Of Gaza, the U.S. empire, and sources of hope

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The people of Palestine are oppressed, and they are occupied. From year to year, the only difference is by which Israeli party in power, Likud or Labor.

So now the so-called “man of peace,” in reality the butcher of Sabra and Shatila, is pulling out the settlers from the Gaza Strip. This is nothing but a smokescreen — one of the largest, most shameful Israeli PR campaigns that I have ever seen.

Gaza is tiny. About 8,500 Jewish Israeli colonizers lived there, but more than 400,000 live in the West Bank. And where did Israeli Prime Minister Sharon house most of the settlers withdrawn from Gaza? On occupied land in the West Bank! And it’s worth noting that colonizers leaving Gaza are being paid $200,000. Compare this to the dismal $2,000 that people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, most of them poor, were getting!

Travel to and from Gaza is still controlled by the Israelis. The Israeli government opened the cell doors — but only out to the prison yard. Gaza is the largest open-space prison in the world.

The hope that life will be better now for the Palestinians is a false hope. Sharon is only rearranging the chips of occupation, and the Israeli and U.S. media are helping him tremendously to obscure what’s really going on.

The Palestinians are not fighting the Israelis; the Palestinians are fighting the U.S. government and Army, represented by the Israeli government and armed forces.

Let’s be honest: the main reason for the existence of a Zionist state in the Middle East is the need of Western Europe and the United States to have a foreign body there to keep the “peace,” to protect their own interests.

So, no matter how courageous or committed the Palestinians are, as long as the U.S. supports Israel, the Palestinian struggle will not go anywhere. Until Americans realize that U.S. policy is unfair, the policy will stay the same.

The U.S. government gets away with its global practices because it has the help of a powerful media in keeping its people ignorant. So activists have to educate the American people, to open people’s eyes about what our government is doing and how we can change things. When people are told the truth, they can change their views 180 degrees.

I was born in Hebron, in the West Bank, and raised in Jordan. As a Palestinian, I’ve been political since the day of my birth. As a Palestinian American activist, I take my inspiration both from people who fight for freedom because they choose to, and from people without the means — financial, political, or social — to fight for themselves.

Most activists in the United States and Europe and Canada and Israel don’t live in the same desperate circumstances as most Palestinians, or Africans, or Latin Americans. They may enjoy the easy life, if you will, and more political freedoms than some. But these advocates of liberation have a sense of injustice and a generous spirit: they want what they have to be shared by others. And they see the connections between the problems in their own countries, the suffering faced there, and what is happening around the world.

Now they are having to stand up to intense scare tactics by their governments and media. Their freedoms are shrinking and they are being made in many cases to pay a high price for using them. The fear tactic is working on some people, but many others are still going, and this is encouraging.

My other inspiration comes from people like those of the Middle East, victims of conflict and oppression.

The Middle East is the Third World. The people there are just struggling and working to survive. They are not looking beyond today and tomorrow. They are living under repressive regimes run by the hired hands of the United States, who have sold out their people to the imperialist countries.

It’s about time that the people of these countries rise up to take control of their own fate. And it’s happening. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a country like Venezuela take the lead against the United States — the giant, the new Rome.

But Venezuela, like Palestine, cannot succeed without the help of activists in the U.S. We cannot allow our government to overthrow the government in Venezuela as it has done in Iraq, Chile, Guatemala, Argentina — you name it.

My message to other U.S. activists: keep up the fight. If we stop, countless people stand to lose. So don’t get discouraged. Read, educate, and act. Above all, don’t allow the government to install fear in your heart — because people all over the world are depending on us.

Guest columnist Ziyad Zaitoun is a cofounder of the Arab American Community Coalition, a civil rights organization launched after 9/11, and a member of IFPTE Local 17 in Seattle. He can be reached at ssdd54@aol.com.

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