Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Olympics: Nationalism at its Worst

Once again the world is being subjected to the periodic nationalist orgy known as the Olympics. Here, we are told, participating nations around the globe are all equal, and send their best athletes for a friendly competition, where nothing but sportsmanship counts, and any and all other differences are not even considered. After trying their very best in each of many different sports, the top three are honored with a gold, silver or bronze medal, something he or she can look proudly on for generations to come.

This writer hates to burst such a pretty balloon (actually, he doesn’t hate doing so at all), but once one has passed the age where Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy have all been relegated to the status of pleasant childhood memories, the same should be done with the farce of the Olympics.

Let’s look for a minute at a few examples.

Thirty-one-year old U.S. citizen Michael Phelps has now won more gold medals in Olympic games than any other athlete in history. Americans are so proud of his ability to swim faster than anyone else, and his savings account will no doubt increase greatly, as ever more companies seek his endorsement. This is certainly a success story; a young man who grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Maryland, and who began swimming after being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, as an outlet for his energies. We will forget for the moment his multiple arrests for impaired driving; what on earth does that matter, when he can swim so fast?

Now let us look at another Olympic swimmer, Yursa Mardini, age 18. Ms. Mardina is a Syrian refugee, who, perhaps, didn’t have the same advantages as Mr. Phelps. She refers to being in the Olympics as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity; please note that the current games are Mr. Phelp’s fifth foray into an Olympic pool. And training was sometimes difficult for Ms. Mardini, not because she didn’t have sufficient energy or motivation, but because of other factors. Said she: “…sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war. Or sometimes you had training but there was a bomb in the swimming pool.” Mr. Phelps, once caught with a bong in his mouth, never had a bomb in his pool.

But perhaps Ms. Mardini did have an advantage. When fleeing Turkey for Greece, along with nineteen other people in a boat designed to hold six, the motor failed. She and two others, the only people on the boat who could swim, entered the cold water and pushed the boat for three hours until reaching safety. Think of the lessons in endurance, stamina and determination! Poor Mr. Phelps was probably out getting high when Ms. Mardini was involved in this rigorous practice session.

Early on, it was reported that athletes from Lebanon riding a bus from one venue to another, refused to allow Israeli athletes to board. Is this not a lack of sportsmanship? Should not the Lebanese athletes have allowed representatives from a brutal, murderous, apartheid regime in violation of countless international laws to have ridden with them in the sacred name of sportsmanship? After all, aren’t there times when civilized people just put the thought of slaughtered children, blown apart when playing on a beach, or of families bombed when taking refuge in United Nations shelters, behind them? Shouldn’t there be occasions, such as sporting events, when such trivial things as carpet-bombing residences, hospitals and houses of worship should just be ignored?

Swimming and bus rides; where else should one ignore violations of human rights? Well, how about martial arts? Egyptian Olympian Islam Shihabi was defeated by an Israeli, and after the Judo match, refused to shake his hand. Again, shock and outrage by nationalists who, every few years, become enamored with the athletic world, and couldn’t countenance this breach of etiquette.

Why, one wonders, could not Mr. Shihabi ignore the barbarity of Israel in the name of sportsmanship?

Well, let’s move on a bit, and look at the glittering city of Rio de Janeiro, hosting the Olympics. Yes, the police said they couldn’t offer adequate protection, and yes, some athletes participating in sporting events in the water were told not to submerge their heads, but we’ll overlook those things and only watch the exciting competitions.

Oh, and should we bother to even think about the 60,000 Brazilians who were driven from their homes so the Olympic stadium, parking and other structures required for this penultimate sports activity could take place? Some received some compensation for their loss, but none of them had any choice in the matter. So what if they lived in a house built by a grandparent, where three generations had been raised? It only took a bulldozer a short time to make their cherished home nothing but rubble.

The Olympics, for some bizarre reason, attract the attention of people for whom watching an athletic event, let alone ever participating in one, does not occur outside of this periodic spectacle. But these are people who never let an opportunity pass for a flag to be waved, and to rejoice in anything that, in their narrow little minds, sets their nation above all the rest. There is no thought of the deadly, murderous horrors their country may inflict on innocent people (see: USA, Israel), no thought to the exploitation and abuse of the poor (see: USA, Brazil), no thought of blatant racism (see: USA, Israel). No, if a swimmer from one’s own country swims faster than the swimmers representing other countries, one’s country is the greatest! For such people, seeing an athlete representing their country stand atop the highest pedestal, accepting a gold medal, brings a tear to the eye as the chest swells with pride!

Ah, sportsmanship! Another distraction from reality! Just what the U.S. needs.

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, U.S.

‘Newspeak’, the U.S. and Palestine

In George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984, we are introduced to ‘Newspeak’, which can be described as speech or writing that uses words in such a way as to change their meaning, with the intent of persuading people to think a certain way. Often, the goal is to make it appear that black is white; that war is peace, or that corruption is honesty.

Mr. Orwell himself spoke of political speech, perhaps a subset of Newspeak, saying that, in our time, political speech and writing are largely used in the defense of the indefensible.

Let’s see how ‘Newspeak’ has been utilized in describing the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Rarely a day goes by that some Israeli politician isn’t screaming about an existential threat to that rogue nation. The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which includes churches, labor unions and universities voting to divest from Israeli holdings; scholars refusing to take part in academic projects with Israel, and entertainers refusing to perform there, along with the ‘rank and file’ boycotting Israeli products, is decried as an ‘existential threat’. Criticism by any nation of illegal settlements is seen as an ‘existential threat’. Palestinian resistance, that of a poorly armed, starved, occupied and blockaded population, is seen as an existential threat. The list is really endless.

The United States government, of course, owned by the Israeli lobby AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee), buys right into this, with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money going to Israel, and laws being passed in various states banning the boycotting of Israel. How any elected official thinks such a law will ever stand up to a court challenge, and how they think such a law can be enforced, is beyond the understanding of this writer. But they all agree that these and other criticisms of Israel threaten the very existence of that country.

Now, it must be remembered that Palestine has no army, navy or air force. Its imports are severely restricted, and its exports, thanks to the occupation and blockade, are almost non-existent. Israel continually ‘confiscates’ (read: steals) Palestinian land to build huge new housing developments, all in violation of international law. Palestine faces a very real existential threat, but is seen as threatening Israel. This is certainly Newspeak.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, summed up this example of Newspeak clearly. “We are the only people on earth asked to guarantee the security of our occupier, while Israel is the only country that calls for defense from its victims”.

Newspeak does not only inhabit the halls of Congress, where that august body constantly sends billions of dollars to Israel, despite its violations of international law, and in violation of U.S. law, which predicates foreign aid on adherence to basic human rights, standards which Israel doesn’t even come close to meeting. It isn’t restricted to State Houses, where governors sign into law restrictive measures in clear violation of the Constitution. No, it even lives in the White House. When Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip in 2014, President Barack Obama said that “if someone attacked my daughters in their home, I would retaliate, too”. Newspeak at its best! He simply ignored the reality that Israeli terrorists are constantly attacking Palestinians in their homes in the West Bank; the night raids, when males as young as ten years old are dragged out of their beds and thrown into police vehicles, as their anguished mothers attempt unsuccessfully to protect them, somehow don’t count as ‘attacking children in their homes’. The bombing of the illegally blockaded Gaza Strip, where, when Mr. Obama issued that statement, nearly 300 children had been killed in their homes, somehow doesn’t count. All that counts is the fabrications that are created to please apartheid Israel.

Israel’s general excuse for bombing Gaza is ‘rocket’ fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong proponent of Palestinian rights, calls these rockets, ‘enhanced fireworks’. The bombs from Israel, provided by the United States and including the most sophisticated, deadly weaponry on the planet, cannot be seen as ‘enhanced fireworks’. But in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., those ‘rockets’ from Gaza justify the carpet-bombing of homes, hospitals, mosques, press offices, and United Nations refugee centers.

It is also worth noting that in the summer of 2014, the number of bombs that Israel dropped on Gaza exceeded the number of so-called rockets that Gaza had fired into Israel in the previous fourteen years. Yet in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., and, of course, the corporate media, those ineffectual ‘rockets’ justified the killing of over 2000 Palestinians, nearly a quarter of whom were children, some as young as one month old.

Israel, we are told, is in great danger from Palestinian rockets. Yet the U.S. has provided Israel with the ‘Iron Dome’, which intercepts most of the rockets before they ever reach the ground. Palestine, of course, is defenseless against Israeli bombs. More Newspeak.

In many countries, an assailant with a knife is disarmed in a variety of ways. In the U.S. and Israel, being armed isn’t necessary to be threatening. In both nations, unarmed people are routinely killed by what is euphemistically called ‘law enforcement (more Newspeak), with the perpetrators being immune from prosecution. In the U.S., unarmed black men are fair game for any police office with an itchy trigger finger, and in Israel, any Palestinian, male or female, from children to the elderly, is fair game for IDF (Israeli Defense Forces; Israel’s state terrorists), if they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And minutes earlier, that might not have been the wrong place; it’s all up to the whim of the Israeli terrorists controlling the area.

Israel is now arresting and prosecuting anyone in Israel or Palestine who posts anything on social media critical of Israel. Big Brother is certainly alive and well in Israel. And it wasn’t so long ago that whistleblowers disclosed how the U.S. government was spying on millions of its own citizens.

In this election year, the U.S. is faced with two candidates who are fluent in Newspeak. Democrat Hillary Clinton declares her dedication to the 99%, when all her actions favor the super-rich. Republican Donald Trump proclaims the threat of Islam, a peaceful religion, the radical element of which is no more representative of it than the so-called Religious Right in the U.S. is of Christianity. And one of them will be the next president of the most powerful imperial nation in recent history.

Like Oceania in 1984, constantly fighting either Eastasia or Eurasia, the U.S. will wage deadly war in the Middle East and wherever else it invents an enemy. And like the people in Mr. Orwell’s Oceania, U.S. citizens will cheer with each death of an innocent victim, and take great pride in the might of their nation. They will boast of U.S. military strength; will ‘stand with Israel’, despite its unspeakable crimes against humanity, and will, in their own ways, proclaim their love for Big Brother.

In 2016, Mr. Orwell’s 1984 has arrived.

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel