Ramzy Baroud

Humanity denied: What is missing from the story of Omar and Tlaib

Israel's decision to bar two United States Democratic Representatives, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from entering Israel and visiting Palestine has further exposed the belligerent, racist nature of the Israeli government.

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Kushner's 'Israeli Model': Trump's son-in-law thinks he's capable of arranging the future of the Palestinian people — without the inclusion of the Palestinian leadership

In a TV interview on June 2, on the news docuseries “Axios” on the HBO channel, Jared Kushner opened up regarding many issues, in which his ‘Deal of the Century’ was a prime focus.

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Walls and Militarized Police: How Israel Is Exporting Its Occupation to the United States

Israeli footprints are becoming more apparent in the US security apparatus. Such a fact does not bode well for ordinary Americans.

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The Things I Learned Writing About the Middle East

Writing about and reporting the Middle East is not an easy task, especially during these years of turmoil and upheaval. While physical maps remain largely intact, the geopolitical map of the region is in constant influx. Following and reporting about these constant changes without a deep and compassionate understanding of the region will achieve little but predictable and lackluster content that offers nothing original, but recycled old ideas and stereotypes.

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Why Gaza Is the Real-World Set for 'The Hunger Games'

I could have never imagined myself drawing parallels between my refugee camp, Nuseirat, in the Gaza Strip, its heroic people, and a Hollywood movie; the struggle of my people is too sacred for that. But I couldn't help it as I watched the latest from The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay.

A feeling of anger initially overwhelmed me when I saw the districts destroyed by the heartless rulers of the Capitol. As I watched the movie, not only resistance of Palestine, but particularly that of Gaza, was on my mind.

The Capitol - with unmatched military technology and access to an enormous media apparatus - was unstoppable in its brutality. Its rulers, who claimed to have superiority over all the inhabitants of the dystopia of Panem, had no moral boundaries whatsoever.

The Hunger Games, the story's version of a reality television show, was created as an annual event to celebrate the victory of the Capitol over a previous revolt by the districts. It also served as a reminder of what the Capitol was capable of, if anyone dared to rise up again in the future.

The show's participants - all children who were chosen or volunteered in a process called the "reaping" - came from every district. The contestants had to kill one another for the amusement of the Capitol, which drew its strength from the division and oppression of others. But the districts rebelled.

They resisted because there can be no other response to systematic oppression but resistance. District 13 was annihilated early on so that the rest of the districts dare not entertain any ideas aside from the Capitol's insistence that resistance is futile. Panem's ruthless president was adamant at referring to those who defied the Capitol as "radicals," and not "rebels." At times, the Capitol tried to turn the districts against one another, inciting civil war.

The Gaza connection became too stark to miss when Katniss, one of the early "tributes" and the symbolic Mockingjay of the resistance uttered these words soon after the Capitol bombers destroyed a hospital full of unarmed men, women and children, killing everyone: "I want to tell the people that if you think for one second the Capitol will treat us fairly if there's a ceasefire, you're deluding yourself. Because you know who they are and what they do."

The events in this drama were eerily similar to the bombing and complete destruction of al-Wafa hospital in Gaza in late July of this year - the only rehabilitation center in the strip for thousands of victims of previous Israeli atrocities.

Her message to the Capitol: "You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do you see that? Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!"

It is as if the author of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, knew so much about Gaza. As if she had fashioned her stories to tell of a real fight between a brutal Capitol, called Israel, and rebellious districts called Palestine. It is as if Gaza was the inspiration behind District 13 because despite attempts at repeated annihilation for the past 65 years - and in particular the last two genocidal wars in 2008-9 and 2014 - the resistance is still alive.

Does Collins know that Katniss, who didn't choose such a fate but had to step up in defense of her people, is represented in thousands of men, women, and yes, children of Gaza?

Does she know that her stories were already written and enacted by real people, who may never have heard of her franchise and may never live to watch her movies? Does she know that criminal leaders such as President Snow are not something of fantasy, but they actually exist, here today in the persons of Benjamin Netanyahu and countless other Israeli leaders who call for the absolute annihilation of Gazans at a whim?

As for Gaza's Hunger Games, the similarities are uncanny.

Just before Israel imposed severe economic sanctions on Gaza, to punish Palestinians for the result of their democratic elections, top Israeli government adviser Dov Weisglass made a spine-chilling promise in 2006: "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger." This was not a passing statement.

After much legal wrangling, an Israeli human rights group, Gisha, managed to obtain documents which showed that since then Israel has enacted a "deliberate policy of near-starvation" in Gaza and that "security" had nothing to do with the Gaza blockade.

In Israel's Operation Cast Lead, over 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 5,500 wounded. But in Israel's latest war the price tag for resistance was increased to 2,137. More are still dying from their wounds.

Gaza stands in ruins. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed, villages erased and whole families annihilated. Hundreds of schools, hospitals and mosques have been blown up in an unprecedented orgy of death and destruction.

Yet the resistance has not been defeated in Gaza. Because resistance is not men and women with guns. Resistance is an idea, pure in its intentions, romantic, at times, maybe, but certainly the work of an entire collective, who has chosen to die fighting, if they must, but never live carrying the shackles of a slave.

Not even the chilling words of Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) were enough to intimidate Gaza. In his Facebook plan to destroy the resistance on August 1, 2014, Feiglin called for the, "conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters". He then went on to call for all its remaining inhabitants to be pushed into concentration camps near the Sinai desert.

"In these areas, tent encampments will be established, until relevant emigration destinations are determined," Feiglin wrote.

Feiglin, and his prime minister, Netanyahu - among many others in Israel's political and military establishment - are real life leaders of the Capitol, which is allowed to operate with complete impunity against the oppressed districts of Palestine.

And like the Mockingjay, which was resurrected against great odds, Gaza will remain the rebellious district. The blood of its "near-starved" children will someday unite all districts against the Capitol. Then, all the voices that doubted the wisdom of the resistance will be diminished by the loud, but harmonious chanting of a united people.

Till then, the Mockingjay of Palestine, and the thousands of living martyrs will continue to circulate the skies singing the same song as the people of the districts do:

"Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."


If only the other districts would rise.

How the Syrian Civil War Exposes the Decline of American Empire

In an article published on May 15, American historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein wrote, "Nothing illustrates more the limitations of Western power than the internal controversy its elites are having in public about what the United States in particular and Western European states should be doing about the civil war in Syria." 

Those limitations are palpable in both language and action. A political and military vacuum created by past US failures and forced retreats after the Iraq war made it possible for countries like Russia to reemerge on the scene as an effective player. 

It is most telling that over two years after the Syrian uprising-turned bloody civil war, the US continues to curb its involvementby indirectly assisting anti-Bashar al-Assad regime opposition forces, through its Arab allies and Turkey. Even its political discourse is indecisive and often times inconsistent. 

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The Same Old Colonial Powers Are Licking Their Chops at the Thought of Invading Mali...and the Rest of West Africa

France is insisting on "rapid" military intervention in Mali. The European country's unmanned drones have reportedly been scouring the desert of the troubled West African nation - although it claims that the drones are seeking the whereabouts of six French hostages believed to be held by al-Qaeda. 

The French are likely to get their wish, especially following the recent political fiasco engineered by the country's strong man and coup leader Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo. The United States also covets intervention, but one that would serve its own growing interests in the Sahel region. 

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The Fakest Military Withdrawal Imaginable in Iraq

The soldiers of the US 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hollered as they made their way into Kuwait. "We won," they claimed. "It's over."

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The Price of a Hostage

I could suggest a 'hint of subtle racism' and 'unconcealed bias' in the Chicago Sun-Times' article titled, "Arabs express rare outrage at kidnapping of French journalists."

But I will not, for the article's assessment is disturbingly true.

Christian Chesnot and George Malbrunot were abducted by militants of the "Islam Army of Iraq" while on their way to Najaf coming from Baghdad last month. Their capture immediately garnered attention, sympathy and outrage even, among ordinary Arabs and Muslims.

Marches and sit-ins were held in various cities around the world, led by members of Arab and Muslim communities. Arab and non-Arab intellectuals lined up to express solidarity with the hostages and the French people via every sort of media available. A Kuwaiti journalist, reported Radio Mont Carlo, offered to swap himself in exchange for their freedom.

The unusually sympathetic reaction is likely because of a widespread perception among Arabs that Paris has a much more balanced foreign policy in the Middle East compared to that of London and especially Washington. Yet such compassion should be the least we can expect in response to a crime that as previously led to the gruesome spectacle of videotaped beheadings of innocent people even as they beg for pity from their unmerciful captors.

But if it's true that morality precedes politics – as some idealists claim – then where was the outrage at the killing of 12 laborers from Nepal, butchered by Iraqi militants just days before the French hostage crisis made headlines?

A video posted by a web site linked to an Iraqi militant group recorded the slaughter of the 12 men of whom we still know little, aside from the fact that they were dirt poor. A masked man in desert camouflage opened the show by slitting the throat of a blindfolded man lying on the ground. MSNBC describes the scene as follows:

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