Friday, August 08, 2014

A returning echo

Today I feel / fear will be a momentous day. There are pernicious forces afoot in the world that are today poised to impact global relations and further spread World War III which has started since some years now. Here in Al Ain I hear about them every hour: Ebola, Putin's retaliation to western trade sanctions, Obama having just taken what might be a positive step in my view to do something about the Islamic State's scourge of Northern Iraq and Syria, and his failure to lift a finger to take similar measures against the two most extreme established forces of evil in the middle east, two heads of state employing similarly outrageous aggression on defenseless people, Bashar Al-Assad and Benjamin Netanyahu.

As I write this the cease fire has just expired in Gaza, Israel is complaining of incoming rocket fire, and their tanks and rockets are poised to continue their inhumane one-sided annihilation of people in Gaza, who have nowhere to go and no choice in the matter, to more carnage, while their spokesmen prepare their lame and illogical rhetoric reasoning that their fingers on the triggers are actually the fault of Hamas, they have nothing against the people of Gaza, but hey, its open season on human shields, so too bad, no one is going to stop it anyway.

Meanwhile the USA, it's congress at any rate, largely in the hands of Zionist lobbies who have directed their big money to carefully filter and select who gets into that congress, signs off on funds to resupply Israel with arms, and has just announced a doubling of US funding for the Iron Dome (around a billion dollars), which for some inexplicable reason, can't extend a few km to cover Gaza as well. Obama has repeated his statement (2012 and again in 2014) that no country can tolerate having its citizens exposed to rockets raining on them, meant as a justification of support of the US ally in the Middle East that is undermining the moral fiber of US foreign policy, while ignoring the predicament of people in Gaza for whom that is the reality. 

(I heard Obama say that on TV and found when I Googled for accurate wording that he had said the same in 2012. The Indian newspaper The Statesman reported what I had seen and heard recently on TV:, but Google revealed he had made almost the same statement in 2012; e.g. NBC News,; while reported "No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Says Man Who Regularly Bombs Pakistan and Yemen

What has changed in this day and age is world perception of what is truly going on thanks to social media. Diane Sawyer notoriously showed pictures of Israelis in the aftermath of a destructive terrorist rocket attack and days later was forced to apologize on the air because the people in the picture were in fact Palestinians. Glenn Greenwald pointed out in an interview with Amy Goodman that she had scored a kind of own-goal because western media is designed along the model she was following, you show the suffering that fits your preconception and hide what's happening on the other side. Sawyer inadvertently let viewers see something that was meant to be suppressed and thus committed a greater faux pas than the one she apologized for. 

On the Media in their July 11, 2014 broadcast detects a "new narrative" on Israel deriving from the instance involving Arab youth from Tampa, Florida, Tariq Abu Khdeir, whose cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir had been burned alive in revenge for the murder of three Israeli youths, not necessarily by Hamas, as was claimed by the Israeli govenment. Tariq says he was innocently observing the demonstration following his cousin's funeral when he was beaten and nearly killed by a mob including Israeli police. This would have been soon forgotten as less than a footnote about day-to-day life for Palestinians on the West Bank despite the fact that the attack was videod and posted on line, except that because this was an American kid, it caught the attention of the American media, who started wondering aloud back home whose side the Israelis were really on, questioning whose side we should be on, and should we continue writing blank checks to support a war whose racist overtones were suddenly brought home in a way that could not be so easily glossed over and ignored.

ku kux kibbutz: Is this true? Google it, I did (here is one hit, but Google it yourself)

These views of the other side of the coin are having an impact on world public opinion, not just American, and when the view into the dark flip side of support for Israel is no longer suppressed, it reaches a point where anyone with empathy starts relating to the other side as being no longer the 'other'. Anyone with a Facebook account, or with access to serious news channels such as CNN (the international one, not the watered down US version), BBC (again, not the US version), Al Jazeera, and/or France 24, can see the impact of Israeli assaults on innocent civilians hour-by-hour. When the Israelis attacked (with a drone) what they say was a motorcyclist who happened to be driving by a UN shelter, people at the scene started posting videos of bleeding mutilated children lying in the street. Video feeds are coming from hospitals, those left standing showing children and their mothers with their limbs blown off (Israel is destroying hospitals with people inside, because they can't be moved, that is clear and well documented). Israel has of course destroyed the only power station in Gaza so conditions in those hospitals are visibly dire. Yet their apologists in the US and Fox News and in the right wing Israeli population spout vacuous justifications of this, and are pictured cheering from the hills overlooking Gaza.

This post has been prompted by mention of a similar schadenfreude expressed overtly in celebration by Palestinians of the World Trade Center attack in 2001, in a letter attributed to an American Airlines pilot names John Maniscalco which started appearing on the Internet circa 2002 (the letter and a rebuttal from an Oregon newspaper can be read here: Many more references to it can be found by Googling parts of its text, and you can read about it on various fact-checkers; e.g.

A relative of mine sent me a copy of this letter the other day, and this post is in response to that relative, not necessarily to the letter, though it contains more than a few misconceptions. The notion that Arabs generally welcomed the 9-11 attacks on the US is one of them. When I was living in Abu Dhabi in 2001, people would come to me in the street and express their sympathies for Americans and their own disassociation from the Al Qaeda approach. Bush put an end to that brief window of good-will with his counterproductive invasion of Iraq. A second point the author makes is that he doesn't understand the reason why people would attack the World Trade Towers. This ignorance (and deliberate skewing) of history is not uncommon in America, and it is this what this post addresses (though the Americans we need to reach will be unlikely to read this blog post :-).

The history of the middle east since WWI is the topic of many books, some of which I have read, but in a few words, even before the Holocaust, Zionists were allowed to move to the Middle East and displace the local population, forcing the latter to unwisely flee after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. The right of return became a bone of contention when the Israelis refused to let them back (ever!) to get the keys to their houses from the new Israeli occupants. Israelis went on from there to gradually (and illegally per UN resolution 446) appropriate more and more Palestinian property, bulldozing homes on slightest pretext, building a separation wall (often across Palestinian property), and relegating Palestinians to disconnected Bantustans. In every move they have been supported by the USA government (not necessarily its people), who blocked and usually vetoed all opposition in the UN, and provided them with weapons to attack neighbors throughout the region, leading to the situation as it stands. 

This situation comprises (1) an Israeli government that commits what many including UNHRC and Human Rights Watch characterize as war crimes while declaring its right to 'defense' and labeling any opposition as being antisemitic, (2) a US government that blindly facilitates the injustice, and (3)a world with narrowing options to right that injustice, since the USA has abrogated any pretense of being a fair and impartial arbiter in rectification of the situation. Noam Chomsky recently characterized this status quo as a 'hideous atrocity' and the recent Israeli attacks as "Hideous. Sadistic. Vicious. Murderous.", Aug 7, 2014. 

For corroboration, read about the case of the man in the green shirt (shot by a sniper while rummaging through the ruins of his home, allegedly a war crime), or listen to this on-the-scene report from Rafah, and judge for yourself, from Aug 1, 2014 (you can view, listen, or read the transcripts)
This perception is not shared by most Americans, but with the latest incursions into Gaza, Israel has passed the tipping point in world opinion, and also with a growing number of Americans as well. People worldwide are starting to speak out in much greater numbers than previously. The threat of their being labeled 'antisemitic' is being overcome by growing guilt for continuing to say nothing against Israel.

There was justifiable outrage in 2001 when the World Trade Towers in NY were brought tumbling on the heads of almost 3000 victims. People could not contemplate the scale, the enormity of this cynically callous act. Fast forward to modern times and find stats on what Israelis have done in Gaza. Take just two incursions, the one in 2008/2009 and the one not over now, and in those two incursions alone you have 3000 killed, and countless buildings destroyed, wiping out whole families, up to 20 people from single families, in piles of rubble brought on their heads, leaving kids with awful injuries being raced to hospitals, if raced is the right word considering the difficulty of getting into and out of these areas, under fire, and the Israeli's targeting of ambulances. Then add in the other attacks on Gaza, e.g. the one in 2012 called Returning Echo, and notice that every two or three years Israel prompts this returning echo of bloody news broadcasts, gory videos on Facebook, and hardly credible rhetoric from its apologists. This is radicalizing huge segments of people in the world not in the sway of Western news media. Many countries in South American now have recalled their ambassadors from Israel over the most recent attack  (Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Peru and El Salvador; Bolivia broke diplomatic ties in 2009  but tightened visa restrictions for Israelis over the recent massacre in Gaza - Fox news says that Larry Birns, the director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) in Washington, D.C., told Fox News Latino. “There is now a tidal drift toward a policy of not supporting Israel.”. For another world view, take 8 minutes, the time it took me to read the AA pilot's letter from 2002, to listen to this Irish senator speak to the Senead just recently:

Insanity, as we all know, is doing the same thing over and over, in a constantly returning and repeating echo, with the same result each time, and expecting improvement the next time. The opposite is in fact taking place, the situation is getting worse, and injustice will not prevail with bombs and propaganda, Injustice does well as long as ammo holds out. But one part of the equation has changed. The seats of power no longer control the message. People who have taken leave of their moral compass cannot prevail when the majority of us have found that they can pool information and build solidarity through social networking, and perhaps, who knows, bring about a stand down from arms and negotiate what people really want, peace and a new normality, those cheering on the hills overlooking Gaza notwithstanding. This notion has been posed as a "second superpower" in 2003 by James F. Moore of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society,

The news right now is reporting that 18 rockets were just fired into Israel this morning, no casualties (some actually fell in Gaza, 2 intercepted by the Iron dome over Ashkalon). We are waiting now for Netanyahu to give the word to kill a few hundred more Palestinians today in disproportionate retaliation.