Volume 16, Number 4
Letter from the Editor: A Shameful Budget
Failing Ethics in the Business School
Fascism in Israel
Lynne Cheney's War on Freedom of Speech
We Will Not Fight in The Occupied Territories
A New Current in Palestine
Israeli Revenge Forces
25 Million and Counting...
The Biggest Issue in the World
Huey Freeman: American Hero
Letter from the Editor: A Shameful Budget
The 2003 federal budget submitted to Congress by President Bush February 4th “makes sense only if we are planning to use our mighty military in a pseudo-religious quest to create a super-dominant Pax Americana,” as Robert Scheer has noted in the Los Angeles Times. Bush’s rhetoric in the State of the Union address of an “axis of evil” provides cover for the massive increase in military spending to achieve this mission. Even while the budget first states that “the terrorists threaten us not with mighty armies or fleets, but with unpredictable attacks on our civilian population and critical infrastructure,” just a few lines later it says, “Defense has been a dwindling priority in our national budget. . . That will have to change.” The contradictory rhetoric ostensibly needs no explanation beyond the need to counter the threat of the Evil Axis powers of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (where’s Cuba, George?).
In the first lines, Bush tells us his budget “is a plan to fight a war we did not seek—but a war we are determined to win,” and the budget “provides the resources to combat terrorism at home, to protect our people, and preserve our constitutional freedoms.” The budget he has proposed certainly has nothing to do with preserving freedoms, constitutional or otherwise, unless we count the right of the strong to wage vicious war to the greatest extent possible against its “enemies.” Hobbes would be proud.
Exactly how does Bush propose we secure the well being of our mythic “homeland”? A $48 billion increase on military spending next year: $38 billion for the Pentagon, and $10 billion for Bush to use, if he is so inclined, to kill more people overseas while “fighting terror.” A projected total of $469.8 billion in 2007 for national defense would be a 43 percent increase in just six years over the 2001 level of $329 billion. This means that by 2007, the projection is for defense spending to have outstripped non-defense discretionary spending—that is, more money will be spent preparing to hurt others than all other functions (minus Social Security, Medicare, and similar programs) combined. Don Rumsfeld is elated and unapologetic: “The defense budget is cheap when one compares it to putting our security at risk, our lives at risk, our freedom at risk.”
While we will be spending a truly shameful amount of money preparing killers and killing machines, funding for programs that actually try to ensure our security, lives, and freedom domestically will be drained. The litany of cuts is heart-breaking for any bleeding heart: a 15 percent cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Program; a 4.8 percent cut in the Labor Department, trimming job safety and minimum wage enforcement and job-training programs; a $286 million cut from the Environmental Protection Agency; $340 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (while bioterrorism research increases, other disease research and prevention programs get cut or remain at the same level for the coming year, including AIDS prevention and education); cuts in funding to teaching hospitals, public housing, community development grants, the Occupational and Safety Hazard Administration, and 30 percent from a doctor training program for children’s hospitals. And the list could go on.
But let us not forget that on top of all this, Bush wants $591 billion in tax cuts in addition to the $1.35 trillion already approved, the vast majority of which benefits a vast minority of citizens.
The military-corporate complex is alive and probably stronger than ever, and in “the spirit of bipartisanship” we cannot count on the Democratic party to put up a major challenge to the domestic spending or tax cuts, much less to the increase in militarism coupled with provincialism. As Robert Scheer notes, “The red ink that Bush wants us to bleed to line the pockets of the defense industry, along with the tax cuts for the rich, will do more damage to our country than any terrorist. The result will be an economically hobbled United States, unable to solve its major domestic problems or support meaningful foreign aid, its enormous wealth sacrificed at the altar of military hardware that is largely without purpose.” Is this what we, the citizens of a government of, by, and for ourselves—all of us, together, will allow an illegitimate president to do with our country? I sure hope the answer is no. If there was any prudence in cutting the president some slack since September 11th for the sake of “national unity,” that time has surely ended. We are now obligated to object, dissent, and struggle against his shameful and destructive plans, for the sake of real national unity. Let us work for common sense to prevail.
I want to tell a story, which happens to be true. I wish it were not.
Several weeks ago I overheard a conversation between a white-haired lady and a younger woman, probably a college student. By the almost silent and embarrassed way the younger woman behaved, I guessed that the two individuals had just met. It was after Sunday Mass when we usually gather in the Presbytery over a cup of coffee and some goodies. On this occasion I could not resist listening to their conversation, even though I sensed it was not meant for my ears. However, the older lady’s voice was loud, as if she did not mind being heard by all those gathered in the room.
I knew her well. We had met years before and I liked her for her generous heart as well as her robust sense of humor. Indeed, we had spent many hours together in meetings; she was a great supporter of our cause, our work with the handicapped, and regularly offered constructive suggestions. We might have become good friends. Yet, because we disagreed on certain principles, I soon realized there were elements of incompatibility limiting our friendship. Over time our visits came to an end.
Though I still admire her faithful work against abortion, I probably disappointed her. Unlike her, I could never parade on the streets with hundreds of people to show solidarity with the anti-abortionists. It is not my style to be part of large protests where there are men calling women 'murderers'. I recognize the importance of showing solidarity with those who cannot defend themselves and I admire people committed to this cause. But my preference is to ameliorate the plight of women privately and not in what can be a righteous and public way. I, who had a privileged life and never experienced the need even to consider an abortion, do not dare to judge.
As the conversation progressed, the older lady narrated several stories about her Catholic faith. Her sense of humor made many of us chuckle. The student, while sipping her coffee and nibbling at a donut, nodded and responded with few words. Then, suddenly, I heard the older lady say in her loud voice, "You must have seen that wood crucifix hanging behind the main altar in our Church." Clearly this was a new story, still vivid in her mind. "I never liked that crucifix. Our Pastor put it there, but I told him right away that I did not think it was fit for our Church. That Christ on the cross was contorted, skinny, you could see all the bones in his body, and his knees were knotty, tears were pouring down on his face. It was really ugly, with his mouth open as if screaming in pain. I mean, in that body there was no beauty, the beauty the body of Christ should have. I think that the image of Christ should be beautiful in order to be inspiring. But our Pastor did not remove the crucifix. He must have liked it, although I do not understand how he could. Then listen to this," the lady’s voice changed, full of emotion now. "One day, somebody told me that a young man dying of AIDS, a homosexual, had been the model for the crucifix. One of his friends, probably another homosexual, was inspired to carve that Christ on the cross during the last days of the dying man. Can you imagine that! A homosexual as a model for the body of Jesus! I just couldn’t believe it! It was too awful." She was now outraged.
The heart of that dear woman is filled with sincere charity and compassion for many needy people. Yet, in that same loving heart there is no room for a man dying in the prime of his life. She seemed to imply that because he was a homosexual, he deserved to suffer.
Had the young man not been a homosexual dying of AIDS, but a 'normal' person, would his suffering image be appropriate for our church? We know that AIDS is not a sickness afflicting only homosexuals. In many parts of the world heterosexual men, women and even children are wasting away in great numbers because of the raging AIDS pandemic. Do we believe God punishes them too?
I never read in the Gospels that Jesus spoke of "punishment" for anyone, even sinners. What he taught was love and forgiveness. He even forgave the men who nailed him to the cross. How can we, as committed Christians, believe that sickness, any disease, is "God’s punishment?" Are not all our diseases and our suffering a mystery, and even a contradiction of God’s love?
I believe that as he approached death - invisible to our eyes but real to the young man - the person who inspired the "ugly" Christ on the cross saw next to him the loving Christ who understood and consoled him in his agony. A friend sketched the young man, with his body contorted in those last moments of life. That agony reminded the artist of the agony of Christ and the two - the suffering young man and the suffering Christ - were on the same cross. The loving Christ I know would say: "I am with you, because I love you, you are my brother."
Lucia is a vital, attractive college student who takes her Catholic faith very seriously. The love for Christ is the center of her life. Nevertheless, some time ago, while we were together, I asked her the reason why at times I saw in her eyes an infinite sadness and even fear. Her face seemed worried. "I keep thinking," she answered, "that if Jesus returned to be among us, I am not sure I would recognize him. What would He look like? Would I be too busy and too preoccupied with the many activities in my life? I think of the possibility of not recognizing Him and that makes me sad."
Lucia is right: it will be difficult for any of us to recognize Jesus. He would not necessarily catch our attention. In all likelihood we would turn away from him. He would not be beautiful, not wearing an Armani suit, not driving a red Ferrari. Maybe he would go around in rags, pushing a grocery cart filled with all his belongings. I hope He will not punish us when we do not recognize him, when we despise him because of his skinny body and the tears in his eyes.
Vittoria Bosco is a Notre Dame Professor Emerita. She taught Italian and Spanish.
The BIggest Issue in the World
A few years ago I visited the U.S. embassy in Kenya, shortly before it was bombed by bin Ladin. In the summer of 2000 I went to New York for a month to study the history of Islam, and while I was there I made a visit to the Peace Corps office in the World Trade Center. It was there, after seeing a video about Uzbekistan, that I made up my mind to join the Peace Corps. In August of 2001 I ended up being sent to Uzbekistan with the Peace Corps; I was evacuated from there at the end of September.
I am still trying to sort out just how all of these events fit together. Since I was evacuated from Uzbekistan, many people have said that I must have some good stories and have asked me to describe what it was like there. For some reason I’ve been unable to do that. My brain is flooded with images, but I haven’t been able to put any coherent ideas together about those experiences.
Instead, despite Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and America’s shattering experiences on September 11th, I keep thinking about Africa. In 1997 I went to Zimbabwe to teach, and instead of my time there becoming a more distant memory, I find myself thinking about it again and again.
Of everything that happened that year, I remember especially two funerals. One funeral was the first that I attended in Zimbabwe. When I arrived, dozens of men and women were standing around singing. The man who died had been a nurse, and I was surprised to see his daughter-in-law dressed in the deceased’s work scrubs from the hospital. While others sang and mourned, she made jokes. And when the coffin was about to be taken out of the hut to be buried, she blocked the exit, saying it wasn’t going anywhere until she was paid for all of the cooking she had done over the last few days. I was perplexed by all of this levity on such a mournful occasion, but it was explained to me that daughters-in-law usually take on clownish roles at funerals.
Other events were new to me as well. Pallbearers took the coffin and circled the cluster of huts three times before burial so that the spirit would be disoriented and wouldn’t return to the compound for one year. This gave the family time to settle affairs before the spirit would be invited back to give guidance to the family.
When the coffin was finally lowered into the ground, before any dirt could be thrown on it, a man stood at the edge of the grave and complained loudly about how the deceased owed him money. The burial was delayed by nearly twenty minutes because of his outburst, and I was fuming at his lack of respect. Later it was explained to me that this was the appropriate time to bring such complaints to light. I left this funeral realizing that I needed to be a little more open-minded about what was appropriate at funerals—sorrow is expressed in many ways.
The second funeral was a very different experience — it was for a friend of mine. I had come to know Amai over the months that I worked in the small town of Murombedzi. She tried to help me learn Shona and laughed at my faltering attempts. Before she died she confided in me that she hadn’t been eating, and that her stomach had been hurting her. Her family took her away from the school after she became too sick to work, and about a month later I learned that she had died.
I remember two events especially from the day of her funeral. First, we had to drive about halfway across Zimbabwe to get there, and we hit a cow along the way (the cow survived). The other thing I remember is entering the hut where Amai’s coffin was, and seeing the rough wood and the nails that held it together. This felt so different from the earlier funeral. There was none of the joking. People were crying, and although most individuals knew each other, nobody’s eyes met. There was little celebration — everything was so silent.
I arrived home that night, and the next day I had a break from teaching. As I was sitting there thinking about the funeral, I began to see my last eight months in Zimbabwe in a different light. In both of those funerals, the deceased had died from AIDS. I then thought of one man I had seen on a bus, so tired that he had to rest his head on his wife’s shoulder — I now realized that he probably had AIDS. I thought of the infant that I had seen a faith healer praying over, a baby that could not stop crying — that baby probably had AIDS as well. I also recalled the emaciated man whose hand I had shaken outside of the beer hall; John, the old headmaster who had gone crazy after his wife died, tying pieces of plastic to himself and walking the town at all hours; the funerals I had passed while going for runs through the countryside — all of these were in some way a result of AIDS.
Ian Smith, the leader of the old racist government of Southern Rhodesia, once said that the Shona (the largest ethnic group in the country) were the happiest people on earth. Now I can’t help but think of this as an arrogant and self-serving comment. Certainly Shona culture liked to laugh and sing - and did so resiliently, even under the pressures of racism. Today, however, that culture is under assault by a disease that has attacked 25% of the population, including the most productive members of society. Although the Shona display their feelings in ways different from Americans, they and millions of Africans are walking around their continent burdened with an infinite sorrow.
Just as in the aftermath of my visit to Uzbekistan, when I returned from Zimbabwe I couldn’t talk about it, though for different reasons. Journeys are supposed to bring enlightenment; important lessons are supposed to be learned. But all I felt was anger, frustration, and disappointment with myself. I hadn’t expected that my experience of Zimbabwe would leave me depressed. But now I realize that this was really the only way I could react, and that it was the appropriate response.
To return to the current USA crisis: I understand that this time after September 11 is one of the bleakest periods in our history. We were assaulted, and we must go through a period of mourniing. Nevertheless a broader perspective is required. While Africa’s AIDS crisis might not be a pressing issue for us right now, I believe it is already the worlds most devastating calamity, a pandemic that I hope Americans will eventually respond to with determination, giving it the highest priority.
Will Clark is an alumnus of Notre Dame.
Jacques Maritain, the renowned French Catholic philosopher for whom the Notre Dame Maritain Center is named, had a profoundly important influence on the intellectual and spiritual life of the Catholic world from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day, especially in America. He was professor at Princeton from 1948 to 1960. Many of his ideas were incorporated into the documents of the Second Vatican Council, for example, the separation of Church and State, the inviolability of the conscience of each person, pluralism and tolerance, economic justice and many others. At the end of the Council, it was to him that Pope Paul VI entrusted the message of the Church to the intellectuals of the world.
An indication of this importance is the persistence of regular and virulent attacks leveled against him in the course of his life especially from the political and religious far Right. The first series of these attacks came from members and supporters of the ultra-nationalist and fiercely anti-Semitic movement Action Français because Maritain supported Pius XI’s condemnation of that movement. The second great crusade against Maritain was occasioned by his book Integral Humanism which made a clear distinction between the sacred and the secular, a distinction which entailed the separation of Church and State, as well as by his position on the Spanish Civil War which he refused to recognize as a holy war led by Franco and the Spanish Church.
The third crusade started with an attack in 1942 from Canada by a Charles de Koninck who claimed that the degree of freedom of religion and of conscience that Maritain accorded to the human person compromised the common good of both the State and the Church. The attack by de Koninck was relayed a year later to South America, especially Argentina where Julio Mienvielle published De Lamennais à Maritain in 1945. This was carried to Rome for the consistory by the secretary of the Argentine Cardinal and judiciously circulated in Rome while Maritain was ambassdor of France to the Vatican.
Such concerted assaults on Maritain have not ceased, but the methods of attack have changed somewhat. Select quotations from Maritain taken out of context are still used to bolster an ideological position, but when the specious use of these texts is pointed out and confirmed by other texts from Maritain, then the attacks turn to denigration. For example, some years ago Michael Novak tried to paint Maritain as the patron saint of American Democratic Capitalism, by quotations out of context from Reflections on America. When the spuriousness of this assertion was made evident by putting the quotes back into context and by the publication of “A Society without Money”, an essay that Maritain finished the night before he died, the publication of this essay was condemned for “exposing Maritain in the nakedness of his senility”.
In 1997 Jean-Luc Barré published a biography of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain (Jacques et Raissa Maritain, les Mendiants du Ciel). It was widely and very favorably reviewed in the French press and received the Prix de la Biographie de l’Académie française as well as the Grand Prix Catholique de Litérature. These are not insignificant awards. In 1998 Notre Dame’s Review of Politics published a review of this biography in its Winter issue. The author of the review, in reading the biography, gives the impression of having suddenly discovered a Maritain he never really knew and whom he suddenly finds quite distasteful. The review seems to have given him the occasion to vent his personal prejudices through ambiguous innuendoes and snide, denigrating remarks.
After a few general remarks about Barré’s book and after pointing out justly the lack of details about Maritain’s American period, the reviewer lists a series of questions about Maritain that Barré does not answer to his satisfaction and then passes a series of personal judgments on Maritain that reveal, according to a French Maritain scholar who read the review, “maladresse et. . . ignorance parfois grossière” (i.e., “tactless blunders and an ignorance that is at times crude”). For example in writing of the Villard legacy which, according to the review, “Maritain shared with Maurice Barrès” (actually it was not Maurice Barrès at all, but Charles Maurras), the reviewer faults the biographer for not revealing the amount of the legacy. After telling us that “the two men split half a million francs”, he wonders “Did this legacy make Maritain independently wealthy? Was it merely a comfortable adjunct? Does it explain his lifelong reluctance to be identified with an academic post?” This shows not only “ignorance grossière” but also, in my opinion, culpable ignorance. Maritain was never independently wealthy. The small inheritance he received from his father he used to get married and to pay for lodgings in Versailles. The rest he gave away to Péguy to help finance Les Cahiers de la quinzaine, to the painter Georges Rouault to help him out in the poverty of his early career, and to others. The Villard legacy he used to help fund La Revue universelle, to purchase the famous villa at Meudon for the meetings of the Cercle Thomiste, to pay off the debts of some of his friends who were in financial difficulty, and in general to help those around him, as is shown by the many letters of request and of thanks that he received. So much so, that in the 1930’s the Grunelius family bought the house in Meudon secretly from Maritain and left its use entirely to Jacques and Raïssa in order to assure them some financial liquidity.
As for his “reluctance to become identified with an academic post”, this expression of the reviewer shows an ignorance of the academic situation in the anti-clerical French Republic of the early 1900’s and of the academic possibilities for a Catholic Thomist at that time. But then, he did actually have an academic post --at the Institut Catholique in Paris.
During his American period he was not regarded very congenially by the philosophy departments of American academia, except for a few Catholic universities. His academic post at Princeton was a special post created by President Dodds, financed, I have heard, not by departmental or university funds, but by outside donations from Jews because of what Maritain had done for the Jews during the Second World War.
The reviewer is puzzled that Barré left uncommented “the fact that the Maritains were in retreat on the Isle of Wight at the outset of World War I during the bloody days when Péguy and others of their friends fell.” Actually the Maritains were “making a retreat” with the Benedictines of Solesmes who were in exile on the Isle of Wight because of the anti-clerical laws. If the expression “in retreat” along with the rest of the sentence was meant to suggest, by judicious innuendo, that Maritain was a draft-dodger, the facts show the contrary. If the reviewer had read with a minimum of care the book he was pretending to review, he would have found out from Barré that as soon as the War began, Maritain, on his return from the Isle of Wight presented himself to his draft board but was rejected for health reasons. Three years later, during those bloody days of 1917, he was conscripted and sent to a unit of the 81st heavy artillery at Versailles. After three medical examinations he was again declared unfit for military service and sent home. If the reviewer had even just looked at the illustrations in the book he would have seen a photograph of Maritain with his head shaved and dressed in his military uniform.
“After the death of Raïssa,” the reviewer writes, “Jacques returned to France but he no longer played a significant role in French intellectual life.” How then are we to explain the fact that the Peasant of the Garonne and Une Grande amitié (the correspondence between Maritain and Julian Green) became instant best sellers in France, or the fact that Paul VI delivered the message to the intellectuals of the world into the hands of Maritain at the close of the Council? The reviewer continues, “That this quintessential layman should end his life as a professed religious, a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, provides an equivocal final note to his life’s work.” How “equivocal” I would like to know. Is he puzzled that Maritain should take religious vows during his last years; or is it that he took his vows, not in one of the great traditional religious orders, but in a new, simple, revolutionary religious congregation that is devoted exclusively to living with and caring for the poor?
There are other such unfounded and mean-spirited remarks, but space here is limited. Let me just quote a few lines from the last two paragraphs of the review; there is hardly any need of commentary, they are so astonishing.
Maritain “emerges as a puzzling man. There is a good deal of ‘radical chic’ about him. . . I think a case can be made that almost all of Maritain’s excursions into the practical order were disastrous. It was simply not his gift. And yet, in The Peasant of the Garonne he wrote that he had known only three true radicals in his lifetime—Eduardo Frei, Saul Alinsky and himself! This incredible remark, numbering himself with a working politician and an agnostic zealot who devoted his life to social organization with a revolutionary intent, does not argue for much self-knowledge on the part of Maritain. He was a contemplative, an intellectual, a writer. His classroom teaching does not loom large in his career. Even presuming that making it into the ranks of radicals is desirable, Maritain does not qualify. He should not be taken seriously in his Walter Mitty guise.
(And the final sentence of this astounding review) “. . . He careened from Right to Left and back again; his gyroscope worked only when he was in his study or on his knees. His reputation will continue to expand, despite not because of his delusions about himself as a man of action.”
Who would write such a review? It may come as a surprise to learn that the reviewer is the Director of the Notre Dame Maritain Center. Poor Maritain! With friends like this, who needs enemies; but then, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Christ tells us that a man’s worst enemies will be those of his own household. (Mt. 10:36)
We can imagine what the old friends of Maritain would have thought of this display: old friends like Father Leo Ward, Joe Evans, George N. Schuster, Donald Gallagher, Bishop John Wright, Yves Simon, John U. Nef, Mortimer Adler, Charlie O’Donnell, Dorothy Day, Wallace Fowlie, Thomas Merton, John Howard Griffin; Henry Bars, and so many others. But I can tell you what friends of Maritain still with us today think. We have already heard what a leading French Maritain scholar said about “tactless blunders and an ignorance that is often crude”. He found the review “blessante” (hurtful or cutting) with regard to Maritain. In my opinion, this ignorance is not only “grossière”, but “vincible” as well, and therefore “culpable”.
Another French scholar noted the very “disagreeable tone” of the review. “There is not the slightest sympathy “ or good feeling toward Maritain. “Whatever is he (the reviewer) doing in that position at Notre Dame?” An Italian Maritain scholar claims that this review “is in essence the antithesis of what Maritain preached all his lifelong. . . Let me know whether this ‘affair’ has been solved”, he wrote.
There has been reaction too from American scholars who have seen the review. One member of the AMA wrote that “all true Maritainistes will find some way of interpreting McInerny’s review as either gross ignorance or confusion, since the apparent pusillanimity toward Jacques Maritain could not possibly be simple meanness.” When I consulted a colleague at Notre Dame who is a great admirer of Maritain, he wrote “. . . do not answer ideologues; it’s not worth the trouble.” But then Msgr. George Higgins, the recipient of last year’s Laetare Medal at Notre Dame, said that this review had to be answered publicly. Dr. Martin Marty, emeritus of the Chicago Divinity School, wrote: “[This] review is simply bizarre and lacks integrity. I hope someone finds some place to respond. I wonder whether Jacques Maritain’s occasional “zags” to the left is what offended Ralph McInerny. Does RM know that “radical” Saul Alinsky had a strong and acknowledged influence on Milan’s cardinal, the future Pope Paul VI?”
I have followed the advice of these last two and this is one response to that review. The Director of the Maritain Archives in France sent a letter to the American Maritain Association meeting last year at Notre Dame seeking closer cooperation between the French and the American Maritain associations. This is an important step and it is imperative that the American Maritain Association make the proper response to that invitation. Enormous work is being done on Maritain in France. The 25-year restriction on the publication of certain documents is now past, and Maritain scholars are mining this mother lode of information.
But a Jesuit Maritain scholar who was at Notre Dame a few years ago and is now working on a book and articles on Maritain wrote me in July of his conversations with Maritain scholars while he was doing research in France. He wrote: “I remember being struck by a comment: ‘we’ [the French], he said, have no money, but at least we do not distort Maritain; ‘you’ [he mostly meant the Maritain Association, I believe] have so much money and produce annual volumes about him but you distort him, turning a man of the Left [ if anything] to a man of the extreme Right.” Now this is a mistaken perception, at least partially mistaken, and dates back to the days when Catholicism in Crisis (now Crisis) was published by the Notre Dame Maritain Center. There is, it seems to me, a rather general impression in Europe that the American Maritain Association and the ND Maritain Center are one and the same. This is a perception that must be corrected where necessary, if there is to be any fruitful cooperation between European and American Maritain scholars. The American Maritain Association may very well risk being marginalized with respect to European Maritain scholars, just as the Maritain Center has in fact become very marginalized at the University of Notre Dame.
Perhaps it would be best to apply to all of this the Chinese proverb that Maritain used at the beginning of the Peasant of the Garonne: Ne prenez jamais la bêtise trop au sérieux (Never take stupidity too seriously).
Bernard Doering is Professor Emeritus of Romance Languages and Literatures at Notre Dame.
Lynne Cheney's War on Freedom of Speech
With the USA Patriot Act, the abolishing of lawyer/client confidentiality in prisons, extended police powers, indefinite detentions, and other blatantly unconstitutional acts promoted by Attorney General John Ashcroft, civil liberties and free speech are in more danger than they have ever been. Ashcroft denounced objection to the erosion of our civil liberties by declaring that dissenters "erode our national identity" and "give ammunition to America's enemies." The government is advocating a show of national solidarity and unquestioning obedience to authority during this war on terrorism. American citizens are willingly surrendering many of the rights that the founders of this nation fought and died for in order to ensure national security and prevent further terrorist attacks. It has suddenly become too dangerous to protest the unconstitutionality of such actions. Those who do are criticized as unpatriotic and anti-American. The attacks on civil liberties started with the Fourth Amendment. Now free speech, and with it, academic freedom, are under siege.
The most insidious and profoundly disturbing action to come out of the Ashcroft-instigated assault on civil liberties is a report compiled by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Headed by Dr. Lynne V. Cheney, wife of Vice President Richard B. Cheney, this non-profit organization is "committed to academic freedom and "supports programs and policies that encourage high academic standards, strong curricula, and the free exchange of ideas." However, this report, entitled "Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It", is nothing short of a denial of all that ACTA claims to stand for.
The reactionaries responsible for this report have attacked academics and activists as anti-American for their refusal to blindly support the government in its actions against Afghanistan and condone Ashcroft's assaults on civil liberties. This report criticizes the responses of professors, students, peace activists, and institutions of higher learning to the events of September 11th and after. The ACTA even went so far as to print the statements they deemed unpatriotic along with the names of those who spoke them, but they later removed the names in response to criticism.
The list is nothing short of a blacklist, bearing a strong resemblance to the blacklists of the McCarthy era. 'Seditious' statements such as "It's good for the government to know that there are people who want peace instead of bloodshed. Not all Americans want revenge." and "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." have merited inclusion on this list. One professor compared the attacks on civil liberties in the interest of safeguarding national security with the willingness to condone repressive actions during the McCarthy era in the interest of stopping Communism. This comparison holds an ominous ring of truth to it, and implies a real danger that history could repeat itself.
On October 5, 2001, Dr. Cheney said, "At a time of national crisis, I think it is particularly apparent that we need to encourage the study of our past." I agree wholeheartedly with her. At a time when our civil liberties are in danger, it is vital that we be aware of the ramifications of McCarthyism. Only then can we fully appreciate the disturbing similarities between the Communist "witch hunts" of the McCarthy era and the ACTA's assault on those academics, activists, and students who dared voice their sentiments regarding the events of September 11th and after.
The ACTA eerily resembles the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in its pursuit of those who are allegedly disloyal or unpatriotic. HUAC drew up a blacklist composed of people who supposedly sympathized with Communists or committed other "unpatriotic" acts, but more than blacklisting academics, they chose to focus on entertainment industry professionals. The actors, screenwriters, directors, and others employed in the industry were accused of holding left-wing views, supporting Communists, and associating with Communist groups.
Some of the professionals claimed that the First Amendment gave them the right not to cooperate with HUAC and were sent to jail for contempt. The reputations of those accused, whether guilty or not, were irreparably ruined. Careers that they had worked long and hard to build up were destroyed. Many of them never worked again. Screenwriters were forced to write under assumed names. Those on the ACTA blacklist could very well have to endure injustices similar to these and perhaps lose their careers and see their reputations damaged. In a manner reminiscent of HUAC's circulation of the blacklist among entertainment industry leaders, the ACTA intends to send the list to three thousand trustees at colleges across the country.
Sadly, the bitter legacy of McCarthyism has pervaded the supposedly more enlightened atmosphere of today. Democracy, free speech, and other freedoms that American should stand for were supposedly attacked on September 11th but the greatest attacks have come from within. John Ashcroft and the ACTA have effectively declared war on civil liberties and free speech. It is bitterly ironic that the ACTA can make the claim "It is urgent that students and professors who support the war on terrorism, as well as those who are opposed, not be intimidated." The blacklist and the jingoistic rhetoric contained in the report clearly show who is to be intimidated. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC declared war on freedom of speech, and it appears that the ACTA is continuing this war. Our greatest threat is no longer a band of terrorists but our own government. Perhaps the United States will win this war. But if the right to free speech and civil liberties have been taken away, then we will have achieved only a hollow victory.
The ACTA blacklist has provoked an unprecedented response. Rather than simply protest the action in the form of a letter to the editor or opinion piece, Martin J. Sherwin, Dickson Professor of English and American History at Tufts, has decided to cooperate with the ACTA by tattling on himself. In an open letter to Dr. Lynne Cheney, which appeared as an advertisement in the January 21, 2002 issue of The Nation, Sherwin "turned himself in" for believing that "surrendering the liberties that define the unique character of our nation will not help us to win the war on terrorism."
In his letter, he invites other concerned citizens to submit their names for the ACTA's consideration. The website of The Nation (thenation.com) has created a new section entitled "Tattletales for An Open Society", or TAOS. People who feel that they have behaved in an anti-American manner by criticizing George W. Bush's war on terrorism, calling out for alternatives to war, objecting to unconstitutional attacks on civil liberties, and questioning U.S. foreign policy are invited to publicly turn themselves in to the ACTA.
Professors, teachers, activists, students, and concerned citizens have contributed their names to the list for such reasons as supporting peace and civil liberties and objecting to the government's obsessive insistence that the country present a front of national solidarity and obey authority unquestioningly.
Sherwin believed that being expected to support the government unquestioningly and to refrain from dissent in the interest of presenting a united front against terrorism "will only erode the constitutional foundation upon which the political strength of our nation rests." As an American who is greatly disturbed by the abuses of free speech and other civil liberties committed by John Ashcroft and the ACTA, I have no choice but to turn myself in as well. I hereby submit my name for the ACTA's consideration. I only respectfully request that it be spelled correctly.
Sarah Edwards is a freshman at Saint Mary's and a member of Common Sense.
Fascism in Israel
JERUSALEM: As the cycle of violence consumes more lives, many an Israeli has lost the ability to think clearly. According to a recent poll, which appeared in the country's largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, 74 percent of Israelis are in favor of the government's assassination policy. But when asked if they thought the assassinations were effective, 45 percent claimed that they actually increase Palestinian terrorism, 31 percent stated that they have no effect on terrorism, and only 22 percent averred that assassinations help deter terrorism. Almost half of all Israelis believe that the government's reaction to terrorism is inimical to their own interests, but continue, nonetheless, to support assassinations.
This suggests that a visceral instinct has taken over the national psyche, marginalizing and repressing all forms of political reasoning. Already in the Republic, Plato warns against the ascendancy of feelings and emotions in the public sphere, claiming that these traits characterize the emergence of despotic rule. Many years from now people may ask (like we wonder about other times and places) how it was that the population did not realize what was happening.
Israel's gravest danger today is the one it faces from within: fascism. The fascisization of politics takes many forms, some more apparent than others. Perhaps most conspicuous is the dramatic change in the Israeli landscape, which is currently covered by thousands of billboards, posters, car stickers, and graffiti with slogans like "No Arabs, No Assaults," "Expel Arafat," "Kahana was Right," and "The Criminals of Oslo should be Brought to Justice." Israelis, so it seems, are neither shocked nor alarmed that their slain Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, has been criminalized by his own people.
The Israeli secret service routinely intercepts the emails of peace groups and often obstructs solidarity meetings or protests in the West Bank by declaring whole regions "closed military zones." Peace activists are "invited" to meetings with the secret service, where they are "warned" about their activities. For months, the Gaza Strip has been totally closed off to Israelis from the peace camp--including Knesset Members--and only Jewish settlers, journalists, and soldiers can now enter the region.
Torture, which was finally banned in September 1999 after a decade-long struggle in the Supreme Court, has reemerged with a vengeance. According to the Israeli Public Committee Against Torture, the secret service has not only replaced outlawed methods of torture with new ones, but ill-treatment, police brutality, poor prison conditions and the prohibition of legal counsel are now widespread. B'tselem, the Israeli Human Rights Information Center, has recently documented the torture of Palestinian minors, while the Association of Civil Rights and other organizations have appealed to the Supreme Court against the new practice of holding suspects incommunicado.
The Israeli media, which was well known for its constructive criticism of the establishment, currently spends most of its time reiterating the official line. On the one hand, Jewish opposition leaders and peace groups find it extremely difficult to get their opinions aired. On the other hand, the media is actively assisting the state and its different organs not only in legitimizing its actions, but also in delegitimizing Israel's Palestinian citizens.
The exclusion of almost a fifth of Israel's citizenry from the demos is accomplished by attacking their leaders. Jewish cabinet ministers and other Knesset Members repeatedly refer to the Arab representatives as Arafat's agents, collaborators, and a fifth column. Joining the fanfare, the newspapers, television and radio have not only marked them as "other" but also as enemies, which serves to justify the harassment they are currently undergoing. In the past year, six out of ten Arab Knesset Members from opposition parties have undergone police investigation for "anti-Israeli" statements they made during political speeches, while the immunity of one has already been stripped. Simultaneously, Israel's public radio and television have prevented the Arab leaders from voicing their claims and grievances by ceasing to interview them, and, in this way, have intensified the alienation felt by their constituency.
Darker times are lurking around the corner. The Sharon-led government is determined to wreak havoc on Palestinian Authority infrastructure, destroying the feasibility of an independent Palestinian state in years to come. All the while, the opposition is systematically silenced and security forces given free reign. In order to mount some kind of viable resistance to the dreadful cycle of violence and destruction it is crucial first to recognize that in Israel democracy is also under attack.
Neve Gordon, a Notre Dame graduate, teaches in the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
We Will Not Fight in The Occupied Territories
JERUSALEM: A few months after the 1967 War, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a professor at Hebrew University and a leading Israeli intellectual--who was also an observant Jew--stated that Israel must immediately withdraw from the occupied territories. He argued that the occupation was unjust and would inevitably lead to the oppression and subjugation of another people, and to the corruption if not destruction of Israeli society.
Up until his death in the mid-1990s, he continued to criticize the occupation, using piercing prophetic language to condemn the immorality of Israeli policies. For years, Leibowitz also averred that if 500 reservist soldiers would simultaneously refuse to serve in the territories, the occupation would end.
The 50 combat officers and soldiers, who announced, in an open letter published on January 25 in the Israeli press, that they would no longer serve in the occupied territories, were, in many ways, following Leibowitz's advice (see block text). And indeed, less than a week following the letter's publication, an additional 50 soldiers signed up, among them many sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and even a few colonels (for the full list www.seruv.org).
Concurrently, thousands of Israelis have called a telephone hotline to support the soldiers and to donate money to help them publish ads in local papers. A group of women are now organizing a petition, claiming that reservist men are not the only ones carrying the burdens of occupation, while a number of 12th graders, who will be drafted this coming summer, have also announced that they will not serve in the territories. There is even talk of creating a disabled veteran support group.
The uniqueness and force of the combat soldier's letter, the fact that it has created such a stir both inside the military establishment and society at large, has to do with the profile of the people who initiated it. These are not radical leftists, but are rather affiliated with Israel's political center; they are members of the social elite who characterize themselves as having been "raised upon the principles of Zionism, sacrifice and giving; who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission, light or heavy, in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it."
The hard core group, the organizers, are in their twenties and thirties, have some kind of academic background, and perhaps most importantly were on military duty in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank just a few months ago. They experienced firsthand the effect of the occupation, and no one can tell them that they don't know what is happening in the territories.
Shuki Sadeh, a paratrooper reservist, who was interviewed by the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth, related how once a sniper from one of the outpost killed a young boy at a distance of 150 meters. "What angered me at the time," Sadeh explains, "was that our soldiers said, 'Well, that's another Arab who has disappeared.'"
Ariel Shatil, an artillery master sergeant, was recently on reserve duty in the Gaza Strip. "People say," he told Yedioth Ahronoth, "that 'the Palestinians shoot first and we just respond.'"
"This is not true," Shatil continued, relating how "one officer told his soldiers who were doing guard duty in lookout posts, 'If things are too quite or if you don't feel certain about the situation, just let off a few rounds.'"
"Shots were fired every night." Shatil concluded. "We would start shooting and they would fire back."
The Israeli military has been shaken by the letter--not least because the soldiers are discrediting the Israeli depiction of the conflict and exposing the army's excessive use of force--and is now trying to prevent the "damage" from spreading by punishing the conscientious objectors--striking them where it hurts. Rami Kaplan who signed the letter has been demoted from his position as deputy commander of a reserve tank battalion. The military has notified other signers that they too will be stripped of their command.
Yigal Bronner, a Sanskrit scholar at Tel-Aviv University who serves in a tank unit, was also among the signatories. "It is as if both sides (the military and refusniks) believe Leibowitz's prophecy," he claims, adding, "the prophecy has become some kind of axiom: the soldiers are committed to amassing 500 conscientious objectors, while the Israeli government and military are afraid that if they do the occupation will actually end."
We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission, light or heavy, in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.
We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty all over the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people. We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides.
We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Territories, destroy all the values we had absorbed while growing up in this country.
We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF's human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society.
We, who know that the Territories are not Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated in the end.
We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.
We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.
We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense.
The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose and we shall take no part in them.
Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and can be reached at email@example.com
Huey Freeman: American Hero
On Thanksgiving Day 2001, with the United States in the midst of what polls identify as one of the most popular wars in history and with President Bush's approval ratings hovering around 90 percent, more than 20 million American households opened their daily newspapers to see a little black kid named Huey Freeman leading the pre-turkey prayer.
"Ahem," began the unsmiling youth. "In this time of war against Osama bin Laden and the oppressive Taliban regime, we are thankful that OUR leader isn't the spoiled son of a powerful politician from a wealthy oil family who is supported by religious fundamentalists, operates through clandestine organizations, has no respect for the democratic electoral process, bombs innocents, and uses war to deny people their civil liberties. Amen."
In the whole of American media that day, Huey's was certainly the most pointed and, no doubt, the most effective dissent from the patriotism that dare not speak its mind. And it was not the only day when the self-proclaimed "radical scholar" skewered George W. Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Defense Department, dithering Democrats, frenzied flag-wavers and scaremongering television anchors in what since September 11 has been the most biting and consistent critique of the war and its discontents in the nation's mass media.
The creation of 27-year-old cartoonist Aaron McGruder, Huey Freeman appears daily in The Boondocks, a comic strip featured in 250 of America's largest newspapers, including the Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Philadelphia Inquirer. "There are a lot of newspapers where Aaron's comic strip probably is the only consistent voice of dissent," says Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Joel Pett, whose editorial-page cartoons for the Lexington, Kentucky, Herald-Leader have raised tough questions about the suffering of Afghan civilians and the role the United States has played in spreading terror. "I think that not only is he doing good stuff, the fact that he is on those comics pages makes it important in a way that none of the rest of us could accomplish. He's hooking a whole group of people. He's getting ideas out to people who don't always read the opinion pages. And he's influencing a lot of young people about how it's OK to question their government and the media. When you think about it, what he has done since September 11 has just been incredible."
In recent weeks, McGruder's Huey has grumbled about how it may no longer be legal in John Ashcroft's America to ask whether George W. Bush was actually elected; hiked atop a mountain to yell, "For goodness sake people, it's a recession! Save money this Christmas!"; and repeatedly expressed the view that "Dick Cheney is just plain creepy." And he has listened in disbelief to an "announcement" from the Attorney General that went: "I would like to reassure Congress that my proposed Turban Surveillance Act, which would allow the FBI to covertly plant listening devices in the headgear of suspected terrorists, is in no way meant to single out Arab or Muslim Americans."
At a time when most comedians are still pulling their punchlines, McGruder has gotten plenty of laughs at the expense of the Bush Administration and its policies. But not everyone has been amused. In early October the cartoonist had Huey call the FBI's antiterrorist hotline to report that he had the names of Americans who trained and financed Osama bin Laden. When the FBI agent said that, yes, he wanted the names, Huey began, "All right, let's see, the first one is Reagan. That's R-E-A-G..." This series of strips was pulled from the New York Daily News and Newsday and shuffled off comics pages at other papers. Editors were quick to deny they were censoring The Boondocks, claiming they simply thought McGruder had gotten a little too political. McGruder played the controversy into more laughs. He produced an inane new strip featuring talking patriotic symbols, launching it with a satirical editor's note: "Due to the inappropriate political content of this feature in recent weeks, it is being replaced by 'The Adventures of Flagee and Ribbon,' which we hope will help children understand the complexities of current events. United we stand." Ribbon then declares, "Hey, Flagee, there's a lot of evil out there," to which his compatriot replies, "That's right, Ribbon. Good thing America kicks a lot of *@#!"
McGruder, whose cartoon began appearing nationally in April 1999, says he did not set out to make Huey the nation's No. 1 dissenter. Yes, The Boondocks--which recounts the experiences of Huey and his younger brother, Riley, inner-city youths who move with great trepidation to the suburbs--has always been controversial. Bitingly blunt in its examination of race and class issues, The Boondocks has made more waves more often than any nationally syndicated comic strip since Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury characters declared Nixon aides "Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!" in the Watergate era. "It even got pulled from the Buffalo paper for something involving Santa Claus," recalls McGruder, who grew up listening to rap artists Public Enemy and KRS-One, idolized Berkeley Breathed's politically pointed Bloom County comic strip, took an African-American studies degree from the University of Maryland and started drawing cartoons for the hip-hop magazine The Source.
But the cartoonist knew that the controversy he would stir in the weeks after September 11 would be different from any he had provoked before. What he did not know was that, unlike Trudeau in the Watergate era, he and his preteen characters would challenge a popular President and his policies with little cover from allies in the media or Congress. "Sometimes, I do look around and say to myself, 'Gee, I'm the only one saying some of these things.' That can make you a little paranoid. But I don't think that's a reflection on me so much as it is a reflection on how narrow the discussion has become in most of the media today. The media has become so conglomerated that there really are very few avenues left for people to express dissent," says McGruder. Well aware that he is a young cartoonist--as opposed to a senator or veteran television commentator--McGruder is the first to note, "I should not be the guy right now. I should not be the one who is standing out here saying, 'Hold it. This doesn't make any sense.'... There are a lot of people who do this so much better than I do. I just have the distribution and the opportunity."
When the terrorist planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, McGruder was not thinking about the next turn in his career path; rather, he was doing what Huey and the other Boondocks kids do a lot of: watching television. "I watched five straight days of television. I was shocked by what happened. But I was also shocked by the simplistic nature of a lot of the commentary--this whole 'good' versus 'evil' analysis that sounded like something from fifth grade. And I started to recognize that this was going to be a defining moment in my career," recalls McGruder, who acknowledges that Huey tends to channel his most passionately held views. "I decided that I was going to risk throwing my career away. I absolutely thought that was the risk I was taking."
Why take the risk?
"The Boondocks is not an alternative weekly strip. This is not a website strip. This is in the Washington Post," he explains. "It just seemed like nobody else was going to say the things that needed to be said in the places where I had an opportunity to raise questions about the war--in newspapers that millions of people read every day."
McGruder is not the only cartoonist upholding the craft's honorable tradition of tweaking the powerful. Despite pressure from many editors to narrow the discourse--because, in the words of Soup to Nutz cartoonist and National Cartoonist Society spokesman Rick Stromoski, "sales and subscriptions are down, and papers are afraid of offending their communities and losing even more readers"--a number of editorial-page cartoonists have poked and prodded more than most mainstream journalists. Pulitzer Prize-winner Steve Benson has created a tremendous stir in Phoenix, where his cartoons for the conservative Arizona Republic have attacked "war fever" and mocked superpatriots; angry readers have condemned Benson for what one described as "a vile tirade upon the people of the United States." Kentucky's Joel Pett has wondered aloud whether the antiterrorist cause might be better served by more food drops and fewer bombs. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Tony Auth, the Philadelphia Daily News's Signe Wilkinson and the Sacramento Bee's Rex Babin have savaged the Bush Administration's assaults on civil liberties and decision to rely on military tribunals. And, though far gentler than in his heyday, Trudeau has used his Doonesbury strip--which often appears on editorial pages--to address anti-Arab stereotyping, slack media coverage and the dubious alliances made between the United States and Afghan warlords.
Gary Huck and Mike Konopacki, whose cartoons frequently appear in labor-union publications, have dissected war profiteering by corporations. Ted Rall, who is published in alternative weeklies and a growing number of daily papers, has exposed the excesses of corporate America (one of his cartoons, titled "America's business leaders consider their role in the war," features an executive crowing, "I laid off thousands of people and scored a bailout"); in addition, Rall has filed some of the best war reporting from Afghanistan by an American journalist. And no one has skewered the mindless patriotism of the media better than Dan Perkins, whose Tom Tomorrow strip coined the phrase "We must dismantle our democracy in order to save it."
But while many editorial cartoons are syndicated, none reach the audience that The Boondocks does daily. Thus when Huey started raising a ruckus, a lot of people noticed. One night last fall, when the LA-based cartoonist was visiting his parents in Maryland, McGruder sat down with Mom and Dad to watch a segment on ABC's Nightline portray him as one of America's most controversial commentators. Despite his off-message message, offers keep coming McGruder's way from Hollywood; he's developing an animated version of The Boondocks that's expected to show up as a network series this fall, and he's writing movie scripts--including one about George W. Bush's theft of the 2000 election. "If we can get it made, it will be a miracle," jokes McGruder, who calls Bush "our almost-elected leader." Weighing the continued success of The Boondocks and his Hollywood options against the recent controversy, McGruder says, "I can't say I've suffered. A few papers pulled [the strip] but most of them haven't. And the publicity has just drawn attention to what I'm doing."
Indeed, McGruder wonders why so few successful artists speak out about race, class, war and Bush's court-ordered presidency. "I understand that in a capitalist society, anger at the system is a luxury. But some people are on top of the system. Why don't they speak out?" he asks. "The only time I really get upset is when I see someone like Oprah [Winfrey], who has the money, who has the power, and I think, 'What is holding you back from changing the world, from changing the world in a drastic way?'" Adds McGruder, who has frequently used The Boondocks to criticize African-American celebrities who take the cautious route, "Some of these people clearly decided, at some point, not to take any risks. I can't do that." So Huey Freeman refuses to shut up. "I'm going to stay cynical, resist this bandwagon war," the cartoon character told his pal Caesar in a recent strip. "Sure, my kind may be obsolete. But so what?"
Actually, McGruder says, he doesn't believe Huey's thinking--or his own--to be obsolete, or even all that radical. "I really think that what I am doing with The Boondocks is common sense. It's just that when no one in a position to be heard is speaking out, common sense seems radical," he says, sounding distinctly like Huey as he adds, "How's that for irony: We live in a time when common-sense statements seem radical."
© The Nation, January 28, 2002
25 Million and Counting...
In the beginning, the response to AIDS in the United States was calculated politically, based on its effect on the white, middle-class “general population.” After nearly a decade of stabilizing infection rates, AIDS is now on the rise in black and latino gay and straight populations, and among prisoners. Globally in 2002, AIDS predominantly affects non-white and poor people: a deadly demographic combination, made potent by racism and exploitative socioeconomic structures. To address AIDS seriously requires relentless undermining of racism, heterosexism, and poverty at all levels of government and society. This means finding ways to combat homelessness, drug-abuse, sexual taboos, and inequalities in medical access in ways much different from prevailing methods. In short, the response requires a deep and relentless attack on all the prejudices, ideologies, and structures that inhibit human development, health, and liberty.
The status on March 7, 1983, was “1,112 and Counting…,” the title of the New York Native article on AIDS by gay activist and playwright Larry Kramer. It was a lonely voice of resistance and a call to action in an atmosphere of denials and delays, of public and private shame and fear. Such denials and shame had cost the lives of 1,112 (by official count) AIDS patients up to the time, with so many more to follow until the disease was addressed seriously in the United States. Today, the death toll of AIDS has reached 25 million, with at least 40 million people alive with HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean nations, India, Eastern Europe and Russia are now only beginning to comprehend the magnitude of the disease’s spread into their populations. Millions of lives now and many more in the foreseeable future are in jeopardy because of hesitations, denials, and excuses similar to those that plagued the U.S. political and medical establishments in the early 1980s, while the first thousands of people—gay, poor, and marginalized—died horrific deaths.
Tremendous and deep homophobia, and a general disregard for the poor, informed the early U.S. response to the epidemic. Only when AIDS threatened people other than gays, the poor, and drug users, did it register as a medical and political crisis. Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler made a telling comment in 1985: “We must conquer AIDS before it affects the heterosexual population and the general population.” In the 1980s, in the ostensibly most advanced and civilized nation on earth—with more than adequate financial and medical resources—gay, poor, and other marginalized citizens became expendable in the face of a new disease. The same repugnant verdict can be cast today with regard to our response to the worldwide epidemic. All the more saddening to read in the prologue of Randy Shilt’s And the Band Played On, that he wrote the story of the early U.S. AIDS response because, “It is a tale that bears telling, so that it will never happen again, to any people, anywhere.” 25 million deaths later, the sad tale continues.
The international version of the tale bears striking resemblance to the early U.S. version. Lack of political will combines with a resistant medical establishment and deeply entrenched cultural prejudices and practices to produce what Dr. Rafael Campo calls a sense of “cumulative hopelessness.” Contributing to this is an institutionalized silence, which has been the modus operandi on AIDS in most places until very recently. For instance, the U.S. walkout of the Durban conference on racism last summer strikes one as an embarrassing example of the U.S. obstinacy and silence in tackling racism and its attendant structures with real vigor, thus buttressing the racist undertones of foreign policy. Along with many nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations has been pressing strong western governments to be proactive in fighting AIDS worldwide. Kofi Annan has asked for a $10 billion per year AIDS fund to attack the disease globally. The U.S. has pledged $200 million, much less than the billions it needs to provide.
The silence in many parts of the world takes various forms, and a particularly destructive one is in refusing to address sexuality with candor. In Russia, the communist party and the Orthodox Church have been in coalition to promote an anti-sex agenda that is ignorant of the realities of HIV transmission. In Croatia, and other Catholic nations of Eastern Europe and elsewhere, the Catholic Church has aligned itself with near-certain death, similarly ignorant of (or is it willfully disregarding of?) sexual practices and cultural norms, including sexual violence, misogyny, and heterosexism. The Church’s insistence on abstinency outside of marriage, and opposition to family planning, birth control, condoms, abortion, and homosexuality add up to a fearful policy of aiding and abetting AIDS transmission.
But the most pernicious form of silence that affects AIDS widely and dramatically concerns what a July 2001 Nation article termed “Global Apartheid.” It is a term, say its authors, which “clearly defines what is fundamentally unacceptable about the current system, strips it of the aura of inevitability and puts global justice and democracy on the agenda as the requirements for its transformation.” Global Apartheid is all about the gross inequalities in access to health care and basic survival needs that characterize the “globalized” world. The article’s authors contend that “health is the human right that in practice most visibly marks distinctions of race, or of economic or social condition.” The evidence supporting this contention is readily found, most demonstrably in AIDS.
The models of AIDS transmission that emphasize behavioral patterns miss the larger picture of global AIDS: that vulnerability to the disease is first and foremost a function of unequal access to health care and basic needs—a problem of poverty—in tandem with unequal relations between men and women. As the Nation article states, both rich and poor populations have high rates of “unprotected multipartnered sexual activity. Populations in poverty are also characterized by malnutrition, parasite infection and lack of access to medical care [including condoms] and antibiotics for bacterial STDs, which are important co-factors for transmission of HIV.” The article continues, noting that “poverty and gender inequality fuel the pandemic in Africa. Malnutrition reduces resistance to disease. Migrant labor patterns raise the risk of infection,” and in developing nations everywhere, “unsustainable debt and weakened health systems result in large part from economic policy conditions imposed by international creditors during the past two decades.” The problem is at least as much structural as it is cultural or behavioral, and the international forces and institutions of globalization are deeply implicated.
Thus, the only long-term framework for action that takes the contexts of AIDS seriously will consist in large part of global socioeconomic reforms—not in the direction of increased corporate sovereignty, but in the direction of equalizing access to basic resources and development opportunities that are locally sustainable and thoroughly anti-racist. It is a tremendous order.
Unlike the U.S. in the 1980s and early 90s, where gay political activism became well organized and could fight for the changes and make the connections necessary to save the gay community (and the nation) from all-out disaster, the places where AIDS is now hitting hardest around the world are some of the poorest, and are least likely to have cultivated the strong skills and resources in their populations necessary to build such vital communities and networks of resistance.
Brazil, however, has been an example of success despite the tremendous hurdles in its path. The reason for its success lies in strong community-building initiatives and strong political will to defy heavy international corporate and political pressures. Brazil has successfully manufactured generic AIDS drugs, and has developed a competent and successful education and prevention program. As the New York Times reported in its coverage of Brazil’s program in January 2001, “The treatment and prevention programs complement each other—another powerful reason to begin treating AIDS in poor countries. Treating AIDS helps to limit its spread, as people with a lower viral load are less contagious. The availability of lifesaving treatment is also a powerful lure for people to get an AIDS test.” Brazil’s program has been so successful that in 2000 it had less than one half as many AIDS patients than was predicted in 1994, when the World Bank was forecasting the economic problems ahead for Brazil with its burgeoning AIDS problem. Now disaster has turned to manageable crisis—a reality that is quite miraculous given the obstacles in Brazil’s path in 1994.
This past summer, the U.S. dropped its World Trade Organization case against Brazil, which had threatened to punish the country for its successful handling of the crisis. The U.S., prodded by pharmaceutical companies upset by Brazil’s disregarding of their AIDS treatment patents, brought Brazil to a WTO dispute panel. After tremendous international pressure on the U.S. and medicine companies by various NGO’s and governments, the U.S. dropped the challenge. But that action doesn’t signal any major shift in priorities or the status quo. Now the war on terrorism has pushed most previous domestic and international issues offstage. If U.S. support for the worldwide struggle against AIDS was weak pre-9/11, post-9/11 has shown it to be a nonissue.
HIV transmission and AIDS is literally a matter of life and death for growing millions of human beings around the world. As the gay community demonstrated in the U.S. in the 1980s, and Brazil has shown in the 90s, it is possible to make both the policy and perception changes that are necessary to combat AIDS. The international community has the knowledge and resources to prevent further catastrophe, and has the moral obligation to do so. Furthermore, a commitment to justice on the part of privileged nations, such as ours, demands that globalization becomes a broadening and strengthening of democracy, citizenship, and participation, replacing the structures and practices of “global apartheid.”
The Progressive recently asked the right question about AIDS, and answered truthfully: “What is our moral obligation? It is to assist our neighbors and our fellow human beings. To attack the AIDS plague will mean debt forgiveness, massive public funding for public health education, condom distribution, needle exchanges, and widespread, cheap distribution of drugs to those who are infected with HIV.” All this needs tremendous leadership by the nations most equipped to lead—the U.S., Western Europe, Brazil—to overcome entrenched corruption, racism, heterosexism, and plain ignorance. AIDS is a problem of organized complexity, therefore its resolution will not be monolithic or inert: it must resolve differential, localized needs in appropriate ways. But the solutions are there to be found, and places like Brazil should serve as models. The U.S. and Europe must follow that lead. The price of failure to do so is continued mass death, with blood on all of our privileged hands in the “civilized” world.
Paul Ranogajec is a fourth year architecture and peace studies student at Notre Dame and editor of Common Sense.
A New Current in Palestine
After sixteen months, the Palestinian intifada has little to show for itself politically, despite the remarkable fortitude of a militarily occupied, poorly armed, poorly led and still dispossessed people who have defied the pitiless ravages of Israel's war machine. In the United States the government and, with a handful of exceptions, the independent media have echoed each other in harping on Palestinian violence and terror, with no attention at all paid to the thirty-five-year-old Israeli military occupation, the longest in modern history. As a result, official US condemnations of Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority since September 11 as harboring and even sponsoring terrorism have coldly reinforced the Sharon government's preposterous claim that Israel is the victim and the Palestinians the aggressors in the four-decade war that the Israeli army has waged against civilians, property and institutions without mercy or discrimination. The result today is that the Palestinians are locked up in 220 ghettos controlled by the army; Merkava tanks and American-supplied Apache helicopters and F-16s mow down people, houses, olive groves and fields on a daily basis; schools and universities as well as businesses and civil institutions are totally disrupted; hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed and about 20,000 injured; Israel's assassinations of Palestinian leaders continue; and unemployment and poverty stand at about 50 percent--all this while Gen. Anthony Zinni drones on about Palestinian violence to the wretched Arafat, who can't even leave his office in Ramallah because he is imprisoned there by Israeli tanks, while his several tattered security forces scamper about trying to survive the destruction of their offices and barracks.
To make matters worse, the Palestinian Islamists have played into Israel's relentless propaganda mills and its ever-ready military by occasional bursts of wantonly barbaric suicide bombings that finally forced Arafat in mid-December to turn his crippled security forces against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, arresting militants, closing offices, occasionally firing at and killing demonstrators. Every demand that Sharon makes, Arafat hastens to fulfill, even as Sharon makes still another one, provokes an incident or simply says--with US backing--that he is unsatisfied, that Arafat remains an irrelevant terrorist (whom he sadistically forbade from attending Christmas services in Bethlehem) whose main purpose in life is to kill Jews. To these logic-defying congeries of brutal assaults on the Palestinians, on the man who for better or worse is their leader and on their already humiliated national existence, Arafat's baffling response has been to keep asking for a return to negotiations, as if Sharon's transparent campaign against even the possibility of negotiations weren't actually happening, and as if the whole idea of the Oslo peace process hadn't already evaporated. What surprises me is that except for a small number of Israelis (most recently David Grossman), no one comes out and says openly that Palestinians are being persecuted by Israel.
A closer look at the Palestinian reality tells a somewhat more encouraging story. Recent polls show that between them, Arafat and his Islamist opponents (who refer to themselves unjustly as the resistance) get somewhere between 40 and 45 percent popular approval. This means that a silent majority of Palestinians is neither for the Authority's misplaced trust in Oslo (or for its lawless regime of corruption and repression) nor for Islamist violence. Ever the resourceful tactician, Arafat has countered by delegating Dr. Sari Nusseibeh--a Jerusalem notable, president of Al-Quds University and Fatah stalwart--to make trial-balloon speeches suggesting that if Israel were to be just a little nicer, the Palestinians might give up their right of return. In addition, a slew of Palestinian personalities close to the Authority (or, more accurately, whose activities have never been independent of the Authority) have signed statements and gone on tour with Israeli peace activists who are either out of power or otherwise seem ineffective as well as discredited. These dispiriting exercises are supposed to show the world that Palestinians are willing to make peace at any price, even to accommodate the military occupation. Arafat is still undefeated so far as his unquenchable eagerness to stay in power is concerned.
Yet at some distance from all this, a new secular nationalist current is slowly emerging. It's too soon to call this a party or a bloc, but it is now a visible group with true independence and popular status. It counts Dr. Haidar Abdel Shafi and Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi (not to be confused with his distant relative, Fatah militia activist Marwan Barghouti) among them, along with Ibrahim Dakkak, professors Ziad Abu Amr, Mamdouh Al-Aker, Ahmad Harb, Ali Jarbawi, Fouad Moughrabi, legislative council members Rawiya Al-Shawa and Kamal Shirafi, writers Hassan Khadr and Mahmoud Darwish, Raja Shehadeh, Rima Tarazi, Ghassan Al-Khatib, Naseer Aruri, Elia Zureik and myself. In mid-December, we issued a collective statement that was well covered in the Arab and European media (it went unmentioned in the United States) calling for Palestinian unity and resistance and the unconditional end of Israeli military occupation, while keeping deliberately silent about returning to Oslo. We believe that negotiating an improvement in the occupation is tantamount to prolonging it. Peace can come only after the occupation ends. The declaration's boldest sections focus on the need to improve the internal Palestinian situation, above all to strengthen democracy, rectify the decision-making process (which is totally controlled by Arafat and his men), assert the need to restore the law's sovereignty and an independent judiciary, prevent the further misuse of public funds and consolidate the functions of public institutions so as to give every citizen confidence in those that are expressly designed for public service. The final and most decisive demand is a call for new parliamentary elections.
However else this declaration may have been read, the fact that so many prominent independents--with, for the most part, functioning health, educational, professional and labor organizations as their base--have said these things was lost neither on other Palestinians (who saw it as the most trenchant critique yet of the Arafat regime) nor on the Israeli military. In addition, just as the Authority jumped to obey Sharon and Bush by rounding up the usual Islamist suspects, Dr. Barghouthi launched the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement, comprising about 550 European observers (several of them European Parliament members) who flew in at their own expense. With them was a well-disciplined band of young Palestinians who, while disrupting Israeli troop and settler movement along with the Europeans, prevented rock-throwing or shooting from the Palestinian side. This effectively froze out the Authority and the Islamists, and set the agenda for making Israel's occupation itself the focus of attention. All this occurred while the United States was vetoing a Security Council resolution mandating an international group of unarmed observers to interpose themselves between the Israeli army and defenseless Palestinian civilians.
The first result of this was that on January 2, after Barghouthi held a press conference with about twenty Europeans in East Jerusalem, the Israelis arrested, detained and interrogated him twice, breaking his knee with rifle butts and injuring his head, on the pretext that he was disturbing the peace and had illegally entered Jerusalem (even though he was born there and has a medical permit to enter). None of this has deterred him or his supporters from continuing the nonviolent struggle, which, I think, is certain to take control of the already too militarized intifada, center it nationally on ending occupation and settlements, and steer Palestinians toward statehood and peace. Israel has more to fear from someone like Barghouthi, who is a self-possessed, rational and respected Palestinian, than from the bearded Islamic radicals that Sharon loves to misrepresent as Israel's quintessential terrorist threat. All they do is arrest him, which is typical of Sharon's bankrupt policy.
So where are Israeli and American liberals, so quick to condemn violence while saying little about the disgraceful and criminal occupation itself? I seriously suggest that they join brave activists like Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Louisa Morgantini, an Italian member of the European Parliament, at the barricades (literal and figurative), stand side by side with this major new secular Palestinian initiative and start protesting the Israeli military methods that are directly subsidized by taxpayers and their dearly bought silence. Having for a year wrung their collective hands and complained about the absence of a Palestinian peace movement (since when does a militarily occupied people have responsibility for a peace movement?), the alleged peaceniks who can actually influence Israel's military have a clear political duty to organize against the occupation right now, unconditionally and without unseemly demands on the already laden Palestinians.
Some of them have. Several hundred Israeli reservists have refused military duty in the territories, and a whole spectrum of journalists, activists, academics and writers (including Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, David Grossman, Yitzhak Laor, Ilan Pappé, Danny Rabinowitz and Uri Avnery) have kept up a steady attack on the criminal futility of Sharon's campaign against the Palestinian people. Ideally, there should be a similar chorus in the United States, where, except for a tiny number of Jewish voices making public their outrage at Israel's occupation, there is far too much complicity and drumbeating. The Israeli lobby has been temporarily successful in identifying the war against bin Laden with Sharon's single-minded, collective assault on Arafat and his people. Unfortunately, the Arab-American community is both too small and beleaguered as it tries to fend off the ever-expanding Ashcroft dragnet, racial profiling and curtailment of civil liberties.
Most urgently needed, therefore, is coordination among the various secular groups that support Palestinians, a people against whose mere presence geographical dispersion (even more than Israeli depredations) is the major obstacle. To end the occupation and all that has gone with it is a clear enough imperative. Now let us do it.
© Edward W. Said, 2001. The Nation.
Israeli Revenge Forces
We are the strong ones, we are the bad ones, we are the occupiers, we are the settlers, we deny them livelihood, freedom of movement, health care, food, water, land, houses, a state, life. He who is willing to serve in an army which deprives civilians of all that, must be made of stone.
The commander of the infamous Unit 101 is now Prime Minister, and it is he who dictates to the cabinet a policy of revenge operations, the style of the 1950s. Those who voted for him for Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, the commander of the ruthless act committed by Israeli soldiers in Kfar Kibiya, must be very pleased with their choice.
In October 1953, in the Jordanian village of Kibiya, the IDF (the military, i.e., Israeli Defense Force) avenged the killing of Susan Kenyas and her two children. Unit 101 under the command of Ariel Sharon blew up 45 of the village's homes, killing 69 villagers: men, women, and children. The military insisted that the soldiers presumed the houses empty when they blew them up. But afterwards it was learned that the bodies of those killed were riddled with bullets, and that grenades were thrown into the homes prior to laying the explosives. Sharon's orders to his soldiers were definitively clear: "The objective--attack Kfar Kibiya, conquer, and cause maximum harm to persons and property . . ." Our prime minister-commander of unit 101, praiseworthy for iniquity, continues to design vengeful acts like those of the 1950s, but now as government policy: when no terrorist attacks occur to revenge, the cabinet fabricates excuses for revenge; when there is no excuse, it provokes; when even provocation fails to work, we revenge the assumed intention to murder Jews.
"This calm is artificial", says the Israeli government after a month of cease-fire. "The Palestinians are abstaining from violence now because they are building up their forces for the next terrorist attack." "Palestinian cessation of hostilities is never real cessation." Then, to make sure that calm will not last, there is always an assassination on hand to bring about the next terrorist attack. Then once again innocent citizens are killed, and once again Sharon can say "we knew the cease fire was a bluff." And once again the Chief-of-Staff foresees what every kindergarten child by now anticipates: "a wave of terror is expected."
Revenge has become a way of life here, a unifying agent, the basis of the consensus, and a staple for IDF and Shin Beth (General Security Services) operations. The strategy is to preclude at all costs a cease fire--to insist on 7 days of quiet as a criterion for deliberations, yet to find even 70 days insufficient. When four soldiers from the Bedouin unit were killed, the IDF chose soldiers from that unit to help demolish the refugees‚ homes in Rafah. If that is not revenge, in the most primitive sense of the word, then what is '"revenge"? Even soldiers from the unit described it as "revenge" to a reporter from Yedioth Ahronoth. Parents of the soldiers killed likewise interpreted the demolitions as an act of retribution. And one of the bereaved parents begged the government to abstain from revenge. But Sharon's and Ben Eliezer's ears are deaf to defeatist words as those.
Were Sharon to reveal his true intentions to the public, he would not remain a week in office. It is not by chance that he refuses interviews and prefers instead to air but the briefest of statements and reactions. Were Sharon to say, "For me, the war of independence has not ended. I'll pummel the Palestinians until not one will want an independent state, until all will become docile and submissive"--were Sharon to reveal this, he would be left with a handful of fanatics who have followed him faithfully from the days of the assassinations and sanitizations in Gaza during the 70s; the rest of the public would hide from him. But Sharon is too clever to tell the truth. He knows how to work deceit on a public tired of terror, on Barak's disappointed, on young soldiers and eager officers, on unthinking patriots who can't distinguish between what is good for Sharon and what is good for Israel.
In a radio interview, a paratroop officer in the reserves says," I saw those houses with my own eyes just a month ago when I was on reserve duty in Rafah, and they were empty," insisting that we can believe him, because he is neither "left wing" nor "right wing," being instead apolitical. How much stupidity and naivety is concealed in that officer's statement and in his pride towards his fellow reservists who came when called up for their stint "without deserting their comrades"!
What does it mean "the houses were empty"? And if they were empty, does that signify that they were ownerless? Inside each, was there no television set, bed, table, clothes belonging to someone who ran away for a moment, a perpetual refugee that in a moment would return? The bits of crumbling stone that house the refugees of 1948 (which they enlarge whenever they have a little extra cash) are not, in the eyes of that apolitical paratrooper, worthy of being called homes. Did this apolitical paratrooper bother to ask himself where those who deserted the homes a minute ago, an hour ago, a week ago went to? Did they not run away from him? Could he imagine that they went to live in penthouses in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or anywhere?
But the brain-washed will challenge, "why blame this officer? He was merely carrying out his duty." Blame them indeed! Such apolitical officers--who are neither right wing nor left wing, who do not avoid call-ups to reserve duty, who are every prime minister's wet dream--enable the government to pull off anything it wants. Their pliant minds imbibe every assessment made by intelligence, every unnecessary war, every insane objective, every fart ejected by the experts and the advisors on terrorism.
Occupation? What Occupation?
An officer like this sees no further than the military target opposite him. The overall picture is beyond his vision. "Occupation? What occupation?" the officer pleads. "Occupation is a political term, but I was called up to make sure that arms would not be smuggled from the Egyptian side of Rafah into the Palestinian side; if carrying this out demands demolishing several tens of houses, we have no choice but to do it. Pride glows in this officer for obeying the policies of his elected government and for carrying out orders of his officers, who never demand that he to do anything at odds with his conscience, for, after all, he has no opinions, as he has said, and he trusts theirs. He is certain that those on top know that it‚s essential to demolish several rows of houses so as to protect the post he's stationed at, and what could be more important than the post? His radio interview concludes with his inviting "all those who talk about war crimes to spend one night at my military post to see how tough it is."
What makes it so tough? The fact that the IDF is there to protect the settlements in the Rafah area. Instead, the government should dismantle them, every last one of them and establish a tripartite border--Israel-Palestine-Egypt. Fewer people live in all these settlements together than do in a single neighborhood of the refugee camp. Were the State of Israel to offer the refugees those charming homes in the settlements of Rafiah-Yam, Morag, Gan-Or, B'dolach, Bnei Atsmon, and Naveh Dekalim (where numerous empty houses exist), then, possibly, Sharon could, as he wants, "broaden the corridor" to the border.
As far as demolitions are concerned, our public image is at stake. Therefore, from now on we'll demolish houses only one by one, or two by two. After all, the international community--Americans and Europeans--must see us in the right light! What Israelis see is unimportant. The Israeli public is complacent. The IDF has demolished hundreds of homes in Rafah and Khan Yunis the past months; yet not so much as one bulldozer operator has registered an objection. Our engineering corps wrecking-crew competes with the municipality of Jerusalem's bulldozers, which demolish 'illegal' homes in the Arab districts. But the houses in Jerusalem are 'illegal' in the same way that the houses in Rafah are 'empty'. Yet, who cares! Who presumes to ask when will we demolish the illegal homes of the settlers?
The media pictures of the demolished homes in Rafah don't affect Israelis, because most don't watch the news. They prefer instead some soap, or a quiz on a British channel, or a rerun of some old Seinefeld episode. The sole time that news draws attention is after a suicide attack.
Now let us speak about the soldiers, most of whom helped elect the commander of the Kibiya act to the office of prime minister. It is therefore senseless to feel sorry for them. Most Israelis continue dutifully to obey the compulsory enlistment act, and with patriotic zeal join the armed forces to defend the occupation. They unquestioningly accept the fact that the only reason that 2 million Palestinians live in hell is that so that 200,000 settlers can live comfortably. They know, if they have taken the trouble to find out, that the only thing that prevents us from withdrawing from the Territories is the settlements. Were it not for the settlements, we could end the occupation within a week, exactly as in Lebanon. What enables continuing the occupation is IDF soldiers serving in the military. And they help continue an occupation that has become more cruel than ever since disillusion with Oslo set in. Formerly, a civil administrator was responsible for the well-being of the occupied population. But since Oslo, Israel acts as though the Palestinians already have a state and that Arafat--locked up in his residence in Ramallah--has taken over the responsibility for their well-being. This is precisely how Sharon's reprisal government wants us to see things, as if we have already withdrawn from the Territories. And while the contrary is true, this belief allows us to shirk off the moral responsibility towards the Palestinians to see to their livelihood, freedom of movement, medical attention; we have instead replaced our moral obligation towards them with the obligation of blockading them at every step.
Not that when we had moral responsibility towards them, we carried it out well, but at least we carried it out. Then, too, we brought water to the settlements while drying up the Palestinian population's wells and water holes, but at least we felt a sense of responsibility. Now, contrarily, the head of the civil administration, major general Dov Tsadaka, is busy handing out permits to uproot acres of olive trees, and instead of seeing to the needs of the population, he now worries about his own skin, concerned that by handing out these permits he might be accused of committing a war crime.
It is Unwise to Enlist in the Paratroopers
So what should those do who didn't vote for Sharon? First of all, they should claim to be leftists; that will increase the size of the opposition. The term 'leftist' in current Israeli political lingo refers to anyone who with no ifs, buts, or wherefores opposes the occupation in the Territories. Differences in nuances don't count; they only prevent perceiving the distinctions between good and bad, just and unjust, allowable and prohibited, essential and unessential. Domination over the Palestinians is absolute evil, not relative evil.
Every opponent of the occupation should ask himself just how long he intends to keep on supporting it, and just how long he intends to keep on wreaking vengeance on the Palestinians for the failure of the peace negotiations with Barak. Justice is on the Palestinian side even if they rejected Barak's offers, and is on their side even if they demanded 98% of the area and were not content with 95%. We are the stronger side, the evil side, the oppressors, the settlers, we are those who deny Palestinians the right to earn a wage, freedom of movement, medical aid, food, water, land, homes, a state, life. He who without having been drugged by the propaganda movies and words has clarified in his own mind the actual situation, and is still willing to serve in an army that denies the Palestinians all that, must be molded from especially callous material.
While it is true that the State of Israel cannot survive without a strong army, so long as a state employs soldiers for evil purposes--so long as difference between a legitimate military act and an illegitimate one contract into nothing, so long as soldiers at check points decide who will give birth and who will die, so long as soldiers divide women into two lines (in an atypical occurrence, says the apologetic!) according to the soldiers‚ classification of them as attractive or ugly, so long as border patrol soldiers (in also supposedly atypical behavior!) wield clubs on Palestinian heads because the Palestinians failed to sing agreeably in honor of the soldiers, so long as pilots kill women and children (again atypical!) during an assassination in the middle of a populous city, so long as other soldiers (in a customary act) demolish tens of homes in refugee camps--then this situation, so unjust and immoral, obliges young men and reservists staunchly to refuse to enlist on grounds of conscience.
In a democracy every citizen is obliged to comply with the mandates of the elected government, even if one disapproves its policies. But such conformity is neither unconditional nor unrestricted. When a government time and again makes decisions that consistently cause loss of life--theirs and ours--when it assaults the very foundations of morality, then it is the obligation of every citizen to refuse to cooperate on grounds of conscience. The policies of Sharon-Ben Eliezer-Mofaz-Peres constitute a sequence of immorality that is unacceptable, that one cannot and must not consent to--a sequence full of evil, lies, deceit, false propaganda, and measures that cause more and more bloodshed. This was true also during the first intifada in the 80s, but since then we have seen that things can be otherwise. Since then we have gone a distance down a different path. The contention that the conflict is unresolvable is malicious.
Our policy shapers can count on the acquiescence of most citizens to even the most illogical and harmful policies. For the intellectually and politically naive unquestioningly believe that the government's acts and strategies have the best interests of the public in mind. Such citizens prefer to leave the responsibility of running things to those on top.
"Innocent citizens," the historian, Yigal Elam calls them in his book, "The Executors." But they are not free from responsibility; in a democracy, they are guiltier and more responsible than in nondemocratic societies. They feel heroic when they enlist in the paratroops. But the greater heroism in times as these consists of not enlisting in the paratroops and of telling the world why, thereby foregoing friends, admiration, the red beret of the paratroopers, the glow of being part of the consensus, and to forgo all these so as to retain one's humanity. True heroism in these times is going to jail for refusing to enlist on grounds of conscience, and doing so loudly not silently, by the hundreds not by the tens--not merely to avoid the draft by running off to a psychologist to affirm misfitness or by running away abroad, but for the purpose of hanging on to one's moral integrity. When the occupation ends, then we shall return with pride to defend our borders.
© Ha'ir, January 17, 2002. Translation by Dorothy Naor.
Failing Ethics in the Business School
In December of last year Notre Dame’s College of Business surrendered its claim as an authoritative center of business ethics. Touting Jack Welch, the retired chairman of the board and CEO of the General Electric Company, as an example of a corporate executive who effectively combined Catholic ethics with business culture, Dean Carolyn Woo and the faculty and students of the College filled Jordan Auditorium and several TV-linked classrooms for a friendly chat with Welch—a ruthless business tactician and the man ultimately responsible for GE’s litany of civil and criminal offenses, most notably GE’s dumping of PCBs into New York’s Hudson River. According to studies by independent scientists and health organizations such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization, PCBs are hazardous, cancer-causing pollutants. However, GE maintains that PCBs are not hazardous and, until ordered to do so by the EPA, stoutly refused to clean up its waste. The December 2001 Harper’s Index notes that the “ratio of the projected cost of General Electric’s dredging of its PCBs from the Hudson River to its total profits last year is 1:280.” Yet, also according to Harper’s, the earliest year in which the dredging might begin is 2004.
Unfortunately, destroying the environment is not all that GE is good at: under Jack Welch’s tenure as CEO (1981-2001), GE racked up over $1.3 billion in fines and penalties on convictions ranging from fraud and money laundering to workplace safety violations and illegal dumping, from using misleading advertising and deceiving consumers to illegally selling military technology to Egypt and diverting Pentagon funds (our tax dollars) to its own bank accounts to fund unauthorized Israeli military programs.
Contrary to what some at the College of Business claim, these violations are not simply accusations that merit a more objective or analytical study, rather these are civil and criminal convictions already levied by the Justice Department. Moreover, these violations (and GE’s work designing nuclear weapons) are patently antithetical to any sort of Judeo-Christian business ethic—regardless of how liberal or conservative one’s interpretation of ethical conduct in business may be.
And yet in the College of Business’ press releases about Welch, the College emphasized that he was raised “Irish-Catholic” and had received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Notre Dame in 1994. The College even gave him a statue of Our Lady as a gift for coming to speak at Notre Dame. This sort of shameful media manipulation represents the College of Business’ unmistakable sanctioning of Welch and GE as congruent not only with Catholicism but also the Judeo-Christian business ethics supposedly taught at Notre Dame. The College is clearly and uncritically enjoining their young business students to aspire to be as pious a Corporate Catholic as Welch.
Demonstrating further just how far the College of Business (a.k.a. Arthur Andersen Prep) has sunk in its understanding and application of business ethics, one accounting graduate student noted that having Jack Welch speak to the business school was like having the Pope speak to the Theology Department. Judging by the standing-room-only crowd, the accounting student’s irreverent and misplaced analogy may not have been too far off the mark in the minds of many business students and professors.
Certainly the business school should not be faulted simply for inviting Jack Welch to speak at Notre Dame. Indeed, by definition a university should welcome and be open to a proliferation of widely divergent points of view—even those views as contrary to a well-formed Judeo-Christian ethic as Jack Welch’s (or George W. Bush’s). However, the heralding in of Welch as a business genius whose management strategy and acumen increased GE’s market value from $16 billion to over $280 billion cannot be, as many in the College of Business would have it, divorced from the human, environmental and ethical costs of such immense financial gain.
During Welch’s talk at Notre Dame, there was little (if any) serious critical discussion of GE’s ethical standards, much less any serious discussion of the utter incongruity of Welch’s business philosophy with Catholic social teaching. The only discussion of business ethics came in Welch’s response to the question of how one can be a good Catholic and a good businessman at the same time: his response was a nonsensical rambling about how there are “more bad guys in government than in business,” assuming quite unreasonably that because government is somehow “worse” than business that corporate capitalism, by extension, is a fundamentally moral enterprise. On the basis of Welch’s unsubstantiated contention that “business is played by some of the best moral people,” the ‘discussion’ on being Catholic in business was put to rest.
For Welch (and likely for many of the professors in the College of Business as well) investing wisely means seeking out companies that will make the most money, not asking questions about at what cost that money is made. Even the University’s own investment strategy has historically followed this model—Notre Dame was, for example, invested in South African corporations during apartheid. Notre Dame is also very much invested in GE: GE owns NBC and the ND football team, of course, has a lucrative television contract with NBC. This is not, however, to say that Catholicism is incompatible with business. Quite the opposite. But, the brand of corporate capitalism exemplified by GE—where, according to Welch, business is, like football, a “game” to be won—is most certainly incompatible with Judeo-Christian ethics and Catholic social teaching.
One of the top priorities in Welch’s business strategy is growth, and, following from this, is his dictum that one must always “win.” As Edward Abbey so wisely pointed out, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” Welch’s clichéd imperative that one must grow and win in business entails the very anti-Catholic presumption that there must be—indeed have to be—losers and those to be conquered. This strategy is not harmonious with Welch’s third priority—creating a family atmosphere in business—unless, of course, the ‘family’ is a tight circle of a few highly paid executives: those who report workplace safety violations or blow the whistle on illegal transactions have consistently been discriminated against or fired by GE. The clear declaration here is that unless one works solely for the financial gain of the company, then one is not playing the ‘game’ correctly.
This is reminiscent of the case of James Keady three years ago. Keady was the assistant coach with the men’s soccer team at St. John’s University who quit his position—or, to hear him say it, was forced to resign—rather than wear Nike, St. John’s athletic apparel sponsor. Keady had misgivings about Nike’s human rights record and its association with Asian sweatshops and brought his concerns to the head of the athletic department. He questioned how a university proud of its Catholic religious identity could continue, in good faith, its relationship with a company widely acknowledged to be unethical in its business practices. Eventually, St. John’s gave Keady an ultimatum: wear Nike or quit. Keady chose to quit, noting “there are more important things than games.” A good bit of advice and a good example for Jack Welch and the College of Business.
By way of moving away from the ‘game’ model to a more just and life-affirming concept of the nature of business, I submit that a Catholic business school must be willing to abandon the concept that the corporation is essentially a conduit for maximizing wealth. Such a conception of the corporation, one which pits those who have a direct financial interest in the corporation against all those who stand in the way of financial gain (perhaps this explains Jack Welch’s distaste for government and regulatory agencies), is indicative of the logic of Adam Smith’s classical liberalism with regard to property.
This logic entails that the owner of property is entitled to use and dispose of such property in any way the owner deems fit. Thus, for example, Welch understands GE’s dumping of hazardous PCBs into the Hudson River as an acceptable “discharge” of waste and maintains that cleaning up the Hudson should not be GE’s responsibility. But, as Pope John Paul II has made clear, producers and business managers are endowed with a profound responsibility for their actions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits” (2432).
What John Paul and the Catechism propose is not anti-work nor, for that matter, is it even anti-business. Indeed, various papal encyclicals and bishops’ statements have affirmed that work is necessary and should be near to the center of the Christian life. However, these very encyclicals—in particular Laborem Exercens (1981), Rerum Novarum (1891) and John Paul’s recapitulation of it, Centesimus Annus (1991)—are always quite critical of both capitalism and Marxism as atheistic economic systems that devalue human life, harm society and poison the planet.
As the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference declared: environmental concern is a requirement of our faith that cannot be ignored. Thus, the command in Genesis to “subdue” the Earth is not to be understood as a charge to conquer and pillage the planet and its resources, but rather, as Wendell Berry has so often and so well pointed out, Genesis should be understood as instructing us to be stewards of the Earth, ordering it (by labor and good conduct of business) in such a way so that humanity may flourish.
Thus, Catholic social teaching with regard to business and property makes clear that the nature of business is intrinsically linked to the common good and opposed to the self-serving, destructive strategies that Jack Welch and the College of Business erroneously believe are consistent with Judeo-Christian ethics.
Kyle Smith is a graduate student in Early Christian Studies and a member of Common Sense.
Words Without Music, After Epiphany: Decanting This Year's Christmas Pain
When Jesus fastened on his mother's flesh so firm,
Her heel, the prophets say, did crush that poisonous head,
But did the snow-white winter milk he made and took
O scarred and silenced Word, o bandaged limb, come give
Dolores Frese is Professor of English and a member of Common Sense.
It is often thought that
After serving time in Indiana's state prison, Michigan City, Robert Keeby is now being held at the Wabash Correctional Facility, Carlisle, Indiana. One of his successful initiatives--taken eight years ago--was to suggest that a course on the political history of Africa be taught at the prison in Michigan City. His concern was to enrich the understanding of the large number of African Americans facing long sentences, many for non-violent drug offences.