11 08 2006

I’ve been saying for quite some time that the United States has as much right to be in Iraq as the Nazis had to be in Poland. I’d like to take this opportunity to look through the lens of World War II and reframe more of the tragedy now unfolding in what was once the fertile crescent.

Israel’s destruction of Lebanon is a blitzkreig, a “lightning war,” waged against people who do not have the technology to deflect Israel’s strength. And Gaza is the moral equivalent of the Warsaw Ghetto. Our proxy state, Israel, has just as surely become the new Nazis as America has.

Think of it this way: “Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto captured two German soldiers and have held them hostage, demanding that all Jewish women and children held by the Germans be released. In response, the Germans have unleashed an aerial bombardment of the ghetto, leveling not only Jewish homes and businesses but those of non-Jewish Poles whom they suspect of sympathizing with the Jews.”

Of course, the Israelis have learned a few lessons from their Nazi tormentors, most importantly—no concentration camps. No point giving bleeding heart types anything to concentrate on, eh? Just keep the ragheads where they are and build walls around them, destroy their communities, homes, gardens, farms, schools, hospitals, water sources, communications routes. Make sure there’s plenty of lebensraum for God’s chosen people—us Jews. It’s not a policy that will ever win Israel any Muslim hearts and minds. They must know this. If they’re obviously not committed to reconciliation, what is the long-term goal of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians? What is Israel’s “final solution to the Palestinian question?”

The conflict is not new, nor is it simple. The Old Testament is, among other things, a record of struggles over the narrow band of wet, fertile ground between the Mediterranean sea and the Arabian desert. The Palestinian people have been protesting for over a hundred years, often violently, against the influx of European Jews into their fragile ecology. In many ways, the story of Israel is the same story of Europeans vs. native people that has been played out all over the globe. I got a lot of insight into this by reading Starhawk’s dispatches from Palestine. I strongly suggest you look them up at her website, www.starhawk.org, for an eye-opening, positive picture of the Palestinian people, written by a Jew–like me.

So, when George Bush fires off lines about “fighting Islamic Fascism,” he is, as usual, about 180 degrees from the truth. Fascism is, in the words of fascist founding father Benito Mussolini, the marriage of corporate and state interests for their mutual benefit. Mussolini said that a synonym for “fascism” could be “corporatism.”

Hmm. That makes George Bush the fascist, not Hezbollah. The new order in the Middle East that Bush and his junta envision is a Middle East dominated not just by Shell, Mobil, and Halliburton, but by Coca-Cola, Col. Sanders, Walmart, and their ilk. The Muslim people of the Middle East are fighting to stay free of fascism, not to establish it. They may be fanatical, authoritarian, repressed, violent misogynists, but they are very strongly committed to their native cultures, and opposed to the corporatist/fascist business state model Mr. Bush and his cronies would like to impose on them. No, no, no, Hezbollah and friends are not fascists. It is you, Mr. Bush, who is the fascist. Your words and actions have demonstrated that over and over again.

You wish to fight terrorism, Mr. Bush? What you call terrorism is warfare fought by those who are too poor to afford armies. The way to stop terrorism is to stop the kind of military and cultural arrogance that leaves people feeling that they have no other option than a violent attack on their oppressors, and then reroute the resources that have been used to enforce oppression into improving the lot of the oppressed.

From Palestine up through Lebanon and Syria, then down the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, stretches the cradle of our civilization, an area still occasionally referred to as “The Fertile Crescent,” though it is hardly that any more. Its hills have been denuded by the demands of goatherds and wood-cutters; its fields and pastures have blown away in the wind or been saturated with salt from too much irrigation and not enough rainfall; its rivers are running dry, squeezed between emptying aquifers and burgeoning populations, choked with sewage and agricultural runoff. All of it has been trampled by too many marching armies. This once-fertile crescent, between the deserts of Arabia and the steep, rocky mountains of the Caucasus, does not need more wars, more bombs, more destruction. The Israeli campaign against Lebanon, like the American campaign in Iraq, is breaking something it cannot fix. A complete change of direction is needed to bring peace to the Middle East.

I can call it a Green proposal, but it comes from the Old Testament, that testament of sorrows, from the Prophet Micah, who suggested that if everyone could sit beneath their own vine and fig tree, there would be peace and happiness. The Old Testament also famously references the cedars of Lebanon, but there are hardly any of them left. Evidence from such primeval sources as The Epic of Gilgamesh suggests that, when civilization first arose, there was extensive forest cover (and its corollaries, regular rainfall and year-round streams) throughout the area we now think of as borderline desert. Is it possible to reclaim this devastated land? Such a massive bioremediation project would employ thousands, possibly millions of people, in a project that would demonstrate fairly immediate benefits to them. It would include ecological education as well as hands-on projects, and would be structured to give local people control over projects in their vicinity. That is the way to create a democratic Middle East—not by holding staged elections for a powerless government, but by giving people control over their lives.

But—but—you ask—what about this terrible plot that was just uncovered—they were going to blow up a bunch of airplanes full of tourists!?

Here’s what I think about the latest so-called “terrorist threat”: a great many of the so-called “terrorist threats” that have been revealed have turned out to be more hot air than substance; the timing of such announcements, I believe, usually has more to do with political calculations than with protecting the public. The war party needed some kind of shibboleth to wave in the face of growing awareness of their short-sighted stupidity, and so now they are confiscating perfume and toothpaste instead of scissors and nail clippers. None of these alleged plotters had even bought an airline ticket yet. We need to pull our attention out of this kind of nonsense and put it back into positive actions to save the planet—like recreating the Mideast’s devasted ecosystem. Vines and fig trees for everyone! Olive trees, too! Pomegranates! Dates! Oranges! Kif! Yes!

This does not directly address tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites, or between Muslims and Jews; but I think that a greener, wetter, softer, more bountiful environment (notice how feminine those adjectives are!) will enable everyone to relax, share some grapes, figs, olives, a puff of kif or two, and figure out their differences– which are, beneath all the ideological trappings, squabbles over scarce and diminishing resources. Let’s, as Mr. Bush said,” make the pie higher.”

Doesn’t that beat dropping bombs?

Music:  Steve Earle, “Jerusalem”




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