Monday, March 30, 2009

Jenka's Journal: Palestine

3/30/09 some reflections on jerusalem land theft, DC housing projects
and US-Mideast policy
by: jenka

After the horrors of january's gaza invasion, many people who joined
the protests for a minute are settled back to normal life.....it's
gotten me in a reflective mood, and after reading Zbigniew Brzezinski's
plan for obama's police re: the israel-palestine conflict (which ,given
Brzezinski's influence, will probably BECOME obama's policy - see
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/opinion/26cohen.html), I feel like I
need to craft a response.

But the thing that made me sit down to the keyboard right at this
moment are the words in an article about jerusalem, an article that is
pretty favorable to the new Jerusalem mayor's plan to raze whole
neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, the homes of thousands of people, to
build 'biblical theme parks' to attract tourists.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/world/middleeast/21barkat.html)

In that article, the mayor's deputy in east jerusalem is quoted, with a
phrase that brought chills down my spine, as saying "Jerusalem is a
laboratory. If we succeed in solving the conflict with the Arabs of
Jerusalem, it will also be possible to solve it everywhere in Israel."

And immediately, I flashed back to an article in the Washington Post,
in 1995, when I was just a newbie activist, tutoring kids in a housing
project in washinton DC. The housing project, called clifton terrace,
had been contracted out to a private contractor. the kids were living
in absolute squalor, with sewage pipes leaking into the stairwells,
rats running rampant through the halls and apartments, water clogged up
or not working, no heat in the winter - it was horrible, and made me so
angry to see these beautiful brilliant kids having to live like that.
And then I saw the washington post article, which quoted the contractor
hired to run the place as saying, "I consider Clifton Terrace to be my
laboratory", and then elaborated that he wanted to see how the place
could be run without security, and with only minimal maintenance, to
see how people would respond. That blatant sadism and outright
cruelty, the racist undertones and the smugness with which he peered
out over his sunglasses in the photograph, next to his windsurfers and
huge house in the north carolina outer banks that he bought, no doubt,
with the millions of dollars he was paid by the dc government to run
clifton terrace.....it made me so mad, so frustrated, so furious! to
think that he could get away with treating these people as lab rats,
and literally, in some cases, sentencing them to death in his
'experiment'.

And now, almost 15 years later, I see that same expression in relation
to the people of east Jerusalem, and I see the parallels right in front
of me, so clearly.....the pent up anger of generations of Palestinians,
treated like lab rats or worse, now to have more of their historical
neighborhoods wiped off the map just like that! Like they didn't even
exist! In order to make some kind of Bible Disneyland for tourists! I
think about the quote from Langston Hughes (and unlike Barack Obama,
who quoted this without attribution, I will give credit where credit is
due), "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it shrivel up, like a
raisin in the sun? Or does it EXPLODE??" Because, for a people with
no civil or legal rights, no political or economic power, no
legislative appeal, no government or country to represent their rights
or their interests, where else can that anger go? Of COURSE it
EXPLODES. There is nowhere else it CAN go - and unless we, the people
most responsible, take the lid off this pressure cooker, it is GOING to
explode.

Do you think the first intifada, and the second intifada (and the
intifada that is coming, and the one after that, and the one after
that) just came out of nowhere? Or do you think that the people of
Palestine somehow organized and planned these uprisings? No, it was
the pent-up anger of a dream deferred, and deferred, and deferred
again, the daily humiliations, the resentments building up and building
up and building up until BOOM! It explodes! And of COURSE it explodes
- what else do you expect it to do?

When I think about that outright and blatant injustice that made me
shed angry tears for the children of Clifton Terrace in 1995, it is the
SAME outright and blatant injustice that makes me furrow my brow in
frustration today, for the people of Silwan and the other neighborhoods
about to be destroyed by Caterpillar bulldozers in east Jerusalem. But
justice was never done for the kids of Clifton Terrace -- their area
has been gentrified, their community scattered.....the kids, if they're
lucky, are still alive and not in jail.......but not many people are
that lucky on the streets of DC. As for the sadistic contractor, well,
as far as I know he's still living off the millions he stole from those
and many other kids around the city.

So why do I think that by writing you this note tonight that anything
will be different in the terrible injustice that is being perpetrated
by similarly sadistic city planners in east Jerusalem, or by the
sadistic soldiers who grin while they pull their triggers and shoot
Palestinian kids -- and while the report released today by military
officials exonerating soldiers of any wrongdoing in Gaza, saying the
testimonies of thousands of Palestinian eyewitnesses, and of the
soldiers themselves (see:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072475.html) were just 'rumors',
these are NOT rumors....I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen
soldiers shooting at small children playing soccer, and when I
confronted them and said, "What are you doing? You are shooting at
little CHILDREN!", one blue eyed soldier turned to me and said, "These
children will grow up to be terrorists, so we might as well kill them
now." And that is not an isolated incident! Every Palestinian can
tell you stories of soldiers who shoot for fun, who use kids as target
practice and seem to take pleasure from the pain they inflict. Just
look at the t-shirts printed by Israeli army brigades on graduation
(http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072466.html), filled with
grotesque and disturbing caricatures glorifying violence against
civilians.....and these are not isolated 'bad apples'! Most brigades
in the army print these t-shirts, with horrible slogans and images like
"One shot, two kills", with a picture of a pregnant Arab woman with a
target on her belly.

Will writing this to you here tonight make any difference? Will I be
looking back in 15 years and shaking my head at the destruction that
was wrought on East Jerusalem after I wrote this, warning of what was
being planned?

Or will things finally change.....will the impossible happen, will the
Berlin Wall fall, the white minority give up power in South Africa, the
Roman empire crash and burn? These things actually happened, so why
can't justice for Palestinians???

The boycott of Israeli goods, which is already having an impact
(http://www.imemc.org/article/59662), is pushing Israel into a corner -
they've elected a racist, right wing government because they feel like
they're under attack. And the thing that's really frustrating is that
the Israelis have so wrapped the identity of the state into the
religion of Judaism that they'll interpret any pressure campaign
against apartheid-like Israeli policies as an attack on Judaism - and
that's totally not what it is! And meanwhile, ACTUAL anti-Semitism by
growing numbers of right-wing neo-Nazi groups goes unchallenged - it is
to the discredit of Israeli policymakers and supporters of Israel that
they fail to make the distinction between people challenging the
political policies of the state of Israel, and right-wing
anti-Semitism, which is something TOTALLY DIFFERENT. And the
right-wing anti-Semitism is real, and on the rise....

Ironically, in Israel's zeal to bring in bodies to fill up the
settlements on stolen Palestinian land, Russian immigrants with little
to no connection to Judaism have been shipped in by the hundreds of
thousands over the last 18 years, and a couple of years ago, a neo-Nazi
group was discovered in Jerusalem itself! (see:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/902712.html) Here's an interesting
response to that case: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/903972.html

My point is, the very visceral reaction to anything perceived to be
anti-Jewish stops debate cold in tracks! Which makes it impossible to
debate the policies of the state of Israel with anything resembling
factual analysis, because of this (totally false) popular perception
that criticism of Israel is necessarily criticism of Judaism.

The fact of the matter is, due to the worldwide reaction to Israel's
absolutely over-the-top massacre of civilians in Gaza, Israelis are
circling the wagons, feeling cornered and defensive. And a
nuclear-armed state with a massive arsenal and a citizen army
containing a high percentage of demonstrably sadistic soldiers - well,
it's a dangerous and precarious situation for the entire middle east.

And unfortunately, the Brzezinski proposal (which is likely to be
Obama's approach), while it hits on some key points, won't bring about
a just solution either. I just wish that Brzezinski and those of his
ilk would stop treating the world like their Grand Chessboard,
manipulating Mid-East politics at every turn (including installing
Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the 50s because the Washington policymakers
thought that he would be a good 'moderate' alternative to an Islamic
leader or a communist one). Whatever happened to the right to
self-determination? It's time to listen to the oppressed, indigenous
population - in this case, the Palestinian people. And maybe, who
knows, ten years from now we'll be looking at Marwan Barghouthi as the
Palestinian Nelson Mandela and celebrating an end to apartheid in this
case, as well.

it's up to us, after all......

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