Friday, February 13, 2009

Barghouti to Obama: 2 states now, or a long violent struggle over apartheid because 'we will be free'

Phillip Weiss - Mondoweiss

It is hard to imagine that after all the coverage of Gaza you could go into an event in New York and walk out stunned, but such was my experience hearing Mustafa Barghouti this afternoon at Columbia University. The Palestinian doctor and politician who lives in the West Bank got into Gaza for a week at the end of the onslaught-- it took him two days to get there from Ramallah, through Jordan and Egypt, in what should have been a 1-1/2 hour hour trip--and entered with the belief that his nonstop watching of Al-Jazeera had prepared him for the destruction. It did not.

"What I've seen shocked me.... Believe me, when I went there I was shocked to the level that for the first time in my life, I could not talk about it for four days. And now it is my duty to tell the people of the world what has happened to the people of Gaza."

The old people Barghouti talked to said they had never seen anything like it either--not in ’48, ’56, ’67, '88, or 2000. "They all told me that this has been the most brutal thing they have ever seen." And so his job today, before getting to any politics, was to bear witness to a room filled to bursting with 220 people or so, many of them Palestinian intellectuals in the Diaspora, as Barghouti put it.

It is hard to convey Barghouti’s presentation in a piece of writing without being numbing. He showed us gruesome photos of the mysterious armaments that burned their way down into people’s flesh, eating their skin and tissue away. He told the stories of five daughters killed in one family, and of another two girls who watched their father, who had left the house after three days to get water, shot and bound and left in the street to serve as a target dummy. His wife and daughters watched their father executed. "That is the story I heard from his wife," he said, voice breaking.


He said that families that had fled the attacks often divided their children and left them in different houses, so that a strike would not kill all their children at once. And the Gazans had reason to fear this: the killing of 1300 is equivalent to a quarter million Americans dying.

"Have you see these images on U.S. television?" One picture after another of leveled neighborhoods, bulldozed factories. Before the onslaught, there had been 351 working factories left in Gaza, "the last remaining part of the private sector that was not destroyed yet." Most were destroyed. "They were destroyed when the Israeli army was leaving Gaza in the last two days.The Israeli army put dynamite in them." He showed us pictures of one man’s factory where the Israelis in leaving had demolished the factory, his gardens, his trucks, his cars.

"And up to this moment they are not allowing a single sack of cement to enter Gaza." And most of the glass in Gaza was shattered, but glass is not allowed in either, as a "strategic material." Windows are covered with plastic.

Of course, this kind of horror requires analysis, and it was here that the talk left the realm of physical destruction to go the true devastation, the Israeli soul.

Israeli society is deeply corrupt. It is dominated by generals who are churned out year after year by the military industrial complex, and it depends on sales of armaments to other countries. The Gaza destruction had this as one of its motivations, in addition to regime change, which failed, and electing Kadima/Labor, which also failed: a weapons show. These policies have hurt the Israeli people. "The Israeli public got the right message from this kind of brutal approach. If brutality is the only thing that will work with the Palestinians, then we should choose Lieberman, who is a neofascist."

It is not sufficient to say that the Israelis moved right in the recent election. Israel always moves to the right. "This is a move towards racism, this is a move towards extremism. This is a move that in my opinion is a declaration, that Israel is accepting to be an apartheid state. This is the last chapter where occupation has corrupted the Israeli society."

Many questions from the students, most of them evidently Arab.

Who will form the governing coalition in Israel? Who would he choose? Barghouti said: Barack Obama. That is the only hope for the Israelis. That Obama will now put actions behind his good gestures, the Mitchell appointment, and truly try to make a just settlement in Israel/Palestine now.

"We are exactly at that very specific point of the last chance for the two-state solution. It is closing." It is closing because Israel has committed itself to a policy of dispossession and Bantustanization of the Palestinian people, and it has so far succeeded. The apartheid wall, the security zone, the checkpoints that would make the map black if he showed every one of them-- these are now matched in Gaza by a fresh act of ethnic cleansing, a buffer zone on Palestinian land along the northern and eastern borders of the strip where no house or tree or farm can be, only Israeli forces.

The Palestinians agreed to accept less than half of what the UN gave them in '48 but they will not accept the Bantustans and apartheid. No people would. "Action must be taken for the sake of both peoples...It is about the future of both peoples... There can be no peace with this apartheid system in this place... It has to be a real state. It has to be a real sovereign and democratic state where we are entitled, as Dianne Feinstein said at the inaguration of President Obama--the root of democracy is the right of people to freely choose their leaders. We have to choose our leaders."

Barghouti is for a two state solution because it is "accessible." He wants his daughter to grow up with some sort of hope. He doesn’t want her to grow up in a long violent struggle against apartheid.

I heard only one question from an Israel supporter. What is to be done about the many rockets? Barghouti decried the rockets, but he pointed out (as Sam Husseini did here) that the Six-Day war began when Israel attacked three countries because Egypt closed down access to one port by blockading the straits of Tiran. Gaza has been thoroughly blockaded for years.

My great pity at events like these is a Jewish one. Barghouti the doctor and the young Palestinian intellectuals in the Ivy League space, cramming it, feeling both empowered and victimized, reminded me of nothing so much as my Jewish experience in the Ivy League more than 30 years ago. Also Barghouti spoke feelingly of Jews. He has been in the States four days, and has had several arguments in the media with Israeli supporters. One of these arguments will be on CNN, Fareed Zakaria’s show, this Sunday.

What drives these interlocutors crazy is when he invokes Martin Luther King and Gandhi. "It is so difficult, and I can understand this from a psychological perspective, it is so difficult, for the Jewish people, who have endured such a horrible thing like the Holocaust, and who have endured such horrible things like the suffering of the pogroms of Russia, or the Inquisition of Spain, or somewhere else-- so much suffering, I accept that. But it is so difficult for them to accept the fact that today they are sitting exactly on the chair of the oppressor. And that's why when you speak about that all you get is...'No it is not that!' No it is you. It's time to look in the mirror...It is disrespectful of the victims of the Holocaust to have such a behavior. And that is why Edward Said spoke about us becoming the victims of the victims."

He closed with a summons to Diaspora Palestinians and all those who support them, to be a movement against what he termed the number-one injustice in world affairs now. Help us in our struggle, he said. "Freedom was never given. You have to fight for it. We the Palestinians are determined to be free. And we will be free!"

I took the elevator downstairs. A Jewish girl (I can tell) had her cellphone out, was reporting to a friend about the event. "Well he said a number of inaccuracies. He said that Gaza is the most densely populated place on the earth. When it's only the third or fourth." To this is reduced the tradition that gave the world Maimonides, Spinoza, Arendt, and Mailer.
(Phil Weiss)


Posts that are "pro-Palestinian" (read: pro two-state solution) often attract the worst kind of Israel-Firster commenters. But this particular Mondoweiss post must have hit a nerve with the usual bunch. I'm reproducing some here, to show the unadulterated venom some of these people spout. Hasbarists should be proud that their efforts produce such a bunch of moronic, spite- and hateful supporters of Israel.

It's nice you can sniff put Jews, Phil. Your friends will find that a useful skill. Toi [sic] might even, finally, won tjeor approcal [sic]! (by: Kapo)

Obama to Barghouti:
Don't start wars with people willing to fight back. (by: Karlheinz)

LOL
Imagine having to listen to that guy whine just to keep track of inaccuracies. No one cares what Palestinians have to say except Jews and Jew-haters. (by: Steve r)

You must be kidding. Lack of glass to replace broken windows is a "kind of horror"? No wonder the world sits up and ignors [sic] the Palestinains [sic] and their self-induced plight. (by: chris berel)

I love the idea of people being used as "target dummies"! Plenty of real assholes to ice: the IDF doesn't need practice.
Someone ought to tell Barghouti that, since every Palestinian seems to have a 6 megapixel Israeli camera phone, one of them might take a picture of that. After all, as the ads say, you can learn a lot from a dummy! (by: Steve r)

I wonder if Paliwood is going to produce its own Leni Reifenstahl [sic]. (by: Suzanne)

He's [M. Barghouti] probably just another PLO Trojan Horse hemming and hawing enough about his final goals to get whatever he can in negotiation and then continue the war for Israel's destruction, though. (by: Eurosabra)

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