Opinion: Will America’s chickens finally come home to roost

Palestinians look at a mosque destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 24.

Palestinians look at a mosque destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 24. Fatima Shbair photo

Palestinians look at a mosque destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 24.

Palestinians look at a mosque destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 24. Fatima Shbair photo


Published: 01-28-2024 6:00 AM

Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.

It never gets any easier.

Witness that on Wednesday, Jan. 17, as a malevolent act of cultural genocide, Israel’s military deliberately placed and detonated over 300 mines to totally destroy the Israa University campus in Gaza, a Palestinian institution of higher learning that Israel had fully occupied and controlled for over two months before callously destroying it.

Its destruction had nothing to do with Hamas, hostages, scripture, or security.

They did it because they could.

In a clear act of cultural genocide, and displaying contempt for international law and convention, the Israelis blew up Israa’s main building, its museum (after looting it, according to Palestinian sources, of about 3,000 rare artifacts), its university hospital, and other buildings.

It was an act so contemptuous and provocative they didn’t even bother to use American-supplied 2,000 lbs. bombs as cover and claim that Hamas terrorists were sheltered there. No. They planted hundreds of land mines and blew it up in broad daylight for all the world to see.

They did it because they could.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

They had already, by various means, destroyed mosques, churches, libraries, bookstores, and repositories of national archives.

Why not a university?

Witness, too, that today, as I write, it is reported that Israel has now killed over 25,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are women and children, with hundreds or thousands more perhaps buried under the rubble.

Witness, too, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the edge of famine, the nearly 2,000,000 internally displaced, water too polluted to drink, the hospitals no longer being able to treat the needy.

They did it because they could.

Witness that I recount such horror week after week and it keeps getting worse, especially as irrefutable evidence mounts that my own country is complicit with the cruelty and inhumanity being inflicted upon the innocent.

Yet the horror must be revealed. Its victims are not the “human animals” callously described by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant but mothers and fathers, sons, daughters, poets, lovers, people known to me and to my friends.

Here at home, my hand shakes as evidence mounts that many people with whom I’ve collaborated over the years are refusing to act; seemingly too blind, too privileged to be concerned, or too complicit to challenge prevailing settler-colonial dominance over an oppressed and occupied people, that I increasingly wonder whom shall I trust, with whom should grief be shared.

Witness, my family, friends, colleagues, lovers, and neighbors — many of whom live in America — that Israel’s ethnic cleansing and genocide continues because our government and many of its supporters are complicit with those acts of inhumanity, complicit with denying the humanity of the Other, particularly of Arab and Muslim peoples from the Middle East.

This is nothing new.

I remember clearly the moment in 1996, when Madeleine Albright, then American ambassador to the United Nations, was asked by CBS 60 Minutes about the deadly effects of American sanctions imposed upon Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

“We have heard that half a million [Iraqi] children have died,” Lesley Stahl asked. “I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima ... And, you know, is the price worth it?”

“I think this is a very hard choice,” Albright answered, “but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

My hand shakes: 500,000 children dead. Worth it — really?

American violence is more discreet: we don’t blow up universities; we defund them; we lynch their leaders and defund the institutions.

We sanitize our history, we glorify our violent past. We don’t bomb libraries, we ban books and criminalize literacy. We don’t sanction children’s nutrition and health care programs: we defund them.

We don’t target journalists and kill them: we fire them, as MSNBC did to Mehdi Hasan.

In this world dominated by authoritarians, monarchs, oligarchs and military adventurers there’s no separation by border, no religious sanctuary, no freedom for the economically underprivileged and politically disadvantaged.

If you are underprivileged and disadvantaged, if you are the ‘wrong’ religion or color, you are defunded, marginalized, delegitimized, and disenfranchised.

Today, institutional disapprobation of Palestinians, their humanity, culture and history is rampant and vile, from elite boarding schools to publicly funded universities, museums, and libraries.

My hand shakes as I write that in America, in Indiana, one of the world’s most important living Palestinian artists, Samia Halaby, at age 87, recently had her first American retrospective canceled by her graduate alma mater, Indiana University, after she criticized Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Samia Halaby is not alone: The erasure of the Palestinian voice has reached Salem witch-trial fever.

Witness — you, my reader, you do the work and witness — the artists and poets and intellectuals and academics being pilloried and marginalized for their support for freedom for Palestinians from the river to the sea.

You do the work, dear reader: for me to list them all is too painful.

Recently, most noticeably this past week, I have begun to hear echoes of the voice of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the same Reverend Wright who wedded Michelle and Barack Obama and baptized their daughters, the Reverend Wright who from a Chicago pulpit in 2001 said:

“I heard [American] Ambassador [Edward] Peck on an interview yesterday … on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said America’s chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux,” he quoted Peck. “… We took Africans away from their country … We bombed Iraq… We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost...”

Those were not the words of a Black preacher from Chicago but a considered critique from a white diplomat who served 32 years in America’s Foreign Service, the same Foreign Service that is today riven by President Biden’s complicity with Israeli war crimes.

Peck’s 2001 truths are America’s truths today, truths calling upon us to set aside our egos and to recognize the intersectionality of all we witness, all the storms stirred by countless butterfly wings beating at different rhythms across the globe.

The intersectionality, an academic term coined in 1989 by scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, of intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination that suggests that people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression ...

An intersectionality that recognizes that identity markers; i.e., dark-skinned, Muslim, Arab, do not exist independently of each other, and that each other both informs and shares the burden, creating complex patterns of oppression.

An intersectionality that recognizes that one cannot support American imperialism and Israeli colonialism and still be true to political, racial, economic, and gender justice.

An intersectionality that recognizes that resistance and liberation movements, whether in Ferguson or Gaza, are intimately related, and that their success will inform our common survival as free peoples all created equal.

Otherwise, America’s chickens will indeed have come home to roost.