19/5/12 - 2/6/12 73 °F
Writing this after our group de-brief tonight, where several people expressed despair after these last several days of consistently bad news about how much the situation has deteriorated. Our leader Phillip Farrah was quite pleased to hear about Spokane's participation in the Maia Project of the Middle East Children's Alliance because it is a valuable piece of work that not only achieves something concrete, it also Accomplishes something that helps mitigate the helplessness we feel - we will share it more comprehensively in coming end-of-day meetings.
I'm filled with so many thoughts, all wanting to be spoken first!
- the sense of "despair" or "hopelessness" - Myrta and I were able to talk a bit about this, and both feel that rather than taking on that despair, we must look at the situation differently. A just resolution is further away than we thought it might be, but it is not hopeless unless all involved are dead.
- and remembering our conversation with Emma's Revolution, that "hopelessness" is a western privilege. If people in struggle give up, they die.
- we have to keep on keeping on, find ways to do our work differently, come to terms with the fact that resolution is further away than we had hoped.
- we have to keep doing the work regardless our opinion about our ability to achieve change, for if nothing else, we provide the shoulders on which will stand the ones who DO achieve justice here.
We left for a long bus ride south across the Negev Desert, to visit the town of Sderot, which has experienced the rockets occasionally shot across the border by militants in Gaza. Were able to go to what's called Gaza Overlook afterwards. Climbed a tower where we could look across the landscape and see Gaza. I didn't look at a map so am not sure if it was Gaza City.
We weren't there more than 2 minutes before three fully loaded army jeeps came speeding across to us. They told us we had to leave because it was "very dangerous" here and one person said they were told there is a sniper here "pointing right at you". I though that was quite strange. If it was true, it could only have been an Army sniper. But I don't even believe that.
We did leave because we had Palestinians on the bus with us and it was they who would pay the price for any "attitude" from us.
So, Sderot: listened to Israeli woman Nomika Zion, who has lived in Sderot for 25 years in the collective community of which she is an original member.
She spoke of the "Safe Room" in her house that is a bomb shelter, and said the State requires all homes built in Israel to have one. GIVen the way the state has chosen to live with its neighbors, it probably makes sense.
The idea of all Jewish Israelis having a "safe room", when Palestinians are the ones under rather constant bombardment is ironic beyond bearing. What privilege, and what fear-mongering.
She seemed a good woman, and certainly is a brave woman, for she has always spoken out against Israel's attacks on Gaza. She spoke for a long time about what it is like there, how they had good Palestinian friends from Gaza for many years, and how people on both sides of the border once crossed regularly to shop and visit in each other's towns.
She was honest about Israel breaking various cease fires, and of her conflict as Summer Rains 2006 and Cast Lead 2009/10 happened. She said she had to support her army even though she was against the attacks. She called them wars, but in fact, they were not - only Israel had weapons of war, and used them mercilessly.
She had much to say about the agony of living under the stress of the rockets for several years, and that she and many in her community became quite depressed, and most of them went to therapy and she spoke of this at great length. I could not help but compare the lives of Palestinians who have lived for 45 years with periodic military attacks, spending long periods of time not knowing if they will see their children again when they leave the house, not knowing whether their home will still be standing when they come home from work....... and on and on and on and on.
I understand the danger of comparing hardships, but I was not the only one struck by the uncomfortable disparity.
One of our folks asked whether Israelis are talking about BDS but the question was interpreted by Nomika as a question about whether she herself supported it - quite a different question, but given how she heard it, she was obviously uncomfortable even talking about it. That new law outlawing support for BDS is clearly chilling conversation about it. She did mention "boycotting settlement products", but it was altogether an unsatisfactory exchange.
A member of her housing collective who had been in the Peace movement 30 years ago told her the sound of the bombing of Gaza was music to him, and that he loved it.
All in all, I believe her to be a brave woman, doing all she believes she can. I wish her well.
I came away quite sickened.
To Sabeel, in the E. Jerusalem neighborhood of Shof'at. It's an organization founded by and for Palestinian Christians, but does much work without regard to religion.
Listened to Cedar, a woman about 65 years, a co-founder of Sabeel and a co-author of Kairos Document, who spoke of her own experience.
She said she had no good news to share, but that she never gives up hope, for they simply can not. This touched on a consistent, underlying theme we've come across each day, and we will spend significant time with that in discussion, for it's critical.
- She spoke about Palestinian Liberation Theology and its (and Kairos') support for BDS, and reminded us that she can be arrested for speaking her
support for it, but told us why it was important.
- said that an EU study showed that "investment in Palestine is being demolished by Israel", that there is no use investing in Palestine for this reason. BDS much better action;
- she also spoke of environmental concerns, some of which are addressed in their latest newsletter, available online at http://www.sabeel.org/cornerstone.php - Dec. 2011 issue
Cedar was 12 years old the year of the Nakba, born in Haifa, talked about the ships she saw bringing immigrants from Europe. Many around her were saying "they'll take over our country" while others, like a doctor she knew, said "these are refugees, and we must welcome them, for they need a safe place to live." She thought then "I want to be on the side of the doctor."
- She remembers Deir Yassin - now a neighborhood by another name in Jerusalem) and remembers hearing the calls on the radio "flee or you will meet the same fate as Deir Yassin".
- She remembers that the Jewish militia Haganah rolled barrels of explosives down the steep street where she lived, and the day it hit the house just above hers, and seeing them pour gasoline down that hill, and set it afire. When people came out of their homes to quench the fire, they were shot dead.
<B>Recognizing Israel, and recognizing Israel's right to exist.</B>
In 1988 the Arab League recognized Israel.
That was not enough - Israel demanded Palestinians recognize Israel's "Right to Exist", which would also say to the world that Israel had the right to force them from their homes, confiscate their land, etc. but in 1993, Yassir Arafat did just that. Again, not enough. Now Israel says Palestinians "must recognize Israel's Right to Exist as a Jewish State', while at the same time not defining its own borders.
- Interesting information about who goes to the borders: Cedar told us that Israel settles Jews of color (Misrahim, North African Jews, Ethiopian jews) on what they consider to be "vulnerable" borders.
They are encouraged to squat, and then, after a couple of years, if "white" (Ashkenazi) Jews are moving into the neighborhood, Israel evicts the squatters.
- "Gaza is a new Nakba"
- Because Christians are leaving in high numbers (they are, as a rule, in the higher income levels), she is "afraid that Christianity will die in the land where it started".
- 80-85% of Israeli Jews are secular, yet the country is ruled by religious law.
Changes in American President's "attitudes:
Carter: "the Jewish-only settlements are illegal"
Reagan: "the Settlements are obstacles to peace"
Clinton: "the Settlements are unhelpful"
G.W. Bush: "the settlements are outposts"
Cedar said "We (Palestinians) are now at an impasse, where whatever we do is wrong. If we go into negotiations, Israel ever negotiates and settlements expand. If we refuse to negotiate, we earn globazl ill will and the settlements expand.
WHAT CAN AMERICANS DO?
- spread the story
- write to your congressman (I feel strongly this is useful only to keep the issue alive in their minds, and that we should not waste much time doing it).
- Support BDS. She says Israel will not move unless we make it too costly to continue the status quo.