Category Archives: Uncategorized

AIPAC wants to shut down political speech

AIPAC is meeting in Washington, DC (Sunday through Tuesday) amidst protesters gathered outside trying to disrupt their conference. Capitol Hill is AIPAC’s target on Tuesday, March 6, where its members will be pushing their anti-Palestinian rights agenda – part of which is criminalizing the right to boycott through the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. (S.720/H.R.1697)

Checking the links for both pieces of legislation, I learned that there are 290 cosponsors in the House and 51 cosponsors in the Senate. Thankfully, my Congresswoman and two U.S. Senators from New Mexico have not cosponsored.  Next step — a call to each office to ask them to oppose these bills.  The bill’s summary includes:

This bill declares that Congress: (1) opposes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel; and (2) encourages full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 through enhanced, governmentwide, coordinated U.S.-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas.

The bill prohibits any U.S. person engaged interstate or foreign commerce from supporting:

  • any request by a foreign country to impose any boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States and that is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or
  • any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or any request by any international governmental organization to impose such a boycott.

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to the Senators last summer when the bill was first introduced to caution them that slapping civil and criminal penalties on individuals for expressing their political beliefs about Israel violates the First Amendment. Check out ACLU’s letter here.

The ACLU wrote: We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter. However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.

Unfortunately, a number of states are taking their cue from AIPAC and these Israel Anti-Boycott Acts, and they’re passing similar versions. As of October 2017, Wisconsin was the 24th state to promulgate either a law or an executive order forbidding the state from conducting business with firms engaged in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) activity targeting Israel.

The order states:  “Consistent with existing Wisconsin nondiscrimination provisions and regulations governing purchases… agencies may not execute a contract with a business entity if that entity is engaging in a boycott of Israel. Further, agencies shall reserve the right to terminate any contract with a business entity that engages in a boycott of Israel during the term of the contract.”

A teacher — Ms. Koontz — has taken the State of Kansas to federal court, challenging its anti-boycott legislation. She was qualified to train math teachers and accepted for employment, but when she refused to sign the state’s certification that she would not boycott Israel, Kansas wouldn’t hire her.

Esther Koontz Kansas teacher

Esther Koontz, Kansas teacher, credit to ACLU

In January 2018, the court ruled in her favor and granted her request for an injunction prior to trial. The Court ruled that a person doesn’t have to apply for a waiver in this type of case because of the chilling effect the Kansas law has on our First Amendment liberties. And Judge Crabtree said that Ms. Koontz is likely to win her case! Check out my blog post here for more details about her case.

Americans may have different opinions about Israel, about foreign policy issues, and about boycotts. But we should all have the same opinion about the sanctity of our right to express political opinions in whatever peaceful, nonviolent way we may choose, including boycotts. If the government comes for my speech today, it becomes much easier for the government to come for your speech tomorrow.

Change Things



Filed under People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

Crumbling Silos

We are living in silos. Each hardened and impervious, it seems.


As long as we stay put in our comfort zones and don’t venture out, life is good.  We can ignore the other silos as full of irrelevant, idiotic, foolish “deplorables” — or maybe they speak another language and our attention span is short — or maybe they just don’t interest us.

OTHER (Verb)
1. To view or act towards another group as though they are intrinsically different, alien and separate from oneself.
2. To MARGINALIZE                           

Life in my silo is just fine, thank-you-very-much!  My silo has treated me very well all these 64 years. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Western, educated white woman
  • Middle-class, white picket fence and safe, bicycle-friendly neighborhood
  • Good schools (elementary, high school, universities)
  • Extensive travel at home and abroad
  • Loving nuclear and extended family
  • Freedom to pursue nearly any idea or dream
  • No fears for my personal or my family’s safety

Why would I ever want to leave? But my silo is crumbling, along with all of the others, and it’s clear to me that I have no choice in the matter.

I saw the cracks starting years ago but it was easy enough back then to ignore and pretend it wasn’t happening. Like watching a loved one die in front of my eyes and not registering the reality of her death until she was gone.

Now, there’s simply no denying that all of the silos are crumbling, crumbling at a faster pace than ever before. Some people may pick up torches or assault rifles to protect against the “other” and some may bury their heads to avoid the messiness of “politics.”

But everyone’s silo is crumbling and the undeniable truth is that we’re all facing the same challenges of a silo-free world together.

What’s responsible for these crumbling silos?

  • The relentless onslaught of a changing climate which so many people still deny.
  • The epic failure of capitalism that is currently destroying people and environments.
  • The war machine (aka military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about) and the destruction it has wrought in so many countries, including my own.
  • The blessing and curse of the Internet. It allows people to hide and listen only to Fox News (or NPR) in their silos if they choose, but it also allows people to reach across oceans and connect with people in other silos they wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m nervous because the unknown is always scary. No one can predict what a post-silo world will look like. But I’m also excited because I catch glimmers of a much better world emerging.

This pilgrim is very thankful to be alive at this time.






Filed under Peaceful, Politics, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Outside the Margins – Beyond War


Students from the University of New Mexico have collaborated for the past two years on a project about the refugee crisis that has culminated in a new book — Outside the Margins.

Although you can purchase the book to support the good work of local groups working with refugees, the students are very clear that they want the contents and ideas of the book to get out into the world as far as possible, and so there’s no copyright restrictions. The book can be downloaded for free from the website

Outside the Margins

I attended the book’s launch at UNM on February 22, 2018.  This is a book unlike any other I’ve seen, on this topic or any other topic. Why?

Every page is a new way of communicating about the complexity of the refugee crisis in a way that attempts to be accessible to everyone, anyone.

Other define

As the students described their project and what they had learned, I thought about the lessons I first learned in Beyond War so many years ago in California.

Beyond War

The concepts in the book are difficult and simple — difficult because the world today is only beginning to understand or acknowledge these truths, and simple because these concepts are the foundation of the truth that future generations will take for granted. This book is a bridge between today and tomorrow, just as Beyond War was a bridge in the 1980s in California.




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Zero-sum logic – the existence of a people depends on the nonexistence of the other

A Palestinian scholar from Gaza, Jehad Abu Saleem, shared the following analysis in February 2018:

The collapse of life in Gaza has entered a critical stage. The eleven years of siege, isolation, and destructive wars of aggression are bearing their bitter fruits. What else but collapse will result from more than a decade of intense choking of a population of two million people. The collapse of Gaza manifests itself on every aspect of life there: rising suicide rates, crime, and new levels of poverty and impoverishment at unprecedented scales.

The siege on Gaza has become a forgotten part of the Palestinian experience under occupation. The siege was normalized despite several attempts to put an end to it. At this point, the fact that Gaza is under siege is a given. Gaza and siege became synonyms. The fact that the siege still persists despite all the attempts to end it should make us rethink the way we talk about Gaza, its history, and its place within the larger context of the Israeli occupation and control of Palestinian lives.

three evils

Much has been written and said about the siege from a humanitarian lens/framework. While a humanitarian framework can be useful when responding to urgent situations, sometimes it distracts us from the larger historical, political, and moral questions that need to be asked when we are faced by large-scale man-made crises like the one in Gaza.

The siege on Gaza is not an isolated event in the history of Palestine. It happened as part of the unfolding of a larger and much more complicated history and series of events. The siege on Gaza and its perpetuation to the current level is the logical conclusion of a situation that is inseparable from the logic that defines the relationship between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs in historic Palestine. It’s a zero-sum logic, a mutually exclusive reality in which the existence of a people depends on the nonexistence of the other.


The question haunting people in Gaza now is what will become of them in light of any future escalation. No one knows what will this look like, but what we know for sure by now, and it’s a terrifying thing: we know that we are now in a region where people’s wishes for dignity and liberation no longer mean anything. The triumph of counter-revolution backed by regional and international players has normalized acts of mass murder and depopulation of millions of people for the sake of crushing demands for liberation. We know that Palestinians are vulnerable in light of the current alignment of powers in the Middle East. All this nonsense about a so-called “resistance” camp rushing to the rescue of Palestinians is pure nonsense in light of the current geopolitical context. Gaza might end up paying the price of the normalization of what we saw in Syria, Yemen, the Sinai, and Iraq under the pretext of “war on terror.”



Filed under Gaza, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized

The magical Oud

Music can sooth the busy mind, and calm the tormented soul.  Music can bring people together, and it can lift them above their struggles.

oudFive years ago, on a beautiful evening in Gaza, I was serenaded by an Oud player and his fellow musicians for several hours. The event was a complete surprise to me, and was without a doubt one of the highlights of my visit.  I will never forget the magical feeling I had that evening. “This can’t be real.”  “This is too good to be true.”  “Someone pinch me and wake me from this dream.”

I haven’t stopped thinking of these wonderful musicians in Gaza, especially the Oud player, Yehal Adel.  You can catch a snippet of Yehal’s talent here. He composed the music and words to this beautiful song about his love for Jerusalem.

Recently I was reminded of the power of the magical Oud when I heard Rahim AlHaj play in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was playing with a group at the St. John’s United Methodist Church.

Rahim AlHaj is world famous and his performance at the Library of Congress is just a sample.  I hope I can introduce these two Oud players, and someday they may play together!

Rahim AlHaj was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud (Arabic lute) at age nine. He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ever since. Rahim has performed around the globe and is considered one of the finest oud players in the world. His compositions evoke the experience of exile from his homeland and of new beginnings in his adopted country. In 2015 Rahim was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.

Sourena Sefati was born in Ramsar, Iran, and started playing santour (hammered dulcimer) at age 11. He won the award for best composer of Iranian music at Art University in 2006 and served as instructor at Art University and Elmi-Karbordi University in Tehran from 2008 to 2014. Sourena moved to the United States in 2014, and teaches Iranian music in Albuquerque.

Issa Malluf is a Palestinian-American native of New Mexico. Originally self-taught, Issa has become a highly skilled and internationally recognized specialist in Middle Eastern, Arabic, and North African percussion.


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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, Video


Today (Feb. 13, 2018) I learned that Israel’s travel restrictions in and out of Gaza through the Erez Border Crossing are well-documented policy, not just my imagination.

The Israeli border agency (COGAT) gloats that hundreds of Gazans enter Israel every day through Erez, but it won’t advertise that in the past year, it squeezed the number of exits by Palestinians down 51% compared to the number who crossed Erez in 2016.

GISHA, the legal center for the freedom of movement, issued a factsheet in January summarizing Israel’s travel restrictions. The entire factsheet makes my blood boil, but the following restriction elicited a silent scream.

MAKING GAZA RESIDENTS TRAVELLING ABROAD SIGN A COMMITMENT NOT TO RETURN FOR A YEAR: In February 2016, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) added a new criterion to the Status of Authorizations, a document which defines the categories of people in Gaza eligible to apply for exit permits. The criteria says that residents of Gaza can travel abroad via Erez and Allenby Bridge crossings on the condition that they sign a waiver stating that they will not request to re-enter Gaza for one year via Israel. In 2017, the practice became all the more absurd as Gaza residents whose exit from Gaza had already been approved for other reasons began to be detained at Erez Crossing until they signed the waiver. The authorities are thus essentially conditioning exit on signing the waiver. Our casework reveals that residents are being made to sign even when they do not intend to stay away one year nor have paperwork to allow them to reside in third countries and that minors were made to sign without guardians’ consent. The practice is a violation of one of the most fundamental rights – to leave and enter one’s place of residence.

Yep, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Article 13. — (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

But when did any international declaration impact Israel’s decision-making? Answer: Never.

In an act of love and solidarity, the American Friends Service Committee launched #ValentinetoGaza this year, asking friends to post photos of themselves with a Valentine poster for our friends in Gaza.

There are so many friends in Gaza I’m thinking of today, wishing I could knock down every barrier, and share a Valentine with you directly. You’re in my heart!

(Lora in Gaza in 2013 – floral arrangements are ubiquitous in Gaza

for weddings, birthdays, celebrations and Valentines Day!)



Filed under Gaza, Israel, Uncategorized

BDS Movement shines

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005, is receiving a lot of attention these days.

The stated goals of BDS are: the end of Israel’s occupation and settler colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promotion of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Netanyahu and Israel’s government want to kill the BDS Movement

On January 7, 2018 Israel published its list of NGOs that support BDS — with the intention of preventing leaders of those organizations from entering Israeli territory — and thus Palestinian territory.  A U.S. Quaker group that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 is on the list. Even Jews who support BDS are targets for Israel’s ire.

Israel, the homeland for the Jews, only wants Zionists apparently, not just any Jew.

A joint team from the Strategic Affairs and Interior ministries has already determined the parameters that will serve as a basis for barring activists from coming into the country. Those who hold senior or important positions in blacklisted organizations will be denied entry, as well as key activists, even if they hold no official position.

Mayors and establishment figures who actively and continually promote boycotts will also be prevented from entering, as will activists who arrive to Israel on behalf of or as part of a delegation initiated by one of blacklisted groups.  See the full article here.

The “Anti-BDS Law”, passed by the Knesset in March 2017, has already been used against Americans (including American Jews) traveling to Israel and against elected representatives of the French republic (MPs, MEPs, and mayors of major French cities) who wished to visit Israel and occupied Palestine, with a particular aim to meet their Palestinian counterparts. In response, the Israeli government invented a new offence: that of applying for permission to visit! (Check out this article in the Middle East Eye).

The list of organizations now banned by Israel includes:

AFPS (The Association France Palestine Solidarité)
BDS France
BDS Italy
ECCP (The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
FOA (Friends of Al-Aqsa)
IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
Norge (The Palestine Committee of Norway)
PGS (Palestine Solidarity Association in Sweden)
Palestinagrupperna i Sverige
PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
War on Want
BDS Kampagne
AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)
AMP (American Muslims for Palestine)
Code Pink
JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace)
NSJP (National Students for Justice in Palestine)
USCPR (US Campaign for Palestinian Rights)
BDS Chile
BDS South Africa
BNC (BDS National Committee)

I was questioned for five hours by three different Israeli security officials in March 2016 when I was crossing into the West Bank from Jordan. And what did they want to know? Their chief concern was whether or not I supported BDS. One security official found photos I had posted on Facebook from my visit to Paris a few months earlier, including pictures of a BDS rally. She accused me of being the organizer of this BDS rally. I told her I support BDS because it’s a peaceful, nonviolent form of protest against the occupation but I was not the organizer of this BDS rally in Paris. She responded: “You’re a liar!”

King Hussein bridge

I’m allowed into the West Bank after 5 hours of questioning 

I was eventually allowed to enter, thanks (I believe) to the support I received from my Jewish Israeli friend who invited me to visit her kibbutz. The Israeli security officials had called her twice that afternoon — her responses must have been my ticket in.

But what is the government of Israel afraid of when it appears to be waging a global war against the BDS movement? Most undergraduate Psych majors would interpret Israel’s public relations campaign against BDS as a sign of Israel’s fear of the movement’s growing success.

If the BDS movement achieves its goal, Israel as a Jewish-majority homeland for the Jews will cease to exist, and the occupation will also end. It worked in South Africa; it realistically has every chance of working in Israel-Palestine.  THAT’S what Israel is afraid of — the end of the status quo.

Now it’s incumbent on BDS activists to share a narrative of what life in Israel-Palestine will look like for both Israelis and Palestinians after the occupation ends. Even though Israel is by far stronger than Palestine today, it is far weaker in spirit and imagination.  And fear among Israelis obscures their vision of a world beyond occupation.  Palestinians and international supporters of BDS must provide this alternative vision to replace their fear.

Norwegian lawmaker wants to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize on BDS

A few days ago, a Norwegian lawmaker nominated the BDS Movement for the Nobel Peace Prize.  He said:

“This nomination reflects the growing international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, dignity and freedom from the Israeli occupation.”

“If the international community commits to supporting BDS to end the occupation of Palestinian territory and the oppression of the Palestinian people, new hope will be lit for a just peace for Palestinians, Israelis and all people across the Middle East.”

“My hope is that this nomination can be one humble but necessary step towards bringing forth a more dignified and beautiful future for all peoples of the region.”




Filed under Israel, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Uncategorized