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.