Sunday, May 30, 2010

90 Days of: "Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem" - Reflections

I just finished watching Day 90 - Parts A and B - of Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem through You Tube.

The 90 days of daily videos were an incredible education for me in many ways. Seeing so many Palestinian people in so many settings has helped expand my understanding of so many different things related to Palestinians and Israelis and Americans as well as Moslems, Jews and various other religions that are in the West Bank and Gaza Areas as well as in Jerusalem.

While the series is/was seemingly not "political" in nature, inevitably the politics of life in Palestine and Israel was most important in the words and pictures I've taken in.

I return in my head over and over and over again to images - which link - Palestine with Apartheid and South Africa as well as Slavery and the oppressions which followed it in the United States. There are so, so many parallels - between how Palestinians are scapegoated and blamed for what has been done to them.

I have a mixture of emotions: sadness, anger and a general state of uneasiness. I do not expect that Most Americans will see the importance of a free and strong Palestine in their world(s).

It seems obvious to me that IF - a new and just peace were established through Israel and the United States either Honestly helping make possible or through international pressure forcing things to change that so many other things could more easily be dealt with. Obvious examples include: "International Terrorism" in general, the oppressive regimes of many, if not most other states in the Middle East, as well as Pakistan, a most dangerous place in today's world. Obviously Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Iran might either develop in alternate more accepting ways or at the very least be forced or able to deal with their own problems.

It is unfortunate that in the United States we both have a history of hurting others, while at the same time proclaiming our being "the best", better than others in the world. It is not enough to say that we are "better" than the worst of the rest of the world. We need to change our history (as it develops) so that the destruction of Native Americans, Slavery, as well as the many, many governments we've overthrown. In Iran - our efforts in the 1950's until the Shah was overthrown in the late 1970's - lead in so many ways to what is going on there now. Our actions in Cuba lead to Castro and his Cuban Revolution. We fail to see the good things that Castro did in Cuba such as creating a health care system for the people, which we still don't have in the U.S.

Understanding Palestinians through listening and caring is new to most of us. Hopefully we will start to see them as people, with needs and desires not that different from ours.

I hope that over time I will find other kindred spirits to communicate with related to Palestine. There is a US coalition of groups committed to peace through: - The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Locally there is: Jewish Voice for Peace - an excellent group of fellow concerned (mostly) Jewish people.

I would always welcome individuals who would like to share ideas and perspectives in a respectful, caring way! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Respect and Coexistence - an Alternate Perspective

Episode 85 of the excellent You Tube series: "Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem" had a dramatically different, interesting perspective as a leader of Naturei Karta ( ) was interviewed in Jerusalem. From their website it states: "The name was given to a group of Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem who refused (and still refuse) to recognize the existence or authority of the so-called "State of Israel" and made (and still make) a point of publicly demonstrating their position, the position of the Torah and authentic unadulterated Judaism."

These people believe that the "State of Israel" can only be established when the Messiah returns. This traditional Jewish (religious) perspective had adherents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel living peacefully with their Arab neighbors, though the growing tensions after World War I inevitably affected them. The rabbi and his wife were interviewed eloquently expressing their desires to live respecting the lives of their Palestinian neighbors and potentially within a Palestinian State.

As I've watched many episodes of the You Tube series I've learned quite a few new terms such as:

"martyr" which would translate into "terrorist who'd been killed by Israeli forces" in my good old days I grew up in and of course "settler", the Jewish residents of West Bank settlements.

As I watch more and more I increasingly have images both of traditional segregation and racism in the United States and of the former apartheid of South Africa.

The link between these was clearly shown in the recent Sleepless episode. The Orthodox Jews of Mea Shearim (in Naturei Karta) respect those they see as "different" such as Palestinians. They do Not see themselves as "better than" these people, allowing them to dictate how the others should live. They want the freedom to live their own lives in their religious community without interference. (I would note that their biggest difficulties and conflicts often are with Jewish and/or Israeli authorities who either support "secular Judiasm" or from their perspective distort their religious rules/lives.)

In contrast to this perspective The Settlers, Israeli military/political establishment, American political establishment and many others rarely see Palestinians as their/our equals. Palestinians are expected to leave where their families have lived for generations and "go with the Arabs" (e.g. in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, etc.)

When we look at other issues, this issue of respect pushes forward so easily. Arizonans with "accents" when speaking English are somehow "wrong", despite both the facts that Arizona was originally in Mexico, a Spanish speaking country as well as the fact that we have: Southern accents, New York accents, Bostonian accents, "hillbilly" accents as well as British accents we hear frequently.

We are both a "Christian" and "English speaking" country in the U.S. according to the views of many. The Native Americans who were here before both the Christians and English speakers have no such rights to dictate how we live. We are "basically good" and the country that should be emulated by the rest of the world despite: the genocide Native Americans experience here, the history of slavery and segregation and inequality towards Black Americans, the nuclear explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and other things that have been done in our name.

Palestinians will not find peace until or unless there is respect and acceptance of them. Iran and Iraq will not have peace until we and they find respect and acceptance of each other. North Korea and Pakistan and other countries face similar issues. Some of these issues are more complex than others, but they all require us to respect and support others.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Respect and Perhaps Pain

If I respect others (Women, People of Color, Differently Abled People, Children, Iraqi's, Iranians, or even others whose political beliefs are different than mine) I must listen to their voices and really hear them as individual people. To respect them I Acknowledge that they have Feelings. To respect them I readily see that they are "important" just as my family and friends are "important".

When I am hurting, my pain may affect how I respond to others. IF I let this Pain excuse how I treat others in negative ways, I may Not Respect Others. To do this I also do Not Respect Myself.

There is a big difference between expressing our hurts, our pain, our anger and more and Not respecting Others. Feeling Angry or Hurt by the words and actions of Others does Not justify losing respect.

It can be difficult to respect Others (e.g. Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Americans such as Glenn Beck or for some Barack Obama). When we let our feelings related to our Perceptions of the actions of such people to allow us to lose Respect for them, they often are no longer "human" or even "real" to us as individual people.

I can not suggest that we "love" everyone! When we don't respect those we perceive as our "enemies", we can lose layers of our own humanity. Channeling our fears and anger is important. Confronting Racism, Sexism, Militarism and "rude behavior" is important. How we do it can affect others around us as well as how we are as individual people.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Confronting the Opposition

While I can appreciate the discomfort of some Tea Partyites and others and resulting glee of those in opposition to the recent statements of Kentucky Senatorial candidate Rand Paul, I'm also reminded of the traps that we so easily fall into in such areas.

Yelling at and ridiculing those whose beliefs are much different than ours may raise our morale at times, but it rarely helps us bring about lasting change.

Bringing about change requires grassroots work with others, respecting them and helping them respect us. Oft times in political areas we much reach those "in the middle" as well as motivating others to work seriously with us. Such work is much slower than the sound bites of ridicule, but rarely does the ridicule help us more than momentarily.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reflecting Forward and Backwards

Today, on my 59th birthday, I went out and ran a little longer than the past few days. It was early (cooler) and I felt stronger and much better than on previous days when my legs felt heavy and immobile. While I'm a long way from being in good running shape, I can see that with a cooler, less humid climate and work I can get back into running shape. It won't be the shape I was in when younger, but...

It feels funny to say that I'm 59. It feels like 40-45 was a long time ago, but am I really "that old"? It feels like I'm in a transition, but it is unclear where I'm moving both from and to. Thankfully it feels relaxing and not pressured.

I feel happy to have others who are so kind to me, despite all my weaknesses and flaws.

I'm happy that today is also my son's 23rd birthday. He's running his first half-marathon in Chicago where he lives starting in a little less than half an hour. I'm proud of all that he's done, and hopeful that the economy based threats to his job will in the end dissipate. He's been very successful as a first year science teacher as well as coaching cross country and track. More importantly he's a good person growing into adulthood.

I wonder about the immediate future. My cell phone rang at 3:40 a.m. (12:40 a.m. West Coast Time) and I couldn't get it in time to answer it. "Restricted Number" Could it be my mother or even about my mother. My mother just turned 83, and my step-father's 88th birthday was last month. B's mother will turn 87 in a few days.

I've been lucky in so many ways, despite my miss-steps and questionable doings and not doings in my earlier life. I enjoy being retired very much! My duplicate bridge playing has grown. I'm no longer a so-so player, having moved to being a moderately good player. It feels good to place in not-high level competition at least 2/3 of the time. I enjoy reading and playing around on the computer. Exercising at the gym and elsewhere continues to be most enjoyable.

I hope, despite so much evidence to the contrary, that Peace in the Middle East will break out - with changing tides among increasing numbers of American Jews as well as others in Europe and elsewhere. It is sad to me that so many people don't read and understand history and realities of the present in more thoughtful, deep ways. While I can enjoy some movies and a little television I don't confuse the fantasies of escapism from some of the often simple realities we all face in our daily lives.

I hope that Barack Obama will grow as a leader and assert himself for some of the "liberal" causes that he espoused recently, despite the barrage of recent manure that has shown the racism and short-sightedness of so many. I also hope that more of us will see the need to reflect and grow: as men, learning how to better relate to the worlds of women, children and other men; as White People in a world that is increasingly multi-cultural; as Americans in a world where, despite being "so strong" we often are out-of-touch and at times irrelevant to the worlds around us.

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

"Anti-Semitism Here?" - I think NOT!

At Berkeley, moral victory despite divestment vote loss
Dina Omar, The Electronic Intifada, 3 May 2010

On 28 April, University of California, Berkeley's Student Senate narrowly missed an historic opportunity to divest its funds from United Technologies and General Electric which manufacture F-16 jets and Apache helicopters -- weapons sold to the Israeli military and used against civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

More than a month earlier, on 18 March 2010, the Student Senate approved a bill (SB118A) to divest from companies that provide military support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. UC Berkeley student body president Will Smelko vetoed SB118A a week later, and the bill was voted on again on 14 April and 28 April was the last debate considering the bill. However, the count was one vote short of the two-thirds majority (14 votes) needed to override the veto.

The battle at Berkeley -- part of a global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions of apartheid Israel -- was closely watched. Speakers for the bill on 28 April and on 14 April included UC Berkeley faculty members Judith Butler, Daniel Boyarin, Hatem Bazian, law professor George Bisharat of UC Hastings and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Richard Falk along with testimonies of Palestinian students living under Israeli occupation.

Notable personalities and dozens of activist groups on campus and around the world strongly supported the resolution. More than 40 student groups representing a variety of ethnic groups and political interests joined the call on the university to divest its funds from companies profiting from Israel's war crimes.

More than 100 UC faculty members, 45 from UC Berkeley, signed a statement supporting overriding the presidential veto. Prominent thinkers such as Naomi Klein, Alice Walker and five Nobel Peace Prize Laureates -- among them Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- supported UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine in their efforts to uphold the divestment bill.

Nobel Women Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Jody Williams issued a Statement of Support reading: "We stand united in our belief that divesting from companies that provide significant support for the Israeli military provides moral and strategic stewardship of tuition and taxpayer-funded public education money."

However, the tremendous amount of support for SB118A was not enough to override the veto.

According to a report in the Jewish Daily Forward, the Berkeley chapter of Hillel organized closed meetings for the student senators with representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Community Relations Council, J Street and Akiva Tor, the Israeli consul general of San Francisco ("How To Beat Back Israel Divestment Bill: Get Organized," 21 April 2010).

Some senators received threatening e-mails and Senator Emily Carlton told the Forward: "'There were undertones of intimidation'" during the meeting organized by Hillel. Three student senators reversed their votes over the course of multiple senate meetings and extensive lobbying efforts.

Waseem Salahi, a UC Berkeley student and senator-elect, questioned the influence of powers that be: "The senators knew what was right, but decided instead to cow to political pressure and intimidation." After the bill missed passage by one vote, international students expressed their dismay about attending a university that continues to actively support the oppression of their family members and friends overseas.

In support of the bill UC Berkeley alum Basima Sisemore told the student senators a moving story about her two-year-old cousin who died at an Israeli checkpoint in the occupied West Bank because he was turned away while in need of medical attention.

The final speaker and visiting scholar from Palestine, Ibrahim Shikaki, drew a standing ovation from the audience by when he challenged the senators, saying: "the narrative that has captured you is the same that named Nelson Mandela and Malcom X terrorists. If that is the case, then I am a proud, indigenous, Palestinian freedom fighter, because that is what we are. Rethink your terminology, rethink your narrative, rethink injustice and rethink this veto."

Once it was clear the veto was going to be upheld, despite the wishes of the 700 students, educators and community members supporting the bill, the supporters exited the room with their mouths covered in tape in a gesture meant to convey that their voices had been silenced by the veto.

Senator Rahul Patel, who supported the bill from the beginning, invited student supporters to raise their left fist in the air and to walk out. Patel said their fists raised symbolized "The seeds of truth and freedom that we have sowed tonight."

Hundreds of students walked out of the meeting, and reconvened outside to share their feelings about the vote. UC Berkeley and SJP alum Sophia Ritchie said: "Something has shifted -- in the discourse, in the sheer numbers of people who are concerned, in the solidarity work and coalition building amongst a broad and truly diverse range of student and community groups, in the energy around Palestine -- that cannot be ignored. In this way, we are winning."

Dina Omar is a UC Berkeley graduate student in Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology. The author is a member of SJP and a poet and currently works as the membership coordinator for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

Saturday, May 01, 2010 - Episode 60 - of: "Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem" - The You Tube Video - Episode 61 is the latest of 90 daily videos as I write now.

In the first half of this episode a Palestinian man was interviewed at his house. The house has apparently been owned by his family since prior to his birth. The front porch and only entrance to the house is in Jerusalem. The inside of the house is in The West Bank.

This man and his family have been assigned "West Bank" identity cards. It is illegal for them to be in Jerusalem. At one point several busloads of people in their area were arrested and held for a good part of a day because it was alleged that they had to have violated the law in entering their houses (from Jerusalem).

The man's grown child has a Jerusalem identity card. Their spouse has a West Bank identity card. If the Jerusalem identified adult moves with their spouse to the West Bank they will lose their Jerusalem identity card and any rights to be in Jerusalem. Their young child has not been assigned an identity card at all.

This really makes a lot of sense! Thanks!