Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Being Honest - and Realistic

My step-son was "30 seconds" late for school yesterday and the school had its usual response (email and phone call about the brutal deed). Yesterday he also did a "good deed" reporting to the office a car's turn signal being on along the school. Were these extenuating circumstances where a parent should intervene?

My partner and step-son are nearly always "on the edge" of being on time to school. The idea of leaving a few minutes early regularly so that he'd be there five minutes early is a totally foreign concept (e.g. a waste of precious time and an impossibility). He's been a few minutes late before.

Playing competitive bridge with a regular partner he told me that I shouldn't have corrected an opponent when s/he conceded the last trick of the hand to me. In fact s/he shouldn't have lost that trick (e.g. if s/he simply played their card they would win the trick). I told my partner that I wouldn't be dishonest in such situations (period).

We often face situations in life where we make choices as to how we view things. How we look at them shapes how we respond.

I find that I tend to look at situations and say to myself:

1.) Is there an issue of principle here in this moment?
2.) Does this really matter?
3.) Am I:
a. 100% right?
b. 100% wrong?
c. Mostly right?
d. Mostly wrong?
e. Partially at fault - unclear as to amount?
f. Is there no "right" or "wrong" here - but it matters to the other person?
g. Other - ?

I try to think of the situation and the other person and look at How important it is that I "win" or not. What lessons are here for me (and for the other person(s))?

Feelings certainly matter!

I also think of how we can work towards the future on the itsy bitsy issue and the larger issues that I see.

How can we move to both be assertive and to work at a micro level towards a better world of communication and compromises?

Thank you!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

46 Days of Palestinian Videos

I have now watched 46 days of videos on You Tube of “Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem” . Six days a week Palestinian women (primarily media producers) in Jerusalem, Gaza and Ramallah are videotaped talking with Palestinian people in various settings. While certainly the videos are “political” they also tell a story which a critical viewer can not readily ignore. They expose life in its complexities amongst Palestinians. They show the diversity of the people of the West Bank and Gaza.

The more that I watch the more that I feel a variety of things including shame, anger, admiration, sadness and much more.

Before I began watching the videos I was not aware that Gaza had an educated middle class population as well as people in poverty. I’ve also learned of different communities within the West Bank such as the Samaritans, whose religious faith seems closer to Judiasm than to Islam.

It seems increasingly obvious to me that the Israeli leadership unfortunately either does not want a peaceful permanent settlement with the Palestinians or is so scared of Palestinians per se, that nothing will convince them of genuine cooperation from “the other side”. In either case, it clearly is a situation where the status quo will not change for the better without increasing pressures to force serious negotiations on the part of the Israeli leadership.

It also seems obvious that “peace” is more than creating borders (which is most difficult in of itself). Peace is a recognition that the Palestinian people are the equals of the Jews of Israel. The situation seems clearly similar to how the dominant feelings were in the U.S. amongst White People in relation to Blacks in perhaps the late 1940’s. At that time talking of “freedom” for Black people did Not mean that a Black person would have the right to buy a house next door to a White person. That was “radical” and not realistic.

Today it is “radical” to deem Palestinian needs for water and other resources as being equal to those of the Israeli Jews.

Absent a radical shift in Israeli perspectives whereby Palestinians are miraculously turned into people who accept Palestinians as – “just like us”, building a future peace is in some ways much more complex.

There is a now a total paradox between two conflicting “realities”. With Israel so powerful and Palestinians in a weak position, seemingly Palestinians will need to compromise greatly on whatever is “reasonable” to achieve a true peace.

At the same time the combination of Israeli superiority complexes and their fears of Palestinians requires that Palestinians have a very secure, established state established where Israeli interference in internal affairs Can Not be carried out (as is done today).

It is often stated in the Israeli and American presses that the Palestinians and Arabs have repeatedly been shown to be “untrustworthy” and worse. What is not said is how the increasing apartheid or similar on the West Bank builds upon pre-existing feelings and makes peace more and more difficult to achieve.

Clearly any peace agreement will require that the West Bank be a single, contiguous Palestinian country, with No Israeli “islands” within it. IF there are to be any sites that Israelis maintain access to and partial control over they will need to be under the ultimate control of the Palestinian State. Israel’s recent track record has shown unfortunately that it can not be trusted to be fair and accepting and just to the Palestinians.

Perhaps 15 years ago it might have been possible for some small areas to remain under Israeli control surrounded by a Palestinian State. Ironically now as Israel expands its settlements trying to create “new realities” it seals future possibilities. The choices are either a total Apartheid and a state of permanent near war if not low level combat or a very clearly separated two state solution. (One can only hope that with a two state solution that continued trade and commerce and other existing connections can be continued and developed in new non-exploitative ways.)

It is sad to look back and see how things could have and should have been done differently. Absent the corrupt and ignorant leadership of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Israel might well have come to be a much smaller state than it now is. Absent the poor leadership of the neighboring Arab countries, peace might have been possible before the 1967 War.

It is easy to see how some of the Arabs of the Middle East have made mistakes and helped, particularly going back many years, in helping allow things to get bad for the Palestinian cause. One can also readily criticize the leadership of Arafat in various ways and use him as an excuse for various failures.

It is more difficult to look back with criticism upon how Israel has become a world military power and the oppressor of an entire people. It is more difficult to see how we as Americans have developed into both the apologist for and the key force preventing peace from developing in the Middle East.

It is fortunate now that President Obama is seeing how Palestine-Israel is a prime impediment to stopping the growth of radical Islam in much of the Muslim world. I can only hope that his insights will lead to real change in U.S. policy, despite the intense pressures in the U.S. to maintain that status quo via Israel and the Palestinians.

Thank you!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter - Jerusalem - etc.

Today is Easter. I am Jewish. In my past life Easter has had meanings limited to trivia – such as having commercially bought Easter chocolate eggs given by others. Pesach – Passover proximate to Easter always carried whatever feelings I had in my past life.

Today I watched several episodes of the You Tube videos: “Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem” (particularly episodes 34A and B) which showed Christian (including Greek Orthodox) attempts at prayers in Jerusalem, the West Bank and finally Gaza from yesterday.

Today I saw much which made me both sad and angry, as well as appreciative of how the spirits of people can continue while they are visibly oppressed by others.

In all the locations I saw Christians, a minority of the Palestinian community, trying to pray and appreciate their historic religious traditions.

In Jerusalem (particularly) the senseless harassment of religious people was most vivid! Christian people were unable to come from the West Bank to pray for Easter because they were “not Israeli citizens” (hardly an acceptance and tolerance of non-Jews).

Yesterday I had seen a Greek Orthodox service from Friday which was beautiful.

Today (yesterday when filmed) the host initially was unable to enter the Old City (of Jerusalem) through the New Gate because it was blocked by Israeli soldiers. She continued in her efforts to get to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a most important site in the history of Christianity. Hundreds of people were waiting and waiting and waiting for the gate to (hopefully) be opened.

The host successfully entered the Damascus Gate, but again her way was blocked as it was to all (who didn’t reside in the blocked area). She continued to try a third way of getting to the area of the Church and it too was blocked. Then a scout band came to the blocked spot. The Israeli authorities let the band go through, also letting the host and her camera person enter.

The host then witnessed the procession from the Church as she had hoped to do.

The other people shown on camera were routinely kept out of the area of the church, regardless of any mitigating factors. There were no stones, no angry words or yelling, no gatherings of young boys or youths who were “threatening”.

On the “other side” (where she was let in) the people were no different from those who were kept out (except those inside had arrived earlier). There was no “security screening” or other such actions.

This was simply (religious) harassment of Palestinians (who were harassed because they are Palestinians) as well as affecting some other pilgrims from outside.

It is obvious that Israeli leadership wants Jerusalem to be “Jewish” which it is not. Jerusalem is both Israeli and Palestinian as well as Jewish, Moslem, Catholic and Greek Orthodox (and other smaller religions).

It seems obvious to me that what has happened recently in the Old City of Jerusalem is a perfect example as to Why any lasting peace settlement can Not simply have Jerusalem as an Israeli (Jewish) City. The “benevolent” (current) leadership will not fairly oversee the needs of the non-Jewish faiths that are also in the Old City. There is no intifada. There is no major unrest.

Where unrest does occur it generally is instigated by Israelis or is in reaction to harsh, unfair measures of the Israelis.

It is unfortunate, but true, that Israel has become “the oppressor”. I can no longer say that it is “radicals” on both sides that prevents peace. That might have been true several decades ago.

I hope that things will change for the better! I can’t imagine this happening until the growing international movements seeking divestment and boycotts of Israel grow. I can’t imagine this happening until the U.S. Government becomes a real mediator, and not a cheerleader for the Israeli Government, occasionally slapping Israel’s hands.

Peace is possible! It isn’t easy and it won’t be easy! Thanks!