Saturday, February 7, 2009
What is Freedom? - ye can tell
what slavery is, all too well -
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.
It is to work and have such pay
As just keeps life from day to day
'So that ye for them are made
Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
With or without your own will bent,
For their defence and nourishment.
It is to see your children weak
With their mothers pine and peak,
When the winter winds are bleak, -
They are dying as I speak.
It is to hunger for such diet
As the rich man in his riot
Casts to the fat dogs that lie
Surfeiting beneath his eye;
It is to let the Ghost of Gold
Take from Toil a thousandfold
More that ever its substance could
In the tyrannies of old.
It is to be a slave in soul
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of thee
Let a great Assembly be
Of the fearless and the free
On some spot of English ground
Where the plains stretch wide around.
From the workhouse and the prison
As corpses newly risen,
Women, children, young and old
who Groan for pain, and weep for cold
'Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that thee
Are, as God has made thee, free -
And these words shall then become
Like Oppression's thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
Heard again - again - again -
'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.'
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Dr. Norman Finkelstein on Resolving the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Jan. 21, 2009, at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Sponsored by Solidarity for Palestine Human Rights ( SPHR ) and Colour Connected.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Bush administration will be the concept of preemptive war and the demonstration of the inability of the UN and the international community to effectively resolve conflicts or enforce international law, in terms of warfare and human rights.
The rule of law has been under attack by the Bush administration ever since they stole the 2000 US presidential election. That’s not to say that it hadn’t been under attack before that. The rule of law has always been subjected to wealth, nepotism and hypocrisy.
Ever since the beginning of the Iraq invasion, which every American before voting age should know was planned well before the Bush presidency and was standard operating procedure along with the Patriot Act to be implemented as soon as a terrorist attack had occur while a heritage foundation conservative government was in place.
The questioning of the legitimacy of international law and whether we should respect international treaties has been introduced into the public dialogue. Many Americans see their obligations to the international community as being trivial at best. An opinion propagated by the conservative movement, despite the fact that the US constitution states that international treaties are the law of the land.
From illegal invasions of nations which are completely uninterested in fighting us to indiscriminately killing civilians with cluster bombs to indefinite detention and legalized torture, we have laughed in the face of civilization and international law. The rhetoric has been poetic but the light of the liberty beacon is the flash of a white phosphorus shell. In this tradition any nation with a grudge and friend with veto power in the UN Security Council can wage any war they choose. The United States has refused to recognize the authority of the international court, so they are immune to any prosecution.
Israel has done the same, and have fallowed in the US's footsteps with the Gaza campaign. In the name of fighting terrorism Israel is waging war against a democratically elected government, striking civilian targets illegally with white phosphorus, and cutting supply lines and burning UN supplies to aggravate the humanitarian crises.
Israel has also banned the media from entering Gaza and has shelled a major media centre in another suspicious accident. The UN bombing alone is a blatant war crime, the use of white phosphorus was not used as a smoke screen here but as a weapon to strike a target which was known to be housing civilian refugees and UN staff, in a civilian area.
When Henry Kissinger organized coups in Chile and Argentina against democratically elected governments who were a little too pinkish for his liking. It was in the name of fighting terrorism, that the military governments gathered thousands of dissidence and progressives and tortured and murdered them.
Today terrorism continues as a justification for mass murder and human rights violations. Israel continues to justify bombing schools, hospitals, ambulances and highly populated areas by claiming that the deionized terrorist enemy is hiding among the populace. There may be some questions about how many civilians you can justifiably kill while waging a war against a legitimate threat, but the international community with the exception of the US seems to be in agreement that this type of invasion is not justified. Israel continues to invoke the argument of right to statehood and that Hamas is an existential threat. They claim the Muslims in the region will drive them into the sea, but they’re going to have to get through Gaza to get there.
While the rocket attacks do take a real toll on the communities effected and are not justified, Israel has undermined all parties in Gaza which may have come to a peaceful agreement and gone against the wishes of their own people and continue to squeeze the Palestinian territories and make it impossible of them to advance and prosper as a free society. When people are still living in refugee camps from a war over 40 years ago it may not justify violent attacks against civilians but some kind of reaction is to be logically expected.
The Israeli government continues to use religion for justification of their presence in the area despite the fact that most of the residence of the world already except the existence of the state of Israel, and are more than willing to leave its origins in the past.
The actions of Israel in the Palestinian territories will ferment the kind of anti-Semitism they often invoke to defame critics and invoke sympathy. George W Bush used similar language to justify the actions of his administration. Repeating that he believes the Iraq war was a mission from god. When looking for populace support for denying rights to homosexuals or eliminate barriers between the separation of church and state, the conservative movement refers to the US as a Christian nation, just as Israel refers to itself as a Jewish nation or Jewish homeland.
This kind of language is a step backward for the promotion of democracy in the Middle East. If the US is a Christian nation and Israel is the Jewish nation than you can’t complain about the existence of Muslim nations. And the conflicts between these nations will be impossible to resolve.
This is one of the reasons a functioning free society must have freedom of religion because religious believes are not negotiable for any individual, nor are religious differences reconcilable, except under an agreement that all religions are allowed so that we can all get along.
The full reproduction of this kind of mentality where the most powerful nations are willing to exercise their power with no concern for human rights and no fear of consequences from the international community many not be fully understood for decades. There is no way of knowing how far this will go if the international community does not show that the rules apply to all nations equally. Which nations may decide that they too can act with impunity?
The people have little power to change this. In the United States they recently chose between two presidential candidates who believe in preemptive attack. And despite being in the formal opposition Barak Obama and the Democratic Party have no plan to call for the prosecution of war crimes committed by the outgoing administration, or even reverse their criminal policies.
Obama has already shown a lack of political fortitude in this area. He refused to even publically react to the Israeli invasion of Gaza say, “it was not his place to interfere" and that "there is only one president at a time.” Then he started a campaign around the country to promote his economic stimulus package, requesting the Bush administration to give another 350 billion dollars to the money lenders, that couldn’t wait until the inauguration.
We can protest, we can complain and we can demonstrate our discontent but it will make little difference until we know that we have the numbers, intelligence and fortitude to replace the government that thinks we’re a gang of morons. I think a good way to send them a message would be to elect third party candidates to small winnable local positions and make it clear that our sight our set on congress.
I don’t think the Palestinians voted for Hamas because they want violence, war or to be governed by a fundamentalist group. I think they voted for Hamas because all other parties have either giving in to the demands of Israel and the international community without making Israel fulfil their part and end their squeeze on the Palestinian territories. They just voted for Hamas because despite of how useless and reactionary their tactics may be there is not peaceful resistance movement and they wanted someone who would stand up in the face of tyranny.
Although a secular state in which the Israelis and Palestinians shared power and access to Jerusalem would be ideal it is even more unlikely than the internationally recognized two-state solution. The problem is that separating national boarders by religion promote fanaticism and holy wars on both sides. The best chance for a solution would be to take religion out of the equation and treat this as two nations who need to resolve conflict regardless of its origins.No religion needs a nation. The people of every nation need freedom of religion and legal protection of their rights.