Monday, May 30, 2011

Palestinian, Jewish, and Other Local Activists Shut Down Israeli Consulate

SAN FRANCISCO – A group of nine activists – Palestinian, anti-Zionist Jewish, and immigrant rights activists – blocked the entrance of the Israeli Consulate beginning at 8:30am today, in nonviolent protest of Israeli apartheid and its current attacks on Gaza. The activists chained themselves together using handcuffs and locks, locked the doors to the building, and were joined by a diverse rally of over 40 supporters. The action was organized jointly by local Palestinians and Jews in support of: an immediate ceasefire; the opening of land, sea, and air borders to allow in emergency supplies; and an end to US financial and political support for Israel.

"For the past sixty years, Israel has tried to eliminate the Palestinian people by forcing them out of their homes and off their lands, starving them, and killing them," said Maria Poblet, an immigrants' rights organizer. "The recent blockades and attacks in Gaza are not an exception, but a brutal reminder that killing civilians is a regular part of Israeli strategy."

Linked arm in arm, Bay Area Jews, Palestinians and social-justice activists aim to increase pressure on Israel and its supporters in the face of the 21-day siege on Gaza and the growing humanitarian crisis. All nine activists were arrested after about two hours, charged with trespassing, and allowed to leave. This action is one in a series that has moved from Toronto, to New York, to Los Angeles.

Organizers assert that the current situation in Gaza is not a conflict between two peoples of equivalent capacities, nor is Israel's motive self-defense. "For the past year and a half, Israel has enacted strangling sanctions under the guise of targeting Hamas, collectively starving the entire population of food, water, medicine, and other vital resources," stated Monadel Herzallah of the United States Palestinian Community Network. "The recent air and ground strikes are another brutal blow to Gazans who are already trapped in a concentration camp of despair and growing poverty."

Activists also spoke out against the US pledge of more than $3 billion each year in unrestricted aid to Israel. "Israel's use of US aid and military equipment violates our own laws. We can choose to uphold US and international laws, or ignore them as we are now doing at the peril of our conscience and our place among all of humanity," said Nadeen Elshorafa of the General Union of Palestinian Students.

Organizer Sara Kershnar of the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network summed up the sentiment: "Today, as Palestinians, Jews, and our united allies, we make our position clear: we are on one side, the side of justice; Israel, an apartheid state, is on the other."

More photos

Fact Sheet on Gaza and Israeli Apartheid

THE PEOPLE OF GAZA: Nearly 1.5 million Palestinians live in Gaza, many of them concentrated in one-half of the territory. In this area, the population density is nearly 20,000 people per square mile, one of the highest in the world. More than three quarters of Gaza's residents are refugees who were driven from their homes during past wars with Israel (in 1948 and 1967), and their descendants. Israel has permanently barred their return. Over half of these refugees still reside in Gaza's eight refugee camps. (BBC,

THE OCCUPATION OF GAZA: The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is still widely considered to be an occupying power, even though it removed its troops and settlers from the strip in 2005. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out. Israel has control over Gaza's air space and sea coast, and its forces enter the area at will. As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to the welfare of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. ("What You Don't Know About Gaza", Rashidi Khalidi, New York Times, January 7, 2009).

THE BLOCKADE of GAZA: Israel's blockade of the strip, with the support of the United States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation. This amounts to the collective punishment — with the tacit support of the United States — of a civilian population for exercising its democratic rights. (Khalidi, New York Times).

THE CEASE-FIRE: Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed. (Khalidi, New York Times).

WAR CRIMES: Israel's current assault on the Gaza Strip cannot be justified by self-defense. Rather, it involves serious violations of international law, including war crimes. Senior Israeli political and military leaders may bear personal liability for their offenses, and they could be prosecuted by an international tribunal, or by nations practicing universal jurisdiction over grave international crimes. ("Israel is committing war crimes." George Bisharat, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2009.)

ISRAELI APARTHEID: Former South African President Hendrick Verwoerd observed as far back as 1961 that "Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state." In Palestine, the Zionist goal of controlling as much land as possible without Palestinians led to the large-scale expulsions of 1947-48 and 1967. Today, 92 percent of Israel's land is defined as the "inalienable property of the Jewish people." Jews anywhere in the world have a "right to return" and claim citizenship, while Palestinians who were expelled from their homes are denied the "right to return" guaranteed by international law. Former President Jimmy Carter defines apartheid as the "forced separation of two peoples in the same territory with one of the groups dominating or controlling the other." This accurately describes the situation in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers and soldiers totally dominate the indigenous Palestinian population. The policies Israel has implemented to carry out its 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and expropriate Palestinian land closely mirror the "inhuman acts" that make up the UN Convention on the "Crime of Apartheid." (US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, "Why Apartheid Applies to Israel")

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Update from my friend Haitham in Bil'in.

At one in the morning waking up the people of Bil'in on the sounds alarming sound of bombs delivered by Israeli army in a raid on Bil'in,
As in the earlier,The aim was to scare people ..only!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why Rae Abileah says she disrupted Benjamin Netanyahu's Tuesday address to Congress

This was on CNN!

Jay Kernis - Senior Producer
Answering today's OFF-SET questions is Rae Abileah, an activist with Jewish Voice for Peace and CODEPINK.

According to its website, "Jewish Voice for Peace is a diverse and democratic community of activists" (who seek) "an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law."

According to its website, "CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities."

How did you get into the House of Representatives to disrupt the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

A friend gave me a ticket.

What did you shout out?

I held a banner that said “Occupying land is indefensible” and I shouted, “End the occupation; stop Israel war crimes; equal rights for Palestinians.”

Your father is Jewish and an Israeli. Why did you decide to protest?

Judaism teaches us to love our neighbors and work for justice.

I see Israel’s brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people as contrary to Jewish values. Because I am a Jew and an American, I feel an added responsibility to speak out against these violations of international law that are being committed in my name and with my tax dollars. My great uncle was one of the first Israeli conscientious objectors in 1948 and I feel I am following in his tradition of non-violent resistance to oppression.

What happened after you protested? There are photographs of you surrounded by what look like security personnel?

As I stood up and spoke out, members of the audience tackled me, covered my mouth and violently threw me to the ground. Several of them were wearing badges from the powerful pro-Israeli government lobby group AIPAC. Amidst the assault, the police came and dragged me out of the gallery. They took me to an ambulance for urgent care, and later placed me under arrest at the hospital.

Also, there were five people who disrupted Netanyahu during his speech to AIPAC on Monday night and they were roughly treated as well. (Video is on the website.)

After your protest, Netanyahu said to his Congressional audience, "You can't have these protests in Tehran," he said. "This is real democracy." How do you feel about his reaction?

It’s ironic that Netanyahu said this just after I had been assaulted by members of the audience, dragged out by the police and later arrested while I was in the hospital. This sounds eerily similar to the alleged democracy in Israel where Palestinians—and Israelis—are routinely assaulted, arrested and jailed for speaking out against the Israeli occupation.

In a real democracy, our representatives would be looking out for our best interests, not the interests of a foreign government, i.e.Israel. I want my government to take an even-handed approach that respects the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. But in our so-called democracy, special interest lobby groups like AIPAC have enormous power because of their ability to direct campaign contributions.

So we have a very skewed policy that ignores the rights of the Palestinians, sanctions the Israeli violations of international law, sullies the U.S. reputation internationally and gives $3 billion a year of our tax dollars to the Israel military when we need this money here at home. Before we go preaching democracy abroad, we should make our own democracy more responsive to the public good, not the wishes of wealthy lobbyists.

Will you face charges because of the protest?

Yes, I have been charged with disorderly conduct and have a court date next month. I also plan to press charges against the person who assaulted me. Unfortunately, we have discovered that in our democratic system, the police are quick to go after those who disrupt the powerful, but rarely go after the powerful who attack the “little guy.”

This is not the first time you disrupted a speech by Netanyahu. What happened in November?

I was part of a group called Young, Jewish, Proud that spoke out during Netanyahu’s speech to the Jewish Federation in New Orleans last fall. We had gone to the Federation conference to say that Jews against occupation and war also deserve a place in the "big tent" of Jewish organizations and community, and that we will not be silent as Israel continues to perpetrate war crimes wrongfully in the name of our religion. YJP is the youth arm of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Many people will feel you are a crazy person to disrupt a world leader as he speaks before the U.S. Congress. Might there be other ways to make your point?

Yes, I try to make my point many ways—lobbying, writing articles, speaking to community groups. But I am reminded of the song by Malvina Reynolds that says, “It isn’t nice to block the doorways, it isn’t nice to go to jail, there are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail.”

I am as committed as ever to continuing to exert pressure on our US government using all the traditional channels, but I also recognize that it has been direct action and nonviolent resistance that has ultimately worked to create powerful change like the 8-hour work day, women's right to vote, liberation in India, and the overturning of apartheid in South Africa.

One of the most important ways that we can bring about a change in policy inIsraelis to exert economic pressure by participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. At CODEPINK we have a boycott of Ahava cosmetics, which are made in an illegal settlement, and our campaign has already seen many small victories.

What do you do when you're not protesting?

I am an organizer for the peace group CODEPINK. We educate and mobilize people to try to stop wars we shouldn’t be in—like Iraq, Afghanistan—and redirect our resources to rebuilding America.

Right now we have a campaign to get mayors all over the country to pass resolutions calling on Congress to redirect our war dollars into programs here are home that address dire community needs. Congress talks a lot about fiscal conservatism, but in fact it spends massive amounts of our money on war and “aid” to rich countries likeIsrael. So we mobilize citizens and local officials to bring our war dollars home.

And when I'm not organizing for justice, I enjoy spending time with my amazing family, surfing with my stepdad, engaging in Jewish ritual with my community in the Bay Area, practicing yoga, watching Glee reruns, and reading up on social movements around the world.
There are other occupations. The US occupation of Afghanistan, for instance, which leaves our government unable to provide for our childrens' education and natural disaster relief in Missouri and Alabama. It makes me angry, and I sign the petitions to Congress. There are other human rights violations, in Sudan, China, Syria...they make me angry too, and I sign petitions when they come my way.

Why am I so invested in the Israel-Palestinian conflict? I think it's the ignorance of the Americans who are beating the drum and writing the cheques. I majored in Race and Ethnic Studies, and I have this morbid fascination with American Zionism. It's the same fascination I have with the KKK, the White Citizens Council, and apartheid South Africa. Tradition, religion, community, family, preservation, defending against a threat...these "good things" have been used to give racism a pretty face.

So while I admire and respect freedom fighters, people who refuse to hate, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, in this instance, Hanan Ashrawi, I will always be more inspired by the racist jerk. Thank you, Governor Spitzer.

Mondoweiss-Eliot Spitzer lectures Hanan Ashrawi that Israel has a right to the West Bank but Netanyahu wants nothing more than to give it up

CNN interview-Ashrawi Defends Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal

This one's a little more inspiring...
Glenn Greenwald Destroys CNN's Eliot Spitzer

"Glenn, what I think you need to acknowledge is that Egypt is in form a democratic government as well..."

Why is Spitzer still allowed to pose as an authority on the Middle East?

Message from JVP

Jewish Voice for Peace-Tell Congress, No More Applause

I was stunned to see that our entire U.S. Congress gave Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu 29 standing ovations on Tuesday. Twenty-nine. Unbelievable, given what his speech contained.

The speech that Netanyahu gave that day will go down in history as an extraordinary embarrassment to Americans and Israelis alike. Read on to find out what he said and why we cannot let it go unanswered.

To put it simply, Netanyahu proved yet again that he prefers settlement expansion and Jewish domination of Palestinians to any kind of true peace agreement that would benefit both peoples. He claimed that Israel isn’t occupying anyone—ignoring nearly 44 years of increasingly brutal Israeli control over the lives of millions of Palestinians.

He stated that Israel had no need for American military assistance—ignoring the $3 billion in military equipment and aid the U.S. provides Israel each year. He said Israel supports the desire of Arab peoples to live free—saying nothing about the ongoing Israeli shootings and arrests of Palestinians who nonviolently protest for their right to be free.

What makes this so outrageous is that Netanyahu’s speech found a shockingly sympathetic audience in the U.S. Congress while people like you and me could only watch in disbelief.

I’ve had it. I cannot stand by and watch my member of Congress applaud this man and his litany of distortions, myths and outright fabrications. Please, I urge you to join me in writing your US Representative to say, “How could you? Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has shown repeatedly that he is not interested in a viable future for either Palestinians or Israelis and you rewarded him with 29 standing ovations as the world watched.

Here’s a taste of what Netanyahu said, and Jewish Voice for Peace’s debunking of it:

“You don’t need to send American troops to Israel, we defend ourselves.“

Not true. Israel does not defend itself. Israel is historically the number one recipient of US foreign aid. The US gives Israel a whopping $3 billion a year in aid and military equipment, most of which is used to defend Israel’s illegal occupation.

“In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not occupiers.” (Raucous standing ovation.)

Not True. Israel’s nearly 44-year long occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal according to international law. The more than 500,000 Jewish Israelis who have been moved into the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 are settlers who occupy Palestinian land – much of it privately owned by Palestinians and stolen by Jews the rest of it expropriated by the Israeli state – all taken for exclusive Jewish use. This is occupation.

Moreover, “Judea and Samaria” are the biblical terms for that piece of land. Is Bibi suggesting a state based not on secular law but on the Bible? A Jewish theocracy? Is this the Israel that our Congress promotes?

“You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it.”

Not true. Within Israel, the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian do have the right to vote and run for office. But they are victims of systematic housing, workplace and resource discrimination. For example, 93% of Israeli land is reserved for Jews. In the West Bank, more than 2 million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation—that is, their lives are ruled by Israeli military law, while their Jewish settler neighbors are subject to Israeli civil law. Another 1.5 million Gazans live under siege by the Israeli military. Is this democracy?
“Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

Not true. The original UN charter that created Israel, as still recognized by the international community, identified Jerusalem as an internationalized zone that must be shared by all parties.


I should say that I’m not really shocked by Netanyahu’s speech. But, I am shocked – shocked, stunned, discouraged, outraged – by the reaction of our elected officials. Clearly, they are not hearing from the growing number of people like you and me who are ready for a change. They won’t stop applauding until we speak up – and speak up loudly.

Rae Abileah is with the advocacy group Code Pink and a member of Young, Jewish, and Proud, the young adult arm of Jewish Voice for Peace. She was physically attacked by some members of the Israel lobby group AIPAC, hospitalized with neck injuries and then arrested after she bravely shouted out the truth during Netanyahu's speech to Congress. The night before, 5 protesters interrupted Netanyahu's AIPAC speech and were similarly assaulted.

Not all of us can put our bodies on the line the way Rae and so many others have. But we can all take action today, by telling our elected officials they must represent us, not the interests of one of the most right-wing and intransigent governments in Israeli history.

If you live outside of the United States, please write to President Obama to tell him how you feel this has further damaged the United States' standing in the eyes of the world.

Thank you,
Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director
Now that I know how hard middle school teachers work, and having just finished a year working for a New Orleans public school, this news is so incredibly satisfying. Thanks to everyone who made it happen every day, every class, every Do Now, science lab, first draft, book club and Exit Slip.

Y'all rock.

2011 Test Scores Are In and We Rock Again

Monday, May 23, 2011

In less than 12 hours, I'll be on a bus with 40-something 7th graders, heading to Selma, Alabama for the first leg of our Civil Rights tour!!

oh yeahhhhhhh.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I see this quote at KIPP everyday....

Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but one must take it because it is right.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eulogy for Peace Street

I don’t know how to start this article. I’ve been writing it since April 7th, ever since I read the news. I found out that the village I’m moving to just had its road demolished by the Israeli military, and that most of its families had received renewed demolition orders, effective on May 5th. Now it’s May 15th. Nakba Day. Today, Palestinians are marching in the streets, marching from within Israel, marching to the Israeli border, and marching to the wall that pretends to be the Israeli border. Netanyahu says the borders must be protected. People died today.

But my article isn’t about the border. It’s about a village in the Northeast corner of the West Bank. It’s close to A border, the Jordanian border. At night, you can see lights from Jordan in the distance. That’s probably why Israel is in the process of wiping it from the map. We can’t trust the future Palestinian state to have an unsupervised border with Jordan, so Israel is getting rid of the Jordan Valley villages. The soldiers either bulldoze them, or burn their fields and divert their water pipes to the nearest settlement so the Palestinians have to leave. Either way, it won’t make the evening news.

But my article isn’t really about the Jordan Valley either. It’s about al-Aqaba. The little village in the Northeast. Six weeks ago, their road was destroyed. It was called Peace Street, ironically enough. Even before the demolition, I thought about that street every day, because I ride my bike around New Orleans every day. If you know New Orleans, you’ll know that its streets are terrible. Adams, Jefferson, Magazine, Esplanade--they’re all sinking and cracking and shifting and it’s just one of the city’s quirks, but it’s still terrible. All of these daily commutes remind me of Peace Street, and how smooth it was. I didn’t realize it until April 7th, but it was probably the smoothest road in Palestine.

My eulogy to Peace Street needs to include this unprovable claim, and I don’t intend it to be literal. It was the smoothest road because it allowed the mayor of al-Aqaba, who is wheelchair-bound, to serve as a leader with freedom and dignity, which is a beautiful thing to behold. To be honest, Haj Sami didn’t really need a road for that--his physical limitations never got in the way of his vision for al-Aqaba. A few other things got in the way, like the military camps. There were three around the village, and one at its entrance. The Israeli army would use the village in their training exercises because it claimed the area resembled Southern Lebanon, and in 1983, they started raiding the village as practice. Eight villagers were killed and 50 were wounded, including Haj Sami, who caught a stray bullet at the age of sixteen. You wouldn’t expect a village to go on feeling peaceful after that, but al-Aqaba has always been a peaceful village, and until six weeks ago, it paid off. The village sent a petition to the Israeli High Court, which in 2003 finally answered with the removal of the military base at the village’s entrance. This was a landmark victory for a village in Area C, especially considering villages in that 61% of the West Bank are unrecognized by the Israeli army. This brings us to the second obstacle: the demolition order. Since 2004, 95% of the village has been slated for demolition. This includes the new kindergarten, the mosque, the medical center, and most of the homes. I visited al-Aqaba last December, and I left confident in two things: 1) I would come back to teach English and 2) the village would still be there. I wasn’t the only one who believed it. Because of their legal success, several embassies and organizations have invested in the village’s future; al-Aqaba would not have a medical center, or kindergarten, or sewing co-op were it not for this international support. These donors violated Israeli policy in Area C by building without a permit, and there are plaques on each one of the projects, thanking Japan, and Norway, and Britain.

So in spite of the obstacles, Haj Sami had worked successfully to secure the village’s future. He cruises around al-Aqaba, consulting with teachers, contractors, surveyors and corresponds reguarly with his advocates via e-mail. One of his contacts at Rebuilding Alliance, a California-based NGO, introduced us on-line when I expressed my interest in visiting the new kindergarten.

During my short stay, I was inspired by a lot of things--the cuteness of the kids, the devotion of the teachers, the beauty of the landscape, but nothing touched me as deeply as Haj Sami’s relationship with Peace Street. On our final night, after a large meal, my brother and I decided to walk from the village of Tayasir back to al-Aqaba. I was surprised when Haj Sami called out to us and offered to escort us up the hill, but my incredulity was put to shame when we hit the bottom of Peace Street; it was immaculate, and Haj Sami’s wheelchair had no trouble making the climb. As we walked alongside the mayor, he told us that the road had recently been paved by the Palestinian Authority, and now there was easier access to the olive groves around the village, and to the kindergarten, which also served kids from Tayasir and Tubas. We stopped at one villager's house so Haj Sami could inquire about his new sheep, also provided by the government. He then brought us up a side road to show us the remains of the Israeli camp. As the sun set over the Jordan Valley, I stopped to take a picture of Haj Sami with my brother and two of the boys from al-Aqaba as they made their way up the hill. This photo captured one of my favorite memories of Palestine, and it embodied the sense relief I felt in leaving al-Aqaba. The village would survive.

I found the post by Jordan Valley Solidarity four months later, buried between similar headlines, but this was like a punch in the stomach. I looked at the photo of Haj Sami, who sat at the edge of the road. To me, it didn't look like pieces of some inanimate object. It looked like carnage.

It’s been six weeks now, and I'm still struggling to speak for al-Aqaba. I just read the news flash on CNN saying that clashes are erupting on the “Arab’s Nakba Day,” which protests the birth of Israel in 1948. Aside from the fact that the Nakba protests Palestinian dispossession, not the creation of Israel, this isn’t just a 1948 conversation. What is the destruction of al-Aqaba but ethnic cleansing?

So what now? The bulldozers could come any day. They could come in the middle of the night. They’ll be guarded by armed soldiers from the Israeli Defense Force, and without Peace Street, Haj Sami won’t be able to reach them in his wheelchair to speak to them in Hebrew as a representative of his village. The children, who have already lost the road that takes them to school, will have no school to go to. When I saw the pictures, I realized that Peace Street was more than just a road, and its destruction was more than an ironic salute to Israeli peace. When I saw Haj Sami in the photograph, I dug up my picture of him cruising up the same hill in December and realized that Peace Street symbolized freedom and dignity for the mayor, just as he did for his village, and his valley. It'll take more than a bulldozer to destroy these things, and I’ll feel for the soldiers when they come to terms with what they’ve done, but I’m finding it hard to forgive this latest Nakba, this interrupted education, and the immobility of my friend.

Pictures of al-Aqaba village

Rebuilding Alliance Website

Petition-Open the road to Al Aqaba! Pave the road to peace!

Jordan Valley Solidarity-Homes and Roads Destroyed in al-Aqaba

International Solidarity Movement-More Demolitions in the Jordan Valley

Friday, May 13, 2011

7th Grade History
Civil Rights Movement Unit:
The Freedom Rides

Today's e-mail from U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:

50 years ago, on May 4, 1961, the first bus of the Freedom Rides left Washington, DC, headed to New Orleans, with people committed to challenging segregation. The Freedom Rides were one of the sparks that contributed to a movement to dismantle a degrading system that violated human rights.

In an interview with organizers from The U.S. Boat to Gaza, Alice Walker, one of our nation's foremost contemporary writers and the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize, likened the planned Gaza "Freedom Flotilla II" to the Freedom Rides. In the U.S. the racist system of segregation was challenged; in South Africa the racist system of apartheid was challenged; in Palestine the racist system of occupation and apartheid, enforced by the Israeli government and supported by the U.S government, is being challenged and will come to an end.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Birthday Song

When you get older, dear Israel,
Just another year from now,
Will you still be colonizing Palestine?
Building "fences" over the line?

Who'll be the warhawk banging the drum,
Bibi or Avigdor?
Will you still need me, will you recede me,
When you're 64?

oh oh oh oh oh oh
I'll be older too..
And if you show me peace
I could co-exist with you.

But I'm just the terrorist lightin' the fuse
When all our lights are gone.
Have to do my homework by the fireside,
Won't you teach me how to divide?

When you're done cleansing the Jordan Valley,
Will you ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still bleed me,
When you're 64?

Every May you throw a party celebrating victory,
at who's expense?
Stateless refugees!
Grandchildren on their knees,
Still victims of your defense!

Send you a lawsuit, throw you a stone,
Whatever makes it through
I'll indicate precisely what I mean to say,
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away

Answer my question, take me your leave,
Occupation no more!
Will you still need me, oh won't you cede me,
Insh'allah before,

This guy single-handedly blocked Tony Kushner's honorary degree to CUNY, the first time, an honorary degree has ever been rejected by the board, just by claiming he was anti-Israel.

A University Trustee Expands on His View of What is Offensive

Here's an excerpt from his interview:

I tried to ask a question about the damage done by a short, one-sided discussion of vigorously debated aspects of Middle East politics, like the survival of Israel and the rights of the Palestinians, and which side was more callous toward human life, and who was most protective of it.

But Mr. Wiesenfeld interrupted and said the question was offensive because “the comparison sets up a moral equivalence.”

Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “People who worship death for their children are not human.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I almost fell apart in history class....again. We covered The Montgomery Bus Boycott and Ruby Bridges today. Ruby is known as the first African-American child to attend an integrated school in the South. That's a little inaccurate, since New Orleans had some integrated schools in the late 1800's, during Reconstruction, and the city later re-segregated. I learned this in a fantastic documentary we watched at our last AmeriCorps meeting called Faubourg Treme. It's all about the unique culture of free persons of color in New Orleans and how the neighborhood of Treme stood alone as an integrated neighborhood. What I didn't realize is that Claiborne Ave, which sits under I-10 all along the Treme, used to be a beautiful street with a wide neutral ground filled with oak trees. Looking at pictures of it from before the 60's and thinking of how blighted that area is now, man. It's awful.

There's a group at University of New Orleans that's released a survey that explores the idea of moving that stretch of I-10. I don't know where they'd move it to, but I hear they have a stellar urban planning department. Here's the survey.

Wow! I'm easily side-tracked.

So we learned about Ruby Bridges, and we had to pull out this interview with adult Ruby Bridges. I played the part of Ruby. Here was the first chunk of the interview:

RUBY BRIDGES HALL: That first morning I remember mom saying as I got dressed in my new outfit, "Now, I want you to behave yourself today, Ruby, and don't be afraid. There might be a lot of people outside this new school, but I'll be with you." That conversation was the full extent of preparing me for what was to come.

I choked on the last sentence. If I were a mother I don't know if I could have held it together for the sake of the bigger picture. How do you do that? How do you prepare a child to face that kind of hatred? She thought the crowd was Mardi Gras. She was too young to understand.

It's just a coincidence that I started my reading classes on childrens' war diaries. They're diving into Persepolis now, learning about Marjane Satrapi's views of the Islamic Revolution as a child. She felt the pain of everyone around her, and she wanted to join the demonstrations. Like when little Labiba of Bil'in heard the tear gas firing and ran to grab her yellow Fatah flag. The mere presence of a blonde woman in her house told her it was time to march, the international protesters were here! She was two.

You better stop, children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's goin down....
I was hanging out at my old neighbor's house, about to watch Treme, when our friends burst in, telling us to turn on the news. Osama bin Laden was dead.

Ok...? Did that really change anything? After 3 minutes of news I just wanted to switch Treme on...because watching New Orleans post-Katrina seemed more uplifting than watching people act like the last ten years of war was worth it.

Now I'm at PJ's and CNN is examing a hologram of bin Laden's estate. Ohhh let's just go back to Kate Middleton's dress....


Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent who gave a speech at a Truthdig fundraiser last night. Here's a part of his speech on Osama Bin Laden's death.

When I was in New York, as some of you were, on 9/11, I was in Times Square when the second plane hit. I walked into The New York Times, I stuffed notebooks in my pocket and walked down the West Side Highway and was at Ground Zero four hours later. I was there when Building 7 collapsed. And I watched as a nation drank deep from that very dark elixir of American nationalism … the flip side of nationalism is always racism, it’s about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other.

And it’s about forgetting that terrorism is a tactic. You can’t make war on terror. Terrorism has been with us since Sallust wrote about it in the Jugurthine wars. And the only way to successfully fight terrorist groups is to isolate [them], isolate those groups, within their own societies. And I was in the immediate days after 9/11 assigned to go out to Jersey City and the places where the hijackers had lived and begin to piece together their lives. I was then very soon transferred to Paris, where I covered all of al-Qaida’s operations in the Middle East and Europe.

So I was in the Middle East in the days after 9/11. And we had garnered the empathy of not only most of the world, but the Muslim world who were appalled at what had been done in the name of their religion. And we had major religious figures like Sheikh Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar—who died recently—who after the attacks of 9/11 not only denounced them as a crime against humanity, which they were, but denounced Osama bin Laden as a fraud … someone who had no right to issue fatwas or religious edicts, no religious legitimacy, no religious training. And the tragedy was that if we had the courage to be vulnerable, if we had built on that empathy, we would be far safer and more secure today than we are.

We responded exactly as these terrorist organizations wanted us to respond. They wanted us to speak the language of violence. What were the explosions that hit the World Trade Center, huge explosions and death above a city skyline? It was straight out of Hollywood. When Robert McNamara in 1965 began the massive bombing campaign of North Vietnam, he did it because he said he wanted to “send a message” to the North Vietnamese—a message that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.

These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind. The language of violence, the language of occupation—the occupation of the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has been the best recruiting tool al-Qaida has been handed. If it is correct that Osama bin Laden is dead, then it will spiral upwards with acts of suicidal vengeance. And I expect most probably on American soil. The tragedy of the Middle East is one where we proved incapable of communicating in any other language than the brute and brutal force of empire.

And empire finally, as Thucydides understood, is a disease. As Thucydides wrote, the tyranny that the Athenian empire imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. The disease of empire, according to Thucydides, would finally kill Athenian democracy. And the disease of empire, the disease of nationalism … these of course are mirrored in the anarchic violence of these groups, but one that locks us in a kind of frightening death spiral. So while I certainly fear al-Qaida, I know its intentions. I know how it works. I spent months of my life reconstructing every step Mohamed Atta took. While I don’t in any way minimize their danger, I despair. I despair that we as a country, as Nietzsche understood, have become the monster that we are attempting to fight.