Erasing history and context

The official U.S. response to the escalating violence in Palestine and Israel demands condemnation for its clear and obvious attempt to rewrite history. Seen side-by-side, there’s no better example of the U.S. government’s utter failure to be an independent broker of peace in the Middle East.

On January 26, in a Press Statement entitled The Situation in Jenin, the U.S. Department of State spokesman, Ned Price, announced:

“Today in Jenin, at least nine Palestinians, including militants and at least one civilian, were killed and over twenty injured during an Israeli Defense Forces counterterrorism operation against a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell.  We recognize the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority and condemn terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against civilians.  We mourn the loss of innocent lives as well as injuries to civilians and are deeply concerned by the cycle of violence in the West Bank.  We underscore the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.  Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely.”

The following day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, issued a Press Statement entitled Condemning the Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem:

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack that occurred today outside of a synagogue in Jerusalem.  We mourn those killed in the attack, and our thoughts are with the injured, including children.  The notion of people being targeted as they leave a house of worship is abhorrent.  It is particularly tragic that this attack occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On behalf of the United States, I express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wish those injured a full recovery.  We are in close contact with our Israeli partners and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

Jenin refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The facts must not be recast to support a false narrative.

The Situation in Jenin was initiated by Israel when its leaders sent the military into the crowded Jenin Refugee Camp in the Occupied Palestine Territories. Palestinian fighters responded and the Israeli soldiers killed 9 Palestinians, including a 61-year old woman. Many news outlets are referring to the action as a “raid.” Almog Cohen, a member of the Israeli parliament and “Jewish Power” party, celebrated the operation, tweeting: “Nice and professional work by the fighters in Jenin. Keep killing them.” The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that they were looking for terror suspects connected to the Islamic Jihad. The army confirmed that three of them were “neutralized” during an exchange of gunfire. Sick children in the hospital in Jenin were suffocated when the soldiers fired teargas into the hospital. A 10th Palestinian was shot and killed during a confrontation with Israeli troops in the town of al-Ram, near Jerusalem, as residents protested against the Jenin raid.

Predictably, Gaza fighters fired rockets into Israel in response to the massacre in Jenin. A day following the massacre, seven Israelis were killed outside a synagogue in Jerusalem, and then a 13-year-old Palestinian boy opened fire in east Jerusalem on Saturday, wounding two Israelis. The AP reported the attack in Jerusalem was the deadliest attack in the city since 2008. I’m reminded of Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010) explaining blowback but I don’t think he considered it in the context of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.  

Killing to preserve the occupation.

More than 170 Palestinians, including at least 30 children, were killed across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem last year. In January 2023 alone, at least 29 Palestinians including five children have been killed. The UN said that 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since 2006, but 2023 is already on course to surpass that, if the number of deaths stay at the same level, and there is now the potential for a full-scale uprising among Palestinians, particularly in the wake of Israel’s new far-right government, which came into power at the end of December.”

People of conscience must resist attempts to obscure the histories and experiences of oppressed people, including the Palestinians. [1] One crucial step is to recognize the erasure of context. The U.S. State Department calls Israel’s actions in Jenin “a counterterrorism operation against terrorists,” without a peep about the 1948 Nakba, the decades-long military occupation of Palestine, or the present-day indignities, depravation and brutality which the Palestinians are subjected to by Israel.

Jehad Abusalim writes: “Regimes of oppression work tirelessly to render the historical context of oppressed people irrelevant and obscure. Their final goal is to portray oppressed people and their struggles for reclaiming their rights as irrational and, at worst, reduce them to a threat against those who built their privilege at the expense of others.” [2]

The U.S. Department of State is erasing the context of the current violence and selectively condemning the violence perpetrated by the Palestinians (the victims of this illegal military occupation) while patting the Israeli government (the occupier) on the back. The U.S. government has demonstrated over the years that it’s incapable of serving as a neutral mediator or power broker in ending Israel’s occupation and bringing peace to all people in Palestine and Israel. I’m writing to President Biden, Secretary Blinken and the New Mexico delegation in Congress and requesting them to (1) enforce the Leahy Act which prohibits the U.S. Government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights; and (2) to formally withdraw from any role in negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

[1] Light in Gaza – Writings Born of Fire, Edited by Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing and Michael Merryman Lotze, American Friends Service Committee (2022) available at

[2] Id.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “Erasing history and context

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s