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Est. April 5, 2002
June 27, 2019 - Issue 795

“Mowing The Grass”
at the
Mexico-U.S. Frontier


"For most Israelis and for most Americans, their lives
are little touched by either the punishment of Israel
'mowing the grass' of Palestinians or the Trump punishment
of defenseless children to try to keep their parents from
ever coming to this country to seek asylum.  It has not
worked, but it has traumatized thousands of children
who have been yanked from their parents."

The tragic and fully preventable imprisonment of children at the Mexico-U.S frontier in recent months has seen the president of the U.S. blame his predecessor for the chaos, suffering, and deaths of children and it calls to mind the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government.

As if Donald Trump has taken his cues from his buddy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he has embarked on a campaign of terror against families that have appeared on the southern border of the U.S. seeking asylum from the terror in their own countries, where the chaos in those Central American countries from which most of them have come has been caused, to a large extent, by U.S. meddling in, or controlling, their internal affairs for many generations.

Under his regime, Trump has separated families, sending the parents away or back whence they came and incarcerating the children in concentration camps, where they have suffered the fate of children who have been orphaned and left without a friend. Some of the children are infants and the toddlers are bereft of any comfort, except for the companionship of older children.

One 14-year-old girl who was holding two toddlers but, as she told adult observers, that she is doing what she could, but she is just a child herself and needs comforting and parenting. News reports in the past week reported that the children are sleeping on concrete floors with nothing but aluminum (space) blankets and are not provided with tooth brushes, soap, or a change of clean clothes. In other words, they have been dumped in enclosures behind chain-link fences to fend for themselves. They don't know when they will be released or when, if ever, they will be reunited with their parents and families.

The answer to this inhumane behavior by the president is that he claims he is not the first one to do such a thing. It was President Obama, he declared, who started it and he, Trump, was the one who ended the practice. There's only one problem with that explanation: It is not true. Obama had to deal with children who appeared at the border unaccompanied by their parents. He did not separate the children from their parents, sending them away and keeping the children in concentration camps.

Right-wing politicians and commentators have responded to the charge that these are concentration camps by vilifying those who have made the charges, especially their latest favorite target, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, who charged the Trump Administration with running child concentration camps. The right-wing critics of her comments, as might be expected, cite the camps of Nazi Germany and, thus charge such comments border on anti-semitism, if they are not outright anti-semitic. She's right and they are wrong, according to scholars and other experts.

Apparently stung by the criticism, Trump has tried to cover his abuse of the children separated from their parents by saying, paraphrasing here, “Everybody does it,” and the “Democrats started it.” While it's true that he did halt separation for a while, he reinstituted the separation, when it was clear that it did not work the way he thought it would: If he made appearing in the U.S. seeking asylum cruel enough, the desperate families from the South would stop coming. They didn't.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines concentration camp this way: “(An) internment centre for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order.

Persons are placed in such camps often on the basis of identification with a particular ethnic or political group rather than as individuals and without benefit either of indictment or fair trial. Concentration camps are to be distinguished from prisons interning persons lawfully convicted of civil crimes and from prisoner-of-war camps in which captured military personnel are held under the laws of war. They are also to be distinguished from refugee camps or detention and relocation centres for the temporary accommodation of large numbers of displaced persons.”

Further, Britannica defines a refugee as “any uprooted, homeless, involuntary migrant who has crossed a frontier and no longer possesses the protection of his former government. Prior to the 19th century the movement from one country to another did not require passports and visas; the right to asylum was commonly recognized and honoured. Although there have been numerous waves of refugees throughout history, there was no refugee problem until the emergence of fixed and closed state frontiers in the late 19th century. By the 1920s and ’30s the tradition of political asylum had deteriorated considerably, partly because of growing insensitivity to human suffering and partly because of unprecedented numbers of refugees.”

By these definitions, the thousands qualify as asylum-seekers and refugees. Trump's effort to punish asylum-seeking families by separating families and jailing their children has not worked. It's anybody's guess what he will do next to try to discourage families by the thousands from seeking asylum in the U.S. It certainly is a problem of a rich country, having exploited poor and weak countries for their natural and human resources over a few centuries, now having to deal with the aftermath. There is always a reckoning, even for the rich and powerful.

For now, though, detention of children in the worst of conditions without medical care and adequate nutritious food is a human rights nightmare and is likely actionable under any number of international laws and treaties, but it's unlikely that the U.S. will be called to the bar over it, because it has flouted laws and agreements one after another, especially in the Trump years, when riding roughshod over laws with impunity is a rule, not an exception.

It has to be said, however, that the U.S. has acted in this manner for a long time, for generations, and it is not going to change, because all of the policies that have been in place have come to fruition under the Trump Administration and the only way to turn it back is for the people to wake up and take action on their own.

In Israel, which has control over virtually every aspect of Palestinians' lives, especially in the Gaza Strip, there is a policy of “mowing the grass,” which means that they occasionally take an action that is much worse than their daily treatment of the oppressed people: They attack the structures that provide even a little contribution to living a decent life and, in the process, they kill any number of Palestinians, men, women, and children. Those Israelis in power refer to it as “mowing the grass,” as if those mowed down are no different than the weeds that have overgrown a yard or field. And Israelis, in general, go on about their lives, as if nothing is happening not too far from where they are sipping their lattes as the sun sets on their soirees.

Their “mowing” includes bombing or otherwise destroying water systems, sewage systems, schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings, along with vital parts of the electrical grid. It doesn't take much imagination to realize what life must be like for Gazans and Palestinians in the West Bank, as well. But, for the Gazans, who are described as two million people living in the biggest open prison in the world, it is a kind of hell, never knowing when an attack will come and whether their children will be safe. Their lives are circumscribed by the whim of Israeli law and the inclinations of generals who are in charge of keeping the Gazans in their places and fearful.

While there have been “attacks” on Israel by Palestinians in Gaza, it has been mostly by stones, by incendiary balloons that set some fields afire on occasion, and by rockets that mostly fall short of their targets. Occasionally, Israelis suffer a casualty. The response, however, is a full-scale assault by one of the world's most advanced military powers, with the latest technological weapons of war available on the open global weapons market, although Israel produces some of the latest weapons, itself. Meanwhile, Gazans are using what amounts to medieval weapons, stones and balloons and kites that can start fires.

In all of this, however, it is lost on most people in the “First World” that the Palestinians are an oppressed people, an occupied people and there are international rules and agreements that allow such occupied people the right to defend themselves and to fight to free themselves from oppressors and occupiers.

For most Israelis and for most Americans, their lives are little touched by either the punishment of Israel “mowing the grass” of Palestinians or the Trump punishment of defenseless children to try to keep their parents from ever coming to this country to seek asylum. It has not worked, but it has traumatized thousands of children who have been yanked from their parents. These are children whose victimization may not manifest itself until much later in life. Be sure, however, that they have suffered trauma just as surely as the children of Gaza have suffered and are suffering the results of a shooting and bombing war. Children have died in custody of U.S. agencies and untold numbers have been sickened by the conditions in the camps.

Anyone who has tried to comfort a child after a nightmare or any other trauma will know to a small extent what the children of Trump's concentration camps are suffering. The American people can and should make a difference in these children's lives by ending the torture that they are suffering. As many have asked, “Where is the outrage?” Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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