Monday, December 10, 2012

Vincent Harding and the truth


Truth is hard to come by in America. It is the land of genocides toward indigenous people, slaves and blacks "freed" but under segregation, as well as Chicanoes (the 1846-48 aggression in Mexico stole a large part of the country from Texas to California and up into Colorado).

The US has much in common, in denial about indigenous people, with Israel. See "Founding amnesias: Native Americans and Palestinians" here. The bond is sanctified by $3 billion in military aid - used to procure weapons and make profits for American weapons-manufacturers, a leading feature of any Presidency and of the war-complex (the military-industrial-Congressial-media-foreign clients/generals purchased through military aid-think tank-academic complex...).

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Swept away by being at last in Gaza (apparently the first time since he was 11 - the Israeli government would have murdered him with a missile on most of the occasions when he could have returned), Khalid Meshal gave a harmful statement about striving to wipe out Israel. No one needs to the swept away, Jewish or, in reality, Palestinian. Everyone's human rights need to be honored in the solution. Nonviolence is the way; Hamas is profoundly a desperate and self-destructive form of resistance (though, once again, Hamas is right about the moral character - an aggression - of the Occupation).

But the passion that goes into Hamas could be transformed by the serious nonviolent movement emerging in the villages of the West Bank and the international Boycott, Divestment and Solidarity movement.

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The violence, apartheid and dispossession/transfer imposed on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is, however, of unfathomable horror. I knew a lot about it before I went. But seeing Israeli soldiers - the only armed force - shoot tear gas canisters (one killed 27 year old Mustafa Tamimi), rubber bullets, stench gas and live ammunition at nonviolent protests and often murder demonstrators in the West Bank was hard to bear. Seeing David Wilder, the emigre from New Jersey, parade around with his Glock and tzitzis on the "Jews-only" streets of central Hebron - Shuhadah Street, for example - waxing fanciful about Judea and Samaria, while Palestinian shops are barricaded, windows above protected by grates against the rocks of settler teenagers, occupants having to go out the back of the house to go roundabout to the store or the cemetery (just across the street out the front door) or the hospital, the great and once bustling bazaar a ghost town and groups of six young Israel soldiers walking endlessly cradling or maneuvering with their weapons - this, too, was hard to bear. See "Janna's song" here.

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What Vincent Harding says is true. We need to oppose oppression by naming it and acting against it.

"Speaking up for Palestinians is not popular." Colleen O'Connor, the Denver Post reporter, wrote yesterday. "But at age 81, veteran civil-rights leader Vincent Harding minces no words. "'Lots of things are not popular,' he said, "but if they are true, they have to be said.'"

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Vincent's concern for the truth motivated his powerful writing of the first draft of Martin Luther King's speech on Vietnam. See "Breaking the Silence" here, here and here. These words are as alive today, about the US in Iraq, or the US and Israel in Palestine as they were then. Particularly in the context of a new movie "Zero Dark Thirty" glorifying/lying about torture from Hollywood - see Glenn Greenwald here on its criminality and ineffectiveness - it is worth saying again what is true.

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Vincent Harding meets with young, nonviolent protestors in West Bank
Posted: 12/09/2012 12:01:00 AM MST
By Colleen O'Connor
The Denver Post

[the program would not reproduce the photograph - see here]

Vincent Harding, chairman of the Veterans of Hope Project at the Iliff School of Theology, just returned from a peace mission to the West Bank. (Joe Amon, The Denver Post)

Speaking up for Palestinians is not popular. But at age 81, veteran civil-rights leader Vincent Harding minces no words. "Lots of things are not popular," he said, "but if they are true, they have to be said."

Harding, a friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., recently returned from a peace-building mission to Israel and the West Bank with a delegation of civil-rights leaders from across the nation.

The group included young activists, educators and clergy, with 12 African-Americans and eight Jews, including Brian Walt, an Ithaca, N.Y., rabbi who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, and Alan Gilbert, a University of Denver professor who teaches conflict resolution and theories of nonviolence.

They met with Palestinians and Israelis who want to end the conflict through nonviolent resistance.

"There are places where Palestinians are not allowed to go in this country, where their ancestors have lived for generations," said Harding, a professor emeritus of religion and social transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

"There are great difficulties in their simply being able to have homes in the area where the Israeli government decided they want Jewish Israeli settlers to be," Harding said. "So there is essentially a system of apartheid."

The trip was the first major international initiative of the Dorothy Cotton Institute, an organization founded in 2010 to promote civil and human rights around the world. It is named for the only woman on King's executive staff. Cotton also was part of the delegation.

Harding, whose Veterans of Hope Project


[the program would not reproduce the photograph - see here]

Vincent Harding, center, visits with a leader in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. [For more on Bassem Tamimi, that leader, see here and here]. Harding will speak Jan. 15 at Regis University about Palestinian nonviolence. (Courtesy of Vincent Harding)

at Iliff promotes nonviolence, will speak Jan. 15 at Regis University about the nonviolent-resistance movement among Palestinians.

All this comes at a cost, however, as Harding struggles to balance his concerns over Palestinian civil rights with his love for the Jewish people.

"There is a long history of anti-Semitism in the Western world," he said. "I know what my Jewish brothers and sisters had to go through for centuries, and to have it focus in such a horrific way in the Holocaust. Then to see what is now developing in a land where they settled to escape from the Holocaust is painful."

In the West Bank, the delegation met nonviolence activist Bassem Tamimi when they visited his village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah.

The delegation attended the weekly nonviolent protest organized by Tamimi and slept in the Tamimi family home on floors and mattresses. After the group returned to the U.S., Tamimi was arrested for a boycott at a market, and one of his relatives, Rushdi Tamimi, was killed in a protest.

"That brought back memories of the nonviolent activists of my time," said Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, a member of the delegation. "They're not perfect people. They're flawed like the rest of us. But they are definitely dedicated and courageous.

"People who want to see a nonviolent resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians owe it to themselves to find out more about what's going on there, and not just accept the American government view: that Israelis, who are good, are on one side, and Palestinians, who are bad, are on the other."

Colleen O'Connor: 303-954-1083, coconnor@denverpost.com or twitter.com/coconnordp

If you want to learn more "life in occupied palestine" by jewish-american anna baltzer is a dvd that describes her experiences supporting the palestinian-led nonviolent resistence movement and documenting human rights abuses in the west bank. it is available at the Denver Public Library.

Jimmy Carter's bestseller, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" is highly readable, also available at the Denver Public Library.

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