The recent breakout of the people of Gaza provided
a heroic spectacle unlike any other since the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the
smashing down of the Berlin Wall. Whereas on the occupied West Bank, Ariel Sharon's
master plan of walling in the population and stealing their land and resources
has all but succeeded, requiring only a Palestinian Vichy to sign it off, the
people of Gaza have defied their tormentors, however briefly, and it is a guarantee
they will do so again. There is profound symbolism in their achievement, touching
lives and hopes all over the world.
"[Sharon's] fate for us," wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian, "was
a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed,
cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists,
broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism, and co-opted [by] collaborationists.
Look to the Iraq of today – that is what he had in store for us and he nearly
Israel's and America's experiments in mass suffering nearly achieved it. There
was First Rains, the code name for a terror of sonic booms that came every night
and sent Gazan children mad. There was Summer Rains, which showered bombs and
missiles on civilians, then extrajudicial executions, and finally a land invasion.
Ehud Barak, the current Israeli defense minister, has tried every kind of blockade:
the denial of electricity for water and sewage pumps, incubators and dialysis
machines and the denial of fuel and food to a population of mostly malnourished
children. This has been accompanied by the droning, insincere, incessant voices
of western broadcasters and politicians, one merging with the other, platitude
upon platitude, tribunes of the "international community" whose response
is not to help, but to excuse an indisputably illegal occupation as "disputed"
and damn a democratically elected Palestinian Authority as "Hamas militants"
who "refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist" when it is Israel
that demonstrably refuses to recognize the Palestinians' right to exist.
"What is being hidden from the [Israeli] public," wrote
Uri Avnery, a founder of Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace movement, on 26
January, "is that the launching of the Qassams [rockets from Gaza] could
be stopped tomorrow. Several months ago, Hamas proposed a ceasefire. It repeated
the offer this week... Why doesn't our government jump at this proposal? Simple:
to make such a deal, we must speak to Hamas... It is more important to boycott
Hamas than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media cooperate
with this pretense." Hamas long ago offered Israel a ten-year ceasefire
and has since recognized the "reality" of the Jewish state. This is
almost never reported in the west.
The inspiration of the Palestinian breakout from Gaza was dramatically demonstrated
by the star Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Aboutreika. Helping his national side
to a 3-0 victory over Sudan in the African Nations Cup, he raised his shirt
to reveal a T-shirt with the words "Sympathize with Gaza" in English
and Arabic. The crowd stood and cheered, and hundreds of thousands of people
around the world expressed their support for him and for Gaza. An Egyptian journalist
who joined a delegation of sports writers to FIFA to protest against Aboutreika's
yellow card said: "It is actions like his that bring many walls down, walls
of silence, walls in our minds."
In the murdochracies, where most of the world is viewed as useful or expendable,
we have little sense of this. The news selection is unremittingly distracting
and disabling. The cynicism of an identical group of opportunists laying claim
to the White House is given respectability as each of them competes to support
the Bush regime's despotic war-making. John McCain, almost certainly the Republican
nominee for president, wants a "hundred-year war." That the leading
Democratic candidates are a woman and a black man is of supreme irrelevance;
the fanatical Condoleezza Rice is both female and black. Look into the murky
world behind Hillary Clinton and you find the likes of Monsanto, a company that
produced Agent Orange, the war chemical that continues to destroy Vietnam. One
of Barack Obama's chief whisperers is Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of Operation
Cyclone in Afghanistan, which spawned jihadism, al-Qaeda and 9/11.
This malign circus has been silent on Palestine and Gaza and almost anything
that matters, including the following announcement, perhaps the most important
of the century: "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver
of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass
destruction." Inviting incredulity, these words may require more than one
reading. They come from a statement written by five of the west's top military
leaders, an American, a Briton, a German, a Frenchman and a Dutchman, who help
run the club known as NATO. They are saying the west should nuke countries that
have weapons of mass destruction – with the exclusion, that is, of the west's
nuclear arsenal. Nuking will be necessary because "the west's values and
way of life are under threat."
Where is this threat coming from? "Over there," say the generals.
Where? In "the brutal world."
On 21 January, on the eve of the NATO announcement, Gordon Brown also out-Orwelled
Orwell. He said that "the race for more and bigger stockpiles of nuclear
destruction [sic]" is over. The reason he gave was that "the international
community" (basically, the west) was facing "serious challenges."
One of these challenges is Iran, which has no nuclear weapons and no program
to build them, according to America's National Intelligence Estimates. This
is in striking contrast to Brown's Britain, which, in defiance of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, has commissioned an entirely new Trident nuclear arsenal
at a cost believed to be as much as £25bn. What Brown was doing was threatening
Iran on behalf of the Bush regime, which wants to attack Iran before the end
of the presidential term.
Jonathan Schell, author of the seminal Fate
of the Earth, provides compelling evidence in his recently published
The Seventh Decade: the New Shape of Nuclear Danger that nuclear
war has now moved to the center of western foreign policy even though the enemy
is invented. In response, Russia has begun to restore its vast nuclear arsenal.
Robert McNamara, the US defense secretary during the Cuban crisis, describes
this as "Apocalypse Soon." Thus, the wall dismantled by young Germans
in 1989 and sold to tourists is being built in the minds of a new generation.
For the Bush and Blair regimes, the invasion of Iraq and the campaigns against
Hamas, Iran and Syria are vital in fabricating this new "nuclear threat."
The effect of the Iraq invasion, says a study cited by Noam Chomsky, is a "sevenfold
increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks."
Behold NATO's instant "brutal world."
Of course, the highest and oldest wall is that which separates "us"
from "them." This is described today as a great divide of religions
or "a clash of civilizations," which are false concepts, propagated
in western scholarship and journalism to provide what Edward Said called "the
other" – an identifiable target for fear and hatred that justifies invasion
and economic plunder. In fact, the foundations for this wall were laid more
than 500 years ago when the privileges of "discovery and conquest"
were granted to Christopher Columbus in a world that the then all-powerful pope
considered his property, to be disposed of according to his will.
Nothing has changed. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World
Trade Organization and now NATO are invested with the same privileges of conquest
on behalf of the new papacy in Washington. The goal is what Bill Clinton called
the "integration of countries into the global free-market community,"
the terms of which, noted the New York Times, "require the United States
to get involved in the plumbing and wiring of other nations' internal affairs
more deeply than ever before."
This modern system of dominance requires sophisticated propaganda that presents
its aims as benign, even "promoting democracy in Iraq," according
to BBC executives responsible for responding to skeptical members of the public.
That "we" in the west have the unfettered right to exploit the economies
and resources of the poor world while maintaining tariff walls and state subsidies
is taught as serious scholarship in the economics departments of leading universities.
This is neoliberalism – socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. "Rather
than acknowledging," wrote Chalmers Johnson, "that free trade, privatization
and the rest of their policies are ahistorical, self-serving economic nonsense,
apologists for neoliberalism have also revived an old 19th-century and neo-Nazi
explanation for developmental failure – namely, culture."
What is rarely discussed is that liberalism as an open-ended, violent ideology
is destroying liberalism as a reality. Hatred of Muslims is widely advertised
by those claiming the respectability of what they call "the left."
At the same time, opponents of the new papacy are routinely smeared, as seen
in the recent fake charges of narcoterrorism against Hugo Chávez. Having
insinuated their way into public debate, the smears deflect authentic critiques
of Chávez's Venezuela and prepare the ground for an assault on it.
This is the role that journalism has played in the invasion of Iraq and the
great injustice in Palestine. It also represents a wall, on which Aldous Huxley,
describing his totalitarian utopia in Brave New World, might have written: "Opposition
is apostasy. Fatalism is ideal. Silence is preferred." If the people of
Gaza can disobey all three, why can't we?