s current mode of rule is in keeping with British colonial practices in India, and France’s in Senegal? The government and its various arms have created this reality through consistent, planned and malicious policy, and there is no choice left to us now but to call it by its name.

There are terrible days yet ahead of us. The killing in Kfar Qasim was not the last of its kind, even if we wish to ourselves that it were. Whoever wants to live in this place must turn their efforts toward building a life, and not toward destruction and killing.

Marzuq Al-Halabi is a jurist, journalist, author. He writes regularly for Al-Hayat. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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