Category Archives: nonviolent resistance

Passover Seder in Baltimore

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Tonight I joined a Passover Seder in Baltimore where Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered to read and sing the Haggadah prepared by Jewish Voice for Peace.

As I understand it, this is a very special ritual for Jews to retell the story of how God liberated them from slavery and oppression under the Pharaohs in Egypt nearly 3000 years ago.

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Moses parting the Red Sea

This time we cannot cross until we carry each other, all of us refugees. All of us prophets. No more taking turns on history’s wheel. Trying to collect old debts no one can pay. The sea will not open that way. This time that country is what we promise each other. Our rage pressed cheek to cheek until tears flood the space between. Until there are no enemies left. Because this time no one will be left to drown and all of us must be chosen. This time it’s all of us or none. – Aurora Levins Morales

Many of us did not know each other before we sat down together tonight. We shared some of the social actions we’ve been working on — stopping an anti-BDS bill; passing a fracking ban; working on transgender issues; and others.

Tonight we have a powerful group of people gathering around this table telling the Exodus story as one way to gain a deeper understanding of oppression and refuel our work for liberation in our time. We are involved in many struggles, in our local communities and around the world, all intersecting and inseparable.

After we raised the first cup of wine (Kadesh) to education, we washed our hands before eating a green vegetable which we dipped in salt water (Karpas).

We dip a spring vegetable into salt water — the spring vegetable reminding us of potential and promise and the salt water reminding us of the tears and the pain along the way. This is an invitation to hold complexity — a reminder that change is possible even in what seems like endless darkness. As you dip the green vegetable into the salt water, affirm for yourself the potential for justice even as we hold the tears of oppression.

Then we broke the matzah.

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Systems of oppression break our world in so many ways large and small. They shatter bodies, families, communities, sometimes whole nations. The militarism we spread at home and abroad unleashes forces we cannot fathom or control. Rarely do we stop to comtemplate our own complicity in systems that wreak havoc in our name.

As we break the matzoh now, we ask ourselves: how do we benefit from the perpetuation of oppressive systems? What are we willing to do about it? And where might we start?

What is broken can never be what it once was. But it can be repaired.

I was really struck by the relevance of the words in this Haggadah to our world today.

As we begin the Exodus story, we read that the oppression of the Israelites resulted from Pharaoh’s fear that their growth would somehow overwhelm the Egyptian nation. These verses certainly have an ominous resonance for the Jewish people. Indeed any member of a minority faith or ethnic group knows all too well the tragedy that inevitably ensues when a nation views their demographic growth as a “threat”.

Today it is all too common to hear Israel’s leaders and supporters suggest that the “Jewish character” of Israel is threatened by the demographic growth of the Palestinian people. How should we react to the suggestion that the mere fact of this group’s growth necessarily poses a national threat to Israel? As Jews living in the Diaspora, how would we respond if our leaders raised questions about the “demographic threat” of a particular minority group to the “national character” of our country? In a multi-ethnic society, can a state’s identity ever be predicated upon the primacy of one ethnic group without the oppression of another?

Memories of Gaza flooded me, especially the olive harvest, as we read from this Haggadah.

The olive tree is one of the first plants mentioned in the Torah and remains among the oldest species in Israel/Palestine. It has become a universal symbol of peace and hope, as it is written in Psalm 52: “I am like a thriving olive tree in God’s house, I trust in God’s loyal kindness forever and ever.” We add this olive to our seder plate as a reminder that we must all be God’s bearers of peace and hope in the world.

At the same time, we eat this olive in sorrow, mindful that olive trees, the source of livelihood for Palestinian farmers, are regularly chopped down, burned and uprooted by Israeli settlers and the Israeli authorities. As we look on, Israel pursues systematic policies that increasingly deny Palestinians access to olive orchards that have belonged to them for generations. As we eat now, we ask one another: How will we, as Jews, bear witness to the unjust actions committed in our name? Will these olives inspire us to be bearers of peace and hope for Palestinians — and for all who are oppressed?

The four questions followed, with each of us taking turns reading from the Haggadah. Then the Ten Plagues.  We raised a second cup of wine to solidarity!  Haggadah_15th_cent

Solidarity is hard work. It requires ongoing self-reflection, clear accountability structures, continual learning and critical thinking. Also: humility, empathy, commitment, hope and love. True solidarity unites communities with different levels of oppression and privilege in the common struggle for liberation. It involves community building, support in struggle, awareness of our own relationship to different forms of oppression, and commitment to action that is accountable to those most directly affected by injustice.

So as we join together tonight to celebrate liberation, we recommit to struggling together for a world where everybody can have their voices heard.

We raise our glass and re-ignite our commitment to the work, responsibility and the joy of solidarity.

L’chayim to solidarity!

Jews will find the following rituals familiar, but it was a first for many at this Seder.

Rach’tzah: washing hands before eating matzah

Motzi & Matzah: blessing over matzah as food and as a special mitzvah

Maror: eating the bitter herbs

Korech: eating a sandwich of haroset & bitter herbs

Shulchan Orech: Then we shared the potluck dishes that everyone contributed.

Tzafun: eating the afikomen

Barech: grace after meal

Third Cup of Wine – L’chayim to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions!

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In the long and varied history of Jewish experience, we are inspired by those who have resisted injustice and fought for freedom. At JVP, we strive to live up to those values and extend that history. This is why we proudly support the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We join with communities of conscience around the world in supporting Palestinians, who call for BDS until the Israeli government:

Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real. By supporting the Palestinian call, we follow in the footsteps of those who supported similar calls to support struggles in the Jim Crow South and apartheid South Africa. In so doing, we make our hope real and our love visible and we claim our own liberation as bound with the liberation of all.

As we raise our third cup of wine, let us rededicate ourselves to the call!

Hallel: praise — torgether we sing songs of peace & hope.

Lo yisa goy el goy cherev

Lo yilmedu od milchama

Nation shall not war against nation,

and they shall study war no more.

And then it was my turn to read from the Haggadah when we raised the fourth cup of wine to community. It was absolutely the perfect spot for me. Very meaningful!

We come together to envision the world we want to live in: a world where every individual has the right to self-determination by participating in shaping our future together. In this world, we look out and care for one another; we practice trust and kindness; we respect each other’s personal (physical and emotional) space; we lend an ear or ask for a helping hand; we believe that everyone comes to do this work with good intent; and, we hold each other accountable when we err.

We will affirm each other in our spectrum of identities. We will model our shared vision of the world by creating a space that is safe, inclusive and supportive as possible for all of us. This includes having thoughtful coversations with each other if/when we hear language used pejoratively or language that perpetuates stereotypes. We all feel the stress of the present state of affairs, and it is physically and emotionally draining. Though it is sometimes difficult to see, we know there is a rainbow on the other side of the storm cloud of injustice; if we didn’t know this, we wouldn’t be participants in the movement for peace and justice. It is because of the rainbow, not the storm cloud, that we act. We raise the fourth cup to the rainbow.

(Adapted from the JVP 2011 National Membership Meeting: Building a Community of Respect and Trust, a note from Stefanie Brendler, JVP Board member)

L’chayim to community!

Nirtzah: Conclusion

Next year in Jerusalem! Next year in al-Quds! Next year in a City of Peace!

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Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

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Riverside Church, New York City

On April 4, 1967, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Riverside Church in New York City, exactly one year to the day before he was killed. Some think it was this speech that put a target on his back.

I was 13 years old at the time, old enough to be aware of such things, but I was clueless. A young teenager more absorbed with vapid personal crises than with the paroxysmal violence and destruction at home and abroad. I’m ashamed of myself.

I made amends fifty years later. Today I read the speech in its entirety. The relevance to current events, to the horrific fighting in Syria and Yemen, to the starvation in South Sudan, to the refugees seeking safety in Greece and beyond, and to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the 10-year siege on the people of the Gaza Strip — although not called out by name, each are clearly what Reverend King was talking about in 1967. His recommendation in 1967 is even more important in 2017.

The entire speech is copied below, along with the video of his speech. I urge you to read and/or listen, meditate and ponder how each of us can fulfill the vision that Reverend King shared.

BEYOND VIETNAM: A TIME TO BREAK SILENCE

Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam

by

Martin Luther King, Jr

Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967

Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be!

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
credit- Seattle Times

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese –the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.

Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisers” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation

Comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth and falsehood,

For the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,

Off’ring each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever

Twixt that darkness and that light.

 

Though the cause of evil prosper,

Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;

Though her portion be the scaffold,

And upon the throne be wrong:

Yet that scaffold sways the future,

And behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow

Keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

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Living Resistance from the U.S. to Palestine

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Wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the Oak Hill Community Center (a very cool place) in Baltimore. There were only a handful of people, and I feared the worst. It always seems to be a battle to fill a room when “Palestine” is on the agenda, especially in Maryland where the Zionists have the ear of Senator Cardin in DC, and Legislators in Annapolis are pushing an anti-BDS bill again.

I decided to attend to show my support for the organizers, not expecting to learn anything new. Wow!  Was I wrong . . . on both counts.

The space quickly filled up to standing room only, perhaps 50-60 people. And the speakers were extraordinary, both in passion and information.Palestinian children locked up in Israeli jails is a horrible reality. The school-to-prison pipeline in the U.S. (ensnaring predominantly brown and black children) is a reality too. Thanks to Norma Hashim, Yousef Aljamal and others, Palestinians are finally being heard in The Prisoners’ Diaries and Dreaming of Freedom.

Thanks to the sponsors of the multi-city tour for No Child Behind Bars, the connection between the Palestinian injustices and the US juvenile criminal system is also being heard. See list of the cities and the sponsors here.

There are clearly parallels between the two criminal justice systems for juveniles in Israel/Palestine and the U.S. but I learned at this presentation that they are far more insidious than I imagined, and far more interconnected.

Thanks to Ahed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh in the Occupied West Bank, and Amanda Weatherspoon & Nadya Tannous from California, we learned facts that stirred many in the audience to engage in a robust Q & A after the presentation.

Ahed Tamimi (15 yrs old) was not given a Visa to travel to the U.S. (highlighting the travel restrictions that nearly all Palestinians face). The organizers creatively resisted by sending a videographer to record Ahed in her community.

The evening began with a short video of Ahed speaking in January 2017. Here’s another short video clip of Ahed speaking a year ago.

 

Some facts I learned!

Did you know that Israel is the only country in the world that has a juvenile military court?

A Palestinian child and an Israeli settler child who live merely feet from each other in the West Bank will face very different criminal justice systems and laws for the very same offense (throwing rocks for example).

Did you know that the tear gas used in the City of Ferguson was likely field tested in the occupied West Bank and Gaza? People in Ferguson quickly learned that water doesn’t ease the pain of the tear gas, it exacerbates the pain. On social media, they posted a question “What’s this new type of tear gas?” Palestinians knew immediately and advised them to use milk and coca cola as an antidote for the tear gas.

Do you know which cities have the highest number of drone-testing? Gaza is #1.The Lakota Nation in the US is #2.

Amanda, a Unitarian Universalist minister, shared a helpful framework to think about the entrenched violence and imprisonment of our children in Palestine and the U.S.brick-wallConsider 3 bricks in that wall of violence.

Brick #1 – The foundation of the wall is built on structural racism, such as redlining in our communities which established borders to provide opportunities for building for some people and restricted opportunities to build or buy homes to other people. There are many other examples.

Brick #2State violence is obvious and clearly in the public discourse now. Think about the examples of police brutality, and the school to prison pipeline. We all know that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rates in the world. Did you know that 2.3 million Americans were imprisoned in 2009, and the highest % of them were women of color?school-to-prison-pipelineBrick #3Profit is the third brick. Profit provides the motive, and our private prisons need prisoners to make a profit.  See the ABA publication Prisons for Profit: Incarceration for Sale.  Israel and the U.S. are marching in lockstep together creating this wall with these 3 bricks.

Towards the end of the evening, Amanda asked a provocative question. What race are we? she asked. The answer — we’re the human race. This construct about “race” was created specifically for profit. Think about it. She’s right.

I left with my head buzzing, thinking about these 3 bricks and how the injustices perpetrated on Palestinian children and American children are so interconnected. We can’t fight one without acknowledging and fighting against both.

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An Epic #BDS Apology

A performance? A work of art?  Not an apology?   When is an apology not an apology?

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-wont-norway-theater-apologize-embracing-israels-war-crimes

It is not immediately apparent that this isn’t the real thing.

But in fact, the video and a written “apology” were published as a work of art on Friday, onlineand in the national newspaper Morgenbladet.

The ambiguity was deliberate and those who didn’t pay attention to the small print might not have noticed that it was a performance.

The woman in the video is Gjertrud Jynge, a nationally renowned actor in Norway.

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Join the Postcard Brigade to Gaza

Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is Israel’s manufactured prison for the nearly 1.8 million Palestinians who live there, of whom more than 1,258,000 are refugees. Their parents or grandparents were forcibly removed from their homes and villages in present-day Israel in 1948. Many have lived in Gaza their whole lives, never getting permission from Israel to cross the border, jump on a plane, train or board a cruise ship.

Unbelievably, Israel even controls the mail that goes to Gaza. Packages, letters and postcards all get stopped in Tel Aviv, then scanned, sometimes opened, and forwarded on to Gaza weeks later.

In August 2011, I mailed a box from the main post office in Cairo to Gaza (217 miles as the crow flies) and it arrived more than 2 months later. In March 2016, I tried to mail a package from the main post office in Cairo to Gaza, and was informed that they no longer accept packages addressed to Gaza.

Back in the U.S., I tried to mail a letter from Baltimore to Jericho, Palestine in the occupied West Bank. The postal clerk found “Palestine, Texas” in her computer, but not Jericho, or Palestine, or the occupied West Bank. She was stumped until I told her we could try sending it to Jericho via Israel.  My friend in Jericho finally received her letter more than 2 months later.

In Brindisi, Italy last week, I tried another experiment. I mailed a postcard to my friend in Gaza. Again, the postal clerk had no idea how to handle my request. Her computer just couldn’t find Gaza or Palestine. She passed me to another clerk who had the same problem. She finally decided to put the same amount of postage as if my card was going to the USA …. and then dumped it into her bag.

What if people from all over the world sent a postcard to Gaza?  

  • A simple exercise that might educate a local postal clerk about Gaza and Palestine.
  • An ingenuous way to get the attention of the Israeli authorities. Imagine their consternation with postcards addressed to Gaza flooding their office.
  • The simple joy of receiving a picture postcard from a stranger – a new friend – somewhere in the world.

If you want to join the postcard brigade, send a postcard to:

Alamal Orphanage

Wehdaa Street

Gaza, Palestine

If you care to share your experience at your local post office, please write me at LoraLucero3@gmail.com

You can send your postcard anonymously if you wish. If you’d like to hear about the reaction from the children in the orphanage, please send me your contact information.

Thank you!  And pass it along. The more postcards, the merrier!

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Lora with orphans in Gaza in 2012.

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#GoingtoGaza – August 2015

On my journey back to Gaza, I spent the summer in Baltimore with a visit to Albuquerque in August. I wish I could travel without adding to my carbon footprint.  The following entries are from August 2015. I started my journey one year earlier.

Day #332 – I shared a bit about my experience in Gaza yesterday with the Baltimore Women-In-Black group.  The lunch meeting was in a house of worship shared by 5 different congregations (including both Christian church and Jewish synagogue) and lasted until 5:00 pm because everyone was so engaged and interested in learning more. I realized that I can only share the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to share. How?  #GoingtoGaza

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The House of God is the Home of five congregations. Rev. Carol Lynn Cook.

Day #333 – Jewish/Zionist/settlers/terrorists burned a Palestinian baby to death 2 nights ago. The Israeli collective guilty conscience is feeling a twinge of remorse. But the IDF killed 521 children (including many babies) in Gaza last summer and that was greeted by Israelis as a source of national pride. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Thx Mati Milstein for putting it so succinctly. #GoingtoGaza

Day #334 – While waiting and exploring options for returning to Gaza, I’ve decided Plan B is walking Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.  (500 miles – 5 weeks) Sept/Oct timeframe. #GoingtoGaza

Day #335 – My roommate and I each received emails this morning. His urged him to call Congress and tell them to defund Planned Parenthood. Mine urged me to call Congress and tell them to support Planned Parenthood.  We both made our calls and canceled each other out. Fortunately, Congress sided with me this afternoon. Abortion is an emotional issue but my roommate and I remain civil and respect each other (I think). #GoingtoGaza

Day #336 – ISIS (aka Daesh) proclaims jihad in the name of Islam. They want to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. Netanyahu and the Knesset fight terrorists (aka Palestinians) in the name of Jews worldwide. The want to establish a Homeland for the Jews in the Middle East. Simple question: What’s the difference?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #337 – Learned today of another Palestinian from Gaza who was denied a student Visa to pursue her education in the U.S. despite the fact that she had been accepted to a university and received a scholarship. Stated reason? Because the embassy officer doesn’t think she has enough ties to Gaza to ensure that she will return home! The same reason given for the denials of all the others. This reminds me of the Palestinian student who was granted a Visa and is currently studying in the U.S.  He is now seeking asylum and does not wish to return to Gaza despite having family there. I wonder if his asylum request has harmed the chances of other Palestinians who wish to study here. 😦   #GoingtoGaza

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Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.) in Gaza, October 2012.

Day #338 – Recalling Noam Chomsky’s visit to Gaza in October 2012. Chomsky is a Jew. Some Americans are puzzled because of the hate-filled venom they’ve been fed by the Zionists.  Jews (not Zionists) are welcomed in Palestine. Jews (not Zionists) are treated respectfully by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. I believe Jews (not Zionists) have a secure future in the Middle East. #GoingtoGaza

Day #339 – I’m puzzled why professional journalists don’t connect the dots. This week they should’ve connected the dots between the nuclear weapons used 70 years ago, and Israel’s current threat to unilaterally and preemptively bomb Iran to prevent that country from getting nukes. Haven’t we learned any lessons? Really?  #GoingtoGaza

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Red Emma’s in Baltimore

Day #340 – Just following my heart today I ended up @ Red Emma’s in Baltimore, a self-proclaimed radical bookstore.  Pleased to see copies of “Gaza UnSilenced” on the table!   #GoingtoGaza

Day #341 – I’m seeing very little difference between the Jewish extremists/Rabbis/settlers and the Muslim extremists (aka ISIS) except for the way that the mainstream media portrays them. Oh, another difference — one acts under the cloak of legitimacy by a nation-state while the other doesn’t. Oh, another difference — one receives protection (both $$ and security) while the other doesn’t.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #342 – The Egyptian Embassy in DC informed me today that they will process my Visa application to travel through Egypt to Gaza.  Al-hamdulillah!   Doing the happy dance tonight. Of course, “process” doesn’t necessarily mean “approve”. But this is a big improvement. A few months ago, they wouldn’t even consider an application.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #343 – Searching for travelers’ health insurance while abroad, I came across this program online that compares different policies and prices depending on the variables you input. Travel destination is one variable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Palestinian Territories is a destination option in this program. I was not surprised to learn that there are absolutely no health policies available for travelers to that destination. #GoingtoGaza with or without travelers’ health insurance.

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President Jimmy Carter signing his new book

Day #344 – Learned today that Jimmy Carter has liver cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. First thought: I wish he could live long enough to see peace in the Middle East, something he’s worked tirelessly to achieve. Second thought: I wish Congress would act on my petition and request that Carter address a joint session. He deserves their respect. Third thought: I’m going to write to Jimmy Carter. THANK YOU!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #345 – Submitted my Visa application with the Egyptian Embassy in DC today.  Purchased my ticket to Cairo.  Feeling like the roller coaster ride is just beginning.  A friend asked me “Why apply to Egypt, not to Palestine, for a Visa to visit Gaza?” Answer: Gaza, Palestine does not control its own borders because it is OCCUPIED by the State of Israel. You can’t fly to Gaza. You can’t take a ship to Gaza. You can’t drive to Gaza.  Either Israel or Egypt must grant you permission to enter Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #346 – I think I may understand why some Jews can’t accept the truth about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It’s human nature to want to be right – not wrong – and to be on the winning side – not the losing side. So when Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, it’s human nature to turn eyes and hearts away from the Occupation. Just a thought. #GoingtoGaza

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Lora with the Blue Crab on the Baltimore Inner Harbor

Day #347 – On this journey as a pilgrim, I need to learn how to be grateful today and every day.  My current grade is probably D-   #GoingtoGaza

Day #348 – “He who has a why can endure any how.” ~ German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. WHY am I going to Gaza? Because my heart calls me and because Justice and Human Rights demand it. HOW am I going to Gaza?  Only Allah knows. #GoingtoGaza

Day #349 – I think I know the biggest anti-Semite of them all. It’s Netanyahu. Palestinians = Semites, and Bibi is killing them with impunity. Jews = Semites, and Bibi’s actions are delegitimizing the State of Israel, “the home of the Jews”. Yep, Netanyahu is the biggest anti-Semite today. #GoingtoGaza

Day #350 – People have preconceived notions about their neighbors hardwired into their brains. Two examples today. On Facebook, a Zionist responds to my post from an Israeli newspaper about Palestinians building new tunnels into Gaza — “Only one logical reason . . . to kill Israelis.” It never occurs to him that there may be other reasons for building new tunnels—-a military defensive measure (Gaza’s version of the Iron Dome) is one example. I’ve never seen or read any evidence that showed Palestinians used the tunnels to enter Israel to kill Civilians. But this Zionist won’t acknowledge the humanity in the “other”. Second example happened to me on the bus today. Waiting at the bus stop, I sat on the bench next to a young Native American man who appeared inebriated. I was in the sun, he was sitting in the shade. He stood up and said “Sit in the shade.” I moved over and thanked him and held out my hand to introduce myself.  He took my hand and we had a very cordial conversation until the bus came. You can imagine the stereotype I had in my head, and the reality I learned after I met him. #GoingtoGaza

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Federal Hill, Baltimore

Day #351 – I often told my Palestinian friends in Gaza, when they asked me my religion, that I simply live my life by the Golden Rule (treat others how you wish they would treat you). A fact of life – not everyone follows the Golden Rule, and I can’t expect others to treat me the same way. That’s where the challenges lie. #GoingtoGaza

Day #352 – Writing today — putting pen to paper — trying to figure out the best way to share my pilgrimage with the most # of people.  Any ideas? Thinking of sharing a sample “column” with local newspaper to see if they might be interested in a regular monthly column. #GoingtoGaza

Days #353 & 354 – A friend I hadn’t seen in 10-15 years told me yesterday that she’s very confused about the Israel-Palestine conflict. One person tells her to read about one side and avoid the other side. Another person recommends she read the other side and avoid books about the first side. I told her “Read books from ALL sides and sit quietly and meditate about the questions those authors raise inside you.” It took me 10+ years of actively reading and searching for answers before I started seeing some clarity about Israel-Palestine. #GoingtoGaza

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Delicious meal at Cyndie Tidwell’s house

Day #355 – Attended a presentation tonight at the Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque about environmental peace building in Israel & Palestine. Lots to share in a blog post soon, but the take-away message for me was: There are people (Americans, Israelis and Palestinians) working together on some exciting joint environmental projects in Israel and the West Bank (including plans for a regional sewage treatment plant, rainwater harvesting, and more.) The people on the ground want the projects, the technocrats want the projects, the politicians on both sides (Israel and the PA) do not. I asked if they had worked in Gaza, and they said “No, because we can’t get access to Gaza!” #GoingtoGaza

Day #356 – I rode my yellow bike with the cute basket all around town today.  Downtown, then up 4th Street to Menaul, back downtown, over to Rio Grande, and back to my old neighborhood. When the sun went down, my friend showed me how to turn on the flashing lights on the front and back of the bike. (I never knew how!) If we could import 1000s of bikes into the Gaza Strip, we could (1) reduce reliance on fuel, (2) reduce air pollution, and (3) improve physical health.  I wonder . . . #GoingtoGaza

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New Mexican jeweller in Old Town showing off his beautiful jewellry

Day #357 – Today I sat with an old neighbor (96 years old) and we talked. His eyesight is bad but he can hear very well, and his mind is as sharp as a tack. He lives with his daughter who has cared for him for many years. My friend and his daughter remind me of many of the Palestinians I met in Gaza. Family caring for family. He built his adobe house with his own hands just as many Palestinians build their own homes. I can sit and talk with my old neighbor for hours about my experience in Gaza, and he “gets it”. Is there wisdom with age or is it something else? #GoingtoGaza

Days #358 & 359 – This Spring an American was told by the Egyptian Embassy that he would not receive permission to travel to Gaza through the Rafah border unless he got a letter of approval from the U.S. Consulate’s office in Cairo.  But that office told him they would not issue any such letter. The typical Catch-22. Me?  The Egyptian Embassy accepted my Visa application two weeks ago and said they would process it.  No mention of needing any letter from the U.S. Consulate in Cairo. #GoingtoGaza

Day #360 – Had lunch with a long-time reporter from the local newspaper of record. She acknowledged that the industry is changing drastically. And I have serious disdain for the Editors’ politics.  Thinking about which media venue to approach with my idea for a monthly column about Palestine.  Maybe ABQ Free Press. www.freeabq.com #GoingtoGaza

Day #361 – I walked an hour for a great candidate running for Albuquerque City Council knocking on doors and telling people about why Pat Davis will serve them well. Palestinians haven’t had an election in 8 years I think. The people are stuck with the same old farts with no way to boot them out of office. Americans take our elections for granted. Most of us don’t even bother to vote.  Shame on us! #GoingtoGaza

Day #362 – Sitting in the Houston airport today watching travelers walk past me to their next flight. There’s no fear here, no despair, no humiliation, as there is in Rafah or Erez — the ONLY two checkpoints where Palestinians may travel in and out of Gaza, IF Israel grants permission. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #363 – Trying to figure out why it’s so frustrating to talk with some people with whom I disagree. 1) a very good long-time friend finds #BlackLivesMatter offensive and divisive. 2) a Zionist I’ve never met in person refuses to see the impacts of the Israeli occupation, and the Apartheid system of laws and regulations. Spending time trying to explain my position just ends in frustration. #GoingtoGaza

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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).

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  • 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.)

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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.

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