Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chris Hedges: "Worse Than Apartheid".

I'm slightly impressed that a relatively wet liberal news site like Truthdig has allowed this column by Chris Hedges to be published. Hedges is not a radical - he has written supportively of 'humanitarian interventions' - yet about the Iraq war he said in 2003 that "This is a war of liberation in Iraq, but it is a war of liberation by Iraqis from American occupation." Brave words in a world where it is seen as some kind of deformity to regard Arabs as normal human beings. Even Dennis Kucinich, who alone has tried to get to the truth about Iraqi deaths under American occupation, concedes that it is "natural and appropriate" for Americans to be primarily concerned with the 3,000 US troops who have died. That's an uncomplicated sop to American nationalism, and alongside American nationalism usually goes a secondary commitment to Israeli nationalism. Israel is simply not permitted to be seen as the grotesquely militarised garrison state that it is: it is an honorary 51st State, a little island of Americana between the Gulf States and the Maghreb (which is to say that it is "the only democracy in the Middle East"). Such has been the orthodoxy on the liberal-left for some decades. Truthdig, edited by some fairly orthodox liberals, has hosted some obnoxious crap in the past, including Sam Harris, and was one of the few serious outlets to touch the Iranian Yellow Star bullshit. Yet, here is Truthdig, and here is Chris Hedges, on Palestine:

Israel has spent the last five months unleashing missiles, attack helicopters and jet fighters over the densely packed concrete hovels in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army has made numerous deadly incursions, and some 500 people, nearly all civilians, have been killed and 1,600 more wounded. Israel has rounded up hundreds of Palestinians, destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, including its electrical power system and key roads and bridges, carried out huge land confiscations, demolished homes and plunged families into a crisis that has caused widespread poverty and malnutrition.

Civil society itself—and this appears to be part of the Israeli plan—is unraveling. Hamas and Fatah factions battle in the streets, despite a tenuous cease-fire, threatening civil war. And the governing Palestinian movement, Hamas, has said it will boycott early elections called by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, done with the blessing of the West in a bid to toss Hamas out of power. (Remember that Hamas, despite its repugnant politics, was democratically elected.) In recent days armed groups loyal to Abbas have seized Hamas-run ministries in what looks like a coup.

The stark reality of Gaza, however, has failed to penetrate the consciousness of most Americans, who, when they notice the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, prefer to debate the merits of the word “apartheid” in former President Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” It is a sad commentary on the gutlessness of the U.S. press and the timidity of the Democratic opposition that most Americans are not aware of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis they bear so much responsibility in creating. Palestinians are not only dying, their olive trees uprooted, their farmland and homes destroyed and their aquifers taken away from them, but on many days they can’t move because of Israeli “closures” that make basic tasks, like buying food and going to the hospital, nearly impossible. These Palestinians, after decades of repression, cannot return to land from which they were expelled. The 140-plus U.N. votes to censure Israel and two Security Council resolutions—both vetoed by the United States—are blithly ignored. Is it any wonder that the Palestinians, gasping for air, rebel as the walls close in around them, as their children go hungry and as the Israelis turn up the violence?

Call me a goofy optimist if you must, but I do think this an encouraging straw in the wind. Zionism has in the past been a crucial mediation to the right, one of the half-way points in the direction of left-wing capitulation to imperialism. It is possible to see an emerging consensus, developing from the antiwar movement, that is far more critical of Israel. As Israel's utility to the US decreases, that consensus may encroach on the mainstream. Possibly.