Category Archives: Peaceful

Allowing space for conflicting narratives

My son’s high school classmate, many years ago, recently visited the West Bank. Wajahat Ali has visited the Middle East many times and is quite knowledgeable about the history and the current political strife. His feature length piece in the June 2018 issue of The Atlantic reflects his insights from the people he met on his journey.

Wajahat Ali

Wajahat Ali

A Muslim Among Israeli Settlers — What happens when a Pakistani American writer goes deep into the West Bank?  is a gift and a pure joy to read.

The reader might immediately draw assumptions and put Wajahat, an American Muslim, into a box.  The box that describes how Muslims are suppose to feel about Zionists and which side (Palestinians, of course) they naturally can be expected to gravitate towards.  Wajahat doesn’t fit into any boxes.

I know he will receive criticism — probably from many different boxes (errr……sides) — dissecting the fine points in his long article. People won’t find fault with the facts — facts are facts and I’m pretty sure that Wajahat and his editors have fact-checked his paper thoroughly. Instead, they will argue about his emphasis or lack of emphasis, about his opinion or lack of opinion (“why didn’t you say this or that?”), and about his (gasp!) objectivity!

“As a result of engaging with Zionists, I found that once you allow a space for conflicting narratives, even those that might repulse you, the characters take up room in your mind and your heart. You can no longer unsee or unfeel them. You have to negotiate their presence without compromising your core principles.”

Of course, the same can and must be said about engaging with Palestinians, with Hamas, with anyone we consider the “other”.

If everyone in the region has a shot at interpreting God’s will, then I’ll offer my own vision. I believe that Jews and Palestinians are religious cousins, more alike than different. They have lived together in the past, eaten each other’s olives, worked each other’s fields, married each other’s family members. Learning to live together again should not be impossible. But this isn’t happening, not anytime soon.

Thank you, Wajahat, for your clarity of pen and clarity of heart. We need many more writers, and leaders, who have the courage to step outside of their boxes and allow space for the conflicting narratives.

Be sure to read Wajahat’s article here and watch this short 14 minute video.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Peaceful, People, Settlers, Uncategorized, Video

#GazaUnlocked #HeartlandtoGaza

The American Friends Service Committee organized an expert panel of witnesses to provide testimony about the current situation in Gaza as part of its Gaza Unlocked campaign. Check out the campaign here.

The expert testimony was held in Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday, April 21, 2018 in the format similar to a formal hearing in Congress. The delegation from Indiana was invited to attend, including Vice President Pence, but they didn’t show up. Representative Andre Carson was unable to attend, but one of his staff members was able to attend in his place and he sent his regrets.

I showed up and watched the livestream testimony and Q &A that followed from my perch in the library at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Gaza Unlocked

Jehad Abu Salim

The three experts were certainly very well qualified to speak about Gaza. Jehad Abu Salim is from Gaza and currently studying for his PhD at NYU.  Laila El-Haddad has lived in Gaza and written extensively about Gaza. She’s the author of Gaza Kitchen. Dr. Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies specializing in the Palestinian economy, Palestinian Islamism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They each spoke about the current conditions in Gaza as well as the political dynamics of Israel’s siege and long-term blockade on the Gaza Strip. The take-away message for me was that we must educate ourselves, our family, friends and communities, and especially our members of Congress.

Social media armchair activists are not making a difference if they stay within their bubbles and comfort zones behind the computer screens. We must get out into our communities and wake Americans up to the realities of the Israeli occupation. I hope a condensed and edited version of this testimony will be made available to help us educate others.

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Fact or fiction? #GreatReturnMarch

Yaser Murtaja

Yaser Murtaja – Palestinian journalist (killed April 6, 2018)

As the #GreatReturnMarch enters into its ninth day (of an expected 6 weeks of protest at the Gaza border), the Israeli propaganda (aka hasbara) is flying fast and furiously around the globe, almost as effectively as the Israeli military’s bullets are flying from the sharpshooters laying on their bellies on an earthen berm overlooking the protesters in Gaza.

A gullible American told me today that the “so-called peaceful protests” in Gaza are actually very violent — including balloons filled with acid and kites flying with razor blades — and Israelis have every right to defend their borders. (Sadly, I kid you not.)

While the New York Times isn’t this gullible, it’s still spouting the Israeli line that Hamas is effectively controlling the protests.  The organizers and civil society in Gaza have tried to set the record straight but with limited success given the entrenchment of the Israeli narrative.

The truth — there are burning tires, but no balloons filled with acid.

The truth — there are flags and kites, but no razor blades attached.

The truth — there are boys throwing rocks, but no guns or military weapons are present on the Gaza side of the border.

The truth — there are Israeli sharpshooters targeting and killing Palestinians in the back as they run away from the border.

The truth — there are Israeli sharpshooters targeting and killing professional journalists clearly identified as media by the vests they are wearing.

The truth — there are Palestinian families (old, young, and even a wedding party) participating in the #GreatReturnMarch on the Gaza side of the border.

The truth — there are Israeli civilians picnicking on the hill overlooking Gaza, celebrating Passover (the celebration of freedom) and watching the Palestinians demonstrating for their freedom.

Remember Yaser Murtaja, the Palestinian murdered by Israeli sharpshooters on April 6, 2018. He was trying to bring us the truth. It cost him his life.

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, Media, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, Video

An Israeli shares her thoughts on #GreatReturnMarch

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 “LIFE AND HOPE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER”

Julia Chaitin, PhD, is holding the sign on the right. She lives on a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip and is affiliated with the School of Social Work, Sapir College, “Other Voice” and “Friendship across Borders“. Julia wrote the following on the first day of the #GreatReturnMarch.

How did we get here???

Imperviousness, imperviousness, imperviousness

Indifference, indifference, indifference

Hatred, hatred, hatred

Fear, fear, fear

What did we think???

That if we continue to imprison them

They would sit quietly

What did we think???

That if we control them from the land, sea and air

And we do nothing to show them

That we understand that people cannot be caged up without hope

For anything

They would sit quietly forever?

What did we think???

You’re right, you’re right, you’re right

The Hamas is not innocent

You’re right, you’re very right

They are responsible for the lives of the people they control

But it doesn’t excuse us from our responsibility to act humanely and to stop punishing an entire population with a collective punishment

The Gazans are demonstrating and some are violently demonstrating

Because we pushed them, and pushed, and pushed them more to the wall

We made sure that they would see that there was no sign of future for Gaza

That there is a reason to live

We made sure to pressure them more, and more

And we really helped push them more into the arms of the Hamas

That also abuses them

And prevents them from having the most basic things that all people deserve

You are right – Israel is not the only guilty party

There is enough blame to go around

The Hamas

Egypt, too

The rest of the world

That simply ignores them and what is happening in Gaza

And meanwhile

16 Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded

And there’s still time for more…

Perhaps they would not have gone to the fence full of rage if for years we had treated Gaza in a completely different way?

As our neighbor?

As a place to create ties, at least, of respectful neighbors?

If we understood that year after year after year

Of planting the understanding that Gaza is a place without hope and without a future?

That the rage and the frustration will try to break down the fences of despair and desperation?

Enough

It is simply enough

We have had enough

All of the violence and killing and range and power has proved only one thing

We are in a dark, sad, scary, awful, unnecessary, bad place

Very bad place

All of us

Now we have to change direction

180 degrees

To stop with believing in the scenario that violence and control and closure

Will solve the problem

The only solution that has a chance is a civil program that includes employment, education, health services and development

A program that promises the people in Gaza that they will have water, electricity, medicines

We are all in the abyss

About face

Retreat

Now

 

 

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

A pilgrim joins the march

I’m joining hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pilgrims walking to el Sanctuario de Chimayo in northern New Mexico today, Good Friday. It’s a tradition that many have followed every year for generations, but this is my first time walking to Chimayo.

Chimayo

Granddaughter and I visited Chimayo in 2014

On the side of the church is a little room with a dirt floor. We must bend low to enter the room, it accommodates only a dozen or so people at a time.

On the floor is an open pit of earth just over a foot wide. It is said to be healing earth, tierra bendita. Pilgrims touch it reverently to their heads and limbs, perhaps gathering a bit of it in a plastic bag, before moving on to make room for a few more of the thousands who wait their turn. The walls of the room just outside this chapel are covered with the canes and crutches of those who have been healed here at Chimayó. Tacked up among them are notes of thanksgiving, testimonials, and little paintings called milagros, “miracles,” depicting some particular story of grace and healing. “It is the faith, not the earth, that heals,” says the priest at Chimayó.

I’m carrying 4 small glass vials with me to collect some of this healing dirt —- one for each of my sons and one for me.  glass vials

This pilgrimage means different things to different people. For me, it’s a time to reflect on my family, my friends and my gratitude for everything that is good in my life.

I’m also thinking of my friends in Gaza who are marching to the border with Israel today. It’s the beginning of the #GreatReturnMarch with actions spanning 46 days. They’re pressing the international community and the State of Israel to acknowledge and comply with their right to return to the homes, businesses, villages and towns they were forcibly expelled from when Israel was created in 1947-48.  They’ve been waiting for decades for their right of return to be fulfilled. Many still have keys to the houses they left behind in present-day Israel.

Both of our journeys today (in northern New Mexico and Gaza) are journeys of faith . . . faith in the restorative power of community, and faith in the healing power of justice. I pray there is a milagro – miracle in Gaza today.

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

Preparations for the #GreatReturnMarch

Friday, March 30th is either the launch of a peaceful march to the border area between Gaza and Israel — or it’s “highly explosive” and “threatens to damage the sensitive life fabric and safety of the region’s residents.”

tents 2Palestinians are erecting large white tents near the border, anticipating families and the elderly joining the activities planned over the next six weeks.

Israel is  deploying more than 100 sharpshooters to the border with permission to open fire if lives are in jeopardy. They’re also talking about air-dropping food and medicines into the heart of Gaza from airplanes or drones to lure Palestinians away from the border.

The Palestinians are dancing their traditional dance, dakbe, waving flags, and flying kites near the border. The Israeli Army is closing down the West Bank and Gaza for nine days during Passover as the military “braces for Gaza border riots and West Bank unrest.” Israel is calling and texting the bus companies in Gaza, warning them not to transport people to the border, and threatening them with punitive actions.

border dakbe

Dancing the traditional Palestinian Dakbe at the border.

Israel has set in motion its well-greased hasbara machine ahead of the #GreatReturnMarch.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry reached out to the international community on Twitter Thursday in anticipation of violent clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters along the Gaza border in the coming days.

“While the campaign is being presented to the world at large as a peaceful enterprise, there is no doubt that this latest Hamas ploy is aimed at igniting a violent confrontation with Israel,” the Foreign Ministry’s statement began.

Israel wants to remind you [the international community] that there’s a “good” guy and “bad” guy here —- one defending itself and the other, well the other is trying to survive a brutal occupation. Israeli diplomats have contacted the U.N. and their colleagues around the world to prep them with demonstrably false information — that Hamas (the terrorist organization) is organizing this event, paying Palestinians to show up, with subversive intention to breach the border fence and “infiltrate” into Israel. Israel will hold Hamas responsible if there are casualties at the border.

Border IDF

Israeli Defense Forces overlooking the border with Gaza

A Palestinian scholar from Gaza writes: “The Great March of Return (of Gaza) is a grassroots movement initiated by Palestinian organizers, activists, and intellectuals, and is the product of years of conversations in Gaza about a way out of its misery. Attempts by Israeli media and government to portray tomorrow’s march as something instigated by Hamas is not only false, but also part of an old approach that reduces Palestinian agency to conspiracies and portrays Palestinians as pawns for factions and governments.” Check out their Facebook page here and their Twitter account here.

The goal of the #GreatReturnMarch as shared by the organizers:

The march will for the first time, employ the popular dimension to effectively compel the Israeli occupation state to the international resolutions and recommendations that it denies and refuses to implement, which over the past decades has constituted a clear threat to international peace and security.

is a cumulative, civil, peaceful sit-in calling for the implementation of right of return for Palestine refugees

 

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Filed under Israel, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful

The Great Return March

UN_Palestine_Partition_Versions_1947

Many Americans know that the United Nations called for the creation of the State of Israel following a U.N. vote A/Res/181(II) in November 1947.

Some Americans may be aware that the actual founding of the State of Israel occurred on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv when David Ben Gurion stood up before the Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum and read a declaration. 

Ben Gurion

 

I bet few Americans have a clue that under international law, and Resolution A/Res//194 (III) (adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1948)  the Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their properties, homes and businesses in what is present-day Israel.

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

Haaretz columnist Uri Avnery claims the Palestinian right of return is not such a complicated issue, (Oct. 18, 2017 article) but nothing strikes dread into the hearts of Israeli leaders (and perhaps many Israelis) more than the thought of millions of Palestinians pouring across Israel’s undefined borders. The demographics challenge, they fear, would be insurmountable for their Jewish state. Israel now wants Trump to remove the ‘right of return’ from the negotiating table. (January 2018 article).

The Palestinians are planning to put the ‘right of return’ front and center — on every dining room table in Israel, every board room in executive suites, and in the heart of the Knesset. The Great March

Beginning Friday, March 30, Palestinian refugees will begin 46 days of non-violent action entitled “The Great Return March”.

 

The “Great Return march” is a popular Palestinian peaceful march, where the participants (men, women, children, elders, families) will start marching from the Palestinian communities in the occupied territories (Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem) and from (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt) to their homes from which they were forcibly displaced in 1948.

From the Coordination Committee:

The organizers of this march and their participants will never use any means of violence, and will only be limited to a peaceful march in accordance with the truce plan, bearing in mind that this march will be totally peaceful and doesn’t involve harming or threatening any country or using any means of violence.

It should be noted that the implementation of the Great Return march will be carried out peacefully in accordance with the rules of international law and in line with the UN resolutions on the return of the Palestinian refugees and other relevant international resolutions on the Palestinian issue.

In other words, the march will for the first time, employ the popular dimension to effectively compel the Israeli occupation state to the international resolutions and recommendations that it denies and refuses to implement, which over the past decades has constituted a clear threat to international peace and security.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-

 From the 2016 Great March of Return.  VERSO

The Legal Basis for the Great March of Return:

The UN Resolution 194 of the third session, issued on 11 December 1948, constitutes the international legal basis for the great return march, especially that it clearly called for the return to be allowed as soon as possible to refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors, and compensation should be paid for the property of those who decide not to return to their homes, and for every missing or injured person … “as well as international laws, especially which organize the legal framework for refugee rights, and the universal human rights principles that obligate the international community (States – International Organizations ) to help refugees return to their land and ensure their human dignity.

Based on the foregoing, we inform you of the Palestinian refugees intention to realize the right to return to their homeland in a peaceful and legal manner, under the legitimacy of the United Nations and the international community and with a legal reference based on international humanitarian law, international human rights law and United Nations resolutions relevant to the Palestinian cause.

general_assembly_adopts_newresolutioninfocus

United Nations General Assembly

Call for Support and Assistance:

We expect the Israeli occupation forces to use excessive and lethal force against the unarmed participants in the great return march. To avoid casualties, and based on the rights granted to civilians in the occupied territories under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which the occupation state signed and its Additional Protocol I of 1977, and under the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, which incorporated certain acts considered to be war crimes, the most important of which were: “deliberately directing attacks against civilians, civilian sites, personnel or facilities for humanitarian assistance functions as well as the deliberate launching of a military attack that may result human and material losses,” we urge you to exert pressure on your governments and force them to:

  • Exert sufficient political and diplomatic pressure to pressure the Israeli Occupation to respect human rights and prevent them from resorting to the use of excessive force or the implementation of any crime or violation.
  • Compel the Israeli occupation state to comply with General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 as one of the conditions for its acceptance as a member of the United Nations at the time.
  • Obligate the Israeli occupation state to adhere to the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was issued on December 12, 1948, and was one of the conditions of its acceptance as a member of the United Nations, where the second paragraph of Article 13 states that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his country or to return to his country.
  • Obligate the Israeli occupation state to implement the International resolutions relating to the return of the Palestinian refugees, including the UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, and all relevant resolutions as an inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, most important of which is Resolution 3236 of 22 November 1974, which in paragraph 2: “Reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return”.
  • Compel the Government of the occupation, as a State party to the Refugee Convention and Protocol, to not detain migrants and asylum-seekers, and not to criminalize asylum-seekers for irregular entry.

I’ll be writing more about this very important action as it unfolds. This week, I’m sending a letter to my two U.S. Senators and Congresswoman with a copy of this blog post, making them aware of The Great Return March. I’m also writing a letter to my local paper and will try to tie this action to something local so that they’ll print it.

Bravo to the Coordination Committee.  These future leaders of Palestine give me hope, just as the youth in America give me hope.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, Uncategorized, United Nations