The Walrus, the Carpenter, and Palestine
(2014) I’ve mostly stopped listening to Obama, but I accidentally caught a little of his speech while I was looking for other stations on my car radio. Just a sentence or two. That was all I could bear.
It was something about “an independent, viable state” for the Palestinians.
Isn’t that an oxymoron? Isn’t that just empty rhetoric? And since Obama surely knows better, isn’t that just a lie? But most USers don’t know better; the stories in the corporate press are an enormous distortion, bearing no resemblance to reality.
The truth is that there is no “Israel”; there is only Occupied Palestine. It began when the British “gave” the Zionists a big chunk of Palestine without consulting the Palestinians. Since then, the Zionists have been swallowing additional pieces of Palestine, sometimes in nibbles, sometimes in big chunks. That is the piece process; the talks that are called the “peace process” are just a cynical method of stalling for time while more of Palestine is swallowed.
One of the slogans of the early Zionists was “a land without a people for a people without a land” — in other words, they said that Palestine wasn’t already inhabited. They called themselves “settlers,” as though the land were uninhabited and unsettled; that’s the same terminology Europeans used when invading North America. In both places, the invaders killed many of the indigenous people, and locked up the remainder in concentration camps. Those concentration camps were called “reservations” in the USA, but the Israelis use the term “bantustan,” copying from apartheid South Africa. The Israelis discriminate brutally against Palestinians in a wide variety of ways; they have turned what remains of Palestine into a giant prison. The Israelis have formed a blockade around Palestine, prohibiting nearly all commerce. They limit the importation of food, keeping Palestinians on near-starvation rationing. The Israelis also block the importation of ordinary building materials, so that when the Israelis bomb the Palestinian sewer systems, the Palestinians are unable to rebuild. Then the “western” (i.e., corporate) news reporters say “these Palestinians are such barbarians — they don’t even have a decent sewer system!”
It’s ironic that many of the “founders of Israel” escaped from the Nazis. They said “never again”; apparently what they meant was that this would never again be done to the Jews. The Jews who survived the Nazi oppression in greatest numbers were the Jews who fought back, most notably those of the Warsaw Ghetto, and they have been widely praised for that; it’s hardly surprising that a few of the Palestinians have fought back against similar oppression.
The growth of “Israel” and the shrinking of Palestine continues. Israeli soldiers knock on the door of a Palestinian home, and say “we like this location, you’ll have to leave.” Bulldozers knock down the house, and perhaps also some olive trees which took many years to grow, which show that the family has been there for many years. Then Israeli “settlers” come to build new homes for themselves at that location. Surely the Palestinians should be honored to have their land stolen and their homes destroyed by soldiers who are so neat and clean, with such nice uniforms and weapons.
But from time to time, some Palestinians have resisted, and the Israelis use that as a pretext to send their bomber jets — paid for by US taxpayers — to level entire neighborhoods of Palestine. They call this a “war,” but it is not a “war.” It is a genocidal massacre, for the Palestinians are imprisoned and half starved, and have no air force, no armed forces. The Israelis are shooting fish in a barrel. It is not a “war.”
Perhaps a couple of decades ago a two-state solution was still possible: The Israelis could have paid some sort of reparations for their great war crimes and their great thefts of land, but they could have kept the land. But now that is no longer possible. What now remains of Palestine is just a large number of separate small shreds, separated from each other by huge walls, all lacking water sources and other crucial resources, blocked off from international trade by an illegal blockade. What remains is an enormous prison, complete with watchtowers (see illustration). There is no way that those shreds can become a “viable” state. If they remain separated in this fashion, they will remain a prison — or perhaps they will be turned into death camps; there is some indication of that in the occasional “wars” launched by the “state” of Israel.
And I’m quite certain that Obama is aware of that. He’s no dummy. He’s a very smart man. So when he says that we need to work toward a viable two-state solution, he is just stalling for time, giving the Israelis time to nibble away more pieces of Palestine.
What about a one-state solution? That would require ending all discrimination, and giving full citizenship and equal rights and equal opportunities to all the people who live in the land, including both those who have called themselves Israelis and those who have called themselves Palestinians. That would require reversing the decades of racist propaganda that has been perpetrated by the leaders of “Israel.”
Many people would say “that one-state solution is impossible, people are too hateful for that to ever come about, it’s just human nature, and this blood feud has been going on for thousands of years,” but I disagree with them. Actually, this feud is fairly recent. Before the European Zionists arrived en masse in the mid 20th century, there was quite a lot of peace. Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived side by side peacefully.
It’s true that there is hate all around us, but that is not basic to human nature — it is just a cultural overlay. The world is now engulfed by a culture of separateness that brings out the very worst of human nature. I’ve written about that extensively elsewhere. That culture is the cause of wars, austerity, and many other kinds of cruelties and suffering. Most recently it is the cause of ecocide, which will soon kill us all if we don’t end it. Thus, we now have a much more urgent reason for ending the culture of separateness.
And for that reason, if for no other, I believe there is some possibility that soon we will replace that culture with a new one that brings out the best of human nature. I have no certainty of this will happen, but I think it’s at least conceivable. And in that new culture, a one-state solution is possible. In fact, I look forward to the day when there are no nations at all. There are seven billion people in my family, and someday I hope to have dinner with them all.
People who ask “what is the right thing for Netanyahu and Obama to do” are asking the wrong question. They’re assuming that Netanyahu and Obama actually want to do the right thing. The “peace talks” are like the walrus and the carpenter talking to the oysters (see poem below).
The right question is, what should you and I do? The answer is, we should keep telling people what is really going on in Occupied Palestine, and here in the USA, and everywhere. When enough people see the truth, then we will be able to bring change.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
by Lewis Carroll, 1872
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”
“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”
“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?
“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”
“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”
“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?”
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
Version of July 2014 (original March 2014)