This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 25 August 2014 contains three articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– Gaza and all of Palestine still need liberation
– Survivors of Nazi genocide say: Never again means no to Israel
– “Ferguson, Gaza and the U.S. state”
Gaza and all of Palestine still need liberation
27 August 2014. A World to Win News Service. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has stopped with the signing of an open-ended cease-fire agreement with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority. No one can regret any interruption in Israel’s murderous attacks, which have killed almost 2,200 people in three weeks, some 500 of them children. But the blood that has been shed demands that the results be looked at objectively from the point of view of what it will take to liberate Palestine.
Hamas has celebrated this cease-fire as a victory, and so have many supporters of the Palestinian cause abroad. It seems that Israel did not achieve its immediate aims in this campaign, especially the destruction of Hamas, and the mood in Israel is now considerably darker than in Gaza. But what has really changed?
The agreement is, after all, a rerun of previous Israeli agreements, in 2012 and at the end of previous campaigns against Gaza: Palestinian fisherman will be able to sail in the coastal waters within 10 kilometres off the Gaza coast, and Israel has promised to allow some limited and as yet unspecified humanitarian supplies and construction materials to filter through the border crossings it controls. But the siege of Gaza has not been lifted.
As if to underscore this point, just before signing the cease-fire Israel bombed the only door to Gaza it does not control, in Rafah, on the Egyptian border. Although the border crossing was not completely destroyed, it goes nowhere but to Egypt. As the official sponsor of the cease-fire, the U.S.-backed Egyptian military regime will surely do its best to basically enforce the Israeli blockade.
Israel’s separation wall still surrounds most of the West Bank, which remains under occupation. The settlements remain and Israeli settlers will still be allowed to burn down Palestinian olive trees and lynch their Palestinian neighbours. Within the formal boundaries of Israel itself, including Jerusalem, the Israeli state has never been more brutal toward Palestinians.
The status quo for Palestinians is unbearable. How will this latest cease-fire change that?
The outcome so far may be viewed by Hamas as some sort of victory in terms of achieving its own goals, because its goal is religious rule and not the national liberation of Palestine, let alone a new and liberating society. But even in this regard it would be a big mistake to underestimate Israel’s viciousness and thirst for revenge in the completely unjustified guise of “self-defence”, which can only mean “defence” of the oppression of a people.
Most likely for Hamas, and explicitly in the thinking of some advocates for the Palestinian cause, the underlying reason for considering the cease-fire a victory lies in the idea that Israel’s massacres have produced “a shift in public opinion” that would oblige the U.S. and the European Union to change their policies on Israel.
In an article on the valuable, multilingual Web site Jadaliyya.com, its co-editor Mouin Rabbani wrote, “If in the aftermath of this crisis the U.S. responds with a renewed diplomatic initiative, it is unlikely to cut Israel as much slack as in years past. If it decides not to engage – and perhaps to reduce its protective embrace of Israel while Netanyahu remains prime minister – the prospect that the Palestinians and others will attempt to fill the vacuum with an agenda that seeks to end the occupation is greater than at any point since the 1993 Oslo agreement. The possibility that this Israeli government can pre-empt such scenarios with a diplomatic initiative enjoying significant international support is zero.” (Posted 26 August)
The problem with this one-sided conclusion is this: the U.S. and its allies have to take public opinion into account in their backing for Israel, but they will not and cannot stop protecting Israel. Any concessions they may pressure Israel to make would be for the purpose of ensuring the survival of the Zionist state. The current situation in the Middle East makes Israel even more central to their regional domination. The U.S., UK, France and Germany are not going to give up Israel just because of “shifts in public opinion”.
Furthermore, it is inconceivable that Israel will not try to use its military strength to enforce its domination of the Palestinians. This is because Israel’s existence as a “Jewish state” depends on crushing the rights and lives of the Palestinians who were driven out of their homes and national territory.
In fact, through the decades since the U.S. brokered the Oslo Agreements, Israel has made few if any significant concessions to the Palestinians. Every time the Palestinian Authority has made concessions, Israel has only turned around and humiliated it further. As for Hamas, its methods of war reflect its war aims – to pressure Israel and force it to accept Hamas’ rule.
For the U.S., while it may have some tactical differences with Netanyahu based on broader American regional interests, being able to both support Israel unconditionally and hypocritically “distance” itself from the Israeli government has worked out so far.
The U.S. and its allies will never come to the aid of the Palestinian people in any real way, and the failure to understand that can only harm the Palestinian cause.
Yes, “public opinion” is extremely important, especially if that means more and more people around the world coming to an attitude of total opposition to Israel and what it stands for, and beginning to “connect the dots” between its crimes and all the crimes committed by the capitalist/imperialist system in every country and against the planet itself. In rallying support for Palestine, including demands for lifting the blockade of Gaza, for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and in other ways, a full understanding of the nature of the problem can only strengthen the fight.
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Survivors of Nazi genocide: “‘Never again'” means never again for anyone!”
25 August 2014. A World to Win News Service. The following statement was signed by 40 Jewish survivors of the Nazi death camps for Jews and 287 children and other descendants of victims of that genocide. It appeared as a paid advertisement in The New York Times on 23 August and was widely reprinted and reposted. In Israel, when an article reporting on the statement appeared on the Facebook page of the newspaper Ha’aretz, about 15,000 people “liked” it by the next day. It is a reply to another paid advertisement that appeared in the NYT and UK newspapers by Elie Wiesel, a death camp survivor and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who argued that Israel’s massacres of Palestinians were justified because they are part of “a battle of civilization versus barbarism”.
As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.
We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting neo-Nazi insignia.
Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.
We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!
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“Ferguson, Gaza and the U.S. state”
25 August 2014. A World to Win News Service. The following article by Megan French Marcelin, who teaches at Colombia University in New York, was posted on Jadaliyya.com on 18 August 2014. It is one example of how people are seeking to “connect the dots” between the attack on Gaza and other examples of oppression imposed by a single imperialist world system now headed by the U.S.
Following the police shooting of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown on 9 August 2014, images of Ferguson, Missouri conjure the atrocities suffered by those living under military occupation in war zones across the world. They depict Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams in battle helmets with guns trained on the foreheads and chests of Black women and men; military tanks circling residents demanding to know why police had killed yet another young black man; and protesters doused with tear gas crying with the pain of a substance long banned as a chemical weapon by the Geneva Convention.
Globally, people have responded to the use of military-like force on citizens with outrage and disgust, drawing connections between the treatment of U.S. residents of color and the current siege on Gaza. When St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar claimed that the police had done everything possible to practice “restraint”, he seemed to echo the words of Israeli officials justifying, yet again, civilian deaths in Gaza. Indeed, Palestinians have reacted to police brutality in Ferguson by providing advice on how to avoid the side effects of tear gas and expressing support for demonstrators there. Residents of Ferguson, in turn, have held signs reading “Free Gaza” alongside placards that state, “I AM A MAN”, evoking the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. This exchange between people on opposite sides of the world, and the hopeful networks of solidarity emerging therein, illuminate troubling aspects of the U.S. state and offer potential frames for global activism.
These two spaces are linked by the U.S. government-financed militarization that has supported sieges on communities with unequal access to power worldwide. In the Middle East, according to a collective of U.S. professors writing in 2011, the U.S. government has offered some 8.6 million dollars per day to Israeli forces for the occupation of the West Bank. While paying lip service to the idea of peace talks, the U.S. government has unhesitatingly shared damaging intelligence with, and supplied weapons and ammunition to, the Israeli state. Less than two weeks ago, U.S. lawmakers demonstrated their unfaltering support for Israel by approving 225 million dollars to maintain the Iron Dome, despite the perverse death toll of Palestinian residents as a result of offensive Israeli military operations in Gaza.
The long history of the U.S. government’s military support of Palestinian repression has been paralleled by the gearing up of militarization in state and local police forces inside the United States. Following the 1965 Watts Rebellion, where black and brown residents of Los Angeles took to the streets frustrated by the socio-economic limitations of civil rights legislation as well as police brutality, the arming of local police forces with paramilitary capabilities has had a disproportionate effect on low-income communities of colour, according to a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union. The end of the Cold War initially exacerbated this trend, as Ronald Reagan launched a “war on drugs” that concocted low-income communities as a threat to domestic security. Since its 1997 inception, the Department of Defence’s 1033 program has also transferred military surplus weaponry – including tanks, helicopters, and M-16s – to local and state police forces. Through the program, police forces nationwide have received some 4.3 billion dollars in military-grade equipment.
However, the practice grew exponentially after 11 September 2001. With the premise of protecting citizens from acts of terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security has provided over thirty-four billion dollars in grants to local and state police forces. Ironically, just last year, the police chief of nearby St. Louis asked for an undetectable drone with which to police the city in case a terrorist attack took place. The pretext of fighting the “global war on terror” has had the result of turning communities of colour, long treated as enemies of the state, into potential war zones.
The troubling trend of increasing militarization is made more so by how political leadership has displaced responsibility for such violence. In Ferguson, as in Gaza, official U.S. demands for peace ignore the fact that the supply of military weaponry negates such a call to action. This irony has not been lost on residents in Missouri and abroad. One Palestinian tweeter, displaying an empty tear gas canister reading “Made in U.S.A,”offered satirical assurance to the citizens of Ferguson, saying that there should be no worry because the tear gas they faced had been tested on Palestinian civilians. If, as Missouri Congressional Representative Emanuel Cleaver rightly states in The Guardian, that it is “unconscionable that we would convert a city in the middle of America into a war zone,” it is equally unconscionable that we would provide Israel with the means to do so in Gaza.
This drawing of connections between Ferguson and Gaza also offers important critiques of power, space, and the politics of occupation. In Ferguson, a town where seventy percent of residents are Black, yet the power structure is predominantly white, protestors have readily evoked the language of an “occupied territory”, reminding those watching that their citizenship has always been second-class. The language of occupation signifies an appraisal made long ago by Marcus Garvey, the Black Panthers, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, among other civil rights organizations, who have used such a concept to critique the relationship of U.S. power to communities of colour nationwide. As residents of Ferguson chant “Gaza strip”at local police forces, they also connect to present-day struggles for liberation worldwide; they seek not only justice, but also self-determination.
Representing police activity in Ferguson as a colonial occupation brings to bear the connections between occupied spaces such as Gaza and low-income communities of colour in the United States, where residents have been physically barricaded from resources, denied access to education, red-lined from housing opportunities, stripped of citizenship, and segregated in apartheid-like conditions. The kind of outrage growing in Ferguson, Palestine, and other colonized spaces responds not only to the immediate events that have triggered action, but to decades upon decades of repressive occupation and the denial of social and political enfranchisement.
While the killing of Michael Brown has focused the media’s gaze on issues of police militarization and brutality, the residents of Ferguson, Missouri have been subjected daily to institutionally and structurally preserved inequalities, as well as the more hidden violence(s) they produce. Persistent harassment from police, often accompanied by brutality, is well known in Ferguson. Yet brutality and the marginalization of Ferguson residents go well beyond their interactions with the police. Unemployment in Ferguson stands at thirteen percent, according to recent data from the Brookings Institute, and nearly one in four residents lives below the federal poverty line. Access to education is indicative of these incidences of socio-economic violence. When the school district that Michael Brown attended received a “failing” designation, instead of transferring students to more prosperous districts, the state board of education voted to re-accredit the schools as a collaborative, allowing officials to shirk responsibility for inter-district inequities.
In Gaza, where the bombing of UN schools and the death of children has generated new criticism of the Israeli occupation, this appraisal has most often stopped short of grappling with the everyday violence Palestinians endure. In Gaza, the restriction of Palestinian movement and goods in and out of the strip has devastated the livelihood of those residing in the occupied territory. Over twenty percent of residents live in poverty and unemployment is devastatingly high. Israeli officials have used caloric calculations to limit the food supply and have systematically destroyed Palestinian farms, businesses, and homes. Subject to abusive military checkpoints, the indiscriminate revocation of civil and human rights, the imminent potential of random detention, imprisonment, and death, Palestinians live as perpetual colonial subjects.
To link these spaces is not to overestimate their similarities, but to understand the U.S. state as central to the perpetuation of global inequality and racialized terror. The historical oppression that has been challenged in Ferguson continues to expose the limitations of U.S. democracy. It is a demand for freedom and self-determination that most fundamentally unites residents in Gaza and communities of colour throughout the United States. To that end, projects like Facing Tear Gas have attempted to offer new global frameworks to combat repression and strengthen resistance movements. We must continue to have conversations about the troubling uses of military might and U.S. power, connecting experiences, as those in Gaza and Ferguson are doing, to the broader trends of racism, imperialism, and capitalism that have defined and circumscribed the voices of marginalized communities globally.
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