Commentary by Chippy Dee, Photos © by Bud Korotzer, Poem by Remi Kanazi
Every time I think of 9/11
I see burning flesh dripping off the bones of Iraqi children in Fallujah
I tend to memorialize the forgotten
The collateral damage eclipsing our unpunished crimes
Maybe it’s because I’ a numbers guy
Because if I had a dollar for every time an Iraqi died since 2003
I’d be a millionaire
And don’t get me wrong
Sometimes I don’t know who I hate more
The governments in the West
Or the politicians in the East
Who sell their souls quicker than the oil they export
Straw men who use Palestine as a tool to line their pockets
And don’t give a nickel to their people
Who stitch mouths shut for a check from Washington or AIPAC
How can you be their prototypical anti-Semite
If you are signing peace accords to oppress your own people?
These opening lines of his poem, Israel-America: A Rambling Poem, were spoken by Palestinian-American poet, Remi Kanazi, as he opened the rally in support of the Gaza Freedom March which will take place at the end of December on the 1 year anniversary of Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza. The purpose of the historic, non-violent march is to show the people of Gaza that they have not been forgotten and also to break Israel’s illegal and inhumane blockade. The rally took place on October 27th at the Church of the Holy Trinity in N.Y.C. Remi Kanazi recited 2 of his poems in his own dynamic style which both touched the audience and raised their consciousness. He received a standing ovation. Farid Bitar, a Palestinian born Jerusalem poet then read some of his poetry which dealt with the Palestinian struggle from his personal experience. It too was appreciated by the audience of about 150 people.
The next speaker was Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, who gave a very scholarly review on the subject of the Oslo Agreements and how they meant the end of Palestinian independence. The political language of justice was changed to negotiation and the surrender of rights – it is now the language of imperial power. If Palestinians speak of justice it is considered aggressive while what the Israeli’s say, in the language of Oslo, is considered the language of peace. When Israel speaks of land for peace it implies that Israel has land to give. Actually, it is the Palestinians that are giving up their land. When it is said that Arabs must renounce violence it means that they must renounce justice. According to Oslo, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is supposed to represent the Palestinian people but there is an undercount – they only represent the Palestinians on the West Bank. Oslo does not recognize diaspora Palestinians scattered across the Middle East in refugee camps or those within Israel, or, now, those living in Gaza. Therefore Oslo has diminished the number of Palestinian people. Israel, with U.S. support, demands the right to be a Jewish (racist) state and claims to represent all Jews. This claim is not recognized anywhere in the world.
Oslo created 5 classes among the Palestinians to maintain and defend the Oslo process: a political class to rule, a police class that would repress Palestinians, a bureaucratic class that would serve the politicians and the police, an NGO class, and a business class. Money was connected to the process. By linking the livelihood of thousands of the Palestinian elite to the process they assured it’s survival. But Hamas created an unexpected problem. Therefore, there was a joint U.S.-Israeli effort to destroy Hamas. Israel, the U.S. and Arab governments united to try to destroy Hamas – Arab oil money went to the PA for them to stop any Palestinian revolt. Now an American general is training PA police on the West Bank to destroy any opposition to Israel among the Palestinian population there. The PA actually represents the interests of the U.S. and Israel. Opposition to Oslo brands one an extremist and if one stands up for Palestinian rights it means that they support war.
Jeff Halper, the next speaker, is a joint U.S.-Israeli citizen and one of Israel’s most articulate and passionate peace activists. He is the founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) which brings volunteers from all over the world to Palestine to rebuild homes demolished by the IDF on occupied land. He spoke of “global Gaza” – a concentration camp – being an early example of what may be planned for many of us if certain people get their way. Gaza and the occupied territories are an experiment against insurgency which can be used against any of us. It is an Israeli matrix of control, an experiment in control which can be taught and exported by Israel to anywhere in the world, including the New York Police Department. “We are all Palestinians” is not just a statement of solidarity but also indicates the understanding that we can find ourselves in their situation. Israel can do whatever they want to the Palestinians. They made that clear during the invasion last year. Israel said their invasion was a military exercise. Some of the weapons, like white phosphorus, were being used for the first time.
ICAHD was the first group in Israel to endorse the Gaza Freedom March and is trying to organize a solidarity march in Israel. There is a movement there that is critical of Israel.
Halper said that governments have to be pushed by the people. The struggle against Israel’s policies have started to reach the proportions of the anti-apartheid struggle against South Africa some years ago. The “Free Palestine” movement is well known and supported throughout the world. He was at a Free Palestine gathering of 50,000 people in Seoul, Korea. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign is far ahead of the U.S. in most of the world. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S. is very critical of Israel. The Anglican Church is also. The Church of England divested from Caterpillar. There has been significant divestment in Norway, among unionists in Britain and Canada, and South African longshoremen won’t unload Israeli ships. Human rights is not a big issue in the U.S. but in the rest of the world it really means something. Allowing Israel to violate the human rights of Palestinians with impunity has lowered the stature of the U.S. in the eyes of the world. The Palestinian “little people” have shined a beacon that has exposed the neoliberal political system of the U.S. Their suffering has made clear exactly who is violating human rights.
These repressive systems can collapse very suddenly sometimes. “INJUSTICE IS UNSUSTAINABLE”. Israel would like to occupy with the consent of the Palestinian people but oppressed people do not accept their oppression. BDS will make the situation for Israel intolerable. We can hasten the collapse by our activism – it is meaningful work! Work immediately to make it happen faster. “We are winning”. 50,000 people in Gaza have committed themselves to joining the marchers and the numbers will only grow.
The final speaker was Ann Wright. She was a career U.S. Army colonel who joined the State Department in 1987. Based on her experiences in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Grenada she resigned in 2003 to protest the invasion of Iraq. Since then she has been a severe critic of U.S. policy, especially on Israel – Palestine. Because of her outspokenness, disruptive, and nonviolent behavior she has been arrested, banned from Congress and the National Press Club and placed on an FBI watch list. She has made 3 trips to Gaza this year with CodePink. Wright said that we have to hold our government accountable for it’s human rights violations all over the world, with it’s endless wars and the U.S. – Israeli action in Gaza. The U.S. sold 3 billion dollars worth of military equipment to Israel. The Obama Administration is as guilty as any other administration – he refused to speak when Israel attacked Gaza last December 27th. He watched Israel use white phosphorous that burns through people’s flesh, and he knew they were killing children and grandmothers. Nothing has been rebuilt in Gaza. The U.S. says they can’t find people to give the money to to rebuild. Well, there are a million and a half people in Gaza that are ready and able to rebuild. The Israeli attack was a “massacre”, no defense or escape was possible. The use of force was disproportionate, it was collective punishment, and it was a war crime. There was an experimental, what will it take to destroy these people’s will, element to it too.
The world will be watching the freedom marchers in Gaza. George Galloway, the British MP is also bringing a Viva Palestina group to Gaza to join the march. People from all over the world, more than 500 of them, will be marching there on December 30th with the people of Gaza. Wright added, tell your government, “We’re gonna be in your face”. “FREE GAZA! STOP THE SIEGE! STOP THE BLOCKADE!”