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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Ultimate Obscenity
Thomas Gore • 31.10.03

In common with lots of other ancient disputes, the precise origins of the Arab/Israeli conflict have been all but lost to the mists of time. However, a distinctly unique feature of this particular conflict, are the number of possible causes cited and the almost unimaginable length of time involved. Some Biblicists claim it all began with the enmity between Abraham’s two sons Isaac and Ishmael. For others of a similar religious bent, it began with the advent of Islam or even the prophet Mohammed’s quarrel with the Jews of Medina. Another, somewhat more secular opinion stream, points either to the emergence of Zionism in the 19th century or to British colonial policy in the 20th century as being the primary cause. More recently however, many historians have tended to argue that the conflict only really emerged with the advent of nationalism in the Middle East and the competing nationalisms in the region that flowed from that.

I certainly have no intention of embarking on a forensic trawl through the historiographical backdrop of the Middle East from Biblical times to the present day. Suffice to say, and probably to save myself having to write a book on the subject, all of the above and more, have at different times and to differing degrees fuelled the fires of Middle Eastern conflict. But, for two important reasons, I think it necessary to at least mention the time factor and the dispute over origins. Firstly, to do no more than simply remind ourselves that the present Israeli/Palestinian conflict does properly belong in the broad and often confused and confusing geographic/historic/religious/nationalistic context of the Middle East. It is far from being a singular, isolated or stand-alone conflict, and ultimately can only be properly understood if seen as another episode in an ongoing, wider, at-least-centuries-old Arab/Israeli antagonism.

In light of this almost-infinite variety of possible grievances, it would be foolish to assume that all of those thrown together on either side of the conflict are necessarily driven by identical motivating factors. Or even – except for sharing basic demands - necessarily have the same ultimate goals in mind. Secondly, as the sympathies of outsiders and non-protagonist’s are invariably coloured to a large degree by their initial choice of historical starting off point, it is important to realise that in this case, the options available are almost incalculable. Depending on where, for you, history began in the Middle East, a reasonably robust case can be made for favouring either side over the other.

My own preferred starting off point is the mere stating of an indisputable fact: Throughout the known history of mankind, there has never been another clearly defined group of people that has suffered anything comparable with that endured by both the Palestinian and Jewish peoples down through the ages. It would be futile and verging on the obscene to instigate any form of discussion around which of the two has suffered most; it would also be beside the point I am trying to make.

The real obscenity, and one that we shouldn’t avoid, is bound up in the fact that these two most maligned peoples should now find themselves pitted against one another in such a bloody struggle while, for the most part, the world looks on. The brutal and deadly nature of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict owes a lot to the troubled histories of the two protagonists as well. Jews and Palestinians have both learnt through their own bitter experiences that passivity just doesn’t pay.

For centuries Jews turned the other cheek while they suffered discrimination, scapegoating and pogrom within every society they happened to be part of. Their essentially passive response to it all eventually led them in their millions to the death camps of Hitler’s Third Reich and to Stalin’s equally brutal, but less publicly castigated, Gulags.

British colonial and UNSCOP (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) interference in Palestine was an absolute disaster for the Palestinian people, ultimately rendering them stateless. Since then, the Palestinians have at various times, been used, abused, exploited and deserted by all and sundry - not least, when it suited their purposes, by their various Arab-state neighbours in the region.

These are two sets of people who have decided that enough is enough – no longer will they stand idly by in the face of naked aggression or exploitation from others. If their very existence as a people is to be threatened, then they will meet that threat full on, and if they are to be obliterated then they will die fighting. They fight their enemies with every means at their disposal – unfortunately, nowadays, their enemies happen to be each other.

Is there a solution? Well, there has to be. But it will only become possible when the international community, particularly the USA, adopts a genuinely neutral position. No more pandering to Israel alone! If anything there needs to be an equal pandering to both sides. The Palestinian argument for a free and independent state is unassailable but shouldn't be allowed to become a mere smokescreen for fundamentalist Islamic forces intent only on killing as many Jews as possible, on some crazy religious pretext. For those of us outside of the region, we must always be wary of that poisonous evil, anti-Semitism, making use of the Palestinian argument as cover.

The tactic of suicide bombing innocent civilians should be halted; it is completely indefensible and detracts from legitimate Palestinian demands. Israel has a right to exist free from terrorist or any other attack, as does a free and autonomous Palestinian state.

By Western standards, Israel in my view, is no more than a semi-democracy. But this is a matter for the Israeli people and they alone. (Just as the Palestinian Authority, with it’s obvious shortcomings, is primarily the business of the Palestinian people.) I mention it only because many western apologists for Israeli outrages cite so-called democratic credentials in a bizarre and convoluted attempt at justification. Israel’s willingness to depart from accepted western democratic norms is readily evidenced by its treatment of many of its own (Arab) citizens and also by the swift imprisonment of Jewish citizens who spoke publicly of their experiences while working at its decrepit nuclear reactor.

This reactor should, at the very least, be subject to international inspection like all others.

Israel must desist immediately from attacking innocent civilians and so-called legitimate targets in highly populated areas when there is a clear danger of civilian casualties. This tactic is as indefensible as the suicide bombings it almost replicates. Not only must the ongoing Jewish settlement of the occupied territories be halted, but also Israel must begin to push back existing settlements. Zionist fundamentalism is as damaging to the Israeli argument as Islamic extremism is to the Palestinians.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples deserve our sympathy and support. Theirs is a situation largely not of their own making. It derives from centuries-old religious arguments, international and colonial expediency, the scourge of nationalism and the exploitation of their plight by a whole cast of other unscrupulous actors. The historical backdrop to this conflict should tell us that both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples have suffered enough. And again I will maintain that the ultimate obscenity in it all is the cruel twist that now has them suffering at one another’s hand.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

31 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Cieran Perry of Working Class Action Interviewed
Anthony McIntyre


Republican Socialist Alternative Economic Strategy

Liam O Ruairc


The Ultimate Obscenity
Thomas Gore


The Chomskybot Code
Mary La Rosa


CAFTA Thumb Screws - The "Nuts and Bolts" of Free Trade Extortion
Toni Solo


27 October 2003


Pulling the Guns Over Their Eyes
Anthony McIntyre


Time for the Media to Take a Different Spin

Brendan O Neill


Die Hard. Die Harder!
Kathleen O Halloran


The Sound of Silence
Sean Smyth


The Raison d'Erte of 'Dissenting Republicans'
Liam O Comain


Figures of Dissent
Liam O Ruairc


The Occupation Runs Out of Gas
Stan Goff


The Letters Page has been updated.




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