Palestine and History: Macklemore v. Hillary Clinton
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Author: Juan Cole
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Informed Consent

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered herself of some ahistorical and distorted remarks about Palestine on Morning Joe, maintaining that the young people protesting the Gaza atrocities do not know history.

Ms. Clinton’s self-serving description of the 2000 Camp David process has been debunked by many historians. In fact, her husband Bill Clinton promised in the Oslo Accords in 1993 that Israel would withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank by 1997. He then allowed Benjamin Netanyahu to sabotage that process and allowed the Israelis to double the number of squatters they sent in to the Palestinian West Bank to steal property and terrorize people. When Netanyahu went out and Ehud Barak came in, Clinton sponsored negotiations, but Barak was maddeningly vague about what he would offer and never produced a text that Yasser Arafat could sign. It is not clear why Arafat needed to sign anything more; he already signed the Oslo treaty, which should have resulted in an Israeli withdrawal that never came. Soon thereafter Barak lost to Ariel Sharon, who was as determined to sabotage any land for peace deal as Netanyahu had been, and he wrecked the whole process.

Her placing of all the blame on the Palestinians is typical of inside-the-Beltway Goy Zionism, and is profoundly ahistorical. The young people can’t be fooled by these glib words. They see what they see.

I have also never understood the trope that Israel made generous offers to the Palestinians (it never did) but that the Palestinians rejected them, and therefore the Palestinians should be deprived of all their basic rights forever. What is this, an Original Sin doctrine? If the negotiations of 2000 fell through, why couldn’t they have been picked back up in 2001? It is because the Israelis wouldn’t pick them back up, and went on to steal vast swathes of private Palestinian property and to brutalize the occupied population.

That is, in understanding these events, values as well as historical understanding are important, and I fear the Clintons have never had much of either.

In contrast, Irish American rapper Macklemore (Benjamin Hammond Haggerty, b. 1983) dropped his single, “Hind’s Hall,” on May 10. He is donating the proceeds to UN relief work in Gaza.

It may be the most powerful anti-war statement in music since Bob Dylan’s protest songs in the early 1960s against the nuclear arms race between the US and the Soviet Union. And the song displays a firm knowledge of what exactly has been done in history to the Palestinians.

The reference is to Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall, which students occupied briefly and renamed “Hind’s Hall.”

Hind Rajab was a Palestinian little girl who got into her uncle’s car in northern Gaza on January 29, along with her aunt and four cousins, to head south, which the Israeli military said was a “safe zone” (that was a lie). Under the shockingly inhumane Israeli rules of engagement, unlike anything in any civilized democracy, the car was fair game just because it was in motion out in the open. Israeli pilots and tank and artillery commanders appear to make no effort at all to avoid killing civilians, explaining why they have murdered over 40,000 people from the air (over 34,000 confirmed and thousands more under the rubble). The car was hit and everyone was killed but the five-year-old Hind. Her cousin had tried calling the Red Crescent rescuers but then she died of her wounds. Hind called them back herself, in an incredible feat for a wounded child surrounded by the corpses of her loved ones. She was asked by the operator, what about your relatives. “They’re dead,” Hind replied.

The call went like this:

HIND RAJAB: [translated] Come take me. You will come and take me?

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Do you want me to come and take you?

HIND RAJAB: [translated] I’m so scared. Please come. Please call someone to come and take me.

The Red Crescent Society, the Middle Eastern branch of the Red Cross, got permission from the Israeli military to send two rescuers. They appear, however, to have been hit by an Israeli tank shell not far from Hind’s position. She spent the last four hours of her life bleeding out.

There are no Hamas operatives in this story. It is a tale not just of reckless disregard for civilian life but of the deliberate targeting by the Israeli army of civilians. The Red Crescent ambulance was clearly marked and the society had gotten Israeli permission to rescue Hind, but they were murdered anyway. This is not an error. It is systematic sadism.

So the student protesters at Columbia University named Hamilton Hall after Hind (rhymes with “wind”), who did not live to celebrate her sixth birthday. She joined some 15,000 dead Palestinian children casually wiped off the face of the earth by Israeli war criminals. The student protesters were themselves assaulted by police and arrested.

Macklemore’s lyrics celebrate the bravery and determination of the campus demonstrators:

The first stanza implicitly contrasts the threats issued by campus administrators and municipal authorities with the peaceful demands of the students. It also highlights the hypocrisy of the US government, which proclaims itself a supporter of liberty, in keeping Palestinians stateless and unfree.

The second stanza slams the role of the police in protecting property rather than persons, on behalf of a system of white supremacy. Macklemore here implicitly draws a parallel between the Black Lives Matter movement and these protests for Palestinian rights:

He goes on to slam Meta (Facebook and Instagram) for having been “paid off” to suppress news about Palestine. (I actually don’t think Meta was paid off to do this, it is just something management wanted to do.) He then criticizes the politicians who take money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which serves Israeli interests in shaping the US government.

The so-called “land of the free,” he complains, is beset by fear-peddling. The new generation, however, is not taking it. Nothing, not banning TikTok and not using algorithms to hide the atrocities, can now make the youths unsee what they saw.

He insists on the frame of white supremacy for the denial to Palestinians of the right to resist being occupied and subjected to ethnic cleansing. That right is granted only depending on “dollars” and “the color of your pigment,” he says.

He blasts the claim that it is antisemitic to be anti-Zionist, saying

He agrees with many Palestinians that the Israeli project of ethnic cleansing — that began with the Nakbah or catastrophic expulsion of over half of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948 — has never really ended.

He wonders if it is really more of a challenge to law and order for students to set up tents on a campus lawn than for Israel to commit genocide, a set of war crimes in which the president of the United States is deeply entangled:

He also calls out his colleagues in the music industry:

He acknowledges that if he was on a label he might well be dropped, but he says he would be fine with that.

Macklemore’s historical understanding runs rings around that of Ms. Clinton.


Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan He is author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Follow him on Twitter at @jricole or the Informed Comment Facebook Page

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