THE TALLEST MAN IN THE WEST BANK

The tallest man in Ramallah offered to give us a tour of his cage. We would not even have to leave our table at Rukab’s Ice Cream, on Rukab Street; all he needed to do was reach into his pocket.

The Tallest Man in Ramallah

MICHAEL CHABON ROAMS THE WEST BANK WITH SAM BAHOUR

By  Michael Chabon

At nearly two meters—six foot four—Sam Bahour might well have been the tallest man in the whole West Bank, but his cage was constructed so ingeniously that it could fit into a leather billfold.

“Now, what do I mean, ‘my cage?’” He spoke with emphatic patience, like a remedial math instructor, a man well-practiced in keeping his cool. With his large, dignified head, hairless on top and heavy at the jawline, with his deep-set dark eyes and the note of restraint that often crept into his voice, there was something about Sam that reminded me of Edgar Kennedy in the old Hal Roach comedies, the master of the “slow burn.” “‘Sam,’” he said, pretending to be us, his visitors, we innocents abroad, “‘What is this cage you’re talking about? We saw the checkpoints. We saw the separation barrier. Is that what you mean by cage?’”

Some of us laughed; he had us down. What did we know about cages? When we finished our ice cream—a gaudy, sticky business in Ramallah, where the recipe is an Ottoman vestige, intensely colored and thickened with tree gum—we would pile back into our hired bus and return to the liberty we had not earned and were free to squander.

“Yes, that’s part of what I mean,” he said, answering the question he had posed on our behalf. “But there is more than that.”

Sam Bahour took the leather billfold out of the pocket of his dark-blue warm-up jacket and held it up for our inspection. It bulged like a paperback that had fallen into a bathtub. When he dropped it onto the tabletop it landed with a law-book thump. It was a book of evidence, proof that the cage he lived in was neither a metaphor nor simply a matter of four hundred miles of concrete and razor wire.

“In 1994, after Oslo,” Sam said, “my wife and I decided to move back here.” They had been married for a year, at that point, and decided to apply to the Israeli government for residency in Palestine “under a policy they called family reunification.” He flipped open the billfold and took out a passport with a familiar dark blue cover. “As an American citizen, I entered as a tourist, on a three-month visa.”

Sam Bahour was born in Youngstown, in 1964. His mother is a second-generation Ohioan of Lebanese Christian descent; his father immigrated to the United States from the town of Al-Bireh, then under Jordanian control, in 1957. After spending a few unhappy years working for relatives as a traveling salesman in the rural south (“basically a peddler,” in Sam’s words, “selling cheap goods to poor people at like a two hundred percent markup, it really bothered him”) Sam’s father settled in Youngstown, with its sizable Arab population. He bought the first of a series of independent grocery stores he would own and operate over the course of his career, got married, became a citizen, had a couple of kids, worked hard, made good.

A few things Sam said about his father seemed to suggest that though the elder Bahour settled and prospered in Ohio, he did not entirely lose himself in the embrace of his adopted country. When Sam was born his father had named him Bilal, after the most loyal of the Prophet’s Companions. But when non-Muslim neighbors in Youngstown shortened Bilal to “Billy,” Sam’s father—whose name was the American-sounding but authentically Arabic Sami—had his young son’s name legally changed to match his own. The freedom to return home that an American passport would afford, if only for three months at a time, had been among his motivations for marrying Sam’s mother and becoming a naturalized citizen. Some key part of the man—words like heart, mind, and spirit are only idioms, approximations—never left the house on Ma’arif Street where he had been born and raised, in the Al-Bireh neighborhood of Al-Sharafa, which belonged not to the Ottomans, the British, the Hashemites or the Israelis but only to the people who lived in them.

“I was brought up in a household that lived and ate and slept Palestine,” Sam would tell me, a couple of days after our first meeting over ice cream at Rakub’s. “I lived in Youngstown, where I didn’t know most of my neighbors, but I could tell you everybody in my neighborhood here in Ramallah. That’s an odd kind of way to grow up.”

That enchanted blue American passport, part skeleton key, part protective force-field, could work powerful three-month spells, both for Sam’s father and for Sam, once he and his Jerusalem-born wife, Abeer Barghouty, decided to try to make a life in Al-Bireh. For 13 years after his application for a residency card under the Israeli-controlled Family Reunification policy, Sam raised his daughters, built a number of businesses (telecommunications, retail development, consulting), worked for himself and his partners, for his clients and for the future of his half-born country, and lived a Palestinian life, all in tourist-visa tablespoonfuls, 90 days at a time. But in 2006, for reasons that remain mysterious, the magic embedded in his US passport abruptly ran out. Returning to the West Bank from a visa-renewing trip to Jordan, Sam handed over his passport to an Israeli border officer, expecting the routine 90-day rubber stamp. But when the passport was returned to him Sam saw that alongside the stamp, in Arabic, Hebrew and English, the officer had hand-written the words LAST PERMIT. Once this final allotment of 90 days ran out, Sam would no longer have permission to stay in the West Bank or Israel, and when he left—left his home, his family, his business, his community and everything he had worked to build over the past 13 years—he would not be permitted to return.

This is a very long post but definitely worth reading ….

Continue HERE

BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP CREATED BY THE HORRORS OF WAR

“We had no choice but to believe that together, we could face our new fate.”

Adli (right) and Mansour (left) on top of al-Muntar hill, the highest point in the Gaza Strip, near where Mansour was injured in an Israeli strike.

Adli (right) and Mansour (left) on top of al-Muntar hill, the highest point in the Gaza Strip, near where Mansour was injured in an Israeli strike.

A Gaza friendship

When Adli Ibeid went to get his car repaired in a shop in Shujaiya, a neighborhood near Gaza City, in February 2010, he had no idea that he would make a new friend whose life would become profoundly intertwined with his own.

“I heard of a skilled car electrician in the neighborhood. I went there to repair my car and I met Mansour for the first time,” Adli said.

Mansour al-Qirim, the electrician, “was a very energetic, polite young man with a big smile. We grew closer to one another until we became good friends.”

They came to rely on one another as each would be gravely injured in separate Israeli attacks the following year.

“We had no choice but to believe that together, we could face our new fate,” Adli, now 25, said.

Adli was the first of the pair to be injured.

“I was walking near a group of children who were playing soccer in al-Mansoura street in March 2011. Suddenly, they were targeted by an Israeli airstrike,” Adli said. “I tried to help them, but another missile hit the area, leaving me with serious wounds.”

Adli was injured during a week of extensive Israeli airstrikes and shelling, alongside increased rocket fire from Gaza. Fourteen Palestinians, including six civilians, were killed, and 52 more – the vast majority of them civilians, including 19 children – were injured.

Adli lost consciousness on his way to the hospital, and the emergency medics thought he had died. He was taken to the morgue and left there until his father came to identify his son.

Adli’s father sensed his son breathing.

“I felt everything but couldn’t do anything, until I heard my father’s screams,” Adli recalled.

After spending three days at the intensive care unit at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, Adli regained his consciousness to discover that he had lost his left leg.

“At first, I was shocked, but over time, I accepted the reality and looked towards the future,” he said.

Adli eventually traveled to Egypt for surgery which improved his condition. When he returned to Gaza, his friend Mansour was waiting for him.

Mansour visited Adli regularly and encouraged him to have faith and patience. “It was very difficult to see my friend in such a situation,” Mansour said. “I didn’t know that I was going to have the same fate soon.”

Mansour would need to take the same advice he had given to his friend.

“In 2011, I was moving steadily towards the life of which I used to dream. I got my own workshop after mastering the craft as a car electrician,” Mansour, now 23, said. “I was an ambitious and successful 18-year-old young man.”

This was all turned upside down in August that year.

“I was passing by some of my neighbors, near al-Muntar hill, when they were directly attacked” in an Israeli airstrike, Mansour recalled. “I stayed in a coma for 10 days and when I got out of it, I realized what had happened to my leg, in addition to losing two of my fingers.”

Mansour was injured when Israel carried out approximately 30 airstrikes from 19 to 21 August, killing seven Palestinians and injuring 30 more. Palestinian fire from Gaza killed an Israeli civilian and injured six others. A Palestinian child was also killed, and six others injured, when a rocket fired from Gaza fell short of its target.

After months of treatment, Mansour was released from hospital.

“I went through a regime of physiotherapy which helped me regain my muscle flexibility, especially after the coma,” he explained. “Moreover, I had some surgeries in my leg and my head where I had sustained shrapnel.”

The two friends decided to stick together as they faced their new reality.

“We knew that everything would be easier as long as we’re together,” Mansour said. “I do almost everything with Adli.”

Adli said: “Luckily, we have the same foot size and the same taste in shoes. When we buy a pair of shoes, I take the right shoe and Mansour takes the left one. We also split the cost.

“Furthermore, we drive a motorcycle together to go to the market, to the gym, or even to the corniche.”

Their burdens remain, though their friendship makes them more bearable.

“It took us some months to believe that we could live a normal life again,” Adli explained. “I tried to go back to my previous job as a clothes salesman, but I couldn’t stand in the shop for long hours. I’ve been looking for another job.”

The Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank pays a monthly stipend to Palestinians seriously injured by Israel. But, according to Adli, “It’s not enough, especially because I’m responsible for my family.”

For Mansour, who is no longer able to work as a car electrician, providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities is a national and humanitarian duty.

“No one will hire us, even if the job is in the scope of our abilities. We won’t surrender to our disability. In fact, all we want is to participate positively in society.”

The friends have not been able to acquire artificial limbs. Prosthetics are in high demand in Gaza, and the waiting list for fittings is long, due to repeated Israeli attacks on the territory.

“We wait for an opportunity to travel to Egypt in order to get fitted for artificial limbs, despite their high prices,” Mansour said.

But there are new joys the friends are able to share, alongside the new challenges.

At his parents’ insistence, Mansour married, and in August, he and his wife’s first child arrived.

“My beautiful daughter, Zeina, is the most amazing thing that ever happened for me. I get up every morning to see her smile and to pray for her to have a better tomorrow,” he said.

Adli, who also married recently and whose wife is expecting their firstborn, looks forward to the future, without forgetting the past.

“Five years ago, I was declared dead in the morgue. Today, I have a family and dreams to achieve. I would never be here without having Mansour beside me.”

SOURCE and more photos

UPDATED POST ~~ VIDEO ~~ A JEW AND AN ARAB WALK INTO A BAR … AND THE REALITY IN ISRAEL TODAY

(See report below for today’s update)

From yesterday …..

We went out dressed in an Arab/Muslim and Jewish traditional outfit, walked hand to hand in public to see how people react.

The results are telling.

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Four ways Jews and Arabs live apart in Israeli society

The two communities have separate societies, attending different schools, living in different cities and espousing different political ideals

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Bezalel Smotrich, perhaps the most right-wing member of the current Knesset, caused a storm when he endorsed the idea that Arabs and Jew should be segregated in Israel’s maternity rooms.
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Smotrich was responding to a report on the Israel Broadcast Authority that several hospitals practice de facto segregation of maternity rooms — placing Jews with Jews and Arabs with Arabs. Such segregation is prohibited by law.

“There are mental gaps, and it’s more comfortable for both sides to be with themselves,” Smotrich, a member of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party, tweeted on April 5. “It’s really not racism.”

In a subsequent tweet he wrote that it’s “natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby, who may want to kill her baby 20 years from now.”

Smotrich’s remarks were panned by lawmakers from left and right, including Naftali Bennett, the leader of Jewish Home. Responding to Smotrich, Bennett tweeted a rabbinic passage about man being created in God’s image, adding, “Every man. Jew or Arab.”

Jews and Arabs are afforded equal rights under Israeli law. But in many ways, the two sectors live in separate societies — attending different schools, living in different cities, reading different newspapers and espousing different political ideals.

Unlike the prescribed, top-down segregation supported by Smotrich, much of this separation stems from longstanding structural factors like language, culture and religion.

“In most places, there’s no problem. The Arab population lives in totally Arab villages,” said Nachum Blass, a senior researcher at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies.

But the divisions between Israeli Jews and Arabs, who represent 20 percent of the population, have also contributed to economic disparities between them. And despite laws meant to prevent discrimination, Arabs point to studies showing persistent disparities in education, social services, income and political participation.

“There’s definitely discrimination in every aspect” of Israel’s education system, Taub said.

Nongovernmental organizations and government bodies have worked to promote a “shared society” in economic development, higher education and the labor market.

Here are four ways Jews and Arabs live apart in Israeli society.

Jews and Arabs attend separate schools.

Israel’s schools are separated by both religion and race. Jewish students attend either secular, religious or ultra-Orthodox schools, while the Arabs attend separate Muslim, Christian and Druze systems taught in Arabic. Of the 1.6 million total students in grades 1 through 12 last year, fewer than 2,000 attended the handful of joint Jewish-Arab schools.

The split education system, where students are taught in their own language and according to their own cultural norms, according to Blass, “answers the [Arab] community’s needs.” But it has also led to lower educational achievement among Arab Israelis.

In 2012, two-thirds of non ultra-Orthodox Jews qualified for university, as opposed to less than half of Arab students. Israel’s universities are more integrated, but Arabs make up a low proportion of students. In 2012, Arabs made up only 12 percent of bachelor’s degree students, and 4 percent of doctoral students, according to Sikkuy, an organization that aims to foster Jewish-Arab coexistence.

Jews and Arabs live in separate towns.

In addition to studying separately, Israeli Jews and Arabs mostly live in separate cities. Two of the country’s largest cities, Jerusalem and Haifa, have substantial Arab populations, but even those cities are often separated by neighborhood. Nearly all of Jerusalem’s Arab residents live in the eastern half of the city.

Aside from a handful of other mixed Israeli towns, most of the country’s cities are more than 90 percent Jewish or Arab. Though Arabs make up nearly 20 percent of Israel’s citizenry, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Israel’s largest, is nearly 95 percent Jewish.

The Jewish-Arab division is also marked by economic gaps. Arab cities have higher poverty rates and, in general, worse municipal services than their Jewish counterparts. Eight of Israel’s 10 poorest towns are Arab. The richest 30 are Jewish.

“It’s not a problem in principle to live in different places,” said Rawnak Natour, co-director of Sikkuy. “There needs to be a possibility to live together, that there will be [cultural] symbols and the ability to encompass the different cultures.”

Their political leaders rarely work together.

Israel often points to its Arab-Israeli lawmakers as proof of the country’s democratic chops. Arabs hold 16 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, and the body’s third-largest party, the Joint List, is Arab. Arabs have also risen to the top of other branches of government, including sitting on Israel’s Supreme Court.

But Israeli Arabs’ political leadership perpetually sits in the Knesset’s opposition, and few politicians in the government are Arab, such that the two communities’ agendas rarely align. The only Arab in Israel’s political leadership is the deputy minister of regional cooperation, Ayoub Kara, who is part of the Druze minority.

Arabs are barely present in Israel’s mainstream media.

Lucy Aharish, the young Arab co-host of a morning show on a leading Israeli TV station, speaks accent-less Hebrew, has gained admirers for her forthrightness and was even honored with a role at the country’s official torch-lighting ceremony on Independence Day.

But she’s one of the few Arab faces and voices Israelis will see and hear on their TVs and radios. Israeli Arabs have their own active press, but they are vastly underrepresented in mainstream Israeli media, comprising fewer than 3 percent of total interviews on leading Israel stations in January and February, according to a study by Sikkuy and the Seventh Eye, a media watchdog.

The number drops even lower when it comes to news segments not directly related to Israeli Arabs. Aharish’s Channel 2, for example, spoke to only 11 Arabs out of more than 5,500 total such interviews in January.

“You have low representation, and the moment you have it, it’s about specific topics and a very specific framing, which is crime and the conflict,” Natour said. “The way they’re interviewed is a negative framework that perpetuates the stigmas about the Arab population in the state.”

VIDEO ~~ A JEW AND AN ARAB WALK INTO A BAR …

We went out dressed in an Arab/Muslim and Jewish traditional outfit, walked hand to hand in public to see how people react.

The results are telling.

quote-racism-is-a-refuge-for-the-ignorant-it-seeks-to-divide-and-to-destroy-it-is-the-enemy-of-freedom-pierre-berton-17016

KUDOS TO KANADA!

Fighting hatred Canadian style ….

'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven' ...

‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ …

Peterborough Mosque Fire Sees Jews Step In To Help

A synagogue in Peterborough, Ont. is giving Muslims a place to pray after their mosque was set on fire in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Beth Israel Synagogue has offered up some space so that members of the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, which serves hundreds, can worship there while they wait for their building to be repaired, The Canadian Jewish News reported.

Beth Israel already shares space with the Unitarian Fellowship, said The Peterborough Examiner.

After learning that police are investigating the weekend fire as a hate crime, both the synagogue’s board and the Unitarians agreed unanimously to share space with worshippers from the mosque.

“We’re all in this together,” synagogue president Larry Gillman told the Canadian Jewish News. “We may be different religions, but we’re all one people and in times like this we have to stick together.”

An online fundraiser has collected more than $110,000 to help repair the only mosque in Peterborough.

“We know how people are in Peterborough and they’ve always been great,” said Kenzu Abdella, president of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association which runs the mosque.

He told the told the Canadian Jewish News, “If I go to the mosque right now, even though it is locked and there is no one from our community, you will find people there leaving letters and flowers.”

Elsewhere in Canada, synagogues are stepping up to sponsor families fleeing the war in Syria.

Vancouver’s Temple Sholom has raised $40,000 to support a family, and it may even sponsor a second one, while Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam has raised $30,000 for a Syrian family.

Photos and video at Source

KOSHER Vs MONSANTO ~~ THE CHOICE IS YOURS

Photo © by Bud Korotzer From THIS post

Photo © by Bud Korotzer
From THIS post

Monsanto finally has a rival!

Kudos to Manischewitz for the steps they have taken!!

“We’ve always been using non-GMO products. Now we just have some proof to show for it.”

Manischewitz, a leading name in kosher foods since 1888, has announced that it’s become the first major kosher brand to receive non-GMO certification.

Manischewitz, a leading name in kosher foods since 1888, has announced that it’s become the first major kosher brand to receive non-GMO certification.

Manischewitz and the Non-GMO Project

By Jean Hanks

This certification, which the company received for 12 of its products, comes from the Non-GMO Project, created in 2008 by a group of food retailers who wanted their customers to know exactly what they were eating. Products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal have been through a rigorous verification process, so consumers can be sure that these foods contain the least amount of genetically modified organisms possible.

What this means to Manischewitz is that customers now have actual proof that the food they are buying is healthy and safe, said Sara Stromer, assistant brand manager for the company. She stresses that there has not been any alteration to the taste that customers love. “There is no change in the ingredients or how the products are made,” Stromer said. “We’ve always been using non-GMO products. Now we just have some proof to show for it.”

Why the need for this proof? Manischewitz says it is responding to its customers, as well as keeping up with the latest health trends. In addition to taking the steps to become non-GMO certified, the company announced seven newly certified gluten-free Passover products. Stromer hopes that by promoting the importance of selling non-GMO foods, Manischewitz sets an example for other kosher food companies.

POST 9/11 ~~ THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS ON MY FATHER’S PRISON WALL

haha

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Through my father’s story, I honor him. I bring back to light his unjust imprisonment, which has only grown more punitive 13 years after 9/11. This fallout has lead to a seemingly endless incarceration of my father who–in addition to remaining behind bars for his global humanitarian work–has to deal with his pictorial account being confiscated as contraband.

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Remember the Photos on My Father’s

Prison Walls

By Noor Elashi*

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Yesterday, on the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, I received an email from my father saying that the photos affixed to the walls of his prison cell were ripped down and called “contraband” by the officer who took them.

My father is a political prisoner, convicted of terrorism charges in the vacuum of post-9/11 hysteria and incarcerated at a federal prison in southern Illinois–all under allegations stemming from his indisputable philanthropic work.

Until recently, the walls of my father’s 9-by-5-foot cell were covered with eleven photos of children from all over the world–children who were injured or killed during recent political events. My father wrote my family, heartbroken, to say that even though he had collected these images from The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and other publications, they were still seized–with no notice.

My father, Ghassan Elashi, is currently serving a 65-year-prison-sentence at the Communications Management Unit in Marion, Illinois for conspiracy to send Material Support in the form of humanitarian aid to charities in the West Bank and Gaza that prosecutors claimed were associated with designated terrorists; our biggest defense thus far (and the reason my father may be vindicated in due time) is that his charity, the Holy Land Foundation, used the same exact Palestinian charities that our own government agency –the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)–used to distribute its aid.

In his note, my father described the eleven photographs to me, images that we may have all seen during one time or another, images that we often glance away from because they are so hard to look at. My father brought back each photo to life in the order that he remembered it:

Image one. Afghan children, wrapped in colorful clothing, lay in rubble after their village was bombarded. According to news reports, they suffocated to death along with their mothers while attempting to seek shelter.

Image two. A young girl in Yemen stands on the street with a paintbrush in her hand. Behind her is a street graffiti drawing of a massive drone and a statement that reads, “Why did you kill my family.”

Image three. A Syrian toddler pulls away from the camera after being rescued from a building where his family once resided. The building was destroyed by a barrel bomb. The child, masked in dust, tightly hugs the man who rescued him.

Image four. Two preschool-aged brothers, also from Syria, sit on a bench with wounds on their faces. Inside a makeshift clinic in the war-torn town of Homs, the older boy cries while the younger one–despite his inability to comprehend his reality–attempts to console his brother.

Image five. Nearly 200 Uighur refugees occupy an asylum camp in the forests of southern Thailand. The camp, surrounded by a razor-wire fence and guarded by a local army unit, was created to help women and children flee oppression in China and immigrate to Turkey.

Image six. Two Palestinian children are captured at a Gaza beach a few weeks ago. One was running away from the shore and the other one’s body was strewn on the sand after being shot by an Israeli naval ship.

Image seven. Also captured recently, teary-eyed children from Gaza are crammed in the back of a truck after being displaced from their homes.

Image eight. A Palestinian child sits on a hospital bed, with his face burned and covered in white powder. He is weeping as he looks up at his mother who is beside him and also covered in white powder.

Image nine. A group of children from Myanmar (Burma) stand in a concentration camp, where they have been imprisoned for two years.

Image ten. A young man is injured on the streets of Egypt as a bulldozer moves towards him. A woman is yelling nearby, presumably pleading with the driver and pointing at the injured youth.

Image eleven. A Palestinian boy climbs the separation wall between Bethlehem and a Jewish settlement. The boy appears hesitant near the top, as he risks being shot by the guards in the towers.

These images covered my father’s prison cell walls until last Wednesday. After being away from his cell all morning, my father returned to his room to change into his exercise clothes. When he entered, he was shocked to find that all eleven pictures that he had carefully collected during the past two years were not on his walls anymore. When he learned that it was the prison guards who had confiscated the images, my father asked them to return them.

That is when a guard told him they are “contraband.”

“But they were newspaper clippings,” my father said. Still, the guard only repeated his claim, saying that it was too late anyways; he had already shredded them.

To my father, these images were more than just anonymous faces of damage and pain. He had photocopied each image while reading the news, he had plastered them on his wall, and as months passed, every child and mother became familiar to him. They became part of his confined space, characters from his abstract community –and a loud reminder that there were still so many people in the world in need of urgent help.

At the end of his email, my father told me that he wished he’d made two copies of each photo instead of one. It’s too late now, he admitted, but he reassured me that he will never forget their faces. The prison guard may have shredded the physical prints, but my father insists he could still see them and that they will forever remain imprinted in his heart. As I share his careful descriptions of them, I honor the people in these images for the world to remember.

Through my father’s story, I honor him. I bring back to light his unjust imprisonment, which has only grown more punitive 13 years after 9/11. This fallout has lead to a seemingly endless incarceration of my father who–in addition to remaining behind bars for his global humanitarian work–has to deal with his pictorial account being confiscated as contraband.

Noor Elashi is a writer based in New York City. She has written for McSweeney’s, The Huffington Post and other publications. With a Creative Writing MFA from The New School, Noor is currently writing a memoir chronicling her father’s decade-long prosecution.

JUDAISM AS IT’S MEANT TO BE

 The preservation of human life takes precedence over all the other commandments in Judaism. (FROM)
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martin-luther-king-jr-day-L-xGOagM1
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“Noam’s parents are noble and inspiring people. Their donation is a source of pride and an example of humanity and kindness. “
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Jewish toddler’s kidney saves Palestinian boy’s life

Parents of three-year-old Noam Naor who was declared brain dead after falling from fourth floor donate his kidney to 10-year-old Yakoub Ibhisad. ‘Knowing I saved a life gives me great comfort and the power to go on, mother says

Dr. Itay Gal

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The parents of a Jewish boy who was declared brain dead after falling from a fourth floor window have donated his kidney to a 10-year-old Palestinian boy thus saving his life.

Three-year-old Noam Naor fell from the fourth floor of his parents’ apartment building and was rushed at critical condition to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. His injuries were so extensive they had caused him irreparable brain damage forcing doctors to declare him brain dead.

After consulting the matter with rabbis, Noam’s parents, both religious, decided to donate their son’s kidneys.

Given Noam’s young age there was no choice but to donate the kidney to a child as the organ could not be transplanted in anyone weighing over 30 kilograms.

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בן ה-10 שקיבל את הכליה, בביה"ח שניידר (לצילום: דוברות מרכז שניידר)

Yakoub Ibhisad after transplant (Photo: Schneider Children’s Medical Center)

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A tissue test run through the national waiting list found only one match – a 10-year-old Palestinian boy.

Yakoub Ibhisad had been treated at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for the past seven years for kidney failure. None of his family members were a match.
The transplant center asked Noam’s parents’ permission to give the kidney to a non-Israeli, and was given their consent.
“I thought about Shimon Peres‘ efforts for peace with our neighbors and realized I was making the right decision,” Noam’s mother Sarit said.
“Knowing I saved a life gives me great comfort and the power to go on,” she added. “It was not an easy choice, but I today I am happy I made it. It doesn’t matter that it’s a Palestinian boy, I wish it would bring us peace.”  

Having been made aware of the mother’s wish to speak to President Peres, the transplant center arranged a call between with the president who conveyed his condolences and expressed his support for the family’s decision.

“It’s one of the most moving contributions to peace,” Peres told the mother. “It shatters all prejudices.”

The transplant was performed at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, where Yakoub is still hospitalized. He is scheduled to be discharged soon.

Samir Ibhisad, Yakoub’s father said, “I haven’t the words to thank the family that saved my son’s life. We’ve been through many years of suffering when my son was on dialysis and his life was in danger.

“We are grateful for the donation and hope that God willing the couple will be blessed enough to have another child.”

Health MinisterYael Germansaid, “Noam’s parents are noble and inspiring people. Their donation is a source of pride and an example of humanity and kindness. “

Written FOR

THE ANGUISH OF A JEWISH PEACENIK FROM THE CLASS OF ’62

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Mirah and I attended the same High School for four years, grew up just blocks from each other, yet we never met. We had many mutual friends, yet we never even crossed paths. Some 40 odd years later we finally did meet via a Social Network known as Classmates.Com. She visited Israel about ten years ago and we spent a day together. Since then, we have been very close and are in constant contact.
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Yesterday she sent me the following piece which I must share with you. In her own words, “This article took a LONG TIME – 68 years – to coalesce and articulate!”
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I Am A Jewish Peacenik

What ‘Never Again’ Means To Me

By Mirah Riben
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I’m a Post WW II Brooklyn born Jewish woman living in retirement community. I didn’t choose to live here for its disproportionally predominantly Jewish population but here I am. I have enjoyed all of my life, since leaving my family of origins, living in more heterogeneous environments, yet there is the comfort of chicken soup being here surrounded by those I feel a shared history with, and being reminded of the few, long-forgotten Yiddish words and phrases I recall from my childhood. Yet, at the same time it brings back old outcast feelings of high school where I never quite “fit in.” 
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I am a life-long social justice and peace activist and not a gung-ho Zionist and more now than ever, here in this community, I often find myself in the midst of an uncomfortable conversation such as this: Two women, a generation apart but both Jewish immigrants, one from Ukraine and the other from Poland began talking about how things were so different for them than for current immigrants. “We” came here and learned English and worked hard; “they” live on welfare and food stamps.
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Why do I as a Jewish woman in my retirement years eschew these activities my peers love so dearly? Why do their conversations make me bristle with discomfort? The answer for me oddly lies in the lessons learned from the Holocaust.
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Since childhood, I cringed at the racist, judgmental talk that was commonly acceptable at the time. My father’s use of bigoted and discriminatory language extended to all “gentiles” or non-Jews. By high school I was well aware of, and not at all fond of, the hypocrisy between my parents‘ lack of religious observance and their insistence on Jewish superiority. Dad’s southern cousins used to welcome us with open arms calling us “DamnYankees” in one word and never thought it offensive. My father likewise called all non-Jews “DumbGoyim” in one word.
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The recent we/they dichotomy conversation was not just uncomfortable, it was blatantly, historically untrue. It disregards the fact that all immigrants have a hard time and most are very hard-working and not lazy bums living off the dole, while many American born families suffer inter-generational welfare mentality. Chinese immigrants built our railroads while others worked in mines under life-threatening conditions getting paid barely more than slave-labor. Living as we do on the East Coast, the vast majority of immigrants we see here are from Asia. In New Jersey in particular we have the largest population of Asian Indians in the nation. They, ironically, not unlike Jewish immigrants are derided for the exact opposite of being lazy! Many grumble that Asians from India and China are filing all the college openings leaving the children of less demanding American-born parents, behind.
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What does all of this have to do with the Holocaust? The lesson of the Holocaust for all Jews is “Never Again.” But what does that mean? How do we as Jews interpret that and put those two powerful words into action, politically and personally?
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For many of Jewish decent “Never Again” is a rally cry to make Jews a stronger people who will not take it but instead will stand and fight oppression when it comes; take up arms and fight back against hatred. “Never Again” is a show of strength and pride of our Jewish culture, our heritage, the state of Israel, and a battle cry to fight for it so it is never taken from us again. All of which I fully understand.
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I, however, try to take a more Gandhian approach: Working to prevent hatred, nipping it in the bud, and most of all not being party to it. For me, the lesson learned from the Holocaust is to not become my enemy. Like a child who grew up abused one can decide to never “take it” – never to be the beaten down underdog again – and in doing so replicate their parents, or chose to break the cycle.
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As Jews, who suffered the worst discrimination – genocide – I believe we need to be all the more sensitive to and refrain from all we/they talk. It is that very kind of talk of one race or ethnicity being superior and another being inferior that led to the Holocaust which cemented for Jews around the world our world view and underlies beliefs and politics.
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I hear it as a call for peace; a rally cry that no people should ever be persecuted. Islamophobia is every bit as offensive to me as is anti-Semitism. The Civil Rights movement did not just teach us to integrate and extend equal rights to Blacks but rather continues to teach us shape our policies on women’s rights and LGBT rights. Hate is hate. Persecution is persecution and none of us are free until all of us are free.
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I struggle to have, maintain and nurture a healthy sense of my Jewish cultural and ethnic identity without allowing it to become ethnocentric. I have been called a “bad Jew” for my views: pro-Hitler, pro-Muslim and pro-Palestine for not supporting every offensive, defensive and divisive action of the Israeli government. I’ve heard it all. I have been shunned by friends and some family who so fervently disagree.
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We seem able to accept that the Holocaust, understandably, made some more devout in their religious beliefs and turned others into atheists. Yet we are less able to accept world views shaped differently from the same event.
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If we cannot accept – not tolerate – but and accept, honor and value with dignity differences amongst ourselves, how can we ever hope to accept them amongst and between “others.”? And until we can do that, how can we co-exist on this planet? What is the alternative: Endless war? Or can we learn to “Never HATE Again”? 

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Mirah Riben is the author of shedding light on…The Dark Side of Adoption (1988) and THE STORK MARKET: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry (2007) http://www.AdvocatePublications.com and on the Board of Directors of Origins-USA.org

 

‘ONE STATE SOLUTION’ WORKED OUT IN SYDNEY AUSTRALIA

Hopefully dying together will lead to living together 😉
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With both communities facing a severe shortage of burial space at Rookwood Necropolis, believed to be the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere, the New South Wales State Government officially opened the last available land there to be shared by the two faiths.
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Sydney’s Muslim, Jewish communities to share burial space in local cemetery

New 3.3-hectare site will have enough burial space for both communities for the next decade or more.

By Dan Goldberg
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Lakemba Mosque’s Sheikh Safi and Yair Miller.
Lakemba Mosque’s Sheikh Safi and Yair Miller at Rookwood General Cemetery.Photo by Courtesoy of Rookwood General Cemetery.

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Sydney’s Muslims and Jews may not see eye to eye on certain matters, especially those involving Israel, but last week the two communities found some much-needed common ground. Burial ground, that is.

With both communities facing a severe shortage of burial space at Rookwood Necropolis, believed to be the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere, the New South Wales State Government officially opened the last available land there to be shared by the two faiths.

The Harbor City’s Muslim population, which numbers more than 150,000, would have run out of burial space within months, according to officials.

The city’s 45,000-plus Jewish community would have managed in the short term.

The new 3.3-hectare site will have enough burial space for both communities for the next decade or more.

Half of the new lot will be reserved for about 4000 double-depth Islamic graves; the other half will be for around 2,700 single Jewish burial plots, said Katrina Hodgkinson, the Primary Industries Minister.

The two sections will be divided by small roads inside the cemetery, she added.

The development comes amid allegations of Hezbollah sleeper cells operating in Australia and a controversial call for an academic boycott of the Technion in Haifa by students at the University of Sydney.

Yair Miller, president of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, said the new burial site was proof of the healthy relationship between the two faiths in New South Wales.

“It needs to always be worked on but we have a very cordial relationship in NSW with most of the mainstream Muslim groups,” Miller said.

“The Jewish community is still in need of a long-term solution but we’re very, very thankful.”

Ahmad Kamaledine, the Muslim representative on the Rookwood General Cemeteries Trust, told local media: “Being able to see [members of] the Jewish and Muslim community being buried side by side and sharing the same ground will demonstrate the willingness of the community in Australia to work together.”

It was “vitally important for cultural and religious reasons” that the two communities had some certainty about where their loved ones would be buried, said Victor Dominello, the Minister for Citizenship and Communities.

Miller said he was not aware of any opposition within the Jewish community to the plan. “The model of a multi-faith cemetery is one we’ve lived with here in the last 200 years.

“These plots happen to be next to each other but are not intertwined. There are still roads between the sections, it’s a very big plot divided by internal roads so there’s no inter-burying.”

But Michael Burd, a vocal critic of Islamic extremism in Australia, said he was horrified. “When I read about this decision I very disappointed,” he said.

Referring to Lebanese-born Sheikh Yahya Safi, the Imam of Lakemba Mosque who was at last week’s official opening, Burd added: “Sheikh Safi presides over a mosque that is notorious for espousing hatred of Israel and Jews in Sydney. Our Jewish community representative who agreed to this joint venture should be ashamed of himself,” he said.

“I am not exactly happy about it,” added a Jewish woman from Sydney, who wished to remain anonymous.

“But then I am not happy either with all the Muslim interfaith rubbish the Board of Deputies gets up to either.”

Jeremy Jones, a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and a founder of the Australia National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews, said the local media’s interest in the story was out of context with decades of Jewish-Muslim relations.

“The biggest story here is that some journalists seem surprised that Jews and Muslims work together on such matters. It was more than 30 years ago when I began working with Muslims (and vegetarians) due to a mutual interest in having food ingredients labeled.”

The two faiths have collaborated on many other matters, such as anti-discrimination legislation, he added.

But Jones conceded that “extra special care” will have to be exercised by cemetery officials for certain high-profile burials.

“But there is no reason for any group to disturb or dismay one another,” he said.

 

Source

THE MAN WHO UNITED BOTH THE LEFT AND RIGHT OF ISRAEL

 ‘YESH TIKVAH’ … THERE IS HOPE
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“He lived his life beyond the borders of consensus, without considering conventions. He did not act out of political symbols, but out of the love of man.”
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"הוא האמין שאנשי הדת יכולים לקרוא 'אללה הוא אכבר', ולפתור את הסכסוך". הרב פרומן עם חברו, השייח' אברהים, בחתונת בנו הצעיר (צילום: אבישג שאר-ישוב)

Rabbi Froman with his friend, Sheikh Ibrahim (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)

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Right, Left mourn Rabbi Froman’s death

Chief rabbi of Tekoa, who was both settler and peace activist, leaves huge void among wide and often opposing publics. ‘Rabbi Froman proved that religion can be a bridge to peace and coexistence,’ Peace Now says in statement. Yesha Council: He worked to reinforce settlement enterprise

Ynet reporters

Rabbi Menachem Froman died Monday evening at the age of 68, after a three-year battle with cancer, leaving behind a huge void among wide and often opposing publics.

Many in the Right and in the Left, in the Arab sector and in the Religious Zionism movement, are lamenting the death of the man who was both a settler and a peace activist, a rabbi and a spiritual leader, who embodied a distinguished halachic personality – as well as a graceful personality.

Froman was considered one of the most colorful and modernistic rabbis in the Religious Zionism movement in general, and among the settler public in particular. He was one of the pioneers of the Hasidic movement in Religious Zionism and was also known as a poet and artist.

He was considered very moderate politically. Despite his objection to the removal of settlements for ethical reasons, he was established close ties with Palestinian and Muslim leaders, with whom he attempted to reach a formula that would allow coexistence and pave the way to a peace agreement.

As the “leftist marker” among settlers, Froman established the Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace) social movement, which works towards the advancement of peace and dialogue between the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Judea and Samaria.

The Peace Now movement lamented Froman’s death on Monday, saying in a statement that “Rabbi Froman was a symbol of peace between Jews and Arabs. While most people see religion as grounds for battle between people, Rabbi Froman proved that religion can be a bridge to peace and coexistence rather than a tool for increasing conflicts and radicalizing opinions. His legacy will live on until the day the conflict is over.”

The Yesha Council mourned Froman’s death too, saying that “Rabbi Menachem Froman did a lot to reinforce the settlement enterprise, both openly and secretly. Through his special way of life he connected to diverse sectors among the Jewish people – and thereby succeeded in strengthening the love of man, Torah and land.”

‘He had the innocence of a child’

Former Chief Military Rabbi Avichai Rontzki was Rabbi Forman’s student at the Machon Meir Center for Jewish Studies at the time he became religious. He says the deceased rabbi left a significant mark on him.

“We were a small group of students just starting our path in the world of Torah,” Rabbi Rontzki told Ynet. “And already then, I felt a strong connection to his innocence. At the time you could see it in the teaching, in the way he lived it, in the way he would jump, get excited and almost cry, and later in the other things he was famous for. He had the innocence of a child, it was like he lived in the afterlife.

“When I served as chief military rabbi, he would offer to help the IDF with the Palestinians, because he lived in another world and really believed that religious officials on both sides can chant ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) together and solve the crisis or bring about Gilad Shalit’s release. We need such innocent people in our world, which is very formal, businesslike, technical and realistic.”

‘One of settlement’s central pillars’

Tzohar Chairman Rabbi David Stav, considered one of the leading candidates for the post of chief Ashkenazi rabbi, eulogized Rabbi Froman as well.

“I remember him when I was a young student in Har Etzion Yeshiva, sitting and studying Torah in good company. For me, his special personality was a fascinating meeting with the world of Torah. Later on, Rabbi Froman escorted our work in Tzohar in many ways and was connected to our activity in his body and soul.

“Alongside his pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he saw the connection of the Israeli society to the Torah as a great value. In the past few weeks I got to talk to him several times, and these conversations strengthened us greatly in all our work.”

Knesset Member Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi), who studied with Rabbi Froman in Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, said: “I still remember how devoted he was to the study of Torah, which was an inner part of him.”

He defined Froman as “a person who led the Tekoa community, while connecting knowledge and different colors of the Jewish people, into a united community. I regret the fact that we did not get to fully enjoy his work.”

Froman, the chief rabbi of the settlement of Tekoa in Gush Etzion, was a well-known figure among his neighbors in the Palestinian villages as well, but that did not reduce his status in the eyes of the moderate settler public.

Gush Etzion Council head Davidi Perl referred to Froman after learning of his death as “a huge scholar, with a great soul, who loved people and brought them closer to Torah. He was one of the central pillars of the settlement enterprise in Gush Etzion and all of the Land of Israel, and bestowed a legacy of loving fellowmen and making peace.”

Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron Regional Council, said that “the State of Israel and the Judea and Samaria settlements lost an important rabbi and spiritual leader. Throughout his life, Rabbi Menachem Forman of blessed memory used original and diverse ways to strengthen and expand the settlement enterprise in Judea, Samaria and the entire Land of Israel.”

Bennett: A Jew with a huge heart

Many others in the political arena expressed their sorrow over the rabbi’s passing as well. MK Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) said, “This land lost a great man. Rabbi Froman of blessed memory was one of the land’s greatest fighters and lovers. A peace lover and a peace seeker, who hated disagreements, loved people and brought them closer to Torah. He could always see the person beyond the dispute and respect him.”

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett referred to Froman on his Facebook page as “a peace lover and a peace seeker, a Jew with a huge heart.”

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said that Rabbi Froman was a special person. “He lived his life beyond the borders of consensus, without considering conventions. He did not act out of political symbols, but out of the love of man.”

Froman served as the rabbi of Tekoa while teaching in the local yeshiva and in the Otniel Yeshiva in South Mount Hebron. He is survived by his wife Hadassah and 10 children.

In 2010 he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was treated in conventional and natural means, and survived much longer than doctors predicted. Upon learning of his disease, Froman added the name Hai Shalom (living peace) to his last name and declared that he would devote himself to peace and coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

In the last few months of his life he decided to carry on as usual, delivering sermons and giving interviews. His final days were spend at home. “He wanted to experience what he was going through with his family,” his son said.

Final goodbye

On Sunday, about 200 of the rabbi’s students took part in a music and study evening in his house’s backyard, where he had delivered a lesson on the mystical book of Zohar every Sunday.

Many of the participants saw the event as a chance to bid farewell to their beloved rabbi following the significant deterioration in his condition. He had just been released from the hospital several days earlier and lost consciousness.

“We wanted to wrap him up with the students he loved so much, and the Torah which was the air he breathed,” explained his son, Shivi Froman. “With the melodies, the music and singing he was surrounded by, especially in the past two years.”

He added that “father still lives and exists, and we live and exist with him. Father will always influence us.”

Kobi Nahshoni, Itamar Fleishman and Moran Azulay contributed to this report

LAMENTS AND JOYS OF BEING A JEW IN PALESTINE

I was at an IDF military compound. I was there because I’d been at a demonstration. In the West Bank, demonstrations are illegal. The boys next to me were detained for throwing stones. They had plastic cords binding their hands. When they cut the ties off the boy to my left, it took two men to wriggle the knife between the plastic cord and his skin. When they finally broke it off, his wrists were bruised and bleeding.
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Being a Jew in Palestine

Joys and Frustrations of Working in West Bank

Stranger in Strange Land: Being a Jew and living in the Palestinian territories brings its own joys, fears, and frustrations.
getty images Stranger in Strange Land: Being a Jew and living in the Palestinian territories brings its own joys, fears, and frustrations.

By Beth Miller*

The first people I told were Safa and Imad. Good friends, they lived near me in the Aida Refugee Camp and invited me for lunch every Friday. I knew they were religious Muslims. Imad had told me that Israeli soldiers had killed his brother during the second intifada. But the topic of religion and politics was on the table, and now seemed like a good time.

I was scared. I knew I was speaking with friends, but I had a nightmarish image that they would throw the dish of rice and chicken into the air, grab the glass of sugary tea from my hand and smash it against the wall, bellowing, “Get oooouuuuuttt!”

I took a deep breath. “I’m actually Jewish. And I’ve always felt….” Who even remembers what I said next? I finished my sentence. Safa took my glass and refilled it. Imad said that he wanted to tell me three things. First, there are many similarities between Jews and Muslims. Second, he understands the difference between a Jewish person and the Israel Defense Forces. Third, it was shameful that I hadn’t yet gone to see more of the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem.

It’s great to be a Jew in Palestine.

My shared taxi was waved over at the IDF checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah. The soldier yanked open the door and looked inside. There was an old man in the front seat, three old men in the middle row, and in the back row myself, a businessman and a teenage boy. The soldier asked the teenager for identification and motioned for the boy to get out of the car. He was placed on a bench between another soldier and an IDF dog. The soldier told the driver to continue on. As we drove off, leaving the boy behind, I saw a third soldier, too scrawny for his uniform, walking toward the checkpoint, holding two pieces of matzo. He dropped them, and when he bent over to pick them up, his M16 fell forward, whacking him in the face.

It’s weird to be a Jew in Palestine.

I was at an IDF military compound. I was there because I’d been at a demonstration. In the West Bank, demonstrations are illegal. The boys next to me were detained for throwing stones. They had plastic cords binding their hands. When they cut the ties off the boy to my left, it took two men to wriggle the knife between the plastic cord and his skin. When they finally broke it off, his wrists were bruised and bleeding. I began speaking in Arabic to the woman to my right, until a soldier shouted, “Sheket!” I opened my mouth and closed it again, just barely stopping myself from finishing his sentence as I’d been taught in Hebrew school: with a singsong “b’vakasha — hey!” and then a big clap.

It’s frustrating to be a Jew in Palestine.

We showed our passports to the two young soldiers. Where was I from in the States? Chicago? Go Bulls! Passports back. My friends and I walked into H2 — the section of Hebron under complete control of the IDF and with the highest concentration of settlers.

First impression: Wild West. “High Noon.” I imagined a crow cawing; a vulture circling; tumbleweed blowing down Shuhada Street, bumping up against the concrete barrier that blocks off the small part of the road on which Palestinians are permitted to walk. I felt my belt, half expecting there to be a six-shooter. Nothing. But the young settler jogging with a baby stroller and wearing a rainbow yarmulke had an M16 slung over his shoulder.

I looked back at the soldiers. One of them was leaning against a wall, soaking in the sun. The other was moving in the direction of a young Palestinian boy.

Farther down the street, a couple more soldiers eyed us as we walked. One made a catcall at us. We kept walking. A few more soldiers were on the next corner, standing, alert, hands on their weapons. I looked up and saw more soldiers on the rooftops, looking down. One waved. In Hebron there are some 4,000 IDF soldiers to protect 500 Israeli settlers.

The street was lined with stores. Each storefront was welded shut. Many spray-painted with a Star of David, a menorah, or the Israeli flag. My friend pointed out that these were Palestinian shops that had been shut down by the settlers or soldiers.

I thought about the Palestinian man I’d just met, who told us how his son was blinded when a settler threw acid in his face on his way to school. Who told us how he often had to shut down his shop when settlers hurled urine-filled bottles from above onto the Palestinian market below.

Stars of David. Everywhere. On stores, on doors, on walls, on windows, on flags, on shirts.

We passed a sign explaining — in Hebrew and English — that this was an area of Hebron that had been “liberated” from the Arabs.

It feels awful to be a Jew in Palestine.

*Beth Miller is a 2010 graduate of Macalester College and has been working with a human rights organization in the West Bank for the past year and a half. She will be a candidate for a Master of Arts in human rights law at the School of Oriental and African Studies this fall.

Written FOR

 

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.


THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION OF WALL STREET

The following is proof that my mantra of ‘Never Say Never’ is truth…
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Settler Turned Peace Activist Now Occupies Wall Street

Kobi Skolnick Puts Jewish Stamp on Protest, Not Just on Holidays

Major Occupy-er: Jewish settler-turned-peace activist Kobi Skolnick is a key presence at the Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan.
Claudio Papapietro Major Occupy-er: Jewish settler-turned-peace activist Kobi Skolnick is a key presence at the Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan.

At the Downtown Manhattan base camp of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, young Lubavitchers filter through the activist crowd, seeking Jews. But when one approached Kobi Skolnick, a 30-year-old Israeli with a heavy Hebrew accent, Skolnick lied.

“No, I’m Palestinian!” he told the lulav-bearing Lubavitcher.

Skolnick is, in fact, Jewish. And not only that — he’s a onetime Lubavitcher turned right-wing settler turned peace activist, now at the center of the leftist protest movement roiling cities across the United States and the world.

Despite allegations of anti-Semitism at Occupy Wall Street, Jewish activists can be found at the heart of the anti-corporate movement. And though the Jewish protest actions tagged to Yom Kippur and Sukkot observances have drawn the most attention, those religious activists aren’t the only Jews helping shape the movement’s inchoate message.

On October 15, a group gathered in a corner of Zuccotti Park, the downtown plaza “occupied” by the activists, singing “Solidarity Forever” under a banner bearing the name of Camp Kinderland, a Jewish socialist summer camp.

Days later, Skolnick smoked a cigarette as he showed a Forward reporter through the plaza, past a press gaggle gathering around a visiting Rev. Jesse Jackson, past a set of tables marked “Library” and stacked with hundreds of volumes, and past a long buffet of donated food.

The Occupy Wall Street movement prides itself on its nonhierarchical organization that in principle has no leaders. But Skolnick is an active member of three of the working groups helping to direct the protest, including its public relations group and a group that builds relationships with copycat movements cropping up nationally.

“The first thing here is to raise awareness,” Skolnick said. “In that we already won.”

Skolnick has a small tattoo of a peace symbol on his wrist. He got it in 2004, the same day that he was nearly arrested at a major New York City protest. But he wasn’t always a left-wing activist.

Born to a Lubavitch family in Israel, Skolnick grew up in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, attending Lubavitch yeshivas. At 14, he chose to leave the ultra-Orthodox school system for a national religious school, a massive cultural leap out of the isolated Haredi community and into the religious Zionist mainstream. He wound up at a yeshiva in Itamar, a West Bank settlement with a radical reputation, where he joined a youth group affiliated with the extreme right-wing Kahanist movement.

“I would go with them to actions in Palestinian cities, throwing rocks at Palestinian cars,” Skolnick said of his time in the youth movement. He and his comrades would enter the Palestinian city of Hebron, attacking Palestinians who approached them.

But after he joined the Israel Defense Forces, Skolnick said, contact with Palestinians and the deaths of many friends led him to a second reappraisal, one that seems to have stuck.

“Since then, I’ve become active intellectually and physically, trying to create different models of dialogue, trying to change the lack of peace,” he said.

Skolnick, who moved to the United States in 2003, now leads workshops on the conflict, often in tandem with a Palestinian named Aziz Abu Sarah. Their presentations have been sponsored by J Street, among other groups.

But he said that he hasn’t spoken much about his past with fellow activists at Occupy Wall Street.

Skolnick dismisses the charge that the Occupy Wall Street movement is broadly anti-Semitic. That allegation was aired recently in a Web video produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel, a Republican-dominated group that highlighted mainstream Democratic support for the protest alongside images of anti-Semitic protesters.

“It does exist, but it’s like three people,” Skolnick said of anti-Semitic rhetoric at Zuccotti Park. “They’re not articulate enough. You bring facts, and they get stressed.”

When one man brought a sign alleging Zionist control of banks, Skolnick said activists simply made a bigger sign and stood next to him.

Skolnick acknowledged that some activists were critical of Israel. “People don’t like the occupation” of the Palestinian territories, he said. “I myself don’t like the occupation.” He said that he tries to explain to activists that there is a diversity of opinion among Israelis.

Skolnick arrived at the protest in mid-September, just a day after it began. He had wanted to fly back to Israel during the tent protests there this past summer, but he didn’t have the money.

“When it started to take place here, I said, okay, I’m jumping in,” Skolnick said.

He soon quit his job at a restaurant in Brooklyn and dedicated himself full time to the movement. He says that he works for Occupy Wall Street 12 to 16 hours a day, going home only to sleep. He is committed to the cause until at least January 2012, when he’s slated to start a master’s program at Columbia University in negotiation and conflict resolution.

Occupying Wall Street is busy work. When Skolnick checked his cell phone after a 20-minute walk through the Zuccotti Park encampment with the Forward, there were 48 new text messages waiting for him. He said that he receives more than 1,000 e-mails a day.

Skolnick said that he thought the Kol Nidre service organized by Jewish activists across the street from Zuccotti Park in support of Occupy Wall Street was “beautiful,” and he briefly attended even though he is no longer religious.

On the night of October 14, police officers asked Jewish activists to take down a tent that the group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice had set up to facilitate a Friday night meal. According to Dan Sieradski, a key organizer of the Jewish religious events at the protest, when the protesters claimed the tent was a sukkah, police pointed out that one couldn’t see stars through the roof.

Source

PANIC OVER CHILDREN’S DRAWINGS

See the children’s drawings that terrified the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay

by Seham

gaza kids 6
 
gaza kids 5
 
gaza kids 4
 
gaza kids 3
 
gaza kids 2
 
gaza kids 1
 
gaza kids 0
 

To view the rest of the images, visit MECA’s Facebook page. Click here to let MOCHA know what you think about their censorship of Palestinian children’s voices by sending them a letter. Here’s the the Jewish Federation of the East Bay gloating over the cancelled exhibit on Twitter:

jfedtweet

(h/t Youth Against Normalization)

 

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If you missed the following, it’s a must read …

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The Children Lose, Again

by Abby Zimet

 

 

A California museum has cancelled an exhibit of art by Palestinian kids in Gaza, reportedly after pressure from pro-Israel groups in the Bay Area. The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland had been working for months with the Middle East Children’s Alliance on the project, “A Child’s View of Gaza,” set to open in two weeks. Does it really need to be said: Kids shouldn’t have to pay for the appalling cruelty and stupidity of adults. Look at this art.

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“The only winners here are those who spend millions of dollars censoring any criticism of Israel and silencing the voices of children who live every day under military siege and occupation.” – Barbara Lubin of MECA.

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Also see THIS report

THE POETRY OF STRUGGLE

 “The most effective thing we can do is use our voice in an ethical way,” he tells me. “I think the most prominent and positive thing an artist can do is stand on the right side of history and stand with oppressed peoples. So rather than just staying silently on the sidelines or going and whitewashing apartheid in Tel Aviv and talking maybe one or two lines about peace, we have the opportunity to use our voices in a more general sense.”
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Remi Kanazi’s poetry of struggle

Alexander Billet *

Remi Kanazi performs live. (Valerian Mazataud)

 

It’s early June, a few days after Gil Scott-Heron’s death. There’s something about the passing of an icon like him that makes the search for new, vibrant rebel art all the more urgent. In a strange twist of serendipity, I just happen to be sitting down to read Poetic Injustice by Remi Kanazi. The first lines hit me like a punch in the gut:

I never saw death
until I saw the bombing
of a refugee camp
craters filled with
dismembered legs
and splattered torsos
but no sign of a face
the only impression
a fading scream

I’m hooked. Without gilding the lily, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of parallels between the works of Scott-Heron and those of Remi Kanazi. Both of their bodies of work are a simultaneous expression of identity and a puncturing of borders — real and imagined. Both frequently blur the line between poetry and music. And both rely on a kind of plain-spoken articulation that dodges between pleasure and pain, drama and humor, vicious oppression and inspiring resistance.

It’s difficult to believe that poetry and spoken word were things that Remi more or less stumbled into. “I grew up in a small town in Western Massachusetts,” he says to me over the phone, “and for me, growing up on lefty hip-hop, to have the voice of spoken word really filled a huge void. My brother and sister had just taken me to see Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, and that was the transformational trigger point. I started writing every day after that.”

No doubt that this voice has been honed over time. By now, as Poetic Injustice indicates, Remi has achieved a deft power, vividly versatile and completely unafraid while never drifting into sentimentality. Throughout this short, 50-page book, the author travels through a variety of settings; pompous American mouthpieces are humorously rebuked (“The Dos and Don’ts of Palestine”), solidarity powerfully invoked (“From Rikers to Bagram”), the horrors of US-Israeli imperialism graphically depicted (“A Poem for Gaza”). These are only a sampling.

Reinventing art as identity

Tying it all together are the 48 three-line poems peppered throughout the book — 48 symbolizing the year of the Nakba (catastrophe) when approximately 750,000 Palestinians were kicked off their land by Zionist militias. Divided into four parts (each dedicated to one of his four grandparents, all among that original displaced generation), each short verse provides a snippet of emotional truth of existence and resistance under occupation:

From my rooftop I can see an Israeli sunbathing

on the balcony my grandfather built…

 

A pregnant woman dies at a checkpoint

Sometimes a hand in the face is as powerful as a pistol…

 

Kids slingshot hip-hop, mix beats and break

in refugee camps. Reinvent art as identity

and tag the wall with the footsteps of their future…

As rewarding as reading Remi’s words can be, it’s little substitute for seeing him perform. His energy seems boundless, the humor and vigor of his words coming to life in the performer’s animation. To that end, Poetic Injustice comes with an audio CD of Remi reading fifteen of his favorite selections. It’s a perfect complement, adding immeasurable weight to the book itself.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the pleasure (albeit via email) of working with Remi on the Punks Against Apartheid petition urging Jello Biafra to cancel his show in Tel Aviv — a push that we can thankfully now say was successful.

Given the circumstances, it’s near-impossible not to think of another parallel to Gil Scott-Heron, namely the 2010 efforts that successfully convinced him to do the same. There’s also something of an irony — namely that even though the most powerful tool an artist has is his or her voice, what the movement for the cultural boycott of Israel demands is the withholding of that very same voice.

Stand on the right side of history

Nonetheless, Remi believes that an artist’s power is enhanced by his or her refusal to play Israel. “The most effective thing we can do is use our voice in an ethical way,” he tells me. “I think the most prominent and positive thing an artist can do is stand on the right side of history and stand with oppressed peoples. So rather than just staying silently on the sidelines or going and whitewashing apartheid in Tel Aviv and talking maybe one or two lines about peace, we have the opportunity to use our voices in a more general sense.”

In fact, the push for a cultural boycott is taking place at a time when rebel poets like Remi have the potential to reach a wide audience. The revolutions across the Arab world have been accompanied by a flourishing of art, music and culture. Politically charged groups like DAM and Arabian Knights have never been more popular. And while right-wing pundits like Pam Geller still insist that Arab culture consists of little more than camels and scimitars artists on both sides of the pond may still go a long way to countering this racism.

“I think that what some of the artists are doing today is brilliant because they’re refusing to be tokenized. If you listen to the music of Omar Offendum or The Narcycist or, in Arabic, the music of DAM, they completely shatter this notion that they’re going to be this post [11 September 2001] image of what is Arab or Muslim or Palestinian.” In other words, it’s this insistence on humanity despite all obstacles that makes these artists so potent.

The same goes for Remi’s book. And that’s precisely why it would be wrong to simply call this work “poems about Palestine.” Much like Scott-Heron’s portrayals of an oppressed black America inspired people well beyond the borders of Watts and Harlem, so do Remi Kanazi’s words speak toward a struggle that is, for lack of a better term, universal.

“The reason I become a poet was to educate, inspire, to act,” he says. “I’m not a nationalist, I’m not an ethnocentrist. This isn’t about me being a Palestinian or me being an Arab. It’s about a system of oppression and what’s being done to a people. So whether you’re talking about police brutality or the US-Mexico border or Afghanistan or the war in Iraq or the plight of Palestinians, what they’re going through and the injustice that’s being perpetrated against them is what matters. And that’s what we’re working against — systems of oppression, what’s being done to a people.”

This subtle yet dynamic interplay between art and struggle is what makes Poetic Injustice such a crucial contribution. It’s the feeling that for all its specificity, we’re reading not just about the Palestinians but about ourselves. And indeed, every struggle has its own art, it’s own poetry. As Remi Kanazi well knows, it’s this ability for beauty that makes the fight worth it:

I’ll exist in a world that

fights against racism

like Martin and Malcolm bleeds ghetto tales of Steve Biko

as a song that never dies

no matter what apartheid

makes of our bodies

feeds mouths in Belfast streets

and resurrects Bobby Sands’ message

so that we will never

be hungry again

 

Remi Kanazi’s Poetic Injustice can be purchased on Amazon.com.

*Alexander Billet is a music journalist and activist living in Chicago. He runs the website Rebel Frequencies and is a columnist for SOCIARTS. He has also appeared in Z Magazine, CounterPunch and PopMatters.com.

 

Written FOR

GAZA; THE STORY YOU NEVER SAW OR HEARD ABOUT (unless you can read Italian)

 This article was originally published at Vittorio Arrigoni’s blog Guerrilla Radio. Translated by Daniela Loffreda.)
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Resistance: The First and Only Fisherwoman of Gaza

By Vittorio Arrigoni

46madeliene_kulab_guerrillaradio.jpg
Madeleine Kulab and her boat. (GuerrillaRadio Blog)
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Her eyes are as deep as unexplored oceans and her movements are done with the grace of waterfowl, as when a marine creature submerges itself below the surface of the water. Even the heavy weight of her clothing and veil seem to vanish, because by tradition, she must wear them while she swims.

Her name is Madeleine Kulab, she’s 16 years old, and she is the first and only female fisherwoman in Gaza.

Her father Mohamed became paralyzed ten years earlier and therefore was forced to hang up his fishing nets and now, it is his daughter who has taken his place at sea.

“We come from a family of fisherman, for whom the passion for fishing has been passed down from generation to generation.Fishing was our livelihood before we were forced to leave, in 1948, what is known today as the port city Ashkelon” explains the father.

Today this livelihood barely allows us to survive, since the siege and the sailing limit imposed by Israel (not beyond 3 nautical miles from the coast) has significantly impoverished the Gaza fisherman. According to a recent Red Cross report, 90 percent of the 4000 or so fisherman in the Gaza Strip are living below the poverty level and their situation continues to deteriorate.

The usual UN aid offered to the Kulab family was just no longer sufficient, and so for the last three years. Madeleine has been waking up at 6am, one hour before the start of her school lessons, pushing the oars of her tiny boat out into the waters to a place where can throw in her nets. The ritual repeats itself in the afternoon shortly after the end of the school day. Madeleine not only has books in her knapsack, but also a change of clothing so that she can get wet again.

Here, human needs must prevail over tradition and courage has created a new profession for survival. This is a paradigm to the region and to Madeleine. However, her new role has earned her the respect from other Gazawi women and even notoriety beyond the open air prison which is Gaza.

The daily catch never goes beyond the weight of 3 chilos, and most of it is made up of sardines and crab, a gain which is not comparable to the daily risks which she faces. The last fisherman killed by Israeli machine guns was last September 24 2010 and it was exactly in the same area where Madeleine goes, opposite Sudaniya beach.

When I went to meet her at the beach, there were two Arab TV broadcasters filming her while she prepared to embark on her fishing, but Madeleine doesn’t let this go to her head, she remains the down to earth girl that she always has been. Her dreams are the same as any other teenage girl.

“I will never leave the sea, it’s my natural element, but I want to become as fashion designer one day,” Madeleine says.

Who knows, maybe in the future these same hands, so skilled at unraveling nets and freeing small, insignificant shellfish that end up in a pan, will one day embroider fine cloth that will embody the memories and tell the stories of a life and a sea under siege.

Restiamo Umani – Stay Human
Vittorio Arrigoni from Gaza City.

Posted at Uruknet

ARAB-JEWISH DIALOGUE: WHY?

For starters, let’s see why the addition of these two seemingly innocent words, Arab and Jewish, causes such an uproar when used together. The knee-jerk reaction is that these two words are diametrically opposed. In reality this could not be further from the truth, not ideologically or practically.
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Arab-Jewish dialogue: Is there a purpose?  
By SAM BAHOUR
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The word dialogue inherently bears a soft, constructive meaning that few people would quibble about. Dialogue is surely better than arguing, unquestionably better than fighting, and absolutely necessary if we are to have any success whatsoever in connecting with others on common ground, be it our neighbor, children, partner, or mother. 
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Add two seemingly opposite (and loaded) adjectives, Arab-Jewish, to the word dialogue and suddenly it’s a whole new ball game. Now, this new concept comes with luggage of stereotypes, biases, and even a touch of racism at times. Allow me to explain. 
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For starters, let’s see why the addition of these two seemingly innocent words, Arab and Jewish, causes such an uproar when used together. The knee-jerk reaction is that these two words are diametrically opposed. In reality this could not be further from the truth, not ideologically or practically. 
* 
Arab, as per a dictionary definition is “a member of a Semitic people originally from the Arabian peninsula and surrounding territories who speaks Arabic and who inhabits much of the Middle East and northern Africa.” Jewish, as per the same dictionary, is defined as, “of or relating to Jews or their culture or religion.” So Arab defines an ethnicity whereas Jewish is linked to the religion and/or culture of Judaism. Arabs are a multifaith people, they are Muslim, Christian, and yes, there are even Jewish Arabs. However, when we use that loaded term “Arab-Jewish” we are really comparing apples and oranges. 
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Many in the West have reduced the entire conflict in the Middle East to this superficial Arab-Jewish paradigm. Palestinians, who are the part of the Arab people at the forefront of the conflict with the State of Israel, have never, to this day, claimed that their issue is one against Jews. As a matter of fact, Palestinians have historically gone out of their way to explain that their quarrel is with the ideology of Zionism as embedded within the practices of the State of Israel and Israel’s military occupation. Palestinians have no quarrel with Jews because they are Jews. It is not the Palestinians who have tried to equate Israel with only Jews. How could they, given that Palestinians–Muslim and Christian–make up over 23% of the citizenry of the State of Israel, although they are discriminated against institutionally in myriad of ways?  
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So, as terminology, this “Arab-Jewish” mix is not so accurate. I believe that what most people really mean is “Palestinian-Jewish Israeli,” or so I hope. But, for the sake of discussion, let’s ignore the semantics and look at the issue at hand, dialogue between two communities that are in conflict over a piece of land called Palestine/Israel. Is engaging in dialogue worthwhile? Is it worthwhile for over 60 years? If the positions are not known by now, will more dialogue clear things up? I do not mean to disparage these questions; they are serious ones. 
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I can recall growing up in Youngstown, Ohio and every so often engaging in an Arab- Jewish dialogue session. Many times we came together during difficult times. I can remember, e.g.,  during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982; following the Sabra and Shatila massacre during that same invasion; during the first intifada; and at other times when emotions were running high. I know the two communities across the US also engaged, immediately following the 9/11 tragedies. During all of these encounters the goals were the same: remind our respective communities that violence breeds only more violence, and that choosing to respond with common sense and education was more important than taking revenge. For the most part it worked. 
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Meanwhile, at times the dialogue was not crisis-oriented, but rather a proactive attempt to engage the two communities to better understand one another. This was not limited to the US but happens also here in Palestine/Israel, where there is always a theme of “people to people” events, as dialogue is frequently referred to here. The lessons of over 20 years are rather revealing. Palestinians, regardless of their religion, and Jews, regardless of their position toward Israeli politics, are stunningly similar. As a Jewish American friend of mine in New York, Adam Neiman, recently wrote, we are “loud, stubborn, passionate and opinionated.” I agree.
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Things become difficult when the actions of the State of Israel are inserted into the middle of the discussion. Many supposedly mainstream Jewish leaders blindly fall into trying to defend the indefensible: dispossession, discrimination, and military occupation of another people. Palestinians, as can be expected, refuse to be subjects of another state’s search for their place in the world. Such a debate, after six decades of an increasingly bitter reality, could perhaps be best understood by reference to the law of diminishing returns.
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What is worth dialoguing about today, just as much as yesterday, is something that is very dear to Jewish communities – social justice and equality. There is no logical reason why dialogue groups should not be taking a side in the conflict in the Middle East, not the side of Palestinians or Israelis, per se, but the side of ending the 44 years of military occupation, finally letting Palestinian refugees return home, supporting both societies to respect the equal right of the “other,” and supporting the stopping of violence, all kinds of violence
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If I’m asked to choose between dialoging and fighting I will always choose dialogue without a blink; but if I’m asked to choose to fight or to dialogue with a counterpart who simultaneously is fighting my presence or funding such efforts by others, then my choice would be very different: not to fight, but to resist, and not violently, but nonviolently.
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Let’s all dialogue on how to join forces to bring common sense and human and civil rights back into focus, for Israelis, Palestinians, and even Jews and Arabs wherever they may be. 
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Written FOR

 

NO MORE ENEMIES ~~ A NEW BOOK ~~ A MUST READ


A frequent contributor to this Blog and very dear friend of mine just had a very special book published. Deb Reich* is dedicated to the concept of ‘no more enemies’, thus the title of the book…

The idea of No More Enemies belongs to everyone on the planet.

It’s a simple idea, really – but it could change our entire world. The idea is that the concept of “enemies” is obsolete, that it does not serve humanity any more, that it has become very destructive, that it should be retired. The evidence is out there in plain sight… we just have to connect the dots.

There are many signs, from many directions, that the old enemies-oriented worldview is being displaced by emergent new paradigms of partnership, shared responsibility, and co-evolving. This shift is made possible and made easier by the new global Internetwork of communication.

“No More Enemies” unfolds for you dozens of doorways into this idea – whoever you are, wherever you are.

Please think of the book as a personal invitation meant for you. The No More Enemies train is rolling now – hop on board! Read about the idea from multiple perspectives. Think about it and consider its implications. Share your thoughts with your friends. Once you embrace the idea, you own it!

The new post-enemies era belongs to everyone.

It’s an era of hope and challenge and renewal.

No More Enemies.

 

*Deb Reich is a writer and translator in Israel/Palestine. She has lived in New York, Wadi Ara, Abu Ghosh, Karkur, Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom and Jerusalem, among other places.

 

 

No More Enemies is available from Amazon …. Details HERE

Also on FaceBook

A FLY ON THE WALL IN GAZA

Ever wonder what two brothers talk about on the phone or on Skype in Gaza? Below is a conversation between two brothers on Skype…as overheard by the fly on the wall 😉


Skype with Gaza: A Story of Ahmed Qwaider

Ayman Qwaider

After recent bombings in my home state of Gaza Strip, I finally had an opportunity to speak with my brother Ahmed, 23 years old on skype. The focus of our conversation was my brother’s job search after “recent” graduation from his university in Gaza—The Islamic University.

Below are excerpts from our chat.

Ayman: Brother, what are you doing now?

Ahmed: I am waiting the exam from Government in order to get a job and I am fed up from situation in Gaza.

Ayman: Which government are you applying for and what is the nature of the job you might get?
Ahmed: I have applied for the government in Gaza because you are aware of our unfortunate situation: we are two governments under occupation. (I applied just) in case I will get accepted, though I am not hopeful.

Because I will end up in front of office and not practice any of the skills I learned at University because Israel’s government still prevent all construction material to get to Gaza which makes it quite complicated to find a job in the field and to practice what I have leaned at University.

I was proud that my brother was striving to be employed, and wondered how he passes his time.

Ayman Qwaider: What are you doing nowadays?
Ahmed: I spend most of my time taking training and receiving courses; this how the Gaza graduated engineers end up in Gaza.

After a while, the conversation turned to the issues of violence that Gaza experiences daily. Having left Gaza 1 year ago myself, I rely heavily on information from family members such as my brother, to give me details of my home. Media sources are often inaccurate.

Ahmed relayed his experience during a receiving bombing and how it affected him personally.

Ayman Qwaider: How is the current situation in Gaza?
Ahmed: Insecure, deprived and no glace of hope at all. One day we feel hope and 10 days we are lost. I am not even able to think of the upcoming future. Dreams you are not allowed to have in Gaza. Almost every day, people of Gaza are exposed to the Gaza common theme, bombardment, cut off electricity, and blockade.
Ayman Qwaider: Has the Israeli army waged attacks recently?
Ahmed: Ayman, I want to tell you a joke; it sounds funny but it is ridicules.

Ayman Qwaider: Yes please share it; I miss jokes from Gaza.
Ahmed: Three days ago I was up at out home sleeping at my room. It was around 3 am and the power was off. I heard a sort of an Israeli F16 fighter jet but it was a bit far from us. Then I said to myself, let me back to my bed. AS soon as I got back to bed, a big voice of explosion took place somewhere close to us, but I had no idea where exactly. As you know, in my room there is a sort of big decorated star which is made of plaster hanged at the ceil. It felt down in the ground and I had the feeling that the rocket ended up in my room. It was super crazy and I was really terrified. I left my rood down to my family floor creaming when I felt that the attack is just close.
Ayman: How do you feel now?

Ahmed: Ayman, look, I have been passing though such hard week now. I was send to doctor to check my health situation after the attack. I am really suffering bad psychological situation now due to this attack. It was really massive and it walked up all people around. I do not know when this will come to an end?!

As a peacebuilder myself, I felt moved to say something encouraging. I tried to provide moral and emotional support to Ahmed in his times of trial. My own thoughts and feelings regarding the situation came out as well.

Ayman: Ahmed, I am extremely sorry but I really feel bad and I am powerless to change this. But you should keep in mind that any system of injustice will come to an end. I am sure of it exactly as I am talking to you right now. I am assuring you that justice and peace will prevail soon inshallah. And what people of Gaza expose to is really system of injustice. I really would like you to show more strength and patience, please. I am aware that the situation I tough but am sure that tomorrow will be better. Just take good care of yourself now and be strong.

I do really not understand it at all, how human being is able to dehumanize human being like this. It is totally desperate situation and I really feel sorry of this Israeli solider how he is not forgetting all principals of humanity and just bomb. Ahmed, I do not know what to say, but keep dreaming of good future and tomorrow will be shine inshallah.

Ahmed explained that while he was hopeful, the violence affected his will to stay in Gaza, his job-seeking resolve, and his motivation to work for the government.

Ahmed: Shukran (thank you) for the support and every day I pray that this will come to an end and people of Gaza would have a normal secured life like you now in Paris. I am really worried about our young siblings and the kinds in Gaza as well. Imagine, if this happened to be and I was supper terrified, what about young kids? I am really hoping of good future and this system of dehumanizing human being will end up soon.
Ahmed: I am thinking seriously to pursue my post-graduate studies, please in case you come cross any opportunity, let keep me posed.

Ayman: I could imagine how children feel in Gaza. I worked with them in Gaza and I experienced really profound problems which children suffer from such harsh situation. Children should never be part of any conflict and they should entitle for their childhood rights with health and secured environment. This is how I have been tough in my master about human rights. I will let you know in case I come cross any opportunity for post-graduate studies.
Ayman: Now, are you that motivated to join the government and to start working in case you get accepted?
Ahmed: Ayman look, I am not that motivated as you expect, but we have no choice in Gaza expect join the government and working at office. I just explained to you. And you know the situation in Gaza, so many times, employers got killed in a governmental building, people killed with no reason whatsoever. I really do not want to end up my life quite recent. The story is quite easy: they come up with the F16th fighter jet and then bomb the building and then you become breaking news just in Gaza. This is how many governmental workers life ended up.
Ayman: You are totally right Ahmed and I could imagine how you could feel whilst working in unsecured office hearing bombardment from time to another. Sometimes, they just call for evacuation for these governmental building as soon as they hear F16 jet flying in the skies. It is really despite and I am really sorry brother.

We ended the 30-minute conversation discussing our own family. I learned of my siblings and what they were doing, and my parents. I do not know when I will get a chance to speak with or see Ahmed again; I only hope that he, and the rest of my family, is safe, and that the atrocities come to an end with peace in the Middle East.

Posted AT

GIDEON LEVY … ISRAELI DEVIL OR SAINT?

Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?

For three decades, the writer and journalist Gideon Levy has been a lone voice, telling his readers the truth about what goes on in the Occupied Territories.

Interview by Johann Hari

ASHLEY COMBES / EPICSCOTLAND

Gideon Levy, Israeli journalist and author

Gideon Levy is the most hated man in Israel – and perhaps the most heroic. This “good Tel Aviv boy” – a sober, serious child of the Jewish state – has been shot at repeatedly by the Israeli Defence Force, been threatened with being “beaten to a pulp” on the country’s streets, and faced demands from government ministers that he be tightly monitored as “a security risk.” This is because he has done something very simple, and something that almost no other Israeli has done. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda. “My modest mission,” he says, “is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say, ‘We didn’t know.’” And for that, many people want him silenced.

The story of Gideon Levy – and the attempt to deride, suppress or deny his words – is the story of Israel distilled. If he loses, Israel itself is lost.

I meet him in a hotel bar in Scotland, as part of his European tour to promote his new book, ‘The Punishment of Gaza’. The 57 year-old looks like an Eastern European intellectual on a day off – tall and broad and dressed in black, speaking accented English in a lyrical baritone. He seems so at home in the world of book festivals and black coffee that it is hard, at first, to picture him on the last occasion he was in Gaza – in November, 2006, before the Israeli government changed the law to stop him going.

He reported that day on a killing, another of the hundreds he has documented over the years. As twenty little children pulled up in their school bus at the Indira Gandhi kindergarten, their 20 year-old teacher, Najawa Khalif, waved to them – and an Israel shell hit her and she was blasted to pieces in front of them. He arrived a day later, to find the shaking children drawing pictures of the chunks of her corpse. The children were “astonished to see a Jew without weapons. All they had ever seen were soldiers and settlers.”

“My biggest struggle,” he says, “is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us? So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard.”

So he describes the lives of ordinary Palestinians like Najawa and her pupils in the pages of Ha’aretz, Israel’s establishment newspaper. The tales read like Chekovian short stories of trapped people, in which nothing happens, and everything happens, and the only escape is death. One article was entitled “The last meal of the Wahbas family.” He wrote: “They’d all sat down to have lunch at home: the mother Fatma, three months pregnant; her daughter Farah, two; her son Khaled, one; Fatma’s brother, Dr Zakariya Ahmed; his daughter in law Shayma, nine months pregnant; and the seventy-eight year old grandmother. A Wahba family gathering in Khan Yunis in honour of Dr Ahmed, who’d arrived home six days earlier from Saudi Arabia. A big boom is heard outside. Fatma hurriedly scoops up the littlest one and tries to escape to an inner room, but another boom follows immediately. This time is a direct hit.”

In small biographical details, he recovers their humanity from the blankness of an ever-growing death toll. The Wahbas had tried for years to have a child before she finally became pregnant at the age of 36. The grandmother tried to lift little Khaled off the floor: that’s when she realised her son and daughter were dead.

Levy uses a simple technique. He asks his fellow Israelis: how would we feel, if this was done to us by a vastly superior military power? Once, in Jenin, his car was stuck behind an ambulance at a checkpoint for an hour. He saw there was a sick woman in the back and asked the driver what was going on, and he was told the ambulances were always made to wait this long. Furious, he asked the Israeli soldiers how they would feel if it was their mother in the ambulance – and they looked bemused at first, then angry, pointing their guns at him and telling him to shut up.

“I am amazed again and again at how little Israelis know of what’s going on fifteen minutes away from their homes,” he says. “The brainwashing machinery is so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg. It makes people so full of ignorance and cruelty.” He gives an example. During Operation Cast Lead, the Israel bombing of blockaded Gaza in 2008-9,  “a dog – an Israeli dog – was killed by a Qassam rocket and it on the front page of the most popular newspaper in Israel. On the very same day, there were tens of Palestinians killed, they were on page 16, in two lines.”

At times, the occupation seems to him less tragic than absurd. In 2009, Spain’s most famous clown, Ivan Prado, agreed to attend a clowning festival on Ramallah in the West Bank. He was detained at the airport in Israel, and then deported “for security reasons.” Levy leans forward and asks: “Was the clown considering transferring Spain’s vast stockpiles of laughter to hostile elements? Joke bombs to the jihadists? A devastating punch line to Hamas?”

Yet the absurdity nearly killed him. In the summer of 2003, he was travelling in a clearly marked Israeli taxi on the West Bank. He explains: “At a certain stage the army stopped us and asked what we were doing there. We showed them our papers, which were all in order. They sent us up a road – and when we went onto this road, they shot us. They directed their fire to the centre of the front window. Straight at the head. No shooting in the air, no megaphone calling to stop, no shooting at the wheels. Shoot to kill immediately. If it hadn’t been bullet-proof, I wouldn’t be here now. I don’t think they knew who we were. They shot us like they would shoot anyone else. They were trigger-happy, as they always are. It was like having a cigarette. They didn’t shoot just one bullet. The whole car was full of bullets. Do they know who they are going to kill? No. They don’t know and don’t care.”

He shakes his head with a hardened bewilderment. “They shoot at the Palestinians like this on a daily basis. You have only heard about this because, for once, they shot at an Israeli.”

I “Who lived in this house? Where is he now?”

How did Gideon Levy become so different to his countrymen? Why does he offer empathy to the Palestinians while so many others offer only bullets and bombs? At first, he was just like them: his argument with other Israelis is an argument with his younger self. He was born in 1953 in Tel Aviv and as a young man “I was totally nationalistic, like everyone else. I thought – we are the best, and the Arabs just want to kill. I didn’t question.”

He was fourteen during the Six Day War, and soon after his parents took him to see the newly conquered Occupied Territories. “We were so proud going to see Rachel’s Tomb [in Bethlehem] and we just didn’t see the Palestinians. We looked right through them, like they were invisible,” he says. “It had always been like that. We were passing as children so many ruins [of Palestinian villages that had been ethnically cleansed in 1948]. We never asked: ‘Who lived in this house? Where is he now? He must be alive. He must be somewhere.’ It was part of the landscape, like a tree, like a river.” Long into his twenties, “I would see settlers cutting down olive trees and soldiers mistreating Palestinian women at the checkpoints, and I would think, ‘These are exceptions, not part of government policy.’”

Levy says he became different due to “an accident.” He carried out his military service with Israeli Army Radio and then continued working as a journalist, “so I started going to the Occupied Territories a lot, which most Israelis don’t do. And after a while, gradually, I came to see them as they really are.”

But can that be all? Plenty of Israelis go to the territories – not least the occupying troops and settlers – without recoiling. “I think it was also – you see, my parents were refugees. I saw what it had done to them. So I suppose… I saw these people and thought of my parents.” Levy’s father was a German Jewish lawyer from the Sudetenland. At the age of 26 – in 1939, as it was becoming inescapably clear the Nazis were determined to stage a genocide in Europe – he went with his parents to the railway station in Prague, and they waved him goodbye. “He never saw them or heard from them again,” Levy says. “He never found out what happened to them. If he had not left, he would not have lived.” For six months he lived on a boat filled with refugees, being turned away from port after port, until finally they made it to British Mandate Palestine, as it then was.

“My father was traumatised for his whole life,” he says. “He never really settled in Israel. He never really learned to speak anything but broken Hebrew. He came to Israel with his PhD and he had to make his living, so he started to work in a bakery and to sell cakes from door to door on his bicycle. It must have been a terrible humiliation to be a PhD in law and be knocking on doors offering cakes. He refused to learn to be a lawyer again. He became a minor clerk. I think this is what smashed him, y’know? He lived here sixty years, he had his family, had his happiness but he was really a stranger. A foreigner, in his own country? He was always outraged by things, small things. He couldn’t understand how people would dare to phone between two and four in the afternoon. It horrified him. He never understood what is the concept of overdraft in the bank. Every Israeli has an overdraft, but if he heard somebody was one pound overdrawn, he was horrified.”

His father “never” talked about home. “Any time I tried to encourage him to talk about it, he would close down. He never went back. There was nothing [to go back to], the whole village was destroyed. He left a whole life there. He left a fiancé, a career, everything. I am very sorry I didn’t push him harder to talk because I was young, so I didn’t have much interest. That’s the problem. When we are curious about our parents, they are gone.”

Levy’s father never saw any parallels between the fact he was turned into a refugee, and the 800,000 Palestinians who were turned into refugees by the creation of the state of Israel. “Never! People didn’t think like that. We never discussed it, ever.” Yet in the territories, Levy began to see flickers of his father everywhere – in the broken men and women never able to settle, dreaming forever of going home.

Then, slowly, Levy began to realise their tragedy seeped deeper still into his own life – into the ground beneath his feet and the very bricks of the Israeli town where he lives, Sheikh Munis. It is built on the wreckage of “one of the 416 Palestinian villages Israel wiped off the face of the earth in 1948,” he says. “The swimming pool where I swim every morning was the irrigation grove they used to water the village’s groves. My house stands on one of the groves. The land was ‘redeemed’ by force, its 2,230 inhabitants were surrounded and threatened. They fled, never to return. Somewhere, perhaps in a refugee camp in terrible poverty, lives the family of the farmer who plowed the land where my house now stands.” He adds that it is “stupid and wrong” to compare it to the Holocaust, but says that man is a traumatized refugee just as surely as Levy’s father – and even now, if he ended up in the territories, he and his children and grandchildren live under blockade, or violent military occupation.

The historian Isaac Deutscher once offered an analogy for the creation of the state of Israel. A Jewish man jumps from a burning building, and he lands on a Palestinian, horribly injuring him. Can the jumping man be blamed? Levy’s father really was running for his life: it was Palestine, or a concentration camp. Yet Levy says that the analogy is imperfect – because now the jumping man is still, sixty years later, smashing the head of the man he landed on against the ground, and beating up his children and grandchildren too. “1948 is still here. 1948 is still in the refugee camps. 1948 is still calling for a solution,” he says. “Israel is doing the very same thing now… dehumanising the Palestinians where it can, and ethnic cleansing wherever it’s possible. 1948 is not over. Not by a long way.”

II The scam of “peace talks”

Levy looks out across the hotel bar where we are sitting and across the Middle East, as if the dry sands of the Negev desert were washing towards us. Any conversation about the region is now dominated by a string of propaganda myths, he says, and perhaps the most basic is the belief that Israel is a democracy. “Today we have three kinds of people living under Israeli rule,” he explains. “We have Jewish Israelis, who have full democracy and have full civil rights. We have the Israeli Arabs, who have Israeli citizenship but are severely discriminated against. And we have the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, who live without any civil rights, and without any human rights. Is that a democracy?”

He sits back and asks in a low tone, as if talking about a terminally ill friend: “How can you say it is a democracy when, in 62 years, there was not one single Arab village established? I don’t have to tell you how many Jewish towns and villages were established. Not one Arab village. How can you say it’s a democracy when research has shown repeatedly that Jews and Arabs get different punishments for the same crime? How can you say it’s a democracy when a Palestinian student can hardly rent an apartment in Tel Aviv, because when they hear his accent or his name almost nobody will rent to him? How can you say Israel is a democracy when? Jerusalem invests 577 shekels a year in a pupil in [Palestinian] East Jerusalem and 2372 shekels a year in a pupil from [Jewish] West Jerusalem. Four times less, only because of the child’s ethnicity! Every part of our society is racist.”

“I want to be proud of my country,” he says. “I am an Israeli patriot. I want us to do the right thing.” So this requires him to point out that Palestinian violence is – in truth – much more limited than Israeli violence, and usually a reaction to it. “The first twenty years of the occupation passed quietly, and we did not lift a finger to end it. Instead, under cover of the quiet, we built the enormous, criminal settlement enterprise,” where Palestinian land is seized by Jewish religious fundamentalists who claim it was given to them by God. Only then – after a long period of theft, and after their attempts at peaceful resistance were met with brutal violence – did the Palestinians become violent themselves. “What would happen if the Palestinians had not fired Qassams [the rockets shot at Southern Israel, including civilian towns]? Would Israel have lifted the economic siege? Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda. Nobody would give any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they had not behaved violently.”

He unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians, but adds: “The Qassams have a context. They are almost always fired after an IDF assassination operation, and there have been many of these.” Yet the Israeli attitude is that “we are allowed to bomb anything we want but they are not allowed to launch Qassams.” It is a view summarised by Haim Ramon, the justice minister at time of Second Lebanon War: “We are allowed to destroy everything.”

Even the terms we use to discuss Operation Cast Lead are wrong, Levy argues. “That wasn’t a war. It was a brutal assault on a helpless, imprisoned population. You can call a match between Mike Tyson and a 5 year old child boxing, but the proportions, oh, the proportions.” Israel “frequently targeted medical crews, [and] shelled a UN-run school that served as a shelter for residents, who bled to death over days as the IDF prevented their evacuation by shooting and shelling… A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organisation. They say as a justification that Hamas hides among the civilian population. As if the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv is not located in the heart of a civilian population! As if there are places in Gaza that are not in the heart of a civilian population!”

He appeals to anybody who is sincerely concerned about Israel’s safety and security to join him in telling Israelis the truth in plain language. “A real friend does not pick up the bill for an addict’s drugs: he packs the friend off to rehab instead. Today, only those who speak up against Israel’s policies – who denounce the occupation, the blockade, and the war – are the nation’s true friends.” The people who defend Israel’s current course are “betraying the country” by encouraging it on “the path to disaster. A child who has seen his house destroyed, his brother killed, and his father humiliated will not easily forgive.”

These supposed ‘friends of Israel’ are in practice friends of Islamic fundamentalism, he believes. “Why do they have to give the fundamentalists more excuses, more fury, more opportunities, more recruits? Look at Gaza. Gaza was totally secular not long ago. Now you can hardly get alcohol today in Gaza, after all the brutality. Religious fundamentalism is always the language people turn to in despair, if everything else fails. If Gaza had been a free society it would not have become like this. We gave them recruits.”

Levy believes the greatest myth – the one hanging over the Middle East like perfume sprayed onto a corpse – is the idea of the current ‘peace talks’ led by the United States. There was a time when he too believed in them. At the height of the Oslo talks in the 1990s, when Yitzhak Rabin negotiated with Yassir Arafat, “at the end of a visit I turned and, in a gesture straight out of the movies, waved Gaza farewell. Goodbye occupied Gaza, farewell! We are never to meet again, at least not in your occupied state. How foolish!”

Now, he says, he is convinced it was “a scam” from the start, doomed to fail. How does he know? “There is a very simple litmus test for any peace talks. A necessity for peace is for Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. So if you are going to dismantle settlements soon, you’d stop building more now, right? They carried on building them all through Oslo. And today, Netanyahu is refusing to freeze construction, the barest of the bare minimum. It tells you all you need.”

He says Netanyahu has – like the supposedly more left-wing alternatives, Ehud Barak and Tzipip Livni – always opposed real peace talks, and even privately bragged about destroying the Oslo process. In 1997, during his first term as Israeli leader, he insisted he would only continue with the talks if a clause was added saying Israel would not have to withdraw from undefined “military locations” – and he was later caught on tape boasting: “Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo accords.” If he bragged about “stopping” the last peace process, why would he want this one to succeed? Levy adds: “And how can you make peace with only half the Palestinian population? How can you leave out Hamas and Gaza?”

These fake peace talks are worse than no talks at all, Levy believes. “If there are negotiations, there won’t be international pressure. Quiet, we’re in discussions, settlement can go on uninterrupted. That is why futile negotiations are dangerous negotiations. Under the cover of such talks, the chances for peace will grow even dimmer… The clear subtext is Netanyahu’s desire to get American support for bombing Iran. To do that, he thinks he needs to at least pay lip-service to Obama’s requests for talks. That’s why he’s doing this.”

After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice: “The facts are clear. Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent, and condescending Israel of today. This is the time to come up with a rehabilitation programme for Israel.”

III Waving Israeli flags made in China

According to the opinion polls, most Israelis support a two-state solution – yet they elect governments that expand the settlements and so make a two-state solution impossible. “You would need a psychiatrist to explain this contradiction,” Levy says. “Do they expect two states to fall from the sky? Today, the Israelis have no reason to make any changes,” he continues. “Life in Israel is wonderful. You can sit in Tel Aviv and have a great life. Nobody talks about the occupation. So why would they bother [to change]? The majority of Israelis think about the next vacation and the next jeep and all the rest doesn’t interest them any more.” They are drenched in history, and yet oblivious to it.

In Israel, the nation’s “town square has been empty for years. If there were no significant protests during Operation Cast Lead, then there is no left to speak of. The only group campaigning for anything other than their personal whims are the settlers, who are very active.” So how can change happen? He says he is “very pessimistic”, and the most likely future is a society turning to ever-more naked “apartheid.” With a shake of the head, he says: “We had now two wars, the flotilla – it doesn’t seem that Israel has learned any lesson, and it doesn’t seem that Israel is paying any price. The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative.”

It sounds like he is making the case for boycotting Israel, but his position is more complex. “Firstly, the Israeli opposition to the boycott is incredibly hypocritical. Israel itself is one of the world’s most prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. It’s a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. So Israelis cannot complain if this is used against them.”

He shifts in his seat. “But I do not boycott Israel. I could have done it, I could have left Israel. But I don’t intend to leave Israel. Never. I can’t call on others to do what I will not do… There is also the question of whether it will work. I am not sure Israelis would make the connection. Look at the terror that happened in 2002 and 2003: life in Israel was really horrifying, the exploding buses, the suicide-bombers. But no Israeli made the connection between the occupation and the terror. For them, the terror was just the ‘proof’ that the Palestinians are monsters,  that they were born to kill, that they are not human beings and that’s it. And if you just dare to make the connection, people will tell you ‘you justify terror ’ and you are a traitor. I suspect it would be the same with sanctions. The condemnation after Cast Lead and the flotilla only made Israel more nationalistic. If [a boycott was] seen as the judgement of the world they would be effective. But Israelis are more likely to take them as ‘proof’ the world is anti-Semitic and will always hate us.”

He believes only one kind of pressure would bring Israel back to sanity and safety: “The day the president of the United States decides to put an end to the occupation, it will cease. Because Israel was never so dependent on the United States as it is now. Never. Not only economically, not only militarily but above all politically. Israel is totally isolated today, except for America.” He was initially hopeful that Barack Obama would do this – he recalls having tears in his eyes as he delivered his victory speech in Grant Park – but he says he has only promoted “tiny steps, almost nothing, when big steps are needed.” It isn’t only bad for Israel – it is bad for America. “The occupation is the best excuse for many worldwide terror organisations. It’s not always genuine but they use it. Why do you let them use it? Why give them this fury? Why not you solve it once and for all when the, when the solution is so simple?”

For progress, “the right-wing American Jews who become orgiastic whenever Israel kills and destroys” would have to be exposed as “Israel’s enemies”, condemning the country they supposedly love to eternal war. “It is the right-wing American Jews who write the most disgusting letters. They say I am Hitler’s grandson, that they pray my children get cancer? It is because I touch a nerve with them. There is something there.” These right-wingers claim to be opposed to Iran, but Levy points out they vehemently oppose the two available steps that would immediately isolate Iran and strip Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh of his best propaganda-excuses: “peace with Syria and peace with the Palestinians, both of which are on offer, and both of which are rejected by Israel. They are the best way to undermine Iran.”

He refuses to cede Israel to people “who wave their Israeli flags made in China and dream of a Knesset cleansed of Arabs and an Israel with no [human rights organisation] B’Tselem.” He looks angry, indignant. “I will never leave. It’s my place on earth. It’s my language, it’s my culture. Even the criticism that I carry and the shame that I carry come from my deep belonging to the place. I will leave only if I be forced to leave. They would have to tear me out.”

IV A whistle in the dark

Does he think this is a real possibility – that his freedom could be taken from him, in Israel itself? “Oh, very easily,” he says. “It’s already taken from me by banning me from going to Gaza, and this is just a start. I have great freedom to write and to appear on television in Israel, and I have a very good life, but I don’t take my freedom for granted, not at all. If this current extreme nationalist atmosphere continues in Israel in one, two, three years time?” He sighs. “There may be new restrictions, Ha’aretz may close down – God forbid – I don’t take anything for granted. I will not be surprised if Israeli Palestinian parties are criminalized at the next election, for example. Already they are going after the NGOs [Non-Government Organizations that campaign for Palestinian rights]. There is already a majority in the opinion polls who want to punish people who expose wrong-doing by the military and want to restrict the human rights groups.”

There is also the danger of a freelance attack. Last year, a man with a large dog strutted up to Levy near his home and announced: “I have wanted to beat you to a pulp for a long time.” Levy only narrowly escaped, and the man was never caught. He says now: “I am scared but I don’t live on the fear.  But to tell you that my night sleep is as yours… I’m not sure. Any noise, my first association is ‘maybe now, it’s coming’.  But there was never any concrete case in which I really thought ‘here it comes’. But I know it might come.”

Has he ever considered not speaking the truth, and diluting his statements? He laughs – and for the only time in our interview, his eloquent torrents of words begin to sputter. “I wish I could! No way I could. I mean, this is not an option at all. Really, I can’t. How can I? No way. I feel lonely but my private, er, surrounding is supportive, part of it at least. And there are still Israelis who appreciate what I do.  If you walk with me in the streets of Tel Aviv you will see all kinds of reactions but also very positive reactions. It is hard but I mean it’s?it’s?what other choice do I have?”

He says his private life is supportive “in part”. What’s the part that isn’t? For the past few years, he says, he has dated non-Israeli women – “I couldn’t be with a nationalistic person who said those things about the Palestinians” – but his two sons don’t read anything he writes, “and they have different politics from me. I think it was difficult for them, quite difficult.” Are they right-wingers? “No, no, no, nothing like that. As they get older, they are coming to my views more. But they don’t read my work. No,” he says, looking down, “they don’t read it.”

The long history of the Jewish people has a recurring beat – every few centuries, a brave Jewish figure stands up to warn his people they are have ended up on an immoral or foolish path that can only end in catastrophe, and implores them to change course. The first prophet, Amos, warned that the Kingdom of Israel would be destroyed because the Jewish people had forgotten the need for justice and generosity – and he was shunned for it. Baruch Spinoza saw beyond the Jewish fundamentalism of his day to a materialist universe that could be explained scientifically – and he was excommunicated, even as he cleared the path for the great Jewish geniuses to come. Could Levy, in time, be seen as a Jewish prophet in the unlikely wilderness of a Jewish state, calling his people back to a moral path?

He nods faintly, and smiles. “Noam Chomsky once wrote to me that I was like the early Jewish prophets. It was the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid me. But… well… My opponents would say it’s a long tradition of self-hating Jews. But I don’t take that seriously. For sure, I feel that I belong to a tradition of self-criticism. I deeply believe in self-criticism.” But it leaves him in bewildering situations: “Many times I am standing among Palestinian demonstrators, my back to the Palestinians, my face to the Israeli soldiers, and they were shooting in our direction. They are my people, and they are my army. The people I’m standing among are supposed to be the enemy. It is…” He shakes his head. There must be times, I say, when you ask: what’s a nice Jewish boy doing in a state like this?

But then, as if it has been nagging at him, he returns abruptly to an earlier question. “I am very pessimistic, sure. Outside pressure can be effective if it’s an American one but I don’t see it happening. Other pressure from other parts of the world might be not effective. The Israeli society will not change on its own, and the Palestinians are too weak to change it. But having said this, I must say, if we had been sitting here in the late 1980s and you had told me that the Berlin wall will fall within months, that the Soviet Union will fall within months, that parts of the regime in South Africa will fall within months, I would have laughed at you. Perhaps the only hope I have is that this occupation regime hopefully is already so rotten that maybe it will fall by itself one day. You have to be realistic enough to believe in miracles.”

In the meantime, Gideon Levy will carry on patiently documenting his country’s crimes, and trying to call his people back to a righteous path. He frowns a little – as if he is picturing Najawa Khalif blown to pieces in front of her school bus, or his own broken father – and says to me: “A whistle in the dark is still a whistle.”

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