Living Amongst Ghosts
For the last fourteen days it has rained missiles on the Gaza Strip, a piece of land measuring twenty-five miles long and six miles wide, just under half the size of New York city. The attack has been indiscriminate, without mercy and is unlikely to stop anytime soon.
If you are in Gaza today, you are surrounded by rubble and collapsed buildings and stifling dust clouds. A few of the damaged buildings have dismembered body parts sandwiched between slabs of fallen concrete. Mass murder is gruesome and messy. There is a rancid smell of rotting flesh. It stabs at your nostrils and once inhaled never fully leaves. Periodically you can taste metal in your mouth.
You don’t have regular access to a bathroom and haven’t showered in at least a week. On occasion you are forced to drink water contaminated with dust and grit, and whatever else happens to be floating in the air. Most days you eat one meal. It’s rarely enough and hunger is now your constant companion. You watch your children withdraw; play and laughter abandoned. Your children are fading.
You move. Home is a memory. You find temporary shelter in a stranger’s house – a front room, a hallway, a garden. Drones fly overhead and torment you, their buzzing worming into your head. It’s never ending. A few days later you are forced to move again. A school playground. A hospital corridor. A church courtyard. You take only what you can carry. Despite your surroundings life is less complicated; it’s simply about surviving another day. Your present and future blend into one.
The nights are the worst, and you feel naked and exposed to death. It’s dark and dangerous, and you keep your loved ones close. Sleep is something you used to do before all of this. Now you close your eyes and wait for the high-pitch whistles and the deafening, bone shaking explosions rushing towards you from a black menacing sky. You no longer believe you will get out of this alive.
Between October 7th and October 21st 4,400 Palestinians had been murdered, 1,800 were children and almost 1,000 were women. Each has a name and a history. Each had a future.
Von der Leyen and Metsola and Scholz and Biden and Sunak
When colonial leaders, old and new, visited Israel this week it was an odd sight. Why were leaders from distant capitals visiting what is being framed, by them, as a regional conflict? Why was US President Biden invited to attend a war cabinet meeting? And, perhaps most bizarrely, why didn’t any of these leaders – from the ‘civilised west’ – make any attempt to broker a much-needed humanitarian ceasefire? Rather, all greenlighted Israel to continue with its murderous and destructive rage.
What we are witnessing in Gaza, and increasingly the West Bank, is not a regional conflict between two neighbours, nor is it a conflict between Jew and Arab. What we are witnessing is the vicious fist of colonialism striking out, unrestrained, at an Indigenous population. When European Commission President Von der Leyen and European Parliament President Metsola and German Chancellor Scholz and US President Biden and UK Prime Minister Sunak visited Israel, they were there to perpetuate the myth of a territorial dispute made complicated by a religious impasse. In reality, Palestine and its people are a story of settler-colonialism and stolen land, and of an Indigenous people slowly vanishing.
The colonial masters were visiting the garrison state of Israel, which without their support wouldn’t exist. And Biden was no guest at the war cabinet, he is the war cabinet.
On his arrival back in Washington, Biden asked the US Congress for an additional $14 billion in security aid for Israel on top of the $3.2 billion in military aid provided already annually.
The US Navy has deployed the USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D Eisenhower carrier strike groups, the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship carrying a couple thousand Marines, and the USS Carter Hall off the Gaza coast.
US Air Force C-17 transport planes, loaded with weaponry and munitions, are now regularly flying into Nevatim air base east of Gaza.
Project for the New American Century
American fury with the October 7th deadly Hamas breakout from a besieged Gaza can be traced to a hot summer in 1996 and an obscure article published in the political journal Foreign Affairs. The article, entitled Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy, was written by two neoconservatives: William Kristol and Robert Kagan. The fifteen-page critique claimed America’s foreign policy was adrift and they pushed for a more assertive international role. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the authors saw an opportunity for the US to lead a global system rooted in neocapitalism – unfettered markets, minimally regulated and predatory – and this leadership position would be supported by overwhelming military power. In 1997 Kristol and Kagan established a think tank called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), to advocate for ‘American leadership through military strength and moral clarity.’ They secured twenty-five signatories to their launch charter: only one was a woman, Paula Dobriansky. Ten would serve in George W Bush’s administration (2001 – 2009). In 2000 though, traction was limited and PNAC remained a fringe entity ignored by many and unknown by most. In an internal report it speculated progress would be slow unless there were “some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor.”
Like a new Pearl Harbour
On September 11th 2001, America experienced its ‘new Pearl Harbour’ in a series of devastating attacks that would take the lives of almost 3,000 people. George W Bush was in the White House. A born-again Christian he once claimed “I feel like God wants me to run for president,”. Bush addressed the nation flanked by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz, all signatories to the NPAC charter. He spoke of a crusade against the country’s enemies, and alluded to a pre-emptive foreign policy doctrine that was ‘divinely’ inspired.
Bush and the NPAC squad hurriedly put plans into operation. First, rogue security threats needed to be neutralised and hostile states overthrown. Second, an ambitious strategy of transformation, particularly in the Middle East where the September 11th perpetrators had come from, was to happen, replacing tyranny with a system of neocapitalism that clearly favoured America. Indigenous cultures and customs were of little value. Democracy was an adjunct.
Bush and his NPAC disciples failed at the first hurdle, as did Bush’s successor Barak Obama. In 2020, Brown University released a report on America’s so-called war on terror. It concluded the security project displaced somewhere between 48 million and 59 million people, a level only seen during the Second World War. In May of this year the Washington Post reported the death toll from the twenty year war on terror was 4.5 million people.
Trump, The Abraham Accords and Expunging Palestine
Donald Trump was the first US President to assume office without any government or military experience. Tabula rasa – he was a clean slate and contrary to his public persona is easily swayed by those around him.
Like his predecessors Trump was keen to transform the Middle East, which he saw as a “troubled place.” But as an entrepreneur he naturally favoured NPAC’s economic transformation route, enforced by military strength. “The United States has a lot to offer, with the greatest and most powerful economy in the history of the world,” he boasted to Middle Eastern leaders in 2018. And some listened.
By February 2019 Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East advisor, Jared Kushner went on a regional road trip stopping off in Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. With little sovereign power or wealth Occupied Palestine didn’t make his itinerary. The consummate salesman, Kushner was selling the deal of the century, a smokescreen of trade and defence deals that would effectively result in US economic dominance over – and subjugation of – the region. Most alarming, the deal denied Palestinians a homeland through loss of rights and land to the settler-garrison state of Israel. It was a very public bribe to Palestine’s regional neighbours in return for helping the US and Israel expunge Palestine and its people. It is a shameful, dishonest, and cruel treaty.
On September 15, 2020, Bahrain and the UAE signed the Abraham Accords (previously referred to as the deal of the century). Morocco signed in December 2020 after the US and Israel agreed to recognise its claim on Western Sahara. Sudan signed in January 2021 after the US removed it from its terrorist list.
Two weeks ago, the actions of October 7th temporarily derailed the Abraham Accords. The US is not a signatory to the Accords, it is the de facto architect and champion based on an ideology dating back to Kristol and Kagan’s 1996 article, which proposed American economic dominance through might, muscle, and proxies. We are now witnessing just how determined Biden is to enact that ambition.
©2023 Sul Nowroz