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Archive for January, 2009

Positivity

I’ve had a couple of days of anxiety. Well, more like a couple of weeks. It’s the house stuff, largely, but periodically, too I get waves of images and thoughts in my head that I’d rather not have, and that can bring me down. Not obsessive, which is good. Not overwhelming, which is good. More just like my brain takes a while to go, ‘huh, that’s something to process….’ and then devotes considerable energy to it for a short while making me feel just drained emotionally and mentally.

So, when those moments lift, it is so fucking good to feel like myself again.

Funny. As I think of this, I realize how different my life is now than it was a couple of years ago. I actually spent a good portion of my adult life in constant anxiety, and that sense of weight and emotional exhaustion was so prevalent, so permanent, that I presumed that it was something inherent to my core being – that I was a melancholy type by nature, simply unprepared to live in a world so full of madness.

It’s only now, after over a year of positivity and hope, that I realize how situational that was, how much that was about the places I put myself, the stuff I lived with but never addressed, the questions I never asked myself, the hope I never allowed myself. How different a place this earth is when one simply turns one’s face to the light, and says, ‘I want more. And I can have it. And I deserve it.’ How different a place this earth is when one stops worrying about managing people and begins to accept relationships for what they are, with good and bad and ups and downs. How different a place this earth is when one begins to live intentionally.

I began this process some time ago, before meeting Meg and beginning this wonderful love affair that just keeps getting better. But certainly she has been a huge part of it. Not because love fixes all, as it clearly doesn’t, but rather because that intentional living, that emphasis on hope, is so much easier when it is shared.

Some months back, a friend of Meg’s came up to spend a weekend with us. He does emotional and psychological health work that I will never really understand, but from that he brings to a conversation ideas and reminders that are so core, so intuitive, and yet so absent in our day to day lives. We talked politics and love, and how all of our actions have effects – rarely the effects we intend, but the effects we need nonetheless. And we talked about relationships, and the central role positivity plays in determining relationship success. That is, it is less important the specific things we agree on, the specific personalities of the individuals, and more important how those individuals approach their interaction – is it from a place of hope and security that things are good, or is it from a place of work and struggle to make things good? Too often we live in the latter place – indeed, this is what the whole relationship therapy industry is based on. But what a difference to begin from somewhere else, somewhere that just takes for granted the goodwill and hope in the other. Seems pretty simple. Seems pretty common sense. And yet I have been aware, since that conversation, how often I have started from that other place, and how amazingly freeing it is to be in a relationships that simply drips with hope and positivity.

Yeah, I’m feeling good today. I’m realizing how I have grown, how I have become a better and stronger person these last couple of years. Oh, I’ve made my mistakes, I’ve make presumptions and assumptions and fallen into old habits far more than I’d like. But mostly I have been pretty successful in looking to the light, in moving towards it both on my own and with the girl I love. And the shift from melancholy and doubt to positivity and hope has, I think, really taken root, and really shifted my sense of who I am, what I and the world have to offer, and what magic is right there all the time. Nice.

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Like everyone of us stumbling across this earth, most days I just live. I do what needs to be done, I entertain odd little thoughts and wonders and fantasies that meander in and out of my brain, and I make it to the next day without any real conscious thought about how I am and where I am and what I am in the world.

Then are the stand-out days – not because anything happens, really, but because I feel strong and capable and smart and desirable and generally all-round confident in my life and my value.

And, of course, the days of struggle – the days I feel vulnerable and insecure, ugly and weak, andcertain that everything I think is good must be only a trick of the light.

Sometimes it is hard to trust in our own value. Sometimes it is hard to believe that anyone else sees any good in us. Sometimes it feels like we are tolerated, allowed, put-up-with, and that any moment now all that we have will crumble when the people around us realize there’s something better, someone better.

We all have these days, and for each of us there are different aspects of our lives that are more often confident and others that are more often insecure. I’ve often thought about this in the context of the University, where I work. I’m a Union rep here, representing faculty in their employment struggles, alternating many times a day between legal advisor, counselor, confidante, strategist, organizer. But I’m also an academic myself at heart, having subjected myself to far more formal education than is good for anyone. And I notice each and every day how the whole institution of the University is permeated with a tremendous imposter-syndrome.

Academics make their lives from the idea that they are smart, that their minds can come up with important ideas that can change the world. Academics make their lives on the generally-accepted premise that they are somehow brighter and more creative and more insightful that the rest of the population. It is the single most-important myth of the University, the foundation for everything that happens at this place, and the myth appealed to as much by faculty in their role as workers as in their role as scholars.

Now, when I was in school, reading my books and writing my papers and doing my presentations, I consistently felt like a fraud. And that wasn’t just me, but is a feature of most student life. We pretend we know more than we do, we try to put on an air of confidence, we find ways to turn questions and discussions around to subjects we know slightly more about, all in order to keep up the act, to prevent our teachers and other students from realizing what we ourselves know to be true – that we are confused and muddled and certain of very little, and that we are nowhere near as well-versed in literature and history and scientific principle as we pretend.

I realized that all students felt this when I was in grad school. And I realized through my job as faculty union guy that pretty much all profs feel the same way. It’s a collective myth sustained by a collective pretending to mask a collective insecurity and a collective fear of that inevitable day that someone will catch on, someone will realize that we’re not all that smart after all, that that book, that article, that argument, that turn of phrase, or even that Nobel Prize was a freak accident, a bluff that somehow hasn’t yet been found out. But it will be, one day, somehow. Every academic feels that. Every academic fears it.

But y’know, none of that really makes a difference. Sure, it matters for individuals, who it hangs over day after day, and occassionally torments to the point of incapacity. And, yes, the myth itself is a problem in that it sustains elitism and classism and is so often used as a hammer to silence other voices. But at the same time, the myth actually does serve a purpose, I suppose. I mean, if we all went around puddles of tears or knots of insecurity, not a hell of alot would get done, would it? In academia or in relationships or in parenting or in sports or in music – in absolutely every moment of our lives – if we ever dropped the myths, dropped the pretending, we would be a more honest planet but certainly not a sustainable one. So, I suppose at the end of the daythough an awareness of the illusion is helpful, and allows some self-reflection as well as a greater understanding of what others are dealing with, we can’t really afford to drop the illusion altogether, or stop pretending. Cause living is so much acting. Living is all about carrying on despite the fear and weakness, carrying on through it.

Wrote mostly about academics here, cause it is something I have often thought about. But actually today’s writing began with something much more personal, much more difficult to speak and to share, and that kept me up worried much of the night – a personal insecurity of my own that arises more frequently than any other, and that many times a weak creeps up and takes over my brain.

But is there really any difference what the particular issue is for each of us? I’m successful at work when I can convince those I work with and for that I know what I’m doing, regardless of my own confidence. That act puts them at ease, gives them confidence, and builds the foundation for actual success. In academia, the writing and speaking and teaching does indeed throw ideas out there and open debate, regardless of whether the initiator has her or his own doubts. And in relationships, the act of security and strength and desirability and capacity inspires in one’s partner the confidence and faith that it takes to keep things growing stronger and closer, and makes those things true.

The long and short of it? I’m a fucking mess much of the time. Truth be told, I am pretending each and every day, as we all are. Truth be told, behind all this I am scared, and weak, and confused. But at the same time, and with no less truth, I am all the strength and confidence I can muster, too. Because there really isn’t any meaningful break between the act and reality. The act is reality. That’s the nature of my humanity, and the nature of all our humanity.

Days of muddling and survival. Days of strength and confidence. Days of fear and insecurity. Each, I suppose, is all bound up with the other. Perhaps the changes in general mood are no more than slight shifts in the balance , reactions to little things that either tip the scales to an act successful or tip the scales to stagefright. And if that’s the case….well, that’s something I can deal with.

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OK. This whole living arrangement – or rather the lack of a stable living arrangement – is getting really fucking old.

For those not up-to-date, the euphoria around a house bought and a house sold has collapsed into anxiety and stress, as the buyers on my place found their financing fall through, and the folks at the house we wanted accepted another offer from someone with the money up front. Meaning we were tossed right back to where we were a month ago, but now with significantly less confidence as the market continues to drop. Now, the price fall is great for Vancouver generally, great for us as buyers, but not so great for me as a seller. So, Meg and I both find ourselves feeling pretty anxious these days, uncertain what is going to happen, when we will find a place to make our own, and what our financial position will be when all is said and done – if all is said and done.

Not fun to be hanging with us these days, I can tell you.

Obviously, we are pretty fucking privileged to even be in this situation – good jobs, stable jobs, a foot in the housing market, confirmed financing from the bank, and secure knowledge that we can pretty much buy what we want once my house moves. Not a hell of a lot of people can say that, and we do remind ourselves frequently that we can’t really complain. We know all to well what it’s like out there for the vast majority of workers.

Still, it’s a stress, and an increasing one. And it seems less about financial anxiety and more about us and our family-building. We are so so ready to be in one place, together, building our home. We are so so ready to be done with the last vestiges of singledom and move fully into partnership and family. We are tired of moving homes every few days, one or other of us always out of place. We are tired of the guessing and the wondering and the shifting ground beneath our feet. We are tired of racing back and forth between neighbourhoods at least twice a day to deal with the never-ending logistics of pet care, housework, laundry and so on and so on.

Last night, after an evening that included both some lovely quiet together-time and some serious stress over what and where is home and what exactly does that mean, we curled up in bed to read a bit more of Carl Sandburg’s The People, Yes – a book-length poem Meg’s been reading aloud for us each night – and fall asleep arms and legs intertwined. Thirty minutes and the beginning of sleep later, my cel phone rings. The dog is barking like crazy at my place, report my tenants. Fuck. What’s this about? We’d been back in the evening, spent some time with her, and normally she just curls up to sleep. But not tonight. So, I throw on my clothes, call a cab, and race back to spent the night with the dog instead of with Meg.

And that, I think, really brought it all into focus for us both. This is not sustainable, this shuffling of homes. Something here needs to give. And if the house isn’t going to sell, we need to think about alternatives for how we build the home together we are both so ready for.

Lots to brainstorm, lots to discuss, and lots of uncertainty to weather. Not a fun place to be for either of us, and beginning to take it’s toll.

Yes, we’re all still good together. So so good, in fact. Yes, we know that even if this minor crisis turns into apocalypse we’re still gonna be just fine. Yes, we know that ultimately all we need is our community, a little place to grow our food, some clean water and one another. And that knowledge does sustain us, each of us reminding the other when we start to feel like capitalism’s crisis is our own. But the one thing that seems absolutely necessary at this point is the ability to just be together in one place. And that is where this whole financial crisis is hitting us hardest, and creating the most uncertainty.

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Alternative Information Center (Israel)            Sunday, 18 January 2009

Absolutely Not in Their Name, Not in Ours

Written by Michael Warschawski  

Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Gabi Ashkenazi and Ehud Olmert–don’t you dare show your faces at any memorial ceremony for the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, Lublin, Vilna or Kishinev. And you too, leaders of Peace Now, for whom peace means a pacification of the Palestinian resistance by any means, including the destruction of a people. Whenever I will be there, I shall personally do my best to expel each of you from these events, for your very presence would be an immense sacrilege.

Not in Their Names

You have no right to speak in the name of the martyrs of our people. You are not Anne Frank of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp but Hans Frank, the German general who acted to starve and destroy the Jews of Poland.

You are not representing any continuity with the Warsaw Ghetto, because today the Warsaw Ghetto is right in front of you, targeted by your own tanks and artillery, and its name is Gaza. Gaza that you have decided to eliminate from the map, as General Frank intended to eliminate the Ghetto. But, unlike the Ghettos of Poland and Belorussia, in which the Jews were left almost alone, Gaza will not be eliminated because millions of men and women from the four corners of our world are building a powerful human shield carrying two words: Never Again!

Not in Our Name!

Together with tens of thousands of other Jews, from Canada to Great Britain, from Australia to Germany, we are warning you: don’t dare to speak in our names, because we will run after you, even, if needed, to the hell of war-criminals, and stuff your words down your throat until you ask for forgiveness for having mixed us up with your crimes. We, and not you, are the children of Mala Zimetbaum and Marek Edelman, of Mordechai Anilevicz and Stephane Hessel, and we are conveying their message to humankind for custody in the hands of the Gaza resistance fighters: “We are fighting for our freedom and yours, for our pride and yours, for our human, social and national dignity and yours.” (Appeal of the Ghetto to the world, Passover 1943)

But for you, the leaders of Israel , “freedom” is a dirty word. You have no pride and you do not understand the meaning of human dignity.

We are not “another Jewish voice,” but the sole Jewish voice able to speak in the names of the tortured saints of the Jewish people. Your voice is nothing other than the old bestial vociferations of the killers of our ancestors.

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The Israeli assault on Gaza continues. In the last few days, it is increasingly acknowledged that Israel is quite purposely directing attacks against civilian populations, actively hindering the work of international humanitarian agencies, and even shelling local offices of the United Nations.

What’s on my mind today, though, is something larger – the discussion that is beginning to take place about not only Zionism as a political agenda but about the whole idea of  ‘a people’, and how identity in general functions to both include and exclude.

My ex-father-in-law is a radical active in the Palestine solidarity movement. He also identifies as a Jew. Though non-religious and coming from a family of Jewish-American Communist Party activists, Jewishness is a key part of his identity, marking both a history of anti-semitism, a history of a particular set of struggles, and a particular intellectual and cultural tradition that is distinct. Together with other anti-Zionist Jews, he’s worked to build Independent Jewish Voices, an organization committed to solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and with challenging the all-too-prevalent notion that criticism of Israel or the questioning whether Israel should exist as a state is synonymous with anti-semitism.

Anyway, he works as a union researcher but is perhaps best known among radicals around the world for his massive email list, through which he sends out, across the globe, news and opinion pieces from around the world on a wide range of issues of interest to radicals. Lately, of course, the vast majority of this has been on the Israeli assault and the struggle for Palestine.

And two things in particular that have struck me.

The first is an article coming out of the UK’s Palestine solidarity movement. Here, Francis Clark-Lowes decides it is time to cross lines and force questions, no matter what accusations of anti-semitism might follow. He argues, basically, that Israel – and by extension Zionism – has been so overwhlemingly defended by Jewish communities in Europe and North America, that he cannot any longer distinguish ‘the Isreali state’ from Jewish public opinion. Meaning, basically, that it is no more wrong to say ‘Jews collectively are responsible for the genocide in Gaza’ than it is wrong to hold Europeans collectively accountable for colonialism.

Here’s  a summary, in his own words, of where Clark-Lowes believes we need to go:

·        A recognition that Jewish identity has become inextricably linked with Zionism.

·        An acceptance that Jews are collectively responsible for what is happening in Israel/Palestine, just as we [the British], as a nation, accept our responsibility for the empire and slavery.

·        A renunciation of the right of return and the right to Israeli nationality.

·        An acceptance that ‘the Holocaust’ (in inverted commas and with a capital H) has become a kind of religion, an instrument of propaganda, an abusive mythology.

·        A recognition that accusing people of hating Jews is usually a way of stopping them speaking.

·        A recognition that the Zionist project is incompatible with respect for the human rights of Palestinians. Israel has got to go.

·        A recognition that Jews, as a collective, exercise immense, and quite disproportionate, power in the world, and that this power is being abused.

It’s a strong statement, and one that is uncomfortable to read. Indeed, he states explicitly that it was uncomfortable to write.

Now, I’m not going to get into taking this apart and teasing out the various things Clark-Lowes writes. More interesting to me is that this came from my ex-father-in-law only a day after I read an interview he gave to Gilad Atzmon, jazz musician and anti-Zionist activist in London.

Atzmon has renounced his Jewish identity. For him, to identify as a Jew is to identify as a part of a ‘chosen people’ which is to support, however unwittingly, the Zionist project. For Atzmon, to define oneself as a Jew is to concede that Jews are different, Jews are special – a necessary foundation to the concept of chosen people and a main pillar of Zionist ideology. So the interview is really focused on this question of identity, and the relationship between identity and politics. For Atzmon, the only possible identity is universalist, and the first step to anti-Zionism is renunciation of one’s Jewish identity; for Sid, Jewishness does have meaning, and has a particularly important political meaning in the struggle against Israel.

An interesting discussion, and one I encourage folks to read. Obviously, it’s a discussion that goes far beyond Israel or Jewishness. It’s a discussion about identity.

We make our place in the world by identifying ourselves with certain things and against other things – whether those boundaries be marked by ethnicity, religion, politics, or preferred colour of socks. In anthropological terms, we form tribes – collective groupings that help us place ourselves in a world that is simply too big and too complex to understand. So. Are such tribes ultimately exclusionary and divisive? Or do such tribes ground us in the world? Is the drive to separate and identify something innate? Or something that can be abandoned? Or – more to my thinking – are tribes always and everywhere a muddling of all the above?

These are interesting questions to play with. Atzmon, clearly, has decided that a Jewish tribalism is inherently destructive – and I presume he would argue the same about any collective based on a religious or cultural or ethnic characteristic. OK. But what about political characteristics? Or cultural mores? Are these any less ‘tribes’, with any less significance to thier members and with any less possibility for exclusion? Or are they something different altogether? Can we distinguish tribes we believe are based on choice from those we believe people are born into? And if so, where exactly do we mark those lines between different categories of characteristics? Is there always and easy-to-see dividing line? Can we opt-out of communities we are identified with? What’s the relationship between how we identify ourselves and how we are identified by those close to us and how we are seen by the world at large?

All this is rolling around in my head today. I am thinking of Sam movies, Metal: a headbanger’s journey and Global Metal, in which anthropologist and metalhead Dunn talks about the global tribe defined by a music – a global tribe I count myself a part of. I am thinking of my own Catholic upbringing, and the fact that I still feel very Catholic despite the fact that I do not have any religous life to speak of. I am thinking about Noel Ignatiev and the folks around  Race Traitor who are grappling with how all these questions play out in the power and privilege of whiteness.

War, identity, power, collective, security, tribe. There is much here to consider, much here to challenge ourselves with, much thinking and re-thinking. But that is not to say there are answers. But that’s OK. I’m not really looking for answers. I am, however, very interested in the questions, and the ways in which different people confront these questions generally, and the ways particular activisits – Jews, non-Jews, former-Jews – confront these questions in the specific context of Israeli occupation and the Zionism that underpins it.

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A weekend from Heaven, as Meg spirited me off to the Sunshine Coast to a fabulous B&B for what was one of the best weekends I can remember. I continue to be awed by this girl. Damn. How lucky am I?

On home front, more anxiety as the offer we received may have fallen apart given the potential buyers financing hurdles. Drag. Not happy. Kinda anxious.

However, I am here today for none of this, as I’m far too busy with meetings to actually write anything. I did, though, want to share an article sent to me on the Israeli assault on Gaza. Definitely worth the read.

——-

Uri Avnery

10.1.09

 

How Many Divisions?

 

NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

 

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

 

This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.

 

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.

 

 

IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army – with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks – and the few thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.

 

Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government (“The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets”) has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are a retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.

 

Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion gradually begin to change.

 

True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24 hours every day on Aljazeera’s Arabic channel, but one picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman. And that is what is decisive, in the end.

 

War – every war – is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one’s country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.

 

The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.

 

An example of this process surrounds the most shocking atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.

 

Immediately after the incident became known throughout the world, the army “revealed” that Hamas fighters had been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As proof they released an aerial photo which indeed showed the school and the mortar. But within a short time the official army liar had to admit that the photo was more than a year old. In brief: a falsification.

 

Later the official liar claimed that “our  soldiers were shot at from inside the school”. Barely a day passed before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school, no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was full of terrified refugees.

 

But the admission made hardly any difference anymore. By that time, the Israeli public was completely convinced that “they shot from inside the school”, and TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.

 

So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a “symbol of Hamas rule”. Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the “most moral army in the world”.

 

 

THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud Barak – a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called “moral insanity”, a sociopathic disorder.

 

The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.

 

The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the eminently democratic elections that took place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion that Fatah’s peaceful approach had gained precisely nothing from Israel – neither a freeze of the settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any significant steps toward ending the occupation and creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted in the population – not only as a resistance movement fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the Stern Group in the past – but also as a political and religious body that provides social, educational and medical services.

 

From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not “hide behind the population”, the population views them as their only defenders.

 

Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.

 

He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him. Or he believed that “they will change their ways” and “it will sear their consciousness”, so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.

 

A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.

 

This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.

 

Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.

 

That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare – and that has been its Achilles heel.

 

A person without imagination, like Barak (his election slogan: “Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader”) cannot imagine how decent people around the world react to actions like the killing of whole extended families, the destruction of houses over the heads of their inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not allowed to reach them, the killing of doctors and medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured lying together on the floor for lack of space, have shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor, twisting with pain and crying out: “Mama! Mama!”

 

The planners thought that they could stop the world from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame, agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos provided by the Army Spokesman, as if they were authentic news, while they themselves remained miles away from the events. Foreign journalists were not allowed in either, until they protested and were taken for quick tours in selected and supervised groups. But in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view cannot completely exclude all others – the cameras are inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot be controlled. Aljazeera broadcasts the pictures around the clock and reaches every home.

 

 

THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive battles of the war.

 

Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq, more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.

 

The security services of the Arab regimes are registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples. Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of terrified refugees, started to pressure the decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had blocked all calls for a cease-fire. These began to understand the menace to vital American interests in the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude – causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.

 

People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. “How many divisions has the Pope?” Stalin sneered. “How many divisions have people of conscience?” Ehud Barak may well be asking.

 

As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.

 

 

THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.

 

Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

 

If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.

 

What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.

 

In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.

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Another New Year, and another assault on Palestine by the state of Israel.

But signs of courage, too. Here in Canada, a group of Jewish women occupied the Israeli consulate in protest sending the message “We’ll stop our occupation if you stop yours”. In Venezuela, the government of Hugo Chavez has expelled Israel’s diplomatic corps.

And interesting things coming to light. A couple points worth noting in particular.

1) As always, we’ve seen another wave of  statements from all and sundry suggesting Israel may be a little too over-zealous in its response but really, of course, the Palestinians are themselves to blame. And yet also renewed interest in Israel’s role – not only in fostering increased resistance by its actions generally, but more specifically in the creation of Hamas. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Israeli security establishment decided the best way to break the strength of the Palestine Liberation Organization was to splinter it. So Israel funneled money for weapons and training to groups like Hamas in order to build them up and foster dissension within the ranks of the Palestinian nationalist movement. A tried and true strategy, long-used by the Americans in their own geopolotical machinations. Remember the immediate aftermath of 9-11, and all the talk of ‘blowback’ when it became common knowledge that the US had nurtured the growth of the Taliban as a bulwark against the Soviets? Yeah. Same plan. Same result.

2) CUPE leader Sid Ryan has apologized for suggesting that Israeli state terror in the name of a Jewish homeland could be akin to German state terror in the name of a Christian homeland, once again showing how the charge of anti-Semitism is so successfully deployed as a means to silence criticism of the Israeli state.   But this amid widely circulating reporting of a statement by a senior Israeli military leader, made some years ago but now getting  attention, to the effect that Israel must learn from wherever it can how to defeat a popular uprising such as it faces in Palestine. Explicitly this means, “shocking as it may sound” in his own words, learning how the Nazis pacified the Warsaw Ghetto and deploying those same tactics wherever they might be applicable.

Over the last several days I’ve been reading Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, which traces changes in the way god is concieved by Islam, Christianity and Judaism over the last 4000 years. Really quite the experience, reading this book while the bombs fall and the tanks roll in.

Armstrong’s book isn’t written particularly well, making it hard to get through sometimes, but it does clearly draw together the spiritual, intellectual and political histories of the three big montheistic religions, illustrating their close inter-relationship not only at time of origin but right through the present day. It also has much to say about the political-cultural histories of the Middle East and Europe, and reminds me just how collective and just how common a history this is. Not the easiest read, but definitely worth a quick skim.

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