Category Archives: Video

#FreeRamiAman

A Palestinian man has been arrested and held in detention in Gaza for the crime of participating in “normalization” activities with Israelis. His name is Rami Aman. For the past six months, as far as anyone knows, he hasn’t been charged or given an opportunity to respond in court.

To be clear, this is nothing new for either Hamas in Gaza, or the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the occupied territories, or the civil Israeli government in Israel. All four threaten to punish civilians who collaborate with the “enemy.” Israel forbids its citizens from visiting with Palestinians. The IDF routinely arrests Palestinian children and hauls them off to military detention. Some remain in detention for many months.

Rami Aman certainly knew what the risks were when he joined that Zoom call with Israelis, but he had nothing to hide. Unlike the “collaborators” who sneak around and work with the enemy to undermine the Palestinian military objectives, Rami wants Israelis to know Palestinians; and vice versa. He understands that the future depends on both sides understanding the other.

A former research consultant with Amnesty International in Gaza saw the zoom meeting and tagged Hamas officials to bring to their attention this forbidden “normalization” activity.

“So what’s wrong with talking? What’s normalization?”

Mike Merryman-Lotze with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) answers both questions in this excellent piece he wrote in 2018. My personal understanding of the subject was greatly improved after reading Mike’s story this Spring and his words of caution; I highly recommend it.

Mike ends with the following points:

“First, we should recognize that Palestinians and Israelis are getting together and cooperating but on their own terms. One of the key problems with many past people-to-people programs is that they were initiated and led by outside actors who imposed their own goals and terms on interactions. The normalization framework pushed forward by Palestinians is a reassertion of ownership of the terms of interaction by those most impacted by the systematic injustice of Israel’s occupation and inequality. Normalization principles transform interactions, moving them from coexistence-focused dialogue sessions to action-based interaction with the goal of transformation through co-resistance against injustice. If you are thinking about supporting dialogue or people-to-people programs, it is important to consider who “owns” the process and how it resists structures of injustice.

Second, we should understand that dialogue is not an end in and of itself and that dialogue can be harmful. Particularly in situations of ongoing injustice, attempts to bring people together can’t simply focus on building understanding if there is no corresponding effort by all involved to end the injustice and inequality that stands between people. While dialogue and exchange can be important parts of transformation, they can also be tools used to block change; reinforce existing imbalances of power; and erase legal, institutional, and structural injustices. Whether we are setting up panel discussions or working to pull people together, we always need to understand issues of power. Dialogue is not a neutral process, and we must carefully consider how dialogue pushes toward action for change.

Third, it is important to understand that the normalization discussion is largely not about us. Normalization concerns do not place blocks on Quakers listening to, interacting with, or dialoguing with any party. Challenging normalization initiatives is not aimed at silencing select viewpoints or limiting who is able to speak. Indeed, listening to and engaging with those with whom we disagree is an important part of building understanding as we push for change. The normalization discussion is about addressing power imbalances and injustice in relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, not shutting off all dialogue or ending conversations that build understanding.

Finally, the normalization conversation points to the fact that dialogue and listening are not enough. To achieve peace and justice there must be political change that ends the system of inequality and oppression that exists between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. complicity in that injustice. To address this, Quakers must then move beyond positions that express concern for both parties and that encourage dialogue and listening but that don’t lead to direct action. Quakers should support direct action to end injustice, such as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and AFSC-led No Way to Treat a Child Campaign. We can support discussions, but we must back up our support for talk with support for action.”

I agree with Mike’s observations and words of caution, with the exception of his conclusion. He writes: “It is political change and an end to injustice that will lead to dialogue and understanding, and it is political action that is needed to bring change.” Which comes first — the chicken or the egg? I believe dialogue and understanding are the precursors to a political change and an end to injustice. But the dialogue must occur with Mike’s caveats in mind.

Rami Aman – Gaza Strip

On September 9, 2020, a group of NGOS submitted a 24 page petition at the UN on behalf of Rami Aman. Check it out here.

The group that filed the petition — UN Watch — is an apologist for Israel’s crimes and human rights abuses in the occupation, and regularly calls out anyone or any country that stands up in support of Palestine in the United Nations. Sadly, Hamas’ actions in Rami Aman’s detention have given the UN Watch and the State of Israel fodder for their campaign.

Anyone familiar with the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians will find the following words from the petition hypocritical in the extreme coming from the UN Watch, but no less true.

The Applicant is a Palestinian peace activist who resides in Gaza. He was arrested by Hamas security forces on 9 April 2020, three days after his peace group, the Gaza Youth Committee, held a two-hour video call with Israeli peace activists via Zoom. He is accused of holding a “normalization” activity with Israelis. Normalization refers to cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, including peace dialogue. According to both the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) and Hamas, normalization is a crime which is tantamount to treason. The criminalization of peace dialogue is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association pursuant to Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). Likewise, detention on that basis is a violation of ICCPR Article 19.

The Applicant has now been in Hamas detention for more than four months. His due process rights are being egregiously violated. He has not yet been charged and has never had an opportunity to challenge his detention in court. Moreover, he is a civilian who will be subjected
to trial in a Hamas Military Court in violation of ICCPR Article 14.

Then the petition begins its propaganda campaign against Hamas by equating “collaboration” with “normalization” which I will not recite here. These are two very different activities but even many Palestinians can’t tell the difference!

Consistent with the above, the PA and Hamas reject any “normalization” with Israel. Normalization includes joint economic activities, joint sports activities and meetings to promote peace. As detailed below, Hamas considers “normalization” to be a form of treason and uses various provisions of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979 to prosecute that crime.

Mr. Aman was held incommunicado for at least one week. According to a statement published by Amnesty International on 6 May 2020, Mr. Aman was permitted to speak with his family for the first time by telephone on 26 April 2020—more than two weeks after the arrest. According to information provided to us, he has had one visit with his family since then. Also, Mr. Aman has had three visits with his lawyer, the first on 16 April 2020—one week after the arrest. The Amnesty International statement added that Mr. Aman was likely to be charged under Article 164 of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, which refers to “propaganda aimed at weakening the revolution” and that he was likely to be tried in a military court. In addition, Mr. Aman has not yet been charged or brought before a court.

I’d like to know why Amnesty International, the American Friends Service Committee, the National Lawyers Guild, and other groups that often stand up for Palestinians have not voiced their objections to Rami’s arrest and detention. Clearly, Rami has become a political football in the international arena now. Dialogue and understanding of the “other” will likely be the victim.

Coalition of NGOs that signed the petition.

University College Dublin (Ireland)

Global Human Rights Defence (Netherlands)

African Agency for Integrated Development (Uganda)

Global Vision India Foundation (India)

Help People Foundation (Italy)

Sisters of Charity Federation (United States)

Action Sécurité Ethique Républicaines (France)

Geneva International Model United Nations (Switzerland)

Forum Méditerranéen pour la Promotion des Droits du Citoyen (Morocco)

Women’s Voices Now (United States)

Japanese Association for the Right to Freedom of Speech (Japan)

African Heritage Foundation (Nigeria)

Romanian Independent Society of Human Right (Romania)

ONG Association Internationale Des Droits De L’Homme (France)

Vision GRAM International (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (Uganda)

Structural Analysis of Cultural Systems (Germany)

Public Organization “Public Advocacy” (Ukraine)

Association un Enfant Un Cartable du Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso)

International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization (United States)

Yayasan Pendidikan Indonesia Wira Tata Buana (Indonesia)

Godwin Osung International Foundation Inc. (Nigeria)

Centre for Youth and Literacy Development (Ghana)

Hape Development and Welfare Association (Pakistan)

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (France)

Women Educators Association of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Chia Funkuin Foundation (Cameroon)

Save the Climate (DRC)

Association pour le Développement Culturel (Chad)

Business Innovation Research Development (France)

World Organization of Building (Canada)

Amis de l’Afrique Francophone (Benin)

Observatorio Nacional De Seguranca Viaria (Brazil)

Organization Earth (Greece)

GreenPlanet (India)

Foundation of International Servant Leadership Exchange Association (South Korea)

European Union for Jewish Students (Belgium)

Association of Christian Counselors of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Fudnação Antonio Meneghetti (Brazil)

Shola Mese Foundation (Nigeria)

Ideal World Foundation President (Ghana)

Groupe d’économie solidaire du Québec (Canada)

Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation Inc. USA (United States)

Future Hope International (Ghana)

Les œuvres sociales pour les actions de développement (DRC)

Festival de Théâtre pour la Santé (Togo)

Ingénieurs du Monde (France)

Association de Solidarite d’Aide et Action Mali (Mali)

International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (United States)

Somali Help-Age Association (Somalia)

Kuchlak Welfare society Balochistan (Pakistan)

Kathak Academy (Bangladesh)

Moorish Holy Temple of Science (United States)

Safe Society (India)

Conglomeration of Bengal’s Hotel Owners (India)

World Kabaddi Federation (India)

African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (Rwanda)

Amis des Étrangers au Togo (Togo)

Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc. (United States)

Association pour la Défense des droits, de développement durable et du Bien-Etre Familial (Rwanda)

Project 1948 (Bosnia)

United Nations Watch (Switzerland)

Les Amis du Projet Imagine (France)

Earthquake and Megacities Initiative (EMI) (Philippines)

Coupe de Pouce (DRC)

ONG Credo Action (Togo)

Noahide Institute (United States)

Ekta Welfare Society (India)

Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (Nigeria)

Association Build Africa (Cameroon)

Update: ALLMEP joins PCHR, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch in a renewed call for their immediate release from nearly six months in detention. #FreeRamiAman Read more: English – https://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=15059Arabic – https://www.pchrgaza.org/ar/?p=19615

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Filed under Hamas, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

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

The world tomorrow: COVID-19 and the new humanitarian

ICRC building on the hill

International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva

There’s a saying in Gaza (at least among some) that the Palestinians are living under THREE occupations.

The first, of course, is the Israeli military occupation. The United Nations and nearly the entire international community recognize this occupation. It’s been going on for so many decades that at least one scholar prefers to call it colonization, not an occupation. It’s perhaps the best documented occupation in world history.

The second is the internal political occupation.  Palestinians in Gaza are living under Hamas, and Palestinians in the West Bank are living under the Palestinian Authority (PA). “Living under” is the correct terminology in both cases because there haven’t been elections in more than a decade (no concept of “term limits” in the Arab world as far as I can tell) and both Hamas and the PA rule with an iron fist.

I learned about the third type of occupation when I was in Gaza in 2012-2013 and met with local city officials to discuss planning issues in the community. They told me bluntly, “What plans? It’s whatever the NGOs are willing to fund. Their plans get implemented, ours stay on the shelf.” So I call this the NGO occupation. Donors’ good intentions can actually backfire because they disempower the local communities they’re meant to serve. US-AID projects are a good example.

Amid the turmoil and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are new challenges and opportunities for both nation-states and the private sector attempting to address the serious needs of the most vulnerable. Things are changing rapidly.

ICRC Museum

ICRC Museum Entrance — Geneva

Focusing on humanitarian action, as it has since its beginning in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) asked the following question in this new COVID-19 world we’re entering:

How then should aid organizations anticipate and prepare for this new reality, still opaque in many ways, and balance it against the expected overwhelming needs? Better yet, rather than adapting and anticipating to this new reality, how can aid organizations lean in and embrace the present crisis as a conduit for radical change, proactively reshaping and repositioning an aid sector that is fit for purpose to protect and address the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized?

The question is important, the answers that follow may profoundly change the way NGOs address the needs of the most vulnerable.

This 18 minute audio of a blog posted by Raphael Gorgeu provides a good explanation of how the NGO landscape may be changing. The world tomorrow: COVID-19 and the new humanitarian.  Have a listen.

A public health crisis to begin with, the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly metastasized to nearly all fronts of society. Considered one of the biggest crises in modern history, the pandemic’s effects will deeply impact the lives of billions of people, shake the foundations of our solidarity models and redesign parts of the international humanitarian sector. The way aid actors move forward now will shape the future of the humanitarian landscape: pre-existing trends are speeding up as new ones are brought into play, all while the overall balance is placed under scrutiny. In a myriad of ways, many still unforeseeable, the intensity of the present period is accelerating change.

 

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Filed under COVID-19, Occupation, Politics, United Nations, Video

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

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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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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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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Same God – Embodied Solidarity

There are many contradictions in the world today, top among them are the evangelical Christians who profess their faith and love of God, yet dismiss the “other” contemptuously.  “Love of God and love for our neighbor are inseparable.” 

In 2015, an African American tenured professor at Wheaton, a liberal arts Christian college in Illinois, donned the hijab in an act of embodied solidarity with Muslim women who were experiencing Islamophobic threats and intimidation. Professor Larycia Hawkins posted her picture on Facebook wearing the hijab and wrote that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.

Same God film

The firestorm that followed that simple act garnered national attention, and Professor Hawkins ultimately lost her job.

An alumna from Wheaton, Linda Midgett, was moved by Hawkins’ story and decided to make a documentary.  I was fortunate to see a screening of Same God at the Zakat Foundation of America in Illinois on January 26, 2020 where both Professor Hawkins and Linda Midgett answered questions afterwards.

The important take away message was Professor Hawkins’ valuable lesson about “embodied solidarity” — a new phrase for me. Standing in solidarity with Palestinian refugees in Gaza, what does it actually require?

Education for sure. Reading Palestinian authors, listening to Palestinian voices, watching Palestinian films, and most importantly, visiting Palestinians in Gaza — all with an open heart and an inquisitive mind.

However, solidarity must be more than merely a theoretical exercise of support and affirmation. That’s why the phrase “embodied solidarity” is so meaningful.  Professor Hawkins describes what she means by “embodied solidarity” in this short TEDTalk.  “You can’t be pro-Israeli without also being pro-Palestinian.”

Same God has won awards and is now available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes.  You can also listen to a podcast with Linda Midgett about her film by Ken Kemp on #SoundCloud

 

 

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