Sleep Now in the Fire

Grotesque violence of this kind defines the Israeli apartheid project to annihilate the Palestinians, writes Vijay Prasad.   

Laila Shawa (Palestine), The Hands of Fatima, 1989.

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

Israel’s massive war machine attacks the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) with total disregard for international law. Since the OPT is an occupied territory, the United Nations does not permit the occupier — Israel — from altering the character of the land under occupation. However, this has not impeded Israel, whose attempt to evict families in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood resulted in the entry of Israeli border troops inside the al-Aqsa mosque, followed by waves of aerial bombardment that has resulted in daily death and injury toll that will be known only when the dust settles.

Importantly, the Palestinians did not surrender to this violation of international law. They fought back in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, in Gaza and the lands surrounding Israel. Thousands of people marched to the Jordan-Palestine border and the Lebanon-Palestine border, disregarding Israel’s threat to fire at them. From Gaza, different factions fired rockets to pressure Israel to desist from its violence in Jerusalem. The rockets from Gaza followed the violent and illegal provocations by Israel in the OPT; these rockets were not the first mover in the events of May 2021.

For the past 15 years, Israel has punctually bombed Gaza in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018, and 2019. Apart from this hot violence, Israel has persecuted a policy of strangulation against not only Gaza but all of the OPT, a policy of cold violence that seeks to get Palestinians so demoralized that they leave the OPT.

If Israel refuses the one-state solution (a democratic state of Palestinians and Jews) and the two-state solution (Israel and Palestine), it seeks instead a three-state solution (sending the Palestinians to Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon). This is by definition ethnic cleansing.

The bombings of 2021 have been particularly harsh, the targets including buildings that house the press and refugee camps. In Shateh (Gaza), a bombing raid on May 15 left scores of people dead. The Abu Hatab family lost 10 members, eight of them children. Grotesque violence of this kind defines the Israeli apartheid project to annihilate the Palestinians; Rogers Waters calls this violence “primal disdain.”

Juhaina Habibi Kandalaft (Palestine), Jaffa, 2015.

Given the clear violations of international law and the asymmetrical violence of the Israeli bombings, it was widely expected that the UN Security Council would call for a ceasefire. But the U.S. government of President Joe Biden informed the other members of the council that it would not vote for any resolution of that kind. The U.S. alone blocked the release of a council statement on the worsening situation last week. The U.S. also initially opposed holding an open session on Friday — as proposed by Norway, Tunisia and China — which was eventually held on Sunday. For these reasons, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the United States and 24 other countries for standing with Israel.

Amongst these countries is Brazil, whose president, Jair Bolsonaro, backed Israel’s right to use terrible force against the Palestinians. This statement from Bolsonaro came just a few days after the police operation against the people of Jacarezinho in Rio de Janeiro, which resulted in the massacre of 25 people. The gap between Jacarezinho and Gaza is only one of scale, the brutality equivalent.

 On May 15, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and No Cold War held a seminar, “China, USA, and Brazil’s quest for an independent foreign policy.” Former President Dilma Rousseff spoke about how, during her presidency (2011-2016) — and during the administration of her predecessor Lula da Silva (2003-2011) — the Workers’ Party led a process to establish institutions of multipolarity such as the expanded G-20 (2008) and the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] project (2009).

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These are not perfect systems, certainly, but they were intended to produce platforms that were not fully subordinated to the United States. Neither have been able to live up to their potential. “Asymmetrical relationships,” she said, “are not equal to multipolarity.” The G-20 continues to take its lead from the Western powers and BRICS has been weakened by the rightward shift in Brazil and India. “The B and the I of BRICS suffered problems,” she said. “The B because of Bolsonaro.” Regarding the strategic necessity of returning to the project of multipolarity for economic recovery, Rousseff explained, “Our recovery would have to be necessarily political.”

Gabriela Tornai (@gabrielatornai_) / Design Ativista, Comida, direito do povo! (“The people’s right to food”), 2021.

Brazil, being the largest economy in Latin America, would need to play a key role in the construction of multipolar institutions and in opening up the possibility for international law to set aside the imperial vicissitudes of the United States and its allies. For Brazil to play this role, the political bloc that stands against Bolsonaro and the right has to strengthen, and it has to be converted into a winning electoral coalition for the presidential election in 2022. Only if the left returns to power in Palácio do Planalto can Brazil once more play a role in building a multipolar world order.

Our May dossier, “The Challenges Facing Brazil’s Left,” from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research (Brazil) delves deeply into just this subject. To better understand the problems and possibilities for the Brazilian left, the team in São Paulo interviewed five leaders amongst the range of Brazil’s left: Gleisi Hoffmann, a chair of the Workers’ Party; Kelli Mafort of the national board of the Landless Workers’ Movement or the MST; Élida Elena, vice president of the National Union of Students and a member of the Popular Youth Uprising (Levante Popular da Juventude); Jandyra Uehara of the National Executive Board of the Unified Workers’ Central; Juliano Medeiros, national chair of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL); and Valério Arcary, a member of PSOL’s national board.

Through conversations with these leaders, the dossier traces the path followed by the Brazilian left, examining the instruments used to foster unity of the organized sections of the left and of the people behind these sections. It also explores the debate over whether to build a wider anti-Bolsonaro broad front or a narrower left front, as well as the impact of Lula’s recent pardoning from false corruption charges and his newly renewed eligibility to run for office in the next presidential election.

Cristiano Siqueira (@crisvector) / Design Ativista, Atenção, novo sentido (“Attention: new direction”), 2019.

Polls released recently show Lula ahead of Bolsonaro in the first round by 41 percent to 23 percent; in every second round scenario, Lula defeats his opponents (55 percent to Bolsonaro’s 32 percent, for instance).

MST leader Kelli Mafort says “The Lula factor exercises tremendous influence over the Brazilian left. The urgency of the current situation calls for him to continue to be a leader in solving Brazil’s problems, but it also helps urge activists to carry out base building work, expand solidarity actions, and confront the fascist Bolsonarism [that permeates] the working class.”

To root out Bolsonarism would require that Brazil settle accounts with Bolsonaro’s criminal behavior during the pandemic, which has already set in motion a charge of crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Evidence of Bolsonaro’s genocidal policies was made clear in June 2020 by Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó, who said, “President Bolsonaro wants to take advantage of the virus; he is saying that the Indian has to die.”

Mafort’s point about the need to build the bases of the key classes is echoed by the others interviewed for the dossier. They assert that winning the election is fundamentally important but that, in order to secure not only the presidency but a new project for Brazil, building the strength of the working class and the peasantry is essential. The contours of this new project will contain a program for the post-pandemic scenario for Brazil and the importance of an independent, internationalist foreign policy for Brazil.

Letícia Ribeiro (@telurica.x), photography by Giovanni Marrozzini / Design Ativista, Guardiãs (‘Guardians’), 2019.

Since last year, the United States has used its position of political preeminence to get several Arab monarchies (Morocco and the United Arab Emirates) to recognize Israel, which means to set aside the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians.

This process of undermining Palestinian rights will continue if the U.S. is left unchallenged on the world stage. Genuine multipolarity would prevent the U.S. from using its force against the Palestinians, the Yemenis, the Sahrawis and others. The defeat of the ruling classes in countries such as Brazil and India — subordinate to U.S. interests — is essential for advancing the interests of the people of the world, from Palestine to Colombia.

In 2014, the last time Israel bombed Gaza with this level of extreme ferocity, the Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon watched as families fled from their bombed homes for UN schools, which were also bombed. He imagined the danger through a conversation between a child and a grandfather (sidu). They are talking about Jaffa (now inside Israel) and wondering about the Palestinian’s right to return, guaranteed by UN Security Council resolution 194 (1948).

Are we going back to Jaffa, sidu?
We can’t
We are dead
So are we in heaven, 
We are in Palestine, 
and Palestine is heaven
and hell.
What will we do now?
We will wait
Wait for what?
For the others
to return


Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, journalist and commentator, is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of Left Word Books.

This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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5 comments for “Sleep Now in the Fire

  1. May 22, 2021 at 09:29

    Some longtime readers and supporters of Consortium News may feel the same … Humanity has reached the point on the ever-present moral arc of history where apartheid conditions on Earth – as (im)perfectly exemplified in apartheid Israel – must become 100% abolished.

    Total abolition of apartheid on Earth is the best option now, and has always been the best option, particularly when accounting for and having firmly in mind consequences resultant on which coming future generations’ (physical and spiritual) health, happiness and overall real sense of well-being are dependent.

    This generation on Earth’s actions will undoubtedly determine the quality of life for future generations yet unborn.

    We challenge any person on Earth to prove that TOTAL abolition of apartheid in this world is NOT humanity’s highest, wisest, possible morality-based option at this juncture in human history.


  2. Stephen Morrell
    May 21, 2021 at 07:08

    When one of the pillars of human rights/NGO complex labels an entity like Israel an ‘apartheid state’, then that’s because they don’t want anyone to recognise or acknowledge that its fascistic Zionist regime fulfills internationally accepted criteria for a genocidal regime. According to the UN definition of genocide, under Article II of its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948):

    Article II

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    At a minimum the Zionist regime of Israel has for decades met conditions (a), (b) and (c) of Article II at a minimum, and it could be argued that the siege it imposes on Gaza is a measure under the rubric of (d). The Israeli Zionist state thus is a genocidal state that continues to commit acts of genocide. The label ‘apartheid state’ prettifies this grotesque and ugly reality.

    Under Article III of the Convention appears the following:

    The following acts shall be punishable:
    (a) Genocide;
    (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
    (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
    (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
    (e) Complicity in genocide.

    By meeting at least one condition under Article II, under Article III the Israeli Zionist regime fulfills all conditions (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e).

    Even if the Zionist regime’s US godfather were absent, the UN still has a get-out-of-jail-for-free card, and this why the Israeli criminal regime will never be prosecuted, let alone ‘punished’, at least according to Article VI of the UN’s Convention:

    “Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.”

    Israel is a signatory to this Convention (signed in 1949), but of course the nub is ‘jurisdiction’. Where is the ‘competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed’, but in Israel/occupied Palestine itself? Appeal to the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) wouldn’t help either. The ICJ only hears contentious cases put by nation states against other nation states, not non-state entities. Palestine isn’t recognised as a nation by the ICJ despite its UN membership as a ‘non-member observer state’. Palestine has no independent, sovereign state to speak of. Therefore Palestine has little ability to take the Israeli Zionist regime to the ICJ and charge it with genocide, and Israel’s Zionist rulers certainly wouldn’t be expected to take themselves to the ICJ and charge themselves with genocide. Thus there are no legal avenues on this earth to stop the Zionist Israel regime’s ongoing genocide against Palestinians.

    To top it off, in truly Orwellian fashion all the UN material on genocide comes under the rubric of “The United Nations office on Genocide Protection And The Responsibility to Protect”, which by happy coincidence (ie, ‘The Responsibility to Protect’) is also the US’s latest foreign policy doctrine. Grotesque.

    Palestine’s liberation will never come about by ‘legal’ means, and in the case of interpenetrated peoples (as is still the case in Israel/occupied Palestine), there is no solution for the Palestinians this side of a socialist revolution. Under capitalism, at ‘best’, the terms of national oppression would only be reversed.

    • rosemerry
      May 21, 2021 at 15:10

      Complete agreement with Stephen. It is grotesque to observe “The United Nations office on Genocide Protection And The Responsibility to Protect” take over from real human rights and adherence to UN stated values. To see the USA abandon international law and the UN, using the “rules-based international order” which means the individual rights (changing gender etc) so dear to the “West” and the rule of minorities over the rest, with unilateral decisions to “protect” certain groups in other lands ,such as Muslims in Xinjiang in China, NEVER those our loyal allies are murdering in Palestine.

  3. RATM
    May 21, 2021 at 04:25

    The world is my expense
    The cost of my desire
    Jesus blessed me with its future
    And I protect it with fire
    So raise your fists
    And march around
    Don’t dare take what you need
    I’ll jail and bury those committed
    And smother the rest in greed
    Crawl with me into tomorrow
    Or I’ll drag you to your grave
    I’m deep inside your children
    They’ll betray you in my names

    I am the Nina The Pinta The Santa Maria
    The noose and the rapist
    And the fields overseer
    The agents of orange
    The priests of Hiroshima
    The cost of my desire

    Sleep now in the fire

    Zach de la Rocha 1999

  4. fz
    May 20, 2021 at 18:48

    It is not that it “would” be ethnic cleansing, but that it “is” and “has been” ethnic cleansing from day one.
    And, Zionist regime has lost this war, as a war mongering regime.
    The Resistance, now, has the upper hand.

    The Zionist regime made this move to continue with ethnic cleansing in al-Quds, after the Resistance made clear that Zionist regime can not make any more attacks beyond the borders of Palestine. Nevertheless, this Zionist attack on defenseless Palestinians has garnered such a response for the resilient Palestinians that it has the Zionist regime on the defensive; and, for the first time the Palestinian right of defense having become an issue, even in imperialist media.

    The new show of force, by the Resistance, means that Zionist regime can no longer sustain the blockade against Gaza. As, the Palestinian right of defense is no longer something to be considered, but a reality and a fact.

    In this new paradigm the Palestinian right of return, can be considered another reality in the future, but a new issue is arising and that is the Palestinian right to expel colonizers from Palestine.

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