Peace Walks are Good for the Soul

I joined Bishop Madden and about 50 other people for my second Prayer Walk for Peace through a distressed neighborhood in West Baltimore.

Bishop Denis Madden and Lora

Bishop Denis Madden and Lora

With a police escort to manage the traffic, we walked past the vacant, boarded up buildings, past the curious onlookers, singing all the way. We made quite a chorus!


This neighborhood has seen a lot of violence. We stopped at a street corner where a young black man had recently been killed. We prayed for him and his family.


And then we walked on, singing and greeting people along the way.


We ask, O God, that you bless our community;

as well as all our communities.

We raise up those in the darkness of addiction,

gang activity and violence.

For those who have lost their lives on the streets

and for those who still mourn and seek justice.

We pray for the conversion of heart

for ll who choose death over life.

We stopped at an elementary school where gangs regularly make their deals. Young kids are just as likely to hear bullets and police sirens as they are the school bells. Another young man had been shot to death right outside of the school.


Give us, O God, the Depth of Soul

to constrain our might, to resist temptation

and to understand that vengeance begets violence

and that we stand for peace —

not violence wherever we go.

I didn’t know that Justice Thurgood Marshall was raised in this neighborhood!


For you, O God, have been merciful to Us!

For you, O God, have been patient with Us!

For you, O God, have been gracious to Us!

And so may we be merciful,

And patient,

And gracious,

And trusting,

And be the instruments of Your Peace!

We Ask this in the Holy Name of Jesus!


As the sun began to set, we headed back to the church. I felt this Peace Walk was the perfect capstone to my 6 months in Baltimore. I’m leaving Saturday with gratitude in my heart for the love and support of good friends here.


Bishop Madden spent many years living and working in the West Bank and Gaza.  He recommended I visit with the Sisters of Saint Francis when I get to Gaza and wished me a safe trip. He said he would pray for me, and he asked me to pray for him. I will!



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The Hour of Sunlight – One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker

Sami Al Jundi and Jen Marlowe – Nation Books (2011)

The Hour of Sunlight

The Hour of Sunlight

A story unlike any I’ve ever read.

Told from the first person by a Palestinian from East Jerusalem who landed in an Israeli prison for 10 years after joining his young teenage friends in an act of resistance to the Occupation. This book is a fast-paced journey that kept me turning pages and losing the time of day from beginning to end. First, the author’s personal journey; second, an historical journey of the Israel/Palestine “conflict”; and third, a spiritual journey of healing and growth.

Sami Al Jundi, with the help of his friend and co-author Jen Marlowe, shares his childhood memories of June 5, 1967 when the war broke out and his family fled their home in the Old City of Jerusalem; his tempestuous teenage years which put him in prison; his adjustment to life again when he returned home; and the work with Seeds of Peace that gave his life purpose and meaning.

This book grabbed my heart and took me soaring with happiness and joy, and diving with sadness and despair. Maybe I should let it “sink in” before writing my review but my immediate reaction reflects honesty —- and the Middle East needs alot more honesty like the kind these authors have shared in “The Hour of Sunlight.”

I’m not going to spill the beans and share many of the details or how the book ends because I think one of the strengths of the book is how the authors pull the reader through the story, shedding light and new insights chronologically. But I’m ordering 6 copies, sending 4 to friends in the U.S. who must read this book, and taking 2 with me to Gaza.

Thank you — Shukran — to Sami Al Jundi and Jen Marlowe for opening a whole new window of understanding for me about the Israel/Palestine struggle and how it touches humanity on both sides of the Green Line.


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Peace Day – September 21 – video

The multi award-winning feature documentary charting Jeremy Gilley’s extraordinary 10-year journey to establish Peace Day on 21 September, and showing how the Day was used to create a ceasefire in one of the most hostile areas of the world. The film’s breathtaking conclusion finds Jeremy joined by Jude Law in Afghanistan, attempting to spearhead a massive vaccination against polio on Peace Day. The Day After Peace is produced in association with the BBC and Passion Pictures.  1:21:12

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Guns, Freedom & Human Dignity


Do Americans have a God-given constitutional right to own guns?

Do guns make us safer?

Is there a difference between the gun violence perpetrated at Columbine and the gun violence in West Baltimore?

What can we do about it?  What about the NRA?

These (and other) questions kept the 90-minute program popping.

Saint Ignatius Catholic Church in Baltimore organized a panel discussion tonight — Guns, Freedom & Human Dignity — with four speakers who were clearly knowledgeable and articulate on the subject.


Bishop Denis J. Madden, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is a licensed clinical psychologist in both Maryland and Washington, D.C., and leads the Baltimore monthly “Prayer Walk for Peace”. He shared his experience working with violent offenders who resorted to guns in their anger because they had very little self-control. 40% of all guns sold in the U.S. are by private dealers with no background checks. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been calling on Congress to enact gun control for many years.

The second speaker was Joshua Smith, an Urban Grassroots Baltimore Community Developer and the Director of Intentional Living at the Gallery Church in Baltimore. As an activist, Joshua has worked tirelessly to unite the city of Baltimore during the recent riots, and in the months since. He works with and mentors inner city youth, while helping them with life and occupational skills. He made the discussion very personal.

Bishop Madden (l.) and Pastor Smith (r.)

Bishop Madden (l.) and Joshua Smith (r.)

When he was only 5 years old, cocaine was exploding in the community along with gun violence. The police came to Joshua’s school to teach the students how to dodge bullets with a zig zag motion running down the hall. The gun violence has grown because “guns are as easy to obtain as a pack of cigarettes.” Even though the State of Maryland recently passed SB 281, the guns are coming from Pennsylvania where there are no restrictions, and they’re sold in Baltimore as stolen property — not just handguns but larger assault weapons with large magazines.

Smith said this summer in Baltimore was “horrible” with one act of violent retaliation after another. He noted that blacks are statistically more likely to be killed, and the evidence shows they’ll probably be killed by another black person. I found Joshua Smith’s testimony gut-wrenching.


Jesuit youth asked if there is a difference between the shootings at Columbine and the gun violence in West Baltimore. He noted that the media often portrays the two types of gun violence very differently.

Joshua Smith agreed and said the narrative that separates white gun crime and black gun crime is an example of the “weaponization of blackness”.  The white shooter is portrayed in the mainstream media as an anomaly with a mental or emotional problem that is responsible for the crime, while the black shooter is thought to be inherently dangerous and a product of his dangerous environment. We need to recognize these different narratives and how the media contributes to racist discourse. Smith believes blacks are killing blacks because of a lack of self-love. “I can kill another black person because I don’t like what I see in the mirror.” Smith said the riots in Baltimore earlier this Spring shone a spotlight on the hopelessness and helplessness prevalent in many neighborhoods in the city.


Chief Jim Johnson, the Baltimore County chief of police, and chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, spoke to Congress in support of a bill in 2013 requiring a federal background check on gun purchasers.The bill failed by 5 votes!  He told us about another bill proposed by President Obama that hasn’t gained any traction. People who qualify for Social Security disability benefits are often required to have a fiduciary representative appointed to handle their affairs because of mental health issues. Obama’s bill would have denied gun ownership to these people, but Chief Johnson isn’t hopeful that there will be any significant reforms passed in Congress during our lifetimes. He also predicts that we will see a rising number of assault weapons used in cases of gun violence. A local NRA member said he believes that Maryland’s gun control legislation (SB 281 – ban on assault weapons) was politicized, and an unnecessary regulation of gun owners who pay taxes. SB 281 passed in Maryland in 2013, and was upheld by a federal court in 2014.

Firmin DeBrabander, Professor of Philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art and author of Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society, has studied the National Rifle Association (NRA) and had some thoughtful comments about NRA’s power as a lobbying force in Congress.  Why is the NRA so powerful?  DeBrabander believes the answer rests in NRA’s successful branding of guns with “freedom”.  The NRA connects the Second Amendment to the preservation of all of the other freedoms in the Constitution. The NRA magazine is America’s First Freedom. The NRA organizes freedom cruises. Guns = Freedom which sells well to the American public. Ten states now have “campus carry laws” allowing students and teachers to carry concealed weapons. Nine states are considering passing it. In 2014, Georgia passed a “Guns Everywhere” law. The United States is definitely an outlier in the community of nations in gun ownership and gun violence.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years (2008) has found that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to possess guns, the Heller decision also upholds the government’s responsibility to regulate guns. The take-away message for me was —- whether we are Catholics, law enforcement, activists, victims of gun violence or fit in another category, we must all work together to get strong federal gun control legislation passed

Bishop Madden

Bishop Madden

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Truly Tiresome Trolls

This week the Zionist trolls launched a concerted attack on my Facebook page. How do I know?

Trolls = unknown names with no profiles posting obnoxious Hasbara.

Concerted attack = multiple posts, one after another, over a period of several hours.

The solution!

This is a social media world, and I’m a social media gal. Defending against tiresome trolls is as simple as cleaning up ugly graffiti. The faster you remove it, the sooner they will lose interest and move on.

  1. Don’t engage with trolls <<<trolls want your attention, don’t give it to them>>>
  2. Report trolls to Facebook <<<click on upper right corner of the message and dropdown box gives you the option to report.>>>
  3. Block trolls <<<You might be able to block when you report, or you click on the troll’s FB page and then click on the 3 dots to the right of the troll’s name. The dropdown box gives you the option to report and block>>>

Israel pays students to tweet pro-Israeli propaganda. The government even offers Hasbara fellowships. LOL For the very serious Zionist troll, there’s even a Hasbara Handbook available.

This short (8 minute) video provides a very good primer on Israel’s hasbara project and how it has influenced the mainstream media in the United States. I highly recommend it.

No one should be surprised if Palestinians try to emulate Israel’s propaganda success, but I hope they don’t stoop to paying students to troll Facebook and Twitter.

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“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)


So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.


Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Politics, Settlers, United Nations, US Policy, Video

U.N. Commission makes recommendations — is anyone listening?

Now that Obama has a veto-proof Congress in favor of his Iran nuke deal, I’m wondering how Netanyahu is going to spin this. Will he dig in his heels and rant about this treachery? Or will he try to rebuild bridges between Israel and the U.S.?

Given Bibi’s response in June to the recommendations of the Independent U.N. Commission of Inquiry charged with investigating Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, I suspect Netanyahu lives in a bubble — a bubble of his own reality untouched by contrary evidence.

The Israeli government’s response to the U.N. report was also predictable.

It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted. This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate.

The State of Israel has never taken any U.N. recommendations to heart, so it’s unlikely there will be a change of heart in 2015.

676.        The persistent lack of implementation of recommendations – made by previous commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions, United Nations treaty bodies, special procedures and other United Nations bodies, in particular the Secretary-General and OHCHR – lies at the heart of the systematic recurrence of violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

Israel is the recalcitrant child who rejects authority figures and refuses to take any responsibility for his own predicament.

recalcitrant child

The U.N. recommendations are quite rational. Hopefully, the adults in the community of nations will take note and recognize that these reasonable recommendations must be implemented to avert another humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

677.     The commission calls upon all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the main principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and to establish promptly credible, effective, transparent and independent accountability mechanisms. The right of all victims to an effective remedy, including full reparations, must be ensured without further delay. In this context, the parties should cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened.

The Palestinians are pressing the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes in Gaza and for continued settlement expansion in the West Bank. Israel

678.    The commission also calls upon Israelis and Palestinians to demonstrate political leadership by both refraining from and taking active steps to prevent statements that dehumanize the other side, incite hatred, and only serve to perpetuate a culture of violence.

I think #678 is a very important recommendation, but I haven’t seen any evidence that either side acknowledges or takes it seriously.  Bruce Katz, co-founder of Palestinian & Jewish Unity, was recently interviewed on Press TV — see here.

Katz: There is nothing surprising and it is absolutely inhuman but it is part of the overall process of dehumanization that the Palestinians have suffered at the hands of Israel’s successive apartheid governments and the Netanyahu government simply seems to be the worst of all. Obviously you can only do what they have done to the Palestinians in Gaza, if you consider them to be subhumans which is exactly what the Israeli officials believe and that was reflected just recently by a statement coming from Moshe Ya’alon who is Israel’s defense minister; he as a matter of fact threatened Iran with a nuclear attack that would rival Nagasaki and Hiroshima [attacks]. He also said in that statement that he would kill as many children in Iran as in Gaza.

The remaining recommendations from the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry address Israel, Palestine and the international community.

679.    The commission calls upon the Government of Israel to conduct a thorough, transparent, objective and credible review of policies governing military operations and of law enforcement activities in the context of the occupation, as defined by political and military decision-makers, to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law, specifically with regard to:

       (a)           The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas, including in the vicinity of specifically protected objects;

       (b)           The definition of military objectives;

       (c)           The tactics of targeting residential buildings;

       (d)           The effectiveness of precautionary measures;

       (e)           The protection of civilians in the context of the application of the Hannibal directive;

       (f)            Ensuring that the principle of distinction is respected when active neighbourhoods are declared “sterile combat zones”;

       (g)           The use of live ammunition in crowd control situations.

680.   The review should also examine mechanisms for continuous review of respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law during military operations and in the course of law enforcement activities in the context of the occupation.

In June, Israel exonerated itself over the killings of the four Bakr children on the Gaza beach. Does anyone have any hope that Israel can investigate itself?

681.    The commission further calls upon the Government of Israel:

       (a)           To ensure that investigations comply with international human rights standards and that allegations of international crimes, where substantiated, are met with indictments, prosecutions and convictions, with sentences commensurate to the crime, and to take all measures necessary to ensure that such investigations will not be  confined to individual soldiers alone, but will also encompass members of the political and military establishment, including at the senior level, where appropriate;

       (b)           To implement all the recommendations contained in the second Turkel report, in particular recommendation no. 2 calling for the enactment of provisions that impose direct criminal liability on military commanders and civilian superiors for offenses committed by their subordinates, in line with the doctrine of command responsibility;

       (c)           To grant access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory for, and cooperate with, international human rights bodies and non-governmental organizations concerned with investigating alleged violations of international law by all duty bearers and any mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to follow up on the present report;

       (d)           To address structural issues that fuel the conflict and have a negative impact on a wide range of human rights, including the right to self-determination; in particular, to lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza; to cease all settlement-related activity, including the transfer of Israel’s own population to the occupied territory; and to implement the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;

       (e)           To accede to the Rome Statute.

682.    The commission calls upon the State of Palestine:

       (a)           To ensure that investigations into violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including international crimes, by the Palestinian Authority, the authorities in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups, where substantiated, comply with international human rights standards and that full accountability is achieved, including through criminal proceedings;

       (b)           To accelerate efforts to translate the declarations on Palestinian unity into tangible measures on grounds that would enable the Government of national consensus to ensure the protection of human rights and to achieve accountability for victims.

683.    The commission calls upon the authorities in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups:

       (a)           To respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, including by ending all attacks on Israeli civilians and civilian objects, and stopping all rocket attacks and other actions that may spread terror among the civilian population in Israel;

       (b)           To take measures to prevent extrajudicial executions and eradicate torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; to cooperate with national investigations aimed to bring those responsible for violations of international law to justice; and to combat the stigma faced by families of alleged collaborators.

684.    The commission calls upon the international community:

       (a)           To promote compliance with human rights obligations, and to respect, and to ensure respect for, international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, in accordance with article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions;

       (b)           To use its influence to prevent and end violations, and to refrain from encouraging violations by other parties;

       (c)           To accelerate and intensify efforts to develop legal and policy standards that would limit the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas with a view to strengthening the protection of civilians during hostilities;

       (d)           To support actively the work of the International Criminal Court in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territory; to exercise universal jurisdiction to try international crimes in national courts; and to comply with extradition requests pertaining to suspects of such crimes to countries where they would face a fair trial.

685.   The commission recommends that the Human Rights Council consider conducting a comprehensive review of the implementation of the numerous recommendations addressed to the parties by its own mechanisms, in particular relevant commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions and explore mechanisms to ensure their implementation.

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