Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The struggle

What is one to make of this wall painting on the side of a building near Bethlehem? Two donkeys, their tails tied together, pull in opposite directions. The white donkey appears to have a Palestinian village on its back while the black donkey supports a Jewish settlement (the trees and the style of buildings give the clue). The donkeys - notoriously stubborn beasts - appear to be engaged in a futile, unthinking struggle.

If the artist has used the donkeys as a metaphor for the struggle between Palestinians and the Jewish settler movement then he (or she) is way off the mark. Settlements in the West Bank are encouraged, protected and supported by the government of Israel as part of its decades-old campaign to ethnically cleanse the land of its indigenous population.  Israel, with the fourth most powerful army in the world (one which has the power and military hardware to crush Australia's armed forces) is opposed by a handful of lightly-armed resistance fighters in Gaza. Economically, Israel boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in Europe.  It has imposed a "surrender or starve" policy upon the populations of Gaza and the West Bank, where poverty is widespread.

To depict this as a struggle between equals, or infer a moral equivalence in the Palestinian or Israeli positions is, quite frankly, disgusting.

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