Tag Archives: Karen Armstrong

#GoingtoGaza – March 2015

My previous posts in this series are Sept. 2014, Oct. 2014, Nov. 2014, Dec. 2014, Jan. 2015, and Feb. 2015.

Day #181 – Karen Armstrong writes that war is a psychosis caused by the inability to see relationships. Seems to me that Israel is trying its best to keep its citizens blind to what’s going on the occupied Palestinian Territories. Building a separation wall. Forbidding Israeli citizens from visiting the oPT.  Deleting the history of the Palestinians from Israeli textbooks. Is it official Zionist policy to nurture this psychosis?

#GoingtoGaza

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Karen Armstrong

Day #182 – Never before have I had any interest in Israeli elections. That’s changed. With the election about 3 weeks off, I’m pleased to see that Netanyahu’s polling numbers are dropping. A 4th term would be appalling. Netanyahu prides himself as the guardian of Israel’s security. He needs another assault on Gaza to help his polling.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #183 – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees with Obama’s negotiations with Iran. So Netanyahu will try to persuade Congress tomorrow. So imagine President Obama stopping by the Knesset tomorrow and sharing his two cents about the illegal settlements.  No disrespect intended.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #184 – Watched Netanyahu’s campaign speech to Congress this morning. My thoughts:

1) too bad members of Congress can’t vote in Israel – I lost count of the # of standing ovations.

2) Bibi must think Obama, Kerry, and most Americans are stupid. He recycled his previous scare threats from 2002 onward about the evil monsters devouring Israel. Looked like members of Congress proved Bibi right — they ARE gullible.

3) The lightbulb turned on for me when Bibi mentioned Moses and other religious passages. We have 2 leaders in the Middle East threatening an apocalyptic vision.  One has nukes and the other has global recruits. #Bibi #Isis

4) Pleased to see that the Editors of The New York Times and The Washington Post and others have panned Bibi’s speech.

#GoingtoGaza

Benjamin_Netanyahu_portrait

Day #185 – Watching members of Congress yesterday genuflect . . . er give standing ovations . . . to the Israeli Emperor . . . er Prime Minister, I was struck with how WHITE, MALE, and OLD our leaders in DC are. They were fawning all over the old, white, male lecturing them from the podium. Heaven help us!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #186 – After reviewing these graphs and charts about exports/imports and the movement of people and goods into / out of Gaza, how can the Editors at The New York Times claim with a straight face that “Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza”? If they are that myopic about Israel/Palestine, in what other ways is the NYT warping reality for its readers?

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Day #187 – Thinking about the women in my life and that I’m a very lucky gal.  So many have had such a profound impact on the path I’ve journeyed. Especially thinking about Kay who turns 80 next week. She came into my life about 30 years ago and opened the entire spiritual universe to me through Beyond War. The key that unlocked the door.

Thinking about Luria who died in December. She came into my life about 20 years ago and shared with me her gift of listening without judgment, the first time I’ve experienced that. I hope I can model that with my friends and family. Thinking about Pam. She came into my life last year. She has shown me how the spark of an idea coupled with a ton of good will can make a big difference.  I’m looking forward to learning more from Pam.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #188 – News posted today that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be open for two days in both directions. And an American friend reported that the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza is now open, at least for people trying to exit Gaza. Are things improving?

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Middle East

Day #189 – Feeling the weight and burden of all of the mistakes I’ve made and — having reached 61 years — there are many, many mistakes to remember. I wonder if the State of Israel was a sentient being, would she be feeling the burden of her mistakes? 66 years old — she has made many. She acts like a teenager telling the world she knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone. Hopefully, I’m a bit wiser and have learned from my mistakes.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #190 – I really, really, REALLY want to meet Raja Shehadeh from Ramallah. Palestinian Walks – Notes on a Vanishing Landscape | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza?

#GoingtoGaza

Palestinian Walks

Day #191 – A felony, charge these 47 Senators with treason.  We clearly have at least 47 members of Congress who are aligning themselves with the extremists in both Iran and Israel — they are threatening the security of the U.S. Their letter to Iran is a violation of the Logan Act. How should Obama respond?

1) ignore them and hope that the public’s condemnation will bring them to their senses.

2) publicly rebuke them and hope that is enough to bring them to their senses.

3) direct Attorney General Holder to investigate and bring charges if he deems appropriate.

I’ve never been so embarrassed to be an American.

#GoingtoGaza   #GettingthefuckoutoftheUSA

Day #192 – A friend shared a thought-provoking article that points out the danger that many social activists on the left succumb to – a sense of self-righteousness! I’m going to keep it and mull over it because there are valuable tidbits to digest.

I’ve been surprised and shocked by the attitude of some activists working on peace & justice issues in the Middle East. Never thought of it in terms of “self-righteousness” but it fits. Now I’m worried if I exhibit some of the same behavior and attitudes.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #193 – There are international travelers getting across the Rafah border into Gaza. I wish I knew how they did it. I can’t think of another international border that is as difficult to cross. The border between Mongolia & China requires the train car be lifted by a crane and different gauge wheels be installed. But the government bureaucracy is a piece of cake compared to the two crossings into Gaza.

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Day #194 – #AskHamas is Hamas’ attempt to use social media to answer questions from the civilized world. Uncivil Zionists are spewing venom and hatred on Twitter, exposing their deep ignorance about Hamas, Palestinians and the Occupation. People don’t realize the power their own words have in creating their reality.  I feel great pity and sadness for those Zionists.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #195 – Walked only 4 miles today. Planned to walk 8 miles but forgot to bring water and it was a hot 82 F. Also need to remember to wear sunglasses because the sun is bright. Maybe tomorrow.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #196 — About to board a plane. Leaving California with mixed feelings. The last 18 months have been some of the hardest, yet most fulfilling. I couldn’t have done it without the lessons I learned in Gaza. #Samud thank you!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #197 – I’m a Pilgrim in my hometown and it feels a bit strange. Good friends have taken me in and I accomplished some important tasks today. Felt very honored when one friend asked me if I was interested in putting my name in the hat to fill the vacancy left by Senator Griego’s resignation. The only vacancy I’m interested in filling is the one in my heart left when I departed Gaza in May 2013.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #198 – Election Day in Israel and I’m watching it closely this year. The exit polls say it’s very close. Commentators on public radio say it may be weeks before we know who the next Prime Minister is. But Netanyahu has already declared victory. Just like his delusional rants about the Hamas “terrorists” … he believes if he says it often enough, it will be the truth. On another note, a Hamas official has provided answers to questions about the #AskHamas Twitter campaign that Hamas launched 5 days ago.

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Day #199 – Netanyahu has won either by the skin of his teeth or by fraud. Was anyone monitoring this election?

1) Bibi drove the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution

2) A single, bi-national state is the future for the Holy Land.

3) The only question remains: by violence or peaceful means? Given Bibi’s leadership—I predict the former.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #199 (again) – Couldn’t sleep last night because my mind won’t turn away from the Israeli elections. WAR CRIMES and WAR CRIMINALS get elected.  The institutions that I once had faith in bringing peace & justice to the Middle East (UN, ICC, EU, U.S. Congress) are incapable or uninterested.

#GoingtoGaza

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Day #200 – I must be back-tracking just like Netanyahu. The day before the election he said unequivocally that there will be no State of Palestine while he is Prime Minister. Two days after his election, he says he still supports the 2-state solution.

Likewise, before the election, I said it would be unbelievably horrible if Netanyahu won reelection. Two days after the election, I’m convinced his re-election was the best thing that could have happened for the prospects of long-term peace & justice in the region. Netanyahu has been unmasked. Alhamdulillah!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #201 – A good Arab-American friend and I were talking this morning about the Israeli election. Although she is very curious about my travel to Gaza and learning more about the occupation and the plight of the Palestinians, she admits she is not particularly political. But she says she now feels it’s time to go into the streets and protest. Bibi’s racist comment about “those Arabs coming by droves to vote” was the RED LINE for my friend.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #202 – Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to open one’s heart and mind to the injustices in Palestine? Are some pro-Palestine activists more worthy than others?  I’ve observed Palestinians condemning international activists. I’ve heard American activists criticizing their fellow activists and newbies. Seems to me, we need to treat each other the way we wish to be treated, and recognize that everyone has compassion in their hearts even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with them.

#Respect #GoingtoGaza

Day #203 – Friends today suggested I take a job teaching in Cairo so that I could be closer to lobby the Egyptian authorities for permission to enter Gaza. They also suggested I try to join an NGO like Doctors Without Borders who might be traveling to Gaza. Have you ever heard of anywhere else on the planet where visitors had to make such convoluted plans just to enter?

#GoingtoGaza

Day #204 – Smoking was considered acceptable in public at one time not so long ago. I recall sitting in the back row of an airplane with 3 middle seats for me and my two young children. On either side of us were men smoking! It was perfectly acceptable to smoke on planes and I couldn’t ask them to stop.  Same with Zionism I hope.

Today it is perfectly acceptable for people to proudly announce they are Zionists, and the community accepts it (even applauds them in some circles).  I hope in the not-too-distant future, Zionism will be a stigma and no one will make a public announcement even if they continue to believe such things privately at home.

#GoingtoGaza

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Days #205-206: As a wandering nomad / pilgrim, my friends and family may find it challenging to keep track of me. We want to tie people to a place — and that is one reason “place” is so important.  Today, Bernalillo County Commissioners will consider a proposal which I believe will irretrievably ruin this place in central New Mexico.  I hope they deny Santolina Master Plan.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #207 – Feeling very frustrated. ABQ-Bernalillo County screwed up and commingled “planning” and “zoning” many years ago. We’re all paying the price today. This #Santolina master planning process is so screwed up. And those who should know better (the public planners) are clueless because they grew up with this dysfunctional system. Years ago, I tried to educate key players. Now, I just want to throw up my hands.

Thankful I’m #GoingtoGaza

Day #208 – The colonoscopy went well. Same doctor who performed it 10 years ago was my doc today. He told me he’s grown older. I told him I have too. Lolol Glad I’m in good health for my pilgrimage to Gaza.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #209 – Sometimes I feel sorry for myself when I tell people how difficult it is to get into Gaza. Then I think about Palestinians in Gaza who have been unable to leave, and I feel ashamed for my own troubles.  Middle East Children’s Alliance is arranging a U.S. speaking tour for Dr. Mona, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but she may not be allowed to leave Gaza. This situation is so diabolical. I want to scream.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #210 – I must be very, very careful (and probably a lot more circumspect) about jumping to conclusions when I read the “news” from Palestine/Israel.

Case in point: several different sources are reporting that an aide to President Abbas announced that Arab countries should attack Gaza. The “aide to Abbas” is a Muslim cleric using his bully pulpit to rouse antipathy towards Hamas. Yikes!

When I was in Gaza (2012-2013) I remember hearing about the political sermons coming from the Mosques every Friday. Since nearly every male goes to listen to these Friday sermons, I wonder how much influence/power/authority these clerics have over the population.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #211 – When I decided to become a pilgrim months ago, I thought my travels required that I leave behind many of my passions and interests. I realized this week that that’s not true. I don’t have to physically be in ABQ to remain actively engaged in some of the issues I’m concerned about, like the Santolina master plan. It’s much easier to be a pilgrim in the 21st century than it must have been in the 18th or 19th centuries.  Al-hamdulillah!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #212 – I’m hearing reports that a third flotilla will be sailing to Gaza during the first half of 2015.  I wonder if I could join it.

#GoingtoGaza

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

#GoingtoGaza – February 2015

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My journey continues as a pilgrim returning to Gaza. In February 2015 I was in Gilroy, California, USA calling the Egyptian Embassy regularly to see when I might be able to submit my Visa application to cross the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza.

Day #154 – A question for my Muslim friends wherever you may be in the world.

Please answer “Yes” or “No” or “Don’t know” — and feel free to send me a private message if you don’t want to be identified. Does ISIS represent the true values of Islam?

#GoingtoGaza

Day #155 – Warning to my Facebook friends. Don’t accept requests to add people to your “friend list” just because they may be “mutual friends” with me.  I don’t vouch for anyone. I typically add everyone because I’m trying to reach a large audience. I don’t personally know 90% of my FB friends. Just Sayin’

#GoingtoGaza

Day #157 – Finished a writing project that’s been hanging over my head. Yeah! Will start a new writing project tomorrow. Thinking about the power of words. I enjoy writing. I’m looking forward to mentoring a new writer from Gaza in the We Are Not Numbers! The organizers have nearly met their fundraising goal!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #158 – I have many, many friends from the Middle East. Some I know personally. Talking with them, I know 95% or more do not support ISIS. But I have a friend (perhaps more than one) who does, in fact, support ISIS. My friend is smart and intelligent and only needs a chance to succeed.  Israeli occupation and Western complicity in the occupation are destroying the hopes and dreams of 100s and 1000s of young people.

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Day #159 – An independent investigative reporter, Nafeez Ahmed, Ph.D., has just written an excellent piece in the Middle East Eye spelling out why ISIS is attracting recruits, and what we MUST do to defeat ISIS.  This is so good—-I just mailed off copies with a handwritten note to my two US Senators and Congresswoman.  I really do hope they will read it, share it, act on it.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #160 – Tonight I watched the new film “Last Days in Vietnam” which will be released on PBS in April. This documentary is about 75-90% original footage from the actual events in 1975 when the Americans left Saigon.  The editing is very well done. And the interviews of people who were there and survived are really remarkable.  Left me thinking — considering where we are in 2015, did the U.S. government and foreign policy wonks learn anything from Vietnam?  The War on Terror is just a reincarnation of the 20-year Vietnam War. Really, nothing has changed except the military industrial complex is more firmly entrenched.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #161 – Should I? Or shouldn’t I? Before I post on Facebook, I try to decide whether my post will be constructive and meaningful. Except for the cute animal videos which are easy to post, I sometimes have to stop and seriously think about how my post will be received.

Will it merely inflame passions or will it be food for thought? It doesn’t matter if people agree or disagree with me. Today I’m weighing the pros and cons of posting a message from someone who has drawn thoughtful parallels between ISIS and Zionists.  Should I? Or shouldn’t I?

#GoingtoGaza

Day #162 – Hamas is building the facilities at its seaport in Gaza to open it up for trade and travel. I recall university students in Gaza in 2012 who prepared plans for a trade zone at the border with Egypt in Rafah. It’s absolutely amazing that their determination to join the community of nations hasn’t been defeated by Israel’s 8-year siege and blockade and 3 military operations. I’d love to be on the first passenger boat to land at the docks of this new seaport.

#GoingtoGaza

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Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas)

Day #163 – “Hamas is a terrorist organization” — I’m so tired of hearing that. Do people actually think if they say it often enough, it will be true?

Hamas is a terrorist organization (“TO”) like the US military is a TO in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hamas is a TO like Israel’s military is a TO in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Hamas is a TO like the extremist settlers in the West Bank are a TO to their Palestinian neighbors.

Hamas is a TO like the domestic police squads in the USA that profile young, black males and shoot to kill are TO in their communities.

Hamas is a TO like the multinational corporations that have plundered the indigenous communities in South America killing activists who stood in the way of their profits are TO.

OK … enough already! Stop talking about TO and do something to make the world a little less terrifying for the next generation.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #164 – People come to the conflict in the Holy Land with many different beliefs, different “truths” and different understanding. All they need is compassion and everything else will be revealed. I’ve met Jews, Muslims and Christians who are so firmly entrenched in their beliefs, that they view compassion as a weakness.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #165 – Advice to Facebook “friends”.

1) If you take FB comments personally, you’re spending too much time on social media.

2) If you’re feeling depressed, angry, or sad about what you read on FB, you’re spending too much time on social media.

3) If you think you’re changing the world with your FB posts, you’re spending too much time on social media.

My advice: take a sabbatical from Facebook.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #166 – Feeling the hate today. Specifically the hatred from readers of The Jerusalem Post who post outrageous comments. I wonder if they feel free to spew such venom because of their anonymity online. Would they dare say such stupid things in person? Has social media contributed to the vitriolic hogwash?

#GoingtoGaza

Day #167 – Valentines Day!  I wish every day was Valentines Day! Imagine what the world would look like if people (especially men) had love and compassion in their hearts every day? There wouldn’t be enough room left for the carnage in Gaza and Syria, the murder of 3 UNC students, or the other monstrosities. I wonder if ISIS members receive Valentine cards.

#GoingtoGaza

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Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

Day #168 – “Why do you want to go to Gaza?” another friend asked me last night at dinner. Instead of listing the many reasons I’ve shared with others, I simply told her “I have friends in Gaza and I miss them very much.” That was probably the most honest answer I’ve given to that question.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #169 – Thinking about the different groups of people seeking justice in the Holy Land.

Political Zionists want justice for Jews

Christian Zionists want justice for Christians

ISIS wants justice for Islam and the new caliphate

Palestinians want justice for Palestinians

International Activists want justice for whichever group they are supporting.

Which other groups should be included on this list?

Each group believes it has cornered the market on justice. Can justice for anyone be achieved without compassion?  Compassion seems to be sorely lacking.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #170 – A New York Times article today talks about how miserable life is in Gaza that Palestinians would prefer to cross the border and be captured and sent to an Israeli prison than remain in Gaza.

Someone on FB who is clearly “pro-Israel” expressed glee that Israeli prisons are better than Gaza. I intuited that he was proud of Israel for its great prisons.  :-(.  When did “pro-Israel” become synonymous with turning a blind eye to the suffering of your neighbors?

#GoingtoGaza

Day #171 – Learning new things keeps the mind and spirit young. Today I learned that I enjoy learning through all of my senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.  Started listening to an audiobook by Karen Armstrong “Fields of Blood – Religion and the History of Violence”.

Requires a different type of concentration to learn with my ears.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #172 – A message to my friend in Gaza who supports ISIS aka Daesh.

https://loralucero.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/a-message-to-my-friend/

#GoingtoGaza

Day #173 – I watched the opening of a film tonight celebrating the heyday of the Women’s liberation movement. Title: “She’s beautiful when she’s angry.” I was AWOL during most of the marches and meetings discussed in this film. 1966 – 1971, so this was a real eye opener for me. Wish there was as much energy in the streets today protesting. We need a revolution.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #174 – Sharing with friends tonight about how important it is to maintain strong family connections.  I thought about the examples I saw in Gaza and told my friends how families there have such a strong intergenerational bond — something I really admired.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #175 – Former Middle East envoy Tony Blair recently visited Gaza. Afterwards he reported that the millions of $$ pledged last September for reconstruction was not coming into Gaza because of disagreements between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.  No mention that Israel might be withholding $$ or that the donor countries haven’t fulfilled their pledges. Does anyone know what’s REALLY going on?  I want to know.

#GoingtoGaza

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Karen Armstrong

Day #176 – OK, I don’t know what to make of it, but this is what I’ve been ruminating on today. Karen Armstrong’s new book “Fields of Blood – Religion and the History of Violence” – Chapter 7 focuses on Islam and mentions the Sunni – Shia divide. In earlier chapters, she talks about divides in the other major religions. Present day Palestine and the divide between President Abbas (Palestinian Authority) and Hamas (duly elected in 2005 or 2006). The U.S. Congress and the divide between the Republicans and Democrats, reflecting a serious divide among Americans.

— Each of these divides has been very destructive for the community.

— Each of these divides is spawned from the testosterone side of humanity.

— Each of these divides represents a failure by both sides to heed the “Golden Rule”.  Treat your neighbor as you wish to be treated.

Not sure where I’m going with this train of thought. But I know I’m . . .

#GoingtoGaza

Day #177 – Today a U.S. Court ordered the Palestinian Authority to pay $218 million in damages to victims of attacks in Israel between 2002-2004.

Last week, the Supreme Court in Israelupreme Court in Israel dismissed an appeal brought by the parents of an American victim killed in Gaza by the driver of an Israeli military bulldozer.

Each case involved American victims of foreign violence; but why the different verdicts? Simple answer: Politics.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #178 – I learned a good lesson (again). Not everything posted on social media is accurate. No one is fact-checking. So I posted an article that condemned Israel for intentionally opening a dam and flooding parts of Gaza forcing many families to evacuate their homes. I didn’t fact check it but took it as truth because I saw the same story from different sources. They couldn’t all be wrong?!?  Yes, they were wrong. Friends who consider themselves “pro-Israel” posted messages about the “LIE” as evidence that people “hate Israel”. The original story was fabricated nearly 10 years ago and is repeated every time the area floods. Accuracy is so important and I regret my part in circulating the original post. However, everyone misses the POINT.

Palestinian families are victimized year after year after year with this flooding that is VERY REAL. Friends of Israel want to make themselves out to be the victims of a lie and the inevitable hatred of Israel. We have lost sight of the real victims here. The families who have been flooded out of their homes AGAIN. Ask yourself “why”? Why does this flooding persist year after year? I’m trying to find the answer and will share it when I have the facts.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #179 – “Theological bigotry.” Karen Armstrong uses that term in “Fields of Blood”. For thousands of years, mankind has savagely murdered “others” in the name of their religion — Christians, Jews and Muslims have all claimed their religion allowed them to slay the “other.”

They have failed to see their relationship with “others” and so they have failed their God/Allah/Yahweh. And I see the same thing on Facebook every day.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #180 – Realized tonight that I have no idea how I might feel if I was a Muslim listening to Daesh (aka ISIS) explain why they are destroying enturies-old statues.

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France Gaza Protest

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gather to protest against the Israeli army’s bombings in the Gaza strip, in Paris, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Police have clashed with thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters who defied a ban in Paris on marching to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, Video

Compassion in Action

I lived in Gaza for 9 months (September 2012 through May 2013) and I’m on a journey to return for an indefinite stay. Frankly, I want to move to Gaza. At the age of 61, friends and family understandably ask me WHY?!?

My blog Why Gaza? is my simple but inadequate attempt to provide an answer.

The following three questions, posed by a Professor of English at the Islamic University of Gaza, reveal a kernel of truth behind my desire to return to Gaza. Maybe if I can answer them, my friends and family will understand my “obsession,” as some have called it.

How has knowing Palestine and struggling for peace and justice in Palestine made me a better person?

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

What does Palestine inspire in me?

Yes!  I am a better person. I instinctively knew it upon my return to the States in May 2013. Not a “holier than thou” better person; not a smug “I know more than you” about the Holy Land better person; and certainly not a wiser “I have all of the answers to the conflict” better person. I’m a newcomer to the Israel-Palestine tragedy, more motivated than ever to read, listen and learn.

I’m a better person because I witnessed compassion in action, and I believe I’m a more compassionate person as a result.

The Golden Rule has been my guidepost most of my adult life (even though I admit to being an imperfect role model) but I never truly understood or appreciated its significance until my visit to Gaza.

Compassion and concern for others appeared to be infused in nearly every act of kindness I witnessed between family members, neighbors, professional colleagues, store clerks, farmers and even the taxi drivers. The Golden Rule came to life for me amidst the death and destruction following Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Under the most challenging of circumstances (the decades-long Occupation, 8+ years siege, and multiple Israeli bombardments) I thought it was astounding that everywhere I turned in Gaza (1.8 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip) I found people struggling together but with open hearts and hands to help others. What was in the water they were drinking?

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

As best as I could tell, their compassion is not motivated by personal reward or expectation of gratitude. Instead, it seems to be in their DNA. I wanted some of what they were drinking.

Karen Armstrong’s Charter of Compassion is what I’m talking about. She’s calling for nations and communities all over the world to adopt a global compassion.

Surely, the Palestinians in Gaza are fallible human beings struggling with their own internal demons, as we all are, but I witnessed something there that I haven’t seen anywhere else. “Empathy for the other” is the only way I can describe it. Israelis could have the very best neighbors if the Zionists would only acknowledge the impacts of the Nakhba and end the brutal and illegal Occupation.

My friends and family will surely roll their eyes upon reading this. I can hear them saying: “Those Hamas terrorists certainly aren’t compassionate. The militants firing rockets into Israel don’t concern themselves with the innocent lives they put in danger!”

Setting aside the argument of who is and isn’t a terrorist, certainly violence in the name of resistance is just as counter-productive as violence in the name of self-defense. And more to the point, violence directed at innocent civilians by either side is a violation of international law — definitely not a sign of compassion.

This, I am sure — Israelis and Palestinians need to connect in deep and meaningful ways to be able to express the Golden Rule and share their compassion with each other and with humanity. Keeping one group locked up behind gates and walls and military checkpoints, and the other group immobilized by their fear and ignorance of the other, is not a path on which the Golden Rule will flourish.

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

Connecting the dots started over thirty years ago for me when I became actively engaged in building a world beyond war. Check out Beyond War: A New Way of Thinking. Since then I’ve worked both professionally and personally on climate justice issues, social and economic justice campaigns, and joined the Occupy Movement in September 2011. I wanted to learn more about the Palestinian struggle for justice after I visited Gaza the first time in 2004. My opportunity finally came in 2012.

My understanding and appreciation of the Palestinian struggle came as a result of my earlier intellectual and spiritual growth, not the other way around. Although young New Mexican activists have opened my eyes to the common  struggles engaged in by the indigenous Peoples in New Mexico and the indigenous Peoples in the Holy Land, I have known for many, many years that “We Are One.”

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What does Palestine inspire in me?

Consistent with my belief that “we are one”, I know that the future of the planet and the Holy Land belongs to everyone: Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and those who follow no religion. I don’t believe anyone has superior rights, but everyone has basic human rights to life, liberty and justice.

I’m drawn to the Palestinian struggle because the Israeli Occupation is so patently unjust and illegal. My spiritual heart and my legal mind want to help correct the injustices I see occurring every day in Gaza. Until the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza are allowed to live and flourish in dignity and with justice, all of us will be poorer human beings on this small planet.

The Challenge:

Now I’m going to challenge my friend Pam Bailey to ponder these three little questions and share her answers … and to follow with a challenge to another person to do the same.

Lora Lucero

April 24, 2015

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Islam, Israel, Nakba, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion

My stream of consciousness . . . the golden rule

With my thanks, as well as apologies, to Karen Armstrong for stimulating my thoughts about the acts of violence we see in the world. I’m listening to the audio version of her new book “Fields of Blood – Religion and the History of Violence.” I intend to listen to it a second time  . . . and more if necessary . . . to fully appreciate how she is connecting the historical dots between religion, politics, imperialism and colonialism, the oppressed and oppressor, and humanity.

Fields of Blood

I’m convinced that if President Obama and every member of Congress knew and understood how our government’s actions in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel . . . everywhere goddamnit . . . fueled the extremism that we consider so threatening today, our leaders would be making wiser foreign policy decisions.

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.   
One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.

What if we conducted our global relationships consistent with the Golden Rule? Could we deflate the violent reactions of extremists, such as Daesh (aka ISIS)?  U.S. military leaders (and maybe most Americans) might think this suggestion is naïve and dangerous. Certainly, the weapons manufacturers (aka military industrial complex) would not approve.

Repeating the same failed policies of the past seem much more dangerous to anyone with an ounce of humanity and courage.

Einstein

If the U.S. government treated its global relationships by following the Golden Rule, we might do the following:

  • Realign our budget to reflect our values, not our fears.
  • Condemn foreign leaders whose actions and conduct are antithetical to the Golden Rule.
  • Establish a compulsory year of humanitarian service for every high school student, either at home or abroad.
  • Reform our primary and secondary education curriculum to require mastery of a second language, teaching world history and religions from a more holistic perspective, and developing our critical thinking skills.
  • Reforge the military industrial complex into the global compassion complex.

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War is a pathology

War is a pathology, no doubt about it.

Author Karen Armstrong calls war a  “psychosis caused by an inability to see relationships” and she urges a universal religion of compassion.

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So maybe we need a Department of Psychoanalysis rather than a Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The Republicans in Congress seem hellbent on defunding DHS.  I say “call their bluff and do it.  Please!”

My new Department of Psychoanalysis would be staffed with professional shrinks who have a minor in cultural sensitivity.  They would be charged with examining global security threats from the humanistic perspective – whether environmental threats, economic threats, military threats, and even political threats. If we were only smart enough to see that these are all connected.

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Today, in advance of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next week, they might analyze reports coming in from the Holy Land about the rising predictions of another assault on Gaza.  Although the Israeli public seems oblivious, Gideon Levy writes that Israel is galloping to the next war in Gaza.

Israel will again pretend to be surprised and offended – the cruel Arabs are attacking it with rockets again, for no reason.

The vast majority in Israel probably suffer from dissociative amnesia and carry on their lives as though all is fine in the world, but there are some in Gaza (just a few miles away) who believe Judgement Day is near.  That’s what is motivating Daesh (aka ISIS) and it’s not difficult to see why some people in Gaza who have lived their entire adult lives under Israel’s brutal occupation and the genocidal assault last summer, would fall prey to such apocalyptic thinking.

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The Secretary of the Department of Psychoanalysis would be able to communicate such threats to the President and Congress.  Her recommendations might include:

  1. Take whatever steps are necessary to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
  2. Send the Sixth Fleet into the port of Gaza, break the 8+ year siege, and bring the humanitarian supplies (medicine, housing and food) that are desperately needed in Gaza.
  3. Invite Netanyahu to the Pentagon for a briefing when he is in town next week, tell him the facts, give him an ultimatum, follow through on the ultimatum if he fails to deliver.

We really could shift the direction of world affairs by simply shifting the trim tab on the ship of state. It doesn’t take much, just a pair of balls.

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Time for some compassion!

“L’Shana Tova” to my Jewish friends and family. “Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair!” to my Muslim friends.

My gift to all of my observant Christian, Muslim and Jewish friends is this 22 minute TedTalk by Karen Armstrong where she talks about the common denominator between the three great Abrahamic religions – the Golden Rule.  You’ve probably heard of it but I bet you haven’t heard of the Charter for Compassion which Armstrong describes.

The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.

The Charter for Compassion is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed the Charter for Compassion. And there are tools for making compassionate communities, see here.

I’m not a believer in any religion. I try to live my life by the Golden Rule, and I think I could get behind the Charter for Compassion.

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Charter for Compassion

When people in Gaza ask me about my religious faith, I tell them that I am nominally a Christian.  I try to live my life by the Golden Rule, something that all major religious traditions share.  “Do unto others as I wish they would do unto me.”  I wrote about the Golden Rule in January.

This morning, I stumbled across this TEDTalk by Karen Armstrong.  She says “religion has been hijacked” and that many “religious people prefer to be right rather than compassionate.”

Karen says that the Golden Rule must be applied globally.  “Any ideology that doesn’t promote global understanding is failing the test of time.”

“We should not treat other nations as we do not want to be treated.   . . .  It is well past time to move beyond mere toleration, and move towards appreciation of the other.”   At the end of her short 20 minute talk, she urges people to support the charter for compassion.  The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological and national differences.  Take a look here.

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