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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pre-packaged US State Dept templates

Al Jazeera blogger Imran Garda has a great post about the U.S. response when a U.S. ally is using extreme force against peaceful protestors calling for change, or when a U.S. ally is 'bombing civilians to smithereens.' Here is the template the U.S. uses to respond to U.S. allies:
“We continue to monitor the situation and are very concerned about recent events in ______. We call for restraint on both sides. We urge President/Prime Minister/King ______ to facilitate dialogue and provide concrete steps towards a peaceful resolution.”
The response varies quite a bit if the state using disproportionate force and violating international law/human rights happens to NOT be a U.S. ally:
Luckily, there’s more flexibility if you’re not dealing with an ally - there is no stock template.

Try to throw in as many colourful condemnatory adjectives as possible. Toss in a couple of reminders of International Law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions; dig up a few things about what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have to say - and basically be honest. 
PJ Crowley
As evidence, check out a recent tweet from US State Dept Spokesperson, PJ Crowley:
#SecClinton spoke this afternoon with FM Aboul Gheit of #Egypt. She encouraged restraint and dialogue, and offered U.S. support for reforms.
Look for the US 'ally template' being used by the State Department in the near future. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tea, arghileh, and whiskey

After about a week in the South Hebron Hills, I was able to visit one of my favorite families in the area. After being served tea, the following dialogue ensued: 

"Sam, how many times did you have tea in the 4 months you were home?"
"Well, if you mean black tea with"
The family, in unison, let out various expressions of shock. "What! That's unbelievable," the mother exclaimed. "And how many times did you smoke arghileh (hookah) when you were in the States?"
"Not once."
Then the father of the family, the man who always lectures me about religion and often quotes 45-minute sections of the Koran, spoke loudly over the clamor of his family's questions, "Yeah and how many times did you drink whiskey? Wait, don't even answer, we know you drank whiskey every day."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Armed man kills two animals; Escapes to Havat Ma'on settlement

The first day I arrived in at-Tuwani, settlers tried to prevent Palestinian from cultivating their land. The second day, a settler killed two animals belonging to a Palestinian shepherd.  From CPT's release
Two teenage shepherds reported that they were watering their family's flock at a well just above their village when a man running through the area, carrying an M-16, fired four or five shots at the dog which accompanies their flock. The shooter proceeded to chase the flock, kicking a ewe and throwing rocks at its head. The dog died immediately from four gunshot wounds and the incapacitated sheep died approximately two hours after the beating.

One of the most startling things about the incident was how the Israeli Police immediately doubted Mukhamri's account. As Mukhamri explained the details of the shooting, he was using the word 'settler' to describe the assailant. The Police detective immediately interrupted him and and asked him how he knew it wasn't an Arab.  Mukhamri laughed in an irritated tone, and asked the Policeman if he had ever seen a Palestinian civilian with a gun in this area. Mukhamri offered that never in his life had he seen a Palestinian civilian carrying a firearm. Yeah, but how did you KNOW he was an Israeli? Mukhamri proceeded to describe the man's dress, including a yarmulke, which suggested he was Jewish. The description of the man's dress seemed to temporarily assuage the Policeman's doubts.

The dog looked pretty gruesome. It had four gunshot wounds, and the blood was still dripping out of the animals' nose and mouth when we arrived. 

If a man can shoot, without second-thought or regard, an innocent animal with an assault rifle, what else can this man do? If a man can walk up to a pregnant ewe, throw rocks at its head and kick the animal in the face and the stomach, what else can this man do?

Israeli settlers lay in front of tractors; attempt to prohibit Palestinian agricultural work

Israeli settlers, living in the West Bank in contravention of international law, engaged in a bizarre act of civil disobedience in an attempt to stop Palestinians from cultivating their own land. Despite the fact that Palestinians legally own the land, and have the paperwork to prove it, settlers were angry because they believe that their land ownership is divinely ordained.  And land ownership from 'on high' certainly supersedes the ownership documents that these Palestinians still hold from the Ottoman empire. Fortunately, these Palestinian farmers wouldn't concede an inch and continued plowing as two settlers laid in the dirt on front of the tractors while other settlers mounted the tractors.  The settlers' harassment wasn't enough to stop the farmers from completing their work.  

An excerpt from the CPT release:
On Saturday, 22nd of January, Palestinian farmers successfully plowed fields in Khoruba valley, despite heavy harassment by settlers from the nearby  settlement of Ma'on.

In the early morning, about twenty farmers from At-Tuwani started sowing seed and plowing fields in Khoruba valley, southeast from At-Tuwani. Soon thereafter, five settlers arrived from nearby Havat Ma'on outpost and positioned themselves in front of the tractors, in an attempt to prevent the farmers from completing their work.  As more settlers arrived, tempers flared and the farmers attempted to move the settlers and physically block them from interfering with the land cultivation.
When the settlers first arrived they headed directly for the tractors without speaking with anyone. The army hadn't arrived yet and I feared the incident would escalate, which of course would result in Palestinians being arrested, or worse. 
Picture Credit: Operation Dove (more available here)
The army soon arrived and thus commenced the charade of Palestinian farmers having to spend hours convincing the soldiers the the civil administration that their documents were legitimate and they did in fact have the right to plow this land.

A settler couple, who spoke English as a first language, came out shouting like a broken record that we were all Nazis. After realizing that calling us Nazis wasn't really getting them anywhere, they moved to a more civil discourse about Jewish right to the land and, ironically, European property rights: 

The farmers were extremely positive about the outcome of the day. The civil administration had agreed to let the farmers continue working, and Israeli forces stayed in the area to keep the settlers at bay. I'm certain most farmers in the world wouldn't feel positive about antagonistic, gun-wielding land thieves jumping on and in front of their tractors. Nonetheless, the fields were plowed and will yield wheat for harvest season. 

How to stay connected to CPT's work in Palestine

I'm behind on updating this blog. There are only two of us in At-Tuwani at the moment which means that after a incident happens, I am writing a release, uploading and editing video and pictures, and contacting the media. Once that's done and the media has been notified, I usualy feel the need to get away from the computer, especially if I have been translating/editing video. Thus, the timeliness of posts on this blog suffers a bit.  

One remedy is for you to subscribe to the CPT Palestine (actually named cpthebron) email list. After a release goes out to the press, we next send the release to the cpthebron yahoo group email list. By subscribing to this list, you will get updates as quick as we are getting them out.  Follow this link to sign up for the 'cpthebron' yahoo group email list. This will require you to create a yahoo account if you don't have one, but don't fret, you won't be bombarded with yahoo spam. I would say on average we send out 1-2 releases a week on the cpthebron list.

The second remedy is to subscribe to CPTnet, via RSS or email. CPTnet includes releases, analysis, and multimedia from all of the CPT project teams; including: Palestine, Colombia, Canada (First Nations), and Iraq.  

If I knew that you were all subscribed to CPTnet and/or the cpthebron yahoo group, I wouldn't be as concerned about delays in posting to this blog. So, you should go sign up for cpthebron yahoo group to get immedate releases from the CPT teams in Palestine and to alleviate my anxiety.  

This wasn't supposed to be a full post, but it turned into one...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New documentary: Israeli soldiers asked to 'cleanse' neighborhoods in Gaza

Israeli filmmaker, Nurit Kedar, has finished a documentary composed of a series of testimonies from Israeli soldiers about their experience in Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.  British television, Channel 4 News, ran a part of the documentary on a recent broadcast.

I hope that some of the soldiers in this film who are obviously suffering from acute trauma and PTSD are able to get some help.  I hope the film gets picked up by Israeli television (it doesn't have a broadcaster at this point) and convinces some young men and women to refuse to put themselves in a position where they might be asked to kill another human being.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Yorkers protest American company with connections to Israeli tear gas

The U.S. government gives somewhere around $9 million of military aid to Israel each day.  So it's no surprise that there are U.S. companies with close ties to the Israeli military. Due the rising number of deaths and injuries caused by the Israeli military's misuse and overuse of tear gas, activists are targeting the suppliers of the tear gas, which happen to be US companies. 

My latest post on Waging Nonviolence (and by latest I mean Jan 14th, which goes to show that I have been quite busy since arriving in Palestine, and haven't had much time for this blog) covers a recent NY protest against one of the companies providing Israeli with tear gas canisters, Combined Systems INC.

Go read the entire thing, and sign the petitions too if you want to express your distaste with how your tax dollars are being spent. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tunisia: A revolution happened

Tunisia had a revolution, but it wasn't covered by the  U.S. mainstream television media. I read a truckload of articles but haven't written anything yet. You should catch up on the situation with some simple Google searches. To sum it up, for the first time in modern history a corrupt Arab dictator was overthrown by a mass unarmed protest.  It was one of the first secular revolutions in the modern Arab world.  It's a big deal. Here's a great picture of a common man gunning down armed riot police with a loaf of bread.

Go see the rest of the pictures here, and then go figure out what happened in Tunis. 

More Macy Gray facebook madness

My last post on Macy Gray was originally going to be elaborate with lots of screen captured comments for or against her Tel Aviv concerts. Then I figured you could go read some of the responses yourselves. Then I realized how long I had taken to read the responses and take some screen captures, and how much I prefer visual posts. So now, I will put up some comments I found interesting in case you aren't gonna read all the  responses on Macy's facebook page.  

So again, a reminder of what Macy asked her fans:
I'm booked for 2 shows in TelAviv. I'm getting alot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I wana go. I gotta lotta fans there I dont want to cancel on and I dont know how my NOT going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?
And the comments...
A totally tangential (and factually unfounded) comment. Also, did she not read what Macy actually asked people to comment on?

 A commonly-voiced rationale encouraging people to speak your mind in the boycotted country, rather than boycotting:

Crucial. Palestinians can't go see the show, but Israelis can tramp around and steal land in the West Bank. 

 Yes, play in Palestine. The occupation strangles culture in the West Bank and Gaza. I wish more artists would challenge that strangulation by bringing their talents to Palestine. 


That's just a partial example of how the tide turned in the comments. This particular string of pro-BDS comments was about 3x that long, but my screen isn't that big. 

You don't get it. Macy will be soothing the souls of Israelis who don't live under a cruel occupation. They aren't having a rough time, unless they are Israelis who are Arab, African, Mizrahim, or any other minority.
Your lives are full of political acts. Our acts affect people, which in turn make them political.  We don't need a time out from reality, but we need to acknowledge what the reality is and listen to people who have suggested ways to change it.

Update: There were 300 comments on Macy Gray's blog when I drafted this post and went to eat dinner. Now its up to more than 580. My post also went up on Mondoweiss, and I keep seeing tweets telling people to go tell Macy Gray what they think. 

Macy Gray criticizes Israeli policy; asks if she should play in Tel Aviv

Macy Gray is reconsidering the concerts she has planned for Tel Aviv. On Facebook, Gray had the following for her fans:
I'm booked for 2 shows in TelAviv. I'm getting alot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I wana go. I gotta lotta fans there I dont want to cancel on and I dont know how my NOT going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?
Before we go any further, this if fantastic. BDS opponents love to suggest that BDS stifles debate, but on the contrary, BDS fosters debate, and this is exhibit A. It's also noteworthy that Macy Gray clearly states her negative views of Israeli government policies. What the Israeli government is doing to Palestinians is, in fact, 'disgusting.' Well said, Macy. 

Macy Gray's post went up on Monday and the feedback was sparse but largely supportive of her Tel Aviv concerts.  The feedback significantly picked up today (January 19th) and took an overwhelming turn towards asking Gray NOT to perform in Tel Aviv. Go read the responses for yourself, and more importantly, give Macy Gray your two cents.   

Note: You'll have to 'like' Gray's main page before you comment on the Tel Aviv concerts. 

(h/t to @ibnezra 's tweet)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rain: A blessing, a curse, a need for action

Rain is falling outside right now. I see drops splashing on the tiny reservoir of water created by the lip on the outdoor table. I see drops appear as they fall in front the dark evergreen trees. I hear the rain hitting the garden window that protrudes from the edge of the house. I hear the rain echo through the house as it hits the metal damper of the fireplace. Rain changes the physical appearance of everything it touches, it creates a sound that is not replicated anywhere else.

I used to vacillate between tolerance and distaste of rain which varied solely on my mood.  Living in Auburn, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, I usually tired of the rain in the winter. The rain in Auburn is not overwhelming, never dangerous, but I used to feel that it was inconvenient at times: getting wet running to cars, or the rain soaking your jeans and your backpack as you walked home.  In San Diego, I always cherished the rain because it was so rare, although I didn't revel in rainy weather as much as my friends who were transplants from the Northwest. 

Now that I have lived in the southern West Bank, a place that is dangerously starved of rain, I have learned to thank the skies for every rain that falls.  As the rain now falls in the foothills, I know that the rain storm has already passed through California's San Joaquin Valley, a valley that has been hailed the 'food basket of the world,' and acknowledged for its great diversity of food production.  A good, steady rain on the plowed fields of the valley will serve to nourish the plants and animals that will in turn serve to nourish the bodies of people worldwide. 

Often the rain in California makes me wish I could bottle the storm, and cast the bottle to the Atlantic Ocean, on a journey to the Mediterranean.  Upon arrival on the Mediterranean shore the storm-filled bottle would be earmarked for the southern West Bank.  As the bottle was opened, stirring the clouds and forming precipitation, the farmers would give thanks to God for the rain which would nourish their wheat fields, fields which depend solely on rainfall.  Shepherds would give thanks, knowing that the rain would bring sprouts of green grass on the hillsides, which would soon be prime food for their sheep and goats. 

But I also see that rainfall has put parts of Australia under water.  Brisbane is being currently described as a war zone.  Last year's floods in Pakistan were devastating, killing thousands and submerging more than 1/5 of Pakistan's total land area. 

The weather patterns of Earth provide sustainability for life, but severe weather systems also have the ability to destroy life, through an abundance or a scarcity of water.  Those of us who live in the mediums, in places rarely experiencing life-threatening quantities of water, should give thanks.  We need to drastically decrease our water consumption, so that water can be routed to places with a scarcity, or can be saved for future generations.  We should reach out to those suffering from storms which threaten lives with our awareness, energies, and monies. We should also listen to the calls for the global north to work to combat global warming.  Why the north? Well, because the north is responsible for the great majority of greenhouse gases. As temperatures soar, glaciers melt, and oceans rise, impoverished people and nations in the global south are placed in peril disproportionate to their contribution to the warming of the planet.

May we give thanks for the rain, which nourishes the earth. And may our thankfulness for the water we do have urge us to adopt sustainable practices which ensure the longetivity of life on earth and may it challenge us to make water available to people everywhere.   

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Terrorism should be expunged from the dictionary

I don't have any profound thoughts on the Tucson killings. It's a tragedy when murder happens anywhere, and I don't want to trump up this killing over and above the killings happening in other places. This is a sad incident because lives were cut short that had so much potential to contribute to the betterment of this world, full stop. Likewise, the deaths of American soldiers and the deaths of Iraqis and Afghans are deaths that we as Americans should be equally outraged about (as Americans because we are implicated as voters in a democracy and financial supporters of the war through taxes). 

What I do want to bring to the forefront is the way the discourse around this killing was shaped.  The killer, Jared Loughner, was immediately described by the press as being mentally unstable.  That seems to be accurate after seeing interviews with classmates and viewing videos Loughner published to YouTube.  But when Muslims, Arabs, Arab Muslims, or even Arab Americans commit murder,the first thought is never, "oh, this person must be mentally unstable, let's find interviews and videos that might support that claim." The idea is always to find connections to violent Islamic jihadist movements that seek to target sick, free, liberal democracies in the West. I could keep ranting, but for your sake, I will present a few tweets and a blog post that really helped me to frame some of this in my own head.

From Barry Eisler

And an excerpt from Bill Quigley's post at Dissident Voice:
Question:  Why is there so little talk of terrorism?

Apparently when a mentally unstable white male is accused, terrorism is not the first thing that comes to mind.

When Clay Duke, a white male, threatened Florida school board members with a gun and shot at them before shooting himself, in December 2010, he was mentally imbalanced.

When Michael Enright, a white male, was arrested for slashing the throat of a Muslim NYC cab driver in August of 2010, his friends said he had a drinking problem.

When Byron Williams, a white male, was arrested after opening fire on police officers and admitted he was on his way to kill people at offices of a liberal foundation and a civil liberties organization, in July 2010, he was an unemployed right wing felon with a drinking problem.

When Joe Stack, a white male, flew his private plane into a federal building in Austin, Texas, in February 2010, he was angry with the IRS.

When a white male is accused of mass murder, terrorism is not much talked of; rather it becomes a terrible tragedy but not one where race or ethnicity or religion need be examined.

Now if the accused had been Muslim, does anyone doubt whether this would have been considered an act of terrorism?  US Muslims could have expected increased surveillance and harassment at home and the places where they work and worship.  They could have expected a Congressional inquiry into the radicalization of their people.  Oh, Representative Peter King (R-NY) has already started that one!
Update: Max Blumenthal's tweet really brought the point home.

Friday, January 07, 2011

A compelling video which contains 100 other compelling stories

Watch this video, it gave me the chills, it speaks the truth:

It was taken off YouTube for unknown reasons, but was replaced because of dissent to its removal.  Well frankly it wasn't taken off for unknown reasons, YouTube has a long history of restricting videos that challenge empire, especially Israeli empire (a challenge, which of course, gets chalked up to antisemitism).  

At 0:55 there is a picture of a man holding up a piece of paper to a cinder block home, there are Palestinians standing in the cutout window.  I took this photo, and its story deserves to be told.  Residents of At-Tuwani had got some supplies to built some new one-room buildings which would be used to store grain and other supplies.  Soon after they were built, Israeli settlers came in the night and knocked over one of the buildings.  Later, the Israeli civil administration arrived and delivered demolition orders to each of the houses.  Each picture tells 1,000 words, here's the video:


Killing of Palestinian sparks protests by Israeli peace activists

I neglected to post my latest piece here on my blog.  In it I covered the killing of a Palestinian nonviolent demonstrator, Jawaher Abu Rahma.  Jawaher Abu Rahma was killed by gross amounts of teargas fired by Israeli soldiers.  

The post ran on Waging Nonviolence and was picked up by Sojourners.  I was pleased to see Sojourners pick it up. When Sojourners comes up in Google the subtitle for their site is, 'Christians for Peace and Justice.'  And yeah, Christians who care about peace and justice should care about the killing of nonviolent activists struggling for their freedom.  But it's rare that Christian publications pick up things so overtly political.  Right on Sojo.  

I've barely had the time to keep up myself with all the fallout of the Jawaher Abu Rahma killing.  Following the incident the IDF tried to say that Jawaher wasn't even present at the protest, then they said she had a pre-existing condition, then she had cancer, then she didn't even die at the hospital like Palestinian reports claimed, then they held a session where a bunch of right-wing bloggers crafted a narrative of the death with the help of the IDF in an attempt to counter all of those who actually saw her inhale tear gas at the protest and then watched her die.  Their attempts to cover up their killing of a woman who did nothing wrong, whatsoever, and their denial of the lethal-potential of CS gas (which has been widely abandoned because of its toxicity) is shameful.  

Democracy Now ran a great piece on the IDF's attempt to discount the facts in which they interviewed two Israelis who were at the protest.  A lot of IDF story-shifting countered by activists who presented the facts and the evidence has transpired since the Democracy Now piece, but it still provides a pretty solid summary of the events surround Jawaher Abu Rahma's death.