Freedom News

Notes from the US: A matter of life and death

From the assault on Gaza genocide protests to racist and ecocidal policies – elites have proven they will never affirm life and peace against death and destruction


The facts, of course, are well documented. More than 35,000 Palestinians slaughtered – including well over 13,000 children; the destruction of the health, education and energy services in Gaza, and of 60% of all standing buildings. Even if things were not to get worse, to make parts of Gaza habitable would need decades.

In the face of all this, you would think normal, compassionate and caring people who understand the need to preserve life would want to stop the genocide. To defund it immediately. At least to acknowledge it. Yet across the United States this situation is either ignored or denied – or both – by the majority of the media and by most figures speaking publicly. Even the proposal to ban TikTok has been attributed to a wish to prevent the United States’ official line on the Middle East from being overshadowed. Biden and the wider US (support for genocide in Gaza seems to be one of few current issues on which Democrats and Republicans are broadly in agreement) are patrons, funders, endorsers, supporters and – crucially – traffickers of weapons of mass destruction.

Instead of compassion, the majority of those recording their reactions since October 7 2023 have aggressively and unthinkingly taken the side of Netanyahu and the élite in Israel. Fascist senator Tom Cotton (Arkansas) even threatened to ‘target’ the International Criminal Court if it did its job properly and investigated Netanyahu, his fascist élite and the IDF for the crimes they have committed and are continuing to commit.

On the street, far-right La Famiglia fascists have even been filmed advocating continued and greater killing and destruction in Gaza. To those responsible for this incitement it is as if the victims were the aggressors; and as there is no distinction between Hamas and civilians. This support for the genocide in Gaza also ignores one fact. That the longer the massacres and war crimes continue, the more likely becomes retaliation by Arab communities. Netanyahu and his crew may yet well prove the most effective recruiting officers for those living in states surrounding Israel to arm themselves in opposition.

Imagine for a moment how these constituencies – both Republican and Democrat parties – would have responded since October if the members of 35,000 families in Israel had been slaughtered. They would have been rightly outraged. Those who only criticize Palestinians seem unable even to begin to understand why decades of vicious oppression by successive Israeli élites might spur a minority in Gaza to try and end the conditions under which they have been forced to live, after all else has failed.

An analogous mentality seems to prevail which denies climate collapse, which still believes the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ and that Trump is a suitable person to hold public office because he is being ‘persecuted’ by lies and lawsuits.

In some way this cognitive failing is the most serious dysfunction which the United States has to face in decades to come: make up your own ‘truth’.

An Alternative Consience

Wouldn’t it be encouraging if there were well-informed, thoughtful and articulate groups elsewhere in the United States whose members immediately saw through the propaganda and understood both what is happening in Gaza (and increasingly in the West bank)? What if they could and did speak up for an end to US bankrolling of the massacre – chiefly by the supply of arms; and if they peacefully and intelligently advocated for divestment?

But there is!

Surely the development to inspire the greatest optimism since the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 is the growing, spreading and – ideally strengthening – wave of encampments by (who else?!) students across the United States.

By the second week of May, in less than a month, dozens – if not hundreds – of peaceful ‘camps’ have been established, mostly in universities. They have been urging the institutions in whose life the students (and now (teaching) staff) are participating to cease funding the murder of Palestinians.

Their analysis of the situation is a mature, discerning, honest and perceptive response to the cruelty, horrific and wilfully sadistic massacre by Netanyahu and the IDF.

Significantly, the participants in these camps are easily able to distinguish between justified criticism of genocide, regardless of who carries it out, and pure anti-semitism. Indeed, most of the protest camps are populated also by Jewish students.

Search as you might, you’ll find (next to) no anti-semitic sentiment among the protesters, in the encampments and in their bulletins and posts online. Certainly nothing explicit or direct which isn’t in the minds of the critics. There appears to be no explicit (or covert) support for Hamas. In fact, so far the only violence came on Wednesday 1 May, of all days, when a pro-Israel cohort attacked members of the (peaceful) anti-war protest at UCLA in Los Angeles.

Here is a choice opportunity for the élite to listen to well-crafted and expertly delivered analyses of the situation in Gaza. To reasoned argument backed by facts; and arguments of whose sensitivity their proponents are well aware.

The campus protets stand in marked contrast to the moronic response of the noisy and ignorant majority – from pundits on the right wing (one particularly offensive and nasty primetime ‘news’ anchor, Jesse Waters, insists on prefacing his references to the protestors with ‘pro-Hamas’, which of course they emphatically are not), down to Joe Biden.

So, here is a ready-made, transparent argument for a positive role which the US could play in atonement for its stance favoring death and destruction . Member of the media, lawmakers, politicians, aspiring presidents, governors, journalists, journalists’ guests could each take from it what they want; they could get behind the affirmation of life and peace. These public figures could, with little loss of face, stand with the students – albeit in their own way. They could even listen to the protests and protesters and engage with them as adults. On the rare occasions when this has happened, the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

Ulterior Motive

Is that what is happening? Not at all.

Instead, those with the most to say about the protesters (several thousand of whom have already been arrested on mostly spurious charges) are concentrating on such irrelevancies as: how many of those protesting were formally associated with the campus in question, or: where do the boundaries of ‘free speech’ lie with relevance to what was being said. Those fiddling and acting as enablers and apologists for the Israeli government’s genocide have seemed not to realise that such distinctions are of no consequence in bringing an end to what the UN calls ‘Destruction… Unprecedented in Scope and Scale’.

As could have been expected, in that majority of instances where campus, local, city or even state ‘law enforcement’ have been called in, their repression has been particularly brutal – as students themselves recount. Media outlets do report confrontations — but (almost) always without drawing even minimal attention to the police’s behaviour (there is usually a ‘fine upstanding’ guest to condemn the ‘violence’ of those the police have been sent in to ‘control’), and with the slant that there are two ‘sides’ to the issue.

If you think about it, that means that one ‘side’ supports the massacre of tens of thousands of Palestinians. This is a position which is clearly in line and consistent with racist thinking. Indeed, Republican Congressperson Mike Collins (Georgia) actually posted a video earlier this month encouraging the white supremacist counter protesters with their ‘animal’ noises and racist chanting. Fascist Senator, Tom Cotton (Arkansas), for example, recently encouraged armed vigilantes to “take matters into their own hands” if they face pro-Palestine supporters.

Politicians on the right have also seized on the movement of political debate and decisive action in favour of peace in seats of learning as an excuse to accelerate the dumbing down (or outright suppression) of learning – lest greater knowledge, awareness and an enhanced ability to discriminate between progressive thinking and reactionary piffle encroach further on the establishment’s grip on the rest of us.

Parallel analyses also point to the weaponisation of anti-semitism in the interests of oppression. Trump, Johnson and the (political) establishment have shown themselves unwilling to care a whit for the rights of such ethnic minorities as Jews in the US. For many who bellow their disgust at the protests in favour of protecting Palestinians and saving their lives, there is no distinction between support for Hamas and love of life. “If you criticise the Israeli establishment you MUST be supporting its annihilation as Hamas does.”

This analysis can be taken further: when the critics of the protests and protesters assign the tag ‘anti-semitic’ to them, the implication is that any (such) set of allegations is meant to apply to a population as a whole (‘Israel, or the ‘Israelis’). It is not, of course. Few informed people dispute the disproportionate scale of the response by the Israeli elite – the far right/fascist Likud party and Benjamin Netanyahu, who evidently feels safe politically from criticism as long as the war goes on. This aggression, howerver, is not necessarily or unconditionally supported by ‘Israel’, ‘the Israelis’, ‘all Israelis’ – still less by ‘Jews’.

But because those critics cannot help but judge everyone else by the way they think and act, they are making generalisations and (alluding to) perceived characteristics and attitudes (“All Jews support Netanyahu”) which are by definition imprecise and stereotypical. The racism is coming from them. Daniel Levy, president of the US/Middle East Project and a former Israeli peace negotiator, put this point forcibly last week when he said: “This is one of the most dangerous conflations imaginable. Desist from this now. We will fail in the struggle against antisemitism. We will fail to allow Jewish heterogeneity, which has been part of being Jewish throughout. The idea that one creed can be hegemonic, and anything else is antisemitic, is an affront to Jewish history. Desist from this now, Mr. President.”

Ecocide and Oppression

With the (presumptive) nominee for the Republican party threatening to change the very ways in which the United States is constituted into a fascist and supremacist semi-dictatorship with organised cohorts of far right enablers, and probably the most important general election in a century barely six months away, it’s alarming that no aspect of environmental safeguarding, no response to the threats faced by the one Earth we have are even remotely part of the agendas set by Democrats or Republicans.

Trump’s ignorance and denial of how the climate works is well-known, but during the hottest April on record he made a sensational offer to the planet-wrecking petrochemical industry: “Contribute a billion to my campaign and I’ll remove regulations for you”.

The destruction and slaughter continue, though: last month – after the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined that protection for wolves in western states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming in particular) was ‘unwarranted’ under the Endangered Species Act – a coalition of ten environmental groups sued the Biden administration for its policy of slaughter.

In something of a contrast last week lawmakers in Vermont passed a bill which appears to be the first of its kind: fossil fuel companies will now have to pay for the destruction of the climate which they may cause.

Oppressive, intolerant and discriminatory tactics continue: earlier this month the legislature in Utah, for example, attempted to strengthen their ban on transgender use of toilets. Now under HB 257 anyone found allowing — say — school pupils to exercise their rights to identify as they wish can face imprisonment and/or a fine of up to US$10,000 (£8,000) a day) by making it possible for ‘informants’ to report online anyone daring to flout the discriminatory law. Unfortunately for the bigots most ‘reports’ have been hoaxes or protests submitted by trolls.

At the national level lawmakers in the House of Representative voted almost two-to-one to re-authorise section 702 of FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), which permits surveillance of residents in the US without warrants.

Florida continues to make news: banning books there as an example of individual ‘freedoms’ continues (the lack of availability of certain texts must free up potential readers from having to read them), while the élite touts the need to suppress any and all campus protests against the genocide in Gaza. Florida governor DeSantis went as far as to say the protesters are “spouting nonsense“.

Never mind – perhaps to pay teachers better will increase the level of awareness of how the real world works. But wait, a new survey indicates that teachers in Florida are the worst paid in the country: they earn barely four fifths of the national average and two thirds of those working in California – a comparable state. Maybe, though, being allowed to carry firearmns and potentially kill people at school will make up for low pay in the state of Tennessee (whose teachers get 30% less than those in New York while its cost of living is 85% that of New York). That’s what a recent bill passed by Tennessee’s Republican lawmakers will allow and encourage in the name of ‘personal freedom’.

At least children attending schools across the country are allowed to break for lunch; aren’t they? Well, not children in 16 trumpy states (including Florida, of course), where exploited child labourers are not even allowed a midday meal.

It’s hard to think that, when school officials in Shenandoah County (Virginia) last month voted to change the names of two schools back to those of Confederate leaders (after those names had been removed as offensive and racist), they simply did not know how offensive and racist they still are; they were being deliberately provocative, racist and offensive.

Finally, last week a federal appeals court upheld the decision by another school, Charlotte Catholic High School, in the Trumpy state of North Carolina to fire a teacher, Lonnie Billard. The reason? He is gay and plans to marry his partner.

~ Louis Further

image: Perchance

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