Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This is where my housemate teaches...

A message from the school director:
As you may be aware, there was a shooting at 12:40 PM on Tuesday, August 24th directly outside our school cafeteria on S. Roman St. Two young men were shot and killed – both were family members of students who attend New Orleans College Prep at Sylvanie Williams. This was the second shooting directly in front of our school building in the past 8 months. Both incidents were in the middle of a school day with children and staff inside the building. On both occasions, our staff responded swiftly to secure the building and protect our children from harm and everyone was safe. But our parents, students and staff are fed up and angry – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Please see below and join us on Tuesday, August 31st,at 7:30 PM to send a message to the community and the media that we will not stand for this senseless violence near our schools anymore!

Vigil for Peace
Tuesday, August 31, 7:30pm
New Orleans College Prep (3127 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

kul sane w inta salem....

I got this video from a skip schiel e-mail. It commemorates two years of Free Gaza activism, and does a great job of highlighting the movement's growing support.

كل سنة وانت سلام
May you be at peace this year and every year...

Friday, August 27, 2010

a little fuzzy, but....

I haven't used WordArt since high school. Now all I need is a sticker-making machine...

did you know....

...that New Yorkers have been using Park51 for prayer space since September of last year?

...that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a worldly, progressive American Muslim who is praised as an advocate for interfaith dialogue?

Not a lot of people seem to know that, especially because he landed in the spotlight for remarks that implicated U.S. foreign policy in the 9-11 attacks.
(excerpt from the 60 Minutes transcript)

: It is a reaction against the US government politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights, and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.

Bradley: Are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?

Faisal: I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

Bradley: You say that we're an accessory? How?

Faisal: Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.

Bradley: Bin Laden and his supporters were, in fact, recruited and paid nearly $4 billion by the CIA and the government of Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to fight with the mujahadeen rebels against the former Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan. After the Soviets pulled out, the Saudis, our best friends in the Arab world, our staunchest ally during the Gulf War, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the newly-formed Taliban regime, and then felt that bin Laden and the Taliban were out of control. Bin Laden's faith is a strict, puritanical form of Islam called Wahhabism, which was founded in the 18th century in Saudi Arabia, and is now that country's predominant ideology....

I've read a lot of articles that call the Imam a radical, but he's more grounded in reality than most of our leaders in charge of interpreting the Middle East. As part of my Race and Ethnic Studies major (yeah that's a thing) I learned about victim responsibility, which I understood as the unfair and insensitive expectation that victims "chill out" and stop taking offense to things they perceive as threatening. There is a responsibility to victim-hood, though. Americans need to be aware of the history of radical Islam and understand why the West is targeted. The influence of this Imam would be very beneficial for that reason.

I also think that if any Muslim who sees 51Park as a monument to Islamic triumphalism actually entered an Islamic center that contained a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, art studio and halal food court and someone said, "this is for you," well....it almost sounds like a pitch for a reality series, but if it demonstrated the impact of community, resources and opportunity on a purportedly evil human being, it just might shake America's subconscious desire to keep Islam incompatible and primitive.

A faith-based community center modeled after a YMCA or JCC? God, no. That building was better off abandoned....

Additional reading: Hard Hat Pledge

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From The Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation...Ten reasons to be skeptical of direct negotiations that are scheduled to start September 2nd:

1. No more photo-ops, please. There is a desperate need for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Negotiations can be a key to that. But the last thing Palestinians and Israelis need are phony negotiations. They only breed disillusionment, resentment, and cynicism about the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian peace based on human rights and justice. So rather than enter into negotiations for the sake of negotiations, the Obama Administration should exert real political pressure on Israel by cutting off military aid to once and for all get it to commit to dismantling its regime of occupation and apartheid against Palestinians, and make clear that the framework for all negotiations will be based on international law, human rights, and UN resolutions. As long as it fails to do so, U.S. civil society must keep up the pressure through campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to change these dynamics and by joining up with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

2. The United States is not evenhanded. For decades, the United States has arrogated the role of convening Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. To convince the world that it is suitable to play this role, the United States declares that it is evenhanded, when it in fact arms Israel to the teeth and is aware that Israel will employ these U.S. weapons to conduct its human rights abuses of and apartheid policies toward Palestinians. Under international law, an outside party that provides weapons to a party in an armed conflict violates laws of neutrality. The United States is scheduled to provide Israel with $30 billion in weapons from 2009-2018 (part and parcel of a broader strategy to further militarize the region with an additional $60 billion in weapons sales to Gulf States). The United States cannot credibly broker Israeli-Palestinian peace while bankrolling Israel’s military machine and simultaneously ignoring Israel's human rights violations.

3. Israeli colonization of Palestinian land continues. In one of its most abject policy failures, the Obama Administration has contented itself with resuming direct negotiations without securing an Israeli freeze on the colonization of Palestinian land, despite spending an initial nine months trying to do so. Israeli colonization of Palestinian land, including the expansion of settlements, the eviction of Palestinians from their homes, the building of the Apartheid Wall, continues apace. Previous failed rounds of negotiations have demonstrated that Israel utilizes negotiations as a fig leaf to actually increase its pace of colonization of Palestinian land, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to do so. Meanwhile, Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land creates difficult-to-reverse “facts on the ground” that only make a two-state solution—purportedly the end game of the negotiations—less achievable.

and so on...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interesting time to start a blog about New Orleans. Next Sunday marks the 5th anniversary of Katrina, and all over the papers and all over the city is talk of resurrection, recovery, rebuilding, the fate of refugees....my church is having a commemorative service and the choir is singing "the storm is passing over, hallelu..."

But surprise, surprise, the storm of criticism has all but passed. A lot of attention has been given to recent photography and film projects dedicated to the 5th Katrinaversary. Harry Shearer (fondly known as Mr. Burns) just made a documentary called "The Big Uneasy" about the Army Corps of Engineers, taking Spike Lee's tangent a little further and trying to educate the public about how unnatural the Katrina disaster really was.

Spike Lee also just released a documentary film to follow "When the Levees Broke," called "If God is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise." He said he intended to leave it on a happy note, with the Saints victory and Mardi Gras, but kept up filming after the BP rig exploded. Here's the full article.

"These things, Katrina, the breach of the levees, and now this, the greatest oil spill in the history of the world, that’s a lot for any place to take in less than five years. That is a lot. And I know, and they know, they’re very resilient, strong, fierce proud people. But they’re still human beings nonetheless...

Q. In addition to revisiting many of the people from “Levees,” you also talk to people who left New Orleans after Katrina and never returned. How did you find them?

A. When you’re doing a documentary film, a lot of this stuff is detective work. So we knew, unlike the first one, we had to go to Mississippi. We knew we had to go to Houston. A lot of those people have found a better way of life, a higher standard of living. And many of those people want to return, but they lived in public housing which was knocked down. You have people who had to evacuate because of mandatory evacuation, and when they come back, now it’s surrounded by barbed wire and they can’t get back in. And the rents have quadrupled since then. And there’s no jobs and they can’t afford to pay their rent. So they can’t come back."

In a similar Gambit article, Spike Lee asserted that 37% of New Orleans' African-American population is still displaced.

Time for a FilisteeNola connection...

The following is part of the Katrina Bill of Rights, submitted by the African-American Leadership Project of New Orleans on September 22nd, 2005:

1. All displaced persons should maintain the “right of return” to New Orleans as a “Human right,” whether persons are working class, middle class or poor and marginal, or whether they were voluntarily evacuated, mandatorily evacuated, or were forced to do so should have no bearing on this fundamental right..This right shall include the provision of adequate transportation to return to the city by the same means that a person was dispersed. THE CITY SHOULD NOT BE DEPOPULATED OF ITS AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LOWER INCOME CITIZENS, and must be rebuilt to economically include all those who were displaced.

2. All displaced persons must retain their right of citizenship in the city, especially including the right to vote in the next municipal elections. Citizen rights to the franchise must be protected and widely explained to all dispersed persons. The provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 should be examined and enforced in this regard.

3. All displaced persons should have the right to shape and envision the future of the city. Shaping the future should net be left to elected officials, appointed commissions, developers and/or business interests alone. We the citizens are the primary stakeholders of a re-imagined New Orleans. Thus we MUST be directly involved in imagining the future. Provisions must be included to insure this right.

4. All displaced persons should have the right to participate in the rebuilding of the city as owners, producers, providers, planners, developers, workers, and direct beneficiaries. Participation must especially include African-Americans and the poor, and those previously excluded from the development process.


11. In rebuilding the city, priority must be given to making the city hurricane safe, rather than to the destruction of Black neighborhoods or communities. Priority must also be given to disaster planning and evacuation plans that work for the most transit dependent populations and the most vulnerable residents of the city.

12. In rebuilding the city, priority must be given to the right to preservation of its rich and diverse cultural traditions, and the social experiences of Black people that produce the culture. THE CITY MUST NOT BE CULTURALLY, ECONOMICALLY OR SOCIALLY GENTRIFIED. AND BECOME A SOULLESS COLLECTION OF CONDOS AND tract home NEIGHBORHOODS FOR THE RICH.

full pdf

Right to Return, displaced persons, preservation of cultural tradition, right of citizenship, depopulation....sounds familiar. I heard a New Orleanian stand up to the megaphone at a protest against the Gaza Flotilla attacks, and here's what he said:
"I knew when I heard that the city was bulldozing public housing and keeping New Orleans' black citizens from coming back, we had more in common with Palestine than I ever knew...we need to stand up for these people, and stand against this injustice."

Indeed, it is an interesting time. August 29th is this Sunday, and Monday night is the premiere of the Harry Shearer film...I need to think of a good question to ask him for Q&A...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

And it begins...

This spring, I faced a dilemma. Should I stay another year in New Orleans? I would be able to volunteer at a different service site, meet new people, and partake in all the festivities this city has to offer....one could do worse.

To recap, year one was amazing. I led groups of volunteers to rebuild and paint houses that were damaged and flooded five years ago. I loved my co-volunteers. I think we achieved a balance that few college graduates find in their first year out. We were working for a city in need, but New Orleans is also the happiest place I've ever known.

New Orleans was option one. Option two was Palestine. I've been planning on working there since I studied abroad in Jordan and learned about the occupation. I met Jordanians my age who have roots in Palestine but aren't allowed into Israel. I met a teacher at my school who, before working with American students last year, had never seen a Jewish person without a gun. From there I set about learning from Jewish intellectuals who support the existence of the State of Israel but oppose the occupation of Palestine, e.g. Norman Finkelstein, Uri Avnery, Gideon Levy, Noam Chomsky, the late Howard Zinn, Rabbis Brian Walt and Brant Rosen...I've watched, read, and learned a lot in the last two years, but I figured it was time to put more walk in my talk.

A community center and school in Nablus called Tomorrow's Youth Organization sparked my interest in working in the West Bank. The more I learned about the impact it had on refugee children in the West Bank, the more I wanted to be a part of that cause. The more people asked me if I was going to teach kids how to make bombs and kill Jews, the stronger I felt about going and proving them wrong. One of my friends told me to take my time, that Palestine wasn't going anywhere. Oh God!

(diddlydoo, diddlydoo)

So...I could have been in Palestine right now. Instead I'm in a new house in Uptown New Orleans, thinking about my lesson plans for next week. I'm working at a charter middle school, doing literacy coaching and helping to start a choir. Turns out, despite my parents working in education for decades, I never really thought about what makes a successful school. What I've learned in a week has already shaped my future, and I'm beyond excited to implement this pedagogical know-how on the other side of the globe.

So I didn't just choose New Orleans. I learned a few things in the last year that made it possible for me to choose both. 1) New Orleanians generally don't know a lot about Palestine 2) New Orleans and Palestine have a lot in common. This blog will be my way of bridging the gap. I plan to go about this in the following ways:

I'm taking a trip to Palestine/Israel over my winter break, so this is a pre-travel/travel blog. The theme of my trip is education, and I'll be touring schools and universities in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Jenin, Al-Aqaba, and a few other cities. Living in a city that is considered a Mecca of educational reform has me wondering what education looks like in Palestine. I was amazed to learn that there is an IB school in Ramallah...!

I get a lot of e-mail updates from Interfaith Peace-Builders, CODE PINK, New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity, JStreet, skip schiel, Rabbis Brian and Brant....and stopping short of forwarding those e-mails to everyone, I wanted to make the information available to anyone who is curious about the conflict/wants to hear from sources that aren't in the mainstream. I'll also be posting news articles, book and film recommendations, etc...

I'll be documenting the bridging process. There will be advertising, an interfaith dialogue group, a peace walk is actually scheduled for October 9th, and on a smaller scale I'll be talking to a lot of people. My Salaam/Shalom/Peace shirt has already been a great conversation starter, so I think I'll try Free Palestine and see how that goes...

Comments are welcome, but they should keep in mind the following:
My love for Palestine does not imply a hatred of Israel. I love my country, and I criticize my government because I want my country to be better. If I criticize the Israeli government, it's because I know it can try harder for a peace that will benefit Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community. And if my tax dollars are contributing to a foreign country's military budget, I have the right to criticize how that money is spent. If you don't believe I have that right, then I don't know what beacon of democracy you are defending. I understand the sacrifice of being in a constant state of emergency, but our Bush years are over and I think we're done being afraid.

Ahlan wa sahlan, welcome to FilisteeNola.

Monday, August 2, 2010

First, a song...

"Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, " written by Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter, made popular by Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday in 1947.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

And miss it each night and day?

I know I'm not wrong, the feeling's getting stronger

The longer I stay away

Miss the moss-covered vines, tall sugar pines

Where mockingbirds used to sing

I'd love to see that old lazy Mississippi

Hurrying into spring

The moonlight on the bayou

A Creole tune that fills the air

I dream about magnolias in bloom

And I'm wishin I was there

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

When that's where you left your heart?

And there's one thing more, I miss the one I care for

More than I miss New Orleans