Monday, September 29, 2008

Obsession: The Oregonian Distributes Racist Anti-Muslim DVD as Advertisement

This last Sunday, my local paper distributed a DVD of "Obsession: Racial Islam's War Against the West inside of each of their papers. The trailer for this film is embedded above and you can watch it in its entirety on YouTube. If you watch it, you'll find what the American Muslim calls "hateful propaganda." According to the American Muslim, "The effect of Obsession is to produce anxiety, mistrust, and deep unease in the average American viewer about the presence, activities and attitudes of millions of their fellow Muslim American citizens. Obsession presents a mirror-image of Osama bin Laden’s world view, in which all conflicts involving Muslims are fronts in a global crusade. The film’s assertions are both a-historical and absurd, revealing a mindset of reductionism, chauvinism and paranoia." You can find a very helpful analysis of the film on their website, here, but I think that most of you will be able to clearly see the misinformation and hatred for yoursef.

Here in Oregonian a group called the Good Faith Coaltion has been organizing a response. They held a demonstration at which State Senator Avel Gordly said to Oregonian publisher Fred Stickel: “I also want to say to Fred Stickel, and I consider Fred Stickel to be a friend. You’ve made a mistake. There is a place for an apology...and I want to say to all of you, take your DVD and send it back to The Oregonian.”

The Good Faith Coalition is also asking people to call the Oregonian. I called them today and was forward to a comment line that they've set up for this issue specifically. I'd encorage all of you to do the same. I'm really not sure which number is the best to use, but you can call the publisher at 503-221-8140. I'm sure they will forward you to the comment line.

If you don't live in Oregon, you may in the future. Obsession is being distrubting battleground states across the country, 26 million copies total. I can't see to find a list of what papers have carried it, so keep your eyes open.

I have to say that I'm so disappointed that we are still at a place where businesses are willing distribute slander against people who are our neighbors and friends. Fear tactics may be powerful, but they are easy to spot and we can all help to render them ineffective.

Friday, September 26, 2008

An Open Letter to A Palestinian Child

Dear Sahmeha,

I’m writing you because your 12-year-old big brown eyes and serious mouth have made me feel as though there is something I need to explain. That questioning look of yours has made me wonder if I am not living up to the bargain I struck when I came to live in At-Tuwani.

When I arrived back in At-Tuwani after two months in the United States it wasn’t just my limited Arabic that prevented me from expressing how happy I was to see you. It was the beginning of June, just starting to become unbearably hot and dry, and you and your younger sisters came to visit with us on our patio. You sat down on the chair next to me, offered me your hand to shake and made me promise to come to your house for tea the next day. I know adults aren’t supposed to say things like this, but your parents would have been so proud to see you! My heart swelled and all of the reasons that I love my work and I love living in your village rushed in and filled me up. I know I smiled like a fool because you made me so happy. And then, Sahmeha, you said the words that have slain me.

“While you were in America, there were many, big problems in Tuwani.”

You told me the story of one of Tuwani’s worst days in recent memory. It was May 2nd, my birthday, and settlers came into at-Tuwani and attacked several of your neighbors. You and I both know what happened, so I wont write of it here. But Sahmeha, I pray that you forget the fear you described to me. Though I’ve heard many different tellings of the events of that day, your account was by far the most haunting. I want for you to forget everything that you told me - how you and your cousins ran back home, how you hid in your house, how you watched as Israelis settlers and soldiers hit people you love. I’d erase all of it, but I know neither one us can forget.

It’s September now and I’m once again far away from you for a spell. I keep thinking about how your father tells us that he is working hard to tell the stories of At-Tuwani under Israeli occupation. I know how right he is. The stories of what happens in your home every day are important and precious. Still, I can’t figure how to describe what the situation. Sometimes I’m feel as though I’m in a glass telephone booth, surrounded by raging violence. I’m trapped inside and I can’t do anything to help my friends outside. All I can do is yell down the line and hope someone is listening.

I know how my feelings pale to nothing in comparison for what you hold for each other, in the face this injustice and violence that sickens me, it’s only my affection for you and your family feels solid and describable. When am I away from Palestine, daily life in at-Tuwani seems so far away. My memories of the terrible things experienced by you and your parents - the stones thrown and the bullets shot by Israeli settlers, the closures, arrests, and harassment at the hands of Israeli army, the uncertainty that constantly lurks- start to blurr.. They linger like a half remembered nightmare that is scarier in waking than sleeping. This letter to you is the only thing that I can put on the page.

I want to tell you that I love you and that I’m trying. You, your family, and the rest of At-Tuwani have given me a gift - the privilege of living in your community. You’ve extended so much kindness and hospitality to me. I will do my best to tell to tell your stories while I’m away. In the meantime, Sahmeha, I know that while I am away many bad things will happen in Tuwani. There will still be big problems. And you are in good hands. Your mother, your father, your grandmother, and your aunts and uncles are taking good care of you. Take care of them too.

I can’t wait until I see you again.

With love and gratitude,

Friday, September 12, 2008

“She’s Driving Me Crazy, But this Girl is Going to Make a Great Resister.”

My friend and teammate Sarah just posted a really lovely story in her very lovely blog. It's a reflection the August 2nd action that I've spoken about. That action, in which over a hundred Palestinian children and their parents walked to the village of Tuba on a road they haven't been able to use for the last eleven years, remains one of the most incredible actions I've ever been a (small) part of.

Sarah's story talks about one of our favorite Tuwani kids, Amira. Amira's showed up in this blog before precisely for the reason that Sarah gives: "She's driving me crazy, but this girl is going to make a great resister." Sarah talks about how Amira's participation and you don't want to miss it.

Friday, September 05, 2008

430,000 Breaches of International Law

It's been hard to believe, but since the beginning of this year the situation in Tuwani has gotten much worse. The settlers of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on have attacked the Palestinians in tharea more frequently and more severely and no one knows just what accounts for the change. I still can't sayt hat I do, but recently an article published by the BBC at least managed to verify my own experiences.

Israeli officials have reported 429 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the first half of 2008, up from a total of 551 attacks in all of 2007. It should be said that these statistics are undoubtedly nowhere near comprehensive. In July CPT documented 7 settler attacks in Tuwani, only one of which was reported to the police. You'll see why Palestinians aren't making police reports in a moment.

According to Yesh Din (a wonderful Israeli organization), 9 out of 10 police investigations don't lead to anyone being charged. Yesh Din looked at 163 cases and found only 13 which ended with the attackers being indicted.

We found that even with overwhelming evidence - like videotapes of the crimes of settlers - Israeli police still refuse to take action. Going to the police is a nightmare, especially for Palestinians. My neighbors have told me stories of making police reports, only to be told that they would be arrested or fined. Why would you bother?

And here's my favorite part of the situation. Now that settler attacks are on the rise, the Israeli government has "postponed"the dismantlement of Migron, the largest unauthorized settlement in the West Bank. There are 430,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Even when some of these citizens attack children, the Israeli government has shown it will do nothing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hi there. I just realized that I should probably mention that I've made it home and I am taking a little bit of a break. It's nice to relax.

This blog will be a little bit more quiet than usual over the next month. I find I don't have very many interesting things to say while I'm away from Palestine, so I'm not going to try to pretend I do. I plan to post a few articles over the next month and I'll be spending the rest of the time wrapping up some writing projects. If I finish them, they may find their way here. You'll just have to wait and see.

Part Wild West, Part Jim Crow

On July 27, the children and I were walking home when a group of Israeli settlers assaulted us from a hilltop with fist-sized stones. Some narrowly missed my head. Focusing my video camera, I recorded an Israeli settler flinging stones at the children from his long-range slingshot. When he saw that I was filming him, he struck me in the leg with a rock. He chased me, kicked me and screamed that he was going to kill me. Wrestling the video camera from my hand, he then repeatedly struck me in the face and upper body with a stone...The occupied West Bank today is like walking through a page from a different era - part Wild West, part Jim Crow - with one set of laws for Palestinians and another set for Israeli settlers.
Joel Gulledge reflects on being assaulted by Israeli settlers. Background on the attack here.