THE SLAVE REVOLT IN GAZA, and Bernie Sanders

October 12, 2023

In The Israel-Palestine Conflict Uncategorized

Former progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issued a second statement yesterday (12 October 2023) on the hecatomb in Israel and Gaza.  The gist of what he had to say was that, before October 7th, everything was going along more or less swimmingly in the struggle for justice:


For years, people of good will throughout the world, including some brave Israelis, have struggled against the blockade of Gaza, the daily humiliations of occupation in the West Bank, and the horrendous living conditions faced by so many Palestinians.


But then, along came “Hamas’s terrorist assault,” which constituted “a major setback for any hope of justice for the Palestinian people” and “will make it much more difficult to address that tragic reality.”


Here is a reality check. “For years,” no one was doing anything to end the blockade of Gaza.  Not Bernie.  Not me.  Not anyone.  The people of Gaza—70 percent of whom are refugees (from the 1948 war) and half of whom are children—had been left to languish and die in what Hebrew University sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called “the largest concentration camp ever to exist.”   The “people of good will throughout the world” were not “struggling against the blockade.”  The world had moved on.  On the eve of October 7, the Biden administration was cobbling together an agreement with Saudi Arabia that would have rendered null and void any prospect of “justice for the Palestinian people.”  


Israel is not “at war” with a foreign entity, let alone a foreign state.  Gaza is an integral part of Israel.  “There is one regime governing the entire area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” Israel’s leading human rights organization, B’Tselem, observed some years back, “based on a single organizing principle” of “Jewish supremacy.”  What happened on October 7 was a slave revolt inside Israel.  


The largest slave revolt in U.S. history against “White supremacy” was led by Nat Turner.  Turner was a religious fanatic; he believed that the revolt was divinely inspired and sanctioned.  Here’s how Wikipedia describes what ensued: 


The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing enslaved people and killing many of the White people whom they encountered…. Historian Stephen B. Oates states that Turner called on his group to “kill all the white people”…. Turner thought that revolutionary violence would awaken the attitudes of Whites to the reality of the inherent brutality in slave-holding. Turner said he wanted to spread “terror and alarm” among Whites.


Scores of White innocents were deliberately killed.  Nonetheless, the Nat Turner Rebellion now occupies an honored place in American history.  


Turner’s rebellion provoked mass genocidal hysteria among Whites.  To gain one’s moral bearings at this fraught moment, it repays to peruse the statement issued by the great Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison right after the revolt:


What we have so long predicted,—at the peril of being stigmatized as an alarmist and declaimer,—has commenced its fulfilment. The first step of the earthquake, which is ultimately to shake down the fabric of oppression, leaving not one stone upon another, has been made. The first drops of blood, which are but the prelude to a deluge from the gathering clouds, have fallen. The first flash of lightning, which is to smite and consume, has been felt. The first wailings of bereavement, which is to clothe the earth in sackcloth, have broken up our ears. 

The crime of oppression is national. The south is only the agent in this guilty traffic. But, remember! The same causes are at work which must inevitably produce the same effects; and when the contest shall have again begun, it must be again a war of extermination. In the present instance, no quarters have been asked or given. 


But we have killed and routed them now—we can do it again and again—we are invincible! A dastardly triumph, well becoming a nation of oppressors. Detestable complacency, that can think, without emotion, of the extermination of the blacks! We have the power to kill all—let us, therefore, continue to apply the whip and forge new fetters! 


In his fury against the revolters, who will remember their wrongs? What will it avail them, though the catalogue of their sufferings, dripping with warm blood fresh from their lacerated bodies, be held up to extenuate their conduct? It is enough that the victims were black—that circumstance makes them less precious than the dogs which have been slain in our streets! They were black—brutes, pretending to be men—legions of curses upon their memories! They were black—God made them to serve us! 


Ye patriotic hypocrites! ye panegyrists of Frenchmen, Greeks, and Poles! ye fustian declaimers for liberty! ye valiant sticklers for equal rights among yourselves! ye haters of aristocracy! ye assailants of monarchies! ye republican nullifiers! ye treasonable disunionists! Be dumb! Cast no reproach upon the conduct of the slaves, but let your lips and cheeks wear the blisters of condemnation! 


Ye accuse the pacific friends of emancipation of instigating the slaves to revolt. Take back the charge as a foul slander. The slaves need no incentives at our hands. They will find them in their stripes—in their emaciated bodies—in their ceaseless toil—in their ignorant minds—in every field, in every valley, on every hill-top and mountain, wherever you and your fathers have fought for liberty—in your speeches, your conversations, your celebrations, your pamphlets, your newspapers—voices in the air, sounds from across the ocean, invitations to resistance above, below, around them! What more do they need? Surrounded by such influences, and smarting under their newly made wounds, is it wonderful that they should rise to contend—as other heroes have contended—for their lost rights? It is not wonderful. 


In all that we have written, is there aught to justify the excesses of the slaves? No. Nevertheless, they deserve no more censure than the Greeks in destroying the Turks, or the Poles in exterminating the Russians, or our fathers in slaughtering the British. Dreadful, indeed, is the standard erected by worldly patriotism! 


For ourselves, we are horror-struck at the late tidings. We have exerted our utmost efforts to avert the calamity. We have warned our countrymen of the danger of persisting in their unrighteous conduct. We have preached to the slaves the pacific precepts of Jesus Christ. We have appealed to christians, philanthropists, and patriots, for their assistance to accomplish the great work of national redemption through the agency of moral power—of public opinion—of individual duty. How have we been received? We have been threatened, proscribed, vilified, and imprisoned—a laughing-stock and a reproach. Do we falter, in view of these things? Let time answer. If we have been hitherto urgent, and bold, and denunciatory in our efforts,—hereafter we shall grow vehement and active with the increase of danger. We shall cry, in trumpet tones, night and day,—Wo to this guilty land, unless she speedily repent of her evil doings! The blood of millions of her sons cries aloud for redress! IMMEDIATE EMANCIPATION alone can save her from the vengeance of Heaven, and cancel the debt of ages! 


It is to be noted that, whereas he stated that the “excesses of the slaves” could not be justified and he was “horror-struck at the late tidings,” William Lloyd Garrison did not condemn the slave revolt.