Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dem Party Platform Disappoints

climate march 1

What’s there to say about the 80-page draft Democratic Party Platform? There’s something in it for everyone, maybe that’s why it’s so long. It’s full of lofty goals and language that promises the moon.  As a life-long Democrat, I found myself agreeing with 90+% of it, and taking notes to tweak it here and there.

The light-bulb went on about half way through my review when I realized that my “tweaks” actually pointed to a much bigger problem.

Even if the Democratic Party could make good on its intentions — and we all know it will require the Democrats to regain control of the Senate, build a stronger majority in the House, and win the Presidency in 2020! — this draft platform reads like a well-worn, dusty paperback from the 1990’s with ideas that might have galvanized my parents’ generation.

Sadly it’s not a platform for the 21st Century, for the young adults and children who are going to inherit the mess that the Democrats and Republicans (MY GENERATION) have bequeathed to them.

As a political statement, it’s understandable that the Democratic Party wants to distinguish itself from the ghastly failures of the Trump Administration. Nearly every paragraph begins with a description of the evil that has befallen our nation in the past four years, followed by how the Democrats are going to do things much differently, and so much better. Certainly, a breath of fresh air. I suspect most Democrats (maybe even some Republicans) will read this draft Platform and cheer the drafters.

we are oneTHIS PLATFORM IS NOT MUCH DIFFERENT NOR BETTER THAN THE DEMOCRATIC PLATFORMS OF A BYGONE ERA.  It’s simply better than Trump, and setting the bar as low as that is not how the Democratic Party should be measuring itself. Instead, the Democratic Party needs to measure itself by the challenges facing future generations of Americans.

#1 Climate chaos is an existential threat.  The draft platform includes all of the talking points that any good Democrat wants to hear about climate change (with the exception of the inclusion of nuclear energy) but it falls flat in elevating climate decision-making to the central focus it must have in every aspect of our lives, and in our government.

#2 Global relationships and struggles are confirming the undeniable fact that we are truly one.  Yet, the Democratic Party leaders (as the draft Platform reveals) still believe in the 20th century paradigm of us versus them; with a top-down, hierarchical worldview that belies reality, and the next generation of leaders around the world knows it.

#3 The economy of the 21st century will not look like the economy of the 20th.  Yet, the Democratic Party doesn’t acknowledge how the future is evolving so rapidly and profoundly different from our recent past.  The global pandemic is opening up opportunities to recreate our lives and hasten towards a more just future for everyone (Americans as well as the global south), but the Democratic Party clearly doesn’t see it and can’t articulate that future, much less set us on a path towards it.

 

Lora and friendI wasn’t surprised when I came to the very last page of the draft Democratic Party Platform and found how the draft addresses Israel and Palestine.  It captures the fossilized thinking that permeates the Democratic Party leadership, and the inability of the Party to recognize and understand the new reality on the ground.

Democrats believe a strong, secure, and democratic Israel is vital to the interests of the United States. Our commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself, and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad.

Democrats recognize the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian. That’s why we will work to help bring to an end a conflict that has brought so much pain to so many. We support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders and upholds the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.

Democrats oppose any unilateral steps by either side—including annexation—that undermine prospects for two states. Democrats will continue to stand against incitement and terror. We oppose settlement expansion. We believe that while Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Democrats will restore U.S.-Palestinian diplomatic ties and critical assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, consistent with U.S. law. We oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, while protecting the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech.

Women in Black Stop the OccupationI won’t dignify these last three paragraphs of the Democratic Party Platform with a critique because I honestly don’t believe the Party leaders are capable of hearing, much less understanding, a thoughtful response.

I’m going to work as hard as I can to get fresh new thinking into the halls of Congress and into the White House. The next Democratic Party Platform needs to be drafted by 20- and 30-somethings who will have a stake in the future of our country. Clearly, the old fogies don’t have a clue.

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Filed under Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

Anti-Racist Resources

Black Lives Matter signJuly 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documentary film “Birth of a Movement” available here.

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

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

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

Check it all out here.

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

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

Check it all out here.

No Longer Accepting

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

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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Palestinian Struggles for Rights and a Political End-Game

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

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

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

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

 

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

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

How does the unbearable status quo change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Democratic State

About ten or twelve years ago I had an interesting conversation with an American Jew in Albuquerque, New Mexico about the future of Israel and Palestine. He expressed the view shared by many Americans at the time that the Palestinians were getting the short end of the stick but Israelis really had no choice but to maintain the occupation in order to protect themselves.

He knew I’d visited Gaza for a week or two in 2004, and had traveled through the West Bank and Jerusalem as a tourist.  So he asked me what I thought the future held in store for both peoples, intimating that his vision of two states with a permanent occupation of one was inevitable.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied “one country between the river and the sea where every person is treated equally”. I’m not sure where I got that idea, whether reading or talking with someone more knowledgeable than me.  But even then I knew that a big part of the problem was a failure of imagination.  My Jewish American friend thought I was nuts; we haven’t talked since.

Now, thankfully, there are many so-called nuts traveling around the world promoting the idea of a one democratic state in Israel – Palestine.  Last week I listened in to a Zoom meeting with some of the leaders of the One Democratic State Campaign. Check out their website in Arabic and English. I learned that this one state idea is not new. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the Nakba of 1948 and after, had promoted this vision in the PLO’s National Charter, abandoning it for the two-state solution only in 1988.Loss of Land

The proponents of the One Democratic State (ODS) campaign believe that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a good strategy but the Palestinians lack an end goal. To paraphrase what I heard on the Zoom call: “If you don’t have a political goal, all of the strategies in the world won’t accomplish anything.” The One Democratic State campaign provides the goal.

“The only way forward to a genuine and viable political settlement is to dismantle the colonial apartheid regime that has been imposed over historic Palestine, replacing it with a new political system based on full civil equality, implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return and the building of a system that addresses the historic wrongs committed on the Palestinian people by the Zionist movement.”

The One Democratic State campaign has ten key points:

  1. A Single Constitutional Democracy. One Democratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as one country belonging to all its citizens, including Palestinian refugees who will be able to return to their homeland. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the consent of the governed. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, stand for office and contribute to the country’s governance.
  2. Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in Israel or the Occupied Territory. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from where they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property of the refugees and/or compensate them. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those choosing to immigrate to the country.
  3. Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices may discriminate among its citizens on the basis of national or social origin, color, gender, language, religion or political opinion, or sexual orientation. A single citizenship confers on all the State’s residents the right to freedom of movement, the right to reside anywhere in the country, and equal rights in every domain.
  4. Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and culture can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group, party or collectivity have the ability to leverage any control or domination over others. Parliament will not have the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community under the Constitution.
  5. Moving from Decolonization to Post-Colonialism. The genuine liberation of Palestinians and Israelis requires a process of thorough decolonization through which we may reach collective justice, peace security and reconciliation. A new national narrative must be constructed that “writes the native Palestinians back in.” Israeli Jews must acknowledge both the national rights of the Palestinian people and past colonial crimes. In return, and based on an egalitarian democracy, Palestinians will accept them as legitimate citizens and neighbors, thereby ending Zionist settler colonialism and entering into a new postcolonial relationship of accommodation, normalization and reconciliation.
  6. Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The State shall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
  7. Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve justice, and this includes social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the land. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
  8. Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The State shall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
  9. Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in a Middle East that respects its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies, yet strives for equality, freedom of thought and innovation. Achieving a just political settlement in Palestine, followed by a thorough process of decolonization, will contribute measurably to these efforts.
  10. International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as part of the progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that is just, egalitarian and free of any oppression, racism, imperialism and colonialism.

I personally know some Israeli Jews and many Palestinians who reject this notion of One Democratic State. In a nutshell, the Israeli Jews (the ones I know) believe it’s a security issue and (the hard core Zionists) believe their right to the land supersedes the Palestinians’ rights. On the other hand, the Palestinians (the ones I know) believe the past and present injustices are so horrendous that the occupation must be dismantled before they will even talk or entertain a One Democratic State.

Of course, I know many Israeli Jews and Palestinians who would gladly embrace the One Democratic State, but I don’t know if there’s a critical mass on either side to move this program forward.

I hope no one closes the door on the One Democratic State campaign until they’ve read the Ten Points mentioned above, and talked about the future they want to leave their children.

I suspect it will take a lot of friends from the international community to help, but InshAllah it will happen.

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To Dream the Impossible Dream: One Democratic State

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

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

Iris Keltz explains the zoom meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Intolerance for the other

A brief message to myself more than anyone else.

Recent events and communications have focused my attention on “the other” and the world’s intolerance for “the other”.

Some concrete examples might help.

ApeirogonA Palestinian-American author condemned an Irish-American author’s book about Palestine. Colum McCann‘s novel (Apeirogon) is about two families (a Palestinian family in the occupied West Bank and an Israeli family in Jerusalem) who each suffer the death of a child due to the violence perpetrated by the other side.  The Palestinian-American author criticizes the book:

Along comes a novelist, who is so moved by this unusual friendship, the story behind it, and what he feels it represents of hope for the future of the nation that he decides to write a book about them. It is a kind of amplifying-the-voice-of-peace endeavour (sic), born from the stubborn belief that anything can be solved by the benevolent enthusiasm of well-meaning folks.

I do not know McCann, though I suspect he wrote this book with a sense of solidarity and a desire to foster “dialogue”. But it is possible to do great harm with the noblest of intentions. The rhetoric of dialogue can be alluring – the idea that talking to find common humanity is all it takes to dismantle structural racism and notions of ethnocentric supremacy. It can make all kinds of people, even victims themselves, become purveyors of injustice. (emphasis added)

The second example is a Palestinian activist in Gaza (Rami Aman) who was recently arrested by Hamas for engaging in a Zoom chat with Israeli peace activists. Perhaps naively, it appears both sides were hoping to understand “the other” better. I’ve written about Rami and normalization here and here.

Both examples illustrate one of the biggest impediments to the future survival of the human species.

!*!*!*!*! Are you serious? !*!*!*!*!

Here’s my thesis in a nutshell. (I’m giving a lot of thought about how best to elaborate on the thesis, and hope to in the future. InshaAllah)

Humans face many challenges today, and they will continue to face many more which are arguably life-threatening. (Take a minute and think about the challenges —- from the small to the existential.) 

How have we made it this far? Those among us with a good dose of testosterone might conclude that it was the spear, sword, gun, and the individual’s strength that ensured “survival of the fittest“.  I disagree.

I believe it’s our ability to cooperate and empathize with “the other” that has allowed humans to achieve much, and ultimately to survive.

I can hear the howls of protest and derision even as I write.  I will summarize what I hear simply by saying that cooperation and empathy are not qualities of weakness or naivety, and they certainly don’t require anyone to ignore danger posed by “the other”.

However, survival requires that each one of us recognize our self in “the other” — and accept “the other” is a part of me.  (A LOT MORE ON THAT IN ANOTHER POST)

Sadly, our human species seems to be evolving in the opposite direction, ultimately a dead end, and a path destined to bring much suffering along the way.

It’s far easier for me to conjure up “the other” than it is for me to conjure up “the larger family” … “we are one”.   I can see our differences and easily ignore our similarities.

So what does this thesis have to do with Israel – Palestine and the two examples I set out above? Don’t be fooled. It is

  • not to forget who is the occupier and who is the occupied
  • not to forget the past and current injustices
  • not to equate all voices and all perspectives as valid

It is simply to see “the other” as a member of “the larger family” … “we are one” … flaws and all.

We are losing that ability to see “the other” in this evolutionary way every time we dismiss “the other” — such as Colum McCann’s book and Rami Aman’s Zoom chat. we are one

McCann’s voice contributes a meaningful perspective about “the other” regardless of whether you are an Israeli considering your Palestinian neighbors, or a Palestinian considering your Israeli neighbors, or anyone else in the world considering the human suffering in the Middle East.

Aman’s voice on that Zoom chat contributed a meaningful perspective about “the other” too—as did the young Israelis on the other side of that chat.

When anyone attempts to shut down these examples of seeing “the other”, he or she is simply trying to redirect the human species down the dead end cul-de-sac.  It saddens me and I pray they don’t succeed.

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 27

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

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

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

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

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

Critical thinking in the age of COVID-19 and climate change

Humans are lazy thinkers — me included.

Give me a book, a video, a manuscript that supports my worldview, and I’m a happy camper.  (We’ve all heard of confirmation bias.)

This week I was challenged to reconsider two beliefs: one dealing with COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders and the other, a film that Michael Moore released called Planet of the Humans.

My first response in both cases had nothing to do with my brain but with my gut. I didn’t want to be corrected nor embarrassed if my initial opinion had been wrong. Maybe I could just dig in my heels and “prove” why I was right and explain why those who disagreed with me were wrong.

Then I decided that I’d better have a closer look. Asking others to use their critical thinking skills means nothing if I’m not willing to challenge myself.

Case #1 – COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders

In the first case, a thoughtful friend of mine from Colorado told me he believes the stay-at-home orders are unwise and unnecessary. I watched the interview of two doctors who presented loads of statistics and personal experience to support their strong conclusion that the stay-at-home orders are not based on hard science and are actually contra-indicated.  Their position flies in the face of nearly every medical expert we’re hearing from in the world.

I’m not an epidemiologist and don’t have an ounce of comfort when throwing numbers and statistics around. How should I evaluate this claim about the stay-at-home orders? Here’s what I did.

  1. Who are these two doctors making the claim and can I discern what their motives might be? They admit they’re “entrepreneurs” in the interview, they own the largest testing site in Kern County, and mention that people are fearful of coming in for a test. The last hint was a comment Dr. Erickson dropped about “constitutional rights” in his answer to one of the reporter’s questions. From this I surmise that they’re concerned about their business, and they’re politically conservative individuals which may (may not) be the motivation for their contrarian views.
  2. What are other professionals and colleagues saying about their claim? I found several news reports disagreeing with them, and I found no one else that publicly supports them. Dr. Navin Amin’s interview directly contradicted Dr. Erickson.
  3. How do I weigh the evidence and form an opinion? Since I can’t bring any independent scientific or medical expertise to the question, I weigh the opinions of others and judge the pros and cons of each side. What are the positives of removing the stay-at-home orders and opening up our communities? What are the downsides? What are the positives of keeping the stay-at-home orders in place for the time being? What are the downsides?

Factoring 1, 2, and 3 together, I believe it’s wise to keep the stay-at-home orders in place while ramping up our COVID-19 testing abilities, and preparing for re-opening our communities based on clear and non-discriminatory criteria.

Case #2 – Planet for the Humans

In the second example that challenged my critical thinking skills, Planet of the Humans made my head explode.  You can watch the full movie here (1 hour 40 minutes).

My take-away message from the film is three-fold: clean energy comes with an environmental cost which we’re often not talking about or taking into consideration; consumerism and a technological fix to our rapidly deteriorating planet is not the answer; and human population growth exceeds the Earth’s limits and we’re not talking about that much either.

I watched the film earlier this week when there were fewer than 200,000 views. Today there are more than 2 million views. Planet of the Humans is certainly getting attention and stimulating discussion. It’s also generating considerable criticism; enough that filmsforaction.org decided to remove and then restore the film to its website.

We are disheartened and dismayed to report that the film is full of misinformation – so much so that for half a day we removed the film from the site.

Ultimately, we decided to put it back up because we believe media literacy, critique and debate is the best solution to misinformation.

You can read the entire statement from Films for Action here. I applaud their decision.

The criticisms of the film can be boiled down to:

  1. the filmmaker didn’t include positive messages about the wind & solar potential (there appears to be universal agreement now that biomass is destructive); its message was totally negative against green energy without sharing alternatives.
  2. the film was a hit piece on the environmental leaders and groups that have earned the trust of generations of Americans.
  3. the film was manipulative and deceptive, using clever editing and misinformation to shape the viewer’s opinion about the topic.

Check out the following for more details:

This review from Vote to Survive (which details both its merits and flaws).

“A movie that purports to care about the environment and the future of humanity and yet seeks to undermine support for the very things we must do to save this planet, and ourselves, is worse than a disappointment. It’s reckless.”

This in-depth review from Ketan Joshi who says the film’s contents are old, really old, and by implication, irrelevant.

“Later, they visit the Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) solar farm, only to feign sadness and shock when they discover it’s been removed, leaving a dusty field of sand. In the desert. “Then Ozzie and I discovered that the giant solar arrays had been razed to the ground”, he moans. “It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at. A solar dead zone”. Which is a weird one, because the latest 2020 satellite imagery shows a site full of solar arrays, and a total absence of any “dead zones”. The damn thing is generating electricity.

This review from Neal Livingston.

Planet of the Humans uses the most worn-out editing techniques to emotionally manipulate the viewer. We see windmills from the early 1970’s, the early days of wind power, which are long gone. We see on the street facile interviews, with film editing techniques to make environmental leaders look dumb. We see a dying orangutang as the film ends to make you cry. But nowhere does the film show us how to get off fossil fuels, by showing us where renewables are working. Nor does the film help us to stop forest destruction, by showing us places that have taken steps to protect nature, and there are many places that have done so.

Bill McKibben’s response (to get his side of the story).

Like the film-maker, I previously personally supported burning bio-mass as an alternative to fossil fuels—in my case, when the rural college where I teach replaced its oil furnaces with a wood-chip burner more than a decade ago, I saluted it. But as more scientists studied the consequences of large-scale biomass burning, the math began to show that it would put large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere at precisely the wrong moment: if we break the back of the climate system now, it won’t matter if forests suck it up fifty years hence. And as soon as that became clear I began writing and campaigning on those issues. Here’s a piece of mine from 2016 that couldn’t be much clearer, and another from 2019 in the New Yorker about the fights in the Southeast, and another from 2020 as campaigners fought to affect policy in the Northeast. The other side has definitely noticed—here’s an article from the biomass industry attacking me, 350.org, and others. I’m reasonably sure that most of the valiant people here and in the UK that have been fighting this fight will vouch that I’ve been a help, not a hindrance.

I’ve watched the film a second time, thinking about the criticism leveled against it, and have the same opinion. The filmmaker got me thinking about a very important issue that many people (even environmental leaders and organizations) don’t discuss.

We need to look at ourselves, our lifestyles, our consumption of the Earth’s resources, our greed, our economic system, our belief system — all of it — and make big changes.  No, we need to reinvent ourselves! Richard Heinberg (The End of Growth), Richard York, Nina Jablonski and others said it very well in this film, and their voices are a wake-up call.

I certainly understand why Bill McKibben, Tom Solomon (350 New Mexico), Michael E. Mann and some establishment environmental groups might take umbrage with Planet of the Humans. It’s really, really uncomfortable to have one’s worldview challenged, and this film certainly does just that. It also calls into question whether there’s an unholy alliance between these environmental groups and the titans of our capitalistic system. Interestingly, none of the responses to the film touch on that last point at all, or dispute those assertions made by the filmmaker.

Use your critical thinking skills —- and you may come away with a different conclusion than mine —- but THAT is the whole point of critical thinking and, I venture to say, the making of this film.  The filmmaker is making us think about the issues he has raised. Good for him!

 

 

 

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Filed under Climate Change, COVID-19, People, Uncategorized, Video