Breaking Through to the Hindu and other recent developments

I was a bit surprised to learn that The Hindu newspaper carried coverage of the American Studies Association boycott resolution in its pages. It hardly seemed like international news to me. But what was more surprising is that it came in the form of Zionist articles by American columnists David Brooks (New York Times) and Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post). Both articles repeat stale propaganda about Israel and the boycott movement, which if they had been even fact checked some of that could have been reduced. In any case, I wrote my own response to them, which was published in today’s paper, although it was edited so I’ll post the original version below:

In the print edition of The Hindu on 11 January 2014, a column by Charles Karauthammer appeared from the newswire about the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent resolution to boycott Israel. As a member of the ASA for almost twenty years, and as the person who initiated this move towards boycott in the spring of 2005, I find it a bit odd that such an article (the second, actually, as The Hindu published a wire piece by David Brooks a couple of weeks ago arguing more or less the same point) would appear in the pages of an Indian newspaper given that the bone of contention is from quite an American point of view. Moreover, Indians know from experience what the power of boycott can do when fighting a foreign colonial power on one’s land.

Brooks and Krauthammer may offer readers many opinions, but there is very little grounded in facts, which a quick perusal of the ASA’s website would reveal. For example, Brooks, for example, thinks that the problem is only the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; curiously Gaza doesn’t come into his frame. Both writers paint a portrait of an Israel that looks like it’s a beautiful, democratic society with just a few minor flaws that need to be worked out. Let me offer your readers a different American viewpoint, and one that comes from an American Jew who has spent several years teaching at Palestinian universities in the West Bank cities of Jerusalem and Nablus; there I had a front-row seat to the myriad ways that Israel actively interfered with the lives of Palestinian scholars and students, making teaching, conducting research, or merely going to school next to impossible.

Any way one examines the conditions of Palestinians, including access to education, there are problems whether in the West Bank, Gaza, or Israel itself. Israel has a segregated school system (similar to the “separate but equal” system the U.S. created for African Americans) as detailed in a recent Human Rights Watch report. Israel routinely targets schools in its invasions of Palestine (and Lebanon); during its 2008 war against Gaza, Israel targeted a United Nations school and the Islamic University of Gaza. In the West Bank, where I spent most of my time, students were routinely kept from attending university and school because of the checkpoint and Jewish-only road system. Last summer the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report detailing the extent to which Palestinian children between the ages of twelve and seventeen are kidnapped from their homes at night, detained in military prisons where they are tortured, often until they agree to become informants on their family and community. If I had more space to write, I could produce a dissertation on the ways in which Palestinian youth are singled out by Israeli soldiers, abused, and prevented from pursuing their education.

Instead of exploring the reality of Palestinians, Krauthammer and Brooks deflect attention by either asking why Israel is “singled out” (answer: because as a state it singles itself out out as in its special relationship with the U.S., for which it is handsomely rewarded financially, militarily, and through UN vetoes). Those who pay taxes in the U.S. and who are part of the boycott movement do not want our tax dollars to continue funding these activities. In Israel, as in South Africa under its apartheid regime, universities are state-run and help produce the knowledge that undergirds the practices and policies that further the occupation and colonization of Palestinians.

But Brooks and Krauthammer would have it that the ASA operated out of either anti-Semitism or discrimination against Israeli scholars. In fact, the resolution, in keeping with the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, calls for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions only. Neither the movement in Palestine nor the West nor in India targets any individual on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, the ASA resolution also acknowledges the fact that Israeli scholars are a part of this movement as well.

The false claim of “anti-Semitism” is often trotted out by Zionists—Christian and Jewish alike—who wish to remind their audience of violence perpetuated by Europeans against European Jews. But in the history of West Asia this charge is ironic given the fact that Arabs are far more Semitic than European Jews like me and given the fact that the people living under a brutal colonial regime are Palestinians, Syrians (in the Occupied Golan Heights), and Lebanese in the remaining five villages that Israel continues to illegally occupy.

Those of us active in the boycott movement around the globe do so out of a desire to see Palestinian people achieve justice meaning the right of return for Palestinian refugees and compensation as per UN Resolution 194. We believe that there shouldn’t be any nation with special status. We believe that when the UN makes a resolution all nations must abide by them not just countries bullied by the powers governing the Security Council and their allies.

Marcy Newman is an independent scholar and author of The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans and a founding member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

There have been some more terrific pieces about the boycott in the press in the last couple of weeks, including the Modern Language Association (MLA) resolution, which doesn’t go as far as the ASA, but at lest it is taking the correct steps in that direction.

First, here is a terrific action alert from Adalah New York for people who want to respond and support the ASA. There is also a petition to sign to support the ASA, but you must be a member. This is especially essential since yesterday Forbes had the audacity to publish an openly ad hominem attack by Richard Behar about several of my colleagues and friends in the ASA who have been working tirelessly over the last several years to make this resolution happen.

Steven Salaita has a brilliant piece in Electronic Intifada called “Ten Things We’ve Learned About Opposition to Academic Boycott,” which pretty much responds to Behar and whatever other Zionist hack wants to do to try to belittle our work. Also, USACBI posted a brilliant piece this week called “This is What an Academic Boycott Looks Like” for people who are sincerely interested in understanding our work. Also here is the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI) statement of solidarity with the ASA.

Second, the U.S. Green Party issued a press release supporting the ASA’s resolution.

Then there are a couple of great pieces in university newspapers from Bowdoin, Syracuse, and Tufts. Bill Mullen did a radio interview about the resolution and Democracy Now! hosted a debate, although the choice of debaters isn’t great.

Meanwhile at the MLA annual meeting, another one of my former academic homes, a resolution was passed, although it focused on the lack of human rights and academic freedom. A petition is here for people who want to sign it (you don’t need to be a member to do so). Here are some articles covering the MLA resolution and what transpired at the various panels there:

Liz Schulman’s “Boycott Panel at MLA Draws Applause and Fearful Questions”

Alex Kane’s “MLA Delegates Pass Measure Against Israel Denying Entry to Academics”

Bruce Robbins’ “‘Common Sense Has Moved On’: Report from MLA Debate on Israel”

David Palumbo-Liu’s “Modern Language Association Prepared to Talk Seriously About Palestine”

Finally, in the midst of all this, Ariel “the butcher” Sharon died. But instead of publishing an article from an Indian point of view, once again The Hindu resorted to a Zionist writer, Ethan Bronner, from the news wire. Many people have torn this and other whitewashed obituaries to shreds already, but today The Hindu also published a terrific, contextually rich piece by Vijay Prashad that highlights the damaging work that Sharon did, along with the BJP, to erode a history of solidarity between Palestinians and Indians:

In 2003, Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India. He had been invited by the BJP-led government to cement the newfound ties between India and Israel. At that time, The Hindu wrote, “New Delhi has sent out wrong signals by playing host to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at this particular juncture… Even if it was possible to set aside [Sharon’s] appalling personal history, his apparent distaste for a just and permanent settlement with the Palestinians cannot be ignored. Even moderate constituencies in Arab countries are convinced that Mr. Sharon was largely responsible for scuttling the Oslo process. The policies Israel has implemented under his stewardship have aggravated the violent confrontation with the Palestinians.” Nonetheless, the Bharatiya Janata Party and later the Congress endorsed Israeli policy by its new attachment to Tel Aviv. India quickly became the largest importer of Israeli arms, unwittingly helping the Israeli economy in its principal task — to pursue the occupation of the Palestinians.

Not all of India embraced its leaders’ camaraderie with Sharon. “Katil Sharon se yaari, sharam karo Atal Bihari [shame on you, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for befriending the murderous Sharon],” and similar slogans echoed across the country at Sharon’s death, despite the warm condolence message crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office. India’s government, which once led the Non-Aligned world to defend the rights of the Palestinians, is now reticent to be critical of Israel and allows itself to celebrate the life of a man whose day in court was postponed because of his Western allies.

For other excellent coverage, which doesn’t include much of Al Jazeera’s shameful, borderline hagiographic tributes, see these pieces:

Democracy Now!’s interviews with Rashid Khalidi, Noam Chomsky, and Avi Shlaim

As’ad AbuKhalil’s “Ariel Sharon: International War Criminal Remembered”

Jonathan Cook’s “The Legacy of Ariel ‘the bulldozer’ Sharon”

Max Blumenthal’s “How Ariel Sharon Shaped Israel’s Destiny”

Ahmed Moor’s “Ariel Sharon: The Architect of Terror”

David Samel’s “Bronner Whitewashes Sharon’s Atrocities”

Peter Hart’s “How the Big Papers Remember Ariel Sharon”

Support the American Studies Association #ASA2013 #BDS

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Zionists have come out in full force to attack the American Studies Association that courageously voted to support an academic boycott of Israel. In the past few days American-Zionist-cum-colonists like Martin Kramer have written articles like “Boycott. Me. Please.” Ali Abunmiah reported the source of this pressure:

Last week anti-Palestinian group StandWithUs, which works closely with the Israeli government, sent out an email blast calling on its followers to “Urge university presidents, donors and government to denounce the ASA and sever ties with the organization.”

The ASA has five thousand individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.

Under such pressure two universities, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg,have canceled their institutional memberships of the ASA.

Some university presidents are allowing faculty to form their own opinions, although others are cracking down as institutions. But as would be expected, most American academic institutions are towing the political party line and distorting the issue by trying to pretend it’s about academic freedom when it’s not.

As a result of blurring the issue and starting some hysterical Zionist hasbara, it is necessary to show one’s support for the ASA now. To do so, please follow the following cues (though if you are interested in becoming a member don’t do it until January 1st if you want a full year’s membership for your fees):

Renew your membership in ASA, especially institutional members of the organization, and encourage other programs to become institutional members. (ONLY 83 schools are institutional members.)

To renew Institutional Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/institutional_membership_invitation/

To renew Individual Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/membership_invitation/

Announce your support of the ASA and the right of the association to act according to the will of the membership. Academic freedom guarantees not only the individual right of faculty members to express their views, but also the autonomy of professional associations.

Support ASA-related activities.  The ASA remains at the forefront of critical scholarship in many areas crucial to the study and teaching of labor relations, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, popular culture and technology, political organizing and social movements. ASA scholars’ interdisciplinary work addresses US history, politics, and culture, both within and beyond its borders. Over the last two decades, American Studies has internationalized, responding to the global conditions of the present. And asRichard Falk, the international legal theorist, has noted: “The ASA outcome is part of a campaign to construct a new subjectivity surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is the sort of act that lends credibility to claims that a momentum is transforming the climate of opinion surrounding a conflict situation. Such a momentum is capable of breaking down a structure of oppression at any moment.

Defend the right of the ASA to develop independent political positions based on the scholarship and research of its members. The resolution is based on documented history of Israeli human rights abuse and violations of international law, which are acknowledged in the Israeli press and by scholars.  For example, Professor Henry Siegman, the well-known scholar of Mid-East politics and former National Director of the American Jewish Congress, has written in an article titled “There is no Bigotry in the Boycott,” (Haaretz Dec 20, 2013): “As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.”

Denounce the campaign of intimidation against the ASA.  The ASA is a small academic professional association, but because it dared to express criticism of Israel, powerful and well-funded academic and non-academic organizations have mounted a public campaign aimed at destroying the Association. These organizations falsely accuse the ASA membership of being anti-semitic, bent on the destruction of Israel.  But the goal of the boycott is to show solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians, who have been subject to decades of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many Jewish members of ASA support the resolution. These include Eric Cheyfitz, who posted this comment to the ASA website: “I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.” Seehttp://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/asa_members_vote_to_endorse_academic_boycott/

Write to your congressional and state representatives and urge them to do the following:

  • Defend the academic freedom of the ASA and its membership.  The campaign against the ASA as an organization and the attacks against the national leadership and harassment of individual members, some of whom are graduate students or junior faculty, is an assault on academic freedom in the US and violates the basic principle that the American education system should not be held hostage to foreign interests.
  • Ensure that ASA activities are not subject to discriminatory practices.  All university programs receive federal and/or state funding.  Government officials should not discriminate in the allocating of public funds simply because they disagree with the positions of a professional association.
  • Encourage and facilitate more critical discussions of the US-Israeli relationship.  See for example Sarah Roberts’s recently published essay in support of the boycott resolution.

For more information or to report intimidation:

Contact the ASA Activism and Community Caucus (asaactcaucus@gmail.com)

Some great new articles to read on the ASA boycott this week:

Noura Erakat, Alex Lubin, Steven Salaita, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, and Jasbir Puar’s “Substantive Erasures: Essays on Academic Boycott and the American Studies Association”

Samuel Nelson Gilbert’s “Calls to Boycott Israel Grow on U.S. Campuses”

Sarah Roberts’s “The Turning Tide: The ASA, Scholarly Responsibility and the Call for Academic Boycott of Israel”

Noura Erakat’s “Demanding Equality: Interview with Steven Salaita on the ASA Academic Boycott”

Omar Barghouti’s “Is BDS’ Campaign Against Israel Reaching a Turning Point?”

NSJP Statement of Thanks and Solidarity with the American Studies Association”

 

should it matter that there are no gas ovens in gaza?

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so there are no gas ovens in gaza. but really, does it matter. they are trapped in a concentration camp and they are being slaughtered by the minute. here is the definition from the oxford english dictionary of a concentration camp:

a place where large numbers of people, esp. political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution.

this definition clearly applies to gaza. and the mass slaughter by israeli terrorist forces suggests that they are doing just what was done to them. even comedian rosanne barr is saying that they are behaving like nazis.

for the last 45 minutes israeli terrorists added to their siege of gaza fire by land. israeli terrorist media is egging on their terrorist forces. so while the israeli terrorist tanks have yet to invade gaza, they are now firing from the land border, as well as by sea and air. more leaflets landed today urging palestinians to flee. and where exactly shall 1.5 million palestinians flee? there is no airport and they are being bombarded by air. no ships have come to rescue them and they are being bombarded by sea. and all land borders are closed and now they are being bombarded by land. not a square inch of gaza is being spared. nowhere is safe. a few palestinians were allowed to leave if they had foreign passports and some foreigners left as well. but there are others who refused to leave, who are staying to witness, to stay with loved ones, to resist this terrorist bombardment.

ayman mohyeldin just reported on al jazeera that he received a weekly bulletin from the united nations that stated some grim facts:

80% can no longer support self and depend on aid
15 electrical transformers bombed so access to electricity
500 palestinians in rafah have been made refugees because their homes were destroyed and they are now staying in un shelters
some goods are trickling in, the vast majority of hospitals cannot cope: blood, food, medicine supplies are in acute in shortage

here is the latest al jazeera report on the week of israeli terrorism unleashed on gaza:

i’ve been watching protests on tv all day. al jazeera is the only channel on in the university cafeteria now. the mood is somber, as well it should be. people just watch in quiet. we are all shocked. we cannot believe how much worse it is getting. and when you look at all the people in the streets in cities across the world it is amazing that world leaders either remain silent or give their full support to israeli terrorism, like george bush and barack obama. the ever eloquent ali abunimah made an important point about obama’s complicity and silence in an editorial in the guardian yesterday; i am not quoting the whole thing, but you definitely should click the link to read the rest:

But as more than 2,400 Palestinians have been killed or injured – the majority civilians – since Israel began its savage bombardment of Gaza on 27 December, Obama has maintained his silence. “There is only one president at a time,” his spokesmen tell the media. This convenient excuse has not applied, say, to Obama’s detailed interventions on the economy, or his condemnation of the “coordinated attacks on innocent civilians” in Mumbai in November.

The Mumbai attacks were a clear-cut case of innocent people being slaughtered. The situation in the Middle East however is seen as more “complicated” and so polite opinion accepts Obama’s silence not as the approval for Israel’s actions that it certainly is, but as responsible statesmanship.

It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel’s murder of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab parliament.

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compare abunimah’s analysis with this satire by jerry ghenelli on what would happen if the israeli terrorists attacked the u.s.:

The government of Israel today launched a massive air assault on suspected terrorist targets along major coastal cities in the United States of America. In an operation termed “Friendly Enemy,” hundreds of Israeli F-16 fighter jets streaked across the Atlantic in precise formation and fired surgical air strikes at alleged terrorist strongholds in densely populated Muslim communities all along the northeast corridor of the United States. The American-made Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets then continued south, inflicting massive destruction in densely populated Muslim communities along many southeastern US states as well.

Reaction to the attacks on the US was swift. President Bush and President-Elect Obama both appealed for restraint, but stated emphatically, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

President Bush, who took an oath to defend the US and to preserve, protect and defend it against all foreign and domestic enemies, stated that the War on Terror must be fought anywhere and everywhere in the world, even on US soil, if necessary. “Our close relationship with Israel, our steadfast ally in the War on Terror, requires extraordinary sacrifices by the American people and requires exceptions to both US and international law,” said Bush.

this sort of silence seems ludicrous, but of course this is precisely what americans complicit in the massacre in gaza are doing. they just don’t care because palestinians are dying. if americans were dying perhaps they would care, though not if those americans were in gaza helping palestinians (remember rachel corrie?). and, of course, there are others who are silent. in his article abunimah also lends his criticism to various complicit american journalist and legislators, but importantly he also lends his critique to american professors who have remained silent, complicit like all the rest:

Similarly, we can expect that the American university professors who have publicly opposed the academic boycott of Israel on grounds of protecting “academic freedom” will remain just as silent about Israel’s bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza as they have about Israel’s other attacks on Palestinian academic institutions.

indeed i have been writing to american professors in organizations like the american studies association over the past week who offer the same lame excuses about why they still refuse to call for a boycott of the terrorist state of israel: things like believing in dialogue and freedom of expression. since when did this become more important than human lives? and i really wonder if these were jews would they behave the same way. i think not. they would all get together and rally around bulls*&^ slogans like “never again” and talk about the nazi holocaust.

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david lloyd has an amazing article that historicizes and compares the warsaw ghetto in nazi germany to the gaza concentration camp that is currently besieged by american weapons and israeli terrorism. like the abumimah piece it is important to read the whole thing, but the crux of what i find significant is this:

The right of the Palestinian people to resist is as indubitable as the right of the Jews of Warsaw to resist the Nazis, or of the Polish or French people to fight against their occupation by the Nazis. Israel is not the West’s proxy in the so-called global war against terrorism. It is a state that itself inflicts terror, and does so with a force and brutality far exceeding anything available to the most violent of terrorist organizations. It is a state whose colonial aim, to occupy and to settle land historically occupied by another people in order to provide unlimited Lebensraum for its own ethnic group, is evidenced every day in the continuing expansion of the illegal settlements on the West Bank. It is an apartheid state, whose self-declared constitution as a “Jewish State for a Jewish People” should have no more international legitimacy than South Africa’s “white state for a white people” or Northern Ireland’s “Protestant State for a Protestant people”, both of which finally fell to a combination of military and civil resistance and international opprobrium.

It is long beyond time for Israel, now the exception in every respect among nations, to be held accountable to the norms of international law. It is time for Israel to be subjected to the same scrutiny as any other state that bases its polity on sectarianism and racism, that has established one set of laws for one ethnic group and another for the rest. It is time for Israel to by judged by the international law that everywhere condemns extended occupation, condemns collective punishment, war against civilians, population transfers or ethnic cleansing, dispossession of the occupied people and the settlement of their lands. It is time for us to name Israel what it is so long as it continues to pursue the most extreme of Zionist visions: a colonial, apartheid state with neither legitimacy nor a deserved place among the community of democratic nations.

It is time for us to cease the appeasement of Israel. Even the most ardent of appeasers of Nazi Germany never supplied Germany with arms or foreign aid, with fighter planes with which to bomb civilians, never labeled the resistance to Nazism “terrorism”, never actively participated in the German stranglehold on the ghettos where it confined its subject populations. “Constructive engagement” did not work with South Africa; numerous U.N. General Assembly resolutions that have expressed the virtually unanimous international condemnation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its wars against its neighbors have not worked. It is time for the truth about Israel to be disseminated, even against the most effective control of the western media by Israel’s lobbyists. It is time for all who care about justice and peace, for human rights, for the fate of the innocent and the oppressed, the stateless and the dispossessed, make our voices heard. Let it not be said that in their most extreme hour of need, the Palestinian people were abandoned by the world, as the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto were abandoned in 1943.

in yet another brilliant analysis israeli historian ilan pappe writes for electronic intifada a piece that calls for targeting the enemy–zionism and its constant history of genocide and ethnic cleansing–through boycott, divestment and sanctions as was the main effective tactic in south africa under apartheid. as with the other articles i’m quoting, this is essential reading so i encourage you to click on the link to read the entire piece:

Similarly, we may be able to find the popular, as distinct from the high brow academic, way of explaining clearly that Israel’s policy — in the last 60 years — stems from a racist hegemonic ideology called Zionism, shielded by endless layers of righteous fury. Despite the predictable accusation of anti-Semitism and what have you, it is time to associate in the public mind the Zionist ideology with the by now familiar historical landmarks of the land: the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel during the days of the military rule, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and now the massacre of Gaza. Very much as the Apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology — in its most consensual and simplistic variety — allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanize the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern that cannot only be discussed in the academic ivory towers, but has to be part of the political discourse on the contemporary reality in Palestine today.

Some of us, namely those committed to justice and peace in Palestine, unwittingly evade this debate by focusing, and this is understandable, on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) — the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Struggling against the criminal policies there is an urgent mission. But this should not convey the message that the powers that be in the West adopted gladly by a cue from Israel, that Palestine is only in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that the Palestinians are only the people living in those territories. We should expand the representation of Palestine geographically and demographically by telling the historical narrative of the events in 1948 and ever since and demand equal human and civil rights to all the people who live, or used to live, in what today is Israel and the OPT.

By connecting the Zionist ideology and the policies of the past with the present atrocities, we will be able to provide a clear and logical explanation for the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions. Challenging by nonviolent means a self-righteous ideological state that allows itself, aided by a mute world, to dispossess and destroy the indigenous people of Palestine, is a just and moral cause. It is also an effective way of galvanizing the public opinion not only against the present genocidal policies in Gaza, but hopefully one that would prevent future atrocities. But more importantly than anything else it will puncture the balloon of self-righteous fury that suffocates the Palestinians every times it inflates. It will help end the Western immunity to Israel’s impunity. Without that immunity, one hopes more and more people in Israel will begin to see the real nature of the crimes committed in their name and their fury would be directed against those who trapped them and the Palestinians in this unnecessary cycle of bloodshed and violence.

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another israeli professor, oren ben-dor contextualizes the siege of gaza in terms of the refugees living in gaza and their original villages that they have a right to return to. here is part of how he explains israeli terrorism in counterpunch:

Thus, what is in fact being “preserved” is the unwillingness, or rather the inability, of Israelis to question their own state’s apartheid foundation. The concealing mantra about Hamas’s rocket firing versus Israel’s legitimate self-defence cynically conscripts both the Palestinians of Gaza and the Israelis of Sderot. Shielding the Jewish state’s unwillingness to deal with colonial and racist Zionism is more important than all of them.

Accepting the right of Israel to securely exist as a Jewish state has now become the bench mark for political moderation. Obama is already singing the song. Egalitarian anti-Zionists who challenge that right readily fail the test. This anti-Zionist voice is inclusive and moderate. It insists that injustices to Palestinians stem from the very premise of statehood that Israel is based on. Injustices to Palestinians encompass the whole of historic Palestine in a way which cannot be partitioned so that they become visible only in the territories, including Gaza, which Israel occupied in 1967. Let us, then, break the idle chatter about self-defence that merely levels “criticisms” against Israel but by that legitimises it: the origin of the violence in Gaza is intimately linked to the manner the Israeli state came into being and to the continuing toleration of the apartheid premise at its very essence. Israel should not be “reformed” or “condemned” but replaced with a single egalitarian structure over all historic Palestine.

Israel needs a continuing cycle of violence. As long as this cycle is provoked through daily oppression, Israelis can sustain that haven in which they can unite behind their inability to examine their apartheid mentality. Violence maintains a zone in which that existential threat of old stifles any possibility for genuine empathy and egalitarian self-reflection. At the same time, violence is a necessary means for entrenching the purported legitimacy of what is claimed to be the only alternative to this violence. That alternative is no other than the “surprisingly” failing, “sane”, “reasonable” and “moderate” “peace process” towards two states, a process which aims to legitimise the apartheid state once and for all. The discourse has been hijacked in such a way that the urgent calls for the immediate cessation of violence resuscitate that non-starter, the essentially unjust two states project that will ensure the continuation of violence.

jennifer lowenstein also has a great piece on counterpunch detailing exactly why this massacre in gaza has nothing to do with hamas. here is what she says at its conclusion:

The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel’s demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. Those dreaming of one state must be forced to ask themselves what Israel would do to a population of 4 million Palestinians within its borders when it commits on a daily, if not hourly basis, crimes against their collective humanity while they live alongside its borders? What will suddenly make the raison d’etre, the self-proclaimed purpose of Israel’s reason for being change if the Palestinian territories are annexed to it outright?

The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.

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it is now nighttime in palestine. in the last few hours bombing has intensified. you can see huge explosions going off behind the journalists on al jazeera. israeli terrorists just bombed a mosque in beit lahia with american-made weapons and planes. it just happened so i don’t know the full scale, but it happened during prayer. the mosque was filled with men praying. 11 people killed so far, 22 critically injured. this is what said abdelwahed describes what night is like in gaza;

Its totally dark. More than 80% of the Gaza city is covered by utter darkness. One cannot see his finger in the dark! Meantime, outside, there are drones buzzing overhead, choppers roaming in the sky. Inside again, children are unwilling to go to bed despite their bed time! They are fearful of nightmares, bad dreams, bombing, explosions, and what not! The routine sounds of the air crafts has been going on for more than six days and nights. And when it suddenly disappears…

… BANG …

continuous bangs! … series of explosions. … other horrible explosions. … blasts … flames in the distance. … children jump up from their beds. Scared … frightened. … anxious … they do not know what to do! They want to hide anywhere, but there is nowhere to go too? It sounds like the bang was under their mattresses. What to do again? Just nothing but wait! How can you convince your child to wait? And to wait for what? Next, one hears ambulances sirens and fire brigades. Thus, one comes back to himself to realize that he is in Gaza and he is operating a small generator to write this message to the world in the new year 2009.

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fida qishta from rafah wrote a beautiful diary published in today’s guardian that chronicles her week of siege by israeli terrorists and then she asks:

A short message to the pilots in the Israeli F-16s: does it make you feel happy to kill Palestinian children and women? Do you feel it’s your duty? Killing every child and woman, man and teenager in Gaza? I don’t know what exactly you feel, what exactly you think, but please think of your mother and sister, your son and daughter.

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and in the midst of this bloodbath, life goes on in some ways, as my dear friend jen marlowe wrote today about her friend abeer who is about to have a baby:

Abeer was excited when I called her today.

“It’s my time, Jen!” she told me breathlessly. “The baby might come today or tomorrow-any moment now!”

Last time I saw Abeer, a year ago, she had shown me pictures of her fiancé, a teacher, and last time we spoke, months ago, she told me she was pregnant. But I had no idea how far along she was and that she was about to give birth now.

Now, of all times.

Abeer lives in the Gaza Strip. She has been waiting for her water to break the last four days as missiles rained down, killing over 380 Palestinians.

I wanted to express whole-hearted joy. This will be Abeer’s first child, her parents’ first grandchild. But I felt panic at the news. Gaza is enduring the bloodiest, most vicious attack in the over forty years of Israeli occupation. I couldn’t imagine Abeer, whom I’ve known since she was fifteen years old and visited many times in her cramped home in Khan Younes refugee camp, giving birth to the sound of explosions in the background.

Abeer expressed some trepidation herself. “I’m frightened,” she told me. “The situation in Gaza is really terrible. And bringing a child into the world is such a huge responsibility. How can I guarantee my baby’s safety?”

world protest continues. shelling continues. bombing continues. no one’s safety can be guaranteed, even a new baby. that is the point of terrorism: civilians are targeted. in mosques. in ambulances. in schools. in hospitals. on farms. in their homes. nowhere is safe. this is a concentration camp. for all you people who cry “never again,” why do you remain silent now? what will it take for you to do something? perhaps we should gather millions of jews in gaza and then perhaps someone would do something?

there are now 457 martyrs. 2,300 injured in 8 days.

for those who are still seeking to understand what is happening and sift through the american-israeli terrorist propaganda you can read this on if americans knew website (they also have many pamphlets and flyers related to other facts about palestine that you can download).

also there is a new petition from the faculty for israeli-palestinian peace, though this is a totally lame organization, it is yet one more way you can lend your voice of protest.

re-canonizing american women writers

ant2_000 I meant to blog about this earlier, but given everything going on in the world it slipped my mind. When I was in the U.S. for the American Studies Association meeting I found that Aunt Lute had finally released the second volume of its Anthology of U.S. Women Writers. The volume was edited by my mentor from college, and now dear friend, and I helped with the selection process of many of the authors. When I lobbied for including Palestinian American writers in the Heath Anthology of American Literature, I only managed to include a token poet, Naomi Shihab Nye. But this time I had a more receptive audience and I helped with the selection of several Arab American writers: Etel Adnan, Diana Abu-Jaber, Elmaz Abinader, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mohja Kahf, Nathalie Handal, and Suheir Hammad. There are also so many other amazing writers in the volume whose work I love: Jessie Redmon Fauset, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, Sonia Sanchez, June Jordan, Gloria Anzaldúa, Chrystos, Jewelle Gomez, Carolyn Forché Helena María Viramontes, Achy Obejas, Elizabeth Alexander, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Edwidge Danticat. This anthology is also terrific because even for the canonical writers the editors did not fall back on the typical selections of their writing. Too, there are a number of important singers whose lyrics are included in the volume such as Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Alix Olson. It almost makes me want to teach an American women writers course again. It’s an amazing anthology and you can peruse the table of contents here. You may order the book at Aunt Lute’s website.

kissing and palestine

It is interesting how various aspects of my work life converge at particular moments. For the past few months I have been thinking a lot about censorship. Initially this was related to a chapter of my book that I recently finished in which I compare the U.S. laws making it illegal for slaves to read to Israeli Military Order 101 from 1967, which forbade the import, printing, distribution, and reading of a number of books. There was a list associated with it (and later films and audio materials were added to it), but the language was vague in order to make it possible for the confiscation of reading materials and arrests in routine raids of Palestinian homes. A predominant theme on this list of thousands was anything considered nationalistic, whether historic, political, or literary, and it included Palestinian writers like Ibrahim Nasrallah, Ghassan Kanafani, Fadwa Touqan, and Mahmoud Darwish. But it also included European writers like George Orwell and William Shakespeare. With the introduction of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 this order largely went away, though censorship still exists for Palestinians both by Israeli Occupation authorities and now by the Palestinian Authority. One way Israeli censorship continues is through its strict regulation over what Palestinian textbooks–particularly history and geography–may contain (in spite of Hillary Clinton’s annual congressional hearings on the matter).

Palestinian censorship is a newer phenomenon. It did not exist prior to European colonialism–like much of the region. In an article by Edward Said, “The Theory and Practice of Banning Books and Ideas,” in The End of the Peace Process, he accounts for this modern idea of censorship in Palestine and in the Arab world more generally. Said explains:

The point I am trying to make is that after 1948 at least two generations of Arabs were gradually inculcated with the idea that part of our struggle as a people required the suppression not only of certain unwelcome and unpleasant actualities by our rulers who disapproved of them but were otherwise powerless to do much about them, but also that we ourselves as a people should accept the principle that our duty as citizens was to acquiesce in the abrogation of our right to freedom of thought and expression. This was a miserable legacy to pass on. (70)

Further, Said illustrates what the effect of this new, twentieth-century censorship is:

I have yet to hear or read a real defense of censorship, even though large numbers of journalists languish in Arab prisons, and an estimable number of artists and intellectuals pay the price through exile, torture, or an imposed silence. No Arab constitution countenances censorship, but the ban on certain statements is still severely enforced. No ruler really ever wants to get into a debate about censorship, because censorship cannot withstand the clear light of reason or the rigors of debate. My books have been banned in Palestine for almost a month, yet no one has taken responsibility for the order to confiscate and remove them from the bookstore. (71)

Said wrote these words in 1996. Obviously, his writings were censored because of their political content. But my thinking about the censorship of political writings here in Palestine–whether by colonizing Zionists or by Palestinians–has collided with my thinking about teaching. When I went to the American Studies Association conference last week I left behind a lesson plan for my classes, each of which included a film. My students were to watch these films and then respond to an assignment about those films. In my drama class they were asked to watch Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit and in my conversation class they were asked to watch Edward James Olmos’ Walkout. It was important for my drama students to watch Zoot Suit, in part because of the expressionist style embodied by the character of El Pachucho. It is difficult for my students–who have never seen a live play–to imagine exactly what experimental styles might look like. And this production is not exactly a film in that there is an audience that you are aware of and it enables you to understand the relationship between the actors, the stage, and the audience. But both of these films were also important for me to share with my students because I wanted them to learn more about Chicano culture–the ways parallels of confiscating and occupying land that we can see in the events of 1848 and 1948, the oppression and imprisonment of Chicanos in the U.S., and the resistance to that oppression. Both of these films represent these themes. But my students did not get to watch these films beyond the first class. Why? Because when there was a kiss onscreen a few students complained to the Vice President of the university and he banned the movies. (For the record, my department chair, who actually watched both movies, saw nothing wrong with the material in either film.)

I first learned about this when some students emailed me to complain about it. They wanted to watch the film and complete their homework. And given some of these emails it is unclear as to whether or not the students actually objected to the kiss or whether they just wanted to get out of doing their assignment. Either way, this episode illustrates, I think, rather clearly why censorship is always deeply troubling. When one encounters something offensive one can always shut the book, turn off the television, walk out of the room. One can make that choice for oneself. But when you censor you are regulating for an entire body–whether a family, a school, a society.

Of course, I knew that such censorship was a recent, European, colonial import to the region. Historically, Abu Nuwas, who wrote erotic poems about men and women alike in 8th century Baghdad, is not banned, for instance. So this made me think about Joseph Massad’s “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World,” which makes clear that many changes in Arab society in relation to sexuality were rooted in Christian Victorian ideas about sexuality, which were repressive and foreign to the Arab world. Consider how language and practice changed in this passage from Massad’s article:

The advent of colonialism in the Arab and Muslim worlds, its sponsorship of what came to be known as “modernization” projects, as well as the proliferation and hegemony of Western cultural products have indeed had their effects. Basim Musallam has shown how such contact has influenced attitudes toward contraception and abortion: at the beginning of the nineteenth century, most schools of Islamic jurisprudence—previously supportive of women’s rights to birth control and abortion—adopted stances on these issues that were more in line with the Christian Western position (both Catholic and Protestant). Indeed as Western cultural encroachment continued, its hegemonic impact was also felt at the level of language. For example, the Arabic word for sex, jins, appeared sometime in the early twentieth century carrying with it not only its new meanings of biological sex and national origin but also its old meanings of type and kind and ethnolinguistic origin, among others. The word in the sense of type and kind has existed in Arabic since time immemorial and is derived from the Greek genus. As late as 1870, its connotation of sex had not yet come into usage. An unspecific word for sexuality, jinsiyyah—which also means nationality and citizenship—was coined in the 1950s by translators of the works of Freud (such as Mustafa Safwan, a major psychoanalytic scholar based in France, and Jurj Tarabishi, the most prominent Arab literary critic writing in Arabic today). More recently Muta3 al-Safadi, translator of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, has introduced the more specific term, jinsaniyyah. This new term, however, is understood by only a few, even among the literati. Words for homo- or heterosexuality were also invented recently as direct translations of the Latin original: mithliyyah (sameness) in reference to homosexuality, and ghayriyyah (differentness) in reference to heterosexuality. Arab translators of psychology books as well as Arab behavioral psychologists adopted the European expression sexual deviance in the mid-1950s, translating it literally as al-shudhudh al-jinsi, a coinage commonly used in the media and in polite company to refer to the Western concept of homosexuality. (371-372)

Similarly, in “Toward the study of women and politics in the Arab world: The debate and the reality,” As’ad AbuKhalil explains that it Western Christian Victorian attitudes about sexuality that at first chastised Muslims for a more permissive sexuality and then later chastised Muslims for adopting a more Victorian model of sexuality:

The historical Western (primarily Christian) attitude toward Islam has discouraged Muslims and Arabs from engaging in a frank and open discussion about the roles of women and minorities within the Islamic political — and theological — context. The Western, Christian attitude to Islam has lacked consistency; in the past Islam was attacked for what was perceived to be its sexual permissiveness, while Islam is now associated with sexual puritanism and strictness. This inconsistency is due to the political determinants of Western perceptions, and misconceptions, of Islam which explains how Islam was approached from a purely theological Christian point of view in the past, and how Islam is now approached from a secular humanist point of view. Islam, of course, has failed — in Christian, Western eyes — both tests: the Christian and the secular one. (3)

And finally in Anouar Magid’s “The Politics of Feminism in Islam” we see the ways in which Europeans viewed–envied to be more precise–Muslims in relation to sexuality in the eighteenth-century:

Even the premodern veiled women of polygamous harems were both sexually and economically freer than their European contemporaries. When Lady Mary Wortley Montagu traveled to Turkey in the eighteenth century, she wrote that she “never saw a country where women may enjoy so much liberty, and free from all reproach as in Turkey.” Indeed, as late as the nineteenth century, English women continued to report on the superiority of Turkish women in almost every sphere of social life, including hygiene, economics, and legal rights. (335-336)

Magid continues with another relevant historical point:

With the Westernization of social institutions under Mohammed ‘Ali, however, the major trade routes “to and from the Hijaz, Syria and the rest of the Ottoman Empire” were reoriented toward Europe, eroding Muslim women’s access and economic independence. Similarly, while traditional, veiled women told stories with what today might be considered pornographic content and, at the same time, made copious references to Islamic texts to bolster their arguments, this discursive freedom was veiled by modern women who sanitized their descriptions with the help of the exalted language of science and frequent references to European writers and women. (336)

I shared many of these thoughts with my students today. I also asked them how many watched MBC television (a Saudi-run station that plays many Hollywood films, including those with not just kissing, but also sex). Almost all of my students raised their hands, but some said that when kissing comes on the screen they leave the room or turn off the television. While I’m not sure I buy that last bit, the point is that this is what could have been done in the context of the films I wanted to show. But just to connect the dots a bit I also read a poem by the beloved Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, a poem that is explicitly sexual to make a point. Here is his prose poem, “A room in a hotel” which is in the volume Unfortunately, It Was Paradise:

Peace be unto love when it comes, when it dires and changes lovers in hotels. Does it have anything to lose? We’ll drink the evening coffee in the garden. We’ll tell stories of exile in the night. Then we’ll go to a room–two strangers searching for a night of compassion and so on and so forth.

We’ll leave a few words on our two seats. We’ll forget our cigarettes, so others may continue with the evening and the smoking. We’ll forget some of our sleep on our pillows, so others may come and rest in our sleep and so on and so forth. How was it that we put faith in our bodies in those hotels? How could we depend on our secrets in those hotels? In the darkness that has joined our bodies, others may continue our cry and so on and so forth. We are only two of those who sleep in a public bed, a bed that belongs to all. We say only what transient lovers also said a while ago. Goodbye comes soon. Was this hasty encounter only so as to forget those who loved us in other hotels? Have you not said these wanton words to someone else? Have I not said these wanton words to someone else in another hotel, or have I said them in this very bed? We’ll follow the same steps, so that others may come and follow the same steps and so on and so forth. (182)

Yes, Mahmoud Darwish, much to the dismay of some critics, also wrote poems about love, sex, and subjects other than Palestine or the Arab world. But does this mean we should censor him? That we should remove his books from the library shelves? That we shouldn’t teach him in classes? And if we teach him should we only teach one aspect of his oeuvre?

There is one more reason why this whole episode has irked me so much. Actually, it is the one that irks me the most. Last year when I spent time working with both a Palestine solidarity group I started in Boise, Idaho as well as with the Chicano group the Brown Berets I tried to use some of my time in both capacities to build connections among the people and the causes. I talked about the parallels historically between American and Zionist versions of colonialism and Manifest Destiny. I wanted to continue that work with these texts–to teach Palestinian students about this history, about these parallels, about various modes of resistance.

Ironically, my former students and comrades at Boise State University are now experiencing American censorship, though this version doesn’t have anything to do with kissing. It has to do with the fact that they want to reproduce an Israeli checkpoint on campus for the Tunnel of Oppression and Rabbi Dan Fink and one lone Zionist Jewish student on campus don’t want them to. They say it’s Anti-Semitic and as is par for the course in the U.S., this equals censorship. Because one cannot speak about Palestine–let alone enact its brutalities and educate Americans about it–in the U.S. Rabbi Dan Fink, in his efforts to censor this educational event sent a series of emails to university president Bob Kustra. Kustra, used to be a republican legislator in Illinois and in that position took money from the Israeli lobby. While it seems that the students at Boise State are committed to fighting the censorship, it is clear that this is a nationwide struggle in which even those who might normally be allies against Zionist suppression are siding with the oppressor. The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report calling anti-Israel speakers on college campuses anti-Semitic.

So who knew that kissing and Palestine had this much in common?

khalas with obamamania!

I’m still reeling from the experience of not only coming back to the U.S. in the midst of a racist, offensive presidential campaign, but also the ways in which this affected the American Studies Association (ASA) conference. Normally this is a conference I look forward to. Some of the smartest people–and some of the most politically radical people–are usually in attendance. This is a conference where Angela Davis and Ruth Gilmore–two of the most important voices on the prison abolition movement regularly discuss this subject, for instance. But this year even those voices that one might normally expect critical analysis from seem to be swept up in Obama-mania. Starbucks sipping, Obama button wearing colleagues abounded. Yes, it took some walking and seeking to find non-Starbucks coffee, but of course the local variety was far superior. My first day there–with almost no sleep and arriving in Albuquerque right before my panel–I managed to survive without coffee because I couldn’t find any non-Starbucks coffee quickly enough. To me it seems like there is a similar kind of laziness between giving into the two party system and not challenging it and not boycotting one of the worst offenders of so many issues from labor rights, to human rights, to of course, Palestinian rights. Hence my need for another dose of a Kabob fest Obama button:

It’s not so much that I expected everyone to embrace progressive or radical candidates like Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. But at ASA I did expect to hear critical analysis and discussion that brought them into the fold. By excluding other candidates these scholars participate in the same sort of exclusionary practices that the duopoly American government upholds by keeping third party candidates out of debates or off ballots. But it just seemed that everyone was so fixated on Obama and had such rose-colored glasses or people were just so mesmerized by this phenomenon that even McKinney’s name never came up. Even in a Stuart Hall panel where Hall’s important legacy in cultural studies came up the discussion related to the election centered on discussing whether or not “we should take credit for the emergence of Obama.” Mind you, they made it clear that taking credit is not the same as celebrating or endorsing, and certainly the work of radicals and progressives paved the way for a candidate like Obama. But this is precisely the point: all sorts of radical political movements made his candidacy possible but his candidacy speaks to none of the issues of any of those movements from anti-racism to labor. Gilmore offered up an important reminder/factoid about how meaningless a black man in power can be when the moment Colin Powell became Secretary of State “the number of black men in prison reached the million mark.” And given that such a long history of anti-racist work has precipitated Obama’s rise to power, I find it chilling that so few people spoke out against the racism enabled by both Obama and McCain, especially as directed against Arabs and Muslims. Apparently war criminal Colin Powell spoke out about this. And, interestingly, Ben Affleck did this weekend on “Reel Time with Bill Mahr”:

But Moustafa Bayoumi had the best line of the conference when he opened up the panel on Edward Said with the quip, “Edward Said was, of course, both an Arab and a decent family man.”

What this shows me is the frustrating, exhausting ways in which there are so few–if any–moments of solidarity among radicals, intellectuals, and of course among ordinary people. As we were leaving for the airport on Sunday morning a homeless veteran approached us for change because he was hungry. I reached into my pocket and gave him some money. I regretted it about two minutes later after he went on a diatribe about how he was not only proud of his “service” in Vietnam, but that he would rush right back out their on to the front lines if he could kill some “terrorists.” I experienced something similar today when I went to vote. I met a sweet, older Egyptian couple who asked me for help with their ballot. There are many issues on the California ballot this year, most of which are bogged down in complex language that try to trick you into voting counter intuitively. So I explained each initiative and told them what their choices were. But it was depressing when I got to propositions that would help rehabilitate (instead of incarcerate) nonviolent offenders or that would allow gay marriage. They wanted to vote against both of these propositions. There is just so little space for people to see connections across oppression. Too little room for solidarity.

But the antidote to all of this, for me, was getting to vote for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente today (see photo above). I voted for Nader in the last two elections, but McKinney’s position on reparations for slavery, on abolishing the war and prison machines, and her position on Palestine made it impossible for me not to vote for her. It felt amazing. It felt like a fabulous act of resistance. Of course, I still find the system deeply flawed and I’m sure that all sorts of racist, corrupt forces will be at work to ensure the system doesn’t work (though unlike Palestine no one will boycott the U.S., though they should).

Yes, racism is alive and well in the U.S. And, it is alive and well in the Zionist state. Here are some of the latest headlines about what’s going on in Palestine:

Israel Targets Palestinian Students

Israeli military invades Nablus city

Palestinian group says Israelis killed 68 children in Gaza in year

West’s silence towards Israel’s racial discrimination unacceptable

Israel No Place To Be An Arab

Seven Palestinians wounded by Jews in East Jerusalem

Armed Israeli settlers rampage Palestinian farm lands

smart amrikans

so i arrive at the american studies conference in albuquerque, new mexico a day late due to flight delays, and totally sleep deprived for the same reasons. in all the american airports i had to travel through (albuquerque, dallas, chicago) i saw lots of meaningless obama and mccain objects i imagine americans with cash to waste were busy purchasing. or maybe not given the economy right now. in any case, i was hoping that could be explained by middle american bad taste of the sort of joe-the-plumber variety. but no: i was startled to see the spectacle of obamamania at this conference. at a conference among thinking people, smart people, people i respect. i saw varieties of obama lapel pin buttons, some rather stylized. i’m not sure if this is just a fashion statement or a statement of a real feeling of support. i fear it is a combination of the two. i tried to steer away from such conversations, but i somehow got trapped into it with a few smart people i admire and respect. but the same theme emerged: fear. people know he sucks on foreign policy. that he’s no different than mccain. but they are afraid of mccain, and more importantly of palin. i get that, i do. at the same time i have a problem with voting based on fear. i have a problem voting for someone who will likely bring us more war (vietnam anyone?: little flashback–did any president, regardless of promises or desires, scale that war down?). but i also heard this really sort of somewhere-over-the-rainbow rhetoric, too, which was strange–this almost religious “i believe” rhetoric about obama. meaning: they “believe” that he’s just saying what he’s saying now because he wants to get elected, but they believe that he will change later after he’s in office. it’s scary to see how once radical people have become so “liberal” (and i don’t mean that in a good sense–i don’t know if there is a good sense of that word) that they are willing to make compromises i can’t imagine them making 20 or 30 years ago.

i can’t imagine someone can listen to cynthia mckinney and ralph nader’s responses to the debate and still imagine that they are not the smarter, better candidates. if everyone chooses not to vote out of fear we wouldn’t have to live in this two-party quagmire. but what i want to know is this: is everyone delusional? do they really think their votes are even going to count? do people have amnesia? between the voter purges and the made-for-failure voting machines i suspect on some level it doesn’t matter who wins in reality. the votes cast will never reveal that truth.

and that’s my exhausted, i’ve had about 4 hours sleep in the last 36 hours or so rant.