Power and privilege has a way of making some forget the horrors of the past. Throughout history, people who were once oppressed quickly revert to the ways of their oppressors the minute they gain the upper hand. I write this in light of what is going on in Gaza and the way innocent lives are being snuffed out by the onerous Israeli government. I don’t mean to cast a wide net, my rebuke is aimed only Zionists and extremists alike who justify the flagrant actions of Tel Aviv. It is tragic that the children of Holocaust survivors and the descendants of Jews who endured appalling treatment at the hand of brown shirts and Nazi thugs would find it so effortless to brutalize Palestinians.
If we acknowledge that imprisoning Jews behind the ghettos of Berlin and Warsaw was malicious, which it was, we must be equally forceful in speaking against the incarceration of Palestinians behind the ghettos of Gaza and the West Bank. Yet some would like us to view infringements differently; as they stand against the defamation of their own, they condone the the dehumanization of others. This type of situational morality is what gives rise to tyrants; crimes against humanity are made possible by radicals who cater to the grievances of their tribe while demonizing outsiders.
In the era of storm troopers and the SS, ghettos were synonymous with walls. During the 1920’s and 30’s—before Hitler arrived at his final solution—the Third Reich’s opening salvo was rounding up Jews and the undesirables and walling them behind the ghettos of Berlin and in multiple cities throughout Germany. Innumerable miscarriages of injustice are accepted by society when the faces and names of victims are hidden behind fences and iron bars. What happened in Germany during the heyday of the nationalist socialists is not an outlier but a stubborn facet of history. This is why we should be leery when grafters come around promising to make America great again by vowing to build walls on our southern border and, by extension, ghettoizing immigrants and Muslims as America’s undesirables.
Yet not even the belligerent rhetoric of our infantile president matches the bellicose Prime Minister of Israel and his fellow Zionists who think that cruelty against humanity is an affront against humanity unless it is being practiced by them. Netanyahu and the Likud party are repeating the sins of the past as they use foreign threats to justify their insidious policies. Collective punishment is immoral, full stop. The whole should never be blamed for the excesses of a few. But this precisely what Bibi is doing; millions of Palestinians suffer in silence and languish in what is effectively the biggest open air prison in the world in the insane assumption that terrorizing civilians will quell people’s desperate acts for freedom.
The cudgel of antisemitism is used to silence anyone who dares to question the excesses of Israel. Putting aside their bullying tactics and slanderous attempts to muzzle people who speak out in the name of justice, the fact is Israel is an apartheid state. When Palestinians are confined to mega refugee camps and excluded from entering Israel, it recalls the plight of “black” South Africans who were kept behind the ghettos of Bophuthatswana, Lebowa and the homelands endorsed by Hendrik Verwoerd and the racist Afrikaner National Party. Jim Crow in America, apartheid in South Africa, ghettos in the Wiemar Republic and the walls of Gaza, the faces of victims change but the victimizing of humanity stubbornly remains. Click To Tweet
However, this must be said as well. Shinning a light on the malfeasance of Israel’s government should not be construed as an attack on all Jews. When we respond to collective punishment with collective judgment, we become no different than the abuses we condemn. It is equally immoral to lump in all Jews and blame the whole for the offensive actions of a few. Not all Jews are Zionists anymore than are all “white people” supremacists. We need to be nuanced in all things; painting with a broad brush is the reason why injustices keep being reborn each time we learn our lessons from past transgressions.
Sadly, we live in the age of rampant narcissism and intentional sensationalism. We lack the moral giants of the past who bent the arc of their era towards justice. We are led mostly by a vaudeville of yellow journalists and misdirected by corporate courtiers who make it their business to stoke separable grievances. This is why we are talking about a rapper who spoke foolishly about slavery and giving him the spotlight that he craves instead of paying attention to the chains at our feet. Meanwhile, more and more are being mauled by economic policies while countless millions are being cratered by the greed of the neo-aristocracy. There is a common thread between children who suffers in Jabalia and children who suffers in Atlanta and beyond; until we realize our connective pains and hopes, we will continue to suffer apart.
I pray for a day where Palestinian children will be able to walk hand in hand with their Jewish counterparts imbued with the spirit of peace and coexistence. If we are to arrive at a new day for the Middle East and the world, we will only do so if we stop making abstractions of people and more importantly when we refuse to let zealots lead us down the gutters of xenophobia and hatred. Tribalism is a cancer upon humanity; it eats away at our communal nature and delivers us into the wastelands of exclusion and isolation. We must tear down the ghettos that fracture humanity and build bridges towards a future that is based on inclusive and universal justice. #GhettoizingGaza
“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” ~ Elie Wiesel
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Check out this Ghion Cast where I discussed how despots, throughout history, have oppressed the masses in the mistaken belief that tyranny will subdue the aspirations and hopes of a people. Unity is the key to overcoming oppression.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.