A Travellerspoint blog

About "normalization" and "dialogue"

A VERY necessary conversation

So many things still to share - one of the most important, I believe, came up many times as we moved through Palestine, from the Gaza Overlook near Sederot to our stop 7 miles south of Lebanon, and crossing East to West: Normalization, and Dialogue. The thoughts were articulated most clearly by Omar Barghouti, the primary spokesperson in the U.S. for the Boycott, but were heard from others throughout our trip.

Both are related to the Boycott Call from Palestinian Civil Society, which I believe is very important for a full discussion with local groups. I believe Myrta agrees, but will speak only for myself. I believe they are important for us in the U.S. for we, more than in other nations, often find our work bogged down by both concepts, but without the vocabulary to define what we see are often unable to combat it. We in Spokane have experienced several painful instances of this over the years.


Of all the information we gathered, witnessed, discussed on this trip to Palestine, two things stand out for me as most important for us to remember as we work on this issue. One, I've already shared with you: the idea of "steadfastness" in the face of impasse or even defeat.

The other, which we heard over and over again, is the idea of the unacceptability of "normalization" and "dialogue". This is the wording from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI): "the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people."

How does this translate for us in the U.S.? Omar Barghouti, founding member and major spokesperson for the Boycott movement, helped to clarify this for us when we spoke with him in Ramallah.

He mentioned "dialogue" and its role in normalizing the racism and oppression carried out by Israel, indeed inherent in the very concept of a "Jewish State". When we support events or formal discussions about Palestine that do not include a clear statement of opposition, not only to the occupation, but to the racism and discrimination that underlies it, we are "normalizing" the situation. A call for "Two-States" calls for normalizing the situation, for preserving apartheid, racism, inequality.

I suggest those who are interested in, or conflicted by, "dialogue" read "Co-existence vs. Co-resistance: A case Against Normalization" on the PACBI website. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1789

And some of the best discussion I've found outside the PACBI website is from livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com, written by a long-time Australian activist who has spent much time in Palestine:

Normalization in the International Context
In the international arena, normalization does not operate all that differently and follows the same logic.  While the BDS movement targets complicit Israeli institutions, in the case of normalization there are other nuances to consider.  Generally,international supporters of BDS are asked to refrain from participating in any event that morally or politically equates the oppressor and oppressed, and presents the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis as symmetrical. Such an event should be boycotted because it normalizes Israel's colonial domination over Palestinians and ignores the power structures and relations embedded in the oppression.

In all these contexts,"dialogue" and engagement are often presented as alternatives to boycott. "Dialogue", if it occurs outside the resistance framework that we have outlined, becomes dialogue for the sake of dialogue, which is a form of normalization that hinders the struggle to end injustice."Dialogue","healing" and "reconciliation" processes that do not aim to end oppression, regardless of the intentions behind them, serve to privilege oppressive co-existence at the cost of co-resistance, for they presume the possibility of coexistence before the realization of justice. The example of South Africa elucidates this point perfectly, where reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness came after the end of apartheid, not before, regardless of the legitimate questions raised regarding the still existing conditions of what some have called "economic apartheid".

Two Examples of Normalization Efforts: OneVoice and IPCRI
While many, if not most, normalization projects are sponsored and funded by international organizations and governments, many of these projects are operated by Palestinian and Israeli partners, often with generous international funding. The political, often Israel-centered, framing of the "partnership" is one of the most problematic aspects of these joint projects and institutions.

PACBI's analysis of OneVoice, a joint Palestinian-Israeli youth-oriented organization with chapters in North America and extensions in Europe, exposed OneVoice as one more project that brings Palestinians and Israelis together, not to jointly struggle against Israel's colonial and apartheid policies, but rather to provide a limited program of action under the slogan of an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, while cementing Israeli apartheid and ignoring the rights of Palestinian refugees, who compose the majority of the Palestinian people. PACBI concluded that, in essence, OneVoice and similar programs serve to normalize oppression and injustice. The fact that OneVoice treats the "nationalisms" and "patriotisms" of the two "sides" as if on par with one another and equally valid is a telling indicator.  It is worth noting that virtually the entire political spectrum of Palestinian youth and student organizations and unions in the occupied Palestinian territory have unambiguously condemned normalization projects, such as OneVoice. ……… END QUOTE FROM BLOGSPOT.

Posted by mtorres55 09:31 Comments (0)

Home from Palestine, and short thoughts

sunny 70 °F

Home yesterday from the most useful, informative trip to Palestine I can imagine.

Sponsored, as you know, by Interfaith Peace Builders, this one was very different from my earlier trip with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT's trip was a working trip, one that included accompaniment of children, farmers, shepherds under attack or threatened attack by Settlers as much as information-gathering.

This one was straight information, and was so intensely packed every single day that I had very little time for what I had planned to be daily reports. We started each day at either 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and didn't finish until at least 10:00 p.m., which left very little time or even energy for writing. For that, I'm sorry. But the quality and quantity of the contacts we had, the places we went, the breadth of information we gathered was absolutely priceless. I will write a final report in the coming days that I hope will encompass what I was unable to send while "on the road".

Keeping in mind that nearly everyone on this trip is a seasoned Palestine Solidarity activist, the comments I heard most often were variations of "I thought I knew what the situation was, but I had no idea it was this bad" or "it's worse than the last time I was here". Indeed.

We moved around freely inside Palestine, from the "Gaza Overlook" (from which we were chased away by Israeli soldiers who responded to our presence nearly immediately in three jeeps) to seven miles south of Lebanon. We walked through one of the more than 500 destroyed villages from 1948, for which millions of unsuspecting Jewish children saved and sent their money to the Jewish National Fund's "trees for Israel" campaign throughout their childhood having no idea the intent of those trees - to obliterate the existence of those destroyed villages.

We went to a Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills, where a solar project is being carried out by engineers from Anarchists Against the Wall and Palestinian engineers. The village is desperately, desperately poor, but has been destroyed by the Israeli army at least once. It is hard to imagine how human beings in any army could look at that village and be willing to destroy what very little they have.

Also saw the beginnings of a recycling project, learned about a number of environmental projects at Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem.

A visit with a Jewish settler in Sderot near Gaza resulted in mixed reactions and for me and some others, sorrow that though the settler woman was eager to see peace and did not seem to carry ill feelings toward Palestinians, she did not articulate any understanding at all of what her nation has done to Palestinians, or how deeply they suffer, or for how long. The same with a representative of a socialist kibbutz, who spoke at length about the good relations they have with neighboring Palestinian villages (or for him, "Arab" villages - Israelis rarely use the term "Palestinian" for their existence is problematic), but when questioned about Palestinians' lack of equal rights, or injustices done to them, he repeated "…we WON" and suggested, using WWII comparisons, that if they "just surrendered", they could all live in peace.

We learned about the phrase "socially incompatible" as the new way Israel describes and excuses blatant discrimination against Palestinians. Israeli courts have ruled illegal discrimination based on race (!!!) so institutions and individuals now use "socially incompatible" as the reason to keep housing areas, schools, etc Jewish-only.

The most valuable thing for me is what I already wrote about, the concept of Samoud, or steadfastness. You don't look for victories or progress. You simply stay steadfast. You keep working for justice. We can do no less.

Will be writing more descriptive essays in this next week as I wind up thoughts from the trip and begin to work on publicity.

If any of you have reactions to what I've written, I would value your reply.


Posted by mtorres55 09:22 Comments (0)

Return to Palestine 2012 Day 5,6,7,8 Hebron, Tent of Nations

sunny 96 °F

Finally back in Jerusalem again after 4 days and 3 nights gone, with no time the first night to write, and no internet access for most of the rest of the time. And no showers either, if anyone cares.... which we mostly didn't.

It's been an extremely difficult 4 days emotionally and often physically. But before I tell you some of what we did, saw, heard, a couple of other things are important.

Those of you who read my daily reports last time know that I was often overwhelmed emotionally by the sadness and the anger I felt as I experienced the things first hand that I've been learning and talking about for so many years, and that I worried about overwhelming folks with such an intensity of emotion and harshness of life that they would feel paralyzed. I'm always aware of that, and we spoke of it a bit today.

I'd like to recap very briefly some of that thinking because it affects all of us who do this or other difficult work. People have asked how I or Michael can do this work so intensely when it's so sad, the brutality unrelenting, the situation unchanging or deteriorating. Michael said it best, that we simply had no choice. We had do to it because we are aware, and we can.

Today, Joe Groves, one of our IFPB group support, focused it more tightly. He had spent some time with Daoud Nasser, the owner of a mountain top farm called the Tent of Nations, which has been under attack for many years (more about them later). Daoud said (I'm paraphrasing here as it came to me second hand) "you know, despair is contagious. If you just tell your people back home about how hard it is for us here, they, too, will despair. Palestinians need for our supporters to go deeper into whatever grounds them, whether it is faith, ideology, whatever it is, to find what sustains them".

Joe then put a name on what Michael has been saying, and what has keep me sane. "Samoud". Steadfastness. The same steadfastness that has brought Palestinians through this terrible time and kept them determined to keep struggling. Joe said "doing this work is a commitment, and calls for commitment". And this goes for all of you who work on other hard issues: anti-death penalty, anti-war...... The simple belief that the work has to be done, and if we can do a part of it, we must. In the words of one of our travelers who has also been doing this work a long time, "I have faith in the unfolding."

Enough philosophizing -Going to give a little bit about where we went, what we learned. There was SO much packed into these days that there's no way to capture it all without making it a book!

I have found out I can walk up more and longer hills and in far higher temperatures, not to mention more stairs, than I ever thought possible. Bit the dust today in the South Hebron Hills - completely lost my dignity, but all skin and joints intact.

Because this tour focuses on Environmentalism and Susatinability, we have visited a number of organizations who either work in this area, or whose work touches on it.

On Saturday, we went to Nazareth where we first met with Friends of the Earth Middle East, who talked about water and sustainability. Mohammed (I won't be using last names of Palestinians) spoke of water issues that I've spoken about at length before so will only recap using his figures, both of which are slightly higher than those I got inb 2010. He said Israelis use 400 litres per person per day and West Bank (W.B.) Palestinians 120.
Israel does not allow them to collect rainwater in cisterns, and has destroyed them, but they do have a small recycling program here. Recycling is not yet on the radar in Palestine, and, he said, Israelis don't recycle either. I've never heard before whether they do or don't.

From there to the Kibbutz Metzer, near Nazreth, a lush and lovely place. We spoke with Dov whose last name I don't have. He was quite personable, a "lefty" many of us would be happy to share a beer with. His Kibbutz was attacked by a Palestinian at one time and he said five people were killed, but he told us how he maintained his compassion toward his Arab neighbors. But he made it clear that the land is Theirs, saying several times "we won". There was more, but we'll share it when we return.

On to the village of Sakhnin and a tour of destroyed villages. When the state was declared, the Haganah and other militias expelled inhabitants from more than 500 towns and villages. Most were destroyed and left in rubble. Some were left as they were. Refugee camps have murals with the names of those towns.

Jewish-only housing has been built on top of many of them and others have been overplanted with trees - trees paid for by millions of unsuspecting Jews all over the world.

Several on our delegation remember the trees-for-israel campaigns from their childhood, remember the dimes and the quarters they collected. It was very painful to see now what those trees were used for, and that IS what it was for. The Jewish National Fund oversees the contributions and the planting, and is a major player in the ethnic-cleansing infrastructure of Israel.
So much more information from here!

Went to dinner at the home of our guide Ali, whose two daughters have recently graduated college in the U.S. - one from Columbia, don't remember where for the other - and have returned to Palestine to work there. His wife is Dutch, and she and the family prepared a lovely dinner for us - all 30 of us!

Next day we had lunch and a tour with Jonathan Cook - Yes, I said Jonathan Cook! - and got pages of details about the issue of Citizenship in Israel and the differences between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. Details of which would have you all fuming.

Then to Bil'in, the village many of you probably have read much about. They confront the Israeli army every week at the Wall near their homes, and this is where a number of people have been killed, but these folks have a serious victory. When the wall was built the town took the state to court. They fought for 5 years, but finally won,and the Wall was moved. A small victory, but one that gave much encouragement. Much more about Bil'in in our presentations.

Time is getting short. Have to abbreviate. Spent a night at Tent of Nations, in the hills above Bethlehem, now completely surrounded by settlements on the hilltops, settlements that are working very hard to force the Nasser family from what is left of their land. But they, too, have a victory. They have been there for 22 years, struggling every single day to stay, sometimes under extreme conditions, but they are still there! And many times, it was the presence of internationals that turned the settlers or army away!

This one deserves a report of its own, as does the visit in Hebron, first with a member of the Jewish Community there and then with Issa, a courageous Palestinian man working with Youth Against the Settlements. I was surprised when I first saw him as I had become so familiar with his face from the pictures I took the last time. He was leading the Open Shuhadeh Street weekly demonstration and was in for forefront with the army clearly very angry with him.

Went also to Deheisha Refugee Camp, but it's getting late, and can't stay awake much longer. Just two things: One is to point out the absurdity of the "Security" argument for why the Apartheid wall was built ("security" is the reason for any manner of nasty action against Palestinians). The wall can be defeated in any number of places, and yet there have been no "suicide bombers" in many years. Streets in Hebron and other communities are blocked off and yet all it does is make Palestinians get to the same place the long way around. They don't keep anyone out, and are not intended to, but only to torment.

SO much more - we've learned about sustainability programs, the use of solar power in VERY poor villages, recycling but it will have to wait. Can't emphasize enough the importance of coming to Palestine. First, you simply will not believe what happens here unless you see it yourself, for in many ways, it is beyond human ken.

Hoping for more time tomorrow to share more.


Posted by mtorres55 14:54 Tagged bethlehem hebron tent_of_nations bil'in shaknin Comments (0)

Return to Palestine 2012 Day 4 - Evicted Family

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"They came for us at 5:00 in the morning when everybody was asleep. It was August 2, 2009 when the soldiers came after 10 families with 38 family members. They came, more than 100 soldiers and special forces, police on horses and water cannons filled with sewage water.

I heard the heavy steps of soldiers outside. I awoke and moved to the door. Before I got there the door was blasted open. Children had come out of their beds to see what the noise was and the soldiers grabbed them and threw them into the street in their pajamas. The women were still in bedclothes, and they were forced or thrown out into the street, too. A police was sitting on top of one of my children.

I ran out to the [neighbor] Nabils house and cried "the army is in our house and I want to put the kids in your house." Soldiers were in front of all the other houses on the street and didn't allow anybody out.

By 1/2 hour, all of us were in the street. In one hour, settlers were at our home and moving into it. We had 12 kids altogether, outside, crying, screaming, asking "what is going on? Why are they doing that? Why are we in the street?"

They put all of our furniture on a truck and we don't know where it went. Soldiers were playing in the street with some of my children's toys. Our youngest family member was born on the day we were evicted.

We put up a tent outiside on the sidewalk and stayed in that tent for 6 months. We got mattresses and chairs, and we ate there, lived there. It rained, it was cold, the children had nowhere to study and the settlers harrassed us. But we refused to leave. This is OUR home. But the army came and destroyed our tent and all that we had 17 times.

I have two young children who are always scared to go to sleep now, want to sleep in her bed and be with her all the time. They wake in the night crying. It has been 2 years and 7 months, but we will remain steadfast. We will not give up."

Israel then billed the family for the cost of the eviction, which they said was $13,000 American dollars. They sent the bill to the wrong address (where on earth would it be sent, since they had evicted this family from their home?), and by the time it found its way just this week to the owner of the home, a 97 year old woman who lived there under the trees with the rest of the family, the bill had increased to $200,000 - yes, I said two hundred thousand american dollars).

This is the story we heard from Mariam Alrawi in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. She is a refugee from Sarafar (sp?), from the Nakba in 1948. The Israeli government has been evicting Palestinian families from there for years, as they are in the process of building a Jewish-only corridor from West Jerusalem to Hebrew University, right through the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods that are NOT in the state of Israel.

We also heard from members of the Hanoun family, and several others whose names went by too fast for me to capture, and I apologize for any names I did not get correctly.

Mr Hanoun told us how they had aquired the home in 1956 when they bought the land from the government of Jordan and UNRWA helped them build the house. Several of the people we visited with told us that for Palestinians, a home is everything. They came for his family at 4:00 a.m. and he also explained that they slept under the trees for 6 months "to show what happened". He said "they have transferred our family again and again, and it is not fair." He said there are pictures on the internet of his children studying under the trees, but I haven't had time to look for them.

He said "we need support from all the volunteers who come to us, to help us stop more evictions." He said we must pressure the Israeli government and the American government. He said we had to "stop giving money to Israel for building settlements on top of our houses."

We heard from others that these families celebrated Ramadan (a serious challenge) and Eid while living under the trees through the winter. All the time they were there, Settlers attacked the children. When they called the police about it, the police arrested the Palestinians and did nothing at all to the Settlers. (We hear this constantly, everywhere we go). They arrested women as easily as men, and every arrest resulted in a heavy fine.

One time the harrassment and bullying was so bad that Mr. Nabil called the police, who told him to go to the Police Station to make a complaint. He did that, and was arrested and held for 3 days. Nothing was done about the Settlers' behavior.

Another young woman, a college student, spoke passionately about the experience. She told the same story Miriam had told, but with her own pain, her own passion. One of our group filmed it and I am eager to share it.

Some of what she said:

- No one hears us. But we will not stop. It is not just our houses for us. It's our memory, our history.

- When they came for us they told the crying children "don't cry or they will arrest you." The soldiers at our food and played with our children's toys. They don't have any feelings.

- our children think all the time about the Israelis, about guns, about the checkpoints.

- every day it takes me 2 hours to get to college because of the checkpoints, and 2 hours to get home.

- we need people outside to wake up the people to help us and the other families.

Part of Myrta's response was "who on earth sat to think about all the ways these people are tormented? How did they come up with the plans that make every Palestinian's life miserable?" As we spoke about it later, we both realized that we cannot find ways to describe this Master Plan for Ethnic Cleansing - the closest we got was Myrta's description of "evil genius", but that really doesn't touch it.

There was more to the day - some went to Yad Vashem the holocaust memorial, we heard from the Civic Coalition to Defend Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (civiccoalition-jerusalem.org) stood in solidarity at the Sheikh Jarrah weekly demonstration. Earlier in the day we had stood with Women in Black, where we had to deal with an extremely angry woman who became hysterical, hollering things that clearly (it seemed to me) come straight from a fear-mongering Hasbara script. After that we had a 2-hour workshop broken by 45 minutes for dinner. When I return I'll write up all the pieces I've left out.

I'm so very sorry that we did not have that whole visit with the family on film. The power of hearing from the people themselves what they experienced, to hear their anguish and their anger was nearly overwhelming. Several of us (including me) spoke later of the deep sense of shame we felt, listening to them. I really have no vocabulary, or perhaps not the emotional bottle right now to speak more of this day.

Posted by mtorres55 13:54 Comments (1)

Return to Palestine, 2012 - a few pictures

sunny 73 °F

So little time for writing, let alone downloading and labeling pictures! A few:

Laila Khaled, a hero of the first Intifada and before - from the Wall:


Muslim men non-violent resistance: Many groups of men and women sit in the square all day long, in a circle, reading the Koran or talking. Jewish settlers come in several times a day in a harrassment campaign designed to make Muslims stop coming here. Because Possession is all, and the Muslim Waqf controls this area, they refuse to cede any more of their property to the state.


Making bread - E. Jerusalem

Martyrs' circle, Bethlehem

Sweet little girls in E. Jerusalem

Israeli army jeeps coming to tell us we could not look out at Gaza

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Return to Palestine 2012 Day 3 Sderot, Gaza Overlook, Sabeel

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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.

Other bits:

- 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.


- 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.

Posted by mtorres55 14:13 Comments (0)

Return to Palestine 2012-Day 2-Bethlehem,Jerusalem Part 2

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continuing on... recapturing what I lost last night:
Last paragraph from what did get saved:

"Spoke about the value of BDS and spoke of how absurd it is for people to be concerned that "BDS is too strong", and prefer to "invest in Palestinian business" or "boycott only settlement products". Reminds they have tried Everything, and nothing has made any difference, so how on earth could BDS be "too strong"?

- "There is no peace movement in Israel", Nidal said - which statement surprised me.

I know Peace Now is not useful but just not sure what he meant by this, and there was no time by then to expand. I wonder if he's referring to the fact that most of the "resistance" organizations within Israel are only anti-Occupation groups? That would make sense to me, as a group that supports two-states is still supporting Apartheid and racial discrimination. There ARE groups of Israeli Jews who are against the concept of an apartheid state, such as Anarchists Against the Wall, but they are indeed tiny and few in number.

He spoke of dialogue and rapproachment, saying "these do not lead to peace".

You don't "dialogue" with your oppressor, and Ali Abunimah said something similar. You cannot "reconcile" with a person or entity while they are in the act of strangling you. Particularly interesting to me, given the recent small struggle in Spokane about the Jerusalem Peacemakers, and what Michael and I experienced in the Bay Area decades ago: once it was clear that numbers of people were working on Palestinian freedom, all of a sudden came a call for "dialogue". All work stopped while "dialogue events" took place, until enough of us saw what was happening. Freedom first, then reconciliation.

It's a subject worth some time as opinion about it is all over the place.

- In answer to "has the Palestine Authority outlived its usefulness?" he said they are an authority without authority" and that many Palestinians see it as an agent of Israel.

- Then to BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee rights, with Lubna, a Palestinian-American with an American passport. Their work: 1. Educating refugees about their human and refugee rights; 2. outreach, support and alliance-building with civil society and international NGOs, 3. researchg and mobilization.
Some points made:

- Law of Return: the Israeli law that says that any Jew living anywhere in the world has the "right to retrun to Israel", any Palestinian, even those who actually lived inside what is now Israel has no right to return to their home, and cannot return.

- UNCCP -a UN agency that has long received nearly no funding, and whose records cannot be accessed by anybody. It holds massive records of land expropriations and confiscations, and the world is quite probably afraid of the information UNCCP holds, the saying is "the losses are too big to be counted".

- Some refugee information from Badil: 1. under british mandate 1922-47 150,000 people became refugees. 2. the Nakba 1948, 800,000 refugees and more than 500 Palestian villages were depopulated or destroyed. 3. the Naksa 1967 450,000.

- Citizenship distinctions: Jews are Nationals, '48 Palestinians are Citizens. Nationals receive all the perks of citizenship. Nationals do not.

- Israel does not have a definition for who is a Jew. That description is changed as the need arises. When Israel was faced with a "demographic problem" during the early 90's, they looked to Russia where there were many people who wanted to leave as the system was collapsing there.

About half the Russian "jews" who immigrated in the early 90's were not Jews. For them to prove they were Jewish, they were asked if they knew
any Hebrew words. Definition was re-defined in order to bring in the Ethiopian Jews, or Falasha. - links to two well-researched articles on this from that time: "Ingathering of Exiles" http://www.sonomacountyfreepress.com/palestine/ingathr.html and "Choices Without Options" http://www.sonomacountyfreepress.com/palestine/nochoice.html.

- "Unrecognized villages" are unrecognized because they were built without permits. Most of the "unrecognized villages" are villages that were in existence before '48 and therefore could not have had permits.

- Right of Return for ALL people is codified in international law, an inalienable right, and cannot be taken away.

- A new definition: "Seam Line": the land between the "Green Line" and the wall.

- Beware "normalization" dialogue. This is where oppressor sits with oppressed, and you talk about everything except the reality of life. definition is also larger than this, worthy of conversations later.

Much Envronmental information. Will wite much more about this later

Posted by mtorres55 12:17 Comments (0)

Return to Palestine 2012-Day 2-Bethlehem, Jerusalem

sunny 75 °F

BUSY day! As before, will try to avoid doing dispatches with nothing but hard stuff. We do meet good people, fun people, we laugh a lot and share our frustrations, while hearing about the desparate situation here in Palestine. Am also going to shorten them dramatically, as I realize that it can be just too much. Will expand on my reports when I return.

Did I tell you this group runs the full gamut geographically, age, and level of information? But all seem determined to make a difference in this struggle. Much of the information is new for some, not for others, but even visits and lectures where I think I know a lot about the subject always contain new info, updates, or a new slant.

Took a tour of the Wall, and was reminded of how it deliberately separates farmers from their fields, families from each other as we looked at a beautiful olive grove on one side of the wall and the owners of the trees on the other, and that Palestinians who live in Bethlehem (or ended up not by choice on the "wrong" side of the wall) cannot go to Jerusalem to see their families or do anything at all except by permit, exceptionally difficult to get and often not given. The criteria for obtaining a permit: -over 45 years of age, - married, with children - no "criminal" record, - no relatives with "criminal" records. This paragraph does not begin to describe the hardship and heartbreak caused by this separation by the Wall.IMG_6322.jpg

At Kairos: Spoke with Nidal A., a Christian leader in the community and a co-author of the Kairos Document, a piece of work crafted by a committee of 14 from a number of churches, funded by Switzerland, and spreading through churches, communities and activists as the second of two excellent tools (along with BDS-Boycott, Divest, Sanction) that activists outside Palestine can put to effective use. It is the foundation of Churches' attempts to divest from Israel.

Nidal spent 3 years in prison, was tortured, and for 1.5 years did not know why. He was in "administrative detention" that Israel uses regularly to imprison Palestinians indefinitely, without charges, without trial. After 1.5 years, he learned he was there under a.d. but spent another 1.5 years before he was freed. AMERICANS, KEEP IN MIND that Obama signed the NDAA some months ago that now gives him the legal ability to do the same to Americans, though right now that part is stalled by a Federal judge who nixed it.

He stated clearly that he is often asked by other people whether Christians are persecuted in Palestine, and his answer is an emphatic NO. Spoke of the hardships of the 186 Christian families in Beit Jalla, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem as a result of land confiscations, lack of access to Jerusalem and draconian family reunification laws.

Spoke of the need to involve churches in this work, about non-violence, and the importance of "come and see" - come to Palestine and see for yourself! The document asks the world to stop using double standards for human rights - one standard for Israel, and one for all the rest. Someone in our group remarked that Mark Braverman is leading the Kairos work in the U.S.

The Kairos Document says "a religious state is inherently discriminitory and unjust." This is a clear call for the end to Supremacy, and end to having a state for one kind of person only. NOT an end to Israel, but an end to the horrors of racial supremacy. I hadn't read this document and was quite surprised and very pleased to see how strongly this is stated.

Spoke about the value of BDS and spoke of how absurd it is for people to be concerned that "BDS is too strong", and prefer to "invest in Palestinian business" or "boycott only settlement products". Reminds they have tried Everything, and nothing has made any difference, so how on earth could BDS be "too strong"?


Posted by mtorres55 14:24 Tagged jerusalem bethlehem palestine Comments (1)

Return to Palestine 2012-Day 1-Jerusalem

sunny 76 °F

Those of you who received these reports from my last trip know they contain joy, fun, and heartbreak, with more hard stuff than light, filled with information vital to the struggle. Just sayin'.....

Myrta and I are getting quite excited about the possibilities when we return! This trip, it turns out, has an environmental theme, and we are going to learn a lot more about land use, water, and pollution here than we ever expected! We'll be able to speak to new audiences with this info.

Left the hotel early, without Anna Baltzer, who only arrived at the hotel about 2 a.m., having spent 10 hours in the little holding room with our fellow delegate who was not allowed in with us. This one ended badly, with S. being the first InterFaith PeaceBuilders (IFPB) delegate to be turned away. It was hard on everyone as we are already forming bonds, but particularly on her traveling partner who is a good friend of many years. Anna joined us later in the day today.

Leaving the hotel at 7 a.m. - returning at 7:00, dinner, group meeting till 8:30, then writing time.Long day! - our first stop was at Al Aqsa mosque - rather breathtaking. It has stood since 691, even as buildings small and large crumbled all around it in various earthquakes. Al Aqsa is built on bedrock, and so is not affected by quakes. A bit startling...

In the huge plazas surrounding the Mosque are many groups of 6 to 15 men as well as groups of women, sitting in chairs, studying Koran or talking. Learned from our group leaders that the purpose of this is to keep a claim to the space via non-violent resistance, as it is right now under the control of the Muslim Wak'f (sp?). Jewish settlers, who live all around the Mosque, come in every day attempting to gain some ground there, for in this place possession is all, right or wrong. Said told us that when the settlers come into the square, the men or women remain seated, but holler "Allau Akbar" loudly and eventually the settlers leave.

Note to myself, and to anyone who is curious enough: check out the Omar Covenant, an old document still in use by Arab leaders in the region as a way of insuring representation of all groups living there. As a result of the use of this document, 10 cities in Palestine have (and always have) Christian mayors, regardless the size of the Christian population.

First organizational stop was at OCHA, or UN Office for coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Presentation was very interesting, in spite of a heating system malfunction that kept heating the room instead of blowing air conditioning. Much of the information I've already incorporated in various presentations, but they had much that was new as well.

OCHA has all the facts and figures that will back up the personal stories we're gathering, but that I will avoid putting into this report. They spoke much about Gaza, but especially interesting was hearing about how Israel "eased" the Blockade after this last summer's Flotilla. Remember that it did not get in, as none but the first one did (someone correct me if I missed a successful one), and yet it caused Israel to "ease" the blockade somewhat. Hardly a victory, but a clear indication that direct action is useful!!!!

Gaza still has a 34/% unemployment rate and still cannot fish its own waters without risk of being shot, so we have a very long way to go!

As I move on to the West Bank, you'll notice there are a thousand unanswered questions here about Gaza, but I can't write everything we learned as there is just too much for a nightly report. Much of it will show up in presentations after we return, though. Just quickly, 30-35% of privately owned Palestinian land in E. Jerusalem has been given by the state to Jewish settlers. Peace Now has a list of settlements and how muchy of their land was taken from Palestinians.

Next meeting, with Jeff Halper, ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), followed by a tour accompanied by a lively, extremely knowledgeable Jewish Israeli anarchist (Anarchists Against the WALL), by the name of Ruth (most of the time last names won't be used). He made an analogy to a fishbone caught in your throat. It's just a tiny, tiny thing, just as this area is tiny, but when it's stuck, everything stops untill you un-stick it!

Jeff's presentation reveived mixed reviews. Some felt he was too tepid about BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction), others felt he was only saying that it was not going to change anything by itself but that it is an excellent tool for Americans to use. At one point, he said "it's all over" about a Two-State solution (no surprise) and that it's also all over for a One-State solution - that WAS a surprise. He says 'one-state" is "not even on the table" as most world leaders do not yet support it, as he believes world leaders are not ready to support "the end tof the Jewish State" and, he says "there is no readily apparent solution that I can poihnt to" but later said he supports "regional organization" rather than One State. My disagreement here, of course, is that the end of a Jewish State, of apartheid and legal racism, would surely be the best place to start!

Soldiering on, he also says he believes Israel is about to Annex Area C in the West Bank. (if you're not familiar with Area C, please google it, or just look at the White area on the Palestine Loss of Land card). Said that "Israel wants to end the occupation" and that one way they can do is annex most of the land, which holds less than 5% of Palestinian population, and this annexation is one way to do that. He believes this could happen evenb before November.

Told us about Obama meeting recently with former chief of staff, Naftali Bennett, and for the first time in history, Israel met with the American president and Palestine was not mentioned. He said "they have succeeded in 'normalizing' the occupation"!

Jeff believes that "Israel does a lot of the dirty work for the U.S." I asked about that, as it's Chomsky's argument too, and he uses that argument to dismiss the power of the Lobby here. I asked Jeff if he would give some examples of the dirty work Israel does for the U.S. but got no answer that actually related to the question. Wish there had been time to explore that further!.

When asked about BDS he said he believed it an important tool to keep attention on during this time. Dismissed the campaign to divest from TIAA Kreff and Motorola, but several amongst us, including both Myrta and me, disagreed strongly. He did speak at some length about the danger Israel presents to our own Civil Liberties at home in a variety of ways and suggests we use that as a way to bring it home to our audiences: militarization of our police tactics and police weapons being just one example.

Spoke about Israel's campaign of "Lawfare" designed to justify unjust wars, and that turns meaning on its head: "Soldiers" are good citizens who need to be protected, and citizens are potential terrorists who need to be neutralized".

Then on to a comfortable bus with an ICAHD volunteer, Ruth, extremely knowledgeable, feisty, lively and quite delightful. Much of what she shared I've already written during my earlier trip in 2010 and/or have incorporated into my presentations. All of that information is available on my blog (CPT Blog 2010 https://www.travellerspoint.com/my_blogentries.cfm?blogid=40720)

One of the new things I heard - Ruth spoke about Family Reunification laws in Israel. As she described the hardships and heartbreak inflicted on only Israeli Palestinians but never Israeli Jews. She spoke of "two things that will change negotiations [over this land]: Annexation of Area C and the "Race for Jerusalem", meaning the frenzied settlement building inside Jerusalem and the same frenzied work to evict Palestinian families in order to replace them with Jewish families.

This policy - an old one, but one now put into force with a vengance, is part of the "Judaization" policy that is being used to destroy the homes of Bedouin citizens and to drive them into poverty-stricken "towns" that have no infrastructure. It's so blatantly racist as to be a no-brainer, and yet supporters of Israel and progressive protectors of Israel refuse to acknowledge his Apartheid that gives the lie to "the only democracy in the Middle East". She recommended, among others, palestineremembered.org.

She told our group about the demolished houses, why it happens, and how Palestinians have to then pay for the demolition of their own homes. I
have a one-page sheet on the reasons this happens and how written after my last trip and will be glad to share it with anyone who asks for it.

She spoke of how a home is the center of life for any Palestinian, particularly women, and remembered a study she read recently that showed that 52% of suicide bombers during that bombing period had experienced home demolition as a child. She told of a friend who had asked the child of a friend why she took her rather large dollhouse to school everday when it was so cumbersome. The little girl replied that her friend's home had been demolished and the friend lost her dollhouse. She did not want this to happen to hers. Heartbreaking...

Because this ICAHD tour was so similar to the one I took with CPT, I'll stop here and ask that you use the live link above to read all the very interesting, infuriating, shocking information these good folks put out.

As Ruth ended our tour she spoke about BDS with great enthusiasm, and strongly urged all to participate vigorously in their own local campaigns. Perhaps it's time to kick our own up a notch in Spokane!

Two good reasons to do that: Caterpillar retrofits their Cats before they go to Israel now, so that they can hold tear gas cannisters and weapons.

And when China needed to evict people from their homes in preparation for the Olympic games there, they sent a large contingent of police to Israel to learn how to do that.

All for today. Dead in my tracks.

Posted by mtorres55 14:09 Tagged israel palestine icahd house_demolitions Comments (0)

Return to Palestine, 2012

Jerusalem, arrival

sunny 77 °F

In Palestine again, with a full heart. Was there in 2010 with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT - and no, I'm not Christian) and though I thought then that all the years of my working on the issue would have prepared me for this land, in fact, it had not. On that first trip I found more beauty, more anguish and more reason for hope than I could have imagined.

This time it's a trip with my good friend Myrta, who has also done the work for many years, but had not been able to visit till now. This one is organized by InterFaith PeaceBuilders and I have no idea what to expect on this trip, though we will be visiting some places similar to where I went the last time. Particularly pleased because one of the leaders of this delegation is Anna Baltzer, National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Occupation (http://www.endtheoccupation.org). Our group is composed about 30 people from all over the country, and includes a breathtaking breadth and depth of experience, from early Civil Rights, Puerto Rican, anti-Vietnam War and Central American support to much experience with Palestine. It also includes some young folk just beginning their journey and several who are still struggling with what they have learned is being done in their names as Jews. Many are well-traveled, and some have been here before, as I have.

After a VERY impressive orientation in D.C. by IFPB staft, we headed out. The flight was long and uneventful, though we did learn that Lufthansa now squeezes more humans onto their 747's than is humanly possible.

Landed a couple of hours ago in Tel Aviv, and most of us got in with little or no trouble. One of us, a Palestinian woman, was held for questioning and we're not sure if she's going to get in. We learned they often ask a person if they can open their email and if the answer is no, they are in for several more hours of interrogation and intimidation. Almost all of the time, after many hours of this, the person is let in. Will have more when we learn whether she will join us. Anna is with her, and our other tour leader Phillip and support person Joe are with us at the hotel that will be our headquarters for much but not all of the time.

Already, have had a very interesting ride from Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion airport to E. Jerusalem - about 50 miles. We are accompanied by a Palestinian man who has been doing these IFPB tours for a long time, lives here, and shared much important information. Unfortunately, many of us were so exhausted we didnt catch it all. We passed many areas that were Palestinian land in '48, and from which the people were expelled by the Haganah and Irgun, at gunpoint, Lod and Ramle just two of them.

The area is as beautiful as I remembered it and will have pictures the next time I write. Have to quit now , with much, much more, and far more interesting, reports to come. Looking forward to a VERY busy schedule, starting at 6 a.m. tomorrow.''Not much more to say this first evening of arrival.

Posted by mtorres55 11:41 Archived in Israel Tagged jerusalem arrival Comments (0)

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