Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gaza from the sky (Gideon Levy)

There's a lot to the image of Gaza from the skies seen as a Rorschach test in the article I introduce here. As in my previous post, the point is the inability of Israeli decision makers to understand the reality they think they are facing. Consequently they are fighting a myth.

Gideon Levy is a great Israeli journalist, even if he doesn't always attract the sympathy of his compatriots (check out comments to his columns to understand the level of hatred around).

Israel is starting to talk about a truce and the US administration has started stating that 'this time' we hope Hamas will have learned its lesson. Well, certainly, o great leaders, we can only expect that after 400 dead or whatever it ends up being, the Palestinians will feel a surge of peaceful sentiment for the occupation forces. If that doesn't work, let's kill another round and see if that does the trick.

In the meantime, click here to read Levy's last article "IAF, bullies of the clear blue skies" in Haaretz.

Continue to hope and/or pray for peace, not forgetting that there are also victims or this current conflict in Sderot and Ashkalon. Each death is pain unfathomable to one family. Each one a tremendous waste. Each one a holocaust of one--a sacrifice to human stupidity.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israel's dead end: My Own Best Thinking Brought Me Here

People who go to AA meetings will have heard this before: "my own best thinking brought me here." A statement of complete failure and final understanding that a person's intelligence may be what brings him/her to complete devastation. Few of us get to that point and for those who do, it seems to be a struggle to accept that reality--hence the need to repeat these little AA mantras.

What about nations? What about intelligent, modern, enlightened nations? What about moral, dedicated, religious societies? What about powerful, rich, hyper-connected global communities? Can their 'best thinking' bring them to utter failure?

Okay, try this exercise: What about the French Fourth Republic (still producing some of the greatest literature on earth and 'spreading civilization' the world over)? What about the mighty Soviet Super-Power (I mean, they beat the US to space, had some of the greatest scientists and chess players on earth and were going to take over the world)? What about the Fuhrer in the last hour in his bunker (now, here was a wonder of organization, management and military strength)?

You're still with me? Good. Let's try harder.
What about the Jewish State of Israel circa 2008? What about the United States of America, the "indispensable nation?" (I always think of the "unsinkable Titanic" when I hear this phrase - don't know why.*)

O - I see you raise your eyebrow. You're thinking: "Here goes another anti-American, anti-Israel diatribe from someone who sees nothing wrong with Jihadists and folks who strap C-4 around the belt of children!"
Well, not quite. I actually think the Jihadists 'own best thinking' and behind that the fundamentalist neo-paternalistic Islamic ethos has led a good part of the Muslim world into a dead-end of its own. I actually like the US a lot; I love Eilat and Tel Aviv in the Summer; and I think Israel has shown that with the right size blank check from US tax payers, there's a lot you can do to develop a nation very quickly. I think it's brilliant how America won't provide health care to its own children but pays for a very effective public health system in Israel providing universal coverage to its citizens. (Way to export socialized medicine, America!) But I'm digressing.

But, let's look at Israel and Gaza today. Which way is this current crisis headed? What are its goals? What can it achieve? Is there any kind of a win for Israel? And if there isn't, then why would the brilliant minds of Kadima, Labour and the Likud all pursue a logic of death, destruction, bloodshed, and -- as the Lebanese war in 2006 -- no possible lasting gain?

I lack the time to expand on how pointless this killing of Palestinians is. (I love that CNN reports that X% of people killed were "militants" and the rest--a small fraction--"civilians." Folks in Gaza are playing puzzle with body parts to figure out who is dead, but CNN, live from Atlanta, already has a statistic about how many were militants. CNN is sooooo smart. I should ask them what I've done with my favorite pen I lost last month.) So, Israel is going to kill 1,000? 2,000? 10,000? or more Palestinians -- I assume CNN already has the percentage of collateral dammage on hand -- then what?

O yes, if they go in, they'll take out a lot of metal and stuff that can be used to make rockets. If they are very very successful, the only thing left in Gaza will be rubber bands and pita bread. For a few months. Then what?

Parenthesis -- before I continue, please note that I am writing according to the CNN script--that is, I pretend to ASSUME that Israel's actions are disproportionate, but that they came in response to attacks from Gaza with those rockets. I am quite sure that many of the readers (ok - there aren't so many readers of this blog) would also have a mental picture where Israel--right or wrong--is acting in response to being attacked. That's the interesting thing, and that's where you see that the US are themselves locked in their own best thinking. For this thinking actually contradicts the calendar of events wich led to the end of the truce betwen Hamas and Israel. There was a truce. Israel sent F-16's to destroy a tunnel and killed half a dozen Palestinians. The bottom line is that the resumption of hostilities came from Israel. (What? Gazans shouldn't build tunnels? You go there and tell them! Also, did the US stop providing high tech war equipment during that truce? No. So why should the other side stop playing in the sand then?) So, correcting the news: Israel ended the truce.--end of parenthesis.

The fact is that, while Israel has a strategy for the West Bank (essentially conquering more and more land while pretending to be negotiating peace, for as long as the gullible US can be kept in line with AIPAC), it doesn't have a strategy for Gaza. Israel controls who goes in and out of Gaza, what goes in and out (well - to some extent but they try), they have eyes in the air, they control when the fishermen go out or not, they restrict gasoline, electricity, the capacity to have drinking water, the availability of commodities. They can any day or night decide to send a troup of soldiers and kill a few people when they think it's a good idea. Basically, Israel 'owns' 1.5 million Palestinians in a 'rat cage.'**

Israel's best thinking imposes some actions:
- Lobby the US not to talk to Hamas; shun Hamas (except when desperate enough to negotiate a truce);
- Qualify all Palestinian resistance as "terrorism" and legitimize 'targeted killings' -- essentially a life and death claim on any Palestinian life;
- Crush people in misery, be "tough" and stand on the self-rigtheousness of the eternal victim;
- Since Palestinians cannot be trusted, armed Palestinians (i.e. "security forces" or police) must be killed (who will keep order in an open air prison without police?)

You add to that the internal Israeli politics: since the Minister of Defence is in competition with the Prime Minister is in competition with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, intelligent leadership in Israel becomes a rarity. What you have is populist escalation - a "I can be tougher than you against terrorists"-race to more belligerence. Which Israeli politicians is going to gain points against the other by saying "We've been wrong all along. We need to talk to these people. We need to make peace with our enemy. And it starts by losing the right of life and death over Palestinians; it starts with acknowledging we are not a superior race destined to rule over Arabs; we are not to control every element--no, we are not to control ANY element of the life of Palestinians and Gazans. And yes, if we talk to these people, we will lose something because our freedom stops where theirs starts, but we can gain a lot more."

No Israeli politician can make that speech. Well - almost: Olmert came close in his interview, just after he declared he was leaving power. Interesting.

Israel's best thinking is currently very sick. A brilliant mind in the prison of its own making, without an exit strategy. The Palestinians are first to pay the price. Unlucky residents of Sderot are next in line. All of Israel can only lose, regardless of the body count. Let me rephrase that: Israel's loss accrues with each dead Palestinian. This war is a lose-lose. And Palestinians - especially in Gaza - don't feel they have a lot to lose. Would you rather die fighting, even sending blind rockets, or sitting down? Please let's remember that all our nations have targeted civilians when this could lead to victory. (No? Did you study the Ulysses Grant campaign against the South in the American civil war? Have you heard of Dresden, maybe Hiroshima? And I'm not citing the US because they are the worst, but because they have been the 'good kid in the class' of Western Nations.)

Another time, I'll write about why America seems stuck also, unable to be the constructive third party it has sometimes been in history. Prisoner of its own 'best thinking' - in a global war on selected forms and agents of terrorism. So, America does not play its role - Obama or no Obama. [At least, Obama should be one step up from Bush circa 2000, whose motto to Israel & Sharon (remember, a 'man of peace' by W's standards) was "kill, baby kill!"] It is not the goodwill or the intelligence of America that is in question, but its ability to get out of the mental prison it has created for itself.

America is now Europe in the first half of the 20th Century. (Israel is Europe in the first half of the 19th Century it seems.) The question is, who can play the role America played for Europe? How can one be saved from oneself?

Maybe we should start 12 step programs for nations with too much military power.
"Hi. My name is Israel. I am powerless over my own strength and domination of Arabs."
"Hi. My name is America. I am powerless over the rhetoric of my war on terror and my 700 foreign military bases." (700 guys! ever think of that?)
"Hi. My name is Hamas. I am powerless over belief that violence can repay violence."

Welcome - have a seat. Now, let's start with the serenity prayer.


ps: As always, check out the links at the bottom right of this page. Brian McLaren left his blog entry for a text worth reading by Hannah Mermelstein.
IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING: (1) visit; (2) write to your elected officials (for Americans, very easy through; (3) write questions to Obama and vote for questions to Obama on Palestine by going to and "open for questions" (4) send money to any of the following: Near East Council of Churches, CARE, World Vision, Holy Land Trust, Sabeel, Save the Children Palestine or Human Rights groups; (5) refuse to be overwhelmed and give up; denounce 'it's been going on forever' fatalistic lies. This mess is OUR (human) making; WE (humans) must fix it. If you're like me and believe in our powerlessness and the help of a Power Greater Than Ourselves, pray and pray again; but oppose the fatalism of those who use trust in God ("only One can bring peace") as a commandment to do nothing for peace. Whatever you do which is not passivity (this includes invisible acts in silence) contributes to the struggle for peace and justice. (6) remain outraged at the waste of violence: regardless of unequal political responsibilities on the two sides, the life of a kid in Gaza = the life of a kid in Sderot = the life of anyone on any side, even narrow-minded anyones.

* Don't worry - America's done great things and it's not the first self-important nation on earth. I know where I come from after all!
** Expression borrowed from a UHWC presentation made in Gaza by a Gazan, speaking of 'rat cage syndrome'

Monday, December 29, 2008

War, Strife, Bloodshed - again.

I am not set to give daily updates on a rapidly evolving situation in Israel/Palestine and particularly in Gaza. Others are doing this and doing this better than I would.

Just to say, being States-side these days, I don't even try to get information from television, and it's obvious newspapers have to coat everything with what passes for "balance" these days, which usually means Israel's actions have to be presented as rational and in response to a casus belli caused by others (Hamas, Palestinians, Arabs, terrorists). Forget that Israel is the party which broke the truce in Gaza.

So, if you want actual information on what is happening, I suggest you follow some of the links (bottom right) on this page, for example:
- The Palestine News Network, for up-to-date daily information (you can receive email updates if you so desire);
- Gush Shalom;
- B'Tselem;
- Miftah;
- Even the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which has an English edition, will give you pro-Israeli information a lot more honest than its US counterparts.

Israeli leaders are no more able to think of a path to life, than Jihadist can imagine pro-life strategies. But both Hamas and the Israeli government can be brought to the negotiation table.
Sadly, today the US Big Brother of the Land has no ability understanding why it must talk to people like Hamas. You can talk people out of fundamentalism and radicalism with changes in their environment; you cannot isolate, shun, bomb, kill and destroy radicalism out of the heart of men, and ask them to surrender their weapons while they are being shot at. Won't happen.

At a time of transition in US politics, it's tempting to put some hope into the new leadership -- given the abysmal failure and abject war incitment the departing administration has bred from day one (this is me being fair and balanced)-- but given the choice of advisors of President-elect Obama, my optimism is extremely, extremely cautious.

Change may have to come from people, citizens, groups who choose to care, become informed, and work with other groups who don't look, speak or sound the same as them, but who are equally sick of a dead-end vision of unending strife.

A free Palestine is the only hope for Israel. (See previous post on this topic.)

War lives in the heart of people.
Peace also comes from the same place. It's just a matter of which inspiration we draw from.
Whatever your faith, pray we let it grow and force action for peace from our governments and political groups, from Khan-Yunis to Al Quds to Yerushalaim to DC.


Friday, December 26, 2008

So, you think you love Israel? Open Letter to America at the Dawn of a New Administration

With a new administration promising change in Washington comes an opportunity for infusing American support for Israel with a dose of realism that has been lacking thus far.

Actions taken by Israel result in a dwindling number of options for its future.1 Arab countries and populations have responsibilities of their own for achieving a just peace and the world is quick to point those out. When it comes to Israel, however, ‘friends’ too often drift in an ocean of rosy rhetoric, uninformed and counterproductive. Too many groups are friends of Israel as a barman is friend with a compulsive drinker—enabling rather than supporting.

Plural constituencies cooperate and compete to determine Israel’s policies and actions. The outcome is a lopsided set of priorities, which only serve to defeat aspirations for peace. Israel’s friends would do well to understand this.
(1) Demography is the absolute top priority. To remain a Jewish state, Israel [feels it] must ensure that its Jewish citizens far outweigh the number of its Arab citizens (currently below 20%), regardless of final borders. This affects the treatment of Palestinian and Israeli Arab families; it encourages the ugly gerrymandering of East Jerusalem and will ultimately increase pressure for the “transfer” of Arab populations—a form of ethnic cleansing.
(2) The geographic imperative leads Israel to continue expanding its borders, one hilltop, one house and one neighborhood at a time. This is carried forward by the government and by aggressive settlers, backed by powerful constituents operating beyond the authority of the state. Departing Prime Minister Olmert admitted that the settlement infrastructure on Palestinian land makes peace unachievable. It is telling that he was unable to express this prior to resigning.
(3) Although security is a genuine concern, Israel’s expansion into Palestine disproves the claim that preventing existential threats is the first driver of its actions. Some of Israel's security policies are actually self-fulfilling prophecies. Long before the wall which imprisons Palestinians was built, presumably to contain terrorism, ethnic policies and conquest already contributed to the violent response of alienated Palestinian youths.
(4) Once the first three priorities are addressed, Israel also wishes to be a rule-of-law, liberal democracy. Israel would actually like to treat all its citizens with equity and something akin to “liberty and justice for all”—quite a challenge when certain religious and ethnic groups receive preferential treatment.
(5) Morality is in fact a heavy concern for Israel and for the Jewish world, given the roots of Jewish faith. But because this concern is too low on the list of priorities, only a façade of morality can be preserved. Maintaining that façade requires a strong justifying narrative, demanding always greater self-deception and propaganda. These include “having no partner for peace,” de-humanizing Palestinians, and promoting covert and overt forms of racism. Current policies could not be reconciled with Jewish values without these rationalizations.

Israel’s order of priorities is fundamentally anti-Jewish and represents an existential threat against the Jewish state that is more imminent than the eventuality of Iranian missiles. When we become prey to our fears and irrationality, it is invaluable to have honest friends who call us back to reason. The problem is that political and religious supporters of Israel alike have lost the capacity to be honest friends.

You love Israel? More power to you! Whether in a synagogue, a church, a political office or the State Department, you can start by understanding what guides Israel’s behavior, helping it face the truth and change its self-destructive course.

American religious groups should help a complex Israeli society express a truly Jewish identity inclusive of different races and religions, purge itself of racism and, in so doing, perhaps heal the traumas of the past. Becoming the victimizer is no cure for having been a victim. Faith groups should reach out to Palestinian and Israeli peace groups and move from cheerleading for the occupation to the tough job of reconciliation, repentance, justice and peacemaking.

Political groups should stop blindly condoning violence and occupation and oppose the use of US funds and arms against civilian populations. President Obama should take the political risk of a tough love approach to Middle Eastern affairs. Building peace with security will require better than yes-men and yes-women in constant praise of dysfunctional Israeli politics. (Imagine President Obama naming Jimmy Carter, rather than someone handpicked by AIPAC, as special envoy to the Middle East!)

There are hundreds of mustard seeds of peace activism on both the Palestinian and Jewish sides of the conflict. What is not clear yet is whether America will serve peace and become a true—that is, honest—friend of Israel. By moving from enabling to supporting, America could also gain the moral clout it lacks in promoting the birth of a modern, pluralistic Palestine.

Wishes for 2009: No artillery fire, no military attack

I am still backlogged in travel and work -- wish you all the best for 2009 and hope you had great Christmas Celebrations. In the meantime, I cannot do better than to lend the space to a Gush-Shalom press release.




The Coalition against the Siege on Gaza


No to a military attack on Gaza!

War is not an elections spin!

Friday Dec. 26th, at 14.00, in the corner of Ben-Zion Ave. and King George St., Tel-Aviv

In the demonstration we will call for:

· Stop immediately siege on Gaza! Set no conditions for ending the inhuman suffering of innocents!

· Negotiations with Hamas and renew of the truce!

· Stop the military offensive and propose a political solution for ending the occupation!

· Learn from the Second Lebanon War! A military assault will not stop the missiles! Only an agreement can bring calm!

It is Israel which broke the truce already a month and a half ago, in early November, the State of Israel broke the truce in a series of military attacks on Gaza, which caused the death of six Palestinians. In this way, the government of Israel, with its own hands, brought a rain of Qassam missiles upon the heads of the inhabitants of Sderot and the other Gaza Border communities. Afterwards, every time that the situation started calming down, more Palestinians were killed by the army, their killing provoking new salvos of missiles. Now, the government is using the breaking of the truce as the pretext to launch a new military offensive. An offensive which would cost the lives of civilians, and would not achieve any of its declared aims – certainly not the aim of bringing calm to the inhabitants of the border area.

It is Israel which is responsible for the poverty and despair, entailed by the siege on Gazaalready for months the million and half inhabitants of Gaza live under an Israeli siege, with stoppages of water and electricity and a severe lack of vital goods. The Hamas government is already for weeks stating that it would be possible to restore the truce, should Israel agree to open the passages and allow the entry of goods, products, gasoline and people into the Strip. The government chooses consciously to ignore the Hamas declarations and cynically chooses, for electoral purposes, the path of war.

Contact: Adi Dagan (Coalition of Women for Peace) 050-8575730

Adam Keller (Gush Shalom) 0506-709603

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Lawlessness Of The "Righteous"

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as they used to say... Click here to read and watch one of the many reports of abuses and gratuitous violence caused by Jewish Fanatics in Hebron under full immunity from the Israeli so-called Defense Forces. (In this case from B'Tselem- a leading Israeli Human Rights group.)

Before asking whether this is terrorism, simply ask the following question: "how would the world feel if such events were not by Jews against Arabs in their home, but by any group in the world against Jews?"

And yes, I know, it did once happen and the world stood still.

What happened last time we stood still:
___A: Things naturally got better
___B: Not much except a holocaust and a world war
The next question is pointed to the American taxpayer: Are you aware that--on average--each of these fanatical, ruthless, terrorizing settlers gets the equivalent of a $600 check from Uncle Sam every single year (not counting the guns)? We don't "talk to Hamas", but we pay for those misled extremists. Does it make sense?

One of these days I need to write something about Muslim terrorism, given the Mumbai attacks and the very worrisome trend of the past decades, but for a moment, forget global trends. Just imagine yourself as a 13 year old boys in one of these Palestinian homes where folks are beaten up, mothers are called horrible names, police may arrest the innocent and the father had to watch his fields get burned. You are this young teenage boy and you live through this daily stress, humiliation of your parents, and the loss of life of your community. Maybe your big brother was one day snatched from home and put in "administrative detention" (aka prison without trial for months or years). Maybe your big brother once threw a stone and was shot in the head by an M-16.
So, now who are you going to turn to? The Israeli police? The Israeli army? Remember Palestinians are not allowed to ensure law and order in Hebron: there's a reason it is called occupied territories. So your own political representatives cannot do anything. Who are you going to turn to? 1-800-CALL-OBAMA? The UN? None are credible and we--as a community--have decided this is not a priority, and we do not want to alienate Israel, our number one ally (at least for the US if you listen to political speeches).

So, you are this teenage boy. Unless you are neighbor with one of the few who can provide an example about how to direct your anger toward peace and justice [click here for one video testimonial], what are you going to do with the humiliation and rage?

Let us do nothing today.

Tomorrow should be soon enough to ask how fanatics and candidates for suicide / martyrdom emerge in the Hebron hills.

Today, we must bail out The Big 3 and ask politely our Israeli partner to "make things a little easier for Palestinians." What does that even mean? Pass out band aids after beating up a dad? Giving a bottle of coke after burning a field? Starting a 'Fun with Occupation' annual fair for Palestinian children?

I have no doubt that we are just as "nice" as our forefathers in the 1930's. But what will happen this time as we stand still:

___A: Things will naturally get better.
___B: ...?

You tell me.


Monday, November 24, 2008

More from Uri Avnery: "Eyes Wide Shut"

The curse of the blogger who cares about peace in Israel/Palestine, is that everything has already been said, and said again, but that it seems few people actually get the facts straight through the barrage of propaganda which allows permanent war and occupation. It's very tempting to become irate, cynical and loud in how we repeat the same things over and over again. Tempting but not very helpful.

I'm a modest observer of hope trying to raise its head above the mired waters of destruction and hatred. But there are serious voices out there, which should be listened to. Here's one -- click here to read Uri Avnery's latest column in Gush-Shalom.

Peace is not just possible - it's the only possibility to save Israel from itself.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Surprise: Hamas and Israeli PM agree!

At a time when Haaretz reveals clear and explicit efforts by Hamas to enter into goodwill relations with Israel and the US (read here), here's another ad placed by the Israeli Peace Group Gush-Shalom on Nov. 14th 2008, stating simple facts.

What else is new?

The Hamas Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh
Has announced his readiness

To accept the State of Israel
Within the 1967 borders

The Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert

Has declared that Israel
Must return to the 1967 borders

But on the
Our government
Is carrying
Incursion aft
er incursion
Into the Gaza Strip

Causing death and escalation

Yes possible solutions exist: click here; and here.

And they are based on the 1967 border: click here.

And once again, we MUST talk to Hamas, I hope Mr Rahm Emanuel--the putative Chief of Staff of President-to-be Obama gets that memo: click here.


Photo captions: Home demolitions in Gaza. Source: Rafah Today

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

While we were watching the election - ethnic cleansing special.

[Nov.10th rapid update] It does not end. Click here for update.

This conflict is not so hard to understand: Arabs are here. Jewish settlers want them out and do get them out. The Israeli State is accomplice to dispossession and theft. Western powers stay silent. Arabs have choice between despair, silent rage, violent rage, or keeping a low profile hoping to stay safe.

This has nothing to do with millennial conflicts but everything to do with simple questions: is there a law? is there a justice system? does one Arab family have the same rights as a Jewish family of immigrants who want to claim their house?

To Jewish friends who support such crimes; to Christian friends who feign ignorance, stay silent and ramble on about God's plans for "His people," to brilliant geopolitical minds who prefer ignoring the facts to keep a strategic alliance with Israel without conditions, to congressmen and media people who must stay "fair and balanced" / a.k.a. rewrite the facts, so as not to offend AIPAC, let me say very clearly:
you are accomplices by action and by omission of suicide bombs and blind rockets, even if those who carry those acts are more often than not Muslims.
To Jewish friends, to Muslim friends, to Christian friends, to Secular friends, who speak and witness the truth; who stand to protect the victims regardless of race, creed, and politics; who feel outraged and yet try not to hate; you are peace-makers, please do not stop or give up now. You may not believe it, see it, or you may feel it does you precious little good now. You may wonder whether it will make a lick of difference for the life of people rendered homeless and innocents murdered but I read you will be called 'children of God.'

Evil carries the seeds of its own end.
Don't give up.

ps: see earlier entry in this post for suggestions of groups who can receive donations.

I wrote the text below on election day. This is a report for the day after -- I'll leave it to an eye witness. Click here for report and pictures of the destruction of the Bishara family home.

If not ethnic cleansing, then what is it?
I usually don't try to follow the news too closely. But as this day is one in which America will choose its new president and both candidates have affirmed (blind?) support for Israel as their single non-negotiable foreign policy position - I need to simply report what's happening here away from the eyes of the media:
  • Last weekend, Israel destroyed three Palestinian homes in the Southern Hebron hills and tore down dozens of Bedouin structures, leaving 150 people homeless overnight;
  • The Palestine News Network now reports that "The Israeli administration says it will destroy another group of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina. The Alnevi Yaakov Settlement will then expand further into the occupied city in direct contravention to international law. In protest of the demolitions slated for the sixth of the month, the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement placed a tent in the neighborhood which will remain throughout the week."
  • In Sheikh Jarah (another neighborhood of Jerusalem), a complex law case is proceeding after an Arab family found that a Jewish family had simply moved into their house while they went out shopping. Signs are not good that the Palestinian family will get its property back.
  • And I'm not even on top of all these news.
These are simple, ordinary news in the Holy Land. No blood. No headline. Simple down home ethnic cleansing. Oh, is this word too strong? When you systematically remove people of one ethnic group from their homes and their land to make room for your ethnic group, what is it called then?

If you find this hard to believe, check some of the links below and take a minute to visit the site of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD).

If you are the praying kind, pray for those families left homeless. Consider making a gift to ICAHD, or Holy Land Trust or Sabeel, who all have programs to support reconstruction.
Pray also for Jewish believers in the Holy Land. Sometimes I wonder what happens to one's faith when this faith turns a blind eye to such evil. This question does not only apply to Judaism obviously. But today, in Jerusalem and in Hebron all over the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria"), it does.

The same day, Israel made an "incursion" into Gaza, and a few Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza in retaliation. CNN reported on the rockets.

Peace will come. Up to us to decide how much blood, destruction and hatred until then.

Peace indeed.


Photo credit: Peter Miller - click here to see more.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Abetting the Enemy

OK - I need to 'fess up: I smuggled dangerous forbidden goods into a hotbed of terrorism.

Couple weeks back, I got an opportunity to visit Gaza.

The day before, someone had to let go of a second pair of shoes before going inside the Gaza Strip. Why? As always in Israel, "security concerns" can justify anything. (By the way America, when "security concerns" are used to justify the unjustifiable, start being concerned.)

Another time, an international aid worker was prevented from bringing a laptop into Gaza. This created outrage and some commotion. Maybe the outrage helped me, because I was able to bring my dangerous goods (must be dangerous if they are forbidden due to "security reasons") inside Gaza without any problem. Baruch Hashem, Al hamdou lillah and Praise the Lord!

And so, me, my food processor and my toaster (yes - that's what it's about) entered Gaza. As it turned out, it was on the same day as the Free Gaza boat sailing from Cyprus.

I got to hear speeches from some leaders of this initiative at a reception organized by Gazan civil society organizations. What a breath of fresh air these people were. They had the credibility of people who took action, defied the mighty state of Israel to come bring hope and encouragement to a population where children are born in prison. Yet, they spoke of non-violence, of respect for all neighbors, including the Jewish neighbor of tomorrow (today's occupier). And they questioned why we let Gaza be choked and strangled.

We--the world--sanction this state of things, presumably because the group which runs the place (Hamas) is a terrorist organization. I, for one, have no sympathies for fundamentalist religions (Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Marxist, Capitalist, or Muslim); and even less for violent religions (plug in same list). But Hamas made an agreement with Israel: if Israel would stop sending military assassination teams in the Gaza Strip at night and shooting civilians (aka "militants" and presumably "terrorists" including one 9 year old girl who was decapitated by an F-16 strike 6 months ago), then Hamas would stop shooting Qassam rockets (which also -- though with very poor efficiency -- kill innocent by-standers). The agreement was made, and so far it has held. (Read here for more details.)

Anyway - for a brief moment - as I handed over the food processor and toaster to my friends, I felt I was part of this Free Gaza movement, I felt I was a non-violent heroic peace activist slowly changing the world for the better.

Then Firyal made cake with the processor and we ate it. Al hamdou lillah.

Photo caption: Firyal and future Palestinian football (soccer) chamption with illegal goods behind them.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What makes a point of view a *Christian* point of view?

Since I dabble in political philosophy and ethics from my little corner of the Middle East, I have looked back at some of my writings and wondered, “Am I presenting a Christian perspective on the issues I discuss, or merely a personal opinion?”

I tend to write in view of convincing the reader, without presuming that said reader refers to Jesus or Scriptures to guide his/her judgment and conscience. As a child of a Cartesian people, I try to argue logically and rationally for my point of view. Even if I may refer to the Bible or the example of Jesus, I don’t often state my opinion by quoting chapter and verse. “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it” is honestly not my way of presenting how I apprehend our human dilemmas. So, is there anything that makes my reflection and opinions more fitting with the identity and character of Jesus Christ?

As I try to answer this question, I need to consider different approaches that might frame a point of view as being specifically Christian.

Jesus says… The Bible says…
The most obvious, sometimes deceptive way of claiming that a position is a Christian one is to establish its credentials by referring to what the Bible says. There are some easy examples. The Bible tells us to tithe, that is to give back to God one tenth of our income. And Jesus says in the New Testament that the laws of the Old Testament (Torah) are not abolished. So, a Christian point of view on stewardship of our money should include tithing. Case closed.

Unfortunately, a lot of issues are not that clear cut.

Most Christian groups, for example, denounce divorce as un-Christian, based on scriptural principles. But Jesus himself—though he did not condone it—says that God authorized divorce in the Mosaic covenant because of the weakness of man, a weakness which (I have observed) remains to this day. Although I am fairly certain that divorce is not God’s purpose for a loving marital relationship, I do not find it obvious to always reject it as an alternative in some of the twisted relationships humans end up in. I remember a sad abused Caribbean lady married to a fiercely violent and alcoholic legionnaire. Adding insult to injury, the man, who was Caucasian, was racist and looked with disgust at the skin color of his wife and children. Not only did my parents recommend divorce, but they also helped her escape from him. The Bible doesn’t say to divorce racist alcoholic legionnaires, but I am still fairly confident that my parents did “the Christian thing” for this woman.

There are hundreds other examples to be found. The Bible says “Thou shall not kill,” but there are many exceptions to the not-killing rule accepted by many Christians, whether it is for war, the death penalty, or simply defense of one’s property. I am not saying those are necessarily my views, but they are rarely labeled as un-Christian. And neither are those who defend them at a loss to find “the Bible says”-arguments to defend their position. Whether in any situation the option to kill or not to kill is Christian, “the Bible says,” and “Jesus says” do not seem to assure us of having a Christian position. Actually, the Bible does say that some people ought to be stoned to death. Yet, I have not scheduled to participate in a stoning in the foreseeable future.

So, quoting Jesus or the Bible is not the solution. How about letting the church provide some wisdom in understanding God’s views?

The church says…
The body of Christian believers which constitutes the church has sometimes achieved wonders and taken positions of truth, charity and light at momentous times in history. But the church, institutional and historical, also has such an abysmal track record of getting it wrong, that the argument is barely worth addressing.

I have however been shocked to observe a number of people, probably overwhelmed by the complexity of moral issues, choosing to hide behind what the pastor, the priest, or the TV evangelist says. In that case a position becomes “Christian” because opinion leaders of official Christendom support the position. This is simple, convenient and un-taxing to lazy intellects. Of course this does great insult to the name of Christ. What was Christian behind Jerry Falwell supporting apartheid in the 80s? What is Christ-like in the Christian Zionists choice to conveniently forget the existence and rights of three million Palestinians? For that matter what was Christian in the anti-Semitism of church authorities in the first half of the twentieth century? What is reminiscent of Jesus’ grace when Christian leaders come out in support of a death penalty, which only occasionally kills the innocent, the (undefended) poor, or the intellectually disabled? What is inspired by the Father of light in the anti-social positions of evangelical leaders, which end up promoting disenfranchisement of the sick and poor and ever more gun deaths in American inner cities?

In the end, while we may explain that an opinion is “Christian” in that it reflects the views of a socially and culturally identified segment of population called “Christian”, the sad fact is that this certainly does not ensure divine endorsement.

So, maybe we just need to go directly to the source. Let’s have Jesus tell us what His opinion is and simply follow what He tells us. It should be simple enough, right?

Jesus told me…
If you’ve hung out enough in some corners of the Christian mosaic, you will be familiar with the pattern. “Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) told me.” After this statement, options for further discussion are seriously limited.

Of course, if Jesus did actually simply tell you, then who can argue that your view is a Christian one? But you may find many contrary people not entirely convinced that Jesus did tell you what you think he said; and before being convinced by your opinion, they may require that Jesus also tells them. For reasons of His own, He rarely does.

I am not entirely bashing the concept. I actually think that Jesus told me (not out loud) a number of things for the proper conduct of my personal life. But I ask no one to agree, disagree with me, or comply to rules and laws because of my personal convictions. However, when I write of justice, war and peace, basic human rights, or equitable access to health and education, I am trying to influence my reader at a minimum, and society if possible, in a direction that I judge more desirable, and yes more “Christian.” Not only does the “Jesus told me”-argument not hold a lot of ground in that effort, it also does not seem to be a very reliable way of finding the just tone in these complex debates.

But the idea that Jesus has something to do with Christian point of views has tautological merit at least. So how did the Man-God himself go about establishing his point of views during his days on earth?

The message and the messenger
Now, here comes a good spot to stop and look at what the Gospels tell us. Not just a verse or a quote, but the entire story, the entire revelation of who Jesus was, what he said, how he behaved and interacted with others and responded to their challenges.

The Bible tells me that Jesus was irremediably wedded to the truth. He spoke in and with love for his neighbors. He also spoke based on what the Father told him, but he did not shy from explaining the practical implications for his listeners. He referred to scriptures to support his position, though he used scriptures more to illustrate his points than to impose them. He called on people’s common sense and wisdom, debunking myths and lies and he did not hide behind scriptures or religious authorities. He even challenged the latter and offered original interpretation of the former. He also had a thorough understanding of his times, although he felt no urge to conform to the zeitgeist. It seems he systematically tried to provoke a response, an inner understanding and decision from his listeners. This is probably why people can find justification for the most opposite views in their reading of the gospels. Jesus avoided simplistic answers and let his listener pursue not only truth but ultimately the truth-giver, the healer, the Father. He referred to scriptures but also debunked “an eye for an eye,” a scriptural commandment of his father. He said that “salvation comes from the Jews,” but also recognized and gave credit to the faith of the gentiles. Whether he spoke of using swords against one’s enemies or paying taxes to Caesar, his position was one which led his disciples to greater trust, love, and dependence on God in each moment. His position was rarely—perhaps never—a recipe which could be applied without thought and moral courage.

The points of views expressed by Jesus are based on truth, love, the entire revelation of the Father brought down to a personal relation, the potential for wisdom and understanding from even the most lost of his interlocutors, and ultimately love of God and love of neighbor manifested in justice. It is basically impossible to dissociate the positions of Jesus from who Jesus is. Truth and grace come from the word, and the word is the messenger.

In search of truth, charity and justice
If we follow the example of Jesus, a Christian point of view should be based on a combination of an honest pursuit of the truth (a.k.a. a sound understanding of reality), love and respect for God, demonstrated through a love and respect of our neighbor, the pursuit of justice, a consistency with the entire revelation of scripture, a dissociation from both reductionist religious dogma (verses) and simplistic conformity with the political correctness of the day, and finally a willingness to challenge our presumptions, ego and cultural references, and to yield to a greater power and greater good.

Maybe the business of forming a Christian opinion is not a matter of labeling and branding them with biblical quotes, but a matter of being open to inner transformation, freeing me from prejudice, selfishness, pride, and blindness. It may be a matter of trying my best to be the neighbor of my enemy, to refer and submit to a Greater and Holy Father, who wants to transform me into a more honest, charitable, just, and loving intellectual person. To be Christ-like, my views need to be based on truth, charity, justice, sound mind and sound reasoning, whether I am a Christian or not.

This means that non-believers can frame the same positions, if they consider the truth honestly and are led by charity and justice. This also means that another authentic Christian may be honest in his/her pursuit and may form another opinion than mine, yet one that will also seek to be based on truth, charity and justice. The challenge if we work in a society will not be to “out-Christian” the opposition, but to work together to reach more truth, more charity and more justice.

The difference between a Christian point of view and one merely just and charitable comes not in the final position, but in the process used to reach it. Maybe this is why non-Christians, who “are a law unto themselves”, can have righteous and charitable positions, which are indeed Christ-like, while Christians can have unjust positions, which have no relation to Christ at all, even if based on a church commandment or bible verse. The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that Christians should not entirely trust their own ability to form a right opinion based solely on their human abilities. I need Christ, not so often to give me the final answer to the question, but to always overcome the many biases and flaws which prevent me from reaching truth, love and justice in my answer. To be fully Christ-like, my position requires my assent and submission to God’s loving challenge of my self-will and my personal biases.

In conclusion, if I want to defend a position as being Christian, I have to argue that it is based on: (1) a true understanding of reality, (2) on love of neighbor, and (3) on justice or, even better, grace. The inner process through which I let Christ form my views is personal. It is a process question. While it is essential to me, it is not for external marketing purposes. As he assists me, it suffices that I present my views based on truth, charity and justice. All God’s children—those who know or do not know him—can best be brought to reason on the weighty debates of the day, if at all, by arguing for these three simple but difficult principles.

Maybe we should worry less about having a Christian point of view, and challenge ourselves more about having a truthful, just and charitable one. As we pursue the latter, we will find that we reach the former.

Christ owns the patent on truth, justice and charity after all. But we don't own the patent on Christ.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Things can get better in Israel / Palestine

If you think nothing can work or get better in Palestine / Israel, read this text from MJ Rosenberg, Director of Israel Policy Forum's Washington Policy Center. It was circulated on the Common Ground Newsletter.

It is clear that people of different political backgrounds can come to a peaceful resolution - I offer this text as an illustration. Note the important statements about the attitude of Palestinian groups toward Israel (and the question of whether AIPAC abides by the same principles); note the comments on Hamas and the truce that is being respected (so yes, we can and we should talk and negotiate with Hamas). And yes, it does matter which politicians are in charge in Washington DC. Thank God we won't have Giulliani; but let's remember that 8 years ago a new Administration came to power in the US with a Green Light policy for killing Palestinians. Bloodshed was horrific and the devastation considerable. Let's hope for better things today.

Let's also remember that things won't stay better unless radical changes happen for Palestinians in their many small prisons. (See the intentions of the Israeli Right in a previous entry.) And this is urgent. But it's good to state positive evolutions once in a while.


Some Good News for a Change

In Sherlock Holmes stories, the dog that didn't bark is considered significant. That is not true when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where only bad news is considered news.

It is now four months since the Egyptian-brokered Israeli-Hamas cease-fire went into effect. According to Alex Fishman, the security-minded Yediot Achronot military correspondent, the "agreement has resulted in an almost complete cessation of Kassam rocket fire" on Sderot and other Israeli towns.

Four months of calm may not seem like much to those of us living here. But in a town where residents had, until June, routinely been given a 30 second warning of an incoming rocket, it is a long time indeed.

Now the Israelis have to decide whether or not they want to extend the cease-fire for another six months. Defense Minister Ehud Barak favors extending it indefinitely, although he may be resisting the Israeli side of the bargain—easing the blockade of Gaza.

Of course, few people here even know that the cease-fire is holding and that Hamas is scrupulously enforcing it. In fact, I imagine many believe Hamas is still firing those rockets, despite the evidence. The very thought that Hamas actually adheres to agreements is, for some, an inconvenient fact.

Another inconvenient fact is that Egypt has been effectively working to shut down the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. Fishman reports that Israeli officials "praise the Egyptians' achievements in discovering tunnels to and from Gaza." These officials note that the Egyptians "successfully nabbed part of a terror cell operating in Hezbollah's service, which was planning the kidnapping of Israeli tourists in Sinai."

You won't read about that in those direct mail appeals from pro-Israel organizations whose raison d’être is to convince Jews that the situation is bad and only getting worse. And that even the Egyptians are not to be trusted. Fear is, quite literally, these organizations' bread and butter. But facts are facts.

Then there is the continuing good news from the West Bank where General Keith Dayton has helped transform some violence-ridden population centers—starting with Jenin but moving into other towns—into veritable islands of tranquility (at least by West Bank standards). For years, Americans and Israelis have demanded that the Palestinian Authority crack down on local terrorists and gangsters and, under Salam Fayad, it is happening.

Here is what Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff have to say in Ha'aretz: "Four and a half months after the Jenin project began, it is proving a big success. The Shin Bet security service has received very few intelligence warnings about attempts at terror attacks emanating from the region, and clashes with the IDF have almost subsided. Commerce and industry have improved and, what is most important from the Palestinian perspective, order has returned to the streets."

Things will improve further if Israel gives a boost to the Palestinian economy by dismantling unnecessary and redundant checkpoints (rather than continuously adding more). You can't do business if your customers and your inventory are held up at internal checkpoints.

The important thing is not to let Jenin First become Jenin Last. Replicating the Jenin model is imperative.

Along those lines, I want to offer a "shout out" to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, chair of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. Lowey controls the foreign aid purse strings in the House and made sure that General Dayton had the funding he needed to make Jenin possible. Without her, it would not have happened.

Also on the Washington front, I attended the annual banquet of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) last Sunday. The keynote speaker was Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who issued a stirring call for implementing the two-state solution. There were several other speeches and various greetings and messages.

But there was not a single anti-Israel statement. Speakers decried the 41-year occupation but there was not one anti-Israel remark. ATFP sent a clear message of friendship for Israel and Jews. By way of contrast, the loudest cheers at AIPAC (and other Jewish organizational events) are often reserved for those speakers who indulge in the most paranoid and extreme Arab-bashing. To their credit, these Palestinians have turned the page, in large part due to the leadership of Palestinian-American physician, Ziad Asali, his wife and partner Naila Abed Asali, and the American Task Force, the organization they founded.

Perhaps most impressive was that this event was happening at all. A dozen years ago, Palestinians were on the margins of acceptance here in Washington. Few respectable types—let alone U.S. officials—would allow themselves to be seen at a Palestinian event where, of all things, the Palestinian national anthem is sung along with the "Star Spangled Banner." But this year I saw dozens of prominent officials, including Deputy National Security Council Adviser Elliot Abrams, enjoying themselves among Fatah-supporting Palestinians. Not an image I'll soon forget!

Things have changed since Golda Meir preached that there was no such thing as Palestinians. The Palestinians have been "mainstreamed" which means that at long last their voices are being heard in Washington. Whether or not the next administration will take action to address their legitimate needs—and Israel's as well—is an open question.

But even here there is good news. In three presidential debates, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama issued those pointless and demeaning statements of support for the Middle East status quo. The lobby had supplied both of them with the usual claptrap rhetoric that previous candidates have uttered but which few, if any, really believed. After all, how could any politician smart enough to be a candidate for president believe that Israel is always right and the Arabs always wrong or that it is in America's best interests to exclusively identify with one side?

Instead, this year both presidential candidates have put out position papers stating their support for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations toward implementation of the two-state solution. (Since Giuliani left the race, there has been no candidate promoting the neocon dream of war to the death for Israelis and Palestinians).

Avoiding simple-minded hawkishness on Israel is good politics. According to the just-released American Jewish Committee poll of American Jews, Israel ranks number six on the list of issues Jews consider when they vote for president. Three percent cite Israel as compared to 54 percent of Jews who cite the U.S. economy (this was before the stock market collapse) and the large numbers citing health care, Iraq, and other domestic concerns.

This is not to say that American Jews do not care about Israel. They most certainly do. But when it comes to voting for president, the Israel issue is barely a blip.

That is because Jews know that in this election both candidates are pro-Israel and also because they understand that mouthing lobby-crafted formulations about Israel does nothing to advance its security.

They certainly aren't buying the lies being circulated in partisan "hate" e-mails. Jews have been called a lot of things. "Stupid" isn't one of them.

Source: Israel Policy Forum. M.J. Rosenberg Weekly Opinion Column.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A day as any other - where is the violence?

Today, I'll leave the floor to Sami Awad - a Palestinian Christian leader and teacher of non-violence - to report a "small incident" which happened 3 days ago near Bethlehem. What is described here would be outrageous (a "big deal") if it happened to, for example, to French or American citizens. If it happened to Jews anywhere in the world, as it has too often, the world would be right to be outraged and cry foul. Certainly democratic nations would stop supporting the country which would allow this. But somehow, when it happens to Palestinians, it's a "small incident" as far as life in the West Bank is concerned, where Israel enforces a state of selective lawlessness beyond scrutiny and accountability it seems. I am not being rhetorical, I think my language is precisely descriptive. Before letting you read and judge for yourself, I must say I am amazed that people like Sami and others will endure and keep on struggling, choosing non-violence, and loving their enemy. Blessed are the Peacemakers? I hope.
When Settlers get Abusive, Israeli Soldiers Attack the Abused, but the Sun Shines on All by Sami Awad [click on the title to visit Sami's blog.]

On Thursday the 16th of October, hundreds of Israeli settlers / squatters gathered in a Palestinian hill known as Oush Gurab located in Beit Sahour (Shepherd’s Filed). This location was used for many years as an Israeli military outpost. Palestinians who live in its vicinity recall daily the violence and terror they experienced from Israeli soldiers stationed there. When the location lost its strategic advantage to the illegal separation barrier, the Israeli military evacuated the location. They no longer had to be in the middle of a Palestinian residential area, they can move to the other side of the prison walls now. After the evacuation, Palestinians returned to Oush Gurab and began working on numerous humanitarian and recreational projects including a children’s hospital and an outdoor activity park.

The aim of these settlers / squatters who showed up on this Thursday was to stop all Palestinian activity there and eventually confiscate this hill and build a new settlement. If built, the settlement will violate the policy of the Israeli government and military for this area. The irony of the matter is that for the settlers it does not matter, their movement is above policy and above the law and it is so strong that the Israeli government, military and police are bound to not only “protect” the settlers when they show up in such high numbers but to facilitate their agenda before political pressure is applied.

To confirm the rightful Palestinian ownership of Oush Gurab and as a sign of protest to the illegal presence of the settlers, a small group of Palestinian and international activists began a walk around the location to monitor the environmental damage that was being caused in the area where open sewage pounds are forming. The Israeli military is not allowing the Palestinian Authority to treat waist water there. The trip also included monitoring of wild life (especially birds) in that area. Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh from Bethlehem University led the group and explained the environmental disaster that was taking place there.

We were quickly followed by several Israeli soldiers who interrupted our walk and asked us to leave, admitting that they had no order to stop us, we continued our walk and reached a side dirt road that was being used by the settlers to go up the hill. Hundreds of settlers were there accompanied by Israeli soldiers and police.

As we stood there, some settlers began to taunt and curse us and then one took his machine gun, pointed it straight at us and yelled “Go him you F—ks or I will kill every one of you.” The Israeli soldiers smiled and one simply asked him to leave, but he just stood there. This reminded me of an incident a few weeks ago in the same location when Marwan from our office was attacked by a settler. The settler threw a boulder in the middle of Marwan’s back (still getting treatment). When he went to one of the Israeli captains and complained, the captain asked Marwan if he had done anything in retaliation, Marwan said no. The Israeli captain smiled and told Marwan “good, you would have been in deep trouble” and walked away.

We made it a clear intention not to talk to or respond to the settlers in any way, but the abuse and threat of the settlers was getting louder and it either became too much for the soldiers or it provoked them enough to attack us instead of controlling the settlers and asking them to leave the area (which they could have easily done).

It began with immediate pushing and shoving even though by that time we were ready to leave, but as we began to move back they jumped to arrest one person who was walking just behind me in what may have been a slower manner. I tried to grab him only to be chocked by a very large policeman and had my arms twisted by another Israeli soldier. As I was trying with incredible difficulty to take one breath I saw how they engaged in all out attack on what truly was a small group that was not there to confront.

I was thrown to the ground, arms pulled behind me and tied with plastic handcuffs that only become tighter with any movement. With this, and even though there was no intention on my part to move and I informed them of this, the same police officer seemed to have felt that he had just hunted down a big game in the jungles of Africa and wanted to show off to his friends and settlers, so he put his foot on my side as a sign of victory.

I was then taken and thrown to the side of the road where the settlers were walking and eventually six others, one Palestinian and five international, joined me. From there, they took us to an area away from the main roads and while remaining in handcuffs demanded (some of them with extreme foul language) to keep our heads down and not talk, even threatening to tie one person’s head to his feet. The only reason he was moving was because he was badly hurt in his neck and back.

After a few hours in the same position and with the same handcuffs, one captain who knew me from previous nonviolent actions came and told me of their intention to let us go. The captain tried to convince me that he was releasing us because of me, but I can not and will not allow such a statement to take any value in my life. The reason; while his knowledge of my commitment to nonviolence may have helped and may have even created in him and his superiors some acknowledgment and respect, my task is not to allow him to place this as a burden on me and have it become a tool he or others may use in the future to try and hinder my commitment and resolve; the most complimenting of statements combined with the slightest of an improper intention can lead to the most detrimental results. So my task is to push and challenge him even more now not with the intention of having him declare his approval or disapproval of what I do, but with the intention to truly free him from his own handcuffs and shackles.

At the end of the day, they released most of us because (in my opinion) they truly had no reason to keep us. They kept one of the international volunteers and drove of with him in a police car. The reason was never made clear to us.

A moment before that same captain came to me to inform me of their decision; the sun began to set behind Bethlehem and the beams were breaking through some white and gray clouds. There was a slight and beautiful chill from the autumn air. I gave thanks for that beautiful day and for the fact that the sun does not know Palestinian from Israeli, Christian from Muslim or Jew, and Asian from American or African, and I asked myself, if the sun shines on all of us as one, how much more does the sun’s creator see and love us all as one?


Visit Sami Awad's blog by clicking here.
Visit Holy Land Trust by clicking here.
Picture caption: Israeli settlers attack a Palestinian photographer during an olive harvest in the occupied West Bank, 18 Oct 2008 (picture released by Active Stills). Source: Voice of America.
click to Read the Herald Tribune report of a similar incident-- there are dozens such exactions every week.