Tag Archives: Jimmy Carter

Who is a Zionist?

Labels are meant to elucidate, clarify and explain but I suspect that the ‘Zionist’ label is not as helpful as I originally thought.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘Zionism’ as

an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.

And a ‘Zionist’ is someone who is

a supporter of Zionism; a person who believes in the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.

In the context of Uri Avnery’s recent hospitalization, I expressed sadness that this Israeli peace activist may be on his death bed because I believe Israel needs more voices like his.  A friend countered that Uri Avnery is a Zionist and so everything he says is suspect.

Avnery, 94, has written opinion pieces on a regular basis for Haaretz. He is a former Knesset member and a founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement who worked as editor-in-chief of the Haolam Hazeh weekly. He has been an advocate for the past 70 years for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Uri Avnery

An activist friend of mine informs me that —

The definition of a Zionist among Palestinian solidarity activists is any person who believes that it is legitimate that there be a country for Jews in historic Palestine. Dorothy Naor, a prominent Israeli-American (native of San Francisco) Palestinian solidarity activist who has lived in Israel for more than 50 years and knows Uri Avnery personally, says that Avnery is definitely a Zionist.

I believe that definition — “any person who believes that it is legitimate that there be a country for Jews in historic Palestine” — is counter-productive and undermines the goal (as I understand it) of securing for Palestinians the human rights and the most basic right of self-determination that justice and international law demands.

Using that broad definition —

Former President Jimmy Carter, author of Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, and We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land — A Plan That Will Work is a Zionist.

Jeff Halper, author of An Israeli in Palestine–Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel and the founder of ICAHD, is a Zionist.

This broad definition of who qualifies as a Zionist must absorb every Israeli living in the State of Israel today because their mere presence affirms the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

In fact, some Palestinians I know in Gaza would be considered Zionists by this awkward definition because, although they detest the way in which the State of Israel was founded 70 years ago and they recognize the ongoing trauma of the Nakba, they have come to terms with the legitimacy of the State of Israel and wish to work towards a One State solution where every person in the Holy Land can live in peace with equal rights for all.

For that matter, I’m a Zionist!

I believe the injustices perpretrated on the indigenous people of Palestine was a historic wrong that needs to be rectified, and justice needs to be secured for the millions of Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian Territories as well as in the diaspora.  I also believe that Americans are uniquely responsible for the ongoing Nakba because of our disgusting “special relationship” with Israel.

I’m a Zionist because I also recognize that the State of Israel exists, it will and should continue to exist, that securing justice for Palestinians in the 21st Century doesn’t require eliminating the State of Israel, and this isn’t a zero-sum game where one must suffer for the other to thrive.  Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve our empathy and love in this very difficult time.

I also fear for the future of the State of Israel, not because I think Iran or its Arab neighbors pose an existential threat to Israel’s security.  I believe the government and powers in the State of Israel are behaving in ways that cast a shadow on the country’s own viability in the future.

So when I use the term “Zionist” in social media or elsewhere, please consider that my definition is drawn more narrowly than perhaps many other Palestine solidarity activists draw it.

A “Zionist” is someone who supports the occupation, supports the Israeli apartheid regime, and someone who believes that Israel’s future requires the subjugation and humiliation of millions of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, in Jordan and elsewhere in the diaspora.

I can’t wait until the first Palestinian-American Congresswoman visits her family in the West Bank. Israel’s security establishment (COGAT) is going to be apoplectic.

 

 

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Two lives, two deaths, highlight Congress’ willful blindness

Taylor Force

Taylor Force

Taylor Force, 28 and a first-year student at Vanderbilt, was stabbed to death while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016.  He was with 29 students and four staff members from the university who had gone to Israel to study global entrepreneurship.

Rachel Corrie, 23 and a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, was crushed to death in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, in March 2003. She was standing with other ISM volunteers in front of a Palestinian home slated for destruction by Israel, along with other homes in the neighborhood.

Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie

 

The similarities in their deaths are striking.

Both Taylor and Rachel were Americans. Both were victims of deliberate attacks. Both were young, intelligent and, by all accounts, had tremendous gifts to give the world.  Both were unarmed and engaged in peaceful activities — Taylor was studying and Rachel was exercising Gandhian nonviolence resistance.

Taylor was killed by a knife-wielding Palestinian in the heart of Israel. Rachel was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer in the occupied Palestinian territory outside of Israel.

Both families grieved their inexplicable losses, and sought some measure of justice.

This week, (March 2018) Congress will pass S.1697 and H.R.1164 — the Taylor Force Act. The bill ends $300 million in direct US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it does not halt payments to the families of “terrorists” who are either in jail or were killed carrying out their crimes.

In March 2003, Rachel’s parents asked Congress to help them get a full, fair and expeditious investigation into their daughter’s death, but Congress took no action on H.Con.Res.111. They also sued Caterpillar, Inc. alleging liability for Rachel’s death because the company supplied bulldozers to Israel knowing that they would be used in contravention of international law. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit in 2009 based on the political question doctrine.

In 2005, the Corrie family also filed a civil lawsuit against the state of Israel. The lawsuit charged Israel with not conducting a full and credible investigation into the case and with responsibility for her death, contending that she had either been intentionally killed or that the soldiers had acted with reckless neglect. They sued for a symbolic one US dollar in damages.

In August 2012, an Israeli court rejected their suit and ruled that the Israeli government was not responsible for Corrie’s death. Former U.S. President Carter and some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, criticized the ruling. 

I met Rachel’s parents in Gaza in November 2012 and asked if they were going to file an appeal. They both looked weary and said they didn’t know because of the costs and emotional toll it might entail. However, they did appeal and learned in February 2014 that it had been rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel.

The Corrie family established The Rachel Corrie Foundation to honor her memory, and to spread the values that their daughter embodied in her short life. In 2006, Alan Rickman’s play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” debuted in New York City. And every year, Palestinians remember Rachel and honor her as a martyr.

Congress continues to perpetuate the cycle of violence and trauma in Israel-Palestine that ultimately ended the young lives of Taylor Force and Rachel Corrie.*

They can’t stand back and view Israel-Palestine objectively, primarily because of the outrageous influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington (AIPAC). This is not in the best interests of the U.S., and I wonder how many more Americans, not to mention innocent Palestinians and Israelis, will pay the ultimate price by Congress’s willful blindness.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

* Enacting Israel’s legislative agenda, funding Israel’s military to the tune of $3 billion+ each year, parroting Israel’s framing of the occupation which is contrary to international humanitarian law, and

 

 

 

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Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

#GoingtoGaza – August 2015

On my journey back to Gaza, I spent the summer in Baltimore with a visit to Albuquerque in August. I wish I could travel without adding to my carbon footprint.  The following entries are from August 2015. I started my journey one year earlier.

Day #332 – I shared a bit about my experience in Gaza yesterday with the Baltimore Women-In-Black group.  The lunch meeting was in a house of worship shared by 5 different congregations (including both Christian church and Jewish synagogue) and lasted until 5:00 pm because everyone was so engaged and interested in learning more. I realized that I can only share the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to share. How?  #GoingtoGaza

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The House of God is the Home of five congregations. Rev. Carol Lynn Cook.

Day #333 – Jewish/Zionist/settlers/terrorists burned a Palestinian baby to death 2 nights ago. The Israeli collective guilty conscience is feeling a twinge of remorse. But the IDF killed 521 children (including many babies) in Gaza last summer and that was greeted by Israelis as a source of national pride. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Thx Mati Milstein for putting it so succinctly. #GoingtoGaza

Day #334 – While waiting and exploring options for returning to Gaza, I’ve decided Plan B is walking Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.  (500 miles – 5 weeks) Sept/Oct timeframe. #GoingtoGaza

Day #335 – My roommate and I each received emails this morning. His urged him to call Congress and tell them to defund Planned Parenthood. Mine urged me to call Congress and tell them to support Planned Parenthood.  We both made our calls and canceled each other out. Fortunately, Congress sided with me this afternoon. Abortion is an emotional issue but my roommate and I remain civil and respect each other (I think). #GoingtoGaza

Day #336 – ISIS (aka Daesh) proclaims jihad in the name of Islam. They want to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. Netanyahu and the Knesset fight terrorists (aka Palestinians) in the name of Jews worldwide. The want to establish a Homeland for the Jews in the Middle East. Simple question: What’s the difference?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #337 – Learned today of another Palestinian from Gaza who was denied a student Visa to pursue her education in the U.S. despite the fact that she had been accepted to a university and received a scholarship. Stated reason? Because the embassy officer doesn’t think she has enough ties to Gaza to ensure that she will return home! The same reason given for the denials of all the others. This reminds me of the Palestinian student who was granted a Visa and is currently studying in the U.S.  He is now seeking asylum and does not wish to return to Gaza despite having family there. I wonder if his asylum request has harmed the chances of other Palestinians who wish to study here. 😦   #GoingtoGaza

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Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.) in Gaza, October 2012.

Day #338 – Recalling Noam Chomsky’s visit to Gaza in October 2012. Chomsky is a Jew. Some Americans are puzzled because of the hate-filled venom they’ve been fed by the Zionists.  Jews (not Zionists) are welcomed in Palestine. Jews (not Zionists) are treated respectfully by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. I believe Jews (not Zionists) have a secure future in the Middle East. #GoingtoGaza

Day #339 – I’m puzzled why professional journalists don’t connect the dots. This week they should’ve connected the dots between the nuclear weapons used 70 years ago, and Israel’s current threat to unilaterally and preemptively bomb Iran to prevent that country from getting nukes. Haven’t we learned any lessons? Really?  #GoingtoGaza

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Red Emma’s in Baltimore

Day #340 – Just following my heart today I ended up @ Red Emma’s in Baltimore, a self-proclaimed radical bookstore.  Pleased to see copies of “Gaza UnSilenced” on the table!   #GoingtoGaza

Day #341 – I’m seeing very little difference between the Jewish extremists/Rabbis/settlers and the Muslim extremists (aka ISIS) except for the way that the mainstream media portrays them. Oh, another difference — one acts under the cloak of legitimacy by a nation-state while the other doesn’t. Oh, another difference — one receives protection (both $$ and security) while the other doesn’t.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #342 – The Egyptian Embassy in DC informed me today that they will process my Visa application to travel through Egypt to Gaza.  Al-hamdulillah!   Doing the happy dance tonight. Of course, “process” doesn’t necessarily mean “approve”. But this is a big improvement. A few months ago, they wouldn’t even consider an application.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #343 – Searching for travelers’ health insurance while abroad, I came across this program online that compares different policies and prices depending on the variables you input. Travel destination is one variable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Palestinian Territories is a destination option in this program. I was not surprised to learn that there are absolutely no health policies available for travelers to that destination. #GoingtoGaza with or without travelers’ health insurance.

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President Jimmy Carter signing his new book

Day #344 – Learned today that Jimmy Carter has liver cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. First thought: I wish he could live long enough to see peace in the Middle East, something he’s worked tirelessly to achieve. Second thought: I wish Congress would act on my petition and request that Carter address a joint session. He deserves their respect. Third thought: I’m going to write to Jimmy Carter. THANK YOU!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #345 – Submitted my Visa application with the Egyptian Embassy in DC today.  Purchased my ticket to Cairo.  Feeling like the roller coaster ride is just beginning.  A friend asked me “Why apply to Egypt, not to Palestine, for a Visa to visit Gaza?” Answer: Gaza, Palestine does not control its own borders because it is OCCUPIED by the State of Israel. You can’t fly to Gaza. You can’t take a ship to Gaza. You can’t drive to Gaza.  Either Israel or Egypt must grant you permission to enter Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #346 – I think I may understand why some Jews can’t accept the truth about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It’s human nature to want to be right – not wrong – and to be on the winning side – not the losing side. So when Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, it’s human nature to turn eyes and hearts away from the Occupation. Just a thought. #GoingtoGaza

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Lora with the Blue Crab on the Baltimore Inner Harbor

Day #347 – On this journey as a pilgrim, I need to learn how to be grateful today and every day.  My current grade is probably D-   #GoingtoGaza

Day #348 – “He who has a why can endure any how.” ~ German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. WHY am I going to Gaza? Because my heart calls me and because Justice and Human Rights demand it. HOW am I going to Gaza?  Only Allah knows. #GoingtoGaza

Day #349 – I think I know the biggest anti-Semite of them all. It’s Netanyahu. Palestinians = Semites, and Bibi is killing them with impunity. Jews = Semites, and Bibi’s actions are delegitimizing the State of Israel, “the home of the Jews”. Yep, Netanyahu is the biggest anti-Semite today. #GoingtoGaza

Day #350 – People have preconceived notions about their neighbors hardwired into their brains. Two examples today. On Facebook, a Zionist responds to my post from an Israeli newspaper about Palestinians building new tunnels into Gaza — “Only one logical reason . . . to kill Israelis.” It never occurs to him that there may be other reasons for building new tunnels—-a military defensive measure (Gaza’s version of the Iron Dome) is one example. I’ve never seen or read any evidence that showed Palestinians used the tunnels to enter Israel to kill Civilians. But this Zionist won’t acknowledge the humanity in the “other”. Second example happened to me on the bus today. Waiting at the bus stop, I sat on the bench next to a young Native American man who appeared inebriated. I was in the sun, he was sitting in the shade. He stood up and said “Sit in the shade.” I moved over and thanked him and held out my hand to introduce myself.  He took my hand and we had a very cordial conversation until the bus came. You can imagine the stereotype I had in my head, and the reality I learned after I met him. #GoingtoGaza

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Federal Hill, Baltimore

Day #351 – I often told my Palestinian friends in Gaza, when they asked me my religion, that I simply live my life by the Golden Rule (treat others how you wish they would treat you). A fact of life – not everyone follows the Golden Rule, and I can’t expect others to treat me the same way. That’s where the challenges lie. #GoingtoGaza

Day #352 – Writing today — putting pen to paper — trying to figure out the best way to share my pilgrimage with the most # of people.  Any ideas? Thinking of sharing a sample “column” with local newspaper to see if they might be interested in a regular monthly column. #GoingtoGaza

Days #353 & 354 – A friend I hadn’t seen in 10-15 years told me yesterday that she’s very confused about the Israel-Palestine conflict. One person tells her to read about one side and avoid the other side. Another person recommends she read the other side and avoid books about the first side. I told her “Read books from ALL sides and sit quietly and meditate about the questions those authors raise inside you.” It took me 10+ years of actively reading and searching for answers before I started seeing some clarity about Israel-Palestine. #GoingtoGaza

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Delicious meal at Cyndie Tidwell’s house

Day #355 – Attended a presentation tonight at the Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque about environmental peace building in Israel & Palestine. Lots to share in a blog post soon, but the take-away message for me was: There are people (Americans, Israelis and Palestinians) working together on some exciting joint environmental projects in Israel and the West Bank (including plans for a regional sewage treatment plant, rainwater harvesting, and more.) The people on the ground want the projects, the technocrats want the projects, the politicians on both sides (Israel and the PA) do not. I asked if they had worked in Gaza, and they said “No, because we can’t get access to Gaza!” #GoingtoGaza

Day #356 – I rode my yellow bike with the cute basket all around town today.  Downtown, then up 4th Street to Menaul, back downtown, over to Rio Grande, and back to my old neighborhood. When the sun went down, my friend showed me how to turn on the flashing lights on the front and back of the bike. (I never knew how!) If we could import 1000s of bikes into the Gaza Strip, we could (1) reduce reliance on fuel, (2) reduce air pollution, and (3) improve physical health.  I wonder . . . #GoingtoGaza

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New Mexican jeweller in Old Town showing off his beautiful jewellry

Day #357 – Today I sat with an old neighbor (96 years old) and we talked. His eyesight is bad but he can hear very well, and his mind is as sharp as a tack. He lives with his daughter who has cared for him for many years. My friend and his daughter remind me of many of the Palestinians I met in Gaza. Family caring for family. He built his adobe house with his own hands just as many Palestinians build their own homes. I can sit and talk with my old neighbor for hours about my experience in Gaza, and he “gets it”. Is there wisdom with age or is it something else? #GoingtoGaza

Days #358 & 359 – This Spring an American was told by the Egyptian Embassy that he would not receive permission to travel to Gaza through the Rafah border unless he got a letter of approval from the U.S. Consulate’s office in Cairo.  But that office told him they would not issue any such letter. The typical Catch-22. Me?  The Egyptian Embassy accepted my Visa application two weeks ago and said they would process it.  No mention of needing any letter from the U.S. Consulate in Cairo. #GoingtoGaza

Day #360 – Had lunch with a long-time reporter from the local newspaper of record. She acknowledged that the industry is changing drastically. And I have serious disdain for the Editors’ politics.  Thinking about which media venue to approach with my idea for a monthly column about Palestine.  Maybe ABQ Free Press. www.freeabq.com #GoingtoGaza

Day #361 – I walked an hour for a great candidate running for Albuquerque City Council knocking on doors and telling people about why Pat Davis will serve them well. Palestinians haven’t had an election in 8 years I think. The people are stuck with the same old farts with no way to boot them out of office. Americans take our elections for granted. Most of us don’t even bother to vote.  Shame on us! #GoingtoGaza

Day #362 – Sitting in the Houston airport today watching travelers walk past me to their next flight. There’s no fear here, no despair, no humiliation, as there is in Rafah or Erez — the ONLY two checkpoints where Palestinians may travel in and out of Gaza, IF Israel grants permission. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #363 – Trying to figure out why it’s so frustrating to talk with some people with whom I disagree. 1) a very good long-time friend finds #BlackLivesMatter offensive and divisive. 2) a Zionist I’ve never met in person refuses to see the impacts of the Israeli occupation, and the Apartheid system of laws and regulations. Spending time trying to explain my position just ends in frustration. #GoingtoGaza

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#GoingtoGaza – June 2015

Keeping a daily journal of my efforts to return to Gaza helps me retrace my steps. This pilgrimage certainly isn’t easy and my gut tells me the path is just as important as the destination.  For previous months, check out my blog posts: September 2014, October 2014, November 2014, December 2014, January 2015, February 2015, March 2015, April 2015 and May 2015.  What follows are entries for the month of June 2015.

Day #273 – Communicating about hot button issues (religion, politics, Israel-Palestine) is so challenging.  Rethinking my whole approach (especially after reading “The Righteous Mind” by Haidt). Going to write a book review today. Take away message—-we try to convince the “other” person with our rational arguments but the “other” person can’t hear or appreciate rational arguments when his/her opinions originate from intuition. Likewise, our opinions very likely originate from intuition, followed by strategic reasoning. Haidt says that conservatives understand this, but liberals typically don’t. #GoingtoGaza

Ballot-Box

Day #274 – Thinking electoral politics is for the birds!

Fact No. 1 – Palestinians haven’t had an election in 9 years and the old farts in office don’t seem eager to hold another.

Fact No. 2 – Israeli P.M. Netanyahu wins his election by warning Israelis that the “Arabs are coming to the polls in droves” thus proving Israel is a racist state.

Fact No. 3 – Millions of Palestinians living under occupation can’t vote in Israeli elections despite the fact that Israel has so much control over their lives.

Fact No. 4 – Elections in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, NM, USA run like clockwork but the elected officeholders prove like clockwork that they are corruptible or corrupted.

Fact No. 5 – My generation has screwed things up so royally that future generations will feel the full blunt force trauma of our actions, despite having no voice and no voting power.

I agree with Tracy Chapman — We’re Talking About a Revolution. #GoingtoGaza

Day #275 – News from Gaza. Some militants in Gaza fired something (rockets?) into southern Israel today. No fatalities or damage reported. ISIS claimed responsibility. Hamas has been battling ISIS operatives in Gaza. Tonight Israel’s jets scrambled; lots of noise and several air strikes were reported. No fatalities. I’m thinking of the young children who survived last summer’s assault on Gaza that lasted 51 days. While Bruce Jenner commands too many soundbites and photo spreads documenting his “freedom to be himself/herself” — these Palestinian children have no freedoms and can’t just be innocent kids. What a screwed up universe. #GoingtoGaza

Day #274 – Watching “activists” on FB and Twitter, I’m struck with our ineffectual communication skills. (I include myself.)

1) Some activists refuse to have an exchange with anyone who disagrees with them. “Unfriend” option is so childish.

2) Some activists prefer to lecture or “educate” but are clueless about what others think.

3) Some activists really believe that meaningful change can occur via social media alone, and it sounds like they are stuck on their divans.

Here’s a book I hope activists will pick up. If we want to change the status quo, which I presume we all do, we have to understand the other side. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (2012)  #GoingtoGaza

Day #275 – On this day in 1967, Israel launched an attack against Egypt, known today as the Six Day War but to the Palestinians as the Naksah. I wonder how many of my American friends know about the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. #GoingtoGaza

Day #276 – Here is a good account of the difficulties traveling across the Rafah Border from Egypt to Gaza, written in 3 parts. Part 1  –  Part 2  –  Part 3  Very discouraging!  #GoingtoGaza

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Days #277 – 278 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Zivotofsky family and said they will not get “Israel” marked as the place of birth on their son’s passport. Kennedy’s opinion said that the President has the sole responsibility for recognizing a sovereign nation. Time for Obama to recognize the State of Palestine. #GoingtoGaza

Day #279 – “Confirmation bias” … a new phrase that a psychologist-friend recently taught me. Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. I clearly see it among pro-Israeli activists, pro-Palestinian activists, and with greater scrutiny, I can now see it with myself. We want to find the “facts” to support our world view, and we disregard facts that may negate our world view.  This is very interesting stuff….   #GoingtoGaza

Day #280 – Feeling very pleased that over 600 letters have been sent to members of Congress asking them to invite former President Carter to speak about his recent visit to Israel & Palestine.  I’m planning to visit Capitol Hill with these signatures once we reach 1000+ letters.  Check out the petition here. Add your signature!  #GoingtoGaza

Carter in DC

Day #281 – Netanyahu and his cabinet are doing everyone a favor by using blunt and vulgar language concerning their real intentions towards the Palestinians. Nothing new, of course, except that they aren’t pretending to hide behind a veneer of reasonableness any longer. Obama is going to find it increasingly difficult to side with the Israelis or pretend to be a peace broker. #GoingtoGaza

Day #282 – Palestinians in Gaza may be blockaded and under Israel’s lethal siege, but they are CONNECTED to the world.  Case in point. Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the “Fast Track” bill which many Americans opposed. I waited for news about the vote. I sat in Baltimore about an hour from the Capitol listening to public radio and watching news sites for the results. Finally, my friend in Gaza half way around the world posted a message on Facebook with the good news! The Fast Track bill was defeated! Thank you Internet. Thank you social media! Thank you friends!

Day #283 – As much as I want to return to Gaza, this weekend I’m praying that my young friend in Gaza will exit the Rafah gates when they open for 3 days. He was accepted abroad to pursue graduate studies but Israel has treated him like a prisoner all of his life in Gaza. May Allah protect him in his travels! #GoingtoGaza

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Day #284 – Al-hamdulillah! My young friend made it out of Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. He said there were many military checkpoints through the Sinai, and the place looked like a military zone with all of the tanks, etc. But his bus made it to the Cairo Airport. Now I’m saying prayers that he makes it on to a plane. I can’t imagine what his family back home must be feeling. #GoingtoGaza

Day #285 – Lots happening this week. Yesterday Israel released its 250-page report about its investigation of Operation Protective Edge last summer … as a preemptive move against the pending release of the UN Human Rights Council investigative report. This week marks the 8th anniversary of Israel’s siege on Gaza. Ramadan begins Sundown on Wednesday, I think. Denny Cormier and my young Palestinian friend both left Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #286 – What is the difference between me wearing my “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt and Rachel Dolezal changing her hair, eye color and skin pigment to look like she is African American? Answer: I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m standing in solidarity with African Americans. I’m acknowledging the injustices. But I’m not pretending to step into their shoes and understand their life experience, their reality, their oppression. Same goes for the Palestinians. I won’t pretend to stand in their shoes, but I wonder if some zealous activists have tried to cross that line. #GoingtoGaza

Day #287 – First day of Ramadan. I de-activated my Facebook page. Started listening to the audiobook The Haj by Leon Uris. #GoingtoGaza

Days #288-289 – Going cold turkey from Facebook might not be as hard as I thought.  I’m checking Twitter more often and don’t really miss the FB clutter. Today I submitted application for UN Human Rights Officer in Gaza.  I really, really, really hope I’m selected. #GoingtoGaza

Day #290 – The closer one is to realizing his Personal Legend, the more the Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: fear of failure. The Alchemist #GoingtoGaza

Day #291 – Felt very good today to talk with Basya and, later, Jeremy.  Connecting with family is the glue that keeps us all together! #GoingtoGaza

Day #292 – Spent the day reading the UN Human Rights Investigation into the war in Gaza last summer. Utterly devastating to read. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have felt to live through it. #GoingtoGaza

Days #293-294 – Taking a month off of Facebook is a good thing. But I may have substituted one addiction for another. Now I find myself checking Twitter every few minutes. Uh-oh! Finished reading the UN’s report on the Gaza 2014 war. Devastating words! #GoingtoGaza

Days #295 – 298 – Disconnected from Facebook is a really good thing.  But it also feels good when friends from Gaza and NM reach out to me to find out if I’m OK because they’re worried that I’m not on FB.  #GoingtoGaza

 

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Filed under Book Review, Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video

Day #45 – Aug. 20, 2014 – The Golden Rule

A year ago, the fighting had resumed in Gaza and people resumed their killing, dying and acts of inhumanity beyond the comprehension and power of anyone to stop it.

In May 2015, Jimmy Carter visited Israel and Palestine with the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland. As the world knows, Carter has devoted much of his energy to searching for justice and peace in the Middle East, but in May, Israeli leaders rejected him and refused to meet with him. Carter called the situation in Gaza 8 months after the war ‘intolerable’. The deplorable conditions haven’t changed.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

There’s much that can be said, and should be said, to remind the world (and especially the young people) about President Carter’s contributions at home and abroad. This interview in September 2011 is one of the best I’ve read.

I’ve admired him for many years. I wrote to him a few years ago when Zionists were suing him for defamation over his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.  I thanked him for writing the book and I soon received a handwritten note back from him, thanking me for my words of encouragement. That epitomizes for me his generous spirit.

I saw him in person only once, about a month ago in Washington, DC where he was signing his new book “A Full Life” at Politics and Prose Bookstore. Hundreds of people, me included, waited in a line outside as the rain began to pour, hoping to catch a moment with President Carter inside. He signed every single book with a smile, but his security men kept the line of people moving and we never had a chance to exchange words or a handshake.

President Jimmy Carter autographing his new book, A Full Life.

President Jimmy Carter autographing his new book, A Full Life.

I started a petition this Spring, a petition urging Congress to invite President Carter to speak to both Chambers about his recent visit to the Middle East. That petition is now sitting with my Representative. I hope she will forward it to Congressional leaders with her letter of support. Whether or not Carter would/could accept the invitation to speak to Congress, I think it’s important to honor and respect his wisdom about the Middle East conflict.

I’ve written a short card that I’m sending today.

Dear Mr. President and Mrs. Carter,

In the ugly, dark world of politics and greed,

You shine a light of what is good and right.

While humanity causes so much hurt and pain,

You both share hope and love.

From the global to the personal,

Your spirit infuses us all with

Kindness, gentleness, and compassion.

Thank you, gracias, shukran!

For modeling a life of transformative power,

For modeling the Golden Rule

Day by day, year by year.

God bless you!

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Filed under Peaceful, People, Politics

Congress: Invite Jimmy Carter to the Capitol!

April Fool’s Day came early to the U.S. Capitol this year. March 3 to be exact. That’s the day that Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress, denouncing Obama’s nuke talks with Iran. Without even consulting the White House or following proper protocol, Speaker Boehner had the audacity to invite Israel’s Prime Minister to the Capitol only days before Israeli elections were held, making good campaign material for Bibi back home.

By many accounts, Netanyahu didn’t do himself any favors with his American benefactors, but he won reelection, and that’s all that really mattered.

After promising Israeli voters that there would be no Palestinian state established under his watch, he proceeded to form “an extreme right-wing coalition that represents a danger for the Arabs of Israel and the entire region”, said Ayman Odeh, head of the predominantly Arab Joint List in the Knesset.

Maybe Congress will forget the egg on their faces, and move beyond this embarrassment, but I think it’s the perfect time to remind them that what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

I started an online petition to Congress urging them to invite former President Jimmy Carter to speak to a joint session about the Middle East.  In less than a week, more than 400 letters have been generated and sent to Congress, in support of the petition.  Check it out here and add your name if you agree.  If you wish to remain anonymous, you have that option.

Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu’s talk focused on the current negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union).

Security and peace for all people in the region appears to be more elusive than ever before.

No other American leader has more experience in the Middle East than former President Jimmy Carter, who has spent decades working for peace and security in the region.

In early May 2015, President Carter visited Israel and the West Bank and spoke with Israelis and Palestinians about the current situation. Members of Congress would benefit greatly from Carter’s vast experience and insights about the Middle East.

If an invitation to address Congress can be extended to a foreign leader without Presidential consent, then surely a former U.S. President, a Nobel Laureate, and one of the most respected humanitarians in the world, should receive Congress’ warmest welcome.

We ask Speaker Boehner to coordinate with other leaders in Congress and with the White House to extend an invitation to President Carter to speak to a joint session of Congress on the topic of peace and security in the Middle East. We also ask that Carter’s speech be televised for the public.

Lets tell Congress loud and clear, “INVITE PRESIDENT CARTER and hear from a wise elder with considerable experience in the Middle East.”  Check out the petition here.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border May 2015

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Filed under Israel, People, Politics

Remembering Rachel Corrie

“You shed tears, and take some pictures and leave, but nothing changes for us!”

My friend and I were standing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip in 2004 looking at the barren parcel of land where Rachel Corrie, a young American woman, had stood her ground and died a year earlier. We were surrounded by curious children, each wanting their picture taken.

The old man wearing the traditional galabya was speaking directly to me in rapid-fire Arabic. Our eyes met, I stopped and listened.  Was he angry or frustrated?  I couldn’t tell and I had no clue what he was saying.  He threw up his hands and walked away.

In the car driving back to Gaza City, our driver translated.  “That old man was telling you that many foreigners have come to Rafah to see the miserable conditions, to take pity on the people and sympathize. They take pictures and then return to their countries, but nothing changes for the Palestinians.”

That was 2004 and the turning point for me.

Shamefully, I knew that old man in Rafah was right. Too often, people who are privileged to travel, to see the world and understand the horrific injustices that exist elsewhere, return to their comfortable lives and forget.

Then there are people like Rachel Corrie who was killed in Rafah on March 16, 2003. She had arrived two months earlier as an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer.

On the day of her death, she was standing in front of the home of a local Palestinian pharmacist. Israeli bulldozers were destroying homes in the neighborhood to create a buffer zone near the Egyptian border for security purposes. Rachel, along with other ISM activists, stood in front of the house in an effort to stop the demolition. The driver of the bulldozer ran over her, not once, but twice.

Rachel was no ordinary traveler. She had the courage of her convictions.

By Rachel Corrie, aged 10 — 1990

I’m here for other children.

I’m here because I care.

I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.

I’m here because those people are mostly children.

We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.

We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.

We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.

We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.

We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.

My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.

My dream is to give the poor a chance.

My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.

My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.

If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.

If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.” ― Rachel Corrie

Nearly ten years after Rachel’s death, I met her parents in Gaza. They had started the Rachel Corrie Foundation to carry on their daughter’s work for peace and justice, and they frequently brought delegations to Gaza.

They filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the State of Israel, symbolically asking for $1 in compensation but demanding a transparent and thorough investigation of their daughter’s death.

In August 2012, the Haifa District Court exonerated the driver of the bulldozer and the Israeli government. Upon reading the verdict, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “the action described in the suit was ‘a military action in the course of war’ according to all criteria and that the state (therefore the Defense Ministry) is exempt from responsibility for it.”

There was worldwide condemnation of the verdict, including from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. “The killing of an American peace activist is unacceptable. The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians…”.

I knew very little about Israel’s apparent impunity from international law when I first visited the Gaza Strip in 2004. I tagged along with an American psychologist who had volunteered to bring an international award to Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, a well-respected Palestinian psychologist.

Dr. El-Sarraj started the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. When Israel refused to allow him to travel to Australia to receive the honor from his colleagues, my friend and I took the award to Gaza.

We had an informal ceremony in Dr. El-Sarraj’s office with some of his staff in attendance.  I didn’t have words to share my disbelief and anger, and so I remained silent. Why would Israel prevent this man from traveling abroad?  He was obviously influential both in and out of Gaza, and his writings showed a man who advocated peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.

My friend said a few congratulatory words and presented the plaque to Dr. El-Sarraj who graciously accepted it and put it on his bookshelf along with other awards and memorabilia. I snapped some pictures.

I felt something snap in my gut too.

Rachel Corrie was killed as she stood waving her arms to stop the house demolition in Rafah.  Dr. El-Sarraj was imprisoned, along with thousands of other Palestinians, in this tiny enclave called the Gaza Strip. The old man in Rafah knew nothing would change. There was something profoundly wrong with this picture.

A few days later, we left Gaza through the Erez checkpoint into Israel. There was no line of people waiting to exit, only the two of us. We sat on our luggage waiting to be directed through the turnstile at the end of a long caged tunnel.  We waited and waited and waited.

We couldn’t see the Israeli soldiers but we knew they were watching us, and listening. My friend’s patience was wearing thin. I was passing the time by reading. Finally, after waiting more than an hour, a voice over the intercom instructed us to go through the turnstile.

I vividly recall the terrified eyes of the female Israeli soldier in 2004 who was checking my embarrassingly large suitcase for explosives. We didn’t say a word to each other, but I knew about the female Palestinian suicide bomber who had blown herself up and killed four Israeli soldiers at the Erez checkpoint just months earlier.

Why would people treat each other this way? Why couldn’t Israelis and Palestinians coexist peacefully? Was there a right side and a wrong side? One I could support and the other I could condemn?  Why had this “conflict” continued for so long?

I had many questions in 2004 and I knew I needed to educate myself.

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Filed under Gaza, People