Saturday, February 25, 2012
Yesterday Electronic Intifada published my article, "Asking Israel Why it Tortured my Friend." In it, I describe my experience standing up in a "Our Soldiers Speak" presentation at DePaul University and asking Israeli soldier Benjamin Anthony to explain why soldiers tortured my friend Musab Raba'i. I've been surprised by what an emotional experience asking this question and sharing the results has been. I hope you'll forgive me for taking a moment to sort through my own feelings.
This article has gotten a lot of attention, but it's far from the best thing I've ever written. In fact, I wrote it at 1:30 am and the wonderful people at EI saved it from typos and spelling errors. Of course, Musab and his family have always deserved attention. Still, I feel ambivalent. I've wanted people to know what happened since Musab was tortured. I've wanted other people to be angry and sad. Now they are, but it doesn't make me feel better. I feel the same way I always did. I'm still angry and sad.
One morning, not unlike the one when Musab was tortured, I was walking with Musab while he grazed his sheep. Quietly, matter-of-factly, he told me a story from his childhood. When he was young, Musab was playing by his house near Havat Ma'on settlement. A settler grabbed him and put a gun to his head. Musab told me his brothers saved his life by running out of their house, terrifying the settler, and grabbing Musab.
There are so many stories like this that need to be told. It feels strange to know them when other people don't - and don't want to. Srg. Benjamin Anthony tried to humiliate me when I asked him why Israeli soldiers tortured Musab. He said I was ignorant and must have been mislead. I know that's not true. And I know we will continue to work for justice and peace in Palestine. This feeling of grief, anger and outrage will not go away.
I still wake up wondering what might happen to Musab today or tomorrow. Then I get out of bed and I try to do everything in my power to end the occupation of Palestine. Sometimes it feels like there is very little I can do. The day Musab was tortured, I felt completely helpless. But there is always something I can do. So I do it, because I wont feel better until Palestine is free.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Palestinian Women’s Resistance in Rural Palestine: A Call for Stories
Many western academics write about Palestinian women as though all Palestinian women are middle class and urban. Rural Palestinian women and women’s resistance outside of the intifadas are mostly ignored in the academic and popular literature about Palestine. If you have a story of women’s resistance to occupation and/or patriarchy in rural Palestine, consider writing it down and sending it to me. I will be using these stories as research for a paper on rural Palestinian women’s resistance and resilience and as background for my master’s degree thesis on women’s resistance in the village of At-Tuwani. I will not publish your story without your permission and I will send you a copy of anything that I write based on your material. I welcome your thoughts and feedback on my research and writing.
I am a Women’s and Gender Studies master’s degree student at DePaul University. From 2007-2010, I worked to support Palestinian nonviolent resistance in the village of At-Tuwani. At-Tuwani is a small, farming village located south of Al Khalil (Hebron) facing violence from Israeli soldiers and settlers. I currently continue to work closely with the At-Tuwani women’s cooperative and in the Palestine solidarity movement through Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago and the Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights.
I became interested in soliciting stories about Palestinian women’s resistance in rural Palestine after my research showed that the voices and perspectives of rural Palestinian women are almost completely absent from academic literature and reporting on Palestine. Many of the articles I have read about Palestinian women’s resistance do not reflect my experiences and observations from living in rural Palestine or the concerns voiced by my Palestinian friends and colleagues in At-Tuwani.
More information about me and my work is available at my blog http://inpalestine.blogspot.com. Please feel free to email me any questions you have about this project.
How to submit your stories:
To submit your stories, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the location of the story and when it took place. All stories about women’s resistance to occupation and/or patriarchy are welcome. I define resistance broadly and believe that for Palestinian women ‘to exist is to resist.’ Once again, I will not publish or distribute your stories without your permission and I will send you a copy of anything I write. Please include your name and contact information with your submission so that I can be in touch with you.
For my current research, I need stories by March 5th. However, I will continue to be researching this topic through May 2013 and welcome stories at any time.
Thank you so much for your help with my research and your work for a free Palestine.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
No Change for the Village of At-Tuwani:
What Obama’s Speeches Mean for Palestinians living in Area C
In Washington DC, the pundits are frantically debating the implications of Obama’s recent speeches on the Middle East. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in the of village At-Tuwani, the tiny flowers of spring are pushing up through the dry ground. Palestinian farmers are grazing their sheep on land that has been owned by their families for generations. Children are walking to school. And just a hillside away, Israeli settlers are expanding Ma’on settlement. While politicians quibble, the people of At-Tuwani are enduring some of the Israeli occupation’s most brutal violence and severe repression. 150,000 Palestinians living in the rural villages of the West Bank are also struggling to survive in the face of similar injustices. If peace is to come to Israel and Palestine, the rights of these villages must be honored. So what are the implications of Obama’s statements for rural villages like At-Tuwani?
“The people of At-Tuwani and surrounding villages are very simple farmers and shepherds. They depend on their land and flocks, a life that, until recently, has been self-sufficient,” says Keifah Al-Addara, the director of the At-Tuwani Women’s Cooperative. At-Tuwani is one of a dozen small villages located at the Southern tip of the West Bank. This is “area C,” West Bank land that under the Oslo accords is completely under Israeli control. In area C, the Israeli government places severe restrictions on all construction, preventing Palestinians from building homes or basic infrastructure. Area C is also where Israeli settlers, including violent zealots, build settlements and outposts. In many areas, including At-Tuwani, these settlers attack Palestinians with impunity. As Al-Addara explains, these settlements “led to a series of aggression against powerless people; the stealing of our lands; the blocking of our roads; and the attacks on our people. The result was the spread of poverty, fear and insecurity.”
If Obama is to offer any hope to villages like At-Tuwani, he will need to demand that Israel stops its settlement expansion, takes legal action against settlers who attack Palestinians, and recognizes the equal rights of Palestinians as individuals and as a nation. Unfortunately, in his recent speeches Obama did just the opposite.
In his 2009 Cairo speech, Obama said, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements... It is time for the settlements to stop." This time, Obama took a much more lenient position, describing settlements as a hindrance to peace negotiations. Netanyahu likely understood these statements as a capitulation in the face of his government’s refusal to abide by any settlement freeze. Extremist settlers can take this as a sign that Obama will not put pressure on Israel to curb their violence towards Palestinians.
Settler violence against Palestinians is on the rise. Over the last 6 months, settlers in the South Hebron Hills have attacked Palestinians more frequently and with greater violence. Most recently, on May 15th, Israeli settlers invaded the village of Tuba, killed and stole several sheep belonging to the Ali Awad family and vandalized their home. Previously, on March 19th, a settler stabbed 32-year-old Mahmoud Ibrahim Ali Awad on the edge of At-Tuwani village. Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian farmers, cut down olive trees, and even attacked Palestinian children on their way to school. Israeli authorities have refused to prosecute settlers for these crimes. At-Tuwani residents report that settlers and soldiers are now communicating and coordinating more than ever. Obama’s statements about settlements amount to waving the white flag of surrender to these settlers. At-Tuwani has no reason to believe that the United States will do anything to pressure Israel to keep its own citizens in line.
1967 Borders and Land Swaps
In his Thursday speech, Obama said that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” After this statement was met with Chicken Little protests from conservative politicians, Obama clarified his position in his Sunday speech to AIPAC. Obama said that Israel and Palestine must “negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.” This border would “account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.” And what needs will need to be accommodated? The approximately 50,000 settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Instead of telling Israel to stop settlement expansion, Obama told the settlers that if they expand their settlements fast enough, the land on which they stand will become a part of Israel.
For At-Tuwani, talk of land swaps is an unwelcome reminder of home demolitions and ethnic cleansing. Settlers in the South Hebron Hills have made it clear they want their settlements to become a part of Israel. The Israeli government has shown itself all too willing to help the settlers achieve these goals by destroying inconvenient Palestinian villages. In 1998 the Israeli army served orders to over one hundred families in the At-Tuwani area, instructing them to leave their villages. When the families refused, soldiers confiscated their belongings, rounded up the villagers, and dumped them on the side of the highway. After the villages won their case in the Israeli high court, they were able to return to their homes but the Israeli government is still attempted to dispel Palestinians from the At-Tuwani area. This year, on May 7th, the Israeli army demolished the village of Al-Aymir, expelling its residents. This was the third time that the Israeli army demolished Al-Aymir and the Israeli government has made it clear the village will be demolished again when Palestinians return.
Obama’s speech offers little hope of change to communities like At-Tuwani. His statements indicate that he will not stand up to Israel’s continued settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing. At the same time, Obama praised the uprisings in Arab countries for their use of nonviolence. Nonviolent resistance is something about which At-Tuwani village could teach Obama plenty. Like many villages, At-Tuwani has a long history of using demonstrations and other creative actions to stand up to Israeli settlers and soldiers. When I asked a friend what he and the rest of At-Tuwani will do if their villages are “swapped” to Israel, he didn’t hesitate before he answered. “Whatever happens,” he said, “We will stay here. We will not leave our land.”
This determination, not the empty words of politicians, is what offers hope for the people of At-Tuwani.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Richard Goldstone now claims that Israel may not have intentionally committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. In his Washington Post editorial he writes:
"For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway."
Here's a question. In the long run, just how much does it matter if the war crimes were intentional? Listen to the response of the Samouni family to Goldstone's statements and you decide.
In honor of Israel's announcement on Monday that they are (still) expanding settlements in East Jerusalem, I'm pleased launch a youtube channel called "Autotune the Occupation." Here's the first video, "Rickroll the Settlements."
Enjoy and spread widely.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Thursday, March 10th, 2011, 7am: Responding to an international call to action, Palestinian solidarity activists in Chicago renamed street signs on downtown street corners commemorating a Palestinian youth killed two years ago by the Israeli military.
The activists used ladders just as rush hour commuters were starting to arrive in Chicago's loop, and replaced street signs that read "Honorary Ben Gurion Way" with "Honorary Mehdi Abu Ayyesh Way."
According to the activists, David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, was responsible for drafting policy which intentionally drove Palestinians from their homes and disallowed them from returning.
Mehdi Abu Ayyash, aged 17, from Beit Ommar, was shot in the head by Israeli Forces on March 4th, 2009 and died of his injuries several months later. A second youth from the same village, Yousef Ikhlyal, aged 17, was shot in the head by rampaging Israeli settlers on January 28th, 2011.
Hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers reside in the West Bank, a fact deemed illegal by International Law. These settlements are built on land stolen from Palestinians and settlers often harass and even murder Palestinian residents with impunity. To date, none of the soldiers responsible for killing Mehdi Aby Ayyash, nor the settlers responsible for killing Yousef Ikhlyal, have been brought to justice by the State of Israel.
More information here:
Saturday, March 05, 2011
In an Orwellian twist, the state of Israel is suing the Bedouin village of al-Arakib for the cost of its demolition. Al-Arakib has been demolished 18 times in the past year - against, obviously, the wishes of its residents. The state of Israel is determined to remove the residents of al-Arakid as a part of it the Jewish National Fund's “Blueprint Negev.” That's right, Al-Arakib is located in the Negev desert, not the West Bank. It is not located in the Palestinian territories, but inside Israel itself.
Al-Arakib is one of 45 "unrecognized villages" who are struggling for their most basic legal rights. Since 1948, the state of Israel has refused to acknowledge the existence of these communities. Unrecognized villages do not receive the services that the state provides to recognized the rest of its citizens, like garbage and sewage services, electricity, roads and schools. They are Israeli citizens - technically.
The ongoing struggle of the unrecognized villages is one of the clearest examples of how Israel is than a military occupier but an apartheid state. The ethnic cleansing of Al-Arakib also gives us a potent look into the apartheid mindset.
The Jewish National Fund describes the Blueprint Negev as a "far-reaching and visionary plan to increase the area’s population and improve living conditions for all of its inhabitants." According to JNF, "The needs of the Bedouin community and the changes that must come about are one of the original pillars of Blueprint Negev." On their website, JNF describes the Bedouin community by through the following statistics: "The unemployment rate for Bedouin is 90%. The rate of birth among the Bedouin community is extremely high -- 6.5% -- the highest in the world -- continuing the cycle of poverty. School through age 16 is mandatory by law, but 90% of the population does not receive a high school education. Only 10% of the girls go to any school at all. Communities have high crime rate and substance abuse rates. Few social activities or venues exist for the children." The JNF neglects mention that the Israeli government has created these conditions. Without that context, these statistics reinforce racist stereotypes of Bedouin people, painting them as rootless, degenerate people who should be displaced for their own good.
The same logic justifies charging Al-Arakib village for its demolition: clearly, those people should just have the sense to stop interfering with what's best for them.
This apartheid mindset is also behind a comment an anonymous poster made to my blog a week ago about the Caterpillar bulldozers used by the Israeli army to demolish homes:
What a wonderful tool and such a great opportunity exists for it's use. I think there should be ten D 9's or D 10's placed outside the Al Aqsa mosque fuel in them keys in the ignition with drivers standing by. The word should go out that at the very next provocation of any terrorist act by the Arab population in Israel, Gaza or Judea / Samaria that by these acts and caused by their hands the machines will be driven forward and level the mosques from the face of this earth. The population can of course decide to behave itself if they don't want this to happen. I think these wonderful machines can convince the Arab population to behave themselves in an appropriate manner. Of course if need be I suppose the entire area of Gaza can be turned into a parking lot in a matter of hours if a few more of these machines could be acquired - yet another good idea if the idiots inside the fence keep lobbing missiles at women and children in Israel. These are great machines and they could be put to such practical use too.
Behind this hateful comment, behind the JNF's Blueprint Negev, and behind Israel's absurd suit against Al-Arakib lays a single attitude: Arabs, Palestinians and Bedouin, are less than fully human. They deserve to be coerced and displaced because Israel knows what's best for them. This is the apartheid mindset. It ought to make all of us, but especially ethical Israelis, very nervous.
Monday, February 07, 2011
On February 2nd, activists with the Chicago-based Palestine Solidarity Group released a fake public service announcement exposing Chicago's continuing support for torture through its sister city relationship with Petach Tikva, Israel. The video was produced after a police board ruled that former police Chief Burge will still receive his monthly $3000 pension, despite serving currently serving a four and a half year sentence for lying about the torture of over one hundred Chicagoans. The video draws a connection between the Chicago Police Department's support for Burge and the recent imprisonment of Palestinian activist Ameer Makhoul. On January 30th, Makhoul was sentenced to nine years based on a confession obtained while Makhoul was imprisioned in Chicago's sister city Petach Tikva. Makhoul has insisted that his confession was false and the result of the torture he endured in Petach Tikva. This video is a part of the Palestine Solidarity Group's ongoing Drop Petach Tikva campaign which aims to pressure the Chicago Sister Cities program to end it's relationship with Petach Tikva.
"It’s clear why Chicago and Petach Tikva are sister cities. Both feature great views, beautiful weather, and unbelievable human rights records," says an announcer on the video. "Here in the Windy City, former police Chief Jon Burge was convicted for lying about using torture to elicit false confessions from over 100 Chicagoans. But don’t worry, Chicago, even from his jail cell, Burge will still receive his pension! Meanwhile, Petach Tikva is the proud home of one of Israel’s largest prisons. In this jail, prisoners are routinely tortured, like Palestinian activist Ameer Makhoul."
The Drop Petach Tikva campaign is a project of the Palestine Solidarity Group and the Chicago International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. On July 20, 2010, the Board of the Sister Cities Program wrote the campaign saying, “Ending a partnership with a city in the Chicago Sister Cities International family because of its history is contrary to the spirit both of Sister Cities International and our own program.” In letters sent to all of the Board members on January 4, 2011, PSG and IJAN responded saying, “… our request is not driven by historical maltreatment or wrongs; rather, our call to end ties is premised upon ongoing human rights violations in Petach Tikva, Israel.” To date, the Chicago Sister Cities Program Board has refused to even meet with PSG and IJAN to discuss the evidence that a relationship with Petach Tikva violates the principles of the Sister Cities International Program.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Watch the Awards Ceremony for the Arts and Sciences of Military Occupation an awards show to acknowledge the most brutal regimes and egregious violators of human rights. This world has a long history of stolen land and resources, but these awards go to some very special nominees who have truly outdone themselves. This is part of the ongoing campaign to Drop Petach Tikva, Israel's Guantanamo, from the Chicago Sister Cities Program. Sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Group - Chicago (www.psgchicago.org) and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (www.ijsn.net/C93/).
Please, share this video! This is an important part of our local BDS campaign!
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Remember that essay contest? Well, thanks to your votes and help, I won! I'm a little beside myself right now, honestly. Having the cash prize of $500 puts me a little bit closer to funding all of the expenses of my graphic novel and I couldn't be happier about that.
So, thank you!
Sunday, January 09, 2011
Are you an Earlham College graduate? Well, geez! So am I. Are you interested in working on Palestine-related campus issues? Why, me too! If you're interested in doing some organizing, please leave me a comment here. I would love to get in touch, tell you more about the campaign I'm working on, and start working together.
PS: There's only one more day to vote for my essay in the MLK day essay contest. I'm number five: http://www.adaction.org/pages/posts/vote-in-our-what-would-martin-do-contest560.php
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? I've been busy, friends. Besides the Women's Cooperative Tour which you've already heard about, I've been working on a graphic novel about At-Tuwani. (I hope you've already heard about that too.) The novel when it's finished will be about 300 pages long and describe At-Tuwani's struggle against settler violence and military occupation. Actually, it will be a lot like the comic version of this blog. As you can imagine, a project like this has keeps a writer pretty busy.
But, there's something else that I've been working on. I've entered a Martin Luther King Jr. Essay contest. I just learned that I'm a semi-finalist, but need your votes to win. Here's the link: www.adaction.org/pages/posts/vote-in-our-what-would-martin-do-contest560.php I'm essay number five (that's important) and votes are counted until Monday. The winner is decided exclusively by voting, so I really need your help. Vote, and equally important, please share this if you can.
The money, if I win, will go towards research expenses associated with the graphic novel I'm writing about Tuwani. So please, vote and share this with your friends!
Below is the essay that I wrote. I hope you enjoy! And thanks.
If Martin Luther King, Jr. could visit our country this January, he would see a nation much changed and yet the same. Imagine King catching a bus in downtown Montgomery. Perhaps he would select a seat in the front, next to someone tired from a long day's work for little pay. Through the bus window, he might see dilapidated schools and foreclosed homes. If he were to open up a newspaper, he would read of another war with no end in sight. If King returned to this country of sweet promise and bitter disappointment, he would once again take up the struggle of the poor. King would organize against the interlocking evils of racism, militarism, and poverty. And he would invite us to join him.
In the 43 years since King's death, we have not fulfilled his dream of equality. Poverty is rising. Health care is out of reach for too many Americans while our military budget grows. Ours is a political landscape that King understood all too well.
In his speech Beyond Vietnam, King decried the way the war on poverty was abandoned for the war on communism. Today we still choose fighter jets over unemployment benefits. The soldiers who fight and die in our army are still overwhelming our nation's poor. If he were here today, King would say again, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
King cried out for the poor of Vietnam recounting American's role in their history. “We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village,” he said. “We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon.” Today, King would similarly mourn the poor people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would point out that we once supported the Taliban, the mujaheddin, and Saddam Hussein – over the protests of Iraqis and Afghanis. We remain the enemy of the poor in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere our government supports the rights of corporations over the rights of poor people.
King wrote, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values...When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” But that world revolution is still alive today and brings hope even to our country.
In Iraq, Afghanistan, America, and around the world, millions of poor people are building a nonviolent movement for a peaceful, just future. We should not need to Dr. King to entreat us to join the right side of the world revolution. The poor are calling us to join them. Just as King heeded their call, may we see their cause as ours.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Thanks to your support, the At-Tuwani Women's Cooperative tour was a tremendous success! Over 7 days, Keifah and her husband spoke with approximately 600 people in seven cities and raised over 1,000 euros for the Women's Cooperative. Keifah also built connections with members of the Italian peace organization Pax Cristi and several women's organizations. We are excited to see what new opportunities these relationships bring to At-Tuwani.
Keifah spoke about the development of the At-Tuwani women's cooperative and its work to support women and children and resist the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. She described how the women's cooperative started with 7 women and faced the objections of men in the village. Now, the women's cooperative has 38 members and supports women's education and organizes a summer camp. "We want our children to know that life isn't just filled with violence, that there are good things in life too." Keifah also spoke about how women were able to build the clinic in the day time and face down the Israeli military in the village's struggle to get electricity. She also invited people to become involved in their work - to work together for a world free from oppression.
Keifah's husband spoke about his experiences as a prisoner inside Israeli jails. He spoke about how easily Palestinians can be arrested for nothing more than grazing their sheep and his experience of violence in jail. Nasser also echoed Keifah's call to work for peace. He spoke about how the prophets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all had the same message of peace. It was extremely moving to listen to Keifah and her husband's stories of resistance and hope.
We want to thank every who made this tour trip possible!