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John Pilger on the Dagan Plan and Gaza under fire

Every war Israel has waged since 1948 has had the same objective: expulsion of the native people. 

"When the truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie." It may appear that the silence on Gaza is broken. The small cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents, and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea can be witnessed on al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC. But Russia's incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemera we call news; he was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it, and so denied it. Among the Anglo-American intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge: the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, "Israel's right to exist". They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine's right to exist was cancelled 61 years ago and that the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous "Plan D" of 1947-48 resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Israeli army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as "ethnic cleansing". Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon: "What shall we do with the Arabs?" Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, 'Expel them'".

The order to expel an entire population "without attention to age" was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world's most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapam party co-leader Meir Ya'ari noted "how easily" Israel's leaders spoke of how it was "possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the road with them because such is the imperative of strategy. And this we say . . . who remember who used this means against our people during the [Second World] War . . . I am appalled."

Every subsequent "war" Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first against Israel. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein have undermined this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. "It seems," wrote the Israeli historian Pappé on 2 January, "that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system . . . Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology - in its most consensual and simplistic variety - allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide]."

In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, fall within the international standard of the Genocide Convention. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and international law authority at Princeton University, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."

In describing a “holocaust-in-the making”, Falk was alluding to the Nazis’ establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland. For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the Nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew. Today’s holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben-Gurion’s Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project. The F-16 jet fighters, the 250lb “smart” GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza, having been approved by a Congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4bn in warmaking “aid”, give Washington de facto control. It beggars belief that President-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken about Russia’s war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama has maintained a silence on Palestine that marks his approval, which is to be expected, given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of Zionists as his secretary of state and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings “Think”, her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama’s inauguration on 20 January, I trust someone with the brave heart of Muntader al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: “Gaza!”

The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now "Operation Cast Lead", which is the unfinished "Operation Justified Vengeance". This was launched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with George W Bush's approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time.

 

Why are the academics and teachers silent? Are British universities now no more than “intellectual Tescos”?

 

In that same year, the authoritative Jane's Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the "green light" to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel's secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of new Labour's enduring complicity in Palestine's agony. However, the Israeli plan, reported Jane's, needed the "trigger" of a suicide bombing which would cause "numerous deaths and injuries [because] the 'revenge' factor is crucial". This would "motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians". What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, then Israeli chief of staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks. On 23 November 2001 Israeli agents assassinated the Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud and got their "trigger": the suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.

Something uncannily similar happened on 4 November last year when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people. Once again, they got their propaganda "trigger": a ceasefire sustained by the Hamas government - which had imprisoned its violators - was shattered as a result of the Israeli attacks, and home-made rockets were fired into what used to be called Palestine before its Arab occupants were "cleansed". On 23 December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel's charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Behind this sordid game is the "Dagan Plan", named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon during his bloody invasion of Leba non in 1982. Now head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organisation, Dagan is the author of a "solution" that has brought about the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, now effectively a concentration camp. The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah, under Mahmoud Abbas, is Dagan's achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign, relayed through mostly supine, if intimidated western media, notably in the US, which say Hamas is a terrorist organisation devoted to Israel's destruction and is to "blame" for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, since long before its creation. "We have never had it so good," said the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine."

In fact, Hamas's real threat is its example as the Arab world's only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians' oppressor and tormentor. This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the western media as "Hamas's seizure of power". Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic. Neither is its proposal of a ten-year truce reported as a historic recognition of the "reality" of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition: that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders. As every annual vote in the UN General Assembly demonstrates, most states agree. On 4 January, the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a "monstrosity".

When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a "1948-style solution" - the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority, followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller "cantonments", and perhaps, finally, into Jordan. This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian exile in Britain, "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed . . . Look to the Iraq of today: that is what [Sharon] had in store for us, and he has nearly achieved it."

Dr Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Iraq and Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic," she wrote on 31 December. "But I'm not talking about the World War II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the president of Iran] or Ashkenazi Jews. What I'm referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years . . . Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn't get more anti-Semitic than this." She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. "I am in the midst of a genocide," wrote Corrie, "which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible."

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of "responsibility". Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction, but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable, invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plead for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries”?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third American Writers' Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure that the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 2,500 jammed the auditorium. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabo kov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."

If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilised people. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants war criminals impunity and immunity through our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or it gives us the power to speak out. For the moment I prefer my own memory of Gaza: of the people's courage and resistance and their "luminous humanity", as Karma Nabulsi put it. On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No one had told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together, and a few of them climbed on to a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, in the belief that the world will not forget them.

John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The destruction of Gaza

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Inside the sex, money, and scandal of Instagram’s puppet community

What is behind the #PuppetWave?

In many ways, Craig is an unusual 21-year-old. He spells his name “Kreeg”, and his primary income source is breaking into cars, stealing them, and selling them on. A Puerto Rican who lives in Alief, Texas, he is enrolled in a college which he does not attend – but instead pays someone else to go to his classes for him. He raps in a group called Rich Broke Dudez, and recently he was called out on social media for sending a girl an unsolicited picture of his genitals. One way that Kreeg is unusual, however, stands out more than any of the rest. Kreeg is less than two-foot-tall and he is made of fleece. Kreeg is a puppet.

“So basically Kreeg all he does is just buys clothes, talks to girls all day, makes music,” explains Kenny Figueroa, an 18-year-old customer service worker from Texas, who created Kreeg and his profile on the photo-sharing site Instagram @HypebeastKreeg.

 

A post shared by @hypebeastkreeg on

Over the last few months, a “puppet wave” has taken over the social network. People post on the site posing as puppets, and get in fights, expose one another for cheating, and even have funerals. There are entire puppet families, made up of parents, cousins, and grandparents. There are even “Make Puppets Great Again” hats, riffing off those worn by Donald Trump supporters. To outside eyes, there is virtually no information about who is behind these accounts, and what they hope to achieve.

“There's always a new wave going around,” explains Figueroa. “You know Kanye [West] had a wave where everybody was wearing ripped up clothes, looked like they just got inside a blender you know, that was the wave at the time. It's just now there's a wave for the puppets, the puppets are taking over.”

*

Mr Green Bags and PJ the producer do not get along. The former is young-looking, with a round face and a mop of ginger hair, though he poses on Instagram with money and toy guns, and writes his captions in all capital letters. The latter is, in his own words, “the first puppet producer” and wears a hat emblazoned with his own initials. Recently PJ kidnapped Mr Green and taped up his mouth, before taking a picture for social media.

“Mr greens is my son,” says PJ, when I reach out to him over Instagram’s direct messaging service to ask about the beef. Instead of speaking to his creator, I am speaking to the puppet himself, and his quotes are copied verbatim from our Instagram messages.

“My life ass a puppet is good,” PJ explains, “Mr green is a fan of me iam the reason why he started he  was hating and watching my growth for 3 months straight then he ran out to get a puppet to try and be like me.” When I ask for clarification about how the two puppets met up in order to take Instagram photos, PJ reiterates that Mr Greens is his son. “Is the same person behind the account?” I ask. “What u mean” he replies.

 

A post shared by MR.GREEN BANDZZ (@mr_green_bags_) on

When I reach out to Mr Greens on Instagram to ask if he would like to speak with me, his reply is simple. “Yea as long as u not working with pj the producer.”

*

After browsing the profiles of various puppets, one question would not leave me. Why? I assumed, from the beginning, that there was something to promote, or sell, or advertise. I assumed there was something to figure out. Though a YouTube series about “urban puppets” does exist, these puppets are not connected to those that are most prominent on Instagram (their creator has even spoken out to deny a connection). Some puppets have comedy shows, or music to promote, but those with the most followers often do not. Seemingly, they just exist. They have no purpose.

Yet somehow, in assuming that there must be a TV show, or a book, or a secret art project, I forgot the number one driving force behind nearly all Instagram trends. Why have you created a puppet? Why does your puppet have genitals made out of felt? Simple. For social media fame.

*

For Figueroa, the creator of Kreeg, the explanation is multi-layered. He designed Kreeg as an alter-ego – a “person who’s like kids nowadays” in that he goes out and spends a lot of money “because of what rappers say”. Figueroa is attempting to make fun of this lifestyle with Kreeg, who is obsessed with clothes and drives a Power Wheel, a battery-operated toy car designed for children. “I think I spent over $2,000,” says Figueroa, who buys Kreeg’s clothes from thrift shops.

 

Stuntin' comes easy when you an OGHit the link in my bio #puppetwave

A post shared by @hypebeastkreeg on

Because Figueroa is attempting to make Kreeg as realistic as possible, a puppet penis was almost inevitable.  

“No,” says Figueroa when I ask if the place he ordered Kreeg from, Nutty Puppets, makes puppets with genitals. “I went out to Michaels [an American craft store] and I just pulled down my pants and took a quick picture and I pretty much just copied it from what I saw.” The “how” is simple – imitation, scissors, felt. The “why” is perhaps harder to explain.

Figeuroa laughs when I ask this question. “Why?” he says, “It's really for the comedy… Girls on Instagram or Twitter, they always get guys sending them dick pics and it's revolting… But a puppet doing it - that's funny.” In a way then, it is satire.

It’s also just plain smart marketing. Figueroa’s aim with Kreeg is to become “social media famous”, which he hopes will help him (not Kreeg) become a stand-up comedian. To achieve this fame, Figueroa has imitated one of the most famous puppets of Instagram – known as Lux – who blew up on social media a few months ago after he sent a picture of his genitals to a YouTuber.  

“YALL! a fucking PUPPET just slid in my dms and sent me some dick pics ! I CANT MAKE THIS SHIT UP!!!” the YouTuber wrote on Twitter, before getting over 60,000 retweets. Lux denied any involvement but after social media users searched for the offending puppet he enjoyed a rapid growth in followers. It seems likely he targeted a high-profile individual in order to get his own profile up. A few days later he had a public fight with another puppet, with her own Instagram account, named Kiyah Brickz.

“As yall can see Lux was deep in prayer!” Kiyah captioned an image of Lux – who is visible from the eyes up – performing a sexual act on the lower half of a puppet, presumably Kiyah herself.  

*

Like our own, human, society however, the puppet community is mixed. As well as sex, drugs, and scandal there is a sweeter, softer side. Lux has a grandma, complete with flawlessly applied red lipstick and earrings. There are also puppet children. Musa Bradley is a 38-year-old from New York who created Fuzzy Beard, “a super lyrical bearded 10-year-old” with nearly 16,000 Instagram followers. Bradley takes the puppet into schools to teach children about “health, character and manners while preserving the Hip Hop culture one rap at a time.”

“The kids can hold him and talk to him,” says Bradley who studied child psychology, “I rap and then I sneak the knowledge in after the rap.” Bradley characterises Fuzzy as a mix of both Lisa and Bart Simpson, in that he is “cheeky” but also gets straight As. The beard is a metaphor for children who are forced to grow up too quickly.

Yet though Fuzzy is very clean cut – he says “What the fuzzy?” instead of any profanity – he interacts on Instagram with the rest of the puppet wave. Bradley has even reached out to Joselito, a “celebrity puppet”, who has videos on his social media of himself slapping a stripper’s ass. Bradley created a backstory with Joselito’s creator that the puppets are cousins, and they have since filmed videos together.

“I want him to be edgy anyway,” explains Bradley when we talk about whether he's concerned that this association might affect his work in schools. He was invited to go to the strip club to film a video but declined, and has clear limits on what Fuzzy can and can’t do. Whilst strip clubs are a definite no, Bradley doesn’t mind the association with Joselito, as he hopes it will raise Fuzzy’s profile.

“The reason why I even started doing more serious raps was because I go to schools and I go to a lot of correctional facilities and jails with a lot of rappers," he tells me. "Every rapper they bring in these schools are from the streets and rap about coke, guns, and drugs, but when they are in the schools they talk about staying in school and the kids listen because of their name.”

Quite simply, he says: “I have to be edgy because the children I’m trying to reach are edgy.”

*

The sexualisation of puppets is arguably nothing new. In the broadway musical Avenue Q, puppets have breasts, have sex, and sing about porn. Princeton – the main character – repeatedly sings about finding his “purpose”.

To outside eyes, it does initially seem as though the puppet wave on Instagram has no purpose. Yet each puppet’s creator has their own aim – whether it is fame, creating music, spreading comedy, or teaching children important lessons. Many accounts are also simply pure entertainment. For every puppet that is trying to promote an album or a comedy tour, there is another which simply seems to want social media fame. Thanks to copycats, the puppet wave is really just beginning. 

Before I hang up with Figueroa, I ask if he has anything in particular he wants to add, or a message he wants to spread. He leaves me with Kreeg’s personal motto. “Always remember,” he says. “Do not chase after hoes, let them chase you. Because you don’t wanna get tired.”

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

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