“A Palestinian gunslinger shoots to kill in Jerusalem,” states the front page of the digital edition of El Mundo newspaper. Then my eyes reverse toward the heading’s introduction: “At least one person wounded.” Next, those people patient enough to read the body of the news will find out that the only dead victim of this action was in fact its executor. Let’s leave aside the term “gunslinger”, a cipher of unyielding violence, so de-politicizing that it legitimates any misnaming all by itself, so negatively flat that we even refuse to apply it to these lunatics who kill people at random in US schools and restaurants. Let’s also leave aside the fact that El Mundo hides the murdered Palestinians — as they keep growing in number hour after hour — at the bottom of the page, in “Other News.”
But we’d better pay attention to the even subtler syntactic terrorism, to the structural distortion of sentences. Have we ever noticed that Palestinians are always the “subjects” — both active and passive — of all sentences? “A Palestinian gunman shoots to kill in Jerusalem,” “A Palestinian dies as consequence of an exchange of shots with the IDF.” Do we perceive the enormous distance separating “A Jewish settler shoots to death three Palestinians” and “Three Palestinians die at the hands of a Jewish settler?” The true “agent” of all problems in Palestine hides behind syntactic positions and, crouched down there, erases all the footprints of his/her responsibility.
Palestinians do kill (a negative decision, freely chosen). Palestinians do die (as if it was a law of nature). Palestinians always die indeed as a consequence of a missile shot from a helicopter, after an incursion of tanks in Nablus, after a shooting between Fatah and Israeli soldiers. But who kills them?
If I say that my grandmother died few minutes after the beginning of bombardments in Afghanistan, nobody in his/her right mind would establish a relationship between both events as to blame USAmerican B-52s. However, syntactic terrorism juxtaposes two actions and links them by a causal and indissoluble relationship.
“Three Palestinian children die in hospital after an Israeli raid.” The reader has to make an effort to re-establish the true subject — both semantic and moral — of this sentence. Couldn’t they have died from measles? What if they fell from a wall? Every single day Palestine witnesses coincidences like my grandmother’s, with such a frequency that it is surprising that the streets of Jerusalem are not crowded by parapsychology experts. “Seven Palestinian youths die natural deaths after an Israeli missile pulverizes their house.” “A Palestinian woman collapses, victim of a cardiac arrest, at the same time that a soldier shoots at her heart.”
There is nothing more paradoxical than journalists having finished taking refuge, without even being aware of it, in the philosophy of medieval Muslim Al-Ghazali (Iran, 1058 - Tus, Iran, 1111), who felt forced to deny all causal links in nature to defend the absolute freedom of God. No matter if Occupation and Intifada are coeval or consecutive, Israelis shooting and blowing up of children have no relationship whatsoever. God is free of doing what He wants and of tying two phenomena as he fancies. Israel only seems to be guilty because our conventional chronological scale states that shots always precede dead people. Wouldn’t it be enough that Palestinians died first and Israelis shot later for us to have the revelation — like journalists do — of the Occupant’s innocence?