Category Archives: Israel

#FreeClosedMindsEverywhere

Palestinian child – rapper in Gaza

A good number of Palestinians in Gaza have locked the door and thrown away the key, refusing to participate in any dialogue with Israelis. Rami Aman is not one of them.

Rami Aman has an open mind, a curious mind, a well-developed sense of self-worth and personal dignity which he wants to share with Israelis who are interested in learning more about his world, his people and his culture.

The State of Israel forbids any Israelis from visiting Gaza where the enemy and terrorists reside. The de facto ruling elites of Gaza forbid Palestinians from visiting and communicating with Israelis, the enemy and occupier.

Fortunately, there are people on both sides of this divide who understand this type of ostracization is medieval and counterproductive.

Rami Aman sits in a prison cell in Gaza, silenced by Hamas and many of his peers because he participated in a group Zoom chat between Israelis and Palestinians who were interested in learning about each other.

My hope is that the youth in Gaza and Israel will be able to rap to their hearts content; and more importantly, be able to hear each other’s rap.

#FreeRamiAman

#FreeClosedMindsEverywhere

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, People, Uncategorized

Anti-Racist Resources

Black Lives Matter signJuly 13, 2020

I’m pulling together resources to help with my personal education on white supremacy, policing and related topics.

I believe the Zionist history of the founding of the State of Israel and its subjugation and occupation of Palestinians mirrors the colonization of the U.S. and subjugation of the Indigenous peoples and Africans brought to this country as slaves.

Neither Israelis nor Americans have come to terms with our past, nor honestly reconciled with the descendants that continue to bear the brunt of our cruelty to this day.

I will continue to add resources to this list as I come across them.  If you have recommendations to add to this list, please email me LoraLucero3@gmail.com   I hope you find this helpful.

The Truth about the Confederacy in the United States (1 hour 40 minutes video) available here – Jeffery Robinson, the ACLU’s top racial justice expert, discusses the dark history of Confederate symbols across the country and outlines what we can do to learn from our past and combat systemic racism. UPDATED 7/13/20

Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources available here.  Friends who are ready to get serious about our education on racism and white supremacy: There is a wealth of information included here for all ages. This resource has books, podcasts, videos and links to other resources, as well as many contacts on social media. The goal is to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work. These resources have been ordered in an attempt to make them more accessible. We will continue to add resources. UPDATED 06/12/20

Seeing White podcast (14 episodes) on Scene on Radio available here.

Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story.

Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for?

Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. The series editor is Loretta Williams.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages — Cooke, N. A. (2020, May 30). [A project of the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair at the University of South Carolina]. Available here.

This project emerged out of the pain and frustration associated with the back-to-back deaths of #GeorgeFloyd #BreonnaTaylor and #AhmaudArbery in 2020.
We must do better as a global society! #BlackLivesMatter

This list is not a panacea. This compilation of resources is JUST A STARTING POINT to encourage people to do their own work and have their own hard conversations.

White Privilege Checklist compiled by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.  Available here.

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad   Available here.

Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on black, indigenous and people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too. The book goes beyond the original workbook by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and includes expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates was first published in The Atlantic in June 2014. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I first read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ opus magnum that summer — on my friend’s porch in Gilroy, CA. Today I listened to the audio version and was reminded of why reparations is a critical piece of the discussion Americans must have when we truly take stock of the evil of racism and white supremacy.

TheAtlantic · The Case for Reparations – The Atlantic – Ta-Nehisi Coates

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale, free E-book from Verso.

This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.

“Cops and the Klan”: Police Disavowal of Risk and Minimization of Threat from the Far-Right (article by Taimi Castle published February 15, 2020) Available online here.

Critical scholars argue that contemporary policing practices reproduce colonial logics through the maintenance of racial and economic inequality. In this article, I extend the framing of policing as a colonial project grounded in white supremacy to an analysis of police responses to white power mobilization during a heightened period of activity and violence (2015–2017). Borrowing from Perry and Scrivens (2018), I identify the two most common police responses—“disavowal of risk” and “minimization of threat”—in the official investigations into the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. Based on an analysis of newspaper reports from across the United States during the two-year period since then, I found that local and federal law enforcement consistently trivialized the presence of white power groups in the community, elevated the potential threat from protestors, concentrated intelligence efforts on activists, and provided differential protection to white supremacists.

Social Justice: Fifteen titles to address inequity, equality, and organizing for young readers | Great Books by Taylor Worley (March 5, 2020) Available online here.

Documentary film “Birth of a Movement” available here.

D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” was America’s first epic blockbuster, and the first feature film to screen at the White House.  The 1915 film’s plot glorified the Ku Klux Klan in a re-imagined post-Civil War America. Packs of white men wearing hoods thunder through “Birth of a Nation” on horseback while white actors in blackface play slaves who turn lawless and violent after being freed. The new documentary “Birth of a Movement” explores “Birth of a Nation” through a modern lens.

A large compilation of Anti-Racism Resources from Solsara includes:

  • organizations to consider making donations
  • black-owned businesses to support
  • black social justice leaders
  • Introduction to Being Anti-Racist (including the Seeing White podcast)
  • Next Steps for White People
  • Online courses
  • Short videos and movies
  • LONG list of books and articles

Check it all out here.

RESOURCES FOR TALKING ABOUT RACE, RACISM AND RACIALIZED VIOLENCE WITH KIDS (Center for Racial Justice in Education) includes:

  • Interviews/Advice from Experts
  • Compilation of resource lists from others
  • Articles
  • 2016 Election Resources, Teaching Tolerance
  • Affinity Spaces

Check it all out here.

No Longer Accepting

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Filed under Israel, People, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Palestinian Struggles for Rights and a Political End-Game

The status quo in Palestine & Israel is an interminable nightmare for Palestinians living under military occupation for 70+ years, and a shameful failure of the human rights framework adopted and promoted during that same time.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

The Israeli declaration of independence in May 1948 was the Palestinians’ Nakba (disaster, catastrophe).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) was (is?) the world’s beacon of hope, an aspiration for a better life for every person.

 

Our failure (the international community’s failure) to secure a just and lasting resolution in Palestine & Israel cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten. It’s an indictment upon all of us.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American living in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, captured a succinct history of the military occupation and the current struggle when he spoke with his daughter. (He shares that beginning at 18:50).

How does the unbearable status quo change?

In reality, the status quo is bearable to Israel and that government has no incentive to change it.

In reality, the international human rights regime is impotent and won’t change the status quo.

In reality, the U.S. is a hindrance, not a facilitator, to ending the status quo.

In reality, the Palestinian political leaders (Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah) have proven themselves to be incapable of rising to the challenge and have not earned the respect and recognition from the Palestinian people they purport to represent.

There are individuals within Palestine and Israel who are asking and answering that question: how does the unbearable status quo change?

Jeff Halper, an American Jew who has lived most of his adult life in Israel, thinks the two state solution is no longer feasible. He and his compatriots are currently traveling around the world to build support for the One Democratic State program.

Sam Bahour frames the question differently. It’s not a matter of two states or one state, but a matter of political and individual rights in either case. What Sam fears is that more time will be lost (time measured in decades) as people and governments negotiate territorial jurisdictions while the rights of Palestinians continue to take a back-seat in those discussions. Sam writes:

We must get political. Civil society must build the necessary alliances to bring Palestinian rights to the forefront of the international agenda on Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. Today, we have no choice but to accept the apartheid one-state reality that we are living in now, and keep the two-state door open, while simultaneously bringing the issue of rights to the forefront of our demands. Our strongest ally is international civil society, but we cannot stop at civil society; it would be stopping short of affecting change. Instead we must leverage the widespread support of civil society in all corners of the world to get states to act, politically and otherwise, to support our just and internationally aligned struggle for freedom and independence.

In May 2016, Mr. Bahour spelled out the dangers and opportunities available to the Palestinian civil society in changing the status quo.  (The paper is available here.) I hope the next generation of Palestinian leaders (whoever and wherever they may be) will read the paper.

In this paper, I will argue that a rights-based approach is the most conducive one to the current Palestinian national agenda and that a political end-game cannot be open-ended. Moreover, I will also argue that the struggle for national self-determination cannot come at the expense of the struggle for rights – and vice versa. I view these two processes as simultaneous dynamics: one process focuses on the rights of the individual (political, human and civil rights), while the second focuses on the rights of the nation (national rights, specifically self-determination). My argument is based on the mutuality of these two processes: the ‘individual’ sphere centered on rights, and the ‘national’ sphere focused on independence.

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Filed under Israel, Nakba, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

To Dream the Impossible Dream: One Democratic State

Iris Keltz is a member and cofounder of Jewish Voice for Peace in Albuquerque, NM and the author of Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land: Journeys in Palestine & Israel, an award winning book available in print and Ebook.  Iris extends an invitation (see below) to a zoom chat on May 7th about the proposal for a One Democratic State in Israel.

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to listen to Andy Williams (1971), watch the zoom chat on May 7, and read two books (Iris’s and Deb Reich’s No More Enemies and here.)

Iris Keltz explains the zoom meeting:

Jeff Halper and Awad Abdelfattah, two leaders of the One Democratic State Campaign in Israel will be speaking on May 7th at 2:00 pm Eastern time.  Here’s the link to connect to the Zoom meeting.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85769809039?pwd=cGhnOXl0djhhMkMrVytpVENBcC9Ydz09.

Awad Abdelfattah is former General Secretary of the National Democratic Assembly party (Balad in Hebrew), one of three parties in the Israeli Knesset that represents Israel’s Palestinian 1.4 million minority population.

Dr. Jeff Halper is head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and author of War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (2015).

Are these men tilting at windmills, dreaming an impossible dream? Both Abdelfattah and Halper believe that for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians a single democratic state is the best way forward, albeit something that might not happen in our life time. They agree that in order to dismantle the current settler-colonial regime, a detailed political plan is necessary. Halper, who once reluctantly accepted the idea of two-states, pointed out that “BDS” (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) is a strategy— not an endgame.

In spite of the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel (aka ’48 Palestinians) are second class citizens, their significance and influence has long been underestimated and undervalued. They are a rising force in the Knesset and in emerging grassroots initiatives related to the containment of COVID-19. Abdelfattah proudly pointed out that 17% of doctors in Israel are Palestinians who are caring for people during this frightening pandemic regardless of ethnicity or religion.

The strong Palestinian middle class in Israel can be attributed to the value they place on education. Since 1948, they have suffered the loss of ancestral lands, homes and villages. Most families have relatives in refugee camps around the Middle East. The Nakba has continued for them as well as for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. They expose the internal nature of Israeli apartheid. However, Abdelfattah remains open to working with Progressive Jewish-Israelis. He expressed great regret for the end of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid and credits this Jewish-American as having started a powerful social justice movement supported by a majority of Muslim-Americans.

In order to promote the dream of a single democratic state, a critical mass of Palestinians and Israelis is essential. At least 1,000 Palestinians are needed to sign on to this agreement, a seemingly modest number. Once embraced by the PLO, this idea is typically rejected by Israel because of “security concerns” where control of the military is the most important question for the one-state.

According to Halper, the Israeli psyche has become more Fascist and more right wing. It was profoundly disappointing to hear that even among progressive Israelis the idea of one democratic state is not strong. Palestinian-Israelis remain divided. Abdelfattah emphasized the importance of unifying ’48 Palestinians with West Bank Palestinians who are further oppressed by the Palestinian Authority, and with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza. Arguably both movements are essential and can be worked on simultaneously.

Being an idealistic pragmatist, Halper pointed out that different models are available for the greater Middle East. “Consider bio-regionalism, bi-national, a confederation, etc. The possibilities are limited to our imagination.” Both leaders agree that the idea must be framed in a way that is acceptable to both people. Words like “secular” or “religious” should be avoided. “One person, one vote” is a more neutral description. Unfortunately human rights and international law have no teeth and the impossible dream seems to be slipping further into the future.

“We don’t even have a name for this new country,” said Halper, leaving me to ponder about the significance of names. To name someone or something is to recognize their humanity. And that’s just what is needed.

Recommended read— “The Wall & the Gate” by Michael Sfard, an Israeli attorney who represents various Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace organizations, movements and activists.

 

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Filed under Book Review, COVID-19, Israel, Nakba, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video

Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony 2020

With great sadness, I fear Israel’s grand experiment in the Gaza Strip may have achieved its desired goal.

We won’t find this goal spelled out in any government planning documents, but what bizarre purpose do the Israeli leaders have in deliberately and methodically isolating two million people from the rest of the world for more than a decade?

Ostensibly they had hoped to squeeze the Palestinians tight enough that they would rise up against their leaders (Hamas) and topple them from power, despite the fact that there’s universal agreement that Hamas won the election in 2006 fair and square. After a year or two, Israeli leaders should have gotten the message; they couldn’t compel Palestinians in the streets to do their dirty work for them.

Another likely goal was to punish and humiliate the entire population of the Gaza Strip into submission, to accept their Zionist overlords and the occupation without protest. Battering and slaughtering men, women and children with three military campaigns in the past 10 years should have done the trick. Killing and wounding thousands of protesters at the fence every Friday failed too. Israeli leaders didn’t factor in the Palestinian SUMUD … strength, determination, resolve and dignity. Israel’s military campaigns violated international humanitarian laws and the law of occupation but their leaders have never been held accountable. They’ve never been able to declare “victory” either.

The Israeli hasbara (propaganda) machine has tried to convince the world that Hamas and the Gaza Strip enclave are a festering hotbed of radicalism threatening the State of Israel and, by extension, the entire world. In the early years, many in the international community might have been fooled by this campaign, but no longer. The Palestinian voices (teachers, doctors, engineers, merchants, journalists, students, mothers and fathers) have slashed through the Israeli propaganda.

Now, perhaps, the Israeli masterminds behind the 13-year blockade of the Gaza Strip have succeeded.

They’ve succeeded in convincing many in Gaza to voluntarily lock themselves behind a wall of silence. Alongside the checkpoints, sharpshooters and naval gunships threatening Palestinians who raise their voices for justice, are the Palestinians themselves who now punish their own for raising their voices for justice.

Rami Aman is a Palestinian man in Gaza who had the audacity to connect with Israelis over a Zoom meeting a few weeks ago. Hamas arrested him for the crime of engaging in “normalization” activities.

When I was in Gaza (2012-2013) I recall a public execution of several Palestinians convicted of being collaborators with the enemy. (I didn’t witness the execution.) As disturbing as those executions were for my Western brain to grasp, I understood the rationale for condemning and punishing people working with the Israelis against their own community.

Rami is not accused of being a collaborator, and he couldn’t be. His crime was engaging in speech with the “enemy” with the goal of fostering better understanding on both sides of that Zoom chat. As far as I know, Rami remains in prison.

I completely understand why many Palestinians in Gaza would refuse to engage with any Israeli, and no one should be compelled to do so.

But when a Palestinian has an interest in educating Israelis about the reality of the occupation and siege which most Israelis know absolutely nothing about, I will never understand the desire of those Palestinians who would shroud their brothers and sisters in silence and punish them. If Israel’s experiment was to create a society where the population is self-policing against free will and freedom of thought, apparently the experiment has succeeded.

While many Palestinians in Gaza remain locked up in their self-imposed confinement, the largest peace event ever jointly organized by Palestinians and Israelis in history is planned for Monday, April 27th, co-hosted by Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle – Families Forum and co-sponsored by over sixty peace organizations and religious institutions around the world.

Monday, April 27

10:30am Pacific, 1:30pm Eastern
5:30pm UTC, 8:30pm in Israel & Palestine

Watch the Ceremony here: www.afcfp.org/watch-the-memorial 

Speakers will include Yaqub al-Rabi of the village of Bidya, whose wife, Aisha, was killed by a stone suspected to have been thrown by a settler at their vehicle in 2018; Tal Kfir of Jerusalem who lost her sister, Yael, in a terrorist attack at Tsrifin in September 2003; Yusra Mahfoud of the Al-Arroub refugee camp near Hebron, whose 14-year-old son Alaa was shot and killed by soldiers in 2000; and Hagai Yoel of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, whose brother Eyal was killed in Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin in 2002.

For the first time last year, Rami Aman livestreamed the event in Gaza. It’s doubtful that anyone in Gaza will be able to watch or participate this year.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, Video

Prisoners are COVID-19 sitting ducks

A fact of life in this COVID-19 world is that prisoners sitting behind bars are some of the most vulnerable potential victims of this deadly virus.  In the U.S., the highest number of COVID-19 related cases in the courts today are petitions by prisoners seeking release from confinement. Prisons are Super-Spreaders of the coronavirus. In response, some states and local governments have released prisoners, (check the status of these actions).

Israeli prisons house both Israeli and Palestinian prisoners.  “Over the past month, Israel has released hundreds of Israeli prisoners as a preventive and protective step. It has not applied similar measures to Palestinian prisoners. This indicates discriminatory treatment towards Palestinians prisoners – which would be a violation of international law,” human rights experts say.

I’m sending the following U.N. press release to Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Representative Debra Haaland (D-NM) because McCollum has demonstrated her concern about Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons (see, H.R. 2407) and Haaland is my Congresswoman from New Mexico. I want them both to know what the human rights experts are warning.

GENEVA (24 April 2020) – A group of UN human rights experts* urged Israel not to discriminate against thousands of Palestinian prisoners facing high-risk exposure to COVID-19 and to release the most vulnerable – particularly women, children, older persons and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

“There are currently more than 4,520 Palestinian prisoners, including 183 children, 43 women and 700 detainees with pre-existing medical conditions in Israeli jails. They remain dangerously vulnerable in the context of the current pandemic and the relative increase in the number of transmission rates in Israel,” said the experts.

“Over the past month, Israel has released hundreds of Israeli prisoners as a preventive and protective step. It has not applied similar measures to Palestinian prisoners. This indicates discriminatory treatment towards Palestinians prisoners – which would be a violation of international law,” they added.

The experts said prisoner releases should also include those in administrative and pre-trial detention. “Israel should be taking steps to release those facing arbitrary measures as well as vulnerable groups in its prisons to reduce overcrowding and ensure the minimum conditions to prevent the spread of the virus.”

They noted that family visits have been banned since the COVID-19 outbreak and access to lawyers restricted for Palestinian detainees. “It is critical that any such measures are medically justified and, if so, alternative means for communication, such as video conferencing, should be made available. Special and more relaxed measures should also apply to children and women for visits.”

The experts also expressed serious concerns over reports that Israeli authorities are impeding efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem. In one reported incident, Israeli authorities recently raided a testing clinic in the densely populated Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan under the pretext that its testing kits were provided by the Palestinian Authority. Israel has also arrested doctors.

“It is inconceivable that, in the current conditions, especially in light of the lack of testing kits and other equipment, Israel would undermine existing efforts to ensure that a larger portion of the Palestinian population is tested. Such efforts are especially needed when recent data suggests that rates of COVID-19 have significantly increased in occupied East Jerusalem,” they noted.

Palestinians under occupation, as a protected population under international humanitarian law, should have equal access to treatment and testing without discrimination. “Cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians to ensure protection, prevention and treatment of all is critical. Such acts as raiding Palestinian clinics can only undermine such efforts,” the expert said.

(*) The UN experts: Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Chair), Leigh Toomey (Vice-Chair), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Seong-Phil Hong and Sètondji Adjovi, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

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Filed under COVID-19, Israel, People, United Nations

The Anti-Normalization Shroud Descends

By now we’re all familiar with the new world of physical distancing, stay-at-home orders, and the feeling that everything has come to a standstill.

Palestinians in Gaza have experienced a similar (not the same) life since June 2007 when Israel severely tightened the restrictions on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took control.  Palestinians can’t exit except with approval from both Israel and Hamas, turning the Gaza Strip into the largest open air prison in the world. Palestinians can’t export their produce except under very limited strictures. Palestinians can’t import many essential products, and they remain reliant on Israel to determine what things can and can’t be brought into Gaza. Many times the Palestinian fishermen can’t safely bring home their catch without being fired upon by the Israeli gunboats. And the list of restrictions goes on and on.

Gaza is tiny. At 139 square miles, it’s about the same size as Detroit (138.8 square miles), Philadelphia (134.1), Las Vegas (135.8), or Portland, Oregon (133.4). We’re talking about more than two million people, the largest majority being youth under the age of 30, confined to a Very. Small. Place.

Any Palestinian in Gaza older than 12 years has lived through three devastating Israeli military operations: Operation Cast Lead (in 2008-2009 Israel killed 1391 Palestinians in Gaza in 23 days); Operation Pillar of Defense (in November 2012 Israel killed 167 Palestinians in Gaza in 8 days); and two years later Operation Protective Edge (Israel killed 2,251 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded more than 11,000 between July 8 and August 26, 2014). Since March 2018, Israeli sharpshooters have killed and maimed hundreds of Palestinians participating in the Great Return March every Friday at the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.

This violence and physical separation has occupied the Palestinian souls in Gaza for a very long time, a deliberate military strategy pursued by the State of Israel. There’s little doubt among human rights lawyers that it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime under the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

So this happened recently.

A Palestinian in Gaza connected on Zoom with an Israeli in Tel Aviv about 40 miles away but they could have very well been light years apart because it’s official government policy on both sides that there will be no communication “with the enemy.” The Zoom meeting included friends on both sides. It went on for over an hour. I watched part of it but the audio quality and heavy accents prevented me from understanding the entire exchange.

A young Palestinian woman later saw the video of the Zoom meeting and tagged Hamas leaders. They arrested the organizer in Gaza on grounds that his conversation with the Israelis was a form of normalization.

I’ve heard different definitions of normalization; it appears to sweep the gamut from the very denunciation of any contact between any Israeli and any Palestinian to a more tailored and nuanced criticism of people-to-people programs.

The definition I find most helpful is:

Within Palestine, normalization is generally defined as any project; initiative; or activity in Palestine, Israel, or internationally that aims to bring together Palestinians and Israelis without addressing structural and power inequalities and/or without having its goal be opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Read this article published two years ago in the Friends Journal, a Quaker publication, by Mike Merryman-Lotze for a deeper understanding of a very complex subject. He writes:

It should be understood that the push against normalization is not about closing off communication because of issues of identity. Rather it is about identifying the principles and processes through which discussion and communication occur so as to not reify power imbalances or do harm to those who are already vulnerable or abused. It is about ensuring that when people come together, the focus is co‐resistance to the structures that oppress people, and not coexistence within oppressive systems.

The woman who alerted Hamas to the Zoom meeting appears to ascribe to a very blunt definition where any communication between Palestinians and Israelis is verboten. Here’s what she later posted on her Facebook account. She’s received a lot of support from Palestinians inside Gaza and outside.

As a Palestinian born and raised in the Gaza Strip, under endless blockade, survived two aggressive wars, covering the Great March of Return I believe that the worst sin any Palestinian can commit is Normalization; which is any joint activity between Palestine and Israel.

In other words, no form of joint activity, cooperation or dialogue with Israelis is unacceptable, even engaging with Israeli “Peace Activists”.

These actions are collaboration with enemies of us, the Palestinians.

No one ever taught me that Israel is my enemy, but every airstrike I heard told me that.

No one ever told me that talking with Israeli’s is unacceptable but every single body shattered into pieces covered with blood said it all.

It is not my intention to make an argument in support of normalization. Normalization is a matter writ large for the Palestinian community to explore and decide for itself collectively and as individuals.

But if the shroud of anti-normalization can be stretched so far and wide as to smother any communication between Palestinians and Israelis, I fear for the future of everyone in the Holy Land. 

I would never have met Sami, a Palestinian from Gaza who was a high school exchange student in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wrote about Sami and his meeting with an Israeli security official in that U.S. high school many years ago.

I would never have read the Palestinian doctor’s book from Gaza, I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish.

I probably would never have traveled to Gaza in 2012 and learned so much about life under occupation, and the beautiful culture of sumud and determination, because my opportunity was sparked by Sami, Izzeldin, Mohammed and many others who connected with me.  I’ve had my difference of opinion with some in Gaza over the years, but if they choose to shroud themselves in darkness by condemning any connections between Palestinians and Israelis as haram, then I must part ways with them. My voice and actions in solidarity with Palestinians will fall on deaf ears.

For the time being, I’m hoping that there are many more Palestinians inside Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora who reject this mindset. I suspect they may feel it is safer to remain silent.

I also hope there are Israelis who recognize that “it’s the occupation, stupid!”  Speaking with Palestinians may be an important first step, but it’s certainly not the last. Israelis must have the courage to take action to dismantle the occupation.

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, People, Politics, Video

Crazy dream or a possible reset?

Gaza beachA naive and fantastical idea came to mind as soon as I thought about the coronavirus pandemic and my friends in Gaza “Since Israel and Egypt have sequestered, blockaded, imprisoned the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip going on 13 years now, making it nearly impossible for most to travel in or out, maybe the coronavirus pandemic will have a difficult time getting in and wrecking havoc.”

Yes, I know it’s a crazy notion. As of the date of this writing, there are 263 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the West Bank and Gaza. (Check these current Coronavirus photos from Gaza thanks to Aljazeera.)

However, this absurd idea was immediately followed by a second thought which shouldn’t be so crazy.

“This invisible microscopic virus has the power to upset the status quo, reset the human response to our most perplexing challenges, and open our hearts to the subatomic truth that WE ARE ONE.  Maybe the Israel & Palestine status quo will be upset, reset and opened up to a new reality for everyone.”

I’m watching for signs that this second notion might come to pass. Gaza camel

Come on. If the Saudi Royal family can seriously consider closing Mecca and suspending the annual hajj pilgrimage — one of the five pillars of Islam for every devout Muslim –something unthinkable just a few weeks ago, then the leaders in Israel and Palestine can certainly have their version of a “come to Jesus” moment when their hearts and minds open up to the “other.”

Even sworn enemies can call a truce.  Saudi Arabia, concerned about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, declared a unilateral ceasefire in Yemen, the first truce in this five-year war.

Is Bibi a big enough man to do the same with respect to the occupied Palestinian territories? A unilateral end of the occupation with no preconditions.

Are Abbas and Haniya big enough men to recognize they can seize the moment and reach out to the Israelis as brothers to build a common future together?

I can already hear the howls from the Jewish zealots who don’t want to share the Holy Land with any Palestinians; and the screed from the Palestinians who don’t want to share the Holy Land with any Zionists. Maybe the coronavirus pandemic will work a miracle on all of them.

But one thing I’m certain of —- everyone in the Holy Land will go through convulsions of personal and collective tragedy and loss.  The coronavirus pandemic is an equal opportunity grim reaper.

And I’m also sure there are opportunities galore, if only the blind will remove their blinders.

On April 7, Al Quds University President, Professor Imad Abu Kishek announced that his university has “succeeded in producing a fully computerized ventilator capable of saving lives and providing a viable alternative to the shortage in Palestine and beyond in the standard commercial ventilators and other respiratory support machines”. The Palestinian Ministry of Health had reported that only 250 medical ventilators are available throughout all Palestinian hospitals and that two-thirds of these machines are already in use. The ventilators should be ready for production as soon as the Palestinian Standard Institute (PSI) gives its final approval to the prototype.  

I hope this time of Passover and the upcoming Ramadan will be potent reminders that We Are One.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under COVID-19, Gaza, Islam, Israel, Occupation, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion

Michael Sorkin – planning Jerusalem

COVID-19 is an equal opportunity grim reaper, claiming many lives — famous and not so famous. As of this writing, there are more than 1,170,000 infected and nearly 64,000 dead worldwide.  Last week, architect Michael Sorkin fell victim to the Coronavirus in New York City.

The thoughtful obituaries here, here and here won’t be repeated but please honor Michael Sorkin and read them.  (Dammit, obits have become a new normal for me, like wedding announcements many decades ago.)

Michael Sorkin

If we need labels to understand who this man was, then Sorkin was an architect, urbanist, writer, teacher, humanitarian, rabble-rouser, non-conformist, community organizer, anti-fascist, fearless and he probably disdained any such labels.

In Jacobin, David Madden captured the point I suspect Sorkin would want the public to remember.

Sorkin’s columns and books will remain relevant and readable because he started from a position anathema to mainstream architectural culture: that, as he put it in All Over the Map, “All architecture is political.” Sorkin relentlessly highlighted the politics of urban space and the social functions of architecture. “All architecture distributes: mass, space, materials, privilege, access, meaning, shelter, rights,” he wrote in a column collected in the 2018’s What Goes Up“In the main, architecture only abets the transparency of capital’s inequities.”

It was precisely this architectural complicity in capitalist inequality and social violence that Sorkin spent his career attempting to change.

Sorkin participated in the preparation of the first comprehensive plan for Jerusalem  which included the entire city, both the West and East sides. He must have been very knowledgeable about the simultaneous policies that Israel has promoted: Judaization (building and supporting the expansion of Jewish only settlements and neighborhoods) and de-Arabization (squeezing natural growth into tighter and denser blocs and forcing Palestinians out of the city to maintain the magical 70-30 demographic split in the city). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that Sorkin wrote about that master plan.

All Ovder The Map

I did find a short piece that Sorkin wrote nearly 20 years ago about planning in Israel. I’m going to keep looking, and hope to find his more current thoughts on the topic.

Urbanism is Politics – by Michael Sorkin (2002)

During their recent “incursion” into the West Bank, Israeli forces were sent on a search-and-destroy mission to the Jenin refugee camp. Confronted with a labyrinth of streets far too narrow to permit tanks and armored vehicles, the Israelis elected to adopt a house-to-house approach. When a number of Israeli troops were ambushed and killed, bulldozers were introduced to topple houses and clear the site for safer access. The destruction of the refugee settlement was, among other things, an act of urbanism, Haussmannization raised to a flash-point. Although the consequences of the great boulevardization of Paris in the nineteenth century were not immediately lethal to those whose houses were destroyed to make way for Napoleon III’s great axialities, the impetus to demolish was motivated in part by military needs. The broad boulevards were meant to expedite troop movements around town and provide clear fields of fire in case of insurrection. 

Nowhere today is the political use of urbanism more glaring than in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This is true of the Palestinian suicide attacks on the benign settings of urban conviviality–the murder of Israelis as they sit in the cafes or shop in markets–and of the more bureaucratic styles of apartheid and occupation engineered by the Israelis. Both sides clearly understand the relationship of the patterns of the city and urban life to the politics of struggle for rights and privilege. And both clearly understand how to make cities into places of fear.

In this supercharged atmosphere, no urbanism can be spoken of outside its political dimension. Here in the U.S., our most pressing urban issue is sprawl, which we largely understand as an environmental question. In Jerusalem, sprawl has a different flavor. Israeli policy to “Judaize” has resulted in the construction of a ring of settlements–housing close to 200,000 people–that a more growth-sensitive approach would never countenance. By building beyond the boundaries of the existing conurbation, however, a ring of population has been imposed–like a wall–both to control the city and to thwart any potential division. Sitting in their arrogance on the tops of hills, the settlements represent an almost medieval style of planning, prompted by aggression and machismo.

The suburban sprawl of the West Bank settlements has been produced by the same means that generated our own suburbs. Like the cheap loans for returning veterans, the construction of the interstates, the accelerated depreciation of suburban commercial development, and the disproportionate subsidies for infrastructure, the Israeli settlements are the direct outgrowth of government policies meant to create a particular environment for particular people. In the settlements, the tools of planning produce their usual product: benign-looking clusters of Mediterranean-style, white-washed houses with red-tiled roofs, backyards, and pools. Here, too, is the idyllic atmosphere of suburbia, a rankling obliviousness that surely drives Palestinian villagers below to distraction. 

But the picturesque view can only be sustained until the frame is slightly enlarged. This picture shows the barbed wire, soldiers on patrol, and a striking contrast with more indigenous styles of building and of life. In this view, nearby Palestinian villages and towns come to constitute–in their morphological and economic difference–a kind of dispersed “inner city.” The familiar contrast between the city and its suburbs is played out in a tiny territory as the Israelis pursue simultaneous policies of urban renewal and ghettoization–urban renewal in the sense of the demolition and devaluation of the original inhabitants, and ghettoization not only for the Palestinians, but also for the Israelis, electively ensconced in their pleasant but beleaguered settlements. 

The political sprawl of the settlements–and the murderous rage of the Palestinians–reflect the impossible physics of a situation in which two hostile populations attempt to occupy the same space at the same time. Even nominally shared space–streets and highways– becomes a battleground.  The horrendous bus bombings are both murder clear and simple and an assault of the most fundamental freedom of the city, just as the construction by the Israelis of their private road networks on the West Bank are designed both to allow settlers to commute to Israel proper without passing through Palestinian towns and to divide the West Bank into a series of cantonments. Thus the traffic planner’s language of convenience and speed takes on an oppressive dimension that cannot be escaped.

On a visit a few years ago to the school of architecture at Bir Zeit University outside Ramallah, I was wandering the corridor of the civil engineering department when I came across a plan for a “bypass road” around a village. My immediate thought was that this was a part of the Israeli road network in the West Bank. Closer inspection revealed, however, that it was simply a traffic management scheme designed to avoid slow going in town for Palestinian motorists. The alternative road, in itself, is a somewhat questionable enterprise: witness the number of American towns that, bypassed by through traffic, have seen their economies whither.  While the bypass may be a foolish piece of modernization, it lacks the sinister dimension of the Israeli network, which has strong parallels with the historic effect of American inner-city highways in isolating and destroying poor communities of color.

The extreme politics of planning in Israel and Palestine results in a situation that is separate and unequal at many levels. Systems of water supply, sanitation, energy, transportation, greenspace, and other elements of infrastructure are–despite many decades of pieties on the part of the municipal administration in Jerusalem about equalizing services–totally skewed to Israeli benefit.  While Israeli Jerusalem has a reasonably integrated system of transportation, including highways, bus lines, airports, a train to the coast, and a good collective taxi system, the Palestinians are highly constrained in their ability to move, a product of both draconian and humiliating security arrangements that can extend a twenty-minute commute to hours and of a fundamental lack of transport services.

To get around, Palestinians must rely either on the Israeli systems–when available to them–or on their own network of cars, buses, and a collective taxi system of great potential efficiency, thwarted only by oppressive security delays. What is frustrating about all of this from the point of view of planning is that an efficient system for both Israeli and Palestinian Jerusalem is easy to imagine in purely technical terms. Jerusalem is a node on a linear urban system that runs from Nablus in the north through Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, to Hebron in the south–a classic linear city, considered in purely physical terms. 

For transportation planners, the logic of a north-south system would seem clear-cut. Given the density of settlement and the relatively small distances, such a system might be highly efficient and profitable, and an instrument of accommodation, convenience, and peace. Unfortunately, politics stands in the way.

Still, there are precedents for cooperation. There is one part of the urban infrastructure where all of Jerusalem works together: the municipal sewerage system is joined. Perhaps this is an earthly harbinger of greater possibilities should justice and reason ever prevail.

2002 – excerpted from ALL OVER THE MAP: Writing on Buildings and Cities, by Michael Sorkin (2011)

 

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Filed under COVID-19, Israel, People, Politics, Settlers

“What are Trump and Netanyahu afraid of?” — New York Times editorial board asks

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

The New York Times Editorial Board, so often an apologist for Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinians, opined (August 15, 2019) that Trump’s and Netanyahu’s actions denying two U.S.  Congresswomen the opportunity to visit Israel-Palestine was a sign of weakness.

There are not many traditions of decorum that President Trump has not trampled on since entering the White House. But to put at risk, so cynically, America’s special relationship with Israel solely to titillate the bigots in his base, to lean so crassly on a foreign leader to punish his own political adversaries, to demonstrate so foul a lack of respect for the most elemental democratic principles, is new territory even for him.

America’s special relationship with Israel” translates to $3+ Billion every year from US taxpayers to Israel; an unquestioning veto at the UN Security Council to prevent any measure critical of Israel’s occupation; a willful blindness to the undemocratic, apartheid state that flaunts its “successes” while shielding from public view its grotesque human rights violations; a mindless deference to Israel’s hasbara and security mantra; and a chilling indifference to the suffering, killing and dehumanization of the Palestinians barely surviving under Israel’s military occupation. The N.Y. Times Editorial Board asks: “What are Trump and Netanyahu afraid of?” My answer is simple.

The Truth

Anyone who has lived, worked, volunteered or spent any bit of time with the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem, or the occupied Gaza Strip knows that the State of Israel has been wildly successful at spinning a righteous tale of its victimhood, its struggle for survival and security in a “dangerous neighborhood,” and its “peace-loving” liberal values.

The State of Israel has succeeded in creating this mirage by carefully pushing its hasbara  (promoting its version of the facts) to the exclusion of contrary facts which undermine Israel’s preferred reality.  And the New York Times, as well as some other western media, have been complicit in this charade.

Israel has also succeeded in keeping the U.S. Congress duped by indoctrinating them into Israel’s version of the facts with carefully orchestrated junkets to Israel that highlight the “special relationship” between our two countries; by keeping AIPAC (Israel’s Washington lobbyist) in the offices of freshman members of Congress so they are honed to the “correct path” from the beginning; and by unseating those members of Congress who won’t follow AIPAC’s direction. (Read about former Congressman Paul Finley who died August 9, 2019).

There are so many examples, books could and have been written about it.  My first education about the myths and propaganda came from one of the new Israeli historians, Professor Ilan Pappe, which I wrote about here.

My correspondence with the editors of the New York Times in 2016 is one small example of trying to break through Israel’s alternative reality. When the editors refused to label the Gaza Strip as “occupied” territory, I challenged them.  I wrote about it here. After several communications back and forth, my query finally ended up in the deep, dark hole within the bowels of the New York Times. Even the Democratic National Committee has apoplexy with the term “occupation”, as I wrote about here.

The four congresswomen — Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — the “Squad” as they’re known on Capitol Hill — are a threat to anyone who fears the truth. They’re challenging the powerful lobbyists, the accepted orthodoxy of the Democratic Party, and even the State of Israel’s hasbara.

I can only imagine that the New York Times Editorial Board must be sniffing the same scent that the Emperor who wore no clothes sniffed when it began to dawn on him that his reality didn’t match what everyone around him knew.

The truth — that’s what Trump and Netanyahu fear.

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Filed under Israel, Media, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy