Cartoon art and condemnation of Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing

Netan-psycho cartoon Jan 13 2015

This cartoon of a thuggish Netan-psycho-yahu building a wall with the blood & bodies of Palestinians was published in the London Sunday Times in January 2013. It is by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe & provoked immediate denunciations of antisemitism from the likes of Tony Blair, Israeli politicians, Zionist organizations.

Knesset politician (now Israeli president) Reuven Rivlin wrote a letter of protest evoking the holocaust, saying ““For me & for other Israelis, this cartoon was reminiscent of the vicious journalism during one of the darkest periods in human history” & argued that it “blatantly crossed the line of freedom of expression.” Rivlin is an outspoken advocate for the outright annexation of the West Bank to Israel so he has a quite limited understanding of the concept of freedom of expression. Palestinians who do not agree with him are assaulted, dispossessed, & incarcerated.

Natan Sharansky, a Russian emigrant now head of the Jewish Agency (which promotes Zionist immigration to Israel to settle on Palestinian land) drew a connection between the cartoon & an increase in antisemitic violence in Europe. “There is a very tragic alliance between primitive, anti-democratic, nationalist, racist, fundamentalist forces who are committing most of the violence, & enlightened, liberal, intellectual representatives of the intelligentsia in Europe.” Sharansky wanted Scarfe branded as an antisemite.

Daniel Taub, Israeli ambassador to London, said the depiction of Netanyahu went too far, crossed “a red line,” drew on “classical antisemitic themes,” & he would be marching right on down to the editor to express Israel’s concerns.

Truth of the matter is, this is a somewhat flattering depiction of Netanyahu & lets him off quite easy given the scale of Israeli barbarism in Gaza. Blinking back tears about the holocaust & evoking antisemitism no longer deters criticism of Israeli apartheid & ethnic cleansing. You’re reaching to find antisemitism in this cartoon & doing so only to shame criticism of Israel. But you also demean those millions who lost their lives in the holocaust by using them for such purpose. That’s Eely Weasel’s schtick.

If Rivlin & all the boys have objection to “primitive, anti-democratic, nationalist, racist, fundamentalist forces,” they should raise them about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons because the massacre now makes Jews targets along with Muslims. Criticizing cartoons for racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia is not the same as demanding they be outlawed.

(Cartoon by Gerald Scarfe from the Sunday London Times)

Democracy and racist caricature in the cartoon tradition

Nast:Reconstruction Jan 13 2015

There is probably no more democratic art form in the European tradition than political cartooning–even though it now more often serves the status quo on the op ed page. It emerged in the 17th & 18th centuries with the democratic revolutions that overthrew feudalism & brought in capitalist states. Cartooning signals a shift in power relations between church, monarchies, & plebeians by the ability to lampoon power. The obsequious posture of serfs is replaced with defiance & ridicule.

Because colonialism was a political feature of those states, racist caricature has always been part of cartooning–particularly in depictions of the Irish, Jews, Blacks, Arabs. George Cruikshank, the great English cartoonist of the 19th century, originated the simian comparison on the Irish. The simian portrayal of Blacks has long been used to incite violence & social hatred & plagues caricature to this day–including of Obama & elite athletes.

Thomas Nast, in the 19th century, considered the pioneer of US cartooning, also portrayed the Irish as simian. Nast campaigned against political corruption & was an ardent supporter of the Civil War & Black Reconstruction; he championed Chinese immigration at a time when they were under attack & often attributed the violence to Irish immigrants. His caricatures however of Chinese appear quite racist to the modern eye, schooled by the Civil Rights Movement. His depictions of Blacks are often decidedly simian even while he championed Reconstruction. (Reconstruction was the political conflict between the white power structure & remnants of the Confederacy against Blacks to keep the latter out of political power in the south after the Civil War. It has been flagrantly misrepresented in US history.)

Dr. Seuss, the cartoonist & beloved writer of nearly 50 children’s books, spent most of his career drawing racist caricatures of Blacks, Arabs, & Japanese both for commercial ads & WWII war propaganda.
It serves no purpose to suggest free speech should be curtailed for racist cartoonists. That’s a classic case of cutting off your head to spite your face. Because it isn’t racists that need free speech. It’s dissidents who oppose all forms of racism & social hatred. Why drive hate into hiding when we need to know exactly what we’re up against? And when every foray we make against free speech will be used against us?

Despite the progressive thrust of his politics, most of Nast’s caricatures of Blacks are unusable today. This pro-Reconstruction cartoon is the best of a bad lot. What the movement for social justice needs is Black, Latino, women caricaturists who can put ugly on the face of power, who can take caricature back from the obsequious & restore the luster of rebellion & defiance against tyranny.

(Cartoon by Thomas Nast, 1866)

Update on neoliberal plunder in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake

Haiti:Cité Soleil  (Susan Schulman) Jan 12 2015

Few countries show the depravity & barbarism of neoliberal capitalism more starkly than the US & UN in Haiti. The scale of depredation, the racist hatred, the callous indifference to massive human suffering render words inadequate.

Five years since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti: 50 regimes pledged nearly $9 billion for reconstruction. The Red Cross alone collected $486 million in donations for earthquake relief. There are reportedly 10,000 NGOs operating there. Only a tiny percent of the pledged aid was ever delivered ($686 million) but there is still nothing to show for the $1,172 billion that was except a $300 million industrial park housing sweatshops in rural Haiti, where most people don’t live. Under political pressure, the Red Cross finally released an accounting, saying all of the dough had been dispersed & used to provide clean water & sanitation services for over 545,000 people, but they can’t point to a single port-au-potty as proof.

An estimated 400,000 people still live in 123 camps without clean water, garbage removal, without shower or toilet facilities. Only 5,700 permanent houses have been built, mostly by aid groups such as Habitat for Humanity. Only 15,000 homes have been repaired with reconstruction assistance. Only 125,000 transitional one-room plywood houses were built–not earthquake or hurricane-resistant in an area where hurricane season is annual. The Haitian government does not have a housing reconstruction plan or program. Not a dime of US aid went to housing.

During his election campaign in 2010, President Michel Martelly (who stinks from corruption & collaboration with the US) pledged to close all camps within six months but his pledge did not mean relocation to new homes; it meant forcible eviction, often without prior notice. Rather than building & reconstructing public housing, the Haitian government along with private landowners, police & UN peacekeepers are on a rampage to clear the camps at gunpoint, using tear gas grenades & live ammo. Paramilitary groups armed with machetes & clubs have attacked camps, assaulting people & setting camps on fire. With no homes to go to, 60,000 have simply been made homeless.

This is a photo of Cité-Soleil, a section of Port-au-Prince with about half a million people. It’s been there since the late 1950s but when Haiti began implementing US free trade policies & neoliberal agribusiness in the 1980s, over 830,000 rural Haitians were dispossessed, displaced & ended up in urban slums. Like the temporary camps, Cité Soleil has no sewer or sanitation system, no access to potable water, & few health clinics.

The colonial overlords, orchestrated by the two Clintons, considered it more important to set up industrial parks & sweatshops than provide sanitation. What takes your breath away is that Haiti is going through a cholera epidemic brought on by UN troops in 2010. An estimated 700,000 people have contracted cholera & over 8,000 people have died. In 2012, Ban Ki-moon pledged $2.27 billion in UN funds to fight the epidemic but once again there are still not enough clinics to serve the afflicted so what the hell are they doing with the money?

Last Friday, a US federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit against the UN to hold them accountable for the epidemic. The judge claimed UN immunity against such charges. The suit was brought by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti to provide compensation to the victims of the epidemic. The decision will be appealed but may not see more justice than Bhopal victims against Dow Chemical.

Impunity pretty much sizes up UN operations in Haiti. They’ve occupied the country since 2004 & are frequently used by the regime against democracy protesters & against “armed gangs” in Cité Soleil. Allegedly these gangs are completely lawless, engaging in murder, rape, kidnapping, looting, shootings which terrorize the area. Since 2007, UN forces regularly flood the area & engage in shootouts with the gangs–not unlike the LAPD in the Black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Which makes the story worth questioning. In neoliberal parlance, outlaw gangs is code for Blacks or very poor.

Of course not all of the NGOs working in Haiti are washouts like the Red Cross. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) runs a hospital in Cité Soleil & Samaritan’s Purse built a large free cholera treatment center there. What little has been done is mostly by these NGOs, many of them religious groups.

Haiti’s in a hell of a spot & like so many other peoples, has stood alone a long time. It’s long since time for the big battalions of international solidarity to enter the fray & begin to educate about what the US & UN are doing there. It’s just a matter of time before they start doing it here. And if we stand silent, that will be a matter of chickens coming home to roost.

(Photo by Susan Schulman)

Neoliberal plunder and the Haitian earthquake

Cite Soleil *Susan Schulman) Jan 12 2015

This is the fifth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti & in preparing an update on developments there I came across this post I wrote October 25th 2012 which lays out US neoliberal plans for Haiti & the role of the Clintons & their entourage of movie stars. I’ve only updated the photo which is from Cité-Soleil, a section of Port-au-Prince with about half a million people & one of the poorest slums in the Western Hemisphere. It plays an important role in the UN occupation which I will describe in my update:
Haiti is open for plunder! Both of the Clintons joined Haitian president, Michel Martelly–along with a glamorous entourage of movie stars Sean Penn, Maria Bello, & Ben Stiller, fashion designer Donna Karan, model Petra Nemcova, British flyboy Richard Branson, USAID & State Department functionaries, bankers from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) & other investors–in the opening ceremony of the $300 million Caracol Industrial Park in northern, rural Haiti. According to media flattery, the work of both Clintons in Haiti–in particular this industrial park–will shape their political legacy. Damn straight it will! It already earns them a special place in hell & merits them a special tribunal for human rights crimes against the people of Haiti. But loathsome as the Clintons are, they are not down there in some rogue capacity; they are agents of US government policy.

After the January 2010 earthquake, US & other international power brokers moved swiftly to establish a decision-making system in Haiti which took all power out of the hands of Haitians & institutions run by & accountable to them. They set up the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) headed by Bill Clinton–not because of his organizing talents but because of his treachery. Michel Martelly was the IHRC candidate of choice to run for president in 2011. Martelly is a former honky-tonk singer, committed Duvalierist, & admitted participant in the Tonton Macoutes, paramilitary death squads Duvalier used in a reign of terror against political opponents: hundreds of thousands of people were disappeared, tortured, murdered, stoned, burned alive, their corpses put on display & often hung in trees. Family members who tried to remove the bodies for burial often disappeared themselves.

When the Clintons speak they are at pains to explain how they’re “working for the Haitians,” are “Haitian-led” & “helping the Haitian people to achieve their own dreams.” If that’s true they have to explain why this project is at odds not with the dreams but the expressed demands of the Haitian people. The Clintons, et al, explain this industrial park will bring up to 65,000 Haitian jobs. But of course, just to remove the earthquake rubble, find ways to reuse it, construct & repair homes, build sanitation systems, health clinics & schools would take even more workers–in the cities where they live & not in the countryside where they don’t. The IHRC has prioritized & fast-tracked infrastructure projects like this industrial park, highways, telecom, building the tourist industry, & privatizing public services not because these are the dreams of Haitians but because they suit the needs of international capital & exploitation which wants to turn Haiti into a Caribbean sweatshop.

Even a cursory look at this park project will expose the truth since it’s what’s not explained that damns the whole project: first of all, more than 300 small farmers were forcibly displaced from their holdings to make way for the industrial park; the Haitian government simply claimed the land as state property. It is prime agricultural land & environmentally essential. Turning it into a giant sweatshop reduces the already compromised ability of Haiti to produce food for its people, & the oil-burning power plant funded by USAID will destroy the environment.

The park’s anchor tenant is Sae-A, a South Korean garment company notorious & nearly run out of Guatemala on a rail for egregious labor violations, including violence against workers. They expect to pay workers $5 a day to make clothes for stores like Walmart & the Gap. In fact, Sae-A recently shipped its first order of Haitian-made garments to Walmart. They were persuaded to set up the sweat shop by walking into a ready-made factory with tax & tariff accommodations to make it super-profitable to them. Sean Penn, the willing stooge of US colonialism in Haiti, lauds Sae-A for their “maverick nature” but sycophants like him can’t distinguish the antisocial from the maverick. The only other tenant so far is Peintures Caraïbes, a Haitian paint manufacturer, who expects to hire 300 workers max. Their presence is a gesture to cover the colonialism of the whole project.

The reason Penn & the other movie stars are there is to help peddle this crap not just to Haitians but to the rest of us; the reason Karan is there is likely so she’ll get her ritzy clothes made there cheap; & the reason Branson is there is because building up tourism is part of the master plan for Haiti, which includes expansion of the Cap Haitien airport to accommodate international flights. Of course, this master plan was determined by international power brokers & predators, not subject to the voice of the Haitian people themselves. The good news is there are reports of massive protests in Port-au-Prince against the policies of Martelly & neoliberalism. Demand the US & its predatory allies get the hell out of Haiti; Haiti for & by the Haitians!

(Photo by Susan Schulman)