Monday, December 21, 2009

Freeing the Palestinian People

With so many points of view about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it is hard for the average American to know where to start. And the knowledge some people have already acquired from religious fundamentalist teaching, be it Christian, Jewish, or Muslim is often based on mythology rather than fact.

Perhaps the best place to begin is on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza. In both occupied territories, Palestinian people are among the poorest and most destitute in the world, often without adequate food, potable water, and even the most basic of housing.

Added to this, at least in the occupied West Bank, is the ever present violence directed at Palestinians by Jewish fundamentalist who have built armed fortresses on hundreds of hilltops. These Jewish zealots have one goal in mind, to clear the land of all Palestinians by shootings, beatings, and destroying what is left of Palestinian agriculture. The Israeli Defense Force's massive presence with its check points, military incursions, huge walls and heavy surveillance insures that there can be no Palestinian retaliation to these attacks. In fact, Palestinians homes are routinely bulldozed to make way for more Jewish families, usually paid for by the Israeli government ($75,000 per household). There are now a half million Jewish occupiers in the West Bank protected by tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers.

"I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to use black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at the checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about..."    
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu 

Life for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza is by most measures even worse. Cut off from the outside world by an Israeli air, sea, and land blockade, their standard of living rivals the worst of the world's great slums. Without dependable sources of food or water, a whole generation of Palestinian children is growing up physically stunted. Moreover, the repeated military attacks on Gaza have left the entire population traumatized. There is simply no way to escape the fighter planes and missile gunships when Israeli invasions occur. 

"The Israelis have orchestrated acute misery and poverty in the Palestinian territories over the past two decades in an effort to subdue and ethnically cleanse the captive population. They have reduced Palestinians, many of whom now live on less than $2 a day, to a subsistence level."
- Chris Hedges

Efforts to "punish, humiliate, and terrorize" an entire population are, of course, war crimes, as defined most recently by the Goldstone Report. The Israeli government and its Zionist allies in the US have no moral or legal defense when it comes to how Israel treats Palestinians in the occupied territories. All that remains is obfuscation.

The Goldstone report on the Gaza invasion, however, is a good example of how effective the Zionist lobby in this country have been in hiding Israeli war crimes from the general public. Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African, served as chief prosecutor of the the UN Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In 2009, he led a UN Human Rights Council investigation of international and humanitarian law violations associated with the most recent Israeli invasion of Gaza. In his own words, his life's work pursuing war criminals "stems from the lessons of the Holocaust."

As soon as his report came out, The NY Times characterized it as critical of both Hamas and Israel. No mention was made of the fact that Goldstone directed most of his condemnation towards Israeli "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." In every broadcast, NPR referred to the Goldstone Report as being "critical of both sides." And the mainstream media followed suit, insuring that most Americans never learned about the actual nature of Goldstone's charges against Israel. 

But that wasn't enough for Israel or its Zionist lobby in the United States. Soon there was massive pressure exerted on the House of Representatives to condemn the Goldstone findings. The NY Times didn't print the House debate or the final vote, 344 to 36 in favor of a non-binding resolution that among other things found the Goldstone Report "Irredeemably biased." John Hall, a local representative who had run for election as an antiwar progressive, was one of the co-sponsors. 

The House of Representative resolution got very little coverage anywhere in the US, probably because it stated as fact something that the US media had tried to hide: the Goldstone report identified Israel as the major perpetrator of war crimes.

When the United Nations General Assembly later approved a resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report, the US media had to change it's spin. The NY Times refused to print anything about the two day debate during which 45 nations strongly criticized Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. When our newspaper of record finally did report on the UN General Assembly vote, It gave one sentence to the Palestinian Ambassador, three paragraphs to the Israeli Ambassador, and two paragraphs to the official US position condemning the UN action.

While Israel's brutal and racist treatment of the Palestinians is obvious to most of the rest of the world, it is in our country that the Zionist lobby has had its greatest success. The mainstream media and most members of Congress remain dedicated to hiding the sordid truth about occupied Palestine from the American people.

Perhaps that is why 14 local residents of the Mid Hudson Valley are traveling to Gaza this December to be part of the Gaza Freedom March. The group is part of the Middle East Crisis Response , an organization in Dutchess and Ulster Counties dedicated to ending Israeli and US war crimes. The local marchers will join over a thousand international participants in breaking the siege of Gaza by crossing the Egyptian boarder on December 29. Their progress can be followed at

Like many grassroots movements for social justice and human rights in our country's history, the campaign to end Israeli apartheid will reach the nation's media and halls of Congress last. And it won't be easy fighting the influence of the Zionist lobby, the weapons makers, and the advocates of US empire. But the truth has a way of spreading despite all obstacles. And the only question that remains is when the Palestine people will at long last be free.

-Fred Nagel, from Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter:

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