Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hebron: An Introduction

It's difficult to describe Hebron. It's a unquice manifestation of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. There is no where in the West Bank quite it, but this is the future that threatens almost everywhere.

In Hebron, Israeli settlers, of the most radical and violent end of the spectrum, have succeded in moving into next door to Palestinians and driving many of them out of the city. This B'tSelem video is excellent and helps to provide a picture of what is actually happening. However, it's a little confusing for those who are not as familiar with Hebron. My friend Helen added a helpful description:

1st scene: An Israeli settler discussing the "work that still needs to be done" in Hebron, ie: replacing Arabs with Jews.

2nd scene: Thanks to Israeli activists, this clip is now famous. An Israeli settler attacks the Palestinian family (behind the cage that surrounds their house for protection) in the neighborhood. "You're a whore, and your daughters are too."

3rd scene: Palestinian woman explaining her family's situation in the neighborhood. "If we go out, we get attacked by either settlers or soldiers."

4th scene: Israeli settler children throwing rocks at the a Palestinian family's house, while the soldiers stand by and watch. "Soldier, the boy wants to come in, but because of them he can't."
I mentioned that other places in the West Bank may come to resemble Hebron. Bethlehem, a city that's so close to my heart, may soon resemble Hebron. Especially radical settlers have been making plans to move into the Rachel's Tomb area within Bethlehem proper. I fear what will happen to my friends and to a city that is part of the heart of the West Bank economy, if Bethlehem becomes another Hebron.

There are a few spots of hope in the situation. The first is the fact that Palestinians continue to live in this town. No where is it more clear that the most important act of resistance Palestinians can take is withstanding the pressures to leave.

There are also a few organizations in Hebron that I , for one, particularly like. The first is called Breaking the Silence and is a group of Israelis soliders, most of whom worked in Hebron, who are exposing the realities of this place:

The second is called Art Under Apartheid and is one example of the many projects that are using art and creativity to help kids cope with the stress of life under occupation:

The third point of light, I hope, is CPT. The Hebron project was recently highlighted by the BBC. They took some pretty pictures, but I wish they had focused less on us and more on Palestinians:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My friend Kayla and I were talking about stress and burn-out, something that's all too common amongst people who work in NGOs and people who live war zones - and doubly likely for people who work with NGOs in war zones. Kayla suggested that I make a list of the reasons that I'm doing this work, so that I'll have something to look back on when I'm feeling hopeless.

So, here it is. I work in Palestine:

  • Because standing in solidarity with people who are oppressed at the hands of my government is a part of what I believe ethical people do.
  • Because in my own experience, international accompaniment does reduce violence and create a space for indigenous people to wage their own justice struggles.
  • Because the Israeli military occupation Palestine is one of the greatest example of injustice in this decade and one the greatest sources of international stability. Freeing Palestine is crucially important and I'm honored to be able to play an extremely small part of ending it.
  • Because even if my work doesn't make a difference, it's important to try. It's important to witness, even if only so that I am personally able to live with integrity and advocate effectively here at home.
  • Because I feel led to this work.
  • Because I find this work to be life-giving, because in a strange way it's already been my salvation.
  • Because I want to learn what it means to live nonviolently. I know that involves suffering, but I still want to experience it.
  • Because I've wanted to travel to Palestine for years, since I was in 8th grade. This is an opportunity to live out a dream.
  • Because I believe that another person with a solid understanding of the problems of cross-cultural work and a commitment to Palestinian-led resistance can only help organizations like CPT.
  • Because I love Palestine. I've traveled to many different countries and this is still the one that I love the best (though Bolivia is a close second). It's a culture I love. It's food I love. It's olive trees and valleys and beautiful children. It's a gift.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The Pacifist PotentialA Presentation of Blackfish Gallery in Portland's Pearl District

As a part of a month long art show called "The Pacifist Potential," I'll be speaking in a panel entitled "Challenging & Questioning Pacifism"

Here's the description and details:

Tuesday, June 19, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Challenging & Questioning Pacifism. A diverse panel to pose challenges to pacifism. Can it really work in solving the types of global conflicts we now face? What might our approach be to the crises in the Middle East from a pacifist mindset?

I'm planning on talking about Palestinian nonviolence and I hope that will fit in well to the panel. There are lots of other interesting panels going on, not to mention art exhibits. More details here. I feel oh so cosmopolitan for getting invited to speak at an art gallery!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Remembering the Nakba

For documentation of events commemorating the 59th anniversary of the Palestinian diaspora, visit: The events they're featuring are primarily organized by Jewish people concerned about Palestinian human rights, but if you're organized a Nakba memorial event, tell them!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Nonviolent Action Commentating the 59th Anniversary of the Nakba

From Sami Awad's blog:
In their continuous commitment to resisting the building of the Apartheid Wall in the villages that are located south of the Holy city of Bethlehem, the local organizing committee dedicated this Friday’s action to commemorating the 59 year anniversary of the Nakbah (the Catastrophe). For almost sixty years Palestinians have been suffering not only from what the Israeli occupation has done but in deeper terms from the neglect of the international community in addressing their basic human rights.

Over one hundred Palestinians, internationals, and Israelis met this day at the location of Abu Elias’s house (a farmer who passed away as a result of a heart attack three days after he received Israeli orders that called for confiscating the biggest portion of his land for the building of the Wall). It is truly incredible to see how empowered local young leaders continue to grow in their courage and commitment to not give up in the face of growing pressure by the Israeli military to suppress any nonviolent action in this location.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

(I was asked to talk about hope at my Quaker meeting. Here's what I said.)

Good morning. My name is Joy and I’m here to talk about hope. I’d like to start with cartoon:

At first glance, it’s easy to think that this woman is a bit of a jerk. Or maybe she’s someone whose privilege blinds her to the suffering of others. That may be true, but I think there’s an more interesting possibility. I think that this is a woman who has lost hope.

Like most people, I have a list of things that I’d rather not think about. Here's my list: global warming, the AIDS epidemic, the people who made the clothes I wear, and the Republican and Democratic nominees for president. When I think about things like this, I feel heavy. I start thinking about all of the things that I don’t do well enough, or often enough, or at all. I feel as though our problems are insurmountable. I lose hope.

But there are other situations in which I have tremendous hope. When I was asked to talk about hope, I started thinking about the differences between the situations and find depressing and the situations where I find hope. I realized the difference between hopelessness and hopefulness doesn’t lay in the situation itself. Against all odds, I feel a tremendous, deeply rooted, and thus far unshakable sense of hope for the situation in Palestine and Israel. And honestly, if there has ever been a situation that appears hopeless, it’s the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

But I feel hope. I’ve found that the difference between hopefulness and hopelessness lays in my own willingness to become engaged. I don’t find hope by protecting myself from discouragement. The hope I feel for Palestine, has come from working in Palestine. Not from visiting or witnessing or learning, though those are all good things. For me, there is something special about working. As I have worked in Palestine, I’ve been able to see God working. God is doing some pretty amazing things. I’ve stood besides Palestinians who were willing to risk being beaten, jailed or shot to nonviolently prevent land confiscation. I’ve stood beside Israelis as they participated in Palestinian–led demonstrations. Because they were willing to face angry soldiers and because they were willing to openly call for a just peace, these Israelis were able to create real relationships with Palestinians. That’s real peacemaking. I know people who have put themselves on the line for twenty years to build a better future for their families. I’ve seen Palestinians graze sheep in places they used to be unable to walk a year ago. I’ve seen God working. And I have hope. I have the sort of hope that feels obvious, the same way that I have a faith of God that feels obvious. George Fox described his understanding of God by saying “and this I knew experimentally.” This hope I know experimentally.

It’s easy for me to give in to the temptation to preserve hope by sheltering myself from the realities that I believe will endanger it. It’s tempting to believe that easy, unthreatening answers are hopeful ones. But for me, hope flows from seeing God working in our world. That means that hope requires being willing to invite heartbreak. Experiencing the presence of God requires openness and if we are going to be open to the world, we’ll find a lot of heartbreak. And if we allow our hearts to be broken, I think we can find hope. We are blessed or cursed to be a part of a tradition that doesn’t pull at lot of punches. At our best, Quakers have been people who have been willing to take difficult, painful stands for justice, all the while being wildly hopeful.

I’d like to close with one of my favorite prayers:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deep in our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that we will work for justice, equity and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer so we will reach out our hands to comfort them and change their pain to joy.

And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in the world, so we will do the things which others say cannot be done.
This Reminds Me
of Something...

Friday, May 11, 2007

"The Israeli Occupation of Palestine represents a system of Apartheid." Discuss.

Hello friends! Some of you have found your way to this post via "Pieces of Palestine," a new zine(!) created by my friend Jill and I. I wanted to open up this space for a serious discussion of some of the issues we raised playfully in the article "The Mix-and-Match Apartheid Quiz!" We want to acknowledge that leveling a charge of Apartheid against any state is controversial and deserves to be carefully considered and freely discussed.

So, join us! Is the occupation a form of Apartheid? Want do you think? Leave us a comment and let's start talking.

Here are a few things that I wanted to add to the discussion:

The charge of Apartheid is a serious and painful one. Few historical crimes strikes such an emotional chord with us - most likely because few historical situations remind us so much of ourselves. For those of us from the United States, when we examine Apartheid, we find echoes of the Jim Crow south, the reservation system, Manifest Destiny, detainee abuse, as well as echoes of the crimes of states around the world. Because Apartheid was a tremendously complex and comprehensive system which used every part of the political apparatus to ensure colonial denomination - population transfers, petty segregation, economic exploitation, prisons, denial of political participation, etc., etc. - it’s easy to find similarities between Apartheid and other unjust systems.

What are the similarities between Apartheid South Africa and the Israeli military occupation of Palestine? Well, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine describes the parallels exceptionally well and I encourage you to read it. But I'll try my hand at enumerating some of the similarities here.

Take a look at this picture. On the left you see a car with a green license plate, on the right, a yellow license plate. This difference in license plate color represents a crucial distinction. The yellow license plate (right) is an Israeli license. Owners of a cars with such plate and with an accompanying Israeli ID can travel freely throughout the West Bank and into Israel. The green license plate (left) is Palestinian plate. Israeli soldiers stop cars with these plates at checkpoints and deny drivers access to particular parts of the West Bank. Yellow plated cars can travel on "by-pass roads," highways that snake through out the West Bank, by-passing Palestinian town and creating boundaries that divide the West Bank into isolated cantons (like South African bantustans). These highways are accessible only to Israelis.

This is one example of a system of separation and inequality that pervades the West Bank and is the reason for calling the military occupation of Palestine an "apartheid system." Israelis are permitted to live in the West Bank, in violation of international law, and at every turn are privileged above Palestinians.

Palestinians must carry ID. Their movements are restricted. Their economy has not be allowed to develop, or rather had been un-developed. Their governing bodies have been rendered completely ineffectual. The West Bank has been divided up into cantons. Homes are demolished. Palestinians are imprisoned and abused by Israeli authorities. The Israelis army brutally crushes nonviolent demonstrations. The Israeli military occupation of Palestine violated the most basic human rights of Palestinians. All of these facts bear resemblances to the South African policy of apartheid.

Is the Israeli military occupation exactly the same as South African Apartheid. No. Are there similarities? Oh, yeah. Are we saying that Israel is an apartheid state? Well, what do you think? Drawing an analogy between to different situations isn’t easy, especially when asking questions will get you called all sorts of nasty names. Our opinions aren’t what’s important; we need a free and open dialog about this crucially important issue.

Here are a few more resources on apartheid that may interest you:

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
by Jimmy Carter

AFSC Discussion Guide for Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

End the Occupation Apartheid Discussion

Know of more resources? Comment and I'll post them.

Apartheid Mix and Match Quiz Answers!

Welcome! You've probably found your way to this post through Pieces of Palestine, a new zine by my friend Jill and I. And I bet you're ready for the answers to the "Mix and Match Apartheid Quiz" Well, without further ado, here they are:

Multiple Choice:
1.) E

Mix and Match:
A. 5
B. 2
C. 3
D. 4
E. 9
F. 1
3. Match the Quotation with the Speaker

A. 3
B. 2
C. 4
D. 1

And last, but not least:

Essay Section:

Jill and Joy are full of beans. Discuss.
Contribute your answers here!

Tell us how you did!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Public Service Announcement: The Potential Dangers of the Word "Habibi"

Well, I'm depressed about the prospect of Mordechai Vanunu going back to jail. But never fear, I've been saving this video for such an occasion. I feel that sharing it is vital for the public interest:

Habibi is that wonderful word that is used approximately one million times in any given pop song. It means beloved and it was the second word in Arabic I ever learned (the first was "yalla.") But habibi has the potential for dangerous miss use. Watch and learn.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

World Bank: 50% of West Bank Restricted

The World Bank has just come out with a report on movement restrictions in the West Bank. According to this report, access to more than 50% of the land in the West Bank is restricted for Palestinians. Check out the report, but take a look at some "highlights."
  • Since Israel signed an agreement on improving movement and access for Palestinians in November 2005, restrictions have instead become tighter. Since the agreement, the number of physical obstacles in the West Bank increased by 44 percent, to 547.
  • Israel's separation barrier slices off 8.5 percent of the West Bank. That area, declared "closed" by Israel and falling under a strict permit regime, is home to some 50,000 Palestinians in 38 villages and towns.
  • Physical and administrative obstacles have divided the West Bank into 10 enclaves, and Palestinians have to move through checkpoints to get from one to the other.
  • Israel's permit system can be used to control the movement of Palestinian residents outside their immediate municipal area and to restrict access to more than 50 percent of the West Bank. In compiling that figure, the bank considered the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a single unit, in line with the international community's refusal to accept Israel's annexation of the eastern sector of the city.
[Highlights taken from International Herald Tribune article]
At-Tuwani Blog "You're a Palestinian -- you need to go a hundred times."

22nd March 2002

This evening we got a call that there was a checkpoint on the road. The mayor of Tuwani (who has been living in Yatta since his home was demolished in 2004) and his son were not being allowed to cross. The son is a twenty-three-year-old man with special needs and no ID. They have been trying to get an ID for him since he turned eighteen and are always denied. The father returned to Yatta to get his son's birth certificate but since he was born before the IDF started keeping their records electronically, the paper is now invalid. This means that birth certificates for all Palestinians over the age of about fifteen are worthless, which I'm still having a hard time comprehending. So they arrested him.

He went in the army jeep and Ilse and Marco followed with the father in his car. The Israeli police station for this area is inside the Kiryat Arba settlement, so Palestinians are not allowed in unless they are taken there by the police or army. (Another mind bender for me. Palestinians can't visit family being detained or pick them up from the station when they are released. They are released into the middle of a very hostile settlement and made to find their own way out.) Marco stayed with the father at the gate to the settlement and Ilse took a cab to the station. The police looked at the birth certificate and immediately said it was fine and he could go. (How much was due to the presence of an international, I do not know.)

Back at the gate, the soldier told the father he needed to take his son to get an ID. The father said they had been fifty times but were always rejected. The soldier said, "Fifty times? You're a Palestinian -- you need to go a hundred times." Which is just about the best summation of the occupation I have ever heard. Things that are a given for anyone else in the world take one hundred tries for Palestinians.

Monday, May 07, 2007

This photo of a jaunty 52 year old man and a star-struck young lady was a crime. The young woman you see is me and I am standing with Mordechai Vanunu. Mordechai is the Israel Daniel Ellesburg, a brave man who was imprisoned 18 years for exposing Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. Of those 18 years, Mordechai spent 11 in solitary confinement. “I have sacrificed my freedom and risked my life in order to expose the danger of nuclear weapons which threatens this whole region. I acted on behalf of all citizens and all of humanity,” says Mordechai. On April 30th, Vanunu was convicted violating a military order forbidding him from speaking to foreign journalists. Now this man, who has already suffered so much on behalf of nuclear disarmament, is facing more jail time.

I became interested in Mordechai’s continuing plight when I met with him at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerualem and he committed the crime of speaking to me. I found his story engrossing. For most of my life, Mordechai has been held captive for a disclosing a grave danger to my life and the lives of all of us on this planet. In 1986, when I was just two years old, Mordechai told Britain's Sunday Times that Israel assembled hydrogen and neutron bombs at the Dimona reactor and was annually producing 40 kilograms of plutonium, enough to make 10 atom bombs. He was soon abducted and imprisoned.

Just before I turned 20, Mordechai was released, but not freed. As soon as Mordechai stepped out of prison, he was slapped with a military order controlling his movements within Israel, preventing him from leaving the country and barring him from contacting foreigners. Israeli authorities insist that after 18 years, Mordechai still knows military secrets.

But Mordechai is easily the most stubborn person I know. When the Israeli military forbade him from speaking with foreigners, Mordechai decided to speak only to foreign journalists. Mordechai has become a master of non-cooperation, techniques that he says helped to keep him sane during his long years of solitary confinement. But Mordechai has paid the price of conscience and more. As he tells anyone who will listen, “All that I want is to be free, to leave [Israel].”

I am now 23 years old and Mordechai’s stubbornness has caught up him. On April 30th, he was convicted on 14 counts of speaking with foreign journalists, telling them, it seems, exactly what he told newspapers in 1986. Sentencing will take place May 18th. His lawyer has pointed out that, “this verdict convicts a person for being in contact with other people - regardless of the content of their conversation.” Amnesty International has said that if Mordechai is jailed, they will regard him as a prisoner of conscience.

Mordechai has more than served his time. How much more of my life will Mordechai spend behind bars for the crime of telling the truth?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

At-Tuwani: "Palestinians are grazing in places they haven't set foot in years" (CPTnet)

The following blog entries by CPTer Heidi Schramm have been edited for length. To see her original entries and accompanying photos go to

4th March 2007
I've been thinking a lot about what it is that I am doing here, and I worry that this work is creating a sort of stalemate. The settlers are lying low, but they are still here. There is no pressing need for Israel to evacuate the outpost, let alone the major settlements in the area, as long as things are reasonably quiet. Unfortunately, there is no public outcry when children (and internationals) aren't being attacked. Without that pressing need, the government and military can continue to put off making decisions indefinitely. And while they do that, the settlers become more established. Look at the settlement block east of Jerusalem; it is not just right-wing Zionists who are now saying these settlements "are Israel" and must be on the Israeli side of any future border. It is the predominant opinion. It only got to be that way because the government intentionally neglected to take a stand, for or against, the settlement movement, allowing the radical factions to create the facts that are assumed today. And this is now happening within the occupation as a whole. It has become accepted that this is how it is and how it must be. And for all the speaking out I do against this occupation, I can't help but feel like I'm playing too big of a role in its continuation. Scanning through past entries, I see that I consider days when the settlers stay in the outpost to be "good" ones. But these people shouldn't be here at all, and I cannot allow myself to lose sight of that. They live on land owned by a man from Tuba; not in Israel.

7th March 2007
We went out near the Avigail outpost today because settlers were grazing their horses in a Palestinian wheat field. They did an incredible amount of damage in the few hours they were there. We are approaching harvest time here, and the wheat has finally begun to grow, so there is no chance that it can recover from the damage before it is time to pick. The landowner called the police and was told he had to come in to the station near Hebron to file a complaint. So he and a few family members went. After being made to wait for a few hours they were told to come back with evidence. Naturally, this is where we come in. It was late by the time we got back, so we uploaded the video, made some DVDs and they will return to the station tomorrow.

Our days have been full but relatively calm. I spend most of my time honing my shepherding skills and have even, on occasion, been charged with the task of retrieving sheep that wander away from the flock. The settlers have been out but not pushing much. The truth is, they have access to less land today than ever before. The Palestinians are grazing in places they haven't set foot in years. And the police and soldiers are allowing it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Profiles of Peace: A New Resource from American Friends Service Committee

You know, 40 is a good number. And that's how many Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers American Friends Service Committee will be featuring on there website, each week from now until June 8th. It's a wonderful way to spread some hope and help to show people that there are plenty of Palestinians and Israelis who are dedicated to finding a just end to this terrible violence.

The first person who is being profiled is someone who is dear to my heart. Ghassan Andoni is the "Palestinian co-founder of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and the International Solidarity Movement. He has been a proponent of nonviolent resistance for decades." He is also an inspiring man and someone with tremendous wisdom, especially about the role that international solidarity can play in ending the occupation. He writes "Conflicts are fueled by the tendency of the powerful to exploit the power and the anger and frustration of the powerless, which turns into violence. International Solidarity Movement activists are attempting to confront the exploitation of power and to bring back hope to the powerless...."

Check out the rest of AFSC's Profiles of Peace as they go up!

PS: 40 can also be a pretty terrible number. 40 is the number of years that Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 40th anniversary of the occupation is coming up this June. I hope that we can find 40 thousand Americans who are ready to say it's time for something different.