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.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
On Friday night, Anderson Cooper took on Renee Ellmers, a Republican House candidate in North Carolina who has now based her campaign on opposing the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," the Muslim community center project all the way up north in New York City. And the interview sure was a sight to behold.
Ellmers is running against incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge. Her ad declared: "After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, and Cordoba, and Constantinople, they built victory mosques. And now, they want to build a mosque by Ground Zero. Where does Bob Etheridge stand? He won't say, won't speak out, won't take a stand." Ellmers herself then cut in: "The terrorists haven't won. And we should tell them in plain English, no, there will never be a mosque at Ground Zero."
For one thing, Cooper asked Ellmers about how her ad uses the terms "Muslim" and "terrorists" interchangeably. Ellmers actually tried to wiggle out of that: "Well, to be honest, I think that you could make that assumption, but, you know, that's -- that's not giving me the benefit of the doubt."
Cooper replied: "I mean, that's -- your words are very carefully selected."
"The words are carefully selected, but that is certainly not what I'm intending to say. I am not intending to say that all Muslims are terrorists," Ellmers replied. "Basically, what I am saying, sir, is that there were terrorists who attacked us. They were Islamic jihadists. And, as a result of that, we have seen the devastation on 9/11."
Monday, September 27, 2010
Huff believes that there are often connections between "self-described peaceful activist groups and those that condone, support, or participate in various forms of terrorist violence." Huff first describes the radical organization Voices, and then goes on to describe Christian Peaceamaker Teams.
The group Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), founded in the mid-1980s by a handful of leftist religious organizations, conducts most of its operations in the Middle East, where it has been involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1992. Working closely with Palestinian political leaders, CPT members promote peace by engaging in "direct-action" sabotage against the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). According to discoverthenetworks.org, "CPT cooperates with, shares personnel with, and works alongside the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)," a radical, anti-Israeli organization led by Palestinians who work with American recruiters to invite Western volunteers to Israel for the purpose of disrupting the activities of the IDF.Huff then goes on to describe ISM's supposed connection to a terrorist bombing in 2003. In addition he critiques CPT for their work in Iraq, posits CPT and voices were puppets for Saddam's regime, and takes aim at CPT's critiques of U.S.-led troops. He cites a statement by CPT regarding the kidnapping of 4 of their peacemakers to prove that CPT wrongly places blame on those who liberated the CPT peacemakers:
... We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end. ... During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis ...Apparently Christians who approach CPT should "proceed with extreme caution." You should, cause we are crazy, and we are radical.
A post from a colleague of mine.
CPTnet27 September 2010AT-TUWANI/ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTIONby Steve Heinrichs
A life-changing thought came to mind this past week while I was serving in the village of at-Tuwani. I was out with Palestinian shepherds, watching the Jewish settlers of Ma'on construct another large chicken barn on stolen Palestinian land. As I watched, all of a sudden, the armed Jewish settlers and their bulldozers vanished from sight, only to be replaced by other white settlers—persons of European origin, carrying Bibles, guns, and Christian civilization. Then the Palestinian shepherds next to me, a couple of young Muslim teenagers, also disappeared, and in their place stood two men of First Nations origin. And before I knew it, the desert land beneath my feet began to tremble, and thousands of huge Douglas Firs erupted from the hillsides, while a raging river full of salmon and steelhead burst forth from the rocky valley below.
There was no mistaking it. I was in my “home and native land,” my country of Canada, my province of British Columbia. And as I looked around, I perceived the disturbing truth of the dream.
Historian Norman Finkelstein thinks what happened to the indigenous of Turtle Island (North America) is the best analogy one can draw on to understand current events in Palestine—the ethnic cleansing, the theft of lands, the racist policies. But I'm pressing beyond illuminating parallels. Could it be that the oppressions of these two peoples are connected in some deeper way? And could it be that we North Americans who seek justice in Palestine cannot actually do this work with efficacy, let alone integrity, unless we are seeking the same justice for the host peoples in our countries?
We see (or read about) the Israeli colonialists grabbing more and more land, and getting rid of more and more natives. We see and we cry out; we rage and resist. But where is the similar protest on behalf of the peoples who have suffered the largest holocaust the world has ever known? Conservative estimates assert that there were at least 10 million Native persons living on Turtle Island when Columbus came. By 1900, only 250,000 were left.
Where is our rage? And where is our repentance as inheritors and benefactors of the North American settler movement? If we condemn today's Israeli settlers for stealing Canaan from the Palestinians, what will we do about the Promised Land our settler forefathers wrested from indigenous people, land that we've inherited, land that we live on (and land, of course, symbolizing all our stolen wealth, power, privilege, culture, etc.) Is that simply all in the past?
We North Americans who are seeking justice and peace for the people of Palestine need some new priorities: to get to know the “Palestinians” back home, to hear their stories, and seek justice in solidarity with them. If we did, greater integrity would certainly come our way, but also something much more important. For in a cosmos in which Creator has made everything interrelated, the fight for justice in both places (abroad and at home) might mean that both peoples will experience some kind of just peace sooner.
The distinguished Palestinian poet Mahmoud believed and proclaimed that Palestinian and Native suffering were profoundly connected. In his poem, “The Speech of the Red Indian,” he tells settlers of all stripes—be they Jewish or North American like us —the posture that we need to adopt in order to heal our one human body. It is not a comfortable posture for us settlers. But it is the right and necessary one, and so deserves the last word:
There are dead who light up the night
and the dead who come at dawn
to drink your tea
as peaceful as on the day your
guns mowed them down.
O you who are guests in this place,
leave a few chairs empty
for your hosts to read out
the conditions for peace
in a treaty with the dead.
Friday, September 24, 2010
"Israel doesn't seem to show any interest in the two state solution...."
Tune in for Ali's reasonings for thinking Israel doesn't want peace.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
CPTnet 23 de septiembre AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION:
God’s justice, even for the shops by Steve Heinrichs “And the shops of the city will clap their hands!”
That’s what those radical biblical prophets would be singing if they were here in occupied Hebron, tramping through the streets of the Old City, seeing the overwhelming number of Palestinian shops that have been shut down by the Israeli forces. A long time ago, courageous truth-telling Jews like Isaiah and Jeremiah went around proclaiming to the oppressed that God was coming to bring justice to all things. Not only people, but everything would receive God's peace, so that, according to the prophetic imagination, even “the trees will clap their hands” (Is. 55:12). And if trees clap, why not Palestinian shops?
The prophets dreamt of a world with jubilant trees because the trees were one of the chief victims of ancient imperial politics. They had been clear-cut by empire after empire in order to satisfy a variety of violent and extravagant purposes; military chariots, fleets of naval war ships, opulent palace residences, and temples. "But there is hope for the trees!" shout the prophets. One day they will clap their hands because God will come at last to rescue them from the death-dealing ways of the empire. One day the trees will clap because the powers of this earth will finally stop abusing them, stop taking more than they really need, and never again cut them down for purposes of war.
Today, in the streets of Hebron's Old City, I can hear those old prophets singing that familiar tune once again, yet remixing the powerful words to speak hope and challenge into this particular situation. “And the shops of the city will clap their hands.”
Over the past decade, more than five hundred Palestinian shops have been welded shut and well over a thousand more closed due to Israeli imperial politics. That is about 75% of the shops in this place, and the impact of such oppression, as you can well imagine, has been devastating. Once the hub of trade, giving life to the entire community, today’s Old City struggles simply to survive. And the violence against the shops continues. This past month, we have witnessed Israeli soldiers arbitrarily breaking open the doors of three more shops, and welding shut three others.
The prophetic tradition will not stand idly by. So if you and I have ears to hear, let us hear those ancient Palestinian activists singing a subversive song in today’s Palestine, crying out to God and to us and against the Israeli Empire, “And the shops of the city will clap their hands.”
One day, God will restore all things; not just Israeli and Palestinian, but even trees, and yes, even the shops of Hebron. Until that day, let us boldly sing the song of our elder prophets, and perhaps we will hear a little clapping, even today.
The poor Palestinians of East Jerusalem have few assured human or civil rights. Anyone may do anything to them at any time, and they have little recourse. They can be thrown out of property they legally purchased after 1948, and made to live in tents in front of their former residences; and then the tents can be demolished by Israeli police. Aggressive, larcenous Jewish squatters continually attempt to effect a slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, using fraud and sometimes force.
The 55,000 Palestinians of the Silwan area (formerly a village but now annexed to Jerusalem) are mad as hell and not going to take it any more. Three hundred militant settlers have been inserted in their midst on the basis of some fable that a legendary King David dwelled there in the 10th century BC (archeology has found Jerusalem largely uninhabited in that period and has never found firm evidence of a Jewish kingdom during that era or even that a David or Solomon existed; they are not mentioned in contemporary Assyrian sources).
It is as though hundreds of armed men showed up in front of your house and demanded you take your family and leave and give it to them because their ancestor was a king and he is buried deep under its foundations. But you have the same ancestors that they do! (Jerusalem was founded some 5000 years ago by the common ancestors of most Jews and Palestinians).
The Palestinians started throwing stones at the squatters on some provocation. But the squatters have private armed security guards (an increasing tendency worldwide for colonial ventures). One of the guards opened fire. The accounts are murky, but the guard appears to have killed two innocent bystanders, one a Palestinian father of five who was driving by. The private guard wounded another Palestinian, who appears to have been fleeing him.And to get a sense of the mood in Silwan, this is a worthwhile video. These people aren't animals. They have been treated like animals for decades, and they are angry. Wouldn't you be? (Oh, and the man who murdered the two Palestinians, he has already been released from custody).
People seem to ask me more questions about a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict when there are some kind of swirling rumors about proximity talks or direct negotiations or whatever you call them. In the spirit of responding to these questions and comments about settlement freezes and peace talks, I will present a few points, explode a few myths, and probably bore a few readers.
First, settlement moratorium. You have to understand, all Israeli settlements are illegal. No one has ever disputed that, not even the United States. The establishment of an Israeli settlement is always theft of land, and it is land theft sanctioned, permitted, and encouraged by the state of Israel. Every additional housing unit built and every additional square meter of land stolen is another sizable obstacle in the way to human rights being recognized and peace being realized. So back to the settlement moratorium. Well, the so-called-10-month freeze…it never really happened. Remember when Peace Now found 492 violations of the partial moratorium?
One quarter of all the settlements violated the moratorium. 600 housing units in 60 settlements began to be constructed during the 'moratorium.' The standard building rate, during that same period is 1,130 units. That means the moratorium cut the building in half. Again, every single unit is a violation of international law. So, the moratorium only stopped half of the violations of international law.
Additionally, here is a video from the largest settlement near Hebron, called Kiryat Arba. Settlers are publicly pissing all over the settlement moratorium, in open view of the main highway. If you look closely you can see a concrete pouring machine, a concrete truck turning its tank, and a concrete truck leaving the settlement. (h/t Mondoweiss)
Today at the United Nations, Obama came to the podium, like the Nobel Peace Prize winner he is (gag reflex), and uttered, "Israel's settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks."
Well Mr. President, the moratorium has not made a difference on the ground, it has only cemented the realities of colonialist land theft and dispossession of the Palestinian people at a slightly slower rate. And, Mr. President, you believe that racist colonialist thiefs should stop what they are doing and that international law shouldn't be publicly flouted? But you won't do anything about it if it is openly flouted? Well that's brave Mr. POTUS-Noble-Peace-Prize Winner.
Secondly, Mahmoud Abbas doesn't represent the Palestinian people. Elections were supposed to be held eons ago, and every Palestinian I have ever met simply hates Abbas, believing, rightly so, that he is nothing more than a politician who loves his seat and sleeps with Israel and the United States in order to keep his facade of legitimacy. When Obama said today, "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- who stands up for his people in front of the world," he couldn't have been more wrong. Mahmoud Abbas does not stand for the Palestinian people. That's not my opinion, that is the unanimous voice of the Palestinian street.
Thirdly, you shouldn't be positive or optimistic about these peace talks. If they 'succeed,' it won't be success in terms of human rights for all people or for a just peace. These peace talks seem to be seeking to maintain the status quo, which isn't tenable in the long term. Rather, the realities on the ground must change: apartheid laws that privilege Jews over non-Jews, settlements that continue to steal land, Palestinian borders and airspace controlled by Israel, to name just a few. Here is Nadia Hijab, who explains the point much better than I do myself:
…next year is likely to see a grand ceremony where Palestinian leaders will sign away the right of return and other Palestinian rights in an agreement that would change little on the ground. The plan of the PA’s appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to declare a Palestinian state in 2011 could unwittingly contribute to this outcome by providing the appearance of an “end of conflict” while the reality remains unchanged. If the rest of the world sees that the government of “Palestine” is satisfied with international recognition and a U.N. seat, they will be happy to move on to other problems leaving the Palestinians at Israel’s mercy.
Such a scenario could sound a death-knell for Palestinian human rights. The Palestinian people have shown a remarkable capacity to regenerate resistance and evolve new strategies after suffering harsh setbacks over the past century. But there may be no recovery this time around. A “peace agreement” would end the applicability of international law to the resolution of the conflict; permanently fragment the Palestinian people; and demobilize Arab and international solidarity.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero.I want it built on Ground Zero.Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you....Friends, we all have a responsibility NOW to make sure that Muslim community center gets built. Once again, 70% of the country (the same number that initially supported the Iraq War) is on the wrong side and want the "mosque" moved. Enormous pressure has been put on the Imam to stop his project. We have to turn this thing around. Are we going to let the bullies and thugs win another one? Aren't you fed up by now? When would be a good time to take our country back from the haters?...I say right now. Let's each of us make a statement by donating to the building of this community center! It's a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and you can donate a dollar or ten dollars (or more) right now through a secure pay pal account by clicking here. I will personally match the first $10,000 raised (forward your PayPal receipt to email@example.com). If each one of you reading this blog/email donated just a couple of dollars, that would give the center over $6 million, more than what Donald Trump has offered to buy the Imam out. C'mon everyone, let's pitch in and help those who are being debased for simply wanting to do something good. We could all make a huge statement of love on this solemn day.
It was bad enough to see a fringe figure acting out for cable news and Web sites, but it was deeply disturbing to hear John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, equate Mr. Jones’s antics with the Muslim center.In both cases, he told ABC News, “Just because you have a right to do something in America does not mean it is the right thing to do.” The Constitution does, indeed, protect both, but they are not morally equivalent. In New York City, a group of Muslims is trying to build something. Mr. Jones and his supporters are trying to tear down more than two centuries of religious tolerance.
For a glimpse of how venomous and debased the discourse about Islam has become, consider a blog post in The New Republic this month. Written by Martin Peretz, the magazine’s editor in chief, it asserted: “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims.”Mr. Peretz added: “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”Thus a prominent American commentator, in a magazine long associated with tolerance, ponders whether Muslims should be afforded constitutional freedoms. Is it possible to imagine the same kind of casual slur tossed off about blacks or Jews? How do America’s nearly seven million American Muslims feel when their faith is denounced as barbaric?This is one of those times that test our values, a bit like the shameful interning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the disgraceful refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe.
The daily interruption of hatred is a job for all of us....Last week, in a Queens Dunkin’ Donuts, one of us walked in on a woman who berated the Bangladeshi American staff for five minutes over the supposed wrongness of her coffee. She proceeded to call the server ugly, take a breath—clearly considering her next line for maximum impact—and declare, “You’re all a bunch of terrorists.”But there was an important lesson for us all in that exchange. A mild, “There’s no need for that” was enough to disrupt the woman’s rant. Maybe that woman won’t change her attitude, but there were a dozen adults and four children there—and they might. The scene said everything: A few loud voices are spewing hate, but unless the rest of us stand up and counter it they will set the tone for us all....But the real problem is that everyday Americans keep silent about too much of this. America is a land of individual freedom. Now more than ever we need to exercise our freedom of speech, rather than huddling in fear and fascination at the group-think that can so quickly take over our country. We don’t need Bush or Obama to give us a moral compass. This isn’t just about challenging the most extreme versions of Islamaphobia. It’s also about responding when neighbors argue that the Cordoba House should be moved for sensitivity’s sake; challenging colleagues who “ask” whether Obama is secretly Muslim; and questioning popular representations of Muslims even when you’re just watching TV with family. It’s hard to confront bigotry, whether it comes from your uncle or a stranger. Your blood pressure goes up and your heart races. But if we lead with love and acceptance, we will always know the right thing to say, and we will set an example for someone else.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
As a long time resident of Gainesville FL, it pained me to hear this morning on NPR of a demonstration in Afghanistan against the 9/11 Quran burning here. We in Gainesville pride ourselves as being a progressive, tolerant and forward looking city. We also happen to be home of the small (less than 50) Dove Outreach church, a reactionary and publicity seeking outfit. Please, people of the world, know that this stunt has stimulated much pain and concern in our community. It has stimulated a lot of planning and dialogue, and there will be a variety of events to counter the proposed burning. There has been wildly inaccurate reporting about the event, with the Wall Street Journal repeating the false report that Dove is a “mega-church”. It is a micro-church, also run as a used furniture store . . . They are loving all the publicity, while the rest of our community can only look on in horror and try to come up with a cogent response. That this small group of wing-nuts have garnered so much publicity is a shame; hopefully we will make it through the week peacefully and come out with a community made even stronger. But to the world, we can only say we are sorry, and please don’t judge us by these bigoted few.’
Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”
5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”
[5:51] O you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as friends; these are friends of one another. Those among you who ally themselves with these belong with them.
[5:51] O you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as tribal patrons; these are tribal patrons of one another. Those among you who become clients of these belong with them.
Monday, September 06, 2010
Nicholas Kristof's new column is worth a read. Kristof touches on the recent mosque controversy and the rise of Islamaphobia in the country. It's not difficult to make the connections between the marginalization, suspicion, and fear of Muslims today, and the fear seen towards many other people groups in history:
Suspicion of outsiders, of people who behave or worship differently, may be an ingraineda element of the human condition, a survival instinct from our cave-man days. But we should also recognize that historically this distrust has led us to burn witches, intern Japanese-Americans, and turn away Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.
Perhaps the closest parallel to today’s hysteria about Islam is the 19th-century fear spread by the Know Nothing movement about “the Catholic menace.” One book warned that Catholicism was “the primary source” of all of America’s misfortunes, and there were whispering campaigns that presidents including Martin Van Buren and William McKinley were secretly working with the pope. Does that sound familiar?
Critics warned that the pope was plotting to snatch the Mississippi Valley and secretly conspiring to overthrow American democracy. “Rome looks with wistful eye to domination of this broad land, a magnificent seat for a sovereign pontiff,” one writer cautioned.
Historically, unreal suspicions were sometimes rooted in genuine and significant differences. Many new Catholic immigrants lacked experience in democracy. Mormons were engaged in polygamy. And today some extremist Muslims do plot to blow up planes, and Islam has real problems to work out about the rights of women. The pattern has been for demagogues to take real abuses and exaggerate them, portraying, for example, the most venal wing of the Catholic Church as representative of all Catholicism — just as fundamentalist Wahabis today are caricatured as more representative of Islam than the incomparably more numerous moderate Muslims of Indonesia (who have elected a woman as president before Americans have).
In the 19th century, fears were stoked by books written by people who supposedly had “escaped” Catholicism. These books luridly recounted orgies between priests and nuns, girls kidnapped and held in secret dungeons, and networks of tunnels at convents to allow priests to rape nuns. One woman claiming to have been a priest’s sex slave wrote a “memoir” asserting that Catholics killed boys and ground them into sausage for sale.
I can't but help of think of my recent post about the 'Green Prince' when I read about the strongest critiques and the most fearful sentiment being brought by those who had 'escaped' their previous religion.
Sixty four percent of Israeli teens aged 15 to 18 say that Arab Israelis do not enjoy full equal rights in Israel, and from that group, 59 percent believe that they should not have full equal rights, according to a special survey prepared for the "Education in the Digital Age" conference held in Haifa on Monday.The survey also revealed that 96 percent of the respondents want Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state, but 27 percent believe that those who object should be tried in court, and 41 percent support stripping them of their citizenship.In answer to a question if they would be willing to learn in a classroom with one or more students with special needs, 32 percent answered in the negative. When the question was asked regarding Arab students, 50 percent of respondents answered in the negative. In addition, 23 percent said that they wouldn't want gays or lesbians in their class.The survey was conducted by Professor Camil Fuchs from the Statistics Department of Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the company Sample Project. The poll included about 500 people between the ages of 15 and 18. The conference has been sponsored by "Reshet Shocken," in cooperation with Haifa City Council.The poll also revealed that 40 percent of Jewish youth have never been a part of a youth group, and 45 percent have never volunteered in any capacity.In regard to motivation to serve in the IDF, 83 percent said that they don't doubt that they will serve, but about half said that they have friends that do not plan on enlisting.More than half of the survey's respondents, 59 percent, said that they did not want to serve in combat units of the army. In response to a question of whether they would refuse to serve in the territories, 24 percent said they would refuse, 47 percent said that they would not refuse, and the remainder had not yet decided.