Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Warrior for Peace

Speaking at the Woodstock Town Hall, Yehuda Shaul, Israeli Defense Force commander and founder of Breaking the Silence, gave a intimate look at occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. The stories he told of humiliating Palestinians and the pictures he showed of bright faced, smiling young men destroying people's homes were almost too much to bear. He likened occupation to a "slow drip of poison in the blood," that eventually kills the soul. His love for Israel was unmistakable. Breaking the Silence is all about Israel, what it is now, and what it must become.

At the end of Yehuda's talk, a number in the audience verbally attacked him. He was "immature" about not accepting what men must do in war. He was favoring the Palestinians who were savage killers and haters of Israel. He was going against what the Bible said.

But Yehuda was implacable. "Occupation is not war," he reminded the audience. He was not supporting the Palestinians; he was holding up a mirror to those who support occupation. If they don't like what they see, then it was up to them to do something about it. As far as the Bible, Yehuda called Israel the "golden calf" of many Americans, a false idol. Israel was his country, not someone else's religious concept. He was speaking out both for himself and for the good of his nation.

At twenty four, Yehuda Shaul is now a warrior for peace.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hidden Costs of Empire

A person's hidden costs are often the most damaging type since important decisions are made without taking them into account. This is certainly true on a national level as well. Auto manufacturers and oil producers are the source of many hidden costs in terms of air pollution, environmental destruction and global warming. These giant corporations make billions by transferring hidden costs to you and me.

The Defense Department is another hidden cost. Of course, we need defense. But do we need to spend close to 400 billion dollars on it per year, more than the rest of the world combined? That huge expenditure is only necessary if you look at what the Defense Department actually does, and that is to insure that US corporate interests are predominant in the developing world. When poorer nations decide to charge more for their fruit, labor, oil, etc., the CIA tries to overthrow their government. If that doesn't work, it is time for the US military.

History will look at the long list of US backed coups and invasions as what they are, the dirty side of empire building. And US corporations have benefited hugely from this military dominance of the rest of the world. But the hidden costs to you and me are there as well. This country spends such an enormous amount on its military that there isn't much left over for education, healthcare, daycare, or nursing homes. Although free in other developed countries, these basic needs are beyond reach for millions of Americans.

Terrorism is the new hidden cost of empire building. The US controls an ever larger segment of the world's oil production, but in so doing has incurred the hatred of millions of displaced and impoverished peoples. It was only a matter of time before foreign groups were formed to strike back at our civilian population. Like the gradual erosion of our environment and the lack of funds for basic human services, terrorism is a cost the American public may not have chosen to pay had they been better informed. American corporations have everything to gain by keeping these costs secret and out of the public debate.

Two pro war parties

The peace issue got voters out in droves for the Democratic Party this past election, and we are all grateful that the Bush era of wars abroad and spying at home might to be drawing to a close.

Of course, the Democrats were nowhere to be seen on the streets these last three years. While Hillary was calling for more troops and voting for the Patriot Act, organizations like UFPJ, ANSWER, Vets for Peace, The Greens, and many others were organizing rallies, sit-ins, peace vigils, and letters to the editor. What is worse, Democrats in Congress provided cover for us wars of aggression abroad and the destruction of civil liberties at home. They supported it all, while at times whining that they could have done it better.

But focus groups for the Democrats must have started reporting what most of us have known for a long time, that the invasion of Iraq was a war crime, that torturing prisoners goes against the moral principals of Americans, and that domestic spying is a violation of our Constitution. Suddenly, the Democrats saw it all too. Just in time for the election.

If they spend the next two years plotting with the Israeli lobby for a new war against Iran, they will end up being worse than useless. Let's hope for their sake and for the sake of America that they can bring themselves to do the right thing this time around. We don't need two pro war parties.

Down on Route 9

The Iraq War is lost, but the invective continues. Or that's what it seemed like down on Route 9 and 9D on our Saturday peace vigil.

Like usual, the few of us were waving at the many, driving by and giving us peace signs. Then a young man stopped for the light, saw us and started shouting about John Kerry. We just laughed, waiting for the light to turn again. Infuriated, he yelled that we were "Islamo-Fascists." Frustrated by our lack of interest, he finally screamed, "anti-Semites" and drove off.

Our signs were the usual stuff. Peace on earth. Nothing about Israel or Gaza, or the plight of the Palestinians. But to this young man, our standing in a peace vigil meant that we hated Jews.

The charge of anti-Semitism has been used for so long to cover up Israel's barbaric treatment of the Palestinians, that it has come close to losing its meaning. It has become a slur to shout at anyone who would question the right wing's war machine in either Israel or America. The Christian Zionist movement compounds the problem. Its wholesale support of Israel's military annexation of Jerusalem means that anyone supporting peace is similarly anti-Semitic.

The suffering of Jews for two thousand years should not be used in this way, to excuse racism, military aggression, and right wing Christian fanaticism about a coming Messiah. Our goal should be to eliminate all forms of racism, not to use one type to cover up another.