But, as my partner assures me, this has happened many times before.
It seemed an afterthought, this 1.5 trillion bailout to Wall Street. Whereas before, Mammon expected us to bow before his majesty because he simply demanded it like the droit du seigneur, he might reckon that the generation who got fucked in 2008 won’t just take that for a reason. Not this time. This time, something more drastic was needed to leverage.
Today, a sagging profit trajectory has found its perfect mate in a virus. The markets were sagging, a fetid boil that needed to be lanced. All its priests tip-toed around, praying to Mammon that if they were quiet enough, the boil might just continue to grow indefinitely. You could hear the collective groan of a million capitalists as the virus came around and did what no one else was willing to do. It was brave enough, and powerful enough, to say that the emperor really was buck-ass naked.
Cut interest rates? – Won’t get factories back online in China. Payroll tax? – Won’t pay unemployment insurance for billions – and to buy what, anyway? An bailout initial bailout twice the size of 2008? – Well this, at least, will solidify the hold the ruling class has on its gentrifying estate.
And yet, watch capitalism keep slumping, demanding yet more blood to justify its continued existence.
If the virus really is some slap from God, then the way that those in power in the US have reacted is simply to use it as an opportunity to shore up power. The death of social democracy is now A-12 news.
I prefer to read the funny pages: so many of the oldheads slated to die first are voting against universal healthcare. All the unions so weak so as to not be able to grieve if it’s not safe to go to work. The gig economy, responsible for much of the economic growth in the last 5 years, now knee-capped, infected, sick and forced to work anyway. All the movements suddenly sidelined by quarantine, a sense of social responsibility, while the foxes have their way with the chicken coop.
But don’t panic. That’s the market’s job. Just sit back, relax, strap in, and make sure to keep tuning in for the latest incompetence, closures and freak-outs. While ICE is dragging the sick from their hospital beds, take solace that at least Cuba will survive. The contradictions are heightening. Hope to see you on the other end, once we figure all this out.
I didn’t want to watch another video of someone getting their head cut off. I was barely seventeen when video of WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl’s beheading was uploaded on the internet. The brutality of the Syrian Civil War, the children dead in pieces in Gaza, all of the other images of ISIS uploaded on to the internet were too much blood for me. And the fact that the video of James Foley kneeling in the hot sun next to a menacing, knife-wielding man was immediately yanked off of the internet meant for sure this video was more brutal than all the rest. Considering the sheer volume of grotesque imagery available on Youtube and Twitter, that which we cannot see must be more truly horrible. I asked a comrade if he saw the video, and he told me no, because that sort of thing wasn’t good for the mind. Everyone else said the same thing. And I had no desire to watch it. I could let others tell me about it.
But here’s my comrade telling me to watch it, go ahead and watch it. He sends me a live leak video. I watch it, and if James Foley really is dead, there is no conclusive evidence here – there is barely any gore, in fact no active representation of fatal violence (not counting Obama’s speech at the beginning). The only blood in the video is in the still image of a decapitated body whose face is covered in blood. And there is no way to say that it’s James Foley. As the shrouded menace grabs James Foley by the chin and begins to saw away at his neck, the movement is exaggerated and there is no blood. Fade to black. Fade up on the photo of a body that may be Foley’s. Fin.
Journalists now are either saying they have not seen the video or they are saying that the video clearly shows the beheading of James Foley.
A gigantic video screen in downtown Beijing is showing gruesome footage of the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Muslim extremists and images of racially charged riots in the Missouri town of Ferguson. – “In busy Beijing, graphic video of James Foley’s beheading is shown over and over on a giant screen” (NY Daily News)
…In the video Foley delivers a statement calling on his friends and family to “rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government.”
Then the ISIL member makes a statement. Speaking in what may possibly be a British accent, he identifies Foley and says his death is a direct result of American intervention in Iraq.
“So any attempt by you Obama, to deny the Muslims of living in safety under Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”
He then beheads Foley. –“Video shows ISIL beheading of photojournalist James Foley” (Politico)
In the video posted Tuesday on YouTube, Foley is seen kneeling next to a man dressed in black. Foley reads a message, presumably scripted by his captors, that his “real killer” is America.
“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again,” he can be heard saying in the video.
He is then shown being beheaded. –“Video shows ISIS beheading U.S. journalist James Foley” (CNN)
There is even an article in the BBC titled “Experts warn of trauma after watching Foley death video” – because while the footage of children hoisting decapitated heads high in Raqaa and stills from mass executions are brutal, sure, for some reason they don’t really compare to the trauma and brutality of watching a white American man allegedly begin to be murdered.
I don’t really know what has happened to James Foley, but the question of why we should pretend this video shows something that it does not deserves to be answered. Why the swift media blackout of the footage? Why the possible play-acting? Why the fake knife?
Maybe this all boils down to facts, and the refusal to share them with us, the refusal to follow-up on sources. Why was the media telling us that he was being held by the Syrian government until this video was released?
Why are they still saying that? Why is this man’s disappearance and alleged murder a casus belli that we are not allowed to review, one that journalists are steadfastly refusing to investigate?
And of course, we should ask the producer of this video – allegedly an ISIS guy – why bother to put something up that looked so weird, possibly fake? The organizing strategy of ISIS is clearly one of terror and nightmarish presentations of gore. Why did they leave it out for the Americans?
And now I really have to ask – how many fingers am I holding up? Do you see three? You’re wrong, it’s four. Try harder.
Red salute to the millions who died in the fight against fascism! Tragically, it seems there are more martyrs to come.
Emboldened by US backing of their newly-installed government in Kiev, fascists brutally murdered at least forty anti-fascists in Odessa this last week. The response should have been unequivocal – ¡No pasarán! – but immediately following the tragedy, the spin machine was kicked into full gear. Who could say who actually killed the protesters? Who could say they did not kill themselves with piano wire? And here comes the anti-communist “Left” squad with truncheons, beating back people who mourn the death of these martyrs with their famous slogan: Neither Moscow nor DC.
Positioning the United States, which is undoubtably at the helm of our planetary slide into darkness, as a comparable threat to Russia, encircled on all sides by the American war machine, is laughable, if not actively malicious. According the latest SIPRI report on military expenditures, The United States spent $640 billion on “defense” in 2013, while Russia, with its conscripted military, spent a little more than 13% of what the US did.
But to frame this tragedy as a conflict between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian forces is to buy into the idea that Ukraine is standing bravely, on wobbly fawn’s legs, against the giant monster of Russia. Another way to frame the debate would be that a US funded coup brought a fascist, pro-austerity government into power in Kiev, and mobs of brownshirts are mopping up localized resistance against the fascists in parts of East Ukraine, going as far as to torture and burn them alive. If the Russian government is offering assistance to these antifascists, among them communists, then shouldn’t we as antifascists even be a bit glad? And yet…
Even if there were anti-government protesters – *cough* excuse me, I mean to say Pro-Russians – shooting at pro-government protesters – *cough* excuse me, I mean to say Pro-Ukraines* – does this excuse the butcher of 40 armless civilians and then the arrest of hundreds more? I missed the numbers of those killed outside of the House of Labor that day… how many were there?
But for socialists, those who aspire to instill change in our world, who believe the system is fundamentally unjust and stacked against the world’s oppressed supermajority, the insistence on condemning “both imperialisms” is clearly an excuse to do nothing. A cop-out.
Warning flags go up when one hears the following: Yes, but isn’t Putin bad? You’re not saying you’re a “Putin-understander” are you? Saddam did gas his own children. Ghadaffi was leaning towards market reforms, wasn’t he? Iran makes its women wear hijab. It’s not purely socialist. Etc. Chances are these are people who cannot be arsed into marching to support the people being lynched in Ukraine. And if they were, well, they’d feel compelled to hand out flyers while marching explaining that yes, Putin is bad too. When you give credence to the imperialist narrative, you give people excuses not to act. What’s the point? Both sides are clearly in the wrong, and the offender bears the brunt of the barbarity.
This is false propaganda. The American fantasy of a hulking bloodthirsty Russia must be dispelled. Let the Russian left worry about Putin. The American left should be worrying about their own president, their own two-party mock democracy, the oppressed nations of African Americans and the Native Americans, the shadow, superexploited workforce they call “illegal”. And, more pressingly, the billions under surveillance, millions under occupation, drones butchering children, and yes, tax money going into the hands of fascists in Ukraine, who make molotov cocktails and strangle pregnant women to death.
There are fascists marching in Ukraine now. They are doing better than that, they have been installed and recognized by NATO and her allies. They are emboldened. They are firing on their own civilians who march for Victory Day, the day commemorating the unquantifiable sacrifice made by the Soviet Union in smashing Nazi Germany. Forty million killed as USA and UK sat back on their hands and watched, intentionally hoping the two would cull each other’s numbers. When the Ukrainian people hope to beat back the tide of austerity and god knows what else, they are labelled “Pro-Russian”. When they object to an unelected government on a “suicide mission” to strip the population of its last shreds of prosperity, must we allege they are on Russian payroll? Can we not guess that the Ukranian people, themselves having lost millions to Nazi aggression, know the cost is too high without “Russian agents” telling them about it?
So, on this Victory Day I try and remember all the people still fighting fascism today just as much as those who died fighting. As an American, I look to my own heroes and seek to emulate them in my struggle. And this means, as an American, being uncompromising and unwavering in my denouncement of our imperialist aggression abroad.
Jeremy Scahill gets out of the tank and walks with the locals
Richard Rowley makes a good documentary – well shot, well narrated, good storytelling – but there was something that kept nagging me throughout the showing. I finally put my finger on it near the end, when Jeremy Scahill was going over his revelations, his horror at how largely evil the world has become in the last 10 years. I remember being a bit of a smug huff at his crawling out of a tank in Afghanistan to explore the surroundings on his own, his anguish in facing a “boring” life back in Park Slope, all pretty normal for a documentary. Even the bloodied Somali corpses as props for Scahill to express appropriate disgust and horror is pretty par for course in an American documentary against an imperial backdrop. But what really had me was – really? What’s changed? Targeted assassinations, kill lists, death squads, shadow proxy wars.. none of this is particularly new. Not even the part about extrajudically killing American citizens, either at home or abroad. I even asked the question to the panel at the end, maybe is the change something to do with the executive branch having more concentrated power? But this question was glazed over. Instead, we learn about how Scahill’s book (available for purchase by the concession stand) and this documentary were “piercing the veil” and how the New York Times calls it “riveting”. At one point, it was even compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was also credited with starting the Civil War, which is not only strange but a weird way of reading history.
But then, the scope was rather small. Even though the film describes 75 countries as suffering JSOC invasions and drone strikes, we are only presented with the theaters we understand a bit about already: Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. It was strange to me how Pakistan – being the main focus of these attacks – was somehow left out of the story. But either way, we are given “Islamic terrorism” and “drug cartels” as being the main reasons behind these attacks, with no broader scope as to the United State’s geopolitical and strategic capital interests. We get the feeling from the film that America needs to be doing something about these terrorist Muslims and drug lords, but perhaps it could be in a more humane way. After all, there is no dialectical relationship between the Taliban and the women and children slaughtered by Hellfire missiles. The link cannot exist because then we must see it also exists between Scahill, the Hellfire missiles being used to kill, and ourselves safe and sound in the IFC theater.
The finest part of the film is where a Somali general tells Scahill how Americans are the “masters of war” and “great teachers”. But the point is given in such a way where Americans watching have the chance to immediately settle back into the comfortable dichotomy of the Taliban vs. innocent Afghanis. Black and white, good guys and bad guys. No relationship, no history, just the sort of hogwash George Bush would hoot about on the radio. After all, we too must scramble to separate ourselves from responsibility. We too must be able, as Americans, to separate ourselves from our government – after all, we voted for Kerry in 2004 and did our part. In this film, there is no dialectical relationship between the people and power. Surely there can be no connection between our relatively comfortable lives in the United States and children born without limbs in Fallujah – otherwise we really could do something about the violence done in our names.
It was a good documentary, as I said. It’s important that people know what’s going on, how the United States’s endless lust for war affects human beings all over the world. However it should not be understood as “groundbreaking” or something that will change the tide of politics forever in this country. Whipping out my checkbook or signing a petition is not going to stop America’s ravenous appetite for blood and gold. These sorts of things have always happened in American history, maybe not with so much executive power and technological gadgets, but the idea has remained the same for hundreds of years. The question elicited from the film shouldn’t be “what can I do?” but rather, “how does this happen?” Once we understand how the machine works, we can properly throw a wrench in the gears.
The other questions during the Q&A session were mainly concerned with calls to action, what is it that we can do? The questions sounded rather like the “we” meant a crowd of individuals as opposed to “we” the people. They brought up a journalist jailed in Yemen, petitions for his release as he was arrested while covering this story. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as well-off citizens nestled on the island of Manhattan, is there nothing more you can do than sign a petition? On your own? I guess not. In the theater, many of those watching the horrific catalog of violence wrecked by the American government probably voted for Barack Obama, the man whose voice on the phone actually demanded the Yemeni journalist’s imprisonment, the man whose order slaughters thousands of unnamed innocents. The viewer does not trust their own ability because she is limited by their view of the world where all one can do is sign a petition and vote the lesser of two villainous warmongers.
New to the blogosphere, I thought I would introduce myself by proposing a debate that I have waged in my head recently regarding dignity and morality amid repression. The latest emanation of this debate occurred after I watched an interview with Israeli journalist Amira Hass. A resident of Ramallah since 1997 and the only Israeli journalist living in the West Bank, read and addressed criticisms of her op-ed article advocating Palestinian resistance against Israel, especially stone-throwing. Within Israel, the response to the Ha’aretz opinion piece has escalated beyond hate mail to calls for her arrest for inciting violence.
As Hass expresses her feelings in conversation with Amy Goodman, the two clash regarding the issue of violent resistance against oppression. For Hass, her concern was not to discern the most effective or noble methods of protest, but to recognize the capacity of individuals to express their feelings about Israel, in particular, and life in Palestine, in general. It is this capacity for self-expression and communication that occupation effectively obliterates.
The question that remains with me after this conversation is, whether it’s possible for individuals to achieve their morality amid oppression? And if oppression stifles individual fulfillment and liberation, then how can one avoid surrendering to wretched circumstances? At this point, circumstance turns life, itself, into a battleground between aspiration and resignation.
Less than 72 hours after two bombs went off in Boston, killing three and wounding hundreds, Human Events (a conservative newspaper) has already begun to lament the cold trail left behind by the perpetrators. President Obama briefly addressed the media and, at first, refrained from using the words “terror” or “terrorism”. Janet Napolitino has claimed there is no “broader plot” involved in these bombings. These three developments more than anything lead me personally to believe that these bombings were domestic in nature, probably spawned out of the same sort of nativist, racist movements that inspired Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph.
What ultimately happened?
Napolitano eventually told Congress that DHS was going to remove the report from its websites. Some of the people in the media assumed they were recalling the report. That never happened. There is actually a formal process involved when you want to rescind a report. The only reason you do so is if there was something erroneous in the document.[…]
Is it off the DHS website today?
Yes. It was removed from various law enforcement computer systems, and classified systems too. […]
What happened to your DHS unit?
[…]Eventually, they ended up gutting my unit. All of this happened within six to nine months after the furor over the report. Analysts then began leaving DHS. One analyst went to ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], another to the FBI, a third went to the U.S. Marshals, and so on. There is just one person there today who is still a “domestic terrorism” analyst.
Though terror from the domestic right in the United States has caused hundreds of deaths in the past twenty years, in recent times we have been quietly ushered away from such scenes of violence, politicians describing these as “lone wolves” who, for instance, fly planes into federal buildings for reasons of mental insanity. It echoes the response in Norway to the Anders Breivik trial, where a man who penned a thousand-word manifesto espousing fascist and nationalist ideals was simply labeled (and tried as!) “insane” for murdering 77 mostly young people.
The excuse in Breivik’s case and in other American cases was that it was important not to create a martyr. This is false. Martyrs are created everyday in the world wherever American bombs make contact. The true reason is to not push the idea that American supremacy – rooted in white supremacy – results in such violence.
To describe something as American, or All-American, is a bestowal of value. Nothing negative is described as “All-American” – the enemies of our society do not look American, they do not act American, they are as far away from American as possible. Muslims and Arabs, after 9/11, stressed their “American-ness” in an effort to stem racist violence. The people in our prisons are mostly of color – certainly not considered “All-American” by any measurement of common mythology. Terrorists, likewise, are foreign to our body. In our collective mindset, as former Obama advisor David Axelrod says, “The word has taken on a different meaning since 9/11“. The mythological unity that was culturally and politically required for the total commitment to economic disaster and total war also required doing away with white terrorism.
The American myth is rooted in Wild West shoot-outs, covered wagons, individualism, self-reliance and a lot of guns. What is left unsaid but is certainly understood in this is also the total supremacy of the white man. If white men become terrorists in official parlance, then our national identity is shook to its core. The ideas of self-reliance, individualism, conquering “untamed” peoples and lands would be suddenly revealed as packed together with a racial myth that is still even used to challenge the legitimacy of the president, who is of color. Why has the trail gone cold in the Boston bombing? Why have white terrorists been labelled “insane” or “lone wolves”? It is because our society is still dependent on this myth of white supremacy to hold up a national identity that enables the continued subjugation of billions worldwide, including the American poor, seen in their laziness and lack of material success as unAmerican and generally portrayed as non-white.
The left, people of color and feminists understand too well that white supremacy exists at the expense of our safety and security. Occupy and other leftist movements are busted up with violence while the Klan gets a police detail when they march and the Tea Party is seen as a viable, legitimate political force in the United States – something that can find a home in the system of American/white supremacy. When the media ignores this connection, when the government has no one to take care of tracking down these (white) terrorists, when we are told the “trail has gone cold”, then we are also given an implicit message: Watch your back! They are still out there!
I grew up in the south and I’d never seen racism like I had in Israel. I was totally shocked. Putting aside all of the incredible racism exhibited by the occupation, on that side of the wall, I’d never seen little boys spit at Muslim women and drag their fingers across their throat. There was a public lynching in West Jerusalem last year. I’d never before in my life seen armed soldiers harass innocent people on the street because of their race – and in Tel Aviv, no less.
Yet this racism – and not even the systemic racism as exhibited by the gargantuan proportion of non-Jewish people in prison, the refusals to rent or sell to non-Jewish people, the differences in schools – this racism among Israelis of Jewish heritage is never properly cited as something that reflects so much on Zionism.
It [the Deir Yassin battle] became a basic founding myth in the Palestinian consciousness, and therefore in Palestinian culture. It serves as a fundamental example for the claim that the Jews committed genocide against the Palestinians in 1948, and expelled, knowingly and intentionally, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians…
The Jerusalem Post review exists not to review a book so much as to actively denigrate what it calls the “founding myth” of Palestinian nationality. As if it could make a difference to those in Haifa, who were either rolling lit bombs into Palestinian neighborhoods or escaping in boats. As if it could make a difference to those in Yalo, who were dispossessed of their villages and turned into refugees nearly 20 years later. The Nakba denier focuses on stories, disproving individual accounts, shaking fists at publishers and blacklisting academics. They never step back and let their eyes rest on the giant concrete wall that splits the land like a raised scar. They invade Lebanon to kill “terrorists” and wheel their tanks right by the refugee camps. They focus more on the light of the beautiful flares over Sabra & Shatila instead of on the slaughter going on below.
When they look at the Nakba, they see cowards and simple villagers, stupid fools who take to the road in bare feet. The denier’s history cuts off as the dust settles in the village and then, not hours later, a new dust rises from the tires of trucks bringing in new people that find abandoned food on the table and bedding still warm.
The foundation of Israel is the Nakba just as much as it would be the for the Palestinians. Both people commemorate the Nakba on the same day, though the Israelis have given it a new name. Palestinian flags are not allowed to fly on the other side of the wall. Those who speak the language of Mahmoud Darwish are forced to twist their tongue to Hebrew in order to find jobs as day laborers. They live in enclaves with poor utilities servicing, and occasionally you can find a doctor who is unwilling even to treat them. They are called Arabs.
The Arabs of the Mandate territory were for years attempting to define themselves as a separate national group was Porat’s historical contribution whereas Milstein retorted that his frame of reference was difference. The fact that the Arabs needed a story of a “massacre” in order to cover their unwillingness to fight was proof that they were not a nation because a nation fights.
What Zionist reads this whose face does not burn with shame?
Yet this is the callous mentality that supports an ongoing occupation and brutal subjugation of millions. Tel Aviv is not even forty five miles away from the Gaza Strip, an open air prison where children go to sleep nightly with drones in their ears. Israelis can go see the occupation with their own eyes – a visit to a friend or relative in a settlement can show you the lush green lawns and swimming pools next to the scorched earth of what was once a people who had pride and hopes for the future.
I used to work on a very tall hill, and when I walked home down that hill I could see the vista before me of a settlement, the wall, Tel Aviv, and then beyond, the ocean. I thought to myself when I saw this, surely it would drive me insane if I saw this every day for my whole life. Yet the Israelis have no such consciousness – they have a “free press” and “freedom of speech”, but in spite of this ignore the constant brutal suppression of the truth of their situation. Forget the view on the drive home to Shilo from work; pro-Palestinian Israeli journalist Amira Hass is currently under investigation while Kahanists hand out copies of “Nakba Bullshit” on university campuses. How is it that the racist atmosphere of Israel and Israel’s history more generally not been challenged by those who think it is a refuge, strong, safe and humane?
I saw an anti-Zionist Israeli once at a conference. She was saying that it is impossible to attempt to break the back of the occupation by appealing to Israeli society to change its ways. She said that she was part of a minuscule proportion of those who believed the land they lived on was not their own. What, then, is to be done? While the BDS campaign has laudable aims, it is appealing to the wrong sector; to expect that the people of Israel will suddenly wake up and hand themselves over to justice in the spirit of equality is to deny the deep roots of racism that anchor the Zionist dreamscape in place. There is no denying the racism held by the governments, the press, the education system, the former Prime Ministers and by the settlers in Hebron necessarily also acts to anchor the Israeli national identity in place as it stands. The distance tolerated between Tel Aviv and Gaza is proof enough.
Palestine persists whether 300 people or 100 people were killed in Deir Yassin. It persists because Palestine is not founded in myth, but rather by “facts on the ground”, as every day of their lives they are forced to identify with the national duality imposed on them by a racist occupation and traumatic displacement. Refugees will wake up refugees whether or not they have a founding myth.
The attempts to explain away the massacre in Connecticut this last weekend were the cries of shamefaced parents who all raised the same generation of shut-ins. A generation that is more and more aware of dead ends and lost opportunities. Unfortunately, we don’t have the social or political means necessary to express our frustration in an effective manner. Pornography is lauded as a way to reduce rape and violence against women. Video games are claimed to be a way to manage stress and anger. Yet these seemingly harmless channels for rage do nothing to sort out the root of the issue: that these monsters within us are growing.
It says something that we have so much rage as a human species at this, what is supposedly our most successful and advanced year to date, that the culture has set up these pressure valves to provide for the more base emotions – frustration, hate, anomie – that have not withered away with our stunning technological advancements. The result is a growing rage that is channeled through increasingly vivid and gory channels. When some of it slips out, we tear our hair and try and address the way that it happened. Did it happen because of lax gun laws? Did it happen because of a failure to medicate? No one is asking the real question: why did 20-year-old Adam Lanza think it even a remote possibility to walk into a school and murder almost 30 women and children? Perhaps the answer would be too much to bear.
For those locked in the struggle of living day to day, the idea that such terrible things could be done is probably subsumed in concerns about food, shelter, family and medical care. For those who are locked inside their mansions, those who can afford to stew in their illness, to supplement their fantasies with firing ranges, who have never been told that they are in fear of losing their homes or their food to eat, the idea can clearly become possible. Theirs is a world of isolation – and this act was certainly antisocial. It is, at its core, an expression of the anomie and atomization that goes hand in hand with our new political and economic landscape. There have been many safety valves to channel this frustration, but inevitably there are still rapists, murderers and spree-killers. The increase in the viciousness reflects a sick culture.
It would not surprise me to hear that some would argue that more cultural violence is necessary to help contain this rage, just as there are those who argue that the answer to gun violence is more gun ownership. It may be a quieter argument, as violence of any sort is still considered morally unacceptable by our increasingly violent culture, but it follows that if studies emerge lauding the somatic effects of virtual violent-by-proxy (the dick on the screen is not yours, the gun is not really in your hand) behavior, then the answer should be a winking condemnation, where we say one thing is bad in public and yet engage in private.
Acceptable violence is sanitized: it is a video game or a drone strike. It is far away and yet in the familiar comfort of an air-conditioned room. It is being able to kill and go home to our families with clean hands. The smell of blood does not travel far. That this is supposed to channel the worldwide frustration wrought by our current conditions is ludicrous, but it happens every day. The unemployed are distracted by MMORPGs, prisoners watch pornography on their cell phones behind bars, and even the more activist minded will settle for sharing a link they think people should care about on Facebook instead of taking to the streets in protest. Our worlds become more about ourselves as opposed to our communities – this is tactical as it happens. Capitalism runs on the individual while trampling communities. When our rage slips through the cracks, no wonder that it is so much more vicious, with the perpetrator acting as though no one else exists but him.
If Palestinian state-building is understood as a pact by which Palestinian institutions are built and shaped to facilitate security-collusion — in expectation that this will cause Israel to see it to be in its own interest to give Palestinians a state — then the overall matrix of western policy becomes clear. It is a pre-requisite of Oslo and subsequent agreements that the PA should work with the IDF — “with the participation of US security officials” — to defeat and dismantle any opposition to this project, and, as Mrs Clinton reminded Mahmoud Abbas last year, this demand extends to Hamas — unless it should accept the Quartet’s conditions.
These principles are not new: they are long-established principles of American counter-insurgency dating back to the US campaign in the early 1900s against Filipino ‘rebels’ and were adopted in subsequent conflicts. This doctrine has combined the establishment of harsh, unaccountable security apparati to a ‘benevolency pacification’: Security strongmen evolve to control the business and financial sectors.
In the Palestinian context this pacification has come to mean something far more extensive than the original Oslo demand for collusion with Israel to dismantle and destroy Oslo’s opponents. Indeed, the concept is being used to create a politico-security and economic architecture and élite in order to implement a benevolency pacification. In return the elites receive significant material benefits and privileges. So successful has this political and security architecture been in normalizing the West Bank that the then US Assistant Secretary of State, hailed it as “the best Palestinian Authority government in history”.
This kind of article was inevitable. I’m just surprised it took so long to show up in print, especially since I’ve been writing on it for so long. Everyone here today is depressed because the Palestine Papers have proven once again how helpless they are against their own police state vying to sell their land in favor of villas in Dubai and cash for their kids.