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: http://gazafreedommarch.org/cms/en/flotilla.aspx

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.

MIDNIGHT IN BETHLEHEM

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”

What:
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.

Why:
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.

How:
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.

Sincerely,
Joy

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.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Shepherd's Granddaughter, a Young Adult novel about At-Tuwani?

I'm dying to check out The Shepherd's Granddaughter. Based on this interview, I'm betting the author spent some time in At-Tuwani. Any one of you been able to read it?
One simple thing that you can do:

Here's an action alert I just got. You know you want to participate.

Dear Friend,

Israel is about to be admitted to an exclusive economic club, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Despite the Government of Israel's failure to comply with OECD demands and standards, the organization announced in January 2010 that it will "complete" Israel's membership by 2010 (expected in May). However, the OECD needs consensus to admit a new member state into the organization, so it only takes ONE country's dissent to stop Israel from joining until it has met international human rights standards. The Israeli Government has yet to comply with the Goldstone Recommendations and until it does, admission to the OECD should be withheld.

We are gathering signatures to be delivered before the OECD Council meeting on May 11, 2010 and then more signatures before the Ministerial meeting on May 28-29.

Please sign the petition and
forward to your friends and colleagues.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) appeals to peoples and governments of OECD member states to defer Israel's OECD accession until it respects international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people and shows commitment to the fundamental values shared by OECD members. You can read more about the appeal here.

WHY SHOULD WE STOP ISRAEL?

  1. Membership in the prestigious OECD club of nations will reward Israel for its war crimes and breaches of international law. Membership is expected to bring financial stability to Israel's economy, attract investment and reduce the country's risk premium, in direct contraction with the 2005 BDS call.
  2. OECD admitted that Israel breached a key requirement of membership by including the settlements in its economic report. By accepting Israel, OECD will give the official approval to Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories. "The OECD is treating Israel as though it has seven million citizens when, in reality, it has 11 million subjects, of whom four million are Palestinians living under occupation," said Israeli economist Shir Hever.
  3. Only pluralistic democracies can be accepted as OECD members. Israel is an ethnocracy, with about 30 laws specifically privileging Jews over non-Jews who make up 20% of Israel's citizens. OECD will be violating it's own foundation principles in this way.

Pressure works! The European Union reversed a decision to upgrade relations with Israel last year following similar concerted action. Send this action alert to your contacts list. Be sure to look for photos here.

Keep up the pressure to lift the siege of Gaza,
GFM Team

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Harvest in At-Tuwani, 2010: The Same Old Beauty

(I know it's been a while, but I'm back in Palestine! More to come over the next few days.)

Harvesting barley is a lot harder than harvesting olives. To harvest barley you have to bend over at the waist, pull up handfuls of dry stalks, and then beat the dirt off of the roots. I’m not embarrassed by my olive picking ability, but I harvest barley only slightly better than your average four-year-old Palestinian kid. After my first couple of hours harvesting barley with the A. family, my hands and arms were red with scratches, but I was smiling.

A couple of years ago, a teammate of mine described how tiring the spring harvest can be. “But it’s a holy sort of exhaustion,” I remember him saying. That’s certainly how I’ve been feeling lately. It’s a simply a joy to harvest barley and wheat with my neighbors. While we work, we laugh and share the latest village gossip. Sometimes, I get to listen to my neighbors sing. Harvesting is good work. I can’t help but feel whole and happy.

“Bring the camera over here,” my neighbor N. said. He pointed to a burned patch in the middle of the field. The patch was about two feet across and three feet long. “Did you hear what happened?” N. asked me. When I shook my head, N. explained. “The day before yesterday, in the morning, settlers set a fire here.” N. told me that F., another neighbor, had seen them. “When he started yelling, the settlers left. Here, “continued N. “Take my picture.” N. stood in the burned patch and posed. I took some video. Then it was time to start working again. When in another hour, the field was harvested and the burned patch ground was barely noticeable. With the farm work for the day done, N., his four year old son, and I walked home. “Come on, let’s run!” said the little boy. N. and I laughed.

“What an evil waste,” said a friend of mine when she heard what about the burnt wheat. We’re not the best people to ask, but one of my teammates estimates that settlers have destroyed 30 to 40 percent of this year’s crop, mainly by grazing their sheep in Palestinian fields. “It’s just plain theft,” remarked another of my teammates. “It’s more than that,” I quipped. “This is ethnic cleansing.”

Still, I can’t help but think about the sound of our laughter as the A. family and I picked barley together. I’m drawn back to the same contradiction I seem to always write about. The occupation is indeed an evil waste. Nevertheless, Palestinians are stronger than this attempt to drive them off of their land. The power joy and beauty – of life itself - remains undaunted.