Bringing down the new Berlin Walls

At the time of writing, Israel has killed more than 120 Palestinians in Gaza in just more than a week, including 63 on one day. One-third of the dead were children and babies. On the Israeli side, two soldiers and one civilian were killed.
Israel, the world’s fourth-biggest military power, used satellite-guided American aircraft and missiles against a population of largely children, most of them malnourished.

This is the equation of suffering that Israel’s illegal occupation has caused for longer than most of us can remember. What we can remember, however, is that for most of their incarceration, the Palestinians have resisted with slingshots and stones—suicide bombings were unknown until not long ago—and with their human spirit.

The breakout last month of the people of Gaza provided a heroic spectacle unlike any other since the uprising of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and the smashing down of the Berlin Wall.

Whereas on the occupied West Bank, Ariel Sharon’s master plan of walling in the population and stealing their land and resources has all but succeeded, requiring only a Palestinian Vichy to sign it off, the people of Gaza have defied their tormentors. There is profound symbolism in their achievement, touching lives and hopes all over the world.

“[Sharon’s] fate for us,” wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian, “was … an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism, and co-opted [by] collaborationists.”

Israel and the United States’s experiments in mass suffering nearly achieved it. There was First Rains, the code name for a terror of sonic booms that came every night and drove Gazan children mad. There was Summer Rains, which showered bombs and missiles on civilians, then extrajudicial executions and, finally, a land invasion.

Ehud Barak, the current Israeli Defence Minister, has tried every kind of blockade: the denial of electricity for water and sewage pumps, incubators and dialysis machines and the denial of fuel and food.

This has been accompanied by the voices of Western broadcasters and politicians, tribunes of the “international community” whose response is not to help, but to excuse an indisputably illegal occupation as “disputed” and damn a democratically elected Palestinian Authority as “Hamas militants” who “refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist” while Israel itself demonstrably refuses to recognise the Palestinians’ right to exist.

“What is being hidden from the [Israeli] public,” wrote Uri Avnery, a founder of Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace movement, “is that the launching of the Qassams [rockets from Gaza] could be stopped tomorrow. Several months ago, Hamas proposed a ceasefire. It repeated the offer this week … Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal? “Simple: to make such a deal, we must speak to Hamas … It is more important to boycott Hamas than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media cooperate with this pretence.”

Hamas long ago offered Israel a 10-year ceasefire and has since recognised the “reality” of the Jewish state. This is almost never reported in the West.

The inspiration of the Palestinian breakout from Gaza was dramatically demonstrated by the star Egyptian footballer Mohamed Aboutreika. Playing in the Africa Cup of Nations, he raised his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the words “Sympathise with Gaza” in English and Arabic. The crowd stood and cheered. A journalist who protested against Aboutreika’s yellow card said: “Actions like his … bring many walls down, walls of silence, walls in our minds.”

In the Murdochracies, where most of the world is viewed as useful or expendable, we have little sense of this. The news selection is unremittingly distracting and disabling. The cynicism of an identical group of opportunists laying claim to the White House is given respectability as each of them competes to support the Bush regime’s despotic war-making. John McCain, almost certainly the Republican nominee for president, wants a “hundred-year war”. That the leading Democratic candidates are a woman and a black man is of supreme irrelevance: the fanatical Condoleezza Rice is both female and black.

Look into the murky world behind Clinton and you find the likes of Monsanto, a company that produced Agent Orange, the war chemical that continues to destroy Vietnam. One of Barack Obama’s chief whisperers is Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan, which spawned jihadism, al-Qaeda and 9/11.

This malign circus has been silent on Palestine and Gaza and almost anything that matters, including the following announcement, perhaps the most important of the century: “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Inviting incredulity, these words may require more than one reading. They come from a statement written by five of the West’s top military leaders, an American, a Briton, a German, a Frenchman and a Dutchman, who help run the club known as Nato. They say nuking will be necessary because “the West’s values and way of life are under threat”. Where is this threat coming from? “Over there,” say the generals. Where? In “the brutal world”.

On January 21, on the eve of the Nato announcement, Gordon Brown also out-Orwelled Orwell. He said that “the race for more and bigger stockpiles of nuclear destruction [sic]” is over. The reason he gave was that “the international community” was facing “serious challenges”.

One of these challenges is Iran, which has no nuclear weapons and no programme to build them, according to the US’s National Intelligence Estimates. This is in striking contrast to Gordon Brown’s Britain, which, in defiance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has commissioned an entirely new Trident nuclear arsenal. What Brown was doing was threatening Iran on behalf of the Bush regime.

Jonathan Schell provides compelling evidence in his recently published The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger that nuclear war has now moved to the centre of Western foreign policy even though the enemy is invented. In response, Russia has begun to restore its vast nuclear arsenal. Thus, the wall dismantled by young Germans in 1989 and sold to tourists is being built in the minds of a new generation.

For the Bush and Blair regimes, the invasion of Iraq and the campaigns against Hamas, Iran and Syria were vital in fabricating this new “nuclear threat”. The effect of the Iraq invasion, says a study cited by Noam Chomsky, is a “sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks”. Behold Nato’s instant “brutal world”.

Of course, the highest and oldest wall is that which separates “us” from “them”. This is described today as a great divide of religions or “a clash of civilisations”, which are false concepts, propagated to provide “the other”—a target for fear and hatred that justifies invasion and plunder.

In fact, the foundations for this wall were laid more than 500 years ago when privileges of “discovery and conquest” were granted to Christopher Columbus in a world that the then all­-powerful pope considered his property.

Nothing has changed. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and now Nato are invested with the same privileges of conquest on behalf of the new papacy in Washington. The goal is what Bill Clinton called the “integration of countries into the global free-market community”, the terms of which, noted the New York Times, “require the United States to get involved in the plumbing and wiring of other nations’ internal affairs more deeply than ever before”.

This modern system of dominance requires sophisticated propaganda that presents its aims as benign. Economics departments of leading universities teach that “we” in the West have the right to exploit the poor world while maintaining tariff walls and state subsidies. This is neoliberalism—socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

What is rarely discussed is that liberalism as an open-ended, violent ideology is destroying liberalism as a reality. Hatred of Muslims is widely advertised by those claiming the respectability of what they call “the left”. At the same time, opponents of the new papacy are routinely smeared, as seen in the recent fake charges of narcoterrorism against Hugo Chávez. Having insinuated their way into public debate, the smears deflect authentic critiques of Chávez’s Venezuela and prepare the ground for an assault on it.

This is the role that journalism has played in the invasion of Iraq and the great injustice in Palestine. It also represents a wall, on which Aldous Huxley, describing his totalitarian utopia in Brave New World, might have written: “Opposition is apostasy. Fatalism is ideal. Silence is preferred.” If the people of Gaza can disobey all three, why can’t we?—Â

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