The prince's accomplice

From the archive (legacy material)

Ramzy Baroud | Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 759 | 8-14 September 2005

In the halls of infamy, Machiavelli and Sharon walk hand in hand, writes Ramzy Baroud*
Many lessons can be extracted from observing Israeli dominion over the Palestinians in the past 55 years, most notably the audacious mandate of institutionalised violence. Even more alarming than the crimes themselves, legislation passed through the Knesset, and particularly during the past five years, to willfully and blatantly violate international law, while Israel remains safe in the fold of the international community, seems one of the most outrageous lessons of all. Perhaps the Sharon government gleaned its wisdom from The Prince rather than the Geneva Conventions. Consider the following scenario as a paradigm of Machiavellian philosophy applied to the “Palestinian problem”.
The fall of the classic theory and practice of imperialism compels us modern imperialists, who are keenly interested in maintaining control of our remaining settlements, to develop an advanced strategy that will protect our interests. Consolidating our power over indigenous populations may be difficult, but if done the right way — the Israeli way, that is — our settlements can be successfully sustained while our subjects are effectively subdued.
An important factor in institutionalising oppression is through the utilisation of the legal system. Israel has successfully passed laws, such as the law of return, which allow Jews (and only Jews) to immigrate to Israel based on their race, while Palestinians are denied the right to live in their homeland and on their own property because they don’t fit into this category. Moreover, the absentee law allows the state to confiscate the property of dispossessed Palestinians and claim it as state property. These laws have proven quite successful, since they make race the determining factor in attaining rights in Israel, with Jews as first-class citizens and Arabs as second class. They also rid Israel of some five million refugees, scattered elsewhere.
Another important element of institutionalised oppression is military occupation. Israel has occupied Palestine and other Arab lands for decades. This way, although condemned by futile United Nations resolutions, Israel has successfully achieved the upper hand over its subjects.
The modern imperialist must understand that a strong army remains essential in controlling settlements and their people. Thanks to the sheer strength of Israel’s invincible army, Palestinian rebellions have been suppressed through massive applications of force. It doesn’t matter whether force is used against armed or unarmed individuals, children, women or the elderly. What matters most is conveying a message that subjects have no chance of gaining the rights for which they fight, and if they want to live they must surrender to whatever the state demands.
Today’s imperialists must use the mass media, for it is unquestionably the most effective tool in winning today’s wars. It is important that the message conveyed through the media highlights the losses of the colonialist, not the colonised. The media must portray us as civilised and our enemies as savage; it must show us as righteous and our enemies as wicked; it must show us as peaceful and our enemies as terrorists. If the media is tightly controlled, we can fashion our own reality. We can cause the world to blame our enemy when we kill their children, and we can make our soldiers heroes while their targets are branded as criminals. Israel has indeed mastered the art of media control, to the point that we can even blame Palestinian parents for sending their children to be killed in order to grab media attention. Interestingly enough, many believe us.
Killing your enemies, torturing prisoners, occupying land and confiscating properties are very important, but not enough. You must humble your enemies while you carry out your policies. The tactic of humiliation is indeed a winning stratagem, for through its employment, you can destroy the spirit of your enemy. Yes, you can kill a man, but slaying him as his family watches and then stealing his dead body is more effective. You can beat a defiant young man who refuses to plead for mercy, but if you strip him naked first, you will certainly break his defiant spirit and make him wish for death. Yes, you can torture a prisoner by beating him, but imagine how successful it will be if you threaten to rape — or if you do in fact rape — his wife or sister. We’ve done it, and it was often quite successful.
If your subjects submit, reward them with partial freedom and allow them to get low-paying jobs. But if they defy you, clamp down and have no mercy. Otherwise they will rebel too often. If you push them until they rise up against you, don’t back down. Fight back. Close down their schools, uproot their trees, burn down their farms, block their streets, isolate their cities, demolish their homes, throw them in jail, keep them under curfew for weeks or months, deny them clean water, electricity and basic supplies.
If they increase their defiance by using firearms, feel free to do all that can be done. In Israel, for example, we are using our best high-tech weapons against them: F-15s, F-16s, Apache helicopters, missiles, and more.
Destroy their symbols and deny them an identity. In Israel we have destroyed numerous mosques and have attacked and desecrated many churches. Imagine what that made them feel?
If you issue them with identification cards, designate their nationality as “undefined”. Burn their flags, ban their books, forbid them from learning their own history; call their intellectuals “militants” and their religious leaders “fanatics”. Make them always feel trapped with nowhere to escape.
Besiege their land, their air and water. Make them feel like a wild animal trapped in a net. Terrorise them. Give them ultimatums. Force them to accept their fate, which of course you ordain.
Try to make them turn against each other whenever possible. Some of them might be weak, easy to manipulate. Use these to spy on the others. If such traitors become known, they’ll be jailed or even executed. That’s good, because then, like we do here in Israel, you can tell the world that your enemies violate human rights. Both ways, you win.
Build trenches and enormous walls around their fertile land, towns and villages, as we have done throughout the West Bank with our famous “security fence”. We said it was a security measure. The world believed us, and the people lost thousands of hectares of fertile land that is now in our hands, free of its inhabitants, whose high numbers have threatened our racial supremacy for generations.
Eradicate their forests and woodlands. Dump your toxic waste in their land and destroy their environment. In short, imprison their men, rape their land, murder their youth and push them to the brink of desperation, to the point of suicide, literally. You will then have succeeded in the complete dehumanisation and defeat of your enemy, while through the media you will have convinced the world you are actually the victim.
* The writer is a Palestinian-American journalist.