Category Archives: nonviolent resistance

Whose Lives Matter?

Black Lives Matter

Sign in front of a Baltimore church

A not-so-imaginary conversation goes this way after I don my BLACK LIVES MATTER t-shirt.

Elderly white friend: “Why are you wearing that t-shirt? The message offends me because All Lives Matter.”

Lora: “Of course all lives are important and deserve equal respect and love. BLACK LIVES MATTER doesn’t mean the lives of African Americans are more important than the lives of white people. It simply means we (all of us) need to pay attention to what’s happening to black people. It’s a wake up call.”

Elderly white friend: “Well, the phrase (BLACK LIVES MATTER) is so divisive. I think it undermines what protesters are trying to do, to bring justice to the victims and heal wounds. BLACK LIVES MATTER is not a healing or unifying message.”

Lora(thinking, but not saying, that the sensibilities of white folks doesn’t really matter in this context) “Think of it this way. All the houses in your neighborhood are equally important but the house at the end of the block is on fire. Should the fire department respond to all of the houses, or to the house on fire?”

Elderly white friend: “That’s a silly analogy and doesn’t fit what we’re talking about.”

Lora: “Yes it does! In every aspect of life in America (family wealth, real estate, educational achievements, criminal justice, health outcomes, etc.) the objective measurements show that African Americans don’t matter as much as white Americans. Their house is on fire while the rest of us are oblivious.”

Elderly white friend: “It’s complicated and there are many reasons for the disparities you’re talking about.”

Lora: “It boils down to systemic racism that permeates our institutions, our laws, even the way we think and act. It goes deep, it goes wide, but healing begins by talking about it.”

Women in Black circle

Women in Black in Baltimore

This not-so-imaginary conversation happens every day in every community but most Americans prefer to avoid it. If we can’t even talk about the reality of the black experience in the United States, how do we begin to address the systemic injustices?

I’m trying to learn how to talk about it, to educate myself, to not shy away from having the tough, uncomfortable conversations.

No Longer Accepting

My education begins with this podcast recommended to me by a friend from Malaysia. Seeing White on Scene on Radio. All 14 episodes are available here. I’m half way through and plan to listen to the entire production. I highly recommend it to all of my white friends, whether you think you’re “woke” or not.

Seeing White — 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

 

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Filed under nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Honoring healthcare workers in Gaza – June 1

On June 1, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will be honoring Razan al-Najjar, the 20-year old medic who was killed two years ago on June 1 by Israeli sharpshooters as she tended the wounded at the Great Return March in Gaza.

If you don’t know Razan, please take a moment to learn her story. Gaza Fights for Freedom is Abby Martin’s film that I highly recommend.

The documentary tells the story of Gaza past and present, showing rare archival footage that explains the history never acknowledged by mass media. You hear from victims of the ongoing massacre, including journalists, medics and the family of internationally-acclaimed paramedic, Razan al-Najjar.

In March 2019, a UN mandated Commission of Inquiry (CoI) found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli military snipers had intentionally shot at health workers, children, persons with disabilities and journalists at protests in Gaza.

Three medics were among the more than 200 people killed during two years of Israel’s use of force at the Great March of Return demonstrations. A further 845 medics were injured. No one has been held to account for this. 

Killing healthcare workers, destroying ambulances and hospitals, and deliberately targeting unarmed civilians is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Customary International Humanitarian Law but that has never deterred Israel.

Rule 25. Medical personnel exclusively assigned to medical duties must be respected and protected in all circumstances. They lose their protection if they commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy.

AFSC has planned a day of action, and provided ideas about how everyone can participate. I plan to join them. Look here for more information and resources.

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Filed under Gaza, nonviolent resistance, People, Uncategorized, Video

Palestinian Prisoners Day Twitter storm

This Friday, April 17th, marks Palestinian Prisoners Day, an annual day of action in support of Palestinian prisoners and a commemoration of the monumental role they’ve played throughout the struggle for Palestinian Freedom. The global COVID-19 crisis has made it clear: it’s more important than ever before to support and free incarcerated people, from Palestine to the US!
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From Rikers Island to Palestine, coronavirus is spreading in prisons. On Palestinian Prisoners Day, spread solidarity with us at a Zoom rally and twitterstorm.

Featuring:
Marc Lamont Hill, Professor of Media Studies and Urban Education at Temple University
Bassem and Ahed Tamimi, Nabi Saleh, Palestine
Arab Marwan Barghouti, son of Palestinian political leader and hunger strike organizer Marwan Barghouti.
Randa Wahbe, Al-Shabaka and Addameer
Brad Parker, Defense for Children International Palestine
Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director, Project South; past president, National Lawyers Guild
Lex Steppling, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Dignity and Power Now
***During this rally, we’ll be responding to calls to action from Palestinian prisoner rights advocates and from anti-prison organizers here in the US.  Come ready to make phone calls, tweet, and participate in other actions****
Directly following this event on Friday, the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) is organizing a live conversation with the Executive Director of Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoners Support Association, plus a twitter storm!  Details here.
 
These conversations/actions on Friday are pieces of a movement-wide mobilization. For a list of other events related to Palestinian Prisoners Day, check out this calendar: https://samidoun.net/events/
 

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Filed under COVID-19, nonviolent resistance, People, Uncategorized

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

Putting Faith into Action

 

The Catholics and Jews came together in my world on Sunday, August 11, 2019 in Baltimore.  I attended the 10:30 am service at St. Ignatius Church with a friend, and then attended the Tisha B’Av #ICEOutHoCo protest in Howard County with other friends in the afternoon.  The messages from both events resonated deeply.

Jesus ChristThe priest said, “Today, young people are the principal protagonists of an anthropological transformation that is coming to be through the digital culture of our time, opening humanity to a new historical epoch. We are living through a period of change from which will emerge a new humanity and a new way of structuring human life in its personal and social dimensions. To accompany young people demands of us authenticity of life, spiritual depth, and openness to sharing the life-mission that gives meaning to who we are and what we do. Accompanying young people puts us on the path of personal, communitarian, and institutional conversion.”

When it was time for the petition, where We pray to the Lord ….. Lord, hear our prayer, my ears couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

St. Ignatius ChurchWe pray to the Lord, defeat the gun lobby and the public officials in their pay. Strengthen us to demand legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons, to require background checks, and to prosecute with rigor domestic terrorism. Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray to the Lord, shield innocent children cruelly harmed by politicians who stoke bigotry to stay in power. Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray to the Lord, end the affliction of all who suffer from violence and rescue them from bitterness. Lord hear our prayer.

Later that day, Jews United for Justice led a protest in front of the Howard County Detention Center against ICE and the detention of immigrants. The goal is to convince the county to end its contract with ICE to use the facilities.

Tisha B'Av Action

Several hundred people gathered peacefully at this Tisha B’Av Action to #CloseTheCamps

Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av (Aug. 10-11, 2019), is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, on which we fast, deprive ourselves and pray. It is the culmination of the Three Weeks, a period of time during which we mark the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

 

We heard speakers talk about the 9th day of Av, a Jewish fast day “commemorating the destruction of the Temples which has become an emotional lightening rod for all Jewish national tragedies. The Jewish community is not the only community that is suffering in our contemporary world. The day prompts us to be human beings in community with others.” We also heard from immigrants and others about their experiences with ICE, and about the call to action — demanding Howard County to cease its intergovernmental agreement with ICE. http://jufj.org/hoco-ice/

Tisha B'Av Action mother and child

This particular demonstration moved me in a way that many others haven’t because of the unity in spirit that I felt permeated almost everyone there.  Old, young, religious or secular, the energy was peaceful yet determined. Everyone was focused on the mistreatment of immigrants, on ICE, and on our responsibility to end this immoral path our nation is on.  [The organizer at the beginning of the action told us the ground rules, and I noted that he said our signs were welcomed but no Israeli flags because they wanted this to be an inclusive event.]

The Catholics and Jews today each reinforced similar messages from different angles.  They spoke from a place of peace, not anger or violence. They focused on injustices and harm occurring in the real world, not abstract concepts of good and bad. And children were highlighted in each. The time has come for leaders of the past to follow the leaders of the future.

Tisha B'Av Action vote

The youth in Gaza are demanding justice too. Our silence to Israel’s occupation and blockade is as deadly as the White Supremacists killing children in mass shootings, and ICE killing children in detention cages at the border.

Our hearts and heads must connect these dots so that our empathy and actions end injustices everywhere for everyone.  The time has come to end our tunnel vision.

 

 

 

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Filed under nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Lights 4 Liberty – We Are One

Raging Grannies Lights 4 Liberty
I found the Lights 4 Liberty protest in downtown Manhattan an hour after my train arrived at Penn Station. Couldn’t get near the center but I connected with the Raging Grannies, the Quakers, and many others. Lots of speeches, songs, and then a gigantic roar in unison when everyone held their candles up high.

NYC 2019

Lora in Manhattan

A man volunteered to take my photo, and then asked me where he could get a pin like the one on my hat. I gave it to him. It says “End Israeli Detention of Palestinian Children“!!!

Thanks to social media and email, I learned about similar protests occurring at the very same time around the world. Friends from northern New Mexico, Albuquerque, El Paso …. and even in Barcelona, Spain …. were uploading photos.
People gathered worldwide to demand the end of the inhumane detention and treatment of our neighbors who are seeking asylum. Our candles and lights reminded me of the iconic Statute of Liberty just a few miles from where I stood.

Barcelona protest

Barcelona, Spain

I was struck by how the world is so connected. A handful of people in northern New Mexico, hundreds and thousands in cities everywhere, all coming together with a common purpose — to demand that our leaders treat our neighbors seeking refuge with dignity and respect.
I saw people of faith, and people who don’t practice a religion. I saw old and young. I saw people from various political backgrounds (Socialist Democrats to Responsible Republicans). I saw lawyers, trauma therapists, students and others.

Northern NM protest 3

Northern New Mexico

On the way to my friend’s house in Brooklyn after the protest, my Uber driver and I started talking. He’s an immigrant from Turkey, a journalist who feared for his life. He said he believed in President Erdogan’s leadership until 2010 when he started putting journalists (and others) in prison. Erdogan has been in power since 2003.

We talked about the signs of fascism around the world, mentioning Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Venezuela and now the USA.  We both agreed that powerful people like to hold on to power, and they won’t give it up unless the masses take the power from them.  He told me that the USA was a beacon of hope because power is handed from one to the next peacefully every four or eight years. I said I feared the coming 2020 elections in the US because if President Trump loses, would he declare it a fraudulent election and hold on to power under emergency measures?

Lights 4 Liberty 4

Then I remembered all of the people gathered everywhere this evening for a common purpose, and I realized that people power will prevail. We Are One! 

Not only are people coming together but the issues are merging. Separating children from their parents and holding “others” in military detention is the same whether it happens at the US-Mexico border or in Israel-Palestine.  We Are One!

There may be some who support fascism wittingly or unwittingly, but the energy and power rests with those with open minds and hearts to the goodness in each other and in the universe. I’m optimistic!

 

 

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Naila and the Uprising

Naila and the uprising 3

The woman sitting at the front of the room facing the audience looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her and I certainly didn’t know anyone in Venice.

I’d taken a vaporetto (water bus), then switched to a regular bus, and then walked about ten minutes to the location advertised for the screening of Naila and the Uprising. Americans can watch it now on PBS or find a screening near you.

Julia Bacha’s militant documentary Naila and the Uprising is by turns startling and dismaying as it traces the central role Palestinian women played in the First Intifada of the late 1980s. Integrating animated scenes with interviews and archive footage, it paints an indelible picture of how, with many men deported or arrested, women stepped into the arena of political and social organizing, only to be told their role was over when Yasser Arafat returned from exile to form the Palestinian Authority in 1994 with a crew of all-male leaders.

I wasn’t concerned about watching the film in Italian because I’d originally seen it in Malaysia in October. I was more interested in seeing who attended, and how many? Does Venice have a strong Palestine solidarity network?

Naila and the uprisingThere were no signs to direct people to the screening once I found my way to the shopping center. My first attempt was unsuccessful when I asked at the shopping center’s information desk and was informed there was no screening planned that evening. Walking out dejected and a bit annoyed, I overheard “Palestina” from a woman walking past me. I stopped her, and asked “Palestina”? She nodded and I learned through hand signals that the screening was on the fourth floor. Alhamdulillah!

By the time the lights went out and the film started, nearly every seat was filled. I’m guessing 100-125 people attended. Sitting near the back, I watched the film with Italian subtitles (most of the speaking was either in Arabic or English).  The film grabbed me again — the power and determination of women. Not just Naila but so many Palestinian women who rose to lead the Intifada when Israel imprisoned or banished many of the men from the West Bank and Gaza, probably hoping to bring the uprising to its knees.

Hearing again about the PLO’s usurption of the role of the Palestinian women when they secretly negotiated with the Israelis in Oslo, Norway angered me. Is it just Arab men, or males worldwide who so often sabotage the progress made by women?  I wish the film had better documented the women’s reaction and response to the PLO.

Naila and the uprising 2When the lights were turned on and the Q & A began, I realized the woman I faintly recognized earlier was Naila herself. She and her husband were in Venice!

Concerned about making my way back to my hostel before dark, I left soon after the Q & A began. I noticed that Naila’s husband frequently interjected comments or interrupted her when she was responding to a question. Perhaps we were witnessing the male-female dynamic that may be pervasive in Palestine. It annoyed me and reminded me that I still have a lot to learn about Palestinians and the Arab culture.

If you haven’t seen Naila and the Uprising, I hope you will.  The message is clear — women are the leaders of the future.  Check this link for a short trailer.  https://www.imdb.com/videoembed/vi2743842841

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, People, Uncategorized, Video

Demonstrators Shot in Violation of their Right to Life

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On 7 January 2018, Ahmed Abu Artema, a 34-year-old Palestinian poet and journalist, posted on Facebook the idea of a non-violent march at the separation fence, to draw attention to General Assembly resolution 194 and to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the post, ending #GreatMarchofReturn, he wrote, “what if 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully and broke through the fence east of Gaza and entered a few kilometres into the lands that are ours, holding the flags of Palestine and the keys to return, accompanied by international media, and then set up tents inside and established a city there.”  The idea evolved into a movement of Palestinians. Within weeks, Abu Artema, civil society activists and other stakeholders drew up a charter of 12 principles, envisaging a national march by Palestinians of all ages, genders, political and social groups. (para. 22 and 23)

I’ve been following the #GreatReturnMarch since the beginning, watching its preparations, and studying it from the perspective of my international human rights law course that was occurring at the same time.

23472746_1518214138214284_7274524142973981851_nAn Israeli woman shared her thoughts about the protests. The New York Times adopted the Israeli framing of the protests.  The protests continued.  With grim predictability, the killing of unarmed protesters continued too.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

Throughout the summer and fall of 2018 I followed the protests and took heart when the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court warned Israel that it might be subject to prosecution for its crimes committed against the protestors.

The United Nations appointed an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate.  Predictably, Israel refused to cooperate in the investigation, and Egypt wouldn’t let the commission enter Gaza because of security concerns in the Sinai. However, in this small and interconnected world we live in, with Skype and other technology, the commission interviewed many participants in the protests, as well as families of the victims, the medical personnel in Gaza, as well as viewed much of the video documentation from the protests. COI_Commissioners_HP

The three member commission released its report and findings on February 28, 2019. The Israeli government immediately condemned it, saying that the commission was blinded by hatred,  but everyone else I’ve read has received it favorably.

It’s a short (22 pages) read and I recommend it to everyone.

Some excerpts that added to my understanding of the #GreatReturnMarch —

Israel was prepared. The protesters were not trying to take anyone by surprise.

Prior to the first demonstration, Israeli forces reinforced their positions at the fence with additional troops, including more than 100 sharpshooters. They dropped leaflets in Gaza and contacted Palestinian bus companies to warn against participation. At the demonstration sites, they strengthened the separation fence and its underground barrier (to prevent and detect cross-border tunnels), installed kilometres of barbed wire coils on the Gazan side as additional barriers, cleared vegetation on both sides, dug deep trenches on the Israeli side and erected a battery of earth mounds or berms onto which snipers were positioned for better visibility and shooting accuracy.

When the rules of engagement were challenged, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental human rights organizations challenged the application of lethal force by Israeli forces at the fence in the Israel Supreme Court, contending that the rules of engagement violated international law because they were too permissive or were being applied permissively. The Court disagreed and approved the rules of engagement, holding that “the use of potentially lethal force for the sake of dispersing a mass riot – from which an actual and imminent danger is posed to life or bodily integrity – is, in principle, permitted, subject to proving necessity and proportionality.” The Court declined to examine how the rules were applied on the ground, deferring to the internal investigations of Israeli security forces.

Ten pages of this report describe the deaths and injuries during three specific days of protest (Sections V and VI — p. 7-16)

Was Israel testing new weapons on the civilian population?

According to an international doctor working at a Gaza hospital, interviewed by the commission, “It was striking the number of extremely similar injuries; massive open wounds in the legs, with skin and muscles ‘blown out’, bones smashed to pieces, and damage to blood vessels leading to vascular injury, putting the entire limb at risk.”

COGAT holds the power of life and death – no surprise here!

In early April, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories denied exit permits for wounded demonstrators, primarily on the basis of the policy of the Minister of Defense to deny passage to any person injured during the demonstrations.  Although the Supreme Court of Israel subsequently rejected the above-mentioned blanket policy, those injured in the demonstrations continued to face significant challenges in obtaining medical treatment outside Gaza, as illustrated by the case below:

 Zakaria Bishbish (14)
On 30 May, Israeli security forces shot Zakaria, from the Maghazi refugee camp, in the back at the demonstration site in El Bureij, while he was at least 100 m from the separation fence. The gunshot perforated Zakaria’s stomach and colon, splintered his vertebrae and damaged his kidney. His family sought a two-week exit permit to seek life-saving treatment at Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem, which had arranged a medical appointment for 4 June. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, however, denied the request, giving no reasons. His family then attempted to secure appointments for him in Egypt and the West Bank; the Coordinator did not respond to their requests. On 18 June, Zakaria died
of sepsis.

Will the State of Israel and/or any individuals involved in these killings be held accountable?

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

“It’s complicated!”

The two magical words — “It’s complicated!”

They diminish any inquiry or argument; they absolve the need for an explanation; they give a convenient pass for the rest of us to remain ignorant; and they obfuscate rather than enlighten.

The next time you hear — “It’s complicated!” — be offended and push hard for the explanation.  

You might hear that climate change is complicated, leading to feelings of despair and disempowerment.

I most frequently hear — “It’s complicated!” — with the topic of the Middle East and Gaza.

Why is Israel confining 2 million Palestinians in the largest open air prison in the world, preventing them from traveling, and enforcing a 12 year economic siege against them that has resulted in de-development of the Gaza Strip?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Palestinians of every age and background spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Israeli sharpshooters stationed at the Gaza fence killing unarmed protesters, medics, journalists and children every Friday like clockwork?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are the parents of these young children allowing them to join the #GreatReturnMarch?  “It’s complicated!”

NONE OF IT IS COMPLICATED.  It’s actually very simple.

Israel removed its Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and created the open-air prison for the Palestinian refugees there because it’s easier to dehumanize, control and kill the “other” when they are physically separated from us.  We have experience with that methodology from the Warsaw Ghetto. “It’s simple!”

In 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020.  Since then, Israel has launched two military operations against Gaza in 2012 and 2014, killing thousands, maiming tens of thousands, and destroying the infrastructure and key economic sectors in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is unlivable today (2018). That’s why Palestinians of every age and background are spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment. “It’s simple!”

Israeli sharpshooters are killing Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza fence every Friday because they have received orders to shoot to kill, in clear violation of international law. There have been no reprecussions. No one has been held accountable.  “It’s simple!”

Why are parents allowing their children to join the #GreatReturnMarch? Rather than blame the victims, the question needs to be clearly recentered — why are Israeli sharpshooters killing children? Let’s not obfuscate the facts and absolve the perpetrators of this gross inhumanity.

We need leaders with moral clarity who will speak the simple truth as Representative Betty McCollum is doing with her bill to protect the human rights of Palestinian children held in military detention by Israel.  (H.R. 4391)

We need soldiers in every battlefield telling us the simple truth.

And we need to keep our hearts and minds open to be able to hear the truth.  It’s not complicated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

The Power of Filmmaking – Mend the Gap

Films can be a powerful catalyst for awakening change. Remember Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth“?  I suspect many Americans were launched off their sofas to make a difference on climate change as a result.

Maurice and Lora on High Road to Taos

Lora and Maurice in northern New Mexico

I came to appreciate the hard work that goes into filmmaking when I spent several weeks this summer in a cabin in a remote part of northern New Mexico with filmmaker Maurice Jacobsen who was editing a new documentary about Gaza. A lot of work, patience and love go into every minute of a new film. Watch for Maurice’s new documentary to be released very shortly. Here’s a snippet. 

Then I received an invitation to attend and speak at the Freedom Film Fest in Malaysia. This is the 16th year of the annual fest, which showcases award-winning social justice and human rights films. Appropriately, the theme this year is a call to action to “Mend the Gap”, which draws its inspiration from the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which says that “no one should be left behind.”FFF

The organizers of the film festival note that “despite progress in science, technology and democracy, the gaps between the rich and poor, the have and have nots, the powerful and the powerless are getting deeper and wider.” I might add that the gap between the occupier and the oppressed in Palestine is obscenely grotesque. 

Film Festival

In 2012, the United Nations reported that Gaza may be unlivable by 2020.  Israel’s seige and blockade of the Gaza Strip is deliberately stripping Palestinians of their dignity and their basic needs for survival. While Israelis have clean water, 24/7 electricity, and everything else we take for granted in a first world country, the Palestinians suffer 60%+ unemployment, 2 hours of electricity per day, no drinkable water unless they can afford to purchase bottled-water from Israel, and vanishing healthcare services. The gap between the occupier and the oppressed grows wider.

“Gaza has continued on its trajectory of de-development, in many cases even faster than we had originally projected,” said Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, in July 2017.

“When you’re down to two hours of power a day and you have 60 percent youth unemployment rates … that unlivability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago.”

Israel’s new “nation-state law” — adopted this summer — has formalized the ugly truth that has existed in Israel-Palestine since the 1948.  The law does three big things:

  1. It states that “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people.”
  2. It establishes Hebrew as Israel’s official language, and downgrades Arabic — a language widely spoken by Arab Israelis — to a “special status.”
  3. It establishes “Jewish settlement as a national value” and mandates that the state “will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.”

The gap between Jews and Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) has just been formalized into the basic laws of the State of Israel. 

Perhaps the gap is nowhere better illustrated than at the fence between Israel and Gaza where the Palestinians have been protesting each Friday since March 30, demanding their human rights and their right to return to their homes and villages from which they were expelled in 1948. Israeli sharpshooters have killed at least 174 Palestinians and wounded more than 18,000 people participating in the Great March of Return, according to health officials in Gaza.

The gap between the best-equipped army in the Middle East, and the Palestinians throwing rocks resembles David and Goliath. 

What can we do to mend these gaps?

  1. Educate ourselves about what’s really going on, on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank. Don’t rely on the mainstream media.
  2. Read about the injustices occurring in Palestine. The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Battle for Human Rights by Michael Sfard.
  3. Speak truth to power and speak up against injustices everywhere, including those perpetrated every single day in Palestine.

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Filed under nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video