Friday, November 17, 2006

Palestine Peace Not Apartheid

Below my note and the actual review is a great response from my comrade in Miami, Brotha Dinizulu Tinnie. As we rebuild the Black Liberation Movement in the US, it is important to understand that we are always aware of the fact that we are intimately tied to the heroic struggles of the the Palestinian people...

This is a classic white liberal approach to the issue of a racist sub-imperialist power's daily atrocities. Carter paints himself into a corner where he has to twist his political self into a pretzel to try to distance himself from the Palestinian people's right to militarily defend themselves against a violent occupier hellbent on their isolation and extinction. Now that the Democrats are back in a power position to help shape MidEast US foreign policy, this book may be a view of their "liberal" take a la their "liberal" take on the Apartheid South Africa regime of the 70's & 80's: anti-apartheid lipservice to help fend off the world while maintaining the economic and inter-military/intelligence relationships so vital for buttressing US global capitalist dominance.


Palestine Peace Not Apartheid

(Hardcover) Simon & Schuster [published 11/14/06. $33]
By Jimmy Carter


Okay, right off the bat, the title of this book is going to enrage some
BuzzFlash readers and please others.

That's because our readership is split right down the middle when it comes to
issues concerning Israel and Palestine.

BuzzFlash's policy, as we have editorialized, is that we support security for
the State of Israel and a Palestinian State.

How to get there without all the bloodshed has always been the stumbling block.

Jimmy Carter is an odd candidate to cause such a controversy with a book on
achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. After all, he won a Nobel
Prize for his efforts to accomplish just such a goal.

We haven't read the whole book, so we will let our readers make up their mind on
Carter's analysis and recommendations.

Carter fully supports the right of Israel to exist, but he equally denounces the
Israeli treatment of Palestinians. That explains the title of the book.

A Noble Prize winner for his work to achieve peace in the Middle East deserves
to be heard.

You make up your own mind as to whether or not you agree with him. But he has
earned the right to merit our attention and respect, whether or not one agrees
with everything he has to say.

From Simon & Schuster, the publisher:

"Following his #1 New York Times bestseller, Our Endangered Values, the former
president, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, offers an assessment of what must be
done to bring permanent peace to Israel with dignity and justice to Palestine.

President Carter, who was able to negotiate peace between Israel and Egypt, has
remained deeply involved in Middle East affairs since leaving the White House.
He has stayed in touch with the major players from all sides in the conflict and
has made numerous trips to the Holy Land, most recently as an observer in the
Palestinian elections of 2005 and 2006.

In this book President Carter shares his intimate knowledge of the history of
the Middle East and his personal experiences with the principal actors, and he
addresses sensitive political issues many American officials avoid. Pulling no
punches, Carter prescribes steps that must be taken for the two states to share
the Holy Land without a system of apartheid or the constant fear of terrorism.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known, the
president writes. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any
peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N.
resolutions, official American policy, and the international "road map" for
peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Except for
mutually agreeable negotiated modifications, Israel's official pre-1967 borders
must be honored. As were all previous administrations since the founding of
Israel, U.S. government leaders must be in the forefront of achieving this
long-delayed goal of a just agreement that both sides can honor.

Palestine Peace Not Apartheid is a challenging, provocative, and courageous

(a note from Brotha Dinizulu Tinnie 11/15/06)

Bro. Sam,

Of course, your comments (I assume those are yours, at the beginning of the message) are right on! The corner into which Mr. Carter has painted himself is, of course, one that comes about from more factors than just his "liberal" stance, I think, or, to put it another way, which squares with your analysis, the "liberal" position on this issue comes about from a lot more factors than just being a political counterpoint to "conservatism."

It is true that what we sometimes refer to or imagine as the "traditional African knowledge system" is very often speculative, mythic or even romanticized, but it still cannot be denied that there is a core awareness that is with us, which survived all the traumas of the Middle Passage and slavery and current oppression, which serves us, and the world -- if they but listen -- well. From our perspective, we are able to see Carter's ruminations as an intellectual exercise formed by the history and culture that formed him. There are unquestioned assumptions, such as even the notion of the book in itself as a from of communication and a source of knowledge, which traditional wisdom would see through and see beyond, but will be accepted for the moment and for what it is and for what value it has. In this case, I am suggesting that Carter's "liberal" position (and therefore his book) is best understood as a cultural artifact of the most recent and outermost layer of a multi-layered historical reality that cannot be ignored if the idea is to bring light, rather than heat, to the issue, or to be part of the solution instead of the problem.

Looking through our African World lens, whereby we see all of these layers simultaneously (and do so without arrogance), we begin with the fact that Jimmy Carter is a European-descendant American, and therefore a politically privileged inhabitant of a settler "nation" that was founded on the combined acceptance of "Indian removal" from the land, enslaved African forced labor to build and develop its economy, and a "planet-for-the-taking" mentality. That he may have been somewhat able to rise intellectually above those rude assumptions (a bit too late, as it turns out) is creditable, but then there are the other layers.

Whether it is he or the reviewer who makes reference to "The Holy Land," this is clearly an intellectual box from which a failure to escape will doom any meaningful analysis. Paraphrasing Dr. G.K. Osei in his small book on "The African Philosophy of Life," we can legitimately ask, "What land is not holy?" This ethnocentric presumption that this particular portion of the earth's surface, where so-called "monotheistic" religions have taken root, is somehow more important than anywhere else, basically just on the say-so of these contending monotheistic factions is a real contribution to the continuing problem rather than to its solution. The fact that Carter himself identifies with one of these religions can only color his attempted analysis further.
Even my introduction of the notion of "contending factions," which is the way the news is usually reported, is questionable. What evidence I have come across from historians, both Jewish and Muslim, suggests that there was no eternal animosity between these groups. On the contrary, as in Spain, for example, where both groups were simultaneously expulsed in the glorified "Reconquista" of 1492, it appears that they coexisted in harmony and cooperation. Like the Protestant-Catholic conflict in Ireland, it is not about "religion" but deeper matters. (We Africans have seen this play many times before: same plot, different characters.) More importantly, this cooperative relationship had much to do with scholarship and the evolution of scientific knowledge, to which western Europeans came late, by way of their bumptious "Crusades." The dynamics of that encounter between "Caucasians" and "Semites," as it is portrayed, very much set the stage for the world we know today. "Exploration," for example, and all that it entailed, was one direct consequence.

Then we can go a few layers deeper. These Hebrew and Muslim scholars preserved and enhanced the ancient knowledge of the Athenians, which, like their own respective religions, derived from Kemet, which had its roots in Nubia, etc., etc. The highly refined and knowledgeable civilization of Kemet lasted thousands of years, which is barely a blip on the screen of African history.

All that the exposing of all these layer does is to reveal how arbitrary, and ultimately shallow, the discussion that Mr. Carter's book is bringing about with so much hoopla ultimately is. You said in far fewer words than he, or I, where the fundamental conflict lies. Going back to Dr. G.K. Osei, we can also ask, "What life on earth is not important? What people is not important?"

How can anyone presume that the Palestinians have no right to defend themselves?

The BuzzFlash reviewer, and presumably Carter himself, articulates the situation is a revealing way, which has been more or less consistent with official American political drivel on the issue: "...we support security for the State of Israel and a Palestinian State." The sentence is worded to be cutely ambiguous, but the real sense (and the practice) is clear. Israel should have security. The Palestinians should have a state. Technically, that "state" could be the equivalent of Bantustans or "Indian Reservations." Any ambiguity would be removed if it said, "and [security] for a Palestinian state."

Carter's exercise on this is just an exercise because he is seeking to reconcile what is irreconcilable by nature. It is yin and yang, hot and cold, good and evil, black and white. Each exists because of the other. Each defines itself and the other by itself and the other. It is "The African Philosophy of Life" against racism, basically. Traditional wisdom knew how to balance these things. Many of the Native American nations had a Peace Chief and a War Chief. Each was constantly making the case for one or the other, and the people decided, by how many went with one or the other chief in what he proposed. African societies held long palavers beneath the sacred iroko tree to decide such matters. The wisdom is that both exist, and will always exist, and there is a balance, a centering point which must always be maintained so that neither becomes destructive. Too much "peace"can make people complacent and soft and vulnerable to attack; to much war destroys too many lives and exhausts the people and resources unnecessarily.

In this case, there is not even a basis for such balanced understanding. When there are attitudes out there like "A million Arabs aren't worth one Jewish fingernail," and these are being considered to be OK, and sanctioned by God, etc., and not publicly criticized, people like Carter need to know that this is a situation that will take more than a book of well-reasoned thoughts.

This is a situation where the whole human race needs to be involved so as to prevent the madness from destroying everybody whom the madmen consider to be their enemies, which it surely will. The UN is supposed to be that voice of global humanity, but, as Chavez said, it is not. Maybe the one good thing that Carter's book can do is to open up a little crack of light here and there, which might inspire more people to enter the discussion and eventually take some action that will bring the whole Middle East situation into balance, which is about the most that can be hoped for. Racist idiots will always exist, but if they know that their rantings are understood and tolerated by the rest of humanity, but not their racist actions, which humanity will prevent and punish, then that might be as good as it gets.

If this book goes even a little way toward education by exposing the blatant racism that is driving official Israeli policy and support for it, it will have accomplished much. It will deserve that much credit, but for it to be held up as something profound just doesn't fit the view we see through the lens of the African World.

A luta continua,