Someone once said to me that I'm like a bee that buzzes straight to the heart of a thing and then disrupts everything that's been so nicely laid out. Someone else once told me I should learn how to talk in a way that doesn't make people upset. Someone else once told me they were afraid to meet me after reading my writings because I was so passionate and somehow my searching eyes would be able to read their mind and they would fail to meet my litmus test, fail to meet my standards that were so strong and confident in their ethics.
I have been told many times that I am too intense. Way, way too many times that I'm way way too political. My adult kids have sometimes called me Debbie Downer.
Sure, it's great that Obama won the election; at last, an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful person to lead the US! What a change. His family is lovely; his wife is intelligent; his family sincerely seems to be a breath of clean air in the power echelons. Plastic surgery, closet alcoholism, sexual escapades, prescription drug addiction, or compulsive lying don't seem to be part of him or his family as they do for the others we have had to bear. That Obama was able to make it to run for president as a man who did not grow up in a privileged family says something about his fortitude, hard work, capabilities of working with others, and his intelligence.
That he is an African American man and is now the president elect is absolutely history-making and I deeply share the joy of all people, especially African Americans, on whose enslaved labour the US was built, who get to witness such a change. I find his message of hope and change inspiring; his call for collective ground level work refreshing from the top-down dictates that have so far ruled the way things are done. Watching his speech on Tuesday night and the tearful and joyful faces of all the people who deeply desire for their country, for their children, for their people meaningful change, I was moved. Yes, I was moved to tears to see their/our hopes and dreams spill out.
But in the midst of my elation that Obama had trounced McCain (and the ignorant, bible-thumping Palin) and quashed more Republican mismanagement of the US, that bee started buzzing.
It started last night when I read that Obama had asked Rahm Emanuel to be the Chief of Staff in his administration. Emanuel, after brief consideration, has accepted.
Rahm Emanuel, who served in the Clinton administration, takes a very hardline pro-Israeli (regime) stance. His father was once in the Irgun, the proto-Israeli terrorist organization that was responsible for the deaths of many Palestinians, and provoking them to flee their lands in terror. Irgun is part of the ethnic cleansing of the 400+ Palestinian villages, the removal of these places from the map, and the 750,000 fleeing people, many who ended up in Gaza.* His father is now a pediatrician. I wonder, how does one deal with the contradiction of going from killing babies to healing babies? I guess some babies count, others do not.
Of course, we are not our fathers or mothers, but Emanuel has shown himself to actively support the ideology and funding of the state of Israel (US gives billions of $$ of support to Israel). He sends his children to a Jewish school to ensure their orthodox training and heritage. I'm not against folks sending their children to religious schools, but I am deeply concerned about what sorts of values get taught in particular religious schools, be they Jewish, Christian or Islamic, to name a few. He proactively works on steering US policy to favour Israel at the expense of the rights of Palestinians. He gave a speech in Congress supporting the bombing of Lebanon and Iraq.
This morning after my walk, I sat down with my husband, who was watching a news report on Democracy Now on Obama and the question of what does his rhetoric of change mean to the Palestinians? The show is called President-Elect Obama and the Future of US Foreign Policy: A Roundtable Discussion. You can watch the whole show by Real Video Stream on their website. Especially articulate and aware of the problems of having Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, and more telling, Obama's distancing himself from anyone who might be considered pro-Palestinian, is Ali Abunimah. The show is almost an hour long, and there is lots of food for thought on it, but if you are pressed for time, go to 23 min, and you will hit on the section with the interview with Abunimah.
Especially disheartening for me to hear was Obama's speech at AIPAC , America's pro-Israel lobby, and his unequivocal support of Jerusalem as exclusively belonging to Israel, of his unequivocal support of an exclusively Jewish state. In other words, supporting an exclusive state. Now, Mr. Obama, doesn't that message of excluding people from citizenship and from full rights somehow not ring a bell to you?
African American poet June Jordan (1936-2002) once said that you can tell how generous one's ideas of human rights and justice are if you ask them where they stand regarding the Palestinians [my rough paraphrase].
What she meant by that is that the question of the human rights of the Palestinians is a moral litmus test. Interviewed by David Barsamian for Alternative Radio in October of 2000, June Jordan said:
“If anybody anywhere would trouble himself or herself to get the U.N. resolutions beginning with 242 and come all the way up to now, you would understand that there is a double standard in place. In 1967 it called for unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from all the lands that they had taken during the June war. U.N. 242 was adopted unanimously by the Security Council. It has never been rescinded. It is international law. It has never been enforced. There are no chosen people here, just human beings and sovereign states, to which one standard must apply. If it doesn't apply and if it breaks down so that everlastingly the Palestinians and the Arab peoples are not seen as having normal, regular human rights, while the Israeli nation is seen as exempt from all international law, that perpetrates a racist discourse that I think is the moral litmus test of my life.”
Menassat also has a piece that collects a number of questions regarding Obama and US foreign policy in the ME.
* Some info on the unconscionable siege of Gaza, from the Popular Committee Against the Seige:
- In Gaza, Palestinian people are subjected to (a) medieval siege and forgotten by the international community. The borders are still closed and only a flow of supplies enter in Gaza, determined by the Zionist occupier, Israel.
-Around 80% of Gaza populations live under poverty line.
- 1.100.000 peoples depend on humanitarian aids provided by UNRWA, Arab, Islamic and foreign organizations.
- Unemployment ratio reached 65%
- 60% of Gaza's children suffer from Malnutrition.
- About 97% of factories and workshops stopped working, specifically 3900 factories. The industrial zone of Gaza is completely closed.
- Individual income 650$ per year and 2 $ a day.
- Freedom of movement from Gaza to the West bank, Jerusalem and outside world is being blocked.
- Around 260 people died due to blocking them from either travel for treatment or lack of medicines.
- Nearing to 40% of siege victims are from children.
- About 150 of medicines sorts are not available in Gaza.
- The only medical factory is halted due to shortage of raw materials.
- Projects of constructing and developing hospitals, clinics and educational bodies are being suspended!
- There are still daily power cuts