Tag Archives: gaza

Gaza’s Right to Resist Israel’s Terror

This article originally appeared in Socialist Worker, Nov. 20, 2012.

Residents of Gaza City carry the victims of the Israeli assault on Palestinians

Residents of Gaza City carry the victims of the Israeli assault on Palestinians

OF THE 1.7 million people currently living under Israel’s terror in Gaza, 44 percent–or around 730,000 people–are under the age of 14. The 140-square-mile Gaza Strip, about the size of Philadelphia, is surrounded by the most heavily militarized border anywhere in the world on three sides, and by the Mediterranean Sea, patrolled by Israeli naval vessels, on the fourth.

By any objective measure, the Gaza Strip is an open-air prison.

So there was more than a whiff of 1984, George Orwell’s famous novel about Big Brother, when President Barack Obama declared: “[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes.”

In other words: Nuclear-armed Israel, with one of the most powerful militaries in the world, has the right to resist. But the inmates of the Gaza prison, apparently, do not. Obama’s argument flips justice on its head.

It is not simply the fact that Israel provoked the current war with the assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, a leader of Hamas, which won elections to lead the Palestinian government–nor that Israeli leaders pulled the trigger on the brink of a negotiated ceasefire with Hamas. Nor is it Israel’s phony timeline of events in the weeks leading up to the current massacre, which conveniently eliminates “details” such as the November 8 killing of 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa while he was playing soccer.

Even if no ceasefire were on offer and even if Israel hadn’t made repeated violent incursions into Gaza, the right of Palestinians to resist the terror of the Israeli military machine must be defended on principle by anyone who stands with the oppressed.

As American University of Beirut professor Rami Khouri pointedly argued in a recent column:

As long as the crime of dispossession and refugeehood that was committed against the Palestinian people in 1947-48 is not redressed through a peaceful and just negotiation that satisfies the legitimate rights of both sides, we will continue to see enhancements in both the determination and the capabilities of Palestinian fighters–as has been the case since the 1930s, in fact. Only stupid or ideologically maniacal Zionists fail to come to terms with this fact.

Professor Khouri is right. People living under military occupation not only will resist, but they have every right to do so–and solidarity activists should defend that right unequivocally.

Some Westerners who are horrified by Israel’s assault on Gaza are nonetheless queasy about defending Hamas’ right to fire rockets into Israel. Yet whether solidarity activists agree with Hamas’ tactics or not is irrelevant–we are not the ones who must suffer under Israel’s bombs and occupation.

Asserting one’s horror at the occupier’s aggression, yet denying the occupied their right to use whatever means available to rebel isn’t solidarity–it’s pity.

Gazans living for years in a prison without access to sufficient food, medicine, infrastructure and any semblance of a decent life do not need our pity. They need our active support with their fight for self-determination.

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IN THE media, Hamas is depicted as an organization of crazed Islamists who oppose all modernity, aim to destroy Israel, and are misogynistic and homophobic to the core. In fact, since its founding in 1987 at the start of the first Intifada, Hamas has combined the aspirations of a national liberation movement with the tenets of modern Islamism. It does hold positions that are socially reactionary, as do orthodox Jewish and evangelical Christian groups–though unlike evangelical Christians, Hamas is not anti-science.

But the truth is that Hamas is the democratically elected leadership of Gaza–it won elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 in a vote that international observers judged to be fair and proper. Israel and its U.S. backers didn’t like the results of a democratic election–and so they imposed the crippling embargo on Gaza and continue to inflict collective punishment on its population for the “crime” of voting for the wrong party.

In these circumstances, Hamas’ military resistance to Israeli occupation is a source of tremendous pride. Hamas forces may not be able to match up to the murderous Israeli military, armed to the teeth with the most advanced weaponry by the U.S. military-industrial complex. But they remain a symbol of the determination of Palestinians not to surrender to oppression and violence.

Any meaningful defense of the right of Palestinians to self-determination must include the right to select their own leadership and the right to organize a response to the Israeli military’s slaughter.

At the height of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, antiwar activists in the U.S. expressed similar hesitations about the nature of the resistance in Iraq as well. A clear response to such doubts came from Arundhati Roy, the famous Indian author and activist. Her words are equally relevant now:

Like most resistance movements, [the Iraqis] combine a motley range of assorted factions. Former Baathists, liberals, Islamists, fed-up collaborationists, communists, etc. Of course, it is riddled with opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery and criminality. But if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity.

Before we prescribe how a pristine Iraqi resistance must conduct their secular, feminist, democratic, nonviolent battle, we should shore up our end of the resistance by forcing the U.S. and its allied governments to withdraw from Iraq.

Likewise, Palestinians living under the brutality of occupation–and now an all-out war in Gaza–have not asked for global ideological approval. Instead, they have asked that we do whatever is in our power to help end their misery and stop the bombings, years-long siege and occupation.

To heed their call for solidarity means defending Palestinians’ right to resist Israel’s terror.

Oy Vey, It’s International Day of Peace

I’ve never been a cynic since it strikes me as the pose of the disinterested—or just of those too well-fed or self-absorbed to bother.

So take this in the spirit from which it is meant. I loathe declarations of useless “holidays” such as today, September 21—called International Day of Peace by the United Nations since 1981, sponsored by Costa Rica. It must have been to commemorate U.S.-backed death squads ravaging Latin America throughout that decade.

While bombs drop on Afghanistan, everything in sight is privatized or destroyed by U.S. mercenaries in Iraq and the ultimate postmodern mind fuck—pilotless U.S. drones bomb Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia—the UN will ring a bell to commemorate this ode to hypocrisy.

As if to spit on all that is sacred, Hillary Clinton sits with Israeli murderers and their Arab collaborators in Jerusalem nattering about a “peace plan” within yards of Palestinians denied the most basic of human rights. The nightmares of Gaza and the West Bank aside, I wonder if Hillary is even aware—or cares—that in that very city a few weeks back an Arab was convicted of rape for having consensual sex with a Jew? Don’t take my word for it, read the Guardian piece yourself and tell me this isn’t madness.

But this is not a forum for griping. Well, that’s not exactly accurate, but it’s purposeful griping that aims to lead toward solutions or at least hopeful steps forward. So listen, if you’re in the NY metro area—or have friends here—skip TV tonight after work and come celebrate with activists, humanitarians and those drunk with hope for a better world, not through meaningless declarations of hypocrisy, but through activism and solidarity.

Come join me and others working to break the siege of Gaza at the Siege Busters Ball fundraiser for the US to Gaza boat trip at Littlefield’s in Brooklyn, 8PM-2AM. Click the Littlefield’s link for all details, you just need to be 18 or over, and yes, there’ll be booze for those over 21, great food and lots and lots of music and dancing with acts such as Existence is Resistance, Ryan Green and DJ Vega Benetton. Damn near every subway line in the city stops at nearby Atlantic Avenue—so don’t pull that bridge and tunnel crap excuse.

If we must have these Tinkerbell’s birthday type holidays, at least we can infuse them with meaning, music and community. Peace out.

Sherry Wolf  is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Breaking the Siege of Gaza at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of the Progressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.

How Do You Make a Bomb With a Kazoo?

If I were a college student, I would grab some friends and a card table and make a beeline for the busiest spot on campus to set up shop. On the table I’d place a chicken breast, a two-by-four and a kazoo and hang a sign reading: “How do you make a bomb with these?”

Fresh meat, wood and kazoos are among the dozens of items banned in Gaza by the Israeli state under the pretext that weapons could be made of them to attack Israelis. To be fair, kazoos are not specifically mentioned—though fresh meat and wood for construction are—but ALL musical instruments are banned from the Strip and I figure even a strapped American student can purchase a kazoo from a 99-cent store.

In fact, in the Kafkaesque world of Israeli state sanctions on Gaza no actual list is published and the banned items must be deduced from the day-to-day practices of the authorities. An up-to-date list is maintained at Gisha.

This week marks exactly three years since Gaza, the open-air prison camp of 1.5 million, was named an “enemy entity” by its warden, the Israeli state. While the policies that have isolated and stranded Gazans in a Mediterranean hell began in 1991, they have intensified since Hamas took control in 2007 following elections that all international observers agree were democratically run.

Wrap your brain around that for a moment. Nineteen-year-old Gazans—the age of many college sophomores—have only known stultifying restrictions on their movements inside the territory. A generation was born and has now reached maturity never having traveled even as far as the 48 miles between Gaza City and Jerusalem.

An essay by Harvard scholar Sara Roy in the newly released Midnight on the Mavi Marmara reveals the outcome of Israel’s blockade. Seventy-five percent of the population is dependent on humanitarian aid, chronic malnourishment is rampant and 90–95 percent of all water is “unfit for drinking.” Regarding the sewage-steeped water, the United Nations’ Goldstone Report declares, “Gaza may not even be habitable by World Health Organization norms.”

In attempting to render Hamas a pariah leadership to Gazans, Israel has not only created a humanitarian catastrophe, but actually strengthened the hand of its stated enemy. The formal banking sector obliterated, Hamas stands as “the key financial middleman,” according to Roy.

In Mavi Marmara, Israeli journalist Amira Hass adds that the rule of Hamas only grows stronger as the desperation serves to concentrate their power, if not their popularity.

Israeli state propagandists would like everyone to believe that even Jews in solidarity with Palestine are secretly in cahoots with Hamas. They talk as if secular reds like me raised on Bar Mitzvahs and basketball want to drive Jews into the sea. What? Why would I want to push my parents into the East River? Or the Mediterranean?!

Listen. We on the left are accustomed to taking on sisyphian tasks like ending imperialism or stopping global warming. This is not one of them. Ending the siege of Gaza—breaking the blockade—and establishing basic human norms for Palestinians is within our reach.

Last week, even the British Trades Union Council voted to extend its boycott of Israeli goods in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Palestine. Ever since the killing of nine humanitarian aid activists on the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship on May 31, 2010, the movement has expanded to include European governments and students worldwide.

We must act with clarity of vision and urgency to expose Israel’s crimes and build the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. You can even start with a card table and a kazoo.

If you’re in the NY Metro area, come out to the Siege Busters’ Ball fundraiser Tuesday, Sept. 21, at Littlefield’s in Brooklyn. And do not even think of missing out on the book launch for Midnight on the Mavi Marmara the following Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7PM, with a panel that includes an embarrassment of riches: Moustafa Bayoumi, Rashid Khalidi, Arun Gupta, Max Blumenthal, Phil Weiss, Adam Horowitz, and Alia Malek.

Sherry Wolf is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Breaking the Siege of Gaza at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.

Left to Stew in a Soup of Filth and Rubble

I am not feeling funny today. I am outraged and sickened by the fact that as “peace talks” proceed in Jerusalem, Palestinians continue to live under siege in Gaza—subsidized and approved by our own government.

To the left I have embedded the video trailer for the new book released by my own publisher, Haymarket, which once again lives up to its tagline: “books for changing the world.” The book is called Midnight on the Mavi Marmara. Click on “Watch videos at Vodpod.”

Buy it. Read it. Act.

To check out my own piece about the conflict that appeared a couple of weeks ago in Socialist Worker, please click: “A Divestment Movement for the 21st Century.”

I’ll be speaking tonight at  Barnard/Columbia at 7:30PM, BUT the meeting space has been moved to: Diana Center 203 on the Barnard campus. Matt Swagler describes the building as “the new, kind of grossly orange/brown and glass building” right on Broadway at what would be 117th st. Enter at the main Barnard gates. take the 1 train to 116th St. And yup, it’s still free.

Sherry Wolf is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.