In 1984 Peter Yarrow gave the world a gift in hopes that sanity and peace could prevail between Israel and Palestine. It’s of course a Hanukkah song, and as each candle is lit on the eighth night of the Festival, Yarrow offers his own special prayers.
For me, it stands as a very brave song to have written, as it first praises and celebrates the history that led to the rededication of the Second Temple, but then tasks Israel with remembering what injustices and oppression their forebears fought, and the dangers their nation faces if they continue to forget that history.
Yarrow doesn’t mince his words:
Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
The song could almost be the clarion call from the Jewish Voice for Peace, and should also remind Hamas, Fatah, and any others who think violence will beget anything other than more violence to stay their hands. Ah, the histories that are argued, the endless justifications, the retaliations, recriminations, claims of existential threat, the gallons of ink that’s been spent on failed solutions; the summits that have failed because…well…they have failed. And here we are now.
No, don’t tell me to think about Israels’ future, neither that she’s further isolating and dooming herself, nor that she can’t let Hamas ‘get away with what they’re doing’.
Is there a point at which it’s counter-productive to stoke our arguments with historical grievances and arc toward this fourth candle prayer?
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker’s time is at hand
Please excuse my naïveté. But is it time to see this through the eyes of a child and consider the numbers of deaths on both sides that Kevin Gosztola brought in a recent piece, and the weaponry in use to bash each other from the end of 2008 to 2012. Do look at the graphic, please. 18 Israelis killed by Gaza-based Palestinian groups; 1661 Palestinians killed by IDF forces. And this past week? Perhaps 4 Israelis killed by rocket fire, 141+ Palestinians, and many children among them.
No matter which ‘side’ you’ve chosen to condemn, picture yourself explaining this to a child; even your child or grandchild. How came: The hatred. The suffering through hunger and lack of medical care. The fear. The explosions. The blockade. The dehumanizing name-calling. The abject abjectness of it all…
Would the child finally ask: “Why don’t the Israelis just end the blockade? Why doesn’t Hamas stop shooting the rockets? No, don’t tell me I don’t understand. It’s easy: someone must make it stop! Children are dying, and they were never mean to anyone. It’s not their fault!”
And yes, as a truce is being discussed, the bombardment is intensifying, and Hillary Clinton is rushing to help, saying that Hamas had better quit firing rockets into Israel, oh yes. Bibi, too. Oh.My.God. How ‘de-escalating’ of you, Miz Clinton.
And Kevin reminds us:
‘IDM Ehud Barak said Israel couldn’t have bombed #Gaza like it has for past 7 days without unwavering support from US.’
So. Consider this candle prayer again:
Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
O, America, America! Is it time to re-dedicate the song to you now, too? In how many directions have we become our own foe by now? As we rain down drone missiles and bombs around the world, and casually kill any brown person who walks like a ‘militant’, or stands near one, including women, children, and those retrieving the dead or rescuing the injured; as we continue this even knowing that it radicalizes far more people who then…wish us harm.
As we make allies with brutal dictators because the enemy of our enemy is…our friend (well, at least for a time, that is), and continue the rendition of prisoners as long, as Obomba has said himself, ‘the rendition is only for a limited time’. Nice distinction, Mr. President.
As our CIA is increasingly militarized, and seems to run its own dark foreign policy, whether with assassinations, computer viruses, ginning up regime change on the ground in any number of possible nations. As OBomba and his neoliberal cohorts arrange secret trade deals like CAFTA and TTP that will screw the 99% in the signatory nations, and seem to come with either bases or US military ‘attention’ according to leaked documents.
Who in the world could fail to loathe what we represent and the dark anti-human policies we export with impunity and no legal correction? Which expendable planetary citizens could fail to notice that the US is failing the planet by poisoning its resources through greed and lust for control, and a cavalier disregard of the fact that as the planet fails, and people fail to thrive or survive…so will this Empire that claims to be different than all others.
That so many Americans have bought the comfortable, massive advertising campaign that ‘Terrorism’ is the largest threat we face, or that the US exports ‘Democracy’, if they knew how far this nation has forsaken the rule of law, and trampled not only our Constitutional rights, but is now exporting that evil. It will become law in TPP signatory nations, but the OBomba administration is busy pushing it abroad.
The recent military Article 32 hearing for Robert Bales, accused of murdering 16 civilians in Kandahar province in March had increased the pressure on Hamid Karzai to rescind immunity for ISAF forces (and hopefully contract mercenaries), knowing that the populace wants their own justice and trials. But Glenn Greenwald is reporting that the US hasn’t cared for Iraq and Afghanistan letting prisoners ‘we’ wanted detained indefinitely out of detention for lack of prosecutorial evidence.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government is engaged in a fierce and protracted battle over the fundamental right to be free of indefinite detention. Specifically, the US is demanding that the governments of those two nations cease extending this right to their citizens. As a Washington Post article this morning details, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is insisting that the US fulfill its commitment to turn over all prisons, including the notorious facility at Bagram, to Afghan control, but here is one major impediment [emphasis added]:
“Afghan and U.S. officials have also disagreed on the issue of detention without trial. Washington wants the Afghan government to continue holding certain prisoners it views as dangerous, even if there is not enough evidence to try them.
“Aimal Faizi, the chief spokesman for Karzai, told reporters Monday that detention without trial is illegal in Afghanistan and that more than 50 Afghans are still being held in U.S. custody at Bagram, 35 miles northeast of Kabul, even though they have been ordered released by Afghan courts.”
He writes that in annual “human rights” reports issued by the State Department (reports mandated by the US Congress) – in which the US has formally condemned nations around the globe for the practice of indefinite detention, our very own Secretary of state offered in last year’s report this sentence that:
[These reports] are grounded in the principle that “respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere.”
‘Become our own foe’? Become our own worst enemy through lust for power, resource control, and disregard for the fruits and hopes of those whose labor is only meaningful as additions to the Profit Side of balance sheets of global hegemony? Yes. We’re there, and the consequences will not be pretty when they come.
All of which begs the questions: What do we do, and what weapons are at our disposal. And at the core…it’s loving kindness and regard for all citizens as our brothers and sisters, and our willingness to extend our selves in community. It’s loving our nation’s possibilities enough that we subvert the machine as we’re able, by withholding the money we do have from Wall Street and non-union businesses as far as we can. And…by encouraging our friends and neighbors to know the truth for what it is, and listen to the melodic messages within them, as painful as they be to hear. From juliania, who frequently steers us toward words written in the past that find their purchase in our present horrors:
“I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats – any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death – then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself. But don’t you see, this is just the point – what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the powerful attraction of its example…”
~ Young Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
Light one candle; light more. Be the light, and love all those you’re able.
O, you who hold the power and use it so recklessly: If you knew that you would die today…would you change?
‘The malady of civilized man is his knowledge of death. The good artist, like the wise man, addresses himself to life and invests with his private vision the deeds and thoughts of men. The creation of a work of art, like an act of love, is our one small ‘yes’ at the center of a vast ‘no.’
~ Gore Vidal
Make art, make love, make community, make beauty and express yourselves. Let the children whisper to you in your dreams; they weren’t born to hate… Remind yourselves that we’re all made of stardust, and share our DNA with the original humans, the San Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert. We just may prevail in the end, because we must. Or, if not, we will yield the planet back to the cockroaches and dolphins, may things go better the next time around. ;o)