Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Richard Gere and the Occupied Vote

The recent election in Palestine, the first of two scheduled Middle East votes this month to be held under occupation, came complete with the humiliation and indignity that is meted out daily to the long-suffering Palestinian people. The electoral experience in the West Bank and Gaza drove home the point that if “free and fair elections are but a cynical myth in class-divided “democracies, then they are a complete farce for those living under the boot of military occupation.

And so there was the spectacle of Mustafa al-Barghouti, widely recognized as the closest rival to Mahmoud Abbas, being detained by Israeli security forces three times during his campaign. The harassment of a prominent presidential candidate, though, barely registered indignation in the rest of the world it was just par for the course in the Middle East, as is the daily abuse doled out in the occupied territories.

As with the miserable spectacle that was the recent U.S. election, one point that did register indignation and a range of other emotions was the intervention of Hollywood; this time in the form of Richard Gere. Israeli-Palestinian lobby group One Voice invited the movie star — renown in recent years as much for his friendship with the Dalai Lama as for his earlier roles in An Officer and a Gentleman, American Gigolo, and Pretty Woman to participate in a video urging voter participation in the election. One can only hope that Gere didn’t write his own utterly preposterous lines:

“Hi, I’m Richard Gere and I’m speaking for the entire world. We’re with you during this election time. It’s really important. Get out and vote.” (Reuters, January 5, 2005)

One perplexed soap factory worker in Gaza, Manar an-Najar, offered a simple but effective comeback:

“I don’t even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), let alone this Gere. We don’t need the Americans, intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them they elected a moron.” (Reuters)

Though this retort reflects the justifiable disdain of the Palestinian Street for sanctimonious “star advice from an American, the truly hysterical reactions to Gere’s pitch came from the neo-conservative American Right and other staunchly pro-Israel advocates. The despicable FrontPage Magazine was predictably out in front in denouncing Gere, labeling him “Terrorism’s American Gigolo and asserting that the aging heartthrob was “pulling tricks for jihadist Palestinian Johns supporting terror. (Frontpagemag.com, January 6, 2005)

So let’s leave the vitriol against Gere right there, and turn to the crux of the matter, which is not, in fact, the voter participation rate in this election for a segment of an oppressed nation so long denied its sovereignty. The key point is that long before the Gentleman Gere deigned to tackle the Middle East, the “entire world had spoken out about the Israeli occupation, albeit from the imperfect and powerless tribune of the United Nations General Assembly. Countless resolutions have been passed by overwhelming majorities in this forum, such as, for instance, Resolutions 242 and 194, urging an end to the Israeli occupation and defending the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, respectively.

Most recently, the International Court of Justice ruling against the Wall being constructed by Israel in the West Bank was supported by a vote of 150 to 6, with 10 abstentions. Notables voting against included, predictably, the United States and Australia. Canada, to the Liberal government’s shame, was among the 10 who sat out the vote.

So while the world opposes the Apartheid Wall in the Middle East, North America’s governments take a decidedly minority position, the one admittedly more overtly pro-Israel than the other. And though they certainly aren’t the primary cause of this power relationship, the timidity of liberals and “progressives on this continent with respect to the Middle East plays a role in the continued impunity of our governments in supporting unjust occupations.

So I’ll leave the gratuitous piling on against Gere to the Right. We can only hope that he and other self-styled progressives put a hold on any “Rock the Vote type efforts with respect to the sham elections slated for January 30 in Iraq. And rather than speaking for the entire world,, perhaps they had better start listening. And get out and oppose the occupations of Iraq and Palestine. It’s really important,, after all.

DERRICK O’KEEFE is an activist and founding editor of Seven Oaks Magazine. He can be reached at: sankara83@hotmail.com

 

More articles by:
October 17, 2018
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail