By Salim Mansur, March 31, 2004.
The news photos of Hussam Abdo, the boy suicide-bomber caught while trying
to cross into Israel from the West Bank, speak volumes for the descent of a
people into insanity.
Hussam is of an undetermined age, between 14 and 16 years old, but reputedly
with the intelligence of someone younger. His face reveals the anguish of a
child robbed of his innocence, not only by the weight of an armed occupation,
but also by adults making him into a breathing weapon of death.
The question that emerges from Hussam’s pictures is, can such depravity be
The short answer is, no. There is no collective experience anywhere that
warrants, and justifies, such abuse of the young, the innocent and the gullible
by scheming adults.
There have been occupations of lands in other instances, and resistance
to occupation. People have fought wars for their freedom. There are situations
where people still remain under occupation, as are Tibetans under the rule of
Communist China. But none of this history bears relevance in explaining militant
It is generally accepted that the circumstances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
are most complex, and will demand an ingenious effort to end it by meeting the
needs of both people. It must also be said that no other people in modern times
– except for Jews given their history of survival against the most diabolical
effort to exterminate them – have received as much worldwide attention and
support for their freedom as have Palestinians.
But no other people have abused such support, or so effectively called into
question the means and ends of their struggle for freedom from occupation as
The sort of thinking that rationalizes the evil of making Hussam Abdo a
walking bomb, bringing death to unwary and innocent people engaged in daily
chores, is, at one level, inexplicable and, on another, densely layered between a
pathology of tribal politics and religious fanaticism.
We are indebted to George Orwell in our understanding of how corruption of
language lies at the basis of corrupt and life-denying politics. It is scarcely
credible anymore to insist that Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is
sufficient explanation for corrupt Palestinian politics.
A large part of the explanation lies in the corruption of language and its
deliberate misuse for demagogic purposes. When a people celebrate death as
living and revere as a spiritual leader an individual who spews hate, condones
suicide-bombing as an instrument of martyrdom and pulverizes the teachings of
a transcendent faith for tribal politics, then language has been so distorted that
words no longer convey established meaning.
In the Orwellian language of Palestinian politics, peace, justice,
international law and other such terms mean the opposite, or what serves the
purpose of not only undoing the occupation, but also eliminating Israel.
Those who cause the most harm to Palestinians also possess the most
influence in their midst. The United Nations, for instance, is a modern collective
version of Pontius Pilate, asking what is truth when its Afro-Asian majority
regularly mutilates the enshrined principles of its charter.
Hence the ineffectiveness of the UN – given its undisguised partisanship
in favour of Palestinian rights without due consideration of Israeli interests – in
resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is for Palestinians to recognize where insanity has brought them and then, as
Hussam Abdo did, choose life and with it a just peace they deserve.