Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Justice: The Only Guarentee of Peace

This a column I submitted to the PLNU newspaper. It's a column regarding the crisis in Gaza.

I am opposed to war and violence. Therefore I am vehemently opposed to the tactics employed by both parties in the recent war in Gaza. Hamas’ continuing rocket attacks on southern Israel, and similarly, Israel’s sophisticated air assault and ground invasion of Gaza are both morally bankrupt actions.

The problem with the current analysis of this conflict is that we start the analysis only a few months ago, when Hamas increased their rocket attacks on Israel. We think that sometime in the recent past, bearded Islamist fundamentalists, haters of diversity, democracy, and Judaism, decided to start attacking their closest democratic neighbor.

We need to take a few steps backward.

When the State of Israel was born in 1948, Palestinians experienced this as the Nakba, meaning, the catastrophe. Over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in order that Israeli Jews would comprise a majority in the territory, hoping to provide a safe-haven following the genocide of Jews in the holocaust.

In 1967, Israel forcefully took control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which were previously governed by Egypt and Jordan respectively. Thus began the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

For more than 40 years, Palestinian Gazans have lived under the watchful eye of Israeli military. Palestinians constantly have to show identity cards to Israeli military, face long waits at Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, and are forced to stay inside the Strip under poor conditions. According to the UN, 45% of Gazans are unemployed (the highest rate in the world) as 95% of factories in Gaza have closed in recent years. 70% of Gazans live on less than $1.20 per day.

Some say that Palestinian Gazans have brought this on themselves, arguing that Israel completely withdrew from the Strip in 2005, leaving it up to Palestinians to govern the territory. Others argue the Israeli occupation continues as Israel regulates every good, gallon of fuel, and drop of water that comes into the Strip by controlling all border crossings.

The situation worsened for Gazans in 2006 following the democratic election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Despite the legitimacy of the election, harsh economic sanctions were placed on Gaza and the border crossings were completely closed when Hamas took power.

Now we arrive at the 2008-2009 Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip. As of now, over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed, 410 children and 104 women. 13 Israelis were killed in the fighting, 3 of which were civilians.

I condemn the killing on both sides. Those who bomb civilian populations should be prosecuted for war crimes. Nevertheless, 60 years of cruel oppression along with the current Israeli siege of Gaza, certainly provides justification for Palestinian resistance to the Israeli siege and occupation. Condemning the chosen means of resistance from our ivory towers is useless as long as Palestinians are cruelly oppressed in the open air prison known as the Gaza Strip.

Israel cannot bomb its way into peaceful coexistence with Palestinian militants, nor can the United States secure safety from Islamic jihadists by providing Israel with fighter jets and bombs to carry out their missions. But rather, the violent subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people in Gaza will surely intensify the armed resistance in Gaza and will push Palestinians to respond through the only means that Israel has demonstrated, violence. Rockets fired into Israel are clearly a response to the cruel Israeli siege and occupation of Gaza, and the subsequent humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The time I have spent in Israel/Palestine has shown me that as long as the subjugation of the Palestinian people continues, as long as Palestinians are treated as less than human beings, Palestinians will resist, and frankly we are not in a position to choose which form of resistance they will employ. Whether we are pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, or pro-peace, we can agree on a solution to the conflict: grant Palestinians the dignity, respect, and freedom to which all human beings are entitled. The first step is a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which will provide Palestinians the ability to work, move, and live. This and only this, will provide the foundation and framework for lasting justice and peace.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

60 Minutes Reports of Israeli Apartheid in the West Bank

This is the most accurate picture of the West Bank I have EVER seen reported by the U.S. Media.

"Has peace in the Middle East become nothing more than a pipe dream? As Bob Simon reports, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians feel that a two-state solution is no longer possible."

Watch CBS Videos Online

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here is an interview with Dr. Martin Luther King from Meet the Press in August 1967. The whole video is good, but focus on the question at the 16:30 minute mark. The relevancy of Dr. King's answer speaks volumes to the current situation in Gaza.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When Israel Expelled Palestinians: What if it was San Diego and Tijuana Instead?

*This is an incredibly important article, something I feel very strongly about. This is a fantastic summation of the crisis in Gaza, and brings home this reality for those of us familiar with the San Diego/Tijuana region.

by Randall Kuhn, from the Washington Times

In the wake of Israel's invasion of Gaza, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak made this analogy: "Think about what would happen if for seven years rockets had been fired at San Diego, California from Tijuana, Mexico."

Within hours scores of American pundits and politicians had mimicked Barak's comparisons almost verbatim. In fact, in this very paper on January 9 House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor ended an opinion piece by saying "America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana." But let's see if our political and pundit class can parrot this analogy.

Think about what would happen if San Diego expelled most of its Hispanic, African American, Asian American, and Native American population, about 48 percent of the total, and forcibly relocated them to Tijuana? Not just immigrants, but even those who have lived in this country for many generations. Not just the unemployed or the criminals or the America haters, but the school teachers, the small business owners, the soldiers, even the baseball players.

What if we established government and faith-based agencies to help move white people into their former homes? And what if we razed hundreds of their homes in rural areas and, with the aid of charitable donations from people in the United States and abroad, planted forests on their former towns, creating nature preserves for whites to enjoy? Sounds pretty awful, huh? I may be called anti-Semitic for speaking this truth. Well, I'm Jewish and the scenario above is what many prominent Israeli scholars say happened when Israel expelled Palestinians from southern Israel and forced them into Gaza. But this analogy is just getting started.

What if the United Nations kept San Diego's discarded minorities in crowded, festering camps in Tijuana for 19 years? Then, the United States invaded Mexico, occupied Tijuana and began to build large housing developments in Tijuana where only whites could live.

And what if the United States built a network of highways connecting American citizens of Tijuana to the United States? And checkpoints, not just between Mexico and the United States but also around every neighborhood of Tijuana? What if we required every Tijuana resident, refugee or native, to show an ID card to the U.S. military on demand? What if thousands of Tijuana residents lost their homes, their jobs, their businesses, their children, their sense of self worth to this occupation? Would you be surprised to hear of a protest movement in Tijuana that sometimes became violent and hateful? Okay, now for the unbelievable part.

Think about what would happen if, after expelling all of the minorities from San Diego to Tijuana and subjecting them to 40 years of brutal military occupation, we just left Tijuana, removing all the white settlers and the soldiers? Only instead of giving them their freedom, we built a 20-foot tall electrified wall around Tijuana? Not just on the sides bordering San Diego, but on all the Mexico crossings as well. What if we set up 50-foot high watchtowers with machine gun batteries, and told them that if they stood within 100 yards of this wall we would shoot them dead on sight? And four out of every five days we kept every single one of those border crossings closed, not even allowing food, clothing, or medicine to arrive. And we patrolled their air space with our state-of-the-art fighter jets but didn't allow them so much as a crop duster. And we patrolled their waters with destroyers and submarines, but didn't even allow them to fish.

Would you be at all surprised to hear that these resistance groups in Tijuana, even after having been "freed" from their occupation but starved half to death, kept on firing rockets at the United States? Probably not. But you may be surprised to learn that the majority of people in Tijuana never picked up a rocket, or a gun, or a weapon of any kind.

The majority, instead, supported against all hope negotiations toward a peaceful solution that would provide security, freedom and equal rights to both people in two independent states living side by side as neighbors. This is the sound analogy to Israel's military onslaught in Gaza today. Maybe some day soon, common sense will prevail and no corpus of misleading analogies abut Tijuana or the crazy guy across the hall who wants to murder your daughter will be able to obscure the truth. And at that moment, in a country whose people shouted We Shall Overcome, Ich bin ein Berliner, End Apartheid, Free Tibet and Save Darfur, we will all join together and shout "Free Gaza. Free Palestine." And because we are Americans, the world will take notice and they will be free, and perhaps peace will prevail for all the residents of the Holy Land.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

News/Media Sources

Quite a few people in the past weeks, as things in Gaza began to turn tumultuous, began to ask for websites where they could find news from the ground. U.S. media, as well as government, has oft been called pro-Israeli, pro-Zionist, anti-Arab. In my eyes, I have seen more balanced coverage of the events in Gaza than I had seen in the past from U.S. sources, but nonetheless, I also look to alternative media sources for news about Israel/Palestine.

This is not a comprehensive list, rather, it is a list of sources that I regularly check:

Electronic Intifada

Ma'an News Agency
Palestinian News Network
Ynet News
International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC)
NY Times
Al Jazeera
BBC World
Common Dreams

Some of these are Israeli, some Palestinian, and some from the West. Hope this helps you to get as clear a picture of the current situation and the conflict as you can.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Jon Stewart's Satire

Watch till the end, it's the best part.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Edward Said on Gaza

"Every Palestinian has become a prisoner. Gaza is surrounded by an electrified fence on three sides: imprisoned like animals, Gazans are unable to move, unable to work, unable to sell their vegetables or fruit, unable to go to school. They are exposed from the air to
Israeli planes and helicopters and are gunned down like turkeys on the ground by tanks and machine guns. Impoverished and starved, Gaza is a human nightmare.

Hope has been eliminated from the Palestinian vocabulary so that only raw defiance remains.

Palestinians must die a slow death so that Israel can have its security, which is just around the corner but cannot be realized because of the special Israeli "insecurity." The whole world must sympathize, while the cries of Palestinian orphans, sick old women, bereaved communities, and tortured prisoners simply go unheard and unrecorded. Doubtless, we will be told, these horrors serve a larger purpose than mere sadistic cruelty. After all, "the two sides" are engaged in a "cycle of violence" that has to be stopped, sometime, somewhere. Once in a while we ought to pause and declare indignantly that there is only one side with an army and a country: the other is a stateless dispossessed population of people without rights or any present way of securing them. The language of suffering and concrete daily life has been either hijacked or so perverted as, in my opinion, to be useless except as pure fiction deployed as a screen for the purpose of more killing and painstaking torture - slowly, fastidiously, inexorably.

That is the truth of what Palestinians suffer."