The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Fred A. Wilcox • 13 April 2006

In early April, a group of students at the college where I teach held a weeklong seminar on the plight of Palestinians in the occupied territories. One of the most moving events was a documentary film, "Ana's Children," about a woman who had fought to create the state of Israel and, later in life, established a theater where Palestinian children could learn techniques of acting. These children lived in a refugee camp, and while the film was being made Israeli bulldozers demolished one of their houses.

The camera zooms in on a small boy, obviously in shock, sitting on a heap of rubble. What will he and his family do now? Where will they go? How will they live? And why did the Israeli military destroy their home?

Ana and her son devote their lives to children living in a war zone. It is clear that they love these children, and the children love them. But it is also clear that love does not conquer the fear, anxiety, frustration, and rage these kids feel. We watch them grow into adolescence, then into adulthood, and it becomes increasingly clear that they are trapped inside of, and without hope of ever escaping from, a miserable refugee camp. Finally, we learn that Ana's children fought and most of them died in the second Intifada.

Watching this documentary, I thought about the many ways in which the American and British media sought to demonize Irish Republicans. I remembered stupid Hollywood films like "The Boxer" and "The Crying Game" in which members of the IRA were portrayed as mafia-type thugs who enjoyed torturing and killing other human beings. I recalled conversations with people after I returned from N. Ireland where I'd served as an international observer. "But what about the IRA?" they asked. "What about them?" I replied? Apparently, I was obligated to reinforce the propaganda, the misinformation, and the ridiculous stereotypes that our media fed us about those who dared to resist British imperialism. In short, I was supposed to say that members of the IRA were demons.

In our post 9/11 world it is even more convenient to turn human beings into demons. In the context of the so-called "war on terror," anyone who dares to take up arms against their oppressors is a demon. Palestinians who resist the Israeli army when its soldiers enter their towns and refugee camps, firing randomly, destroying houses, killing women and children, are terrorists. Young Irish men and women who resisted Britain's right to arrest, torture, and assassinate Irish people were, according to those who wish to revise history, terrorists. Politicians in South America who resist the Bush Administration's efforts to colonize the world must be turned into demons in order to build support for right-wing coups in those countries. In recent weeks, Iran has risen to the top of the empire's demon list. And, of course, the "insurgents" in Iraq are portrayed as demons who must be tortured and killed in order to create a "genuine democracy".

The beauty of films like "Ana's Children," is that we get to see what happens to children who watch an occupying army bulldoze their houses, beat and torment their friends and family, torture and kill innocent people. In the United States, we have the ironic luxury of imagining that we would never resort to violence, no matter how much violence might be inflicted upon us. Our own government might invade Afghanistan and Iraq, it might keep hundreds of people in prison camps without charging them with a crime, it might torture suspected insurgents, and it might support governments that terrorize people in the name of peace, but we the people do not pick up the gun ourselves and, therefore, we are innocent bystanders.

After the last heart breaking scene in "Ana's Children," a faculty member led a discussion during which students said that Palestinian mothers should stop teaching their children to hate, that Palestinians need bowling alleys and supermarkets, and that people living in the occupied territories must learn how to express their anger without resorting to violence. My own response to this great film is that we Americans ought to stop demonizing those who fight against oppression, and start asking ourselves what we might have done if we'd grown up in an impoverished Catholic neighborhood in Belfast during the Troubles; what we might do now if we lived in a squalid Palestinian camp, if an occupying army came into our homes, beat our parents, threatened to take our brothers and sisters off to torture chambers.

Perhaps the real question is why it's so convenient to blame the victims of violence, and even to turn them into demons, rather than trying to understand why human beings are willing to risk prison, torture, and death in order to drive imperialists and occupiers from their homelands.

















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

18 April 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Grave Secrets
Anthony McIntyre

Spoiled Rotten
David Adams

Let Bygones be Bygones
Mick Hall

Urgent Memo — Judas Was One of the Bad Guys!
Dr John Coulter

Cluedo in Donegal
Anthony McIntyre

Easter Message
John Kennedy

Óglaigh na hÉireann Easter Statement
The Sovereign Nation

IFC Easter Statement, 2006
Joe Dillon

Lincoln's Despair
John Kennedy

Fred A. Wilcox

Hamas Being Forced to Collapse
Sam Bahour

Profile: Philippe Val
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

11 April 2006

Shed No Tears for the Donaldson Family
Geraldine Adams

Buried in Secret
Anthony McIntyre

The Donaldson Dilemna
Bill Ashe

Motive for Murder
Mick Hall

Victim or Pawn?
Dr John Coulter

Agent of the Peace Process
Anthony McIntyre

Happy Easter
John Kennedy

Where, O Where, Is Our James Connolly?
Paul Maguire

Nice One, Tony
John Kennedy

Putting on the Poor Mouth
Seaghan O Murchu

Spare Us the Cures from Quacks
Dr Seamus Kilby

Profile: Antoine Sfeir
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters page has been updated:

Standing Up to the Enemies of Free Speech


Irish Republicanism and Islam


Real human rights - without any religious blackmail


Resisting Censorship


and more...

Freedom of Speech index



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