I’ve publicly declared that I won’t give up on you and I intend to keep to my resolution. You keep on asking how not playing in Israel will help the situation. You seem to believe that you are nothing but a 4 minute escape for people (the majority of which, as I explained in my last letter, are soldiers). I believe in each of our endless ability to change the reality around us. But in order to do so, we need to see the reality for what it is. This is what my letters to you are about. This is what the 20 Days to Macy Gray Facebook Project is about. It’s an opportunity for people to empower each other. I hope you’ll allow us to bring back your faith in yourself, that your voice matters, and that you can change this harsh world for the better, for the long run, and not only for the 4 minute duration of a song.
New Year’s greetings from Mohammad Khatib, one of the remaining Bil’in popular committee leaders:
At the threshold of the New Year, I write to wish you a new year of freedom and liberation. This has been an unbelievable year for me in both highs and lows. A year during which I have witnessed how, despite repression, ordinary people all across Palestine take to the streets for freedom.
The following is the statement of Gaza Youth Breaks Out. It was posted on facebook and there’s no website to be found (yet?), note there are contact links at the bottom. So for everyone’s benefit and with much respect, I repost it here in full:
We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.
Abu Rahmah has yet to be released. Through his lawyer, he was able to pass on a very loaded message; From the details of his arrest and the stalling of his release, to the impact on his family, to the impact on the village, to prison torture of children, to military court violations, to support for BDS and implementation of international law. The letter was published in full, in the Huffington Post and I bring it to you in full. This is what hope in spite of apartheid looks like:
A year ago tonight, on International Human Rights Day, our apartment
in Ramallah was broken into by the Israeli military in the middle of
the night and I was torn away from my wife Majida, my daughters Luma
and Layan, and my son Laith, who at the time was only nine months
A visit to the occupied territories of Palestine can change one’s perspectives forever. Such was the case of Anna Baltzer. Baltzer is a Jewish-American granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. In 2002, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Ankara, Turkey and soon after volunteered with the International Women’s Peace Service in the West Bank. There she was exposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She documented human rights abuses for the IWPS, returned to Palestine/Israel over the years, and published her experiences in a book called “A Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories.”
Baltzer is a leading human rights activist on the Mideast and travels across the country to raise awareness about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Her appearance on “The Daily Show” with Palestinian human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti was instrumental in raising awareness about life under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I caught up with Baltzer and we discussed several topics including her “The Daily Show” appearance; occupation myths; Israeli apartheid and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign; and the Mideast peace talks in Washington, DC.
BURLINGTON, VT- Greetings from the Green Mountain State! I want to give a shout out to those who participated in a successful night of activism. Several activists leafleted 249 people attending last night’s Israeli Ballet performance at the Flynn Theater.
The leaflet asked “Would you like some information about Don Quixote and the Israel Ballet?” — which was an accurate presentation of last night’s performance. “Israel’s ‘Golden Helmet of Mambrino’ — which makes one invisible, thus capable of all actions — is slowly turning into Don Quixote’s version of it — a upside-down shaving bowl plopped on the head — incapable of nothing but making its wearer more obvious and actionable to the world. Brand Israel will continue to call forth increasing protests as audiences realize they are being used,” said author and activist Marc Estrin.
The headline said “A Modern Don Quixote.” Estrin said almost all ballet-goers accepted it, even those glancing at the opening before continuing into the theater. There are no trash cans inside the actual theater, so he assumes most flyers made it to people’s seats for reading before the show began. Estrin said one elderly man “came all the way out again to present us with a crumpled up ball with instructions to ‘shove this up your ass,’ but the other 249 copies all made it in.”
The other highlight was one Israeli and three Vermonters unfurled a banner during the performance. Check out the YouTube Vimeo below the fold!
The Zionists are prisoners of a bad dream: they must first free themselves, break free from the prison in which they can only play the part of tormentors, if they and especially their Palestinian victims are to live normal lives.
M. Shahid Alam
On January 12, the New York Times carried an article by David Brooks on Jews and Israel. It so caught my eye, I decided to bring its conservative author to my class on the economic history of the Middle East. I sent my students the link to this article, asked them to read it carefully, and come to the next class prepared to discuss and dissect its contents.
My students recalled various parts of the NYT article but no one could explain its substance. They recalled David Brooks’ focus on the singular intellectual achievements of American Jews, the enviable record of Israeli Jews as innovators and entrepreneurs, the mobility of Israel’s innovators, etc. One student even spoke of what was not in the article or in the history of Jews – centuries of Jewish struggle to create a Jewish state in Palestine.
But they offered no comments about Brooks’ motivation. Why had he decided to brag about Jewish achievements, a temptation normally eschewed by urbane Jews. In my previous class, while discussing Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, I had discussed how knowledge is suborned by power, how it is perverted by tribalism, and how Western writers had crafted their writings about the Middle East to serve the interests of colonial powers. Not surprisingly, this critique had not yet sunk in.
I coaxed my students, asking them directly to explore if David Brooks had an axe (or more than one) to grind. Was there an elephant in the room they had missed? What was the subtext of the op-ed?
You possess the world’s fourth most powerful military according to your own estimates, yet find yourself delegitimized in the international arena, unable to impose control over either your perceived enemies, or your internal settler-anarchist “brothers”. You are desperately arresting nonviolent leaders that resist your military occupation while also fearing for the travel plans of your leaders implicated in war crimes. It would seem current events are spiraling out of your grasp. How do you reverse this worrying order of events?
A hint was provided Saturday morning when a joint Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Shin Bet raid killed three alleged members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, one of two groups that claimed responsibility for the recent murder of a settler near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, two of the three shooting deaths by the IDF were carried out like executions, and eyewitness testimony alleges the two victims were executed from close range once identified, despite putting up no resistance. A senior IDF official lent support to these testimonies when he told Israel Radio that the militants had not fired on the IDF troops and that two of the dead were known to have been unarmed at the time. However, he explained that they were assassinated because they were believed to be responsible for the settler’s death. In response B’Tselem called for an army investigation into the allegations of extrajudicial execution.
Asimple google search with the words “Palestinian violence” yields over 86,000 pages, while a search with the words “Palestinian civil disobedience” generates only 47 pages.
Sometime in 1846, Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail because he refused to pay his taxes. This was his way of opposing the Mexican-American War as well as the institution of slavery. A few years later he published the essay Civil Disobedience, which has since been read by millions of people, including many Israelis and Palestinians.
Kobi Snitz read the book. He is an Israeli anarchist who is currently serving a 20 day sentence for refusing to pay a 2,000 shekel fine.
Thirty-eight year-old Snitz was arrested with other activists in the small Palestinian village of Kharbatha back in 2004 while trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a prominent member of the local popular committee. The demolition, so it seems, was carried out both to intimidate and punish the local leader who had, just a couple of weeks earlier, began organizing weekly demonstrations against the annexation wall. Both the demonstrations and the attempt to stop the demolition were acts of civil disobedience.
George Mitchell is in Israel/Palestine as the White House’s special envoy, in a visit described as “a final push to revive Middle East peace talks”. The focus remains on Israel’s so –called settlement ‘freeze’, with Mitchell reported as saying that there was still work to be done on the “Israeli-American dispute over construction in the West Bank”. Ahead of his meeting with Mitchell today, Netanyahu has confirmed that there will not be a “complete halt to building” in the settlements, telling a Knesset committee that “a reduction on building in Judea and Samaria will only be for a limited period”.
The ‘freeze’ is the latest warmed-up gimmick to be offered by the international community’s peace process’, though even by the standards of previous efforts such as the ‘Road Map’ and ‘Annapolis’, the settlement freeze is transparently lacking in seriousness. The Israeli government’s definition of a ‘freeze’ excludes: settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem; 2,500 housing units already under construction; and, hundreds of new units just recently announced.
That the ‘freeze’ will last in the region of six to nine months is rather academic, given that it will make no difference to this year’s total settlement housing consolidation compared to previous years. As Ha’aretz pointed out, “instead of construction permits being given gradually throughout the year, the government intends to issue hundreds of permits within a few days, before the official announcement of the “freeze” is made”.
Even the PM’s spokesperson Mark Regev has found it hard to spin what Deputy PM Eli Yishai has called merely a “strategic delay”. The new construction in West Bank colonies ahead of the ‘freeze’ Regev argued was a case of doing something now to “actually make progress possible tomorrow”. MK Nissim Ze’ev, visiting a settlement outpost, felt no need to resort to such contortions, encouraging the settlers that there is “no one in the government who doesn’t want more and more construction throughout Judea and Samaria”, but that owing to tensions with the US, there are currently “limitations”. Continue reading “Peace propaganda and the Israeli consensus”