Wednesday, November 26, 2008

B'Tselem Joins Facebook (and you can too =)

I just discovered that B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, has a facebook group. I'm not sure if this is a new development, or if I've just been oblivious. Either way, I encourage you to join. If you happen to be a facebook hater, I exert no pressure (and respect your position), but if you're already a member, this is a good way to dialogue and make connections.

They have a recent news column, and lots of links to related topics (most not posted by B'Tselem, just those interested). They also give an email address ( and offer to respond to any questions.

If you're not already familiar with B'Tselem's work, I strongly suggest you become so. Their website ( is an excellent source of information, whether you want general information, or specific statistics related to home demolition, the separation barrier, Israeli settlements, casualty counts, or related topics.

Here's the blurb from their facebook group, which gives an idea of who they are, and what they do:
B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The name means "in the image of God" in Hebrew, conveying that we are all born equal.

_________________Our Intentions_______________
We endeavor to educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the OPT, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.

As an Israeli organization, B'Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the OPT and to ensure that its government, which rules these territories, protects the human rights of its residents and complies with its obligations under international law.

________________Shooting Back_________________
In this video project that has been running for the last two years, we distribute video cameras among Palestinians that live in areas of especially high conflict in the OPT, so they can film violations on human rights. The films are used as court evidence. Also, they have become a non-violent weapon that we use to advocate justice, to protect the rights of Palestinians in the OPT, and to show how life under the occupation really is.

_______________Getting Involved__________________
Sign up at our website to get RSS feeds or bi-weekly updates by email (Hebrew or English) on new publications and recent incidents B'Tselem has dealt with.

We'll be happy to answer any questions - by email or here on the wall.
One interesting element of the facebook group (which I haven't found on their website) is a link to videos. Among others, there's the July film clip of a soldier firing a rubber bullet at a bound and blindfolded Palestinian (the event that inspired Amal's "Inappropriate Behavior: the Art of Shooting Blindfolded Palestinians," which I posted back in August). Here's the blurb B'Tselem posted:
On 20 July 2008, B'Tselem was given a video cassette a Palestinian youngster filmed through the window of her home, in Ni’lin. The footage, filmed on 7 July, shows a soldier firing a rubber-coated bullet at a handcuffed, blindfolded Palestinian from almost point-blank range. Several security forces were present, among them a lieutenant-colonel who was holding the Palestinian’s arm when the shot was fired. B'Tselem immediately published the footage and sent a copy to the Military Police Investigation Unit. The media reported that following the airing of the video, the army opened an investigation, and that the Judea and Samaria Division Commander had known about the incident but had taken no action in the matter.

The video was shot by SalamAmira, a Palestinian high school student, from her family home window, in the village of Ni’lin. The ‘Amira family did not earn any material reward for the video, but paid a high price for its brave act. Three days later, the family’s head, Jamal ‘Amira, was arrested at a protest in his olive grove, and was detained for over three weeks.

Following an appeal by Adv. Gabi Laski, Jamal ‘Amira was released on bail. The military appeal judge strongly criticized the handling of the case by the military prosecution, and wrote that: "It is doubtful that the evidence in the case will lead to a conviction". The judge treated seriously the family’s allegation that the arrest was official revenge for the video’s release.
The family is still struggling to pay legal costs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Responsibility

Here are some thoughts from Jim Wallis (president of Sojourners), reminding us that responsibility does not end with voting. I think it's also a challenge to look at this election as an opportunity, regardless of political perspective (I am so tired of all the badmouthing -- whatever happened to love, and support, and respect? Especially in faith based circles? Yes, they are politicians, and yes, they are human. Treat accordingly):

A Prayer and Pledge for Real Change

Yesterday’s election represents a watershed moment in the life and history of our country. Regardless of how you voted, our entire nation can celebrate the milestone of our first African-American president. We can all embrace this profound opportunity for deeper racial reconciliation and social justice.

But this is also a moment that demands prophetic leadership and the power of a faith-inspired movement. From the abolition of slavery, to women's suffrage, to civil rights, history shows us that political change happens when social movements push on open doors of political leadership. And the best movements have spiritual foundations.

Please join me in telling President-elect Obama that we will pray for his presidency while also holding him accountable to the promises of a new kind of politics.

This election represents a new and open door for change. However, we know that President Obama will face tremendous pressure and obstacles in pursuing an agenda that addresses the moral imperatives to overcome poverty, develop renewable energy, responsibly withdraw from Iraq, and dramatically reduce the number of abortions.

That is why your commitment is needed now more than ever. We must ensure that the campaign slogan of “change” becomes a new movement for change.

Join us in ensuring that these campaign promises become a reality.

In recent times, religion has been both too narrow and too divisive. The faith community can now play a new role—bringing people together on the biggest moral issues of our time—even across old political divisions.

This election has shown that the era of single-issue voting is over and a broader moral agenda that seeks common ground on moral issues has begun. Members of Black churches, Catholics, evangelicals, Latinos, and mainline Protestants are acting on a broad set of biblical values. I look forward to the day when both poverty reduction and abortion reduction become nonpartisan issues and bipartisan causes.

Please join me in offering President-elect Obama our prayers and our actions as he assumes the responsibility of leading our nation in a very challenging time.


Jim Wallis
President, Sojourners

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Remembering War: the Imperial War Museum

Here's a different perspective on the trip to the Imperial War Museum: Remembering War. Kohleun (the blog's writer) raises questions about why, and what, we remember about war:
In the main room fighter planes hung from the ceiling with huge propellers. Tanks of many shapes parked in various places shone with green paint. And the largest bullet stood straight up, looking to the sky. But this was dwarfed by the massive bomb in the middle of the atrium, visible from all balconies.

And I can't help but think, that is not the stuff of life. Manipulated metal and explosives are not the stuff to base our memories upon.
The above extract is short, but it gives you a sense of her perspective. I was reading through the comments she'd received, and especially liked the following from Michelle:
"Let the sight of rubble be forever present before the leaders' eyes so that the flame of peace will light constructive solutions in their minds."

So can we forget (or forgive) war to the extent that we let go of victim/perpetrator status but remember it to the extent that we are motivated to make peace?
I certainly hope so.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

In Memoriam: The Great War

Youth Mourning by George Clausen (1916)

The 11th of November will be the 90 year anniversary of the armistice of World War I -- a war still remembered, in much of Europe (for its hugeness and its horror), as the Great War.
Whenever the November sky
Quivers with a bugle's hoarse, sweet cry . . .
I remember,
Not the war I fought in
But the one called Great
Which ended in a sepia November
Four years before my birth.
-Vernon Scannell, from The Great War
In September, I went to visit the London Imperial War Museum, where a year-long exhibition, In Memoriam, commemorates this anniversary. It tells (in their own words) the stories of those who lived and died in one of the most gruesome, and costly, conflicts in history:
Lice, rats, barbed wire, fleas, shells, bombs, dug-outs, bodies, alcohol, mice, cats, artillery, FILTH, bullets, death, fire, metal. That's war. It's the Devil's work.
-Otto D., Journal

Day after day the butchery of the unknown by the unseen . . . war has become stupid.
-"Changing Warfare. Some New Developments" (24 Nov. 1914)

From Praematuri:
But we are young, and our friends are dead
Suddenly, and our quick love is torn in two;
So our memories are only hopes that came to nothing.
We are left alone like old men; we should be dead
But there are years and years in which we will still be young.
-Margaret Postgate Cole (1893- 1980)

Aftermath (1919):
Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.

But the past is just the same-and War’s a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz-
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench-
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack-
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads-those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.
Siegfried Sassoon
Walking through the permanent World War I galleries, the discrepancies between the propaganda (especially for recruitment) and the reality at the front made me want to simultaneously weep, scream, and be violently, violently, ill. I couldn't stop crying while viewing The Children's War exhibition, and the whole experience left me exhausted and numb.

We need to be reminded. The horrific weight of death. But what does one do with the pain? Is remembering enough?