For 20 years I resisted making any personal remarks about the attacks September the 11th, particularly regarding the World Trade Center in NYC. I thought it was inappropriate and inconsequential because I did not suffer personal loss like so many that day. But I have been reflecting a lot on that historic event lately. And given that the US war against Afghanistan is now over, at least officially if not covertly, I think there is good reason for that.
I wanted to share some thoughts with you on Afghanistan, as it sits atop the rubble of another indifferent imperial folly with the dread of once again living under a fundamentalist authoritarian regime on the horizon. And especially on the American public’s disconnect from its own government’s culpability in spreading misery there and throughout the Global South. I wanted to talk about reflection too.
This fall, the much-awaited remake of Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic Dune will hit theatres. Dune tells the complex and multi-layered tale of a feudal interstellar empire in the future, where noble houses compete, often violently, for dominance over the planet Arrakis, a desert world that possesses the only source of a substance called the “spice.” It is essential for space navigation and also has the potential to enhance mental and metaphysical senses and abilities. The imperial powers of the Dune universe use political chicanery and treachery to manipulate various political figures within the noble houses. Arrakis has a desolate and hostile environment. Its inhabitants, the Fremen, are looked down upon by most of the noble houses as savage, inferior and backward. They are the last to see any benefit from the trade of spice, if any at all.
Titanic fires lay waste to vast forests in Siberia, California, Algeria and beyond. Violent muddy rapids sweep through quaint German villages, and the city of Sochi in Russia, and inundate modern subway systems in China and NYC. Marine life bakes in their shells, not in any cooker, but in the very ocean habitat where they were spawned. Stunned crowds clamor onto ferries surrounded by flames that stretch upward to the sky on picturesque Greek islands… It is that last image that somehow strikes at the heart, and somehow in a way that is different.
“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. There’s gonna be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.” — US President Biden, July 2021
In the Middle East stand the ruins of an ancient settlement known as Lifta. Archeological digs have traced its’ origins as far back as the Iron Age. It contains the remains of a court-yard home from the Crusader period at its centre and the ruins of several other beautiful homes, and once housed a vibrant and culturally rich community.
“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” — Albert Einstein
“Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.” — Arundhati Roy
It was to be expected. Following the worldwide exposure of an active campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem’s and Israel’s murderous 11 day campaign raining death and destruction on the captive population of Gaza, the apologists for Israel went into full on damage control. Anyone who decried these obvious injustices and war crimes were swiftly labeled “antisemitic” or extremist.
The other day I made a Facebook post that referred to the arbitrary and, yet, purposefully designed algorithms of social media and how they are effectively silencing and censoring people, especially those on the left. I have noticed it myself. I get far less traffic to my page than in prior years. This makes the social media “experience” less desirable (I will go into the reason why a bit later), and so I said I would likely be spending less time here as a result.
Unlike ever before, Israel is finally seeing some major pushback that is international in scope. With its ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign exemplified by the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, its attacks on worshippers at one of the holiest sites in Islam, Al Aqsa, and on the holiest of holidays, and its murderous and criminal assault on the captive population of Gaza, Israel has been put in an uncomfortable spotlight. But the key to dismantling its entrenched apartheid system lies in keeping that spotlight fixed, especially now that a ceasefire has been implemented. If attention is diverted, as Israel desperately wants, then it will become even more intransigent, especially as the Biden administration continues its business-as-usual approach.
I suspect some of you may be tired of my posts on Israel/Palestine this last week, especially on social media. I would say I am sorry if I was, but I am not. Not in the least. I have stood shoulder to shoulder with Palestinians, as well as their allies, including many, many Jews and even many Israelis, for most of my adult life. And until apartheid ends and as long as I have a voice that isn’t censored, I will not cease speaking out. So here are my latest thoughts…
I have anxiety in my heart tonight. I have friends in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and I am truly fearing for them. Several of them have reported explosions close to their homes. Buildings and entire blocks have been flattened in Gaza, rockets have fallen in Tel Aviv, and rightwing Israeli mobs are terrorizing Palestinians at Al Aqsa Mosque. And this feels like the build up of something big. Like it felt before the 2014 assault on Gaza. I pray this isn’t so, but it is difficult to ignore the signs.
One thing this pandemic has demonstrated in stark terms is class struggle. Those people deemed essential, though often applauded in public, have been treated as expendable. In truth, they were always treated this way. But this last year has made this struggle visible for anyone paying attention.