zaterdag 17 november 2012

Zionist Terror 56


Gaza witness: Israel disproportionate, Palestinians fear re-occupation

Published on Nov 17, 2012 by
Israel's intensifying its barrage of Gaza on the fourth day of hostilities, and stepping up preparations for a ground invasion. Militants are firing back with unguided rockets that mostly fall off target, while Israeli precision strikes are leading to a rising number of civilian deaths. Film-maker and activist Harry Fear has been in Gaza since the first bombs fell. He says Israel has the capability to avoid collateral damage - but has instead chosen to attack indiscriminately.


Zionist Terror 55


'Israel assault on Gaza planned with US support, threatens wider war'

Published on Nov 17, 2012 by
The Israeli Cabinet has authorized the call-up of 75,000 reserve troops as the air assault against Gaza intensifies, and amid growing speculation a ground invasion is imminent. - FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES:


Zionist Terror 54


Israeli Negotiator: Hamas Commander Was Assassinated Hours After Receiving Truce Deal from Israel

Israel broke an informal ceasefire on Wednesday by assassinating Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari in an air strike. The Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate talks between Israel and Hamas in the deal to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, has revealed Jabari was assassinated just hours after he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire. Baskin, the founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, joins us from Jerusalem. We also speak with Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer based in Gaza. [includes rush transcript]
FILED UNDER  GazaGershon BaskinMohammed Omer
Gershon Baskin, founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. He was the initiator of the secret talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Mohammed Omer, Palestinian journalist based in Gaza. In 2008, he won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.  
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.DONATE >


AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a piece by Max Fisher in the Washington Postthat talks about the killing of the 11-month-old son of BBC journalist Jihad Misharawi. Not only was his little baby killed, but this Israeli round hit Misharawi’s four-room house, killing his sister-in-law, wounding his brother. According to BBCMiddle East bureau chief Paul Danahar, who was with him in Gaza, he said, "We’re all one team in Gaza." After spending a few hours with his grieving colleague, Danahar wrote on Twitter, "Questioned asked here is: if Israel can kill a man riding on a moving motorbike (as they did last month) how did Jihad’s son get killed."
I want to turn, as well, to Gershon Baskin now, founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the initiator of the secret talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He is speaking to us from Jerusalem.
Gershon, can you talk about the assassination of Jabari, the military head of Hamas, and the significance of this, as reported in Ha’aretz, what Jabari received just before he was assassinated?
GERSHON BASKIN: Well, Jabari, as the leader of the military wing of Hamas, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, was the person who was called on by the Egyptians and by his own leaders to enforce previous ceasefire understandings that were reached between Israel and Hamas after each round of rocket fire emerged over the past years. With the increasing intensity of the rocket fire and the shortening of the periods of ceasefires between myself and my counterpart in Hamas—we worked together on the Shalit prisoner exchange deal—Razi Hamed, the deputy foreign minister, proposed to the parties that they enter into a long-term ceasefire understanding with mechanisms that define what are breaches and what are not breaches and how to deal with emerging situations that are defined by Israel as impending terrorist attacks. I had written a draft about eight months ago. The draft was circulated around to Israeli officials, Hamas officials, the Egyptian intelligence and the United Nations. It was rejected, or it was decided by Hamas and Israel at that time not to decide, not to make a decision on it.
About about a month ago, when the intensity of the fighting continued again, Razi Hamed and I decided to give it another chance, and we talked together and tried to make the proposal that I had initially written a little bit less complex, easier to understand or perhaps easier to implement, and it was also designed as a trial period of between six—three to six months. I met Razi Hamed last week in Cairo. We talked about it. He went to begin showing it to the Hamas officials. He showed it to some Hamas officials sitting in Cairo. They told him to go back to Gaza and to show it to the military and political officials back in Gaza, and he did that on Wednesday morning. He was showing it around to Ahmed Jabari and other people. I was supposed to receive from him that evening a copy of the draft that he had written in Arabic for me to deliver to the Israeli side and to the Egyptian intelligence, which I was not able to do in the end.
AMY GOODMAN: Because he was assassinated.
GERSHON BASKIN: That’s right.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Gershon, I want to read part of a recent piece in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz about the Israeli assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari. The article by Aluf Benn is titled "Israel Killed Its Subcontractor in Gaza." It begins, quote, "Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel’s security in Gaza. This title will no doubt sound absurd to anyone who in the past several hours has heard Jabari described as 'an arch-terrorist,' [or] 'the terror chief of staff' or 'our Bin Laden.'
“But that was the reality for the past five and a half years. Israel demanded of Hamas that it observe the truce in the south and enforce it on the [multiplicity of] armed [organizations] in the Gaza Strip. The man responsible for carrying out this policy was Ahmed Jabari.
"In return for enforcing the quiet, which was never perfect, Israel funded the Hamas regime through the flow of [shekels] in armored trucks to banks in Gaza, and continued to supply infrastructure and medical services to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip."
Your response to that article and placing Jabari in the context of the security situation in Gaza over the past few years?
GERSHON BASKIN: Well, I don’t want it to be misinterpreted. Ahmed Jabari was not a man of peace. He was not an angel in any way. He was a warrior. He was a fighter. He was the person responsible for the Hamas coup d’état, which was conducted in June of 2007 when they brutally executed some of the Palestinian Authority security personnel. He was a strong military man who refused to speak to Israelis directly. I never had direct contact with him; it was always through third parties, other people in Hamas or other people. He never talked about peace. The truce that we were talking about was not a peace agreement. So it has to be clear: Jabari was a deeply religious Muslim who believed in the cause of Hamas and the ideology of Hamas, which includes the destruction of Israel.
But Jabari also saw, over the last year or two, a continuation of this policy of having periodic fighting with Israel that left always, in every round, between 10 and 30 Palestinians killed in Gaza, a lot of destruction, and almost no one killed in Israel. The lack of balance of power and force is so—is so obvious here that Jabari came to the conclusion, along with others in Hamas, that this was futile, a futile way to fight Israel, and they wanted a time-out. During the time-out, it was obvious that they were going to continue to build their forces, continue to smuggle in weapons through the tunnels and other ways to build up their rocket potential, longer-range rockets, anti-aircraft missiles. So this was Jabari’s thinking.
Now, my perspective on this was that Israel had to secure quiet. It is unacceptable for the civilian population in the south of Israel to be constantly under the threat of rocket fire from Gaza. There are several ways to achieve that quiet. One is to do what Israel is doing now: to assassinate people, to put two-and-a-half million people in—1.6 million people in Gaza under rocket fire, to put another million people in Israel under rocket fire. To kill a lot of people, to do a lot of damage, in the end will create some kind of deterrence and have quiet for a period of time. Or we could try what we’ve never tried before, and that’s engagement, dialogue and trying to reach some longer-term understandings. I don’t know if it would have worked. Honestly, I don’t know if Jabari would have held to the terms of the agreements or if the other factions would have given into that. My point was: Let’s try it. We’ve never done it before. Let’s try it. Maybe will have a dynamic of its own, which, instead of leading to more escalation, will actually bring about de-escalation and a possibility of having a new kind of relationship with Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Gershon Baskin and Mohammed Omer, I want to ask you both, the response where you each are, respectively, to these attacks right now, Gershon Baskin in Jerusalem and Mohammed Omer on his way to Khan Younis.
GERSHON BASKIN: Tafaddal, Mohammed.
MOHAMMED OMER: Yeah, shukran. Well, there is also more of this attack, just to bring more breaking news. The Israeli air strike just targeted a motorcycle in the west of Gaza City at the moment, as we speak. And ambulances are on their way to evacuate the people who were targeted. There is another new Israeli F-16 missile. We don’t know if it’s F-16 missile or if it’s the armed drones which fired a new round of missiles on the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Let me just mention something about—back to the humanitarian situation. Today, the Egyptian prime minister made a visit to the Gaza Strip, Hisham Kandil, and he was able to see the destruction and the damage caused to the Palestinian population. And he was at Shifa Hospital holding one of the babies who was injured. And we could see that the prime minister, his T-shirt had a lot of blood on his—from this child who was injured, who actually died in the hands of the Egyptian prime minister today as he was speaking to the media.
Other thing that I would like to mention here about the crossings in the Gaza Strip, the Rafah Crossing is open today. Kerem Shalom is closed. Erez Crossing was open in the morning; now it’s closed even for humanitarian cases. According to the United Nations and according to my observation and counting, there is 12 houses that were completely demolished in the last three days. About 150 houses, including mosques, roads, schools and farmlands, are being targeted—even kindergarten for children. Begs the question: Where the Gazans are going to hide when the Israeli F-16s are firing missiles day and night?
AMY GOODMAN: And Gershon Baskin?
GERSHON BASKIN: Yeah, I think, Amy, I mean, it’s the same situation in Israel. I have an iPhone application here which is called Seva Adom, Red Color, the Color Red, which warns people when a missile is being fired into Israel. I’m getting these now almost every other minute. It’s very good for geography lessons, because I’m learning the name of every town in the south of Israel—not only in the south, it’s a wider region now, as well. And here we have the civilian population under fire; it’s not targeted at all at military targets. It’s fired at the civilian population in Israel, and the Israelis are angry.
The Israelis don’t know why they’re being targeted from Gaza. From the Israel point of view, the Israeli point of view, the Israeli understanding of the situation, Israel left Gaza in 2005 and stopped the occupation of Gaza, from their perspective, without having a single settlement left there or single military personnel on the land of Gaza. And the civilian population has been targeted by thousands and thousands of rockets since the beginning of this operation. Since the assassination of Jabari, there’s been more than 500 rockets sent entirely on the civilian population. Not one of the targets is a military target.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Gershon Baskin, I’d like to ask you, four years ago, after the presidential election and before President Obama was inaugurated, the Israeli government launched an invasion of Gaza and actually pulled the troops back just before President Obama was inaugurated. Now, once again, after a presidential election, the Israeli government has begun taking actions in—against the population in Gaza. But the difference now is the situation has changed dramatically in the Arab world, especially in Egypt. Do you—what do you—what is your sense of the Egyptian government’s—the test that this poses to the Egyptian government in its relationship both to Israel and to the Palestinians?
GERSHON BASKIN: Well, I think we’re seeing, by the nature of the operation that Israel is conducting now, as opposed to Cast Lead four years ago, is that Israel is taking a lot more care for the—what’s called, the horrible term, "collateral damage" to be a lot less. If there’s been, according to Mohammed, 500 sorties so far over Gaza, and there are 23, maybe 24, of the people that he mentioned killed in Gaza, that’s significantly, significantly less than was in Cast Lead. My understanding is—and I haven’t seen the list of names of all those people killed, but I understand that most of them are combatants.
I don’t want anyone to be killed, and I think that this whole operation could have been avoided. But the reality is that Israel is considering its relations with Egypt as one of its primary concerns. The Egyptian military intelligence has played a crucial role in the last years mitigating and negotiating between Israel and Hamas, including with the release of Gilad Shalit and including in the last ceasefires. I was sitting in Cairo with a senior intelligence officer on Sunday evening when he received a phone call from the head of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, informing him that they had agreed to enter into the ceasefire. This was immediately communicated to the Israeli side by the military intelligence in Egypt. So, the relationship with Egypt is Israel’s most important strategic asset. And another war, a full-fledged war in Gaza, with horrendous damage, would certainly jeopardize the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have 10 seconds left, Mohammed Omer. Are you still—
MOHAMMED OMER: The majority of the people who were actually targeted are civilians. We’re talking about two women among the 23 who were killed—two women, six children and two elderly people. As I speak right now, there are more people, and ambulances are arriving to the Khan Younis hospital with more casualties who are civilians. The target is here civilians. Because the military leaders are hiding under the ground, Israel finds nothing else but to attack civilian population in the Gaza Strip.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed Omer and Gershon Baskin, I thank you both for being with us. Gershon Baskin, founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, initiator of the secret talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. And thank you to Mohammed Omer, Palestinian journalist based in Gaza, speaking to us from Khan Younis. In 2008, he won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.

'Deskundigen' 34

Op pagina 236 van zijn reisboek waarin Geert Mak ‘op zoek gaat naar Amerika,’ beweert hij dat

niemand die ooit een Amerikaanse verkiezingscampagne van nabij heeft meegemaakt… zal licht denken over het vitale karakter van de Amerikaanse democratie.

‘Niemand,’ behalve dan al die vooraanstaande Amerikaanse schrijvers, van Mary McCarthy en Hunter Thompson tot Gore Vidal en Noam Chomsky, en al die andere kritische intellectuelen in de VS van wie Mak het werk niet gelezen heeft. Bovendien geven verkiezingen in een parlementaire democratie slechts een oppervlakkig beeld van het democratische gehalte van een land. Dat geldt zeker voor de VS waar meer dan 40 procent van de kiesgerechtigden al een halve eeuw niet meer stemt tijdens de presidentsverkiezing en meer dan 60 procent tijdens de Congresverkiezing wegblijft. Drie pagina’s verder schrijft Mak met evenveel stelligheid dat ‘Veruit de machtigste lobby op Capitol Hill die van Wall Street [is].’ Hoe ‘het vitale karakter van de Amerikaanse democratie’ te rijmen is met ‘gelegaliseerde omkoping,’ is opnieuw een tegenstrijdigheid die Mak met het grootste gemak negeert. Het ‘verklaart’ wel ‘in belangrijke mate Obama’s opvallende aarzeling om de bankensector strenger te reguleren,’ aldus opnieuw dezelfde Geert Mak, die vervolgens tegen Vrij Nederland zegt te hopen dat Obama de presidentsverkiezing van 2012 zal winnen omdat dit, zo voorspelt hij nu, goed zal zijn voor de armen en voor de door de crisis getroffen middenklasse. En dit allemaal in de overtuiging dat Obama’s schatrijke geldschieters deze ingrijpende politieke omslag dit keer wel zullen goedkeuren. Op grond waarvan hij dit denkt vertelt Mak er echter niet bij. Wijselijk, want deze veronderstelling is in strijd met de werkelijkheid die Mak weigert onder ogen te zien. Wat hij tevens negeert is dat verkiezingen in een plutocratie nagenoeg niets over de realiteit van alledag zeggen, over het systeem waarin de massa moet zien te overleven. Over die realiteit waarbinnen de schizofrene houding van de consument tegenover de kapitalistische maatschappij zich afspeelt, schreef Ross Posnock, hoogleraar Engels aan de Columbia University, in een essay over The Great Gatsby:

These tensions, crucial in The Great Gatsby and in Fitzgerald’s personal response to the rich, express not confusion but the profoundest understanding, at once penetrating and sympathetic. Only an understanding rooted in the acceptance of contradiction can defy the reductionism of reification and discover the ‘antagonistic whole’ of life under capitalism, to use a phrase of the Marxist philosopher Theodor Adorno. In revealing the inescapable dialectic between Gatsby’s ‘appealing sentimentality’ and his heroism, between capitalism’s grotesque inversion of human values and its power to endow ‘mobility and grace,’ Fitzgerald achieves in fiction something akin to what, says Adorno, only the most rigorous Marxist student of society can hope to attain: ‘totality… in and through contradiction.’ Far more than ever suspected, the man whose test of a first-rate intelligence was ‘the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain to function,’ knew just what he was about when he declared himself to be ‘essentially Marxian.’

Mak negeert zowel de fundamentele tegenstrijdigheden inherent aan het kapitalisme als ‘capitalism’s grotesque inversion of human value’s,’ en dus kan zijn reisboek moeiteloos volstaan met paradoxen zonder context. Omdat samenhang ontbreekt lijkt alles spontaan te gebeuren, ineens, zonder een verleden en zonder een toekomst. En als er al een oorzaak gegeven wordt dan is die regelmatig slechts de aanleiding, zoals wanneer Mak in Vrij Nederland stelt ‘hoe logisch het eigenlijk was dat er van de beloofde change onder Obama niet veel terecht was gekomen.’ Binnen Mak’s vitale karakter van de Amerikaanse democratie,’ is het kennelijk buitengewoon ‘logisch’ dat een president die gekozen is met de belofte ‘change we can believe in’ zijn kiezers bedriegt. Volgens Mak zijn namelijk de ‘partijmachines de echte machthebbers,’ zonder erbij te vertellen door wat die ‘partijmachines’ nu precies gemotiveerd worden. Mak komt niet veel verder dan dat ‘Obama is opgegroeid in de politieke compromissencultuur van Chicago. In dat eerste televisiedebat zag ik opeens: zo heeft Obama dus óók geopereerd toen hij de banken moest saneren en dat naliet. En bij het reorganiseren van de gezonheidszorg, waarbij hij de farmaceutische industrie veel te veel ruimte heeft gegeven.’ Mak zal liever zijn tong inslikken dan de voor de hand liggende conclusie trekken dat er geen sprake is van ‘compromissen,’ maar dat in een cultuur waarin geld de centrale rol speelt de plutocratische elite de dienst uitmaakt. Overigens is dit een feit dat onder de intelligentsia in de VS geen onderwerp meer van debat is omdat het gezien wordt als een onomstotelijk gegeven, maar hier in de polder blijft deze waarheid nog steeds taboe. Het gevolg is de chaos waarin de lezer van Reizen met Charley al vanaf de eerste bladzijde verstrikt raakt. Vrijheid is bij Mak ook alleen maar een politiek begrip, geen filosofisch. In de praktijk is het een inhoudsloze notie geworden, zonder dat Mak zich afvraagt hoe dat komt. Waarom heeft Obama, die in een ‘compromissencultuur’ zou zijn geschoold, nagelaten ‘de banken’ te ‘saneren’ en waarom heeft ‘hij de farmaceutische industrie veel te veel ruimte gegeven,’ als hij inderdaad naar een ‘compromis’ had gestreefd? De lezer komt het niet te weten, het antwoord is uit den boze. In zijn reisboek blijft het kapitalisme in zijn neoliberale versie als belangrijkste macht onzichtbaar. In tegenstelling tot Scott Fitzgerald  analyseert Geert Mak niet ‘the “antagonistic whole” of life under capitalism,’ hij verzwijgt het domweg omdat de feiten niet passen in zijn als hoopgevend bedoelt verhaal voor het grote publiek. Zijn visie wordt ernstig beperkt door de noodzaak om zoveel mogelijk lezers te behagen, en absoluut niet tegen de haren in te strijken. Het gevolg is een zekere kitsch die aan Mak’s Reizen met Charley kleeft. Kitsch in de betekenis die de auteur Milan Kundera eraan gaf toen hij schreef dat

op grond van de dwingende noodzaak te behagen en zo de aandacht van het grootst mogelijke publiek te trekken, de esthetiek van de massamedia onvermijdelijk die [is] van de kitsch en naarmate de massamedia ons gehele leven meer omsluiten en infiltreren, wordt de kitsch onze dagelijkse esthetiek en moraal.' Kundera werkt dit als volgt uit: 'Het woord kitsch verwijst naar een houding van degene die tot elke prijs zoveel mogelijk mensen wil behagen. Om te behagen dien je je te conformeren aan wat iedereen wenst te horen, in dienst te staan van pasklare ideeën, in de taal van de schoonheid en de emotie. Hij beweegt ons tot tranen van zelfvertedering over de banaliteiten die wij denken en voelen.

Om een zo groot mogelijk lezerspubliek te bereiken kan Mak geen diepgang in zijn zoektocht dulden. Het beeld mag niet complex zijn, alles dient eenvoudig te worden gepresenteerd en moet makkelijk te verteren zijn. Vandaar dat hij het gecompliceerde werk van de grote Amerikaanse historici niet heeft gelezen en evenmin het oeuvre van de grote Amerikaanse schrijvers en dichters. De methode Mak lijkt op de wijze waarop de huidige generatie museumconservatoren te werk gaan: tentoonstellingen bewust zo laagdrempelig mogelijk houden door de massa simpele, toegankelijke beelden te laten zien. Het publiek mag niet geschokeerd raken, er mag beslist geen frictie zijn, en vooral: het moet de middenklasse bekoren, niet afstoten. En waarom niet? Wel, het grote publiek heeft geld om te besteden, en verveelt zich al snel. Bovendien is cultuur status geworden, je kunt nu mee praten, dat wil zeggen, napraten wat je gelezen of gezien hebt, en dan doorgaan voor een geinformeerde persoonlijkheid. Dit fenomeen is helder uitgewerkt door de Amerikaanse sociaal criticus en politiek radicaal Dwight Macdonald. In de jaren vijftig van de vorige eeuw introduceerde hij het begrip 'Midculture,' een hybride vorm van cultuur tussen massacultuur en hoogcultuur in, die net als kitsch het resultaat is van

the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution made universal literacy possible, and this produced a mass audience looking for entertainment and diversion. The new technology of mechanical reproduction permitted an ersatz culture to be manufactured cheaply for, and distributed to, that audience. The succes of this manufactured culture killed off folk art, which had been a genuine popular culture.

 Wat Macdonald beschreef was de opkomst van een 'debased commercial culture and its profit-seeking manufacturers,' de 'Lords of Kitsch.' Macdonald maakte duidelijk dat 'Folk Art was the people's own institution, their private little garden,' maar dat 'Mass Culture breaks down the wall, integrating the masses into a debased form of High Culture and thus becoming an instrument of political domination.' Het beagnstigde Macdonald dat deze vercommercialiseerde vorm van cultuur niets anders was dan 'a marketing phenomenon. It was culture manufactured for the aspiring sophisticate,' die tot gevolg had dat 'everyone seemed to be fooled -- not only the readers but the writers, the editors, the publishers, and the reviewers. They had all become convinced of their own virtuous high-mindedness.' Het probleem is dat in een massamaatschappij 'Midcult has it both ways: it pretends to respect the standards of High Culture while in fact it waters them down and vulgarizes them... Midcult is a more dangerous opponent of High Culture because it incorporates so much of the avant-garde.' Dit 'modern idiom in the service of the banal... is spreading everywhere.

Het gevolg van deze ontwikkeling zien we nu ook in bij uitgeverijen en musea. In de verwachting zoveel mogelijk om te zetten wordt het product vercommercialiseerd op de markt gezet. In het jaar 2000 publiceerde The New York Times Review of Books een artikel over deze commerciele trend. In een uitgebreide kritiek werd verbazing geuit over de toenemende waardering voor de kitsch van de Amerikaanse illustrator Norman Rockwell, wiens naam overigens wel in Mak’s reisboek voorkomt:

The campaign being waged now is to win over the traditional museum goer who has always been unimpressed with the immense popularity of Rockwell – has, in fact, refused even to consider him an artist… We are now asked to appreciate Rockwell as a great painter, and it is claimed that he has been unjustly ignored or condemned because of his old-fashioned, traditional technique and the popular nature of his imagery. 

Vervolgens wordt gesteld dat Rockwell

tells the readers of the Post only what they want to hear… he deliberately played into the hands of those who would contrast the reality and soundness of his pictured world with the nonsense and lunacy of abstract art… while Daumier was profoundly critical, Rockwell was above all complacent… Rockwell’s art claims to deal with American life as it is actually experienced… By temperament, Rockwell was comfortable with commercial art: he could not, he said, deal with the sordid side of life. Although born in New York, and partly raised there, he preferred small towns. He painted ordinary people… Only certain kinds of ordinary people however – there are no immigrants in his work and (until he took a strong position in the 1960s) no blacks, except for an occasional dining-car waiter or porter at a railway station. There are few manual laborers, and those few are comically caricatured. His people are… all white, all middle class… The poor, when they find a place, are inevitably and obviously decent, deserving poor… There are lots of dogs, all delightfully picturesque; but there is no crime, no suffering, and the erotic is always delicately muted. His view of America is characterized by omission. This was his strength with the magazines for which he worked he left out what was uncomfortable, inconvenient, disturbing. It was also what weakened so much of his art, and radically skewed his view of American life. The illustrations for Mark Twain, which are said to be much admired, are disastrous: they falsify the novels, turning Huckleberry Finn into a cute little tyke like those in early Mickey Rooney movies, 

aldus de kunstcriticus Charles Rosen en Henri Zerner, hoogleraar Kunstgeschiedenis aan Harvard University. De populistische illustrator Norman Rockwell en de bestseller-auteur Geert Mak lijken in dit opzicht op elkaar:

By temperament, Rockwell was comfortable with commercial art: he could not, he said, deal with the sordid side of life.

Evenals Rockwell is Mak ‘by temperament’ een mens die niet in staat is ‘the sordid side of life’ onder ogen te zien. Mak kwalificeert het laten zien van de andere kant van de munt als ‘doemdenkerij,’ dan wel ‘ongegeneerd  pessimisme,’ of ‘egotripperig’ gedrag. Er moet altijd licht aan het einde van de tunnel blijven, het publiek moet een feel-good einde krijgen, er moet ‘hoop’ zijn, dat is goed voor het volk en voor de oplagecijfers van de boeken. Het onveranderbare tragische element in het leven moet worden ontkend of domweg genegeerd, er moet een verlossing in het verschiet liggen. Dat is de kern van het christelijk geloof waarmee Mak opgroeide. Het probleem is allleen dat

 Overal waar men het begrip noodlot in twijfel heeft getrokken als achterlijk, zich bij alles wat het individu overkomt een verbijsterde radeloosheid van hem meester [maakt]. Hij meent te weten dat alles wat er gebeurt een benoembare oorzaak heeft, en als er oorzaken zijn, dan moeten er ook schuldigen gevonden kunnen worden. En de mens van heden brengt zijn leven, met toenemende verontwaardiging, door met het zoeken naar die schuldigen... In dit verband hoort thuis dat, zoals antropologen weten, het zoeken naar schuldigen een kenmerkende reactie van primitieve volkeren is,

zoals de Duitse auteur Joachim Fest duidelijk maakte in zijn magistrale verslag van een reis door Zuid en Midden Italie, getiteld Tegenlicht, in de Nederlandse vertaling uitgegeven bij de uitgeverij die ook Mak’s boeken op de markt brengt. Maar omdat het tragische geen rol mag spelen in Geert’s ideologie leest hij deze klassiekers niet. Vandaar ook dat hij F. Scott Fitzgerald’s werk niet heeft gelezen, terwijl toch The Great Gatsby door deskundigen algemeen wordt gezien als een van de meest significante twintigste eeuwse Amerikaanse romans. In 1972 wees de Amerikaanse emeritus hoogleraar Kermit W. Moyer in een essay er nog eens op dat

among recent critics at least, a strong consensus [is] that The Great Gatsby must be understood as a meditation on American history.

Moyer citeerde in dit verband wijlen Edwin Fussel, die als hoogleraar Engels aan de Universiteit van Californie in 1963 had geschreven dat

roughly speaking Fitzgerald’s basic plot is the history of the New World… more precisely, of the human imagination in the New World.

Moyer voegde hieraan toe met betrekking tot de continuiteit in de Amerikaanse geschiedenis dat:

Fitzgerald’s subject in The Great Gatsby, Fussell insisted, is not the Jazz Age or the Lost Generation, ‘but the whole of American civilization as it culminated in his own time.’ This sort of historical approach to the novel has since become more or less standard… James E. Miller, Jr., talked about ‘the gradual expansion of the significance of Gatsby’s dream,’ an expansion which Miller saw as encompassing ‘the dream of those who discovered and settled thed American continent.’ In 1958 another Fitzgerald scholar, John R. Kuehl, described The Great Gatsby as ‘a sort of cultural-historical allegory.’ Still more recently, Richard Lehan has claimed  that in The Great Gatsby ‘We move from a personal sphere (a story of unrequited love), to a historical level (the hope and idealism of the frontier and of democracy in conflict with a rapacious and destructive materialism.)’ Finally, Robert Sklar maintains that ‘the whole of American experience takes on the character of Gatsby’s romantic quest and tragic failure…’

terwijl tenslotte

Fitzgerald originally conceived of Gatsby as an historical novel set in the Gilded Age: ‘It’s locale.’ he wrote Maxwell Perkins, ‘will be the middle west and New York of 1885 I think.’

Kortom, de geschiedenis van de grootschalige politieke en ambtelijke corrruptie en de diefstal van gemeenschapsbezit door de Robber Barons, om nog maar te zwijgen over de genocide op de Indianen en de gewelddadige Amerikaanse interventies in Latijns Amerika, China en de Filipijnen. In elk geval zal duidelijk zijn dat een Nederlander die een 576 pagina’s dik boek over de VS schrijft niet The Great Gatsby ongelezen terzijde kan schuiven. En toch heeft Mak het niet gelezen, waardoor hij de finesses van de teloorgang van de ‘Amerikaanse Droom’ niet kan aanvoelen. Inderdaad,

Gatsby’s story is a mirror which reflects an image of American History… Fitzgerald makes this parallel between Gatsby’s history and American’s history explicit on the last page of the novel:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here (Long Island, nabij Manhattan) that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – afresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity to wonder.

Just as Daisy flowered for Gatsby, so the new world flowered for the Europeans who touched her shore; in both cases, for one electric moment, the material world promised to fulfill the imagination’s deepest longings,

aldus Kermit Moyer.

Maar dat magische moment stierf onder de totalitaire heerschappij van het puriteinse Christendom dat de materie, de natuur en het lichaam, verafschuwt en tegelijkertijd begeert met zo’n bezetenheid dat alles dat in de weg lijkt te staan nog steeds wordt vernietigd. Daaraan ten grondslag ligt de diep gewortelde pathologische angst voor de wildernis, voor de natuur, voor alles dat een eigen stem heeft, zoals de indianen al snel doorhadden toen de eerste blanken voet aan wal zetten. Opperhoofd Luther Standing Bear, Sioux indiaan zei het zo:

Wij beschouwden de grote open vlaktes, de prachtige golvende heuvels, en de kronkelende stromen met struikgewas, niet als ‘wild’. Alleen voor de witte man was de natuur een ‘wildernis’ en alleen voor hem was het land ‘vergeven’ van ‘wilde’ dieren en ‘wilde’ mensen. Voor ons waren ze tam. De aarde was overvloedig, wij werden omringd door de zegeningen van het Grote Mysterie. Pas toen de harige man uit het oosten kwam en met brute razernij ons en onze families die we lief hadden groot onrecht aandeed, werd de natuur voor ons ‘wild’. Toen de dieren in het woud voor zijn komst op de vlucht gingen, pas toen begon voor ons het ‘Wilde Westen.’ 

Maar toen was het land ook niet meer van hen, het was met geweld in handen gevallen van de blanke christelijke speculanten die het verkochten aan al even blanke christelijke boeren. Vanaf toen raakte steeds meer ontzield. En dat wat ontzield is, kan niet snel meer een ziel krijgen in het bewustzijn van de blanke christen die ook zichzelf ontzielde in zijn expansionistsche jacht op de ‘Amerikaanse Droom.’ Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby:

He had come a long way to his blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Professor Moyer:

Gatsby’s dream, the dream inspired by Daisy, is here identified with the dream which pushed the frontier ever westward. The assumption contained in this identification is that, like Gatsby’s history, American history has been the record of a futile attempt to retrieve and sustain a moment of imaginative intensity and promise. By reaching into the future, by pushing continually up against the receding frontier, we have tried to recapture that original sense of wonder evoked when the whole continent was a frontier – that original sense of wonder which soured because its evocation was essentially meretricious, a reading of spiritual;, transcendental promise into mere materiality. So we struggle on against the current of time only to be ‘borne back ceaselessly into the past’: our vain effort to seize the lost moment of promise by reaching to the future creates the fabric of our history.

De grote Amerikaanse dichter en filosoof Henry Thoreau  omschreef in de negentiende eeuw deze drijfveer als volgt:

Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free.

En in zijn beroemd geworden toespraak The Significance of the Frontier uit 1893 zei de Amerikaanse historicus Jackson Turner in wezen hetzelfde toen hij verklaarde dat de ‘frontier’ de ‘democratie’ in stand hield door

a gate of escape from the bondage of the past

te zijn. Maar omdat Mak ook deze beide denkers niet heeft gelezen blijft zijn verhaal flinterdun en meent hij werkelijk dat de VS ‘tot 1940’ een ‘gewoon’ land was en dat het dit nu weer opnieuw moet worden. Later meer hierover.
Henry David Thoreau Poster

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