Article and Photos By KAY MATTHEWS
Outside Senator Tom Udall’s new office in Santa Fe 40 people gathered to protest the Senate vote to support Israel’s continued military attacks on Gaza.
Inside, the Democratic faithful waited to hear Udall and his guest Minnesota’s Senator Al Franken, co-sponsor of the unanimous resolution, talk about everything but Israel and Gaza. When activists tried to raise the issue they were booed and shouted down, and one of them, organizer Carmen Stone, was forcefully ejected from the room: “I was pretty roughed up by his security.”
Before Udall and Franken arrived, organizer Jeff Hass of Santa Feans Against the Gaza Invasion, read a press release that said: “Now over 1600 Gazans are dead, over 6,000 are wounded, 450,000 are refugees with no safe place to flee, very little food, water, electricity, and disease is on the horizon. The response of our senators and indeed the entire Congress and administration is to provide more U.S. grenades, more U.S. tank weapons, and more U.S. missiles to Israel.” Franken is also the sponsor of a bill to rearm Israel. He has been slammed in his own state in the past few weeks, and according to “Fight Back!News,” protesters in Minneapolis shut down his office on July 30 and 15 were arrested for refusing to leave.
When the protesters in Santa Fe tried to interrupt Udall, and then Franken, Udall insisted that he is having a “dialogue” with people about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict who “come to his office,” and Franken resorted to the liberal comeback that he, too, used to be a protester during the Vietnam War. Then he told the story of how he helped shout down George Wallace during his presidential campaign but when a history professor chided him for it he “felt ashamed . . . I don’t like to shame people except if they’re right wing.”
In fact, by supporting Israel’s attacks on Gaza he is allied with, not shaming, an extreme right wing Israeli government that is on record opposing a two-state solution because ultimately it wants one state that is free of the Palestinian people. The press release also addressed this: “The current military attacks on Gaza are an amplification of the slow death that Israel is working on the people of Gaza. It is genocide by destroying the water filtration and sanitation system and depleting the aquifer under Gaza so that even before the attacks more and more Gazans lacked drinking water. It is cutting off electricity and basic food and medicine and not allowing construction materials in to fix the infrastructure destroyed in previous attacks.”
That these self-defined “liberal” senators find themselves in bed with this right wing government forever tarnishes their more progressive positions regarding immigration, climate change, campaign finance reform, etc. But questioning U.S political and military support of Israel is considered the kiss of death to a politician because of the AIPAC lobby, the Holocaust industry that exploits the memory of the Jewish persecution to promote the interests of Israel, and most importantly, the military industrial complex’s demands for profit.
Conversely, Israel is testing its weaponry and homeland security tactics on Palestinians before exporting them to countries and police departments around the world, including the Albuquerque Police Department. In 2005 the then chief of police of Washington, DC, a city that has adopted Israeli-style policing to an extreme degree, told The Washington Post that Israel is “the Harvard of antiterrorism.”
La Jicarita has covered the militarization of New Mexico in other articles, particularly relating to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Acknowledgment that nuclear bomb production at LANL has degraded our health, air, water, and culture and has never lifted northern New Mexico out of poverty is also seen as the kiss of political death. Tom Udall will never engage in that conversation, either.
Perhaps the best the activists could hope to achieve was to cause the senators some embarrassment and remind them of the disconnect between their “progressive” claims and their complicity in the murder of civilians. As Edward Said, Palestinian American author and intellectual, pointed out in his series of lectures Representations of the Intellectual, once you become a “professional” (substitute “politician” for “intellectual”) you give up principles:
“Everything I have written in these lectures underlines the importance to the intellectual of passionate engagement, risk, exposure, commitment to principles, vulnerability in debating and being involved in worldly causes. For examples, the difference I drew earlier between a professional and an amateur intellectual rests precisely on this, that the professional claims detachment on the basis of a profession and pretends to objectivity, whereas the amateur is moved neither by rewards nor by the fulfillment of an immediate career plan but by a committed engagement with ideas and values in the public sphere.”
Folks in Albuquerque also protested in the street and in front of the new Udall office there.
Henry Siegman, who from 1978 to 1994 served as executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation’s “big three” Jewish organizations along with the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, recently appeared on Democracy Now. His voice, in this two part interview, is one of the most informative—and moral—I’ve heard on this devastating conflict.