Tag Archives: israel

The End of the Charade

This is going to be a sort of political rant, so for those of you who are sick of or hate that sort of thing I encourage you to scroll on.

It is a rant regarding the charade which is finally coming to an end.  It is about the selected puppets of the ruling elite in the American Empire who will be paraded before the world a little more before its subjects are told that they have “chosen” one of them to lead.

Here is the deal.  I should be happy for the absurd theatrics finally being over, right? But the thing is, I’m not. I shouldn’t give a damn either, right? I no longer live in the heart of the most ruthless and powerful Empire the world has ever known. But the thing is, I do.  America IS, in fact, the most ruthless and powerful Empire the world has ever known. And its machinations have effects very far from its contested borders.

trump-vs-clinton-photo-newsweekI guess I fear what I know is coming next.  If Hillary Clinton is crowned those of us on the far Left who weep will be ridiculed, maligned or chided for not celebrating with gusto the first female President and the continuance of American aggression and dynastic rule. If in some bizarre anomaly the orange tinted creep sweeps to the throne those of us on the Left who denounced Clinton’s horrific war mongering and corporate loving record and refused to play the inane game of “lesser evilism” will be pilloried and blamed for enabling it all.

In all truth I will be thoroughly shocked if Clinton is not selected.  Even George W. Bush, the vile war criminal of the previous administration, has given tacit endorsement of Hillary Clinton in a letter condemning Trump. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, but it is remarkably simple to condemn that repugnant man with fire retardant flesh tone. And this letter speaks volumes because Bush knows full well that it will bolster Clinton in the neocon circles of the oligarchy. Scores of conservative newspapers have lined up endorsing Clinton also. So with Clinton nearly a shoe in, I know what else is coming.

 

With the Obama regime as historical precedent, it is safe to assume that white American liberals will shrug indifferent shoulders and fall asleep once more as their government drones children and grandmothers picking okra in their fields or subverts democratically elected governments in the Middle East or Africa or Latin America.  They will become champions of reactionary nationalism as a Clinton administration leads the nation into open conflicts with nuclear armed Russia.  They will once again turn their heads from the decades long Israeli apartheid regime as Clinton pledges even more support to the hard right despot Netanyahu.  They will stay silent in criticism of Clinton’s promotion of fracking or dismantling of social security, something which can be done without much protest under a Democrat.  But they can continue to post noncommittal memes on Facebook and Twitter expressing outrage or solidarity with black or brown or red people besieged by a racist system without demanding the dismantling of the very system of capitalist exploitation that is the source of their misery in the first place.

They will rest on the laurels in smug slumber since, in that case, a woman with a big “D” will be sitting in the Oval office. And we should all applaud that, right? First woman president of the American Empire and all?  Never mind that a woman named Jill Stein who, while far from perfect, had much greater progressive credentials. Never mind that Margaret Thatcher was also a woman, and one who had a remarkably similar neoconservative resume to Clinton.  Never mind that Ms. Clinton supported (and continues to support) a rightwing coup in Honduras that has taken the lives of scores of indigenous, environmental and LGBTQ people, including indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres.  Or pushed Obama into decimating Libya, once the richest state in Africa, and ghoulishly celebrated the gruesome murder of its president. Or in Haiti where she aided in the creation of a sweatshop economy on behalf of American garment corporations upon an already historically oppressed and humiliated people.

But really, who seriously believes that the privileged white Liberal class in America gives a rat’s ass about those foreign black and brown people?  How many white Liberals care about black, brown and red people here, the ones right at home labeled “super predators” by the Queen in waiting only a few years ago, or ignored by her at Standing Rock Sioux?

berta-caceres-murdered-by-the-right-wing-coup-government-that-hillary-clinton-supported-and-defends-to-this-day-photo-source-latino-rebels

libya-a-failed-state-photo-source-sean-kilpatrick

protests-against-clinton-in-haiti-photo-source-nytForgive me if I fail to celebrate with the Liberal Class if Clinton is anointed Empress. It is beyond question that Trump is a racist vile creature of narcissism and arrogant stupidity. But if self described “progressives” think the Bloody Queen will promote a left friendly agenda that will stop military aggression, the collapse of the biosphere due to blatant rape of the earth by corporations, and cease support for Wall Street then they have been drinking a Kool-Aid far more lethal than any flag waving, Trump supporting, walking head wound.

In any case, we on the true Left must somehow stomach it all and struggle on against militaristic imperialism for the sake of building a more compassionate and just world while there is still time left.  And I couldn’t be more serious about the “while there is time left” part.  We are running out of that one precious resource rapidly thanks to climate change, the ever present nuclear menace, global pandemic and biosphere collapse.  But after all, if we are still in possession of a conscience what else can we do?

End rant here.

 

Kenn Orphan  2016

An All American Fascism

The resurgence of white nationalism in mainstream American politics has left many nonplussed and baffled.  White power flags, tattoos and symbols have made a stunning comeback, and they are coupled with threats, violence and Nazi salutes at huge rallies in support of presidential candidate, and front runner, Donald Trump.  At a recent event one supporter shouted at a protester “go to fucking Auschwitz,” and in a rally held last month an audience member unabashedly asked the candidate how “we are going to get rid of” Muslims.  Mr. Trump did nothing to condemn this overtly racist point of view.  This is a phenomenon that should not be downplayed or dismissed as an anomaly.  Indeed, it is representative of a much larger and far more dangerous feature of American society itself.

There has always been a persistent strain of fascism in this country, one that has been poised to sweep in to power the kind of charismatic authoritarian of the Hitler/Mussolini stripe.  This is no more visually apparent than within Trump’s base. Stripped of agency and laden with humiliation, Trump supporters are the very emblem of an unforgiving vengeance within the disenfranchised mob.  Torches and pitchforks aside, these demoralized masses are more than ready to pounce on the last vestiges of an anemic, American civil society already weakened by the barbarity of neoliberal (free market) capitalism and plutocratic despotism.  And with environmental catastrophe and economic meltdown ever looming, this so called “fringe” may just succeed in doing the unthinkable.

Trump Fascism. David Horsey, Los Angeles TimesWith the obvious implosion of the Republican Party underway many Americans hold fast to the myth that the Democrats will save them from this unfolding nightmare.  The truth, however, is that they will painfully prolong the inevitable.  No matter how much they would like to paint it otherwise, they are just as much the party of the aristocratic class as the Republicans. They represent their interests, albeit in a less obnoxious manner than their conservative counterparts. But the effect is the same.  Their aim is to preserve the status quo that is steadily demolishing any chance of a viable future for coming generations.  Indeed, their plunder may usher this present generation into a dystopia only imagined in science fiction.

Their star candidate, Hillary Clinton, has a long, bloody history of supporting right wing coups and wars that decimated sovereign societies.  Unsurprisingly, her mentor is none other than the preeminent war criminal Henry Kissinger. And she has all but vowed to aggressively provoke a nuclear armed Russia and attack Iran on behalf of her Israeli benefactors.  But what is perhaps more troubling is her allegiance to the 1% of Wall Street, evidenced by her exorbitant speech fees at well heeled engagements and her condemnation of the Occupy Movement which sought to hold banks and corporate robber barons accountable for their malfeasance.  If she seizes power in the coming election we can be assured of an acceleration of plutocracy, not its reverse.

Hillary Clinton Banks Wall Street. Image source unknown.To be sure, the only real change in American policy has come from grassroots mass movements which upended the comfortable privilege of the aristocratic elite.  Whether demanding the end of the Vietnam War or equal rights for Black Americans, the power of social change has always stemmed from direct action from below, never from above.  But we are in new territory now and the outlook is uncertain. Fascism is undeterred by reason or reform.  It is their antithesis.  It festers in the dark corners of social hatred ever in search of a new scapegoat, and it thrives in an environment where there are fewer options for advancement or hope.  It replaces cooperation and rational debate with violent ridicule and meaningless, nationalistic jingoism.

We should not expect to see a fascism that mimics that of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy or Franco’s Spain.  This fascism is uniquely American in its flare.  Years of unfettered worship of all things military and an undying celebration of capitalism have furnished the masses with a disdain for the sustaining institutions that define a liberal democracy.  And the indifference of the liberal elite to the suffering of working people has stoked an animus that is palpable.  They will not endure sanctimonious preaching from the left on the deeply held virtues of tolerance and inclusion for much longer.  And this is largely due to being mercilessly thrown to the side for corporate privilege.  Their ranks are fed up and they are rising.

Trump woos working class, white Americans. Photo Darren McCollester, Getty ImagesOne thing is certain. A toxic brew of economic malaise and ecological decimation is simmering ever closer to the boiling point.  Alternatives to this horrifying future do exist within movements like Black Lives Matter, indigenous rights and climate justice; but if we do not face the dire outcome of this poisonous concoction with demands for revolutionary change soon, it may spill over faster than anyone can imagine.  And in its wake it will drown the civil rights and liberties that had been hard fought for, yet utterly taken for granted, in smoldering ruins.

Kenn Orphan 2016

 

The Seeds of Empathy

In the days following the horrific attacks in Paris, which claimed the lives of over 100 civilians and injured hundreds more, I returned to the United States from Europe after a long visit with family and friends. I was not in Paris this time, but I did spend time in France.  I, like so many others, have a connection with the ‘City of Light’ so this tragedy struck me in a visceral way. Whenever something like this happens there is shock accompanied by despair. But I am reminded that despite how abhorrent this incident was, there is a big world outside Western borders that suffers this each and every day and on a much larger scale. And its misery is mostly due to our willful ignorance and our leaders penchant for division, aggression and plunder.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: Mourners gather in front of the Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon restaurants on November 14, 2015 in Paris, France. At least 120 people have been killed and over 200 injured, 80 of which seriously, following a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

To the powerful of the world irony is something reserved for satirists. It is easily dismissed. Hypocrisy is not in their vocabulary either. In response to the attacks French President Francois Hollande said “France is at war.” This statement is astonishing given the country’s long history of colonialism and recent events in its foreign policy.

One might ask Mr. Hollande what the assault on Libya that left thousands dead and demolished one of the richest nations in Africa was if it was not war? Or the continued military aid to Saudi Arabia and Israel which have mercilessly slaughtered thousands in Yemen and Gaza in the last two years alone? Or France and NATO’s relentless bombing of Syria over the past few years which has done nothing but create unimaginable suffering in what once was a jewel in the Middle-East’s crown?

Syria before and after the war. Source News Items.

Unsurprisingly, in the United States political opportunists have used the tragedy in Paris to ramp up anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Syrian refugee rhetoric. Incredulously, these are the same ones who drone on endlessly each year about the non-existent “war on Christmas” on a holiday which commemorates a Middle-Eastern family seeking refuge from terror over 2000 years ago. But they cannot be bothered by such irony either, nor can they take any responsibility for a legacy of American imperialistic plunder that has fostered constant misery for millions of people daily around the world. By all accounts, crippling sanctions and the invasion of Iraq, a war based upon lies, spawned the creation of ISIS. But now it is being talked about as if it sprang out of nowhere.

Fear mongering and demonization of Syrian refugees in the media. Source Fox News.The propaganda of politicians and the mainstream media, which revel in beating the drums of nationalistic xenophobia, is ubiquitous these days. And their selective grief and outrage encourages a largely misinformed public to ignore the long list of Western backed atrocities that have caused the refugee crisis to begin with. For instance, just weeks ago the US military bombed a Doctors Without Borders run hospital in Afghanistan, burning patients to death in their beds and incinerating doctors and staff alike. But critical coverage of this was scant in the mainstream press. The same applies to grief. On the same day as the attacks in Paris suicide bombers killed scores in Beirut, but media coverage of this tragedy was dwarfed by the enormous attention that has been paid to Paris.

A relative of Samer Huhu, who was killed in a twin bombing attack in Beirut, waves his portrait. Source Associated Press.For the rest of us there is a choice. We can ignore the enormous costs of imperialism and neoliberal capitalism and believe the lies of the war profiteers; or we can choose a path toward shared humanity that sees no boundaries of worthiness when it comes to suffering. We can also oppose the political and economic order that is rapidly destroying fragile ecosystems and that perpetuates alienation and misery in most of the world.

Solidarity with those suffering in Paris is to be commended; and there is no shame in expressing it publicly. But if we do not come to realize soon that we must seed the fields of empathy for all who suffer needlessly on this ever smaller and beleaguered planet, I fear we will doom ourselves and our children to a world of perpetual savagery or even, possibly, end civilization itself once and for all.

Kenn Orphan 2015

Defining BDS

Since the recent spate of violence in Israel/Palestine, there has been a well oiled response by apologists to defend the ongoing dispossession, apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by the Israeli regime, a crime which has been permitted to continue for over 60 years. This response is not anything new, but due to the successes of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction Movement (BDS) the rhetoric has been ratcheted up.

The situation, as usual, is portrayed by most of the mainstream press as a conflict between two peoples over religion, where both are relatively equal in power. Context and history be damned.  The acts of violence committed by the Palestinians is covered as if they were random and born from a “culture of hate.”  But facts remain facts.

Gaza City Photo AFPIsrael has an army, navy and air force.  The Palestinians do not.  Israel has nuclear weapons and military aid from the most powerful nation on earth.  The Palestinians do not.  Israel has blockaded Gaza since 2007, subjecting nearly 2 million people to intolerable conditions that amount to collective punishment.  It has carved up the occupied West Bank into administrative zones that allow for military exercises and settler expansion for Jewish-only communities, and has built a wall of separation that limits Palestinian access to their jobs, farmland, medical facilities and schools.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have no access to civil courts like Jewish settlers.  They have been under military rule for decades with the Palestinian Authority, a proxy government, enforcing Israel Defense Force orders; and they are subject to military tribunals.  Even children are routinely whisked away in the middle of the night with no warning by the IDF, and taken to undisclosed detention facilities where they are often placed in solitary confinement.  And last summer the Israeli regime flattened much of Gaza killing over 2300 people, mostly civilians including hundreds of children, and injuring and displacing thousands more.  But, astonishingly, if one dares question any of this they are often accused of antisemitism.

Jewish Voice for Peace NY Chapter-End Military AidAntisemitism is as abhorrent as any other kind of social hatred.  And it is not any less repulsive when applied to one group over another.  But what is interesting is that many who have decried antisemitism seem to have no problem spewing repugnant, anti-Arab screeds and, incredulously, not seeing any irony in doing so.   This has enabled the glossing over of right wing, nationalist mobs taking to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv chanting “Death to Arabs” and attacking anyone whom they believe Palestinian or a leftist.

A Palestinian man points to Hebrew graffiti reading “Death to the Arabs” following an arson attack in Khirbet Abu Falah, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. Source Ma'an News.What has been convoluted in this discourse is the conflation of  the criticism of Zionism with antisemitism.  Zionism and Judaism are not one and the same, although many prominent Zionists would love for people to think so.  Judaism is an ethnic/religious identity with a rich tradition and culture that goes back millenia and spans dozens of societies, from Russia to Iran to Europe and the Americas. Zionism is a nationalistic, political ideology that was born of antisemitism in Europe and fashioned after European colonialism itself.

An Israeli soldier puts a Palestinian boy in choke hold for allegedly throwing rocks at Israeli tanks. Source Ha'aretz.In the early days of the Zionist movement several places were considered for a Jewish homeland, including Argentina and Uganda. But because of cultural and religious ties, the Zionists settled on Palestine. As in any colonial structure, Zionism created an ethnocracy, where the indigenous people were forcibly removed to make way for another group who are placed in a higher class than other ethnic, religious or racial groups through laws, institutionalized racism, expulsion, dehumanization and military terror.  Essentially apartheid.

Segregated Shuhada Street, Hebron, Occupied West BankContrary to some misguided assumptions, the focus of the BDS movement is not to expel Jewish people who live in the region or are native to the land. It is a non-violent protest to end the occupation, lift the crippling blockade on Gaza, and dismantle apartheid, just as was done in South Africa. The ultimate goal is one secular, democratic state, where all religious traditions and ethnicities are protected.

Many Israeli regime apologists have countered that the BDS movement singles out Israel, while ignoring the egregious and barbarous atrocities of other regimes in the area and around the world. This is also untrue. The brutal state violence and oppression of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and others is unequivocally condemned and opposed. The universal demand is an end to all military aid to these governments as well as Israel.  BDS is a non-violent response to Israeli apartheid specifically; but is an integral part of the global struggle against colonialist racism and imperialism, from the Americas to Africa to the Middle-east and Asia.

A Palestinian protester attacked by an IDF dog during a protest in the West Bank, 2012. Photo by Lazar Simeonov

A Palestinian woman clings to one of her olive trees threatened for demolition by the IDF. Source Reuters.There are, as in any movement, some who employ the use of antisemitic language in their criticism of the Israeli regime. This is intolerable, and it is also antithetical to the cause of universal human rights. These individuals or groups have their own agenda, and Palestinian solidarity is not one of them. But there are many Jewish and Israeli human rights group who share similar ideals in their support of Palestinian rights and self-determination, including Jewish Voice for Peace, B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights among many others.

Holocaust survivor in solidarity with PalestineThese voices are usually stifled or excluded from mainstream media coverage in favor of more reactionary groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) or the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who are experts at conflating criticism of Zionism with antisemitism in the public sphere. Until all voices are heard equally there will be no real justice or peace, and apartheid, alienation and dispossession will continue and grow. BDS worked to end South African apartheid, where political and diplomatic interventions failed by design. And after decades of misery, conflict and strife, it appears to be the only viable option in this case as well.

A Palestinian man holds the key to the home he was expelled from by Israeli forces. Photo Getty Images.Solidarity with the oppressed is not taking the side of one ethnic, religious or racial group over another. It is taking the side of justice and universal human rights against racism, tyranny and state violence, something that all human beings, regardless of social identity, should be entitled to.

An Israeli peace activist. Source Times Union.

Kenn Orphan 2015

Chaos and Misery, Inc.

A multiple rocket launch system was on display at the Norinco Group pavilion at an international defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February. Photo Bloomberg NewsThis week well over 100 civilians were slaughtered in Yemen by a Saudi drone strike while they were attending a wedding.  The massacre is yet one more atrocity piled upon a wretched heap of hypocrisy and hubris.  But it, like the other US supported or orchestrated drone strikes, will undoubtedly disappear from the headlines in a matter of weeks, if not days.

A man displays the bloodied shirt of a child victim at the rubble of houses destroyed by an Saudi air strike in the Okash village near Yemen's capital Source TelesurtvSaudi Arabia, like Israel, is a client state of the American Empire and is vital to its unending, colonial quest for dominance in the Middle-east.  Its atrocities, like Israel, are explained away or not even covered at all by the Western mainstream press. The medieval kingdom of Saud has beheaded nearly 90 people this year alone for “offenses” like witchcraft or blasphemy. It mercilessly persecutes its Shia minority, oppresses women, executes LGBTQ people and tolerates the enslavement of domestic workers from the Philippines. But the US media barely utters a peep (except, perhaps, to occasionally criticize the kingdom’s no driving policy for privileged Saudi women). The atrocities of ISIS, on the other hand, are rarely ever out of Western press coverage.

Saudi swordsmen used for executions. Source Yahoo.Right now, Saudi Arabia is doing to Yemen what Israel did to Gaza last summer. And, as in that case, the barbarity has the unflinching support of the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the White House, and both criminal political parties in the US Senate. As in Gaza, the poor continue to be pulverized by the powerful. And this same elite class will, most assuredly, give themselves awards for this savagery with the uncritical support from a sycophantic, apathetic corporate owned media.

The destruction of Yemen. Photo by Hani Mohammed AP.Yemen, like Cambodia or Chile or Honduras or Somalia or Libya or Ukraine will be easily forgotten by the ruling elite.  And the West will wash the entire narrative of its culpability.  It must, after all, if it intends to continue its rampage.  All battlefields have become testing grounds for their latest products. And the most lucrative industry of the American Empire is arms dealing.  It is Chaos and Misery, Inc. and you can be sure they will not give that up without a fight. 

Militarized police forces in Ferguson, Missouri. Source Reuters.But as we look at Yemen or Gaza dispassionately, we would be foolish to not take a closer look at ourselves.  The Empire is beginning to crack as our living earth groans under its insipid and insatiable corpulence.  And as it does we can expect the power class to treat the vast majority of us much like those in these ever besieged nations: as valuable when we can furnish them with wealth, and easily disposable if we refuse.

Kenn Orphan  2015

An Intolerable Nightmare

A Jewish settler walks past a Palestinian on Shuhada Street  in the West Bank city of Hebron. Nayef Hashlamoun Reuters

Israeli politicians and the press often become indignant when Israel is accused of apartheid. Other than the fact that the Palestinians have endured decades of military occupation, are not entitled to vote for the leaders that decide their fate, and are subject to different justice systems (Palestinians are under a military tribunal), there are many other examples in every day life. One example is Hebron, an occupied city in the West Bank. Here, on streets like Shuhada Street, Jews are segregated from Palestinians. Some may say that this is for “security,” but that is easily refuted because it began not after a Palestinian act of terrorism, but a Jewish one. In 1994 twenty-nine Palestinian worshipers were massacred at the Cave of the Patriarchs by American-born Jewish extremist, Baruch Goldstein.

Shuhuda Street Hebron

Today illegal Zionist settlers, who have appropriated land, are given financial incentives to stay there by the Israeli government and are given protection by the Israel Defense Force (IDF). In Hebron the IDF has literally sealed Palestinians into their homes on Shuhada Street, forcing them to enter and exit from their rooftops. At the market in Hebron Palestinians have been forced to put up a net over the walkway because settlers throw garbage, liquid and waste down on shoppers and vendors.  Throughout the occupied West Bank Jewish settlers harass Palestinians daily, cut or burn down their olive trees and poison wells with impunity. Palestinians have great difficulty obtaining building permits; and homes are routinely demolished while the Israeli government funds the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements.  As the United Nations revealed, Palestinian children (some as young as 7) are routinely arrested and held without charge or access to their parents for days or weeks.

Hebron Market with Net  Source Mother Jones


It should go without saying that criticizing this injustice is not antisemitic, a favorite slur of pro-Israel apologists. But this accusation continues despite the fact that prominent Jews and Jewish Israelis, many Holocaust survivors, have come out against the occupation. These include Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein and the late Dr. Hajo Meyer and organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace or B’Tselem. They make it clear that this is about holding Israel accountable when it endlessly claims about how it is the “only democracy in the Middle-east” or that it is a bastion of liberty and equality. This farce is easily disputed with even tacit research into the reality.  Occupation and dehumanization are married to one another and after decades it lays down the foundations to become a state sanctioned institution.

Apartheid ended in South Africa because of a sustained movement of boycotts and divestment. And today the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement is attempting to do the same. This region could become a bastion of equality in a secular state for all people. The indigenous population could obtain autonomy and their dignity as human beings could be recognized and honored.  Colonialism could be stopped.  But as long as the United States supports this kind of intransigence and entrenched racist policy, BDS remains the only non-violent and hopeful alternative to what has become an intolerable nightmare for millions of people.

Palestinian boy holds sign in Hebron  Source Shutterstock  Mother Jones

Kenn Orphan 2015

(The video is courtesy of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem בצלם.)

To Save an Entire World

Marc Chagall PassoverIt is Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating freedom from slavery. The details of the story or its historicity are not important because all cultures have myths that provide foundational meaning; and rituals provide us an opportunity for the tradition of storytelling as well as reflection. Arguably it is this myth that has been the most influential in Judaism, which has a long and rich history of ethics and social justice. Two thousand years ago the great teacher Hillel said “whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” Bearing centuries of pogroms and persecution which led to the ultimate horror of the Holocaust, Jews have maintained a cultural identity that defied the odds. This heritage is rooted in liberation and justice. So it is painful for many Jews of conscience to see how the Israeli regime has sullied much of that past with the stain of apartheid, racism and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

The Zionist experiment may have been born of the injustice of antisemitism in Europe; but it ended in reflecting the cruelest and most brutal forms of European colonialism. Theodor Herzl (1860 – 1904), one of the founders of Zionism, said: “We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border … while denying it any employment in our country.”  David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, stated: “We must do everything to insure they [the Palestinians] never do return … The old will die and the young will forget.”  And in 1983 Raphael Eitan, chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces explained: “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”

But as Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish said so eloquently:

“The Palestinians’ understanding of this war is embodied in their exposure to a massive uprooting. It is embodied in their being transformed into refugees within their own homeland and beyond it. It is embodied in the attempt to expel them from being, from space, from time, after the usurpation of their homes and their histories, after their transformation from an honest entity in time and place to a ghostly surplus to requirements, exiles from being.

But the makers of the nakba, of the catastrophe, failed to break the will of the Palestinian people and to eradicate their national identity, through diasporisation, through massacre, through pretending that the mirage was a reality, through the production of a counterfeit history. In the past five decades they have failed to push us into absenting ourselves or to cast us into a state of amnesic dementia.”

Today this experiment is on shaky ground and it has created a country that lives in a state of constant paranoia and aggressive nationalism. Many Jews around the world and within Israel have and continue to fight against the injustice this ideology has wrought in the struggle for equal rights for all residents of the region and not just one privileged ethnic group. They understand that if any nation wishes to be considered a democracy it cannot persist in decades long systemic discrimination and military occupation. Israelis Watch the Bombing of Gaza in Sderot Andrew Burton Getty Images Occupation generally leads to social hatred, distrust and antipathy towards the other. In Israel this was no more clear than when Israelis gathered on a hilltop outside the town of Sderot to watch the destruction of Gaza this past summer. Many were left scratching their heads at such callous disregard for an entire population with no where to run. It is true that residents of Sderot have had to deal with terrifying random rockets, but the disproportionate response by Israel was surreal and horrifying. Over 2100 residents were killed, over 500 of them children, and tens of thousands left homeless by a bombing campaign that leveled entire neighborhoods. Hundreds of thousands were left scarred, both physically and psychologically. Hospitals, schools and UN shelters were bombed. Boys were killed playing football on the beach, sports fans were killed in a cafe watching the World Cup on t.v., and whole families were wiped out in the blink of an eye. A woman holds the body of her daughter, who medics said died on Friday from injuries sustained in an Israeli air strike on Thursday afternoon, at her funeral in Rafah Khuzaa Gaza ruins Sderot itself is an example of one town out of hundreds that was cleansed of its Palestinian residents in 1948 in what is referred to as the Nakba, or Catastrophe. Scores of Palestinians were made refugees in the Gaza Strip straining the resources of the existing residents. Everyday they look at the homes that were once theirs.  Today Gaza is blockaded on all sides by Israel and Egypt. Food, construction materials and medicine are heavily restricted. The water treatment plants, already in dire shape, were decimated by Israeli bombing leaving nearly 90% of the water contaminated and undrinkable. Fishermen are routinely fired on if they stray outside the boundary of a few nautical miles. The UN estimates that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020. In the occupied West Bank Jewish settlers, under the protection of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), routinely hack down or burn Palestinian olive trees, destroy their wells and harass village residents. The city of Hebron is segregated and Palestinian businesses and homes have been walled up by the IDF. The wall of separation has divided towns and prevented farmers access to their fields. And Palestinian houses are demolished leaving whole families homeless. Israeli and Palestinian Women Protest the Seperation Wall at Bilin Image Courtesy of Gush Shalom This kind of sustained injustice and dehumanization infects both the victims and their victimizers. And its persistence creates a broken people, unable to face the cancer of their hate and entrenched in paranoia. But over the years, despite it being an uphill battle, Jews and Palestinians have come together to fight the occupation.  Jewish ethics have informed environmental and social justice movements around the world, from the Civil Rights movement in the United States to the fight against apartheid in South Africa. But like many other traditions it has been co-opted by those only interested in war mongering, sowing fear and maintaining power. Reclaiming it is essential because if there is anything that should be communicated this Passover it would be the message of liberation from oppression. It is a moral imperative that is rooted deeply in the human psyche, and it is one that belongs to all people who seek justice for the oppressed.

Kenn Orphan  2015

Facing Our Greatest Nemesis

Photographer Paulo Fridman Bloomberg Sao Paulo, Brazil, a city of over 11 million people, may literally run out of water. Let that really sink in for a moment. Politicians in Brazil ignored or downplayed this crisis until it reached the calamitous point it is at now.  Instead they poured their attention and money into the World Cup and displaced thousands of people from their homes in the process.  In recent weeks people across varying demographics have taken to the streets to protest the gross malfeasance of a government drunk on the lies of neoliberalism, which Wikipedia defines as “privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.”   It is also the most destructive, savage and final stage of capitalism. Photograph Andre Penner AP For most of us the enormity of this catastrophe is still difficult to grasp.  But there it is right in front of us. The normalcy bias, that almost hypnotic state of denial we often experience when faced with disaster, appears to be ubiquitous these days. The media reports these stories (sometimes) but there is seldom, if ever, a discussion about the global ramifications an existential threat like this presents for all of humanity.  Sao Paulo should serve as a loud wail of warning that the entire world has forever changed, and we are not prepared for what lies ahead.

Crops Dying Time
Herein lies the lesson for all of us.  As climate change accelerates and the resources of our planet dwindle, rivers dry up, fields lay fallow, and flood waters rise, the wealthy and powerful will do the only thing they know how to do. They will ignore or downplay serious environmental problems.  They will build more prison walls. They will arm their police forces with the equipment of the battlefield. They will launch war after war of imperialistic plunder cloaked in a veil of meaningless slogans and jingoism. They will employ racism to divide. They will continue to dismantle civil liberties under the guise of national security. They will instruct the media to distract and invert the truth. And they will keep us all on a diet while they feast on what remains. Gaza City Photo AFP Israel’s treatment of Gaza also provides a window into a future that all humanity may soon know all too well. It is emblematic of a future of militarized walls and open air prisons. Since the beginning of the blockade in 2007 Gaza has been reduced to rubble over and over again, the last time in the summer of 2014, in what can accurately be called collective punishment. Food and construction materials are still restricted. And an Israeli official spoke plainly regarding their intentions. “The idea,” he said, “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” After Israel repeatedly destroyed its infrastructure, Gaza may now be out of clean drinking water as soon as 2020. The casualness of such barbarity is staggering, especially since the population of Gaza is over 40% children under 14 years of age. Khuzaa Gaza ruins No matter how one views the history of this region, it should be clear to most that Israel is far more powerful than Gaza, which is restricted by Israel in exporting goods, and has no army, air force or navy. In contrast, Israel is an economic powerhouse which exports military technology and pharmaceuticals, and is the fourth largest military power in the world in addition to possessing nuclear weapons. It also controls Gazan airspace, restricts travel in and out of the strip, and routinely fires on fishermen off its coast. It is an example of neoliberal plunder being played out with textbook precision in a Western nation.  The powerful vanquish the powerless; and the wealthy grow their wealth in stupefying proportions in the midst of immense and imposed poverty. Pollution in India Source Voice of India In India, the world’s most populous democracy, neoliberalism has carved out a landscape that magnifies wealth inequities. As in China, river ways are polluted with industrial waste in a mad dash toward the reward of material wealth and an inevitable descent into dystopian misery. It is a nation that is literally on the brink of mass migration, social collapse and extinction, but is one of the most lauded among the neoliberal elite. Here one can see the grotesque display of wealth sitting upon a pile of refuse being praised for its so-called progress.  Mumbai is a visual aid to understanding the end result of neoliberalism.  Gilded towers rise in supercilious impudence above fetid shanty towns of exploitation and misery.  And the wealthy have created an insular bubble to shield them from the blight of indigence that surrounds them.  As in Israel, there is a growing reactionary nationalism which poses unique and terrifying prospects given that it too possesses nuclear arms.

Mumbai India Source Getty Images
In truth the immoral metric of neoliberal capitalism is incapable of preparing us for the catastrophies looming on the horizon. Its machinery is greased by illusion, distraction and willful ignorance. It is the reason why depression and anxiety dominate the Western psyche. It is the most emblematic feature of a dying civilization, medicated to numbness through drugs, alcohol, violence, political spectacle and vacuous entertainment.  It is an order that views the powerless as either commodities for exploitation or nuisances for disposal. The oil under the thawing Arctic or the beleaguered rainforests of South America and the bread basket of war torn Ukraine are all business opportunities. The damage done is calculated as “externalities,” essentially someone else’s problem. But the world is getting smaller and the dumping grounds are getting closer, even to the enclaves of the privileged and powerful.

02. Misery's CompanyWe, as a species, have either created, permitted or have been oppressed by the order that is threatening our collective demise in a mere blip of geologic time. Indeed, it is this order that has already sentenced countless species to the halls of extinction; and enslaves millions of people around the world in sweatshop fire traps, pesticide ridden fields and lung choking mines. But our dissent is a raft to actualized freedom. Our ability to simply say no may be our last and greatest action against the brutality and cruelty of our age.  Walruses are finding less and less sea ice. Image by the U.S. Geological Survey.Unique Fish Species is Dangerously Close to Extinction. Photo Source Animal Planet.Endangered Sea Turtles. Photo Jordi Chias PujolIt is certain that neoliberal capitalism’s days are numbered. To wit, regardless of its implacable hubris, it simply cannot outsmart nature.  Sao Paulo, Gaza and India provide us with some of the best examples we have of its dystopian future.  They should serve as warnings and ignite our conscience and imagination.  But the minutes to midnight are quickening; and the ability of our species to deny reality and delay action is staggering.  It is true that human beings have a remarkable capacity to rise from improbable ashes, but now we are facing the greatest nemesis we have ever encountered… ourselves.  And the odds of us rising again after this ever impending fall are getting slimmer by the second.

Kenn Orphan   2015

Looking South

Mural in Bogota Columbia Commemorating the Banana Massacre     There is no justice for the victims of western imperialism, at least not in the American courtroom.  This year, a U.S. court of appeals ruled in favor of Chiquita Brands International who admitted to funding the United Self-Defense Committees of Colombia (AUC), a rightwing paramilitary group, that slaughtered scores of Columbians in recent years.  It underscores a long history of corporate impunity that is drenched in the blood of the poor.

On December 6, 1928 thousands of Columbians were massacred in the town of Ciénaga on behalf of the United Fruit Company, now Chiquita Brands International.  The slaughter of these workers was at the behest of the US government who threatened to invade Columbia to defend UFC’s interests.  This was only one example of this company wrecking havoc and subverting democracy throughout the hemisphere with the assistance of the US government.

Cover for Chiquita Music SheetIn 1954 a mercenary army hired by the United Fruit Company and assisted by the US government, staged a military coup which overthrew the democratically elected, reform oriented government of Guatemala and replaced it with a fascist, military dictatorship and, essentially, neo-feudalism. When some Mayans protested their oppression all Mayans in the country were collectively punished, culminating in the genocide of nearly 250,000 people and creating at least 1 million refugees.

Israel was also complicit in the genocide, supplying arms and training mercenaries.  General Rios Montt, the military general who is largely blamed for directing the slaughter, gave his personal thanks to both the US and Israel for assisting him in the rape, torture and slaughter of the country’s indigenous population.  Montt was an evangelical Christian minister and a personal friend of both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. He was also unquestioningly supported and praised by President Ronald Reagan.

Rios Montt and Ronald Reagan juxtaposed to the Mayan Genocide“President Ríos Montt,” Reagan said, “is a man of great personal integrity and commitment . . . . I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”

According to a 2004 report on the massacre by the Inter-American Court on Human rights, Montt’s forces:

“separated the children and the young women aged from about 15 to 20. Then the massacre began. First they tortured the old people, saying they were guerrillas, then they threw two grenades and fired their guns. Finally they sprayed petrol around and set fire to the house… [The next day, Buenaventura Manuel Jeronimo] emerged from his hiding place to see the destruction they had caused. Along with Eulalio Grave Ramírez and his brothers Juan, Buenaventura, and Esteban, they put out the flames that were still consuming the bodies. Those that weren’t totally charred showed signs of torture, as did the naked bodies of the youngest women.”

Rios Montt with his victims in the photos behind  Photo Credit  Gabriela Alvarez Castaneda

Another account was from a survivor:

“After having killed our wives, they brought out our children. They grabbed their feet and beat their heads against the house posts. I had six children. They all died, and my wife as well.. All my life my heart will cry because of it.”
– sole survivor of San Francisco massacre in Huehuetenango, Guatemala

General Mott was charged with genocide, but his monied legal team has successfully stalled due process of the trial on technicalities.

Indigenous Maya witness and testify at former Guatemalan dictator Rios Montts genocide trial  Source ReutersUnited Fruit Company (Chiquita Brands International) was also complicit in aiding the Honduran dictator General Oswaldo López Arellano into power, later deposed, in 1972.  Fast forward to 2009 it is not too difficult to connect the dots between the coup that removed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, who proposed a 60% raise in the minimum wage, to Chiquita, who vehemently opposed such a move.

We are seeing the tragic repercussions of neoliberal economic policies that allow US corporations to spread tyranny and terror abroad in the name of profit.  Now thousands of child refugees are flowing over the border, sent by their families in a desperate attempt to escape the hellish conditions that are a direct result of US foreign and economic policy.  If the American government was serious about stemming the flow of immigrants to the US it would begin by holding corporations accountable for their crimes and abuses.  But despite the catchy slogans, imperialism is about dominance and plunder, not democracy and human rights.

Mayan mother and child, Guatemala

There is hope to be found, but it does not lie in the kangaroo courts of oligarchs or corrupt governments of US supported banana republics.  Several South American nations, spurred on by the courageous persistence of the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, have mounted laudable opposition to US imperialism.  But their struggle does not come without consequences.  They may not suffer the unjust isolation that Cuba has, but they face a tide of belligerence from the corporate media and undoubtedly covert subversion from Washington.

Nevertheless their struggle against corporate tyranny should stand as testament to the persistence of social justice.  And Americans may soon need to look south for inspiration as we face what is fast becoming a corporate police state here at home.

Kenn Orphan   2014

An Absurd Joke

Khuzaa Gaza ruinsIn the age of social media images and videos are accessible to virtually anyone anywhere on the planet instantaneously.  This has made it increasingly difficult for brutal regimes to hide their crimes.  We see this in Aleppo, Syria and Donetsk, Ukraine; and we see this in Gaza today. One of the prevailing justifications given for Israel’s murderous assault on the captive population of Gaza has been self-defense.  But this photograph shatters that story like glass.

Israel’s continued narrative of perpetual victim is beginning to fray.  It was an implausible notion to begin with given that it enjoys lavish support from one of the most powerful nations on the planet.  Nevertheless, the hawks of war continue to play this worn out old record.  It is all they have left in their tattered bag of moral excuses.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA

It is the oft repeated tale of empire. Empathy is not afforded to the uprooted indigenous and the ethnically cleansed.   They are stripped of their humanity and categorized as a “demographic problem.”  Any resistance, even if it is non-violent, is painted as terrorism.  And any characteristic that shows them as a caring parent, or a child full of wonder, or a young couple in love, is ignored or marginalized.  The colonial settler, prodded on by the empire, is cast as a victim against savages.

Gaza City Photo AFP

But as daybreak casts its light on the pulverized remains of an oppressed and brutalized people, the excuses are being exposed for the shameless lies that they are.  The ruins of Gaza attest to the farce of self-defense.  From the bombed out hospitals and universities to the graves of children who were executed for committing the crime of playing football on a beach, the jingoistic infused rhetoric of the powerful is more and more sounding like an absurd joke.  Only no one with a conscience is laughing.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(photo: Khuzaa, Gaza/AP)