Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or vote; Israel's assault on nonviolent protest and the beating of my host Bassem Tamimi




Peter Gibbins, who is working on the relationship of Tolstoy as a Christian anarchist defender of nonviolence and Gandhi and has been a union organizer, is participating in Trick or Vote, the New Era program all over the country in urban areas to engage with those voters whom the Republicans have made a long and dishonorable effort to suppress. This is the renewal of Jim Crow; it needs to be fought, and Trick or Vote is an amusing way to do it. There is also a party afterwards in Denver.

"Alan,

Below are the links to the New Era's trick or vote page for Colorado and a national page that lists trick or vote activities across the country. I just heard a news story breaking down the latest poll numbers from Pew. Obama leads among registered voters but is tied with likely voters. 78% of registered Republicans are likely voters versus only 62% of Democrats. This election is definitely going to come down to turnout.

See here for Denver.

See here nationwide."

***

In Israel Monday, Netanyahu forged a coalition for war with Iran with Lieberman's Yisrael Beteinyu party. See "With Lieberman at his side, Netanyahu's war cabinet is on a one-way track to Iran" from Haaretz here. This made real electorally what was already clear in the cabinet.

Obama is the last obstacle, in an election year, to bombing Iran. He has bravely, a former Mossad chief said last Tuesday, refused to do so. Romney is, among many other corruptions, voluntarily obsequious to Netanyahu and they are both funded by the same casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, who is determined to carry aggression through. See here.

As our delegation saw on the ground in Palestine, the Israeli state's policy is remarkably calibrated to drive out Palestinians. Ironically, the latter are treated as "permanent residents" in the conquered territories while settlers from Brooklyn and New Jersey like David Wilder are treated as "citizens." Israel would certainly use an enlarged war as an excuse for more viciousness toward the Palestinians. I have seen unarmed people attacked ferociously in the village of Nabih Saleh and talked with those who had also been attacked, getting to pick up silver tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, hard as rock, in Budrus and Beilin.

A few days ago, our host in Nabih Saleh, Bassem Tamimi, was among the demonstrators in a supermarket at a settlement. See here and here. The protestors used words and their presence to surprise shoppers. Afterwards, they were beaten, Bassem's ribs broken and he is being held in Israeli jails.

The occupations and the settlements are illegal, the land bifurcated and stolen with a Wall, but nonviolent protest is a "crime"...

Desperate soldiers seek to beat and murder protestors (27 year old Mustafa Tamimi was murdered by a tear gas canister earlier this year - see Janna's song here and here).

A regime which needs to do violence to nonviolent protestors is a reprehensible regime. Everyone should act to stop the violence. Protest - letters at least - to the Israeli embassy would be a good start. That Israeli or American jews are made more secure by such acts is false. These acts are both a crime and counterproductive.

***

In the American election, Obama is better on war with Iran, the settlements, climate change, FEMA, social security, not funneling more money to the .001% - Romney's only program for "jobs," to take away jobs - medicare, medical coverage for everyone than the imperial authoritarian shapeshifter. In fact, this election will mark a yawning divide in terms of the future of America. To do something more about justice for the people of Palestine (and for Jews as well) will take a movement from below. Even to prevent further depredations by American imperialism and drones will take a new civil rights or anti-apartheid movement. In American history, a rights-oriented democracy - one that defends a common good - comes only from below. One should not mistake voting for being the most important political act.

But reelecting Obama is decisive for the future of a common good and minimal decency in America.


***

+972

By Mya Guarnieri |Published October 24, 2012]
Palestinians beaten, arrested during protest at settlement supermarket

Approximately 100 Palestinians and a handful of international activists entered the Rami Levy supermarket in the West Bank settlement of Sha’ar Binyamin Wednesday morning to ‘protest occupation and settler terror’ and to call for the boycott of ‘the occupation and its products.’ Two Palestinians and two internationals were beaten and arrested.


[the program would not reproduce the photograph, see here for the original article)
Activists in Rami Levy supermarket in Shaar Binyamin settlement (photo: flickr/Activestills)

Palestinian and international activists were unarmed. Carrying flags and signs, they entered the supermarket, chanting for freedom. They say that the Israeli police used excessive force to disperse the nonviolent protest.

Activist Abir Kopty, who was at the scene, reported that “as activists exited the building, about forty policemen and soldiers were waiting outside, they attacked physically the demonstrators and fired stun grenades at them, causing several injuries, two of which were taken by ambulance to the hospital.”

Bassem Tamimi, head of Nabi Saleh’s Popular Committee, was among the injured. He reportedly suffered broken ribs as a result of being beaten by Israeli forces as he was arrested.

This protest emphasizes, according to Kopty, that “as long as there is no justice to Palestinians, Israeli and settler daily life can’t continue on as normal.”


[the program would not reproduce the photograph - see here for the original article]
Bassem Tamimi being arrested in the Shaar Binyamin settlement today (photo: flickr/Activestills)

Last week also saw a protest that disrupted the flow of Israelis and settlers everyday life when a group of 50 Palestinian activists blocked Route 443 for half an hour. The road is built on occupied Palestinian land and connects settlements, which the international community considers illegal [a malapropism: they are illegal], to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. To an Israeli driver, Route 443 essentially erases the Green Line and gives the impression that the occupied West Bank is part of the country. The action of blocking the road may have reminded the Israelis who use it that the land 443 runs through is, indeed, occupied.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A response from Hilary Putnam; women and nonviolence in Budrus


***

In response to a sickening statistic about the Israeli public's embrace of apartheid here, Hilary Putnam offered some wise counsel about some movement in another direction.

"Dear Alan,

It is sickening, but the Ha'aretz headline made it sound even worse than it is. The key word is "IF". Although a large majority of Jewish Israelis oppose giving West Bank Arabs the right to vote IF the West Bank is annexed, only 36% support annexing the West Bank, according to the same article, and 50% oppose annexation. (Idiotically, 34% "don't know"–talk about evading responsibility!). Moreover, the Russians are moving closer to the (non-Russian) secular Israelis, which is a hopeful development.

I too tend to despair, but lets not paint the situation worse than it is.

Affectionately always,
Hilary"


"Dear Hilary,

Thank you. I got a sense, more than a sense, of what you must have been dealing with. And all your points are helpful and even comforting. There is a weight to being there which will take months to work through, come to terms with (if I had not been writing as I was there, it would have been even harder to bear).

I have seen some powerful people, including Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian of the Holy Land Trust who wants everyone to heal and thinks of nonviolence deeply in those terms. He has been to Auschwitz and listened to an Israeli guide talking to children about hara (I think) or shit in Arabic, meaning that the same thing - genocide - will happen now and in the future, unless everyone is armed, everyone defends Israel. That could be okay (though it breeds particularism and paranoia), but of course not in the current circumstances. He thinks rightly that most Palestinians who are into nonviolence are for now into it as a political tactic or strategy. And he opposes stone-throwing by children against tanks (one might, but I heard some fierceness in the villages in defending it, David against Goliath). He liked Palestinians refusing for a week to go along with Israel's resetting of the time, a move which he said caused a lot of consternation among Israelis), and is working for a just way out, one of stopping the oppression and permitting healing and human rights for everyone.

I will respond to this more over time.

With great affection,
Alan"

***


Ayed Marrare, a leader of the village committee in Budrus, told us some stories:

“’Are you crazy? You think by your small village, you can change the Israeli government?’” The soldier said.

The first day, Ayed said, we stopped the bulldozer. We surrounded the bulldozer; we jumped on it. Only 3 soldiers were nearby, 5 others in the vicinity to protect them. They had to turn back

The next day, 7 jeeps came. Still, we surrounded the bulldozer. When a crowd of people – drawn from the 1500 people of the village - arrived, the soldiers said they were planning to take bulldozer away. They did.

The next day, they brought more soldiers; we brought more people. “We can do it.”

Children chanted “We can do it.”

***

“One marcher 17 years old was killed (we stood by the grave stone). 200 were arrested.

(Rubber bullets – hard as lead – litter the area). Israel sentenced 150 villagers (10%) to jail for four months.

There was a huge funeral in Budrus. Everyone was crying.

We must keep going.”

***

First, they put up the wall to achieve security. Now they need to make the wall secure.

The wall has become the public mind or spirit of Israel, erasing its hopes of genuine (based on human rights or individual rights) democracy and freedom. In the lead story in Haaretz Monday, “Survey: Most Israeli Jews advocate discrimination against Arab citizens,” Gideon Levy reports that a majority of the Israeli population now shamelessly endorses apartheid in Israel.

“Most of the Jewish public in Israel supports the establishment of an apartheid regime in Israel if it annexes the West Bank. A majority is also explicitly in favor of discrimination against the state’s Arab citizens a survey shows.”

***

The Israeli government has the Adan military camp next to the Wall that cuts the territory of Budrus.

To have settlements, to have a wall, one must “guard” it.

***

Olive trees are the life of the villagers. Land is the life of the villagers.

***

Israel arrested Ayed, a coordinator of the first Popular Committee in Palestine (sometimes with 7 members, sometimes 16). It was a small but representative committee. The State indefinitely detained him.

***

In 1953, in nearby Qatiya, another village originally of 1,000-1,500, some of the Palestinians who were driven out in the first transfer or ethnic cleansing, came back.

***

Tuesday, we saw the abandoned houses of Lifta in the midst of a National Park in Jerusalem. Lifta was a wealthy community, comparatively, allowed by Ben-Gurion who though he saw himself as Joshua, to leave with not so much slaughter.

Above it is Deir Yassin, where the population was massacred. The creation of Israel – a response to European genocide against Jews – was to clear the land of people.

Trees are planted by the Jewish National Fund over the rubble of 53 villages which were destroyed entirely.

***

When they plant a tree for “your” spirit over the home of a Palestinian, what does it do to your spirit?

When you occupy the home in an ethnic cleansing and hear voices, what does that do to your spirit?

***

In Qatiya, Ariel Sharon ordered the soldiers to shoot. They murdered 77 people. That stopped the coming back of people to their homes, the “immigration.”

***

The international press – the BBC - covered the Qatiya massacre. Often it remains silent.

But often, internationals come to support the villagers, for instance, the International Solidarity Movement. Some are wounded. Some like Rachel Corrie and Thomas Hurndall are killed.

***

Ayed reports the limited but real victory in Budrus:

“Protests won 1200 dunims taken from our land, 3000 olive trees were won back. We moved the path of the Wall back.” He contrasts the nonviolent movement – Gandhi, King – with the earlier, misguided violence.

Palestinians rightly believe violent resistance to oppression is just (one might add: if it is directed against oppressors, not against civilians and particularly – as suicide bombs are – children). But they see that it is unsuccessful and also that nonviolence, valuing all lives, and wanting to stop the injustice through mass noncooperation, is strong. It is especially strong because its effectiveness might break the insistence of Israel on militarism and domination.

Some thoughts of Ho Chi Minh have now come also to undergird nonviolence: if you want to kill a revolution, flood it with money. The village did it without money. They are committed to no physical harming.

For if the fear for one’s life cannot overwhelm the mind of the oppressor, then noncooperation and mass resistance have a powerful space to gain some hold, at least to compel negotiation. This is particularly true because naked killing – what Sharon did in Qatiya - if resisted and learned about widely - is horrifying.

This adoption of nonviolence is, in part, a shift in tactical or strategic judgment, one that does not go through all the way to seeing the value of nonviolence as some in this movement, for example Sami Awad, does. And yet the value of nonviolence is learned through action and through meditating on the words, coming to be through the successes of the real movement of nonviolence, to put it in Marx’s idiom. Even Nelson Mandela learned more deeply and creatively the meaning on nonviolence. That is the power and importance of nonviolent struggle.

***

“Now, we need to expand this movement. Justice, peace, dignity and freedom. These will exist forever.”

The demonstrations came daily, They surprised the soldiers, threw them off balance.
Now, there are demonstrations in many villages, still powerful, every Friday. But the soldiers, in some ways, know what to expect.

***

What was the role of the women in the village? Alice Rothchild, a member of our delegation and author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams, asks.

“In Budrus, and in the Middle East,” Ayed replies, “there is a conservative attitude toward women. Women have difficulties.”

“In Budrus, we decide women are half of our power. We open doors to women. We find a new hero in our committee. The media talk to the women, recognizing the change. They concentrate on the women in filming.”

The respect accorded the women in these villages as fighters as well as those who sustain the life of the community, as several people remark, is striking. Nonviolence has opened up a whole new world of participation and equality.

***

The media are big on violence. They come where there is bloodshed. They are bored by nonviolence. Where’s the money in it?

Except for the crucifixion, how would Jesus have been “covered” in Rome?

What Sermon on the Mount…?

It is natural to think of tactical significance and note that the challenge to this long practice of oppression – still powerful in the “West” as well – is valuable in this way, as it is also intrinsically valuable, for it fixes, for a moment, flickering media attention.

***

Ayed said:

“Some reporters asked me: where are your men? They exist, but the camera is looking for the women.

They are not just half the demonstrators. The men have to prove they participate as much and are as brave. So they do their best to protect the women and not be outcompeted by them.

Women did two demonstrations alone. It was in a strong rain.

The men said: you can go back.

They said: no no. You think you are braver than us…”

For earlier posts in this series, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I wil speak at the Boulder Unitarian Church Sunday at 7 pm on Palestine and the Presidential election


I will talk at a forum for the Unitarian Church at 5001 Pennsylvania Avenue in Boulder Sunday evening at 7 about my journey with a delegation of civil rights veterans including Vincent Harding and Dorothy Cotton and jews including Alice Rothchild and Rabbi Brian Walt to the occupied territories, and the Presidential election. The journey, which I have been writing about, was disturbing to all of us and will take a long time to process. In talking with Maeve Conren for KGNU this morning, I spoke of Janna, the 7 year old from Nabih Saleh, whose brave words to Israeli soldiers about her friend Mustafa Tamimi, 17 years old - "why did you kill Mustafa? He was my best friend. I love him" and asking them "why do you laugh?," captures much of what is at issue in the Occupation. See here.

I also have something to say about how America, especially the two parties now in the last throes of an election, is strengthening the side of violence, war, disenfranchisement and dispossession. I will speak to the new and hopeful movement of nonviolent resistance among Palestinians and their Jewish allies. The latter are, unfortunately, still a small group. Ordinary Israelis need to find a way about upholding equal rights and decent treatment for all. See here. And we Americans, too, need a deep turn around in awareness of the facts to do something about this.

The foreign policy debate, a competition about who could support Israel more vehemently (with Romney suddenly seeming to affirm Obama's policies) was, in this respect, sad. Nonetheless, there are also significant differences even on these issues between Obama, who has so far commendably avoided a disastrous aggression against Iran and who understands the grim obstacle to any decent resolution posed by the settlements, and Romney. A vote for Obama, in this respect, is a vote for decency and time. We will still need to develop a movement from below to compel thought and change on these issues.

If Romney is elected President, war and the war the settlements are on Palestinians will grow.

I will also discuss the relationship between third party candidates like Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson and social movements (Occupy, a movement for a decent settlement about the Occupied Territories).

America does not need a larger war in the Middle East provoked by an aggression against Iran. Such a war will wind threateningly over time with Israel currently possessing nuclear weapons and in the throes of fear and mania...(see here).

Palestine seems far away. But the dangers to Americans posed by the wrong choices here are deep.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A sickening statistic: 58% of Israeli Jews support apartheid in Israel



***

Bilal Tamimi sent me a note of clarification of Tuesday’s post: Janna’s song here.

“Just a small note: the name of the man who was killed is Mustafa Tamimi 27 years old.

The words of the poem Janna was speaking are:

All your armies all your fighters?
All your armies, all your fighters
All your tanks, and all your soldiers
Against a boy ..holding a stone
Standing there ... all alone
In his eyes ..I see the sun
In his smile ..I see the moon
And I wonder, I only wonder
Who is weak, and who is strong?
Who is right, and who is wrong?
And I wish, I only wish
That the truth has a tongue

Bilal Tamimi”

Stone-throwing against tanks is David against Goliath…

***

In the lead story in Haaretz Monday, “Survey: Most Israeli Jews advocate discrimination against Arab citizens,” Gideon Levy reports that a majority of the Israeli population now shamelessly endorses apartheid in Israel. (October 23, 2012).

“Most of the Jewish public in Israel supports the establishment of an apartheid regime in Israel if it annexes the West Bank. A majority is also explicitly in favor of discrimination against the state’s Arab citizens a survey shows.”

This is the other side of an Israel of freedom and democracy for Jews, a Jewish state. It is, in a sad Palestinian witticism, a democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Palestinians.

This regime, startlingly, mirrors the racism Europeans tended to practice toward Jews in the 19th and early 20th century. Why Jews tolerate such an attitude is hard, at least for me as a longstanding anti-racist and anti-fascist, to understand. And I have, these past two weeks, been startled at the facts on the ground – see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Gideon Levy reports the survey carefully, but comments on what this means in a separate editorial below. I give his article with a few brief comments and then the editorial. This is not what others say about Israel; it is the sad self-conception of a majority of Israeli Jews.

“The survey conducted by Dialog on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, exposed anti-Arab, ultra-nationalist views espoused by a majority of Israeli Jews. The survey was commissioned by the New Israel Fund’s Yisraela Goldblum Fund and is based on a sample of 503 interviewees. The questions were written by a group of academia-based peace and civil rights activists. Dialog is headed by Tel Aviv University Prof. Camila Fuchs.

The majority of the Jewish public, 59 percent, wants preference for Jews over Arabs in admission to jobs in government ministries. Almost half the Jews, 49 percent, want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab ones, 42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children.

A third of the Jewish public wants a law barring Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset and a large majority of 69 percent objects to giving 2.5 million Palestinians the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank.”

Even Gideon Levy calls Palestinians Arabs until this point. But the term is dangerous. It suggests, falsely, as Israel’s leaders have suggested, that they can go be with the other Arabs and leave the land of Israel – falsely asserted to be a land without people – to the Jews.

But Palestinians are not generic Arabs. They are Palestinians whose homes were on that very land. This is the injustice that Israel must deal with – make peace about – and instead, is striving increasingly for a second Transfer. Netanyahu wants, as Jimmy Carter noted Monday, a one state solution, an apartheid state or a state without Palestinians...

Levy continues:

“A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter – 24 per cent – believes separate roads are ‘a good situation’ and 50 per cent believe they are a ‘necessary situation.’

Almost half – 47 percent – want part of Israel’s Arab population to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority and 36 percent support transferring some of the Arab towns from Israel to the PA [Palestinian Authority] in exchange for keeping some of the West Bank settlements.

Although the territories have not been annexed, most of the Jewish public (58%) already believes Israel practices apartheid against Arabs. Only 31 percent think such a system is not in force here. Over a third (38 percent) of the Jewish public wants Israel to annex the territories with settlements on them, while 48% object.”

One should honor here the 48% who remember enough of the ideas of equal freedom, democracy, and decency to object.

“The survey distinguishes among various communities in Israeli society – secular, observant, religious, ultra-Orthodox and former Soviet immigrants. The ultra-Orthodox, in contrast to those who described themselves as religious or observant, hold the most extreme positions against Palestinians. An overwhelming majority (83%) of Haredim are in favor of segregated roads and 71 percent are in favor of transfer.

The ultra-Orthodox are also the most anti-Arab group – 70 percent of them support legally barring Israeli Arabs from voting, 82 percent support preferential treatment from the state toward Jews, and 95 percent are in favor of discrimination against Arabs in admission to workplaces.”

The ultra-Orthodox do not serve in the army, a source of tension with others in Israeli society. Men are exalted, women are to care for children. Members of the sect often, like the New Jersey “pilgrim” David Wilder, do no work except arm against, speak against and fear Palestinians. A sign in Jerusalem says “Guns and Moses,” and mostly others carry the guns for which this sect exhibits such zeal…

Levy continues:

“The group classifying itself as religious is the second most anti-Arab. New immigrants from former Soviet states are closer in their views of Palestinians to secular Israelis, and are far less radical than the religious and Haredi groups. However, the number of people who answered ‘don’t know’ in the ‘Russian’ community was higher than any other.

The Russians register the highest rate of satisfaction with life in Israel (77 percent) and the secular Israelis the lowest – only 63 percent. On average, 69 per cent of Israelis are satisfied with life in Israel.

Secular Israelis appear to be the least racist – 68% of them would not mind having Arab neighbors in their apartment building, 73% percent would not mind Arab students in their children’s class and 50 per cent believe Arabs should not be discriminated against in admission to workplaces.

The survey indicates that a third to half of Jewish Israelis want to live in a state that practices formal, open discrimination against its Arab citizens. An even larger majority wants to live in an apartheid state if Israel annexes the territories.”

In the foreign policy Presidential debate, both Obama and Romney stressed that Israel is the main US ally in the Middle East. Neither mentioned the Palestinians or the settlements in the West Bank (Obama did point out Romney’s “visit” to Israel as a fundraising event – his subservience, like Netanyahu’s to the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson). Many politicians of both parties zealously advocate for Likud expansionism (the Republicans, who have abandoned a two state solution, in the lead).

Do they mean to support, for American purposes, an apartheid state? Obama once tried to stop the expansion of settlements. On this issue (as on Iran), if pressed from below, he offers some hope of sanity.

Levy adds:

“The survey conductors say perhaps the term ‘apartheid’ was not clear enough to some interviewees. However, the interviewees did not object strongly to describing Israel’s character as ”apartheid” already today, without annexing the territories.

That is worth taking in: ”the interviews did not object strongly to describing Israel’s character as ‘apartheid’ already today, without annexing the territories.”

“Only 31 percent objected to calling Israel an ’apartheid state’ and said ’there’s no apartheid at all.’”

Sadly, I have seen and described the reality in previoius posts that these Jewish Israelis live behind a wall of their own illusions. Those who endorse apartheid are doing something just as bad.

Levy continues:

“In contrast, 39 percent believe apartheid is practiced ‘in a few fields’; 19 percent believe ‘there’s apartheid in many fields’ and 11 percent do not know.

The ‘Russians’ as the survey calls them, display the most objection to classifying their new country as an apartheid state. A third of them – 35 percent – believe Israel practices no apartheid at all, compared to 28 percent of the secular and ultra-Orthodox communities, 27 percent of the religious and 30 percent of the observant Jews who hold that view. Altogether, 58 percent of all the groups believe Israel practices apartheid ‘in a few fields’ or ‘in many fields.’

Interviews were asked whether ‘a famous American author [who] is boycotting Israel, claiming it practices apartheid should be boycotted or invited to Israel. About half (48 per cent said she should be invited to Israel, 23 percent suggest no response and only 15 percent call to boycott her.

Here is Gideon Levy’s editorial from p. 2 of yesterday’s Haaretz:

Apartheid without shame or guilt

We're racists, the Israelis are saying, we practice apartheid and we even want to live in an apartheid state. Yes, this is Israel.

By Gideon Levy | Oct.23, 2012 | 1:32 AM |

The program would not reproduce the photograph:
Arab Israeli activists protest an upcoming wine festival to be held in the courtyard of Be'er Sheva's oldest mosque. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz

As elections draw near, the season of public opinion surveys is upon us. But here is a survey that is more disturbing and significant in its revelations than those informing us whether Yair Lapid is taking off or Ehud Barak is crashing in the polls.

This one lays bare an image of Israeli society, and the picture is a very, very sick one. Now it is not just critics at home and abroad, but Israelis themselves who are openly, shamelessly, and guiltlessly defining themselves as nationalistic racists.

We're racists, the Israelis are saying, we practice apartheid and we even want to live in an apartheid state. Yes, this is Israel.

Among its terrifying results, the survey discovers a certain innocent candor. The Israelis admit this is what they are and they're not ashamed of it. Such surveys have been held before, but Israelis have never appeared so pleased with themselves, even when they admit their racism. Most of them think Israel is a good place to live in and most of them think this is a racist state.

It's good to live in this country, most Israelis say, not despite its racism, but perhaps because of it. If such a survey were released about the attitude to Jews in a European state, Israel would have raised hell. When it comes to us, the rules don't apply.

The "Jewish" part of "Jewish democracy" has won big time. The "Jewish" gave "democracy" a knockout, smashing it to the canvas. Israelis want more and more Jewish and less and less democracy. From now on don't say Jewish democracy. There's no such thing, of course. There cannot be. From now on say Jewish state, only Jewish, for Jews alone. Democracy - sure, why not. But for Jews only.

Because that's what the majority wants. Because that's how the majority defines its state. The majority doesn't want Arabs to vote for the Knesset, Arab neighbors at home or Arab students at school. Let our camp be pure - as clean of Arabs as possible and perhaps even more so.

The majority wants segregated roads in the West Bank and does not flinch in the face of the implications. Even the historic connotation does not bother it in the slightest. It wants discrimination in the workplace and it wants transfer. Enough with the whitewashing and pretense. This is what we want. Because that's the way we are.

The right will probably attack the New Israel Fund for commissioning the survey. Gevalt! It will screech. Leftists, Israel-haters. But the right's hollering will not change the result. This was done by a reliable, well-known polling firm. Besides, what's wrong with the survey? What didn't we know before, apart from the loss of shame? Let the right prove that this is not the way we are, that most Israelis want to live with Arabs. That most of them see Arabs as people like themselves, their equals in rights and opportunities. Let's see them prove it wrong. That would be a true cause for celebration. “

Amen! But it will take a big movement from below, in Israel and here in the United States, to produce such a transformation.

“The survey," Levy continues, “does not only confront Israelis with their present, but with their future as well. This appears to be the survey conductors' main goal. It tells them: You wanted settlements, you wanted occupation, you want Netanyahu and you've done nothing for the two-state solution, and it's died. Now let's see what's the alternative.

The alternative, as every infant knows, is one state. One state? Most Israelis say it will be an apartheid state, yet are doing nothing to prevent it. Some of them even want it. They don't even ask, Where are we going? Where are we being led? What's the vision for the next 10, 20 years? Well, if all goes well, if all continues the way it is now, the Israelis know the answer and it's a bitter one indeed.

Until then, the image of Israel 2012 is this: We don't want Arabs, don't want Palestinians, don't want equality, and the hell with all the rest.
Values-shmalues, morals-shmorals. Democracy and international law - those are matters for anti-Semites, not us. We will vote for Netanyahu again, recite that we're the only-democracy-in-the-Middle-East and wail that the whole world is against us.”

***

And here is the report on the poll from the Guardian:

Israeli poll finds majority in favour of 'apartheid' policies

Two-thirds say Palestinians should not be allowed to vote if West Bank was annexed, while three in four favour segregated roads

• Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
• guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 23 October 2012 16.14 EDT

[the program would not reproduce the photograph]
Israeli soldiers walk past a settlement in the West Bank. Almost six in 10 Israeli Jews said the country already practised apartheid. Photograph: Majdi Mohammed/AP

More than two-thirds of Israeli Jews say that 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank should be denied the right to vote if the area was annexed by Israel, in effect endorsing an apartheid state, according to an opinion poll reported in Haaretz.

Three out of four are in favour of segregated roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, and 58% believe Israel already practises apartheid against Palestinians, the poll found.

A third want Arab citizens within Israel to be banned from voting in elections to the country's parliament. Almost six out of 10 say Jews should be given preference to Arabs in government jobs, 49% say Jewish citizens should be treated better than Arabs, 42% would not want to live in the same building as Arabs and the same number do not want their children going to school with Arabs.

A commentary by Gideon Levy, which accompanied the results of the poll, described the findings as disturbing. "Israelis themselves … are openly, shamelessly and guiltlessly defining themselves as nationalistic racists," he wrote.

"It's good to live in this country, most Israelis say, not despite its racism, but perhaps because of it. If such a survey were released about the attitude to Jews in a European state, Israel would have raised hell. When it comes to us, the rules don't apply."

The poll was conducted by a public opinion firm, Dialog, which interviewed 503 people out of an Israeli Jewish population of just under 6 million.

Talk of the possible annexation of the West Bank, or the main settlement blocks within it, has increased in recent months as expectations of a negotiated settlement to the conflict have sunk to an all-time low. Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, recently argued for the annexation of land between the internationally recognised Green Line and the Israeli-built separation barrier.

The poll results will bolster the claim of Israel's Arab citizens, who make up 20% of the population, that they suffer from racist discrimination. Almost half the poll's respondents said Israeli Arabs should be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, and a third said that Arab towns in Israel should be moved to the PA's jurisdiction in exchange for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

According to the Haaretz report, the survey found that ultra-Orthodox Jews held the most extreme views about Arabs, with 70% supporting a legal ban on voting rights and 95% backing discrimination against Arabs in the workplace.”

The noxious practices our delegation has seen on the ground steam up into the bigotry of most Israeli Jews. These are not inheritors of the slaves who left Egypt to find freedom. Instead, they worship kings. They are not the prophets who stand up for justice and truth.

Will they really live safely with a war on Iran?

With an apartheid state in which the Palestinians will soon outnumber them?

Will they be pressed, losing the large and inevitable conflict that will follow Israeli (or Romney) aggression, to use nuclear weapons?

For all of us, radiation knows no borders.

They are new, self-destructive worshippers of imitation Pharoahs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Janna's song



We are watching the demonstrators march at Nabih Saleh toward the checkpoint. The armored vehicles come forward, firing tear gas canisters. Explosions come near the walkers. Some kids try to get down a hill near the checkpoint. There are many explosions.

One marcher is hit in the stomach, one in the leg (both will be all right.) At least one live bullet is fired. Soldiers chase some of the kids, grabbing one on a hill side.

This time, they do not fire the skunk gas (chemicals with an odor of skunk – one wonders which of the chemists did the flavor sample…) as they did a week ago, in a stream into the rain water collecting in the black containers above the houses. Israel limits the water pressure for Palestinian homes so they are all marked by such containers.

There is also not enough water. The state of Israel diverts the water from Palestinians in the Occupied Territories for soldiers and settlers. And the soldiers ruin the last water, the rain…

***

The mother sitting near me, speaks of her sister’s son, Mohammed Tamimi, 17 years old. He protested the Israeli occupation. The soldiers fired a tear gas canister at him. It hit him in the face, his body soaked with blood from the impact. The soldiers took him to a hospital but he died.

***

Janna is 7 years old. She is brave. She walks out to sing her mourning to the soldiers. Why did you kill Mohammed? He was my best friend, she calls out to them. I love him.

The soldiers laugh. Why are you laughing? she cries at them.

Is to be a soldier of the Occupation to give up being human?

Why are you laughing, she asks?

Bilal Tamimi records the village with his camera. He has the only one. He is often harassed by the soldiers, his camera smashed. But he gets another. Here is his film of her speaking.

***

She sings a song which includes the phrase:

Who is right, who is wrong.

She points to them when she sings: who is wrong.

***

The Israeli government talks of "terrorists." The Army of the Occupation is the terrorists. No soldier near Nabih Saleh has been attacked. No settler has been attacked since 2002

The Palestinians for a time pursued a tactic of suicide bombing – one in which young people blew themselves up and murdered the civilians near them. There were not so many but each act was a riveting and awful crime. This crime against innocents also strengthened reactionary politicians who sought to dispossess even further the Palestinians.

A zeal to oppose "Islamic terrorism" can, however, blind one to he facts on the ground. Israel is an occupying army. Israel is forcing, day by day, Palestinians from the territories, brutalizing, murdering, dispossessing, denying the right to build a home, arresting children in the night for long detentions – each act is designed to drive the Palestinians from their land. One has but to look...

***

Some of our group met with the settler David Wilder in Hebron (I was among those who did not). He wore tzitzis (Jewish prayer strings) and a Glock (a big pistol in his back pocket). He was from New Jersey. American Jews are often the most fanatic as Mel Brooks might say.

Many of the 700,000 settlers are economic – taking advantage of lavish subsidies by the State to escape high housing prices gouged in Israel itself. The settlers get into a modern, red roofed gated community (the red roofs and the niceness of the houses and streets contrasts with the black water tanks and broken down streets of the occcupied).

The Wall is bigger than the ordinary gate. The settlers are well guarded by soldiers. When they attack Palestinians, the Army protects them. There is, on matters essential to personal security, no rule of law for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Wilder carries a Glock.

***

Within the settler community in Hebron, those of us outside on the bus see 6 soldiers with big guns walk by. The Ethiopian in front holds the gun loosely. The last fondles the trigger.

The place is an armed camp, a bomb waiting to go off. A young man with a kippah (a hat worn by religious Jews) and a prayer book walks by lost in thought.

The soldiers come back up to the road from around the block. They are practicing - assuming positions - to deter an urban attack.

Another young man with a kippah walks by, talking on a cell phone. Looking at him, except for all the guns, it could be anywhere in the world...

***

The patrol is 24 hours, walking around with guns. The settler tells some from our delegation that he takes the gun off when he goes to sleep.

This settler community is partially uninhabited. These are “ideological settlers.” The state of Israel and wealthy American Jews have put them here. They do not work. They strut around with their big guns. They fear what is under the bed.

It takes work to be a religious Jew in Brooklyn or New Jersey, coming to settle “Judea and Samaria” with guns and claiming to be the true inhabitants. They live a murderous and bizarre fantasy.

“Guns and Moses” a t-shirt reads aptly in East Jerusalem. But who is Pharoah?

The settlers have nothing else to do...

It is work to be evil. It is much easier to be human. That is the point of nonviolence, of recognizing the humanity of those who do evil while breaking their possibility of doing it through mass noncooperation.

***

Later in the day, Issa (the Arabic name for Jesus) takes us through the old market in downtown Hebron. This is the one settler development within a Palestinian city. It is in the center of it, blocking Palestinians from crossing and making of the market a ghost town.

Palestinians sell fruits and vegetables, and shawls and dresses beautifully knitted from the villages; children surround us with their few items, desperate to sell. They are all magisterial hawkers, who refuse, if they can, to take no for an answer.

There is wire up above. It is to catch the stones and urine bombs and feces that settlers or the children of settlers throw down on the market. Israel provides no restaining law for the settlers or their children.

The Palestinians have title to their shops going back to the Ottomans and the British mandate. They can sue to keep the stores that are closed and their homes in the Israeli courts. Sometimes in a memory of the rule of law, they succeed.

But the army confiscates properties and builds roads and barricades. Though the parents have property, they are but “permanent residents” (the Occupiers, though new, dare to determine who has citizenship). Even if Palestinians do not give up and fight to keep the land (many leave), their children can not.

***

It is an Occupation. The army has closed many shops. Alice Rothchild who has been here before tells us that it is steadily worse.

Issa says: when I was a small boy, my father took me, dangling from his hand, to this market. There were chickens everywhere. The crowd was thick.

All the shops are now boarded up by the Israeli Army. One sad group of caged chickens hunkers down away from the street.

Few shoppers come through.

Many stall keepers try to reach out to us to come and buy.

***

Later, we are shown by Nadav, a veteran soldier from the IDF who is part of Breaking the Silence, along the Jews-only road. Issa cannot walk on these streets.

The stores are shut. Some Palestinians live behind windows covered with grates to protect against the settlers' stones, and go out the back to walk around to the stores, to get to the hospital, or to take 20 minutes to pass to the cemetery across the Jews-only boulevard behind.

Nadav, too, and others among the 800 veterans (Breaking the Silence has grown from an initial 60, each testifying to their experiences as soldiers), tell about the facts on the ground.

***

An officer told Nadav: we are to “make our presence felt.” When he was assigned to Hebron in 2008, he was ordered at 2 in the morning to go out and “map the houses.” "Mapping" - he rousted people, found their identifications, counted them, took their pictures...

None were suspected of terrorism.

After two weeks, he realized that no one collected the pictures.

The officers said: we have occupied them for 45 years. We must every day “make our presence felt.”

***

The soldiers parade in the Jews-only section, pantomiming attacks with their guns. One day, some such soldiers may go crazy and shoot.

Recall Rabbi Baruch Goldstein from Brooklyn who with a machine gun came to the Mosque in Hebron, near the tomb of the Patriarchs, on Ramadan in 1994 and murdered 29 people, wounding 129 others. See here. The American connection here is fierce.

Goldstein is a hero to some settlers. Their piety is written on a sign up over the military barracks across the street from our bus. They are fighting for Judea and Samaria from New Jersey and Brooklyn whence they have returned.

In 1998, the army removed a shrine to Goldstein’s casket. The settlers then moved the casket, continue to “worship" it.

The members of Breaking the Silence do not, as a position, disbelieve in Israel. They take no position on how to settle the conflict. They see and therefore oppose the Occupation.

***

Jews are fearful from the Holocaust. Every Israeli child is taught here and in visiting Auschwitz and Birgenau in Austria and other camps that Palestinians or Arabs (the identification is so one will not notice what Israelis do to Palestinians) will commit a Holocaust again. (h/t Sami Awad)

Can the Holocaust be used to justify this?

To reach the Israelis is difficult. Many live in fear. This morning (October 23), Haaretz publishes a front page lead: most Israelis believe in racial discrimination. They do not want equality.

"Democracy" is for Jews. "Free speech" is for Jews. Citizenship in the State - David Wilder can come from New Jersey and get it, the Palestinians who are dispossessed while living on their farms or who were driven out as displaced persons (400,000 within Israel) or abroad (6.6 million) cannot.

Even Palestinian citizens of Israel (a comparatively small number within Israel) cannot enter many areas. They do not have the rights of Mr. Wilder with his Glock and tzitzis.

***

Mohammed is dead, and village by village, others are too.

Some of the villagers have tried violence – one of the leaders tells of a woman who became a fighter in Fatah early in the Occupation. But they think now of the power of nonviolence. They are against the Occupation, not Jews.

They want to live together with the Jews in peace.

***

The Israeli government knows we are in Nabih Salah. Perhaps they do not exercise as much violence this week because of the presence of internationals, Americans, civil rights leaders.

Janna is heartbroken for the loss of her best friend. She speaks to the soldiers in the words of the prophets. Perhaps they cannot recognize the truth from a small girl. Perhaps they laugh nervously, unable to face the crimes that they and those who send them daily commit.

Janna’s question: Why did you kill Mohammed? He was my best friend, lingers, unanswered on the air...


*Here and here are some of Bilal's weekly films of the demonstrations in which one can see with one’s eyes who is to be feared, who has guns, who acts the part of Pharoah. They are hard to bear. Bilal has been beaten for making them.

For previous posts about the trip, see here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What is autism among boys?



We are in Nabih Saleh on Friday, sitting in a little plaza, waiting for the demonstration at noon. Some boys are playing together, joking, touching each other. As James Turner, my friend from Cornell, points out to me, one of the boys is autistic.

It has to be pointed out. He is just one of the boys.

***

I had an older brother Peter who was called autistic (I am not sure what they knew of autism in the 1940s but he had little ability to move or respond). My mother tried very hard to raise him, but could not. He died shortly after I was born. She lived with this. She did not tell me about him. I found out about Peter only after many years.

***

Sometimes I have heard, for example, in large farm families, little boys and girls who are autistic live long and happy lives. Sometimes they can communicate strongly emotionally and intellectually. Sometimes, as my student Michael Neil has written, their contribution is mainly emotional, one of bringing out empathy, compassion, social connectedness or solidarity, and playfulness.

It is not a given for us to be or to become fully human. Different societies tend to bring out or place in shadow different aspects.

The qualities of compassion and playfulness are often undervalued in an empire, in a society which committed genocide against indigenous people, which practiced slavery and whose founders were mostly slave-owners, which has been repaired, to an extent, by movements from below over time.

***

The indigenous people of Palestine are hopeful. One American reporter asked one of these villagers how long they had been here. “See that valley. I saw Adam and Eve down there,” he joked (h/t Amira Hass).

In the villages, they are connected to the land, people of the land.

***

There is a hospitality here, a welcoming of visitors, an exchange of friendship. Many are embittered by Israel’s two transfers. But just as many, particularly in the villages if the Occupation is stopped, are open to friendship and living together.

Some of the villagers had been proud of violent struggle, of how one of the first woman in Fatah was from the village. But violent resistance also gives tools to the oppressor. They can use the threat of violence to suppress you with far more violence.

In contrast, mass nonviolent resistance surprises the opponent, throws him off his game. The world witnessed that in Arab Spring, in Occupy, in the indignados in Spain and the fighters in Athens. Some of this was stirred, too, by Palestinian intifadas.

These villagers spoke about how they are committed to nonviolence as a better way. They hate the Occupation but not jews.

***

5 boys in one family welcomed us into their homes for the night. They made sure we had blankets, tea, asked us about food, stayed up with some of us till midnight in their exuberance.

The sense of hospitality and kindness runs deep in Palestinian families,

Their parents welcomed us further in the morning.

***

The call to prayer sounds through the village.

***

At the plaza, here are boys, laughing, touching. There is no unwelcoming of one who is a little unlike the others. He is family.

It is a sign of a comfort in a society, of kindness.

I look at them. Tears roll down my cheeks.

Friday, October 19, 2012

in the village of Budrus



“On our way to Budrus
with our minds
set ”

Vincent Harding leads many voices on our bus

“on freedom...”

Recalling the buses of the civil rights movement, we are visiting Palestine to join with/learn from the struggle for freedom of poor Palestinian farmers.

***

The wall runs through the Occupied Territories. Yesterday we went on the bus to Beilin, the home of a thousand people which the wall cut.

For 7 years, people demonstrated every Friday against the wall. They pursued nonviolence. They oppose the settlements and the Occupation, not Jews (they welcome Jews who support their struggle like Anarchists against the wall and some of us).

Some times they demonstrated each day, surrounded and stopped bulldozers.

The villagers pursued a case in the Isreali High Court and finally achieved an abatement of the Wall which was moved many yards further away. They saved hundreds of dunims of land.

At at early demonstration, the IDF shot and killed five people. The filmmaker of "Five Broken Cameras” was wounded several times and in a coma after his last broken camera for four months.

***

The murders are behind the Israeli silence about the Wall (except for Amira Hass, with whom we met, and some others in Haaretz). Israelis often forget they have blocked off, screeened out and wrought violence on the non-people.

The Palestians are amazingly kind and hospitable. The villagers say over and over that their enemy is the Occupation, not the Jews.

Where are Israelis who say such words?

It is good to meet people in Anarchists against the Wall or know of Rabbis for Human Rights who stand with Palestinians.

“Good Germans,” “good Israelis”…

***

Ayad takes us near the wall. We must stay out of the last roadway, Israeli tanks and trucks sometimes barrel along it. We move through the dusty, stony undergrowth.

There, he points out is a silver tear gas canister. A small bullet.

And there a rubber bullet. Each is hard as rock. If you are hit by one, it will tear your flesh. If you are hit by one in the wrong place, it will kill you.

Ayad warns us not to pick them up.

Children are playing among us, some picking up or moving the shells gingerly with their feet.

***

What are the children learning?

That their parents with great courage protest the Occupation. That they organize nonviolently, even gradually learning the names of King and Gandhi. That they hate the Occupation, not jews.

That adults are killed for protesting.

The parents have some hope of teaching nonviolence. But the the Isreali soldiers act as enemies of humanity. There is a conflict of lessons…

The parents act nonviolently.

That children are arrested in the night by soldiers with AK 47s who come to their house, hold them indefinitely, torture them.

The danger of the shells, I sense, continues afterwards, with the danger of further explosions, further deaths.

The danger to the spirit is also great.

***

It is illegal for Palestinians to congregate in groups of more than 10. That is the “reason” why Israel fires its weapons - its American weapons, $3 billion a year aid from the US government no matter who is President, to be purchased from American companies, for instance, tear gas canisters and rubber bullets – on peaceful – nonviolent – protesters.

Perhaps the Israeli companies/government makes the skunk bombs, the chemicals which you can't get out of your clothes, washing them day after day, for days.

***

There is no freedom of speech or assembly for Palestinians.

Israel is a democracy for Jews and a Jewish state for Palestinians and the impoverished and even less recognized Bedouins.

Israel is no democracy for Palestinians.

***

The Wall has eyes. Three cameras. They can photograph into homes 5 kilometers off. Women do not dress comfortably in their own homes to avoid the prying eyes.

The IDF sends outs its troops to arrest children at night. Sometimes they have photographs, often they just round up "the usual suspects."

The children are tried in military “courts.” They are held indefinitely. They are initially there for 4 days before they ar even acknowledged to a military court, whereas a settler’s child, arrested for a similar offense, must appear in a civilian court within 24 hours. They are not informed of the right to remain silent. They are tortured.

***

Ayad, a leader of the village, was arrested and sentenced to six years in jail.

***

We climb some rocks near the bus. We come to the tomb of Al-Shheed [the martyr] Basim Abo Rahmh. Basim was a peaceful and friendly man. He was a family man. He flew kites. His children knew all the other children. At a nonviolent demonstration, he was killed by an Israeli/American canister.

The silver canisters litter the ground near the wall. Ayad has some in his home.

There isn’t a single canister near the homes of the settlers.

No settler has been felled by a Palestinian.

Sometimes, children throw rocks at tanks.

What crimes have these people committed?

***

They demonstrated. They raised signs.

***

What crimes has the Israeli government committed? They have stolen land, driven people out, detained people (including children) indefinitely, tortured, and murdered.

They have put up a wall to keep half the population under Israel’s control out of mind for the citizens who are but half of Israel. They have worked to keep the eyes of the world off the Palestinians.

They have lied to themselves that Palestinians are not human,

When did Palestinians cease to have human rights?

Who are you going to believe, the representatives of Israel, American politicians and the Israel lobby say, me or your lying eyes?

***

Someone says: “Israel built a wall to have ‘security.’ And now they have to secure the wall.”

An Israeli General was named Adan. There is Adan Military Camp by the wall near Budrus.

What may Palestinians do? They may not throw rocks against the tanks. They may not demonstrate peacefully against the Occupation.

They may be silent and go home.

They may be silent and leave (“self-deport” in Mitt Romney’s phrase).

They may be silent and die.

They walk, Friday after Friday, against great violence to protest the Occupation.

I look again at the silver canisters, the hard black rubber bullets in the bushes. So many have died.

Settlers sometimes – out of fear and racism – take out their guns and shoot children. Settlers sometimes burn the olive trees (they pray to heaven, a Palestinian says. Why do they burn these trees that pay to heaven?). The IDF says it is there to protect the settlers against “terrorism.”

When Israeli soldiers are not themselves terrorists, they protect the terrorists when they shoot children.

***

A merry 7 year old girl joins us and some in our delegation give her peace and Martin Luther king buttons.

What do the children learn when their parents must demonstrate every week at such costs? When some are killed? When some are taken away and detained?

When the children are taken away themselves and detained under the Israeli military prison system?

When the fathers and mothers cannot protect them?

***

We take pictures over the wall. This is a desolate, stony place, with a small group of Palestinian villagers. On the hills over the wall, there are gleaming, modern settlements.

They have a good water supply. Israel has stolen the water of the Palestinians) as Amira Hass, whom we met, reminds us in Haaretz. The water supply for Palestinians is restricted. In the city, there are black tanks on the roofs to catch the rain, marking, along with poverty and the broken sidewalks, Palestinian houses.

Even the houses of wealthy Palestinians in Ramallah have such tanks.

One cannot flush toilet paper in the city or the villages.

***

There is no place in Palestinian territory without settlements.

The hills are decorated with Israeli houses (today we drive through Modin on the way to Budrus, and look down the hill toward the Wall, and Beilin).

The settlement is illegal.

Down in the valley under the wall, we stand with the poor Palestinian farmers who often at the price of their lives, demonstrate nonviolently against the Occupation.

Palestinians in the territories are but “permanent residents” according to their Occupiers. Are these not the ghettoes?

***

Who is Pharoah here?

Who is Moses with a vision of a promised land?

***

It is easy to get into the Territories, hard ever to leave. The line is short at the check point going in. Guard your passport to emerge through the long lines on the way out…

From Budrus near Tel Aviv, standing on the stones over the graveyard, one can see the Mediterranean, a hint of green under the flaming sky of evening, 35 kilometers off.

A little more than 20 miles, a lifetime away.

The parents here cannot go to the sea. The parents here cannot take their children to the sea.

***

The maker of the film “Five Broken Cameras” was shot several times. After a tear gas canister struck him and he had to have the stitches out of his chest, he applied for and received permission to go to Israel. He applied for and received permission, for that one day, to take his children to the sea.

***

We come to Ayad’s home. There are 14 sheep and goats eating. A mother has a little black and white one.

The life of the farmer continues despite the uprooting, the transfer, the occupation.

Reverend Sekou wants to ride a donkey.

The sheep clump together. They are eating.


For previous posts on the visit of the Interfaith Peace Brigade/Dorothy Cotton Institute delegation, see here, here, here, here and here.


The Burning of the Olive Trees


On our way to pick olives with Iyad, a leader of the nonviolent popular resistance movement in Budrus, we walk past the graveyard. One is the grave of a 17 year old killed in a first demonstration against the Wall and the seizing of the town’s land and olive trees. His marker is the same as everyone else’s except for the Arab word shadeed (martyr) and an indication in paint of the Palestinian colors.

***

Hadra is the name of an olive tree. It is 1,500 years old. When you ask for Hadra in the village, people will direct you to the olive tree, not to the old woman of that name.

Another olive tree in the North of Palestine is 5,000 years old.

***

Olive trees, they say, by the old houses are those where Jesus played as a boy.

Olive trees, in the Quran are holy. God will damn you twenty times if you cut down an olive tree.

If you plant an olive tree on your own property and then uproot it, God will damn you twenty times.

Olive trees are holy in the Torah. The Rabbis for Human Rights joined the demonstrations in Budrus. In the Israeli courts, they have also protested the burning of olive trees.

***

There were 300 olive trees outside the Wall in Budrus. The villagers asked to pick the olives. The IDF (The Israel “Defense” Forces} said: “no problem.”

The Occupation gives an old woman or an old man one day to pick the olives. And no one is allowed to care for the trees.

***

Hadra has beautiful silvery leaves. She grows around stones and rocks. She has holes (they say with heatbreak over the death of Mohammed).

The fig says: I weep leaves down to mourn the prophet. You do nothing.

The olive replies: I have holes in my heart.

***

Arabs say: if you have an olive tree and flour, you can make a life for a family.

(My family is allergic to butter and, since living in Spain for a year in 1999-2000, relies on olive oil).

What does it mean that the olive trees are burned?

***

Going to harvest your olives is an act of resistance.

From their fancy houses, settlers often shoot at people as they harvest their own olives. The settlers seek to take the life and breath of the Palestinians while the IDF protects them. But they call Palestinians “terrorists.”

Joseph, a young rabbi from Jewish Voices for Peace from Boston, helped Palestinian farmers in a harvest. A settler shot at him, he says; perhaps he intended to miss, to scare them that time.

But one knows who has guns here, who has walls, whom to be frightened of.

Joseph broke then with the state of Israel.

***

The Wall separates olive trees from the farmers. Settlers destroy olive trees. So does the Israeli army.

One Palestinian says: What has the olive tree, praying to heaven, done? What has she done to be burned?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poem: Mood



The child is

the boy on the armored

not

backagainstthewindow

to deter

frown on his face

rocks

on the IsraeliArmoredVehicle

wind abrupt

white bands

burn

his hand


is not


made in Pittsburgh



happy

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Those who demonstrate every Friday


For previous posts on the delegation to Palestine, see here and here.

Kobi Snitz is a leader of Anarchists against the Wall. This is the first group which organized civil disobedience in active support of the Palestinians demonstrating against the Occupation. It took, unsurprisingly, a radical organization.

For 9 years, every week, some 40 to 100 Israelis go to demonstrate in the Occupied Territories. They join demonstrations in many Palestinian towns against the ever-growing - there are now 300 in the territories and 200 in East Jerusalem - settlements.

Today in the old city in East Jerusalem, we walked by a wall of the fighters who are buried nearby – the mujahadine in Arabic. The English and Hebrew words are changed. It is Lion's Gate.

Gradually, the Israeli government changes every sign. Soon, the Arabic, too, will be changed.

That government aims to kill a frog in boiling water. Plunge the frog in and it will jump to escape. Boil the water gradually and the frog will die.

****

The illegal expansion of Israel is everywhere, in the smallest places, and in the differentiation of Arabs as non-citizens of Israel, as permanent residents in East Jerusalem (gradually being expelled) and in the territories.

Israel is a democracy except that half the people it rules over have no vote (except Arab Israelis, about 20% of the population) and no voice, exist behind or are bifurcated by a wall.

Israel has human rights, except that the Arabs who live under Isreali domination have no right to purchase or build homes. Land is for Israelis, not for Arabs.

Palestinian homes are often slated for demolition. These have been family homes for generations, sometimes hundred of years.

We pass by the rubble.

Arabs are regarded as immigrants, those who conquered as the possessors, the allocators.

Israelis often cease to worry about those beyond the wall. Some feel demonized by nonviolent protest. But what is the policy of occupation and dispossession, the building of homes on top of other people's homes, if not the demonization of those who lived there?

Some are people. Others are non-people.

****

Today a wonderful Palestinian actor spoke with us who has been outside Palestine in Barcelona learning his craft. But now, though back here, he will lose his residence in Jerusalem and be expelled next spring.

His family has lived in Jerusalem far into the past. The State of Israel is new, the conqueror of 1967. That State does not allow Palestinians to acquire skills or practice a profession.

He is stateless.

****

Kobi studied in the United States. He learned at Maryland from the anti-Iraq War (anti-American aggression) demonstrations in 2002 and 2003.

22 Palestinians have been murdered by the Israeli army in the protests of Palestinians and Israeli Jews against the Occupation. Kristin Anderson, from the Bay Area, was wounded.

Walking the old city yesterday, we saw young men – barely 18 – with AK 47s.

Israel is a society nurtured on militarism. Guns are everywhere. A t-shirt satirically proclaims: "Guns and Moses."

A settler, not looking at anyone in the Old City, walking with two bodyguards. People draw away.

Is this a way to live?

This was the conduct of Europeans toward Jews. This is what Israeli Jews, bearing, in this respect, the worst and not the best in Europe, have done to innocents.

One must regard the Palestinians as terrorists. Because if they are not terrorists, the suspicion would arise that the state of Israel practices - terror.

Why can those who live in Israel not see?

****

The experience of pogroms and of the Holocaust rightly makes Jews fearful. Jews, one might say, are thousand year trauma victims (h/t Paula Bard).

But for Israelis to live in peace, transferring the oppression and fear to others must stop.

****

Yesterday we heard Sami Awad speak at a Baptist Church. It was the first time he had been in Jerusalem in many years. He spoke of an uncle who founded a nonviolence center in Palestine when he was 12 and gave him heart. The uncle was deported. Nonviolent opposition is not tolerable in Israel.

Sami spoke of the meaning of “love your enemy.” He whose grandfather had been killed in 1948, his father and uncle orphaned, who had seen only settlers and soldiers in Israel, went to Poland. He went to the death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. He saw.

He speaks of love with the authority of one who works, as an accompaniment to great suffering, to change the world.

The oppression, daily, hourly, of the apartheid wall and a new “transfer” must be stopped.

Sami has not been allowed to come to Jerusalem often. Israel whose only resource is the gun and fear fears nonviolence.

****

At the University of Maryland, the meetings Kobi describes were 95% planning and 5% action. Here they are 95% action and 5% planning.

The demonstrators have made a small space within unhearing Israel for standing up with the Palestinians. The danger is great, the price is high. They are like the SNCC volunteers travelling in Mississippi, once upon a time.

The echoes of the movement are international. Recently, the Quakers divested from Caterpillar and Veolia. Whitney, my step-daughter, is involved in a powerful movement at the Amazing Eggplant at Evergreen State in Olympia, Washington to boycott products from the settlements. She asked me to write a letter of support – see here. Such a movement can give these courageous people space, can nurture doubts, in many people, about the strategic wisdom of Israeli policy and its decency.

The Palestinians in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, Kobi tells us, carefully differentiate between artists who work for imperial projects - those subsidized by the government to further the Israeli "brand" - and those who do not.

This is not anger, though anger is justified. It is seeing what actions exactly contribute to the imprisonment of the Palestians and seeking to break the chains.

Alice Rothchild in our delegation has written powerfully in Broken Promises, Broken Dreams of being as a child caught up in Israel and coming to see the price in human lives, in dignity and to the Jewish spirit. So has Brian Walt, a rabbi who grew up with apartheid, fought it, and then found himself on a road in Hebron – a “sterile road,” Jews-only – dividing the Palestinian houses where people have to climb out the back to go the market or the hospital. This, too, is apartheid.

“We are climbing Jacob’s ladder”

****

I am moved by the non-imprisoned spirit of Brian and other Jews who collect the fragments of the light (tikkun olam) and seek a Jewishness and a concern for everyone which is not realized in the State of Israel but can be realized in joining to lift up everyone together, to fight for democracy and the human rights for each person.

Kobi tells us of inventiveness. Someone saw the movie “Avatar.” Demonstrators went the next week dressed in blue as Navi. If you can love blue creatures against the overly armed and spiritless Company (American and Israeli privatization of militarism – in Jerusalem, the biggest checkpoint is privately owned…), perhaps the costumes suggested, you can love Palestinians, too.

And Kobi said the demonstrators had creatively flashed mirrors reflecting "Tear Down the Wall" on the front of soldiers' uniforms.

Kobi tells us of looking to ordinary Americans and Europeans and to democratic solidarity – what I call democratic internationalism – from below. The American government today uses Israel as it used the Shah’s Iran or Saudi Arabia as a spearhead to its domination in the Middle East. Some blame the feckless Israel lobby (it has bought Congress, but ordinary American Jews, about 80%, oppose its plans to bomb Iran).

The tail of the dog, lethal as it can be, does not wag the body.

Kobi speaks of the importance of standing up from below. Israel, like South Africa once upon a time, is a small country. It cannot withstand boycott long. Every artist and company take note. There is no honor and no money to be had here. That is a powerful message.

We can bring that message to every town, university and newspaper in the United States. That would help those who, sometimes at the cost of their lives, go every Friday to demonstrate nonviolently against the Occupation.



_____

Ruth who led the visit to the Wall cutting the Jericho Road, sent me the following clarification:

"Hey Alan,

This is really beautiful and a powerful piece. Thank you for sharing it with me. I would just like to make some clarifications:

1. Jericho road. What is said in the tour is that Jericho is the oldest inhabited city in the world. But not continuously. The oldest inhabited continuous city in the world is Damascus.

2. I said that Israel is not an apartheid state. Its laws and policies all scream of apartheid separation and discrimination. As Kobi so correctly pointed out - every department is the discrimination department.

3. Jerusalem municipality reinvests between 5-10% back into Palestinian neighbourhoods.

Can you please send my kindest regards to the delegation. It truly was a unique and wonderful experience to spend time with you all. What an incredibly powerful and empowering group of people you are. Each and everyone. And I look forward to staying in touch.

Much love, peace, hope, and inspiration

Ruth"

_____

Here is a post from Alice Rothchild:

"If Walls Could Talk

I have a confession to make; we are still on the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions tour with Ruth Edmond, but my Israel/Palestine PTSD was flaring up and I needed a break. Standing on terraces, looking at the ravaging of the landscape, staring up at blocks of concrete walls splattered with graffiti and topped by curls of barbed wire, the wall (don’t call this a fence) weaving between homes and stores, I experience a kind of grief and exhaustion. We are witnessing the rape of Palestine, and I feel such a sense of violation that is worse each time I am drawn back, like a reoccurring bad dream, stimulating old memories and adding to a growing list of new outrages. Back at the hotel our voices join Vincent Harding’s powerful tenor once again, “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder, Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, Builders Must be strong…. Don’t get weary…” The music from the past propels me into the present, re-energized.

Ruth is discussing the endemic discrimination against Mizrahi Jews from countries like Yemen, Iraq and Iran, who arrived in Israel (were often sprayed with DDT and housed in tents reminiscent of 1948 Palestinians), and ultimately settled in the tough buffer zones at the edge of the State. Now the problems are less pronounced, but Mizrahi are still largely absent from academics and higher positions in society. As has been reported in the news recently, Israel is experiencing a spasm of discrimination against Sudanese and Eritreans who have fled oppressive regimes, walking across the Sinai, entering Israel across the long, poorly guarded Egyptian border. About a month ago there were race riots in south Tel Aviv where shop windows, cars, houses, and even a kindergarten were smashed. (I heard whispers of a Jewish Kristall Nacht with poor Mizrahi Jews, the bottom of the economic ladder, turning their rage and racism like thugs on the African refugees.) One of the instigators, (a member of the Knesset?) called the asylum seekers a “cancer.” The Israeli authorities are building a new prison for the refugees who face round ups, three year prison detentions, and deportation. Physicians for Human Rights Israel recently documented a family that was sent back to Sudan; the Israeli authorities delayed their luggage, two of the four children died of malaria (without their medication) and two were seriously ill at last report.

We stop at a beautifully landscaped Jewish settlement called Ma’ale Zeitim, graceful gardens, stone walls, and neat, well-planned suburban looking red-roofed housing. This looks like a lovely place to raise a family. I, however, am particularly interested in the area of E1 that is visible from the street where we have parked. There is a wide expanse of sandy rolling hills, blue grey in the cloud shadows, splotches of vegetation, and the occasional highway and bulldozed area, possibly for more wall. When I was last here in January 2011 there was much disputing about a police station under construction in E1. There was also a proposal to build a twelve square kilometer development between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. This would further isolate East Jerusalem from the West Bank, negate the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, expand the Israeli border, and create a huge buffer zone. With the help of US physician, casino owner, and gambling magnet, Irving Moskowitz, I can see the large completed police station (for Judea and Samaria) in the distance on a roll of hills, three taller white buildings and a row of darker structures. This is an extensive facility; obviously capable of holding many Palestinians detainees should there be an uprising in the territories. The old police station was purchased in this deal and is now the site of more settlement housing.

Ruth talks about the violent demonstrations that occurred around this controversy, the fact that it is illegal for Palestinians to build over four stories high (another cause for demolition), the sign on top of a garage in the area, “Kahane [a very right wing ultraorthodox rabbi] was right.” She then turns to the separation (security, apartheid) wall, one meter below ground, eight meters above, 702 kilometers, twice the length of the Green Line, and two billion dollars on completion. Started in 2002, it is 62% completed. In rural areas it is a “smart fence” with various sensors, dogs, and adjacent military roads on each side. 85% of its path is within the West Bank and multiple villages have been severely impacted. One family’s home is actually divided by the wall with the two brothers meeting on the roof when they need to see each other. Israelis often claim that the wall has stopped suicide bombing, ignoring the fact that such bombing stopped in 2004 when many factions abandoned such tactics, the wall was only partially built at that point, and some 140,000 Palestinians still cross illegally from the West Bank every year, mostly looking for work. We park on a bend in the Jericho Road; for the first time in 4000 years, the road is closed; the Israelis have completely obstructed the road with the wall. The graffiti is new since my last tormented pilgrimage: “Israel is a terrorist state,” “We are humans,” “Welcome to apartheid,” “Civil & human rights not white privilege.” For me as a Jew with grandparents who fled the ghettos of Eastern Europe, the most painful one is still there, “Welcome to ghetto Abu Dis.”

She mentions the Palestinian village of Al Walajah which is soon to be totally surrounded by the wall. She talks of a villager who refused to move and now has a home beyond the wall, his own personal tunnel and checkpoint. She reflects on the 55,000 Palestinians who technically live in Jerusalem but find themselves beyond the wall in Shufat or Anata (within the Jerusalem municipality) and must go through checkpoints every day to get to work. The disruptive hassle factor often becomes so demoralizing that it becomes easier to work in Ramallah, and then, they lose their “center of life” qualification and their precious East Jerusalem ID. This is commonly referred to as passive or silent transfer, mostly invisible for anyone who doesn’t care to notice.

Which brings us to house demolitions. Ruth describes three types of demolition orders:

1. Administrative: due to a lack of a permit (permits are virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain),

2. Punitive: (which is a form of collective punishment against an entire family)

3. Military: (like in South Hebron where homes were demolished to build a firing zone.

Not only that, the family is responsible for paying for the cost of its’ own demolition. Ruth notes that more than 50% of suicide bombers experienced home demolitions during childhood. After a demolition, families experience higher rates of drug use, alcoholism, domestic abuse, and mental illness. When Jeff’s ICAHD partner Salim recently had his house demolished, his wife stopped speaking for three months.

Past Hebrew University, we head to the expansive settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, population 50,000. The Bedouin Jahalin tribe lives in encampments along the way, most noted for their poverty and lack of public services. Originally from the Negev, the Bedouins moved north in 1948, and have been forcibly displaced a number of times, including to the garbage dump in Abu Dis. Eighteen clans now live on E1, tucked erratically in the sandy hills. The contrast with Ma’ale Adumim cannot be more extreme: a graceful olive tree (uprooted from some Palestinian village) sits in the first rotary, there are lush gardens, blossoming marigolds, green lawns, palm trees, and upscale housing, what has been called “water apartheid.” We circle the Doves of Peace rotary and I count five more rotaries and five more ancient olive trees, sojourning in this disconnected place, creating a false sense of historical continuity.

I can only wonder how this reality becomes normal; how people looking for good housing and schools and a nice playground for their children can live in a place where ghettoizing another people, smashing their homes and building ugly concrete walls that devastate families and once deeply inspirational landscape can be considered a reasonable response to the fear and insecurity and land greed that drives so much of Israeli policy. I fully understand that this type of blindness and cruelty happens all over the world; but here, in the land of milk and honey, it is so up close and personal, so many worlds colliding in the space of one brief afternoon."





Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Jericho Road and the Wall



Ruth who speaks with our delegation is a representative of ICAHD (the Israeli Coalition against Housing Demolition). She is also a member of Anarchists against the Wall.

We are driving down the windy Jericho Road. It is 4,000 years old, the oldest recognized road in human history (the Damascus Road is supposedly the oldest continuously used road).

The separation wall rises before us, 8 meters high and a meter beneath the ground, topped with barbed wire. Lucas who has been at the Berlin Wall says it is higher…

There are signs scrawled on the wall.

"Open the 4,000 year old Jericho Road."

"Civil and human rights, not White Privilege"


The Berlin wall came down.

This wall winds around, dividing houses as it passes through a neighborhood.

Where are the good Samaritans?


Two brothers live in one of the divided houses. They can meet and speak only across the roof.

The settlements are beautifully paved. There are new play-spaces for Jewish children.

The end of the road, the pavement shatters into broken stone and potholes. Palestinian houses have black tanks on the roofs to collect water. The authorities turn down the water pressure so Palestinians can’t get water otherwise.

Jewish houses do not have tanks.

What are the children learning?


I spent a lot of time fighting against Nazism and American eugenics. Against teaching the children of the “elite” that other children are of less value, their schools less deserving, their play less important, their being less to be honored.

Who are these good Jews like good Germans or the good Americans of the Vietnam War or those whom Amos sought once to awaken?

Palestinians pay 46% of the taxes in Jerusalem. They get 10% of the services.

What are the children learning?


New settlements crop up, built by the Israeli state, to displace the people who live here. We pass a United Nations office. It can see, as Ruth says, the displacement. But the United Nations because of the United States, is paralyzed.

Jewish children once learned the lessons of the ghetto, to fight for freedom and to value it as a light that shines in the darkness – how Moses led the slaves out of Egypt to the promised land.

Do Palestinian children now learn this lesson?

Who gathers fragments of the light?


Jeff Halper of ICAHD calls this the prison. 95% of a prison is spaces where the prisoners are. It is as free as the West Bank and Gaza. The guards take up 4% of the spaces, the watch towers, the corridors.

The administrators 1%. They can impose curfew in a heartbeat. The Israeli state.

Ruth points out that the laws are not apartheid laws. But the policies are apartheid.

Who here is Pharoah?


Anarchists against the Wall and ICAHD are the voices of justice.

Ruth and others are thrilled to meet leaders of the civil rights movement. The delegation is thrilled to meet them.

There are those who stand up for justice when all around them speak and work against it. They rouse the people when all others are sleeping. They are with Henry David Thoreau a “majority of one.” They cast their vote, with their whole being, for democracy and the decent survival of all.

Ruth casts her vote. So do we.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Song is hope


I am honored to be on a delegation of civil rights veterans, Jews and Fellowship of Reconciliation members to meet with those who are opposing nonviolently the oppression of the Israeli government in Palestine. Our gatherings are marked by song.

Woke up this morning with my mind

Dorothy Cotton, a companion of Martin Luther King Jr, begins every meeting

set on freedom

with song

woke up this morning

We all talked about why we came. There are many reasons, many stories for each of us. Part of mine is being friends in first grade at Walden School in Manhattan with Andy Goodman.

with my mind

Vincent Harding told a story about Andy I had not heard. When Andy and Michael Schwerner and James Cheney disappeared in Philadelphia, Mississippi during Freedom Summer in 1964, everyone in SNCC [the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] knew they had been murdered. The leadership suggested everyone take a day to meditate and call people about whether to go home.

Vincent has composed a new verse to Jacob’s ladder, the coded song of Denmark Vesey’s sermons.

We are building up a new world

The Freedom Summer volunteers sang.

Today we met with people who are fighting the housing demolitions.

We are building

My student Jamie Siers was thrown down the stairs

up a new world

trying to protect an 80 year old widow here in East Jerusalem

We are building up a new world

from being evicted from her apartment

Builders must be strong.

Telling the story of the songs that the volunteers sang in the daylong meditation on whether they would go back into Mississippi, Vincent said, he could not agree with those who sneer at Kumbaya. The songs are of hope and determination. They are the internal conversation with and staring down of fear.

Each stayed…

On the plane coming across the Atlantic, we were accompanied by a large number of Hasidic jews. Some of the men were (and were allowed by Delta Airlines to be) in the women’s faces about demanding they move.

One woman told another (a Hasidic woman) in Hebrew that she had recently converted to Judaism. The other woman turned her back on her and wouldn’t speak to her.

Some are Jews, the gesture indicated, most Jews are non-Jews. When one starts making non-people, the abuse extends far.

This is not the State of the kibbutzes (no mention of socialism or democracy at the airport in Tel Aviv).

Women take care of children. Men move others out…

This is the State of dispossessing people.

There were 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Those who leave are not permitted to go back.

A tram now connects West Jerusalem to the settlements (there were protests against the construction), one of the delegation said on the ride in to the hotel.

There are now 200,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

The tram is owned by Veolia, the French company that preys on the territories and is protested in Atlanta and by the Quakers who just divested from it.

We are meeting with those, Arab and Jewish, who day after day and against the odds, build nonviolent resistance.

Boycott Veolia.

Song is hope.