Racism, Alive and Well
In the current economic times, how much does truth sell for?
In the recently concluded UN Forum on Racism, the world got a firsthand look at how racism operates. You are welcome to attend if you verbally denounce racism. If, however, you speak directly to current acts of racism, you face the barbed tongues of the media for divisive speech. If you speak of a people who have been dispossessed of their land, those who dispossessed them will walk out of the building. And, if you speak of the history of slavery and the possibility of reparations for the descendants of those people who were forcibly abducted from their homes, then, like the US, you neednt bother to even attend.
At the UN World Forum on Racism in Geneva, The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took advantage of another chance to flummox the feathers of Israel and called frequently for the disempowerment of that nation. But less focused on in his speech were a few other points. He spoke of the need to dissolve the veto power of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, who at last tally, had quashed some 40 resolutions on the subject of Palestine by the veto of the United States. He spoke of the million souls killed in Iraq and the several million who have been forced out of their homes in that country.
He also gave voice to the deathly silence of genuine action from the UN Security Council beginning in December of 2008 to January 09, when the UN spoke sternly but did not act to stop the slaughter of an estimated 1100 civilians in the Gaza Strip. He called these acts by a name, racism.
Speaking of violence in today’s society is often equated with actual violence. The difference between the two is very real though. Consider, since the year 2000, there are around 6000 fewer Palestinian souls on the planet, and around 1000 fewer Israeli. Taking into account the fact that almost every aspect of Palestinian life is under curfew, that family members often begin decomposing before they can be taken across checkpoints to burial, that women often die in childbirth for the same reason and that upwards of 70% of the citizens lack clean drinking water, one can sense that there might be a perception of racism toward the Palestinians by the Israeli government. Israel has been given material support since its inception by the United States to perform acts of dispossession on a native population. In recent times, they have expanded the ‘settlements’, tripling their inhabitants in a little over a decade and a half.
But as with America, the push for expansion of lands and displacement of native people has no term other than racism, and such crimes seep in to the consciousness of a country, as much as it wishes to shield itself from it.
That Ahmadinejad spoke so in public is of course anathema to systemic racism, which prefers not to have its name called out in the polis. To be fair to the conference attendees, Ahmadinejad’s statements were in some respects the least eloquent of the conference. The work to address the muliplicity of slave trades between Africa, the Middle East and India is laudable, as is the work to improve human rights and dignity for migrants and modern day slaves. The fact that defamation of religion has for the time being been labeled as a matter of freedom of speech is as well commendable. But Ahmadinejad’s speech still captures something that won’t sit still, even after it has left Durban in 2001 or Geneva in 2009, namely, a striving to create a world which is more just and more humane for the future, starting with an honest admission of the crimes of the past, the crimes of the present and what can be done to best help the future. A good start would be the demanding equity for the Palestinian people, many of whom currently live in isolated camps, are subject to random arrests and are forced further toward hopelessness by a policy that is by now at least two generations old.
Considering that the population that lives in Israeli Settlements in the West Bank has tripled in the last 18 years, with an estimated 40% of the settlements and ‘outposts’ existing extralegally on Palestinian land, it would seem that now would be an opportune moment for reconciliation.
Also recently, was the Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change, which captured fewer headlines than Hugo Chavez’s timely gift of a book to Barack Obama. The present, Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent”, puts forward the notion that if Latin America had been and was now fully reimbursed for all of the land and natural resources stolen from them, from the past up until the present day, they would be the keepers of the keys of the world economy, instead of its most frequent beggars. Indeed if the human species is to gain a footing that would walk it away from self-imposed annihilation and closer to sustainability, taking Native People’s perspective into account would seem to be a good start. The 400 indigenous people from 80 nations making up the Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change were in the end divided over whether to call for an immediate moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling on native lands in preference for alternative energy.
Though unresolved in the end, such a call is to date not even conceived of being mentioned in the wider populace of any country. They as well called for a stop to ‘false solutions like forest carbon offsets and other market based mechanisms that will benefit only those who are making money’ as Tom Goldtooth stated. With grain prices having doubled in the last 2 years, with ethanol consuming 25% of the US grain supply and with 18,000 children dying each day from starvation, we are fast approaching the day when it will be more profitable to put gas in a car than to feed people.
All of this, and Javed Iqbal, a Staten Island resident originally from Pakistan, was sentenced last week to six years in prison for airing an Arabic television channel and Dov Zakheiv, the rabbi who somehow lost 2.6 trillion dollars while working for the Pentagon from ’01 to ’04, is writing columns for ‘shadowgovernment’ of foreignpolicy.com. Yes, Virginia, there is a racism in the world still.