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.

Keep reading... Show less

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.

Keep reading... Show less

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.

Keep reading... Show less

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.

Keep reading... Show less

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. 

Keep reading... Show less

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. 

Keep reading... Show less

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."

Keep reading... Show less

In Basra Battles, Media Quislings Offered Barely Half the Story

When it comes to Iraq, reporters appear intent on omitting or fabricating news.

The latest battles in Basra, Iraq's second largest city and a vital oil seaport, furnished ample instances of misleading and manipulative practice in corporate journalism today. One commonly used tactic is to describe events using self-styled or "official" terminology, which deliberately confuses the reader by giving no real indication or analysis of what is actually happening.

Regardless of the outcome of the fighting that commenced upon the Iraqi army's march to Basra 24 March, and which proved disastrous for Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, we have been repeatedly "informed" of highly questionable assumptions. Most prominent amongst them is that the "firebrand" and "radical" Moqtada Al-Sadr -- leader of the millions-strong Shia Sadr Movement -- led a group of "renegades", "thugs" and "criminals" to terrorize the strategically important city. Naturally, Al-Maliki is portrayed as the exact opposite of Al-Sadr. When the former descended on Basra with his 40,000-strong US- trained and equipped legions, we were circuitously told that the long-awaited move was cause for celebration. The media also suggested we had no reason to doubt Al-Maliki's intentions when he promised to restore "law and order" and "cleanse" the city, or to question his determination when he described the Basra crusade as "a fight to the end". If anyone was still unsure of Al-Maliki's noble objectives they could be reassured by the Bush administration's repeated verbal backings, one of which described the Basra battle as "a defining moment."

Indeed.

Reporters parroted such assumptions with little scrutiny. Even thorough journalists seemed oblivious to the known facts: that the Iraqi army largely consists of Shia militias affiliated with a major US ally in Iraq, Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim and his Supreme Islamic Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI); that the SCIRI's Al-Badr militias have rained terror on the Iraqi people -- mostly Sunnis, but increasingly Shias as well -- for years; that the Sadr movement and SCIRI are in fierce contest for control of Iraq's southern provinces, and that the US allies are losing ground quickly to the Sadr Movement, which might cost them the upcoming provincial elections scheduled for October 1, 2008; that the US wanted to see the defeat and demise of Sadr supporters before that crucial date because a victory for Sadr is tantamount to the collapse of the entire American project predicated on the need to privatize Iraqi oil and bring about a "soft" partitioning of the country.

Al-Hakim is pushing for what is being termed a super Shia province with its center in Basra; Sadr is demanding a unified Iraq with a strong central government. Al-Hakim wishes to see a permanent American presence in the country; Sadr insists on a short timetable for withdrawal. The US's major quandary is that Sadr reflects the views of most Iraqis. His possible victory in the south in fair elections could position him as the new nationalist leader, and a unifying force for Iraqis.

What we are rarely told is that Al-Maliki, although prime minister, is helpless without the validation of Al-Hakim. The latter's SCIRI is the main party in the ruling bloc in the Iraqi parliament. Al-Maliki's own Daawa Party is smaller and much less popular. In order for the coalition to survive another term, Sadr needed to suffer a major and humiliating defeat. Indeed, it was a "defining moment", but the "criminal gangs" of Basra -- and Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Kut and Hillah -- have proven much stronger than the seemingly legitimate Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and their Al-Badr militias. Even the atrocious US bombardment of Basra proved of little value, despite many civilian deaths. More, the additional thousands of recruits shoved into the battlefield -- tribal gunmen lured by promises of money and power by Al-Maliki -- also made little difference. News analysts concluded that the strength of the "criminal gangs" was underestimated, thus someone had to be blamed.

First, Al-Maliki was blamed for acting alone without consulting with the US government. Even presidential candidate John McCain jumped at the opportunity to chastise Bush's man in Iraq for supposedly acting on his own behest. US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker was quoted in the April 3 New York Times as saying, "the sense we had was that this would be a long-term effort: increased pressure gradually squeezing the Special Groups." Really? Would the US allow Al-Maliki to execute a "long-term effort" -- which is costly financially, politically and militarily -- without its full consent, if not orders?

Second, blame was shifted onto Iran. The media parroted these accusations again with palpable omissions. It is true that Sadr is backed by Iran. It is partly true that he is serving an Iranian agenda. But what is conveniently forgotten is that Iran's strongest ally in Iraq is Al-Hakim's SCIRI, and that the central government in Baghdad considers Tehran a friend and ally. Indeed, it was pressure from the latter that weakened Al-Maliki's resolve in a matter of days. On March 24, Al-Maliki announced his "fight to the end", and on April 4 he ordered a halt to the fighting and compensation for the families of the "martyrs." What took place during this short window of time is an Iran-brokered agreement.

Naturally, skewed reporting leads to slanted conclusions. No, the lesson learned is not that the Iraqi army requires more training and funds, which would necessitate the US and other forces to prolong their stay in the country. It is rather that the tide has turned so fast in Iraq, whereby the new enemy is now largely Shia, and one which envisions a unified and free Iraq which controls its own resources; that Iran's influence in Iraq has morphed to the point of guaranteeing a win-win situation, while the US is playing with a lot fewer cards; that US firepower has proven less effective than ever, and that the upcoming elections could create a nightmare scenario whose consequences could remove the sectarian label from Iraqi violence and replace it with a nationalist one.

Reporters can be quisling, incompetent and parrots of official accounts. Regardless, no matter how they wish to term it, the battle of Basra is likely to change the nature of the US fight in Iraq for years to come.

Don't Believe That Iraq Won't Be The Issue in November

As the race for the United States presidential nominations progresses, the stances of and attitudes towards both Republican and Democratic candidates continue to bring up causes for concern, in terms of their past behavior, current appeal and general trustworthiness.

Republican Mitt Romney's exit has practically assured Senator John McCain's victory in his party. While we might expect McCain's narrow-mindedness and pro-war rhetoric to make him an uncontested darling of conservatives, the doubts that remain about his credibility -- and the seemingly absurd accusations by some that he is more liberal than Democratic liberals -- highlight two disturbing trends.

The first is the extent of the moral corruption among many Republicans that would enable viewing McCain as a liberal. Then again it might be a fair assessment in the context of Armageddon enthusiast, Mike Huckabee, surpassing expectations on Super Tuesday. The rise of the former Arkansas governor -- highlighting the growing power of fundamentalist evangelical Christians -- should have been picked up as an alarming trend by Americans, but the media was largely unmoved.

The second is that making such comparisons between McCain and Democratic nominees doesn't necessarily point to a lack of judgment in characters. Clinton's hawkish foreign policy views would indeed qualify her as a faithful follower of the warmongering policies of Bush himself.

On the Democratic side, Super Tuesday only served to confirm Barack Obama's recent gains. After the vote count, Clinton, who was previously seen as the uncontested frontrunner was now conceivably the underdog. True, the numbers of delegates' votes garnered by both nominees is too close to place either on top, but Obama's speed in squashing Clinton's lead in national polls and his fundraising ability should be a cause for great concern in the Clinton camp.

Naturally, as both nominees will vie for as many votes as possible in the next round, charm and charisma alone can no longer suffice. The sizeable dilemma is that Obama and Clinton elections programs are in many ways only superficially different.

Both nominees claim to be establishment nominees. Clinton appeals to an older generation by virtue of her "experience". Obama appeals to the impressionable young, who have been taught political correctness early in life, and who are eager for new language and a new approach.

Obama's record is certainly more honorable than Clinton's. His genuine involvement in community activism at a young age and his anti-war stance during his Senate years point at a certain degree of moral clarity, a rare quality in Washington indeed.

But both nominees walk a very fine line. Aside from the Iraq issue -- Obama voted against the war while Clinton voted for it -- the remaining differences are not significant enough to be exploited by either to guarantee the decisive victory needed before the August Democratic Convention. If neither have enough votes to become the uncontested nominee, the party's more influential delegates -- the super-delegates -- will have the final say, a worst-case scenario that could compromise the very democratic nature of the entire process.

There is a good chance that both candidates will avoid an all-out war over issues that are significant concerns for most Americans. While race and gender are supposedly defining issues for most voters, the fact that Clinton is a woman, and Obama is African-American does not mean they represent the interests of their respective group. Moreover, neither Obama wishes to be defined solely by his color nor Clinton by her gender.

The Iraq war will most likely define President Bush's legacy. Moreover, once the presidential candidates for both parties are determined, the war will probably position itself as the lead point of contention. Senator McCain is already gearing up for the anticipated fight over war with the democrats. In Norfolk, Virginia, he attacked Obama and Clinton for wanting to set dates for withdrawal from Iraq. "I believe that would have catastrophic consequences. I believe that Al-Qaeda would trumpet to the world that they had defeated the United States of America, and I believe that therefore they would try to follow us home."

McCain -- presumably a "war hero" -- realizes that the disastrous Iraq war is most likely to be his campaign's weak point, and the faltering economy will not divert attention from it. In fact, in the minds of many Americans, both issues are linked. According to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll after Super Tuesday, the majority of Americans believe that the best way to escape recession is to pull out of Iraq.

If the Iraq debate has indeed emerged as the most significant in coming months, the chances are Obama will have the upper hand. But Obama's anti-war stance has become a source of concern to Israel, whose "pro-Israel" camp in the US remains too significant to overlook. Justin Elliot, writing for Mother Jones, discussed Obama's challenges in putting that group at ease. After all the man is black, his middle name is "Hussein" and has a few "slips" of a tongue on his record -- notwithstanding his statement last March that "no one has suffered more than the Palestinian people," which he grossly reinterpreted later.

M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum, a dovish advocacy group, told Elliot, "The more right-wing segments of the Jewish community are the least likely to be comfortable with an African-American president."

To prove them wrong, Obama sent a letter to the US ambassador at the Security Council demanding that the council "should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks against Israel ... if it cannot ... I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all." He also claimed to understand why Israel was "forced" to impose a siege on Gaza, a siege that human rights organizations have held responsible for causing mass starvation and unparalleled catastrophe.

What's important about Obama's dramatic shift is that he has proven to be just as self-serving and easily manipulated as the rest. If he can so readily support the starvation of 1.5 million people, who is to guarantee that he will not renounce his moral stances on issues pertaining to Iraq, Iran, and indeed America itself?

BRAND NEW STORIES

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.