31 January 2009

turning from the ashes

o this is measure of the past long dead

a memory of fears that judgment set

in fading colours but without regret

the ancient dragon is still being fed

is satiated in its golden bed

in full repayment of each human debt

accept this vision do not get upset

you are not paid for suffering or dread

what we are taught will not serve as a guide

on the new road the old maps have been lost

though for some sign we have for so long yearned

the message comes to buckle for the ride

accept the risks and wait to learn the cost

for now we see the forest has been burned

i saw life

this marks the spot where silence had to fall

one sunny afternoon when it was cold

no part of this that i could have foretold


the passage into night slows to a crawl

each missive seems to fit in a neat fold

this marks the spot where silence had to fall


into its place the world became so small

but there was nothing there we had to hold

just a bright girl who never would turn old

this marks the spot where silence had to fall

the course of desire

those who have chosen the course of desire

find that the road is never straight or plain

know with light heart it leads only to fire

some other soul might have been a high-flyer

grown absolute in wisdom and urbane

those who have chosen the course of desire

do not much better nor will reach much higher

than those who held to ordinary plane

know with light heart it leads only to fire

but still pursue the true vision entire

with all the sense that they join on campaign

those who have chosen the course of desire

the members all of a euphonious choir

whose voices form a music most arcane

know with light heart it leads only to fire

and yet they hurry and seem not to tire

each signal rushing to the hungry brain

those who have chosen the course of desire

know with light heart it leads only to fire

29 January 2009

almost witchcraft

the body is too solid and must fade

into vague emptiness and be forgot

this is the sum and substance of our trade


a fatal message is not long delayed

although each one must note the deadly blot

the body is too solid and must fade


before the trumpet calls to church parade

and listen to the padre's fading rot

this is the sum and substance of our trade


since in these shallow streams all folk can wade

crossing to stranger pastures at a trot

the body is too solid and must fade


though no wise man from his set course was swayed

we know that something was bound in the knot

this is the sum and substance of our trade


to come too late after the last night raid

misunderstanding signals from a sot

the body is too solid and must fade

this is the sum and substance of our trade

compass uncertain

there on the edge no more than one slight twist

before the risk of falling proves that when

we speak of uncertainty the last amen

comes at a point when all that must exist

in proper order that is not dismissed

is held in silence or kept in the pen

we turn and see that all is wrong again

and then too late each of us shakes a fist

in all the silence in the heavy blue

of endless ocean where there is no map

to guide us safely back unto the known

you did not want to share a thing you knew

so that we could escape from the sharp trap

yet now there's nothing left we could bemoan

25 January 2009

at a red sunset

excitement ends and the red sun sets

on a cold day so all is bathed in fire

clean before dark and though all choice is dire

and all our challenges will increase debts

there is still thought that what we see as threats

might in due time turn into something higher

a victory of what we most desire

no matter what there will be no regrets

all chances come to this a chilly plain

marked by detritus of the shattered yoke

so lately broken and the changing tide

has come to cleanse the last of that old stain

making all ready for the morning folk

so that our hope is worthy of their pride

We have a Dream

John Maxwell

Some of those waiting to take part in the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States had been standing for hours, many with tears streaming down their cheeks. Some others had been standing for decades and others for centuries – King Affonso, the Mani Kongo, Crispus Attucks, the Barbadian, Bouckman, the Jamaican/Haitian, Henri Christophe, the Haitian and John Brown, and Sohourner Truth and Rosa Parkes and Fanny Lou Hamer, all American. Marcus Garvey no longer has to ask where are the black Presidents and men of great affairs, and Nkrumah and Lumumba, Fidel Castro, Sukarno, Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela all know that the Long Walk to Freedom has really only just begun, and Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King would know that the dream of freedom belongs to all of us and that we have the power to make that dream reality.
Yes! We Can and We Have and We Will.
According to the statisticians the inauguration of President Obama ignited 35,000 news stories round the world, more than 30 times the number published about the last such occasion.
And I, as a Jamaican who has had so many quarrels with the United States, reflected on why the tears were streaming down my face as I watched the proceedings in Washington.
I remembered being at a party in Jamaica in 1965 at the house of the American charge d'affaires in Stony Hill, when Martin Luther King, the guest of honour, said that he had felt in Jamaica, and for the first time in his life, that he was a full and complete human being. That was part of his dream, that people should be judged by their character rather than by the colour of their skins. We are not there yet. We are certainly not there yet in Jamaica and the election and inauguration of a black President in the United States is not much more than another signpost on the road we travel. But it is an important signpost.

Children go to School

There are at this moment circulating on the internet, two pictures of children going to school, attended by massive security. The first is of one of the children the so-called Little Rock Nine, being escorted into the segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 by federal marshals.
The other picture is of two little girls, Malia and Sasha Obama, being escorted to school by members of the Presidential bodyguard. The pictures are separated by 42 years and oceans of struggle and suffering, of tragedy and of triumph.
I remember Little Rock. The world stood fascinated to learn whether the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, would tolerate the challenge to federal law and authority posed by the Governor of Arkansas, one Orval Faubus. When Faubus used his National Guard to prevent black children entering Little Rock' Central High School, someone suggested that Eisenhower himself should take the children by the hand and himself lead them into school. Eisenhower, who allegedly spent more time golfing than on any other activity, was mocked by the comedian Mort Sahl. Sahl said Eisenhower was perfectly willing to take the children by the hand; what was giving the President pause was whether to use an overlapping [golfing] grip.
But Eisenhower did send the soldiers.
In his inaugural speech Obama related how 'less than sixty years ago' a black man like his father would not have been served in restaurants in Washington DC. Fifty years ago, in March 1959, when I was in Washington as a guest of the State Department, black Americans I met were amazed to learn that I had been served at DC restaurants, albeit in the company of my State department handler. One of my new black friends was a man named Taylor, who drove a taxi (Capitol Cabs) when he wasn't working at his daytime job, a janitor at the State Department. We decided to see if we would be served in one or two of the places I had spoken about.
Washington had recently been officially desegregated because of the independence of Ghana and Guinea and the expected influx of black diplomats.
It was too soon, we discovered, to expect civilised behaviour. We sat, and sat, but, to all intents and purposes, we were invisible to the staff.
Race prejudice has long been an integral component of US society. The ecoomic backbone of the thirteen colonies and later of the United States was slavery and the Civil War was a disputation about economic development and not about slavery. Lincoln, the 'Great Emancipator' had the courage and the political wit to abolish slavery as a means of weakening the Confederates and attracting more hlacks to the cause of the Union.
Lincoln like Obama, was a principled pragmatist, a politician who understood his duty to the people he represented. In Lincoln's case he was also conscious of his duty to those without representation, unable to regard them as had Jefferson, as being three-fifths human. One wonders how Jefferson squared his conscience as he mated with his black slave, Sally Hemmings and whether he considered their progeny altogether human.
There are still people in the United States and in places where American influence was most significant, who still have their doubts about the humanity of blacks. Many white South Africans - not all - bought the insane logic of Malan, Verwoerd and the others and supported not only a system to permanently oppress and subjugate blacks, but even set up a scientific programme to devise medical strategies and to invent new diseases to exterminate them. The director of this programme, a medical doctor named Wouter Basson, still lives, unmolested and un-prosecuted, among his inrtended victims in South Africa.


Among the people at Obama's inaugural you may have noticed some old men wearing blue caps. These were some of the most valiant fighters of the second world war, a group of black airmen in a segregated unit called the Tuskegee airmen. Recognition escaped most of them, but Obama made sure they were invited to witness his taking office.
Another group, also named after Tuskegee, was not among those present. These were the black victims of an official experiment run by the US Public Health Service. Beginning in 1932 the USPHS used 399 black men as laboratory animals. The men, mainly illiterate small farmers, had been infected with syphilis but were never told what disease they were suffering from
They were told they were being treated for 'bad blood', by doctors who had no intention of curing them. The data was to be collected from autopsie, and they were thus deliberately left to suffer unspeakable misery under the ravages of tertiary syphilis—which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. "As I see it," one of the doctors involved explained, "we have no further interest in these patients until they die."
Despite the fact that one dose of penicillin could have cured many, decades earlier, the depraved experiment continued until 1972
In 1997, seventeen years later, President Clinton apologised to the 7 survivors –
"The United States government did something that was wrong—deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens. . . . clearly racist.
There was curiously, another connection to Tuskegee. The founder of the Tuskegee Institute, the first black college, was a man named Booker T Washington, and he was the first black visitor officially invited to the White House.

And then there was the eerie coincidence that King's 80th birthday was the day before Obama's inauguration.

One of those present on the inaugural platform was one who was subject to hatred, ridicule and contempt when, young, feisty and the best boxer in history, he decided to become a Muslim, changed his 'slave name' from Cassius Marcellus Clay to Muhammad Ali. Worse, he refused even symbolic service as a soldier in Viet Nam. He had nothing against the Viet Cong, he said, they had never attacked him. Nobody expected a pugilist, a showman, an entertainer, to have a conscience or to be capable of expressing it.
Against all ideas of justice (and even against the canons of free enterprise) he was stripped of his hard-won championships. No matter, in law and the courts he finally prevailed, as he prevailed in the ring, disposing of all the pretenders, and he survived at last in the consciences of his fellow citizens when they too awoke to the iniquities of a wicked war. He sat on the platform along with his contemporary, only the second man to be head of the US armed forces and Secretary of State, another black, of Jamaican parentage, Colin Powell. And with them was Eli Weisel, the champion of the millions of those who died and of those who survived Hitler's final solution of the 'Jewish problem'.
The chair of the proceedings, Senator Dianne Feinstein, could not bring herself to call the new president by his full name. The sergeant at arms went one better. He called out 'Barack H. Obama'. It was the President himself who first proudly announced his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, forcing his countrymen to abandon euphemism and to face facts and their whole heritage. And he was not afraid to address the Muslims of the world, despite the blanket libels of the past eight years, promising to meet them and all people with due regard and respect to try to make a new beginning.
As we reflect on Tuesday, it may be possible to discern not only why the world believes Obama belongs to them, but why the world believes that the dream of liberty belongs to them too.
Ho Chi Minh said that when he was a waiter in a Paris restaurant he was fired by the words of Marcus Garvey. Freedom and Liberty are transcendent and they are not the property of any race, country or political system.
Bob Marley, the poet laureate of the last century got it right:
"We can make it work!"
Copyright 2009 John Maxwell


extended view

so we remember moments of the scene

fragments of music carried through the air

the ups and downs of a remote affair


a world observed in shades of white and green

that has become far more than we could bear

so we remember moments on the scene


to bring to others parts of what they mean

in images of daring and of flair

as now at last we have become aware

so we remember moments of the scene

21 January 2009

villanelle for a new beginning

if all is measured and comes up too short
at the beginning all was calm and clear
at least we know we sailed from the right port

so many words and so high their import
uttered with gravity and without fear
if all is measured and comes up too short

there is not one who would dare to distort
the grace and beauty that make this day fair
at least we know we sailed from the right port

cheered by an assemblage of every sort
of human being given to our care
if all is measured and comes up too short

there is no crime no sin of false report
to hide our faces but we have to care
at least we know we sailed from the right port

we ask no judgment since there is no court
above our heads in the still winter air
if all is measured and comes up too short
at least we know we sailed from the right port

19 January 2009

a lesson learned

no mysteries are hidden on the slope

for us to find we have the truth outright

together with cold rain in the long night

and messages that indicate the scope

of all our troubles is within the grope

of each small hand although the chance is slight

that we will make the climb yet to requite

anger for wrong would be to deny hope

what we are given may not seem like much

but what we had before was set to fail

to make a mob out of a human crowd

destroy each thing that came under its touch

now we have ended that unhappy tale

and a fresh breeze is clearing the last cloud


you think that what we miss is sight of home

but you are wrong not sight nor sound but taste

of fruit and water among us misplaced


in foreign parts who having crossed the foam

weep in regret of all that we embraced

you think that what we miss is sight of home


and all the years we were condemned to roam

the painful earth in sorrow at our haste

to give up youth believing it a waste

you think that what we miss is sight of home

18 January 2009

day of the broom

without aversion we escape the dark

yet one more time and bring from the hard past

much more than hope a sense that at long last

it has become our turn now to embark

for the clean realm where choices are not stark

and where the normal soul won't stand aghast

at sight of change the chance has come so fast

but we have met it with a rising spark

the clouds will clear after a gentle rain

on fresher sights than have been here before

so we will get the chance to start our run

upon a path that for a time is plain

in a new age where we've been told the score

beneath what seems to be a smiling sun

under the casuarinas

these mottled shadows mark a middle day

when even buzzing flies do not distract

and all the senses into calm contract


all who are wise seek shelter from the ray

desiring to keep head and heart intact

these mottled shadows mark a middle day


when we pass through we'll catch sight of the bay

in middle distance through a glass that's cracked

and in the haze not tell what's dream from fact

these mottled shadows mark a middle day

…and Olmert slew the Philistines

John Maxwell

It's a time-tested method used for more than four thousand years; people always get killed but nothing is ever settled.
God confided to Moses that he was giving the Israelites title to the land of Canaan. There was one small problem: lots of other people were already living in Canaan and had been for ages. So, in order to enforce the Israelites' title, Joshua had to clear the land.
The book of Joshua tells of the labours of the hero and the Israelites as they laid claim to their divine endowment smiting cities and their rulers right left and centre …    'So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded.
And finally, " … Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war."
Palestine did not long rest from war. The first kingdom of Israel lasted a few generations before splitting in two, largely owing to the arrogance of Rehoboam, a precursor to Ariel Sharon. Sharon also came a cropper trying to exterminate the Palestinians and has lain comatose now for most of a decade.
Before his unfortunate seizure Mr Sharon's government had been accused – by the International Committee of the Red Cross – of war crimes against the Palestinians. In 2001 the Red Cross condemned Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as equivalent to war crimes under international law. "The transfer, the installation of population of the occupying power into the occupied territories is ... an illegal move and qualifies as a grave breach," said ICRC's René Kosirnik at a press conference in Tel Aviv … equal in principle to war crimes."

Condoleezza Shamed

Later, when Mr Sharon was attempting to pulverise the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, Sharon's soldiers targeted not only journalists, but Red Cross and Red Crescent ambulances, doctors and nurses, women and children as well as Palestinian policemen and Arafat himself.
Since Mr G.W Bush was at that time trying to assemble support within the Arab world for a posse to go after Saddam Hussein the US President did not find Sharon's behaviour 'helpful'. Then as now, the Israeli government demonstrated a contempt for its patron the US, and Mr Bush was very upset. He was sufficiently upset not only to withhold $800 million in aid promised to Israel by the outgoing Clinton administration, he decided to support a Security Council resolution which spelled out, for the first time , the right of Palestinians to their own independent state. This commitment got lost somewhere between Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
The political nous and social evolution of Sharon's successor may be gauged by a tale told by Mr Olmert himself. In the Israeli leader's version of why the US had abstained on a UN resolution attempting to get Israel to play by the rules, Mr Olmert gave himself a starring role.
"When we saw that the secretary of state, [Condoleezza Rice] for reasons we did not really understand, wanted to vote in favour of the UN resolution ... I looked for President Bush and they told me he was in Philadelphia making a speech," Olmert said .
"I said, 'I don't care. I have to talk to him now.' They got him off the podium, brought him to another room and I spoke to him. I told him, 'You can't vote in favour of this resolution.' He said, 'Listen, I don't know about it, I didn't see it, I'm not familiar with the phrasing.'
"He gave an order to the secretary of state and she did not vote in favour of it - a resolution she cooked up, phrased, organised and manoeuvred for. She was left pretty shamed and abstained on a resolution she arranged."
Now! Aint that Sump'n !
Or, as they say in Peoria – WOW!!!
Mr Olmert does not perhaps know that waiting to succeed Miss Rice is a woman who is not partial to being kneecapped by a self-important, obnoxious, sexist, Middle Eastern potentate, and we may credibly suspect that Mrs Clinton and her boss and the entire Obama Cabinet may soon be itching to put Israel in its place.

Successes of the Blitzkrieg

What has Israel achieved in nearly three weeks of its Gaza blitzkrieg?
• As the Guardian says "The extraordinary number of civilian deaths, and of children in particular, is for many a defining and shocking feature of this 18-day offensive. The figures are stark. At least 910 Palestinians are dead, among them 292 children. At least 4,250 are injured, among them 1,497 children. Many have injuries that will leave them permanently disabled and facing more operations and months or years of rehabilitation therapy"
More than half of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants are children.
• Israel has reduced to rubble the physical infrastructure of Gaza, destroying, schools, community centres, homes and apartments as well as farms, shops, factories, and places where people might seek shelter in emergencies.
About two-thirds of the territory's 1.5m people have no electricity; the rest have only an intermittent supply, the UN says. Hospitals are overloaded with the injured, and 500,000 Gazans still have no access to running water. "Israeli bombardment is causing extensive destruction to homes and to public infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip and is jeopardizing water, sanitation and medical services."
•The indiscriminate destruction is not only intended to terrorise and intimidate, it is clearly also, maliciously intended to destroy social capital, to maim the society's ability to recover and to take care of itself. It is punishment of people,as human beings, innocents with no argument with anyone and to make sure that, as after a ferocious natural cataclysm, a tsunami, a Katrina, there is not only enormous material loss but deep emotional scarring and wounds that may never heal.
• The blitzkrieg has destroyed Fatah and all Palestinian opposition to Hamas. In the West Bank strongholds of Fatah everyone is now for Hamas. In the Egyptian Hospitals outside Gaza news agencies are reporting that people who are wounded, people who were never politically active, want to go back to Gaza to fight for Hamas. The conversion rate is quite remarkable and even moreso on the Arab street in places like Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem.
•Despite public vows by Israeli politicians to destroy Hamas's military capability, Israeli officials said Tuesday that the movement had lost only a fraction of its fighters and retained a large stockpile of rockets and other armaments. A "few hundred" Hamas fighters have been killed, out of a total force of 15,000, according to a senior Israeli military official.
To say that the government of Israel may be wrong or evil, is interpreted not as a political judgment but as an expression of racist prejudice. Criticising Israel is attacking Jews and Jewishness and is therefore anti-semitic.

' … those countries that count'

The Israeli government's attitude to external criticism may be gauged from the following quotation:"The tone of the criticism is moderate, restrained, more balanced, at least in the case of those countries that count," a senior government official said.
Such extreme positions have provoked a backlash inside and outside of Israel. Some of he world's most prominent Jews have publicly condemned the actions of the Israeli government and one of the best known – journalist Naomi Klein has joined other people, Jews and Gentiles, in calling for an economic boycott of Israel.
As the Guardian, no enemy of Israel said on Tuesday: "That is why the talk elsewhere is now of boycotts, of arms embargos, of revoking trade agreements, withholding financial support and cancelling export credit guarantees. These are not all appealing options, nor should they be yet necessary. But a country which truly rejects the collective concerns of the international community leaves its friends, never mind its enemies, running out of road." (my italics)
That such a situation should come about is remarkable sinceis almost impossible for Hamas to have its case presented fairly. In the great western world where the press is free it seems impossible to find any big news agency which conveys the real grievances and arguments of the PALESTINIANS, let alone Hamas. As Mark Levine points out in the Huffington Post: The claim that Hamas will never accept the existence of Israel has proved equally misinformed, as Hamas leaders explicitly announce their intention to do just that in the pages of the Los Angeles Times or to any international leader or journalist who will meet with them.Levine: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-levine/who-will-save-israel-from_b_156943.html
What has changed has much to do with the arrogance of Israel. By banning independent journalistic coverage of the blitzkrieg the Israelis have eliminated much of the usual spin that favours Israel and demonises the Palestinians. When the public and the press have to depend almost entirely on video, photographs and statistics, the truth has a better chance of surfacing.
Amira Hass, a journalist and daughter of Holocaust survivors writes:
"History did not begin with the Qassam rockets. But for us, the Israelis, history always begins when the Palestinians hurt us, and then the pain is completely decontextualized.
' …Gaza is not a military power that attacked its tiny, peace-loving neighbor, Israel. Gaza is a territory that Israel occupied in 1967, along with the West Bank. Its residents are part of the Palestinian people, which lost its land and its homeland in 1948.
In 1993, Israel had a one-time golden opportunity to prove to the world that what people say about us is untrue - that it is not by nature a colonialist state. That the expulsion of a nation from its land, the expulsion of people from their houses and the robbery of Palestinian land for the sake of settling Jews are not the basis and essence of its existence.

Silent Spring?

Somewhere near the beginning of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring she has a wonderful paragraph about what she calls 'biocide' – the indiscriminate broad spectrum war against insects and other "pests" that, she warned us – nearly a half-century ago – was doomed to failure. This was because the barrage of pesticides was not only poisoning us but simultaneously, accelerating the forced evolution of many life forms. In what she called a triumphant affirmation of Darwin's thesis of natural selection she predicted what we have since seen happening – the evolution of super pests, insects, bacteria and diseases, making inconsequential our efforts at pest extermination..
The Israeli government is the only government I know of with a state policy of targeted assassination. While the government did not declare that assassination of Hamas leadership was a priority in Gaza, it clearly was, as the attacks on the homes of leaders demonstrated.
Sharon tried to exterminate Fatah and got Hamas.
Has Israel already found its next Rehoboam? Its next exterminator?
(Endnote: Democratic Israel has banned from contesting elections two small Arab political parties. Will any notice be taken by the free world's press? Stay tuned)
Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell

17 January 2009

end of an error

too long a time to sink into disgrace

the rule of fool and villain and lackwit

ignoring the entire loud human race


so many wrong roads we have to retrace

to find our way out of this deep dark pit

too long a time to sink into disgrace


without a chance to argue a good case

or challenge what all know to be false writ

ignoring the entire loud human race


which has declared the true cause to embrace

instead they turn and dive into the shit

too long a time to sink into disgrace


declaring that the true goal of the chase

was the sole one that they could then permit

ignoring the entire loud human race


at least we are allowed a breathing space

where we can gather our senses and sit

too long a time to sink into disgrace

ignoring the entire loud human race

15 January 2009

no fresh republic

if there had been no difference in the slope

and none had noticed on the lonely climb

no fresh republic would have built on hope


for boy and girl to dream they might elope

to a fresh place and start a kinder time

if there had been a difference in the slope


where they had fallen beyond reach of rope

observing all the changes in the grime

no fresh republic would have built on hope


that combination of hard work and soap

which challenges the past as one long crime

if there had been no difference in the slope


no reason for the wretched fool to grope

into those matters which had passed their prime

no fresh republic would have built on hope


for those who wished to find a way to cope

and rise perhaps towards the heart sublime

if there had been no difference in the slope

no fresh republic would have built on hope

13 January 2009

almost to legend

so many lives have crossed in winter air

and been forgotten by the hurried crowd

each of them wanting more than law allowed

all of those hustlers in the public square

who were exposed to everybody's stare

and promised more than could be disavowed

even by folk who were not then too proud

to go beyond the realm of private care

i chose to climb that hill and take that way

for what i'd read so my part in the tale

though small would follow those with greater feet

whose road was harder and whose promised day

was coming on the back of some old snail

and yet a hero had been on that street

not in such tones

we are beguiled by falsity of scale

exotic names that twist on wayward tongue

like an old coil that now has come unsprung


what's ready is perched eager on the nail

looking for all the world like something stung

we are beguiled by falsity of scale


into believing that we will not fail

that we are powerful and all still young

since the last chorus has not yet been sung

we are beguiled by falsity of scale

11 January 2009

entering the days of obligation

our task is not to watch but just to win

pure gold each time without a single flaw

leaving the fools to weep into the straw


those who were warm had no need to come in

or so they thought until they spied the claw

our task is not to watch but just to win


against the odds and to keep whole the skin

of all we cherish from freeze to the thaw

not out of duty nor because of law

our task is not to watch but just to win

nor is circumscribed

so where the silence reaches point of pain

you are to call and tell us where you are

you map out your location in the rain


all of our worries no doubt seem inane

your heart is smooth and has not earned a scar

so where the silence reaches point of pain


you don't reflect although you might complain

but plunge right onward since the hurt's no bar

you map out your location in the rain


because there is no force yet to detain

nor to dishearten you'll keep up to par

so where the silence reaches point of pain


is the location where you entertain

your greater hope that though the goal is far

you map out your location in the rain


no need to measure since you take the strain

how far it is to the next shining star

so when the silence reaches point of pain

you map out your location in the rain

Rhetoric endures, boobies change


Sunday, January 11, 2009


Homeless in Gaza
From a correspondent lately in Gaza: To most people the name of Gaza brings a picture of blind Samson pulling down the pillars of the house upon the Philistines and himself.

Today, the reputed tomb of Samson is inhabited by a family of Arab refugees. They form part of the horde of some 200,000 people from Palestine who poured into the "Gaza Strip" in 1948, during the troubles between the Arabs and Jews which broke out after the partition plan was announced.

. In December 1948, the United Nations Assembly resolved that "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so." The Arab League took its stand on this and insisted on the refugees' repatriation as a condition of peace negotiations. It has since taken a more realistic view and, while still maintaining the principle of repatriation, has agreed that efforts shall be made to resettle the refugees in the lands where they now are.

. The only exit from the Gaza Strip, which is hemmed in by Israel, is to Egypt, and there the refugees are not welcome. They are virtually imprisoned in the area, their only means of escape being a dangerous moonlight flit through Jewish territory.

Explosive forces
. Colonel Howard Kennedy concluded his report to the United Nations Political Committee on November I with the words: As director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, I feel it my duty to bring these matters to the attention of the United Nations, because explosive forces are being generated which should be dealt with before the point of detonation is reached . Grave difficulties and dangers elsewhere should not blind us to this great human tragedy of the Middle ."if the refugees be left forgotten and desolate in their misery, peace will recede yet farther from these distracted lands". - The Times [March 2, 1951], Times Archive


Gaza escape route choked with Arab refugees
From our (The Times) correspondent in Tel Aviv, Nov 1 (Delayed) 1956: Gaza, with its minarets and white houses glowing through green palm fronds, looked like a pretty Oriental picture. There was a lemon-coloured sky with a low sun turning red and thrusting broad, fanlike rays into the sea. The only sound was of sparrows somewhere, settling down. But the watcher, standing on a ploughed hillside about a mile out of the town, could not long be unaware of the presence of other concealed watchers. Here and there, in the dry grasses, a slight movement could be detected, perhaps of a steel helmet, perhaps of the muzzle of some weapon. Then, just as the red sun brushed the surface of the sea, the pretty scene exploded. Aircraft had come out of the sky and smoke and dust spouted out of the earth round Gaza like huge, spreading shrubs. There was the sound of bursting bombs, of anti-aircraft fire, of light artillery and mortars. The Israelis attack on Gaza and the Gaza Strip had begun.

. It became evident, as darkly flashing Spitfires and Mustangs dived over Gaza and violet dust rose where shells and bombs had just burst, that the Israelis were simultaneously putting the defences of Gaza out of action and lunging across the southern part of the corridor, which is about 25 miles long and of varying width, to cut off the only line of retreat. That line had dwindled a few thousand yards by the time the sun had set. It ran then through the narrow opening between El Arish and the sea. Earlier this afternoon that narrow gateway was choked with fleeing Arab refugees, bare-footed or riding distracted donkeys. Many of the refugees had taken to the sea in frail little boats... - The Times [Nov 2, 1956], Times Archive


As reported in the Guardian (London) on October 17, 2002:
An embryonic US peace initiative for the Middle East was shattered yesterday as Palestinian militants assassinated an Israeli cabinet minister seen as an icon of the far right. According to the New York Times: Zeevi was elected to Parliament in 1988, after proposing that the problems [of Israel] could be solved if most Arabs were transferred, if not directly expelled, to regions east of the Jordan River. His public statements were uncompromising: Mr Arafat was a 'viper', 'scorpion' or 'Hitler'. In July, as minister of tourism, he suggested that Palestinians working in Israel illegally were 'lice' and a 'cancer'. As I said at the time, Zeevi's death gave Sharon the excuse that he had been waiting for to destroy Gaza, demolish Jenin and generally terrorise the Palestinians. In his autobiography published in 1989, Sharon said he "wanted to prove that Jewish blood could no longer be shed with impunity. From this point on, there would be a heavy price to pay." That was in regard to a village whose inhabitants he had murdered in 1953. In 2002, after blasting Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah he said, "The Palestinians must be dealt a heavy blow, which will come from every direction. Anyone wishing to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians must first hit them hard, so that it is clear to them that they will achieve nothing through terror. If it is not made clear to them that they are overpowered, we will be unable to return to negotiations." (Before the latest onslaught Israel's leaders used almost identical words to explain why Hamas had to be destroyed.) Sharon's demolitions of houses, of farms, the harassment of the Red Cross, the targeted assassinations continued, provoking the expected 'terrorist' response. The aim was to demolish the Palestinian Authority once and for all and to take out Arafat if possible. One of the results of Sharon's 2002 campaign was the destruction of the credibility of Arafat's Fatah and the promotion of Hamas.


The frame of reference for the pro-Israel camp is Israel's right to exist, while the context for the pro-Palestine argument is the perceived injustice underlying modern Israel's creation. At the core of the conflict is the reality that redress for the Jewish victims of centuries of European pogroms, which culminated in the Holocaust, made victims out of Palestinians, non-Europeans who had nothing to do with the repression of Jews on the Continent. The central, unbridgeable chasm between the two sides is captured in the divergent narratives of events surrounding Israel's birth. Did the Zionists perpetrate pre-planned, deliberate ethnic cleansing, without which the Jewish state could not have been Jewish? Or was it merely the winds of war that created Palestinian refugees, a phenomenon for which Israel's founding fathers bear no responsibility? Taking the latter question first raises yet another question. If, as the Zionist narrative claims, the Palestinian exodus was self-propelled, a flight of panic induced by fear of the ravages of war, does that negate the right of return? Doesn't the world - at its forefront America - support the right of millions of Iraqi war refugees to return to their homes? . the majority of Gaza's inhabitants are refugees (or their descendants) who were displaced from their homes in 1947-1948 in what was then Palestine and is now Israel. Whether it was ethnic cleansing or self-induced flight, Israel disallows them the basic human right to return to their homes, for no other reason than the fact that they are not Jewish. - Tarif Abboushi, Houston Chronicle, Jan 2, 2009, 9:30 pm

. The White House said only Hamas could end the cycle of violence by putting a stop to the rocket fire on Israel. "These people are nothing but thugs, and so Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas," spokesman Gordon Johndroe said at George W Bush's Texas ranch, where the president is preparing to spend the new year.

. In the working-class border town of Sderot, which has been targeted by relentless Gaza rocket salvoes, residents were pleased with the military offensive.

"It's about time," said Victor Turjeman, a 33-year-old electrician. "We've been waiting for this for eight years." Sderot has been pounded with several thousand projectiles since 2001. The rockets have killed eight, injured hundreds more and made daily life unbearable. Turjeman said his four children have been traumatised by the near daily attacks, his home has been damaged and his brother had a heart attack after a rocket exploded nearby. He fears escalation, but said he was consoled that Hamas was finally being punished. "We should keep pounding them until they beg for mercy," Turjeman said. "As far as I'm concerned, all of Gaza can be erased." - Associated Press, December 30

. Furious and frightened after thousands of projectiles had rained down on the south over several years, Israelis yearned for a traditional Zionist warrior to rally around and send a harsh message to Hamas. For months, Mr Barak, the natural candidate for that warrior role, declined. - "Gaza War Role Is Political Lift for Ex-Premier", Ethan Bronner, New York Times, January 7, 2009

. This is the harshest IDF assault on Gaza since the territory was captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. ... From Israel's standpoint, Hamas, which persistently fires rockets while using the civilian population as cover, had plenty of opportunities to save face and lower their demands. In stubbornly continuing to launch rockets during the course of recent weeks, it brought this assault on itself. - Haaretz, December 27, 2008

. "We will stand up, we will defend our own people, we will defend our land, and we will not give up," senior Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan said. Hamdan also denied accusations that Hamas had provoked Israel attacks by violating the ceasefire with rocket attacks. "Hamas did not fire rockets through the ceasefire. It's clear that the one who violated the ceasefire is the Israelis," Hamdan told CNN. "For half the period of ceasefire, they closed all the checkpoints, and they killed 28 Palestinians." - CNN, January 4, 2008
. Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi also accused Israel of ignoring the terms of the cease-fire that expired December 19.

"This is certainly a very cruel escalation, a relentless bombardment of a captive civilian population that has already been under siege for months, that has been deprived of basic requirements like food and medicines and fuel and power," she said from Ramallah in the West Bank. Christopher Gunness, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman, said the idea that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza was absurd. "The organisation for which I work - UNRWA - has approximately 9,000 to 10,000 workers on the ground. They are speaking with the ordinary civilians in Gaza... People are suffering. A quarter of all those being killed now are civilians. So when I hear people say we're doing our best to avoid civilian casualties that rings very hollow indeed." About 250,000 people in the northern part of Gaza are also reported to be without electricity. The main power plant has been shut down for lack of fuel due to Israel's blockade.

. Heba, a Gaza resident and mother of two, told Al Jazeera there was no place left in Gaza that can be considered safe.

"What happened in the school was a hugely offensive and inhumane thing. We never expected that people who sought refuge in a UN building would be attacked and killed," she said. Randa Seniora, from the Independent Commission on Human Rights, told Al Jazeera: "What is happening in Gaza are crimes against humanity. "Israel cannot claim, as an occupying authority, that it is acting in self-defence because simply it is considered a war crime to create harm and damage among civilian populations." - Al Jazeera

. Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, branding the incident "unacceptable" said, "These attacks by Israeli military forces which endanger UN facilities acting as places of refuge are totally unacceptable, and should not be repeated.

"Equally unacceptable are any actions by Hamas militants which endanger the Palestinian civilian population," he said, before again calling for an immediate ceasefire. Half the population of Gaza consists of children under 17 years old.


09 January 2009


those who are bored expect the world to dance

in complex time or to produce new sights

while wondrous odours emerge in the nights

and simple beauty their days should enhance

their every word the wisest should entrance

bringing about as yet unthought delights

exalting them to even greater heights

but leaving not a thing to luck or chance

there is no rule but we expect a break

to come our way and all the roads to go

just where we want since each of us believes

fate speaks in our tongues and bids us take

all we desire and we've no need to know

anything more for fear that truth deceives

07 January 2009

the cut

you flee across the river or you die

crying your shame at a strange mortal word

while men on horseback laugh and tell a lie

that nothing's sweeter under tropic sky

than rum and parsley knowing that's absurd

you flee across the river or you die

not knowing who has sold you nor the why

the tawdry reasons that the people heard

while men on horseback laugh and tell a lie

about imagined crimes and then imply

your clearest guilt so your fate is deserved

you flee across the river or you die

screaming in terror while no single eye

dares to meet yours and no heart is stirred

while men on horseback laugh and tell a lie

the only winner seems to be the fly

glutted with blood of bodies uninterred

you flee across the river or you die

while men on horseback laugh and tell a lie

06 January 2009

back to the verandah

there is a new direction we must go

to reach the lowland where ancestors rest

following wind and sun towards the west

into those places we most want to know

complaining bitterly time moves too slow

for our desire to rush into the test

since youthful mind must always be the best

in figuring just what is à propos

now i recall the ship that seemed to move

hardly at all but kept pace with the sun

and my young heart wanted to flee its cage

still there were other things i had to prove

and other roads on which my feet would run

i did not know that was the golden age

04 January 2009

what the boy saw

a sluggish snake of water in morass

black against vulgar green and very slow

the map names it broad river how i know


that is a lesson for another class

where you may ask about what lay below

a sluggish snake of water in morass


as dark and hostile as volcanic glass

but lacking any memory of glow

simple and steady in its westward flow

a sluggish snake of water in morass


down the islands

the shine of emerald from steady growth

hides from us the smiling face of hell

we have the sunshine and the shadow both


the odour of fresh roses and the smell

of rot and dung and none is truly hid

from those who want to look but none will tell


any large truths although if any did

there's none who'd care or have a thing to say

since honest folk have fallen from the grid


and cultivate their gardens for the day

that they have left before the storm appears

out of the sea and sweeps the waste away


making things clean for one or two brief years

until the forest can return to place

and under branches we see the old fears


laughing and dancing and seeking embrace

of their old kingdom and their ancient arts

while on the hill some old fool says disgrace


and others tell false stories of their parts

in different dramas on this very scene

and in the process corrupt many hearts


twisting and turning away from the mean

those who had come out of the chill of night

and taken joy in the clear morning green


knaves leave their streaks wherever there is light

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

John Maxwell

There is a picture that has made front pages round the world. It is fairly simple picture; against a background of bombed and burning buildings there are three people in the foreground. A woman, in a paroxysm of grief and probably terror, a man, her husband perhaps, a picture of impotent rage and in his arms, their son, an infant of majestic detachment, conscious it would seem, of everything, but not in the least disturbed. He knows too much, already – it seems.

    *        *        *        *        *
Fifty New Year's Eves ago nearly nine out of every ten people now alive weren't born yet.
I was then 24, contemplating marriage and, with my girlfriend, celebrating the ending of the old year with a close friend and his wife in their house in Gordon Town.
We were listening to one of about 80 Cuban radio stations we could hear in Jamaica, It was Radio Rebelde, the voice of the 26 of July Movement. We were expecting interesting news, as over the past few days it was becoming obvious that the tide was turning against 'la dictadura'  – despite all the US attempts to shore up the bloody tyranny of Fulgencio Batista
On New Year's Eve the American effort came crashing down. The Radio Rebelde announcer began to shout:
"The Dictator has fled! the tyrant has gone!" Pandemonium!
All of a sudden the disciplined broadcasters of Radio Rebelde were like high school kids, celebrating end of term. We listened to make sure we'd heard right and then Wilmot Perkins and I and our ladies jumped up and down, singing Cuban songs and drinking toasts to Fidel, Ché, Raul, Camilo and whoever else we could remember. Some of them we'd met on their way through Jamaica, courtesy of Gabriel Coulthard who seemed to know everyone in Latin America and brought them round to meet us at Public Opinion. Fidel's lawyer, Baudilio Castellanos, was one.
For most younger journalists in Jamaica at that time, Cuba was the big story and a year later, after the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation had come into existence, I decided to go to Cuba to find out what was going on. When my mother heard of my plans she convinced Wills Isaacs, a family friend - to try to talk me out of it. Wills, then Minister of Trade & Industry did even better. With his good friend Aaron Matalon, Wills offered me a year on an Israeli Moshav cooperative farm – which they knew fascinated me - if only I would not go to Cuba, where I was 'more than likely to be shot'.
At that time I was really deeply interested in the new social experiment that was Israel and like most people at that time had no real idea of what had happened to the Palestinians, no idea that the Palestinians were being made to pay in blood and treasure, for what Europe had done to the Jews. As a child I'd seen the horrific pictures of the stick figures of dead and dying Jews in the German extermination centres, Belsen, Birkenau, Buchenwald, Dachau and Auschwitz, the names themselves seemed to stink
I never saw pictures of the Palestinian refugees in their camps nor any documentaries of their Nabka – their counterpart to the Jewish holocaust.
I was an admirer of Israel, of Ben Gurion and Shimon Peres, of Abba Eban of Golda Meir and Teddy Kolleck. My first real problem with Israel came with their execution of Adolph Eichmann. I said in a newspaper commentary (1963) that for Israel to reintroduce the death penalty for Eichmann was a dangerous error. To hang him for facilitating the murder of six million Jews plus homosexuals, Gypsies blacks and others was to devalue their lives. Eichmann, I suggested, should be sentenced to work in a kibbutz, to experience at first hand, the civilisation he had tried to destroy. That would have been real punishment
By that time I had been to Cuba(1960) and had seen the start of another radical social experiment this time among a people far less literate than the Israelis and whom the Americans had decided were not to be trusted with power. The difference between American support for the Israelis and their antagonism toward the Cubans was not ideological. The leadership of Israel then was socialist and the society was committed to socialist principles. In Cuba Fidel and a few others would describe themselves as humanists or social democrats if pressed. The US reaction to the Cubans was on the question of property and sovereignty
Most Americans who had heard of Cuba thought of it as "Ours, like Puerto Rico."
Fifty years later the world has been turned upside down.
Israel is a capitalist theocracy, claiming legitimacy by divine dispensation. As I write, the Israelis are attempting to reduce the Palestinians to abject surrender. In punishing the Palestinians for misbehaviour the Israelis have over the years, devastated their communities, destroying their universities, theirs schools, their mosques, their hospitals, their houses and their social capital. They have used supersonic jets to terrorise men, women and infants with sonic booms at ungodly hours of the night, and, as in the latest exercise they kill many times more Palestinians than the Palestinians kill Israelis.
Today, as the Cubans celebrate 50 years of independence they are condemned for lacking freedom of speech in a society under constant military, terrorist, bactericidal and propaganda attack in a war which has killed thousands of Cubans and destroyed Cuban material and social capital worth billions.
The Cubans have liberated Southern Africa and their example of solidarity is helping liberate people who considered themselves slaves until recently. In a poor tropical island with meager resources they have produced one of the healthiest, best educated and most civilised societies on earth. It is socialist and it works.
I am glad I chose Cuba fifty years ago. Given the choice today, I would do it again.
Copyright © 2008 John Maxwell

03 January 2009

the angle means something

always the eye returns to the same view

of plain and river and the water there

forming a boundary of sun and air


so much i thought at once merged old and new

there was no voice to warn nothing to fear

always the eye returns to the same view


where each looks westward seeking for a clue

where day has vanished and the load of care

seems now to double and we are aware

always the eye returns to the same view

02 January 2009

record of defeat

against these bonds it is not hard to chafe

not knowing what or who will keep us safe

nor where each danger lies there's the true rub

a deadly serpent hiding under shrub

or bolt of lightning out of cloudy sky

truth hurts enough we cling to comfy lie

in hope that when the pain we feel abates

there won't be monsters howling at our gates

no certainty was given us at birth

today we've plenty and tomorrow dearth

those are our choices all the while we scorn

the hard decisions made by those who torn

between the injuries of times long past

and those of futures into which we cast

not only hope but all the goods of chance

have chosen wrongly now we take the pain

not out of reason but since you abstain

from complete judgment there's no better path

between the harvest and the aftermath

out of the vision that which we desire

is not the only evil to acquire

darkness is all the best path to forget

we are in chains because we lost the bet

listening in january

trumpets that echo vainly in the grey

chilly slow moving winter afternoon

call to us hiding each in our cocoon


we want to turn from all the good they say

claim that the messenger's another loon

trumpets that echo vainly in the grey


do not inform us of a better day

that is our import we see no true boon

in their loud signal they have come too soon

trumpets that echo vainly in the grey

01 January 2009

auld lang syne

this is the place where all shadows begin
beneath the broken house and greenskin tree
i walk just out of tune but hope to win

the colours do not change from out to in
and red leaves on the hedge were meant to be
this is the place where all shadows begin

a moment here when the world does not spin
as all the signs of what we are agree
i walk just out of tune but hope to win

who knows those watching might forbear to grin
as no time passing they must pause to see
this is the place where all shadows begin

that which was lost was made to seem a sin
by falling off and scattering debris
i walk just out of tune but hope to win

those who have heard know what this life has been
in all its echoes and the space left free
this is the place where all shadows begin
i walk just out of tune but hope to win