Arundhati Roy on Palestine. ~ Palestine Diary.
Segment from the film “We..” where Arundhati Roy speaks about the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian struggle in the middle east. Historic references, who funds it, and more.
We is a fast-paced 64 minute documentary that covers the world politics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation.
It visualizes the words of Arundhati Roy, specifically her famous Come September speech, where she spoke on such things as the war on terror, corporate globalization, justice and the growing civil unrest.
It’s witty, moving, alarming and quite a lesson in modern history.
We is almost in the style of a continuous music video. The music used sets the pace and serves as wonderful background for the words of Ms. Roy and images of humanity in the world we live all in today.
We is a completely free documentary, created and released anonymously on the internet.
Full documentary on youtube:
September 11 has a tragic resonance in the Middle East, too. On September 11, 1922, ignoring Arab outrage, the British government proclaimed a mandate in Palestine, a follow-up to the 1917 Balfour declaration, which imperial Britain issued, with its army massed outside the gates of the city of Gaza. The Balfour declaration promised European zionists a national home for Jewish people. Two years after the declaration, Lord Balfour, the British foreign secretary said: ‘In Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-old traditions, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desires or prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land’.
How carelessly imperial power decreed whose needs were profound and whose were not. How carelessly it vivisected ancient civilizations. Palestine and Kashmir are imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modern world. Both are fault-lines in the raging international conflicts of today.
In 1937 Winston Churchill said of the Palestinians: ‘I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done to the red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place’. That set the trend for the Israeli state’s attitude towards Palestinians. In 1969, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said: ‘Palestinians do not exist’. Her successor, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, said: ‘What are Palestinians? When I came here [to Palestine] there were 250,000 non-Jews, mainly Arabs and Bedouins. It was desert, more than underdeveloped. Nothing’. Prime Minister Menachem Begin called Palestinians ‘two-legged beasts’. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called them ‘grasshoppers’ who could be crushed. This is the language of heads of state, not the words of ordinary people.
In 1947 the UN formally partitioned Palestine and allotted 55% of Palestine’s land to the zionists. Within a year they had captured 78%. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was declared. Minutes after the declaration, the US recognized Israel. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan. The Gaza strip came under Egyptian military control. Formally, Palestine ceased to exist except in the minds and hearts of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people who became refugees.
In the summer of 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Settlers were offered state subsidies and development aid to move into the occupied territories. Almost every day more Palestinian families are forced off their lands and driven into refugee camps. Palestinians who continue to live in Israel do not have the same rights as Israelis and live as second-class citizens in their former homeland.
Over the decades there have been uprisings, wars, intifadas. Tens of thousands have lost their lives. Accords and treaties have been signed, ceasefires declared and violated. But the bloodshed doesn’t end. Palestine still remains illegally occupied. Its people live in inhuman conditions, in virtual Bantustans, where they are subjected to collective punishments, 24-hour curfews, where they are humiliated and brutalised on a daily basis. They never know when their homes will be demolished, when their children will be shot, when their precious trees will be cut, when their roads will be closed, when they will be allowed to walk down to the market to buy food and medicine. And when they will not. They live with no semblance of dignity. With not much hope in sight. They have no control over their lands, their security, their movement, their communication, their water supply. So when accords are signed and words like ‘autonomy’ and even ‘statehood’ are bandied about, it’s always worth asking: What sort of autonomy? What sort of state? What sort of rights will its citizens have? Young Palestinians who cannot contain their anger turn themselves into human bombs and haunt Israel’s streets and public places, blowing themselves up, killing ordinary people, injecting terror into daily life, and eventually hardening both societies’ suspicion and mutual hatred of each other. Each bombing invites merciless reprisals and even more hardship on Palestinian people. But then suicide bombing is an act of individual despair, not a revolutionary tactic. Although Palestinian attacks strike terror into Israeli civilians, they provide the perfect cover for the Israeli government’s daily incursions into Palestinian territory, the perfect excuse for old-fashioned, 19th century colonialism, dressed up as a new-fashioned, 21st century ‘war’.
Israel’s staunchest political and military ally is and always has been the US government. The US government has blocked, along with Israel, almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict. It has supported almost every war that Israel has fought. When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that smash through Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives several billion dollars from the US.
What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people who suffered so cruelly themselves — more cruelly perhaps than any other people in history — to understand the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom they have displaced? Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty? What hope does this leave the human race with? What will happen to the Palestinian people in the event of a victory? When a nation without a state eventually proclaims a state, what kind of state will it be? What horrors will be perpetrated under its flag? Is it a separate state that we should be fighting for, or the rights to a life of liberty and dignity for everyone regardless of their ethnicity or religion?
Palestine was once a secular bulwark in the Middle East. But now the weak, undemocratic, by all accounts corrupt but avowedly non-sectarian PLO, is losing ground to Hamas, which espouses an overtly sectarian ideology and fights in the name of Islam. To quote from their manifesto: ‘We will be its soldiers, and the firewood of its fire, which will burn the enemies’.
The world is called upon to condemn suicide bombers. But can we ignore the long road they have journeyed on before they arrived at this destination? September 11, 1922 to September 11, 2002 — 80 years is a long long time to have been waging war. Is there some advice the world can give the people of Palestine? Some scrap of hope we can hold out? Should they just settle for the crumbs that are thrown their way and behave like the grasshoppers or two-legged beasts they’ve been described as? Should they just take Golda Meir’s suggestion and make a real effort to not exist?
In another part of the Middle East, September 11 strikes a more recent chord. It was on September 11, 1990 that George W Bush Sr, then president of the US, made a speech to a joint session of Congress announcing his government’s decision to go to war against Iraq.
The US government says that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal, a cruel military despot who has committed genocide against his own people. That’s a fairly accurate description of the man. In 1988 he razed hundreds of villages in northern Iraq and used chemical weapons and machine-guns to kill thousands of Kurdish people. Today we know that that same year the US government provided him with $500m in subsidies to buy American farm products. The next year, after he had successfully completed his genocidal campaign, the US government doubled its subsidy to $1bn. It also provided him with high quality germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters and dual-use material that could be used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.
So it turns out that while Saddam Hussein was carrying out his worst atrocities, the US and the UK governments were his close allies. Even today, the government of Turkey which has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world is one of the US government’s closest allies. The fact that the Turkish government has oppressed and murdered Kurdish people for years has not prevented the US government from plying Turkey with weapons and development aid. Clearly it was not concern for the Kurdish people that provoked President Bush’s speech to Congress.
What changed? In August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. His sin was not so much that he had committed an act of war, but that he acted independently, without orders from his masters. This display of independence was enough to upset the power equation in the Gulf. So it was decided that Saddam Hussein be exterminated, like a pet that has outlived its owner’s affection.
The first Allied attack on Iraq took place in January 1991. The world watched the prime-time war as it was played out on TV. (In India those days, you had to go to a five- star hotel lobby to watch CNN.) Tens of thousands of people were killed in a month of devastating bombing. What many do not know is that the war did not end then. The initial fury simmered down into the longest sustained air attack on a country since the Vietnam war. Over the last decade American and British forces have fired thousands of missiles and bombs on Iraq. Iraq’s fields and farmlands have been shelled with 300 tons of depleted uranium. In countries like Britain and America depleted uranium shells are test-fired into specially constructed concrete tunnels. The radioactive residue is washed off, sealed in cement and disposed off in the ocean (which is bad enough). In Iraq it’s aimed — deliberately, with malicious intent — at people’s food and water supply. In their bombing sorties, the Allies specifically targeted and destroyed water treatment plants, fully aware of the fact that they could not be repaired without foreign assistance. In southern Iraq there has been a four-fold increase in cancer among children. In the decade of economic sanctions that followed the war, Iraqi civilians have been denied food, medicine, hospital equipment, ambulances, clean water — the basic essentials.
About half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of the sanctions. Of them, Madeleine Albright, then US Ambassador to the United Nations, famously said: ‘It’s a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.’ ‘Moral equivalence’ was the term that was used to denounce those who criticised the war on Afghanistan. Madeleine Albright cannot be accused of moral equivalence. What she said was just straightforward algebra.
A decade of bombing has not managed to dislodge Saddam Hussein, the ‘Beast of Baghdad’. Now, almost 12 years on, President George Bush Jr has ratcheted up the rhetoric once again. He’s proposing an all-out war whose goal is nothing short of a regime change. The New York Times says that the Bush administration is ‘following a meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat of Saddam Hussein’.
Weapons inspectors have conflicting reports about the status of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and many have said clearly that its arsenal has been dismantled and that it does not have the capacity to build one. However, there is no confusion over the extent and range of America’s arsenal of nuclear and chemical weapons. Would the US government welcome weapons inspectors? Would the UK? Or Israel?
What if Iraq does have a nuclear weapon, does that justify a pre-emptive US strike? The US has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. It’s the only country in the world to have actually used them on civilian populations. If the US is justified in launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, why, then any nuclear power is justified in carrying out a pre-emptive attack on any other. India could attack Pakistan, or the other way around. If the US government develops a distaste for the Indian Prime Minister, can it just ‘take him out’ with a pre-emptive strike?
Recently the US played an important part in forcing India and Pakistan back from the brink of war. Is it so hard for it to take its own advice? Who is guilty of feckless moralizing? Of preaching peace while it wages war? The US, which George Bush has called ‘the most peaceful nation on earth’, has been at war with one country or another every year for the last 50 years.
Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons. They’re usually fought for hegemony, for business. And then of course there’s the business of war. Protecting its control of the world’s oil is fundamental to US foreign policy. The US government’s recent military interventions in the Balkans and Central Asia have to do with oil. Hamid Karzai, the puppet president of Afghanistan installed by the US, is said to be a former employee of Unocal, the American-based oil company. The US government’s paranoid patrolling of the Middle East is because it has two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves. Oil keeps America’s engines purring sweetly. Oil keeps the free market rolling. Whoever controls the world’s oil controls the world’s market. And how do you control the oil?
Nobody puts it more elegantly than the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In an article called ‘Craziness Pays’ he says ‘the US has to make it clear to Iraq and US allies that…America will use force without negotiation, hesitation or UN approval’. His advice was well taken. In the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the almost daily humiliation the US government heaps on the UN. In his book on globalisation, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman says: ‘The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas…. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps’. Perhaps this was written in a moment of vulnerability, but it’s certainly the most succinct, accurate description of the project of corporate globalisation that I have read.
After September 11, 2001 and the War Against Terror, the hidden hand and fist have had their cover blown, and we have a clear view now of America’s other weapon — the free market — bearing down on the developing world, with a clenched unsmiling smile. The task that never ends is America’s perfect war, the perfect vehicle for the endless expansion of American imperialism. In Urdu, the word for profit is fayda. Al-qaida means the word, the word of God, the law. So, in India some of us call the War Against Terror, Al-qaida vs Al-fayda — the word vs the profit (no pun intended).
For the moment it looks as though Al-fayda will carry the day. But then you never know…
In the last 10 years of unbridled corporate globalisation, the world’s total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million. Of the top hundred biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries. The top 1% of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57% and the disparity is growing. Now, under the spreading canopy of the War Against Terror, this process is being hustled along. The men in suits are in an unseemly hurry. While bombs rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across the skies, while nuclear weapons are stockpiled to make the world a safer place, contracts are being signed, patents are being registered, oil pipelines are being laid, natural resources are being plundered, water is being privatised and democracies are being undermined.
In a country like India, the ‘structural adjustment’ end of the corporate globalisation project is ripping through people’s lives. ‘Development’ projects, massive privatisation, and labour ‘reforms’ are pushing people off their lands and out of their jobs, resulting in a kind of barbaric dispossession that has few parallels in history. Across the world as the ‘free market’ brazenly protects Western markets and forces developing countries to lift their trade barriers, the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer. Civil unrest has begun to erupt in the global village. In countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, India the resistance movements against corporate globalisation are growing.
To contain them, governments are tightening their control. Protestors are being labelled ‘terrorists’ and then dealt with as such. But civil unrest does not only mean marches and demonstrations and protests against globalisation. Unfortunately, it also means a desperate downward spiral into crime and chaos and all kinds of despair and disillusionment which, as we know from history (and from what we see unspooling before our eyes), gradually becomes a fertile breeding ground for terrible things — cultural nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism and of course, terrorism.
All these march arm-in-arm with corporate globalisation.
There is a notion gaining credence that the free market breaks down national barriers, and that corporate globalisation’s ultimate destination is a hippie paradise where the heart is the only passport and we all live together happily inside a John Lennon song (Imagine there’s no country…) This is a canard.
What the free market undermines is not national sovereignty, but democracy. As the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist has its work cut out for it. Multinational corporations on the prowl for ‘sweetheart deals’ that yield enormous profits cannot push through those deals and administer those projects in developing countries without the active connivance of state machinery — the police, the courts, sometimes even the army. Today corporate globalisation needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries, to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that it’s only money, goods, patents and services that are globalised — not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or God forbid, justice. It’s as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck the whole enterprise.
Close to one year after the War Against Terror was officially flagged off in the ruins of Afghanistan, in country after country freedoms are being curtailed in the name of protecting freedom, civil liberties are being suspended in the name of protecting democracy. All kinds of dissent is being defined as ‘terrorism’. All kinds of laws are being passed to deal with it. Osama Bin Laden seems to have vanished into thin air. Mullah Omar is said to have made his escape on a motor-bike. The Taliban may have disappeared but their spirit, and their system of summary justice is surfacing in the unlikeliest of places. In India, in Pakistan, in Nigeria, in America, in all the Central Asian republics run by all manner of despots, and of course in Afghanistan under the US-backed Northern Alliance.
Meanwhile, down at the mall there’s a mid-season sale. Everything’s discounted — oceans, rivers, oil, gene pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, aluminum factories, phone companies, wisdom, wilderness, civil rights, ecosystems, air — all 4,600 million years of evolution. It’s packed, sealed, tagged, valued and available off the rack. (No returns). As for justice — I’m told it’s on offer too. You can get the best that money can buy.
Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the War against Terror was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their way of life. When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves tremble in their quarters. So, standing here today, it’s hard for me to say this, but the American way of life is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn’t acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.
Fortunately power has a shelf life. When the time comes, maybe this mighty empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and implode from within. It looks as though structural cracks have already appeared. As the War Against Terror casts its net wider and wider, America’s corporate heart is hemorrhaging. For all the endless empty chatter about democracy, today the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation, all three of which, in turn, are dominated by the US. Their decisions are made in secret. The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody really knows anything about them, their politics, their beliefs, their intentions. Nobody elected them. Nobody said they could make decisions on our behalf. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs who nobody elected can’t possibly last.
Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically evil but because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to usurp too much power. Twenty-first century market-capitalism, American-style, will fail for the same reasons. Both are edifices constructed by human intelligence, undone by human nature.
The time has come, the walrus said. Perhaps things will get worse and then better. Perhaps there’s a small God up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.
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