A wanderer

“Wanderer, there is no path,

the path is made by walking.”

— Antonio Machado

antonio-machado

Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939) was a Spanish poet

An American friend sent me these words a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling them over ever since. Undoubtedly, they reminded her of my elusive pilgrimage. I’ve been “on the road again” and walking for the past 7 years.

I always seem to be on the move, with my ultimate destination being Gaza. I certainly don’t have a well-defined plan or path which I suspect causes some concern or consternation to family and friends watching my journey.

Truth-be-told, I wake up in sweats some nights wondering if I’m on the path I’m suppose to be on, or have I lost my way? I never expected to be *here* when I turned 65.

Exactly where am I?

It doesn’t matter where I lay my head down tonight. What matters are my actions today, the people I’m meeting, the conversations I’m having, and the spirit I’m sharing with others.

It doesn’t matter what things are packed in my suitcase, or what ticket I have for my next travel plans.  What matters is that I travel as lightly as possible (for practical and spiritual reasons) and I travel safely, responsibly and with a good heart towards my fellow passengers.

Machado’s words can ring with different meanings for different people I suppose, but taking them literally, I think I’ve discovered the root of my “obsessiveness” over the Palestinians in Gaza. (Not my word, but the word of family and friends who have observed my attention directed towards Gaza over the past 5+ years.)

checkpoint

Israeli checkpoint for Palestinians posted by Husam Jubran on Facebook

Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza have been removed from life’s path through no fault of their own except for casting a vote for Hamas in 2006. Shortly thereafter, the government of Israel proclaimed Hamas a terrorist organization (probably as stunned by Hamas’ victory as Americans were shocked by Trump’s victory in 2016) and locked down the Gaza Strip in a suffocating siege and blockade that has tightened considerably year-by-year.

“You voted for the wrong guy!”

“We refuse to talk or engage with your elected leaders.”

“If we squeeze you tight enough, you’ll kick Hamas out.” 

“We believe you’re all terrorists, and this blockade is a legitimate security measure.”

Israel’s blockade has disrupted the lives of Palestinian students trying to travel a path towards their academic studies abroad; it’s prevented Palestinian scholars from traveling abroad to accept international awards; it’s stopped Palestinian poets and artists from presenting their talents to audiences overseas; it’s kept Palestinian soccer players from competing in FIFA tournaments; and it’s killed Palestinian men, women and children who were denied permission to travel outside of Gaza for life-saving treatment because they were deemed a security risk.

I know people personally in each of these categories. I’m sure there are many more categories.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-While there are many reasons why the state of Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague and prosecuted for war crimes, I believe Israel’s decision to prevent men, women and children in Gaza from following their path, and denying them their right to travel, is the most heinous of all of Israel’s crimes, and that government must be held accountable.

 Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that:

  • a citizen of a state in which that citizen is present has the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others,

  • and that a citizen also has the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and to return to his or her country at any time.

Israeli officials may argue that Palestinians aren’t citizens of Israel, and certainly they don’t have a state of their own to which they can claim citizenship, and so Article 13 doesn’t apply to the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel and the UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine should go head-to-head with their arguments on that issue before a U.N. body.  Keeping innocent civilians locked up in the world’s largest open air prison with no due process has turned the State of Israel into a putrified petrie dish. The experiment is rotting Israel from the inside out.

Day 1 Lora shadow

“Wanderer, there is no path,

the path is made by walking.”

— Antonio Machado

One day every Palestinian in Gaza will walk their path right back to the homes and villages from which they were forcibly removed 70 years ago. Until that day, they’re teaching all of us by the humanity they model for us day after day.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Elections, Gaza, Hamas, Islam, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Reasons to support UNRWA-USA

My family and friends know I’m soliciting donations for my #Gaza5K fundraising campaign to help UNRWA provide critical mental health services to the refugee children and their families in Gaza. This is my fourth year participating in the #Gaza5K and it’s never been this urgent.

Part of the urgency comes as a result of Trump’s decision to withhold the lion’s share of the U.S. annual contribution to UNRWA. His Administration thinks that will put pressure on the Palestinians to accept the “Deal of the Century”. It won’t. It will only add untold misery to the lives of refugees whose basic existence (especially in Gaza) has been called into question after eleven (11) years of the suffocating siege and blockade.

Another part of the urgency I’m feeling comes from friends and solidarity activists who understandably are trying to do the best they can given their shrinking pocketbooks and the myriad of competing organizations seeking their help.

We all need to work together to lift up and support all of these worthwhile organizations who are helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere. We all need to think creatively.

Here’s some information about UNRWA-USA which might be helpful in your deliberations about how to focus your fundraising efforts most effectively.

  • UNRWA USA is a 501(c)(3) registered with the IRS and your donations are tax-deductible.
  • 91% of all donations made through UNRWA USA directly support UNRWA’s work for Palestine refugees.
  • UNRWA USA receives platinum, the highest rating for transparency, accountability, and administration from Guidestar. Of every dollar spent, 91 cents goes toward helping Palestine refugees. Just 6 cents of every dollar is spent on fundraising costs and 3 cents on operations. The UNRWA USA website has all of the 990 tax forms available for viewing and downloading.
  • The majority of UNRWA’s annual budget comes from voluntary contributions from donor states, such as the United States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom, and Nordic States, individual donors, and NGOs. Reductions in donor states’ contributions due to the slow economic recovery, and the ongoing crises in Gaza and Syria, have left UNRWA with significant budget shortfalls, making contributions from private donors, such as individuals and foundations, all the more crucial.
  • More than half of UNRWA’s regular budget is devoted to education. UNRWA believes that education is essential to Palestinians’ future and to stability in the region. UNRWA’s education programs aim to encourage a tolerant and empowered Palestinian population who can serve as partners in peace.
  • UNRWA is a direct service provider, it doesn’t contract out its work to any third parties, and 99% of the 33,000 person staff across Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine, are refugees themselves, so the admin costs go toward paying the salaries of refugees who are support families of 5+ people. UNRWA’s staff works tirelessly to uplift their communities while facing the same hardships as the people they serve — sometimes even risking their lives.
  • UNRWA is the most trusted way to help Palestine refugees. In fact, the United States government has historically been the single largest donor. In light of the recent funding crisis, donating provides urgently needed assistance and shows our government that Americans care about Palestine refugees — and that it needs to continue supporting them.

In May 2018, both of my US Senators from New Mexico signed on to a letter written by Senator Bernie Sanders urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to restore the funding to UNRWA. I urge you to check the letter to see whether your US Senator signed on. You may contact Congress using UNRWA USA’s online form here.

And please donate to my #Gaza5K campaign if you haven’t already, and share it with your friends on social media or email.

 

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Rising above the cacophony

The cuts in Gaza are “making an intolerable humanitarian crisis even more life-threatening,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness. He added: “Now the very organization mandated specifically to provide lifesaving services is being forced to cut service provisions. It’s heartbreaking.”

Gaza boys flag beach

My fourth year raising donations for the #Gaza5K walk/run fundraiser for Gaza, and you would think I’d be a professional by now and know all the tricks.

This year is most definitely the toughest — both for the refugees in Gaza and for soliciting donations. In the past, I’ve raised between $1,000 and $2,000 for UNRWA-USA. However, Trump’s decision to significantly reduce the U.S. share of UNRWA’s budget has sparked a crisis in Gaza and I’ve stretched my goal to $3,000. I’m going to have to think outside of the box.

Please check my fundraising page here, share it & contribute if you can.

The situation in Gaza has reached a state of “collapse,” a Palestinian engineer told me a couple of weeks ago. He’s worked for UNRWA in Gaza for 13 years, and received his pink slip the day we talked, notifying him that his job ends in December. Like many of his colleagues who also learned the same news, he has a family to support. The stress and worry about the future are grinding them down.

running 1The Washington Post reported on July 25th: The United States has provided just $60 million for UNRWA this year, compared with $360 million last year. The reduction in funding came after President Trump criticized the money provided to the Palestinians even though they were “no longer willing to talk peace.”

 

Unless UNRWA can plug the funding gap, the agency has said it may have to cut essential health and education programs, and it has warned in particular that it may have to delay the start of the school year for 526,000 children in the agency’s schools.

Please check my fundraising page here, share it & contribute if you can.

So what are my thoughts outside of the box for raising $3,000 by mid-September?

  • I’m asking readers of my blog to contribute any amount, small or large. I’m more interested in the number of contributors than I am of the size of your donation. $5, $10, $25 helps a lot.
  • I’m asking readers of my blog to share this fundraising appeal with friends and family, and post it to your social media.
  • I’m making phone calls to people because a personal ask is sometimes more effective than an anonymous request on social media.
  • I’m checking with alternative media in ABQ to see if I can publish an appeal in the weekly papers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
  • I’m circulating my fundraising campaign to the traditional Palestine solidarity activist groups to see if they will pitch in.
  • I’m planning an event or party in Albuquerque in early September to bring people together, update them on the collapsing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and ask for their contributions.
  • If I need to, I may have to find something of value in my storage unit to sell to make up the difference.

If you have other ideas outside of the traditional fundraising box, please let me know.

Please check my fundraising page here, share it & contribute if you can.

 

 

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Who is a Zionist?

Labels are meant to elucidate, clarify and explain but I suspect that the ‘Zionist’ label is not as helpful as I originally thought.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘Zionism’ as

an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.

And a ‘Zionist’ is someone who is

a supporter of Zionism; a person who believes in the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.

In the context of Uri Avnery’s recent hospitalization, I expressed sadness that this Israeli peace activist may be on his death bed because I believe Israel needs more voices like his.  A friend countered that Uri Avnery is a Zionist and so everything he says is suspect.

Avnery, 94, has written opinion pieces on a regular basis for Haaretz. He is a former Knesset member and a founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement who worked as editor-in-chief of the Haolam Hazeh weekly. He has been an advocate for the past 70 years for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Uri Avnery

An activist friend of mine informs me that —

The definition of a Zionist among Palestinian solidarity activists is any person who believes that it is legitimate that there be a country for Jews in historic Palestine. Dorothy Naor, a prominent Israeli-American (native of San Francisco) Palestinian solidarity activist who has lived in Israel for more than 50 years and knows Uri Avnery personally, says that Avnery is definitely a Zionist.

I believe that definition — “any person who believes that it is legitimate that there be a country for Jews in historic Palestine” — is counter-productive and undermines the goal (as I understand it) of securing for Palestinians the human rights and the most basic right of self-determination that justice and international law demands.

Using that broad definition —

Former President Jimmy Carter, author of Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, and We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land — A Plan That Will Work is a Zionist.

Jeff Halper, author of An Israeli in Palestine–Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel and the founder of ICAHD, is a Zionist.

This broad definition of who qualifies as a Zionist must absorb every Israeli living in the State of Israel today because their mere presence affirms the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

In fact, some Palestinians I know in Gaza would be considered Zionists by this awkward definition because, although they detest the way in which the State of Israel was founded 70 years ago and they recognize the ongoing trauma of the Nakba, they have come to terms with the legitimacy of the State of Israel and wish to work towards a One State solution where every person in the Holy Land can live in peace with equal rights for all.

For that matter, I’m a Zionist!

I believe the injustices perpretrated on the indigenous people of Palestine was a historic wrong that needs to be rectified, and justice needs to be secured for the millions of Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian Territories as well as in the diaspora.  I also believe that Americans are uniquely responsible for the ongoing Nakba because of our disgusting “special relationship” with Israel.

I’m a Zionist because I also recognize that the State of Israel exists, it will and should continue to exist, that securing justice for Palestinians in the 21st Century doesn’t require eliminating the State of Israel, and this isn’t a zero-sum game where one must suffer for the other to thrive.  Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve our empathy and love in this very difficult time.

I also fear for the future of the State of Israel, not because I think Iran or its Arab neighbors pose an existential threat to Israel’s security.  I believe the government and powers in the State of Israel are behaving in ways that cast a shadow on the country’s own viability in the future.

So when I use the term “Zionist” in social media or elsewhere, please consider that my definition is drawn more narrowly than perhaps many other Palestine solidarity activists draw it.

A “Zionist” is someone who supports the occupation, supports the Israeli apartheid regime, and someone who believes that Israel’s future requires the subjugation and humiliation of millions of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, in Jordan and elsewhere in the diaspora.

I can’t wait until the first Palestinian-American Congresswoman visits her family in the West Bank. Israel’s security establishment (COGAT) is going to be apoplectic.

 

 

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Magical thinking

Donald (you know which Donald) wants to make the “deal of the century” in the Middle East and he’s assigned that task to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Here’s what we know about the “deal” thus far.

  • Make the issue of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future State of Palestine disappear by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel. (See here.) No capital for Palestine, no problem.
  • Strip the more than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan of their status as refugees, and pay Jordan to absorb them as new citizens of Jordan. That would solve the ‘right of return’ problem, at least for those 2 million Palestinians. (See here.)  No refugees in Jordan, no problem.
  • Dissolve the U.N. agency (UNRWA) that was created in 1949 to provide relief to the Palestinians displaced by the creation of the State of Israel. (See here.) No UN agency requiring funding to sustain the refugees, no problem.
  • Redefine who qualifies as a refugee to include only those individuals who were displaced 70 years ago, not their descendants. Of course, this would drastically reduce the refugee population which is around 5 million, nearly one-third of whom live in camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. (See here.) No descendants of Palestinian refugees to be concerned about, no problem. JUST WAIT THEM OUT AND THOSE PESKY REFUGEES FROM 70 YEARS AGO WILL DIE.
  • Provide aid to the Palestinians in a way that makes clear that the international community does not recognize the vast majority of Palestinians who are currently registered as refugees are deserving of refugee status. (See here.) Again, no refugees, no problem.

Lest you think this is all magical thinking, H.R. 6451 – UNRWA Reform and Refugee Act of 2018 was introduced in July and would accomplish many of these points pushed by Jared Kushner.

By any objective measure, this is a war between the U.S. Congress and Palestinians with a clear goal to erase the impediments to the “deal of the century”. No refugees, no UNRWA, no capital in Jerusalem, no ‘right of return’ – such a headache for Israelis to contemplate – this deal will certainly fall right into place.

And Congress wants to ensure that the State of Israel maintains a military advantage which translates on the ground to Israeli snipers shooting and killing Palestinian journalists, nurses, doctors, women and children (some in the back, others who were merely standing and observing) — a total of 156 since the weekly protest marches at the Gaza fence began in March this year.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

My delegation from New Mexico (Heinrich, Lujan-Grisham, Lujan and Pearce) have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 5141 and S.2497 – United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 which states in part:

It is the policy of the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military or emerging threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition states or non-state actors.

(1) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the event of a sustained armed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

(2) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel in the event of a sustained armed confrontation with other armed groups and terrorist organizations such as Hamas.

(3) The resources the Government of Israel can plan to dedicate to acquire such precision guided munitions.

(4) United States planning to assist Israel to prepare for the sustained armed confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as the ability of the United States to resupply Israel in the event of such confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2), if any.

Read this language carefully and it’s clear that the U.S. Congress wishes to re-write the rules of war, and international humanitarian law, by authorizing the State of Israel to preemptively strike anyone (civilians included) who, in their sole discretion, poses a threat.

I suspect that many members of Congress don’t understand what they’ve signed onto, and they trust AIPAC’s propaganda. But the words speak for themselves, and anyone who values the rule of law must remove their name as a cosponsor.

That’s the message I’m sending to my delegation from New Mexico.

Palestinian President Abbas condemned the ‘deal of the century’ as the ‘slap of the century’.

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Ammar Campa-Najjar

Can a “tall, skinny brown kid” unseat a five-term Republican Congressional incumbent in San Diego? “Si, se puede!”  Getting young Democrats to the polls in November will be the key.

Campa Najjar

Ammar Campa-Najjar (Democrat running for Congress in San Diego County)

Ammar Campa-Najjar (check out his website) is the son of a Mexican-American mother and a Middle Eastern immigrant father who was born and raised in San Diego. What caught my attention is the fact that he and his family lived in Gaza for four years until war broke out, and his mother brought her two sons back to the U.S.

Ammar never had anything handed to him on a silver platter (unlike Rep. Duncan Hunter whose father, Duncan Hunter Sr, bestowed his seat in Congress to his son in grand dynastic fashion).

Duncan Hunter, Jr. needs to go quietly into the sunset, just ask the FBI agents investigating him and his wife. Duncan has already spent more than half a million dollars on legal fees trying to avoid an indictment. (Read more here.) Duncan is vunerable and Ammar is just the person to unseat him.

Campa veterans

Look who’s endorsed Ammar — Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution, Democracy for America, J Street, Progressive Caucus, Move On, National Nurses United, Working Families, labor groups and a ton of others. (The full list of endorsements is here.)

Campa endorsements

No surprise why Ammar has racked up these great endorsements. His platform and positions reflect the needs of working families, students, the elderly, the disenfranchised, and those who haven’t had a voice in Congress from CD-50 in San Diego County for decades. Read his positions on jobs, immigration reform, healthcare reform, environmental protection, election reform, and education.

Campa-Najjar is not accepting any corporate money for his campaign. He needs our contributions, small and large, to get his important message out.  Please contribute here.

 

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Truth in the New York Times

Truth

The New York Times has been waging a not-so-subtle war on Trump’s “Fake News” campaign with its full page messages, such as the one above.  Or this one.

Facts new york times

Clearly, this is a very thoughtful campaign by the Editors at the New York Times to discredit Trump’s war on facts and on the news media. Good for them.

We should be asking ourselves, however, why the NYT Editors chose to focus on “truth” and not “facts.” Some might argue that “truth” and “facts” are synonymous, there is no difference. In an ideal world, I might agree.

The wise ones know we don’t live in that utopia.

We live in a world where the media giants, the consolidated empires like the Sinclair Broadcast Group, massage and filter and repeat ad nauseum the “truth” they deem fit to share.

Few media sources disseminate outright lies and fabrications. There’s an element of “truth” in every story, whether you find it on Fox News, Rachel Maddow’s show or The New York Times.  (I can hear my liberal friends howling “you can’t compare Fox News and The New York Times in the same breath!”)

What’s new is the relatively recent attack on the “truth” our commander-in-chief doesn’t like.  He prefers the way Fox News massages the “truth” rather than the mainstream media that criticizes him, even trying to punish journalists with whom he disagrees.

But don’t be fooled.  Both Fox News and The New York Times massage the truth to fit a worldview that they want you, the news consumer, to digest and accept.

One small example.

In the Spring of 2014, I read a New York Times story online that referred to the Gaza Strip as “occupied.” This story was published years after the State of Israel had formally removed its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and Israel’s position was that it no longer “occupied” Gaza.

I was shocked and pleasantly surprised that The New York Times was not parroting Israel’s line, but instead acknowledging international law in a back-handed sort of way. Under international law, since Israel maintains “effective control” over the people of Gaza, it occupies the Gaza Strip.

A few hours later I returned to that same article online and found that the Editors had removed the term “occupied” and “occupation,” followed by a short disclaimer at the bottom noting that the original version had been a mistake. Over the next month, I engaged in a volley of letters back and forth with the Editors about this change. The New York Times Editors’ response to me is here.

Anyone who has been following The New York Times’ coverage of Israel-Palestine for any length of time understands that the paper massages the facts, at times more subtly than at other times, to favor Israel’s perspective.

If Americans are interested in the “truth” as presented by Israel and The New York Times, then some facts will be highlighted and other facts ignored or deliberately buried, as in the case of Gaza.

The Gaza Strip is occupied; the State of Israel is the occupation power; the future of the Palestinians and Israelis depends on Americans understanding the facts.

A good place to begin is by watching The Occupation of the American Mind, Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States. (The video link is here.)

Then let’s tell The New York Times and every media outlet that we want the FACTS. With the facts we will be the judge of what is the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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