A central Florida based activist group, St. Pete for Peacehas taken the initiative to circumvent a corrupt and biased media in order to spread awareness about the ongoing Israeli ethnic cleansing operation in Gaza. Despite the long-term consequences of the unconditional backing of the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the unspeakable truth that their tax money is being used to finance the murders of unarmed civilians (including children) Americans are ill-served by a media and political class that has a vested interest in maintaining a particular narrative. That narrative is that Israel is the victim rather than the oppressor and that Israel is the only "democracy" in the Middle East, despite an increasing trend towards racism, suppression of critics of official government policy and most of all extreme violence.
On Saturday, the group posted a series of signs at high traffic locations -including the placement of a banner on a bridge over a high volume St. Petersburg intersection in the vicinity of a major shopping mall and an assortment of national brand discount stores and chain restaurants. The obvious hope being that the seeds of awareness be planted given the complete absence of any semblance of honest media coverage.
The story line of choice is that Israel is always the victim, a scruffy little underdog facing an existential crisis and surrounded by enemies devoted to exterminate the Jewish state. Nothing could be farther than the truth though as Israel has continually proven to be the aggressor and enjoys a vast military superiority as well as a propaganda machine that is second to none. Activist Dina Formentini of St. Pete for Peace states that "Israel frequently plays the victim role in order to justify its violence. But you can't be an aggressor and a victim at the same time". Americans will never be allowed any glimpse at the factual basis of this oft-repeated big lie which is what makes grass roots efforts like that undertaken by St. Pete for Peace all the more important.
The Fruits of U.S. Taxpayer Military Aid to Israel
The largest of the messages of the group's "banner drop" read "You Gave 3.2 Billion to Israel Last Year & All You Got Was Lousy Genocide". This being a reference to the ongoing U.S. taxpayer subsidizing of human rights abuses and war crimes including the bombinof hospitals, schools and the shelling of children playing soccer on a beach.
The U.S. annually sends over an estimated $3 billion dollars in military aid to Israel. An emergency approval of an additional $225 million was just pushed through right before the most worthless Congress in U.S. history slithered out of Washington for their latest five week vacation on the taxpayer dole. Other smaller signs strategically placed by St. Pete for Peace read: "Gaza Strip the New Warsaw Ghetto", "U.S. Politicians are Israel's b*tch", "Israel Couldn't Act Like Punks Without U.S. Support", "Israel Can't Be Victim And Aggressor" and "Anti-Occupation is Not Anti-Semitic". Some have likely already denounced the placing of the signs as "anti-Semitic" which has for too long been the sleazy and vile pejorative that critics of Israeli human rights abuses, war crimes and the astounding and dangerous servility of the U.S. political class to the Israel Lobby are routinely smeared as being. The very idea that any objections by American citizens having their tax money spent on bombs and bullets for Israel that are going to be used to kill women and children could be anti-Semitic flies in the face of the right to freedom of speech that at least theoretically still exists in this country.
Jeanie Toth, who as a member of St. Pete for Peace has faced such smears by pro-Israel activists stated that:
"For the past 6 years we've protested at the annual AIPAC meetings in Washington, where the world's most powerful pro-Israel supporters attend 3 days of meetings and pep talks. Invariably, AIPAC attendees bark the same words to us as they pass our protests: "You are a Holocaust denier and Arabs are trying to wipe Israel off the map, so we have to use force whenever necessary. We know the world hates us, but we'd rather be feared than liked." I always respond with, "I DO believe the Holocaust happened and it was wrong. But now Israel is the one carrying out a genocide. And much of the world despises Israel, not because it is a Jewish nation, but because of how violent it is"
In a very nasty bit of irony, hard right Israeli writers, clerics and bloggers have actually called for the eradication of the Palestinian people. Just days ago The Times of Israel ran an insane screed entitled "When Genocide is Permissable" by a writer named Yochanan Gordon but nearly immediately retracted it after social media outrage. Another piece by blogger Irwin E. Blank s imilarly advocated that Israel engage in genocide (although this one is couched in biblical justification) wasn't similarly flushed down the memory hole. When even some Israelis are calling for the slaughter of an entire race it is hard to take the the accusations of being critics of Israel being tantamount to being "Holocaust deniers" with a straight face. Ms. Toth says that"Jews lament that Palestinians don't believe Israel has the right to exist. But does Israel believe Palestine has the right to exist?. It sure doesn't behave as if it does."
Were Americans to be honestly informed as to the true nature of the ongoing and tragic story of Israel and Palestine there would likely be political pressure exerted to reign in Israel and force them to the table for good faith negotiations that would break the cycle of violence. This however is not in the best interest of the either the Israel Lobby nor the American political establishment, the majority of them in Congress who rely on the financial and election year support of American based Israeli front groups and fear their wrath if they don't bow to their relentless pressure.
Unwavering U.S. Support is Bad for Israel as well as America
"As I've said time and again, neither I nor the United States will ever waver in our commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people... Budgets in Washington are tight, but our commitment to Israel's security remains ironclad. The United States is committed to providing more than $3 billion each year to help finance Israel's security through 2018."
- President Barack Obama
There is a false belief that Democrats are better in terms of having a more moderate stance towards the Palestinians than strident and demagogic Republicans who must pander to their extremist Christian Zionist base. In reality, the opposite is true as there is lockstep support for the right-wing Netanyahu regime with the "lesser of two evils" party. When "Bibi" spoke before a joint session of Congress a few years ago he basked in the thunderous roar of no fewer than 29 standing ovations- it was a truly bipartisan orgy of adoration and no foreign leader outside of Sir Winston himself with his famous "Iron Curtain" speech has ever been elicited such a twisted love from the putative elected representatives of the American people.
Prominent Democrats, including former Secretary of State and likely next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton are among the most ardent defenders of the current policies of Netanyahu's bloodthirsty regime and yet are still criticized as being insufficiently pro-Israel by political opponents. President Barack Obama, despite an at times chilly personal relationship with "King Bibi"continues to promise more U.S. taxpayer money to continue to underwrite the murders of women and children which Chris Ernesto of St. Pete for Peace addresses in his recent column at Antiwar.com "Thank You President Obama, Love Israel".
Mr. Ernesto also addresses this bit of what passes for conventional wisdom:
"There's a huge misconception that Democrats are better for Palestinians (and other Arabs and/or Muslims) than the Republicans. But that's not supported by the facts. Indeed, the Obama administration has been the best friend Israel has had in years. And Obama has dropped bombs on 6 Muslim countries during his presidency - George W. Bush dropped bombs in 4 Muslim countries - so how are Democrats better for the Muslim world?"
Democrats aren't better for Palestinians and has been so far proven during the Obama era they aren't better for civil liberties, economic equality, holding the criminals in Wall Street gambling casinos accountable for their fraud, privacy rights or the protection of freedom of the press and the rights of whistleblowers. An old acquaintance friend of mine who was an avowed Marxist once told me that "both parties are killers, the Democrats are only better at pretending not to be" which given the overwhelming evidence is hard to argue with.
"There is only one solution to ending Israeli aggression - stop US support of their violence. The only way this could happen is if people who vote for Democrats tell their representatives to stop supporting Israel or never get their vote again" said Marianne Huber of St. Pete for Peace. Ms. Toth adds that:
"US politicians are Israel's b*tch. Many US politicians know the only way to get elected or re-elected is with money from the pro-Israel lobby. Once in power, those same politicians enthusiastically support the state of Israel's atrocities. In fact, just 12 hours after Obama's victory in the Democratic Presidential primaries, his very first stop was at AIPAC where he put on an Israel/US lapel pin, and told the crowd that he "understood the Zionist idea." The only way to counter this is for so-called liberals to tell their Democratic elected officials to shape up or never get their vote again. If groups like CAIR and news outlets like Democracy Now! pushed this idea, we'd see a change."
In the humble opinion of this blogger it would be a damned good start. The Israel Lobby is relentless, well-funded and impeccably organized but is largely allowed to get away with their bullying, boycotting and extortion tactics only because there is so little grass-roots opposition to act as a counter to them.
Members of Congress (both parties) enjoy thumping their chests about American exceptionalism and the moral high ground but there is nothing that is either exceptional nor moral about their support of the ongoing slaughter in Gaza. It is craven and cowardly and serves as yet another shining example of our broken political system. A system in which members of Congress routinely sell-out the long term interests of all of their own constituents as well as traditional American values in order to cater to the whims of moneyed special interest groups such as AIPAC.
In addition to their gaming the system in order to stay in office in the hope of one day landing one of the lucrative lobbying or consulting positions -thanks to Washington's revolving door - this most lamentable Congress plays right into the hands of those who resort to terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ongoing killing spree, conducted with the full support of your representatives in Congress, the Obama administration and aspiring Republican presidential candidates only serves as a recruiting campaign for those who seek to avenge Israel's criminal actions upon the country that sends them the military equipment that is then used on innocent women and children.
Osama bin Laden himself once stated that U.S. support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the ongoing persecution of the Palestinians was a driving factor in attacking America on September 11, 2001. The mounting death toll in Gaza - in addition to being a crime against humanity - will only serve as an inspiration for another attack in the homeland. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is on record as predicting another terrorist attack "more deadly" than 9/11 will occur "this decade" and if it does, our elected representatives, particularly in the U.S. Congress will have blood on their hands. It is apparent that they don't care about dead Palestinian children and they will be the first to cry in outrage on the next day that the chickens come home to roost all thanks to their own enabling of Israeli war crimes.
Continuing to unconditionally support Israeli human rights abuses, war crimes and the looming Apartheid style of government, oncedemographics make Jews a minority in their own exclusionary "Jewish state" is a recipe for disaster and more violence against Americans. Thanks to the abrogation of their First Amendment responsibility of a free press, the corporate media is depriving Americans of the necessary information to make informed choices that their elected representatives are bound to carry out. This is the way that things are supposed to work in a real democracy, unfortunately due to the one sided coverage of Israel they are deprived of this despite its grave importance. You can find much more balanced reporting in the Israeli media - for example Haaretz - than you will ever find in the U.S. which provides an endless series of national platforms for Netanyahu and his fellow war criminals to sell their genocidal policies in America to the people who will ultimately be the ones who will reap the whirlwind.
St. Pete for Peace is a beacon of hope that with enough involvement and dedication at the grass-roots level that one day "hope and change" may be more than just a cynical campaign slogan.