Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
When I read your article, I forwarded it to the CAN's listserv. The sentence I wrote above it read, “whoever used the phrase 'zionist breeders?' ”
Sarah Jaine responded:
“ 'you did'
" 'Settlements pepper the Muslim Quarter. We saw armed guards escorting
Jewish children to their settlement homes withing the quarter. They
were not smiling. I don't blame the parents for wanting to protect
their children with arms here. After all, they are occupiers. Most of
the Muslim inhabitants, however, seemed unfazed. They were used to it.
'I have to wonder at the dedication of these Zionist breeders. What
would it take for you to move your children into an area in which you
feel you must send armed guards with them?' “
It was from my blog this summer when I was in the Old City in Jerusalem. You should know, you quoted me.
What can you say to your own words, staring you in the face?
There is no way that I can understand how those words have made people feel, and there is no apology that could fix it.
I take full responsibility for my statements, and wish I hadn't said it. But it is there.
I sound like a pundit. That was never my intention. But intentions are just what you meant to do.
How do you apologize for that?
I want to say “I didn't mean it like that.” But that doesn't fix anything. I want to say I'm sorry but that doesn't do a bit of good, because it doesn't solve the problem. There's no way we can have a conversation if it gets reduced to that kind of inflammatory language. There's no way I will have any of your respect if I do not act respectful. And I don't know how to apologize in a way where I can gain your respect back.
And because an apology doesn't do any good, I will instead make a promise to learn from this loss I've created. Instead, I'd like to thank you for using my own words against me, because I deserved to have them thrown back in my face.
What am I doing talking about people in Gaza and Sderot being pissed that they can't talk to their neighbors, and here I am alienating mine and actually choosing not to speak with them? I don't know anything about you besides your politics, your religion, and more recently, your major. We're not exactly close, and yet I've managed to wound you in a way I can't pretend to feel.
And I don't know what to do about it. First, I have to thank you for not using my name. I appreciate it. You perceive me as hateful and full of lies and you didn't use my name. That is big.
So - I could delete that post from my blog, but I don't want to pretend like I didn't say it, because I did. I could publicly apologize, or not. I think I should, but part of me feels like doing that undermines this apology to you. You, who are someone that I know. You, who are someone that is real and tangible. Apologizing to a mass of people through newsprint feels a little hollow.
Do you know anything about my religion? My dad's Greek Orthodox, but my mom's Episcopalian. I wanted to be a priest for a long time, but lost the faith when none of the bishops or anyone could answer the question "How does Jesus dying on the cross save me from my sins?" But, even though I don't much subscribe to Christian mythology, I still like what the Episcopal church taught me. Generally, it amounts to: be good to people no matter what. There are times when it is appropriate to refrain from kindness, but there is never a time to reduce people to flippant rhetoric.
In addition to the pain I've inflicted, I feel I've done an injustice to myself. In my passion for one person's humanity, I dehumanized you, something I never want to do. That makes me someone I never want to be.
We may never agree on anything again, but that doesn't mean I have the right to remove your humanity from you.
I believe that Israel is a colonizing state. I also believe in nonviolence, and that any amount of dehumanization is going to take us back a long way in this process. Though I'm not nearly as brave as him, I believe in what Ghandi said (I'm paraphrasing), "we want the English to leave, but we want them to leave as friends."
I want to thank you for pointing out my mistakes. Without criticism, I would never grow. We barely know each other, but you provide me the opportunity to better know myself.
This was really long, and I hope you don't feel like I wasted your time. Thank you for reading this. I'll post an apology on my blog. I'm gong to leave what I wrote instead of pretending I never wrote it, because I don't want to hide from myself. I'll link it to the apology that I write.
So, all of that is what I'll mean when I next see you and say "I'm sorry." If I said all of this to your face, I would probably cry, and we'd both be really uncomfortable. Not that making one another feel comfortable has really been the goal of our relationship.
I don't know. I'm really sorry. I hope you have a nice day.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded 29 in a shooting at Ft. Hood on November 5 of this year. Everyone agrees on this fact. Why he did it is still up for speculation.
In his memorial speech Obama said, “It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy, but this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts, no just and loving God looks upon them with favor.” Absolutely, I agree. But would Obama have said just that if the killer had been Christian? The main focus of the speculation on Hasan’s motives is religion. He is Palestinian-American and practices Islam.
Popular culture in the United States is not very friendly to Islam. According to Steve Deace of WHO radio (an AM station out of Iowa), Islam is irreconcilable with the American Dream, “every bit as much as communism or Nazism.” I wonder if Deace has ever met anyone Muslim. Or a communist, for that matter.
More than likely, Hasan’s religion wasn't the most relevant. He was one of “only 480 psychiatrists – military civilian and contractors – serving about 553,000 active-duty troops around the world” according to the Iraq Veterans Against the War. In their Veteran’s Day Letter to Obama they argue that Hasan simply broke. This is not so uncommon.
The weight of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) leads 6,000 veterans (out of the 25 million) to commit suicide every year, a statistic I got from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The VA can document an additional 1,000 suicide attempts every month. Bearing the emotional burdens of soldiers who’d been deployed 4 or 5 times, and without an outlet to relieve himself, Hasan flipped.
My point is: no matter the reason, flipping out and murdering a bunch of people is never okay. Another bad thing is labeling an entire group of people as terrorists. Assuming that an entire racial/religious identity is in cahoots with whoever the US happens to be at war with is the same philosophy that led the US to put Japanese folks in internment camps during World War II.
We have a lot more rights than a lot of other countries. This Veteran’s Day, let’s take advantage of the things that make this country livable. I’ve got a couple of methods in mind:
We need to respect our Freedom of Religion and the diversity that inspires. We need to fight racism whenever we encounter it, no matter who says it or why.
We need to use our Freedom of Assembly to make Congress ashamed of the fact that almost a quarter of the homeless are veterans. We need to actually support our troops and demand that they get all of the benefits they’re entitled to.
PTSD is not a new issue, and neither is racism. If we plan on living in a nation where all people have freedom and are respected, we need to remember our parents and grandparents standing up for each other when it seemed most difficult. If we plan on living in a nation where all people are respected, we’re going to have to fight, like they did, to make sure that happens.
Monday, October 26, 2009
the politics were taken out of the interview (which also explains the absence of Paul's voice), but we got on TV! ish!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
According to Obama, not much. He said: “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”
Who are these nations of people looking toward U.S. leadership? Are they people of the Phillipines who were slaughtered by Nobel Laureate and President Teddy Roosevelt. Perhaps they are the millions of indo-chinese slaughtered in Viet Nam under the direction of Henry Kissinger.
President Obama certainly is not referring to the Palestinians. At least not the folks in Bil’in. I got an e-mail from Iyad Burnat, Head of the Popular Committee in Bil’in. For the last 4 years they’ve been demonstrating nonviolently every Friday against the Apartheid Wall. The government of Israel has even ruled the wall there illegal. They’ve been visited by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, and more of the Elders. There, nonviolent activists from the community, from Israel, and from the international community demonstrate against the illegal wall. Yet, every Friday, they are greeted by cannons that shoot 30 tear gas canisters in one go, horrible stink bombs, and bullets coated in rubber. In between Fridays, members of the IDF raid their homes at midnight to abuse and arrest them, using sound bombs, and pure physical force.
Burnat’s take on the Prize is very different: “Bush had a good speech about the establishment of a Palestinian state in the year of 2005. …[A]fter the speech … Sharon invaded Al Aqsa mosque, and the American army invaded Iraq. Why didn't you give the prize to this man at that time, and he got shoes instead? This is injustice!”
To contrast, on October 29th, Burnat’s committee will host members of the Shministim, an Israeli organization of teenagers who refuse to join the military and accept sentences in prison for their dissent.
Who more deserves a prize? Politicians that give speeches, or everyday people working on the ground to literally tear down the walls that divide?
Friday, October 16, 2009
I've done some soul-searching and to these, I have but one thing to say: Go listen to "Juicy" by the Notorious B.I.G.: "You know very well who you are / Don't let 'em drag you down / Reach for the stars."
Is giving a detailed account of things that I saw unjust? Why is there this dichotomy between saying that Palestinians shouldn't have to put up with being detained for walking around on their own farms and the destruction of all Jewry? Why not attack my points instead of my person?
As for accusations of being one-sided: Maybe. But only because the only side that gets perpetuated in the corporate media, the so-called liberal media, is that of the Zionists. But it doesn't matter if you're a Zionist. Say one bad word about Israel and you're either an anti-Semite or a self-loathing Jew.
An article to leave you with:
1. On Israel's exclusive right to self-defense: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1254861893834&pagename=JPArticle/ShowFull
An now, off to my English Literature class. How did I end up majoring in Literature? Ah, life.
EDITED TO ADD:
an idea borrowed from Paul Erb, written by me:
Sure, Israel has the right to self-defense. But is taking out the chicken coop that provides 80% of underfed Gaza's eggs reasonable retaliation?
Is "wantonly" using white phosphorus in the most densely populated area in the world, white phosphorus that eats through flesh from the outside and burns through fatty tissue from the inside, appropriate relation for suicide bombers?
There are better ways to go about it.
When the Tutsis were massacred by the Hutus, a situation in which it is politically ok to use the word "genocide," the Western world urged the Tutsis to not retaliate, and instead go through the International Courts. Their people were being hacked into bits by machetes, and we said "Take a step back and breathe."
Why is it that the "Western world" doesn't listen to their own advice?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I am honored to have international readership and criticism.
The following is David Wilder's response:
2. " Every adult on the compound carries a gun on them" – Simply, not true. What evidence does the author have for this statement?
3. " Wilder’s discourse – like his weaponry – was straightforward, curt and tense." – I interview for hundreds and more journalists. My discussion is not curt or tense. It is straightforward. My answers are not 'one-liners' and I also tend to smile and laugh. However, I am serious.
4. Issa conducted a tour with the author. I was not requested to do this. He is portrayed as a nice guy who is scared of Israelis. " Issa does not dare walk down Shuhva Street for fear of being maimed or worse." – First of all, it is "Shuhada" street, meaning 'the street of the martyrs.' – named after Arabs who have killed Jews. When was the last time an Arab was 'maimed or worse' by Jews in Hebron? However, Jews have been killed by Arabs on this street – an Arab exploded himself, killing a couple from nearby Kiryat Arba. Other Jews have been attacked, stabbed and shot at on this street.
5. " smash windows, destroy water tanks and throw stones" – not true
6. " Many of these homes, including Wilder’s, are situated above a crowded Palestinian community, which has been pushed, quite literally, underground" – False- the Kasba and Shalalot neighborhood are 'old Hebron,' where Arabs have lived for many years. Jews also used to live there and there is Jewish-owned property in this area, which has been declared off-limits to Jews by the Israel defense ministry.
7. " I have never seen poverty like this. Cincinnati is ranked third-worst city in the U.S. to be in if you’re homeless, and yet I have never seen so many children begging on the street." – False – Arab children don't beg on this street – did the author ask why such 'poor' families all have satellite antennas on their rooftops?
8. " many of these settlers (Wilder included) were born and raised in the U.S" – 12% of Hebron's adult population were born in the US. Over 75% of the adult population is native Israeli.
9. " Yet, Issa’s anger never translated into hate. He was rational." – In other words, 'David Wilder's anger translated into hate. He was not rational."
10. " “I would like to have Jewish neighbors,” he said, “but they come and say it is Israel. I could not go into your neighborhood in the United States, hang up a Palestinian flag and say ‘This is a Palestinian state and we have our own laws.’” – The author does not mention that Jews have lived in Hebron for thousands of years, that 80 years ago Arab mobs in Hebron murdered, raped and tortured 67 of their neighbors, and that Arabs prevented Jews (and Christians) from accessing the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Judaism's 2nd holiest site, for 700 years and today claim that the entire structure is a mosque which belongs entirely to them.
And it's true that Arabs have killed Jews in Hebron. It's also true that Arab families harbored Jewish families to save them from those that wanted to kill them. It is always dangerous to categorically lump people into broad categories. That is why I use the word "extremist." Wilder's actions, like his definitions, are extreme.
And what is omitted from this response? The camo netting over windows, the ousting of families from their homes, the giant slabs of concrete suspended above colonized heads (protected from death by a thin shield of fencing.)
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Why does Obama get a prize whilst Bush gets shoes
By Iyad Burnat
Today, when I came home from our nonviolent demonstration in Bil'in, after
the soldiers shot tear gas and after seeing the violence of the Israeli
soldiers, I heard that President Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize. When I
heard this from the media I started to go crazy. I asked myself why. The
Americans are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Palestine is still
occupied. In the recent news I saw that the Israeli soldiers closed
Jerusalem, and I heard that many people were injured. We haven't seen
anything changed. Why didn't the committee give the prize to Bush? I
remember nine years ago Bush had a good speech about the establishment of a
Palestinian state in the year of 2005. We saw after the speech that Sharon
invaded Al Aqsa mosque, and the American army invaded Iraq. Why didn't you
give the prize to this man at that time, and he got shoes instead? This is
I am so sorry Mr. Bush. You worked very hard, eight years with killing
children, starting wars and supporting the occupation, and they gave the
prize to another man.
I ask you our friends in the Nobel Committee, why didn't you choose
quality? I think your prize makes the people more violent. Do you think that
Obama can make peace, and why didn't you wait until he actually made the
peace? Maybe he will invade another country. Sorry, but we are still under
occupation and it makes us very crazy because we see every day and night the
suffering of our children, and it's killing us. We hear in the speeches that
the president talks about peace, but nothing has changed. To deserve a Nobel
prize you need to work, not talk. We need the work to be done now, not
tomorrow. We need our land now, not tomorrow.
Thank you for you continued support,
co-founder of Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin
and a great article by Howard Zinn
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
More exciting, however, is the debate that I stirred up with my article on the Goldstone Report (previous post.) I was very excited to read a counter-article published in today's paper. This is exactly what I am going for. Let's have some real debate on campus!
Below is my response to this article which I posted both to the Newsrecord's website, and to the author personally:
Unfortunately, I think you and I are talking past each other on a couple of points. This keeps going back to the chicken or the egg. You think radical Islamists started this when they began firing rockets over the wall that keeps them locked in Gaza. I urge you to ask yourself why they do so. Is it blind anti-semitism? That is possible. But more than likely, it is because they are locked in Gaza.
Consider the words of Frederick Douglass: "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." Those trapped in Gaza are kept lacking food, medicine, water, and electricity. The borders are closed by Israel which has a truce with Egypt to keep their border closed. The United States funds their military. Is that not an organized conspiracy to oppress and degrade them?
These slow starvations are what I refer to when I use the words "ethnic cleansing." March 1948 and the six month period following saw 531 Palestinian villages wiped off the face of the map. This is what I refer to when I use these words.
As for the point that the US would have mass bombed people, I agree, the United States would have mass bombed them. I have publicly denounced mass punishment done by the United States before and do so again right now.
The Israeli folks that I met with that lived under daily rocket fire were surprisingly sympathetic to the Palestinians that fired those rockets. This included people living in Sderot and at Kibbutz Zikim. I cannot claim that these few people can speak for the entirety of Israel, they can only speak for themselves. The point is - that Israeli perspective also exists.
From my brief talks with Palestinians citizens of Israel, those folks dislike the term "Israeli Arabs" and prefer the aforementioned term, because they still feel Palestinian. They are not ambiguously "Arab." They are Palestinian.
On Liberty and being American: I did not feel at Liberty when I went through checkpoints, when I had guns pointed at me by the IDF, when I stayed up all night when a Palestinian family because they were afraid of the military raiding their house in the middle of the night.
On dictators and radical clerics: The United States props up dictators all throughout the middle east. The Department of Defense is the number one arms dealer in the world. Saudi Arabia is our number one client.
On democracy: not all speech is protected in Israel. It is illegal to try and dissuade someone from joining the military. There is no freedom of movement. Israelis and Palestinians drive on separate roads. Palestinians have to take a full stop in the rare places where these roads meet and simply wait and wait until the road is cleared enough for them to drive. Israelis always have the right of way. They have different colored license plates, different water rations, different rights.
I do not pretend that radical religious fanatics do not exist. Obviously they do. But they are not the majority of Palestinians, they are not the majority of Arabs, they are not the majority of Muslims, and to speak of extremists in that way borders on racism. To couch this situation in those terms is dangerous for the Arab and Muslim communities that we co-exist with here on campus and in the world. If we are to move anywhere on this issue, it must be with religious and cultural acceptance and understanding.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Richard Goldstone, who led the investigation and for whom the report was named, is criticized as a "self loathing Jew" who has moral inversion.
But while critics are quick to fill columns with condemnation, few discuss the report's content or history.
Richard Goldstone, a highly respected Justice from South Africa, sits on Hebrew University of Jerusalem's board of directors and is Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He has long been a supporter of Israel. Goldstone refused to participate in the UN inquiry until the investigation's scope was opened to include scrutiny of Hamas.
The report is the product of a six month fact-finding inquiry. It finds that Israel "punished and terrorized" Gazans, committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions, and "wantonly" destroyed Palestinian infrastructure such as food production, water facilities, sewage facilities, and employed a "seemingly reckless" use of white phosphorus.
Indeed, the report is harder on Israel. According to an interview with Norman Finkelstein on Democracy Now!, about 10% of the report recounts Palestinian war crimes. Clearly, the investigation has found fault with Israel.
This may be surprising if Operation Cast Lead (so named by the Israeli military) is thought of in the terms set by mainstream media outlets. Nearly every source describes the event as "the Gaza War." This terminology is misleading. "War" is different from "occupation," "ethnic cleansing," or "massacre." A "war" implies two sides with with comperable resources and strengths, whereas the latter three imply one group totally dominating another. Operation Cast Lead was a massacre that is only part of the ethnic cleansing of occupied Palestinians. Are Palestinian refugees who have extremely limitedaccess to electricity, medicine, food, and water really a formidable force for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) whose aresenal is funded by the United States?
I doubt it. That possibility is further limited when you consider the facts (stubborn things that they are.)
There were no battles in Gaza. According to members of Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers, the fire power used by Israel was "insane." This word is repeated time and again by these veterans. They report the IDF used human shields, ordered Palestinians inside homes only to demolish them with the people inside, destroyed entire neighborhoods in one sweep, ordered soldiers to use "free fire" (shoot at anything and everything.) One veteran described the experience: "You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them."
Approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the January attacks, over 2/3 of them civilians. Exactly thirteen Israelis were killed. That is approximitely one hundred to one.
Hamas sent Kassem and Katyusha rockets into Israel. When I visited Sderot, a city a little less than a mile from Gaza, this summer, they showed me exploded Kassems and talked about their fear when air raid sirens blast. They have thirteen seconds to get to a shelter. If they are driving or out someplace open, all they can do is pray. Still, the citizens of Sderot expressed frustration that they weren't allowed to have face-to-face conversations with their neighbors in nearby Gaza. More conversations are needed; between residents of Sderot and Gaza, between Israelis and Palestinians, and among us in the rest of the world. But our discussions must be based in the reality of an increasingly brutal and belligerent Israeli occupation. We must strive to implement justice as a fundamental principle which both Palestinians and Israelis deserve. The Goldstone Report is an important step in the right direction. The report and its recommendations should form the basis of our conversation. We must not allow Israel and its supporters to relegate the Report to the dustbin of history and avoid its clear call for justice and accountability.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
rising gold as sunrise
out of the desert,
(one on top of the other)
jewel tones almost
too rich for my eyes
cultural confectionary with undertones of
riot gear and barbed wire
Nearby, men ululate glottally,
Wailing at the Wall,
Kneeling & bowing & crying
Many want to tear this place down for
new & ancient construction.
I guess it’s none of my business, really.
From here I see the Garden
of Gethsemane and birds fly
unfazed by soldiers lurking
in the corner (probably
wondering what happened to all the trees.)
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Driving into Hebron, we went down what used to be the thriving economic center. Today, all the shops are closed, the locks welded shut. Stars of David were spraypainted on almost every door. No one was in sight.
Our first stop was a meeting with with David Wilder. A prominent leader of extremist settlers, Wilder claimed that Palestinians occupy Jewish Hebron. There are, according to Wilder, roughly 700 settlers living in Hebron, and 240,000 Palestinians. He claimed that settlers have access today to 3% of the city contained within four "Jewish neighborhoods." The basis of the conflict, for Wilder, is "100% religious".
Every adult on the compound carries on gun on their person. Wilder was the only person I spoke with. His discourse, like his weaponry, was straightforward, curt, and tense.
When asked the effects of the militarization of this settlement, he replied that "it's not bad." Wilder went on to posit that this lifestyle is "not something that has a negative effect on people."
This, however, was not my experience of Hebron as a whole. After our meeting with Wilder, we met with Issa, a representative of Youth Against Settlements, and a resident of Hebron. He took us on a walking tour of Hebron, which was almost cut short. We started by walking around a field, upon which settlers almost daily attack the farmers that work it.
After about thirty minutes, the police showed up and immediately hassled our guide, followed soon after by members of the IDF. (These soldiers, by the way, looked like they were about thirteen years old.) One of the policemen told Issa "I'm not a commander. I am a crazy. If you come here again I will shoot you. What are you going to do about it? This bus of tourists will leave. Then what are you going to do about it?"
And what could we do? We waited for a period, and then drove away. Thankfully, Issa met us down the street about twenty minutes later, and the tour continued.
There is no law in Israel that prohibits Issa, or any Palestinian, from driving down all the streets of Hebron. Unfortunately, Israeli Law is superceded by Settler Law. Issa does not dare walk down Shuhva St., for fear of being maimed or worse. Because this street is closed, people cannot get in to their houses through their front doors. One family on Shuhva St. has to climb a ladder up the back of their house and get in through a door in the roof.
Guard towers stand blatantly on many street corners, housing videocameras and snipers. Free to walk down Shuhva (and any other street they want) settlers smash windows, destroy water tanks, and throw stones. They are protected by the police and the military.
Worse, however, are the hidden settlements. Looking around the Hebron skyline, you'll notice flags, half red, half white, flying from several roofs. These are settlements. The process, as explained by Issa is as follows: the military occupies Palestinian homes for "security reasons," ousting the family. They raise the flag, and shortly thereafter, settlers go into the homes, and the military comes out.
Many of these homes are situated above a crowded Palestinian community, which has been pushed, quite literally, underground. We walked through a metal turnstyle, and found ourselves suddenly in a market, bustling and rich with colors and the smell of sewage. A chain link fence hung above where there was no roof to stop the litter and bricks thrown by settlers from hitting Palestinians in the head. In some parts, tarps were hung under the fence to protect the inhabitants from small bits of metal, water, and even urine - anything small enough to fit through the holes.
I have never seen poverty like this. Cincinnati is ranked third worst city to be in if you're homeless, and I have never seen so many children begging on the street.
Our guide was worried about future prospects of peace with this young generation. If the settlers are the only Jewish people that children from Hebron grow up seeing, they are, by default, the ambassadors of all Jewry. These children then learn that not only are the United States government, US NGOs, and US citizens paying for all of this, but that many of these settlers (Wilder included) were born and raised in the States.
Yet, Issa's anger never translated into hate. He was rational. "I would like to have Jewish neighbors," he said, "but they come and say it is Israel. I could not go into your neighborhood in the United States, hang up a Palestinian flag and say 'This is a Palestinian state and we have our own laws.'"
And he's right. This place has been the land of contradictions. I feel like I've gone down the rabbit hole.
It's about 3am, and I leave Palestine tomorrow evening after a meeting with the US Consulate.
Stay tuned for my reflections on: Bi'lin/Ni'lin, children + trauma, New Profile, Other Voice, the US Consulate, and future actions.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Yesterday was the first time I'd been to the Mediterranean Sea in ten years. The last time was Greece, '09-'00, something like that. My sisters and cousin and I were taking a walk around town, and a gypsy girl kept following us around, aimless, bored, with nothing better to do. When we got to the sea, the gypsy girl ran in with all her clothes on, screaming into the froth. I had never seen anything like it. The image burned in my corneas.
Yesterday, I ran screaming into the sea with all of my clothes on and felt a sort of liberation I had never expected to find. I found a sort of liberation I never knew I was looking for and I swam out far in my skirts, body-boarding back to shore, grateful for the salt in my sinuses, jubilant beyond measure.
And then I remembered Suheir.
Suheir was born in and currently lives at the Deheishe Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. (The poverty in this place was like a combination of old European cities and West Philly: every street was a narrow allyway, and it was full of wrecked homes and rubble. Not yet 100 years old, the camp was full of ruins. But this is another story for another time.) She reminded me of my Thea Voula after a funeral, vivacious and spicey, tinged with an interminable sadness right behind her eyes.
Suheir has lived here her whole life, lives about an hour from this beach, and is forbidden to go.
Apartheid, my friends, is real. Apartheid is real when some people have seperate roads based on their ethnic and/or religious identity. Apartheid is real when some people are waved through checkpoints and others have to wait hours in the sun, caged in and with guns in their faces. Apartheid is real with nationalized healthcare doesn't apply to some folks. Apartheid is real and it's long and bony fingers interlock, here, with colonialism, and repression of democracy.
"The only democracy in the Middle East" doesn't have freedom of speech.
With that, I'd like to share a poem by Laurie Siegal, a delegate on this trip.
"I Am A Refugee in My Own Country"
as told by Suheir - Deheisheh Refugee Camp
Why have us suffer?
All the time we are under oppression
The Soldiers come
They explode the house
When we stop suffering
When I take the children to the beach?
We are human
I don't know what we do
We want real peace
We need your help
We are not alone
We need your heart
We will be free one time
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I cannot pretend to know everything, and am thankful for that, because I imagine I would be very lonely. I am not an expert on the situation, but I am an expert on my experiences. Bearing this in mind, here they are.
I am in love with my fellow delegates. We come from many different religions, generations, countries, and personalities. Everyone is remarkably bright, and I trust I will learn from all of them.
For most of the trip, we're staying at St. George's Cathedral Guesthouse in East Jerusalem. I've made pals with some of the staff here, one of whom, Mousa, made a birthday cake for one of the delegates! (Mark from the UK turned 21. We sang him happy birthday.)
the flight from atlanta to tel aviv was eleven hours long. our plane, a b777, sat 278 travellers, including an 8-year-old autistic boy who spent the majority of the occasion screaming so shrilly and with such ferocity his body trembled. two rows behind me. His mother sobbed impotantly.
As I got of the plane, I lightheartedly shared my relief of being freed from that audial entrapment with my fellow delegates. Who wouldn't? Who likes a kid screaming like a metalhead for 11 hours on red-eye flight?
And then I got past passport check and I saw security dragging the screaming boy by his hand, stretching his arms with his feet dragging. And I saw his useless, loving mother, frantically chasing a few steps behind.
One woman from our delegation did not get through passport check so easily. The woman behind my counter looked bored. She irritably, and with a great sense of resignation, asked me a few simple questions, looked unimpressed with the stupid haircut in my passport picture, and let me go. Samya was not as lucky.
Samya's father is from Palestine. She has a fairly common Palestinian last name. She even has relatives in the Gaza Strip, though she's never met them. Samya was detained for six hours. The rest of the delegation waited in baggage claim for a few hours (to try to annoy the guards into letting her go in order to get rid of us.) Eventually, we decided that the leaders of our delegation should stay, and then rest of us should get the hotel. But even though I hadn't slept properly for 3 days, I couldn't sleep. The blatant injustice of it all gnawed at me. So - I stayed up and waited for her to get home.
When she finally arrived, it was with a chipper attitude. "It's ok," she said. "I expected it."
And while I didn't expect it, I was impressed by and would like to pay homage to the solidarity of those who stayed. Samya's family is Muslim, and two of the women who stayed behind, one of whom is not a leader of the delegation, are Jewish.
Today our group met with a representative for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Sarah M. After a short presentation, replete with very useful maps (all of which you can find on their website) she took us on a tour of settlements.
The first one we saw was Nof Zion, which reminded me of gentrified townhouses in my city's neighborhood of Over the Rhine (OTR). The settlement, built by and advertised to wealthy Jewish internationals, advertises a clear view of Jerusalem, the City of David, and Mount Zion to name a few. Similarly, pre-fab communities in OTR, boast of development, historical significance, and security.
Most importantly, they both lack even simple recognition of the communities they are overtaking. A block away from the afore-linked OTR complex is an African-American ghetto, the likes of which most of my audience has an understanding of, and I won't further detail. The valley across which residents of Nof Zion might view important cultural and religious sites houses a Palestinian community, which Nof Zion cuts off from other Palestinian communities in the West Bank. As Sarah M. put it, these development industries "manipulate the view to create this myopia." You see what you want to.
In fact, Nof Zion is East of the Green Line, within the West Bank. It is part of a ring of settlements around the Old City of Jerusalem, surrounding the area like layers of onion.
Nof Zion changed my perspective on settlers. I thought all settlers were gun-toting relgious fanatics. In fact, most settlers have little knowledge of the geopolitical game they're involved in. They're unaware that settlements cut between Palistinian territories. Nof Zion and the park leading up to it didn't look or feel like Palestine. There aren't physical boundaries. I wouldn't have known I was in the West Bank if no one had told me.
This deception is purposeful. The ring around Ramallah (for example) makes it impossible to get to or from Palestine without going through a settlement. And, excluding Nof Zion's exhorbanant half-a-million-dollar pricetag, most settlers are broke. They can't afford to live in the main cities, and move to settlements because of the government subsidies. In return, settlers function as the eyes and ears on the ground for the Israeli government.
Speaking of the Israeli government, they actually own all the land. Even if you pay half-a-million-dollars for a five bedroom home in Nof Zion, the state of Israel owns the land beneath it. This is what makes settlements so problematic. The moment they are built, that land is instantly annexed to Israel. Plus, it's easier to act first and ask questions later: If you physically change the map, you force legal change. Settlement naturalizes the occupation.
But enough of facts and figures.
Meeting With the UN
We met with a representative from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). I was thoroughly unimpressed. He showed us a slideshow and read it as he went. BO-ring. But! They did give us some great resouces on the legal ins and outs of settlements.
Walking Tour of Old Jerusalem
Beautiful. The city of Jerusalem, our (incredibly thoughtful and informed) tour guide Ramon, told us, had been levelled over ten times. You'd never know.
There are four main areas of the Old City: the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter. (Quarter, here, is metaphoric. The biggest one is the Muslim Quarter, followed the the Jewish, then the Christian, ending with the Armenian.)
It is quite easy to tell which communities the government prefers by the cleanliness of each neighborhood. The Jewish Quarter is spotless with a few shops, but mostly residential and religious buildings. The Armenian and Christian Quarters run together in my mind, honestly. But the Muslim Quarter was something altogether different. It was like a bazzaar replete with shops selling everything from tacky touristy t-shirts to religious artifacts to bras and panties. I saw hijabi women selling tank-tops to tourists. Lacking any dumpsters, people and shopkeepers pile trash outside their buildings to haul it away at day's end.
The children, who everywhere in the Old City calloped around like so many wild animals, were smudged. Interestingly though, they were friendlier and more outgoing than in the other areas.
Settlements pepper the Muslim Quarter. We saw armed guards escorting Jewish children to their settlement homes withing the quarter. They were not smiling. I don't blame the parents for wanting to protect their children with arms here. After all, they are occupiers. Most of the Muslim inhabitants, however, seemed unfazed. They were used to it.
I have to wonder at the dedication of these Zionist breeders. What would it take for you to move your children into an area in which you feel you must send armed guards with them?
Parents of the pioneers of the integrated schools in the US sent their children to school with armed guards. Yet, somehow, imposing oneself as a Zionist colonist in an ancient religiously and historically Muslim neighborhood does not seem quite as noble. I do understand why they think it is. I happen to disagree.
Blue Star PR boasts that Israel is "the only country in the world to enter the 21st century with a net gain in it's number of trees." They also brag on the country's advances at irrigation.
It's true. I saw a lot of trees in Israel. These trees, however, are not native, and require a lot of water. The trees planted in Israel are mostly Palm, Pine, and Cedar. They are planted wherever Palestinians have been removed. Changing the landscape both literally and metaphorically parallels the occupation. By bringing in invasive species, the ecosystem is destablized. In fact, pine needles are toxic to the earth they fall on. Palm trees require remarkable amounts of water, especially when planted in such arid soil.
And while water is pumped from miles to make places like Nof Zion look like Palm Springs, Palestinians have to ration and store water on their roofs in black plastic buckets.
A Word on Hope
When we got back to the hotel (after a very, very long day), we asked Ramon what he thought about the whole thing. Ramon is a Christian Palestinian, he is 48, and he has lived here his whole life. His grandfather (who is buried at the Garden of Gesthemene) was the first martyr in Haifa. His son has to reapply for resident status in Jerusalem and his entire family is subject to detainment, imprisonment, and worse, whenever those in power feel like it. And yet, he said that he believes peace can be achieved. Ramon said that it might not be in his lifetime, but his son might one day see it. Dilligence and patience are what he spoke of. "It is harder than using a gun," he said. And, like me, he believes that a two-state solution is not viable. One state with equal rights for all is the only way this thing is going to work. His final comments were filled with "inshAllah," and I could not help but find myself silently aping his prayer.
Tomorrow, we go on to a refugee camp in Bethlehem, and we'll be there overnight. Thank you for keeping up with me. I'll post again in a few days.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Music - Food - Kickball
Thursday 6/18 6:30 Burnett Woods
by the big stone slide
pay what you can
Fancy Dinner Party - hosted by Mrs. Bama Brand
Saturday 6/20 7pm
Bama Brand contact to RSVP and for directions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I am overcome with gratitude to all the people who have helped me meet this goal. My friends, teachers, fellow activists, and people I have never met have donated money. The community effort behind this project has been enormous. Thank you all. I cannot thank you enough.
And even people that aren't psyched about throwing money at me have helped out in other ways. I'm getting a lot of help checking things off of my "things I need" list. My mom helped me get a passport (THANKS MOM!) and my friend Casey from school is loaning me her voice recorder. Thanks everyone! You're so amazing!
Don't forget! Save the date!
taza - july 12 - 8pm - open mic -info
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Thanks for reading!
I guess it's serious now; the blog is up and running. This means I have to go to Palestine/Israel.
In case you didn't know (and a helpful reminder to those who've heard), I've been accepted to a peacekeeping delegation with the Interfaith Peace-Builders. My team of 20 and I will be there from July 25-August 5, living mostly in the West Bank, but staying with both Palestinian and Israeli families. Our project is to monitor US involvement in the area, and my personal goal is to interview as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible. I don't speak Arabic or Hebrew, but I'm sure they'll have translators.
My current list of reporter questions:
-What does your average day look like?
-Where are you originally from, and what got you here today?
-How do you feel about the current conflict? Can it be resolved? How?
Things I still need:
Where I am with it right now: This is one of the most intense things I've ever done. I am half terrified, to be honest. But I think that it's important to take an opportunity to see for myself what most people only read about. And then I can write those articles that people read about, and share my perspective with the world. I am half terrified, and half exhilarated.
I've seen pictures of Gaza, the 30ft walls, the beautiful resistance art, the literal cages people have to stand in for hours in line to get through checkpoints, maybe. The women and men with guns standing guard, the sewage in the streets. I've heard and read the death tolls, the racism, the baiting, the starvation and just so so much carnage. So it's terrifying that I am going to potentially see these things. But it is exhilarating that I get the opportunity to talk to the real people that are being effected by and participating in what the hell is going on over there; that these grandiose political events will finally be contextualized into real lives and faces and ideas.
The only drawback is that this whole thing costs $2000. But! Thanks to a scholarship from the program and some very generous donations/loans, I only need to make $1230! That's only a little over half the original amount!
STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
have generously offered to host a fundraiser.
taza - july 12 - 5pm - open mic -info