newritings

January 11, 2009

The people take to the street

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 1:04 pm

Poster of the demonstration in Barcelona on January 10, 2009

Poster of the demonstration in Barcelona on January 10, 2009

– Homage to Gaza, Palestine

The global protests against the attacks on Gaza are the only light on a very dark period of our epoch. An epoch, it must be said, where might is right and they try to fake their right as might, but we are not biting. The people are seeing through all these mis-rulers and are speaking out with their feet.

The thing that galls me, is that some – let’s say the chosen ones – anointed, armed and “protected” (in more ways than you can imagine) by the USA government and the European Union leaders (not to talk of the so-called mediator Tony Blair) can kill and maim, mutilate and do whatever they want to Palestinians in full glare of the media and TV cameras (despite journalists not being allowed in by Israel) and world public opinion. I recall a discussion with one colleague whom I work with in one global organization: I concluded that at least now these events are in the open and transparent, and what must inevitably follow is that the perpetrators of these “crimes against humanity” must be made to account. (Many have said that this must be before the International Criminal Court, although both Israel and the USA are not signatories to it, which will make it difficult. This, however, must be a subject for another discussion, suffice to say that where there is a will there can be a way. Yet I fear there is no will, thus I will evade the question of structure and stick to the principles of accountability.) Transparency and accountability are to paraphrase a popular classic like love and marriage or a horse and carriage. The light shines on those who do wrong, we then are able to record the names and histories of the victims, the survivors and the violators of gross human rights. This as usual will be a victors’ justice, but the victory must be the people… the best values and aspirations of human beings, which have endured years of repression as the tortured lexicon of liberation and justice itself took a beating by those who were once victims. Governments and other elites are not willing to speak the truth to the men with bigger guns, most of them their clients and or friends – allies. So this has been left once again to “we the people” to march and shout that we remain steadfast, with guts to speak the truth to power. Their response is tortured and injured words (like self-defense, survival, proportionate force, surgical strikes), and bombed out morality – not in plain English but pained propaganda –, itself a weapon of mass deception, aiming at defeating reason and evidence.

Yesterday the march against the horror of the Israeli attacks attracted what organizers say was over 100 000 people. Organised by a coalition of organizers and coordinated by palestina.cat, it was one of the biggest that I have ever attended… and we (mum, baby and I) could not see the end nor the start of the march, as we walked from down Via Laietana into St. Jaume square – the home of most protests in Barcelona.

The march was lively and waves of groups marched under their organizational – community banner, singing their songs of outrage in their own tongues, Arabic, Catalan, Spanish and a few in English. The banners were as diverse as the groups that marched, which I will touch on later. Children too were in attendance as were those who walked with their bicycles, their dogs, with lovers, in family groups or simply alone: united in the outrage to these serial killings

Organizers had waves of people enter the square where the manifesto was read out and the liberation hymn written by Lluis Llach – L´Estaca – was sang in Arabic and in Catalan, to at least 5 or 6 waves of protestors. This song is known to Catalan nationalists and progressives and was sung to packed houses during the dictatorship of Franco at in particular Camp Nou amongst other venues.

Composed by Lluís Llach 1968, it remains a beacon for those fighting for justice internationally, and the various factions of Palestinians doing battle today: it calls for unity in action to achieve freedom.

The first time I heard this song sung was by a Tunisian singing it in Arabic, at the outskirts of a GCAP meeting in Montevideo, with a beaming Marta screaming “it’s our song, our song…” IN fact, it is now a universal song and even the Solidarność – the union movement in Poland – adopted it as their anthem. It’s ours, truly… below we will reproduce the words in English, and Spanish and its original Català.

Before signing off, let me share briefly some of my observations:

– The blatant killings and the denial of basic rights to all Palestinians has brought to the fore the only peaceful “action” to global civil society, of boycotting, disinvesting and isolating Zionist Israel as was so successful in the case of Apartheid South Africa.

– The Israeli military strategy is in part aimed at weakening Hamas and boosting other forces more pliant to Israel and the US interests (see BBC) in the short term, is not working. At least in the court of international public opinion, who see this as gross bullying which impugns what is human in all of us.

– These protests/marches globally have come out despite the mass media, which in the main tried to show “objectivity” in showing suffering on “so called both sides” of the “war”. I watched a CNN broadcast recently, where they even try to show the military forces on the ground and the commentator was at pains to try and show some sort of military parity “on the face of it the Israeli army is one of the best resourced, etc. but Hamas rockets, smuggled…” blah, blah, it was obvious to all viewers who are watching from afar that there was no balance of forces here. In addition, what cannot be denied is that the weapons used by the Israeli army are made in the USA. “Just last September, Congress approved a $77 million dollar deal to sell a thousand Boeing GBU-39 bunker-buster “smart bombs” to Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that these small, GPS-guided missiles have now been used on underground tunnels and launchers in Gaza.” And innocent people are dying.

– It is reported that Israel is using white phosphorous as a weapon and not for illumination, banned by international law… and it is killing people.

– The mass and indiscriminate killing despite smart bombs directed from high in the sky or cushy seats in the Israeli cabinet is fermenting anti Israeli sentiments which may spill over into anti Jewish sentiment. During the march, we saw at least two posters in the march (clearly a minority) which read “Hitler is not dead, I saw him he lives in Tel Aviv” drawing reference to the methods used by the Israeli government which many associate with fascism. These views are more an expression of great disappointment that some of those who have suffered violence and genocide do not learn the lessons of their own oppression…

– The majority of signs at the rally spoke of an end to the killings and for us not to accept this indignity of the attacks: my favourite was “Si tolerem l’intolerable ho fem possible” / “if we tolerate the intolerable we make it possible”.

– The earlier demonstration of 2 January (same square but no march through the city) was attended by a substantial number of the protestors coming from the Arab speaking community (living and working in Catalunya, with many hundreds of Catalans too) and for the first time, I saw the reappearance of the indefatigable shoe as a symbol of protest, thanks to George Bush. In addition, I noticed for the very first time people using their faith to express solidarity and probably to indicate their political leanings towards the legitimately elected government in Gaza of Hamas. This they did through the mass reading of some surats in the Quran. (kalema shahadat and al hamdulila)

– The march of 10 January was truly a broad church with people supporting an end to the war on Gaza and not Hamas, although they acknowledge that they won the election and they were never allowed to show us what they could do, when Israel and other states including the USA undermined them at every turn using all at their disposal, blockades and even assassination and finally war. I would say the protests were Jamas to war on innocent people of Gaza rather than a Yes to Hamas, the party.

– The ilogic of collective punishment meted out by Israeli army was illustrative. If the logic and the right of Israel (which condones attacks on innocent citizens) is granted to others by the US government, EU, particularly Tony Blair and others – then they will be condoning terrorism. But they do not oppose it now? why? Is it not a clear statement that Palestinian are not regarded as humans and therefore it is easy to condone the killings. Add to all this the incessant pressure on Palestinian groups, in particular Hamas, to accept Israel’s right to exist, but with no reciprocal right to the Palestinians right to exist in their land with full rights and the right of refugees to return to the place of their birth. This is scandalous.

– It is disturbing that what is happening in the Gaza is referred to as a WAR… I would accept if it means the war on Gaza which started many months before, in particular after the elections of Hamas whereafter Israel blockaded access to outside trade and travel and basic resources to the people of Gaza. Slow death, if you ask me. Staved of oil and spare parts for months before the attack as part of the plan to isolate and pre-kill, soften up the people of Gaza and Hamas for the kill. Not a fair fight by any stretch of the imagination. When pro Israel lobbyists insist as a basis for peace-ceasefire whatever, they insist that the tunnels used to transport food, weapons, etc. from Egypt be closed but they do not say that the military aid they get from the USA too be stopped. It is believed that the USA support for Israel runs into the billions, approximately 2 bn US dollars per annum, at a conservative estimate.

– Some reports informed us that things were so bad that the sewerage from Gaza has been dumped into the sea. The Grassroots Committee Against the Wall claims that the sewage dumping is one of a number of tactics being employed by Israel to “ensure that life along the Wall’s path remains unbearable”, adding, “Surrounded by settlements and under the control of an Occupation watchtower surveying the village, Brukin faces land destruction and home demolitions for the construction of the Apartheid Wall all along the northern stretch of its residential areas.”

– So when over-kill came with their F16’s and other callous weapons of mass destruction unleashed on a people who were already under seize and blockade, starved (literally short of food and basic necessities), it was clear proof that for the Israeli government and their cabinet the Palestinians are not human.

– To end, we must think carefully about this logic used in justifying the attacks against the people of Gaza – the Palestinians. The logic goes something like this: We are fighting Hamas. We are doing everything to avoid civilians. They voted for a group that we regard, and the world regards, as terrorist (implied, regrettably they must live with the consequences of their decisions). If we apply the same logic to Israel of any other country in the west, this could be regarded as supporting terrorism. As I write the Israeli cabinet approves the next phase of ground attacks inside Gaza? Does it make all Israelis equally culpable? The timesonline.co.uk reported on global protests recently but ended with this: “Despite worldwide condemnation, the population of Israel appear to be strongly in favour of the bombing campaign targeting Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza.”

– A poll today suggested that some 95 per cent of Israel’s Jewish population supports the bombardment of Hamas. Eighty per cent of the poll of 800 people backed the operation “without reservation,” according to the survey published in the Maariv newspaper.

– Even the leftwing Meretz party, which normally opposes such operations, gave its blessing to the offensive

– For those who subscribe to the politics of hate must remember what Gandhi said: “an eye for an eye will make us all blind”. We cannot defeat terror with terror, nor deceit by deceit. Truth will expose Blair and others who continue to blame victims. So I do not agree with terror but in its place demand Justice: We demand those who kill innocent people must have their day in a modern day Nuremberg officiated by a jury of civilians and not military victors. Someday these “people” who dehumanize others through oppression and violence will have to account. Luckily, there are those inside who continue to say: not in our name. This is small but it is a sign that the human spirit is still alive. We must keep the flames burning.

L’estaca                                                The stake

—————————————————————————

L’avi Siset em parlava(*)              Grandpa Siset spoke with me
de bon matí al portal                early in the morning, in the frontdoor
mentre el sol esperàvem                  while we were wainting for the sun
i els carros veiem passar.                   and we saw passing the cars(*)

Siset que no veus l’estaca                   Siset, don’t you see the stake
a on estem tots lligats?                             where we all are tied?
Si no podem desfer-la                                  If we cannot undo it
mai no podrem caminar!                            we won’t be able to walk!

Si estirem tots ella caurà                If we all pull it, it will fall
i molt de temps no pot durar,                  and it can’t last much time,
segur que tomba, tomba, tomba,               surely it falls, falls, falls,
ben corcada deu ser ja.                        it must be worm-eatn by now.

Si jo l’estiro fort per aqu¡,                  If i pull hard towards here,
i tu l’estires fort per allà,                and you pull it towards there,
segur que tomba, tomba, tomba,             i’m sure it falls, falls, falls,
i ens podrem alliberar!                       and we’ll be able to be free!

Però ja fa molt temps ja!                   But it’s been a long time, now!
Les mans se’m van escorxant!                          My hands are peeling!
I quan la for!a se me’n va                           And when my force goes
ella és més ampla i més gran.                        it’s wider and bigger.

Ben cert és que està podrida,                       Yes I know it’s rotten,
però és que, Siset, pesa tant,          but you know, Siset, it’s so heavy,
que a cops la for!a m’oblida.                   sometimes force forgets me.
Torna’m a dir el treu cant:                      Say me again your singing:

Si estirem tots ella caurà                  If we all pull it, it will fall
i molt de temps no pot durar,                  and it can’t last much time,
segur que tomba, tomba, tomba,               surely it falls, falls, falls,
ben corcada deu ser ja.                        it must be worm-eatn by now.

Si jo l’estiro fort per aqu¡,                  If i pull hard towards here,
i tu l’estires fort per allà,                and you pull it towards there,
segur que tomba, tomba, tomba,             i’m sure it falls, falls, falls,
i ens podrem alliberar!                       and we’ll be able to be free!

L’avi Siset ja no diu res               Grandpa Siset doesn’t speak anymore
mal vent que se’l va emportar                    bad wind who took him away
ell qui sap cap a quin indret                          he, who knows where,
i jo aquí sota el portal                        and me, here under the door

i quan passen els nous vailets                    and when new boys pass by
estiro el coll per cantar                          i strech my neck to sing
el darrer cant d’en Siset                              Siset’s last singing
lo darrer que em va ensenyar(*)                 the last thing he taught me

Si estirem tots ella caurà                  If we all pull it, it will fall
i molt de temps no pot durar,                  and it can’t last much time,
segur que tomba, tomba, tomba,               surely it falls, falls, falls,
ben corcada deu ser ja.                        it must be worm-eatn by now.

Si jo l’estiro fort per aquí,                  If i pull hard towards here,
i tu l’estires fort per allà,                and you pull it towards there,
segur que tomba, tomba, tomba,             i’m sure it falls, falls, falls,
i ens podrem alliberar!                       and we’ll be able to be free!

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