Revolution Online, January 19, 2009
Chicago Emergency Forum
"Stop the Israeli Massacre in Gaza"
I was one of the 75 people who on January 14 braved the coldest evening in years, to attend an emergency forum on Chicago’s southside titled, “Stop the Israeli Massacre in Gaza.” And it was well worth it! It was held at Northeastern Illinois University’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies and was presented by Revolution Books in conjunction with National Black United Front. The panel included Professor Emerita Ghada Hashem Talhami of Lake Forest College; Pa Joof of the Pan African Revolutionary Socialist Party; and Larry Everest, correspondent for Revolution Newspaper. Stan Willis, civil rights attorney and member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, was unable to attend but sent a statement strongly condemning the Israeli assault on Gaza.
The diverse audience listened intently as Professor Talhami, who is both a scholar and a passionate advocate for the Palestinian people, traced the history of Gaza. She exposed how today’s Israeli towns near the Gaza border are nothing more than re-named Palestinian towns from which the present residents of Gaza were brutally expelled. She also gave a graphic description of the poverty and misery of Gaza today, pointing out that it is the 2nd most densely populated place on earth. And during the Q&A she reminded the audience that massacring Palestinians is nothing new for Israel. In 2002 Israel reduced the West Bank city of Jenin to rubble, while slaughtering many civilians and using Palestinians as human shields.
Pa Joof exposed how there was nothing sacred or holy about Israel. It is just one of the colonial settler states (colonies to which large numbers of Europeans moved) created by British imperialism last century in the middle east and Africa. He focused on how all these states shared a common settler mentality of European superiority. And he drew parallels between Israel and South Africa, exposing how Israel had aided South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime for decades. Pa Joof also put a lot of emphasis on exposing how Zionism was a European settler ideology – a creation of imperialism – and not a product of Judaism as a religion.
Larry Everest started his speech by hitting at the lies being used to defend and justify the Israeli massacre in Gaza. One important one is that Israel was NOT created as a response to the Holocaust – but this lie has proved a very useful justification for driving the Palestinians off their land and waging war on them for over 60 years. Another one is that the Israel Lobby does NOT dictate policy to the US – it is the other way around. Israel is an unsinkable aircraft carrier for US in the Middle East, serving the US’s overall imperialist aims. Everest also described how Obama’s stated position of total support for Israel helps explain his refusal to speak out against the unfolding massacre in Gaza.
Then things were opened up to the audience and there was a lot struggle and wrangling – especially around how to look at Hamas and Obama. One audience member who was going to Washington DC for the inauguration was dismayed at Larry Everest’s exposure that only 2 out of 28 members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against a recent resolution supporting Israel’s attack on Gaza. Another person thanked the panel for their insights, but objected to exposing Obama when he wasn’t even president yet. Still another argued that criticizing Obama was disrespectful of the pride that African-Americans feel in the new president, and he went on to blame the demise of the left internationally (including in Palestine and the US) on its failure to appreciate people’s religious and nationalist sentiments. Revolution correspondent Hank Brown responded from the floor about how this “pride” would be used to entice the masses – and especially Black masses – into joining the US imperialist military and promoting American chauvinism – thereby deepening people’s complicity with US crimes against humanity, rather than rupturing them out of it.
Panel members joined this last point from their own perspectives. Pa Joof cited a quote about sentimentality being the knife in the back of revolution. Then he discussed how the South African masses’ “pride” in Mandela had blinded them to the fact that Mandela never intended to fundamentally transform the neo-colonial nature of their country. Professor Talhami brought out that the Islamic fundamentalists had been systematically built up by the imperialists as an alternative to secular nationalist and revolutionary forces. And Larry Everest reflected many people’s sentiments when he challenged people to “Stop thinking like Americans and start thinking about humanity.”
Many in the audience commented on how much they got out of the forum and that many more like this are needed to get out the truth about what is going on in the world. One young man from the Center was wrestling with the contradiction between what he had heard at the program and the challenge of telling people the truth when they are feeling good about Obama’s election. Audience members also appreciated the analytical and ideological wrangling in the back and forth between the panel members. At the end of the event, almost all agreed that, in spite of at times sharp differences, there is an urgent need to step up resistance to stop the massacre of the people of Gaza by Israel with the backing of its US master.
A Reader in Chicago
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