Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Other Holy Land

Bridgethought of the Day: Excerpts from Bridgebuilding 101 - 1) First, there must be agreement that a bridge even be built; 2) Second, there must be consideration for equal traffic access for both sides, which means there must also be somewhere to go once the other side is reached; and 3) The point is to bring the two sides together, not to showcase the superiority of one side over another. Then we have an excerpt from Warmaking 101 - you need bridges to transport materials and resources to your side. So even in war, it might not be a good idea to tear bridges down. Tell that to the war engineers...

Meanwhile, things will only get worse as long as only one side gets heard and the other side gets the shaft. Take, for example, the Israel-Palestine conflict. The U.S. has taken a side. The entire U.S. political system has not only taken that side, but fully integrated it into the power-brokerage of both parties. Hence, a trip to Israel is seen as a political "rite of passage" for any political candidate. In Florida, the popular Governor Charlie Crist is ready for his Israel trip, and the waiting list for people to go along is predictably long and impressive. A Miami columnist dutifully notes the political implications - it can only be good for clout, Mr. Crist. And this is nothing new. An unnamed former member of the House from an unnamed Western state told me years ago that nobody, but nobody, can stay in office without being For Israel, and back off any appearance of sympathy of any kind for that Pariah, the Palestinians.

This has nothing to do with 9-11. It is a decision and a policy put in place since Israel was formed as a nation, and it is not subject to question, inquiry or change. America's support for Israel is institutional, and the converse is true: America's rejection of the Palestinian people is challenged only by careful rhetoric whose intention is to mask what it is doing. But the reality is extremely clear: Israel's enemies are our enemies. Even if it means starving them to death. We've become very accustomed to starving children and oppressed populations. All you do is change the channel. You don't listen to the other side.

Look at what happened in Lebanon. Condi Rice was cool with the slaughter of innocent Lebanese citizens. It wasn't even an "Islamist" or "War on Terror" issue. It was just because Israel decided that Hezbollah were their enemies, and this was the time to eliminate them, and the only way to do that is to eliminate everyone in the same country. Condi need only ask, "Who authorized this slaughter?" The answer: "Israel." "Oh, then, it's cool with me." Any other answer would be political suicide. And political suicide is against America's religion.

Now Israel is busy bulldozing and mowing down families again. But this time they have company. The Palestinians have begun to factionalize, then kill each other. Why?

Taghreed El-Khodary 36, journalist, said:

... a woman called Hoda, 60-years old, who was very afraid to mention
her last name, afraid she will be killed by either Fatah or Hamas, said to me:
"When Israel attacks, we can deal with it. Israel is our enemy. Therefore, we
have the will and it's a challenge. But when Palestinians are clashing, its very
frustrating and depressing, psychologically speaking." Someone else, a Fatah
member whose brother was injured in the clashes, said: "What's happening
between Palestinians is due to the embargo imposed by the international community. Once you starve people they become vulnerable and easily manipulated by both parties to serve their personal interests."

We are talking about people under siege, starved, having had their elected officials kidnapped, killed, imprisoned, and their own families deprived from a means of making a living. But we are institutionally prohibited from even thinking about their plight. They are given a very bad P.R. job, presumably someone's idea of hell. Not strange, really, that an advertising-driven society should feel that "give 'em hell" means "give 'em bad P.R." And it almost worked. After all, did anybody ask, or even think about, what kind of logic could be behind an embargo against the weaker of two warring parties? It's OK to talk about other kinds of human suffering, but not the kind that runs smack into U.S. foreign policy. Not the kind we are responsible about.

Therefore, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright was cool with the death of Iraqi children, because they were "collateral damage", a necessary evil, apparently, in her greater scheme of things. In those days the only one brave enough to speak out against Iraq War I, or against the sanctions, was the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who gave a moving speech at the time that no one was up to listening to. Truth is OK as a source for jokes, but not for serious debate, let alone policy-making. Nobody took to the streets rioting about the lies that led to Iraq War II either. Some voices are heard, yes, but no out-n-out pressure. All the pressure has been from talk radio, from folks who think The Mexicans are coming to take our culture away. Yes, their voices have been heard. Criminalize immigration, they say. What we need is a Great Wall!

In all fairness, shouldn't we let Don Imus work the fields in Texas for a few weeks? Or better yet, let my personal favorite, Ann "The Witch" Coulter work only one month picking grapes in California - in migrant worker conditions. James Michener, where are you now that we need you? Or if that's too tough, let her work as a maid in a hotel - even better, in one of those "new" detention centers they've built for illegals. Then, and only then, would she deserve the right to wear a blindfold and pose as Justice for reporters. Till then, she's just another corrupt lawyer.

If you like to be different, break from the mold, in a way other than dancing idiotically to an iPod or mouthing Steve Jobs slogans, try reading the blog Raising Yousuf, written by a Palestinian mother describing her day-to-day life in Palestine. Try to see what the news cannot ever show.

Of course, there are many voices, one of a shopkeeper in the Al-Jazeera report referenced above:

What brought this all to fruition was the global and Israeli sieges on Gaza, and the resulting unemployment and lack of wages. That, in addition to the US's military and financial support of Fatah militias - this has an enormous role. We want them to lift the siege. We want them to begin speaking with our government, Hamas included.

He was referring to the Hamas-Fatah fighting, of course, but did not lose sight of those who are pulling the puppet strings.

Or the voice of Hadeel Abo Dayya, 17 , high school student,

We know that the president's office can stop this, but he prefers not to. We
were asking for just 30 minutes ceasefire to allow us and the other trapped
bystanders to evacuate, but they wouldn't even give us that. Now, after this
happened, after I thought I was going to die, after I saw that even ambulances
weren't allowed to reach us, I thought: what is this nation, these people, that
I am working so hard to build? I am crushed. But then I thought; how will the
outside world help me? I have to stay strong and persevere. What I learned is
that the world is like a pencil. Your memory, your life, everything you know or think you know, can be erased in an instant. My passport, our ID cars,
everything is gone now in that fire.

Another take on the "infighting" being really a new tactic of enemies, leading me to wonder about Iraq's much-touted Sunni-Shia conflict. I know many could buy this line, but who fed it to Iraq in the first place? Al-Qaeda? Or the Bush Administration? Or Both, working, as it were, in a strange macabre concert...

And finally, but not least, the voice of Mohammad Salim, 45, unemployed/part-time custodial worker,

The first reason behind this all is the siege and the lack of work and lack
of money. If there is money and work, people won't have time for this nonsense,
and likewise parents can prevent their kids from going out and fighting.
Sometimes I feel the young boys, they are bored and looking for something to do,
so they go out and fight.

Why won't Israel just let us work, just let us live?
There won't be any problems in Gaza then. Not a single person would allow his
children to work in the Palestinian Authority security forces or tanzim then.
For a measly 1,200 shekels they destroy everything.

If they lift the siege, people can begin to feel more of a sense of safety and security. On top of that, 450 of the presidential guards were trained in Egypt with US and Israeli funding - this is good for no one. In days past, they forced women with niqab [face covering] and men with beards to the ground. They executed three men. This has never happened before.

Four or five men in my neighbourhood who have beards shaved them off for fear of being targeted. I stopped going to the mosque in recent days. Who will take care of my kids if some crazy gunman shoots me? We are human beings and we just want to live like the rest of the world. My son, he sometimes watches television stations like Abu Dhabi or Dubai; he sees playgrounds and parks with green grass. And I feel so sad and helpless for him.
This occupation has turned us into beggars.
Every last one of us - from Abu
Mazen down to street cleaners like me, on top of all this infighting. I'm
embarrassed to be sweeping the streets, I really am. But what can I do? I have
13 mouths to feed. And debts are piling up. And even then, it's a temporary work
relief programme. In two weeks, I'll be out of a job again.

Are we really proud of this legacy resulting from our great leaders and foreign policy? When will we stop depriving an entire population of freedom, means of survival, and infrastructure, and then blame them for it? Do we hold them responsible for the actions of neighbors or family members over whom they have no control?

We blame them when some guys go nuts and try to blow people up in public places, mostly without much success. But no one points the finger at Israel when they mow down whole families or their homes, when they kidnap or kill elected officials, or when they deprive an entire population of adequate means of living? All that is supposedly justified. But it's not justified to be angry when your whole means of living, your home, your people, your family are brutalized to make way for the "Chosen People".

What a callous form of insidious anti-Semitism it is indeed to say that to speak out for Palestinian human rights is anti-Jewish. What kind of Jew would want to be associated with oppression, racism and brutality? Please, IPAC, give us all a break!

When will one honest man actually take a trip to the "Other Holy Land" and try to present the side of the oppressed, instead of the side of the rich, powerful, and apparently...heartless...???