Category Archives: US Policy

Blue Lake

A few years ago, a Palestinian man from Gaza visited me in New Mexico. In addition to the typical tourist sites, I wanted him to see the indigenous people in Taos Pueblo, thinking he might draw some connections, or simpatico as we say in New Mexico.

Quite by accident, we happened to visit Taos Pueblo on a Feast Day, and we witnessed the music, dancing and solemn ceremonies involved in the tradition of these people. My Palestinian friend didn’t say much, and I’m not sure if he felt any kinship or connection with Taos Pueblo. Maybe I had assumed too much.

I wish I had told him the story about Blue Lake.

Blue Lake

Taos Pueblo members believe that their tribe was created from the sacred waters of the Blue Lake, or Ba Whyea. From the 1600s, the Spanish and Mexican authorities recognized the Taos Pueblo land rights. And when the U.S. government took control of the Southwest, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) also recognized the Pueblo’s sovereignty over their land and Blue Lake.

Then in 1906, by Executive Order President Theodore Roosevelt placed Blue Lake and the surrounding watershed into the hands of the Forest Service as part of the Carson National Forest.  For the next 64 years, Taos Pueblo leaders struggled to regain their sacred land and waters. They traveled to Washington, DC many times to try and convince Congress to return Blue Lake to them.

In testimony before Congress in 1969, Paul Bernal explained, “In all of its programs the Forest Service proclaims the supremacy of man over nature; we find this viewpoint contradictory to the realities of the natural world and to the nature of conservation. Our tradition and our religion require people to adapt their lives and activities to our natural surroundings so that men and nature mutually support the life common to both. The idea that man must subdue nature and bend its processes to his purposes is repugnant to our people.”

A good history of the Blue Lake controversy can be found here. Finally, in 1970, President Nixon approved a bill that returned full sovereignty of Blue Lake and its watershed to Taos Pueblo.

In speaking of the Bill’s significance, President Nixon stated, “This is a bill that represents justice, because in 1906 an injustice was done in which land involved in this bill, 48,000 acres, was taken from the Indians involved, the Taos Pueblo Indians. The Congress of the United States now returns that land to whom it belongs … I can’t think of anything more appropriate or any action that could make me more proud as President of the United States.”

The Palestinians have been struggling since 1948 to regain sovereignty over their lands, by negotiation, by violence, and most often by nonviolent Sumud, or steadfastness. There are certainly big differences between the struggle for Blue Lake and the occupation of Palestine, but I also see some similarities.

  • Both indigenous peoples have a spiritual connection to the lands that were taken from them.
  • Both cases involved Anglo settlers moving in and pushing out the indigenous people with an arrogance and sense of entitlement that makes me cringe.
  • Both Palestine and Taos have generations of younger people who learned the stories and lessons passed down from their elders about the injustices perpetrated years ago; and memories don’t die.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine will have to end before there is justice in the Middle East, but I have no doubt that the Palestinians will find their justice, as Taos Pueblo did in 1970.

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Filed under Israel, Occupation, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, US Policy

The Goal versus the War

Trump’s policy of separating young children from their parents when they cross the border has galvanized Americans of all stripes to stand up and fight back. I’m just as appalled but I think we have an opportunity here to really wake up and smell the coffee, and I’m afraid most of us don’t see it.

Flouting the law, and lying about it, has been this Administration’s modus operandi since January 2017. Disdain for human rights, disregard for environmental protections, and disgust for the social safety net have all been blazingly transparent.

The actions at the US-Mexico border are not unexpected, and certainly not in isolation. When a protester’s sign in El Paso caught my attention – “All People in All Countries have Value” – I realized here’s a chance to connect the dots.

Palestinian children have value, Syrian children have value, Yemeni children have value, just as the children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have value. American children sleeping on the streets hungry have value. We may not be able to improve the lives of every child, but we can certainly refrain from doing harm to these children around the world, including at our southern border.

Closed 2

Here’s our opportunity to expand our wellspring of empathy and activism consistent with our country’s highest values and ideals.

For years, Israeli forces have used U.S. made weapons and munitions in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law: Hellfire missiles, tear gas, Apache helicopters, White phosphorous — even militarized Caterpillar bulldozers. Our tax dollars are killing Palestinian children “of tender age” just as directly as we’re caging young immigrant children like animals.

Most recently, Amnesty International identified US-made Remington M24 rifles being used by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians during protests along the fence with Gaza. Over 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands critically injured, including paramedics, reporters, and children.

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Changing this Administration’s policies at the border might be a short-term goal, but educating and motivating Americans to advocate, vote and demand that our government reflect our deepest held values for all children is the war that needs to be fought and won.

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

All People Have Value

 

Kids and signsTrump’s policy of separating young children from their parents when they cross the border has galvanized Americans of all stripes to stand up and fight back.

Governors (Democrats and Republicans) are refusing to deploy their state’s National Guard to the border; television journalists are shedding tears on camera; mental health professionals are telling us about the long-term trauma these children will suffer; and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are telling the Administration to end this outrageous policy while proclaiming that “America is better than this!”

Marchers gathering 3

Protests were organized in many U.S. cities this week. I joined 500+ people in El Paso to March about 1.5 – 2 miles to the detention facility where many immigrants are being processed through the system after their children are removed and taken somewhere else. We chanted, yelled and some swore while the national and international media captured our stories.

By every measure, this action was successful, and Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso must be recognized for its effective organizing efforts.  Within 24 hours, President Trump had signed an Executive Order ending the separation policy.

Was it the media attention, or the Governors’ actions, or Congress, or a combination of many actions that caused Trump to reverse course? We may never know. But I have no doubt that when Americans are aroused and angry, we can move mountains.

All People in All Countries Have Value

Then why aren’t Americans aroused and angry over our government’s funding and support for Israel’s systematic killing, maiming and traumatizing of Palestinian children in Gaza?

If “All People in All Countries have Value” — how do Americans not recognize and become incensed with our government’s complicity in Israel’s war crimes?

[This isn’t the blog post to explain or convince anyone about Israel’s war crimes, but I acknowledge that lack of education may be part of the answer to my question.]

If Rachel Maddow and other journalists started crying on camera when reporting about American-made (and American financed) bombs falling on Palestinian children in Gaza, would that move anyone?

If a few Governors proclaimed their distaste for U.S. priorities, such as allocating $3+ billion each year to Israel’s war machine while cutting social programs at home, would that move anyone?

If there were simultaneous demonstrations and marches in large U.S. cities protesting Israel’s willful and deliberate killing of Palestinian children, would that move anyone?

Probably not.

Most humans (not just Americans) have a finite wellspring of empathy which seems to be doled out sparingly, as though we’re fearful that the well might run dry.  Immigrant families crossing the southern border with their children? That we can get our hearts and minds around. Palestinian families half way around the world, not so much, even though our government is directly responsible for the suffering of both.

Love Thy Neighbor

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Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018

I didn’t want to write about anti-Semitism until a Jewish family member called me an anti-Semite. Specifically, she said some of my writing and posting on social media was anti-Semitic.

Naturally, I was hurt. I’ve watched her blossom from an infant into a confident young mother of four, raising her children to follow in the family’s orthodox Jewish beliefs and traditions. I’ve honored and cherished her family’s beliefs by attending family weddings, funerals and other important gatherings every year. Calling me an anti-Semite was a slap in the face that still stings to this day.

I responded by sharing my disappointment, and explaining that nothing I’ve written or posted can be construed as a hatred of Jews or the Jewish faith. She’s conflating legitimate criticism of Israel (WHICH I WRITE A LOT ABOUT!) with hatred of Jews.

It’s been over two years and we’ve never returned to the conversation, but I’ve been reading and learning a lot about anti-Semitism, especially from the book published in 2017 by Jewish Voice for Peace — “On Anti-Semitism—Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice”. More about that later.

Now I know that my family member is confused because the State of Israel has been deliberately promoting a new definition of anti-Semitism. The idea for a new definition started when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379 in 1975 equating Zionism with racism. (It was revoked in 1991.) Antony Lerman, the founding editor of Antisemitism World Report from 1992 to 1998, writes:

Zionists have always understood full well that antisemitism helped advance the cause, even as they promoted Zionism as the solution to the scourge of antisemitism. Exploiting this dualism today is absolutely central to far-right Zionist ideology and to right-wing Zionism’s Jewish and non-Jewish fellow travelers.

The latest iteration of this new anti-Semitism is the bill introduced in Congress this week, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018 which includes an overly-broad, political definition of anti-Semitism, that includes criticism of the state of Israel.  The Arab-American Institute provides a good summary and the reasons why it should be opposed, see here.

WIB Salaam

Our members of Congress should hear quickly and forcefully from their constituents about the troublesome aspects of this bill.  Here’s one way to communicate with them quickly by completing the online message.  I’m going to call each of them and tell them that even the author of the working definition utilized in this legislation went on record in 2016 explaining that he believed this approach to be an “affront to academic freedom,” and “unconstitutional and unwise.”

My family member can be excused for her reaction to my criticism of Israel, but lawmakers must be held to account.

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Filed under Israel, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

Shooting fish in a barrel

Life is unbearable in Gaza. It’s been unlivable for years for the 2+ million Palestinians trapped there, but now it’s at the breaking point. Many (most?) feel there’s nothing to lose by going to the eastern border and facing down the Israeli marksmen who are shooting them like fish in a barrel. Today 55+ Palestinians have been killed (including a journalist, a medic and a Palestinian with no legs) and hundreds wounded for demanding their rights enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194.

Less than 100 miles away in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and others are in a celebratory mood as the U.S. flag is raised over the new U.S. Embassy. They don’t even acknowledge the slaughter occurring in Gaza.

Gaza slaughter

I’ve called my two U.S. Senators (Udall and Heinrich) and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham, demanding that they condemn the slaughter of innocent, unarmed Palestinians. I want them to join the other members of Congress who have spoken out against the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters, including: Senators Feinstein, Warren, Leahy and Sanders; as well as the following House members:

Barbara Lee (CA 13)
Alan Lowenthal (CA 47)
Lloyd Doggett (TX 35)
Hank Johnson (GA 04)
Danny Davis (IL 07)
Jan Schakowsky (IL 09)
John Yarmuth (KY 03)
Jamie Raskin (MD 08)
Keith Ellison (MN 05)
Betty McCollum (MN 04)
David Price (NC 04)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ 12)
Earl Blumenauer (OR 03)
Steve Cohen (TN 09)
Gerry Connolly (VA 11)
Peter Welch (VT 1)
Mark Pocan (WI 02)
Pramila Jayapal (WA 07).

My eyes are now focused on Udall, Heinrich and Lujan-Grisham.  I’m going to hound them until they come clean with a statement condemning Israel’s slaughter of innocents.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/269659083″>Voices of the Siege</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3079357″>The Palestine Chronicles</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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When the superpower soils his pants

Have you read it, the Iran Nuclear “deal”?  I haven’t.

I don’t intend to either.

President Trump says it’s a bad deal for the U.S. …. the “worst deal he’s ever seen.”  One commentator agrees, and notes that the agreement contained the seeds of its own destruction. And, of course, Israel’s Netanyahu praised Trump’s decision to withdraw from the “deal.”

World leaders from around the globe disagreed. The UK, France, and Germany all tried to dissuade Trump from his dangerous course of a “mix of unilateralism and isolationism” — “unisolationism” — by withdrawing unilaterally from the Iran “deal”.

Even Russia and China support the agreement and scolded Trump.

China’s special envoy to the Middle East, Gong Xiaosheng, said in a press conference in Iran the agreement promoted peace. “Having a deal is better than no deal. Dialogue is better than confrontation.” he said according to Xinhua news agency.

Yevgeny Serebrennikov, first deputy head of the defense and security committee in the Russian Upper House of Parliament also told RIA news agency Trump’s decision could put the nuclear talks between the US and North Korea at risk

Putin warned of the threat of “aggressive nationalism” and “claims to exceptionalism” at a World War II victory parade in Red Square on Wednesday. “All humankind and countries need to recognize that the world is very fragile,” he said.

And Stephen Zunes, a political commentator from the University of San Francisco, opined that Trump’s decision to withdraw is a “win” for the Iranian hardliners.  “We told you so! You can’t trust those Americans.”

As a mother with years of experience cleaning up after toddlers with soiled diapers, my response to Trump’s mess is to give some parental advice to the rest of the world.

It’s time now to send the child to his room.

You can do that by boycotting the United States (and Israel too).  Don’t visit or vacation in the U.S. — don’t buy U.S. exports (predominantly weapons) — don’t invite U.S. leaders to speak or engage with your country — don’t talk about the U.S. in any forum. And certainly don’t entertain any discussions about the Trump brand.

I know it will be difficult because the U.S. has played such an out-sized role in the global economy and politics since WWII, but now it’s time to send the child to his room. Time out might knock some sense into him.

 

 

 

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#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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