Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

Commentary Last Updated: Nov 20th, 2008 - 02:03:38

Dining with friends after the election: Another pleasant weekend in neoliberal America
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Associate Editor

Nov 20, 2008, 00:21

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

On Saturday last, I had an intimate dinner party for close friends. In the conduct of their lives, they are unimpeachable. They are earnest progressives. They read The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, and all the other enlightened sources that 8% of Americans read. They have targeted me steadfastly with 30 years of random and pinpointed acts of kindness.

Yet, between me and them, across the candle-lit table, flickers the recurring image of another scene: a photograph I have seen of children in Gaza doing their homework to the light of a kerosene lamp. The photographer might have been Caravaggio had he lived today and painted with the camera: a flame at the center of the table, the pathos of the earnest children�s faces encapsulated in chiaroscuro at the outer margins.

In the light and yet not of it.

Someone complains that John McCain ran a vicious campaign. I quickly raise my glass to toast the chances of a guest�s son for admission to the college of his choice. The photograph flickers its shadowing accusation of willful banishment from my consciousness of those Palestinian children�s chances over our raised glasses.

It isn�t fair, I think, to be so churlish. These friends sympathize with Palestinian human rights. It�s just that they can�t talk about it now. Their president-elect has put a pall on the issue. He has said that �Israeli security is non-negotiable,� but he said nothing about Palestinian human rights. In the candlelight, we all know what that means. Pointless to talk about it. Unrealistic, too. The president-elect is not unfeeling. He had to do what he had to do to get elected. Did we want McCain?

Vice-president-elect Joseph Biden, announced, �I am a Zionist.� Well, how can one talk of Palestinian human rights at a liberal dinner table without running into embarrassing apologies for compromised governists (it�s a neologism, like �banksters�)? Can�t be done. We�re a civilized dinner party, and we�ve just enjoyed a civilized change via civilized elections.

In Gaza harbor, a Palestinian fishing boat, even within the 20-nautical-mile limit of the Israeli-permitted fishing area, is pounded by Israeli water cannons. Some say the water is foul and deliberately contaminated. Ten years ago, Palestinians hauled 3,000 tons of fish from the sea per year. Today, they haul 500 tons. The 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza go hungry.

We have consumed a satisfying meal and are now at the dessert stage: a ricotta torte drenched in a strained sauce of warmed apricot jam and cognac. As I bring in the coffee, another fragment of the buried story of Palestinian suffering in Gaza intrudes: �The Government of Israel has contended, since its implemented disengagement plan in 2005, that the Gaza Strip is no longer under occupation, and that for that reason international humanitarian law is not applicable.� The words of Professor of International Law at Princeton University, Richard Falk. He was appointed on 26 March 2008 by the United Nations Human rights Council to a six-year term as a special investigator on Israeli actions in the Palestinian Territories. To my knowledge, Professor Falk has not been invited to discuss Israeli �security� with the president-elect -- possibly because the effective Israeli occupation of Gaza is no longer a linguistic one. One can�t enter a discourse if the terms have been removed. As academics, we know this, so we professionally comply in removing the Palestinian �discourse� from our table.

Someone mentions Darfur. Vice-president-elect Biden is devoted to the genocide in Darfur. I say, �There is no genocide in Darfur.� They look up from the tea and coffee startled. The look of incredulity vanishes as they consider the source -- their lovable but extreme friend. I don�t add, �But there is one ongoing in Palestine.� It would be impolite. Some genocides can be mentioned -- usually the ones that play on TV before a US bombing campaign, like Serbia�s for example, which turned out not to have existed at all except as propaganda for the NATO bombardment; others cannot be mentioned -- Rwanda and East Timor, for example, when they were happening, and Palestine, as it is happening in its ever-evolving form of ethnic cleansing.

My guests look a little restless at the table, I notice. I have been mentally absent too long. Time to move to the comfortable chairs.

In the rooms, we come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Nothing ever changes. Or, we make changes so that things can stay the same. I sigh inwardly, as I turn off the lights after my reasonably satisfied guests leave to brave the soft drizzle of a misty November night to their cars--not two weeks after that momentous election that Lady Macbeth could have won if Richard III had been the incumbent. Nah. My literary imagination is running away with me. This president has no �damn spot� on his hands.

The children of Gaza? That �spot� is on all our hands. Not all the perfumes of Arabia . . .

Richard Falk again, but this is later, after they have left, after the gratitude and the assurances that we should meet again, soon: �Israel has since its disengagement [in Gaza], continued to exert strict and continuous control over the borders, entrance, and exit, airspace and territorial waters of Gaza. In addition, it has mounted numerous military incursions and deadly attacks on targeted individuals, and subjected the entire population of the territory to siege conditions ever since Hamas convincingly won the general legislative election in January 2006 and it tightened the siege after Hamas took over Gaza in mid-June 2007.�

But there is no Israeli occupation in Gaza, and, therefore, no need for humanitarian intervention. Some elections are more legal than others. There are genocides in places where genocide is not happening and no genocide at all where it is.

Luciana Bohne can be reached at

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Cold War shivers
The shoe-thrower should get a pardon
Honoring the infamous, exposing the dishonest: Part I
President Meathead
Waves of hope and change
International criminals
The Rick Warren controversy and Barack's bad timing
Gaza: The untold story
The enviable position of the Israeli Arab
Corruption destroys Afghanistan
You gotta love those Greeks!
Arab voters usher in hawkish Kadima list
Counting seagulls
The U.S. criminal justice system is collapsing
Christmas under occupation
India�s neoliberal elite
The knives are out for Pakistan
Try that one on for size: Al-Zaidi puts Iraq back on the map
Throwing shoes at Bush and Saddam
The shoe heard around the world