We are each and all ignorant of a great many things. How could it be otherwise. We are people with limited time, energy, and scope. We have pressing agendas and responsibilities. We can’t do everything. Can’t know everything.
But some things don’t go away because we look elsewhere. Such is the case for global warming, economic exploitation, and the insanity that calls itself productive profit but is merely self aggrandizing greed riding hypocritical cowardice. Such is equally the case for self serving and other-denying racism and sexism and for every denigration of what to oneself seems to be other than oneself.
And then comes war. Then comes massacre. Then comes the distortion that permits, feeds, and enlarges ignorance. But not bliss. Except, in truth, this time war has been there for decades, but overwhelmingly one-sided. As Jewish Voice for Peace puts it: “The Israeli government may have just declared war, but its war on Palestinians started over 75 years ago. Israeli apartheid and occupation—and United States complicity in that oppression—are the source of all this violence. Reality is shaped by when you start the clock.” United States complicity? $3.8 billion annual aid year after year after year. Here comes the Navy.
A people is confined to an open air prison. A people is denied or pitifully permitted—like you might permit a dog but not a human—meager food, medicine, and movement. A people is occupied. Reduced to subservience. Their dreams of freedom continually assaulted. Is that not violence? And what happens to a dream deferred by such violence? Consider the answer given by Langston Hughes, in his poem titled Harlem:
What Happens to A Dream Deferred
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
All the above mentioned consequences happen, of course. And when a freedom dream explodes do we think, what the hell, what is wrong with those people? They shoot back. Are they barbarians? Are they animals to attack us like that? We studiously forget who taught them violence against civilians. We sanctimoniously forget that their response is not an attack from nowhere. We hypocritically forget they attack from beneath decades of Israeli violence, of American support for violence, or popular ignorance of the impact of consequences but support for ‘our’ team’s heroic actions. Again, consider this from Jewish Voice for Peace: “For 16 years, the Israeli government has suffocated Palestinians in Gaza under a draconian air, sea and land military blockade, imprisoning and starving two million people and denying them medical aid. The Israeli government routinely massacres Palestinians in Gaza; ten-year-olds who live in Gaza have already been traumatized by seven major bombing campaigns in their short lives.” And of course it isn’t only in Gaze that Palestinians suffer…but also the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and throughout Israel where they are threatened with ethnic cleansing by members of Netanyahu’s government.
Where will this new but very old war go next? Will mass media report that Israel has been wildly attacked with no purpose, no cause other than because Palestinians are animals who chose to impose pain for the pleasure of doing so? Will Israeli leaders proclaim that they must punish Palestinians, all of them, every last one of them, on behalf of all real humans. Then, with that narrative in place, will Israel unleash holy hell? Turn off access to water (already 95% of which is unhealthy)? Turn off food? Turn off electricity? Then bomb a bit? Get some more violent Palestinian response or threats to point at? You think I exaggerate. You think they wouldn’t do such things. Not Israel. Not the U.S. as boosters. Well as I write these words they are already doing all that. What’s next? Unleash pain squared, pain with barely any limit? Pain with perhaps no limit? Arm’s makers celebrate. Boom! Crush them all! This is a predictable possibility. Hamas had to know this before they acted. Imagine their desperation to risk such a horrific response. But damn them, they took hostages. (To hopefully ward off too great violence and to trade hundreds for thousands of jailed Palestinians, also carted off, not to mention a couple of million open air hostages.) What can now prevent massive escalation?
I very sadly doubt that compassion by Israel’s leaders, either military or civilian, will surface sufficiently to affect the situation. I very sadly doubt that compassion from the Israeli population will alone do so, though it may help a lot. I doubt that Israeli compassion even for the well being of Israeli hostages, will do so, though it too may help some. I am totally confident, however, that Israel’s leaders won’t recognize that of course Palestinian desperation at Israel’s escalations over the past year had to be monumental for them to risk their attack so the real road forward is to halt the escalations, end the occupation, and seek a just peace even against the material interests and distorted feelings of settlers who now enjoy stolen lands. I suspect only fear by Israeli leaders and their American abettors of international outrage at the carnage they contemplate unleashing can stop massive massacre from proceeding.
If so, then open, public, informed, opposition to Israel’s continued occupation and denigration of Palestinians is needed worldwide. I am myself, I must admit, largely ignorant of the long and sordid details of the history of Israel’s colonial, apartheid, violence against Palestinians. I am, by far, not an expert. But my ignorance is not blissful. Is yours?
Lots of so-called experts will offer opinions. Some of those opinions will be drivel driven by little more than a desire to be on the side that they expect to win. Some will parade massive and sometimes even sincere sympathy for Israeli pain over these past few days coming however on top of decades of their silence for Palestinian pain. But some will be serious, informed, and instructive consideration of history and prospects. Worth hearing. Is there a way to very quickly discern the difference?
First step is easy. If a commentator or involved actor describes the current situation by pointing at the recent Palestinian assault as its beginning, then the comment is apologetic, cowardly, hypocritical drivel—or perhaps it is just seriously sincerely ignorant drivel due to the apologetic, cowardly, hypocritical drivel it has stemmed from. If the commentator or involved actor instead discusses the history of Israeli dispossession and occupation as the beginning, then there is hope that the comment may be serious.
I received an email yesterday from Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian scientist and internationally renowned activist who desires to enlist aid for preventing the onslaught moving toward full enactment. He wrote: “Fuel, food, water, and medicine to the entire population of Gaza was halted by the occupation army (previously they were kept at a minimum to keep people alive but the economy devastated). Thus, this time people will start dying from lack of food or medicine. Gaza hospitals are running out of fuel to power their emergency generators. No matter your opinion of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or of Israeli apartheid system, civilians cannot be allowed to suffer like this.”
Qumsiyeh then reports that “Israeli ‘Defense’ Minister Yoav Gallant said bluntly: ‘I ordered a full siege on the Gaza Strip. No power, no food, no gas, everything is closed. We are fighting HUMAN ANIMALS and we act accordingly.’ Already the colonizer army is bombing many residential buildings, killed >50 shoppers in a market, and over 80 Palestinian children killed so far. It is as promised, the tip of the iceberg. Sadly even the hostages/prisoners held by Hamas are impacted and Israeli bombing in Gaza killed 4 Israeli captives plus their captors. Now Israel is also using white phosphorous (chemical weapons) in residential areas and is openly saying the war is against the entire population of Gaza.”
The Palestinians have been schooled in violence against civilians by the Israelis. The Israelis have gotten a post doctorate in violence from the ultimate Godfather of violence, the U.S. Will the U.S. leadership give Israel a Green light and ship them the death-dealing munitions they request—or will the U.S. leadership say, no, that is not the way. I have the same thoughts on that as my thoughts above regarding Israeli compassion. As with getting anything other than elite-serving policies from the masters of war, what will be needed to get peace from them is pressure, very serious pressure, from those below. Which is us. Isn’t it?
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