Monday, June 14, 2010

On Aliens, Israel, and Immigration

*Warning - This may be a long rambling post with much incoherency.  But if it's any comfort you're not the crazy one, it's me. It all makes sense in my head!*

I have been ruminating and germinating this post for a long time in my head - and by long time, I mean at least a week.  Every so often the thoughts start pouring in, but I haven't gotten a chance to put them all together until today.

In the past few weeks several significant international and domestic events have occurred that have caught my attention.  I also had the opportunity to view the movie District 9.  And in only a way that my brain would do, all three things have connected themselves in my brain.

First comes Israel and all of this state's happenings in recent days.  I could not contain my absolute abhorrence when I learned about the raid on the peaceful, pro-Palestinian flotilla that was seeking to bring aid to the Gaza strip - an area that has been walled off and ostracized from the rest of the world for the past three years.  Nothing goes in or out of there and meanwhile, the innocent Palestinian civilians are left to starve and claw their way to survival.  And how did the state of Israel react to this gesture of humanitarian aid?  By shooting live bullets into the ships, killing at least 9 people and wounding dozens of others.  Worldwide condemnation followed this act, but it stopped there.  Even as a second flotilla tried to deliver aid and they were captured and turned back, nothing other than a promise for Israel to conduct it's own "inquiry" resulted from all this worldwide condemnation.  No, protected by the powerful Israeli lobby in the United States, nothing of any significance that would result in the alleviation of the terrible plight of these Gaza Palestinians, has happened.  In fact, the United States refused (REFUSED) to condemn Israel's actions.  And the United Nations - the farcical organization that it is - stayed up all night in negotiations over the "wording" of a resolution that expressed condemnation over the raid.

This is WRONG!  The injustice of treating people in this way because of their political or religious affiliation is wrong.  Of any people in the entire world, Americans should be the ones most up in arms over this injustice!  And yet our words remain handicapped because anything that is said against Israel or calls out its military injustices and policies against the Palestinian people is seen as traitorous or anti-Semitic.  Helen Thomas, the 89-year old White House correspondent who has been a fixture of the White House Press Corps for over 5 decades, had her career end in flames last week after making remarks against Israel and its right to exist as a state.  But if you examine the context of where Thomas's remarks come from - a woman who covered the White House and sitting presidents before an Israel existed and who extensively understands how it came into being, mainly through it's own use of terrorism, the guilt of the West over the Holocaust, and the ambivalence of the British to maintain any kind of continued presence in the Middle East - you understand that there may be an element of truth in her remarks.  But I'm not here to debate whether or not Israel should exist as a state, for the reality is that it does and it is not going away. 

What I am most upset about is the rampant racism and apartheid that the Israeli state formally practices against the Gaza strip, especially since Hamas came into power.  But the worldwide uproar over the raid on the peaceful flotilla should give Israel pause and if they are smart, they will begin to change their policies of hatred.  After all, shouldn't Israel, of all nation-states, extend understanding and humanitarian aid to their neighbors?  As a people who suffered through the hatred and unthinkable atrocities of the Holocaust genocide, shouldn't they recognize and work towards policies that seek to build up another nation, instead of oppressing it to the point that they continuously create militants (and I'll call them militants here, not terrorists) who want the destruction of their state?

I've been in such a turmoil over this - so much so, that I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose's interview with Mahmoud Abbas, the current leader of the Fatah faction in Palestine who had visited the White House to talk about the current situation in Israel and Palestine.  It was a fascinating interview, creating the opportunity to hear from the "other" side, so to speak, on what they want for peace to exist.  Too bad that this interview was shown on the local WETA PBS station at 1:00am in the morning.  So much for spreading dialogue.  On the other hand, thank God for a station like WETA that would put such programming on the air.  Otherwise we would only have programming like the "No-Spin Zone" likes of Bill O'Reilly or the liberal crap of Keith Olbermann.  Can you tell that I have no respect for the media and the way that they report international events?

But you know what else? This practice of systematic hatred isn't just regulated to the land and policies of Israel.  It is propagated in our own country.  Don't believe me?  How else do you characterize the passage of the new Arizona immigration laws and the other laws that they seek to pass?  And how they want to jail illegal immigrants in "tent cities"?

Seriously America?  Are Americans truly going to let a new-age apartheid system spring up on our own shores?  The shores that we have fought for in blood - the blood of immigrants nonetheless - so that freedom can be experienced by all people?  Why should we limit the rights of a person to become a naturalized citizen of our country that was born on the shoulders of immigrants from all walks of life?  All great innovations, all privileges that we take for granted today came to us because our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents traveled from some place overseas to start a new life - to have a chance to earn a living and experience a quality of life that no one else in the world gets to experience - true and utter freedom to do whatever the heck we want, whether it be waste our life or make it into something.  Why are we now going to deny others the capability to earn a living?  To have a chance to NOT live in third-world poverty - to earn a living?  And if we do indeed deny others this chance, what are we going to do to help these individuals?  Are we going to try to propagate some kind of backwards isolationism thinking and do nothing to help others of the world - like other "first world" nations, Austria and Australia (my own sister, a college graduate cannot obtain a job as a library aid because of the racism rampant in Australia)?  Doesn't that completely fly in the face of our global and interconnected economy? Isn't that what partially led to 9-11 in the first place?  And hasn't any isolationist policy we as a nation have ever practiced backfired on us?  Or are we just going to become a nation of a bunch of Gangs of New York?

And while we deal with how to treat legal and illegal aliens in our country, perhaps we can use a movie about aliens, apartheid, and xenophobia, District 9, to illuminate our way.  I don't want to spoil too much of the movie for those who haven't seen it, but it is a phenomenal film in the way that it dissects these issues in the context of the fantasy-realm of an alien population stranded on Earth.  Tent cities are erected and aliens are forced to live in a shanty town in the middle of Johannesburg, based upon Soweto and its history within South Africa.  And in spine-chilling way, the film examines what life looks like when the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak.  It may seem kind of random to mention such a film in the same post as my rants on Israel and immigration policy, but the way it speaks to the issues of xenophobia, apartheid, and basic humanitarianism and how they are extremely relevant in the context of those two issues, prompt me to recommend it unequivocally.

What I hope for most of all is that common human decency and justice will prevail in the end.  I hope that someday Israelis and Palestinians will be able to experience the peace that South Africa found through its Truth and Reconciliation Committee.  I hope that everyday Americans will take a step back from their anger over funding health care and education for illegal immigrants and see that these are human beings like ourselves, like our ancestors, who just want the opportunity to experience a life like we have.  And that those same Americans who want to send these illegal immigrants back to their own countries, will step up and take the jobs that we gladly let them procure.  And that the opportunity and freedom that we have fought so long and hard for will be experienced by all people, regardless of their race or religion.

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