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The Gray Line
by Adam Engel
February 23, 2005

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A woman's husband is murdered and she is raped by a man who'd been planning to kill her husband, rape her and take her property for some time. All the while she was innocently going about her life. Her rapist decides to “marry” the woman (that is, make her his servant), who is now a widow because of him, “adopt” the children she'd conceived before the rape, and of course raise the child conceived during the rape.

He moves into her home, treats her and her children like beasts, beats them, abuses them, all the while doting on the child conceived by force, the child he loves and planned to provide for from the beginning.  Certain, though not all, “neighbors” at first think the woman is lucky her rapist didn't kill her and her children like he did her husband, and recognize the rapists’ right to her house, her property, her children, whom he abuses, and of course his child conceived by rape. What no one suspected is that the woman and the children of her first husband are fierce, intelligent fighters, and keenly aware of the injustice that has been done to them.

Generations pass. The child of the rape has his own children and they run the house and property. The “other” children also have children, and they are forced into servitude until they rebel, demanding, like the woman, who is now old but has never forgotten, justice.

This is what I got from Ted Honderich's essay, “On Being Persona Non Grata to Palestinians, Too” published in the February 19/20 weekend edition of CounterPunch.

In 1948, there might not have been enough of a “Palestinian consciousness” to form a state. Or maybe there had been, but the Zionists beat them to it. I don't agree with Honderlich that it was the right thing to do at the time, any more than I believe the USSR/US's dividing Europe into “East” and “West” and turning the rest of the planet into a Cold War battle zone was “right” regardless of the time period in which it happened.

But that was not, I believe, Honderlich's main thesis. His main point is that “history happens,” and we who cannot undo history must settle for engaging the children of history.

So we must ask ourselves: should the child of the rape and his children be killed or forced into exile as punishment for the injustice of the patriarch, or is there another answer?

Justice must be brought to the woman who was raped, her children and their children. But the fact of the matter is that innocents were born of the second and third generations following the rape. The child of the rape is itself innocent. True, those who seek to expand their holdings, to further heap injustice on the woman and her children, deserve what comes to them, as Honderich admitted when speaking of Palestinian attacks on those who dare seize yet more land in the name of a “greater Israel.”

But in my view, American Jews and Fundamentalists Christians are by far more guilty of injustice against the Palestinian people for their mindless “support” of Israel and its expansionist policies than Israelis who are Israeli by accident of birth. The “supporter of Israel” is a Zionist by choice. The Jewish Israeli may or may not be a Zionist. Perhaps the majority are Zionists, perhaps many are even in favor of expansion and the many abuses heaped upon the Palestinians since 1948. But there are many who want justice for the Palestinians, as evidenced by writers such as Gilad Atzmon, Uri Avnery and others (many of whom have written for CounterPunch), although, being human, not at the expense of their lives and their children’s lives.

That is the question that Honderlich was right to consider: what of Israelis who are Israelis merely by birth?  Kill them? Exile them? These do not seem to be satisfactory answers. But as long as the fear that justice for Palestine will mean severe injustice for all Israelis as “payback” for the 57 year “rape” of Palestine, reactionaries will exploit the issue, just as they exploit the issue of American justice toward exploited Muslim countries. In their world it’s kill or be killed; hence, any side “foolish” enough to seek a non-exploitative, equal relationship in the name of justice, will end up paying for the sins of their fathers. That's what's behind it all, isn't it?  The fear that we the beneficiaries of exploitation can never pay back enough, except with our lives.

While both Honderlich and CounterPunch should be applauded for bringing these very real issues to the fore, according to a newsletter I received, they are to be reviled for “supporting Zionism.” That this newsletter came allegedly from “the left” made no difference in terms of its black-and-white colonialist thinking. In the mind of the colonialist/imperialist, it's “us” or “them”. That they are bringing this Manichean mind poison to a just cause does no justice to the cause.  For ultimately the question will arise: what to do with the great-grandchildren of the rapist?  Kill ‘em all?

That this newsletter would castigate CounterPunch for even raising the issue on its website says much about what, for those who see only black and white, the answer would be. They are friends neither of justice nor of freedom of ideas that might lead to justice.

Freedom of Speech is neither a right, nor even a convincing slogan anymore. It’s a state of mind that belongs to those who live in the gray areas and shadows.  Black and White belongs to the mainstream and exists out in the open where everyone can see and clearly distinguish the two. Black and White and Red all over. Like in Iraq. Like in Palestine. Like in Colombia. Like in America. May all these lands be overcast with gray clouds and washed with heavy, blurry rain. 

Adam Engel can be reached at:

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