On 2021 and Confronting the Ghosts of the Past

Churches throughout the Strip canceled the festivities associated with the holidays. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Benay Blend

In “A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” (1843) Charles Dickens tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is paid a visit by his former business associate Jacob Marley, accompanied by the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After repenting his past transgressions, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, more generous man.

In his new demeanor, Scrooge also has the capability to change the future’s course. Partly to forestall a predicted lonely death, he declares: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

If Scrooge were alive today, he would most likely not hesitate in sending those ghosts away. Like many of us he might participate in the hope that President-Elect Joe Biden will bring about much better days. After all, we are told, the virus vaccine will also end our suffering so that, in 2021, we can destroy our masks by drenching them with hand sanitizer that will then be set aflame.

In the era of Trump’s alternate reality and the certainty of Covid-19, its very hard to predict the future. Who would have thought there would be an explosion ripping through downtown Nashville on Christmas Day?

Palestinians know, however, that the Israeli State can bomb, murder, and raze Palestinian homes with no remorse, and they can do so with America’s full funding and support. Perhaps this morning’s horror, then, was the reality of the Occupation, which few of us think about on Christmas day, coming back to haunt us.

Apparently, Dickens knew what we do not, that without examining our past misdeeds there will not be a better future.

For example, in a donation pitch for the online journal Portside, moderators ask: After putting the “nightmare [of Covid] behind us,” what is next? They assume here that the “danger of a fascist-like regime consolidating its power has been averted.” At least, “for now.” Though they acknowledge that reprieve has only been “postponed, not decided”; it is still up in the air whether “we will more forward or be dragged into an abyss.”

They should have added the word “again,” for these are not exceptional times. There have been previous times as frightening as the present seems to be, and if we fail to acknowledge the darkness in our past, it will come back again to haunt us.

In a recent article in Morning Star, Gaza author Rana Shubeir ponders what kind of future 2021 will bring for Palestine, and in particular, her children. “Like any mother,” Shubeir writes, “I try to instill hope in my children despite the grim circumstances that persist. I teach them that the injustice we live under will end one day and we have to keep shouting and never stop demanding our rights.”

After listing all of the problems her family faces due to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Shubeir goes on to speculate what has to happen in 2021 before there might be change.

“Will the international community assume its responsibility and hold Israel accountable for its crimes against a helpless population? Will the blockade, a form of collective punishment under international law be lifted?” she asks.

With Biden in the Presidency, this requires looking back at the ghosts of Biden’s past, then speculate from that what might happen in the future.

According to Philip Weiss, the ascension of the President-elect will place pressure on liberal Zionists from their adversaries, the pro-BDS Jewish community. Weiss’s’ takeaways from election day are that “1, the Jewish community is overwhelmingly liberal/progressive and 2, that 22 percent of Jews under 40 support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

Weiss comes to this conclusion based on the overwhelmingly “liberal” stance of Jewish voters who, he states, voted for Biden in large numbers. Moreover, this constituency, he predicts, will clash with Biden’s unqualified support for “Bibi.” Moreover, there is increasing opposition to settlements, he believes, and that will throw the Jewish community further to the left.

There are several problems with this analysis in terms of predicting what the future holds for Israel. As Ramzy Baroud observes, while it is hard to predict the country’s future given the instability of the governing elite, there are a few constants that will remain. In particular, “the love affair with the settlement enterprise, ‘security’ and war” are likely to continue, “as they are the bread and butter of Israeli politics.”

The rest will also persist unchanged, Baroud concludes, as “Israeli politics will remain hostage to the whims of politicians and their personal interests, if not that of Netanyahu, then of someone else.”

Given this analysis, it won’t matter that American Jews have turned their backs on Netanyahu. It is the Occupation, not a single individual, that is the problem. Moreover, opposition to the settlements at some point, too, needs to translate into the recognition that the settlements are funded and supported by the government, therefore they are not a separate, more insidious wing of Israel as a whole.

Writing of Israeli massacres during the Great Return March in Gaza, Haidar Eid concludes that Gazans “can no longer rely on governments.” Instead, he suggests that it is the international community that should be called on to “oppose these ongoing deadly crimes.”

For those who say that’s too much to ask, it will never happen, he replies: “Were the anti-apartheid and Civil Rights movements too demanding for calling for an end to all forms of racism, institutional and otherwise? And was the international community wrong to heed their calls?”

His words are just as appropriate for the end of 2020 as two years ago when he wrote them. For the most part, it will take grassroots organizations not beholden to the politics of their respective countries to help bring about Palestinian liberation. Moreover, these movements must at all times put Palestinians and their needs at the center of their discussions, taking their cue from that population, whether in Palestine or in exile in other countries.

As for the former, Shubeir asks: “What can the world expect from besieged people who are dehumanized and demonized constantly? Will the Palestinians tolerate being Israel’s punching bag?”

Again, Haidar Eid addresses this other question of whether Palestinian sumoud (resilience) will continue in the face of “incremental genocide” on the part of the Israeli state.

“We, the Palestinians in Gaza, have already made our choice. We will not die dishonorably a slow death while thanking our killers under the self-deception that portrays slavery to the occupier as a fait accompli,” predicts Haidar Eid. Instead, he concludes, in a passage that is just as true today:

“Palestinians “will continue to fight for our dignity, for ourselves and for our children. We, members of the Palestinian civil society, have long argued that the way forward should be people’s power – the only force capable of tackling the huge asymmetry of power in the struggle against Israel.”

Challenged by questions from her children, Shubeir tries to instill in them sumoud as well as hope for a better future, a difficult task for many families in these times but for Palestinians even more so because of the sustained blockade, restricted movement, unreliable electric grid, and all of the other disasters that combine to make life in Gaza so difficult.

No people deserve to demand constant steadfastness both from themselves and their children. Nor should any population deserve to live with so little hope.

For the new year, Shubeir expresses a simple wish, one that Dicken’s transformed Scrooge would surely have understood. “My wish,” she writes, “is to be able to offer my children answers on what their future may look like.”

She concludes that “despite all this injustice and devastation, one thing my people possess is their dominant will and perseverance. We drive much of our steadfastness from our Faith and our belief in the just call of our demands, and we take solace in that.”

For internationals, then, their role will be in part to educate their peers on the history of the Occupation, because as Scrooge himself had learned, there is no hope for bringing about a better future without dealing with past misdeeds.

No one knows this better than Onyesonwu Chatoyer, for she spends much of her time participating in political education. As she observes, “the best hope for the future that US citizens have is to align with the rest of humanity and live on this planet” in a way not sanctioned by their governments.

A cadre with the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) and the All African Women’s Revolutionary Union, an editor with Hood Communist, and member of the National Coordinating Committee for the Venceremos Brigade, Chatoyer is in a good position to warn that “the people you put in power are going to let you die. This is the preview. Get on the winning team.”

– Benay Blend earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: ‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)

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