On the third day of the Israeli genocide in Gaza my lower back began to knot up and throb. The pain grew sharper as the bombings continued. By the end of the first week, I was so hunched over that each step was a via cruces. I did not have to hobble over to the Hospital de Jesus for an x-ray. In my own bones, I knew the pain was a message from Ein Abus.
Several years ago, I traveled from Mexico to Palestine to pick olives with farmers in the Nablus valley. The decision was a political one. Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall had just been murdered by the so-called “Israeli Defense Force.” Olive groves, the lifeblood of the Palestinian agrarian economy, were (and are) under frontal attack – since 1948, the Israeli government had destroyed over 2,000,000 olive trees. Without olives (“zitoon”), there is no Palestine.
We drove out to Ein Abus where Israeli settlers had just burnt down 200 trees. Halfway up the mountain, I stopped to help a Palestinian family finish harvesting their trees. Just as we were packing up to leave, a mob of young settlers, the Hilltop Gang, swooped down on us from up the mountain. “Yala!” (“Let’s Go!”) the old farmer urged me as he drove his donkey down the hill but my reflexes were slow and my peripheral vision damaged and the gang fell upon me, hurling stones and beating me with clubs. When I struggled to my feet, one burly youth kicked me viciously in the back, a blow that took my breath away.
Under a hale of rocks, I limped down the hillside to the valley below where Saleem, a member of the Ein Abus town council, was waiting for me. He wiped the blood from my face with a damp rag. By then, the shooting pain in my back had me doubled over. “John, now you will know in your own bones what we have suffered for so long,” Saleem lamented. Every time my back has flared up since then, I have been afforded this insight.
The Israeli genocide in Gaza is making us sick. I had a note last week from a friend describing the pain in her gut. “I haven’t carried around this pain for a long time, not since Vietnam,” she wrote. The anguish, rage, and impotence we suffer as the bombs dismember the children of Gaza stimulate acids that corrode our stomach walls. It is sort of like intestinal collateral damage.
In Mexico, we have been slow to react to the slaughter, a combination perhaps of political metabolism and the culture of “manana.” Our targets for protest are limited. The Israeli embassy is far away in Lomas, the ritziest neighborhood of the city, and when we go there to demonstrate we are met with a wall of “Granaderos” (riot squad police) and no one ever sees or hears us.
It took the anti-war movement here nearly two weeks to bring together a thousand Mexicans for a march from the Secretary of Foreign Relations to the U.S. Embassy Saturday January 10th to declare against this daily genocide. The march was lively and when we reached the fortress-like Yanqui embassy on the Paseo de Reforma, we flung dozens of shoes over the 15-foot barrier that stands in front of that accursed outpost. My back was killing me when I scrambled up on the pick-up truck to speak, my ribs so clinched up in pain that I could hardly gasp out my words of grief and solidarity.
As might be anticipated, our small act of solidarity with the people of Gaza was attacked by the Zionists here as “anti-Semitic.” We were accused of defending “terrorists.” A hundred or so Israeli supporters, their numbers padded out by Evangelicals who have taken the Star of David for their own, gathered in Lomas at the posh Israeli embassy to denounce our march against genocide.
The Jewish-descendant community in Mexico is miniscule, probably no more than 50,000 (.05% of the total population) but it is not monolithic. While the Zionists have free access to the media (some of which it owns) to spread their lies, an anti-Zionist humanist strain that lines up with the Left writes letters to the editors like this one to La Jornada from Claudia Scheinbaum, closely associated with the movement for democracy in Mexico headed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador:
“I come from a Jewish family and I am proud of my grandparents and my parents. My father’s mother was exiled from Lithuania for racial and economic reasons. Her family came to Mexico in the time of the revolution (1910-1919.) My father’s father, who came at the same time, was Jewish and also a Communist.
“My mother’s family arrived later, miraculously escaping from the Nazis. Many of our relatives were exterminated in the concentration camps. Both families decided to make Mexico their new home. I was raised as a Mexican and I fight for Mexico. But I cannot deny my history. I look with horror at the images of the Israeli bombing in Gaza. Nothing, nothing can justify the killing of these children and I join my voice with millions to demand an Israeli ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.”
Jews, as Scheinbaum points out, arrived in Mexico in distinct immigration waves. An older generation came in the first decade of the 20th century at much the same time as my father’s family arrived in New York. The first Jewish migration to Mexico coincided with a parallel migration of Lebanese, mostly Christians, fleeing the decomposition of the Ottoman Empire. Together, Jews and Arabs rented pushcarts and storefronts on Correo Mayor Street in the slums east of the National Palace and both prospered. Carlos Slim’s father, a Lebanese merchant, sold notions from “The Star of the East” – Slim today is Latin America’s wealthiest billionaire. The Saba family (pharmaceuticals, retail sales) and other Mexican Jewish dynasties have similar roots.
The second wave of Jewish migration, like Claudia’s mother’s family, came to Mexico fleeing the Nazi genocide and they had to kick down a lot of doors to get in. Archly Catholic brownshirts like the Sinarquista movement spread Nazi venom throughout central Mexico – the Sinarquistas have since evolved into the right-wing National Action Party (PAN), President Felipe Calderon’s party. For many on the right here, Jews are still Shylocks and Christkillers.
Mexico’s new Jews became businessmen and academics and in time made their fortunes and careers – there are no poor Jews in Mexico. They moved into fancy “schetels” like Polanco, the upscale shopping district in the west of the city, shed their mother’s maiden names (Mexicans have three names) and entered the Mexican mainstream. The controversial historian Enrique Krauze and former foreign minister Jorge Castaneda Guttman are representative of this Mexicanization.
Dr. Alfredo Jalife Rahme, a National Autonomous University professor and geo-political columnist for La Jornada who is of Lebanese descent, has recently stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy by referring to Krauze and Castaneda’s maternal surnames, a practice that has excited allegations of anti-Semitism from the Zionist community, and the letters to the editors column of the left daily have steamed with the interchanges for weeks. These days, the controversy plays against horrific front-page photographs of the massacre in Gaza, the poison fruit of Zionist genocide.
The Calderon government’s response to the Israeli onslaught has been to waffle. Indebted to Mexican Zionists for financial and political support in his uphill battle to establish legitimacy (Calderon is believed by many to have stolen the 2006 election from Lopez Obrador), the president equates the firing of Hamas’s home-made Qassan rockets at well-protected Israeli settlements with the avalanche of death the Israelis have unleashed on Gaza, a rain of destruction that has now taken more than a thousand Palestinian lives, a hundred times more than Zionist losses – such is the calculus of Israeli racism.
Felipe Calderon’s pro-Zionist bias would not count for much in global politics if Mexico had not just recovered the Latin seat on the United Nations Security Council. In the past, Mexican foreign policy as advanced by Jorge Castaneda, father of Jorge Castaneda Guttman and also the nation’s foreign minister, had been to eschew membership on the Security Council because it makes this neighbor country too susceptible to pressures from Washington. A case in point was the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 when the junior Castaneda opted for Mexican representation on the council. The late Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Castaneda Guttmann’s ambassador, was lobbied and threatened by U.S. envoy John Negroponte (once Washington’s ambassador in Mexico) and the Mexican delegation’s offices were bugged by British Intelligence, working on behalf of the Bush White House.
Similarly, the current crisis in Gaza leaves Mexico vulnerable to Washington’s dictates on related votes at the U.N. One advance warning of this arrangement was Calderon’s pre-inaugural visit with Barrack Obama, a supporter of Israeli genocide, this January 12th.
Gaza is thousands of miles from Mexico. We are separated by oceans and deserts, culture, language, fences, land mines, a separation wall, and the Israeli “Defense Force” but we have other ways of reaching out to those who suffer daily under the Zionist bombs. My aching back puts me in touch with Ein Abus and all of Palestine of which Gaza is the most gaping wound every second of the day.
!Que Viva Palestina Libre!
JOHN ROSS has El Monstruo on the canvas and is awaiting the decision of the judges. These dispatches will continue at ten-day intervals until the word is in. If you have further info write email@example.com.