Tuesday, August 29, 2006

For Portlanders, Vancouverites, and other Northwesterns who read this blog-
Some upcoming events and oppertunities in the area

In many ways, I work the hardest for an end to the occupation while I am at home. Over the next few months I'll be speaking extensively about Palestine and involved in other projects. There are a couple of events and opportunities that I want to make sure you're aware of, especially those of you living in the Portland/Vancouver area.

First, this Friday, Sept. 1st at 6:00 pm I'll speaking on the Bread and Roses show on KBOO Radio! In Portland and Vancouver, you can listen at 90.7 FM, or any where the world over, you can listen online at www.kboo.fm Pretty cool!

Second, on Sept 16th, the slice of life in Palestine is coming to Vancouver, Washington. A life-sized replica of the annexation wall will be presented at the Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair. And we need your help! To make this unique public education opportunity a reality, we need people willing to help us set-up the wall and take it down. Super-human strengthen is not required - just the ability to follow directions. And if giving instructions is more your style, consider helping out with at mock checkpoint I'm working to organize. I'm looking people willing to impersonate both Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in an effort to give people an idea of what checkpoints are like. If you're interested in helping with either set-up and take-down or with the mock checkpoint, please don't hesitate to drop me an email (or comment). We need all of the help we can get!

Thirdly, as always I'm looking for places where I can speak about my experiences in Palestine. Last year, I was able to speak to a variety of audiences, from church groups to high school classrooms to living rooms. I'm very happy to speak almost any where - but the sooner I can get presentations scheduled the better. Drop me an email (or comment) if you're interested.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

If Americans Knew, an organization I had worked with, has just created a 3-minute video on the growing crisis in Gaza. Check it out and send along to your friends.

Gaza After Disengagement

PS:  I'm home safe after absolutely no hassle at the Tel Aviv Airport.  Humdillah!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hebron: The Other Peace Process: Dispossessed Families Return to Land

I wanted to include this link to an old CPT report that describes the sort of peace process I believe stands a chance of ending the occupation. While I hope there will be a time when political negoitations work and when dialogue, or a truth and reconciliation commission, are appropriate in Palestine and Israel, I feel this is not it. The pressure of injustice is simply to great and those that want to make peace need to struggle for justice.

This piece talks about Israeli and Palestinian activists working together and becoming the "other peace process." Take a look: http://www.cpt.org/archives/2000/apr2000/0006.html

There are no words for how I feel leaving Palestine for the second
time. I don't have the vocabulary to describe the way my heart is
broken apart by a need to stay here - to sit on the land, to hold the
hands my friends, to climb into an olive tree, to refuse to move - and
a desire to escape the madness of this occupation. I don't want to
keep looking into the eyes of young men and women who stand with guns
at the checkpoints. I don't want to look at the pictures of dead
children and demolished houses shown on television. I don't want to
listen to my host father describe how difficult is it for the
Christian families in Beit Sahour sell their olive wood carvings. I
don't want to see how everything gets worse every day. I don't want
to continue feeling so powerless and so ineffectual.

I'm ready to go home, to talk about what I've seen, to renew my spirit
somehow. I'm ready to see my Palestinian American friends who can no
longer come home because of new Israeli regulations. I'm ready to see
my own family. But I know when I come back to Palestine again, it
will be worse. The Wall will be bigger, the land will be smaller,
unemployment will be higher. And the coffee will still be delicious,
the hospitality unparalleled, and hopefully the children will still
smile. My heart will be ripped out again when I return to Palestine,
but I know I can't stay away.

This week has been an endless goodbye. I'm desperately trying to fill
up the time with anything that will distract me, but it's not working.
I can't escape the way I'm feeling. I've learned what it means to
pray without ceasing. I keep crying out for something to change, for
every person, every shop and organization to some how survive until I
come back to see them again. And I pray because I feel like there is
nothing else I can do.

I try not to write sad things. There is so much of that already being
written that I just want to write about hope and, in a small way,
love. So maybe I should try to write something hopeful here: I'm
still hopeful because all of us are still fighting. Here in Palestine
and a few people in Israel and around the world, we're still
struggling for justice and peace. I will come back to Palestine and
while I am away, I'll work hard for my friends here. No night can
last forever. Someday this occupation will have to end.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Israelis Arrested for Blocking the Road to Air force Base
Today, August 8th, tens of leftist Israeli activists are blocking the road to the Israeli air force Ramat David area, close to Haifa. Police have already arrested more than ten activists.

The group issued a press release stating their motives which is translated below:

The international law requires of every human being the duty of resistance to war crimes using every possible means. At this moment, when the rockets are falling, the war crimes are committed, the victims buried, it is time to fight to stop the war.

The activists are carrying a clear message: Stop civilian killings; Stop the war crimes; Stop the Israeli government criminal policies.

It is the duty of every soldier to refuse to serve orders which are war crimes. The support by the Israeli people of this criminal government means they are participants in committing these war crimes.

The number of dead is continuously increasing. The attacks by Israeli air force are planting death, destruction and hate. In Palestine, the occupation continues killing and torturing Palestinians. The civilians of Northern Israel are used as human shields and are paying their lives as a price to serve the ego of generals who are even unable to acknowledge failure and defeat.

The war crimes are committed everyday, hundreds of kids have been killed. The number of those killed is over a thousand. There are tens of thousands of injured and over one million refugees and Israel continues the air strikes, the killing, the destruction, and the annihilation in order to prove who is powerful in the region.

We repeat and we say what is known for everyone; there is no military solution. We are calling on the Israeli government and its people to wake up and behave in a moral way.

We must stop the war machine and the destruction. we demand an immediate ceasefire, an exchange of prisoners, and the release the political prisoners in Israel.

Call Out for Stories of Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance

Friends, I'm currently living in Bethlehem and I'm volunteering with a
Palestinian organization called the Holy Land Trust. We're working to
put together a web resource center on Palestinian nonviolent
resistance. We're almost ready to launch the site, but we want to
give members of the movement a chance to submit articles and links
that you think should be included.

We're looking for stories of nonviolent resistance actions. The
purpose of this website is to provide an introduction to the
resistance movement that anyone can understand. We're most interested
in dynamically written stories of nonviolent actions, focusing on the
actions of Palestinians and their supporters, rather than the terrible
responses on the Israeli army that we know always take place. We want
to highlight, as much as possible, stories written by Palestinians,
but please don't hesitate to submit any story. Multimedia sources –
videos, audio, pictures, etc – are also welcome.

If you have a story, video, or link you would like to be posted on the
website, please feel free to send it to me at jubilus AT gmail DOT
com. Weblinks are the easiest resources for us to work with, but
previously unpublished material is great as well. Please include, as
much as possible, all relevant information – who, what, when, where,
why, etc.

Thank you so much for your help creating this resource! Feel free to
pass this request on to anyone you feel might be interested.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My friends Hani and Muniera live in a home that has become their prison.  With the help of Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists, they refused to leave when the army told them their house would be demolished to make way for the path of the wall.  Now, the wall surrounds them on all four side of their house.  When I last left their home after a visit, I listened while Muniera locked the deadbolt on the small gate that they use to enter and exit their property.  Thunk.  It was the most horrible sound I've ever heard - outdoing all of gunfire I've heard here.  Thunk.  Hani and Muniera and their children are trapped, but I can leave.  What privilege I have.  As the sound of the deadbolt still rings in my ears, I think about what I'm doing with my freedom.  I hope I'm making the most out of it. 
I began thinking about privilege and freedom when my friend Um Fadi asked me about public opinion in the United States.  She wanted to know if Americans, including the peace movement, were starting to talk about what is happening in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine.  She wanted to know if things were getting better. 
I wasn't sure what to tell Um Fadi.  In some ways, I feel that public opinion is turning, especially on the War in Iraq.  It also seems that many Americans are calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon.  But on the issue of Palestine, I wasn't sure if I could honestly give Um Fadi good news.  "I think that more and more Americans understand the occupation," I told her.  What I didn't say was that it seems that very few peace activists are willing to do anything about it. 
Though a small group of people are working very, very hard to end American support for the occupation, most often I hear American peace activists pontificating on what Palestinians should and shouldn't do.  I agree with almost all of their criticism.  I whole heatedly agree that Palestinians shouldn't kill civilians.  I agree that comparisons to the holocaust are silly and unhelpful.  I agree that nonviolent resistance is the best way to make peace.  After all, I participate in these demonstrations even when I'm terrified of the violent response of the Israeli army.  But I wonder why the American peace movement has been willing to condemn the US occupation of Iraq despite the terrible actions of the Iraqi insurgency.  We argue that further violence will only strengthen them and that it's our responsibility to stop the injustice in which we are complicit.  We know this isn't an endorsement of terrorism.  But why can't we see our way clear to end US military aid to Israel in the same way?
I sometimes hear Israelis making the same demands on Palestinians as Americans do.  Don't do this.  Don't do that.  Do this better.  Call for peace, they say.  Have a huge peace march.  But sometimes Israelis don't seem to realize that the response of the Israeli army to nonviolent demonstrations, including those calling for peace, is brutal.  Having a demonstration isn't as easy for Palestinians as it is for Israelis.  Israelis risk almost nothing while Palestinians risk everything. 
Moreover, calling for peace must mean calling for justice.  To often "peace activists," Israeli, American, and otherwise, fall into a trap that Martin Luther King Jr. described.  "Many men call "Peace, peace!"  But they do not want the things that make for peace."  The truth is, I don't think that a peace movement will get Israel any where right now.  But when more Israelis start calling for justice, for an end to human rights violations in Palestine and for, heaven forbid, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, then we may start to get somewhere. 
Call for peace.  Do this.  Do that.  As I joked to Um Fadi, "Um Fadi, we want you to end the occupation by yourself!"  Sometimes I feel that's what Israeli and American activists are asking Palestinians to do.  Just as white people ask people of color to end racism.  As men ask women to end sexism.  As straight people ask GLBTQ folks to end hetrosexism. 
In the end, this conflict isn't just about violence and peace.  It's about power and oppression.  Those of us who do not live under occupation need to remember all of the privilege and power we can.  What are you doing with yours?

Monday, August 07, 2006

"I want to smile"
My friend Hussam has a lovely smile.  And here in Palestine it is always getting him into trouble. 
Yesterday I ran into Hussam in a taxi.  I asked him what he had been up to.  "Last night I came back to Bethlehem through the Container Checkpoint.  And for the first time, the soldiers didn't stop me," Hussam told me.  "Why do they always stop you?" I asked.  "Because I smile."
Hassam told me that a week ago, he was trying to pass through the Container Checkpoint at Wadi Nar, the only checkpoint between the Northern and Southern halves of the West Bank accessible to Palestine without a permit to go through Jerusalem.  When an Israeli soldier asked Hussam for his ID card, Hussam smiled.  And that's when he found himself detained for questioning.
"First, one solider asked me 'why do you smile?'  I told him I wanted to smile.  You can't stop me." 
Hassam told me that another soldier questioned him.  He told him Hussam to stop smiling, but Hussam refused.  "I want to smile."  said Hussam.
Fortunately, the soldiers released Hussam quickly, but he told me that when got back into the bus, which had to wait during the interrogation, the other Palestinians on the bus started to yell at him for causes so much trouble.  But Hussam told him that he was going to smile.  Smiling is his was of being free.
I think my mouth hung open while my friend told me this story.  So much trouble over a smile?  But perhaps that's how resistance can start.
Please, end the violence and injustice.  We all want to smile. 

I love seeing young Palestinians feeling some hope and as though they have some power in their own lives.

I think this picture says it all....

Pictures of Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance:

I've got so much to do, but I've been going through photo archieves here and there are a few that just can't help but post. I've taken none of these, but I still wanted to share them

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Occupied Voices: "Kerblog" from Beirut

KERBLOG contains truely amazing drawings documenting his experience living in Beirut as the bombs keep falling. Check out what he has to say...and draw.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The War Next Door

Today my good friend Marwan told me that he had to go into to see the doctor yesterday. He said he has some sort of problem with his heart. I asked him what happened and he told me that he had watched the news from Lebanon this morning. On the television, there were pictures of the children killed in the bombings in Lebanon. Marwan told me that he looked up at the picture and down at his own children. He shooed them out of the room, hoping they wouldn't see the pictures of dead children, children their age, who look just like them. And then Marwan went to the doctor with a pain in his heart.

"Don't look at the pictures," Marwan tells me. "A little bit of news, that's okay for you. But too much, for you it's not good."

It's difficult to know what to write while this terrible war rages on in the country next door. Whatever I write about Lebanon and Israel will likely be out of date by the time that you read it. Besides, many of you may have more access to English-language news than I do. The truth is, to me the war seems far away. But for many of the Palestinians I live with, the bombing feels very close. Besides, while the world has been concerned about Lebanon and Northern Israel, there have been more killings in Nablus and of course Gaza. There's a heavy feeling in the air, as though sadness and hopelessness have finally taken hold. Even I can feel it.

This morning my friend and host-sister Iylana told me that every group that had been scheduled to come to Palestine through the educational travel program she works with have cancelled because of the war. Actually, until yesterday there was one group still coming. But they were denied entry by the Israeli authorities. "I don't know what we will do" said Iylana. "Without tourism, we have nothing."

I suppose this is how Palestine is effected by the war. Old problems are compounded - Just as tourists were starting to come to Palestine again, they've stopped. The checkpoints are worse then I've ever seen them, since Israelis fear for their security even more. The United States complicity clearer than every and the world's abandonment of Palestine is felt more acutely as more attention is showed on Israel and Lebanon. In many ways nothing has changed. Everything is just a little bit worse.

I just learned from my friend Vivian that in Beit Jala, the village to the west of Bethlehem, the Israeli soldiers stationed there have been releasing their sewage into the town almost week. "It usually happens on a Thursday" says Vivian. Great, I think, almost laughing. The occupation shows its ugly, petty side again. Perhaps there is something that we can do about this incident. In the midst of the madness of the last two months, it's nice to deal with the sort of problem I'm more familiar with. But the truth is, there is no escape from the feeling of hopelessness. We just don't know what to do.

"A little bit of news, that's okay for you. But too much, for you it's not good." I should stop writing about these terrible things. Thank you for working to end this war, but don't stop. And please don't forget those of us who are living near by.

Shu Akbarek? What's your News?

So, just what have I been doing here in Palestine? I'm not very good at writing personal updates - I get distracted by all of the politics here. But here are some of the things that I've been up to.

First, I've been helping to edit an new book called "The Doves" by Hebron Artist Samih Abu Zakieh, director of the Palestinian Child Art Center: http://www.pcac.net Samih drew 100 beautiful pictures of doves (like the one here) while he was living under 24-hour curfew in Hebron. His book tells the story of the drawing and includes all 100. It will be published very soon and I'll try to keep you updated on how it can be purchased. No, I'm not getting a cut - it's a beautiful book and you'll be glad you have a copy!

Besides editing "The Doves" I've been working on a website documenting Palestinian nonviolent resistance. It will be online soon, inshallah (God willing) hosted by the Holy Land Trust. I'm pretty excited about it!

Finally, I've been away at camp. Yeah, the second annual "Nonviolent Activist Summer Camp." You can check out an article on it here: http://www.holylandtrust.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=85&Itemid=1

So there. That's some of what I've been up to. We now return to your regularly scheduled blog.

Just so you know

The Resistance Continues