Monday, January 5, 2009

Which Direction Home?

"[M]y feeling is that no matter how many protests there will be against the Israeli war on Gaza, no matter how many people attend, nothing will change. We remain the fringe of Israeli society, with no power, with insufficient representation in the Knesset. A Palestinian friend told me that he had read in the newspaper that 150,000 had been at the demonstration in Sachnin [a Palestinian city in the north-east of Israel]. Perhaps. There was an enormous group of people marching. Ten thousand marched in Tel Aviv. But to what end? Perhaps the protests in other countries will help. Maybe . . . Nobody is coming to the rescue. I suppose you are right to say, 'why should they? it’s your problem. you’ve created it. Now stew in it.' But people are dying, mainly in Gaza (now over 500), but some Israelis have, too, and more possibly will. For what?"

So writes a member of the Israeli discussion list I belong to. I certainly know the feeling, living the majority of my adult life on the political margins. After awhile you get used to it, adapt to the conditions while hopefully not resigning yourself to failure and loss. Lord knows I've surrendered to despair more times than I care to admit. But as I've recently noted, from the Republic Windows sit-in to the widening critical awareness and action against Israeli aggression, unrest stirs below. Many people are restless, looking to connect with others as opposed to curling up in private. Desperate times affect people in various ways, of course; but now anyone with Web access can immediately share his or her thoughts with countless others. This helps make one feel less alone, the starting point for any social movement. Little wonder why elites and their media megaphones despise the Internet so.

A close friend credits Obama's election with this political opening, and I agree to a point. It's still strange for people my age and older to see an African-American standing behind the presidential seal, so that certainly shifts one's perception into fresh areas. But as we've already seen, and will witness after the inaugural hysteria and self-congratulation (Election Night Part II), Obama serves those who own the country. Doubtless some crumbs will be tossed to the populace, perhaps more than we anticipate. Our rulers may be avaricious, but they're not stupid nor suicidal. Americans must be made to feel that they have a stake in the process, however illusory -- indeed, the more illusory for us, the better for them.

Obama's PR front, which wowed the business and advertising press last year, knows how to shape the necessary dreams, so that's a decided advantage, at least early on. For if the economy worsens and war widens, no amount of HOPEspeak will keep people in their pens. So to the degree that Obama got people moving may help feed something that the owners have no stomach for: grassroots pressure against their rule. It'll be interesting to see Obama's reaction should his popularity tank. The man's so used to applause and cheers that facing angry crowds could prove to be a profound shock. If that happens, then we'll see just how slick Obama's propaganda team truly is.

For the moment, Obama's wise to remain mum over Gaza. But there can't be much mystery where his political loyalty lies. As others have pointed out, the Democratic base is more critical of Israel than is the Party leadership, a divide that's widened in the past week.

Does this mean anything? Depends on what the Dem base does.

Their leaders are making it sparkling clear what they think about Palestinian lives and society, the destruction and marginalization of which is financed by American taxpayers who have no say in how their money's spent. Will American liberals truly challenge this blood arrangement? Or will they rub their hands and meekly plead for whatever CHANGE they think they can get with the least effort? I still believe that in the end, liberals will defend Obama, albeit "critically." It's certainly easier and safer than taking the next big step, which would put many libs outside of their comfort zones. The time for serious rebellion is as ripe as it's been in memory. What will it be?