, press officer for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine hearings in New York City, argues for a critical component of support for the right to self-determination.
OF THE 1.7 million people currently living under Israel’s terror in Gaza, 44 percent–or around 730,000 people–are under the age of 14. The 140-square-mile Gaza Strip, about the size of Philadelphia, is surrounded by the most heavily militarized border anywhere in the world on three sides, and by the Mediterranean Sea, patrolled by Israeli naval vessels, on the fourth.
By any objective measure, the Gaza Strip is an open-air prison.
So there was more than a whiff of 1984, George Orwell’s famous novel about Big Brother, when President Barack Obama declared: “[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes.”
In other words: Nuclear-armed Israel, with one of the most powerful militaries in the world, has the right to resist. But the inmates of the Gaza prison, apparently, do not. Obama’s argument flips justice on its head.
It is not simply the fact that Israel provoked the current war with the assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, a leader of Hamas, which won elections to lead the Palestinian government–nor that Israeli leaders pulled the trigger on the brink of a negotiated cease-fire with Hamas. Nor is it Israel’s phony timeline of events in the weeks leading up to the current massacre, which conveniently eliminates “details” such as the November 8 killing of 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa while he was playing soccer.
Even if no cease-fire were on offer and even if Israel hadn’t been made repeated violent incursions into Gaza, the right of Palestinians to resist the terror of the Israeli military machine must be defended on principle by anyone who stands with the oppressed.
As long as the crime of dispossession and refugeehood that was committed against the Palestinian people in 1947-48 is not redressed through a peaceful and just negotiation that satisfies the legitimate rights of both sides, we will continue to see enhancements in both the determination and the capabilities of Palestinian fighters–as has been the case since the 1930s, in fact. Only stupid or ideologically maniacal Zionists fail to come to terms with this fact.
Professor Khouri is right. People living under military occupation not only will resist, but they have every right to do so–and solidarity activists should defend that right unequivocally.
Some Westerners who are horrified by Israel’s assault on Gaza are nonetheless queasy about defending Hamas’ right to fire rockets into Israel. Yet whether solidarity activists agree with Hamas’ tactics or not is irrelevant–we are not the ones who must suffer under Israel’s bombs and occupation.
Asserting one’s horror at the occupier’s aggression, yet denying the occupied their right to use whatever means available to rebel isn’t solidarity–it’s pity.
Gazans living for years in a prison without access to sufficient food, medicine, infrastructure and any semblance of a decent life do not need our pity. They need our active support with their fight for self-determination.
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IN THE media, Hamas is depicted as an organization of crazed Islamists who oppose all modernity, aim to destroy Israel, and are misogynistic and homophobic to the core. In fact, since its founding in 1987 at the start of the first Intifada, Hamas has combined the aspirations of a national liberation movement with the tenets of modern Islamism. It does hold positions that are socially reactionary, as do orthodox Jewish and evangelical Christian groups–though unlike evangelical Christians, Hamas is not anti-science.
But the truth is that Hamas is the democratically elected leadership of Gaza–it won elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 in a vote that international observers judged to be fair and proper. Israel and its U.S. backers didn’t like the results of a democratic election–and so they imposed the crippling embargo on Gaza and continue to inflict collective punishment on its population for the “crime” of voting for the wrong party.
In these circumstances, Hamas’ military resistance to Israeli occupation is a source of tremendous pride. Hamas forces may not be able to match up to the murderous Israeli military, armed to the teeth with the most advanced weaponry by the U.S. military-industrial complex. But they remain a symbol of the determination of Palestinians not to surrender to oppression and violence.
Any meaningful defense of the right of Palestinians to self-determination must include the right to select their own leadership and the right to organize a response to the Israeli military’s slaughter.
At the height of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, antiwar activists in the U.S. expressed similar hesitations about the nature of the resistance in Iraq as well. A clear response such doubts came from Arundhati Roy, the famous Indian author and activist. Her words are equally relevant now:
Like most resistance movements, [the Iraqis] combine a motley range of assorted factions. Former Baathists, liberals, Islamists, fed-up collaborationists, communists, etc. Of course, it is riddled with opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery and criminality. But if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity.
Before we prescribe how a pristine Iraqi resistance must conduct their secular, feminist, democratic, nonviolent battle, we should shore up our end of the resistance by forcing the U.S. and its allied governments to withdraw from Iraq.
Likewise, Palestinians living under the brutality of occupation–and now an all-out war in Gaza–have not asked for global ideological approval. Instead, they have asked that we do whatever is in our power to help end their misery and stop the bombings, years-long siege and occupation.
To heed their call for solidarity means defending Palestinians’ right to resist Israel’s terror. Read more
By Thomas Hedges, Center for Study of Responsive Law
There is no debate on climate change in Germany. The temperature for the past 10 months has been 3 degrees above average and we’re again on course for the warmest year on record. There’s no dispute among Germans as to whether this change is man-made, or that we contribute to it and need to stop accelerating the process.
Since 2000, Germany has converted 25 percent of its power grid to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The architects of the clean energy movement Energiewende, which translates to “energy transformation,” estimate that from 80 percent to 100 percent of Germany’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2050.
Germans are baffled that the United States has not taken the same path. Not only is the U.S. the wealthiest nation in the world, but it’s also credited with jump-starting Germany’s green movement 40 years ago.
“This is a very American idea,” Arne Jungjohann, a director at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation (HBSF), said at a news conference Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. “We got this from Jimmy Carter.”
Germany adopted and continued Carter’s push for energy conservation while the U.S. abandoned further efforts. The death of an American Energiewende solidified when President Ronald Reagan ripped down the solar panels atop the White House that Carter had installed.
Since then, Germany has created strong incentives for the public to invest in renewable energy. It pays people to generate electricity from solar panels on their houses. The effort to turn more consumers into producers is accelerated through feed-in tariffs, which are 20-year contracts that ensure a fixed price the government will pay. Germany lowers the price every year, so there’s good reason to sign one as soon as possible, before compensation falls further.
The money the government uses to pay producers comes from a monthly surcharge on utility bills that everyone pays, similar to a rebate. Customers pay an additional cost for the renewable energy fund and then get that money back from the government, at a profit, if they are producing their own energy.
In the end, ratepayers control the program, not the government. This adds consistency, writer Osha Gray Davidson says. If the government itself paid, it would be easy for a new finance minister to cut the program upon taking office. Funding is not at the whim of politicians as it is in the U.S.
“Everyone has skin in the game,” says Davidson. “The movement is decentralized and democratized, and that’s why it works. Anybody in Germany can be a utility.”
The news conference the foundation organized with InsideClimate News comes two weeks after one of the biggest storms in U.S. history and sits in the shadow of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would unlock the world’s second-largest oil reserve in Canada. The event also comes one day after a report that says that the U.S. is on track to become the leading oil and gas producer by 2020, which suggests that the U.S. has the capability to match Germany’s green movement, but is instead using its resources to deepen its dependency on fossil fuels.
Many community organizers have given up on government and are moving to spark a green movement in the U.S. through energy cooperatives.
Anya Schoolman is a D.C. organizer who has started many co-ops in the district although she began with no experience. She says that converting to renewable energy one person at a time would not work in the U.S. because of legal complexities and tax laws that discourage people from investing in clean energy.
Grid managers in the U.S., she explains, often require households to turn off wind turbines at night, a practice called “curtailment.”
“It’s a favor to the utility companies,” she says, which don’t hold as much power in Germany as they do in the United States.
Individuals and cooperatives own 65 percent of Germany’s renewable energy capacity. In the U.S. they own 2 percent. The rest is privately controlled.
The largest difference, panelists said, between Germany and the U.S. is how reactive the government is to its citizens. Democracy in Germany has meant keeping and strengthening regulatory agencies while forming policies that put public ownership ahead of private ownership.
“In the end,” says Davidson, who spent a month in Germany studying the Energiewende, “it isn’t about making money. It’s about quality of life.”
This article was made possible by the Center for Study of Responsive Law.
By Chris Hedges
The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become.
“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now. …”
Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to hold the president accountable—although how or when or what this movement will look like they cannot say. They didn’t hold him accountable during his first term. They won’t during his second. They have played their appointed roles in the bankrupt political theater that passes for electoral politics. They have wrung their hands, sung like a Greek chorus about the evils of the perfidious opponent, assured us that there is no other viable option, and now they will exit the stage. They will carp and whine in the wings until they are trotted out again to assume their role in the next political propaganda campaign of disempowerment and fear. They will, in the meantime, become the butt of ridicule and derision by the very politicians they supported.
The ineffectiveness of the liberal class, as I saw in the former Yugoslavia and as was true in Weimar Germany, perpetuates a dangerous political paralysis. The longer the paralysis continues, the longer systems of power are unable to address the suffering and grievances of the masses, the more the formal mechanisms of power are reviled. The liberal establishment’s inability to defy corporate power, to stand up for its supposed liberal beliefs, means its inevitable disappearance, along with the disappearance of traditional liberal values. This, as history has amply pointed out, is the road to despotism. And we are further down that road than many care to admit.
Any mass movement that arises—and I believe one is coming—will be fueled, like the Occupy movement, by radicals who have as deep a revulsion for Democrats as they do for Republicans. The radicals who triumph, however, may not be progressive. Populist movements, from labor unions to an independent press to socialist third parties, have been destroyed in the United States. A protofascist movement that coalesces around a mystical nationalism, that fuses the symbols of the country with those of Christianity, that denigrates reason and elevates mass emotions will have broad appeal. It will offer to followers a leap from the deep pit of despair and frustration to the heights of utopia. It will speak in the language of violence and demonize the vulnerable, from undocumented workers to homosexuals to people of color to liberals to the poor. And this force, financed by the most retrograde elements of corporate capitalism, could usher in a species of corporate fascism in a period of economic or environmental instability.
The historian Fritz Stern in “The Politics of Cultural Despair,” his book on the rise of fascism in Germany, warns repeatedly of the danger of a bankrupt liberalism. Stern, who sees the same dark, irrational forces at work today that he watched as a boy in Nazi Germany, argues that the spiritually and politically alienated are the prime recruits for a politics centered around cultural hatreds and personal resentments.
“They attacked liberalism,” Stern writes of the fascists emerging at the time in Germany, “because it seemed to them the principal premise of modern society; everything they dreaded seemed to spring from it; the bourgeois life, Manchesterism, materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political leadership. Even more, they sense in liberalism the source of all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness; their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied. Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for making outcasts of them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their faith.”
I am not sure when I severed myself irrevocably from the myth of America. It began when I was a seminarian, living for more than two years in Boston’s inner city on a street that had more homicides than any other in the city. I had to confront in the public housing projects the cruelty of white supremacy, the myriad institutional mechanisms that kept poor people of color trapped, broken and impoverished, the tragic squandering of young lives and the fatuous liberals who spoke in lofty language about empowering people they never met. The ties unraveled further during the five years I spent as a war correspondent in El Salvador and Nicaragua. I stood in too many mud-walled villages looking at the mutilated bodies of men, women and children, murdered by U.S.-backed soldiers, death squads and paramilitary units. I heard too many lies spewed out by Ronald Reagan and the State Department to justify these killings. And by the time I was in Gaza, looking at the twisted limbs of dead women and children and listening to Israeli and U.S. officials describe an Israeli airstrike as a “surgical” hit on Islamic militants, it was over. I knew the dark heart of America. I knew who we were, what we did, what we actually stood for and the terrifying and willful innocence that permits most Americans to think of themselves as good and virtuous when they are, in reality, members of an efficient race of killers and ruthless profiteers.
I was sickened and repulsed. My loyalty shifted from the state, from any state, to the powerless, to the landless peasants in Latin America, the Palestinians in Gaza or the terrified families in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who suffer on the outer reaches of empire, as well as in our internal colonies and sacrifice zones, constitute my country. And any action, including voting, that does not unequivocally condemn and denounce their oppressors is a personal as well as a moral betrayal.
“We talk of the Turks and abhor the cannibals; but may not some of them go to heaven before some of us?” Herman Melville wrote. “We may have civilized bodies and yet barbarous souls. We are blind to the real sights of this world; deaf to its voices; and dead to its death.”
For a poor family in Camden, N.J., impoverished residents in the abandoned coal camps in southern West Virginia, the undocumented workers that toil in our nation’s produce fields, Native Americans trapped on reservations, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, those killed by drones in Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or those in the squalid urban slums in Africa, it makes no difference if Mitt Romney or Obama is president. And since it makes no difference to them, it makes no difference to me. I seek only to defy the powers that orchestrate and profit from their misery.
The oppressed, the more than half of the world’s population who survive on less than $2 a day, will be the first to be sacrificed because of our refusal to halt fossil fuel’s degradation of the natural world and the assault of globalization. They already hate us with a righteous fury. They see us for who we are. They also grasp that for power to be threatened it must be confronted by another form of power. They know that the only way to effect change is to make the powerful fear their ability to retaliate. And the oppressed, inside and outside empire, are methodically building that power. We saw it at work on 9/11. We see it every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we will see it, although I pray it will be nonviolent, on our own city streets.
The corporate state, faced with rebellion from within and without, does not know how to define or control this rising power, from the Arab Spring to the street protests in Greece and Spain to the Occupy movement. Rebellion always mystifies the oppressor. It appears irrational. It does not make sense. The establishment asks: What are their demands? Why do they hate us? What do they want? The oppressor can never hear the answer, for the answer is always the same—we seek to destroy your power. The oppressor, blind to the brutality and injustice meted out to sustain dominance and prosperity, escalates the levels of force employed to protect privilege. The crimes of the oppressor are seen among the elite as the administering of justice—law and order, the war on terror, the natural law of globalization, the right granted by privilege and power to shape and govern the world. The oppressor cannot see the West’s false humanism. The oppressor cannot, as James Baldwin wrote, understand that our “history has no moral justification, and the West has no moral authority.” The oppressor, able to speak only in the language of force and increasingly lashing out like a wounded animal, will be consumed in the inferno.
“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction,” Baldwin wrote, “and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.” Read more