Sunday, April 21, 2024

Family Cars and Other Things Over Time: Dad and I

Occasionally, around town, in Chiques (aka, Oxnard), I will spy a 1958 Chevy Impala Super Sport. A shiny, black gem with a red interior. Each time I do, I think back to when I was a boy. I was three- or four-years-old when my family owned a pearl white one. My paternal grandparents, Frank V. and Josephine H. Barajas, long-time citrus industry workers, passed it on to my parents when the young couple needed a reliable vehicle. I remember it being a thick son of a gun with weighty doors. On rutted, dirt rural roads, like the one where my grandparents lived in Moorpark, it lumbered from side to side like a battleship on the high seas. The car’s matching off-white interior, elegant chrome trim, and lights (front and tail) intrigued me. The frontends of Chevrolets of the 1950s resembled a tiger shark. At the same time, the whole vehicle took on a post-WWII jetfighter mystique.

Back then Dad worked as an electronic assembler for aerospace subcontractors (Rentech and TIC) around Northridge and Mom at the plants of Stokely’s Frozen Foods and la Chileria in Chiques. Hence, my family was working-class; privileged enough always to have a decent car, used and later new; always a Chevy, until later in our lives. Since my parents earned modest wages, my Dad serviced our autos’ maintenance (tune-ups, breaks, oil changes, and sometimes tires) and repairs that entailed timing belts, fuel and water pumps, axel universal joints, gasket replacements, and complete engine overhauls. Like a surgical nurse, for as long as I can remember I handed him different screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead), pliers, held a shop light, and took hold tired parts and gave him new replacements when he worked on our cars. In the process, I learned the components of cars and fractions concerning imperial-sized sockets and wrenches, open and box end—1/2 inch, 9/16, ¾ , 5/8....

(1958 Chevy Super Sport Impala, image courtesy of the internet)

On one occasion, fuel streamed down as he lay on a creeper underneath our 1969 Chevelle. Stunned, I just watched. Then he barked, “Frankie, get me a pan! Hurry!” I did. Then he angrily said, “You’d watch a person die and not do anything.” I was hurt. But he was right. This taught me to take the initiative when someone needed immediate help. Just don’t stand there like an idiot.

(Me and Dad, Frank H. Barajas, changing the breaks of our 1958 Chevy Super Sport Impala)

I remember that more than once my dad heroically worked on one of our two cars late into a weeknight to make it ready for the next day to drive to work in Northridge. I assisted him before he sent me to sleep on school nights. He did not complain; he just did what he needed to do. He found a way to repair not only cars but also most things around the house. So, he gave a household utilities problem a shot before calling a plumber or electrician, which was rare.

(1969 Chevelle like the one we owned, image courtesy of the internet)

I also accompanied dad to (Johnny) Barbers Auto Parts on Oxnard Blvd. Before computers, men behind the counter—and they were always men—referenced humungous, auto parts catalogs after you told them what you needed and the year, make, model, and engine size of your car, in that order. I learned that you could get a discount on auto parts if you mentioned a fictitious repair shop you supposedly worked for or a core rebate for a failing battery, alternator, or water pump; not much money but enough to gain customer loyalty and incentivize pepper tree mechanics to trade in their carbon-incrusted, scrap parts. And sometimes, my dad and I went to wrecking yards to scavenge parts from cars in rows and on blocks before they were flattened to be loaded onto semi-trailers for recycling. Junkyards, and there were several in the commercial district of Oxnard back in the 1970s, not only reeked of old, dirty oil but it was smudged everywhere…the ground, the clothes and overalls of workers, faces, and desk counters.
Oddly, I kind of liked the smell of a junkyard.

When I was 15, my dad taught me to drive on our 1958 Chevy Apache pickup at a place called the Mushroom plant off Arnold Road in the outskirts of town. We also had the frost green Chevelle (which was our first brand-new car) at the same time. But it was an automatic; Dad said I needed to learn to drive on “the Apache” because it had a manual transmission; a three-speed column shift with a 365, straight six, engine. This way I would know how to drive a vehicle with a stick shift or an automatic transmission. Dad was patient as the car bucked and stalled because I did not smoothly synchronize the letting out of the truck’s clutch while pressing the accelerator. I may have gnashed the gears a couple of times. But it took me a short time before I got the hang of shifting gears between first, second, third, and in reverse as dirt bike motorcycles whizzed by. I recall this being my only lesson. After that, I was on my own, out and about the streets and roads of a much more agricultural Oxnard. For example, back then Victoria and Rose Avenue were the boondocks of the city. Not no more.

(1958 Chevy Apache, image courtesy of the internet)

From the age of 15 to 33, I drove stick shift cars as my Mom (Ramona P. Barajas) and Dad gifted me their 1978 Datsun 280z2+2 when I graduated from Oxnard High School in 1983. It was the bomb sports car back then. Well, at least for a working-class Mexican American like me. I drove it for two years to commute to Moorpark College from Oxnard. During this time, I also journeyed often to visit my compadre, Salud, at UC Santa Barbara. 

(1978 Datsun 280z 2+2 similar to the one owned, image courtesy of the internet)

After I transferred to California State University, Fresno in 1985, the Z and I ventured in and out of the San Joaquin Valley. The Apache later joined us in Fresno and back home. When I needed to change brake pads, replace water hoses, pull out a transmission, change a radiator, and perform other basic car fixes, my dad was always there to advise and save me when I got in a mechanical jam, and otherwise. Therefore, when I faced auto and home breakdowns, Dad was my go-to YouTube answer person. And he still is.

(Frank H. and Frank P. Barajas (me on the left in case you are wondering), January 2024)


Sunday, March 24, 2024

The 1903 Japanese Mexican Labor Association Strike: A Reflection 121-Years Later

Imagine your reaction if your employer slashed the wages of workers by fifty to sixty percent. Why would a business do such a thing?

This spring, 121 years-ago, Japanese and Mexican sugar beet workers experienced this injustice in 1903. Reduced to a condition of wage slavery, in response they united not only amongst themselves but also with contratistas, labor contractors, traditionally utilized by agricultural lords to divorce themselves from the costs and responsibilities that came with being employers directly. In this case, however, independent contratistas led the formation of the Japanese Mexican Labor Association because sugar beet industry elites established the Western Agricultural Contracting Company to ostensibly eliminate them. The WACC’s drastic reduction of the prevailing wage rate to thin sugar beet also impacted the commissions and fees of contratistas reduced to the status of subcontractors. Therefore, when the WACC cut the wage rate of betabeleros, sugar beet workers, so was the income of the subordinated contratistas, uniting the two groups.

The rise of the WACC also resulted from shrewd Japanese labor contractors, keiyaku-nin, often renegotiating the abstemious wage rate from which they received their commissions at the critical moment to spatially thin the rows as cramped plants resulted in smaller sugar beets with unacceptable levels of sucrose concentration. Consequently, to maximize the sugar content of beets, refiners, such as the American Beet Sugar Company in Oxnard, meticulously supervised the cultivation of this crop. The contratistas and betabeleros understood this and exercised their agency accordingly.
                                                                                        Sugar Beet Thinner

To neutralize (read eliminate) the influence of independent contractors, a family of white industry elites formulated a monopsony that made the WACC the sole buyer of non-white labor. The creation of the WACC also illustrates how capitalist interests do not function as rugged individuals, a salient historical myth; rather, a conglomerate of land barons, the ABSC refinery, insurance, utilities, and petro-chemical companies—the usual suspects of commercialized agriculture—pooled their interests, with the aid of legislators at all levels of government, to achieve capitalism’s supreme purpose—insatiable profit maximization. The motive behind the draconian wage cut.

Oxnard ABSC refinery (Courtesy of the Museum of Ventura County)

A state-supported capitalist unionism, if you will, often branded as industry associations. A stellar example of agriculture’s syndication arose by the 1940s with the Associated Farmers. Created by citrus robber baron Charles Collins Teague of Ventura County, the raison de’trê of the AS was to torpedo worker safety, minimum wage, healthcare, overtime pay, and unemployment insurance legislation to guarantee bloated corporate profits over the well-being of people. The AS also worked treacherously with state agents, primarily law enforcement, to bust unions. John Steinbeck encapsulated corporate agriculture’s systemic repression in his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Before this, the collective interests that established the WACC sought to crush the collective action of the JMLA. But in a less systemic manner.

The strike lasted from early February to March 30, 1903. To break it, the WACC imported scabs and law enforcement deputized sugar beet growers to guard their new workers. Led by Kosaburo Baba and J.M. Lizarras, the JMLA relied on a network of allies in and out of Ventura County to prevent replacement thinners from entering the sugar beet fields of the Oxnard Plain by intercepting them at the nearby Montalvo railway station and imploring others to support their struggle.

On March 23rd, the dispute intensified as union members attempted to drape a JMLA banner decorated with a rising sun and clasped hands of unity on a wagon filled with scab workers departing from Oxnard’s downtown district. As this happened, fierce gunfire erupted from a nearby building. When the shooting ceased five JMLA members were wounded, four Japanese; one, Luis Vazquez, mortally. The Los Angeles Times and the Oxnard Press-Courier demonized the union. Other newspapers were more objective.

Deputized rancher, Charles Arnold was arrested for the death of Vazquez and ultimately set free after a grower-friendly coroner’s inquest. But Vazquez’s death only enhanced the resolve of the JMLA which grew to over 1,500 Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican members.

Oxnard’s workers of the world had united; many longtime US citizens. But ostensibly all subordinated under our nation’s system of racial capitalism that privileged white males with lucrative careers while barring men and women of color from benefiting materially from such occupations. History, indeed, is prologue to the present. In a March 12, 2024 report published by the CaliforniaCivil Rights Department, Director Kevin Kish states “The new findings we’re sharing today make it clear that there is a long road ahead of us for true pay equity in our state.”

By the end of March, the power elite of Oxnard capitulated. They agreed to eliminate the WACC, restore the original thinning wage rate, and contract JMLA labor for virtually all the sugar beet acreage on the Oxnard Plain.

Subsequently, the JMLA renamed itself the Sugar Beet and Farm Laborers’ Union and applied for recognition from the powerful American Federation of Labor. In a May 13, 1903, letter, AFL president Samuel Gompers granted a charter only to the Mexican contingent of the SBFLU to not enrage a largely white, rank-and-file racist against Asians. This was despite a Los Angeles County Council of Labor resolution, championed by Fred C. Wheeler and John Murray, welcoming workers of all races and nationalities. Nonetheless, Gompers referenced US immigration law that excluded the entrance of Chinese workers and similar racism toward Japanese immigrants.
                                                    Japanese Sugar Beet Workers (Courtesy of the Museum of Ventura County)
In an eloquent June 8th reply, Lizarras, on behalf of his ethnic Mexican brethren, condemned Gompers’ charter in stating “We would be false to them and to ourselves and to the cause of Unionism if we, now, accepted privileges for ourselves which are not accorded to them. We are going to stand by men who stood by us in the long, hard fight which ended in a victory over the enemy.”
        Mexican Betabeleros (Courtesy of the Musuem of Ventura County)
The SBFLU faded away as employers throughout Ventura County improved work conditions to avoid similar labor strikes, however short-lived. A familiar dynamic in labor history.

The March 30, 1903, JMLA victory is an important historical event for several reasons. First among them is the demonstration of the significance of interracial solidarity to advance and protect the material interests of all workers. Murray, a white labor organizer, as well as a reporter for the International Socialist Review, supported, observed, and documented this lesson. Second, the strike re-orients old biases in US history textbooks that focus on white-dominant narratives in relation to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 for workers safety and higher compensation, Chicago’s 1886 Haymarket Affair for the eight-hour workday, and a similar wage cut and violent repression at Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead, Pennsylvania steel mill in 1892. With the JMLA story, people of color are the protagonists, not wallpaper characters.

The JMLA Strike is especially important for working-class students who do not see their ancestors, or themselves, in US history. I know this because when I learned about this story in the 1990s, I became excited about studying the history of my community, the City of Oxnard, made up of a significant mix of working-class Asian Americans, African Americans, Euro Americans, and Mexican Americans. So much so, I went on to earn my doctorate, publish two books, and teach a US history that centers the historically underrepresented.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Palestine: A Chicano’s Education Or How I Decided to Educate Myself on Zionism, part 3: The Lions Expose the Hunters


A Chicano’s Education


How I Decided to Educate Myself on Zionism, part 3:

The Lions Expose the Hunters


When People Are Colonized Resistance Is Justified

Free, Free Palestine! Free, Free Palestine!

¡Viva! ¡Viva! ¡Palestina! ¡Viva! ¡Viva! ¡Palestina!

Aaron Bushnell, You Are Not Alone!

Biden, Biden, You’re A Liar—We Demand a Cease Fire!

Biden, Biden, You’re A Liar—We Demand a Cease Fire!

We Are All Palestinians. We Are All Palestinians.

(Peoples’ slogans at Chiques demonstration as part of a worldwide day of action, Sunday, March 2, 2024)


On Sunday, March 2, 2024, a worldwide day of action, thousands, if not millions, of people from all walks of life took to the streets across the land, again, to protest the United States government-backed Israeli Defense Forces’ inexorably merciless massacre, starvation, oppression, and overall genocide of the people of Palestine.

Before marching through the streets of Third, C, Second, Oxnard Boulevard, Seventh, and A, a multiracial mass of one thousand gente assembled at the city hall of Chiques (aka, Oxnard) to condemn President Joe Biden, Senator Alex Padilla, Congresswoman Julia Brownley, and Oxnard Councilwoman Gabriela Basua, and Oxnard Mayor John Zaragoza by name for their complicity and support for the Zionist murder of the people of Palestine for not demanding that the state of Israel agree to a permanent cease-fire on Gaza. The people inveighed the US government’s enablement of Israel’s acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip as charged in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by South Africa.

According to REUTERS, on January 26, 2024, the ICJ found that "At least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the (Genocide) Convention."

Democratic functionaries of empire yet continue to asininely recite

“Israel has the right to defend itself.”

¡Sin vergüenza!


Sunday, February 25, 2024, in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC Airman Aaron Bushnell protested by self-immolation the US government’s sponsorship of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza.

Before Aaron Bushnell live streamed his suicide by fire, he stated "I am an active-duty member of the United States Air Force. And I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest. But compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers—it's not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.”

Like former Army Private First Class Chelsea Manning who witnessed with horror a US military Apache helicopter killing innocent Iraqi civilians and other atrocities that our censored media does not allow the public to see, I imagine Aaron Bushnell viewed or knew of similar atrocities by the US government.

Over the years, I have both directly and indirectly known people with US security clearance allude to witnessing our government commit inhuman acts of violence against civilians in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ask a veteran.





For decades the state of Israel dominated the narrative on the question of Palestine; complemented by US State Department and corporate media propaganda, of course. As the Middle East hegemon, the state of Israel assiduously defines, with US assistance, the present and past to chart the future. In 1958, the great Nigerian storyteller Chinua Achebe published the exquisite novel Things Fall Apart which critiqued not only the British empire’s brutal colonization—if there were any other kind—of his homeland but also all of Africa by other European imperialists. As I studied Things Fall Apart after I listened to an obituary of Achebe’s life on public radio in 2013, I was reminded of what my mentor-teacher professed when I was a Fresno State undergrad: Christian missionaries are the advanced guard of any imperial invasion; after which, well, things fall apart.

Achebe also understood that the violently mighty, conqueror-oppressors and alike define the past in which the present is comprehended. To counter the myths, half-truths, and the downright mentiras of settler colonial empires around the globe like the US, Britain, France, Germany, and Israel, Achebe encouraged counter-hegemonic storytelling in writing:

There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail—the bravery, even, of the lions.

Via history, art, music, poetry, dance, novels, film: We Must Dare To Be Lions.

As the governments of the Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, and Israel, are historical hunters, I view Vine Deloria as one lion, among many, that narrated the story of the US government’s hunt in North America in his germinal, must-read book to appreciate the essence of American history, Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1969)With US congressional documentation, Deloria researched a chilling history detailing the hunt of the US Army that methodically murdered, ethnically cleansed, and drove out Native Americans from their homeland for the Ingalls family to settle as Zionists do in Palestine. So, Zionists are using the US’s playbook of settler colonial occupation and conquest. In the February 26, 2024 online edition of The New Yorker, Shane Bauer, in an article titled “The Israeli Settlers Attacking Their Palestinian Neighbors, quotes Ory Shimon, a twenty-year old Westbank Israeli settler, expressing that “he felt that Israel was being unfairly scrutinized: ‘America came with ships and killed all the Indians and made them slaves. It’s terrible, but now America doesn’t’ say ‘We’re sorry, take the land back.” Furthermore, Bauer wrote the following regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich:

In 2017, he [Smotrich] published his “Decisive Plan” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first step, he wrote, was to make the “ambition for a Jewish State from the river to the sea . . . an accomplished fact” by “establishing new cities and settlements deep inside the territory and bringing hundreds of thousands of additional settlers to live there.” Once “victory by settlement” was accomplished, Smotrich continued, Palestinians would have two options: stay in Israel, without the right to vote in national elections, or emigrate. “Zionism,” he wrote, “was built based on population exchange e.g. the mass Aliyah of Jews from Arab countries and Europe to the Land of Israel, willingly or not, and the exit of masses of Arabs who lived here, willingly or not, to the surrounding Arab areas. This historic pattern seems to require culmination.”


Hence, according to Zionist, all of Palestine belongs to Israel. Drive out Palestinians to Syria, Jordan, and Egypt; conquer as much as land possible to keep forever. This permits us to comprehend cunning Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) atrocities that target journalists, doctors and nurses, refugees, and civilians in Gaza today.

The violent, steady, theft of land from the people of Palestine was not so linear after World War I as British hunters gained control of the region from the Ottomans with the League of Nations Mandate of 1918. As scrupulously accounted for by Daniel Yergin in The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power (1991), capitalist geo-strategic points of Standard Oil and British Petroleum encouraged the European partition of the Middle East. Subsequently, to solidify its regional control, the British permitted Ashkenazi Zionist hunters access to Palestinian lands. But as Palestinian national liberationist leader Ghassan Kanafani details a good number of Palestinian elites rented and sold their real estate to Zionists and served as quislings for capo capitalists. Before this Jews, Muslims, and Christians of Palestine lived in peaceful harmony. This is according to Richard Becker, Jimmy Carter, Rashid Khalidi, Ilan Pappé, and other eminent writers. For a succinct summary of this history read Eric Mann’s February 22, 2024 essay in the LA Progressive.

Weaponizing the Holocaust, however, Zionists insist that Muslim leaders of the Middle East have forever been antagonistic to the existence of Jews and the state of Israel. As early as the late 1940s, nascent Arab states—essentially puppet governments created by imperialist Britain, France, and the US—in and out of the region of Palestine accepted the state of Israel’s existence as this is what the Western powers dictated. In 2017, even Hamas declared Israel’s existence based on 1967 borders. The myth of annihilation, however, benefits the state of Israel in terms of international sympathy and support, especially that of the US, as well as its ruthless illegal settlement and occupation in all of Palestine. Resistance and Palestinian counterattacks are then used as pretexts, to the max, by Zionists to go on the offensive to conquer the little remaining territory that Palestinians control ever so tenuously. Some call this cycle mowing the lawn. Ultimately, the hunters, the US and Israel, are mouthing a false history and gaslighting the public.

From my study of books and articles on the question of Palestine, Zionist leaders since the late nineteenth century have systematically worked to conquer all the land of Palestine to advance a purely Jewish state. Many people ignorant of this history, blame Palestinians for not agreeing to a two-state solution when it is Israel that has blocked this idea as it contravenes the Zionist mission to dominate all of Palestine. Furthermore, in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006),  President Jimmy Carter eloquently details how Israel has sophisticated control over diplomatic affairs and public relations systems, especially with US surrogates such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This is how Zionists of the state of Israel steadily violates with impunity United Nations:

  • Resolution 181 of 1947 that partitioned Palestine into two states: Arab and Jewish. But as Britain planned its exit in 1947, Zionist terrorists, advised by the State of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, and his Consultancy, accelerated the seizure of Palestinian lands in both territories. Thus, as resolutely described by Ilan Pappe in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007), Hagana, Qiryati, the Harel Brigade, Brigade Etzioni, Alexdroni Brigade, and other Zionist terrorist militias, before the formal creation of the IDF, executed Palestinian villagers in both the territories of Palestine and Israel, dynamited occupied homes, ethnically cleansed communities usually at the dead of night, and stole all their possessions.
  • Resolution 194 of 1948 resolved that refugees of Nakba, the catastrophe of the Zionist killing and mass expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their lands, had the right to return to their homes, be compensated, and live in peace with their neighbors of all backgrounds—Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. The state of Israel contravenes UN Resolution 194 as it refuses to return occupied and stolen lands to Palestinians. In fact, before and since 1948, the state of Israel has driven Palestinians from lands partitioned to them under UN Resolution 181. Zionist utilizes scripture and the recent history of the Holocaust to shield them from any criticism. For Zionists such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is “No such thing” as Palestinian people. All of Palestine is biblical deeded to Jews, according to Zionnists.
  • Resolution 242 was adopted after the Six-Day War of 1967 and called for Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied during this conflict. Although it withdrew from the Sinai, Israelis continue to expand into, occupy, and settle upon Palestinian lands in the Golan Heights and the West Bank.

Despite the deceit of the US government and Israel, the lions of the world are roaring loud for a liberated Palestine. I am that historian, of many. Be a lion, too. Write, demonstrate, and demand from your government representatives (local, state, and federal) a Palestine where Arabs and Jews can coexist in harmony and peace as they did before the embarkation of Zionism.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Palestine: A Chicano’s Education Or How I Decided to Educate Myself on Zionism, part 2: Settler Colonialism as Zionism, And Vice Versa.

In line with the protocol of settler colonialism, since the late 19th century Zionist terrorist, mainly Jewish settlers escaping the vicious antisemitism of Europe, have systematically attacked Palestinians to occupy their lands.
But the state of Israel has the right to defend itself.

Jews comprised 5% of the population at the start of the Zionist settler colonial project. While 75% were Muslims and 20% were Christians living in well-nigh harmony in what is now Israeli-occupied Palestine.
Yet the state of Israel has the right to defend itself.

30,000 Palestinians (mostly civilian babies, children, women, and men) have died at the hands of Israeli settlers and the United States-backed Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in vengeance for the Hamas resistance of October 7th killing 1,200 people, and the taking of hostages.
However, the state of Israel has the right to defend itself.

The people of Palestine resist Israeli incursion, occupation, and oppression with rocks hurled by children, inaccurate and marginally effective rockets, and guerilla-style tactics against a vastly superior, regular IDF military equipped with state-of-the-art tanks, bulldozers, bombs, and jet fighters, many manufactured by US companies and subsidized by the United States.
Conversely, the state of Israel has the right to defend itself.

IDF wantonly bomb to rubble Palestinian hospitals, schools, universities, mosques, churches, and camps in Gaza resulting in 1.4 million Palestinian refugees (67% of the total population) dying from exposure, starvation, wounds, and disease.
Still, the state of Israel has the right to defend itself.

The state of Israel commands and blockades roads, airspace, and waterways leading to the Palestinian territories of Gaza, the West Bank, and Golan Heights. Hence, Palestinians are at the complete mercy of their occupiers for food, fuel, medicine, and potable water to survive. Meanwhile, uniformed people continue to wonder why Palestinians, from the young and old, resist the oppression of the United States-backed IDF.
Again, Israel has the right to defend itself.

As written by President Jimmy Carter in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006), Palestinians live in an apartheid state in their territories and the state of Israel.
Israel has the right to defend itself, say President Joe Biden, my US Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, and similar Zionist apologists in Washington, D.C.

To grasp the Question of Palestine, a person willing to learn must evaluate the historical nature of Zionism that laid the foundation for the creation of the apartheid state of Israel 76 years ago.

Austrian Theodore Herzl galvanized Zionism, the colonial settlement of Palestine by Ashkenazi Jews, principally, for his people to escape the virulence of antisemitism in central and eastern Europe. To define this movement, in 1896 he published “The Jewish State” and the next year organized the first Zionist congress. Zionism, however, must not be equated with Judaism, especially when one considers that Herzl was an atheist; especially as many non-Jews may conflate Zionism with Judaism. Nonetheless, as a settler colonial project, Zionism patterns itself after the merciless, capitalist schemes of Belgium, Britain, France, Spain, the United States, and other market-driven empires. Hence, let’s be clear that violence—that involves state terrorism and genocide—structurally undergirds empire. Always has and always will.

In 1923, Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky published two articles in the Ha’aretz newspaper that serve as the policy template of the state of Israel. Jabotinsky held that only a brutal “Iron Wall” could maintain and advance Israel’s settler colonial project; accordingly, the will and hope of Palestinians must be crushed. Journalist Richard Becker declared in Palestine: Israel, and the U.S. Empire (2009), “Jabotinsky continued his ‘honesty’ in a letter to Jewish lawyer and friend Oscar Grusenberg: ‘We Jews are Europeans…What do we have in common with the ‘Orient’? And everything in the Orient is doomed.” (36-37)

Despite written and cinematic portrayals that romanticize the oppressions of empire with gaudy uniforms, close-order parades accompanied by triumphal music, and the exhibition of formidable weaponry, the conquest of indigenous peoples—whether they be Palestinians, Native Americans, people of India, the Irish, or Africans of the Congo—stem from nation state-sanctioned military terror, torture, and the recruitment of indigenous quislings. Settler colonial aggressors then brand indigenous people who resist (i.e., fight back) and defend themselves—whether they be Palestinians or the Wampanoag of 17th century New England—savages, heathens, human animals, and terrorists. As propaganda and narrative domination are chief components of the machinery of empires. This is why US news from Palestine is censored by the state of Israel. In Gaza, journalists, especially Palestinian reporters, are assassinated by IDF snipers. But today social media reels of catastrophic civilian deaths and destruction, and Israeli hostages and civilian Palestinians waving white flags of surrender and peace killed by IDF snipers contest the state of Israel’s Iron Wall of censorship.

To sanction settler colonial projects, imperial governments also exploit religious myths and discourses to sanction violent occupations to achieve total domination. For example, in the case of Spain, the Catholic church hubristically authorized the division of the Western Hemisphere (the Americas) between Portugal and Spain with the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494. In a 1630 lay sermon, John Winthrop, who governed the Massachusetts Bay Company, promulgated the notion that God covenanted—if you believe in a God—the Puritan colony as an exceptional City Upon the Hill. Ipso facto, the colonists and the people of the United States, as subsequently reprised by President Ronald Reagan in his 1989 Farewell speech, believed in a chauvinist mission to reform the world. And like how Aztec imperialist viewed their tribe in Tenochtitlan, Zionists, most of Ashkenazi lineage, view Jews as the chosen people of God; an affirmation for the lethal invasion of Palestine and expulsion of its indigenous Arab majority. Zionists weaponize scripture, in addition to Holocaust history, to contend that the people of the state of Israel possess a “Biblical deed” to the land of Palestine based on the book of Genesis. Forsooth Zionists conflate Judaism with their settler colonial project to deny indigenous Palestinians any right to their land. Zionists also negate the existence of a Palestinian people. According to Amnesty International, the public display of the flag of Palestine in Israel is outlawed. Moreover, the conquest of Palestinian lands is marked by steady Israeli assaults dating back to the late nineteen century, institutionalized in 1948 with the founding of the state of Israel and Nakba by Haganah and Irgun terrorists, and hastened after the Six Day War of 1967. To the present, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories continue in violation of international law as declared by United Nations resolutions. However, the United States government does not recognize this history in the issuance of its hypocritical, morally corrupt propaganda. Protecting its strategic geo-political oil and trade interests in the Middle East by way of the state of Israel is all that matters.

Money talks and all else walks.

Historically, how is nation-state terrorism of empire by the British in India and Ireland, French in Algeria and Vietnam (for this watch the films The Battle of Algiers of 1966 and Indochine of 1992), Spanish throughout Latin America, and the United States in North America, for example, acquiesced to, if not defended, by the citizens, residents, and subjects of these countries? The popular inculcation of national myths portrayed as history by way of textbooks, radio, and television is how. Spain’s Hernán Cortés, destroyed the codices of the Aztecs after 1521 to rewrite Mexico’s cosmology. In the United States, in addition to Winthrop’s City of Upon the Hill screed, journalist John O’Sullivan’s 1845 Manifest Destiny declaration permitted ethnic European (read, white) Americans and immigrants to fanaticize that they enjoyed God’s command to violently conquer Native civilizations and Mexicans of North America by expulsion, the establishment of concentration camps called reservations, and genocide. Forsooth, before the United States assault on Mexico in 1846 to acquire Aztlán—what is today the Spanish-language titled states of Tejas, Arizona, Nuevo Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and California inspired by Sullivan’s vision and realized by the presidency of John K. Polk—President Andrew “Indian Killer” Jackson ethnically cleansed 100,000 Native Seminole, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek from what is today South and North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The US National Park Service estimates that over 10,000 Native Americans died on this Trail of Tears. Those who survived the forced removal ended up in the moon-like territory of Oklahoma. The US Army killed Natives who resisted. Later the Texas Ranger, aka los rinches, killed Mexicans to drive them off their lands. The state of Israel, it seems, has studied the history of the United States.

With television, children consume the mendacities of hit shows such as Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983) in which the opening credits of each episode farcically depict the covered wagon of the Ingalls family “pioneering” empty plains. From this show and its afterschool syndicated reruns which I maturated through middle school, I internalized Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier (unpeopled land) thesis that contended that the US West defined the exceptional, elected, culture of its citizenry in contrast to quailed Europe. Tropes of the frontier, or empty land for the taking, were complemented by other fantasy TV series and movies such as Bonanza, F Troop, Fort Apache, Gun Smoke, Stagecoach, High Chapparal, True Grit, and The Lone Ranger, to name a few. Each in their own manner indoctrinated viewers with insidious, white supremacist narratives as historical fact.

From my recent study of the Los Angeles Times, I have learned that Israeli television networks similarly make sure that its citizens do not get any sense of the history and experience of Palestinians as this would humanize them. The myth of empire must be preserved. Not historical truths. Otherwise, the lies of settler colonial Zionism would fall apart.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Palestine: A Chicano’s Education Or How I Decided to Educate Myself on Zionism, part 1


A Chicano’s Education 


How I Decided to Educate Myself on Zionism, part 1 


   As a Chicano who lives in the historically conquered territory of the Southwest after the US attack on Mexico in 1846 and who lives in the state of California that systematically dispossessed indigenous peoples of their land and relegated them to lives in concentration camps known as reservations, I identify with the Palestinian struggle for national liberation. Hence, I refuse to abet via silence the continued catastrophe, Nakba, of ethnic cleansing against the people of Palestine perpetuated since 1948 by the United States-backed state of Israel.[i] This moral stand arose from witnessing the brazenly decontextualized propaganda of commercial network news streamed to my television since October 7, 2023. Indeed, I have yet to view corporate news functionaries addressing the fundamental causes of Zionist invasion, racial apartheid, and theft of Palestinian territories even before the mid-twentieth century that induced Hamas’ recent attack on Israelis and the taking of hostages. 

    Furthermore, US news anchors, posing as objective journalists, fail to provide their audiences with primary statements of Hamas or Palestinian Authority officials; virtually all accounts related to the October 7th attack originate from biased Israeli government officials and spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces. Then US officials from President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, to Democratic party operative, Senator Alex Padilla, and others pathetically parrot the perspective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The unverified accounts of Hamas beheading Israeli babies echoed by President Biden being one example. 

    To paraphrase the late eminent scholar Edward W. Said, everyone speaks for Palestinians except Palestinians.[ii] 

    When US propaganda television news presents the perspective of Palestinians it is restricted to the severe suffering of Gaza civilian women, children, and men of all ages having been mercilessly and collectively punished by IDF with US bombs and tanks that level entire urban districts, hospitals, refugee camps, and schools. I have yet to view the commercial media report on Palestinian resistance presenting them as valiant human agents not solely powerless victims of IDF domination. 

    Thus far, IDF attacks have killed 24,000 Palestinians in Gaza. Of them, over 11,000 children, 7,000 women, and 1,000 senior citizens; or 75% of the total number of Palestinian casualties. This number steadily increases, not counting deaths in other territories under Israeli military siege and occupation (such as the Golan Heights and West Bank) in violation of United Nations resolutions 194, 242, 338, and 465. According to a December 15, 2023, report by France 24, October 7th Israeli deaths “is now thought to be 695 Israeli civilians, including 36 children, as well as 373 security forces and 71 foreigners, giving a total of 1,139.”[iii] Therefore, Palestinian lives lost caused by IDF are greatly disproportionate to the estimated lives lost of Israelis and other people by Hamas on October 7, by a ratio of over 20:1. 

    To lessen my ignorance on the question of Palestine and fathom the reasons why Hamas would dare challenge the Israeli government that enjoys an extraordinarily superior military largely supplied with state-of-the-art US weaponry and financing in the billions of dollars annually, I lately studied, in the consequent order, books authored by Richard Becker, Jimmy Carter, Rashid Khalidi, respectively titled Palestine: Israel and the U.S. Empire (2009), Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006), and The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017 (2020). I currently started Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). Moreover, I seek out and read the latest articles in the Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker focused on the experience of Palestinians and Jews before and since the United Nations partition of Palestine in 1947 that led to the violent creation of the state of Israel the next year that, in the words of Pappe, “led to one of the largest forced migrations in modern history. Around a million people were expelled from their homes at gunpoint, civilians were massacred, and hundreds of Palestinian villages were deliberately destroyed.” I also learned that Palestine’s partition after WWII was sponsored by Britain, the archetype colonial power in rapid decline, and subsequently advanced by the number one global empire, the United States. I augmented this self-study with enlightening social media video clips that feature the informed views of people in opposition to Zionism such as Angela Davis, Norman Finkelstein, Nelson Mandela, and Gabriel Mate. 

    This initial investigation also encompassed conversations with colleagues and people in my social network, as well as attending community forums and demonstrations. Over time I came to understand the effective ways in which a highly tuned Israeli public relations campaign—with the support of influential allies such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—has defined the dominant narrative imbibed by the US public, particularly those of the Great Depression and Baby Boom generations. Myths, misinformation, and outright lies portray Palestinians as fanatical terrorists who irrationally attack Israelis, and Zionists, on the other hand, essentially, as neutral, and innocent defenders of Israel’s security. People who do not have the luxury to devote time to independently learn the historical realities of the Palestinian experience are left to rely upon pro-Israel propaganda proliferated by US television “news,” with no recognition of causation. 

    In this regard, US stories on events in the Middle East are a modern-day production of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. But people of all generations, internationally, and from all walks of life, are learning alternative perspectives via social media.

[i] Other Western nations with ruthless imperial histories, as if there were any other kind, that back Israel are Britain, France, and Germany to name a few. 

[ii] Said’s more popularly well-known books are Orientalism (1978) and The Question of Palestine (1979).