By Jonathan Hoffman
June 28, 2011
This new interview with American author Alice Walker gives a brilliant insight into what motivates trendy pro-Palestinian sentiment in the West today. Notice how effortlessly she flits between talking about Palestinians in Gaza and chickens in factory farms. In one breath she talks about the “cruel and inhuman” treatment meted out to Palestinians, who are “frazzled and suffering everyday”. And in the next she talks about chickens that are “raised under horrible, torturous conditions”, and the fact that people who tuck into chicken dinners don’t realise that they are eating “something precious, beautiful, rare”.
Palestinians and chickens – these seem to be the two big moral concerns haunting Ms Walker’s head. She sees their predicament as comparable: just as Palestinians are caged in Gaza, so chickens are caged in factory farms. And just as we “must help those suffering in Gaza”, so we must “change the way chickens are thought about and raised”. Ms Walker is certainly doing her bit. Next week she will be on the latest Gaza-bound flotilla, named “The Audacity of Hope”, which will deliver letters from concerned American citizens to Palestinians, which is of course just what Palestinians need. And she spends the rest of her time meditating with animals, in particular chickens, as a way of rediscovering “the peace we once shared with the other animals on the planet”.
She might sound barking, but actually Ms Walker’s lumping together of Palestinians and chickens reveals much about the cocktail of pity and paternalism that drives influential Westerners’ pro-Palestinian lobbying today. They increasingly see Palestinians, not as a group of people capable of exercising the same democratic and political rights as the rest of us, but as wide-eyed and pathetic victims who must be saved from Evil Israel by the better-minded, better-educated activists of the West. Palestinians have been turned into the playthings of Western do-gooders, loveable victims deserving of pity and sad, tear-stained letters from Alice Walker and friends. In short, they’ve been reduced to the level of chickens: sad little creatures whom caring Westerners can coo over and stroke and maybe take home and put in the garden for their friends to marvel over. This is not solidarity – it is a public display of pity, designed primarily to advertise the superior moral sensitivities of anti-Israel Westerners than to do anything practical to assist Palestinians.
You know, if I were a Palestinian in Gaza, I wouldn’t only throw stones across the border at Israeli troops. I’d also hurl them at “The Audacity of Hope” flotilla when it turns up next week, with its cargo of insulting letters from achingly right-on Americans who have moved on from crying over baby seals to crying over poor Palestinians.