Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Al Jazeera video on the Danziger bridge killings and the NOPD:

Jordan Flaherty's article Why You Should Care About the New Orleans Police Trial

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whoa! Amazing interview between Adam Horowitz and Kiera Feldman, who wrote an article on Birthright in the Atlantic last week.

Adam Horowitz: Something that you don't delve into in the article, but I found myself thinking about, is the demographic hysteria in Israel today and how that's connected to the overarching concern behind Birthright - "continuity" in the American Jewish community (i.e. Jews marrying Jews and having Jewish babies). You say in your piece that "early Zionism, too, was marked by alarm over intermarriage and demographic decline," but I think I would take out "early." My gut feeling is that this has been a focus since the beginning and is most likely a hallmark of all early 20th century nationalisms. I think it's an interesting connection to think about - the obsession with demography whether in the context of a state building project, or communal longevity in the US. It feels all connected, but I'm not exactly seeing it.

Kiera Feldman: It is easy to laugh off the American Jewish community’s obsession with “continuity” as mere titillation: Jewish babymaking as punch line. But in Israel, Jewish demographic fear achieves its full expression.

In Eros and the Jews, historian David Biale notes early Zionism’s demographic obsession was no different than other late 19th century European nationalisms. As for today, I also struggle to properly connect the dots between diaspora Jewish demographic fear and the “demographic threat” in the Jewish state, where the very bodies of non-Jews are seen as endangering the national Jewish body. The “Judaization” of East Jerusalem, the Galilee, and the Negev—that’s “continuity” in action. Looking eastward helps remind us that blood purity drives “continuity” concerns. The logical extension of this tribal fear is a policy of separation, containment and state violence against minority populations.

Take the Bedouin village of Al Araqib: In March, the Israeli military destroyed the village for the 21st time. Al Araquib was slated to be “Judaized” with a Jewish National Fund forest; official Israeli land settlement policy in the Negev is to concentrate Bedouins in state-constructed Bedouin ghettos.

AH: I came away from your piece thinking the Birthright is very successful for what it seeks to do. How do you think this squares with Peter Beinart's thesis about the alienation young people are feeling from Israel and the community? Does the "Birthright effect" wear off after 6 months, or does Bronfman just need to get more young people on Birthright to turn the tide?

KF: Over the last week, much of the Jewish Internet’s collective shitstorm energies were devoted to “Life After Zionist Summer Camp,” a piece in The Awl by Allison Benedikt. Her non-Zionist conversion narrative so enraged Jeffrey Goldberg that he declared her “anti-Israel” and “un-Jewish.” Nothing riles up True Believers like an apostate. The anger is magnified, I think, by the knowledge that Benedikt’s story is increasingly common among American Jews. A great sea change is underway, but I fear Birthright is a force to be reckoned with.

Thinking specifically about my trip, my busmates seemed united in feeling “more Jewish,” along with possessing a newfound connection to Israel. Our unusually candid guide’s explanations of the legal inequalities in a Jewish state, of the brutality of its military policy, did not induce alienation. Much to my surprise, young Jews on my trip quite readily “checked their liberalism at Zionism’s door” for ten days. Fun bound us together—and to the land where it all went down.

As for the long-term impact of Birthright, that’s the million-dollar question to ask of the demi-billion-dollar program. The sociological data out of Brandeis’ Steinhardt Social Research Institute suggests Birthright “works” over the long haul in shoring up Jewish identity and connection to Israel. But I’m a bit skeptical given that (the eponymous) Michael Steinhardt is the co-founder of Birthright, and such studies conveniently help assure funders and potential funders that their investment in “Jewish continuity” passes the kind of effectiveness evaluations they expect from the corporate world.

I am not sure if it’s a gut feeling or a hope that Israel’s Amy Winehouse-style out of control downward spiral will help bring about alienation in Birthright alumni; I don’t see anything wrong in a bit of alienated “what the fuck.” On Facebook, a non-Jewish friend of afriend recently noted that she’d known Jews who returned from Birthright “with very different ideas than when they left (some which are a bit scary), but it seems to fade over time.”

Then again, for many Birthrighters the “magic” of Israel (to use co-founder Charles Bronfman’s terminology) is real and lasting. One liberal twenty-something half-Jewish Manhattanite from my February 2010 trip still has Theodor Herlz’s famous Zionist slogan on her Facebook profile: “If you will it, it is no dream.” We have to account for the fact that Jewish nationalism is profoundly appealing for the young and adrift. It says, "You're part of something bigger than yourself. Your life has meaning and purpose. There’s this land where experience is richer than the tedium of daily life. You have been persecuted for all of eternity, and here you can be safe. Except: waitpaniccrisis!! It’s all under threat and must be protected at any cost."

To be less of a bummer, I’ll note that the trip can work in unexpected ways: one source in the piece, Max Geller, was really radicalized by the anti-Arab virulence of his Birthright experience and became a tireless justice in Palestine activist. For me, going on Birthright as a reporter gave me the opportunity to “birth left” in the West Bank post-trip. (My impression is that most Birthright buses have a couple travelers who go on to do heterodox tourism afterward.) Staying ten days in Bil’in, going to the Nil’in demo, coming to see Palestinian and Israeli anti-wall activists as “my people”—Birthright shored up my identity as a Jewish morally engaged journalist.

AH: You make the point several times in the article and the podcast that most the trip participants viewed themselves as liberal. You also point out that the trip guide was unusually explicit about the meaning of the Jewish state. One example:

Driving through northern Israel, Shachar gave a lesson in “Judaization,” the government’s term for settlement policy. Passing through an Israeli-Arab town, he called our attention to a litter-strewn road (perhaps the result of inequities in municipal funding, which escaped mention) and then pointed to a neat ring of state-subsidized Jewish towns. “Judaization,” he explained, was necessary “to keep them from spreading.”

How would you say the trip participants rationalized "checking their liberalism at Zionism's door?" Would you say this effected their view of Israel, prompted them to reconsider their liberalism, or left them willing to live with the contradiction?

KF: Responses were necessarily myriad, but the latter seemed to be the predominant sentiment among my busmates. To be sure, two Birthrighters and I bonded over a shared horror and rejection of the realities of the so-called “Jewish and democratic” state (one of whom, naturally, I went on to date). There were a number of people who were deeply troubled by the Israel they saw on Birthright and did not hesitate to use words like “apartheid” and “segregation”—including two political conservatives--but no one began clamoring for a multinational state. One woman told me she’d never considered what “Jewish and democratic” meant, but the trip helped crystallize that “it’s just not happening here.”

I am unsure whether Birthrighters’ reactions illustrate the failings and limitations of Jewish American youth culture—or of liberalism. Unlike in Israel, Americans are generally weaned on an anti-racist discourse, and so Birthrighters were able to know racism when they saw it. But what happens after recognition? The funbus drove on.

AH: Finally, in the podcast was struck by the "domesticated house cat Jews" (American Jews) vs "wild feral Jews" (Israeli Jews) dichotomy that one trip participant makes. It does seem that that is one of the goals of the trip is to get the North American house cat Jews to understand, if not, emulate their feral co-religionists. Part of this seems to be enjoying the empowered triumphalism that I've frequently seen from Israeli Jews when I've been in Israel. I cringed listening to the podcast in several parts, especially on the kibbutz. Has anyone from the trip responded to the article? Do you think any of them would be embarrassed or ashamed to listen to this?

KF: The Birthright Boyfriend loved it! Otherwise, I’m not sure anyone else has read it yet.

While I was reporting the remainder of the story this past winter, I tried (unsuccessfully) to follow-up with a few of the participants who were most transformed on the trip. I didn’t hear back from them but I should have been more persistent. My guess now is that many of my tour mates would challenge my “cherry picking” of quotes and want to focus on their happy memories of the trip. Everyone seemed to agree the guide was “badass” and “hella funny,” and I doubt anyone would revise that assessment. The men on my trip were especially impressed by the “New Jew” in Israel—the hyper-masculine creation that bills itself as the answer to Jewish victimhood in the Holocaust and weakness in the diaspora. Glorification of Israeli militarism runs deep in American Jewish culture, which continues to harbor a deep self-deprecating shame of the figure of the sniveling nebbish. This week, Sarah Silverman joined Shakira in Jerusalem for the Israeli Presidential Conference. Silverman tweeted—with an RT from Jeffrey Goldberg, naturally—“Israel is this bizarro world where Jews r gorgeous & kick-assy instead of sneezy & shirt-stainy.”

On the final night of my Birthright trip, we all sat drinking on Tel Aviv’s banana beach. A high school year book-style vote took place. Everyone had nicknames on the trip, and mine was “Dear Diary” thanks to the constant notebook scribbling. I was voted “Most Likely to Take Down Birthright.”

Now, a year later, this seems unlikely--and wasn’t my goal anyway. But here’s to hoping for critical engagement. For a program that operates on the emotional level, in a country where policy is determined by gut fear and hysteria, cutting through the “magic” of ethnonationalism is the cerebral task at hand. Much to my dismay, after reading Alison Benedikt’s piece in conjunction with mine, Haaretz’s Bradley Burston wrote in the emotional register, of a renewed “ache” about how “people need a home” (aligning Jewish nationalism with Palestinian national liberation). Burston continued, “Zionist summer camps and, for that matter, Birthright, were created specifically to address that ache.” What followed was the classic liberal Zionist’s lament: good idea, bad implementation.

If anything, my Birthright reporting should help illustrate Zionism’s bankrupt core. What’s more, even the most dovish members of Birthright’s brain trust would not imagine it differently. “It is not a trip to Palestine and to Israel,” said Yossi Beilin, the elder statesman of liberal Zionism and the originator of the Birthright idea, when asked his thoughts on Birthright buses patronizing the West Bank settlement-based Ahava factory. “You hear one narrative, not two.” I wondered if perhaps a settlement might be complemented with a stop at a Palestinian village. Beilin reiterated, “It is not a visit to the Israeli-Arab conflict. It’s a visit to Israel.”

Zionists tend to lament the ethnic cleansing of 1948: if only things had been done differently—as if a Jewish majority state could have been produced any other way. But why the urge to rehabilitate ethnonationalism? There are other things to believe in besides Jewish peoplehood and its attendant blood-soil claims that resist intellectualization, inducing a singular feeling: “home.” Going forward, perhaps to a certain extent Jews need to check our emotions at Israel’s door. For me, a baptized daughter of intermarriage, it comes easily.
State Department getting grilled on its latest warning to Freedom Flotilla 2

Excerpt from the briefing:

QUESTION: Just to make sure, does the U.S. consider that blockade legal?

MS. NULAND: I think the main point that we were trying to make in the statement was that we’ve got to use the channels that are safe, the channels that are going to guarantee that the aid get where it needs to go to the people it’s intended for, and to discourage, in strongest terms, any actions on the high seas that could result in a conflict.

QUESTION: Right, but again, that doesn’t answer the question of the legality or the – whether the U.S. perceives that blockade as legal or not.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on legality here. We can take a stronger look at that if you’d like, but again, the reason that the Secretary spoke to this yesterday when she was asked, the reason that we’ve put out this very fulsome statement that points people in the correct direction, is because we want to avoid the problems of last year, and we do believe that there are good and reliable channels for getting assistance to the people of Gaza.

QUESTION: And just one more. I’m sorry. The people who are putting this together have a rather elaborate website, and they say that – on that that the U.S. should be protecting the rights of American citizens, protecting their safety abroad. So that is the argument that they are making. They’re very disappointed and shocked that the State Department would be warning people off. What do you say to that?

MS. NULAND: It is in the interest of protecting both Americans and other citizens from around the world who might be thinking about engaging in provocative moves like this that we were putting out these warnings so strongly in the same season where we had this problem last year. We don’t want to see a repeat, and we do believe that those who want to aid Gaza can do so and need to do so in the correct manner.

Gaza Summer Games 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Memoriam: Bassem Abu Rahma

In Memoriam: Bassem Abu Rahma
- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

This was posted because the "old wall" in Bil'in is being dismantled by the Israeli army, as was ordered by the Israeli High Court four or five years ago. Some of the village land still lies behind the concrete barrier, so I'm sure the demonstrations will continue, but the reclamation of this land, the dismantling of the surveillance tower, all steps in the right direction :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

David and Goliath

photo by Rani Abdel Fatah, Bil'in

Who is this sinister masked Palestinian with the slingshot? If he wanted to kill the soldier, why doesn't he have a gun?

And why is he masked? Is it because the soldiers will identify him in the surveillance tapes and come into his house in the middle of the night to arrest him for throwing stones? Or because of the tear gas?

Friday, June 17, 2011


Rebuilding Alliance Places 2nd in GlobalGiving.org Competition Date

SAN MATEO, CALIFORNIA, June 16, 2010 (WAFA) - In an exciting finish, the project, “Rebuilding a Future in Palestine!” placed second place in the international matching grant competition on GlobalGiving.org. With the funding now raised, the Rebuilding Alliance, a Californian NGO, will work with the Palestinian village of Al Aqaba in the Jordan Valley, West Bank to hold a and pubicized a design collaborative in July to create sustainable homes and community, supported by people throughout the world, and so lift the threat of demolition.

'Thanks to 116 donors who gave during the competition, the matching grant, and another 16 donors who gave before and after the competition, we've nearly met our $24,660 goal,' said Donna Baranski-Walker, founder and Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance. 'Planning begins tomorrow to be ready to come to Al Aqaba in July!'

Currently, Palestinian families are not being permitted to build on their own land in 60% of the West Bank solely administered by Israel. Since 1967 the Israeli army demolished over 24,800 Palestinian homes, displaced more than 180,000 people, and built Israeli-only settlements on land that belongs to Palestinian families. Demolition orders now blanket the Jordan Valley. This man-made policy can be changed, starting with Al Aqaba. Families, ready to build homes despite the risks, need good design, mortgage financing, and solid advocacy to build trust and a future.

Rebuilding Alliance (www.RebuildingAlliance.org) is a non-governmental organization in California dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and making them safe. Founded in 2003, RA offers a village-centered rebuilding model with projects and advocacy initiatives selected with an eye towards setting precedent. RA’s life affirming vision is a just and enduring peace in Israel and Palestine founded upon equal value, security, and opportunity for all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bassem Tamimi's statement in court

From the Nabi Saleh Popular Struggle Coordination Committee:

After more than two months in custody, the trial of Bassem Tamimi, a 44 year-old protest organizer from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, finally commenced yesterday. Tamimi, who is the coordinator for the Nabi Saleh popular committee, pleaded not guilty to the charges laid against him.

Tamimi was interrupted by the judge who warned him that it was not a political trial, and that such statements were out of place in a courtroom. Tamimi was cut short and not allowed to deliver his full statement.

After Tamimi finished reading his shortened statement, the judge announced that the hearing's protocol has been erroneously deleted. However he refused to submit the full written statement to the stenographer. She went on to dictate a short summary in her own words for official record.

The indictment against Tamimi is based on questionable and coerced confessions of youth from the village. He is charged with 'incitement', 'organizing and participating in unauthorized processions', 'solicitation to stone-throwing', 'failure to attend legal summons', and a scandalous charge of 'disruption of legal proceedings', for allegedly giving youth advice on how to act during police interrogation in the event that they are arrested.

The transcript of Tamimi's police interrogation further demonstrates the police and Military Prosecution's political motivation and disregard for the suspect's rights. During his questioning, Tamimi was accused by his interrogator of "consulting lawyers and foreigners to prepare for his interrogation", an act that is in no way in breach of the law.

Your Honor,
I hold this speech out of belief in peace, justice, freedom, the right to live in dignity, and out of respect for free thought in the absence of Just Laws.

Every time I am called to appear before your courts, I become nervous and afraid. Eighteen years ago, my sister was killed by in a courtroom such as this, by a staff member. In my lifetime, I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost 3 years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralyzed as a result of torture by your investigators. My wife was detained, my children were wounded, my land was stolen by settlers, and now my house is slated for demolition.

I was born at the same time as the Occupation and have been living under its inherent inhumanity, inequality, racism and lack of freedom ever since. Yet, despite all this, my belief in human values and the need for peace in this land have never been shaken. Suffering and oppression did not fill my heart with hatred for anyone, nor did they kindle feelings of revenge. To the contrary, they reinforced my belief in peace and national standing as an adequate response to the inhumanity of Occupation.

International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist Occupation. In practicing my right, I have called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the Occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village, Nabi Saleh, where the graves of my ancestors have lain since time immemorial.

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.

We have the right to express our rejection of Occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.

The civil nature of our actions is the light that will overcome the darkness of the Occupation, bringing a dawn of freedom that will warm the cold wrists in chains, sweep despair from the soul and end decades of oppression.

These actions are what will expose the true face of the Occupation, where soldiers point their guns at a woman walking to her fields or at checkpoints; at a child who wants to drink from the sweet water of his ancestors' fabled spring; against an old man who wants to sit in the shade of an olive tree, once mother to him, now burnt by settlers.

We have exhausted all possible actions to stop attacks by settlers, who refuse to adhere to your courts' decisions, which time and again have confirmed that we are the owners of the land, ordering the removal of the fence erected by them.

Each time we tried to approach our land, implementing these decisions, we were attacked by settlers, who prevented us from reaching it as if it were their own.

Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe, like us, that had it not been for the Occupation, we could all live in peace on this land. I do not know which laws are upheld by generals who are inhibited by fear and insecurity, nor do I know their thoughts on the civil resistance of women, children and old men who carry hope and olive branches. But I know what justice and reason are. Land theft and tree-burning is unjust. Violent repression of our demonstrations and protests and your detention camps are not evidence of the illegality of our actions. It is unfair to be tryed under a law forced upon us. I know that I have rights and my actions are just.

The military prosecutor accuses me of inciting the protesters to throw stones at the soldiers. This is not true. What incites protesters to throw stones is the sound of bullets, the Occupation’s bulldozers as they destroy the land, the smell of teargas and the smoke coming from burnt houses. I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror.

These demonstrations that I organize have had a positive influence over my beliefs; they allowed me to see people from the other side who believe in peace and share my struggle for freedom. Those freedom fighters have rid their conscious from the Occupation and put their hands in ours in peaceful demonstrations against our common enemy, the Occupation. They have become friends, sisters and brothers. We fight together for a better future for our children and theirs.

If released by the judge will I be convinced thereby that justice still prevails in your courts? Regardless of how just or unjust this ruling will be, and despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation, we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion or ethnicity; embodying thus the message of the Messenger of Peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy.” With love and justice, we make peace and build the future.


Bassem Tamimi is a veteran Palestinian grassroots activist from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He is married to Nariman Tamimi, with whom he fathers four children - Wa’ed (14), Ahed (10), Mohammed (8) and Salam (5).

As a veteran activist, Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date and has spent roughly three years in Israeli jails, though he was never convicted of any offence. He spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. Furthermore, his attorney and he were denied access to “secret evidence” brought against him.

In 1993, Tamimi was falsely arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El - an allegation of which he was cleared entirely. During his weeks-long interrogation, he was severely tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to draw a coerced confession from him. During his interrogation, and as a result of the torture he underwent, Tamimi collapsed and had to be evacuated to a hospital, where he laid unconscious for seven days.

As one of the organizers of the Nabi Saleh protests and coordinator of the village's popular committee, Tamimi has been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army. Since demonstrations began in the village, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times, his wife was twice arrested and two of his sons were injured; Wa'ed, 14, was hospitalized for five days when a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his leg and Mohammed, 8, was injured by a tear-gas projectile that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder. Shortly after demonstrations in the village began, the Israeli Civil Administration served ten demolition orders to structures located in Area C, Tamimi's house was one of them, despite the fact that it was built in 1965.

Legal background
On the March 24th, 2011, a massive contingent of Israeli Soldiers raided the Tamimi home at around noon, only minutes after he entered the house to prepare for a meeting with a European diplomat. He was arrested and subsequently charged.

The main evidence in Tamimi's case is the testimony of 14 year-old Islam Dar Ayyoub, also from Nabi Saleh, who was taken from his bed at gunpoint on the night of January 23rd. In his interrogation the morning after his arrest, Islam alleged that Bassem and Naji Tamimi organized groups of youth into "brigades", charged with different responsibilities during the demonstrations: some were allegedly in charge of stone-throwing, others of blocking roads, etc.

During a trial-within-a-trial procedure in Islam's trial, motioning for his testimony to be ruled inadmissible, it was proven that his interrogation was fundamentally flawed and violated the rights set forth in the Israeli Youth Law in the following ways:

1.Despite being a minor, he was questioned in the morning following his arrest, having been denied sleep.

2.He was denied legal counsel, although his lawyer appeared at the police station requesting to see him.

3.He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning.

4.He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was even told by his interrogators that he is "expected to tell the truth".

5.Only one of four interrogators present was a qualified youth interrogator.

While the trial-within-a-trial procedure has not yet reached conclusion, the evidence already revealed has brought a Military Court of Appeals to revise its remand decision and order Islam's release to house arrest.

Over the past two months, the army has arrested 24 of Nabi Saleh's residents on protest related suspicions. Half of those arrested are minors, the youngest of whom is merely eleven.

Ever since the beginning of the village's struggle against settler takeover of their lands in December of 2009, the army has conducted 71 protest related arrests. As the entire village numbers just over 500 residents, the number constitutes approximately 10% of its population.

Tamimi's arrest corresponds to the systematic arrest of civil protest leaders all around the West Bank, as in the case of the villages Bil'in and Ni'ilin.

Only recently the Military Court of Appeals has aggravated the sentence of Abdallah Abu Rahmah from the village of Bilin, sending him to 16 months imprisonment on charges of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations. Abu Rahmah was released on March 2011.

The arrest and trial of Abu Rahmah has been widely condemned by the international community, most notably by Britain and EU foreign minister, Catherin Ashton. Harsh criticism of the arrest has also been offered by leading human rights organizations in Israel and around the world, among them B'tselem, ACRI, as well as Human Rights Watch, which declared Abu Rahmah's trial unfair, and Amnesty International, which declared Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Uri Avneri, former MK and activist with Gush Shalom left-wing organization, said Sunday that the IDF used excessive force against the protesters in the Golan Heights. "The trigger-happy behavior stands out in particular when compared to the softness with which violent settlers are treated," he said.

Avneri conceded that a country has a right to defend its borders and prevent illegal entrance to its territory, yet added that "in order to effectively protect its borders, the state should first know where its borders are and have them recognized by the international community – and this is a decision which Israel has been avoiding for years."

Israeli soldiers takeing aim next to the Syrian-Israeli border fence near the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights June 5, 2011.

"A state that trespasses its neighbors' borders, steals their land and erects settlements on them will have a hard time justifying actions taken to protect its own borders," Avneri said. "Contrary to what Prime Minister Netanyahu says, only a recognized and agreed upon international border – that is, a border based on the 1967lines – is a defensible border."

Haaretz article

From European Dissent

In case you have missed hearing the powerful voice of Michelle Alexander, author of 'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,' here's an opportunity to listen to, and watch, an hour long speech she gave recently at Riverside Church in NYC. **

The video is in 4 parts, each about 15 minutes long, so you can listen to each part of her presentation separately.

Prof. Alexander begins by explaining that the racially profiled War on Drugs, and its resulting mass incarceration of African Americans, and later Latino/as, was part of the 'Southern Strategy' created by Republicans in the 1980's.

The goal of the Southern Strategy was to recruit millions of poor, working and middle class white Southerners from the Democratic into the Republican Party. The method: manipulate the racialized southern white resentment of African American political and economic gains of the 1960's and 1970's. The media frame: Imagine every young Black man as a 'drug dealing criminal;' every Black woman as a 'welfare cheat.' every formerly incarcerated person as a 'dangerous felon.' The solution: bust 'em, lock 'em up, throw away the key, or punish 'em for a lifetime.

Dr. Alexander asserts that the result of this successful 30 year campaign is a new 'racial caste system' - a New Jim Crow.

The New Jim Crow involves the destruction of families and communities of color; state budgets that put more money into incarceration than education; hundreds of thousands of people denied the right to vote, get a job, find affordable housing, get food stamps or an education by public policy and law; and a (mostly white) electorate supporting police state practices in communities of color in the false belief that locking people up will make uncaged people 'feel safe.'

Michelle Alexander calls for a mass civil and human rights movement -- multi-racial, multi-class, grounded in love for each person as a human being -- to end the New Jim Crow and its racist foundations. She recommends public education as a way to help build that movement. So please check out the video at:


In solidarity,
sharon martinas

Friday, June 3, 2011

From Interfaith Peacebuilders

Report Four: Like No Other Place -- Nonviolence and Resistance
Reports from IFPB's 36th Delegation

We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reports.
Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reports. As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals. Trip reports to not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations. We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reports with others.

Nonviolence in Bethlehem
The first day we went to Bethlehem we visited the Holy Land Trust, a group in Bethlehem dedicated to the practice and implementation of non-violent civil disobedience. The speaker from this group, Sami Awad, was one of my favorite speakers of the trip so far for many reasons:
1. He shared his personal family story more than any other speaker.
2. His narrative really illustrated so many parts of the Palestinian experience from 1948 to the present day.
3. His unyielding commitment to and faith in non-violence, and his calm, compassionate, patient, clear headed approach was utterly mind-blowing to me.
Sami's grandparents and parents lived in Jerusalem in the time of Israel’s creation, in a town like many towns in Palestine, where Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived together as neighbors in peace. During the 1948 war however, Sami's grandfather was killed by the Jewish militia, shot by a sniper as he was trying to put a white flag over his house. The military then forced the Arabs in the neighborhood to leave despite the fact that their Jewish neighbors fought against this racial expulsion.
Despite the fact that the militias had killed her husband, Sami's grandmother was a steadfast believer in non-violence and taught her kids that they should love and never retaliate against their enemies, even the one that killed their father. After the family fled, Sami's grandmother had to send her children out to various orphanages. One of Sami's uncles actually lived in an orphanage on a hill overlooking his old house that he could never return to.
Sami's father was adopted and brought to the United States, returning in the 1970s to get married to a woman in Gaza. The couple settled in Bethlehem where Sami grew up learning more about non-violent resistance from his uncle, Mubarak Awad, who some consider the Gandhi of the Palestinians. As the first intifada began, his community organized weekly creative forms of non-violent civil disobedience acts. One that stuck out to me was during the daylight savings the town didn’t change the hour like the Israelis in order to “free” an hour of their time. The idea behind this was for the Palestinians to run on their own “Palestinian time,” a way to metaphorically resist the logistical control that Israelis had on their life. Israeli soldiers caught on to this, started asking people what the time was, and would beat up and arrest people that refused to change it back. At the end of the first intifada, Mubarak Awad was arrested and deported, despite efforts by an Israeli Jewish Professor going on a hunger strike to convince the government to let him stay.
After his uncle’s deportation, Sami wanted to step up in leadership of the nonviolent resistance movement but was sent to the US by his father until things calmed down. In the US Sami studied Peace Studies and returned in 1996—threeyears after the Oslo Peace Accords. He pointed out to us that during the peace process Palestinian life became more restricted than ever and the settlement expansion grew heavily so it was seen as a failure in the eyes of most Palestinians. In 1998, Sami helped establish the Holy Land Trust, which aimed to strengthen the community and to figure out how to resolve challenges facing it. As the Second Intifada started, the group continued to educate the community in ways to promote non-violent resistance.
The last part of Sami’s story was amazingly touching. I’m not sure what year, but he joined a Peacemakers Circle International delegation, in which a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian go to visit Auschwitz together. The experience shocked and changed him in many ways, but there were two things that influenced him the most. First, the three delegates actually asked permission to spend the night in one of the bunkers. Sami described how though he had plenty of blankets, the bunkers were still bone-chilling cold, and he couldn’t imagine how the people who had nothing in these camps survived.
The second thing that affected him was that he overheard Israeli tour leaders talking to Israeli kids about the camp. Time after time, Sami told us, he would hear the guides telling the kids that what they experienced here at the camp was why it was so important that they fight for Israel, and that the Arabs would do the same thing to them as the Germans if they could. At this point, Sami told us, he gained more understanding and compassion for Jewish people than ever. Walking up to a soldier now, he could understand their narrative and their fear. He believes that an imperative part of the struggle against the occupation is to fight for the human rights of Israelis, to liberate both the oppressor and oppressed from oppression. He also believes that the international community “hasn’t given the proper respect to the true Jewish pain of the Holocaust,” and instead has given them complete political power and billions in guilt money. Any true peace process, according to Sami, must be active in the healing process of the pain of both the Jewish and Palestinian people. I’m not sure I could ever reach this kind of spiritual maturity, to have experienced so much violence, hate, and oppression and come out of it with such a positive and humanistic mindset. I’ve met many activists here like Sami and it is immensely inspiring…
--Kim Nesta

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Solidarity in Tubas

Wednesday December 05, 2007 23:41 by Alice Cutler - The Electronic Intifada

"The clinic is modern, light, open and clean. Coming from a dark, dirty hospital with MRSA [the superbug] stalking the wards I almost felt we should send our managers to learn from the people here," reflected Lucy Collins, a midwife from the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton. She had spent two days in the Red Crescent primary health care center in Tubas."
(my brother went to that clinic when he had a stomach bug)

Such positive reflections on the grinding reality of life under occupation in the West Bank are rare. But there are many stories of a resilient people who still have the energy to welcome visitors and reassure them when things become particularly heavy. Lucy was one of ten people on a delegation to Palestine from the Brighton-Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group. The group aims to highlight Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the region, raise awareness about life under occupation and create practical solidarity links between grassroots organizations in Brighton and the Tubas region.

The Tubas region has been de facto annexed by Israel. Land expropriation, house demolitions, water shortages, curfews, militarization of vast swathes of land and a system of pass laws reminiscent of apartheid South Africa are forcing the indigenous Palestinians out. Those who remain provide an exploitable workforce for Israeli agricultural companies such as Carmel Agrexco. Ninety-five percent of the agricultural land is now in the hands of the Israeli settlers or military.

Sarah Cobham, a member of the delegation who managed to get inside an agricultural packing house in the illegal settlement of Tomer explains, "We saw box upon box of dates, labeled "Made in Israel," but grown on Palestinian land, packed by Palestinians, sold in British supermarkets such as Tescos. This trade is lining the pockets of settlers that illegally occupy the Jordan Valley. In the factories Palestinians, including children of 12 years old, work for a pittance as modern day slaves. Their message: "Don't support the occupation: boycott Israeli Apartheid goods."

The Brighton group first made contact with the region in 2005 through campaigning against Carmel-Agrexco. Seven British activists were taken to court for blockading Agrexco's UK depot. They argued that the company was complicit in crimes committed by Israel and called witnesses from the Tubas region.

Many on the delegation are involved in solidarity activities back home, but as Cobham commented, "Although I have read hundreds of accounts of everything I am now experiencing, nothing had quite prepared me for the reality behind the words."

Even by Palestinian standards the events of this week could be described as heavy. The delegation visited a school that was built in August in Upper Fasayil, with the help of two volunteers from Brighton. They discovered that it had already received a demolition order. All building work, including repairs, is prohibited without a permit from the Israeli authorities. Palestinians in 95 percent of the Jordan Valley have been prohibited from building anything at all since 1967. The school building project was an act of defiance by people who would not accept the gradual destruction of their community. The people of Fasayil say if the school is demolished they will simply build it again.

The delegation had planned to help farmers harvest their olives. Seventy-five percent of Palestinians are economically dependent on this crop, but again this week the army refused anyone to cross the apartheid wall and so they all waited in vain. By denying access the Israeli state can then deem land to be "uncultivated," which results in further annexation of land by illegal Israeli settlements.

Later in the week, the delegation joined a demonstration against a land seizure in al-Masra'a, where settlers have recently planted vines on villagers' fields. Israeli settlers and soldiers shot at the demonstrators as they ran from the demonstration. Three were arrested and held for over thirty hours in the "punishment block" of Ramla women's prison, Tel Aviv. Sarah Cobham, 42, amongst those arrested, said:

"A settler pointed a gun at us and threatened to kill us and then we were taken away. During my time in Palestine I have seen the heartache on the faces of the families of many Palestinian ex-prisoners and the hollow looks in the eyes of those who have been incarcerated. Sitting in a cell, with no way of contacting the outside world, I began to grasp the enormity of what they had been telling me."

The following day, al-Masra'a suffered a violent reprisal for the demonstration. Settlers uprooted and burnt olive trees, destroyed crops, attacked houses and beat villagers. The next day thirty people from the village were rounded up and arrested.

How can a small group of UK citizens make sense of what they have experienced in the occupied territories? "At a school in Tubas the children asked us if we had an occupation in London, whether there was a wall in Brighton and why we [the UK] exported arms to Israel." Such questions, and bearing witness to the myriad of daily brutalities, brings the need for real solidarity action into sharp focus. Several of those in Palestine this week are involved with a long running, determined and innovative campaign to shut down a Brighton company, EDO-MBM, which makes components for missiles used in the region. What greater motivation to continue their struggle here than seeing with their own eyes the results of the arms trade. Lucy Collins explains, "When a delegation from Tubas came to Brighton earlier this year they were amazed and happy when we took them to our weekly demonstration outside the factory. Rather than feel helpless in the face of what we have seen, or just raise money for a charity we are more determined than ever to continue with the 'Boycott Israel' campaign and with exposing companies like Carmel Agrexco and EDO-MBM."

On their return the group will be giving talks on their experiences and the many ways to struggle in solidarity with the Palestinian people.