How the West and the West Bank Were Won
How the West and the West Bank Were Wonby Jason Miller
As I write to you from the heart of the Midwest, the epicenter of one of history's most egregious and shameful genocides, I watch with horror and moral revulsion as the US military industrial complex underwrites and supports a similar act of social extermination in the Middle East. CNN informed me yesterday that the mighty US military had killed eighteen civilians in Pakistan due to "bad intelligence" in the ongoing "war on terror". As an ally in this "war on terror", Pakistani leaders were justifiably upset. Can you imagine the repercussions if Pakistan killed eighteen American civilians on US soil in a "strike against terrorists" based on "bad intelligence"? There would certainly be hell to pay. Yet in this instance, the Pakistanis will be lucky to receive an apology.
While the propaganda, lies, and white-washed accounts in American history books have often portrayed the Native Americans as "savages" who deserved to be "conquered" (while glorifying "how the west was won"), mainstream media frequently informs us of "acts of terrorism" by militant Palestinian individuals and groups. Concurrently, the abhorrent acts of state terrorism committed by the US and Israeli governments are usually presented as "necessary" and "acceptable".
The undeniable fact is that the United States is an imperial power which almost extinguished the Native American population and is working toward a similar result with the Palestinians through their proxy in Israel. Despite professing acceptance of diversity, racism, bigotry, and religious intolerance are deeply ingrained into the sociopolitical structure of the United States. Dehumanizing the human "obstacles" to accomplishing its imperialistic goals has enabled the United States to murder and abuse various groups throughout its history.
Viewing Vietnamese as "gooks", "dinks", or "termites" enabled the US military to slaughter at least 2 million of them during the Vietnam invasion. Considering Iraqis as "ragheads" and "cockroaches" enabled the agents of the US government to wipe out 55,000 of their children during the Gulf War and 30,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians (and counting) during the illegal occupation of Iraq.
Stoking fires in the bellies of the essential loyal supporters of American mass murder and genocide in the Middle East are perverse propagandists like Michael Savage, the host of The Savage Nation, a syndicated radio show which reaches about eight million listeners across our "savage nation". His work is crucial to the Bush Regime's goal of brainwashing enough Americans to keep our nation sufficiently savage enough to perpetrate state terrorism, rendition, torture, and genocide.
Consider some of his hate speech which fuels rampant American racism against Islamic people and Arabs:
"Right now, even people sitting on the fence would like George Bush to drop a nuclear weapon on an Arab country. They don't even care which one it would be."
"I think these people need to be forcibly converted to Christianity....It's the only thing that can probably turn them into human beings."
"Take a look at what they've done to the Jewish people in Israel. The lies they've spewn about Israel. A little country [Israel] surrounded by racist, fascist bigots who don't want anyone but themselves living in that hell hole called the Middle East."
Sadly, Savage is not alone in disseminating his blatantly ignorant and irresponsible statements intended to incite hatred and fear in those Americans whose limited scope of knowledge makes them ripe targets for propaganda. Pundits like Ann Coulter and Peggy Noonan "feed the beast" with their inane rhetoric about Islam and people of Middle Eastern dissent. Fundamentalist Christian leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell fan the flames of antipathy by feeding their flocks twisted notions of the nature of Islam.
Closer to home, and earlier in its history, the United States government waged a similar genocide against another ethnic group. David Stannard (in his American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World) noted that during the American Centennial, William Dean Howells wrote in the influential Atlantic Monthly:
"The red man, as he appears in effigy and in photograph in this collection [at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition], is a hideous demon, whose malignant traits can hardly inspire any emotion softer than abhorrence. In blaming our Indian agents for malfeasance in office, perhaps we do not sufficiently account for the demoralizing influence of merely beholding those false and pitiless savage faces...."
Also, according to Stannard, "progressive" President Teddy Roosevelt advocated the elimination of Native Americans and the confiscation of their land and resources. A commonly held belief throughout American history was that the indigenous peoples of North and South America were culturally, spiritually, and intellectually inferior to their "civilized", "Christian" conquerors, and that since the native population was not utilizing land and resources "productively", they deserved to lose them. Stannard notes the sick irony that Roosevelt's face is now carved into Mount Rushmore, which is located in the Black Hills, a site sacred to the Lakota Sioux.
Bearing in mind that the 1994 UN Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as "the destruction and extermination of a culture", it is instructive to consider that it also includes five activities considered to be genocidal:
Killing members of the group.
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
While difficult to determine with certainty, conservative estimates place the Native American population at 5 million when Columbus was credited with discovering the Western Hemisphere. A decrease of 95% (to 250,000) by 1900 demonstrates the severity of the genocide committed by the European invaders and ultimately the US government.
In 1637 the Puritans of the Connecticut Valley murdered close to six hundred unarmed Pequots, and in the words of their minister, Increase Mather, "sent six hundred heathen souls to hell". Other significant massacres of noncombatant Native Americans throughout America's history include the Gnadenhutten Massacre in 1782, the Chehaw Affair in 1818, the Battle of Bad Axe in 1832, and the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.
As the European conquerors sought to satiate their seemingly endless appetite for more land, they displaced many indigenous people from their homelands, disrupting their ability to cope and to maintain their culture. With the advent of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the US military began utilizing force of arms to move aboriginal people westward to free up land for the "more deserving" whites. Perhaps the best known and most tragic of these "evictions" was the Trail of Tears, in which 4,000 Cherokees died during their forced march from their homeland. The Cherokees had schools, businesses, and a system of government modeled after that of the United States, but these "savages" were still "unworthy" to possess their land. Ultimately the Indian Removal Act resulted in the US government forcing 100,000 Native Americans west of the Mississippi River.
In an effort to assimilate Native Americans into their "superior culture", white settlers separated children from their parents and put them into boarding schools. There the Native American children had little alternative but to abandon their beliefs, mode of dress, language and other cultural aspects in favor of Christianity, English and Western ideals. Understandably, many of these children suffered from depression or fled from these horrid institutions. Native Americans did not regain the right to self-determination until the 1960's. While Native American populations have risen significantly since, the poverty rate for Native Americans was 27% in 2000, compared with an overall US poverty level of 13.9%. Perhaps more troubling, 7% of Native American pre-teen school age children were not even enrolled in school.
In the Middle East, the United States bears significant responsibility for many atrocities committed against innocent civilian populations. The US military has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians directly. US support of ruthless dictators like the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein (before he became our "sworn enemy") has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands more denizens of the Middle East. Wealthy and influential Zionist individuals and organizations (i.e. AIPAC) have ensured the US support of the Israeli squatters in Palestine. The US government has been complicit in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians to enable the Zionists to realize their objective to drive the last vestiges of their own "indigenous savages" from "Zionist land". Providing obscene amounts of financial support to Israel and utilizing its power as a member on the Security Council to nullify UN efforts to intervene in the Palestinian crisis are perhaps the US government's most horrendous crimes (and morally reprehensible acts) in the Middle East. Not only are they participating in acts of state terrorism and murder, they are also abetting the eradication of an entire ethnic group.
Admittedly, throughout human history, the Jewish people have been persecuted and I feel compassion for them. However, some of them responded by determining that they needed their own sovereign state and founded the Zionist movement in the late Nineteenth Century. Palestine became their target site for their "homeland" as they viewed it as "a land without people for a people without land". Regardless of the Jewish plight, there was a significant moral flaw in the Zionists' goal. Palestine was a "land with people".
In 1917, Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, a letter to the Zionist Federation, in which it stated British support of the Zionists' "national home" in Palestine and that the British would employ their "best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this objective". At the close of World War I, Palestine became a British "mandate" as the Western powers divided up the former Ottoman Empire.
Following World War II, the United Nations created two independent states in Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab. The city of Jerusalem was intended to be international with UN oversight. At the time of the UN partition plan, Jewish people owned 6% of the land and were 33% of the population, yet the UN ceded 55% of Palestine to the Jewish state.
In 1948, Israel declared itself to be independent, and a Palestinian-Arab war ensued. By the war's end, the Palestinians no longer had a nation. Israel controlled 78% of Palestine and between 700,000 and 900,000 Palestinians became refugees, fleeing primarily to Syria and Lebanon. To discourage their return, Israelis confiscated or destroyed the property of those who fled. Of those Palestinians remaining in what had been their homeland, about 130,000 Palestinians remained in the area the UN had designated as the Jewish state, while approximately 500,000 settled in the West Bank and Gaza.
Preying on the divisions amongst the Palestinians, and the ambiguity of their national identity, Israeli leaders like Golda Meir fueled the Zionist cause with absurd propagandistic statements like:
"There was no such thing as Palestinians. It was not as thought there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They did not exist."
Until the 1967 War, France was Israel's chief source for weaponry. However, it was at that time that the US began taking a significant interest in Israel's cause. It became Israel's chief enabler as it supplied it with money, weapons and powerful diplomatic support. By the 1970's the international community was calling for an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, but the United States threw its weight behind Israel's rejection of this possibility.
In 1982, Israeli forces launched an invasion of Lebanon (which the UN Security Council condemned) to strike at the Palestine Liberation Organization. They killed approximately 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the process. Utilizing the assasination of Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel as a catalyzing event (it was later discovered he was killed by a Syrian rather than the PLO), Ariel Sharon (Bush's so-called "man of peace"), urged the Lebanese Phalangist militia to enter the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps to eradicate the PLO while he sealed the perimeters with Israeli forces. The Phalangists massacred anywhere from 700 to 2,000 Palestinian civilians (depending on whose count one believes). Israel's own government determined that Sharon bore "personal responsibility" for the massacre because he knew it was taking place and did not act to stop it. As a result, Sharon resigned his post as Israeli Defense Minister in 1983.
What are the conditions for the Palestinians who chose to remain in the West Bank and Gaza? According to CIA data, over half of the labor force is unemployed. One of five Palestinians subsists on the equivalent of $2.10 per day. As a result of Israeli military actions, restriction of Palestinian movement, and border closings, over 100,000 Palestinians are now former employees of businesses in Israeli settlements. Despite the window-dressing of the recent withdrawal of Jewish settlers in Gaza, Israel continues to expand its number of settlements in Palestinian territory (which is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention). Israel persists in demolishing Palestinian homes without permits (utilizing colossal American-made Caterpillar armored bulldozers purchased with US funds).
In the West Bank, Israel is building the Apartheid Wall, an 8 meter tall monolith which is twice the height of the former Berlin Wall and will eventually be four times the length. This barrier encroaches on Palestinian territory and will displace still more Palestinians as its construction continues.
Palestinians are essentially prisoners in their own lands (Gaza and the West Bank) as Israel segregates Palestinians into isolated "bantustans" (similar to those of Apartheid South Africa) and maintains an iron grip on natural resources (like water). The IDF (Israel's military) consistently employs US supplied F-16 fighters and Apache helicopters to terrorize a Palestinian people with no organized military or state (killing an average of 1,000 Palestinian civilians per year). Yet Israel and their enablers label the Palestinians who lash out against the unbearable oppression and injustice as "terrorists". Who is truly terrorizing whom?
History repeats itself. The United States "won the West" through committing genocide and has facilitated Israel's "winning the West Bank" through their own ethnic cleansing. Since 1949, the US has supplied Israel with over $100 billion in aid. With a population of only 6 million people, Israel receives more annual US aid than Asia, Latin America and Africa (excluding the nations of Egypt and Colombia). The Palestinians who engage the Israelis violently wield the equivalent of rocks and sticks against some of the highest tech weaponry on the planet in their pitiful effort to prevent their annihilation. Sound familiar?
US imperialists conquered the West and now employ their proxy in Israel to justify conquering their next "frontier" inhabited by "savages" who possess the coveted resource of oil. Dehumanizing Arabs, Persians, and Islamic people in the psyches of average Americans through a variety of propagandistic means allows our criminal leaders to participate in a genocide in Palestine similar to the one they perpetrated against the Native Americans. As they routinely kill innocent civilians throughout the Middle East and support the Palestinian genocide, members of America's ruling elite blithely dismiss these murders with platitudes like "war is hell".
In December, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told Iranian television:
"If European countries claim that they have killed Jews in World War II... why don't they provide the Zionist regime with a piece of Europe.....Germany and Austria can provide the... regime with two or three provinces for this regime to establish itself, and the issue will be resolved."
Let's consider the logic and tremendous potential benefits afforded by Ahmadinejad's proposal for a moment....
The Middle East sans a "Mini-Me" clone of the United States, the perpetrators of the Holocaust footing the bill for reparations to the Jewish people, the end of Palestinian genocide, and the return of Palestine to its rightful owners......
Why not get started now?
And if that plan doesn't come to fruition, a massive movement of We the People of the United States could insist that OUR government end the Apartheid and genocide in Palestine by ending our support of Israel with OUR tax dollars. While we are at it, we could also demand that our government end its malevolent imperialistic foreign policies which entail state terrorism, conquest of sovereign nations, and the deaths of tens of thousands of our military personnel in regional wars to maintain "Pax Americana".
It is not too late for America to rise to the ideals spelled out in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, but it will take a massive awakening and effort on the part of We the People to end the criminal and morally despicable behavior of our government. I believe We are up to the challenge!
Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He works as a loan counselor in the transportation industry, and is a husband with three sons. His affiliations include Amnesty International and the ACLU. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com.