How Israel manipulates Palestinian narrative through Syria's refugee crisis

How Israel manipulates Palestinian narrative through Syria's refugee crisis
Comment: As the world is divided by the Syrian refugee crisis, Israel has once again embarked upon an narrative exploitation to undermine the plight of Palestinian refugees, writes Ramona Wadi.
5 min read
14 Sep, 2015
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced with the creation of Israel [AFP]

Europe has emerged as a protagonist in this story, as refugees from Syria attempt to escape civil war and Islamic State group brutality.

Member countries are reluctantly offering refuge, while others are constructing fences to prevent families from exercising their right to seek asylum.

The European narrative of influx and escalating statistics tends to be a recurring theme - the only difference being the fluctuation in numbers.

From a carefully constructed periphery, however, Israel is manipulating the Syrian refugee narrative to continue with its colonisation plans and further its security concern rhetoric.

In turn, Palestine is obscured once again by the mutating violence and political diplomacy that dictate priorities.

Demography, geography and Holocaust recollections

At first glance, it would seem as if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog have expressed differing opinions. However, their underlying motives are synchronised, as evidenced by the greater framework of how "security concerns", for both political leaders, remain paramount and entail severe repercussions for Palestinians.

At the weekly cabinet meeting last week, Netanyahu announced Israel would be constructing a fence on the border with Jordan.

     We will not allow Israel to be submerged by a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists
- Binyamin Netanyahu

Quoted by Ma'an news agency, Netanyahu stated: "We will not allow Israel to be submerged by a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists."

Of paramount importance was Netanyahu's intentional distortion of geography. "Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of Syrian and African refugees… but Israel is a small country - very small - without demographic or geographic depth. That is why we must control our borders."

Herzog, on the other hand, expressed the opinion that "it is incumbent upon Israel to take in refugees from the war and push for the establishment of an urgent international conference on the issue".

At first glance, it is clear that both leaders are clearly exploiting the Syrian civil war to further the Israeli narrative. Netanyahu has explicitly expressed demographic concerns, while Herzog has relied upon the Holocaust narrative to elicit a semblance of feigned compassion.

However, the underlying motive for both leaders is the strengthening of the colonial narrative at the expense of Palestinians.

Mere weeks ago, Herzog met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, demanding the prevention of a third intifada and resumption of negotiations to counter the alleged diplomatic stagnation.

Timeframes and security concerns provided the veneer for Herzog's meeting with Abbas. Implicit in the discussion was the elimination of Palestinian resistance by any possible means, including another colonial massacre. However, Herzog would have the world believe that evoking recollections of the Holocaust would classify him as sympathetic to the plight of Syrian refugees.

Despite the apparent divergences, both Netanyahu and Herzog share the same priority - that of obscuring Palestinian memory and, in turn, consolidating Israel's settler-colonial presence.

Israel thrives upon creating refugees

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, which has been stripped of its democratic façade and revealed itself largely as another imperialist intervention in the Middle East, Israel has gained political leverage with regard to its perpetual security concerns.

As regards refugees, Israel is clearly tackling any hypothetical influx with an exclusionary and military approach - the same tactics used against displaced Palestinians both in Palestine and abroad.

Recent history, with reference to Operation Protective Edge last summer, has provided a clear example of how Israel is intent upon maintaining Gaza's destruction, thus reducing the area of inhabitable territory and creating a state of permanent displacement.

In the West Bank, settlements continue to erupt on top of Palestinian territory with the blessings of the PA, once again persisting in upholding the cycle of displacement.

Israel's emergence in 1948 and subsequent recognition - an act that reeks of international complicity - is also based upon the politics of massacres and displacement. While Palestinian memory narratives vary, both Israel and the international community have successfully created dissonance out of a common theme - that of permanent exile and the manipulation of the Palestinian right of return.

     It is the invalidation of Palestinian narratives that in turn strengthens Israel's invented history

It is the invalidation of Palestinian narratives that in turn strengthens Israel's invented history, including obscure concepts favoured by Netanyahu such as the issue of borders.

In reality, Israel's borders should be affirmed as a point of contention. As the colonial project, with reference to the concept of Greater Israel, remains incomplete, any talk of borders by Netanyahu is nothing but an illusion to justify further land appropriation.

Further land theft requires the creation of additional refugees from the indigenous population to pave the way for complicit settlers.

To state that Syrian refugees constitute a concern of any sort for Netanyahu and Herzog is a blatant misconception.

There is no concern for Israel's demography, or compassion for Syrians fleeing the violence. Israel's hostility towards refugees - termed as infiltrators and, in the case of Palestinians and Syrians, classified as terrorists - is enough of an impediment.

International protection of Israel as a base for imperialist infiltration in the region constitutes another deterrent.

What Israeli leaders are after, in this scenario, are assurances that Palestinians and their shared status as refugees, both internally and externally displaced, remain obscured from proper attention as Israel embarks upon appropriating a portion of the Syrian narrative to further its demands and, in turn, garner further support from the international community for its expansion.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.