Some Notes on Gaza, Ferguson, and Irony’s Lack

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, The Life of Reason 

“Hegel remarks somewhere that history tends to repeat itself.
He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 

Notes on Mistaking for Irony What Is Very Much Not

1) The United States military consolidated and acuminated its imperialist tactics against English totalitarianism and Native/Indigenous sovereignty. After English withdrawal, it honed these tactics in relation to Native/Indigenous sovereignty with the singular focus of “exterminating” the people and territorial claims of Native nations. And it did so with massive popular support.

For instance, in describing the campaign of extermination in California policy, Jack D. Forbes emphasizes that it was not merely military or state officials who participated in it: “the sequence of events [are] all the more distressing since it serves to indict not a group of cruel leaders, or a few squads of rough soldiers, but, in effect, an entire people; for the conquest of the Native Californian was above all else a popular, mass enterprise” (Native Americans of California and Nevada).

The results were catastrophic: With regional difference, between 60 and 95 percent of the Native population died in military conflict and by disease. Today, Native nations hold less than 4 percent of their original territories.

2) The United States executive and legislative branches of government in junction with its military and intelligence agencies funded, supplied, and trained the State of Israel in its efforts to illegally annex Palestine and push back neighboring Arab nations. It rationalized these investments on the grounds of establishing the only democratic state in the region. To make this argument, it willfully ignored the religious and racial discrimination of Israeli citizenship and property rights against Arabs and Muslims.

For instance, in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt write that,

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.

According to the Congressional Research Service report, US Foreign Aid to Israel for fiscal year 2014, the US gave $3.1 billion or $9.9 million per day in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Israel. “Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has been slowly phasing out economic aid to Israel and gradually replacing it with increased military aid. In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package FY 2009 to FY 2018. In 2012, the U.S. began giving Israel $3.1 billion a year (or an average of $8.5 million a day) and promised to provide that amount every year through FY 2018.”


Why does the US provide so much financial–and diplomatic–support? Noam Chomsky is useful here:

NC: …. And, in fact, the United States has overwhelmingly vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli crimes and atrocities, prevented the Security Council from calling on Israel to terminate aggression, and so on and so forth. The descriptive comment is not really controversial. There are interesting questions about why it’s true. There were also interesting questions about the sources of support for this position in the United States, which helps us explain why it is true. 

The history is reasonably clear. This was not the case up until 1967. In fact, before 1967, the relationships were not very different from relationships among other powers. There was sympathy and support for Israel, which has many, many sources, including the Christian Zionism, which is a very powerful force that precedes and is numerically far stronger than Jewish Zionism. But for somebody like, say, Harry Truman, raised in a deeply Christian tradition, it was just taken for granted that the Bible instructs us that God gave the land of Palestine to the Jews. So it is kind of like in his bones. And that’s true for a very large part of the American population, much more so than — far more than any other country.  So that is one factor, and there are other factors.  

But the major change in relationships took place in 1967. … So what happened in 1967? Well, in 1967, Israel destroyed the source of secular Arab nationalism — Nasser’s Egypt — which was considered a major threat and enemy by the West. It is worth remembering that there was a serious conflict at that time between the forces of radical Islamic fundamentalism, centered in Saudi Arabia — where all the oil is — and secular Arab nationalism, centered in Nasser’s Egypt; in fact, the two countries were at war. They were fighting a kind of a proxy war in Yemen at that time. The United States and Britain were supporting the radical Islamic fundamentalism; in fact, they’ve rather consistently done that – supporting Saudi Arabia.  And Nasserite secular nationalism was considered a serious threat, because it was recognized that it might seek to take control of the immense resources of the region and use them for regional interest, rather than allow them to be centrally controlled and exploited by the United States and its allies. So that was a major issue…That was considered a major contribution to U.S. geopolitical strategy and also to its Saudi Arabian ally. And, in fact, that’s when attitudes toward Israel changed sharply and the U.S. support for Israel — material, diplomatic, and other — also increased sharply.  In 1970, there was another turning point. In 1970, the Jordanian army (Jordan was a strong, close U.S. ally) – the Jordanian dictatorship was essentially massacring Palestinians during what’s the month that’s called Black September….

This was under the framework of the war on terror that Reagan had declared. The African National Congress — Mandela’s ANC — was designated as one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world as late as 1988. [So] that it [could] support South-African apartheid and the Guatemalan murderous dictatorship and other murderous regimes, Reagan needed a kind of network of terrorist states to help out, to evade the congressional and other limitations, and he turned to, at that time, Taiwan, but, in particular, Israel. Britain helped out. And that was another major service. And so it continued.

3) The United States military, intelligence agencies, and local police have sought training from and alongside Israeli Defense Forces and Mossad.

For instance, Max Blumenthal wrote about Urban Shield:

Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in “counter-terror” operations but is better known for its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders and long record of repression and abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Urban Shield also featured a unit from the military of Bahrain, which had just crushed a largely non-violent democratic uprising by opening fire on protest camps and arresting wounded demonstrators when they attempted to enter hospitals…. The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.

The process of Israelification began in the immediate wake of 9/11, when national panic led federal and municipal law enforcement officials to beseech Israeli security honchos for advice and training. America’s Israel lobby exploited the climate of hysteria, providing thousands of top cops with all-expenses paid trips to Israel and stateside training sessions with Israeli military and intelligence officials. By now, police chiefs of major American cities who have not been on junkets to Israel are the exception. 

“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism,” said former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who now serves as the US Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Cathy Lanier, the Chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police, remarked, “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “One would say it is the front line,” Barnett Jones, the police chief of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said of Israel. “We’re in a global war.” Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security and a leading expert on terror and civil liberties, said the Israeli influence on American law enforcement is so extensive it has bled into street-level police conduct. “After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture,” Greenberg told me. “The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.” 

4) Local police use Israeli tactics originating in anti-Indigenous US imperialist strategies against #Ferguson protestors, the majority of whom are from the local Black community engaged in civil protest against the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen.

In March 2011, it was reported that the St. Louis police chief was set to visit Israel:

St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch will be traveling to Israel next month to learn how Israeli police, intelligence and security forces work to prevent terrorist attacks. Fitch will visit for a week with other law enforcement officials from across the United States, including representatives of the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The trip is part of the Anti-Defamation League’s National Counter-Terrorism seminar. Fitch and the others will visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Tiberias, among other cities. The Israel National Police and senior officials from Israel’s defense forces, intelligence and security organizations will meet with the Americans. St. Louis County police houses the region’s anti-terrorism center.

On his twitter page, @DustinSlaughter posted this picture, highlighting the racial profiling within St. Louis/Ferguson police force.

Don’t Call it Irony

There is nothing ironic or curious about the historical consistencies of imperialist ideologies and practices.

From @MariamBarghouti, we see an image of the tear gas canister made in the US, supplied to Israel, and used in Gaza.

We also watch, in real time, as Gazans offer advice to the protesters in Ferguson how to protect themselves against tear gas.

History is not a repeating itself–as tragedy or farce or in amnesia. This isn’t scripted. We remember.

US democracy has not gone off course. This is what it has always looked like from the perspectives of Native/Indigenous and Black peoples all along.

This is not fate; there is no fate. We have choices. It does not have to be this way.

Boycott, divest, sanction.

“We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up.” 

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451





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