This weekend, heavily armed Israeli military forces intercepted a flotilla bearing relief supplies for Gaza in international waters. The intention of the crew and passengers, who hail from more than a dozen countries and include a number of Israeli Jews, was to run the more than three year old blockade of food, trade goods, medical supplies and construction materials to the 1.5 million people of Gaza, the world's largest open air prison, to force US corporate media to cover the slow motion starvation imposed upon Gaza by the US and its client state of Israel, and ultimately to end the siege.
Black America, Corporate Media and the Siege of Gaza
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
After seizing control of the boats, and murdering at least nine civilians in the process, the Israeli soldiers took the boats to an Israeli port and arrested the crew and passengers. Journalists were stripped of cameras, notes and recording devices, and all are being held incommunicado in an apparent effort to give fake US and Israeli government accounts of the incident a few days head start in the media.
Using military blockades to besiege and starve civilian populations for political or warlike objectives is wildly immoral and flatly illegal, a violation of the United Nations Charter. Thanks to the disciplined effort of US corporate media, the brutal blockade of Gaza imposed by the US and its client states of Israel and Egypt is largely invisible to the US public. You will search US media pretty much in vain for the accounts of journalists who live in or who make their way to Gaza, for the damning UN figures on homelessness and malnutrition, on the collapse of health care, trade, education and employment in the besieged zone where half the population is under the age of 15.
Gaza is being punished for the unforgivable sin of rejecting the US and Israeli-sponsored candidates for local office. Having elected candidates not to the liking of the US and Israel, their populations are to be denied food, medical supplies and the like until they come to their senses and choose leaders more to the liking of the US and Israel. This was US foreign policy under George W. Bush, and it continues unchanged and reaffirmed under Barack Obama, despite some lofty words in Cairo and some other places.
Over the last year or so, civilians from dozens of countries, including the US have put together convoys of schoolbooks, food, medical supplies, clothing and trade goods. They have set out for Gaza overland in trucks and were barred at checkpoints often two or three countries away, or by the actual Egyptians and Israelis guarding the gates of Gaza, now the planet's largest open air prison. Activists have collected donations and loaded planes with relief supplies, planes that were denied permission to land anywhere near Gaza, and which were threatened with shoot-down by the Israeli air force. And on at least three or four previous occasions, shiploads of concrete, construction materials, medical goods, food and such have tried to run the blockade by sea. Our own Cynthia McKinney, the former congressional representative from Atlanta took part in one of those efforts. Along with volunteers from several countries, she was arrested by Israeli authorities, confined for a few days in an Israeli prison and deported.
A full scale Israeli military assault at the end of 2008 devastated poultry, dairy and vegetable farms, hospitals, factories, bakeries, along with water and sewage infrastructure and hundreds of buildings. Now a brutal act of slow motion genocide is in progress, engineered by the US, Israel and Egypt. People are literally dying in Gaza who don't have to because of decisions made and reaffirmed by our First Black President to continue the illegal collective punishment of the people of Gaza.
This is a test of the ability of corporate media to keep a real stories out of their headlines, not just the slowly tightening noose of starvation in Gaza, but the growing tide of public outrage at the violent apartheid regime of Israel. This tide is rising inside the US as well. In Atlanta, Chicago, the west and east coasts and dozens of cities in between people thousands gathered at on short notice before Israeli consulates to show their anger at the latest lawless act committed by Israeli authorities who are financed and empowered by the bipartisan establishment in Washington DC.
Like the worldwide movement against apartheid South Africa, a grassroots awareness of the depth of Israel's genocidal policies toward Palestinians is growing, both inside and outside the US. A global movement advocating the boycotting, divestment from and sanctions on the apartheid regime of Israel is taking root and growing in communities and on campuses throughout the nation. But although African Americans are statistically the most likely to sympathize with claims for the human rights of Palestinians, black Americans are severely under-represented in these efforts. There were at most two or three black Americans among the seventy or so US citizens who attempted to enter Gaza over the Christmas holidays. Many black pastors are hamstrung, unwilling to jeopardize the federal funding for their ministries by actively disagreeing with this president, the last one, or the next one, whoever that might be.
The movement for divestment in Israeli apartheid will face greater obstacles in the US than the movement against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Heinous as it was, South Africa was peripheral to US imperial policy. The middle east, where Israel serves as a permanent military base in a sea of brown people in close proximity to a large fraction of the world's oil supply, is absolutely central to US imperial rule, not just in the future, but right now. Thus the movement to divest, to boycott, to apply sanctions against Israeli apartheid will not receive favorable media coverage. It won't be funded by so-called liberal foundations or by generous corporate sponsors and advertisers. And many elements of the black clergy are severely compromised not just by their faith-based federal funding but by ties with white racist fundamentalist Christians who support the Israeli state as acting out the literal will of God.
It won't be easy. But it has to happen, and it will. This president and his administration have already chosen what side they are on. Corporate media has chosen too. Increasingly, it's time for African Americans, indivudally and collectively to make ours as well. What side are we on?