Watching Casablanca, I am often struck and intrigued by the casual interaction of Captain Renault and Major Strasser, the “powers that be” in unoccupied France and their off-hand discussions with “Richard Blane, American,” about invasion and occupation. In today’s terms, Rick’s Café would be located in the Gaza Strip, just inside the boundaries, and Israeli soldiers would be the Gestapo while the bartenders would be pleasantly amusing and paunchy or sexually frustrated Palestinians just trying to make a buck.
The air strike would set off air warning sirens, and the planes leaving for Lisbon would probably make it to Cairo, or Frankfurt, where they escapees would then “Wait. And wait. And wait.” The fictional occupation makes for a great backdrop in the movie, but the real occupation makes for a horrible New Year’s Eve. And unlike the Bush White House, or apparently the incoming Obama Administration, I don’t find either side to be innocent. Yes, this round of violence was set off by the rocket attacks Hamas launched into southern Israel. But the “right of Israel to defend herself” has long since been exceeded. And unlike Yitzak Rabin’s breaking the arms of Arab troops rather than kill them in the Six Day War, there is no mercy and no quarter being given (or sought) from either side.
As I would not expect Iraqi nationalists to be reveling with the American occupation force in Baghdad, I don’t expect the Palestinians to be welcoming of the occupying Israelis. But pursuing the destruction of the Palestinian State, which is what this latest round of air strikes and prepared ground invasions apparently is, with the tacit approval of the United States is like the Dole Company complaining that the natives were getting out of hand because they protested the removal of the native Hawaiian queen. It is a ridiculous claim that is supported by nothing but one-sided speculation irrespective of the “facts on the ground.” Like Casablanca, which used the Nazi invasion of western Europe as a backdrop but dealt only tangentially with the reality, the invasion, occupation, and wholesale slaughter of Palestinians by Israel cannot be called self defense.
And for President-elect Obama, who is correct in asserting that there is only one President at a time, he needs to be a little more realistic – He is that President. And there won’t be any walk off into the mist while the credits role.