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Epidemic influenza resembles a terrorist. Its virus camps among pigs and birds, inflitrates innocent people, mutates until a lethal variant trumps the immune system defense and takes over the human host as a weapon of mass destruction. Unlike anthrax, influenza spreads from person to person; unlike plague and HIV/AIDS, there is no effective drug.
Prevention and public health take a back seat to curative medicine in our tech-happy society. Politically we hunt down bad guys; pathogens are bad guys to be punished, but our aim is scattershot, our strategy biased toward pharmaceutical enrichment and poverty of prevention (only two suppliers of flu vaccine, this year and one fell down). The axiom about people, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" applies to microorganisms. Antibiotics have been used as placebos, wasted on colds, producing bacterial monsters that plague our hospitals and streets.
Knowing all this, Historian John Barry, prize-winning author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and three other books, shows how exceptional science, humanitarian impulses, honest reporting, and courageous leadership contend with wishful thinking, dishonesty, and fear. His narrative pulls ahead, explanations light the way, tension grows about what comes next. The story of the influenza pandemic--"the deadliest plague in history"—has three starting places: Kansas, 1918, for the probable first outbreak; Baltimore, 1876, for the launching of Johns Hopkins University; and Greece, 460 B.C., where Hippocrates first investigated disease in a scientific way. Barry gives an stimulating precis of medical history and scientific method, that, sad to say, is lacking in most medicals schools today.
That history comes to a focus on the slow, painful transfer of European sophistication to the wasteland of American medicine at the turn of the 20th century. It was easier to get into medical school than college then, and the 150 proprietary schools graduated men most of whom had not witnessed an autopsy, done a chemistry experiment, used a microscope, or examined a patient. Just a century ago medical ignorance and quackery were the rule, not the exception.
Reports of the outbreak of what became the epidemic were suppressed by politicians and the press to keep people calm. Venality prevailed in Philadelphia when the mayor and his medical adviser allowed the biggest parade in the city's history to take place despite warnings about contagion. Soon the hospitals were full, the morgues overflowed, mass graves had to be dug. What had been "just influenza" now made many think of the plague. Ultimately 675,000 Americans died, most in the last three months of 1918. Around the world the total can only be estimated: 50 to 100 million. The population then was about one-third what it is now; less than one percent of Americans died but in areas and in whole countries with little prior exposure to influenza and less resistance the death rate was four percent or more. Unlike the influenze we know, this one took its greatest toll among young adults (21 – 45) probably because the elderly retained some immunity from earlier, milder epidemics.
Woodrow Wilson appears as a fanatical crusader once he decided to enter World War I in 1917. He had a weak Surgeon General and ignored better doctors' pleas to stop the transport of troops in crowded ships. Thousands died needlessly in what became "floating caskets" even as the surrender of Germany and its allies was imminent. Only in late September 1918 did newspapers urge people to avoid crowds, cover up coughs and sneezes, wash hands, etc. Doctors and nurses were dying too, and panic was widespread. People died on trains. Corpses riddled tenements. New orphans were cooped up with dead parents with no one to feed or even find them .
The crackdown came too late, e.g. a law in New York state punishing the failure to cover a cough with a year in jail and a big fine (after the horse gets out--like banning penknives from airplanes after 9/11). Bacteria were believed to be the primary cause of influenza, and often did attack its victims. Lab scientists found the viral connection over the next 25 years, which included the epochal discovery of the role of DNA, all thoroughly covered by Barry. The book is dedicated to Paul Lewis, a dedicated researcher who died while studying another viral disease, yellow fever; he is one of many key players humanized by Barry with details of personality and family.
In an afterword Barry looks ahead. The WHO says 43 different infectious organisms could be used as weapons, not including influenza. That would change if someone discovered how to make a dangerous mutant. "A weaponized influenza virus could be the equivalent of a worldwide nuclear holocaust." Publishing such information would enable terrorists to make the virus while also providing information on how to block it: an ethical dilemma for scientists and journalists.
The book ends with a powerful comment on the danger of panic, and the importance of a government and press that earn and keep the public trust. "Leadership must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart."
Locked out of “organized” white baseball black owners, fans and players developed their own teams and leagues. When the Baltimore Elite Giants played their first game in 1939 in a still largely southern city defined by racial segregation and discrimination, Negro baseball had begun expanding into two leagues with its own All-Star and World Series games as “a sanctuary” as Bob Luke comments in this finely balanced portrait. Whites barely noticed. Black teams couldn’t even catch the attention of American presidents as they had for white teams since 1910 when William Howard Taft threw out the first ball on opening day at Griffith Stadium in Washington and which has since became a political tradition. Luke notes that after Tom Wilson, the Elites’ owner invited Franklin Roosevelt to do the honors in 1936 when the Elites were still located in Washington, FDR was unavailable. Yet when the white Washington Senators opened their season FDR was on hand to perform the ceremony.
Baltimore’s team originated in Nashville in 1929, joining the Negro National League just as the stock market crashed. They then moved to Detroit and found no stadium was available. Then on to Columbus, Washington and finally, to Baltimore where at last they found a home. Money was always a problem as was the difficulty in renting white arenas. Black owners with marginal businesses such as the numbers game found themselves short of cash. As a result, players rarely received contracts and many jumped from team to team in this country and in Mexico.
But always there was baseball. And two kinds of players: those like Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin and Satchel Paige (signed by Veeck in 1948 at age 42 when his legendary fastball was gone) reached the white leagues after Robinson first appeared in a Brooklyn uniform in 1947. Others, like Smokey Joe Williams, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard, Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson, Cool Poppa Bell and many more who would have easily made white teams, had lost their skills by the time white baseball finally opened its doors.
Ironically, what killed Negro baseball was racial integration. After Robinson, black Americans overwhelmingly supported baseball’s new open door policy. The Negro leagues’ American Giants tried desperately to stay alive, hiring white players. Janet Bruce’s history of the Kansas City Monarchs (Robinson’s team) pointed out that the Indianapolis Clowns even signed female players. Yet given the fact that black sports writers and some white ones—and the Daily Worker too--- had for years campaigned for an end to baseball’s segregation policy, Negro baseball had become a terminal case. Despite objections, black and white Americans reached a consensus that nothing should stand in the way of liberating baseball.
Read together with Robert Peterson’s Only the Ball Was White (1970), John Holway’s Voices From the Great Black Baseball Leagues (1975), and Donn Rogosin’s Invisible Men: Life in Baseball’s Negro Leagues (1983) Luke’s portrait of the Elite Giants adds much to a wonderful past.
Paradoxically, African American players have until recently begun vanishing from major league baseball, attracted, presumably, to the greater rewards offered by basketball and football. Even so, from a record low of little more than eight percent in 2007 the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida reports that the figure has now grown to slightly more than ten percent and there are more African American (and Hispanic too) field and general managers. Justice takes time.
His parents’ devotion to the Socialist Workers Party was paramount in their lives. Inspired by Trotsky and his hatred of Stalin’s Soviet Union, they were part of the Fourth International, their answer to Moscow’s Third International. They were anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-war, all of which they believed related. The SWP, a legal political party, was regularly persecuted, prosecuted and spied upon by the American government. Over the years their members included novelist James T. Farrell, philosopher Sidney Hook, Marxist theoretician Max Shachtman, the political writer James Burnham, all of whom turned rightward later in their lives.
In 1941 SWP’s leaders were sent to prison for violating the unconstitutional and repugnant Smith Act while the American Communist Party cheered; their approval changed drastically when their leaders were later indicted and imprisoned in 1949-50 for violating the very same Smith Act. In truth, the SWP was never much. In 1976 its presidential candidate drew 90,986 votes. By 2008 their tally was down to two candidates drawing 7561 votes, their membership reduced by many factors including continuous doctrinal disputes.
Still, those who survived its constant factional battles were true believers. Said writes that he wasn’t allowed to eat grapes because the United Farm Workers were being exploited by capitalists. He also adds that he couldn’t have a skateboard until every poor kid could have one too. And when would the revolution come, he asks his mother? “Soon,” she reassures him over and again, just as millions of religious parents awaiting the imminent coming of the messiah have assured their young.
Martha Harris Sayrafiezadeh, deserted by her husband, wearing her ubiquitous back pack containing scotch tape, stapler and other materials suitable for posting leaflets, would take young Said to party meetings, demonstrations and street corners where they would distribute flyers. Loyalty to the party was crucial. He writes that when he was a child a party baby sitter sexually abused him and when his mother complained to a SWP functionary he waved the allegation away. When the party leadership decided their middle class members had to reach out to the working class they instituted the “turn to industry” policy and Sayid’s older brother and sister found jobs in factories, much as young American Communists had done. And of course there were those internal battles where the losers were cast out. At one party convention Said describes walking with his sister “passing a table covered with pamphlets and surrounded by sad men who had been expelled from the party years ago.” His mother berates him for approaching and greeting these “sad men.” They are no longer comrades, she warns him.”
The doctrinal wars helped tear the party, small as it was, apart. “Each time the party had grown smaller and each time the members had assured themselves that now only those with the correct ideas remained.” During the late seventies, not long before the 1979 Iranian hostage, Said's father returned to Iran to form a unified Trotskyist party and eventually run for Iranian president under its banner. The party soon split into three factions and he received an infinitesimal number of votes, was briefly jailed, and then returned to the U.S. to become a professor of mathematics and remain loyal to the SWP.
Said, now an adult, writes of meeting his long missing father who proceeds to persuade him that a coal miners strike was less about wages and the right to organize than a demand for human dignity. He then urges his son to buy an introductory subscription to The Militant, the party’s official organ,.
His mother, meanwhile, remained loyal to Said. In her seventies she retired from her 30 year job as a secretary in a Pittsburgh university and finally quit the party as did her elder son and daughter. Now attending Quaker meetings, she told a Pittsburgh newspaper she loved her son’s book. Said meanwhile had relocated from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn, worked for Martha Stewart, acted, wrote, and married. Toward the close of the book his mother visits and unexpectedly asks, “Said, can you tell me? How is Mahmoud?” Said answers that he hadn’t seen his father even though they both work and live in the same New York City borough. He did talk with him months before and Mahmoud said he was pleased to learn his son had married but, as Said had heard all his life from him, “he couldn’t [visit] right now, but soon, definitely soon.” But at an earlier lunch his father showed him a photo of Said as a baby which he had in his wallet. “I’ve carried this with me the whole time,” he told Said, who is clearly moved by the surprising revelation. And when his mother prepares to board a bus for Pittsburgh following her visit she embraces her son and weeps.
Did it all happen as Said records? Were the SWP leaders and members such insensitive ideologues? Was their unflagging opposition to the Vietnam and Iraq wars of no concern to him? Has his experience turned him sharply to the right? Or, perhaps, made him apolitical? And is he Iranian or Jewish or even a residual political theorist? A talented writer, we need to hear more from him.
And now that we’ve heard from a child of the far left who among the children of the far right will write their memoirs?
During the industry’s infancy, the leading movie producer in Texas was Frenchman Gaston Melies, founder of San Antonio’s Star Film Ranch. Between 1910 -1911, Melies produced over seventy films, including The ImmortalAlamo (1911), the “first significant movie made in Texas.” Actor Francis Ford (brother of legendary film director John Ford) appeared in Melies’s feature, as did a group of cadets from the Peacock Military Academy, who played General Santa Anna’s troops.
But Texas was not destined to be the motion picture capital. California beckoned. Despite Melies’s “valiant efforts to turn San Antonio into a mecca of moviemaking,” Graham observes, “it was another town in the West, Hollywood, that soon dominated the nascent film industry.” In late 1911, Melies departed Texas for the West Coast.
Graham divides his study into six chapters, several of them cleverly titled: “When the Shooting Started,” “The Strong Silent Type,” “A Handful of Texas Steers,” “Grade A Texas Beef,” “Tex Messaging,” and “Schmaltz Across Texas.” He assesses a number of motion pictures, iconic, middling, and minor.
A highly opinionated writer, Graham lambasts and lauds with aplomb. He avers that two films contend for the title of “worst Texas movie ever”: Lovin’ Molly (1974) and Dr. T and the Women (2000). The former motion picture, which “gets everything wrong,” starred Tony Perkins and Blythe Danner and was helmed by Sidney Lumet. Perkins “plays a cowboy who wears L.L. Bean shirts (over a black Tee shirt) and flat-soled shoes; he looks ridiculous.” Graham pans the latter movie as “deeply misogynist” and deems the film’s director, Robert Altman, “vastly overrated.” He also savages Warren Beatty’s performance in Bonnie andClyde (1967). Graham declares that Beatty “is consistently annoying, mainly because he is so in love with himself.” In sum, one “can see how stylish and avant-garde the film seemed in 1967, but much of that energy seems now to be rhetorically empty; the [movie] is about nothing except Beatty’s ego.” Nor does Graham spare Beatty’s pal, Jack Nicholson. In the modern Western The Border (1982), “Nicholson acted for one of the last times before he started mailing in cartoonish caricatures of himself.” Furthermore, Graham flays director John Lee Hancock’s The Alamo (2004), “another leaden ode to Texas’ most famous battle.” He particularly skewers the acting of Jason Patric (Jim Bowie) and Dennis Quaid (Sam Houston). Graham quotes a waggish New YorkTimes critic who quipped that “Patric and especially Quaid…affect the kind of grim determination often found in laxative commercials.” Although Graham commends Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of Davy Crockett, he concludes that The Alamo is ultimately “more of an expensive reenactment than a movie.” Ouch.
Graham, however, smiles on other performers and films. He praises two talented character actors, the “always reliable” Ben Johnson and the “always superb” Warren Oates. Moreover, Graham applauds director Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway (1972), which “remains very watchable.” Steve McQueen, its star, “wears a dark suit with an open-collar white shirt and looks great all the way through the film.” Graham opines that a “shoot-out in a seedy El Paso hotel is one of the best gunplay sequences that has ever been filmed. McQueen handles a pump shot-gun like nobody else.” He also compliments North DallasForty (1979), Pete Gent’s roman a clef about the Don Meredith era Cowboys. This feature, which starred Mac Davis and Nick Nolte, “is one of the best football movies ever made.” And Graham asserts that Tommy Lee Jones’s The ThreeBurials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) “has a stark originality, great visual honesty in its depiction of the material culture of the Southwest, and a sure sense of character and redemption.” (But he puckishly adds that the decomposing body of Estrada “resembles Little Richard”!)
Graham adeptly analyzes four iconic movies: Red River (1948), Giant (1956), Hud (1963), and The Last Picture Show (1971). “No Texas films before are as rich as these and few afterwards come close,” he affirms. “Taken together as a continuous narrative of mythmaking,” these four classics define “the founding, the growth of empire, the ironic decline, and the death of the central trope of Texas film mythology: the cattle kingdom in all its glory.” Graham particularly admires the latter motion picture, “an elegiac goodbye to the West, and a deeply pessimistic portrayal of the shoddy civilization created in its wake.”
Following JFK’s murder in Dallas, Texas yahoos and reactionaries “took a drubbing” from Hollywood. Consider, for example, Slim Pickens’s Major King Kong in Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Ed Begley’s General Midwinter in Billion Dollar Brain (1967). Midwinter, Graham writes, was “a demented right-wing Texan who dresses in K-Mart leisure wear and has a war room…where he practices shooting at cut-out targets of Hitler and Stalin.”
Graham, who teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, is an authority on Lone Star pop culture. A prolific scholar, his books include Cowboys and Cadillacs: How Hollywood Looks at Texas (1983), No Name on the Bullet: A Biography ofAudie Murphy (1989), Giant Country: Essays on Texas (1998), and Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire (2003). He has also edited Lone Star Literature: From the Red River to the Rio Grande (2003) and LiteraryAustin (2007). Additionally, Graham serves as writer-at-large for Texas Monthly magazine.
Like so many books published today, State Fare lacks an index. This is disappointing. Unfortunately, Graham’s study also omits two significant, though flawed, LBJ period films: Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee (1965), starring Charlton Heston, and Arthur Penn’s The Chase (1966), featuring Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, and many other stars. For an excellent analysis of these two Great Society Westerns, see J. Hoberman’s The Dream Life: Movies, Media, andthe Mythology of the Sixties (New York: New Press, 2003).
State Fare is part of the recently launched Texas Small Books series from TCU Press. Other volumes include Judy Alter’s Extraordinary Texas Women, Texas Country Singers by Phil Fry and Jim Lee, and Carlton Stowers’s Texas Football Legends, all published in 2008. More volumes are on the way. The concise, pocket-sized books are reliably researched, thoughtfully written, and affordably priced. Cinema enthusiasts and Texas history students will appreciate Graham’s incisive, entertaining study. And cut!
“Hardheaded to a fault” and lacking the “gift for compromise,” Ida B. Wells was the kind of reformer Americans admire but tend to forget. After three decades leading crusades for racial and gender equality, Wells slipped into obscurity at the end of the Progressive Era, to be resurrected as a model of radical civil rights activism only in the 1990s.
We can blame Wells’ eclipse only partly on her abrasive personality, as Mia Bay, Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, argues in her superb biography. Wells’ activism grew out of the “tradition of noisy public protest nourished among antebellum-era blacks who escaped the slave South,” political leaders and social activists like Wells’ mentor Frederick Douglass. “Not the least bit representative of mainstream modes of thinking common to her day,” she became an “unrelenting and insightful social critic” but also an “indignant witness” to the racial injustices of the Jim Crow south and the complacently liberal north.
Yet, who could fault her for such indignation? The brutality of racial segregation demanded the righteous anger Wells, born to slave parents in 1862, so effectively brought before a reluctant public. The force and persistence of that indignation can be credited with exposing the practice of lynching, which had become an accepted means of policing racial boundaries after Reconstruction. It also won her many detractors among her generation’s more pragmatic reformers. A fine orator, Wells commanded audiences across the United States and on the other side of the Atlantic (her campaign against lynching began in England’s more receptive climate). She was also a meticulous and compelling journalist, the first African-American woman to edit a newspaper in the United States. She was not however inclined to the sort of organizational maneuvering that makes for a durable political career. While Wells “helped build a stunning variety of black organizations” (including the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women) she would “find herself comfortable in none of them.” “Most politically effective as an agitator,” Wells “remained an agitator all her life,” comments Bay.
A good part of the problem for Wells were the late nineteenth-century gender norms allowing men to speak out forcefully, yet treating strong words on the part of women as “strident” violations of decorum, even when the subject so obviously demanded strong words. If Wells had been a man, as T. Thomas Fortune pointed out early in her career, she would be celebrated for having “plenty of nerve” and being “sharp as a steel trap.” Later, Fortune, like others in the NAACP, would characterize her quite differently, as a “bull in a China shop.”
Such double-standards plagued Wells throughout her life. Black women suffered even more acutely than their white sisters under the era’s sexual hypocrisies; as Wells knew from her own experience, they were regarded by most whites as inherently licentious, beneath any appeal to the moral standards of a respectable community, and thus always subject to the violations of white men. A religious churchgoer fastidious in maintaining her reputation as a virtuous woman, Wells nonetheless was dogged by hints of such “sexual scandal.”
Yet one could argue, as Bay does, that Wells’ beleaguered position as a black woman reformer raised in the cradle of slavery and familiar with the violent folkways of southern white supremacy allowed her a uniquely clear perspective on the sexual dynamics of “the Southern horror.” Wells was the first journalist to expose the lie with which lynching was justified by whites who alleged that uncontrollable lust inclined black men to violate white women, making lynching a necessary excess when the law would not protect “Southern womanhood.” Even The New York Times subscribed to the “myth of the black rapist,” insisting credulously in 1894 that “it is a peculiar fact that the crime for which negroes have frequently been lynched, and occasionally been put to death with frightful tortures, is a crime to which negroes are particularly prone.”
In truth most of those hung, burned and dismembered by lynch mobs were not even accused of rape, and those on whom that suspicion was cast were almost always innocent. Wells enraged whites simply by documenting such facts and by pointing out that where sex between black men and white women had precipitated the violence, it was usually consensual. For this observation, the Times attacked her as “a slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress, who does not hesitate to represent the victims of black brutes in the South as willing victims.”
Bay’s account of this life of uncompromising dedication is at its best when telling of Wells’ struggles with reformers who temporized their critiques of segregation and lynching on Booker T. Washington’s principle that “an inch of progress is worth a yard of complaint.” Bay offers us perhaps the most compelling version to date of Wells’ conflicts with temperance leader Frances Willard and others who famously countenanced segregation in female reform organizations in deference to their southern white sisters. Even better is the marvelously detailed tracing of Wells’ complicated relationship to the emerging black reform movement, as moderates and pragmatists repeatedly closed her out of Afro-American Council, NACW and NAACP leadership.
Denied a voice in the national movement, Wells returned in the 1910s to Chicago (where she had married and settled with her family) to do “the work that others refuse,” conducting campaigns against racial violence in the state and developing organizational and educational resources for working-class blacks in South Side neighborhoods. As always, even in this local work, Wells marked out a political and moral vantage point that was far ahead of its time.
Having been squeezed out of a role in national civil and women’s rights organizations, Wells lost a prominent place in the historical record. It took several generations before her relentless and often discomforting agitation for social justice received the appreciation it deserved, as scholars over the last twenty years gradually reestablished her place in history. Mia Bay’s lucid biography contributes enormously to this project.
SOURCE: Japan Times ()
Despite being shaken to the depths of his being, Grigori Zinoviev, the old Bolshevik, party member since 1901 and intimate confidant of Lenin who penned that plea to Joseph Stalin (general secretary of the Communist Party) only minutes after being arrested, was not saved.
Chief defendant at the first Moscow Show Trial, Zinoviev was found guilty and executed on Aug. 24, 1936.
Two photographs of Zinoviev — one in profile, the other face-on — show a man bitter and betrayed. If only the Boss knew about this, his expression suggests. In fact, the Boss had ordered his arrest and that of thousands of other loyal party members.
The photographs appear in one of the most remarkable books — perhaps the most remarkable book — on Soviet history I have ever read. I picked up David King's "Red Star Over Russia," published this year by Tate Publishing, at the Tate Modern in London last month. Its 350 pages cover, with stunning photographs, poster and design art, the years from the revolution in 1917 until Stalin's death in 1953. King's explanatory text of the content of the visual materials and their historical background is meticulous and brimming with insight.
Many of the hundreds of photographs in this volume have never been in the public domain before. Among them is a parade of mug shots of defendants at the three Moscow Show Trials, all men who had sacrificed their very souls to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; all of whom were either shot or, if lucky, dispatched to the Gulags in the Siberian Arctic. Many members of their families were tortured, executed or imprisoned as well.
But the artistic, and avant-garde, propaganda of the era reproduced in "Red Star Over Russia" tells a radiant story. It's no wonder so many progressive people outside Russia were duped into believing that here was the new Paradise on Earth.
The Soviet workers and peasants appear content and sated; the enemies of the USSR (capitalists dribbling fat; fascists massacring women and children), are depicted as representatives of a bloodthirsty but dying race.
In fact, first-class arts flourished in the Soviet Union of the 1920s, with the likes of Rodchenko, Popova, Lebedev, Altman and Klutsis creating the angular and imposing style of the Soviet Art Deco movement. (Gustav Klutsis, a Suprematist painter, a Latvian, was arrested in February 1938 and shot with 63 of his compatriots, all artists and intellectuals.)
Even the world-renowned film director Sergei Eisenstein could not escape Stalin's intervention. A full third of his film based on John Reed's account of the revolution, "Ten Days that Shook the World," was excised on the Boss's orders. Even by then — 1927 — no mention of Leon Trotsky, the prime mover and inspiration behind the Red Army, was allowed in public. Lenin's legacy, too, was slowly being manipulated. "Lenin's liberalism is no longer valid," said the Boss, "editing" the film.
The list of people betrayed by Stalin's absolute terror seems endless, from the brilliant theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold, who was tortured and executed (his beautiful actress wife, Zinaida Raikh, was tortured and shot in their Moscow apartment), to the distinguished general Mikhail Tukhachevsky (whose wife, mother, a sister and his brothers were all liquidated) and literally millions of ordinary workers and peasants who were sacrificed in the name of the Supreme Leader. (Even Tukhachevky's two ex-wives and three other sisters were packed off to the Gulag.)
Needless to say, the imposition of such radical terror on the Soviet population greatly weakened those people's will and ability to defend the bastion of world socialism that Stalin had proclaimed his country to be. Soldiers of the Wehrmacht were greeted warmly by many as they swept across the country on their way to Moscow before Stalin turned the tables on the Nazis by abandoning terror and adopting nationalism as the ideology underpinning the war effort. ("The Internationale" was abandoned as the national anthem in March 1944, replaced by one that mentioned the traditional old name for Russia: Rus'.)
When I made my first visit to the USSR in July 1964, I took my place at the front of the queue before the Lenin Mausoleum to see the embalmed body of Stalin's predecessor. Foreigners were allowed to join the long line near the entrance. The country had been de-Stalinized on the surface; but it struck me keenly at the time that this was a nation that had worshipped — and, to a great extent, was still worshipping — its former leaders as gods.
I flashed back in my mind to those moments spent viewing Lenin's body in that dim light when I beheld the 12 amazing photos in King's book of the construction of the mausoleum in 1924.
Elsewhere in that volume, one of the most chilling photos is of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky after he shot himself on April 14, 1930. He is lying on his back on a divan, his mouth agape as if caught in the middle of a yawn, a blotch of blood the size of an apple on his white shirt beside his heart.
There are rare shots here, too, of Stalin's wife, Nadezhda, who also committed suicide; of Soviet Foreign Minister V.M. Molotov and his Nazi counterpoint Joachim von Ribbentrop signing, on Aug. 23, 1939, the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact that shocked the world; of Soviet soldiers destroying and looting a church. There is even one showing Ho Chi Minh beside Trotsky, on the occasion of the Vietnamese communist leader's first visit to Moscow, for the Fifth Comintern Congress, in 1924.
All in all, it's astonishing to ponder what this nation went through in the 20th century: revolution, civil war and famine to begin with; again horrendous famine in the early '30s and mass terror a few years later; war on a scale surpassing that experienced in any other country; again terror and mass murder until Stalin's death in March, 1953.
"Red Star Over Russia" is a book that records this epic tragedy with immense power. How modern Russia will deal with this legacy of monumental brutality will decide whether it can establish democracy in any one of its acceptable forms.
Trotsky, who himself was eliminated by Stalin, called the Moscow Show Trials "the greatest frameup in history." The photographic record in this book attests to the personal loss that accompanied those trials and all the various other trials Russia underwent in the 20th century.
Let's hope that the Russian people will not be framed forever.
The annals of needle trades unionism contain the names of many women who contributed heroically to the quest for social and economic justice in America. Most frequently cited in this regard are Clara Lemlich Shavelson, Pauline Newman, Rose Pesotta, Dorothy Bellanca, Rose Schneiderman, Maida Springer and Bessie Abramowitz Hillman. Thanks to a growing number of scholars, such as Alice Kessler-Harris, Annelise Orleck, and now Karen Pastorello, their stories are being properly told. Pastorello’s biography of Bessie Abramowitz Hillman does more than merely credit her contributions. It rescues her from the enormous shadow cast by her husband, Sidney Hillman, with whom in 1914 she founded the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, which he then served as president until his death in 1946.
In 1915 Bessie became the first female member of the union’s General Executive Board. The next year she married Sidney. As both felt that together they should earn only one ACWA salary, she resigned from the GEB and spent three decades as an unpaid volunteer. “Bessie was exceptional,” Steven Fraser noted in his biography of Sidney ("Labor Will Rule"), but not until this volume do we have a full account of how truly remarkable she actually was.
Born in 1889 in Linoveh, a village in White Russia (now Belarus), Bessie never forgot her origins. Pastorello relates how (according to daughter Philoine) she reacted to a scene in the Broadway production, Fiddler on the Roof, depicting a young woman’s distress when facing an arranged marriage. “That’s me! That is what happened to me!” she said as sprang from her seat and pointed to the stage. In a remarkable opening chapter, Pastorello recreates Bessie’s European background. Deftly piecing together available evidence and her own conjecture, she describes the world Bessie Abramowitz felt compelled to leave for America.
She landed in Chicago, where she worked under sweatshop conditions as a button-hole sewer in the men’s clothing industry. Intent on improving the lives of the mainly women workers in the industry, she found valuable allies in Jane Addams of Hull-House and Margaret Dreier Robins of the Women’s Trade Union League. On the other hand, she discovered indifference on the part of Thomas Rickert and his elitist trade union, the United Garment Workers. In October 1910 a strike of 8,000 Hart, Schaffner, and Marx employees, supported by a much greater walkout of workers from other firms, extended into the next year. The results were violence, partial success, and growing dissatisfaction with the UGW leading to secession from it. Pastorello brilliantly describes this strike and the subsequent founding of the Amalgamated.
The Hillmans had two daughters, Philoine and Selma. With the cooperation of Philoine through numerous interviews, and the archival resources of the Kheel Center of Cornell University, Pastorello describes a woman who ran a household, maintained a career, and belonged to a network of like-minded women. Throughout Pastorello’s pages are references to people who were very much part of her life. Included, for example, are Elinore Herrick, President of the New York Consumers’ League, Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Esther Peterson, Assistant Secretary of Labor under John F. Kennedy, all rather impressive company.
Bessie Hillman was a woman with apparently limitless interests and energy. She would organize anti-union “runaway” garment shops and laundries, persuade women to vote on the American Labor Party line for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s reelection to the presidency, and advocate civil rights for blacks and equal economic rights for women. In sum, she was a trade union activist whose career ended only with her death at age eighty-one in 1970, twenty-four years after her husband’s passing.
It is to Karen Pastorello’s great credit that she keeps Bessie Hillman’s personality and career front and center and demonstrates both her partnership with Sidney as well as her independence of spirit. By supplementing clear prose and thorough research with numerous family and archival photographs, the author puts finishing touches to a model biography.
SOURCE: HNN ()
Coleman’s appointment also seemed to confirm the Pendulum Theory of Presidential Hiring: search committees seek to make up for the perceived deficiencies in the departing executive by hiring his opposite. So imagine my surprise when, 43 years later, Richard Lyman reveals that Haverford had offered him the presidency first. Reading this in the light of my own vague recollection of Lyman’s buttoned-up persona, I couldn’t help but wonder what Haverford had seen that made Lyman seem the right man for the job. That question stayed with me as I read the rest of his book.
Lyman, a professor of history at Stanford since 1958, leveraged Haverford’s offer to become Stanford’s Provost. He stayed in that job through the waning days of the presidency of Wallace Sterling, the leader credited with leading Stanford from regional to national stature, and through the brief, unhappy presidency of Kenneth Pitzer, who was clearly overwhelmed by the chaos increasingly visited upon the campus. In 1970 Lyman became president himself and presided over the University as it experienced its last spasms of violence in the wake of the Cambodia invasion and the divisive case of Prof. Bruce Franklin, a tenured Maoist removed from his position on the recommendation of an elected faculty advisory board for advocating that students attack the University’s computation center.
As a graduate student in Stanford’s History Department from 1969 to 1973, I was there for about half the time Lyman discusses in this “cross between a case study and a memoir.” I don’t recall ever seeing him in person; he was quite literally a distant, remote figure, most notable for issuing statements from crisis to crisis about Stanford standing firm. After reading about the Haverford episode, I hoped the book as a whole would be reflective and give me a sense of the man behind the pronouncements. It wasn’t, and it didn’t.
This tightly-packed narrative does provide, however, a chronicle of the accelerating activism and accompanying tensions on campus from the early 1960s, when Stanford was an important recruiting center for the student-based who served in the civil rights movement, through Franklin’s firing in 1972, after which both Stanford and the country seemed to recoil in exhaustion. Relying as he does primarily on sources such as the Stanford “Daily” and records from various faculty and administrative committees and boards, Lyman seems detached from his own memoir (a tiny but revealing detail: he is more likely to refer to his wife, Jing, as “my spouse” than as “my wife,” and rarely uses her first name at all). As a result, while events are described clearly and in detail, the personalities involved and the role that those personalities (including his own) might have played are minimized. This is unfortunate not only because many of these personalities were colorful—consider only Chaplain B. Davie Napier, the local equivalent of Yale’s William Sloane Coffin; student government leader David Harris; and, of course, the combustible Franklin—but also because this omission means that the role of individuals in shaping the course of events is not considered as seriously as it might be. For a historian, as Lyman is, that’s a serious omission indeed.
Lyman narrates events matter-of-factly, but they are so vivid that even deadpan prose can’t flatten them completely. At first protests were peaceful, focused on student rights and civil rights. But the escalating Vietnam War changed all that. Stanford’s rise to prominence after World War II had been fueled partly by Provost Frederick Terman’s genius in finding federal support. By the mid 1960s, classified research, funded by the Defense Department and presumably war-related, was conducted on campus and at the nearby Stanford Research Institute. All war-related activities became a lightning rod, and protest turned violent. In 1968 the ROTC building was burned, and a fire was set in President Sterling’s office. The 1969 occupation of the Applied Electronics Laboratory (AEL), which ended relatively peacefully, was followed by the occupation of an administration building, Encina Hall, which ended with police clearing the place.
Compared with the ugly scenes that had taken place when buildings were cleared at Columbia and Harvard, the police’s removal of demonstrators from Encina was not a horrific spectacle, but the pattern was becoming clear and a splintering protest movement included elements becoming angrier and more desperate. Lyman, who made the call to police in President Pitzer’s absence, later reported soberly to the faculty: “No one is entitled to consider the clearing of Encina Hall a victory. Any time it becomes necessary for a University to summon the police, a defeat has taken place….[As Churchill said of Dunkirk,] wars are not won by successful evacuations. The victory we seek at Stanford is not like a military victory; it is a victory of reason and the examined life over unreason and the tyranny of coercion.”
Unreason reigned, however. Stanford was home to a far broader spectrum of opinion than, say, Haverford; the right was often looking for fights (ideological and physical), too, and was just as creative as the left in finding them. The Bay Area’s own distinctive brands of craziness added fuel to the fires (sometimes literally), and national events, especially the Cambodia invasion of 1970, further inflamed tempers on campus. Minor and not-so-minor acts of vandalism were so commonplace at Stanford that they stopped seeming remarkable. The Hoover Tower’s ground-level windows were “trashed” so regularly that the University stopped replacing the glass and simply boarded them up. Graffiti duels were conducted on the walls of the Bookstore and other campus buildings, slogan versus slogan: “Repression Breeds Revolution,” and so on, and on.
And then there was H. Bruce Franklin, the Maoist English professor who finally crossed the line when he urged a crowd to “shut down the most obvious machinery of war, such as…that Computation Center.” The crowd proceeded to do so, and when the police arrived to disperse the crowd, he urged them not to leave. Charged with violating the terms of his tenured position, tried by an elected Advisory Board of faculty members who recommended his dismissal, and ultimately fired by the Stanford Board of Trustees, Franklin did not go quietly. The hearings dragged on and on, and the last of Franklin’s own unsuccessful lawsuits was not resolved until 1985.
Lyman devotes two of his book’s twelve chapters to the Franklin affair, but reveals little about his own role in it. The greatest public burden fell on a good friend, law professor Herbert Packer, whose involvement has been movingly chronicled by his son, the writer George Packer, in “Blood of the Liberals.” The stress of the case undoubtedly contributed to Packer’s stroke and subsequent depression and suicide. Characteristically, Lyman says virtually nothing about the personal effects on him. The campus and the country finally quieted down, and he continued as president until 1980.
In a “personal note” all of two paragraphs long, Lyman mentions and immediately dismisses the idea that he might be remembered, in the words of admirers such as Stanford presidents Donald Kennedy and Gerhard Casper, “for having saved the university.” After all, he argues, “to save something presumes that you were in danger of losing it or seeing it destroyed, and it is pretty clear now that no American university was destroyed, or even very seriously damaged over the long run, by the turbulence of the 1960s.”
The closest he comes to taking credit comes in the next sentences: “I think we did some things better at Stanford than at most other institutions; in particular, our development of ways to lessen the traumatic effect of calling police to campus was significant in saving us from the total collapse experienced, however briefly, at places like Harvard and Columbia. I think I contributed to faculty morale by managing to articulate the proper purposes and parameters of a research university. I also avoided the mistake, so characteristic of Ken Pitzer, of looking for solutions that would please everybody; pleasing everybody was not an available option in those troubled times.”
The passing swipe at Ken Pitzer in that last sentence, unnecessary and accurate at the same time, is so characteristic of Richard Lyman. Now in his 80s, he still won’t yield an inch. Enigmatic and stubborn, distant and dismissive, and, one senses, an indefatigable player of the bureaucratic game, it’s impossible to imagine a man so aloof and comfortable with hierarchy at intimate, egalitarian Haverford. But at larger, more complicated Stanford, he positioned himself well and, yes, reasonably. In effect, he stood between S. I. Hayakawa of San Francisco State, who cracked down hard, and James Perkins of Cornell, who caved in. Ironically (to use one of Lyman’s favorite words), he was the right president for Stanford in a troubled, terrible time. Almost in spite of itself, this book shows why.
At the end of World War II, peace activist Abraham J. Muste commented, “The problem with war is with the victor. He thinks that all the violence and killing has paid off. Who now will teach him a lesson?” Muste’s comments were in retrospect quite prescient in predicting the psyche of the victor, the United States, which has been almost consistently at war since the defeat of Hitler’s armies, causing much human devastation and suffering in the process. Gary Hess, a distinguished research professor at Bowling Green State University, surveys the presidential decisions that took the U.S. to war in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. He gives a mixed judgment overall and is especially critical of George W. Bush for deceiving congress and the public and acting unilaterally. In this reviewers’ opinion, Hess’ book has much merit but is flawed in failing to address the humanitarian ramifications of Bush’s actions and those of his predecessors, whose decisions were responsible for causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and shattering the lives of countless more.
Hess’ book highlights the sway of the Munich paradigm on post-World War II presidential leaders who did not want to repeat the mistakes of the allied appeasers in the face of unchecked aggression by totalitarian regimes. Hess also illuminates, quite ominously, the tremendous power accorded to the executive branch in making the decisions to go to war. Harry Truman for example, never bothered to get congressional authorization to attack North Korea after Kim Il-Sung ‘s forces crossed the 38th parallel. Lyndon Johnson set the precedent for the second Bush by acting with only limited international support. He obtained congressional sanction but deceived the public in claiming that U.S. naval boats had sustained an unprovoked attack by North Vietnamese ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, when the attacks were actually provoked. Johnson also ignored internal voices of caution, such as George Ball who raised doubts that “an army of westerners can successfully fight Orientals in the Asian jungle.” Even Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, eventually dissented, arguing that the “picture of the world’s greatest superpower killing 1,000 noncombatants a week” was not a pretty one and affected U.S. credibility in the world.
For Hess, effective presidential leadership is characterized by a need for careful analysis, consensus, moderation, and proportionality in war. Johnson displayed few of these qualities. Hess gives the highest marks to Truman and George H.W.Bush, arguing that both were able to achieve consensus and responded with proportionality to an international threat. Amidst the political climate of the early cold war, few questioned the rationale for Truman’s intervention in Korea, though some liberals of the era viewed Truman as going too far when the Chinese intervened in North Korea. Hess accepts this paradigm. Hindsight, however, allows for a reconsideration of the origins of the conflict. Charles K. Armstrong’s book The North Korean Revolution argues that North Korea experienced a transformative and indigenous social revolution and was not a pawn of Moscow. Kim Il-Sung, whatever his flaws, was perceived as a genuine nationalist because of his role in spearheading the anti-colonial resistance against the Japanese. The American backed strongman Syngman Rhee, by contrast, was highly autocratic and corrupt and spent forty years in exile during the colonial era. South Korea was marred by internecine conflict and resistance which Rhee confronted with brutal repression. Trained and built by the U.S., his armies and police worked to liquidate the leftist opposition and also initiated dozens of cross-border raids. They even tried to assassinate Kim before the fateful North Korean invasion of June 25th.
With all this in mind, it is overly simplistic to view the Korean War as solely an act of aggression by the north. In claiming that the Korean War was a just war, Hess further ignores new archival evidence and the findings of a recent Truth Commission in South Korea which reveal that U.S. and ROK forces carried out repeated atrocities, including the mass execution of prisoners in cold blood, which was falsely blamed on the communists for decades. As in Vietnam, U.S. forces could not differentiate between guerrillas and civilians, and because they characterized all Koreans as “gooks,” often did not care to do so. As Bruce Cumings has best documented, the United States meted out horrific destruction across the Korean peninsula. When taking the war to the north, the U.S. bombed the dikes in trying to cut off the rice supply and destroyed many cities, leaving them to resemble a moonscape. Hundreds of thousands were killed or left as refugees. These facts somehow don’t make it into Hess’ story.
In discussing the first Iraq War, Hess ignores further evidence of systematic atrocities and bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure by the U.S., putting into question his assessment of the wisdom of George H. W. Bush and his policy staff. Repeating government propaganda, Hess claims at one point that “American aircraft and missiles attacked with devastating accuracy.” However, as reported in his book, The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Persian Gulf, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark conducted an in-depth investigation and found that many civilians were killed in bombing raids and that the U.S. used weapons, such as cluster bombs and depleted uranium as well as possibly napalm. Claims of precision bombing were a myth. In framing the decision to go to war, in a serious oversight, Hess does not discuss American economic interests in the Persian Gulf region. While Saddam Hussein committed aggression by invading Kuwait, the U.S. had a long record of supporting tyrannical regimes, including Hussein himself, and encouraged his aggression against Iran when it benefited U.S. interests. Furthermore, the U.S. was disingenuous in its humanitarian claims as it repeatedly violated the sovereignty of nations. For example, it had attacked Panama to remove a former American backed drug-lord, Manuel Noriega, during G.W. Bush’s presidency. The real reason that Bush a former oilman, singled out Hussein was because of his defiance of American power in the Middle East and because he threatened American access to the region’s strategic energy reserves and oil. As Hess does note, however, Bush was also looking for an easily winnable war to avenge the so-called Vietnam syndrome and uplift the American psyche after its humiliating defeat. Strategically, Hess is correct in his assessment that Bush was more prudent than his son in holding back from trying to initiate a full-scale regime change, as some in the neoconservative camp had demanded. Bush knew the potential perils. In this respect, Bush can be seen as a shrewd statesman, but from a purely realpolitik perspective, not a humanitarian one.
Hess’ analysis is most biting and sharp in condemning the leadership of George W. Bush. He shows how Bush fell under the sway of a group of ideologically driven zealots, led by Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle who wanted to expand U.S. power and hegemony across the globe and saw Hussein as a thorn in their side. Hess quotes an interview that Bush gave with conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, in which he claimed that he was ordained from a higher power to invade Iraq and spread freedom and democracy in the world. In claiming a divine imperative, Bush resembled many other delusional conquerors in history, including the Christian crusaders. Bush was especially reckless in misreading the attitude of the Iraqi people and in failing to adequately plan for the post-war occupation. In the end he displayed none of the qualities of leadership necessary to carry out a task of this magnitude and remains disconnected from the monumental devastation that the war has engendered.
On the whole, Hess’ book is well worth reading since it yields numerous insights and observations of presidential decision making. Some of his judgments nevertheless remain questionable and the study is quite limited in its focus. One dimension that goes predominantly unexplored is how American political culture has been a driving force for war in our time. Why is it that every president feels he needs to go to war to prove his worthiness as commander-in-chief and why is it that there is not more upheaval and dissent, given the destructiveness that modern total war usually engenders? There are important questions to address which get at the heart of the post-war victory culture. Even now, amidst the specter of economic catastrophe that is in part a product of imperial overreach, the country still seems to have not learned its lesson that war is an evil of our time and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary and one’s survival is at stake. None of Hess’ case studies appear to have met these criteria.
The Israel-Palestine conflict has generated a plethora of literature ranging from personal accounts to precise recordings of abuses and misuses of power, policies and human rights, and from historical surveys to a host of solutions and counter solutions for ending the occupation and/or achieving ‘peace’. In this library of anguish relatively few works provide a theoretical framework for understanding the overall processes of Israeli domination over Palestinians and their land. The focus tends to be experiential, on what was or is or should be done, on what is endured rather than on the underlying structure, the deeper meanings of oppression.
Neve Gordon’s Israel’s Occupation is therefore a welcome contribution to the field. First of all it is immensely readable, providing a clear, comprehensible theoretical framework as well as tracing the development of the Occupation from its beginnings as an ostensibly temporary ‘benign and enlightened’ military-administrative system whose ‘arrangements, legal orders and policies were constantly modified to conceal the permanent nature of Israel’s control’ (P16) to the current phase which Gordon identifies as a move away from a policy of colonization to a policy of separation. That is, from the management of the colonized population in order to maximise the exploitation of resources such as land and water, to a policy summed up by the statement ‘we are here, they are there.’ (p 119) an abdication of responsibility for the well-being of the occupied population while continuing to exploit those same resources of land and water.
Gordon’s cardinal argument is that the underlying logic of the occupation is, and always has been, the separation of the Palestinian people from their land, and not simply by means of land expropriation for colonizing purposes: In the immediate aftermath of the Six-day war the then military advocate general, Meir Shamgar, formulated a manipulative legal policy that ‘rejected the applicability of the 1949 4th Geneva Convention...to the OT’ (P.26) Shamgar maintained that since neither the West Bank nor Gaza had been sovereign areas prior to June 1967, they should be considered disputed rather than occupied territories. This position not only continues to find its place in Israeli policy, it is frequently voiced in public discourse; it denies the rights of Palestinians to their land and to political self-determination in that land. It cannot be stressed enough that this removal of the people from their land, legally and, increasingly physically, lies at the heart of the occupation. It is a truth that is overlooked, hidden beneath the mass of plans and roads maps for a supposed peace.
Drawing on Foucauldian theory, Gordon goes on to identify three modes of control operative in the Occupation and based on the above logic: biopower – control of the population rather than the individual via institutions that regulate aspects of societal life such as medical care or welfare; ‘while configuring and circumscribing the political sphere and normalizing knowledge’ (P12) disciplinary control that ‘aims to engender normalization through the regulation of daily life' (P.16) and sovereign power ‘the imposition of a legal system and the employment of the state’s military to either enforce the rule of law or to suspend it’ (P13). These modes of control operate concurrently and frequently overlap, as effected by Israel over the last 42 years. Gordon makes clear that this theory is not an essentialist claim presaging a given outcome, but that the occupation has a dynamic of its own: ‘Even though the Israeli state appears to be a free actor from which a series of policies originates, a closer investigation reveals that its policies, and more particularly the modification of its policies over the years have been shaped by the different mechanisms of control operating in the OT. The same is true of the policy choices of resistance groups... and other non-state actors...’ (P.3).
Gordon pursues the development of the apparatuses of oppression over five stages of occupation: military government from 1967-1980; civil administration from 1981-87; first intifada from 19888-93;The Oslo period 1994-2000 and the second intifada from 2000 to the present. Since 1967 Israel has sought ways to manage the population by a variety of modalities of control initially through making the Occupation invisible – for instance, Dayan’s much vaunted Open Bridges policy in the sixties and seventies bringing economic and other benefits that created an illusion of increased prosperity and well-being. Israel also allowed the opening of several universities as part of a normalization of occupation. But, as Gordon says: ‘..due to a series of restrictions and constraints imposed on the Palestinian economy, the industry and service sector could not be developed and the employment opportunities open to professionals... with the OT was very limited.’ (P16) The resulting frustration of unemployed, or underemployed graduates drew them inevitably into political activity.
This is but one, obvious, aspect of Gordon’s thesis of excesses and contradictions that generated resistance to the Occupation and the consequent Israeli intensification of modes of control. Excess in this context refers to a result which is not the objective of a given means of control. For instance, Israel employed several practices designed to suppress Palestinian nationalism and encourage other forms of identification such as local rather than national loyalties by retaining in the early stages of Occupation the existing institutions inherited from the Jordanians - civil servants, mayors and village mukhtars. At the same time restrictions were in place regarding political organizing, press and other censorship were imposed. The resulting social friction and dissatisfaction led to the emergence of a new, younger leadership, the rise of the PLO among others and increased national identification in the face of the shared hardships and limitations.
The bonding sense of shared predicament led in time to the first intifada (1987-93), the watershed marking a transition from Israel’s bio-and disciplinary modes of control to an emphasis on sovereign power, the imposition or suspension of law expressed in arrests, beatings, torture, curfews – all methods that had existed previously but were now used extensively and more intensively, as they have been ever since. The emphasis in fact shifted from control to suppression, generating in turn intensified resistance with its inevitable consequences.
The book traces the rise, and fall, of the Oslo process, the ‘outsourcing of the Occupation’ P169) or control by other means, with Arafat and the PA as subcontractors for Israeli security. Oslo was allegedly a hiatus in the conflict, a truce towards a final settlement that would enable Israeli control of the OT by means other than military. The period was much marked by contradictions and excesses: the expansion of settlements, continued land expropriation and proliferation of checkpoints to name but a few. The resulting Palestinian frustrations that culminated in the second intifada again marked the transition to Israel’s current policy of separation, that is the suspension of law, the restructuring of Palestinian space to confine the population in ever more restricted areas, disconnected one from another: the cantonments of the West Bank and the enclaves created by the Separation Barrier. In this phase methods of control have become more lethal and more remote. Apart from military incursions and night raids the army’s presence is reduced, or at least less visible.
Checkpoints have become hi-tech terminals where the human interface is all but eliminated; human movement on the ground, fraught with uncertainty and danger, is reduced even air-space has been harnessed in the service of control as aerial surveillance is intensified, death by bombing or shooting from the air is the commonplace, as in the targeted assassinations of alleged terrorists with their inevitable ‘collateral damage’. This is remote control in every sense: Not only has the Israeli army become faceless and unseen, the Palestinians too have been positioned as faceless objects, targeted if not for death then for reduction to the barest of bare lives, in the most literal sense.There is no longer even the pretence of normalization but increasingly a move from a politics of life to a politics of death.
Despite its theoretical basis, the book avoids the pitfalls of academic jargon making it accessible also to the interested layman. Drawing extensively on government and military documents as well as reports and personal testimonies, it is a valuable text for anyone trying to understand Israel’s apparatuses of oppression -- how the Occupation has worked in the past, how it continues to work in the present and how it is likely to continue to work in the future. It shows clearly how Israeli policy over time has always been to hold on to the territory conquered in June 1967, detaching the land from its existing population: the Palestinians.
The consequent contradiction of having to manage/control an existing non-Jewish population perceived as a demographic as well as a military threat, a population with no civil and even few human rights has inevitably led to excess, both by the Israeli side and in the form of Palestinian resistance, violent and non-violent. While the facts recorded in the book will be familiar to many, Gordon’s cogent analysis gives a fresh insight and perspective as well as exposing the dangerous trajectory on which Israel’s current separation policy is embarked. Those who speak of ‘peace’ and ‘solutions to the conflict’ would do well to heed Gordon’s closing words...’The only tenable way to solve the conflict is by addressing the Occupation’s structural contradictions. Any attempt to reach or impose a solution .... without reuniting the Palestinian people and their land and offering them full sovereignty over the land including a monopoly over legitimate violence and the means of movement, will ultimately lead to more contradictions, and the cycle of violence will surely resume’ (P225).