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!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicago Sister City Campaign Update:

Now Showing: Israeli Apartheid

Coming Soon: A Free Palestine

Last Thursday, members of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and the Palestine Solidarity Group demonstrated at the opening of the Reel Real Israel film festival, a project of the Chicago Sister City program. We are continuing to pressure the city of Chicago to end it's relationship with Petak Tikva, an Israeli city known as Israel's Guantanamo. Petak Tikva is home to an Israeli detention center where Palestinians, like activist Ameer Makhoul, are detained and tortured. Our community doesn't want to support human rights abuses, like torture, so we say no to Petak Tikva. Thursday's demonstration was colorful and lively, complete with a mock academy awards ceremony in which we award the Chicago Sister Cities program a "best supporting actor" award for its support of Israel. Sam published a great report about the demonstration on his blog. Stay tuned here for how you can support the campaign.

Rachel Corrie in Wonderland: The Identity of Rachel Corrie's Killer kept Secret by Israeli Court

In Haifa, we have all fallen down the rabbit hole and into the Israeli legal system. Last Tuesday, the driver of the bulldozer who crushed Rachel Corrie testified in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the Corrie family. The former soldier has already been cleared of wrongdoing in an internal army investigation. This trial is last hope for the Corrie family to find justice for their daughter. It is one final opportunity for the Corries to hold the Israeli government responsible for what it has done and continues to do to unarmed civilians.

The driver gave this testimony from a screen designed to protect his identity. Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother, said, “We were disappointed not to see the whole human being. It is a personal affront that the state’s attorneys and Israeli government, on the basis of security, chose to keep our family from seeing the witness.”

In this testimony, the driver of the bulldozer was unable to remember the facts of the case, like the date of Rachel's killing or the time of day when it took place. He seemed to struggle to read and understand his own affidavit and repeatedly contradicted his own statements. He couldn't even remember Rachel's name.

Curiouser and curiouser.

A couple of days after the testimony, my friend Amy and I attended a production of the controversial play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” organized by the DePaul University Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. Through the words Rachel's own journal entries, letters, and articles, this play reveals the motivations, fears, joys and vivid imagination of Rachel as she traveled to Gaza to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. The play is a little short, in the opinion of this activist, on the voices of Rachel's Palestinian colleagues. But it is a truly beautiful inquiry into the question of how one can lead a life mindful of the connections between all people. Over and over, Rachel asks herself how she, as a white, middle class, American, can live ethically in a world of such tremendous power imbalances. Here is one of my favorite lines in the play:

We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone.What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?

If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality.

And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.

This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges.

I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.

I can wash dishes.

Just as Rachel comes up with no easy answer, I can bring this essay to no real conclusion. Testimony in the Corrie's lawsuit continues. Meanwhile, an Israeli court sentenced Palestinian activist Adeeb Abu Rahmah to 18 months imprisonment for demonstrating against the wall in Bil'in. In Tuwani, settlers continue to attack Palestinians. And me? Honestly? I just miss my friends in Tuwani. I cried throughout the play, not because of any of Rachel's words, but just because I missed them. But here are a few more words for Rachel Corrie. As we linger, waiting on the Israeli court system to let the Corrie family out of Wonderland, may they be comforting.

We should be inspired by people... who show that human beings can be kind, brave, generous, beautiful, strong-even in the most difficult circumstances.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Activism and the Social Media Revolution: What does it mean for us?

The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960. “Social networks are particularly effective at increasing motivation,” Aaker and Smith write. But that’s not true. Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires.
The New Yorker has published an article called "Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not be Tweeted" and it has me thinking about social-media based activism. I strongly recommend reading this article - it's the first article about social-media based activism I've read that actually understands the dynamics of social change, namely that meaningful social change is strategic and high risk. In other words, social change requires exactly what social networking, by nature, cannot provide. I don't agree with everything this article says, but it has me thinking. Social networking is a tool and I think it's easy to lose sight of what that tool does well.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

This Columbus Day, Reconsider Our Nakba

This Monday is Columbus Day. I want to join the voices in the above video and ask you to reconsider how you think of Columbus and the history of the Western hemisphere. Even though our history books take great pains to cover it up, the arrival of Columbus in the so-called "New World" was certain the beginning of a catastrophe for the indigenous people. In Arabic the word for catastrophe is nakba and it is what Palestinian call the events that lead to the founding of the state of Israel.

During the nakba, approximately 725,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly expelled from their homes. Many Palestinians were afraid of being attacked by Israelis. They left their homes, often clutching their keys and expecting to return home soon. Others were forced out of their homes at gun point. The result? The ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine. Today, many refugees still waiting in over-crowded, under-served camps outside of the land Israel claimed. This history, much like the history of Columbus' crimes, has been denied by Israelis.

Funny, it's often far easier for USAers to recognize the horror the Palestinian nakba than the admit to the history of our country. In his book A People's History of the United States, historian Howard Zinn quotes Columbus' own account of meeting the Arawak people, the first indigenous people he encountered.

They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

And subjugate the Arawaks he did. Columbus enslaved the people he met, exploited their land, and showed little regard for anything but gold and power. By 1650, no Arawaks remained. Through disease, mutilation, suicide, and murder, they all died. While Israelis committed ethnic cleaning against Palestinian, Columbus began a process of genocide.

I know Palestinians who survived the nabak. I've sat in refugee campus, ate with Palestinians who expect to die before they are able to see the homes they left, hung out with friends of mine who now live in the United States, but can still name the village their parents were driven from. The nabka, no matter how it is denied, is real for them. What happened in 1948 hasn't ended. The same is true for my Native friends. They are the decedents of the people who survive the process of colonization that Columbus started. This process hasn't ended. It impacts their lives today.

Both the nakba and the catastrophe that began with Columbus are denied by the people who benefit from them. I hope that by looking at the parallels between the situation in Palestine and the situation in US - and they are parallels only - I can chip away some of this denial. Still, I know that this blog post may not change anyone's mind. But I just have this to say - denial doesn't erase the past. What we refuse to acknowledge is no less real. Whatever history we will not face, the present is same: the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere and of Palestine need justice and they need it now. We all do.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


(Press Release from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression)

Chicago, October 5th, 2010, five anti-war and international solidarity activists from Chicago and Minneapolis announced they are invoking their 5th amendment right to not testify in front of a Grand Jury investigation. Stephanie Weiner, one of those raided and subpoenaed spoke to 150 supporters at a press conference outside the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago, “This is an attack on the anti-war movement, but the strong response of our movement, where more than 61 protests in cities across the country, makes it absolutely clear that this is about more than just 14 activists in the Midwest. It is an attempt to limit the voice of anti-war, peace, and international solidarity activists.”

The five signed letters to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox. They informed him of their decision to invoke their 5th amendment rights to not testify. One of those subpoenaed to appear today, Meredith Aby of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, said, “Our opposition to U.S. war and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, our scathing criticism of U.S. government support for repressive regimes and death squads in Colombia and Israel is well known and public. This attempt to criminalize the fourteen of us in the anti-war movement must be stopped. The Grand Jury should be ended. There should be no charges.”

Joe Iosbaker stated, “We have nothing to say to a Grand Jury. Most people do not understand how secretive and undemocratic the Grand Jury is. I am not allowed to have my lawyer with me. There isn’t even a judge. How strange is that? It is the U.S. prosecutor with 23 people they hand picked to pretty much rubber stamp whatever the prosecutor says. A person is defenseless in that situation.”

Jim Fennerty an attorney working to defend the activists said, “Assistant U.S. Attorney Fox is cancelling the subpoenas for the five due to appear today. This does not put an end to the Grand Jury investigation however. Fox can reissue subpoenas for new dates or decide to arrest the activists and charge them with crimes.”

Activists organized a successful National Call In Day yesterday, with thousands phoning to demand that President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Holder publicly call off the Grand Jury investigation.

For more information

Updates from "I Saw it in Palestine": Grand Jury Investigations, Graphic Novels, Speaking Tours

Well, I don't know about all of you, but I'm tired. Things have been busy in my life. Here's a little run down of the most important things going on.

1. Midwest Anti-War Activists Refuse to Testify to Grand Jury I'll keep you updated as the story unfolds

2. The first draft of the script for my graphic novel about At-Tuwani is nearly finished. I've got four more comic strips to write and then it will be time to start designing the panels and pulling the script together. I'm giving myself four more days to work on the script and then I will be moving on in the process because momentum is a powerful force. It's very exciting!

3. We're still fund-raising for the 2010 Tuwani Women's Coop Speaking Tour. I'll be honest, we're still a long way from reaching our goal. We need your help. Can you take a moment to spread the word about the project? Send out an email, post it to your blog, tell your wealthy friends (I'm still trying to make some wealthy friends...), do something. And if you can, leave a comment and tell me about it. To all of you who have already donated, thank you! All of the information that you need to donate or share the project is right here:

Friday, October 01, 2010

Press Release: Vancouver activists gather to protest FBI raids on anti-war activists in the Midwest

Here's a shout out to my home town and the awesome activists there. Thanks, everybody!

(Vancouver, October 1, 2010) On Friday October 1 at 4:15 pm until 5:30 pm Vancouver peace and justice activists will gather with banners on the Evergreen Blvd I-5 overpass to protest the FBI home raids and other investigations of anti-war activists in the Midwest one week ago.

Vancouver for Peace and other Vancouver residents will be protesting in solidarity with the anti-war and international activists whose homes were recently raided by the FBI. On Friday, September 24, 2010 the FBI raided seven houses and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis in an attempt to collect evidence of 'material support' of terrorism. The FBI also handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The FBI emphasized that no arrests are expected. However, a spokesperson for the FBI added that ”they were seeking evidence related to ongoing Joint Terrorism Task force investigation," according to the New York Times.

Vancouver peace and justice activists believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation raids threaten the First Amendment and suppress civil liberties. These local activists believe FBI spying on humanitarian advocates and harassing anti-war and solidarity activists should be denounced.

“These raids were aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to protest U.S. wars of choice and to support the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funding of military and security forces that violate their human rights, “ said Mike Ellison of Vancouver for Peace. “The systematic and simultaneous raids by FBI officials in multiple locations is alarming and appears to indicate an attempt to stifle and silence the political speech of people of conscience through fear tactics. We stand with our fellow activists in the Midwest and call on the Department of Justice and the FBI to return people’s property and stop this grand jury investigation.”

Thursday, September 30, 2010

For all my Nerds out there: "When Settlers Attack" Israeli Authorities do Nothing

This is an amazing statistical analysis of the patterns of settler attacks. If you ever wanted to understand when and where these attacks are taking place, this is the article to read. Those of my readers who aren't statistically minded may find this boring as all get out, but I was fascinated. But if you can't get through the article, here's what I think you should take away from it: "Fifty percent of these attacks are perpetuated by settlers in only seven settlements. So again, we know where a majority of this is coming from and if you could crack down on those seven areas then you’d immediate illuminated 50 percent of these attacks or at least a significant portion. So despite the fact that it’s a simple fix, it is nonetheless not happening."

Yousef Munayyer of the Palestine Center explains more:

What this means is that it is really a failure of Israeli policing and Israeli security that these settler attacks are taking place. We can’t do much about the ideology of these settlers, in fact they shouldn’t be in the West Bank to begin with and if we had a way to change that we probably would do that but that doesn’t seem to be changing right away. The reality is that it is the Israelis, both police and IDF [Israel Defense Force], that have a responsibility for policing these territories and that is clearly not happening. And you would think that with a majority of these cases really being in only seven places, from a policing point of view, this is not a difficult thing to crack down on. You know where it is located, you know where it is concentrated, and you know the vulnerable areas there is no shortage of information about this why aren’t more security resources being dedicated to protecting Palestinians in this area? If you not allowing the Palestinians security forces to do it, as they are not in areas B and C, then you can’t simply leave them vulnerable to Israeli settler violence. And often what we are seeing is as – and this has been caught on video and in pictures in the past – as settlers are attacking Palestinians there is a visible IDF presence not doing anything and in a number of these cases where we see injuries inflicted are injuries inflicted by IDF personnel who arrive on the scene to break up clashes between settlers and Palestinians that have been initiated by settlers on Palestinian territory. So not only is the IDF and Israeli police playing a role to protect settlers which are attacking Palestinians, they are, in a way, actively encouraging it by providing a security for these settlers as they continue to perpetuate attacks against Palestinian civilians.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great Al Jazeera Article on the FBI Raids: "FBI Targets US Palestine Activists"

"If you write articles, is that material support [for terrorists]? If you contribute resources for computers or healthcare clinics in occupied territories, or territories resisting government control, is that material support?"

More here
Material Support to Terrorists! Muslim Vampires!

Let's be honest about what these FBI raids are about. It's a witch hunt. Apparently we're all terrorists now. And not just any type of terrorist - Muslim terrorists. Wait, you forgot there were other kinds? That it was Catholics who invented the car bomb? That secular terrorists in Shri Lanka invented the suicide vest? Wait, I'm off-topic.

In this climate of fear, there is only one person to which we can turn. I bring you Stephen Colbert.
ABC 7 Plays Fast and Loose with the Facts: Take Action to Support Accurate Reporting and Hatem Abudayyeh

We are calling on folks to take a few minutes to respond to ABC 7 reporter Chuck Goudie's mistaken and irresponsible reportage on our friend Hatem Abudayyeh and the Arab American Action Network, which provides vital community services in Chicago. The link to Goudie's report:

Here's the letter I wrote:

Dear Mr. Goudie,

I was deeply disappointed to read your report entitled "Group run by FBI raid target received gov't funds" In this report you made two factual errors:

1. You said that the federal government is seeking funding links between Hatem Abudayyeh and Hamas. Nowhere in any federal affidavit is Hamas named.

2. "... in 2001, Abudayyeh and several others filed a lawsuit against the city, seeking the freedom to wear traditional Arab headwear during Michigan Avenue protests. The case was settled. Terms unknown." In fact, the City of Chicago was allegedly criminalized anything covering a person's head, a winter hat, hooded sweatshirt, halloween mask, headscarf or an host of similar clothing items.

By playing fast and loose with the facts, you do your readers a grave disservice and contribute to a climate of fear and prejudice. Your report reflects an anti-Muslim bias that has dangerous repercussions for our community. Unfortunately, this is not the only time that your reporting such as a prejudice. reflected an anti-Muslim bias. As a a columnist for the Daily Herald your writing has shown deep hostility to Islam and to the peoples of the Middle East. If you are unable to report accurately because of your personal feelings, I think it is time to ask yourself if you should be covering different topics.

The real story regarding the FBI raids wasn't represented in your report -- that people peacefully dissenting US foreign policy are being raided and subpoenaed, and that the FBI's treatment of the targeted individuals has far-reaching implications for the rights of us all. I urge you to formally correct this story and, in the future, to either manage your bias more effectively or recuse yourself from reporting on these issues .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

350 Rally in Opposition to FBI raids on Peace Activists

Yesterday afternoon 350 people rallied outside the FBI's Chicago office in support of activists in Minneapolis and Chicago who were raided by the FBI on Friday. It was a powerful - and well covered - statements against the criminalization of international solidarity and a great moment for drawing connections between justice struggles. My favorite sign from the event read "First they came for the Muslims, then they came for the gays, then they came for the peace activists."

Here's a great video from Labor Beat. Watch it, share it, and raise your voice.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

MONDAY, SEPT. 27: Rally at FBI headquarters to protest raids!

The Committee Against Political Repression is calling for an emergency rally to be held at 4:30pm Monday, Sept. 27 at FBI headquarters in Chicago, 2111 W. Roosevelt (NOT at Federal Plaza as some earlier announcements indicated).

By now, news is spreading widely about last Friday's FBI raids -- and the larger federal assault -- on anti-war activists, solidarity workers and people committed to peace with justice in the U.S. and abroad.

We will assemble to send a strong message to say that these raids will not keep us silent. Similar rallies are to be held throughout the US in the next few days. An injury to one is an injury to all, and solidarity to protect our most basic rights to dissent is more important than ever.

Checks to support the legal defense for the Chicago victims of the raids can be made out to Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ (WAUCC) with Committee Against Political Repression identified in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington Ave., 60657
FBI Raids will not Silence our Movement

I remember this feeling, I thought as I read that on Friday the FBI raided the homes of peace and justice activists in Minneapolis and here in Chicago. It's the same way I feel whenever the Israeli government decides it's time to round up Palestinians nonviolent activists. In these situations I always find that I feel a little bit confused, a little bit scared, and very, very powerless.

The thing is - that's exactly what a government trying to squash political opposition wants its citizens to feel. When the FBI raided the home of Joe Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner, they didn't make any arrests. They just took 30 boxes of papers and personal items. Some of those papers showed the labor activism and peace activist that Joe and Stephanie have been involved in for so long. The rest of it? Strictly personal items, like baby pictures and letters. That's a tactic designed to scare Joe and Stephanie and their friends. And why does our government want to intimidate us? "All we ever did was work against U.S. military aid to the governments of Colombia and Israel and to support the peoples of Colombia and Israel in their struggle for justice," said Joe.

We have a choice now. We can become scared and and stop talking about about how the United States and Israel are systematically violating human rights in the name of empire-building, or we keep moving forward with renewed energy. Yesterday, activists held a press conference calling this so-called terrorist investigation what it is: political intimidation. Tomorrow, we'll be rallying again and I'm asking you to join us. Because speaking out is what it takes to maintain a democracy.

For myself, I keep thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of Palestinians who've been arrested for their nonviolent resistance: who was tortured for grazing his sheep on his land, Nasser who spent a month in jail for building a house, Hafez who was beaten and arrested for protesting the wall, the guys from Tuba who keep being arrested for doing farm work, the three boys who were taken by Israel soldiers and handed over to settlers who beat them. I'm thinking about all of the political prisoners, including Amer Makhoul, who are in Israeli jails right now. They are why I'm will not be intimated and silenced. I learned from Palestinians the meaning of "samoud," steadfastness. We're not going to give up.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You totally want to support the 2010 Women's Cooperative Tour! (What's this? A Blog Post?)

Oh, blog. You're wonderful and all, but sometimes my life is too exciting for you. It's just beyond your scope. See, I've been working away on my graphic novel about Tuwani. Yeah, it's kind of like turning this blog into a giant comic book. In other words, it's fantastic. But I'll be back to you soon. I promise. Until then, here's something totally cool that I know you'll totally want to support. Wait, you're a blog and you don't have money. Wait, let me stop talking to you and start talking to your readers. This is getting a little weird...

Hey, I'm certain you incredibly generous, wonderful people will be excited to read the letter below. It's about an exciting project to spent Keifah (one of the regular heroes of this blog) to Italy on a speaking tour. Read it and give as much as you call. At least spend us some love - nice, free love.

We may not currently have the might of the Israeli army nor the power of traditions confining us in certain roles, however, we know that one woman standing behind another in a line of solidarity is a force more powerful than both.

- Keifah Addera, At-Tuwani Women's Coperative

Dear friends and supporters of At-Tuwani village,

We would like to invite you to support a force more powerful than violence: the voices of Palestinian women. In late November 2010 , Humanity Together will host Keifah Addera and her husband Nasser on a speaking tour in Italy. Keifah will be speaking about the experiences of women in At-Tuwani as they nonviolently resist both the Israeli occupation and sexism. We hope that you will consider financially supporting this exciting project.

The people of At-Tuwani have often told their allies that the most important way we can support their struggle is to share their stories in our own communities. Keifah Addera, the organizer of the At-Tuwani Women's Cooperative, is a powerful voice uniquely able to speak about the resistance of Palestinian women. While in Italy, Keifah will speak about the effect of the Israeli occupation and settler violence on women and children in Tuwani as well as the women's cooperative's work for justice and gender equality. Keifah's husbandwill speak about his experiences as a prisoner in Israeli jail after being arrested for his participation in nonviolent demonstrations. Keifah and Nasser will present at the annual Italian Pax Christi peace conference as well as other public meetings in Rome, Trento, Ravenna, and several other locations.

Few Tuwani residents are as experienced in speaking with visitors as Keifah. She often hosts groups in Tuwani and has a rare talent for creating relationships with the people she meets. For this reason we are excited by the opportunities for building international support and women's solidarity that this trip will provide. We are trying to raise 2,500 euros to cover the cost of flights, visa procedures, lodging, transportation in Italy, and food expenses. To donate, follow this link to our Pay Pal. Thank you so much for your support

In solidarity,

Humanity Together

Friday, August 27, 2010

Palestine Solidarity Project's Sister City Protest in the News

So here's an update on the demonstration I mentioned a few days ago. The protester who was arrested was released by five pm that day. I'll update you all with more information after we get some legal advice about what is good to put out to the public and what is not.

In the meantime, here are a couple of great articles about the campaign to get Chicago to drop Petach Tivak, it's Israeli sister city.

First, from IMEMC: Protester Arrested in Chicago While Challenging Israeli Segregation

Second, from Electronic Intifada: Global Boycott Movement Claims Victories, Arrests

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this demonstration and the larger campaign. I've been wondering how to best pressure the Sister City office to drop Petach Tivak, and more importantly, how to make sure that everyday folks are hearing about our campaign. I really do believe that the strength if the boycott movement lays in its ability to engage people and show us how we can act for justice and peace, wherever we are. So, how can we get that message out to a larger audience?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

After Nine years of Struggle, Tuwani is Connected to the Electric Grid

This photo brought tears to my eyes. Finally, after nine years of struggle, At-Tuwani is connected to the electric grid and enjoying electricity 24 hours a day. I hope all of my favorite women are celebrating with dance parties that can finally continue past 9:30 pm.

For more information about the the village's victory, check out Electronic Intifada

Monday, August 23, 2010

Breaking News: Chicagoan arrested calling for boycott of Israel's Guantanamo

So, this press release will show you how I spent my lunch hour. I'll keep you updated as we get more information from the activist who was arrested. I just called several media outlets here in the city and I'm not sure that this story will be picked up by any of them. As usual, it will be up to us to spread this story around.

Chicagoan arrested calling for boycott of Israel's Guantanamo
Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago media advisory

Chicago police at downtown Millennium Park today arrested an activist who was exercising his free speech rights during a protest organized by the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago. At the Chicago Sister Cities' annual International Festival, more than 30 activists protested Israel's inclusion in the program and called for the cutting of Chicago ties with Israeli apartheid.
The activist was arrested while the protest was concluding outside of the International Festival tent. The protesters were on their way out when the police began shoving the activists and grabbed the young Arab male protester and placed him under arrest (he remains in detention at the time of this release).
Minutes earlier, after picketing and chanting outside of the tent, activists brought the message into the venue. Protesters chanted in the tent for a few minutes to make the message clear: "Drop Petach Tikva!", Chicago's sister city in Israel. The pianist who was performing in the hall at the time stood at attention out of respect once he heard the protesters' message.
The PSG and allies were compelled to bring the message directly into the festival because for the last year and a half, the Chicago Sister Cities International has refused to meet with PSG and members of the community to hear about Petach Tikva's special role in Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people.
Petach Tikva -- an officially segregated city, the first Jewish-only settlement in historic Palestine and the site of the primary detention center where Israeli forces abuse and torture Palestinian political prisoners -- has been dubbed by rights group Amnesty International as "Israel's Guantanamo."
Upholding the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions measures on apartheid Israel, PSG and its allies object to business-as-usual with Israel. Under the false premise of promoting culture and education, Petach Tikva's inclusion in Chicago Sister Cities promotes Israel-US business ties while it whitewashes Israel's occupation and human rights abuses.
Anel Montes, a manager with the Chicago Sister Cities, reiterated the program's refusal to take a principled stance or meet with activists, using the false language of "neutrality." However, Chicago Sister Cities has made its stance clear by maintaining its relationship with Petach Tikva, whose committee members belong to organizations that have played a role in the dispossession of the Palestinian people and are committed to promoting US aid to apartheid Israel.
PSG and allies can claim a victory. Petach Tikva was not visible at today's festival as war-profiteering corporations Motorola and Boeing -- the main sponsors of the Chicago Sister Cities International -- don't want protesters raining on their public relations parade. PSG and its allies will keep up the pressure until Chicago Sister Cities drops Israel's Guantanamo

# # #

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

At-Tuwani to be Connected to the Water and Electrical Grid? Maybe.

I wouldn't hold your breath just yet, but it seems like At-Tuwani may have electricity and running water soon(ish). That's what the Israeli authorities are saying now. They've been under pressure from Israeli groups to do something about the situation in Tuwani and seem to have caved. I hope to be able to be provide more details soon, once I find a new article I like better than the ones I've seen so far.

Like folks in the village, I'll believe it when I see it. But here's hoping.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's New in "I Saw it in Palestine"?

A friend of mine just told me that I'm the busiest person she knows. Well. I doubt that, but I have been happily occupied (heh heh) lately.

First, I've gotten involved with the Chicago Sister-City campaign, an effort to convince the City of Chicago to drop it's relationship with Petach Tikva, a city known as Israel's Guantanamo because of the torture of Palestinians that takes place in the city's prisons. I'm excited about this campaign because I think it's a great way to participate in the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that I'm always talking so much about. The campaign is local, it's focused, it has a clearly defined goal and we're certainly doing everything we can to be as strategic as possible. More information is here - anyone local should get involved!

Second, I've helping to organize a speaking tour for K., the head of the At-Tuwani women's cooperative and simply the coolest person I know. The speaking tour will take place in Italy, as getting a visa for her and her husband to come to the US is simply way too difficult. I'm really excited about the connections that K. will be able to make while she's in Italy. Next year she's hoping to host an international women's conference in Tuwani and this could be a great opportunity for her to lay the ground-work for that - while also educating people about the situation in Tuwani and women's resistance. I'll keep you updated about how you can get involved over the next couple of days.

Lastly, I've been writing like a fiend. I'm currently working on turning this blog into a comic. Well, sort of. I'm writing a graphic novel about At-Tuwani, much of which will be based off of essays and other entries that you read here first. I'm getting close to half way finished with the first draft. And I'm so excited! I hope you will be as well.

That's the state of "I Saw it in Palestine." Now, I'm ready to start acting a little less busy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

As seen on Israel Channel One? Palestinian Shepherd Films Israeli Settler Stealing Sheep

It's another day of waking up, turning on my computer, and finding the same old story coming out of Tuba. On the 22nd, an Israeli settler came out of the settlement and calmly stole a sheep owned by one of the shepherds from Tuba. But this time, Ahmed, the shepherd in question, caught the whole thing on tape.

Here's what my friend Diane, who is in Palestine right now, has to say:

Last week Wednesday Ahmed was shepherding and several settlers came and stole one of his family's sheep. As a result of the video that Achmed took of the incident the Israeli police were able to identify the settlers and Achmed's father went with the police to retrieve the sheep from the settlement. While Ahmed and his father Omar were at the Israeli police station filing a complaint against the settlers (Ahmed for 5 hours), one of the settlers came in and filled a counter complaint against Omar (which is bogus as Omar wasn't even at the incident). At first the police didn't want to give Ahmed a copy of his complaint, but the B'tselem field worker who accompanied Ahmed insisted on a copy as if the case goes to court and Palestinians don't have a copy of the complaint that they filed the Israeli police have sometimes claimed that none was filed. And then the complaint of the settler is the only one for which there is paperwork for and the case would go badly for the Palestinians. In instances such as this with both the Palestinians and the settler filing complaints the case will mostly likely be thrown out by a judge – and the settlers will not be prosecuted for stealing a sheep.
Check out the rest of her blog entry here. And more details here.

Like I said, this is kind of a case of same-old, same-old. I've been working hard on a graphic novel about the Tuwani area and feeling a little defeated. I feel like I'm telling one story, over and over. But the truth is, that one story contains in it a lot of hope. For example, take Ahmed. Ahmed is an amazing videographer - probably the best activist filmmaker I know. Filming a settler stealing your sheep is a risky thing to do, but this is far from the first time that Ahmed's taken that risk and kept filming. I'm told that this footage actually made it on to Israeli TV. That's pretty incredible. And then there's the larger context - Ahmed is simply one of those people who shine. He's hella smart and his family (and a few random foreigners) are hoping that he'll be able to go to college or do anything else that he wants to do. Being the sort of person that brings that kind of hope into a group of people's lives is pretty fantastic. It's resistance, for sure, but it's also just life. Also just Ahmed. So, hey - thumbs up for Ahmed. Tongues stuck out at stupid settlers and the stupid Israeli system that creates and sustains them. Let's get back to resisting the Israeli colonialism. Or, I at least should get out of bed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New video about the Tuba, Susiya, and Um El Khair from the New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof just put together another piece on the the Tuwani-area for the New York times. This one is a video and as always, it's very powerful to *see* the situation. Kristof is becoming very good at finding a way to clearly and un-apologetically say the occupation is morally wrong. Props to him for that - I mean, telling the truth about our experiences ought to be one of the things we as people do, but the truth threatens the powerful and people with power, especially journalists, risk something when they say it.

But Kristof sure missed the mark at the very end of his piece. He says that settler attack Palestinians because they're scared. He says that a number of settlers have been killed by Palestinians living in the area. Well, as far as I know, that number is two. Two. Let's be honest, while settlers certainly use fear to marshal their supporters, they attack Palestinians because they want to drive them off of the land. That's what their own statements indicate.

Nonetheless, I was glad to take look at what Kristof says and how he says it. There are a couple of arguments he makes that I think are worth using.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The BDS World Cup: Penguins vs. Ostriches

From the U.S. Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel:

"It’s the Penguins vs. the Ostriches in this Boycott Israel summer match — a showdown between artists like Elvis Costello and the Pixies who cancelled their Israel concerts in respect of the boycott, vs. Metallica, Rihanna and Elton John who are going forward with theirs, despite growing criticism."

All right, I just don't get the obsession with vuvuzelas, but this video is fun. It makes me stupidly happy. But, damn do we have a lot of work to do on BDS. Artists are feeling the pressure not to perform in Israel, but the media's not covering. It's up to us to get information out.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Independence from what and for whom?

This afternoon I was walking down the street here in the city. To my right I saw house flying an American flag. Then to my left whizzing down the street came a Chicago Police Department car. As its siren wailed, I smirked to myself. How appropriate, I thought. I kept walking down the street. In a store window a saw a racist cartoon of people whose stolen land I live on emblazoned with the words, "Congratulations Stanley Cup Winners!" I turned the corner. Hanging on the next house was a banner saying "Marine Corps, USA." Yeah, things didn't seem so ironic any more.

So this is what "Independence Day" looks like. I'm not going to apologize for refusing to celebrate the independence of land-owning white men. But believe me, I take freedom very seriously. But freedom for whom? And when will it be freedom for Palestinians? When will it be freedom for all of us?

Friday, July 02, 2010

New York Times Covers the Tuwani Area: Two Sides of a Barbed-Wire Fence.

I like any article that ends "But we must not lose sight of the most basic fact about the occupation: It’s wrong."

I like it even more when it's in the New York Times. Color me surprised.

And I like it best of all when it's about the communities where I've worked.

Take a look at this article.
You'll enjoy it. And if you've got a minute, drop the NYT a note telling them so. They'll be getting a lot of letters saying the opposite.
Poverty in the Tuwani area is worse than in Gaza

For the better part of a week, I've wanted to stand on my roof and scream. I'm not sure when I'm going to feel like stopping.

This article is why I feel so desperately angry: West Bank poverty 'worse than Gaza.'

Worse than Gaza. Did that get your attention? It certainly got mine.

"Children living in the poorest parts of the West Bank face significantly worse conditions than their counterparts in Gaza" Al Jazeera reported. According to Salam Kanaan, Save the Children's director in the occupied Palestinian Territories, "The international community has rightly focused its attention on the suffering of families in Gaza but the plight of children in Area C must not be overlooked. Palestinians in the West Bank are widely thought to enjoy a higher standard of living but tragically many families, particularly in Bedouin and herder communities, actually suffer significantly higher levels of malnutrition and poverty."

Bedouin and herder communities? That's Tuwani. It's Tuba. It's Magher Al Abeed. It's Mufagra. It's Susiya. It's all of the places I've been talking about for the last three years.

Because of Israeli restrictions that prevent Palestinians from accessing their land and developing infrastructure,
Palestinians who live in "Area C" - 60 percent of the West Bank - are in poverty worse than in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinian children don't have enough food and many are getting sick. In fact, when Save the Children surveyed communities in Area C, 44 per cent of the children surveyed were suffering from diarrhoea. Diarehoea is the world's biggest killer of children under the age of five. Many kids were showing signs of stunted growth - more than double the rate in Gaza. More than one in ten children surveyed were found to be underweight.

Let me make this a little more personal. Adam is one of favorite kids in the whole world and oft times the star of this blog. Adam's nearly five and I pick him up and play with him whenever he'll let me. I mean, take a look at this kid. He's a charmer.

Adam's little. Really little. Recently I came back to Chicago and tried to pick up a three year old - another total charmer - and nearly dropped the poor kid. This kid is a year younger than Adam and at least 50% heavier. I was shocked. Over three years of playing with kids in Tuwani, I'd forgotten how much a healthy kid weighs.

And here's the rub- Adam lives on a farm. He's parents know how to grow their own food. They don't need to "make the desert bloom" because they know how to live sustainably on the edge of the Negve. Adam shouldn't be hungry. There's no reason for that. The reason why kids in Tuwani aren't getting proper nutrion has nothing to do with the natural world. It's because the Israeli government wont stop settlers from attacking Adam's mom and dad when they try to access their land. It's because the Israeli government uses closed military zones to prevent farmers in Tuwani from farming. It's because the Israeli government wont let Tuwani have electricity.

This video was filmed in Susiya, a village near Tuwani. When I watched it, I sat there with my mouth hanging wide open.

"That's Abu Jihad. That's Ahmed. That's Heba."

I know everyone in that video.

These are the people who are suffering needlessly. Let's do something about it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Updates from Tuwani, a.k.a. Skype hates me slightly less

"Why did you call and not answer and call and not answer?" was the first question my friend in Tuwani asked when I called

"Um, there was a problem with my computer. I finally fixed it." Skype has been driving me crazy. I've been E.T. trying to phone what feels like home for the last week. I finally got through today. Boy it was good to hear the sounds of At-Tuwani.

"You guys getting any sleep?" was the first question I asked.

"Eh, a bit." was the answer. Settlers are still in Tuwani every night. The family who lives in the house closest to them, the house that was attacked a couple of weeks ago, are still not sleeping. I wish I were surprised.

Apparently, though, the army has also gone completely insane. They were hanging around everywhere. In fact they were still in the village at 8:30 pm, when I called. "They were driving through the olive trees looking for a BMW earlier today," I was told.

"A BMW? Who has a BMW? The settlers don't even have BMWs!" I exclaimed.

"And how would a BMW drive through an olive grove?"

Um, good point.

So that's the news from Tuwani, more or else. As ever, life goes on. My friend tells me everyone is doing well enough. Apparently, the house where I used to live is being re-plastered. I'm impressed. "What can we do? Nothing. So we're just laughing, laughing with everyone."

Yep, that's Tuwani.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Candlelight vigil for Palestinian Prisoners - and major changes in my life and blog...

Well, my life is changing and so this is blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended three years of full-time(ish) work in At-Tuwani. For the first time in five years, I'm actually not sure when I'll be going back to Palestine. I'll admit it - I'm still grieving over this shift in the way I spend my time. It's a tough transition.

But just because now I live in Chicago (that still feels strange to say - and stranger to live) doesn't mean that I'm done working for a free Palestine or done blogging. I'll be writing just the same, but instead of writing about my work in Palestine, I'll be writing about what it's like to work here in Chicago. Exciting, right? I had wanted to give this blog a makeover and make this announcement with all the fanfare it deserves. But, I live life faster than I blog. I wanted to record one of my first adventures in state-side solidarity: last night's candlelight vigil for Palestinian Prisoners.

Here are the details: the vigil took place across the street from Federal Plaza - where zionists were holding an event calling for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. We wanted to raise the plight of the thousands and thousands of Palestinians, including children, who are imprisoned in Israeli jails and ignored by the international community and media. And I think we did a pretty good job.

As I said on twitter, here in the windy city candlelight vigils are part political theater, part extreme sport. Luckily, the folks at Students for Justice in Palestine did a lovely job of organizing and brought beautiful signs, a ton of candles, and cups - which are the magical solution to the wind problem downtown (hey - I'm from the Pacific Northwest. I know all about demos in the rain. This wind business is a new logistical wrinkle). As we were facing the street, unlike our Zionists counterparts, we got our message out far more effectively than they seemed to. Thanks to the great organizing job of SJP, I walked away feeling like it was a good use of an evening.

I also walked away musing about the people we surround ourselves as activists (or should I say, ethical people trying to make the world a better place. I've been thinking more and more that "activist" isn't really the best paradigm for understanding who we are, but that's another blog post). See, I'll be honest, I'm actually not really into demonstrations. I think they're effective once in a blue moon, usually when they're huge, when there's a direct action component (think Seattle WTO demos), and they're coming out of a major grassroots organizing effort. Weekly, small, 'viability' efforts? Not my thing. I think grassroots efforts to get information out are crucially important. I just think demonstrations are one of the least effective and efficient ways to do that.

But honestly, I've been demonstrating regularly since I was 6 years old. 20 years later, I find them kind of boring - or outright depressing. And often what depresses me is *that* activist. You know the one. That activist who's depressed themselves, who complains all night, who demonizes their opponent, who yells at passers-by, who's self-righteous, who tells you how you *should* have organized it, but isn't about to organize it themselves. Yeah, that one. That activist is usually loud, they're usually in a position to have a lot of time to demonstrate (i.e., they've got them some privilege, yo.) and they've got a lot of time to talk about themselves and how hard their lives are. Yeah, you might be getting the idea that I find these people really frustrating. I think a lot of us do.

And you know, *that* activist was there last night. There were dozens of them. And I ignored them. I found myself the people who still had energy for what they were doing, who who understood the issue in a deeper way, who we're willing to have some fun while we stood their on the street for two hours. And it made all the difference in my little world.

Last night, the organizers put effort into making it look good, into getting people involved, and into a communication strategy. And they were enjoyable to be around. Those are the kind of people I want to work with.

Okay, enough of this. More about the new focus of this blog (and maybe, you know, a new header and such). For now, I've got things to do, yo.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Member of Jewish Terrorist Organization KACH Threaten to Attack At-Tuwani

I keep planning a big "I'm home" blog post. Apparently, this is it.

I've been home for nearly two weeks now and for the first time in three years, I'm not sure when I'm returning. (More on that and the future of this blog later). Since I left, the situation in Tuwani has terrible. Last Friday I called one of my best friends in the village. "I heard what happened," I said, refering to this incident. "How are you?"

"Oh, more or less," he answered. With this guy, that's code for "not good." My friend then went on to explain how settlers kept coming to their house every night and how they hadn't gotten much sleep for a week. "But how are you?" my friend asked.

I didn't know what to say. I spent my first week home sick in bed feeling very sorry for myself. An especially boring week in a life that's nothing like the one I lead in Tuwani. I told my friend I'd been sick and he was sympathetic. Then he said, "We think they'll come back."

Well, they did. Here's the latest from Tuwani:

Ten days after the attack by masked settlers of the illegal oupost of Havat Ma'on to the village of At-Tuwani, settlers from Havat Ma'on still threaten At-Tuwani. Since last attack (link to the press release every night a group of settlers have carried out "patrols" outside the outpost. Israeli police and soldiers also patrolled the area.

Last night settlers approached the house located closest to the outpost screaming and carrying a message from the ideological leader of the outpost, Josaphat Thor, a member of the hard-line Israeli militant terrorist group KACH. They warned the village that they would soon return to attack At-Tuwani.

It was not possible to recognize the settlers because they pointed flashlights in the faces of Palestinians, blinding them.

This story wont be ending soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Israeli masked settlers attack At-Tuwani Palestinian village

12th June 2010

At-Tuwani – On the morning of Saturday, 12th June 2010, shortly before 11.00, about thirty Israeli settlers from Havat Ma'on oupost, masked and armed with slings and sticks, invaded At-Tuwani village, attacking the most exposed house of the village and throwing stones against Palestinian villagers.

The settlers approached the house and soon damaged the low stone fence and broke the glass of a window using an iron stick. At the time of the attack, only women and children were at home because all the men of the family were going to the near city of Yatta for a relative's funeral. The women with the children soon left the house, running away scared. While running, one of the women, age 19, pregnant and with a baby in her arms, fell to the ground. Later in the morning, she has been transferred by a Palestinian Red Cross ambulance to the near hospital of Yatta.

When Operation Dove volunteers reached the place, together with many Palestinian residents of the village, the settlers were moving away from the house, while continuing to throw stones with slings. Some Palestinians were hit and afterward were treated by paramedical staff.

Israeli army, police and border police came about half an hour after the aggression began, when the settlers had already retired among the trees of Havat Ma'on. Shortly after the security forces had arrived, some unmasked settlers came out from the wood, provoking a lot of tension among the Palestinians. Some activists, belonging to the Israeli peace association Ta'ayush, who had arrived shortly before, interposed between the Palestinians and the soldiers; one was arrested.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Freedom Flotilla: No news from the MV Rachel Corrie for the last hour and a half

It seems like in the next hour, we will know if the MV Rachel Corrie will make it to Gaza and deliver the aid so desperately needed there. I'll admit that I've been staring at the computer and compulsively clicking 'refresh' again.

Then in my feed the following message arrived: "While we wait, read Alice Walker's amazing piece of the Gaza Freedom #Flotilla: "You will have no protection" said Ali Abunimah (co-founder of Electronic Intifada) And I did. You should too. Alice Walker begins by quoting Medger Evers speaking Rights Activists in Mississippi, shortly before he was assassinated, 12 June, 1963. "You will have no protection," he said.

The story of the young people who opened Mississippi's "closed society" to the eyes of the world is one of the stories that taught me how to be an activist. I'm grateful to Ms. Walker for bringing it back to my mind now. Like all real stories about social justice struggle - all real stories about community - it's not a neat, pretty story, but it is beautiful. The way those young risked their lives for basic human decency is so beautiful.

When I was 23 years old and I was in Palestine, people loved to point out that I was the same age as Rachel Corrie when she was killed in Gaza. Talk about a creepy thing to say to a 23-year-old kid. But once after a reporter said that to me, I found myself saying something very true. "I don't feel any particular right to lead a safe life," I said. "Most of the world doesn't have that privilege." I guess 23-year-old me had figured out a couple things.

Let's light a candle for all of us who have no protection. As we wait for news of the MV Rachel Corrie, let's hold in our hearts the people of Gaza. And while you wait, do read Ms. Walker's piece. It's better than anything I have to say.
Israeli Authorities Deny Muslim Worshipers the Right to Pray at Al Aqsa

You'd think that killing 18 people would be enough, wouldn't you? Well, never underestimate Israel.

"We've made good time," my friend F. made. She was right. We made it from Hebron into Jerusalem in about an hour and a half. There had been no hold up at the checkpoints. We were feeling good.

Then we entered Jerusalem.

"What on earth is going on?" I said. "It's the police. They're stopping Friday prayers." replied F.

Again, she was right. As I walked into Jerusalem I passed hundred, and hundreds of Muslims praying in the streets. At checkpoints. Around the walls of Jerusalem. On the sidewalk. Hundreds and hundreds of people, all denied to right to access Al Aqsa mosque. All told by Israeli police that they were a security risk. All pulling out their prayer mats and praying in the street. Behind them stood Israeli riot people, sitting on horses, masks down and guns at the ready.

I'll be honest - I became angry. How dare Israel deny these people access to their holy places? What's the advantage of keeping people away from their mosque? Don't they know they're trying to keep Palestinians away the force that gives them the strength to be merciful and the patience to survive? Why can't the Israeli government be content to kill the people on the freedom flotilla? Surely that's enough suffering for a few days. The hubris of it all.

Then the call to prayer came out from Al Aqsa, floating over the city. "Allahu Akbar" it said. God is greater. God is greater. And I sent up my own prayers as I watched hundreds of people bow before God.

"Go get a coffee," said F. I smiled and nodded.

Whatever, Israel. You're not going to stop anyone from praying. You're not going to stop us from bringing aid to Gaza. You're not going to stop Tuwani from bringing electricity to the village. The truth is, I don't see how you can keep this occupation up for long. God is greater.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Saturday, June 5th is.....Global Day to Break the Siege:

Spin, Spin, Spinning until We all Fall Down

Well, journalists are starting to ask a few questions and the Israeli spin machine is whirling away. You'll forgive me if I'm a little skeptical.

See, I'm used to the Israeli spin machine. I've seen it at work with my own eyes. I remember when I spend the night with a Palestinian family from Susyia village after settlers attacked them. One of the young women in the family bravely the incident on her video camera. The family painstakingly recorded where the attack took place. They took photos of their injuries. They took photos of their elder mother in the hospital. They called the media.

The media came. The young woman's footage was everywhere. We all saw the attack through the lens of her camera. We watched it over and over again.

A year later, the Israeli police claimed they couldn't prosecute any settlers for the attack. They said there wasn't enough evidence.

A friend of mine was charged with "assault with a baby," because when they demolished his house for the 3rd time, he handed his daughter to a soldier. He said, "I don't have anyone where for her to sleep. You take her." Another friend of mine was speaking at a completely nonviolent. He was beaten until his ribs were broken and then he was charged with assaulting a police officer. At his trial the police officer who testified admitted he wasn't there and couldn't even find the area where the demo took place on a map. My friend still went to jail.

See, the truth just doesn't seem to be important to Israeli officials. It doesn't matter how much video evidence you have. It doesn't matter if you hold you hands behind your back while the soldiers beat you. It doesn't matter if you have a broken rib and the soldier takes his gun and goes back to his base and watches television. The Israeli government will claim that you were the violent one. That's my own experience.

So, you can see why I don't believe Israel's spin - frankly, its lies. The Israeli government is just hoping that if it spins fast enough, we'll all become so dizzy that we'll believe what they say.

After all, we can't go believing those Arabs. Or those activists. Or those Arab activists.

Here's a beautiful article making the same argument: A Massacre is Not A Massacre, by Ghassan Hage
Let's not cry tonight

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've cried more than once since the attack on the flotilla. It's really easy to get sucked into a cycle of impotently pounding the keyboard and clicking my browser's "refresh" button. For me, time for that to stop.

There are already some bright lights coming out of this. First, Ecuador recalled it's ambassador to Israel. South Africa is to follow. Egypt has opened up the Rafa crossing (!) Finally, and I find this very moving, the students of Evergreen State College, Rachel Corrie's alma mater, voted by 79.5% to divest from Israel.

We've got to keep telling the story and keep organizing, but let's not cry tonight. That's the refrain of an Outlandish song that's been running through my head, thanks to my friend Ma'ia

A few more thoughts about the flotilla:

First, The MV Rachel Corrie is still on its way to Gaza. Please contact your government and the Israeli embassy in your country and demand that it be allowed to deliver the supplies its carrying.

Second, actions are still going on all over the world to call attention to Israel's attack on the ships. I am so very proud to say that there were over 2,000 people in Chicago, where I live, marching for freedom, peace, and an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Here's how you can get involved in your area.

Third, we need to call for an independent invesitgation of what happened. You disagree with the claims of the activists? You disagree with my analysis? Great. Than you also want an independent investigation. Let's all get behind it.

(3.5 Can I just say that this attack took place in international waters? I mean, goodness gracious. That's just crazy. Okay, I'll now return to my normal analysis.)

Fourth, remember why the flotilla was delivering supplies in the first place. Israel's siege on Gaza is simply immoral and must be lifted. If you think that civilians shouldn't have been trying to deliver that aid themselves, then you please pressure your government to pressure Israel to lift the siege on Gaza.

Finally, let's take a moment to remember the people who died, the people who were terrified, the people who were arrested, imprisoned, and deported, and the people of Gaza who are still suffering. And let's remember that it's all to common for the Israeli army to respond to demonstrations with force. Let's remember the more than 60 years of attacks on Palestinians.

Now - here are a few links:

"We were aware of the possible danger [in joining the trip] but there are thousands of babies in Gaza. If we had reached Gaza we would have played with them and taken them food." Eyewitness Accounts from the Flotilla (BBC)

Gaza Flotila raid: 'We heard gunfire - then our ship turned into a lake of blood' (Guardian)

Will this change anything? Here's David Hosey from the US Campaign to End the Occupation answering that question:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gaza Freedom Flotilla Attacked by Israeli Navy

You may have heard that the 9 boats trying to bring food and other supplies to Gaza have been attacked. Please, share the news. But don't say they've been "intercepted" like some media outlets. A ball is "intercepted" in American football. There are 10 people dead. 30 injured. That's an attack.

The folks on those boats are risking their lives to do two things: bring food to Gazans and show the world just what Israel will do to keep food out of Gaza. Exposing the brutality of Israeli's occupation and siege on Gaza is essential. And you know who's going to have to do that? Us. The media won't do it. They're going to keep pretending that the occupation is a football game between two equal opponents. And this is nothing like football.

You xan help the flotilla be successful by participating in these actions:

Friday, May 28, 2010

What do you do when settlers are living on your land, soldiers keep arresting your husband, the Israeli government wont let your village connect to the electrical grid and you want to help more young women in your village go to university?

Apparently, you laugh a lot.

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. For the purposes of the internet, let's call her Mona. Mona is the head of the At-Tuwani Women's Co-operative and she has knack for laughing in the midst of the most difficult situations. Mona is one of the most talented community organizers I have ever met. She is a woman with compassion to spare and a knack for showing people cares about them. That quality is one of the reasons that Mona has been able organize the woman of her area to participate in what she calls two nonviolent resistances: one to the occupation and one patriarchy. Here's is a transcript from a presentation she recently gave to a group visiting At-Tuwani (and thanks for my friend and colleague F. for her translation!) :

First of all, I would like to welcome you all.

I want to speak to you about the position of the women in At-Tuwani village. First of all, women in this village suffer from very conservative cultural traditions. In regards to education, which is a right of women to have, unfortunately most of the women in At-Tuwani are illiterate. They have only managed to study through third grade. The role of the women is to work on the fields with the men and to have children and care for them. Five years ago, we gathered the women and decided we needed to make a slight change to our lives.

You should that know that women have rights and even though women's rights have not been meet, we have decided to form a women's cooperative. Even though, when we meet and decide what we wanted to do, we still had to consult with the men of the village. At first, they objected very strongly and they said, “Your role is just to care for your homes and your children, and to work in the fields.” We did not accept their rejection and therefore we had to think of activities to do, things that do not get in the way of the traditions and the culture that we live in. So we agreed, as most of the women are quite skilled in embroidery, even though they were not taught it but are skilled because many generations of tradition, we could use that as a starting point.

We came up with the idea of doing embroidery work to improve the economy of the village because of the settlers and the settlements around us and the way they confiscate our land and attack our homes and flocks. All of these was effecting the women of the village and our children. So we had to again bring it to the men of the village because of we had some support, but not a majority. The most important support for me was from my husband, Hafez, and Saber, the mayor of the village. When we started the women's cooperative, CPT and OD were not present here, only Ta'ayush. So we explained to Ta'ayush our idea and what we would like to do. So Ta'ayush decided to support the women by providing the materials, the thread and the equipment we would need to do the work. So we started with seven women in this museum. For a long period of time, even though we were working, we were unable to sell any of our products. The women at that point started to lose the momentum to carry on. But some of us said no, we have to move forward and be hopeful that things can change and carry on.

Then CPT and Operation Dove joined At- Tuwani. I want to thank CPT and Operation Dove for not just making promises but carrying out those promises. For example, they brought delegations here and spoke outside of the village so that more people would come and learn about the situation of At-Tuwani. And through that we were able to sell some of our products and use the profits for girls to continue their education. Now many girls are able to finish high school and there are three girls in university.

To begin with there were 7 women in the cooperative. Now there are 32. And the men have changed their minds and they are very happy and fully in support of the cooperative. They want the women to keep working because they see that we are putting our profits towards the improvement of the village. For example, at times when we need to run the electricity generator for longer hours, the women put in money to make that possible. And whenever men are arrested in the village, the women put forward money to get them out of jail.

The women here feel that they have two types of nonviolent resistance: one is against the occupation and one about men. For example, at first the men objected to our work, but slowly they came to see it differently. I see this as our victory. We did it without posing difficulties or causing problems in family or separations in marriages. Gradually, the idea grew.

In terms of the rest of the village, another example of our nonviolent resistance is the building of the school. Initially, the Israeli government forbid it and the Israeli army was arresting the teachers as they were coming to build the school. Despite that, we continued with it. The teachers and the architect would work on the building in the evening and the women would work in the day to make the cement for the school. Whenever the military used to come to see if there were men working on the site, they would see only women. So, they would just pass by. First we built three classrooms. Then we built another nine and now our children have access to further education.

When the Israeli army said that the school was under demolition order, we said ,“Fine. You can do that. We will rebuild it.” The same happened with the mosque up the hill. They demolished it and we rebuilt it. The same thing happened when we built the clinic. The men would work at night when the army was not watching carefully and during the day the women would work.

Now we also have nonviolent resistance about electricity. When Tony Blaire visited Tuwani he said “We have to bring electricity to Tuwani.” The Israeli authorities informed Tony Blaire that it was not forbidden for them to get electricity. The electric company started to work to put up the pylons and the power lines, but then they were forced to stop and haven't started again. On a winter day in December, we noticed that that was a lot of activity at the bottom of the road, while they were putting up the electric pylons. The whole village went down to the main road and saw that the army had brought bulldozers and police and everything necessary to take down the pylons. They said that they wanted to enter the rest of the village to take all of the pylons. The mayor of the village told us to block the road with stones. The military whenever they saw a man from the village wanting to speak with them, they were ready to arrest them. So the women said to the men, “You stay at home where you are so you are not arrested and we will go in front of the military and deal with them.” It was a very cold, rainy winter day. All of the women went down in front of the army jeeps, arm in arm, with our children in front of us, and forbid the army from entering the village. The commander order the soldiers to throw tear gas to frighten the women away. They were also revving the engines of the jeeps to scare us, but we said “We're really cold! The warmth from the jeep is good!” Then they opened the door of the jeeps and we were surprised to see many female Israeli soldiers with their army gear. They were ordered to face the women of the village. The military women came towards us. They were ordered to start beating us. We said, “Come on! We're ready! We're not wearing the gear that you're wearing. All we are asking for is our rights and all we are asking for is electricity.” One of the women soldiers guested to the commander, saying “No.” Then she returned for the jeep. The women of the started saying to woman soldiers, “Come, are you afraid? Are you afraid to talk with us? Come and talk with us!” But I said that I believe that they returned to the jeep because they knew what they were doing was wrong and that we weren't asking for much. The soldiers took down two pylons but they weren't able to enter the village to remove the rest of them. God willing, we will be continue our struggle to get electricity. Whether by solar power or by something else, we will continue.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

News from Tuwani

I haven't said much about what's been happening in Tuwani here. For once that's because things have been fairly quiet. We are expecting that to change, as settlers have started talking about a "price tag" campaign in the south of the West Bank. But, for now, things have been mostly quiet...for the Tuwani area. Settlers have thrown rocks at Palestinians, they've destroyed a fence, and grazed their sheep on land that Palestinians planted. But I'm thankful that's been the extent of their activity. Here are some of the other things that have been happening in the village:

1. The harvest is pretty much finished! Everyone is happily tired.

2. We're in the middle of celebrating the wedding of one of the young men in the village. I really enjoyed the party last night. I was pretty thrilled to be able to understand the songs the women were singing and actually join in.

3. A good friend of mine is pregnant!

4. It's wicked hot. Really. I'm hoping that the heat breaks soon, as this is still a little early for it .

Hope the wonderful, unoccupied force we call life is treating you just as well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Midnight in Bethlehem

I don't think my friend Jim was intending to write a song about about the actual Bethlehem, that beatutiful, occupied city. But this is exactly how I feel about feel about Palestine - or rather what I've learned from living in Palestine. Check out the words below. I can't, at the moment, find the MP3 on Jim's myspace, but you can listen to other songs he's written here.


After the rain and the wind comes the quiet.
You catch your breath, face your death, say:
"Bring it on, let me try it."
Show me a man untouched by sorrow,
I'll show you a man with no vision for tomorrow.

Midnight in Bethlehem, deep into winter
Travelers arriving, world-weary wanderers.
What will be born here?
What wonders lie waiting?
What will arise from the ruins of our longing?

I wish it were otherwise, my life in safe-keeping
I wish you were near me in my arms gently sleeping.
I wish it were childhood on a warm night in summer
Lullabies, fireflies, the cool breath of camphor

Midnight in Bethlehem, the moment before us
The gathered expression of our heartbreak and our gladness
What will be born here?
What new revelation will rise from the ashes
And the anticipation.

Others have passed on this road we are traveling
We call on their spirits as the dark night is gathering
They left us their stories and their songs sweet and mellow
And moved on to the mystery into which all of us will follow

Midnight in Bethlehem, the word is not spoken
It lies on the mountain, broken and open
What will be born here? What son or what daughter?
Will it fall from the skies or rise from the water?

Midnight in Bethlehem, the moment before us
The gathered expression of our heartbreak and our gladness
What will be born here?
What new revelation
Will rise from the ashes and the anticipation?

Midnight in Bethlehem, deep into winter
Travelers arriving, world-weary wanderers.
What will be born here? What wonders lie waiting
What will arise from the ruins of our longing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

At-Tuwani, A Graphic Novel: Whee! There's a website!

I mentioned earlier that I'm working on turning some of the essays on this blog into a graphic novel and I'm looking for a little help. If you would be interested in donating to this project, here's all of the information you need. If you can't donate, than consider forwarding this information on to your friends instead.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Video about the situation faced up kids coming to school from Tuba. Enjoy

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Israeli Settler Hits Sheep with Assault Rifle

I'm just playing catch up. Here's another video you'll want to watch. A detailed story about this event (and it's a little funny) is here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Israeli Police Ransack Palestinian homes in Tuba

I'm trying to catch up on some of the events on the last couple of months that I haven't been able to blog about. Here's one video

Friday, May 07, 2010

With a little help from my friends: How you can help tell the stories of At-Tuwani

I'm starting a new project, loyal readers, and I really want your help. Here are all of the details. If you have an questions, just drop me a line.

Help tell the stories of Palestinian nonviolent resistance!
Support Joy in writing “At-Tuwani: A Graphic Novel”

I want to write a comic book about a different kind of hero and I need your help. I’m hoping to raise the money to cover one month of living expenses so that I can work on the rough draft of a graphic novel script about the inspiring people that I have been living with for the last 2 and a half years.

Since 2007, I have been working in a small village in rural Palestine called At-Tuwani, located at the southern tip of the West Bank. In At-Tuwani, my neighbors don't have capes or superpowers, but they’re true heroes. In the midst of violence and injustice, the people of At-Tuwani are choosing the path of nonviolent resistance. The village of At-Tuwani daily faces violence from Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank as well as injustice at the hands of the Israeli army. I’ve been dreaming about writing a graphic novel that will let other people get to know this village. I want to tell the stories of farmers who graze sheep and harvest olives in the shadow of Israeli settlements, of kids who boss around Israeli soldiers, of women who risk arrest to remove road blocks, and normal people who live their lives with great courage. I’ve been writing and blogging about my friends in At-Tuwani since I met them. Now I’m ready to bring their story to life for a wider audience.

The stories of the people of At-Tuwani need to be told. By creating a graphic novel, I can make their lives accessible and immediate - almost as real as being there. I’ve always found graphic novels to be magical. Even though a graphic novel is simply a book-length comic, a graphic novel has the power to suck a reader into a story in a way that words alone can’t. Through realistic pictures and real dialogue, my readers will be able to see and hear the lives of Palestinians and I think that will help them understand and feel for the village of At-Tuwani. And bringing the nonviolent struggle of everyday Palestinians into the homes and hearts of people all over the world is the best way I can support my friends in At-Tuwani.

Here’s where you come in.
The first step to making this dream come true is to write the first draft of a script. Once my script is finished, I can find an artist to bring it to life and together we can begin the process of finding a publisher. Because my graphic novel will mostly be based on essays I’ve already written, I'm confident that I can make significant progress on a rough draft with a month of dedicated work. I’ve completed a detailed outline of the novel and I hope that I can finish a first draft of over half of it by the end of July. Will it be difficult? Yes. But I can’t think of a better way to take on this task. I thrive on deadlines. With you holding me accountable, I’m sure that I can make this dream a reality.

How to Donate:
$700 will cover my living expenses for a month and allow me to spend that time writing. Your donation, large or small, will make a meaningful dent in this amount. To donate, just leave me a comment with your email. I'll send you an email back with donation information. Your email will not be published. Sorry for the paranoia, but there are settlers who read this blog and I'd rather not give them any contact information for me.

I’m extremely grateful to have the support of people like you. I want to make sure that you know how grateful I am. To give you an idea of how I feel, I want to offer the following gifts to donors.

$5 or more - Receive exclusive updates about the script during my month of whirlwind writing. Be a part of the team that keeps me writing!

$10 or more - Be listed as a contributor in the print version of the graphic novel.

$25 or more - Receive a signed photograph from At-Tuwani. See the village for yourself!

$50 or more - Receive a special gift from the At-Tuwani women's cooperative. Touch and feel a little piece of women’s resistance.

$100 or more - Receive a special extended thank you in the print version of the graphic novel, a gift from the At-Tuwani women's cooperative, a signed photograph from At-Tuwani and have the chance to see the first draft of the script and offer feedback when it’s completed!

I hope that you’ll join me on this journey to tell the stories of At-Tuwani Village. Writing a rough draft is only the beginning and I plan to keep you updated as I continue to get this book finished and available to people around the world. I’m so happy to have people like you in my life.


PS: If you donate, please help me be able to send you your thank-you gift. Include your name, email address and if you choose to donate $25 or more, include your mailing address.