Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza: The Feast Day of the Slaughter of the Innocents, 2008

I've been struck dumb by the attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, completely unable to string two words together. I hope to write a few letters and make a few calls to Israeli and American officials tomorrow (probably while I sit in an airport going through the same holiday travel hell as everyone else), but in the meantime my friend Amy has some thoughts about the situation:

After watching the news in horror the last two days, I finally have found some words. Not too many, but a few.

This is reportedly the largest action on the part of Israel against the Palestinians since the 1967 war. There is some question of who, exactly, broke the cease-fire. But regardless, the toll is, as always, unbalanced. Over three hundred dead- three hundred- and maybe as many as 1,000 injured; there is no way of knowing how critical the injured are, or how many of them will die of their wounds.

Amira Hass, bless her soul, writes 'Gaza strike is not against Hamas, it's against all Palestinians'.

Today is the Feast Day in Western churches known as the Slaughter of the Innocents.

I am aware that not everyone in Gaza is innocent. But most of them are. Is it just to kill 300 in order to get a handful you were aiming for? Is it just to herd one and a half million people into a section of land, not let them leave, and then bombard them with missile strikes?

My values say it is not.

This is wrong. Very, very wrong.

Edit: Ali Abunimah gives us yet another stunning article.

Friday, December 26, 2008

This is just a little bit late, but check out this experiment: A BBC reporter travels to answer the question, "Could Mary and Joesph make it to Bethlehem on a donkey today?"
Santa sighted at a Bethlehem demonstration!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sami Awad on Anger and Nonviolence:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More from the Shministim

Monday, December 15, 2008

Petition to Free the Shministim - Israel's Young Conscientious Objectors: The Shministim are Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies Palestine.

“I wasn’t born to serve as a soldier who occupies another, and the struggle against the occupation is mine too. It is a struggle for hope, for a reality that sometimes feels so far away. I have a responsibility for this society. My responsibility is to refuse.” - Raz Bar-David Varon, 18 year old member of the Shministim

Just for fun:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So, I'm writing a novel set in Palestine. Yes, I might be crazy for attempting this, but I am. And I have a question and I figure some of you might know the answer:

When a Palestinian gets a permit, say to travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for one day, does said Palestinian recieve a little piece of paper that is his/her permit? Is it stored on file with the Israeli Army? Both? Something else?

I'm really kind of surprised that I don't know the answer to this question, but I don't. And one of you must.


Friday, December 12, 2008

A Dangerous Journey: Settler Violence Against Palestinian Children Under Israeli Military Escort.
This report also includes ideas for advocacy on behave of these children and is well worth reading. (Please, please, please, please, read it and post it.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Just in case you were in doubt, yes I have opinions about Obama's decision to appoint Hilary Clinton to the position secretary of state.

I'm disappointed, generally. If this appointment means that Obama plans to take us back to (Bill) Clinton-style foreign policy, than this isn't change I can believe in. Clinton's policies were light-years better than those of Bush, but they weren't good for the Middle East. Through his sanctions, Clinton was responsible for the death of thousands of Iraqi children and for laying the groundwork for this current occupation of Iraq. Yes, Bush took those circumstances and ran with them to places they didn't need to go, but the basis of both the Clinton and Bush doctrines were fundamentally the same - both leaders believed that the United States has the right to shape the middle east to suit its fancy, supporting dictators when expedient and then turning on them when their usefulness has run out.

For Palestine, Bill Clinton's policy could have been better. It was during the Oslo accords that settlements expanded at an unprecedented rate. Clinton's diplomatic skills were as sharp in Palestine as they were any where, but he either wasn't able to understand the obstacle that settlements posed, or he decided to ignore them.

But Hilary Clinton shouldn't be judged by the policies of her husband, even though she hasn't differed with him significantly. Hilary's policy towards Palestine started to worry me in 2005 when she visited Israel while I was staying in Bethlehem. She was invited to see the apartheid wall near Jerusalem and learn about the damage that it is still causing. She declined to visit in wall in a Palestinian community, but still felt comfortable commenting on it. Sight unseen, Hilary Clinton told the world that she thought it was a great, "nonviolent" response for Israel's security:

"The top priority of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens, and that is why I have been a strong supporter of Israel's right to build a security barrier to keep terrorists out. I have taken the International Court of Justice to task for questioning Israel's right to build the fence, and on this trip, I wanted to see the fence with my own eyes. ... I stood on a hilltop in Gilo and received a detailed briefing from Col. Danny Tirza who oversees the Israeli government's strategy and construction of the security fence."

Clinton showed in her 2005 trip that she wasn't willing to listen to both sides and that she going to "take to task" anyone who calls for the rule of international law. These is not the qualities of a new and different "changed" secretary of state.

The truth is, Clinton's Palestine policies worry me because they are so much like Obama's. Both Clinton and Obama used to - even recently - support Palestinian national aspirations, in meaningful, gutsy ways. Obama particularly can't deny that he knows how Palestinians are suffering. But both of them have decided to sacrifice these ideals to get - and stay - elected. Both Clinton and Obama are courting APAIC. Both are courting Jewish supporters of Israeli polices. And both are getting winning reviews from pro-Israel lobbyists.

That Obama would chose someone for secretary of state who has sold out the same ideals that he has abandoned makes me worry that he really had abandoned them completely. The president we have just elected, despite he many strengths, is hard to imagine doing the difficult work to build a just peace process.

Many of my friends keep telling me that Obama is just doing this to get elected. Now that the pressure is off, he'll turn back to his ideals. Forgive me for saying so, but the pressure on Obama has never been greater. Nor has the pressure on Hilary Clinton. The only thing that will steer Obama's Palestine policy - and the rest of his foreign policy as well - back towards a "change we can believe in" will be a different pressure. A pressure from us. Right now, Obama is giving us a foreign policy that's better than Bush's. What a relief. But those us of who believe in peace in justice - all of us who want to live in a safe world - need to ask for more than that.
Do What You Will

Yesterday in Susiya, a village near at-Tuwani and one which has been razed by the Israeli army three times, Israeli settlers burned a Palestinian home to the ground. This incident was one of a long series of attacks Israeli settlers are calling a "price tag" campaign. According to the International Herald Tribune, settlers "say they're creating havoc to try to deter the Israeli security forces from future attempts to remove any of the dozens of squatter camps, or outposts, dotting West Bank hills." It seems as though the Israeli army is unwilling to take decisive action against the lawless elements of it's own society. Perhaps this "price tag" campaign has being proved successful.

According the International Solidarity Movement, during the last week alone, "settlers are attacking Palestinian residents and property around the West Bank in a coordinated outbreak of aggression following the eviction of settlers from the occupied Rajabi house in Hebron. Attacks against Palestinians have been reported from Turmas’ayya, Burin, Huwarra, Beit Iba, Azzoun, al-Funduq, Assira-al-Qabliya and Susiya, as well as the mass settler riots in Hebron."

In At-Tuwani, the same pattern has unfolded. Since the beginning of 2008, it's seemed as though the settlers of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on have been "on the move." By the middle of the year, settlers were attacking Palestinians with greater frequecy, even inside the boundaries of Palestinian villages. During almost every incident, the Israeli army stood by and watched while settlers did what they please. During one attack, an Israeli solider told a Palestinian resident of At-Tuwani that they would not step in to restrain settlers until settlers entered Palestinian homes. Now, as 2008 has drawn to a close, Palestinians, and to a much lesser extent international human rights workers like myself, undertake all of their daily activities under ever increasing threat.

According to a report prepared by an IDF consultant, much of the recent settler violence was fostered when extermist members of the settler movement saw an "opportunity" and were not met by an determined response by the Israeli army. In the South Hebron Hills, settler violence is generally met with no army response whatsoever. Even after settlers have repeted attacked Palestinian schoolchildren, ages 6 to 12, no settlers have been arrested. Perhaps even worse, the Israeli army refuses to insure the safety of these children, despite it's orders from the Israeli Knesset to do so. The message from the army to the settlers is clear - do whatever you will; no one will stop you.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Family Unification:

I've started doing some research about family unification for a project I'm working on and thought that I might as well share what I've been finding with all of you.

Here's how B'Tselem describes this video:

Since the beginning of the second intifada, Israel has frozen family unification in these cases. In addition, Israel has ceased issuing visitor's permits, which enabled families to live together legally in the West Bank and Gaza . As a result of the freeze policy, the foreign spouses of Palestinians, mostly women, have faced a cruel choice: leave the Occupied Territories and not be allowed to return to their spouses and children, or stay illegally and not be able to see their parents, siblings, and other relatives living in their native land. Many chose to remain in the West Bank and Gaza, and have thus been sentenced to a life of fear and constant threat of deportation; the problems inherent in moving in the West Bank without any valid identity document virtually makes them prisoners in their own

I will only add that's it's a great video for practicing Arabic. And it's unbelievably sad.