can’t see the forest

Two Views Into the Darkness

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I wanted to highlight two articles dealing with the oppression and mutilation of Gaza which have recently appeared in Counterpunch. Each of them has something interesting and powerful to say about the situation there.

palestinian-loss-of-land

I have never traveled to the Middle East, and have in my time met only a handful of Israeli Jews or Arabs, or Palestinians. Yet the events in that beleaguered realm weigh heavily on my mind each day. Wherever my government’s support and therefore my tax money is used to unjustly maim, kill, and otherwise deprecate fellow human beings who strive for only a small part of the comforts I enjoy in the warmth of my den, there my thoughts are turned inexorably.

Why does Israel wreak such havoc on Gaza? The mainstream press is devoid of meaningful answers. Is it because of the sporadic rocket fire on Israeli cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon? Not hardly; even within the context-bleeped framework of Israeli yarn-spinning presented in the media these days, this does not make sense. If Israel merely wished the rocket fire to end, she could find much less bloodthirsty and roundly devastating ways to achieve this than indiscriminately killing Palestinians four hundred-fold and risking the lives of Israeli troops in a potential ground assault. There would be no need to put an economic stranglehold on an entire population for years running, just to stop some rockets. Why, come to think of it, she could simply offer Gaza all that it has asked for: self-determination and a real end to the Israeli occupation.

Does Israel fear Hamas, and truly see no way forward while it operates? No—we can easily imagine that living under the threat of Hamas rockets is a terrible existence for Israelis in the country’s south, to be sure. But this is of no more real concern to the Israeli government than the threat of terrorism at home was to the Bush administration when launching its incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems to me that the largest threat posed by Hamas is that, for Israel, there will be no way backwards while it exists. Because, unlike the government of Abbas in the West Bank, Hamas has no appetite for the sugar dripping from the forked tongues of Israeli officials who would promise Gazans peace and give them only continued subjugation on terms that Washington and Tel Aviv see fit. Hamas will continue to call international attention to the travesties unfolding in the region, and will not shirk from defending itself against the occupiers, even when unfortunate and deplorable violence remains its only meaningful mode of self-expression among a world community which is all thumbs.

In Jennifer Loewenstein’s piece, “If Hamas Did Not Exist,” the situation is summed up admirably:

Strip away the clichés and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.

Strip away the current symbols and language of the victims of our selfish and devastating whims and you will find the simple, impassioned and unaffected cries of the downtrodden; of the ‘wretched of the earth’ begging you to cease your cold aggression against their children and their homes; their families and their villages; begging you to leave them alone to have their fish and their bread, their oranges, their olives and their thyme; asking you first politely and then with increasing disbelief why you cannot let them live undisturbed on the land of their ancestors; unexploited, free of the fear of expulsion; of ravishment and devastation; free of permits and roadblocks and checkpoints and crossings; of monstrous concrete walls, guard towers, concrete bunkers, and barbed wire; of tanks and prisons and torture and death. Why is life without these policies and instruments of hell impossible?

The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders.

What role does the United States play in this terrible conflict which brings such misery to the lives of Palestinians and many Israelis? I haven’t the space or the energy to delve into a complete history of U.S.-Israel relations. But Washington’s support of Israeli hegemony and its persistent ideology of victimhood has been openly voiced at times, and even those whose only knowledge of world events comes from the usual suspects among media outlets are generally aware that Israel operates largely with American military equipment, American diplomatic support, and American tax dollars—a portion of which are directly funneled back into American arms dealers. Ralph Nader, in his “Open Letter to President Bush,” expresses his thoughts on the matter:

Your spokespeople are making much ado about the breaking of the six month truce. Who is the occupier? Who is the most powerful military force? Who controls and blocks the necessities of life? Who has sent raiding missions across the border most often? Who has sent artillery shells and missiles at close range into populated areas? Who has refused the repeated comprehensive peace offerings of the Arab countries issued in 2002 if Israel would agree to return to the 1967 borders and agree to the creation of a small independent Palestinian state possessing just twenty two percent of the original Palestine?

The ‘wildly inaccurate rockets,’ as reporters describe them, coming from Hamas and other groups cannot compare with the modern precision armaments and human damage generated from the Israeli side.

There are no rockets coming from the West Bank into Israel. Yet the Israeli government is still sending raiders into that essentially occupied territory, still further entrenching its colonial outposts, still taking water and land and increasing the checkpoints. This is going on despite a most amenable West Bank leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whom you have met with at the White House and praised repeatedly. Is it all vague words and no real initiatives with you and your emissary Condoleezza Rice?

Peace was possible, but you provided no leadership, preferring instead to comply with all wishes and demands by the Israeli government, even resupplying it with the still active cluster bombs in south Lebanon during the invasion of that country in 2006.

The arguments about who started the latest hostilities go on and on with Israel always blaming the Palestinians to justify all kinds of violence and harsh treatment against innocent civilians.

From the Palestinian standpoint, you would do well to remember the origins of this conflict which was the dispossession of their lands. To afford you some empathy, recall the oft-quoted comment by the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, who told the Zionist leader, Nahum Goldmann:

‘There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz; but was that their [the Palestinians] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?’

Alfred North Whitehead once said: ‘Duty arises out of the power to alter the course of events.’ By that standard, you have shirked mightily your duty over the past eight years to bring peace to both Palestinians and Israelis and more security to a good part of the world.

palestine-boy-tankI hope for the sake of all that the violence and hostility can end. Yes, that is my sincere wish, but it is not my highest hope. My highest hope is that a peace can be achieved without the usual price of humiliation, continued subjugation, and business as usual that has in the past been so carefully tacked on by Israel when dealing with her “attackers.” As history has amply demonstrated, peace at the price of sovereignty and the basic human rights of a people is a peace in name only. One can achieve peace by allowing one’s self to be beaten into submission. Peace is always viscerally preferable to violence, but one must ask: what does it mean?


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Oregon Federal Judge Rules Two Patriot Act Provisions Unconstitutional

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According to the Associated Press, Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District of Oregon has ruled that the Patriot Act, a controversial piece of legislation pushed by the Bush White House and passed by Congress in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the country’s Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable “searches and seizures” without just cause.

From 1010 Wins:

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge issued a stern rebuke of a key White House antiterror law, striking down as unconstitutional two pillars of the USA Patriot Act.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled Wednesday that using the act to authorize secret searches and wiretapping to gather criminal evidence – instead of intelligence gathering – violates the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“For over 200 years, this nation has adhered to the rule of law – with unparalleled success. A shift to a nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised,” Aiken wrote.

The case began when the FBI misidentified a fingerprint in the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004, leading investigators to a Portland attorney whose home and office were secretly searched and bugged.

The FBI eventually apologized to the attorney, Brandon Mayfield, for its mistake and the federal government settled his lawsuit for $2 million.

But Mayfield challenged the Patriot Act over the searches and surveillance, claiming various civil rights violations.

By asking her to dismiss Mayfield’s lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general’s office was “asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.”

If the court’s ruling is upheld upon appeal, it could force the federal government to exercise more caution and discretion in the investigation of so-called “suspicious activity.”

Sorry, neocons—looks like those “activist judges” might be trying to protect your freedoms and uphold your Constitution again.

Ten Steps to a Fascist America

Posted in 9/11, activism, Fascism, government, Politics, Propaganda, Terrorism, USA, war by Curtis on 9/23/07

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The contemporary historian David Hackett Fischer cautions, in his infamous Historians’ Fallacies (1970), against something he calls the ‘didactic fallacy.’ Fischer says that it is generally unwise to consider historical circumstances from the past as a kind of instruction manual for the present. This is a caveat against the logic of Santayana’s well known admonition that those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

Whatever Fischer’s original intent, this caution is sometimes construed to downplay relationships between circumstances which are indeed quite pertinent to one another. While it is true that there is such a thing as reading too much between the lines, and while we are all guilty of drawing faulty inferences from time to time, Fischer should have known that the didactic fallacy could itself be used as a form of the ‘aesthetic fallacy’ which he delineates as a tendency to present facts selectively in support of a given viewpoint or cause. More often than not, there are inferences and instructions to be drawn from history which are directly applicable to contemporary issues. Author Naomi Wolf would like to bring to your attention a few of them now.

Courtesy of PG, here, from The Guardian, is Wolf’s ‘Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps.’ Please follow the links for more details.

1.) Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.

2.) Create a gulag (penal system outside the bounds of the constitutional judiciary).

3.) Develop a thug caste.

4.) Set up an internal surveillance system.

5.) Harass citizens’ groups.

6.) Engage in arbitrary detention and release.

7.) Target key individuals (academics, intellectuals, activists, artists).

8.) Control the press.

9.) Equate dissent with treason (or, at least, lack of patriotism).

10.) Suspend the rule of law (e.g., “national emergency”).

What Wolf is emphasizing is that, while not all of these events have unfolded or necessarily will unfold in the United States of today, the career of the Bush administration has definitely tended in this direction—and that these proceedings, as outlined by the author, are common to the construction and implementation of authoritarian governments in once-democratic societies.

There are many aspects of contemporary lifestyle and society that would present problems with the imposition of an authoritarian government with the enthusiastic, forceful pomp so characteristic of the regimes of yesterday. The traditional coup d’état is no longer fashionable, it seems—like hand-cranked ice cream makers. In considering these differences, perhaps we would be wise to keep Fischer in one ear. But while the rules of the game may have changed, the basic idea is still the same. There is little difference in the rhetoric; it is only the delivery which is à la mode.