Murder on the high seas: Divesting in death and destruction


It’s hard to decide which spectacle was more pathetic.

Was it hapless Eric Holder, the Attorney General who closed the book on torture, illegal surveillance and a host of other crimes committed by the Bush Administration, now bravely announcing the opening of criminal and civil investigations into the British Petroleum oil rig disaster?

Or was it the equally hapless Hilary Clinton the very next day rejecting demands for an independent investigation of Israel’s criminal attack in international waters on a Turkish aid flotilla and asking instead, pretty please, for Israel to conduct its own “impartial” inquiry into just how its military came to commit yet another outrage?

What a Hobson’s Choice of impotence!

If the timing of Israel’s latest act of aggression had not been determined by outside forces – the launching of the aid flotilla – I might suspect that the Netanyahu government conducted its raid on the Mavi Marmara to coincide with the distraction created for Americans by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Certainly there is precedent for such suspicions. Israel’s re-invasion of the West Bank during the Second Intifada, its 2006 incursion into Lebanon (which left behind more than one million unexploded cluster bombs), and the massacre it carried out in December 2008 and early January 2009 in the Gaza Strip all took place while our eyes were turned elsewhere.

But even without the element of convenient timing, there are powerful currents connecting these two disasters – the BP spill, which is destroying one of the world’s largest, most productive, and fragile ecosystems, and Israel’s commando raid on the high seas.

To begin with, both predatory capitalism – the not-so-invisible hand governing the activities of criminal enterprises like BP – and predatory Zionism are, in the simplest terms, enemies of life. In the case of global capitalism, the enemy of all forms of life on earth. In the case of Zionism, the enemy of Palestinian life.

What’s more, these two apocalyptic ideologies – predatory capitalism and predatory Zionism — are within sight of achieving the wreckage that is the inevitable outcome of their activities. Even before the Gulf spill, the planetary ecosystem upon which human and most other forms of life depend for survival was at a tipping point from beyond which there will be no turning back. And Israel, by murdering and starving an entire generation of Palestinian children and stealing whatever scrap of land or natural resource might make it possible to support an independent Palestinian economy, is on the verge of eliminating any vestige of hope for a viable Palestinian state – which Israel never wanted in the first place. 

Lastly, the most important connection between these phenomena is that both absolutely depend on the United States for political, economic, and military support in order to thrive and carry out their evil ends.

More than 98 percent of the oil pumped out of the Gulf of Mexico’s 3800 drill rigs is refined into gasoline for use in private automobiles – the cars we drive by choice and because, lacking a system of mass transit, we mostly have no choice but to drive. U.S. policy in the Middle East is driven by a quest for regional hegemony, the better to maintain access to oil fields and untapped reserves.

In turn, our oil-driven foreign policy helps feed this country’s military-industrial-complex, which, along with the End-Timers of the Christian Right and members of the Israel-right-or-wrong fifth column crowd, is one of the chief constituents of our “special relationship” with the Zionist state.

I’m not exactly sure how to get a handle on predatory global capitalism. The Caux Round Table (, an international non-profit headquartered in the Twin Cities, is trying to promote principles of ethical conduct in the world’s business community. Supporting their efforts might help, though I am also inclined to think that the exemplary execution of one or two of the psychopaths who run companies like BP might not be a bad idea either.

When it comes to predatory Zionism, there have emerged some peaceful and perhaps even effective ways to make a difference. One is the Global Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement ( Begun about five years ago by Palestinian organizations, BDS has gained the support of many non-Palestinians, both inside and outside Israel, including most notably Canadian author and leading anti-global capitalism crusader, Naomi Klein. The BDS movement seeks to use tactics similar to those brought to bear on South Africa in efforts to end that nation’s apartheid policies.

Meanwhile, a local organization with ties to Global BDS, the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (, wants to convince legislators to divest some $19 million in Israeli bonds currently held by several state pension and retirement funds.

Not only are those bonds helping to underwrite illegal settlements on the West Bank as well as Israel’s now three-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip, a blockade that was not — pace America’s lapdog media — initiated to stop rockets from landing in Israel but to impose collective punishment on Gaza for electing a Hamas-led government. Minnesota’s pension funds could actually earn better rates of return if they were invested in higher-yielding – and less-bloodstained — bonds.

As horrific images of poisoned seas and dead wildlife compete with horrific images of the murder of pro-Palestinian activists on the high seas, it’s tempting to throw up our hands in despair. But despair is precisely the response that the BP’s and the Netanyahu’s and all their packs of flying monkeys in politics and the press want us to feel.

The Devil always has the best arguments. The Devil has always had the best arguments.  The antidote to despair is not argument but action. Even if the actions seem small and incremental, that’s still better then turning away – and in turn, throwing in our lot with the enemies of everything decent and just.

The enemies, indeed, of life itself.