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, November 15, 2011

We teach life, Sir.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Musician sings Occupy-inspired protest song to the world's leaders

Hawaiian musician, Makana, was invited to perform some pleasant background music for the summit of APEC, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which included the presence of Barack Obama. Makana, who had recently recorded a protest song inspired by the Occupy Movement and the greed of Wall Street, decided to sing his song for the leaders of the world's economic powers. He ended up singing the song for 45 minutes, yep, forty-five minutes.

Here is the music video:

Here is a video Makana posted that speaks to his conviction to sing the song:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We don't do universal rights, We're America

For one of the classes I currently have, we read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (go read it). This is a foundational document for human rights practitioners and advocates as it forms, in part, what is known as the International Bill of Rights.

Here are some excerpts:

Article 18 - Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Article 19 - Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 22 - Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 24 - Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 28 - Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Article 29 - (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

My professor asked us after having read the declaration, "What was your impression of the declaration when you read it? How did you feel when you read it?"

One of my classmates from the Middle East/North Africa raised her hand and asked if we were to respond based on the most recent time we had read it, or the first time we had read it.  The professor said we could respond however we wanted, and another classmate from South America proceeded to recount her feelings the first time she read the declaration during elementary school.  The clarity of her answer started to fade as I got hung up on the fact that she had read the declaration in elementary school.

The first time that I had read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in completion was for this every class, in graduate school. I am 26 years old, educated in the United States with a BA degree in the humanities, and now pursuing an MA degree in peace studies, and I finally got around to reading the declaration.

I'll take the blame for some of this. I was doing human rights work in the West Bank and rarely sat down and read human rights law or international conventions, something, in retrospect, I should have done.

But I think the issue is larger than a personal issue. Several students in the class, from outside the US, talked about reading the declaration in a public elementary school.  As opposed to teaching international law and international human rights conventions, we, in the United States, have a degree of contempt for international law and human rights law.

Or maybe the contempt is at the governmental level, most clearly exemplified by George W. Bush and his cronies, while the public is simply unaware of international law and international human rights. We learn the Bill of Rights, found in the US Constitution, but we know damn well that only applies to people in the United States, and frankly, it may only apply to US Citizens, unless you're Muslim and/or brown, or your last name is Awlaki.

We've even created prisons outside of the United States so that we don't have to extend domestic law to those people, knowing full well that we will not extend international human rights standards to those we've locked up in these clandestine prisons.

What if we read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 5th grade classrooms and talked about how these rights should be granted to and protected for all people, regardless of where they reside of where they were born. Sure, that would somewhat undermine the "supremacy" of the United States and the elitist, not to mention fictional, notion that the US has the market cornered on values. But we'd be conveying a message that all people are equal, even across national boundaries, that there's a set of moral standards and baseline behavior, codified in international law, that we're obligated to respect. Now wouldn't that be a dangerous message for the empire of all modern empires. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kroc Institute's 25th Bday

The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Here is a timeline -- with text, photos, and videos -- of the history of the program. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Trailer for upcoming film: Some of my best friends are Zionists

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A collection of quotes from 9/11 columns

The last several weeks have seen a flurry of coverage and attention paid to the commemoration of one decade since the violent attacks of September 11th, 2001. Many newspapers and media outlets have provided extensive coverage of the rememberance. I've been slowly wading through the material from sources like the New York Times, Al Jazeera, Common Dreams, and the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism.

What I've provided below is a collection of some of the best quotes I found within the columns I read. I took issue with the overall tone of a couple of the articles below, while others, I agreed with almost completely. The point of the exercise wasn't to provide examples of people with whom I agree, but to present a readable chunk of material, covering a relatively wide range of issues spiraling out of 9/11, with links so you could explore what piques your interest.

ROBERT A. PAPE: The End of Fear, The Beginning of Understanding
Have these actions – which some have called, “World War IV” – made America safe?
Anti-American suicide terrorism rose rapidly around the world in the decade since September 11, 2001. In 2003, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously asked, “Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?” As even a casual glance at the facts shows, the answer is a disappointing no. The negative side of the balance sheet is daunting.
Look at the numbers. In 2000 – the year before 9/11 – there were 20 suicide attacks around the world and one – against the US Cole in Yemen – was anti-American inspired. By contrast, in 2010, there were well over 200 suicide attacks and about 90 percent were anti-American inspired – against US troops or those working with America – a ten-fold increase over the past decade.
Islamic fundamentalism is not the main driver of suicide terrorism. What drives this phenomenon more than any other single factor is foreign military presence – which inspires wave after wave of individuals to join terrorist groups in order to carry out suicide attacks in the hope that these would end the foreign presence in their lands.
SCOTT SHANE -- Al Qaeda’s Outsize Shadow: The brazenness and sheer luck of the 9/11 plot have stood for a decade as an argument that anything is possible
Nonetheless, the brazenness of the 9/11 plot and the brilliance and sheer luck of its execution have stood for a decade as an argument that, no matter what any expert says, anything is possible. The attacks inflicted on the American psyche a kind of collective post-traumatic stress disorder, producing at a societal level the hypervigilance that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan know too well.
RAMI KHOURI: The Middle East Ten Years After 9/11
The biggest policy failure in the response to 9/11 in the West and the Middle East was the inability or unwillingness of governments to analyze Al-Qaeda terror in its full context for what it really was: a small fringe movement – a violent, marginal cult on the run – that consistently failed to resonate with publics across the Arab-Asian region, but that exploited widely held grievances against Arab and Asian governments and the foreign policies of the United States and Israel.
AHMED RASHID -- And Hate Begat Hate
The wave of anti-Americanism is rising in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, even among many who once admired the United States, and the short reason for that is plain: the common resentment is that American plans to bring peace and development to Afghanistan have failed
JOHN ESPOSITO: The Consequences of Islamophobia, in the U.S. and Abroad
Because the small number of extremists responsible for 9/11 and terrorist attacks in Europe and the Muslim world legitimated their acts in the name of Islam, we have seen an exponential increase in the past ten years of hostility and intolerance towards fellow Muslim citizens. This hatred threatens the democratic fabric of American and European societies and impacts not only the safety and civil liberties of Muslims but also, as the attacks in Norway demonstrate, the safety of all citizens.
Like other Americans, Muslims also were victims; they too lost loved ones and friends in the 9/11 attacks. Moreover, they have seen their religion vilified and many in the mainstream Muslim majority have been victims of serious abuses — racial profiling, overzealous and illegal arrests and detentions, surveillance, wiretapping and trials using “secret evidence”
CHRIS HEDGES -- A Decade After 9/11: We Are What We Loathe
There would soon, however, be another reaction. Those of us who were close to the epicenters of the 9/11 attacks would primarily grieve and mourn. Those who had some distance would indulge in the growing nationalist cant and calls for blood that would soon triumph over reason and sanity. Nationalism was a disease I knew intimately as a war correspondent. It is anti-thought. It is primarily about self-exaltation. The flip side of nationalism is always racism, the dehumanization of the enemy and all who appear to question the cause. The plague of nationalism began almost immediately.
We produced piles of corpses in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and extended the reach of our killing machine to Yemen and Somalia. And by beatifying our dead, by cementing into the national psyche fear and the imperative of permanent war, and by stoking our collective humiliation, the state carried out crimes, atrocities and killings that dwarfed anything carried out against us on 9/11.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Kuffiyeh is Arabic (music video)

Great new song from Palestinian MC, Shadia Mansour, featuring M1 of Dead Prez.

Arabic translations of verses and chorus (h/t Seham and Inanna):
Good morning cousins, welcome, you honor us,
What would you like us to offer you,, Arab blood or tears from our eyes? “
I think that’s how they expected us to welcome them,
That’s why they got embarrassed when they realized their mistake,
That’s why we wore the keffiyeh, the white and black,
And now these dogs are wearing it for fashion,
No matter how they redesign it, no matter how they change its colour,
the kuffiysh is Arab and will remain Arab.

Our kuffiyeh, they want it, our culture, they want it,
Our dignity they want it, Everything that’s ours, they want it.
We shut up for them, we allow(excuse) them, (1)
Why, why, it suits them, Stealing something that’s none of your business,
They imitate us, what we wear, all this land, enough of this (2), they’re greedy,
About Jerusalem, the Holy City, know how, be humane,
Before you ever wore a kuffiyeh, we’re here to remind you this is our keffiyeh, against the will of your damn fathers (3).

That’s why we wore the keffiyeh, because it’s patriotic, the kuffiyeh is Arab, That’s why we wore the kuffiyeh, it’s our essential identity, the kuffiyeh is Arab. Come on, raise the kuffiyeh, raise it up for me, the kuffiyeh is Arab

Raise it up Bilad as-Sham (Greater Syria or the Levant), the kuffiyeh is Arab and it will remain Arab.
There’s none yet like the Arab people, Show me another nation in the world more influential,
It’s clear, we are the cradle of civilisation, Our history and culture testify/bear witness to our existence,
That’s why I wore the Palestinian ‘tob’, From Haifa, Jenin, Jabar al-Nar to Ramallah,
Let me see the kuffiyeh, the white and red, Let me raise it up to the sky,
(next 3 lines unclear – Palestinian accent is confusing me)

Record! I am Shadia Mansour and this is my kuffiyeh (4)
From the day I was born, raising consciousness was my responsibility
Because I was raised between destruction, between evil, between religions between aliens (interlopers) (5) between the poor. I’ve seen life from both sides.
I’m like the kuffiyeh, Wherever you wear me, wherever you toss me away, I remain true to my origins, Palestinian.

(1) These lines are interesting because they are a play on words. They can mean ‘We shut up for them, we allow them’ but the she says them splits what is a single word in Arabic into two words which means Half the country, half the land. So I think she is trying to convey both meanings.

(2) The Arabic for ‘Enough of this’ is ‘bikaffi al ghinnij’, which means literally means ‘that’s enough spoiling of them’. In other words, we allowed them (the Israelis) to get away with too much, they’re taken too much away from us.

(3) The Arabic is ‘ghas min 3an abukun’ which is tough to translate. I’ve translated it above but Haytham’s translations are also acceptable.

(4) I’ve translated ‘sajjal’ as ‘record’ since that is the way that Darwish’s poem is translated and, in Arabic, to listen and to record are two different words, which the translator above should have known!

(5) the Arabic dakheel means aliens or interlopers – she’s referring to the invasion of the zionists of Palestine

Monday, August 22, 2011

Draw the line in the Tar Sands before it's too late

From Firedoglake:
A major two-week action involving daily sit-ins at the White House against the granting of a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline began Saturday. Just over seventy people were arrested. The action continues today, as over thirty plan to engage in civil disobedience at the White House again.
The Keystone XL pipeline, transporting petroleum, would flow from Alberta, Canada to ports in the southern US. The environmental impacts of this project would be astronomical. There is a plethora of information available about the tar sands fields in Alberta and about the high degree of processing that must occur before bitumen, a semi-solid state of petroleum, can be made into usable petroleum. This is the dirtiest petroleum around that requires the highest energy input in order to create petroleum. It's also destroying indigenous communities in Canada. An excellent documentary detailing the fatal health impacts on an indigenous community near the Tar Sands sites is available from Al Jazeera English in two parts, here and here (highly recommended).

Firedoglake continues:
The possible construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is a prime example of something that would be a huge injustice that would threaten justice everywhere. The TransCanada pipeline will wind its way from Alberta to Texas through Nebraska and ruin the livelihoods of farmers while at the same time polluting the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska. It would put the Missouri, Yellowstone, Cheyenne and Niobrara Rivers at risk of spills.
So what are people asking in their civil disobedience? They're asking Obama and the State Department to say no to this dirty tar sands oil. The Keystone XL pipeline would solidify our dependence on oil for many more decades, while greatly accelerating our approach of catastrophic global climate change.
If built, the Keystone XL Pipeline would lock America into a future of planet-warming energy dependency. Indeed, Dr. Hansen – America’s top climate scientist – has said that full exploitation of Canada’s tar sands would be “game over” for efforts to solve climate change. President Obama alone – without input from Congress – has the power to approve or reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. He will decide as soon as September whether to honor his campaign pledge to create a clean-energy economy, or to lock us in as a nation that cooks and distills filthy tar sands for much of our energy. Building this pipeline will be an economic and moral setback for clean-energy sources of all types. This is a line in the sand. The tar sands!
Follow Common Dreams for near daily press releases on the issue and the ongoing demonstrations in front of the White House. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

East Bay represents with Arabic stop signs and good questions

I stayed at my sister's place in Oakland last week. My M.O. was to see my friends, in a band called The Tree Ring, play some great music and also to see three Giants games. I successfully accomplished my MO, but I also had a pleasant morning near the Oakland port after dropping off a friend at the 12th St. BART station. I parked and headed towards Blue Bottle Coffee when I stop sign caught my eye.

It's a double-language stop sign in English and Arabic. 'Stop' and 'Qaff.' I stopped, smiled, and snapped a photo as Oakland wormed it's way a little closer into my heart.

I arrived at Blue Bottle Coffee and while standing in line I noticed the people to my left were looking at me fairly intently. I had been getting 'Hey, it's Lincecum,' comments all week long, and frankly, I was tired of it. I looked over in their direction with two objectives: 1) to give them a full view of my face, instead of a just a profile, so that they would decide that I wasn't Tim Lincecum, and 2) to make them feel guilty for staring at me. But once I made eye contact, the women of the male-female pair made it clear she wasn't a Lincecum-look-alike fanatic by asking, "What does your shirt say?"

I am always pleased with the opportunity to talk about my shirt, that's in fact why I wear it. "In Hebrew and Arabic, it says, 'Stop the occupiers in Sheikh Jarrah, which is a neighborhood in Jerusalem.'"

I continued with the explanation as I turned around to show them the back of the shirt, "and on the back it says, 'end the occupation.'"

Others have asked me about this shirt before, such as the young man who excitedly stopped me at a Seattle Sounders game. He said he recognized the Hebrew from his Hebrew school days, and wondered what it meant. When I said the words, 'end the occupation,' his face transformed from a smile into something horribly serious, yet expressionless. He turned and walked away without even responding to my translation of the shirt.

So the fact that this Oakland couple had pretty neutral reactions was a positive sign. She responded, "so it's a pro-Palestinian shirt," more matter-of-factly than interrogatively. "No, it's a pro-justice shirt,"  I clarified.

She smiled and nodded approvingly.
Ending the occupation is good for Palestinians and Israelis, it's good for the whole world. 

Go Oakland.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Criminal thugs beat peace activist (also, my friend) with iron bar

My friend and colleague (whose name will be withheld for his own security in the territories) was beaten by Israeli settlers who hit him over the head with an iron bar. What was he doing to deserve a beating with an iron bar? Well after we establish that no one ever deserves a beating with an iron bar, I can explain that he was standing in solidarity with a local shepherd who is often chased off his land by violent, hateful Israeli settlers. He stood by to document or to intervene in case of an attack against the shepherds and their flocks. Unfortunately, these hate-filled scum of the earth caught up with my friend, and struck him over the head with a metal pipe. The U.S. government is actively supporting this group of racist colonizers as they push an indigenous people off of their land, and savagely beat anything or anyone who comes across their path with a message of tolerance and peace. I am ashamed of Israeli and U.S. leaders and citizens, ashamed of all the politicians who kowtow to the near-sighted Israeli lobby. I am ashamed of my friends and acquaintances who try to defend the Zionist project in Israel, which is largely responsible for this racist, hateful ideology that results in premeditated attacks against Palestinians and those who advocate for justice. But I am proud of my friend, for standing up for what is right, for advocating for justice for all people, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or creed.

Here's the press release, pictures are below (and they're bloody, fyi):
At approximately 9:15 AM on July 27, 2011, masked settlers from the Havat Ma’on outpost armed with stones and an iron bar harassed three Palestinian shepherds and attacked two international observers. The settlers threw stones at the internationals, and hit one of them in the head with an iron bar.

The Palestinian shepherds were out with their flocks on Palestinian land near Mesheha hill when the four masked settlers attacked them. The shepherds were able to leave the area, but the settlers attacked the internationals. One of the internationals was a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, the other was visiting the area. The settlers destroyed the CPTer’s camera and chased them both back to At-Tuwani. The CPTer went to the hospital and received 8 stitches.

Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove have documented 6 occasions since June 22, 2011 in which settlers from Havat Ma’on have attacked Palestinians or internationals near Mesheha Hill.

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

Picture gallery here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

'Terrorism' doesn't apply to acts committed by white, christian males

Democracy Now interviewed Glenn Greenwald regarding the US media coverage of the attacks on Norway:
The other aspect of it, though, is what you referenced in your question, which is, when it was widely assumed, based on basically nothing, that Muslims had been responsible for this attack and that a radical Muslim group likely perpetrated it, it was widely declared to be a "terrorist" attack. That was the word that was continuously used. And yet, when it became apparent that Muslims were not involved and that, in reality, it was a right-wing nationalist with extremely anti-Muslim, strident anti-Muslim bigotry as part of his worldview, the word "terrorism" almost completely disappeared from establishment media discourse. Instead, he began to be referred to as a "madman" or an "extremist." And it really underscores, for me, the fact that this word "terrorism," that plays such a central role in our political discourse and our law, really has no objective meaning. It’s come to mean nothing more than Muslims who engage in violence, especially when they’re Muslims whom the West dislikes.
He continues:
But the idea that Islamic terrorism is some sort of unique threat is completely belied by the E.U.'s own statistic. This idea of equating Muslims with terrorism is an incredibly propagandistic and deceitful term. The idea is to suggest that, as several of your guests were saying, that Islam is some sort of existential threat to Western civilization, to Europe and the like, and it's propagated with this myth that terrorism is an Islamic problem. And that’s why the idea that the establishment media in the United States and in political circles equates terrorism, as a matter of definition, with violence by Muslims is so problematic, because it promotes this lie that terrorism is a function of Islamic ideology.
The whole interview is worth hearing, it's about a 13 minute segment:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Guatemala Gleanings

Not having my computer with me is quite liberating, but not having my computer means I can't hash my thoughts on a computer before putting something together in the form of a blog post. I brought a journal with me with the sole purpose of being able to get some thoughts down before I got to a computer. But I'm too lazy, and I haven't used my journal yet.

Things that have struck me in my first week (a terribly unexhaustive list):
-The United States has a terrible, awful history in Guatemala. Overthrowing democracies and replacing them with brutal dictatorships. Genocide was committed, targetting indigenous populations. Multinational corporations were given free reign, free access to the market and the freedom to exploit laborers, landowners and indigenous farmers. The US has had a terrible, oppressive historical role in the great majority of countries I have visited: Syria, Palestine, Guatemala, Mexico, Egypt. Ugh.
-Somewhere around 60% of Guatemalans are indigenous, not like 1/16, but full-blooded indigenous. There are something like 23 indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala (largely different groupings of Mayans). K'iche and Mam are both widely spoken, with more than 700,000 speakers for each. There is a third widely spoken language but I can't recall at the moment. Because of large numbers of indigenous people in the country, many indigenous customs, dress, and languages have remained intact. Many ugly things have been done to reduce the indigenous presence in the country, such as genocides, placing different tribes of Mayans together in forced communities so they'd be forced to learn Spanish to communicate, etc, etc. But it's beautiful that despite all of the colonial ventures, the native people of this land have retained large pieces of their identity. It's beautiful. I hope to keep reading and learning about the people of this land.
-Nationality, ethnicity, religion, class, and race are incredibly complicated concepts that have real effects. More on that in another post, I hope.
-I met an Iranian guy here, who spoke French, Farsi, German, Spanish, Arabic, and Portugese. Meeting a guy who speaks six languages was awesome. Meeting a guy in Guatemala who spoke Arabic was more awesome. Meeting a guy who spoke six languages, whom I had to speak with in Spanish and Arabic because one of his six languages was not English was the most awesome.
-I forgot so much Arabic. It took me 5 minutes to remember how to ask the Iranian guy where was from in Iran. ¿Seriously?
-Today I bought vegetables from a teenage girl. I asked her how much the carrots were, in Spanish, she responded in Spanish. Her friends, who also had their vegetables laid out on the edge of the road, started to speak to her in an indigenous language (I'm guessing it was K'iche, because a compaƱero of mine is taking K'iche and was teaching me some of the guttural sounds). All the girls laughed at a good joke that had been cracked, and as they laughed they looked at me simultaneously. They kept speaking K'iche and laughing while looking at me. I had my hair in a ponytail and had a headband on, I am guessing they thought my overall look was pretty 'feminine.' They totally got away with making fun of me by speaking a language I was certain to not know. Good times.
-I love farmers, and farms, and fields. There are a lot of them in Guatemala. Most of the work is done my hand, from what I can tell. Farmers till big plots of soil by raising their hoe up over their head, slamming it into the dirt, pushing the handle towards the earth, and turning over a scoop of soil. Over and over again.
-Farmers carry around big machetes. Awesome.  
-There are volcanoes everywhere. I've hiked the top of two so far, and am hoping to explore more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Xela, Guatemala

Yesterday I arrived in Guatemala City and heading directly to Quetzaltenango (more commonly called Xela -- pronounced Shay-la, a shorthand version of the indigenous name for the city, Xelaju). I plan to be here for six weeks, studying Spanish and generally trying to enjoy my time here. I'm studying Spanish because of an upcoming university exam, but more importantly, it's a language that is increasingly important for those living in the United States to know, especially as anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and Albama, targeted at Latinos, is gaining more widespread support. It's a way to live with neighbors, to love neighbors better, to stand beside neighbors and raise our voices with theirs, to speak out against discrimination and to advocate for human rights. It's one way to slowly undo my ethnocentrism, to reveal my priviliges, and to undo another category of people I've classified as the other. Commnicating with the others usually undoes the constructs of the very category. Not to mention, a huge chunk of the land mass of planet Earth contains Spanish speakers. So there you go, Xela for six weeks, because I wasn't yet tired of living out of a backpack and leaving friends and family behind while traveling with my stupid backpack and my non-verbal books. 

I'll probably certainly be blogging very lightly on foreign policy, the Arab Spring, or developements in Palestine and Israel. Forgive me. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

My absence and Saudi women campaigning for the right to drive

No post in the last two weeks, that must set some kind of recent record for me.

I've still been reading and staying up on as much Israel, Palestine, and Arab Spring news as I can, I just haven't gotten around to writing much.

I find myself getting into a pattern of posting lots of links, and sentence or paragraph commentary, to facebook and twitter. Check out my twitter feed for more of that, or friend me on facebook. There's so much good reporting, analysis, and commentary out there I often feel I don't have much to contribute, especially when I don't have current first-hand accounts from the West Bank. But alas, I get around to writing every now and then.

My latest is at Waging Nonviolence. Here's the opener.
Saudi women have started a right-to-drive campaign that has quickly garnered the attention of the international media as well as the concern of conservative Saudi Arabian authorities. The organizers of Women2Drive had began encouraging women to take to the streets en masse, behind the wheel, on June 17 in defiance of a religious edict, fatwa, forbidding women to drive automobiles. A figurehead of the movement, Manal al-Sharif, was detained and released on Saturday and then arrested on Sunday by Saudi police shortly after she posted a video of herself driving a vehicle.
Here's lies the link.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

This is Gaza

This video shows the beauty and the pain of Gaza, side by side, as they exist in reality. It reminds us that Gazans are human beings with hopes and aspirations, exploding the myth created by Israel, and parroted by the United States, that Gazans are terrorists and militants that have earned an inhumane imprisonment and siege.

Nir Rosen on Osama Bin Laden and Al Qa'eda

Nir Rosen, author and independent journalist, has published a new piece on the killing of Bin Laden that has been published various places under various titles, "Al Qa'eda was always a fringe group with no roots in the Arab world," is my personal favorite. Before I get any further, I have to give props to Nir Rosen on his newest book, "Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World." It's an excellent, thorough read, taken from Rosen's extensive work in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had the privilege of carrying Rosen's book through Israeli security and getting as many dirty looks for his title as I got for carrying Arabic language vocabulary lists. Rosen was previously writing for mainstream publications such as Rolling Stone, but has gone the independent route, apparently in an effort to stay true to reporting what he sees, hears, and believes. Some of Rosen's most recent long-form pieces are at Jadaliyya, here's his author page.

Go read his most recent Bin Laden piece, it's great. But for people who don't have 30 minutes to spare, here are some great excerpts. I had to stop taking excerpts halfway through because I realized I was taking a quarter of the article. The section of the article from which I did not excerpt deals with a favorite topic of mine: terrorism. Rosen deconstructs the definition of terrorism and differentiates it from resistance. Ok, without further ado, The Excerpts:
It turns out Arabs understand democracy better than we do in the stagnant west, they proved that leaders rule only with the consent of the governed and if the people demand their rights they cannot be stopped. On the other hand America, a nation in economic and political decline but perpetual war, was engrossed in right wing conspiracy theories about where President Obama was born only to receive a nationalist fillip by an assassination ten years and trillions of dollars in the making. 
The truth is al Qaeda was a fringe organization without roots in the Arab world, and it has barely had any successes since it got lucky on September 11. The attacks on September 11, 2001 were tragic and criminal. They were painful for the victims and their families and a shock to a powerful, arrogant and proud nation blissfully unaware that it was so resented. But other than the murders the attacks had little real impact on the American economy or way of life. It was the American response, both at home and abroad, that changed everything.  Al Qaeda used it’s “A team” on that day to attack a slumbering nation, and they got lucky. But could a few hundred angry and unsophisticated Muslim extremists really pose such a danger to a superpower, especially one that was now hyper alert to potential threats?
The Bush administration had to transform its response to the 9/11 attacks into crusade because when looked at in purely security terms the United States, the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, went to war against two hundred unsophisticated extremists. Looking at it like that diminishes the enemy and the threat to the absurd, but many were nostalgic for a real enemy, like fascism or communism, and so they made the conflict about culture. The United States adopted al Qaeda’s view of the world and it too treated the entire world stage as a battlefield.
Al Qaeda was not a villainous bad guy out of a Bond film or a comic book, determined to do evil for the sake of evil. It was a movement that arose in response to America’s imperial excesses. Many of its grievances were legitimate, even if killing American civilians is not the proper means of addressing them. If America ceased supporting the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians, and if America ceased coddling Middle Eastern dictators, and if America ceased bombing Muslims, there would be little reason for Muslims to resent America, or retaliate against American civilians. 
There is no al Qaeda. It was not defeated by drones and “the quiet professionals” who can assassinate at will. It was defeated by its own excesses and by the millions of Arabs who have led a leaderless revolution, overthrowing dictators and ignoring al Qaeda’s view that a vanguard was needed.
Americans complain when others celebrate the killing of Americans, but the world watched Americans grotesquely celebrating an execution. While the Americans keep trying to present their violent acts as somehow sanctioned by notions of law and right and the “international community”, Muslim masses will continue to have the opposite view because of how ingrained their enmity to colonialism is. Decades of oppression, the recent occupation of Iraq and most recently with American support for Mubarak until the last minute mean that many Arabs will not trust the American account, they have been lied to before, and they will not sympathize with the American narrative, because Americans showed them only cruelty.
When you drop bombs on populated areas knowing there will be some ‘collateral’ civilian damage, but accepting it as worth it, then it is deliberate. When you impose sanctions as the US did on Saddam era Iraq, that kill hundreds of thousands, and then say their deaths were worth it, as secretary of state Albright did, then you are deliberately killing people for a political goal. When you seek to “shock and awe,” as president Bush did, when he bombed Iraq, you are engaging in terrorism.

Young girl in reference to Israeli soldiers, "They can never shut me up"

A 14 year-old Palestinian girl writes about her experience of Israeli soldiers raiding her home and holding her and her family hostage while they searched for her father. Here's a compelling excerpt:
We started asking them questions, non-stop. “We hope you won’t steal our valuables from the rooms?” “We never take anything that is not ours,” one shouted indignantly. Hanin replied, “Other than stealing our land every day, you have stolen precious items from Palestinian homes during previous invasions!” Their commander appeared again, giving them new orders. I could not resist saying, “You so remind me of sheep. He’s your shepherd, and all of you are just mindless followers.” One of them pointed his M16 at me, and said: “Shut the f*** up!” So I said: “If you hate the truth so much why don’t you refuse to follow his orders? Why do you insist on terrorizing us?” He repeated his favorite insult and moved closer, with his rifle pointed at my face. Suha jumped and shouted at him, “She is only 14, do you have anything human left in you?”

I was boiling with anger, but I refused to give them the pleasure of watching me cry. They were not only humiliating me, they were also trying to make me a silent victim. I didn’t want to shut up. And I didn’t want to be submissive in anyway. I have had enough already. I wanted them out, now. I was very tired and sleepy. But I still wanted to show them what a Palestinian teenager is made of! Images from Tunisia and Egypt filled my head, and I felt proud.
She's 14 years old and is far more courageous than I will ever be. Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Documentary: Stolen Children, Stolen Lives

Below is a documentary, split into two clips, created by a former CPT colleague of mine, Gerry O'Sullivan. Stolen Children, Stolen Lives focuses on Israeli arrests of Palestinian children, and the effects of those abuses on Palestinian children and Israeli soldiers.

It's worth watching, really. I swell with pride and heartache at my friend, Layla, who describes the imprisonment of her son. Such a brave, courageous woman faced with such dark, tragic inhumanity.

Israeli soldiers throw tear gas at displaced Palestinian residents sleeping under tarps

From CPTnet: On Friday, May 6, the Israeli military declared the area of Amniyr, a Palestinian village south of Yatta, a closed military zone and chased away the families who own the land, after demolishing structures and trees on the land the day before.

The demolitions occurred at 5 a.m. on Thursday, May 5, when the military destroyed six shacks and uprooted 150 olive trees in Amniyr.

On Friday, the Palestinians of Amniyr had returned to the land and hung six tarps to create makeshift tents. The Israeli army issued a "closed military zone" order on the area at 9:00 a.m. At 2:00 p.m. seven military jeeps arrived, including police and border police. The commanders showed the order and gave the people one minute to leave.

Using sound bombs and tear gas, the soldiers and police forced off the land all the Palestinians present—about thirty adults, many of them elderly, and ten children—as well as accompanying internationals. One woman, Fatmi Mahmoud Jaboor, passed out due to the bombs and required medical attention. The Palestinian Red Cross evacuated her to the hospital, and she was dismissed in the evening. At 7 p.m. four military jeeps returned to Amniyr and destroyed the tarps and what had been left standing in the area.

This is the third time in ten weeks that the military has destroyed trees, tents, dwellings and other structures on the land of Amniyr, effectively demolishing the entire village and affecting six families. Although Amniyr is Palestinian-owned private property, Israel has declared it "state land" and prohibits the people of Amniyr from building any structures or using the land. A local Palestinian leader has told CPT that he believes Israel is trying to confiscate the land of Amniyr because of its proximity to the Israeli settlement of Susiya.

The outraging part of this video is the soldier who speaks very little Arabic, and refuses to listen to reason, questions, and pleas from the local residents. Instead, he keeps repeating the same refrain: Dqiqa, fesh wahad. Given it's gramatical mistakes, it roughly translates, "One minute, there is not one." Sure he says enough to convey the message he wants to get across, he wants people to know that in one minute everyone needs to be gone from this place. Message conveyed, but the dynamics are ugly. You demolished a village and the next day demand the residents get out from under the tarps they threw on their destroyed belongings to provide a semblance of shelter. When they ask questions you don't listen and probably don't speak enough Arabic to understand anyway. So you repeat one of the phrases you know (in addition to IDF favorites, "Show me your ID," "Stop," "Where are you going," "Go to your house," "It's forbidden for you to be here"), in all it's preschool grammar,  to demand that people leave.

So it total, we have Palestinian people living on a piece of land deep into the West Bank. They are farmers and shepherds, and having been to this village many times I can tell you it's mostly elderly people in their 50s and 60s, people who are tired and haggard from a life under the sun and under occupation. Their village has been demolished three times in 10 weeks. Each time their houses get a little shittier, because after each demolition they have less to rebuild with. When their home was demolished most recently they hung some tarps on the rubble of their houses for shelter. The next morning, soldiers arrived to evacuate the area with a 'closed military zone' order. The people wanted to show their displeasure and also ask questions to know the exact borders of the closed zone so they could actually leave the area. Palestinians living in Area C have seen closed military orders dozens of times, and they know it's not a hill worth dying on. The people in the video are clearly asking for further explanation and one person explicitly says, "Ok we will leave, but just clear this up for me..." Seconds later, tear gas and sound bombs.

Photos available here.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The hypocrisy of demanding only Palestinians abandon violence

Palestinians in Gaza City celebrate the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas

My latest is up at Waging Nonviolence. Here's a teaser:
The United States, Israel, and other Western governments issue carbon-copy statements about the need for Hamas to renounce violence; meanwhile, Israel gets a pass as it daily uses violence to suppress nonviolent demonstrations across the West Bank.

Violence used to resist illegal occupation, land annexation, demolitions, and the transfer of Israeli citizens into occupied Palestine territory is illegitimate. Yet, violence used for the purpose of maintaining and expanding empire is legitimate, and continually defended.

No amount of Palestinian nonviolent resistance will be satisfactorily nonviolent to Israel or the United States.
Read the rest.

Video: Introduction to CPT Palestine

This is a new video created to provide a glimpse into the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine. Check it, there are clips of interviews with myself and other CPT colleagues.

Monday, May 02, 2011

This is a somber day where we should be remembering all of the victims

Jeremy Scahill, a writer for The Nation, who came to prominence after his in-depth research of Blackwater, spoke on Democracy Now about the killing Osama Bin Laden. He had lots of good things to say in the interview, especially this:
I found it quite disgusting to see people chanting, like it was some sort of sporting event, outside of the White House. I think it was idiotic. Let’s remember here, hundreds of thousands of people have died. Iraq was invaded, a country that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. The United States created an al-Qaeda presence in Iraq by invading it, made Iran a far more influential force in Iraq than it ever would have been. We have given a grand motivation to people around the world that want to do harm to Americans in our killing of civilians, our waging of war against countries that have no connection to al-Qaeda, and by staying in these countries long after the mission was accomplished. Al-Qaeda was destroyed in Afghanistan, forced on the run. The Taliban have no chance of retaking power in Afghanistan. And so, I think that this is a somber day where we should be remembering all of the victims, the 3,000 people that died in the United States and then the hundreds of thousands that died afterwards as a result of a U.S. response to this that should have been a law enforcement response and instead was to declare war on the world.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The coverage of the killing of Osama Bin Laden

Full disclosure: I don't have collected, organized thoughts on the matter. But I do have a bit of pent up emotion. If I waited to write this post, I could compartmentalize my thoughts and put something together that I am proud of. But if I wait, I may never write this post.

The news of Osama Bin Laden's death was pretty cut and dry for me. Ok, the guy who founded an organization that orchestrated and carried out deplorable acts is dead. Is this the end of Al Qaeda? No. Is this the end of anger and hatred for Americans because of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the Muslim world? No.

Terrorist attacks and myopic nonexistent analysis
It's amazing that we never speak about the motivation for terrorist attacks. And I'm not speaking specifically about acts with which Bin Laden was involved, but any terrorist attacks. The furthest we get is, 'well, they hated Americans and everything America stands for.'  But, why? Why do they hate America? Did America do something to deserve their hatred? Well, I'm not sure, but, God Bless America and Support Our Troops.

Leading up to 9/11, and following 9/11, Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures clearly stated the reasons for their beef with the US. First, they deplored and called for an end to the US' military presence on the Arabian peninsula. Second, they were enraged by the US' unconditional support of Israel. Did US leaders and politicians listen? Nope.

The celebration outside of the White House -- which streamed for hours on Al Jazeera English, MSNBC, CNN, and every major news network -- was appalling and jingoistic.  Would that many people be gathered in the streets if Obama declared the end of the Afghanistan war? Will thousands of people gather at a local air force base to welcome home US troops at the end of the Afghanistan war? Probably not. When's the next time you will see so many frat boys with American flags chanting U-S-A, U-S-A? Probably in London at the Summer Olympics of 2012.

And what were we celebrating again? The killing of someone? Isn't that disturbing, at least a little bit? Would if General Petraeus was killed and people celebrated in the streets of Afghanistan? Petraeus was responsible for orchestrating the killing of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians. What would we think of those people celebrating?

American lives are more valuable
The news anchors were continually referencing 9/11, saying the victims' families will now have a sense of closure, they kept quoting the number of people killed, that today was such a watershed moment. What about the tens of thousands of Afghan civilians killed? Are they still just collateral damage and nothing more? We got our man, alright, we got our man -- but at what cost? One news anchor on MSNBC (he was the one recently reporting from Libya) talked about the fact that people all over the world had begun to doubt whether America was still a nation that could accomplish anything it set its mind to, but tonight we proved that we still can. If we kill tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, carry out increasingly frequent and deadly drone strikes in Pakistan, occupy a country for nearly a decade and drastically accelerate the radicalization of its population resulting in a growing numbers of militant Islamic jihadists -- then yes, we can get our way. Is there any consideration of the cost? I know we'll only give a shit about the cost to 'us', and not to 'them.' But even the cost to the United States...2,000 US troops killed and 10,000 more Bin Laden's created over the last decade. That's a great cost. A great cost.

And no, this isn't the end of Al Qaeda or militants targeting US institutions and civilians. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya and the continued support of the occupation of Palestine will ensure that Wahhabis, Salafis, and Islamic Jihadists will continue to target the US.

And to quote my facebook self, in a stream of consciousness rage, induced by CNN and MSNBC:
Can a US news agency please quote how many Afghan civilians were killed? Or no, only Bin Laden and those killed on 9/11 are the relevant ones? Afghan civilians (we also call you 'collateral damage'), sorry but you lived in the wrong country. We got him, but we don't care about the cost. We're America dammit.

You would do the same if you had to bread at home

Large numbers of Palestinian day laborers cross from the West Bank into Israel each day.

Israel is just one of many places in the world where people are filling unwanted, manual-labor jobs and are criminalized because of their lack of proper documentation.

Since the influx of Russian and East African immigrants into Israel, the need for Palestinian labor has decreased. Nonetheless, every Palestinian man I have ever met, has worked in Israel at one point of another. The poorer and more desperate are likely to continue returning to Israel for work regardless of the cost. Several people I know have served around one year in prison for entering Israel to work without a permit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On fear and the changing nature of horses

Cycling through the rolling Sierra foothills of California in springtime is wonderful. One of my favorite routes passes by the numerous ranches on Lone Star Rd. The pastures are expansive with texture not dissimilar to the rolling ocean sea.

The grasses and weeds that comprise the fields are brilliant green as their rain-soaked roots haven't yet been subject to the scorching heat of the summer sun.

As I rode along this potholed-road with expansive ranches on either side, I was suddenly struck by the horses that stood in the fields. As I spotted a horse close to the road, I slowly came to a stop. I inched over the fence to get as close as I could to the horse. I didn't want to touch it, I just wanted to see it and have it see me. It was a majestic creature with a strange blend of strength and elegance – enormous muscles in its legs and thighs that rippled with each movement while it's mane simultaneously blew gracefully in the breeze.

I felt alien, like a creature with developed intelligence from another world that was seeing a horse for the first time, taking note of its anatomy and disposition. I just stood and stared at these horses for sometime, trying to reshape my perception of them.

The great majority of my experiences with horses in the last few years have been traumatic and fear-filled. As horses are large, powerful animals, they have been used in many cultures through various points in history as a show of force. Horses are used in battle, in duels, to demonstrate wealth, etc.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank have also used horses as a form of intimidation. Settlers will often ride their horses around the Palestinian West Bank with an M-16 strapped to their back and a handgun holstered. It's the real life Wild West with armed bad guys shooting into the air while peasants and farmers hold their wives and children to the ground to protect them from the marauding bandits.

My encounters with settlers on horseback usually occurred when I was walking to visit Palestinian friends of mine who live in an adjacent village. I would skirt along the edge of the settlement, trying to remain a safe distance from the violent people who live within it, but also trying to reach my friends in a reasonable amount of time. In a paranoid fashion, I would continually look over my shoulder, so as to not be ambushed. My pace was quick, the quicker I got out of there, the less of a chance that I would get a beating.

In my paranoid head-turning, I see a settler on horseback approaching me. He's a teenager, but he looks armed. I can't outrun him. So I'll look tough and hang in here. I don't want to appear weak, or scared.

But as soon as that horse got near me, fear overtook me. The huge animal standing before me in all of it's power, and it's power unfortunately harnessed in the hands of an ignorant, hate-filled teenager. Curses and demands were being hurled at me in Hebrew, a language I don't understand. Lo, lo ivrit. Speak English, please.

You, out of here. This my land.

Yeah ok, I'm leaving. No problems here. But there is a problem here, I thought to myself as my courage and conviction tried to subdue my fear, this isn't your goddamn land. And how dare you use that horse and your M-16 to scare me off this land when I was, in fact, invited to visit the very people who actually own this land, and are being forced of it by your government in a slow-form genocide.


As I stood and looked at the horses on Lone Star Rd, I realized there was nothing inherently dominating, aggressive, or violent about these animals. They seemed incredibly docile and friendly, so much so that if I took care of one, I might even love it.

Among the myriad daily crimes and atrocities against humans, I hate how settlers have made an accomplice out of horses, an innocent creature. How dare they kill donkeys of Palestinians, and then turn their animals into a tool of intimidation and fear.

History, reality, land rights, and the true nature of animals. What won't they twist and distort?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The (lack of) logic of drone attacks in Pakistan

Glenn Greenwald's latest needs to be read widely. Greenwald's analysis is spot on, and frankly, I can't imagine arguing with with the points he makes. Killing civilians with unmanned drones foments anger, hatred, armed resistance and/or terrorism. Period. No question. Look at the numbers. Put yourself in the shoes of a father whose child is killed by a US-operated unmanned drone. Here's Greenwald with the especially poignant section:
A U.S. drone attack in Pakistan killed 23 people this morning, and this is how The New York Times described that event in its headline and first paragraph:
An American drone attack killed 23 people in North Waziristan on Friday, Pakistani military officials said, in a strike against militants that appeared to signify unyielding pressure by the United States on Pakistan’s military amid increasing opposition to such strikes.
When I saw that, I was going to ask how the NYT could possibly know that the people whose lives the U.S. just ended were "militants," but then I read further in the article and it said this:  "A government official in North Waziristan told Pakistani reporters that five children and four women were among the 23 who were killed."  So at least 9 of the 23 people we killed -- at least -- were presumably not "militants" at all, but rather innocent civilians (contrast how the NYT characterizes Libya’s attacks in its headlines: "Qaddafi Troops Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas").

Can someone who defends these drone attacks please identify the purpose?  Is the idea that we're going to keep dropping them until we kill all the "militants" in that area?  We've been killing people in that area at a rapid clip for many, many years now, and we don't seem to be much closer to extinguishing them.  How many more do we have to kill before the eradication is complete?

Beyond that, isn't it painfully obvious that however many “militants” we're killing, we're creating more and more all the time?  How many family members, friends, neighbors and villagers of the "five children and four women" we just killed are now consumed with new levels of anti-American hatred?  How many Pakistani adolescents who hear about these latest killings are now filled with an eagerness to become "militants"?

The NYT article dryly noted: "Friday’s attack could further fuel antidrone sentiment among the Pakistani public"; really, it could?  It's likely to fuel far more than mere "antidrone sentiment"; it's certain to fuel more anti-American hatred: the primary driver of anti-American Terrorism. Isn't that how you would react if a foreign country were sending flying robots over your town and continuously wiping out the lives of innocent women, children and men who are your fellow citizens? What conceivable rational purpose does this endless slaughter serve? Isn't it obvious that the stated goal of all of this – to reduce the threat of Terrorism – is subverted rather than promoted by these actions?

Death toll rises as Syrian forces use lethal force against unarmed protesters

In the largest, most deadly day of protests in Syria, at least 88 people were killed by Syrian forces on Friday.

Here's analysis from Al Jazeera's interview with Robert Fisk, the long-term Middle East correspondent for the UK daily, Independent.

Some articles/media for more understanding:
Anthony Shadid with the NYT.
Videos on War in Context.
Article from Al Jazeera.
Article and videos from the LA Times

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A long walk home, thanks to Passover

From the blog of Maureen Jack, a CPTer from Scotland:
Yusuf is five years old.  He attends the kindergarten just across the landing from our women’s apartment.  He’s a bright little boy, who interprets in sign language for his mother, who is deaf.  He has congenital physical difficulties: he has no left arm and one leg is significantly shorter than another.Yesterday morning a friend and I happened to meet up with Yusuf and his kindergarten teacher as she took him home after class.  They unsuccessfully tried to get through two gates before going through the ladder lady’s house.
Yusuf tried to walk home from school on the first day of Passover, 20 April 2011, when the Israeli military presence in Hebron was heightened. The checkpoints he usually passes through were closed, so he tried a few alternate routes before making him home.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Israeli controlled prison permits killing, shooting, abuse of Palestinian prisoners

Israeli Channel 2 aired a story on a combat exercise inside a prison that went awry. Israeli Prison Services allowed Masada, an Israeli combat unit, to enter Ktziot prison, a large facility housing Palestinian prisoners, to conduct an operation.

The operation was called 'early wake-up call' and one of its explicit written goals was increasing the morale and motivation of the prison guards.

It looks like a calloused, morally-bankrupt swat team descending on sleeping prisoners. (Press the CC button for English subtitles.)

I wonder how many other stories there are like this that have successfully been hidden and have never leaked out?

Our opinion of war starts at the pump

I've started Alia Malek's book, A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives, it's excellent. Malek tells the history of Arabs in America by selecting monumental events and narrating those events through the eyes of a character, or a handful of characters, who lived through those formative moments.

Malek follows an America man, Alan, who is of Lebanese descent, as he lives through the Detroit riots that ran in parallel with Israel's routing of the Arab nations in the War of 1967 and the Six Day War of 1973.

Alan struggles to understand why no one in Detroit, MI cares about the 20,000 Arabs killed in the war nor how the American media could so blatantly tell half-truths about the war and Israel's role therein. But as I have certainly seen in my lifetime, people start to care about America's wars only when it starts to affect their prized pocketbook. In this instance, Arab oil-producing nations had began an oil embargo in hopes of making the West pay attention to Israel's annexation of land through warfare. 
During the twenty days of fighting, which ended with a ceasefire on October 26, it seemed to Alan most Americans had not given the war much thought. The oil embargo, on the other hand, had forced Americans to pay more attention. While in 1967, the war had been 'over there' and out of mind, Americans were now waiting in line for has and not getting any. And a lot of the, from politicians to newspeople to regular folk, were blaming Arabs for it.
It smacks of the current U.S.-led war in Libya. What is the news coverage of the war centered on? Prices at the pump. Does local Sacramento news interview people to ask them what they think about their country getting involved in its third, costly war in the Middle East/North Africa? Do residents get asked about their opinion of military intervention in this particular instance? Do people even talk about it over coffee or lunch?

I have seen countless news segments about the price of gas and how its affecting people. Flipping channels I will inevitably find an image of a gas prices sign displayed with some apocalyptic subtext, such as, "Will prices continue to rise" or "How much worse can it get."

Sure, it's a real life economic impact, and is thus, newsworthy. What I fail to understand is how the wars that the United States military executes, under the direction of elected United States politicians, is completely irrelevant to the citizens of the country.

We are paying for these wars too -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya -- just like we're paying for the gas.

P.S. Libyans, Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians are being killed, maimed, slaughtered in our name. But that's neither here nor there. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

This is a really important sentence

Phillip Weiss writes about the recent murders of an Italian journalist/activist and an Israeli-Palestinian actor and director.
Whoever the fanatics are that killed Vittorio Arrigoni and Juliano Mer-Khamis in the last two weeks, it can be safely said that the occupation killed them: that both good men died because the denial of freedom for Palestinians over 44 years of military occupation has produced despair and radicalism and brutalization.
At this point no evidence has come forth that Israeli soldiers or settlers killed either of these men, in fact, there is some evidence that these courageous men were likely killed by radical Palestinian militant factions. Nonetheless, the above sentence stands alone, in truth. It's not a default, "oh, just blame the Israelis, just blame the occupation." No, it's placing responsibility where it's due, on an occupation and a siege that produce desperation and utter hopelessness.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Racist protest in Tel Aviv targets refugees and migrants

From +972 magazine:

Racism in Israel is nothing new. There is racism against Palestinians, against Arabs, against non-Jews. There is racism between Jews from Europe and Jews from Arab countries. In our racism, we are no different from many other Western countries. However, the past year in Israel has seen an a significant increase in the number of racially motivated attacks on foreign workers and Palestinians by gangs of Jewish nationalists who seek to ‘cleanse Israel of non Jewish and dangerous elements.’ The problem is reaching endemic proportions as lawmakers have largely remained silent and the crimes continue unabated.

David Sheen, an Israeli journalist with Haaretz, has been quietly documenting the rise of racism in Tel Aviv. His latest video (below) is a look into the ugly work of nationalism which is the foundation of the current spike in racist attacks. In the video, Sheen attends a rally of Jewish nationalists who seek to expel foreign infiltrators ‘that are taking over the southern part of Tel Aviv.’ The interviews that he conducts on the street show a disturbed society in crisis.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Israel's treatment of unarmed Palestinian protesters

The violence against the protesters starts around the 2:45 mark.

The soldier pointing his gun at the Palestinian protester and sitting on him is screaming, "Shut your mouth!" [uskut]

Joseph Dana's report about the incident in Nabi Saleh is here

Friday, April 08, 2011

Juliano in Wonderland

Another video on Juliano Mer Khamis, the Arab Israeli actor, director, activist who was murdered in Jenin Refugee Camp.

Mer Khamis speaks about resistance about the subversive themes in the last play he directed, Alice in Wonderland.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Calling all Christians who aren't hypocrites

Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem who splits his time between Palestine and Washington DC, where he teaches at George Mason University, speaks to Christians of the West in his recent post that appeared at +972 magazine.

Abu Sarah critiques a recent (Islamaphobic, uber-zionistic, and misinformed) Ynet column written by Johnnie Moore -- an evangelical American minister and vice president of Liberty University, a university founded by Jerry Falwell -- to demonstrate the Western Christian establishment's hypocritical and unconditional embrace of the Israeli state and its policies at the expense of any, and all Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim. 
I must say that I don’t understand Christians who value the life of one group over another. Even if American Christians consider Muslims as enemies, in the New Testament Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.  The word he used for “love” in Greek (agapao) means to entertain or to welcome in. This concept seems to be in direct opposition to the doctrine of Islamophobia spread by many Christian evangelical groups in the United States. Moreover, Isaiah says “”Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” The scripture does not apply only to Jews, to the “foreigner” and “alien.” Hundreds of millions of Americans profess to be Christians and believe in the divine inspiration of these verses, so where are these “believers” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Moore’s article is a reminder that many American Christians view supporting Israel as a tenant of faith, without thinking critically about the theological and practical implications of this viewpoint. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Like many Christian groups who visit Israel, Moore’s group did not bother to visit any Palestinian towns. My guess is that neither Moore nor any of his church members have ever even met a Palestinian. Perhaps then their demonization of Palestinians is unsurprising.
Go read Aziz Abu Sarah's column in total.

Quote of the day: on anger

From Amira Hass' article on the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis:
Palestinians must conquer the anger, mellow it; they must tame it, repress it, sublimate it. That's the only way to stay both alive and sane (without getting arrested, wounded or killed ) under the conditions of physical and non-physical violence dictated by Israel.
We don't expect that of many people in the world. We want to be able to express our anger when we ourselves have been wronged. We feel it's our right to be angry when it's warranted.

It reminds me how Edward Said responded to the imminent agreement which resulted in the Oslo Accords. Said suggested, "all that's being offered to the Palestinians is for them to negate themselves."

Palestinians are forced to negate themselves and we demand that they negate their anger.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

US activists to launch boat to Gaza

My latest is at Waging Nonviolence.
A US boat named The Audacity of Hope is scheduled to sail to Gaza next month along with a flotilla of 15 ships from Europe, Canada, India, South Africa, and the Middle East, carrying passengers from more than 22 nations. The US Boat to Gaza is part of a larger campaign to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip and draw attention to Israel’s inhumane blockade of the Palestinian coastal enclave.
The article continues to explain the measures taken by the Israeli government to criminalize all dissent in Israel and to silence all criticism from the international community.
The Israeli Knesset passed the first reading of a “boycott law” that would criminalize any calls for academic, cultural, or economic boycotts against Israel. According to the law, courts could levy fines of up to 30,000NIS (approximately $8,500) against Israelis calling for boycotts whereas foreign nationals who violate the law could be denied entrance to Israel for 10 years or more.
This is just a teaser. Go read the article and then write a letter to send with the US Boat to Gaza. 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Israeli activist, director, actor is assassinated in Jenin Refugee Camp

From the Guardian:
An Israeli actor and peace activist who ran a drama project in a Palestinian refugee camp has been shot dead by masked men, metres from the theatre he founded.

Juliano Mer Khamis, 52, had received threats for his work in Jenin in the northern West Bank but continued to divide his time between Jenin and Haifa in the north of Israel. Witnesses said he was shot five times.
He was born to a Jewish mother and an Arab Christian father. His mother, Arna, was renowned for setting up a theatre group in Jenin during the first Intifada which started in 1987. Mer Khamis directed the film Arna's Children, which celebrated her work, which he continued after her death in 1994. His wife, Jenny, a Finn, is pregnant with twins. She heard of his death from Israeli radio.
Dimi Reider, of +972 magazine, writes about his fondest memory of Juliano Mer Khamis:
There will be so much said. I would just like to share this memory. It’s seven years ago, 2004. The Student Coalition at Tel Aviv University, an organization I co-founded, is staging a massive teach-out on the university square, trying to disrupt the normalcy of dozy lectures as the streets were burning.
At the end of a long, long day with lectures and arguments and songs and chants, as darkness fell on plush northern Tel Aviv, we screened Juliano’s film, “Arna’s children” – still, to my mind, the best documentary ever done about the Occupation. We, some five hundred students, sat in the outdoor auditorium, stunned. Before us, the “Palestinian gunmen” of the newscasts we knew since childhood – these footnotes in the reports, usually afforded no visuals, just “three Palestinian gunmen were shot in the West Bank today, IDF spokesman said. In other news…” – were coming to life as human beings, speaking about their childhood dreams, their slain comrades, their hopes or lack of hope for a future; sometimes as children, sometimes as grown, gun-wielding men, with children just like they used to be clustered around their knees. After the credits rolled and passed, the plaza was completely silent. One girl, a moderate centre-leftist from the campus chapter of Meretz, raised her hand. Juliano called her out. She got up and asked: “What can we do to help?”
Watch this video that gives a glimpse into Mer Khamis' Freedom Theatre, including some of his own thoughts.

Mer Khamis' film, Arna's Children, can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

Update: Arna's Children, has been taken down. Go rent it or purchase it. 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The IDF crosses every red line in Beit Ummar

From Joseph Dana at +972 magazine:
Yesterday, a group of Ta’ayush activists were returning to Jerusalem after spending the morning with Palestinian farmers in the South Hebron Hills. They made the quick decision to check on the closure of Beit Ummar on the drive home.

“Within five minutes of arriving at a series of concrete barriers in front of the village, we were surrounded by soldiers. We walked to a large gate [which the army had installed two months prior in order to seal the village] at another entrance to the village only to find that it was locked shut” Kurz recalled, “At this point there were a lot of soldiers, many of whom were officers. So we decided to have an impromptu nonviolent protest against the closure of the village.” Speaking to one Israeli activist present at the demonstration, the commander in charge threatened that “every time you do this (demonstrate), I will close the village.”

The commander in charge pronounced the area a ‘closed military zone’, after which one member of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group asked the commander to see the closed military zone warrant. Being a stout guy, soldiers felt threated by his presence and attacked him. This set off a chain of violent events as soldiers attacked anyone bold enough to look them in the eye. Virtually everyone was arrested. According to activists, the commander never showed them the closed military zone warrant, a legal right afforded by Israeli law.

The violence exerted by the Israeli soldiers against unarmed Israeli activists is hardly surprising, but it is certainly alarming and is clearly a disproportionate amount of force.

It's important to note that Beit Ummar has been on complete lockdown for a number of weeks. The day of this particular incident, all of the entrances/exits were blocked.  The "large gate" that Kurz describes is the main entrance to the village which connects the village to Route 60, which heads south to Hebron and north to Bethlehem. The secondary entrance was also locked.

Beit Ummar, a Palestinian town, was effectively under siege by the Israeli military and Israeli solidarity activists, trying to gain access to the village and/or to visit folks in Beit Ummar, were attacked without cause.

Dana continues with Kurz's explanation of the hatred the soldiers have for the solidarity activists:
“I understand that soldiers get scared and nervous but they crossed every red line,” Kurz told me, “as the soldiers were beating and arresting everyone, one solider said to me: ‘I would rape your mother and sister if I could’ and another said that he would shoot me if he was allowed to.” In the embedded video, one brave activist caught a solider calling one of the activists an ‘Arab son of a bitch.’
Protest in Beit Ommar, 02.04.2011

Kurz, a former Israeli soldier, was appalled at the inexplicable use of force.
 “I can’t recognize this anymore, these soldiers were totally out line. I’ve been a soldier in their position, I know, but this was way worse than I’ve ever seen or experienced. No one will be held accountable for that, they can do whatever they want. They even get away with murder.”

A number of the activists in this video are friends, and are good people. It's hard to see people who are dedicated to bringing an end to the occupation through direct action each Saturday, being physically manhandled, shoved to the ground, and verbally assaulted with horrendous threats.

Here's to an overflow of strength, encouragement, and optimism for Amiel, Yehuda, Micha, and the rest of the activists.  Here's to the opening of the gates and fences which imprison the residents of Beit Ummar.

Friday, April 01, 2011

This is our life in Hebron

This is the checkpoint stationed between the Old City of Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque. This is one of two access points to the mosque and is used by the great majority of residents and visitors. Imagine what's it like to get through here on a religious holiday when there are thousands of people passing through that turnstile.

This is our life in Hebron from anne skaardal on Vimeo.

Update: The following is a Twitter exchange that I had after posting this video. (Note: I tweeted the video and engaged in the exchange using the @CPTPalestine account). 
Me:  Watch this video depicting on of the many restrictions on movement in the city of Hebron.

Margaux52: @cptpalestine as a us citizen and valid resident I have to go thru security check and pat down when I fly from LA to SF.

Me: @margaux52 do you go through metal detectors, pat downs, and show ID to an occupying military when you walk to the grocery store?

Margaux52: @cptpalestine I didn't see a grocery store in the video. Btw why do I have to visit Hebron in an armored bus?

Me: @margaux52 the vegetable market is just beyond that checkpoint. Come to hebron w/o armored bus, you'll be welcomed with open arms.

Margaux52: @cptpalestine would love to. Would live to visit the temple mount too but I cant
A couple quick things. The point wasn't that there is actually a grocery store in the video, obviously there wasn't (cause pretty much the only grocery store in Hebron is inside the Israel settlement, Kiryat Arba). The point was that people get stopped doing normal things in their normal, everyday life, like in your case, Margaux, going to the grocery store.

Secondly, you don't have to visit Hebron in an armored bus. I travel there in a regular old shared 'taxi,' and you can too. Who's forcing you into an armored bus? I swear, Arabs won't kill you if you take an Arab bus, they'll actually smile at you. As far as armored buses, are you talking about the Egged buses (an Israeli bus company) that serve settlers, at rates subsidized by the Israeli government, living in the occupied Palestinian territories? 'Nuff said.

Thirdly, you can't visit the temple mount? Yeah well many Palestinians who were born in Jerusalem aren't even allowed to go to Jerusalem because Israel occupies East Jerusalem and controls who can/can't enter Jerusalem. For example, my friend Tarek was born in Jerusalem and he can't go to Jerusalem, ANYWHERE in Jerusalem. The temple mount is THE ONLY place you can't go in Jerusalem. Some perspective, please. 

Photo of the Day: A human wall in Bil'in

From the April 1, 2011 protest against the separation wall and its illegal annexation of land in the Westr Bank village of Bil'in. A protester uses his body to block the advancing Israeli riot soldiers

Protest against the wall, Bil'in, Palestine, 1/4/2011.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama's Speech on Libya

Generally, I thought Obama's speech to the world nation was fair. It was well-written and he made a relatively compelling case for 'just' war in Libya (even though I personally don't believe that terminology to be very helpful).  You can come to your own conclusions about the military intervention, I, personally, have a lot of friends and respected thinkers on either side of the issue, interventionism and anti-interventionism.

One of the points that Obama formulated in his address was in regard to the "well why not military intervention in _____, there is a humanitarian crisis there" argument. I think it's a valid argument and Obama addressed it by saying that the military intervened in this case because American interests and values were at stake (although he didn't very clearly define what those interests of values were -- and no, I don't find 'protecting civilians' to be an American value. See 1,000,000 dead in Iraq for evidence) and because stopping Qaddafi was, more or less, a winnable battle.

Even though Obama made his counter-argument, I do want to return to "well, what about ______, why doesn't the US military do shit there" argument for the sake of pointing out the hypocrisy of it all.  Here are excerpts from Obama's speech:
In the face of the world's condemnation, ______ chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the _____ people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in _____ was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.
Sure, the president is obviously talking about Libya. But he could as easily be describing the Gaza Strip. Fill in the blanks with Netanyahu, Gazan, and Khan Younis, respectively. It fits like a glove, like a freaking glove.
It's true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right. In this particular country — ______ — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the _____ people themselves. We also had the ability to stop _______'s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.
To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
Operation Cast Lead, anyone? 400 murdered children. You could cut aid to Israel, to the tune of $9 million/day, and you wouldn't have to put troops on the ground to stop the violence. Hell, you wouldn't even have to impose a no-fly zone. Just stop the hemorrhaging of US dollars and you bring the 'only half-assed attempt at democracy in the Middle East' to its knees.