the “War on Terror” Rolls On

The White House may have been unable to convince the American public to support an American military intervention in Syria a year ago, but, after a stunningly effective fear-mongering campaign in the media (rivaling the one that lead up to the 2003’s ‘Shock and Awe’ in Iraq) and a little convenient help from the unprecedentedly media-savvy ISIS terrorist group (whose penchant for public beheadings rivals that of the U.S.’s regional ally Saudi Arabia, where a majority of ISIS’s funding originates), the U.S. military began bombing large swaths of Syria just last night. For the White House, it’s no problem that the U.S., by targeting Syrian opposition groups like ISIS and others, is now directly entering the ongoing Syrian Civil War effectively on the side of that country’s brutal Assad regime; the name may sound familiar given the fact that Assad’s government was to be the target of U.S. bombing in last year’s aborted campaign. They’re not concerned by the fact that ISIS, ironically the successor organization to the group Al-Qaeda in Iraq (sectarian fighters that ran circles around occupying American troops in Iraq in 2006), was practically begging the Obama administration to re-deploy militarily in the region; in-keeping with past trends, ISIS’s ranks have swelled with some 6000 new recruits since the U.S. began bombing in Iraq again a few weeks ago. The important thing is that America is now militarily re-engaged, in a direct and serious way, in the Middle East. For many in American foreign policy-making, that, in and of itself, is prize enough.

The U.S. economy is, and has since World War II been, disproportionately war-oriented. In the last decade alone, even while excluding war costs, the military baseline budget has grown by about 50 percent. Strikingly, defense costs eat up about 60 percent of the U.S.’s overall discretionary spending (at a time when austerity hawks are relentlessly howling to do away with or reduce various social programs) and equal the total combined defense expenditures of the next 10 highest military spending countries in the world, most of which are U.S. allies. The U.S. also has the unfortunate distinction of being the top supplier of weapons in world, providing 30% of the world’s arms trade. All too often, as in the current case of ISIS, U.S. solders and allies find themselves getting shot at by the same materials that the American government previously introduced into a conflict zone. The arms that congress just agreed to supply to Syria’s so-called moderate opposition groups, most of which are fronts for more radical organizations and are designed to attract foreign aid, will very likely find their way into the hands of ISIS and similar groups. In terms of intelligence, the U.S. government spent an estimated $52.6 billion in 2013 on its “black budget,” classified and often illegal intelligence programs, alone. Overall the U.S. maintains a whooping 16 spy agencies, with a combined 107,035 employees. With so may organizations fighting for prominence and the increased funding that comes with it, it’s no wonder that bizarre and impractical policies and practices, like the NSA’s controversial domestic data-mining program, result.

In an increasingly post-industrial, financial economy like the U.S.’s, where un/underemployment and eroding wages/standards of living are the norm, embracing the booming defense and counter-terrorism industry, though it is almost wholly dependent on tax dollars and lucrative government contracts, is the only apparent way for many lawmakers to secure and protect jobs for their constituents (the industry already provides jobs for millions of people across the country). Doing so just happens to be exponentially profitable for American elites as well, with the wealth management and capital firm Morgan Keegan assuring capitalists in 2013 that investments in homeland security companies could be expected to yield 12 percent annual growth (way more than most investments in what was, and continues to be, a generally sluggish economy). With the U.S. government spending $550 million in the first ten days of its 2011 intervention into Libya (a country which nearly three years later finds itself in distinctly undemocratic and violent chaos), this latest military adventure in Syria promises to yield significant profits for many.

And let’s not forget oil! It was ISIS’s attacks into the northern, largely independent, Iraqi region of Kurdistan this summer that prompted the U.S.’s recent military re-deployment in Iraq more than anything else. While the American public was bombarded with images of besieged starving Yazidis (a minority group living in northern Iraq) on a Kurdish mountaintop facing certain genocide at the hands of ISIS, several multi-national energy companies, ExxonMobil and Chevron foremost among them, were panicking over the threat posed by ISIS to the lucrative drilling contracts that they’d secured in Kurdistan. Subsequently, a highly televised American humanitarian mission was launched to help the Yazidis (though most of them where ultimately saved through the efforts of local Kurdish groups [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a left-wing political organization designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, arguably the most significant among them]) and, most importantly, a bombing campaign was initiated to push ISIS out of Kurdistan and away from ExxonMobil and Chevron’s facilities. Were the Yazidis in serious danger at the hands of ISIS? Without a doubt. Was that the main impetus for the government’s decision to re-deployment militarily in Iraq? No. While there are many in foreign policy-making who sincerely believe that the U.S.’s overwhelming military might can and should be utilized to carryout such humanitarian missions, history shows that such ventures only occur when there is also a significant interest among American elites in the region in question (i.e. African genocides are ignored while Middle Eastern ones warrant military intervention).

Every U.S. president since Bush I has intervened in Iraq. Every time they’ve done so, the country has been left worse off. The U.S. may now find itself similarly drawn into Syria. There is no reason to believe that Obama’s bombs, regardless of how desperately one clings to the increasingly ridiculous notion that he is a good and sensible person, will be any less destabilizing and horrific than Bush II’s. Obama’s illegal drone bombing campaign, by indiscriminately killing countless innocents, has arguably done more to fuel anti-Western radicalization and swell the ranks of groups like ISIS than Bush II’s inane and costly 2003 invasion ever did. As long as policy makers continue to favor policies designed to kill every Middle Eastern radical (a hopeless and immoral venture) rather than addressing their often legitimate grievances (i.e. America’s support for brutal Middle Eastern regimes like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, etc.) with the the Western world, the all-encompassing and purposefully ill-defined “War on Terror” will expand and persist. Then again, given the aforementioned war-orientation of the U.S.’s economy, that may be exactly what many in the American government want.

Sources: 1) John Hall “ISIS signs up more than 6,000 new recruits since American airstrikes began, as France makes ruling on groups name and says it will start calling them derogatory ‘Daesh cutthroats'” The Daily Mail (September 18, 2014): accessed September 23, 2014 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2760644/ISIS-signs-6-000-new-recruits-American-airstrikes-began-France-says-start-calling-group-derogatory-Daesh-cutthroats.html
2) Jonathan Turley “Big money behind war: the military-industrial complex” Aljazeera (January 11, 2014): accessed September 23, 2014 http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/01/big-money-behind-war-military-industrial-complex-20141473026736533.html
3) “The ‘Big Six’ arms exporters” Amnesty International (June 11, 2012): accessed September 23, 2014 http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/big-six-arms-exporters-2012-06-11
4) Martin Hart-Landsberg “Still the World’s Top Military Spender” Reports From the Economic Front (July 17, 2014): accessed September 23, 2014 http://blogs.lclark.edu/hart-landsberg/category/military-spending/
5) Ishaan Tharoor “A U.S.-designated terrorist group is saving Yazidis and battling the Islamic State” The Washington Post (August 11 2014): accessed September 23, 2014 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/08/11/a-u-s-designated-terrorist-group-is-saving-yazidis-and-battling-the-islamic-state/
6) Steve Coll “Oil and Erbil” The New Yorker (August 10, 2014): accessed September 23, 2014 http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/oil-erbil
7) Veronique de Rugy “The Invincible Military-Industrial Complex: Leon Panetta’s dream is Eisenhower’s nightmare” Reason (March 2012): accessed September 23, 2014 http://reason.com/archives/2012/02/14/the-invincible-military-industrial-compl

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Fall Double Feature

1) Inside Job -A brilliant documentary on the 2008 Financial Crisis, narrated by Matt Damon.

2) Salvador -For those interested in learning more about the Salvadorian Civil War, this Oliver Stone classic, starring James Woods, is right up your alley.

https://media-b206.firedrive.com/mobile/23/32/mob_oneclickwatch.com_salvador_1986_dvdrip_56dd3.mp4?h=_6RXZUFUeiiplH2FQfi0lA&e=1411091134&f=mob_oneclickwatch.com_salvador_1986_dvdrip_56dd3.mp4&domain=firedrive.com

the Psychological Origin of Right-Wing Thought

There’s a long running debate within academia over how the modern political right, globally but in the United States in particular, successfully garners support among working class constituencies. Specifically, many on the left remain frustrated by the regularity with which seemingly rational voters disregard their own interests and support candidates who explicitly promise to cut taxes for the wealthy, eliminate social spending on the working and/or poor, expand corporate welfare, flood the political process with dark money, block minimum wage increases, destroy the labor movement, etc. Most right-wing voters, likely due in large part to an unprecedented level of propaganda in the modern mass media (i.e. Fox News), remain ignorant of or unresponsive to the details and negative consequences of such policies, denigrating those that complain about inequality, un and underemployment, eroding wages, and similar problems as whiners and sore losers. While some scholars, like Thomas Frank in What’s the Matter with Kansas?, point to the polarizing effects of value issues like abortion and gay marriage, which right-wing politicians have historically utilized to galvanize political support among working class voters [to their great benefit during the early 2000s], as the main engine of right-wing political success, such “Culture War” issues are beginning to hurt the right’s political prospects as voters, increasingly millennial, become more and more socially liberal. Still others, convincingly contend that racial issues, specifically white working class resentment of blacks-so effectively utilized by right-wing politicians like Ronald Reagan (in his regular attacks on imagined black welfare queens) and Paul Ryan (through his criticism of supposedly lazy inner city culture)-, fuel popular support for right-wing politicians and policies more than any other factor. As merited and thought-provoking as these, and other, arguments are, social psychologist Robert Altermeyer proposes yet another similarly convincing explanation for right wing political preferences in a study of what he calls the right-wing authoritarian (or RWA) personality variable.

Individuals must display three distinct personality traits, as measured by Altermeyer’s RWA scale, in order to be RWA suffers: 1) submissiveness to established authority, 2) hostility toward individuals and groups when such behavior appears sanctioned by established authorities, and 3) reverence for social traditions and conventions that appear sanctioned by established authorities. The established authorities which RWA sufferers revere commonly take the form of parents, religious/government/military leaders, and temporary authority figures (like lifeguards at the beach). Importantly, such authorities are revered and supported by RWA sufferers only if they are viewed as legitimate (in-keeping with accepted traditional social conventions) by those same individuals, otherwise they warrant only condemnation and venomous attack (i.e. the visceral hatred of the President Obama due, if not always explicitly, to his race by many on the right).

Altermeyer explains that RWA sufferers accept the statements and actions of their established authorities as unassailably correct and are aggressively hostile toward those that criticize these authorities. Instead of feeling vulnerable or violated when they’re the object of exercised established power (like domestic government surveillance), RWA sufferers feel safer in such instances and view the exercise of such power as being directed against and a danger to wrongdoers only. They rely on the certainty and strength of established authority to assuage their own overwhelming fears of ambiguity and complexity in an apparently hostile world. People who have RWA prone personalities readily accept, endorse, and often participate in physical, psychological, financial, and social hostility directed against others when such persecution is perceived to be supported by their established authorities. Generally, these others are composed of individuals or groups that they view as unconventional or as in someway affronting norms espoused by established authorities (i.e. homosexuals, foreigners, criminals, etc.). They regard in-group loyalty and cohesion as paramount and regularly denigrate individuals outside their perceived community or disloyal to established authorities as wrongdoers and often enemies (i.e. dangerous illegal immigrants coming over the boarder, stupid and lazy inner city blacks abusing their government handouts, disloyal Hollywood celebrities and hippies that cheer for terrorists and spit on American solders, etc.). In their preference for conventional social norms, RWA sufferers are usually deeply religious, often espousing fundamentalist views. They usually embrace traditional familial ideals, with the father at the top of the family hierarchy and a subservient wife and children below (such conventions are often reinforced by similarly patriarchal arrangements in the religious institutions that they usually place so much stock in). Almost always such individuals view themselves as true patriots and defenders of the values historically associated with their society (i.e. Tea Party reverence for the U.S.’s Constitution and “Founding Fathers”) from ever present encroachment by wrongdoers.

Because RWA suffers eschew their own critical thinking in favor of directives from established authorities, their beliefs are often characterized by inconsistencies, double-standards and hypocrisies. They usually harbor the fatalistic conception that society is always on the verge of catastrophic collapse and that only the established authorities and they themselves, as the guardians of public morality, stand between order and chaos. RWA suffers have a remarkable ability to shed feelings of personal guilt (usually by seeking forgiveness from God or some other spiritual practice designed to humble oneself [i.e. Catholic confession or being “born again” in Christian evangelism]) after committing immoral acts. Additionally, because they are so self-righteous and often believe themselves and their leaders to be the corporeal representatives of divine will, with Altermeyer dubbing them “God’s designated hitters,” people with RWA type personalities typically view any heinous or immoral acts committed by themselves or established authorities in defense of traditional values or norms as inherently justified. Furthermore they tend to view punishment, whether it takes the form of beating disobedient children or executing convicted criminals, as inherently necessary when correcting unconventional behavior.

High RWA scorers likely uncritically trusted the Bush administration when it asserted, prior to the U.S.’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. After the U.S. military occupied that country and no weapons were found (besides the aged and unusable ones that the West had supplied prior to the Gulf War, which were not reported on), Altermeyer contends that it was these same individuals who, disregarding the reality of the situation, persisted in the belief that Saddam had had dangerous WMDs and reported as much to public opinion pollsters. Later, it would’ve been these same people to wholeheartedly accept without pause the administration’s new retroactive justification for the conflict as a “war of liberation,” consistently shifting blame for the horrific costs of the war away from themselves and the established authority figures that they couldn’t admit misled them and toward others like liberals and Europeans throughout. For RWA sufferers, the second American War in Iraq wasn’t justified by its merit, it was justified because their established authorities did it and said that it was a good thing to do.

The origins of this personality defect lay with parenting, argues George Lakoff. He explains that modern American conservatism, fundamentally authoritarian in nature, usually takes root in the personalities of individuals who were raised in families that operated according to the “Strict Father model” (wherein a family’s father figure dispenses judgements, commands and punishments hierarchically down, first through the subservient mother figure and then through his children, and unilaterally makes most significant family decisions [as opposed to the “Nurturant Parent model,” which is characterized by open dialogue and consensus building between a family’s parental figures]). In households defined by the “Strict Father model” of parenting, children do not learn to think critically about the statements and actions of their fatherly authority figure due to an absence of alternative views and criticisms. Furthermore, they internalize the infallibility of their father figure’s authority and learn to blame his shortcomings either on their or their mother figure’s insubordination (leading to a lifelong acceptance of punishment for those that disregard established authority as justified and often desirable) or on the hostility of the wider world that their father figure protects them from (instilling an understanding of the world outside the cohesive [in the childhood stage family] group as dangerous and competitive).

Altermeyer contends that about 20 to 25 percent of adult Americans suffer from RWA and that these individuals make up the activist core of the American political right’s working class supporters. By utilizing the fear and hatred of the ever present “other,” in whatever form that takes, that is characteristic of the RWA personality disorder, right-wing American politicians, usually sufferers of RWA themselves, have continually cajoled and exploited working class, usually white, voters with RWA into supporting their right-wing agenda, to the undeniable detriment of the public good in the U.S.

Find out if you have RWA by taking one of Altermeyer’s tests here: http://helloquizzy.okcupid.com/tests/the-altemeyer-authoritarian-test

Source: 1) John Dean “Conservatives Without Conscience” Third World Traveller accessed: September 15, 2014 http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Neoconservatives/Conservatives_Conscience.html

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Oscar Romero, Remembering a Martyr

Last month, Pope Francis initiated the beautification, the process by which the Catholic Church bestows sainthood on a deceased person, of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until his death in 1980 at the age of 61. There had previously existed a ban, put in place by John Paul II and maintained by Benedict XVI, on Romero’s beautification due to the Papacy’s concerns over Romero’s purportedly left-wing views. The Archbishop was a proponent of Liberation Theology, an interpretation (popular in Latin and South America) of Christian doctrine that prioritizes the interests of the poor, at a time in the latter half of the 20th century when the Catholic Church was becoming increasingly politicized and distinctly anti-Marxist. Though by no means a friend of Liberation Theology during his years as a Jesuit in Argentina, Francis’s belated embrace of Romero is part of a wider papal initiative to reinvent and soften the Church’s beleaguered image, specifically by re-focusing on issues of economic inequality and poverty. As interesting as this aspect of Romero’s legacy is, it was the man’s actions toward the end of his life and the circumstances of his death that bear still greater historical significance.

Romero’s martyrdom, for he was publicly shot dead while celebrating a Mass on March 24, 1980, came just weeks after he penned a letter (viewable here http://www.csusmhistory.org/atkin008/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Romero-Letter.pdf) to U.S. President Jimmy Carter begging him to cease sending aid to the military junta that ruled El Salvador at that time. The Archbishop appealed to Carter’s avowed commitment to human rights and warned of the junta’s notorious brutality, characterized by assassinations, mass killings and rapes, political repression and a whole host of other abuses. But Romero’s pleas fell on deaf ears; Washington was concerned by the recent development of peasant associations, cooperatives, unions, Church-based Bible study groups and other popular organizations in El Salvador. Analogous to how it viewed similar movements in other Latin American countries throughout the 20th century, the American government feared that the advent of such groups in El Salvador would lead to genuine democracy and subsequently give rise to a leftist government that might stand up to the U.S.’s historical dominance of the region and, in so doing, serve as an example to neighboring countries. Though couched in Cold War anti-Communist rhetoric, this policy, employed repeatedly throughout Latin American countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala in that period, was designed to protect regional American economic interests rather than safeguard freedom or democracy. American policy makers were eager to aid El Salvador’s military junta in maintaining the Salvadorian oligarchy’s rule over the small Latin American nation, even if it meant turning a blind eye, and more often than not facilitating, atrocity and repression.

Romero’s assassin was likely an operative of one Roberto d’Aubuisson, a neo-Nazi sadist and the founder/”leader for life” of the right-wing Salvadorian political party ARENA (which would go on to rule El Salvador). D’Aubuisson also commanded an army of paramilitary death squads which he utilized to kill any and everyone in El Salvador that he deemed leftist before and during the civil war. He graduated from the U.S.’s School of the Americas in Panama (now in Fort Benning, Georgia) in 1972 where he and other Latin and South American right-wing terrorists and dictators, as well as the future leaders of a prominent Mexican drug cartel, were trained in propaganda, political repression and sabotage, torture, assassination, etc. At Romero’s funeral, where tens of thousands of Salvadorians turned out to mourn the old critic of the country’s ruling regime, d’Aubuisson’s death squads opened fire on the crowds from nearby rooftops, killing forty. It was a stark portend of atrocities to come as the Salvadorian Civil War, during which time the United States government maintained significant material support to and direct involvement with the ruling military junta and D’Aubuisson’s right-wing death squads, between the Salvadorian government and its people began.

Just after Romero’s murder, the Rio Sumpul Massacre, in which the government and its proxies cut infants into pieces leaving body parts downstream of a nearby river for weeks, killed 600 people. By the time Carter left office in 1981, 13,000 Salvadorians had been murdered. The Reganites only intensified U.S. support for the ruling regime, but had to appoint a figurehead “moderate” President named Jose Napoleon Duarte through a fraudulent election in 1984 after the rape and murder of four American churchwomen that were providing aid in El Salvador to victims of the war. The brutal killing of the aid workers was the first event of the conflict to garner noticeable media attention in the U.S. and led to some domestic protest there, which quickly largely died down. Still, the conflict dragged on for nearly a decade longer, with U.S. support and involvement throughout, and ultimately left nearly 100,000 dead and half a million as refugees.

One elite Salvadorian military unit, the Atlacatl Battalion, managed to distinguish itself as particularly heinous in a conflict characterized by general atrocity. Trained in counter insurgency by fifteen American specialists sent from the US Army School of Special Forces and equipped with cutting edge American weaponry, the battalion raped, shot, drowned, burned and bombed thousands of civilians, mostly in rural villages, over the course of the war, on one notorious occasion massacring six Jesuits and their cook (along with the cook’s daughter). One of the unit’s American trainers lauded them as “particularly ferocious” and joked about their propensity to take ears sooner than prisoners.

Regularly kidnapping poor boys for recruitment into the army, the Salvadorian military, like d’Aubuisson’s death squads, utilized Nazi SS rituals to indoctrinate their solders. A later deserter from the Salvadorian Army that gained political asylum in Texas in 1990, against repeated desperate attempts by the U.S. State Department to send him back to El Salvador to certain torture and death, described the animal and prisoner torture and mutilation that recruits were forced to watch and participate in in order to desensitize and dehumanize them. The unfortunate results of such training were rendered evident by a hellish account provided by a Jesuit priest operating in El Salvador during the war named Daniel Santiago. One day, he recounted, a Salvadorian peasant woman arrived home to find a large bowl filled with blood in the center of her dinner table. Seated in chairs around the table were her mother, sister and three children, each of which hand their hands arranged in a comical manner on their own decapitated heads resting on the table directly in front of them. Since the solders had had difficulty positioning the hands of the youngest child, an 18-month-old baby, they nailed the infants hands to its own severed head.

It’s somewhat tragically comforting to know that Archbishop Romero didn’t live to see the worst excesses of the Salvadorian government’s abuse of its own people. Still, his heroic championing of their rights in life, though largely fruitless in the short-term, are finally being recognized by an international community that for so long remained willfully ignorant of the plight of El Savlador. One can only hope that his belated veneration will make it, even just a little, harder for governments like the United States and the Salvadorian military junta, and its successors, to commit atrocities against their own and foreign populations.

Sources: 1) “Pope lifts beatification ban on Salvadoran Oscar Romero” BBC (August 18, 2014) accessed: September 9, 2014 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-28845998
2) Maurice Walsh, “Requiem for Romero” BBC (March 23, 2005) accessed: September 9, 2014 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/file_on_4/4376733.stm
3) Noam Chomsky, “The Crucifixion of EL SALVADOR” Third World Traveler accessed: September 9, 2014 http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Chomsky/ChomOdon_ElSalvador.html

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America, Israel and Palestine

With the establishment of a seemingly longterm ceasefire agreement last week between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership, a particularly bloody summer in Gaza has finally come to a close. The Israeli government’s latest efforts at “mowing the lawn,” a term used by Israeli commanders when referencing their military’s regular attacks on the Palestinian population in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, was a particularly successful one. Partially facilitated, as such truces in the region historically have been, by the mediation of the Egyptian dictatorship, the ceasefire agreement was predicated upon promises by the Israeli government to both ease its maritime blockade of Gaza and open certain boarder crossings between itself and the besieged strip of land. The Israeli government has yet to act on either of these treaty promises however, and instead seized 400 hectares of land in the West Bank, the other Palestinian region occupied by Israel, for Israeli settlement just this past Sunday. The American government, normally 100 percent supportive of Israeli policy, actually castigated Israel’s government for this action, calling it “counterproductive.” For Palestinians, the agreement made no mention of the statehood they so crave, nor an end to the occupation of their territory by the Israel. After over 2,000, mostly civilian, Palestinians deaths and with more than 10,000 injured (in comparison to 72 Israelis killed, 65 of which were solders) over the course of this summer, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge has done little more than preserve the status quo.

It’s important to understand how and why this most recent Israeli assault took place. The public, in the U.S. at least, was lead to believe that Protective Edge was initiated in response to the threat posed by Hamas, an Islamist political organization operating in the occupied territories that the Israel government seeks to undermine and destroy, and its rockets. The Israeli government had clamped down on Hamas prior to the conflict in response to the murder of three teenage Israeli settlers in the occupied territory by that same organization. Never mind the fact that two Palestinian boys were shot dead just the previous week in Ramallah in the West Bank, or that for 14 years the Israeli government has killed, on average, two Palestinian children a week. Violence against Palestinians in the occupied territories is simply viewed as routine and inherently warranted. In any case, the true impetus, apart from the possibility that many Israelis in government may have just considered the lawn overdue for a good mowing, was the unity agreement between Hamas (the dominant Palestinian political organization in occupied Gaza) and Fatah (the dominant Palestinian political organization in the occupied West Bank) last June establishing a new (Hamas free) government to preside over the two regions. This new government promised to act in accordance with, and to carrying out all demands of, the Quartet (a body composed of foreign representatives from the U.S., Russia, the E.U. and the U.N. that seeks to help mediate the Israeli-Palestinian crisis). While the U.S. government, and most others, publicly lauded this hopeful development on the part of Hamas and Fatah, the Israeli government was livid. Government policy in Tel Aviv has long sought to keep the West Bank and Gaza, already physically separated, politically separated and frozen so as to more easily squeeze their respective occupied populations and snatch up valuable Palestinian land in the West Bank for Israeli settlement. Additionally, the political cooperation of Hamas and Fatah flew in the face of the Israeli government’s claim that it has no viable Palestinian entity to negotiate with and is thus forced to act militarily. Ultimately, Israel’s violent reaction this summer to the potentially constructive development represented by the Palestinians’ recent move toward political unity and de-radicalization shows that a peaceful and lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is the last thing that Tel Aviv, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government specifically, want. Instead, the Israeli government, like the South African one decades ago, would prefer for the world to kindly look away and allow it to continue to illegally expand Israeli settlements into Palestinian territory and maintain its brutal occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

And make no mistake, the occupation of Palestine is nothing less than brutal. 90 percent of the water supply in Gaza is unsafe for human consumption and anemia, stunting, underweight and wasting runs rampant through the Palestinian population, especially among children. Furthermore, over half of the households in Gaza are food insecure, a figure directly linked to Israel’s continued naval blockade of Gaza, which renders fishing (vitally economically important to the area historically), impossible. These trends (along with the lack of electricity and garbage collection, relentless violence, political sabotage, widespread poverty and other outrages that occupied Palestinians regularly suffer) breeds a tangible sense of radical fatalism among the populations in Gaza and the West Bank and thus stokes further conflict.

All that said, this past summer has been particularly horrific for Palestinians owing to Israel’s renewed offensive, the most deadly one in recent memory. Taking a page from the U.S.’s book in Iraq, Vietnam, etc., Israel disregarded international wartime laws and intentionally targeted Gaza’s main power plant, ambulances and first responders, hospitals, schools and densely populated residential areas for bombing. Besides terrorizing the population, these tactics have reduced huge swaths of Gaza to rubble, thereby wiping out any fleeting economic development there (a vital goal when “mowing the lawn”), and turned most of those that weren’t killed into refugees. More than three thousand of these refugees, mostly women and children, were attacked again when the Israeli military, ignoring the pleas of United Nations aid workers on the ground, repeatedly bombed the U.N.’s Jabalia Elementary Girls School in Gaza, a well known and historic haven for refugees during Israeli attacks. The atrocity sparked condemnation from the U.N. and actually garnered coverage in the Western media, yielding the “concern” of the White House. Generally though, Western media, in the U.S. especially, remains decidedly pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian.

Instead of remaining willfully ignorant of the Israeli government’s criminal activities with regard to the Palestinian population, Americans must realize and address the U.S.’s role in these atrocities. Significantly, America’s, mostly military, aid to Israel since 1974 exceeds $100 billion. It’s U.S. made Hellfire missiles, payed for with American tax dollars, that vaporize Palestinian children in their beds and demolish hospitals filled with patients. The U.S. also provides Israel with vital diplomatic cover in the face of almost universal condemnation from the international community. The U.S. was the only country to vote against a U.N. initiative to investigate Israel’s human rights abuses in Gaza this year and it continues to serve as an apologist for Israel’s occupation policies. Having given the green light to the Israeli government’s covert nuclear program in the late 1960s, the U.S. government continues to turn a blind eye toward Israel’s publicly unacknowledged but vast stockpile of WMDs (this in stark contrast to the U.S. government’s policy towards Iran and their imaginary nuclear weapons program). It is likely that, like South Africa’s Apartheid regime in 1980s, Israel’s anti-Palestinian government would be unable to carryout its occupation, devastation and settlement of Palestine absent continuing U.S. support. With Protective Edge garnering unprecedentedly severe backlash internationally and among young people on the internet this summer, the time to effect change (through divestment campaigns and political activities) is now.

Sources: 1) Sharif Nashashibi, “No hope for lasting Gaza ceasefire” Middle East Eye (September 1, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/no-hope-lasting-gaza-ceasefire-41797115
2) “Israel seizes 400 hectares of West Bank land” Aljazeera (September 1, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/us-urges-israel-reverse-land-appropriation-20149111628544678.html
3) “72nd Gaza war casualty: Sgt. Shachar Shalev, 20, succumbs to wounds” The Jerusalem Post (August 31, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/72nd-Gaza-war-casualty-Sgt-Shachar-Shalev-20-succumbs-to-wounds-372987
4) Noam Chomsky, “Outrage” Z Magazine (September 2014)
5) Moti Bassok “U.S. military aid to Israel exceeds $100 billion” Haaretz accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.611001
6) Sarah Lazare “America Complicit in Israeli War Crimes: US Stands Alone in Vote Against United Nations Inquiry Into Gaza Assault” GlobalResearch (July 25, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-stands-alone-in-vote-against-united-nations-inquiry-into-gaza-assault/5393287
7) Amir Oren “Newly declassified documents reveal how U.S. agreed to Israel’s nuclear program” Haaretz accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.613221

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