Thursday, May 31, 2007

my sofa in the sky

Even now I remember that perch in the sky where sun fell warm and where wind roared up the slope on the other side of the rocks behind me, impotently, blowing bits of leaves up above me, past me, that were dizzying to contemplate but not nearly so much as the birds that floated the warm currents up the mountain’s south face below me from where I had climbed like an ant climbing the rough scratching skirts of a huge queen, up and down the folds and bunches in the rocky fabric slowly to here, where my sense of vertigo in roaring roofless space finally convinced me to stop short of the up-jutting chin of Beishan Mountain’s cliffs and stoop down behind the sheltering rocks, which with the dirt and brush formed my sofa in the sky commanding the whole width of the foolishly flat valley floor and the lines of railway and road curving between Beijing and Zhangjiakou and even the gleam of Mr. Wang’s bicycle at the foot of the mountain, and where slowly my whole life, sucked away earlier by the wind, height and sense of solitude, huddled happily back around me in memories of people and followed my sleepiness after eating five cold baozi and where I thought of my father hiking in the Sierras fifty years ago with burros, and smiled.

You’d think I would have memorized the ragged mountain profile ringing the south valley so much have I gazed on it, but memory is not strong enough. Over time I lost that dizzying sense of the earth below me swelling and wavering as I relaxed my eyes. It was stronger when my ears heard the power of the wind only feet behind my head and then it was too easy to imagine the whole mountaintop blowing off with me on it. When that sensation of the foundation’s foundation shifting, dropping came I would focus my eyes on the brush about my sprawling legs. But the drowsier I grew the more I received loved ones in my sunny heart and the steadier I felt. I was loathe to stand up at last; that meeting of peace of mind and comfortably warmed tired body was so alluring.

But at last I did stand and climb another spur of rock and another closer to the cliffs but below the next one I stopped: it appeared to drop steeply on the other side, nothing was visible between it and the high cliffs, and the contemplation of what may have been was as frightening as the reality of crouching next to a drop in a wind. A bird rode the wind, feathers ruffling and me daring to follow him he circled back above me and I turned following him, twisting and dropping on my knees smiling when he got beyond my bravery. I turned and at the dip where I had first reached the crestline I studied the river valley to the north. Despite the cold wind rushing like a train up past me the vista was magnificent with mountains and sweet with winding river and cluster of homes. Where there is a village there must be easy access back to Yanqing Valley. Plus the river must flow west and then south, emptying into the big lake in the valley. So ran my reasoning, or my desire disguised as reason.

Soon I was slipping down the water run on the other side in the shadow of the mountain, stepping carefully around snow patches across long yellowed grass down loose dirt, falling sometimes.

beijing station's forlorn birds

We sat in the fourth row above the rising violin bows and gazed at the angels of light leaping lightly across the stage, rising a moment on a toe, other leg suspended curving -- . . . never to fall.

But in my heart were the faces of the girls at Beijing Station. Red lips drew my eyes as I bounded the last two steps out of the subway and she was so close the almost-blank thick face could not have not seen my glance. Past her I stopped to wait for the others. Her thick torso was enwrapped in a dress; small breasts pushed high. Who was she waiting for? Like an invisible thread strung in a split moment my glance pulled her slowly around to find me standing there, to give me a glance.

It makes me so sad, this being born master and slave.

Our laughter wrapped us and trailed out behind us like a cloud of aura in alienness sloughing off bits as we wove through the clusters of poor folk not laughing sniffing the bits of cloud of our cheer. In the thinness of our filmy cheer I saw other women like the one at the top of the stairs. They had not gone so far as to wait there by the people rivering up out of the ground, nakedly waiting someone like a bride in an arranged marriage awaiting without any escort a groom recognizable only by glance, a groom not even aware until that moment his destination. They stood near their men or went about in pairs, forlorn birds. I saw their shiny gold elastic holding their hair severely back. I saw their black smooth pants stretched taut across their crotches. I saw their shoes, soles three inches thick holding them tottering above the earth. I saw their lipstick burning an outline of lips beyond the bound of their real lips, like a stamp clumsily smashed home like a giant, I saw their wrists circled by bangles manufactured in giant factories I saw canyons of misery. And theirs wasn’t the only misery there but it was the only misery screaming itself across the canyon of cool grey sky and milling faces outside Beijing Station, seeking to draw more faces’ response: even if the response be just misery glancing echoed back off walls of rocky men.

dirty words with mr. wang

In the back room of a restaurant – wallpaper simulating bricks around the doorways, plastic strips hung in the front doorway letting in chill night air – Mr. Wang shook his head disgustedly. “I can’t imagine two men kissing. I can’t imagine saying, ‘Brian, I love you!’” Inwardly I smiled for in the states he has “the look” which would bring scrutiny from gay men. His limber, perhaps flimsy body, seems blown about by wind. He has big glasses and eyes on the side of his face which one time, when he bunched his lips, made him look remarkably like a rat. He is curious, it seems, and he is not a malicious man.

It wasn’t long before I was describing the holes men dig in bathroom stalls through which to protrude their protuberances of pleasure. Once he came back with some sheets of paper to jot down terms as I watered him with colorful slang. “Beat the monkey,” seemed to tickly his fancy the best; I wracked my brains for words long since heard and perhaps never used by me. Probably even at the time I thought they were crude or silly but for some reason they were a bridge between this bookish, goofy English teacher and I. Our tea grew cold; we talked and laughed. When I found
he had paid the bill on the sly I demanded the owner return me his money and let me pay. This is the guy who absolutely refused compensation for the bike I had borrowed and gotten stolen, the guy who makes sixty dollars a month, the guy who wears long underwear knit by his mother, who had not eaten a bite of dinner – he pushed me protesting outside, my face slipping through the thick plastic strips.

We wandered past streaked humble windows of “small food” establishments and rounded a dark corner. “I drank too much tea,” he said, peering toward an anonymous brick structure, “I have to piss out. . .Now which side is it for men?” He took out his lighter and held it up, revealing a small cement plaque saying, “women.” We did not get far into the entrance, a putrid stream trickling through the dirt down to the road seemed to indicate an impromptu urinal right there – the lack of light inside and the astounding inaccuracy of Chinese anuses had discouraged night pissers from tiptoeing far into the hell hole, which is both slippery slopes and good intentions. So we stood at the entrance and pissed toward the wall.

Toward home, walking down a street lined by fort-like homes turning cold shoulders to the outside, he repeated his satisfaction with his new vocabulary. “This is very useful,” he said.

“But you can never use it,” I said.

“In secret, its very useful,” he insisted. He leaned toward me and whispered, “Do you know ‘kan chuanzi’? It is like, ‘beat the monkey.’”

“What?” I said.

He uttered the phrase again, louder, for me to repeat, and slapped a hand over his mouth, staring around. “It means, ‘split a slat.’” I repeated it several times, enjoying the new knowledge.

“Oh, do you know, ‘one-eyed warrior’?” I asked. He stopped, fished out his pen and wrote it on a paper in a faint light, laughing.

This is the same Wang who, a few weeks ago as we sat with his wife watching a bowling contest on TV, leaned over and said confidentially, “Did you know bowling is good for the stones?”

“No. . . “ I said, puzzled.

“Do you know stones?” he asked.

“You mean ---“ I said glancing at my crotch.

“Yes, that’s it.”

“Why – where’d you hear that?” I asked. “Are you sure its good for them?”

“Francis Bacon wrote that,” he said, “Maybe I can remember it. . . . no.” He ran and brought back a book and, indeed, Francis Bacon 400 years ago hypothesized that “bowling is good for the stones, and hunting for the liver.” Then I taught him the double meaning of ‘get busy,’ and his wife, roused to curiosity by our laughter, asked in Chinese, “What’s the meaning, ‘get busy’?”

“It means you have a lot to do,” he said, raising his eyebrows at me, lighting a cigarette.

“Are you smoking again??” she said fiercely.

Saturday he brought me to his wife’s hometown, at the foot of some barren hills. After we drank tea in the spacious, clean house and I took a shit in the warehouse-sized bathroom with no door, we walked out across the fields toward the hills. Mr. Wang exclaimed, “I forgot my cigarettes! Wait for me here.” I waited on a bridge over a river as he asked a little boy in school-issue green sweats the way to a store. We reached the nearest hill and started to climb, Mr. Wang, smoker and non-exerciser, lifting his feet as ambitious as a mountain goat. When we stopped to rest he turned and saw a group of boys sitting at the bottom, watching us. They had followed us across the fields. He waved his arm once and the boys sprang to their feet immediately and started climbing, as if they had been puppies, or soldiers tuned to an officer’s slightest gesture.

I hung to Wang’s heels and finally we sat on the grassy ridgetop, which led, dipping and rising, barren like some Scottish peaks in my imagination, to the north. The boys were soon with us, and they leapt with vigor to everything: searching the trees for nuts, chasing the length of cassette tape they threw trailing through the air, setting afire the dry grass. Mr. Wang said, “You know I’m a teacher, don’t you? Don’t be burning the grass, what if it spreads to those trees? What does your teacher tell you?”

“To sit quietly. . .to value labor.”

“Well then,” said Mr. Wang, “Don’t burn the grass.” The boys obediently followed the letter of the law and simply set fire to their boxes of matches. One boy seemed to be the leader, in a striped red and white shirt, green sweatpants pulled high up his belly and knit blue undies hanging out the top. His head was shaved bristly and Mr. Wang rubbed it affectionately, and patted his belly. “Very good,” he said, “nice and fat.” He pulled up the boy’s shirt and poked his belly button and nipples. Wouldn’t that be considered child abuse in the US? The boy had a big grin and a foul tongue for such a little boy. Mr. Wang kept breaking out laughing at things he’d say. “tear your eggs,” and “fuck ass,” were how he translated them.

Mr. Wang stood behind Xiaofei and lifted him by his head; he looked like a rabbit grinning in pain. “This game is called, ‘pull up the carrot,’” said Mr. Wang. The boy sat next to him and played with the scanty wiry hairs on Mr. Wang’s white calf – his pant legs were pulled up. I pulled up my pant leg and beckoned the boy over, and he marveled at the dense hairs.

“What do you like to eat?” I asked him, resurrecting my Chinese from dormancy.

“Big chicken legs!” said he. I made a grab at his leg as he went by.

“Like this one?” I said.

He yelped, “Hey, that’s my leg, not a chicken’s!” For a while Mr. Wang encouraged the boys to stand on their heads, and do flips and cartwheels, which they did wholeheartedly, and Mr. Wang removed his sport jacket and flipped and stood on his head. I had to try too, raising my legs slowly into the air, blood rushing to my head, legs wavering, toppling on my back in the rough grass and pebbles. I also tried cartwheels, ridiculous attempts of flinging my legs about like noodles, the boys laughing. The boys cursed each other and Mr. Wang smiled affectionately.

“Rustic boys,” he said.

Coming down the slope, Xiaofei said to another boy, “I’ll cut a fart so stinky it’ll kill you!” I tried joking with him as Mr. Wang did, grabbing his hood from behind, making him protest, “I’m not a donkey!” or rubbing his bristly head, tugging his ears. He hung onto my shirt tied around my waist as we walked back through the village and suddenly the memory of Bobonaru, East Timor came back to me, and another group of boys, nimble as goats and also humorous, and a teacher. What reminded me of them was Xiaofei saying, “Your shirt’s tied around you like a skirt,” and that boy long years ago (in 1994), carrying my big boxer shorts spread across his shoulders, saying, “This is like a skirt!” I thought of the good teachers around the world.

The boys said good bye once and followed us “secretly” and finally bid us another farewell at the big green door of Wang’s in-law’s house.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

motofuku with you two

she’s green today, he said.
we watched and waited.
Gabi wore green she did.
i see her he said
this guy’s other place is a noodle bar he
David’s the guy behind Seinfeld he said.

the mochi ice cream
did not hurt my teeth.
newborns look like boiled
sweet potatoes, I said.
Gabi hung her head
in laughter. Boiled sweet potatoes,
she said all look alike I said.
Peter Pan was later, he said.
still pre-World War One, I said.

cultured man of business, man of
learning, woman of style
and verve and green
hung her head wine-
drowsy lychee there
was orange chocolate there was
we watched her watched pistachio
dreadlocked man held a sign outside
google slacker prophet it said
no he said Americans see the dog and think
the bum is feeding him first
a national weakness I said
expect a speech in two months
about the pitiable dogs of Baghdad and a
Schnauzer surge.

she leaned close to peonies on second
avenue. he and i were wrong about them.
the heavy scent is the lilies,
she said. but this underneath,
the smell of my childhood delicate
Chinese paintings, I said
oh yes, she that’s right she said.
the Orthodox church
is quite decentralized, he said. really I
and a lay council yes she said our life
is about the same smiling, she monks as well he
mochi ice cream doesn’t wow the lamb belly she
priests can marry Peter Pan
green she wore green she wore lychee
we watched green
Gabi emerge
that lamb belly, she said wow
he said mochi I said

and wow we were
oh spring eve we
oh we were
oh were we we
were we ever.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Shorjah Market Went Pop

One can be for war
and at the same time one
can be for caramel frappuccino
for batter dipped onion blossoms
for pecan crusted salmon steak
and many other limited time special offers.

One can be for war
but not the bad kind,
America’s magical moral Lipitor
flushes arteries clean of blame.

One can be for war
and still enjoy
a bowl of deniability
with cherries and coconut crème.

One can be for war
and for pulled pork chipotle fajitas
and not be for shredded muscle
gumming up the speakers of
a music shop playing Beyonce
in Shorjah Market
the day it went ‘pop.’

One can be for war
and for fudge ribbon swirl loaded
with hazelnut clusters
and honestly not be for
the ball-bearing stare of
unnamed nine year old boy who
wets his bed every night and who
refuses to let Baba throw out
his sodden Pikachio
around the corner from Shorjah Market.

We’ve got pure intentions to spare
to fill another Tigris
with their blood, meat, gristle, brain, and bile
were there a KBR contractor idle with enough
third country nationals and backhoes and catered
meals and mercenaries
to do the job.

We’re there to get a job done.
We’ll pay any price, bear any calorie burden
for freedom from reckoning.
We thought really altruistic thoughts of them
swallowed warm brownie sundae for them
the day Shorjah Market went pop.
We shook our heads, sighed, swallowed resolutely.
One can be for war and for fresh guacamole
One can be for life and not taste their guts in
our garlic mashed potatoes

Oh lovely deniability
sweet separability
flower of consumer democracy
Long may it reign!
God save Iran from our compassion.
God save Syria from our sympathy.


a place for us: somewhere a place for us

Let’s sunset the USA
let’s deadline it
flatline it
and start all over from scratch.
It has whitewashed us long enough
redlined us
white-lined and red-eyed us.

The amendment’s passed
the voting’s been done
with our feet.
Everybody’s in a reality show, even Dad
pimping rides, fighting tribes, swapping wives,
fishing the Bering Sea
barren of fish by 2050.
If Surf n’Turf at Sizzler’s gone
what’s left to miss?

Let’s sunset the old dear
but let’s not off it or waste it
let’s not take it out
or hit it
let’s not Nagasaki it
Haditha it
My Lai it
tough guy it.

Be gentle: we go way back
to the Delaware, to Antietam, to Wounded Knee
and Thunder Road.
Let’s let the country be a TV
left on in a room
on a rainy night
across from where we are
looking up at a flickering window
that was our home.
Even if we are
stuck in the bodega
across the street
rain on our shoes
with plaintains, tamarindo,
reggaeton and blingbling
the times they are a’cambiando
the rain it ain’t gonna stop.

What’s wrong with being a rolling stone?
Softly softly we closed the door
closed the door and stole away.

So let’s sunset the USA
keep the matter bloodless, bureaucratic,
let’s let it keep on lawyering and autopsying
and heart-to-hearting with the camera
there in that room
it doesn’t even have to know we’re gone
just let it keep on keepin’ on
archaic as TV
and as dumb.
Let it keep on shouting to itself
until the grid blacks out
one brutal summer
sweat on our shoes by the side of the road somewhere
too far away by now to hear the silence
in the room
across the street
from the bodega
where kids played way back when

Before Morning In America
was rerun, serialized (MIA)
like Groundhog Day
with Mitt Romney
and Bin Laden
sunset is softer
lines blurring
let’s do it
past tense it
midnight it

In the forest of night
no country
no master
breeze stirs
Who knows? Could be –
Whattaya say?


Note: this poem grew out of listening to a discussion of the Patriot Act on National Public Radio, where the verb “sunset” was used, and I thought, “sunset,” what a beautiful word for something so bureaucratic. While taking a piss I thought of the first line.

is it wrong to be happily served

Is it wrong to be happily served
(Latin bistro, cracked stucco)
to be served and to lean back into it,
to stretch into a pillow of worrilessness,
smile, forget where you are, indulge, splurge,
to while away prearranged units of time
and be happy?

Is it possible to be served
and not be brushed by that other world?
Can you be lost within being served
and still be alive to need?
Can you be severed from the poor?
Are stand-ins enough (the graffittid
door on Prince Street draws eyes
people pose and shoot)
Are simulacra sufficient
Is your sincere hello to the doorman
atonement to a token Jesus
Can the magnetic pull of money
be fought, resisted, transcended,
by good times with good food and good friends
Is a flickering lamp trimmed by
a silent hand from Michoacan
the good life?

May 2007

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Freedland, Pilger on Palestine

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday May 23, 2007
The Guardian

I am as old as this war. Officially the war of 1967, the year of my birth, lasted for six days. In reality, it's still going on: it is the 14,600-day war. Witness the violence in Gaza, one chunk of the territory which the young state of Israel - then just 19 years old - conquered in that extraordinary, whirlwind victory. In Gaza, there is fighting among the Palestinians - a barely repressed civil war between the old Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat and the Islamists of Hamas - but also between them and the Israelis. Hamas has resumed firing Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel, a break in their ceasefire. On Monday, one rocket succeeded in killing a civilian, a woman in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. And Israel has resumed its targeted assassinations, including one attack on the home of a Hamas member of parliament, killing eight people. The war which marks its 40th anniversary in a fortnight may have brought Israel a breathtaking victory - but it has brought no peace.

Ever since I first travelled properly in Israel, as a young student, I came to believe that what had been won in 1967 was as much curse as blessing. Yes, Israel had done something remarkable, defeating the armies of three nations that had vowed its destruction. And yes, it salved the wounded psyche of Jews all over the world to see that, just two decades after Auschwitz, the Jews were not fated to be history's permanent victims, but could defend themselves and win. I understood the pride of 1967, the sense of recovered dignity that it brought; subliminally, as a child raised in the glow it brought, I even shared in it.

But I could see 20 years ago what Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had seen 20 years earlier. Even before the war was over, he was advocating a conditional withdrawal from the territories just won. He understood what holding on to those lands, and the Palestinian people who lived in them, would mean: a mortal, political and moral disaster for the state he had founded and loved.

The mortal threat is clear to this very day. The victory of 1967 turned Israel into a military occupier, and occupied people will always fight back eventually, as the Palestinians did in earnest with the first intifada that erupted in 1987, through the suicide bombings of the 1990s and the second intifada that began in 2000. Of course, the 40 years since 1967 have been most painful for those who have lived under occupation, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. But the inevitable consequence of that pain has been danger and perpetual conflict for the people of Israel.

The political threat is less visible, but just as obvious. Ben-Gurion understood what even Ariel Sharon would see three and a half decades later: that if Israel was to live up to its own ambition of being a Jewish, democratic state, it could not rule over a Palestinian Arab population that would one day be its numerical equal. Yet that is the statistical situation today, with equal numbers of Jews and Arabs in the historic land of Palestine. If Israel is truly democratic, and grants all those people the vote, it will no longer have a Jewish majority. If it remains Jewish, by excluding those people, then it is no longer democratic. This is the so-called demographic argument, the unavoidable choice for Israelis left by 1967: either you hold on to the West Bank and Gaza or you remain a democratic state with a Jewish majority: you can't do both.

The moral threat was doubtless furthest from the minds of those celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem, and the return of Judaism's holiest sites, 40 years ago next month. But occupation corrodes the occupier, slowly but unmistakably. Every time an 18-year-old Israeli conscript stops a man or woman at a checkpoint or presses the button for a "targeted assassination", the moral core of a country becomes a little bit smaller. Hard to believe that when Israel went to war in 1967, it enjoyed the sympathy of world opinion, who saw it as the plucky David against the Arab Goliath. In the 40 years that have passed, Israel's standing has plunged and the admiration of those days has turned into suspicion and worse.

For Israel's enemies, these changes are all causes for celebration. But not me. As someone whose family history is bound up with Israel, who wants to see that country survive and thrive, I lament what the "prize" of the West Bank and Gaza has brought. My great fear is that Israel is like a homeowner who has built two extra rooms on shaky ground: in wanting to keep hold of the extension, he risks losing the whole house.

The events of the last few days only lend that argument more force. The Palestinian Authority is in a desperate state, fighters nominally allied with the two main wings of its supposed "unity" government slaying each other on the streets of Gaza. The president's writ does not run; starved by an international embargo - maintained not just by Israel, but by the US and European Union - the society is grappling with deprivation. Those close to it warn that the PA is on the verge of collapse.

That could see Gaza fully transform into what it already resembles: a lawless, failed state, a Somalia on Israel's southern border. The kidnap of Alan Johnston and the Fatah-Hamas feud could be a harbinger of things to come, as warlords and militias slug it out ever more lethally. Some warn that into this vacuum could step those angels of death, al-Qaida, ready to mount a third intifada bloodier than anything Israelis have ever witnessed. "You're too late," says former EU mediator Alastair Crooke, "al-Qaida's already there."

Until now, Hamas has held the Islamist franchise in Gaza, fending off al-Qaida attempts to come on to its turf. But the latter is gradually acquiring a toehold, with the appearance of new groupings which give off the strong whiff of Bin Laden. The current violence in Lebanon, where a Palestinian group linked to al-Qaida is waging war from the refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, is a warning of Gaza's future.

Even if al-Qaida does not supplant Hamas, by gaining momentum it could oblige Hamas to move in its direction. What is currently a grievance-based, nationalist movement with an Islamist hue - its main cause shaking off occupation - could become more rigid, more ideological, beyond the reach of reason and negotiation. This is a lesson Israel has failed to learn these last 40 years. If you refuse to deal with a group because it's too extreme, you don't get to deal with a more pliant, moderate alternative. On the contrary, you eventually confront a force that is even more extreme. It happened when Fatah was eclipsed by Hamas - and it could happen again.

What should Israel do? Right now, its leaders' sole objective is protecting civilians from rocket attacks: when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Sderot on Monday he was booed. So his ministers speak of escalation, more targeted killings, perhaps even hitting the Hamas premier, Ismail Haniyeh. It's the same old mistake. Surely Israel's friends can begin to point in another direction: to seize on the hints from Hamas of possible compromise, to capitalise on the fact that Hamas too has an interest in defeating al-Qaida - and to begin a dialogue with the enemy. The aim would be to end the war that never ended - because the alternative is always so much worse.

By John Pilger

Israel is destroying any notion of a state of Palestine and is being allowed to imprison an entire nation. That is clear from the latest attacks on Gaza, whose suffering has become a metaphor for the tragedy imposed on the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. These attacks, reported on Britain's Channel 4 News, were "targeting key militants of Hamas" and the "Hamas infrastructure". The BBC described a "clash" between the same militants and Israeli F-16 aircraft.

Consider one such clash. The militants' car was blown to pieces by a missile from a fighter-bomber. Who were these militants? In my experience, all the people of Gaza are militant in their resistance to their jailer and tormentor. As for the "Hamas infrastructure", this was the headquarters of the party that won last year's democratic elections in Palestine. To report that would give the wrong impression. It would suggest that the people in the car and all the others over the years, the babies and the elderly who have also "clashed" with fighter-bombers, were victims of a monstrous injustice. It would suggest the truth.

"Some say," said the Channel 4 reporter, that "Hamas has courted this [attack] . . ." Perhaps he was referring to the rockets fired at Israel from within the prison of Gaza which killed no one. Under international law an occupied people has the right to use arms against the occupier's forces. This right is never reported. The Channel 4 reporter referred to an "endless war", suggesting equivalents. There is no war. There is resistance among the poorest, most vulnerable people on earth to an enduring, illegal occupation imposed by the world's fourth largest military power, whose weapons of mass destruction range from cluster bombs to thermonuclear devices, bankrolled by the superpower. In the past six years alone, wrote the historian Ilan Pappé, "Israeli forces have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, half of them children".

Consider how this power works. According to documents obtained by United Press International, the Israelis once secretly funded Hamas as "a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation] by using a competing religious alternative", in the words of a former CIA official. Today, Israel and the US have reversed this ploy and openly back Hamas's rival, Fatah, with bribes of millions of dollars. Israel recently secretly allowed 500 Fatah fighters to cross into Gaza from Egypt, where they had been trained by another American client, the Cairo dictatorship. The Israelis' aim is to undermine the elected Palestinian government and ignite a civil war. They have not quite succeeded. In response, the Palestinians forged a government of national unity, of both Hamas and Fatah. The latest attacks are aimed at destroying this.

With Gaza secured in chaos and the West Bank walled in, the Israeli plan, wrote the Palestinian academic Karma Nabulsi, is "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted collaborationists. Look to the Iraq of today . . ." On 19 May, the Guardian received this letter from Omar Jabary al-Sarafeh, a Ramallah resident: "Land, water and air are under constant sight of a sophisticated military surveillance system that makes Gaza like The Truman Show," he wrote. "In this film every Gazan actor has a predefined role and the [Israeli] army behaves as a director . . . The Gaza strip needs to be shown as what it is . . . an Israeli laboratory backed by the international community where human beings are used as rabbits to test the most dramatic and perverse practices of economic suffocation and starvation."

The remarkable Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has described the starvation sweeping Gaza's more than a million and a quarter inhabitants and the "thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people unable to receive any treatment . . . The shadows of human beings roam the ruins . . . They only know the [Israeli army] will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions".

Whenever I have been in Gaza, I have been consumed by this melancholia, as if I were a trespasser in a secret place of mourning. Skeins of smoke from wood fires hang over the same Mediterranean Sea that free peoples know, but not here. Along beaches that tourists would regard as picturesque trudge the incarcerated of Gaza; lines of sepia figures become silhouettes, marching at the water's edge, through lapping sewage. The water and power are cut off, yet again, when the generators are bombed, yet again. Iconic murals on walls pockmarked by bullets commemorate the dead, such as the family of 18 men, women and children who "clashed" with a 500lb America

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"My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain - especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state." Albert Einstein

Einstein is one of my favorite twentieth-century characters. He was remarkable, and I don't mean only for his profound contributions to our understanding of the physical world. He was someone who drove authoritarians like J. Edgar Hoover mad. He was one of those rare souls, like George Orwell, who despite mistakes and flaws, consciously worked to direct his actions, and redirect them after missteps, by principles of decency, humanity, and rational thought. He never subscribed to menacing slogans like "My country, right or wrong" or "You're either with us or against us." Quite the opposite, he knew any country was capable of being wrong at times and did not deserve blind allegiance when it was.

Einstein's was one of the most important names lent to the cause of Zionism. His name and visits and letters raised a great deal of money towards establishing universities and resettling European Jews suffering under violent anti-Semitism long before the founding of Israel.

But even in a cause so dear to his heart, Einstein never stopped thinking for himself. He not only opposed the establishment of a formal Israeli state - he was after all a great internationalist - but he always advocated treating the Arabic people of Palestine with generosity and understanding.

Clearly Einstein's Zionist path was not the one followed. The actual path chosen by Israel has been pretty much that of "the iron wall," a phrase put forward by Ze'ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s as the appropriate posture for Zionists to adopt towards Arabs in Palestine.

Charles de Gaulle, up until the Six Day War, demonstrated great understanding and support for Israel. This thoughtful and highly individualistic statesman felt an instinctive sympathy for the struggle of the Jews, but the Six Day War caused him to alter France's policies towards the Jewish state.

The Six Day War was a much darker and more complex affair than it is portrayed in official Israeli myths. The war was not simply an attack by a gang of Arab states against Israel - a description which suggests not just Goliath, but the entire tribe of Philistines, attacking little David with his slingshot. While this is an appealing image, naturally arousing great sympathy in American Puritans raised on the Old Testament, it is not an accurate one. A fine Jewish scholar like Avi Shlaim, a specialist in the first half century of Israeli policy, recognizing that not all important documents bearing on the matter have been released, agrees there are doubts and ambiguities here rather than light and darkness.

Before the Six Day War, David Ben Gurion made it clear to de Gaulle and other western leaders that Israel wanted more land to absorb migrants. Before the war, Israel also high-handedly diverted water from the Jordan river, a hostile act in a water-short region and the kind of thing that caused more than one "range war" in America's Southwest.

A very tense situation arose with a surge in Soviet armaments to Arab states, although any knowledgeable observer understood that Israel continued to hold the upper hand in any potential conflict. A major diplomatic mission was undertaken by Abba Eban to gather support for Israel's intended violent response to Egypt's blockade of the Straits of Tiran. Just as we now have Bush's obdurate, hasty demand for war with Iraq, Eban made it clear that Israel had no stomach for diplomacy to end the blockade. The blockade meant war.

De Gaulle made a remarkably prescient observation to the Israeli government: "If Israel is attacked, we shall not let her be destroyed, but if you attack, we shall condemn your initiative. Of course, I have no doubt that you will have military successes in the event of war, but afterwards, you would find yourself committed on the terrain, and from the international point of view, in increasing difficulties, especially as war in the East cannot fail to increase a deplorable tension in the world, so that it will be you, having become the conquerors, who will gradually be blamed for the inconveniences."

De Gaulle also understood that Israel's behavior was nourishing nationalistic aspirations on the part of the Palestinians, a development Israel either greatly underestimated or chose to ignore, perhaps reflecting the arrogance of those supported by great power towards those without power. De Gaulle's advice was, of course, ignored. Israel managed easily to overwhelm the Arab states, as its leaders had known it would, and it has occupied a good portion of the territories seized ever since. It has ignored many quiet diplomatic voices on this matter. It has stood in contempt of UN resolutions for years. It has suffered innumerable guerilla attacks and launched innumerable reprisals, even starting a bloody war in Lebanon complete with atrocities. Israel finally came to toy with the notion of a Palestinian state but never made the genuine effort or concessions necessary to see this become a reality. It has, in short, fulfilled de Gaulle's warning of trouble more than thirty years ago.

The 9/11 attack on America, coming under the administration of perhaps the most aimless, blundering, and least informed president in American history, was a godsend for Israel's belligerent policy. The people Israel has occupied and mistreated for a third of a century are regarded by this American president as something akin to al Qaeda. We have even had trial balloons released by Republican figures like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Armey concerning Israel's right to hold the land and drive out its people, although it is possible these represent pre-assault softening-up by Washington to make Palestinians grateful for a second pathetic offer of statehood now in the works, pathetic because it is impossible to imagine anything else being blessed by both Bush and Sharon.

Perhaps most revealing of the moral state to which Israel has been reduced since the Six Day War were preparations for Mr. Bush's war on Iraq. All Israeli citizens were issued gas masks. A debate and legal moves centered around whether foreign workers, of which there are large numbers, should also receive gas masks. If they wanted gas masks, they must rent or buy them, and the masks available for rental were those considered as expired and unsuitable for Israelis. In families of mixed marriages, apparently spouses who remain unregistered under Israel's now more restrictive registration requirements, do not receive gas masks. Most Palestinians under Israeli occupation are not issued gas masks, it being considered the responsibility of the broken Palestinian Authority, almost without resources, to look after this.

There is something especially repugnant in establishing a hierarchy of people whose safety should be the responsibility of the state, and the various adjustments made to this hierarchy in the face of criticism hardly reflect humane policies.

In recent months, not a week passes in which Israel's army does not kill fifteen or twenty Palestinians. Often, this many are killed in a day or two. These killings are generally reported as the deaths of "militants," although we have no way of determining the legitimacy of that term. We do know that quite a number of people who cannot possibly be characterized as militants, including women and children and peaceful foreign observers, have been killed by Israeli soldiers. Of course, even those who might justifiably be called militants are in their view only putting up a pathetic defense of their homes against Merkava tanks and Apache helicopters.

The assassination of suspected terrorists is now an accepted, ordinary event in Palestine, and Mr. Bush has granted Israel the right to extend this violence to America territory. Mr. Sharon's secret services have conducted scores of assassinations. Perhaps assassination is the wrong word since it is generally used to describe the killing of a high-level political opponent. Mr. Sharon's bloody work is precisely that of a police force murdering, instead of arresting, criminal suspects by the score.

At this writing, as America bombs and burns its way through Iraq, Israel has again rolled out its bulldozers and tanks into Gaza - killing, wrecking, and making many improper arrests. Most horrifying is what Israel is doing to Bedouin farmers in the Negev desert. Israel has used crop dusters spraying poisonous chemicals to destroy the Bedouin crops. The charge is that they are illegal squatters - a remarkable accusation coming from those who still hold lands seized in 1967 and regularly build new settlements on them for brand-new, heavily-armed immigrants.

Defenders of Israel's excesses in the United States have been driven to advocate policies as chilling as creating a legal framework for torturing terrorist suspects in the United States and Israel's undertaking the cold-blooded reprisal killing of the families of desperate suicide bombers. These are powerful measures of the corrupting long-term effects of the Six Day War and Israel's determination to retain control over much or all of the seized land.

Regrettably, Einstein appears to have been right about what Israel had the potential for becoming. No person of principle can support Israel's present policies, and I believe there is little doubt that would include Einstein had he lived. Perhaps it is just as well he did not.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Massad on the Israel Lobby

Sorry about the formatting! I am clueless about how to fix it.

In the last 25 years, many Palestinians and other Arabs, in the
States and in the Arab world, have been so awed by the power of the
pro-Israel lobby that any study, book, or journalistic article that
exposes the inner workings, the substantial influence, and the
and political power of this lobby have been greeted with ecstatic
of relief that Americans finally can see the "truth" and the "error"
their ways.

The underlying argument has been simple and has been told time and
by Washington's regime allies in the Arab world, pro-US liberal and
intellectuals, conservative and liberal US intellectuals and former
politicians, and even leftist Arab and American activists who
Palestinian rights, namely, that absent the pro- Israel lobby,
would at worst no longer contribute to the oppression of Arabs and
Palestinians and at best it would be the Arabs' and the
best ally and friend.

What makes this argument persuasive and effective to Arabs? Indeed,
are its claims constantly brandished by Washington's Arab friends to
Arab and American audiences as a persuasive argument? I contend that
attraction of this argument is that it exonerates the United States'
government from all the responsibility and guilt that it deserves
its policies in the Arab world and gives false hope to many Arabs
Palestinians who wish America would be on their side instead of on
side of their enemies.

Let me start with the premise of the argument, namely its effect of
shifting the blame for US policies from the United States onto
and its US lobby. According to this logic, it is not the United
that should be held directly responsible for all its imperial
in the Arab world and the Middle East at large since World War II,
rather it is Israel and its lobby who have pushed it to launch
that are detrimental to its own national interest and are only
beneficial to Israel. Establishing and supporting Arab and other
East dictatorships, arming and training their militaries, setting up
their secret police apparatuses and training them in effective
methods and counter-insurgency to be used against their own citizens
should be blamed, according to the logic of these studies, on Israel
its US lobby.

Blocking all international and UN support for Palestinian rights,
and financing Israel in its war against a civilian population,
protecting Israel from the wrath of the international community
also be blamed not on the United States, the studies insist, but on
Israel and its lobby. Additionally, and in line with this logic,
controlling Arab economies and finances, dominating key investments
the Middle East, and imposing structural adjustment policies by the
and the World Bank which impoverish the Arab peoples should also be
blamed on Israel, and not the United States. Finally, starving and
invading Iraq, threatening to invade Syria, raiding and then
Libya and Iran, besieging the Palestinians and their leaders must
be blamed on the Israeli lobby and not the US government. Indeed,
the years, many pro-US Arab dictators let it leak officially and
unofficially that their US diplomat friends have told them time and
again how muc! h they and "America" support the Arab world and the
Palestinians were it not for the influence of the pro- Israel lobby
(sometimes identified by the American diplomats in more explicit
"ethnic" terms).

While many of the studies of the pro-Israel lobby are sound and full
awe-inspiring well- documented details about the formidable power
commanded by groups like the American Israel Public Affairs
(AIPAC) and its allies, the problem with most of them is what
unarticulated. For example, when and in what context has the United
States government ever supported national liberation in the Third
The record of the United States is one of being the implacable enemy
all Third World national liberation groups, including European ones,
from Greece to Latin America to Africa and Asia, except in the
celebrated cases of the Afghan fundamentalists' war against the USSR
supporting apartheid South Africa's main terrorist allies in Angola
Mozambique (UNITA and RENAMO) against their respective anti-colonial
national governments. Why then would the US support national
in the Arab world absent the pro-Israel lobby is something these
ne! ver explain.

The United States has had a consistent policy since World War II of
fighting all regimes across the Third World who insist on
their national resources, whether it be land, oil, or other valuable
minerals. This extends from Iran in 1953 to Guatemala in 1954 to the
rest of Latin America all the way to present-day Venezuela. Africa
fared much worse in the last four decades, as have many countries in
Asia. Why would the United States support nationalist regimes in the
Arab world who would nationalise natural resources and stop their
pillage by American capital absent the pro-Israel lobby also remains
mystery unexplained by these studies. Finally, the United States
government has opposed and overthrown or tried to overthrow any
that seeks real and tangible independence in the Third World and is
especially galled by those regimes that pursue such policies through
democratic elections.

The overthrow of regimes from Arbenz to Goulart to Mossadegh and
and the ongoing attempts to overthrow Chavez are prominent examples,
is the overthrow of nationalist regimes like Sukarno's and
The terror unleashed on populations who challenged the US-installed
friendly regimes from El Salvador and Nicaragua to Zaire to Chile
Indonesia resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands, if not
millions by repressive police and militaries trained for these
tasks by the US. This is aside from direct US invasions of South
Asian and Central American countries that killed untold millions for

Why would the US and its repressive agencies stop invading Arab
countries, or stop supporting the repressive police forces of
dictatorial Arab regimes and why would the US stop setting up shadow
governments inside its embassies in Arab capitals to run these
countries' affairs (in some cases the US shadow government runs the
country in question down to the smallest detail with the Arab
in question reduced to executing orders) if the pro-Israel lobby did
exist is never broached by these studies let alone explained.

The arguments put forth by these studies would have been more
if the Israel lobby was forcing the United States government to
policies in the Middle East that are inconsistent with its global
policies elsewhere. This, however, is far from what happens. While
policies in the Middle East may often be an exaggerated form of its
repressive and anti- democratic policies elsewhere in the world,
are not inconsistent with them. One could easily make the case that
strength of the pro-Israel lobby is what accounts for this
but even this contention is not entirely persuasive. One could argue
(and I have argued elsewhere) that it is in fact the very centrality
Israel to US strategy in the Middle East that accounts, in part, for
strength of the pro-Israel lobby and not the other way around.

Indeed, many of the recent studies highlight the role of pro-Likud
members of the Bush administration (or even of the Clinton
administration) as evidence of the lobby's awesome power, when, i t
could be easily argued that it is these American politicians who had
pushed Likud and Labour into more intransigence in the 1990s and are
pushing them towards more conquest now that they are at the helm of
US government. This is not to say, however, that the leaders of the
pro-Israel lobby do not regularly brag about their crucial influence
US policy in Congress and in the White House. That they have done
regularly since the late 1970s.

But the lobby is powerful in the United States because its major
are about advancing US interests and its support for Israel is
contextualised in its support for the overall US strategy in the
East. The pro- Israel lobby plays the same role that the China lobby
played in the 1950s and the Cuba lobby still plays to this day. The
that it is more powerful than any other foreign lobby on Capitol
testifies to the importance of Israel in US strategy and not to some
fantastical power that the lobby commands independent of and
to the US "national interest." The pro-Israel lobby could not sell
message and would not have any influence if Israel was a communist
anti-imperialist country or if Israel opposed US policy elsewhere in

Some would argue that even though Israel attempts to overlap its
interests with those of the US, that its lobby is misleading
policy- makers and shifting their position from one of objective
assessment of what is truly in America's best interest and that of
Israel's. The argument runs as follows: US support for Israel causes
groups who oppose Israel to hate the US and target it for attacks.
also costs the US friendly media coverage in the Arab world, affects
investment potential in Arab countries, and loses its important
in the region, or at least weakens these allies. But none of this is
true. The United States has been able to be Israel's biggest backer
financier, its staunchest defender and weapon-supplier while
strategic alliances with most if not all Arab dictatorships,
the Palestinian Authority under both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud

Moreover, US companies and American investments have the largest
presence across the Arab world, most prominently but not exclusively
the oil sector. Also, even without the pathetic and ineffective
at US propaganda in the guise of the television station Al-Hurra, or
Radio Sawa and the now-defunct Hi magazine, not to mention US-paid
journalists and newspapers in Iraq and elsewhere, a whole army of
newspapers and state-television stations, not to mention myriad
satellite television stations celebrate the US and its culture,
broadcast American programmes, and attempt to sell the US point of
as effectively as possible encumbered only by the limitations that
actual US policies in the region place on common sense. Even the
offending Al-Jazeera has bent over backwards to accommodate the US
of view but is constantly undercut by actual US policies in the
Al-Jazeera, under tremendous pressure and threats of bombing from
United State! s, has for example stopped referring to the US
forces in Iraq as "occupation forces" and now refers to them as
"coalition forces". Moreover, since when has the US sought to win a
popularity contest among the peoples of the world? Arabs no more
hate or
love the United States than do Latin Americans, Africans, Asians, or
even and especially Europeans.

Finally we come to the financial argument, namely that the US gives
inordinate amount of money to Israel -- too exorbitant a cost that
out of proportion to what the US gets in return. In fact, the United
States spends much more on its military bases in the Arab world, not
mention on those in Europe or Asia, than it does on Israel. Israel
indeed been very effective in rendering services to its US master
for a
good price, whether in channelling illegal arms to central American
dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, helping pariah regimes like
and apartheid South Africa in the same period, supporting pro-US,
including Fascist, groups inside the Arab world to undermine
Arab regimes, from Lebanon to Iraq to Sudan, coming to the aid of
conservative pro- US Arab regimes when threatened as it did in
Jordan in
1970, and attacking Arab nationalist regimes outright as it did in
with Egypt and Syria and in 1981 with Iraq when it destroyed that
untry's nuclear reactor.

While the US had been able to overthrow Sukarno and Nkrumah in
coups, Nasser remained entrenched until Israel effectively
him in the 1967 War. It is thanks to this major service that the
States increased its support to Israel exponentially. Moreover,
neutralised the PLO in 1982, no small service to many Arab regimes
their US patron who could not fully control the organisation until
None of the American military bases on which many more billions are
spent can claim such a stellar record. Critics argue that when the
had to intervene in the Gulf, it could not rely on Israel to do the
because of the sensitivity of including it in such a coalition which
would embarrass Arab allies, hence the need for direct US
and the uselessness of Israel as a strategic ally. While this may be
true, the US also could not rely on any of its military bases to
the invasions on their own and had to ship in its army. American !
in the Gulf did provide important and needed support but so did

AIPAC is indeed powerful insofar as it pushes for policies that
with US interests and that are resonant with the reigning US
ideology. The power of the pro-Israel lobby, whether in Congress or
campuses among university administrators, or policy-makers is not
solely on their organisational skills or ideological uniformity. In
small measure, anti- Semitic attitudes in Congress (and among
administrators) play a role in believing the lobby's (and its
exaggerated claims about its actual power, resulting in their towing
line. But even if this were true, one could argue, it would not
whether the lobby has real or imagined power. For as long as
and policy-makers (and university administrators) believe it does,
will remain effective and powerful. I of course concede this point.

What then would have been different in US policy in the Middle East
absent Israel and its powerful lobby? The answer in short is: the
details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of
policies. Is the pro- Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United
States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power
the last three years through their formidable influence on my own
university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a
resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for US policies
the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not.

The United States is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because
has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to
interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial
its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that
those interests, including Israel. Absent these policies, and not
pro-Israel lobby which supports them, the United States should
expect a
change in its standing among Arabs. Short of that, the United States
will have to continue its policies in the region that have wreaked,
continue to wreak, havoc on the majority of Arabs and not expect
the Arab people will like it in return.

Joseph Massad is associate professor of modern Arab politics and
intellectual history at Columbia University. His recent book The
Persistence of the Palestinian Question was published by Routledge.

This essay originally appeared in Al-Ahram.

New York Times and Columbia U

The New York Times Supports Thought Control: The Massad Case
Edward S. Herman

The New York Times has never been a very courageous newspaper in times of
political hysteria and civil liberties threats. When Bertrand Russell was
denied the right to fill his appointment at CCNY in 1940, following an ugly
campaign by a rightwing Catholic faction opposed to his positions on
divorce and marriage, the paper not only failed to defend him, its belated
editorial called the appointment "impolitic and unwise" and criticized him
for not withdrawing when the going got hot ("The Russell Case," April 20,
1940). Russell pointed out in a published reply something the editors had
missed: that there was a serious matter of principle at stake; that a
withdrawal would have been "cowardly and selfish" and would have "tacitly
assented to the proposition that substantial groups should be allowed to
drive out of public office individuals whose opinions, race or nationality
they find repugnant" (April 26, 1940).

During the McCarthy era also the Times failed to stand by its ex-Communist
employees who were willing to tell all to the Times officials, but not turn
informers. They were fired, and in its news and editorials the paper failed
to oppose the witch hunt with vigor and on the basis of principle.
Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger himself wrote an editorial assailing the
use of the Fifth Amendment in appearances before the House Committee on
UnAmerican Activities (August 6, 1948).

We are in another period of escalating attacks on civil liberties, with
the Patriot Act, an aggressive rightwing administration, open threats to
retaliate against judicial failures to follow rightwing dictates, and
perpetual aggression to create a justification for repressive policies at
home. An important additional factor is the steadily increasing
aggressiveness of pro-Zionist forces, both in the United States and
elsewhere, who have fought to contain criticism of Israeli policies by any
means, including harassment, intimidation, threats, boycotts, claims of
"anti-semitism," occasional resort to violence, and other forms of
pressure. While sometimes allegedly based on the need for fairness, balance
and truthfulness, these campaigns are completely one-sided and are
invariably aimed at getting alternative views and inconvenient facts

Attacks on critics of Israel are of long standing. Individuals like Edward
Said and Noam Chomsky have been vilified and threatened for years, and both
frequently needed police protection at speech venues, at work or at home.
The situation has worsened in the Bush-2 era, in good part because of the
cultivated hysteria of the "war on terror" and congenial environment
provided by Bush, the strengthening of the rightwing media, and the demands
imposed by Israeli policies. On the latter point, it has long been noted
that increased Israeli violence and land seizure, which causes greater
international hostility to Israel, induces a new protective response by
"defenders of Israel." In recent years nobody who criticizes Israeli
policies has escaped attack--not attack by intellectual argument, but by
ad hominem assault, spam invasions, the use of stolen addresses to
embarrass, threats, and campaigns to discredit and silence. For these
attackers the end justifies any means, including, of course, lies (for one
episode in the extensive lying career of Harvard law professor Alan
Dershowitz, see the letter exchange between him and Noam Chomsky, Boston
Globe, May 17, May 25 and June 5, 1973).

The Bush-Sharon era has witnessed the emergence of McCarthyite institutions
like Campus Watch and the David Project, designed to police academic Middle
East studies for un-Israeli-patriotic thoughts, putting pressure on
academics and administrators to intellectually cleanse, and providing
targets for vigilantism. There are even current proposals to legislate for
"balance" and "fairness" in Middle East studies both at the state and
federal level. These vigilante efforts and attempts to politicize the
university are serious threats to free speech, academic freedom, and the
independence of the university. They are also threats to integrity and
truth, with the main target criticism of Israeli policy and the aim being
to make the official Israeli version of history the sole legitimate narrative.

It is in this context that we must evaluate the Joseph Massad case,
Columbia University's handling of that case, and the New York Times'
editorial on "Intimidation at Columbia" (April 7, 2005). Massad, who
teaches courses in Middle Eastern studies at Columbia, and is critical of
Israeli policies in Palestine, has been under assault from pro-Zionist
forces, in class and outside, for years, although running an open class,
tolerating hostile and often irrelevant questions, many times by outsiders
and "auditors," and with a record of having never thrown anybody out of
class for harassment (for documents by Massad and others bearing on this
record, see the links provided at the end of this article).

In a decent and honest environment, any focus on "intimidation" would be on
the intimidation of Joseph Massad, whose life has been made very stressful
and whose freedom to teach and effectiveness as a teacher has been
threatened by this campaign of harassment and Massad and his students are
not alone in victimization by this campaign for the hegemony of an
official truth.

But in the indecent and post-Orwellian world in which we live, Massad is
the intimidator, several students he allegedly treated harshly are the true
victims, and justice demands an inquiry on this alleged intimidation and a
possible disciplining or firing of this intimidator. Thus, Columbia
University's administration, responding to the hegemony campaign in the
Daily News, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, and by other organized
groups and individuals, appointed a grievance committee to look into the
allegations of intimidation of students by Massad and a colleague who
have failed to follow the official narrative. But this committee had no
instruction to consider the intimidation of Massad et al., although both
the committee and New York Times acknowledge that he and others have had
their classes "infiltrated by hecklers and surreptitious monitors, and they
received hate mail and death threats" ("Intimidation at Columbia"). Put
otherwise, the admitted systematic intimidation of the faculty, clearly a
threat to academic freedom and the possibility of honest teaching and
research, is off the agenda for an inquiry into intimidation; claims by
several students that are disputed and clearly part of a larger campaign
of intimidation involving Campus Watch, David Horowitz and other
nationally-based intimidators, must be taken seriously.

The Columbia grievance committee displayed bias by its willingness to
accept a one-sided assignment in which only student intimidation was at
issue. Their bias was also evident in their handling of the student
complaints. The two complaints about Massad were declared "credible"
although made belatedly and contested by Massad. The committee does not
state explicitly that Massad's denial in the classroom case was
"incredible" and that Massad (and his three student witnesses) lied, so
"credible," undefined, appears to mean not disproved and theoretically
possible, and the committee's finding is therefore not only asinine and
damaging to Massad, it opens a Pandora's box to future accusations
of intimidation.

The "most serious" student accusation, which dates back to the Spring of
2002, was that Massad said to a student "If you are going to deny the
atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my
classroom." This statement was confirmed by one student and an outsider
allegedly present but unnoticed by others. Massad denied the accusation and
was supported by three students. The committee noted that the accusing
student didn't leave the classroom, and expulsion was contrary to Massad's
policy (with no such case ever reported). The student failed to complain in
2002 and did not mention the incident in her evaluation sheet for the
course. The other student accusation was not in a classroom, the time and
place were vague, and the alleged statement by Massad, while harsh was
conceivable in the heat of a private argument; but the student and
incident were not recollected by Massad. These incidents might have
happened, but they might not, and actual incidents might have been
rewritten to serve a political agenda. The grievance committee doesn't even
mention these possibilities, nor does it place them in the context of
continuous harassment and intimidation from the side of the purported
victims that might be considered to reduce their "credibility."

A third demonstration of the grievance committee's bias is its suggestion
that the failure of the student victims to complain earlier was a result
of a deficient grievance procedure at Columbia. The committee said that
it was only a "result of these failures that outside advocacy groups
devoted to purposes tangential to those of the University were able to
intervene to take up complaints expressed by some students." But not only
is this a fallacy in that there were several routes to complaint at the
time these incidents occurred, which the students failed to tap, the
committee fails to note the possibility that the absence of earlier
complaints might be because the incident or incidents didn't happen or were
later inflated in seriousness, constructed or made serious only as part of
the escalating attacks on Massad and other dissidents from the official
line. The committee premises the truthfulness of the complainants and
ignores their possible role in a larger campaign of suppression.

Turning to the New York Times editorial, although noting in the penultimate
paragraph that the accused faculty members had had their classes
infiltrated, disrupted, and monitored by outsiders, and had been recipients
of hate mail and death threats, the editors did not criticize Columbia for
failing to act to prevent these numerous abuses threatening academic
freedom, nor did they even hint that any remedy was called for. This was
apparently acceptable intimidation, coincidentally carried out against
individuals challenging the official narrative that the New York Times
itself has adhered to closely (see my article on the media's treatment of
Israel's approved ethnic cleansing: The editors focus on
Massad, allegedly "clearly guilty" of ill temper on two occasions, although
under continuous provocation over several years. The editors misrepresent
the facts even here the grievance committee called the charges "credible,"
but didn't explicitly deny the credibility of Massad and his witnesses.
Neither the committee nor editors had the integrity to note that the
student charges were old and that they might have been constructed as part
of an organized campaign of derogation; that this campaign was not
scrupulous, and that the incidents might have been edited or entirely

In its last paragraph the Times editors contend that the grievance
committee's mandate should have extended to the question of "anti-Israel
bias" and that Columbia should hire and fire "with more determination and
care." In short, the Newspaper of Record tells its readers
that universities should police thought to keep out unwarranted bias,
which seems to pose a threat in only one direction the editors have never
mentioned the possibility of unwarranted pro-Israeli bias, which for the
editors may be inconceivable.

Joseph Massad is in good company. The editors of the New York Times found
Bertrand Russell unworthy of an appointment to CCNY based on his politics
and a bandwagon of hostile attacks. Sixty four years later they implicitly
call for the removal of Joseph Massad based on his politics and an
organized campaign of derogation. As Russell pointed out to the editors
back in 1940, it is contrary to the fundamental principles of a free
society to drive out of their position "individuals whose opinions, race
or nationality they find repugnant." This point remains valid even where
done under the cover of alleged "intimidation" by the victim being driven out.

warm days in luzhou

dear mom and dad,
warm days are here, and the streets and lanes get ever sleepier.
i discover more and more back alleys and lanes that wind about
between big buildings and crumbling old houses of brick or white
plaster. today i got lost for a few minutes on my way to an
interview and ended up in a lane called "salt alley." its
narrowness shut it off from cars, giving it an impenetrably drowsy
feel, with old people nodding off in chairs, or middle aged people
stirring the mahjong tiles with a clacking sound.
these two weeks of interviews begin to give me a sketchy picture
of luzhou of 20 or 25 years ago, between mao's death and deng xiao
ping's early reforms. it is startling, things here that strike me
as deeply rooted in local culture turn out to be recent
introductions from elsewhere. mahjong, played by half the married
population, was rare until the 90s'. tea houses were very few.
apartment buildings that give off a weary look of grey age turn out
to be only 10 years old. it is a real challenge to ask the questions
that will get people to tell me the specifics of their everyday life
of 20 years ago, because these old details they regard as mundane as
dust balls in the corner, hardly noticed anymore or commented on.
but when they do, it is fascinating. the man i just interviewed
came from the countryside, and he told me how he and his friends
used to burn chilli pepper leaves and peppers near one rat hole and
hold a bag over the other hole. when the rats came running out, they
grabbed it tight, slammed it on the ground, skinned the rats, and
cooked them up.
of course, most of the time i am just struggling to figure out
all the administrative terms and government bodies that shape
people's lives -- the new terms, like "dibao," or minimum
maintenance, a kind of welfare stipend, or the old terms, like
juweihui," or resident's committee, the lowest level of
administration in neighborhoods up until the 90's. there are people
who politely let me into their houses or offices and answer my
questions, and there are people who grab the interview and turn it
into the story of their life, which is what i want. a woman who saw
my picture in the paper last sunday called out to me in my chinese
name the other day as i walked by her restaurant. "Han zhi jian!"
she said, "if you want to know anything about this place, you ought
to come talk to me!" and she promised to find for me "lots and lots"
of old women "over 90" who could tell me all the stories of the
place. so i am planning to call her on monday and take my tape
it is always the details that fascinate. the guy who told me
about the rats said that local people call roaches "touyoupo," a
dialect term translated as "oil-pilfering grandmas," for their
propensity to be drawn to oily things.
or the fact that until recently, kids playing ping pong in this
city would use several terms that came from the english of the
flying tiger fighter pilots who were stationed here in the 40's! so
dad, maybe you could bring a book on the flying tigers when you come
here. it is too bad i only found out about the flying tigers
recently -- a little sooner and me and richard could have gone out
to the airport that was once their airfield. apparently the
japanese bombed the city during the war.
there is the sadness of rivers in decline. all old residents
note that the water levels are far lower than they used to be. the
way of life that was the river has died as well. one of the guys i
interview worked 18 years on the river and finally lost his job
when the highways opened up. there are still ships and barges going
up and down, but not like before, and the old wharves are gone,
leaving only the names of bus stops: middle wharf, upper wharf,
etc. so a lot of my interviews are probing people's memories.
there is frustration in the fact that i must wait for these
nieghborhood officials to find me interview subjects, who often are
people working in the office and too busy to find time. but i am
realizing that hanging around in teahouses and other local spots is
an easy way to hear just as many interesting things as from
"official" interviews, which are often a little uptight anyhow. so
i am relaxing a bit on that score. maybe i will go to salt alley
one of these days. though typing up my notes and listening to only
some of the tapes takes up lots of time. i am realizing there is no
way i can interview 30 people each week and still be able to
organize all the notes.
the used computer i bought a couple weeks ago was doing fine
until a couple of days ago, when it froze up, so i am concerned
about that -- even a couple days of no typing means pages and pages
of rough notes, and memory losing freshness.
farmers are all over with their shoulder poles hefting two
baskets, with fruits and an old metal scale. occasionally a man
will be walking down the street with a big catfish hanging from a
pole and a scale in his other hand, a walking fish market. last
week cherries suddenly appeared, and disappeared just as fast. they
were pale and small, rosy pearls, heaped up in a shallow basket with
sprigs of leaves covering them. farmers stood on corners with the
small baskets in their arms in front of them. i bought some. they
were delicate and sour, and quick to wrinkle.
war is in the future, and the sides are already drawn: the US
and Japan against China, with the two Koreas possibly moving to
join China. taiwan is the eye of the storm. it is all so clear, and
has nothing to do with personal feelings or decisions. it is not in
the hands of individual leaders. these powerful nations are sliding
against each other like tectonic plates, and the decisions of each
one are made on a calculus of power that has nothing to do with
reason. every week new events arise to shake the region like subtle
tremors, and every person i talk to sees it as clearly as me, with
some differences. we all say we hope for peace, but the structures
of power will not allow it, and we down here, ordinary people far
below the vast scaffolding of trade and weapons and money, can look
up and see the swaying and hear the creaking and know what will
occur. but there is nothing we can do. even if some leaders were to
become conscious of the danger ahead, to voice such concerns would
immediately turn the powerful interests against them. and then they
would fall, far down, and land here amidst us, and say, i tried.
how did cherries lead me to this?
anyhow, i am doing well. the routines that make my life routine
are returning at long last: running every other day and making 5
flash cards every night.
i hope you are well.

Insurrection Act Revision

Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
by repost Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006 at 2:39 AM

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision
which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually
encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by
revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the
President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The
Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the
Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict
prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one
cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those

Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007"
(H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October
17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to
declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and
take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of
the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that
he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense,
the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention
abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing
to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for
putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the
term is "martial law."

Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon
another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled,
"Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." Section 333, "Major
public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law" states that
"the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard
in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the
United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other
serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other
condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President
determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the
constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of
("refuse" or "fail" in) maintaining public order, "in order to suppress,
in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination,
or conspiracy."

For the current President, "enforcement of the laws to restore public
order" means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections
of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off
to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them
loose against "disorderly" citizenry - protesters, possibly, or those who
object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of
protesters, so called "illegal aliens," "potential terrorists" and other
"undesirables" for detention in facilities already contracted for and
under construction by Halliburton. That's right. Under the cover of a
trumped-up "immigration emergency" and the frenzied militarization of the
southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our
noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic
agenda of the Bush administration.

An article on "recent contract awards" in a recent issue of the slick,
insider "Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International"
reported that "global engineering and technical services powerhouse KBR
[Kellog, Brown & Root] announced in January 2006 that its Government and
Infrastructure division was awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite
Quantity (IDIQ) contract to support U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) facilities in the event of an emergency." "With a
maximum total value of $385 million over a five year term," the report
notes, "the contract is to be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers," "for establishing temporary detention and processing
capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations
(DRO) - in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S.,
or to support the rapid development of new programs." The report points
out that "KBR is the engineering and construction subsidiary of
Halliburton." (3) So, in addition to authorizing another $532.8 billion
for the Pentagon, including a $70-billion "supplemental provision" which
covers the cost of the ongoing, mad military maneuvers in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and other places, the new law, signed by the president in a
private White House ceremony, further collapses the historic divide
between the police and the military: a tell-tale sign of a rapidly
consolidating police state in America, all accomplished amidst ongoing
U.S. imperial pretensions of global domination, sold to an "emergency
managed" and seemingly willfully gullible public as a "global war on

Make no mistake about it: the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act
(PCA) is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and
jurisprudence. The 1878 Act, which reads, "Whoever, except in cases and
under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of
Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse
comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title
or imprisoned not more than two years, or both," is the only U.S. criminal
statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American
people under the cover of 'law enforcement.' As such, it has been the best
protection we've had against the power-hungry intentions of an
unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using force to
enforce its will.

Unfortunately, this past week, the president dealt posse comitatus, along
with American democracy, a near fatal blow. Consequently, it will take an
aroused citizenry to undo the damage wrought by this horrendous act, part
and parcel, as we have seen, of a long train of abuses and outrages
perpetrated by this authoritarian administration.

Despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been
no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected
officials in Congress. On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization Act contained a
"widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the
National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make
it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore
domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation's governors."

Senator Leahy went on to stress that, "we certainly do not need to make it
easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection
Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against
some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision
governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look
over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities
gives the orders."

A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the
Congressional Record that he had "grave reservations about certain
provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference
Report," the language of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding
posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law
enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial
law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as a rider with little
study," while "other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these
matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these

In a telling bit of understatement, the Senator from Vermont noted that
"the implications of changing the (Posse Comitatus) Act are enormous".
"There is good reason," he said, "for the constructive friction in
existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military
for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our
democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States,
when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and
trample on local and state sovereignty."

Senator Leahy's final ruminations: "Since hearing word a couple of weeks
ago that this outcome was likely, I have wondered how Congress could have
gotten to this point. It seems the changes to the Insurrection Act have
survived the Conference because the Pentagon and the White House want it."

The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished
in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare
martial law, is now an accomplished fact.

The Pentagon, as one might expect, plays an even more direct role in
martial law operations. Title XIV of the new law, entitled, "Homeland
Defense Technology Transfer Legislative Provisions," authorizes "the
Secretary of Defense to create a Homeland Defense Technology Transfer
Consortium to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Defense (DOD)
processes for identifying and deploying relevant DOD technology to
federal, State, and local first responders."

In other words, the law facilitates the "transfer" of the newest in
so-called "crowd control" technology and other weaponry designed to
suppress dissent from the Pentagon to local militarized police units. The
new law builds on and further codifies earlier "technology transfer"
agreements, specifically the 1995 DOD-Justice Department memorandum of
agreement achieved back during the Clinton-Reno regime.(4)

It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American
people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the
president's polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq,
and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections,
the Bush administration is on the ropes. And so it is particularly
worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect,
declare himself dictator.

(1) and See also, Congressional
Research Service Report for Congress, "The Use of Federal Troops for
Disaster Assistance: Legal Issues," by Jennifer K. Elsea, Legislative
Attorney, August 14, 2006


(3) Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, "Recent
Contract Awards", Summer 2006, Vol.12, No.2, pg.8; See also, Peter Dale
Scott, "Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps," New
American Media, January 31, 2006.

(4) "Technology Transfer from defense: Concealed Weapons Detection",
National Institute of Justice Journal, No 229, August, 1995, pp.42-43.

“‘Issues’ have the effect of making us imagine demons on one side and
angels on the other. This is a crude and degrading habit of mind, and
stories are one cure for it.” -- Tobias Wolff

“‘Issues’ have the effect of making us imagine demons on one side and
angels on the other. This is a crude and degrading habit of mind, and
stories are one cure for it.” -- Tobias Wolff

congolese classmate's e-mail

On Sunday morning February 26, 2006, I took the Bus from Goma to
Butembo. After 3 hours we reached Kinianja, the first police
stattion ? Two kilimeters after Kinianja ; twelfe heavily armed
young men in their twenties erupted from the bush abs started
shooting on the bus. We all lied down ans ask the driver to stop
the bus. Three gansters got into the bus, shooting inside without
wounding anybody. We were all terrorized.The gangsters then start
asking for US dollars, mobilephones, watches, golden rings, and all
objects of value. They collected money, mobilephones, watches, etc.
They then asked us to move out of the bus, what we did quickly.
Once we were outside the bus, they continue to shoot to terrorize
us more. Two of the gansters got into the bus with two big knives
ans started opening the bags. All my field notes and books were
thrown on the bus. Passagers clothes were allover the place in the
bus. The gangsters were attracted by my new bag I bought ib New
York for my fieldwork. They asked one of the passager to open it,
they went through everything in the bag from clothes to shoes ;
etc. Unfortunately for them, they were no money to be found, only
some clothes.They empted the bag and throw away the clothes. They
wanted to take the bag. At that very momnet, the phone of one of
them rang. Apparently he was told to stop the operation because he
asked his friends to leave immediately. They continued to shoot and
ordered us to lay down. When we were sure that they have gone, we
stoop up quickly and picked up from the ground whatever we could,
and got into the bus and left this place. Once on the bus, i found
my fieldnotes ; my passport and other offical document laying on
the floor with clothes, shoes and otherthing from other passegersù
bags. While the bus was moving, I picked up my passports and
gathered my fieldnotes, flash disks and my books.
From this adventure, I lost my mobilephone, my watch, my wallet with
350 dollars inside, my Congolese ID, my US- Columbia ID, Insurance
card, and my credit card and all the busness cards I keep inside :
I managed to get some clothes, but not all of them because they
were on the ground floor outside the bus.
We were 50 passegers on this bus, on a very unsafe road without
military escort. Last Wednesday, 6 people were killed on the same
road, probably by the same group of armed gansters. We were lucky
that none of us were killed. Most of the passegers lost their
money, telephones, watches and clothes,
According to people on the bus, those gansters are members of the
NGO for self-defense created by Governor SERUFULI of North Kivu for
the defense of the Rutshuru territory. According to some confidence
on the bus, during the five last months security did improve on
this road because the commander of fifth brigade use to put his men
to escort buses and other cars. But ; the Governor did not like his
methods and he was forced out with the complicity of the Defense
Minister, Mr ONUSUMBA. Since the fifth brigade was replaced by the
second brigade, insecurity has resumed on this road. Security in
Goma and the suroundings will be a very big challenge the day
before and during the elections. And after the elections, fort
people have to be carrefully controlled : SERUFULI, KUNDABATWARE,
BIZIMAKARA and General AMISi alias Tango fort.

Why did I decide to use the bus to get back to Butembo, the place of
my fieldwork ?

Two weeks ago, I went to Kinshasa to assess the security situation
in relation to the new rebellion in Ritshuru with general
Kundabatware. I went there also to meet with UNDP people who might
be interested in the outcomes of my research. The last reason for
my trip to Kinshasa was to publish in Congo-Afrique, a local
magazine, some conclusions of my fieldwork.
After many negotiation with MONUC° people, Nick managed to get for
me an autorisation to from Beni to Kinshasa on MONUC plane. When I
concluded from conversations in Kinshasa that the so-called
rebellion will not move further north, I decided to return to
Butembo : But, MONUC administrator Dolapo Kuteyi ; would not accept
for any reason to let me bord MONUC planes. My research, according
to him, has nothing to do with MONUC mission in the Congo. I also
saw through his attitude vis-a-vis my coming from Columbia, the
classic anti US sentiments of many UN administratirs. Most
importantly, I also noticed the anti African elite sentiments of
many UN workers in Africa, blacks or whites.
I eventually got a seat on Humaniratian Air Service flight to Goma
on Friday 24. I was supposed to fligh to Beni with HAS on Monday
27, bute the plane has to go to Kampala for check up. So, the
flight to Beni was cancelled and to get back to Butembo, I was left
with 2 choices : taking the Congolese fliying coffin called
CETRAKA, an old antonov piloted by always drunk Russian crew – it
is forbeden for Humanitarian workers because of the lack of sefety
– or taking the Bus from Goma to Butembo in an unsafe road. I did
decide to take the bus. It was a wrong decision which nearly brings
me to death .

° MONUC means United Nations mission in the Congo. It employs 23000
people of which 17000 are military personnel. It is run by a US
veteran, Ambassador Lacy Swing. He really want Congo to get to
democratic election and play its role in central and southern
Africa. But, he is surounded by many UN workers whose goals are
merely financial. I talked with many of them who are planning to
buy houses or apartments after their stay in the Congo. The
consequence of this attitude is that MONUC people remain very
ignorent of internal really of the Congo. Militaries are said to be
self contained contingents, understand synically that the only
contacts they have with local population are sexual encounters
with young or very young Congolese. Last year Oprah did run a show
on MONUC people and under age girls in the Congo. South African
contingent and Uruguayans will not deny this allegation. Now with
Indians and Pakistanees, it is quiet different. They have no
contact at all with local population. I really think that it is a
I would like to ask autority at Columbia University, if possible, to
make an agreement with the UN about fliying student on fieldwork in
unsafe region like Noth Kivu in the Congo. Some SIPÄ student are
interested in Congo and would like to spend some time here ; I ;
myself I am bounded because of my PH.D. project to spend lot of
time in the Congo. It will make sens that Columbia which has send
many of its former students in MONUC to make a formal agreement
with the UN to accept students on field work to bord UN planes. I
have seen many European journalists or photographs ; or even
researchers ; travelling on MONUC planes, why shouldnùt we ?