An interview with Robert Fantina: Islamophobia, Palestine, Zionism, Militarism and more
|Introducing Robert Fantina|
Interview by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V. Our interview with Robert Fantina about many matters we wanted to hear about from a US-critical perspective. Robert Fantina is an activist and journalist, working for peace and social justice. He writes extensively about U.S. militarism, and the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. He is the author of two works of non-fiction: Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776 – 2006, and Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy. Additionally, he is the author of a Vietnam-era, anti-war novel entitled Look Not Unto the Morrow. A U.S. citizen, Mr. Fantina moved to Canada following the 2004 U.S. presidential election, and now resides near Toronto, Ontario. Visit his web page at http://robertfantina.com/
Milena Rampoldi: Which are the most problematic aspects of Islamophobia in the USA?
Robert Fantina: There are many problems with this ugly issue, but the most significant is the physical threats to Muslims. Although not endemic, it seems to be growing. And as government officials, and those seeking election, such as Donald Trump, along with the corporate-owned media, continue to equate terrorism with Islam, this danger will only grow.
We see this in the wide acceptance of armed picketing of mosques. In the U.S., if an armed group of Muslims were to surround a Christian church or Jewish synagogue during services, all government officials would be outraged. When the reverse occurs, it is reported as news, but the perpetrators are seen as brave Americans standing up for the U.S.
MR: I think that pro-Palestinian activism is special in the USA, because of the huge support the USA offers to Israel. How can we write against it?
RF: The U.S. supports Israel unquestioningly, mainly, if not exclusively, because of the power of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee. This lobby group funnels millions of dollars into the campaigns of government officials, all who agree to overlook Israeli violations of human rights and international law.
But there has been a shift, starting mainly with reaction to Israel’s genocidal bombing of the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014. Previously, citizens of the U.S. only received information about Israeli oppression of the Palestinians from the news, presented by the corporate-owned media. But social media has provided an entirely new outlet for news. Anyone with a camera and access to the Internet is able to widely distribute information. Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites have grown tremendously in the last few years, and this is now where people can see what is actually happening in the world. People suffering in Gaza were able to broadcast pictures of dead and mangled children, whose only crime was playing on a beach. They could show scenes of anguished parents, bombed hospitals and murdered journalists, all information previously available only on a few, small, alternative news programs, but now widely seen on social media. In the West Bank, pictures of checkpoints, sounding benign when there is no photo of them, become real, along with the untold suffering they cause.
The use of social media has been and continues to be a vital tool in the struggle of the Palestinian people for human rights and justice.
MR: What does Zionism and Anti-Zionism mean to you personally?
RF: Zionism is the belief, partly religious but mostly political, that the land of Palestine should be the homeland of the Jewish people. Those who hide behind any religious aspect of Zionism demonstrate an incredibly hypocrisy, since there can be no justice is killing and ethnically-cleansing people.
Anti-Zionism is the knowledge, and related activities, that recognize that ethnic cleansing is wrong; that all people are entitled to basic human rights and dignity; that Biblical statements are open to wide interpretation and cannot be used to justify destroying one country to create another. It involves a commitment to assist suffering people, and opposing those who are causing the suffering.
MR: Which are the most important subjects you treat in your articles and why?
RF: All of my work can be seen as supporting human rights. I write extensively on the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel, and about U.S. militarism. Both of these issues involve the gross violation of human rights. I have already mentioned some few factions of the Israeli occupation. U.S. militarism brings death, destruction and unspeakable suffering throughout the world. In additional, Israel’s brutal, decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people is financed and fully supported by the United States.
On April 4, 1967, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King said that the U.S. was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” In the nearly fifty years since that statement was made, it remains true. The only change is the technology now available that makes killing so much easier. Soldiers can sit in an office thousands of miles away and kill targeted people. Countless innocent people die with every drone strike. The current so-called ‘war’ against Daesh (still commonly referred to as ISIS or ISIL) is killing and displacing hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
MR: For ProMosaik militarism is a general problem in civil society. How can we explain to people that we have to struggle against militarism in all day life?
RF: There are many factors to this answer. The U.S., and much of the world, glorifies soldiers and war. In the United States, soldiers are seen as heroes, men and women who risked their lives for cherished freedoms. This myth must be destroyed. Soldiers are pawns in games played by politicians and others who profit from war. What the U.S. calls the defence industry, which is really just the manufacture of weaponry to sell to other countries, or use on them, makes huge profits, and defence contractors donate millions of dollars to the campaigns of officials who will continue to wage war, so their profits will continue unabated.
Secondly, the various ‘enemies’ that the U.S. is forever fighting must be seen as creations of the U.S, excuses to buy and use the weapons of the ‘defence’ industry. Sometimes, as in the case of Iraq under Saddam Hussein or Afghanistan under the Taliban, the U.S. has put these governments into power and then, when these governments refused to follow the dictates of the U.S., the U.S. called them the ‘enemy’ and when to war against them. In other cases, the U.S. focuses on some perversion of a belief or philosophy, and sees that as the enemy. During the Cold War era, this was Communism, with the U.S. looking at repressive Communist governments and saying that they, and Communism itself, threatened the U.S. way of life. Today, the government sees some people who pervert Islam, and says that Islam is the enemy.
Finally, people in the U.S. need to understand that the people being bombed are no different from themselves. These innocent victims only want to live quiet lives, going to school and work, raising families, etc. They bleed the same way U.S. citizens bleed; they love their children as much as U.S. citizens love theirs. Their language may be different; their style of clothing not what U.S. citizens are accustomed to seeing, and their houses of worship may not have steeples, but these are superficial differences. Yet the government fosters xenophobia, and an ignorant populace accepts it.
MR: Human rights, justice, and peace, seem to be gone these days… what gives you hope?
RF: Yes, it is true; human rights, justice and peace seem to be absent in much of the world today. But I gain hope from the strength and resilience I see in the Palestinians I know. When I am able to talk to my friends who live in either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, using social media, and I hear of their bravery in all the little things of life, I have hope. For example, they continue to attend school, despite the sporadic availability of electricity. They marry, have children and strive to teach them just principles. They work when they can, despite the destruction, by Israeli bombs provided by the U.S., of homes, business, schools and hospitals.
I also gain hope from the many, many people who are working for peace and social justice throughout the world. People who want war may, at present, be more powerful than those who want peace, but they are not more numerous. Increasingly, people who believe in peace and human rights are making their voices heard.
I am among that number, and will continue to write and speak, so my voice, and the voices of suffering people around the world, will be heard.