Stanley Heller

January 13, 2009

Time to Play Hardball

Why It’s Useless to Lobby Congress on Gaza

By STANLEY HELLER

The U.S.A. is reportedly a democracy. It just had an election so Congress candidates made some effort to take the public pulse. And there are the polls. The Rasmussen poll on Dec. 31 reported that only a bare plurality of Americans supported Israel’s all out war on Gaza. Less than 1/3 of the triumphant Democratic voters support the attack and Rasmussen reports only 55% of them consider Israel to be a U.S. ally at all.

Given this we would expect that when AIPAC told its attack dogs in Congress to sponsor the usual fawning resolution of support for Israel there would be heated debate and open opposition. But no, the spineless bottom feeders declared their “unwavering commitment to Israel” and to its “right to self-defense” . There was not a word about the siege, not a word about sewage flowing in the streets, not a word about the five sisters slaughtered while they slept, not a word about the bombing of the UN school, and not a mention of the children starving alongside the corpses of their parents.

The vote in the Senate was said to be unanimous. It was just a voice vote. No senator asked that the vote be recorded. In the House five voted, “No”. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Ron Paul ( R-TX), Nick Rahal (D-WVA), Maxine Waters (D-CA). 390 wretches voted “Yes” and 36 others voted ”Present” or “Not Voting”.

The election of Obama has not meant one iota of difference. Bush at his zenith didn’t get a stronger vote for Israel. One call from Obama to Pelosi or Reid and the resolution would have been shelved, but he didn’t lift a finger for the Palestinians. Instead he “monitored” the situation. Can we impeach him before he takes office?

Blessed by the new administration the Israeli Air Force Saturday dropped leaflets warning the Palestinian population to await heightened levels of war crimes.

When I think of all the millions of dollars that people wasted on “change” I want to vomit.

Peace groups, don’t tell me to write or call these unspeakable political lowlifes. Start thinking up ways to disrupt their lives and the lives and fortunes of all the self-satisfied racists who make life hell for Palestinians.

Some suggestions:

1. Demonstrate in the Streets. Not just in front of the government buildings, but in front of Israel Bonds offices, El Al Airlines, the homes of members of Congress, and the businesses of people who give massive amounts of money to Israel. There’s a weekly picket of the Manhattan diamond store owned by Israeli settlement builder Leviev. In a city like New York there should be enough people to picket 9-5 every day it’s open. There are plenty more places to picket. In 2007 Donald Trump gave a quarter million dollars to the “Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces”. Why not demonstrate in front of his ailing Atlantic City casinos?

2. Buy a Keffiyeh. Wear a Keffiyeh. During the Holocaust the Nazis in many countries made Jews wear Jewish stars so that they could be singled out and humiliated or attacked.. According to the Yad Vashem institute in France many non-Jews won the Jewish star as an act of solidarity. According to legend the Danish King Christian X put on a Jewish star for the same reason.

Today our symbol of solidarity must the keffiyeh, the head scarf worn in different styles by Arab men and women. You could see it everywhere among the 15,000 who marched in New York City last week, a march of mostly Arab and Islamic people. It needs to be worn proudly by the “whites”, too. Wear it to work and see what conversations it starts.

3. Demand unions publicly sell their Israel Bonds. 1700 unions own Israel Bonds. Last September the head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store was honored at a dinner of the Israel Bonds National Labor Division where $40 million was raised for the bonds in one night. See him beaming at Hillary Clinton in a picture here. How many of the members of those 1700 unions have any notion that their leaders are buying these bonds with their dues or pension money?

It’s time to play hardball. The union movement is desperate to get a card check bill passed. Word is that Obama has already decided not to make it a top priority. So it’s going to be a fight. The last thing unions want is bad publicity in a dispute with human rights and Islamic groups about their owning bonds that support an apartheid state. I love unions and have been a union member for 40 years, but enough is enough.

4. Meet up with Muslims. Muslim people in the U.S. have been arrested, demonized and demoralized since 9/11. The horror of Gaza is making U.S. Muslims furious and they’re starting to get active in the streets. A good place to work with them is through the local chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations. www.cair.com

5. Boycott Israeli goods. I haven’t bought as much as a Hanukah candle from Israel in years. I won’t buy a computer made with an Intel processor because Intel has a huge factory in Israel on confiscated Palestinian land. Here’s one list of Israeli products and here’s another courtesy of a site urging you to buy Israeli goods!If you need more arguments see Naomi Klein’s recent article And if a boycott is to have any effect it has to be an active boycott. Ask store owners to remove offending goods and picket the stores that stubbornly trade in the “forbidden” goods. For tips google the Jewish anti-Nazi boycott of the 30’s.

6. Boycott Israeli personalities. Not everyone of course, not Israelis who will speak out against apartheid and war crimes. (There are some Arab countries which stupidly make it a crime to deal with any Israeli!) Obviously picket any Israeli political speaker. (Screw dialogue with them.) If your college works with Israeli institutions campaign to have it stopped. Try to keep the Israeli Philharmonic or Israeli athletes out of your city. No team would ever play against a South African team during the heyday of apartheid protests.

7. The corporate media sucks, but use it as much as possible. Write letters and op-eds. If they’re not published call the editors and bug them about denying equal time. Closely monitor what the editorial page and news page publish. If they don’t cover your protests call the news desk, call or email the publisher. Ask for meetings. The Israeli embassy does it all the time. Get all the coverage you can, but at the same time raise money for your own publicity.

8. Raise money, lots of money. You gave it to stonehearted politicians. Now give it to human rights groups. Rent billboards. Put ads on buses or in college newspapers, or on internet sites. Plaster signs on walls. Run 30 second spots on cable TV. If the stations object to running a “controversial political message” announce a run for political office. Legally they have to run ads by candidates!

9. Give money to Gaza. Eventually some of it will get through. Give to the UN via UNWRA.

10. Insist the national peace coalitions act together. We have UFPJ, ANSWER and the IA Center all calling their own demonstrations. The differences in their programs are less than the length of a gnats toenail. Press them to cooperate. Insist they have open planning meetings.

11. Start thinking of ways to boycott Egypt. Their dictator Mubarak is a full partner to war crimes. By international law people being massacred have a right to flee and become refugees. Mubarak’s troops maintain the Rafah-Egypt wall and shoot and Palestinians who try to break it down. Stay away from Egypt. You can see the pyramids some other time.

12. Think of new ways to put the heat on. Try them out and publicize them. Invent Wiki-Protest.

Stanley Heller is host of the “The Struggle”, a weekly TV news program shown on the internet and on 19 cable channels.