Sunday, January 23, 2011

People's choice

I was heading to work today (God may get a day off, but I don't) and switched on NPR.
Yonatan Shapira's voice came over the airwaves. He, like many activists living in war torn areas, is a hero or a traitor, depending on which side you stand on.
Shapira is a former Israeli pilot and author of the "pilots' letter," signed by 27 IAF pilots in 2003, documenting their refusal to fly over occupied territories.
Now he's a main player in the boycott of Israel-also recently in the news for spray painting "Free all the Ghettos" and "Free Gaza/Palestine" on one of the remaining walls of the Warsaw ghetto. Although I don't agree with his methods, I agree with his message:

"I am not saying there is a comparison with the monstrosity of Nazi death camps, but I am saying we must talk about the silence in Israel and the world when people are confined in a ghetto-like place...

Delegations of young Israelis [come here] to see the history of our people but also are subjected to militaristic and nationalistic brainwashing on a daily basis. Maybe if they see what we wrote here today they will remember that oppression is oppression, occupation is occupation, and crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity, whether they have been committed here in Warsaw or in Gaza."


The boycott of Israel is not a new idea. In the 60s, South Africa called for countries around the world to boycott the government as the people fought to end Apartheid.
20 years later, the US jumped on the bandwagon and Apartheid coincidentally ended soon after.

The sad truth? We still have that power. Our infrastructure hasn't been updated since Johnny came home from "over there," our economy may be more broken than a heroine addict off to a fifth stint in rehab, we may have the diplomatic skills of an embittered ogre, but we still pull our obese weight around the world.
We are still the trend setters for much of the world, and we still dictate, to a certain extent, the tone and flow of global politics.

How is that possible, when as a people, we don't do a damn thing? Again, I don't advocate that we go spray paint monuments of the civil or revolutionary war, but some notion of giving a shit would be nice.
The host of the NPR show remarked (using South Africa as his example) that it takes Americans a while to absorb and react to happenings in the world.
That sounds like a special needs kid not a country of 300 million "great Americans."
But that's just it. We're the best without ever having competed against other cultures. Somehow, throughout our short lifetime, the US has come to the place of power we now hold.
We are where we are due to the actions and ideas of people who lived long before us. Our government is not a product of us anymore, it is a product of production. What we work hard for is turned into dollars and cents and used against us. Nice huh?
Almost makes you wanna boycott those corporate shit heads...hmmm...now I am advocating something...

Just as with Shapira, the choice of what happens with any boycott lies with the people. That's the tricky thing with political activism. It comes about due to the willingness to change the current political environment. Shapira said on NPR that he isn't gonna wait around for things to change, he wants to effect change by forcing Israel to pay attention to their actions and stand accountable.
Here in California, the BDS movement (Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement) has a ballot measure in the works that would require the state's retirement funds to divest from Israel. What would that do if it passed? Unlike with South Africa, the US has an incredibly complex and fragile relationship with Israel. Considering our current cluster fuck status in the middle east, we cling to their bought loyalty like kudzu.
But if that passes, it won't pass silently. Like I said, we have that power. Shapira quite poetically implored Americans to exercise that power and boycott Israeli businesses backed by the government, or "openly upholding the status quo."
My only problem with his call to action: what about us? We don't even have the balls to stand up to our own oppressors, how the fuck can anyone expect us to stand up to theirs?
Or is it easier somehow?
Do we feel that their problems are more pressing because they're wrapped in barbed wire?
As Carl Jung once prophetically wrote, "People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul."
The ills of Israel and Palestine are far more complex than ours. We have two simple enemies: the corporate stronghold and our own apathy. If we can rid of the latter, we can get rid of the former. It's people's choice.

1 comment:

Bob said...

I understand that your general point is trying to stop unjust and "inhumane" from going unnoticed. However, you are naive in thinking that every situation is black and white and that one injustice is equal to another. That's the reason why words like "priority" and "degree" exist, because there is such a thing as different levels of the same thing.

The situation with Israel has so many details and nuances that it'll make your head spin. Why don't we just start the fact that Israel is a tiny country that takes about 5 hours to completely traverse. This tiny sliver we dare to call a nation, is COMPLETELY surrounded by palestinian countries. Not a single ally, that was not once extremely hostile, is next to israel. Israel has no diplomatic relations with 36 UN member states, 20 of them members of the 22-member Arab League, while majority of the remaining states are Muslim majority countries.

Israeli is not just an ordinary country, it is an eternal home for a major religion that has been prosecuted by nearly everyone. All the jewish people want is a little place they can call their own. But they also want to make peace and avoid conflict when possible. So they cut out chunks of israel in order to placate their aggressors. The west bank and the gaza strip for example. You may wonder, "Why do these gigantic arab and palestinian nations bother with such a tiny country?" That's the question now isn't it?

If you look at it as a playground analogy, the palestinians are the big older kids huffing and puffing because someone isn't giving in to them. Someone is fighting back. You think that if those arabs in the gaza strip were freed it would make everything better? And there'll be fucking rainbows, unicorns, and god damn sunshine? Guess again.

Everyone insists on holding Israel accountable for every little fucking thing that goes wrong. And it is such a fucking double standard. What about Hamas? What about Hezbollah? What about the surrounding palestinian counties who are sheltering them? Why doesn't anyone fucking scrutinize them? By the same logic, all of the goddamned arabic world should be shunned and ignored as one humongous pariah. But no. This is not what happens.

Instead, everyone tiptoes around them like they're the fucking "special child" and needs to be treated delicately because it's not their fault that they're killing the smidgeon of the jewish people that are left. They were born that way, we just have to be understanding and coddle them like the goddamn baby sister who plays innocent when the parents are looking and as soon as they turn around smacks the older sibling. Then the older sibling gets angry with good reason, but suddenly the parent oh-so-conveniently only sees the older sibling yelling at the younger sibling. The parent refuses to see the truth b/c we must always coddle the autistic violent younger sister. Oh poor girl, to be born such a horrible way. Oh hold on, it seems that you have many of these younger siblings who are "special".

Allow me to introduce you to a few. The baby of the group is called syria who was born in 1918. Little syria happens to hold a lot of oil, doesn't she? Another one is called Iran, he was born around the year 224 AD. Another is Lebanon, we're not sure how old he is but he's definitely more than 7,000 years old. We can't really pin it down because he predates recorded history.

Oh wait, apparently Israel is the youngest. But of course, Israel must be perfect from the very beginning. No mistakes are allowed. All the older siblings have earned the right to do whatever the hell they want. Right?