Sunday, January 25, 2009

Song for Gaza

Michael Heart's "We Will Not Go Down."
I'm a bit ambivalent about this video. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Facebook, Nonviolence, and the Holy Land Trust

Speaking of MLK and nonviolence, the Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian non-profit organization centered on community building and nonviolent resistance in Bethlehem, now has a facebook group.

Tell your friends.

MLK and the Separation Barrier

I already posted this in the previous post, but since it's in the middle of Dr. King's letter, I wasn't sure how many would actually find it. So I'm reposting it here. =)

Perhaps more than any other element of his article, this statement brings Israel and Palestine hauntingly to mind:

"Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an I-it" relationship for an "I-though" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things...Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression 'of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness'?"

"An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday was a day devoted to the celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of the Civil Rights Movement, and King's invaluable contributions to the cause of nonviolent resistance, I would ask that you take the time to read MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail. King was a powerful thinker, a powerful writer, and a powerful prophet -- for his time and ours.

As I think of the situation in Palestine and Israel -- or contemplate the reality of oppression and war in our world as a whole -- so many of King's words resonate within me.

Why am I in Birmingham? he asks. "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here."

"Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states . . . Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

About nonviolence, he says: "We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national community . . . You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Isn't negotiations a better path?' You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to created such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed . . . 'Justice too long delayed is justice denied.' There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair."

"One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

"Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an I-it" relationship for an "I-though" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things . . . Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression 'of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness'?"

"An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal."

"Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men [and women] willing to be co-workers with God . . . We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity."

"Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever."

"Was not Jesus an extremist for love? Was not Amos an extremist for justice? Was not Paul . . . Luther . . . Bunyan . . . Lincoln . . . [and] Jefferson? So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? The world [is] in dire need of creative extremists."

"Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being 'disturbers of the peace' and 'outside agitators.' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were 'a colony of heaven,' called to obey God rather than man. Small in number they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be 'astronomically intimidated'."

"Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are."

He ends with a eulogy to the American values of justice, equality, and freedom. He calls these values "the sacred heritage of our nation." A heritage he sees threatened by the complacency of Americans towards injustice, segregation, and bondage.

Are we the nation we claim to be? Is this our heritage? And, if so, can we regain it?

President Obama has been inaugurated. Change is in the air. Shall justice be restored?

Monday, January 19, 2009

What She Said

"They don't have snow days in Palestine,
they have military invasion days."

She said, go play outside,
but don't throw balls near the soldiers.
When a jeep goes past
keep your eyes on the ground.
And don't pick up stones,
not even for hopscotch. She said,
don't bother the neighbors;
their son was arrested last night.
Hang the laundry, make the beds,
scrub that graffiti off the walls
before the soldiers see it. She said,
there's no money; if your shoes
are too tight, cut the toes off.
This is what we have to eat;
we won't eat again until tomorrow.
No, we don't have any oranges,
they chopped down the orange trees.
I don't know why. Maybe the trees
were threatening the tanks. She said,
there's no water, we'll take baths next week,
insha'allah. Meanwhile, don't flush the toilet.
And don't go near the olive grove,
there are settlers there with guns.
No, I don't know how we'll harvest
the olives, and I don't know what we'll do
if they bulldoze the trees. God will provide
if He wishes, or UNRWA, but certainly not
the Americans. She said, you can't
go out today, there's a curfew.
Keep away from those windows;
can't you hear the shooting?
No, I don't know why they bulldozed
the neighbor's house. And if God knows,
He's not telling. She said,
there's no school today,
it's a military invasion.
No, I don't know when it will be over,
or if it will be over. She said,
don't think about the tanks
or the planes or the guns
or what happened to the neighbors.
Come into the hallway,
it's safer there. And turn off that news,
you're too young for this. Listen,
I'll tell you a story so you won't be scared.
Kan ya ma kan - there was or there was not -
a land called Falastine
where children played in the streets
and in the fields and in the orchards
and picked apricots and almonds
and wove jasmine garlands for their mothers.
And when planes flew overhead
they shouted happily and waved.
Kan ya ma kan. Keep your head down.

-by Lisa Suhair Majaj (poem available here)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Concerning Gaza: A Letter to Obama

This is long. But it's thought provoking. And worth reading.
So read it. Please.

An Open Letter from Laila Halaby to the President Elect Obama

Dear President Elect Obama,

Belatedly, I congratulate you on winning the election.
Belatedly, I offer my condolences for the death of your beloved grandmother.
Hopefully not belatedly, I implore you to consider your role in Palestine.

Though I try to avoid watching the news, last night I forced myself to look at coverage of Gaza. I started with CNN or Reuters, and though at that point over 200 Palestinians had been killed, the footage I saw was of the funeral for the one Israeli who died. I watched several men carry a coffin. I saw attractive women crying. It was both public and private and one felt their grief. The message was clear: one Israeli death is one too many whereas more than 200 Palestinian deaths are in a different category.

So I decided to watch al-Jazeera. Do you ever watch it? Shirin Abu Aqle, who has been reporting from the Occupied Territories for the last eight or so years, is looking very, very tired. I forced myself to watch the scenes of destruction, the ambulances, the men and women slumped over the bodies of their family members. I forced myself to listen to the screams, the wailing.

I forced myself to watch these images because I feel that as long as my country is supporting the country that has caused this, I am guilty.

I got to thinking about your campaign and my reasons for supporting you:

You were by far the smartest and wisest candidate.
Your plans were clear and intelligent.
Your ego did not get in the way.
There was another more personal reason.

I also supported you because you are familiar.

Like you, my mother is white and my father was brown and foreign.
Like you, I had a funny name.
Like you, I did not grow up with my father, but his absence shaped the person I became. Like you, I had connections abroad, an entire other world that seemed as though it should in some way belong to me. Or I to it.
Like you, I was, at times, an Other.
Like you, I became very good at gauging situations and people.

This is why I trust you.

Why I knew you were the only candidate who would truly treat other world leaders as equals, thereby earning their respect.
Why I sang your praises over Senator Clinton to anyone who would listen.
Why I wrote letters, wore t-shirts, bought my kids t-shirts, and bought a second bumper sticker for my car after the first one was stolen. (My younger son, who was eight at the time, wrote you a letter and you wrote him back. He has that letter pinned to his door and he was your spokesperson in the third and fourth grade.)

You see, President Elect Obama, the familiarity that I see in you is one of fairness and justice: you can see both sides of a situation because you are both sides and it's why you ultimately choose what is right and not what is popular. You also have a tremendous sense of history, so I know you are aware that what we see today is not everything.

Which brings me back to Palestine.

Gaza is filled with people whose family homes are being lived in by Jewish settlers from all over the world. Many of those people, if they are permitted entry back into the country that was once theirs, have to wait an hour or more for the privilege to walk by those homes on their way to working in a factory to make underwear or t-shirts for western women. They smell the freshly mowed lawns, hear the splashing of children in bright blue pools on land that was once theirs. Most of them try to tune out the past, focus on the few constants they are allowed in this present life: family and faith.

It is never just today. Just as you are not simply a Black man in his forties who got a new job, this is not simply an explosive situation between good guys and bad guys.

Gaza is also filled with very creative people: all sorts of artists, musicians, actors, dancers, who hone their skills and dream. There are teachers and doctors and lawyers and nurses and engineers. And there are lots and lots of students who dream and hope, in spite of the fact that their options are fewer than most of us can imagine.

Gaza is filled, literally, with children who can describe the villages that were taken from their families two or more generations ago. They can tell you the number of olive trees that surrounded the house, or describe the scent of citrus blossoms that filled the air, or the old man who lived two houses down who always sang whenever he walked, and how his voice was terribly unmelodic, but what an enormous void there was when he died. They can tell you these things because their parents and grandparents are determined that they not forget; that they, in turn, will not be forgotten.

It is never just today. Just as you are not simply moving into the White House in a month, refugee camps are not ancestral homes; populating a country that was already populated can involve unacceptable tactics.

Just as we took the time to get to know you, to understand your history, and to believe in you, I ask you to stop looking at today, at what is wrong with today, and to look at how it got that way.

Just as we took the time to get past your funny name, your foreign father, your all-over-the-place upbringing, I beg you to do the same for Palestine.

Until the wrongs of slavery were admitted, there was anger and extremism.
Until the wrongs of occupation are admitted, there will be anger and extremism.
And fathers and mothers like you and like me will continue to live through what is unimaginable.

I will end with something Mohandas Ghandi said, something I know that you believe: "A confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away the dirt and leaves the surface brighter and clearer."

Very sincerely yours,

Laila Halaby

A Palestinian Mother's Blog

If you've been watching CNN recently, you might have seen an interview with Laila El-Hadda. A Palestinian from Gaza, she is a journalist and blogger living in North Carolina with her family.

Her parents are still in Gaza.

If you're interested in her side of the story -- a Palestinian raising her children in America, with family still suffering in Gaza -- I'd recommend you check out her blogsite: Raising Yousuf and Noor: diary of a Palestinian mother.

You could also read one of her articles, Bloodied in Gaza, published on the 30th of December.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Face of Suffering: Where to Run?

This clip, from the 30th of December, is haunting.
These are the real faces. These are the real people.

Children Speak about Gaza

Here's a video clip about Gaza BEFORE the recent violence. I still find it rather applicable.

Part of the clip shows interviews with Palestinian children. One boy asks: "Could you live here? Could you? You couldn't because conditions are horrible ["difficult"/"hard"], and you'd be terrified whenever the missiles strike and the walls begin to crack."

Another child recounts the experience of being under fire: "The shelling struck the window, everything broke and got burnt. Why did they break my things? And break my toys? . . . We threw it all in the garbage . . . the food we eat smells like gas. We don't want to get rid of our clothes, even though they smells like gas . . . let the Israelis come and smell our clothes and see our home."

The clip (which can also be found at Behind the Lines: Poetry, War, and Peacemaking) is originally from the documentary Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority. The film is the winner of multiple awards from various film festivals (including Best Film and Best Documentary), and has a very impressive list of experts interviewed.

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance . . . it is the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

480 Palestinians Dead in Gaza

About twenty minutes ago, CNN reported that more than 480 Palestinians have lost their lives in the attacks on Gaza. On the other hand, 4 Israelis are dead.

And yet, Netanyahu claims that Israel is putting its own soldiers at risk in its attempt to protect Palestinian civilians. He says that it is Hamas that doesn't care about the casualty count.

I find the evidence rather strongly to the contrary.

[That is not to say that Hamas does care about the casualty count. They may not either. But I find it highly ironic, with the numbers as they are, for Israel to claim that they have the moral high ground.]

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gaza Invaded

Israeli ground troops have just invaded Gaza.

Israel, according to CNN, has not yet (in the last week of air-strikes) reached its goal of "crippling Hamas."

So they have invaded. Because this will help? Israel (in a grand act of generosity) has dropped leaflets urging Gaza residents to leave immediately.

Would someone please tell me where they are supposed to go? The borders are closed. Israel is invading a prison, with civilians trapped inside.

Hamas' probable status as a terrorist organization DOES NOT justify bludgeoning innocent families into oblivion. If being a terrorist is judged by the act of targeting non-combatants, I'd say Israel pretty much qualifies.

Ironically, my family got the news while watching a West Wing (fifth season) episode about, guess what? Invading Gaza.

This is not a game. This was never a game.

Pictures and Stories of Gaza

If you want eyewitness accounts of what's going on in Gaza, on the ground, check out this blog: In Gaza. The pictures alone tell a horrifying story.