An Open Letter to American Jews

Originally published in Counterpunch November 25, 2016

“An Open Letter to American Jews”

Proud Jews are those that can look others in the face who commit or support crimes against humanity in Palestine and, with no hesitation whatsoever, shout-out “J’accuse” … the self hating ones are those that commit the crimes or simply walk away in boneless silence.

Israel and its sightless, obedient supporters have now come full circle in absolute perverse denial. For years they’ve successfully packaged and sold the fairy-tale that Zionism and Judaism were one in the same… an historic enlightened conflation of shared purpose and belief which, in reality, was born of little more than vicious political convenience (or is it connivance?) in eastern Europe.

Like Malcolm said, the proverbial chickens have come home to roost. It’s finally backfired. It’s about time.

Through massacre after massacre, outrage after outage, whenever anyone dares to condemn Israel’s systematic brutality of millions of Palestinians the indictment always comes down the same… “anti-Semite”.

Challenge the illegal occupation… you’re a Jew hater. Confront Israeli apartheid… you’re a Jew hater. Battle ethnic cleansing… you’re a Jew hater. Support BDS… you’re a Jew hater. And if you’re Jewish and hold Israel accountable for the grand obscenity it’s proven to be since day one, you are worst of all…a self hater. On and on and on the crafted diversion goes and long has, fleeing the very public reality of Israel’s enduring inhumanity to millions of stateless people.

Of course, when hundreds of Holocaust survivors who live in Israel called the most recent high tech carnage in Gaza in 2014 “genocide”, it drew the line. Even the Zionist state was not so crass or politically craven as to publicly label them Jew haters because they had the principled audacity to call it to task for the slaughter of thousands of defenseless women, children and elders. No, that would be exploiting the exploitation called the Holocaust that Zionist cheerleaders have employed for 70 years as so much cover for one of Israel’s own making… as it thumbs its nose at the world and commits unspeakable mayhem against Palestinians. To Zionists, survivors who screamed out with dignity and honor… “genocide,” were pathetic… just old and feeble.

For years, with little more than sleight of hand and a large Western rubber stamp, Zionists have been able to package and vend, with brazen bully success, the message that one cannot attack deadly and criminal Israeli policies without mechanically crossing the line into the hinterland of antisemitism. Well… those days are gone… as team Israel has finally foisted itself upon its own petard.

One need not have surgical precision in their view of the political universe to observe that as the world has become increasingly educated and, thus, more sympathetic to the desperate plight of Palestinians, Zionists have raced to develop new, even more brutish, strategies to recast a narrative based on little more than pure Hollywood fiction. Sorry… Exodus is very much an obsolete illusion, today, with all of its heroic figures long since passed on to old age.

The hallway of Zionist hard-sell is today very public. In its most glaring form it includes intimidating Western countries such as the UK, Canada, France, and Netherlands who shudder at the mere thought of being called “anti-Semitic” for the audacity of permitting their citizens to speak their minds openly and freely about the malevolence that is Israel. To them, and other states that seek to silence those who support BDS as a peaceful grassroots means of expressing opposition to a tyrannical state, Israel owes a great debt of thanks. After all it’s not easy to welcome, indeed embrace, conspicuous ignorance as you draw a deep cloud of denial around the object lesson of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. No matter what your flag, war crimes are still war crimes whether carried out against or by you.

In other ways, demonstrably racist activity has moved Israel into a leading role in the effort to stage-manage 21st Century cyberspace. For example, under the autocratic shine of national honor, it has inspired, if not empowered, Zionist hackers to attack pro Palestinian web sites worldwide spewing forth Islamaphobic rage at those with the temerity to seek an alternative view about unfolding events in Palestine otherwise largely ignored or censored by Western media.

So, too, it has employed an army of social media activists skilled enough to read jejune slogans but completely at a loss when confronted with the dark, fact-based truth that is Israel. After-all, how many times can a cue card equate Muslim with Jew hater before a mindless 18 year old paid $10.00 an hour finally says enough and saunters off to the beach?

Likewise, during its last two onslaughts upon Gaza, Israel moved quickly to shut down all of its internet passage-ways in an unmistakable effort to prevent the world from learning in real-time about the nature and extent of its brutal assault upon the enclave’s two million defenseless residents.

While these are but a few of the most recent public moves by Israel to intimidate or silence political or social opposition, with alarming frequency its policy has been to break bread with some of the most hateful, supremacist groups and activists in the world.

How long ago was it that neo-Nazis sought to march in Skokie Illinois, in Nazi uniforms screaming out zeig-heil while they carried placards that read “White Free Speech” and “Free Speech for the White Man” to a community with a population of thousands of stunned Holocaust survivors? And in that same year, the KKK sought to hold, in the same town, a rally for its brand of racist ideology.

Yet, today, Zionists seem to have no problem whatsoever sitting down strategizing with proud supporters of the Klan and other white supremacist groups. Indeed, the Zionist Organization of America will fete, this weekend, noted white supremacy and antisemitism promoter, Steven Bannon, at its yearly hate fest.

This celebration of religious and racial supremacy and intolerance should come as no surprise given the organization has signed onto the Trump plan of profiling Muslims, calls Black Lives Matter a “hate group” and has warned college students against inviting such notables as Noam Chomsky and former President Jimmy Carter to speak at campus assemblies lest they spread their “dangerous messages.”

Make no mistake about it Bannon and his fellow purveyors of hate have never been shy in exploiting abhorrence of Jews and a host of other minorities based upon race, religion, sexual identity or immigrant status. Nor have they been timid at all when it comes to exalting calls for violence to sweep clean an America they perceive as being too black, too immigrant, too Jewish, too Muslim and too soft.

Indeed Bannon is a member of a Facebook page that has openly featured explicit racist and violent material replete with overtures for deadly criminal activity. Thus, for example, their posts feature an image of the president dressed as an SS officer. In other places they celebrate the Confederate flag and urge a military coup in the United States. Elsewhere, they highlight a photo shopped picture of Obama with a watermelon and praise a police officer who called the President a “Fucking Nigger”… that ought to be “executed as a traitor.” This is the message that inspires the President’s chief advisor.

Yet, today, Zionists celebrate Bannon as he and his Klan buddies have finally figured out it doesn’t take much to get a free pass for their palpable hatred of Jews… all they need do is to offer up their much in demand backing of an Israeli state driven by the same treacherous supremacist views.

It seems to Zionists a healthy dose of unabashed antisemitism… directed at Jews… is suitable today as long as it’s dressed up in obedient support for Israel… especially when it comes from the mouth of the top advisor of the President-elect and his inner circle of friends.

Bannon has long been denounced by democrats, republicans and civil and human rights organizations, alike, for having made the Breitbart website a welcome forum for neo-nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites. Nevertheless, his appointment was welcomed by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States who noted that “… we look forward to working with the Trump administration… including Steve Bannon, in making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever.”

There is nothing at all new about the selective application of the all too expedient brand “anti-Semite”. Indeed, it is the mark of Cain quickly applied to principled students and faculty who support the peaceful effort of BDS to bring about justice for Palestine, yet is completely ignored when confronted by classic anti-Semitic vitriol coming from the mouths of pro Israel patrons.

Indeed, the net balance affect has long been a significant driving force in determining when blatant sign-posts of antisemitism were to be over-looked for the broader “good” of Israel; where those who challenge Israeli policies were to be vilified and those who praise them applauded no matter how much or long their distaste for Jews.

The late “Christian Zionist”, Jerry Falwell, is one such prime example. Denounced by Jewish critics for having said that he believed the “Antichrist” would be a Jew, despite this, and other like anti-Semitic statements, Falwell was ultimately resurrected by Zionists who found greater benefit in his overall political support of Israel than his marked distaste for Jews as a whole.

There is nothing remarkable about today’s Zionist reach to build hate fueled bonds with supremacist groups both in and outside of the United States. Zionists have shown a willingness, if not an ease, throughout their 130 plus year history of working with classic anti-Semitic governments and groups to further their revisionist self-centered view of history. There is abundant precedent.

Beginning long ago in Czarist Russia, the Zionist marriage of political convenience went on to flourish with some in the Axis powers during World War II. It later found comfort with its Balfour friends in Palestine, and has reached new heights in the West through an apparently unbreakable bond with the bigoted evangelical right.

Thus, parliamentary votes throughout the member states of the EU to recognize the sovereignty of the State of Palestine have been opposed by a unique marriage of Zionist and local neo-Nazi interests. This coalition of convenience and hatred should come as no surprise however given a joint effort to target a wave of desperate Muslim refugees and a shared aversion to any semblance of Justice for Palestinians.

In Ukraine, Israel abandoned the safety of its shrinking Jewish population to the political expedience it reaped from its support of the neo-Nazi putsch that ousted its elected pro-Russian president. In France, the National Front, with proud age old roots in French fascism has once again risen to significant power. Not at all shy about its racist and anti-Semitic image, the Front has found support nonetheless from Israel which paid one of its leaders a warm welcome when he traveled to the Holy Land to curry votes from French Jews who now call it home. Sound familiar?

There is nothing remarkable or new about Israel’s recent rapport with some of the worlds most repressive … indeed totalitarian and racist regimes. It has never shied from a march down a long passage way filled with the painful screams of political prisoners, dissidents, or those perceived by virtue of their race, religion or activism to pose a threat to the autocratic rule of the state, be it in Israel or elsewhere.

Israel’s support for South African apartheid, ’til literally its very end, is well known, providing materials for the building of its nuclear weapons. Long after UN-imposed sanctions against apartheid Rhodesia, it continued to provide Uzis and helicopters. In more than a dozen other African countries Israel funded and trained military repression of anti-colonial uprisings and/or dictatorship. It sold arms and provided training to Rwandan military and Hutu militia that carried out genocide against the Tutsis.

In South America, Israel armed Guatemalan death squads, Nicaraguan Contras, Pinochet’s Chile, and the military junta in Argentina which resulted in the “disappearance” of thousands of opponents of a regime which not only openly espoused anti-Semitic rhetoric, but specifically targeted and disappeared numerous Jewish civilians.

In Southeast Asia, Israel provided aid to the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia and, in the Pacific Region, funded the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. In Iran, during the rule of the Shah, the secret death squad (SAVAK) received training from Israel and purchased over 150 million dollars in arms from it. Never known for its selfless virtue, Israel was to benefit… the Shah was one of the first leaders in the region to recognize it as a state.

These are but a few glaring examples of dozens of instances where Israel has supported, if not propped up, supremacist and racist regimes… many known for their utter and extreme anti-Semitic vitriol and manifest hatred of Jews. But, with remarkable agility, if not indifference, it has become practiced… indeed expert… at balancing the self interest of its own rapacious agenda with the reality of the often anti-Semitic neo-fascist regimes and movements its supports throughout the world.

With this practiced experience it seems that Zionists are eminently equipped to handle the emerging face of antisemitism, nay, overt odium for Jews which, with Steve Bannon and company, will soon move from the inner sanctum of Trump Towers to the inner circle of the White House.

Given its history of support for anti-Semitic allies it comes as no surprise that Zionists believe they will be able to stage manage overt hatred for Jews and other minorities from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What is, however, stunning is that, for the first time in recent memory, they appear perfectly willing to abandon the false conflation of Zionism and Judaism by supporting a collective of white ethnocentric supremacists who support the Zionist agenda in Israel yet hate Jews in whose name it is claimed that agenda has been built.

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It Ain’t The Promised Land… Part Five

Part 5

Bunk 11. Born into the heart of the deep south in 1947 while segregation still controlled the destiny of millions of her black citizens, to talk to Freddie is to travel down well-worn, distant roads paved over, but not repaired. For him, the journey from Southern cradle to Northern prison has not been solitary. The stain of racism is his ever-present companion.

The youngest of four children born to a farm couple in rural Williamsburg, South Carolina where his family tree traces back to slavery well before the Civil War, he remembers, like yesterday, segregated black schools, churches and water fountains. Raised on a steady diet of his grandmother’s tales of slavery, she often warned him not to cross the imaginary line that separated their property from the “white man’s.” The few white kids he knew were the ones he played with out back behind the large plantation house where his mother cooked meals, washed floors, and did laundry to make ends meet. The tobacco, cotton, and corn crops they grew only went so far in those tough and, at times, dangerous back roads.

Even now, sixty-plus years later, Freddie cannot forget news of local lynchings or the night when, but eight years old, he was awakened by his mother’s screams as the local Klan threatened to burn down their home unless his dad paid protection. He did.

From the day the hooded men on horseback attacked his home until he went up North, some eight years later, to live with his older brother, Freddie was not the same. The Klan had turned an adventurous childhood into one of sullen moments, fear, and withdrawal. Begging his parents to return with his visiting brother to New York and not quite yet sixteen, he quit school, never to return, and left with three dollars his dad had given him and two from his mom.

Within a year of his arrival in upstate New York, Freddie found himself homeless. Tired of his brother’s binge drinking and abuse and no longer willing to surrender his meager paycheck to him, he moved out. Still but a teenager, Freddie began a decades-long journey into one addiction after another… at first with heroin and ultimately crack. For the next 35 years, his life revolved around drugs and little else. Never a major dealer, he bought, he sold, he used… he bought, he sold, he used. The pattern repeated itself over and over again as his journey, which began as a terrified eight-year-old in the hate-filled South led to stops in Harlem, back to South Carolina and, ultimately, prison.

The Harlem of the late 70’s and early 80’s belonged to Frank Lucas, Nicky Barnes, and heroin. On every street corner, you soon learned that the drug was king and that all night meant just that…all night. To Freddie, who had fled from years of dope and despair in Rochester and in search of getting “straight,” Harlem held out hope. Soon, however, he found the lure of its streets and after-hour clubs too much to resist. For the next eight years, he was trapped in a vicious, endless cycle of dope, parties, and more dope on the streets of Lennox Avenue. Free at last from the overt racism of the South, the challenge was simple… to sell enough dope to get high and to avoid the violence and police corruption of the time uptown in New York City.

As his thirties gave way to his forties and the street drug of choice changed, Freddie, like thousands of other Harlemites, discovered crack. Too much to resist and desperate to escape the full-time rush that was crack, he returned to where it had all begun many years before in Williamsburg, South Carolina. The return to the family homestead was to prove so much fool’s gold.

Returning some 35 years after he had left the Deep South, to Freddie, it seemed little more than a blink of an eye. Although the Klan sheets had given way to the board rooms of new nearby corporate headquarters, little else had changed. Blacks still lived and played with black, whites with whites, and to travel down rural roads of Williamsburg County late at night was to tempt fate.

For Freddie, the transition from uptown Harlem and user to family farm hand proved to be a daunting task. Soon, he relapsed.

Over the next decade, until his arrest in 2001 for possession and distribution of crack, Freddie successfully transplanted his Northern lifestyle to his birthplace. Once again, he found himself smoking crack, partying, and smoking crack as he ran the drug from the coast of Florida to South Carolina to support his habit and to make ends meet.

Although he had but 100 grams of crack and a few ounces of cocaine powder at his disposal at the time of his arrest, federal prosecutors threatened to enhance the overall drug weight in his case if he went to trial. Facing a life sentence if convicted on the basis of so-called “ghost drugs,” Freddie pleaded guilty to a minimum 20-year sentence. Like enhanced mandatory minimums, ghost drugs…those not actually possessed but merely contemplated… have become the drug hammers that have filled federal prisons from coast to coast.

In the year between his arrest and sentence, Freddie was jailed in Effenhorn Detention Center. During this time, he quickly learned that, in South Carolina, federal prosecutions were race-driven… with most prisoners black and guards, prosecutors and federal judges white. Frequent were the times that this now fifty-something black man was called “boy.” No less frequent were the cases he came across where like-accused white defendants received sentences far less than his. Some things don’t change.

Following sentencing, Freddie was sent to the low-security prison at Petersburg, Virginia. Within days of his arrival, there was an incident involving a young black man assigned to a cell with a Klan member imprisoned for burning down black churches. Ignoring his repeated requests for a transfer, eventually the young man was attacked and severely injured by his Klan cell-mate. Later, Freddie learned that race-based incidents with black prisoners targeted by other prisoners and guards were commonplace at Petersburg. After 9/11, such attacks grew… with Muslims increasingly targeted. Freddie recalls shouts of “towel-head” and “nigger” as they echoed throughout the prison.

Towards the end of his first year at Petersburg, Freddie began to feel some discomfort in his stomach. Gradual at first, it gave way to periods of excruciating pain coupled with bouts of disorientation and chronic lethargy. Eventually, the pain became constant, causing him to often double over, to the alarm of fellow prisoners and some guards. Though he knew something was seriously wrong, over the next year or so, he received no sophisticated tests. Like many other prisoners throughout the BOP who report significant medical ailments, he was told repeatedly that it would pass. When it didn’t, inconclusive routine blood work was ordered.

Fortunately for Freddie, one day while at sick call, unable to walk or stand straight, a concerned physician’s assistant took the extra step of sending his blood work to Southern Regional Hospital… a private facility located not far from the prison. It saved his life.

With his voice cracking, years later, Freddie recalls the news he received the very next day. It was advanced stage IV cancer with not much chance of survival. Almost miraculously, he proved them wrong. He lived.

Admitted to the same hospital, Freddie soon underwent a four-hour operation to remove a large cancerous mass that had grown throughout his stomach. He awakened to the news that, although most of the mass had been removed, the prognosis was not good and that an extensive chemotherapy regimen remained as an almost last-ditch effort to save his life. Just ten days after his surgery, Freddie was returned to the prison… his body filled with tubes and racked with pain. He remembers lying for days on his bunk with little medical follow-up… unable to eat or properly care for himself.

Almost six months to the day of his surgery, and without notice, Freddie was transferred to the BOP medical facility at Butner, North Carolina for his chemotherapy… an intensive eight-month regimen which left him often violently ill and, on occasion, praying for the final relief that comes from death.

A determined man of strong faith, he had the sense that somehow he would survive… that there was a plan of sorts for him. Today, Freddie remembers the fright he felt with the insertion of a “port” … or surgically-placed reservoir attached to a tube in his chest cavity through which the chemicals were introduced into his system.

Following each five-hour treatment, he had to wait 28 days, all the while again racked with pain, nausea, and uncertainty… hoping that his blood cells would return to normal so that the next round of chemotherapy could begin. At one point, the port had to be removed because of an infection that would not go away. The treatment stopped, only to begin all over again, anew.

For eight months, the process repeated itself. At various times, Freddie was unable to eat and lost thirty-five pounds. He remained constipated throughout; unable to move his bowels, he developed a painful hernia which remains to this day.

Freddie recalls lying in his prison bed fighting infection, waves of nausea, and slipping in and out of consciousness… searching the ward for familiar faces which changed day by day as prisoners died, mostly from delayed treatment. Often he would hear them screaming out, reliving earlier times and places as they took their last breath and passed away. He estimates that during the year he stayed at the Butner hospital, a hundred or more prisoners died, mostly from cancer and because, like him, valuable treatment time had been lost to medical indifference in BOP facilities throughout the country.

Not far from Butner is a small but growing graveyard with the bodies of those prisoners who died without families or too poor to purchase the remains of their loved ones. It costs $1,000 per body. Although unseen by most, it is said that the headstones abound not with the names of the dead, but their prison numbers.

Eight years after surviving cancer and now in the fourteenth year of his 20-year sentence, Freddie, now 68 years old, is a frail man who tires easily. Never fully restored to his former health, there are moments when he just “does not feel right.” Of late, his CEA, or early cancer warning scores, have begun to once again elevate… a sign that worries Freddie but is ignored by the medical staff at Canaan.

Freddie can be seen early each morning mopping the floors in the bunkhouse. Each night, he prepares a “homemade” meal with goods purchased from the commissary. Creative and tasty, Freddie’s recipes are popular especially with the young prisoners at Canaan. He also likes to share stories with them as he provides counsel in moments when they are scared or depressed.

Although Freddie has seen two recent sentence reductions for drug offenders, he has not benefited from either. His mandatory minimum sentence renders him ineligible for any reductions.

While the BOP provides for “compassionate” and “second chance” releases, because he looked death in the face and survived, he is not eligible for either. Late at night, Freddie sits on his bunk wondering whether he will live long enough to walk out of prison and return to the South of his youth. Only time will tell.