Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gilad, On his Way Home at Last!

October 15, 2011
I have a lot to say about the recent Hamas-Israeli agreement bringing the exchange of over 1000 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli, Gilad Shalit.  However, I will wait until after Shalit arrives home, which will hopefully happen this Tuesday.  Over the last five years the seemingly quiet and soft spoken soldier, was subjected to the one of the worse types of psychological (and perhaps physical) torture. During the years he was held captive, a whole country held their breath and dreamed for the day when he would be released.  Like many Israeli Jews and Druze, Shalit was swept away to the army at 18, only to fall hostage a year later to the Palestinian Islamist Organization, Hamas, who infiltrated the border and kidnapped him. The pain for the family and friends would have been enough merely had he been held as a prisoner of war; however, the psychological torment of never allowing them or even the proper international organizations to visit him, managed to capture not only the Israeli population, but also many international leaders.  The only signs of life his family has seen was one letter and then over two years ago a tape was released with a message from Gilad.   
Marking his fifth year in captivity, Amnesty International and other human rights groups issued the following statement early this year concerning Gilad:
Hamas must immediately end inhumane and illegal treatment of Gilad Shalit
Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit has been in captivity for five years. Those holding him have refused to allow him to communicate with his family, nor have they provided information on his well-being and the conditions in which he is being held. The organizations stress that this conduct is inhumane and a violation of international humanitarian law. Hamas authorities in Gaza must immediately end the cruel and inhuman treatment of Gilad Shalit. Until he is released, they must enable him to communicate with his family and should grant him access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
As I mentioned above, once Shalit has returned home I will write on the topic. Over the last three years I have had my blog I worked to keep his name on the agenda and can honestly say that his release will truly be a great day for many of us who never stopped hoping.  What a relief that the next time I will write about Gilad, he will be free, and I will then have the chance to comment on what this means in the greater scheme of things in the Middle East; and, I have much to say.  However, for now, I will hold my breath for a little longer and wait for the twenty-five year old to return home. His parents, Noam and Aviva also proved living examples of the true meaning of parenthood. They never gave into the pressures, camped out almost two years next to the Prime Minister’s house, literally campaigning for their son’s release everyday he was gone for over five whole years. My heart goes to them. 
Gilad, we are waiting for you and wish you only the best! This will certainly be a festive day (yom hag)!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupywallstreet and the American Predicament

The other night, I ventured out of Brooklyn to come eye to eye with the Occupy Wall Street protest.  As someone who thrives on protests, I have always been a bit skeptical when it comes to protests which take place in the United States.  My visit to Occupy Wall street strengthened these convictions.

Preparing for the next day
It is not that I do not support them; the opposite holds true. They are a great group of people who believe in real change, tired of “more of the same.” By that I mean that they reject the continued injustices that take place on a daily basis in the place where so many people use to call the land of opportunities. The façade however has come crumbling down. Far too many Americans have no work. No future. As their homes are foreclosed, and their property taken away, they are left with no real answers, accept to turn towards religious based support groups and charity (among others) who are willing to fill in for the government (something that perhaps only perpetuates the problem in the long run).  And, it is in this reality, in this country, where stars make millions along with a corporate America who prefer to cut their employees salaries while doubling their own, that a group of Americans joined together to takeover Wall St.  The question remains whether they will succeed (understanding that the question of success is subjective). Far too many complain that the protesters do not have a clear set of goals. This might be true, but until now has there been an alternative? I support these protestors on Wall St., one by one, even with all the blemishes.  However, frustratingly, I cannot come to any other conclusion other than that their battle was doomed even before they sent their forces out to revolt.
Let it be known however that the eventual and inevitable failure of the protests will not be that of the protestors; they have proven their steadfastness, dedication, and their will to drive change. The failure can only be attributed to the American public who has not heeded their call.  However, this is to be expected in a country where such a large part of the population has been born and bred on a simplistic understanding of capitalism making any protest against big business and corporate America doomed to fail. 

Essentially, the American people have become shareholders in the American factory of McDonalds, Nike. Apple, Microsoft, Hollywood (to name a few), and even the banks (one cannot simply punish banks for a culture which enabled the banks to create such economic havoc). The American dream has transformed from the ownership of commodities to the embodiment of them. Consumerism and citizenship have merged into one ideology, one entity, creating a capitalocracy: a merging and blurring of capitalism and democracy. Let me be clear, not a plutocracy but a capitalocracy (correct me if there is a better word), one where every citizen is part of the machine, a shareholder in the system.
Keeping the protesters in good spirits
Simply put, any dissent is a threat to the American psychosis and is treated with a suspicious eye.  Therefore, it is clear that the protesters have only remained on Wall St. this long due to the grace of the New York Police Department; let us not fool ourselves, if the police wanted to they could permanently clear the protestors from Wall St. within hours. Such compliance and public trust in the police force might be the norm in the US, but it is not the case in most places in the world. So the question that remains is how long can this go on? I hope I am wrong, but I imagine not much longer.  If I were the protestors, I would reorganize and work on a new strategy which would capture the minds of the American people, who are quickly getting bored.  Abandon Wall St. and keep your struggle dynamic. You have already captured the minds and hearts of a minority; now rethink your strategy to capture the  majority. Show us that you are here to stay! Keep us on our toes, and continue to take the US and world by surprise. And, do not let the institutions you are fighting simply bury your movement where you have started: in Manhattan, on Wall St.