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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Settlers set fire to home as seven Palestinians sleep inside

So there seems to be a trend starting, but it's a good trend, don't worry.  The posts that I spend more time on, are ending up on other sites before they end up here on Do Unto Others.  This blog gets pretty low readership, whereas sites like Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada, and Waging Nonviolence get significantly more hits.  So if I can submit a piece to one of those sites, or somewhere else with good readership, then that's what I will do because it makes sense to reach the biggest audience you can without watering down your message.  So if you are a reader of this blog and you feel neglected, don't. You're still getting access to the same content, and you'll get to see me the same amount of time, but you'll just have to share me with more people.  

My latest piece is on Mondoweiss.  Here's a nice summary: 
In the incident which occurred on 29 December 2010, there were seven members of a family asleep in the tent when settlers set fire to the structure.  Fortunately, a hajji (an elderly matriarch) was awake and heard the dogs warning of the intruders.
Friendly, Sabbath-respecting Israeli settlers set fire a family's dwelling as they were sleeping inside it.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the topic of suicide bombing

I just finished Talal Asad's, On Suicide Bombing, a series of lectures which were put together in book form.  The book is comprised of philosophical reflections on Western societies' horror at the act of suicide terrorism.  Why do we respond to suicide attacks with horror then turn and give tacit approval to massive death dealt by state armies?  Asad posits a series of explanations for the horror expressed at killing (and dying) through the mode of suicide attack, that I may elaborate on in a later post.  For now, here's an excerpt:
The perception that human life has differential exchange value in the marketplace of death when it comes to 'civilized' and 'uncivilized' peoples is not only quite common in liberal democratic countries, it is necessary to the hierarchical global order.  It is quite true that the death of poor people in the world does not matter as much as the death of people in affluent societies.  In saying this and acting on this belief, the patterns of living and dying in the world come to be affected by it. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Arab-Americans have intelligent voices!?

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Washington-based Palestine Center, writes on the need for the United States to find a backbone.  Big ups to the LA Times for publishing an op-ed from another eloquent, educated Arab-American.  Not many other major US newspapers even consider publishing Arab voices when it comes to Israel-Palestine.  
Generally, the incentive to rectify bad behavior in the international community — behavior like expanding settlements despite road map obligations and international law — is delivered by sticks, not carrots. But the deal offered to Israel, which included billions of dollars' worth of advanced F-35s in exchange for a 90-day freeze, was all carrot and no stick.
Read the whole thing.  

Israel frees one Palestinian nonviolent leader, continues to imprison another

My latest at Waging Nonviolence covers the ongoing cases of Palestinian peace activists Adeeb and Abdullah Abu Rahmah.  Adeeb was recently released after serving more than 18 months in prison on trumped-up charges of incitement.  Abdullah was due to be released on 10 December 2010 but remains in prison due to an appeal by the state prosecution.  

A plethora of human rights organizations and public figures have condemned the conviction and unlawful imprisonment of Abdullah Abu Rahmah, including the European Union.  
Unsurprisingly, the United States has not followed the lead of their fellow Quartet member, but has instead remained silent throughout Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s show trial. Associated Press reporter, Matthew Lee, recently brought Abu Rahmah’s case to the attention of Assistant Secretary of State, P.J. Crowley, in consecutive U.S. State Department briefings.
Read the full article to see photos and videos and to get the full scoop.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Israeli occupation contributes to the water crisis in the South Hebron Hills

My latest article was just published to Mondoweiss, a widely-read website dedicated to presenting various perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as well as U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.  The authors chiefly come from a progressive Jewish American perspective, but increasingly Mondoweiss is presenting other voices, notably a number of Arab voices.

The article covers the recent demolitions of water cisterns and wells in the South Hebron Hills which contribute to the water crisis produced by the Israeli occupation and climate change.

Check it out.  Honestly, I am pretty pleased this got picked up by Mondoweiss, so go take a look and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I didn’t know what a "demonstration of presence" really meant

Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of soldiers and ex-soldiers who have decided to tell their stories to expose the truth about Israeli military policies and actions in the occupied territories, has released a new book, Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier Testimonies 2000-2010.  Here is an excerpt from the book which will be fully available online on Sunday (and I believe will be available in a printed version for purchase).  The city identified below, Yatta, is the closest city to At-Tuwani where I have spent the last few years.   

       *        *       *       *

Unit: Paratroopers
Location: South Hebron Hill
Year: 2001

They gave instructions to do some patrol inside. I think it was Yatta.
Is that what’s called “a demonstration of presence?”
A demonstration of presence.
Was it an order? Would you do it all the time?
No, that’s it…I didn’t get to do it a lot. There were a few specific cases. Meaning I got to do a demonstration of presence once or twice, but that specifically I know it wasn’t OK, I’ll explain right away. When we went in, we went in with that officer and another officer, and us. I personally as a soldier knew that there was an order to do a patrol, to do a “demonstration of presence.” I didn’t know what a “demonstration of presence” really meant. They went in, like basically all of us went in…we had an APC and a security patrol jeep if I’m not mistaken, and they fired rounds. Like the officers were…one was on the APC, you know, he aimed the APC so he had a MAG machine gun. We also fired our weapons sometimes…the officer would fire some more.
Fire in the air? Live rounds?
No, at houses, at garbage cans, things like that.
Shooting at a home means at the walls, the windows?
Both. Garbage cans, water heaters, things like that. Now the thing is, what became clear after the fact, we later heard on the radio, someone reported that he heard the shots from Yatta or the village that we were in, I don’t remember. So, no one knew…meaning they knew we were there, and they asked if we saw something, so the officers said: “No.” Apparently, I wasn’t near the radio at that point, but when we returned after the fact they said, the deputy company commander asked: “What, how could it be you didn’t hear anything there, they fired off rounds like crazy. So they said they didn’t hear anything. And basically it seems that they  weren’t supposed to fire a single bullet, it was really meant to be a patrol with the APC, you know, just for show.

St. Louis activists tell Motorola: "We don't want your dirty phones"

Firstly, this is my 400th post.

Secondly, I have another piece over at Waging Nonviolence, it's entitled, "Palestine solidarity groups hangs up on Motorola."

There is a call for a boycott of Motorola because of their contracts and product designs for the Israeli military.  The St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee appropriated a Lady Gaga song with creative lyrics and a choreographed dance and performed at a Best Buy and AT&T.  Go read the post. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fact of the day

Israel receives more U.S. aid than the entire African continent. 

Give the gift of peacemaking

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in the Hebron region of the West Bank.

CPT is dedicated to supporting local peacemakers in Colombia, Palestine, Iraq, and in aboriginal communities.  We support local peacemakers through accompaniment, monitoring/documentation, and advocacy.

CPT has created an easy way for you to support our work this holiday season.  You can give the gift of peacemaking by buying 'peacemaking hours.'  Each peacemaking hour is $10, and you can purchase as many hours as you would like.
If you designate me as the recipient, CPT will send a card on your behalf, notifying me of your donation.  It would be a truly great Christmas gift to get some cards from those of you who read this blog.

May this winter season bring you time for reflection, and may the coming of spring bring a renewed vision for a better, more just world.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A diversion

The information I post is hard to swallow, often challenging, and sometimes ugly.  

So I figured something beautiful is called for. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ever played charades?

Sorry for the two-week hiatus.  

So, to everyone's surprise, the peace talks brokered by the U.S. fell through.  Here is a poigniant critique of the debacle from the inimitable, Noam Chomsky.  
Washington’s pathetic capitulation to Israel while pleading for a meaningless three-month freeze on settlement expansion—excluding Arab East Jerusalem—should go down as one of the most humiliating moments in U.S. diplomatic history.
Hardly anyone in the mainstream media is suggesting that this is an even an embarrassment to the Obama administration, much less toting it as "one of the most humiliating moments in U.S. diplomatic history."  Who is the provider state and who is the client state in this financial relationship?  It's an ongoing role reversal that I cannot adequately explain.

Chomsky continues by bringing us back to the crux of the issue, in spite of the smoke screen that is Israel, the U.S., and the P.A.
The issue of settlement expansion is simply a diversion. The real issue is the existence of the settlements and related infrastructure developments. These have been carefully designed so that Israel has already taken over more than 40 percent of the occupied West Bank, including suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; the arable land; and the primary water sources of the region, all on the Israeli side of the Separation Wall—in reality an annexation wall.
Chomsky closes the article by suggesting that the U.S. needs to be terminated.  For peace negotiations to go anywhere (if you do, in fact, think that peace negotiations have a snowball's chance in hell), we need a neutral, honest broker.  The U.S., when it comes to Israel, is neither neutral nor honest.  
Update: Al Jazeera video summary

Monday, November 29, 2010

The boycott of Sabra hummus gains momentum

Another piece of mine is up over at Waging Nonviolence.  It covers the growing pressure against the Strauss Group, an Israeli company that owns Sabra hummus, the largest manufacturer of hummus in the world.  Strauss Group has strong connections with human rights abuses, hence, the reason for the post.   

This hummus is everywhere, most certainly at a grocery store near you, so yes, this does pertain to you.  

Go check out my piece at Waging Nonviolence and sign the petition which is at the bottom of the WN post. 

Also, in the post, there is a really entertaining video of people dancing in a grocery store accompanied by Lady Gaga music.  That's right, I am here to cater to all of my readers: the human rights activists, and the pop culture fiends, not that you can't be both. 

UPDATE: The piece also got picked up by the Indypendent, a online/print progressive newspaper based in New York.  Check it out here. (It's the same thing as the post at Waging Nonviolence, but we might as well spread the (hits) love around, right?)

Israeli forces shoot American Jewish woman...her bad.

I previously wrote about the young Jewish American woman who lost her eye after Israeli forces shot her in the face with a high-velocity tear gas weapon.  

Well the court has hammered the gavel, and the first pretty much sums it up paragraph sums it up (full article here): 
The Judea and Samaria district police found no criminal wrongdoing in the actions of the Border Police soldiers who left an American art student without an eye after getting hit in the face with a tear gas canister at a protest in Qalandiyah six months ago.
Not surprisingly, the police are not responsible because the high-velocity tear gas canister ricocheted off a barricade.  Never mind they are using a weapon which was designed to be shot through walls and doors (as in the scenario of a crazed gunman hiding out in a building), not in open territory or into crowds of people.  Israeli forces will always be blameless when investigations are carried out by state courts who are mandated with protecting the character of the state of Israel.   

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My rant: An @$$hole settler depriving a village of water

I have a difficult time writing coherently and informatively about people and things that enrage me.  I just want to write something like, "that is evil and that guy is a f*cking douchebag."  But alas, I am here to cohere and to inform.  

Backstory to the enraging story: A small victory was won last November in the South Hebron Hills hamlet called Bir al 'Idd.  Palestinians residents had been expelled in the year 2000 but returned in November 2009 after an Israeli court ruled they had the right to return.

Here's the story from the Israeli paper Ynet
For 10 years, residents of the Palestinian village of Khirbet Bir al-'Idd in the Hebron area have been living with relatives for fear of being harassed by settlers. Last week, after receiving approval from the Israel Defense Forces, they returned to their homes, but say the attacks were renewed shortly afterwards.

Between the years 1999 and 2000, some 20 families living in the village were forced to evacuate themselves gradually due to repeated cases of harassment by settlers from the Mitzpe Yair outpost, who according to the Palestinians and their representatives in the Rabbis for Human Rights organization harassed them on a regular basis and prevented them from using the road leading to Khirbet Bir al-'Idd.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the problems have continued since the residents moved back one year ago.  Taayush, an Israeli human rights organization that focuses on action and civil disobedience against the occupation, has an extensive series of press releases on the ongoing settler violence in Bir al 'Idd.

One of the ongoing issues has been the difficulty Bir al 'Idd residents have had in obtaining water for the village.  The most consistent water source, located firmly on Palestinian privately-owned land, is located between Bir al 'Idd and the the Israeli outpost, Mitzpe Yair.  Yes, Mitzpe Yair is in fact home to the same settlers that chased away Bir al 'Idd residents in 1999/2000 -- or it's possible that this is the new generation of violent colonizers who have learned the ways of their criminal and hateful parents.  (Again, go check out that Taayush sight for documentation of numerous instances when Bir al 'Idd residents have faced settlers and soldiers routinely prohibiting them from accessing their own water).  

The latest incident happened on Saturday.  From +972 blog
On Saturday, a lone settler from the illegal outpost of Mitzpeh Yair prevented water access to Palestinians living in Bir el Eid.  This is not the first time this has happened. The specific water cistern – dug by Palestinians from Bir el Eid and situated on their privately owned land – has been impossible to pump water out of for months because the settlers from this tiny neighboring outpost of about 10 families are adamant about annexing it (even though the state provides them with their own system of running water).

The summer heat has still not broken in the South Hebron Hills. The sun beat down on us as we were pulled into a violent tug-of-war with Avidan over the hose directing water out of the cistern into a small tank to be taken back to the village. We were five or six people trying to keep the hose in place and he was just one, pulling it violently away from us and trying every which way to stop the water from flowing.

Ok, back to my rage -- I did a got job cohering and informing, didn't I?  The settler is this video is an absolute piece of work.  His name is Avidan and he is notorious in the area for harrassing Palestinians without any provocation.  I was once accompanying a farmer who was plowing his land while sowing wheat.  Avidan drove down from his house, stood in front of the tractor to stop it, walked around and removed the key from the ignition, and threw it off into the distance.  He then called the army, who came and closed the entire area, which in turn prevented the farmer from plowing his land.

I was also in the area when he walked into a herd of sheep, and stole one of them.  Check of the video here.  

So anyway, this guy is an asshole.  He really is, and if you are reading this outloud to your kids, you shouldn't censor my language, because they should learn that there are true, bonafide assholes in this world.  

Without further ado, see the video of Avidan, the asshole, trying to wrestle away the water pipe from these Israeli activists who are trying to help a Palestinian farmer obtain water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  Oh  and also, this asshole has piped water coming into his house from the Israeli government.  But this man from Bir al 'Idd, who LEGALLY lives on the land has to deal with this asshole trying to prevent him from putting water into a tanker which he would then have to drive to his village.  


The settlers always win these battles because the system is designed to privilege settlers at every turn.  Notice how activists weren't calling the police, like my inclination would be in the United States.  The reason is simple, the Israeli army/police is in the West Bank to protect settlers, and thus, to deeper entrench the occupation.  When the army or police arrive, they 'avoid' conflict by declaring a closed military and forcing the Palestinians and Israeli activists to leave the area.  So 'avoiding' conflict, or deescalating a situation by separating people groups, is really a euphemism for 'disappearing Palestinians.'  If Palestinians are made invisible, or disappeared, by policies and structures enforced by the occupying forces, then conflict will in fact be avoided because settlers won't have to see Palestinians.  The other outcome is that an entire nationality of people are deumanized, dispossed of their life and livelihood, and international law and human rights are trampled.  

A moral giant in Palestine remains behind bars

Check out my post over at Waging Nonviolence.  The focus of Waging Nonviolence is "is the use of nonviolent methods—such as strikes, boycotts, or sit-ins—by people around the world everyday in their struggles for justice, often under the most difficult of circumstances." 

I will hopefully be contributing regularly to Waging Nonviolence, but will continue to post links on this blog to posts I write for Waging Nonviolence

Here's a short excerpt, but I encourage you to read my full post:
Abu Rahma remains in prison because of his moral courage and his determined and persistent nonviolent resistance to the takeover of his land resulting from Israeli policies. Israel considers Abu Rahma a dangerous man because he stood face-to-face with occupying soldiers and demanded that they use their brains, pick up books instead of guns, and provide a justification for their actions.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Protesting the Hebron Fund, I remember a long afternoon at a segregated swimming hole

Note: Sean O'Neill, a good friend and colleague, wrote this piece which appeared over at Mondoweiss.  If Sean realized that Do Unto Others has 1/100,000 the readership of Mondoweiss, he probably would have given it to us first :)


Hebron Fund held its annual fundraiser in New York Tuesday night. A report from O'Neill, a former member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in the South Hebron Hills, who attended the protest:

I was just leaving Hebron’s Old City one day in August 2009 when a friend of mine, Hamzi, invited me to go swimming.

He and a few other guys were going for a dip in Abraham’s Well, an ancient spring located in Tel Rumeida, essentially the only neighborhood in the West Bank city where Palestinians and Israeli settlers physically encounter one another on a daily basis.

Whereas in the Old City a complex system of barricades, roadblocks, and checkpoints keeps Palestinians caged in and under the settlement pockets, in Tel Rumeida there is some level of mutual access, albeit unequal and under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers.

It was a hot, sticky day, and the thought of taking a dip in the cool undeground waters of Abraham’s Well sounded superb.  After a long circuitous route, unable to cross Shuhada St., Hebron’s main thoroughfare banned from use by Palestinians, we reached an olive grove just above the well.  In our enthusiasm, we didn’t notice the four Israeli soldiers sitting above it until they came running, screaming at us, rifles aimed in our direction.  Hamzi explained that we were just on our way down to swim.  The soldiers replied that there were a couple Jewish girls there swimming, so we’d have to wait.  We began to sit down in the shade of the olive tree next to the soldiers when a soldier began yelling again, shooing us with his free hand, indicating that we were too close.

“He acts like were dogs,” Hamzi muttered to himself as we moved back a few trees.

Occasionally we would crane our necks over the terraced rocks to see if the girls were leaving yet.  Noticing this, the soldier berated us again, instructing us to face the other direction, so as not to offend the young women, who by now, done swimming, were having a picnic next to the well.  Hamzi and the others stared for a moment, absorbing this latest humiliation, before turning away, powerless.  We sat there for about an hour in the midday heat, sweating profusely, debating whether it was worth the wait.  Finally one of us, sneaking a look, noticed the girls leaving.  We jumped up happily and asked the soldiers if we could now swim.

“No,” one said.  “There’s someone else coming.”  Indeed, two young Jewish boys had now approached the well and began to disrobe.

“But we’ve been here over an hour,” Hamzi protested.  “It’s a hot day.  If we have to wait for every Jew in Hebron to swim we’ll never get a turn.”

“Maybe not,” the soldier said, matter-of-factly.

And so we left, hot and irritated.  There wasn’t a physical attack or a home bulldozed.  No one was arrested or tear gassed.  Just another of the thousand daily humiliations that is apartheid Hebron.  That was the last day I was in Hebron, and the last time I saw Hamzi, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  Shortly thereafter I flew home for a visit and returning a month later discovered I had been banned from re-entry.

Tuesday night in New York was windy, cold and dark, a far cry from that blistering day in August.  Strange in a way to think that the men in women in suits and gowns at Chelsea Piers making their way to a dinner cruise on the Hudson River had any connection at all to that conflicted place thousands of miles away.  Hamzi and some 160,000 Palestinians in Hebron settled down to bed after celebrating another Eid al Adha in the grip of a suffocating occupation.

Here in New York husbands and wives and their families parked their cars and walked breezily past the indoor soccer fields to a feast of their own, making tax-exempt donations to bankroll Hamzi’s oppression.  Tuesday night was the annual dinner of the Hebron Fund, founded in 1979 to raise money for the Hebron settlements.  According to the Washington Post, the Hebron Fund and similar organizations have donated $33.4 million since 2004 to the settlement enterprise.  Settlements, keep in mind, are illegal according to international law.

This year’s dinner, held on a boat, was styled as the Hebron Aid Flotilla, a perverse celebration of the murder of nine human rights activists by Israeli commandos on the flotilla to Gaza this past May.

The event, however, did not go unnoticed.  A couple hundred people gathered at the piers’ entrance in not one, but two protests.  On the one hand was a coalition of Palestinian, Jewish, and anti-occupation groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Veterans for Peace, Women in Black, Code Pink, and Adalah NY, among others.  They stood in a mostly silent vigil with signs reading “End the Siege of Hebron”, “Remove the Settlers”, and “Free Gaza”.

On the other, about 40 feet away, was a protest staged by J Street U, the college branch of the advocacy group which styles itself as pro-Israel, pro-peace.  They held Israeli flags and lamented the settlements as an obstacle to a two-state solution.  A participant in the J Street protest, Moriel Rothman said of the two protests, “I think that we’re working in parallel.  Ultimately we probably want similar things but have different tactics in how to get there.”

An attendee of the fundraiser, who chose to remain anonymous, brushed the protests off, saying, “If you look at the amount of energy that goes into protesting Jewish misconduct, it is disproportionate.  The world holds Jews to a higher standard.”  He added, referring to the Jewish protesters, “They are introspective.  You very seldom see that amongst the Palestinians.”
My first thought at seeing the two different protests was one of dismay.  Had the ideology of separation reared its ugly head even here, among the dissenters?  On second thought however, in a context in which meaningful dissent has been muffled for so long, a bit of pluralism may not be bad.  The groups didn’t agree on tactics, or symbols, or what a solution to the conflict will look like.  However, if there is an emerging consensus that the Hebron settlements, at least, are beyond the pale, that on a hot summer day Palestinian residents shouldn’t have to navigate around Jew-only roads to find that the well is closed to Arabs, that just might be progress.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Say NO to the Cape Town Opera

The Cape Town Opera came to Tel Aviv, performing Porgy and Bess.  The Cape Town Opera came against the request of Desmond Tutu, who called for their scheduled performance in Israel to be cancelled.  
Anarchists Against the Wall, The Coalition of Women for Peace, and others perform their alternative opera. 

Desmond Tutu said the tour should be postponed "until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances".
"Only the thickest-skinned South Africans would be comfortable performing before an audience that excluded residents living, for example, in an occupied West Bank village 30 minutes from Tel Aviv.

"To perform Porgy and Bess, with its universal message of non-discrimination, in the present state of Israel, is unconscionable." (from the BBC)

Nonetheless, the Opera group decided to perform in Israel.  In response, a group of anti-occupation/anti-apartheid Israeli activists appropriated songs from Porgy and Bess and performed them outside of the opera hall the night of the performance.  A creative, effective protest that looks like it was terrificly fun to practice and perform.  And what is harder to challenge than a group of Jewish Israeli, Tel Aviv residents, who are against the policies of Israel and against foreign opera groups whitewashing their countries' apartheid policies?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Decides How the Oppressed Should Fight Oppression?

A great article by Ramzy Baroud over at Truthout.  Baroud asks why the chosen route towards Palestinian sovereignty (whether violent, nonviolent, through negotiation, or by submission) is the focus rather than the continued violent Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory.  The entire article follows.  

An American activist once gave me a book she had written that detailed her experiences in Palestine. The largely visual volume documented her journey in the occupied West Bank, a place rife with barbed wire, checkpoints, soldiers and tanks. It also highlighted how Palestinians resisted the occupation peacefully - in contrast to the prevalent media depictions linking Palestinian resistance to violence.

More recently, I received a book glorifying nonviolent resistance and referring to self-proclaimed Palestinian fighters who renounced violence as "converts." The book elaborated on several wondrous examples of how these "conversions" came about. Apparently a key factor was the discovery that not all Israelis supported the military occupation. The fighters realized that an environment that allowed both Israelis and Palestinians to work together would be best for Palestinians seeking other, more effective means of liberation.

An American priest also explained to me the impressive scale on which nonviolent resistance is happening. He showed me brochures he had obtained during a visit to a Bethlehem organization that teaches youth the perils of violence and the wisdom of nonviolence. The organization and its founders run seminars and workshops and invite speakers from Europe and the United States to share their knowledge on the subject with the (mostly refugee) students.

Every so often, an article, video or book surfaces with a similar message: Palestinians are being taught nonviolence; Palestinians are responding positively to the teachings of nonviolence.

As for progressive and Leftist media and audiences, stories praising nonviolence are electrifying, for they ignite a sense of hope that a less violent way is possible, that the teachings of Gandhi are not only relevant to India, in a specific time and space, but throughout the world, anytime.

These depictions repeatedly invite the question: where is the Palestinian Gandhi? Next they invite the answer: a Palestinian Gandhi already exists, in numerous West Bank villages bordering the Israeli Apartheid Wall, where they peacefully confront the carnivorous Israeli bulldozers eating up Palestinian land.

In a statement marking a recent visit by the group Elders to the Middle East, India's Ela Bhatt, a "Gandhian advocate of non-violence," explained her role in The Elders' latest mission: "I will be pleased to return to the Middle East to show the Elders' support for all those engaged in creative, nonviolent resistance to the occupation – both Israelis and Palestinians."

For some, the emphasis on nonviolent resistance is a successful media strategy. You are certainly far more likely to get Charlie Rose's attention by discussing how Palestinians and Israelis organize joint sit-ins than by talking about the armed resistance of militant groups ferociously fighting the Israeli army.

For others, ideological and spiritual convictions are the driving forces behind their involvement in the nonviolence campaign that is reportedly raging in the West Bank. These realizations seem to be largely led by Western advocates.

On the Palestinian side, the nonviolent "brand" is also useful. It has provided an outlet for many who were engaged in armed resistance, especially during the Second Palestinian Intifada. Some fighters, such as those affiliated with the Fatah movement, have become involved in art and theater after hauling automatic rifles and topping Israel's most-wanted list for years.

Politically, the term is used by the West Bank government as a platform that would allow for the continued use of the word moqawama - Arabic for "resistance" - but without committing to a costly armed struggle, which would certainly not go down well if adopted by the non-elected government deemed "moderate" by both Israel and the United States.

Whether in subtle or overt ways, armed resistance in Palestine is always condemned. Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah government repeatedly referred to it as "futile." Some insist it is a counterproductive strategy. Others find it morally indefensible.

The problem with the nonviolence bandwagon is that it is grossly misrepresentative of the reality on the ground. It also takes the focus away from the violence imparted by the Israeli occupation – in its routine and lethal use in the West Bank, and the untold savagery in Gaza - and places it solely on the shoulders of the Palestinians.

As for the gross misrepresentation of reality, Palestinians have used mass nonviolent resistance for generations - as early as the long strike of 1936. Nonviolent resistance has been and continues to be the bread and butter of Palestinian moqawama, from the time of British colonialism to the Israeli occupation. At the same time, some Palestinians fought violently as well, compelled by a great sense of urgency and the extreme violence applied against them by their oppressors. It is similar to the way many Indians fought violently, even during the time that Mahatma Gandhi's ideas were in full bloom.

Those who reduce and simplify India's history of anti-colonial struggle are doing the same to Palestinians.

Misreading history often leads to an erroneous assessment of the present, and, thus, a flawed prescription for the future. For some, Palestinians cannot possibly get it right, whether they respond to oppression nonviolently, violently, with political defiance or with utter submissiveness. The onus will always be on them to come up with solution, and to do so creatively and in ways that suit our Western sensibilities and our often selective interpretations of Gandhi's teachings.

Violence and nonviolence are mostly collective decisions that are shaped and driven by specific political and socioeconomic conditions and contexts. Unfortunately, the violence of the occupier has a tremendous role in creating and manipulating these conditions. It is unsurprising that the Second Palestinian Uprising was much more violent than the first, and that violent resistance in Palestine gained a huge boost after the victory scored by the Lebanese resistance in 2000, and again in 2006.

These factors must be contemplated seriously and with humility, and their complexity should be taken into account before any judgments are made. No oppressed nation should be faced with the demands that Palestinians constantly face. There may well be a thousand Palestinian Gandhis. There may be none. Frankly, it shouldn't matter. Only the unique experience of the Palestinian people and their genuine struggle for freedom could yield what Palestinians as a collective deem appropriate for their own. This is what happened with the people of India, France, Algeria, South Africa, and many other nations that sought and eventually attained their freedom.

The future of God's Army

The Chicago Tribune ran a story that caught my eye this morning:
Modeled after the popular, high-stakes Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., 300 pious pupils put their memories to the test in Schaumburg this weekend at the second annual National Bible Bee.

Contestants, ranging in age from 7 to 18, had to recite with precision up to 800 verses from the Old and New testaments to win more than $200,000 in cash prizes.

Organizers say the point of the competition is not only to reward rote memorization, but to set moral compasses at an early age and train disciples to spread the gospel word for word.

"This is the future of God's army," said Tammy McMahan, director of operations for the Bible Bee. "We're equipping the Body of Christ."
Ok let's start from the top of this article.  A National Bible Bee seems pretty innocuous right?  I actually did Bible quizzing when I was a kid.  A book of the Bible would be selected -- James, Hebrews, what have you -- and we would study that book of the Bible intently for several months while having competitions where we faced off against other Bible quizzing teams.  There were people so dedicated to this activity that they would memorize the entire book and be able to answer any type of question about the text: content, context, reciting, etc.  There were regional tournaments, national touraments, all-star teams, the whole nine yards.  So what's my point?

Let's replace everything in this story with Islam:
Modeled after the popular, high-stakes Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., 300 pious pupils put their memories to the test in Dearborn this weekend at the second annual National Qur'an Bee.

Contestants, ranging in age from 7 to 18, had to recite with precision up to 800 verses from various surahs to win more than $200,000 in cash prizes.

Organizers say the point of the competition is not only to reward rote memorization, but to set moral compasses at an early age and train disciples to spread the final revelation of God, word for word.

"This is the future of Allah's army," said Abdullah Rashid, director of operations for the Qur'an Bee. "We're equipping the followers of Allah."
Did I make my point?  A whole swath of Americans (and their number is increasing each and every day it seems) have a deep-seeded fear of Muslims.  There is fear of Muslim names (Bill Maher), Muslim garb (Juan Williams), and fear of the Arabic word for God, Allah.  If public personalities, not even terribly conservative ones, are willingly demonstrating their Islamaphobia, what do you think people in the Bible Belt are saying in the privacy of their own homes?

If ANY Muslim, especially an American Muslim publicly organized a Qur'an memorization competition and stated that those children participating were the "future of Allah's army" there would be an uprising greater than Lower Manhattan or 51 Park Place have ever seen.

Back to the Tribune story about the kids competing in the Bible Bee:
Home-schooled students occupied most of the chairs in the competition's final rounds.
So to top it of, what if those participating in the Qur'an Bee were not in mainstream schools, but were in alternative madrassas where they could be indoctrinated by any crazed parent without the oversight of the schooling system? (Madrassa is the Arabic word for school, often twisted to vaguely mean some sort of terrorist training school)

Most Tribune readers probably didn't blink an eye at this article this morning.  If the article had been about building up 'Allah's army,' 'equipping Allah's followers,' and the competitors coming from 'alternative madrassas' -- there would have been a verifiable shit storm.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Israeli soldiers celebrate the demolition of Gaza homes

This video was posted to YouTube by Assaf Kintzer, an Israeli activist or Anarchists Against the Wall.  Kintzer reportedly had the video sent to him by a soldier in the Israeli military.  

The caption on the video reads, "IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) soldiers celebrating the destruction of houses in Gaza during "Cast Lead".  (h/t Mondoweiss)

You won't get impunity at ASU

This is happening more and more often.  There is a renewed hasbara (the Hebrew word for public relations) campaign sweeping across the United States, that includes sending IDF soldiers to U.S. university campuses.  These ASU students won't stand for it.  Looks like these ASU students modeled their protest on a U of Michigan protest a few weeks ago.   

Hearing the speaker at a total loss for whether or not to address what is happening in the room is just priceless. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Military Industrial Complex

How much are we spending? How does that compare the rest of the world? Why is America's standing so poor in the world? What do the answers to these questions tell us about 'national security?'

Cultures of Resistance:  A Look at Global Militarization from Cultures of Resistance on Vimeo.

Remembrance is part of action

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

No Way Through

What if your city was under occupation? London is under a military occupation in this video. 'No Way Through' helps to give a glimpse of the anger, rage, and desperation that occupation brings for so many Palestinians.

Much of the critique of Palestinian resistance that floats around media and popular discourse would equate to critiquing the man in the video for pushing the soldier, rather than questioning the ridiculous system of military checkpoints prohibiting proper medical care.

Young Jewish activists provide alternative voice

Yesterday I tuned into the livestream of Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu speaking to the Jewish Federation's General Assembly in New Orleans. Netanyahu quickly moved to the threats facing Israel, a "go-to" topic for all of Israel's politicians and pariahs. Netanyahu first spoke about the great threat-of-all-threats that is Iran, and then about the second greatest threat facing Israel, that being the detractors who are working to delegitimize Israel. At that point, there was some audible yelling in the audience, enough of a disruption for Netanyahu to pause. The disruptions continued, with short intervals between outbursts. The disruptions were barely audible on the live feed I was watching, but the reaction of the crowd became more and more reactionary which each interruption. By the third, the crowd starting booing and yelling as soon as a protester raised her/his voice. Ironically, these boos created the need for Netanyahu to pause for even longer. I was excited to scour the internet for information about the protesters who had tried to insert an alternative voice into Netanyahu's speech. Joyously, I didn't have to scour the internet for long, as the protest had been picked up by AP, the New York Times, Haaretz, The Jersualem Post, NPR, Democracy Now!, The Jewish Forward, Ynet News, and many more outlets.

Rae Abileah, one of the activists who took part in imparting some wisdom to Netanyahu wrote about the experience:
Our well-orchestrated protest began with the bold voice of local New Orleans resident Emily Ratner, who stood up after applause for Netanyahu and proclaimed, “The Loyalty Oath delegitimizes Israel!” as she unfurled a banner with the same message. (The protest was captured on video by AP here) As Emily was removed from the room she continued shouting, and Netanyahu commented from the podium, “If they came to delegitimize Israel, they came to the wrong address.” We believe we were knocking on exactly the right door, with a message to the Jews in attendance: Israel’s occupation and oppressive policies delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world.
And finally, after Netanyahu summarized the two “greatest threats” to Israel – a nuclear Iran and “delegitimizers”– I stood up and unfurled a pink banner that read, “The settlements betray Jewish values” and in Hebrew: “Justice, justice you shall pursue,” a verse from Deuteronomy. The crowd had grown increasingly hostile with each disruption, and I was instantly attacked from all sides. A man in the row in front of me pulled the El Al seat cover off his chair and tried to gag me with it. Another man came up from the side and grabbed me by the throat. I fell into a pile of chairs until two female sheriffs buoyed me up and hustled me out of the room. The police later confided that they were trying to protect me from the angry mob and get me out of there in one piece.
Abileah's description of the (rabid) crowd's response, along with the video documentation is pretty frightening. Abileah is called a 'bitch' by someone in the crowd, alarmingly sexist and vulgar language being directed at someone who was standing up as a human rights advocate. Other protesters were called 'assholes' for suggesting that the occupation and racist Israeli laws are delegitimizing Israel.

Here is a video of the protesters introducing themselves and explaining why they came to New Orleans.

You will start seeing this more and more, mark my word.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Palestinians' wishes are simple -- we want what is ours, our land, with true sovereignty. We want freedom, equality and civil rights -- what Martin Luther King, Jr. called in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail "our constitutional and God-given rights." - Ayed Morrar

Ayed Morrar was the leader of a successful nonviolent resistance movement which forced the Israeli army to reroute the separation wall around a Palestinian town, Budrus. The town has risen to relative fame as a new documentary film is making it's way to screenings and film festivals. Check out the upcoming screenings here.

I haven't had a chance to see the film yet, but I plan to see it in Chicago in mid-November. If anything, I hope it reminds me that nonviolence can be successful, and that there are more Palestinian villages that need support and attention to help regain their lands that have been swallowed by the separation wall.

Gazan children under siege.

What's Gaza like? I guess it's kinda like this.

Children speaking without emotion about the horrors they have seen and continue to see, tensing at the sounds of airplanes over head.

Mohammed, what an amazing, articulate young boy. I pray he has some hope for a better future


Linah Alsaafin, writing for Mondoweiss, writes about the forced separation and eventual reunification of her parents. The piece highlights the policies Israel has in place which inhibits the movement of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, regardless of reasons or necessities. An incredibly moving, piece, read the whole thing:

I had to deal with my parents' unwanted and forced separation, and watched as my mother lost weight and woke up every day with puffy eyes. We've had skyping sessions with my father, which was such a bittersweet experience. My father had to go through his life without his wife or children with him, and sometimes this despairing emotion overwhelmed him. Of course we all kept in regular touch with each other-technology is beautiful in that way. I'll never forget how we both broke down one time over the phone after I confessed that the only reason I was going through with university was because I knew how much joy and pride it would bring to him when I'd graduate, and how now it wouldn't even matter because he wouldn't be at my graduation. I felt like a kid with divorced parents, "Ok are you going to spend Eid with Baba or here?" It wasn't fair to leave my mother all alone on holidays, and it wasn't fair for my father to be all alone either. I hated it. I hated the law enforcers of Israel so much. I hated the collaborative PA regime, I hated the Zionists, I hated being torn apart in my mind, I hated how after living in England and the UAE and the USA, coming back to our homeland eventually was what resulted in our bleak estrangement.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Daily Grind - Israeli military occupy Palestinian house

From CPT in Hebron:
On Thursday 28th October, Israeli soldiers occupied a Palestinian house in the Baqa'a Valley, north east of Hebron. The house is located next to Route 60, across from the illegal settlement of Havot Harsina. It is the third time in less than two months that the house has been occupied.
When CPTers arrived they were met by 7 soldiers on the steps of the house, who refused to allow them to enter. Members of the family came out and told CPTers that their father had collapsed when he tried to prevent soldiers from entering. He had been taken to hospital by ambulance. A month ago, when the house was occupied for the second time, his wife had a heart attack and died later in hospital.
15 people live in the house, of whom five are minors under 16.

A son told CPTers that there were a total of 17 soldiers in and around the house, and that military vehicles were positioned behind the house, invisible from the road.

A spokesman for the occupation forces came out and told CPTers that they could not go into the house, where the third floor and roof of the house were being occupied. He added that the occupation would be for 48 hours. (CPTers have learned that the military occupied two more Palestinian houses in the vicinity: part of a security operation to protect Israeli visitors to Hebron commemorating the death and burial of Sarah).The house is strategically located, with views in all directions. There is no other obvious reason for the occupation.
A neighbor told CPTers that he had heard screams, cries and shots from the house and therefore called for an ambulance. The soldiers had fired tear gas before they entered the house
When CPTers left, the military were installing floodlights, and had covered part of the roof with camourflage netting. The Israeli flag was flying from the roof-top.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Israeli Military's negligence exposes schoolchildren to Israeli settler threats

A press release from Christian Peacemaker Teams in At-Tuwani.

October 26, 2010

On the afternoon of Monday October 25th, Palestinian schoolchildren from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed were threatened by four adult Israeli settlers from the Havat Ma'on outpost while walking home from school. The children, aged 6-13, were walking without their normal Israeli military escort because the military had, for the second consecutive afternoon, failed to arrive to accompany the children.

After waiting for the military for over an hour, the children were forced to take a longer route on which masked Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinians and Internationals on three separate occasions over the past two weeks (see release, Internationals from the Christian Peacemaker Teams accompanied the children home and were present to observe the four Israeli settlers leave a house on a ridge above the path and begin to run towards the children and Internationals. The schoolchildren immediately began to run away, at which point the settlers slowed to a brisk walk but continued to follow the running children for a few more minutes until all were safely out of sight.

The Israeli military is mandated by the Israeli Knesset to escort these children to and from school each day because Israeli settlers from the Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost have repeatedly attacked schoolchildren on their way to and from school. On the afternoons of the 24th and 25th, Internationals from Operation Dove and the Christian Peacemaker Teams made repeated calls to the Israeli military to notify them that the children were ready and waiting for the escort, but the army never arrived. This is the third incident this month in which the army has failed to arrive to escort the schoolchildren.

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havot Ma'on (Hill 833) are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vatican wants the occupation ended

A Vatican Synod on the Middle East recently convened and subsequently released an important statement regarding Israel/Palestine (see Ynet article). The Vatican body stated that Biblical concepts and interpretations of sacred scripture cannot neither be used to justify the occupation nor Israel's territorial claims which lead to settlement expansion. Here is an greatly encouraging quote from Greek-Melchite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros:
"We Christians cannot speak about the promised land for the Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people. All men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.
"The concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians," he added. "The justification of Israel's occupation of the land of Palestine cannot be based on sacred scriptures."
The statement also stated the obvious (yet immensely important to explicitly state time and time again):
"Palestinians are suffering the consequences of the Israeli occupation: the lack of freedom of movement, the wall of separation and the military checkpoints, the political prisoners, the demolition of homes, the disturbance of socio-economic life and the thousands of refugees."
Thank you Catholic Church for restoring a small sliver of my (recently held) hope in the Christian Church. I pray this is a small step toward the global church being a voice for justice in Israel and Palestine.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ethnic cleansing isn't pretty; No Israeli sister cities

Last night I attended a protest of the Chicago Festival of Israel Cinema. This demonstration that fits in with the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society to use boycotts, divestments, and sanctions to force Israel to recognize and respect Palestinian human rights.

That being said, I understand that the cultural boycott of Israel is probably the most controversial aspect of the boycott. A lot of people can get behind boycotting Israeli settlement goods, because to many people, settlements are the most clear obstacle to peace and the most evident violation of international law.

Nevertheless, I support the cultural boycott of Israel. Why? Because Israel cannot keep operating in the world -- through the arts, economics, sports, and politics -- as if it's not carrying out a brutal occupation of the West Bank, operating the largest open-air prison in the world, and egregiously violating human rights and international laws.

It's the same reason I think tourists who go to Tel Aviv, Nazareth, and Eilat -- without ever stepping foot in the occupied territories -- are deceiving themselves and not getting a full picture of Israel. Israel is an occupier. Israel disregards the rulings of the International Criminal Court. Israel scoffs at international law. Israel is a racist, apartheid state in which all non-Jews are second class citizens. Israel imprisons 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, barely nothing in and nothing out.

That's why they can't have a film festival in Chicago, because the arts are used to whitewash the myriad evils that the Israeli state carries out on a daily basis. It's like taking a rotten apple, hiding the bad part, and showing the world the small sliver of the apple that is still shiny and red.

Here's a bit of background to the event from the Palestine Solidarity Group - Chicago, followed by video and pictures. (A more professional video was shot and is being edited, I will post it once it's finished.)
The protest is part of an ongoing campaign calling on Chicago Sister Cities International, which is co-sponsoring the festival and whose offices are located in the Chicago Cultural Center, to drop the Israeli city of Petach Tikva from its program and end business-as-usual with apartheid Israel.

The festival is being promoted as “The Real Reel Israel” yet we know that the fictional image of Israel as a liberal, multicultural state being trotted out at this festival is another PR attempt by the racist Israeli government and its supporters to whitewash the all too real Israeli military occupation, oppression of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the ongoing denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

When did you choose to be straight?

Sometimes asking the right questions is the most important thing.