You will be spared the sight of the barbed-wire fences and the wall that closes off Ramallah from the south, President Barack Obama. One wonders whether on your way to the Church of the Nativity you will look out for the snaking wall that is choking the Bethlehem reservation from the north. It sort of resembles the wall that’s between you and Mexico, and yet it’s very different, if only because of its dimensions, although for the Native Americans there, the Kumeyaay, for example, it brutally cuts through the landscape and the personal, cultural and family ties exactly as it does for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza reservations. The violence of each regime and its ruling classes coalesces on the landscape and is presented as self-understood.
The track you’ve chosen with your hosts amounts to dancing a tango with both the violence and the ignoring of it. In other words, the people on the Indian side of the fence here know very well that your arrival is another layer of cotton to protect the status quo. And what is the status quo? That Israel devours more Palestinian land, expels, destroys, arrests, obstructs, divides and appropriates. Meanwhile, the United States continues to declare that Israel has the right to defend itself, pays it to continue on its path and pays the Palestinian Authority to remember its inferior position and not deviate from it.
Your planned quick visit to Yad Vashem raises a thought about a different holocaust, which was also the work of human beings and the methods they’d devised, albeit a holocaust that didn’t turn into a successful real estate, political and military story the way ours did. America still doesn’t have a national slave museum to honor the victims of slavery (past and present) that could be a pilgrimage site for hundreds of thousands of people in which they could confront the historic ways their country accumulated its wealth. There is a museum like that for Native Americans, perhaps because there’s an assumption that they are so few and so weak, such that their demand for rights to lands and natural resources doesn’t really pose any threat to the heirs of their dispossessors.
It’s different for the African Americans, who make up 14 percent of the U.S. population. In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks were poor (compared to 9.9 percent of the whites and 26.6 percent of Hispanics). During the same year, 38 percent of black children lived in poverty, the highest ratio of any ethnic group, compared to 12 percent of whites and 35 percent of Hispanics (source: National Poverty Center, University of Michigan).
In 2009, the median wealth for white families − wealth being one’s assets minus one’s debits − was $113,149, for Hispanic families $6,325, and for blacks $5,677, while the gap between the wealth of white and black families had almost tripled between 1984 and 2009, as reported in a study by Brandeis University. And let’s not forget: about 40 percent of prisoners in the United States are black.
The slavery museum is just a symbol, but its absence testifies to how afraid the United States and its dominant classes are to admit to the huge debt they owe for the cruelest type of exploitation one could imagine, that of human beings − their lives, bodies, souls, minds and strengths. The fear is not of uttering words of regret, but what the ramifications of those words might be − say, a decision to change national spending priorities. For example, stopping the huge outlays to bomb other countries into oblivion for the benefit of weapons manufacturers and the conglomerates that later rebuild on the ruins, and investing in its own citizens’ education and health care instead.
In short, if a black president doesn’t change the internal American reality (even though that’s what he was elected for) why should anyone expect that he will do anything against the Jewish separation regime that has been created here between the river and the sea? After all, Israel is an important component and ally in America’s strategy of control in our region. Its sophisticated security industry, which is coordinated with the U.S. weapons industry, directly benefits from the status quo with the Palestinians. And one can always say that the Palestinians who refuse to resume the negotiations.