Saturday, November 27, 2010

Engaging "The Other", Combatants for Peace

Dear Friend,
As you know, about 20 -30 pieces come across my screen each day. I read or scan many things from all sides of the "spectrum" (left and right).

In recent months, I'm concentrating on sending examples of persons who are making positive contributions to building bridges instead of walls.

Bill Plitt's reflections on a recent trip to our region are worth sharing. With thanks to the IPMN of the PCUSA (Isr/Pal Mission Network), Walt and Libby Davis, JRK

From: William Plitt
Date: November 25, 2010 4:37:38 AM PST

Subject: Thanksgiving morning

Dear friends,
Some of you know that I just returned from three weeks of travel in Israel and in Palestine.
(you can follow the trip in more detail than you might want in the blog: )

On my way home a week ago, I traveled from Bethlehem and the checkpoint there to West Jerusalem, and then by bus to an area close to Gaza where I met a young Israeli and former combatant in the Israeli Defense Force's special unit, the famed Golani Brigade. This experience with him which lasted only a few hours because of my scheduled flight home, turns out to be reflective of my whole experience collectively, and present with me each day I traveled.

This is my message this Thanksgiving morning
to each of you, faithful friends. "Thinking about the Other". A letter to Yaniv. Love, Bill

Good day, Yaniv.
In our country, this is the day some set aside to thank God for the blessings of our lives in a world faced with scarcity, and where we have plenty. I have much to be thankful for, including friends old and young. When I reflect on our few hours together a week ago, in your community on the edge of the Negev Desert in Israel, I realize the irony with which we both live in our world together.

We used, several times in our conversations, the phrase "the other". In fact,
it was from you I first heard the poem of Maqmood Darwish, "Thinking About the Other". I recite it often, and still carry the audio of your recitation with me.

I also reflected on three places that you took me to that afternoon, a week ago. First, to the herb stand, operated by this lone Bedouin young man, when I observed that you not only interacted with him personally in Arabic, but I could also sense by the tone of your voices that you both did so out of mutual respect. On your suggestion, I also purchased a bar of homemade olive oil soap, and an herbal pomade for massaging my wife's aching feet. Last night when I applied the pomade on her feet, I reflected on the interaction between the two of you, and for me, I would imagine that will be the case over the next several months, or until the jar
is empty, and beyond perhaps.

The second place you took me, was to the back of an empty store front parking lot where there is an Arab market, and off to the right, a lone store front with an open air sliding door. Under the protection of the roof of that building, was a woman who was roasting kabob over a smoking charcoal fire. You again, in your quiet, gentle way, ordered in the native tongue of the woman, two chicken schwarmas for us. She was openly pleasant and hospitable, though wearing the traditional scarf of the Arab woman. She was "The Other" referred by us several times that evening, and whom, Darwish spoke of in his poem, I suspect. We then proceeded yet to another location in that village that offered sweets by a young Arab from the Nablis area. I had to shake my head again. Where was I but in the realm of Israel. This was not suppose to be!

And lastly, you shared your efforts in the new job with the local school, predominately Bedouins, most likely, and how you were working with the young elementary students there on "environmental education" helping them define projects in which they invested in themselves. These students were also "The Other".

So, in a land of ironies, which I found not only in your community, but in several places where I traveled in my recent pilgrimage to Israel and the occupied territories, "unanticipated possibilities". The prospect of your coming together to work on the Nassar Family farm with the contingency of the Combatants for Peace members you coordinate (combined former Israeli soldiers, and Palestinian resistance men), also keeps hope alive for me, even in the midst of the darkness. I am grateful for your friendship and for your active ways of engaging with "The Others' in your world.

"................When you think about the others, the distant others, think about your self and say, "I wish I were a candle in the dark." Maqmood Darwish, Palestinian National Poet

Faithfully, Bill
Thanksgiving Day in America, Nov. 25, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

A "Right-On" Israeli Assessment

Dear Friend,
Long-time Israeli peace advocate Gershon Baskin, in the mainline Jerusalem Post, accurately assesses the current situation.
The "right leaning" Knesset has made "land swaps" more difficult by passing "super majority" legislation, in anticipation of (more) "land for peace" moves.
A "Jewish democracy" is an oxymoron, when the occupation excludes the "people of the land". And the US knows it and should not support it in the long run.
One person, one vote is inexorable. This is the future. There can not be "two types of citizens, Jews and non-Jews". By expanding the settlements, it will continue to be a "Jewish" state, "but no one will be able to claim it is a democratic state".
Read on. File it. Share it. Gershon is a veteran of many "peace" wars, and knows what he is talking about. Meanwhile, with the Likud party in charge, helped by their ultra-orthodox (religious)minority parties, it is "business as usual". And the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) continues to gather steam and potency. JRK

Encountering Peace: Five minutes to midnight
Gershon Baskin
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
November 22, 2010 - 12:00am

Israel is facing the most severe crisis in its history. Surprisingly, most of its citizens choose to ignore this reality. The growing movement to delegitimize our right to exist cannot simply be dismissed by calling it anti- Semitism. The reasons are more complex than that.

The country is also losing its best friends, and even Jews inside and outside of it are beginning to dissociate themselves from it because of the ongoing occupation. Many Jewish students on campuses across the US have told me that Israel’s behavior embarrasses them. The house is on fire and it’s time to wake up before everything we have built is destroyed by our own doing.

Most objective observers, even supporters of Israel, believe that the two-state solution is no longer viable. They say: How can a Palestinian state be created where there are so many settlements and bypass roads exactly in the place it is supposed to exist? They add that the situation is getting worse – the refusal to freeze all settlement building, especially in Jerusalem, means no Palestinian state will be possible.

Everyone knows that the Palestinians will never agree to a deal that does not include east Jerusalem as their capital. Removing Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and replacing them with Jews is erasing the chances of two states for two people.

Everyone knows that the Palestinians will not accept a state on less than 22% of the land between the river and the sea. In accepting the Oslo and Madrid paradigms, they agreed to give up 78% of the land. Next week we will mark Kaf Tet Benovember (November 29, 1947), when the UN partitioned the land into two states. Then, the Palestinians refused to accept a state on 45% of the land; today they are willing to accept one on only 22%, but not on less.

Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Reuven Rivlin, Nir Barkat and Binyamin Netanyahu are not acting on behalf of the Zionist movement by continuing their rapid settlement growth in the name of the Jewish people. By their own hands, they will succeed in destroying the Zionist dream. I correct myself – there will continue to be a Jewish state, but no one will be able to claim it is a democratic state.

A very large minority, which in a short period will become a majority, will not accept to live in a Jewish state. The two-state solution will lose its viability when it is no longer supported by the majority of Palestinians – both citizens of Israel and residents of the occupied territories. At that time a global campaign will be launched that will force Israel to become a democratic state, and then we will no longer be able to speak about a Jewishdemocratic state.

The call for equal citizenship and one-person- one vote will be compelling compared with lack of logic behind the idea of a Jewish nation-state where a majority are not Jews.

No one outside Israel’s right-wing and religious citizens will accept the idea of two types of citizens – Jews and non-Jews. No one, not even the US, will be able to support a state which is so blatantly antidemocratic.

The shared values that US leaders speak about regarding Israel will no longer exist. It will cease to be democratic, and so the occupation will finally delegitimize its right to exist.

THE CONSTRUCTION of settlements worries me less regarding the diminishing viability of the two-state solution than the diminishing legitimacy of the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. Their legitimacy will completely disappear very soon if there is no credible peace process. Next year is the year for the establishment of a Palestinian state. There will be no Palestinian leadership able to publicly support that solution much beyond that.

We should not live in the illusion that the Palestinians will ever accept less than what has already been offered to them. The parameters of peace are on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders with agreed-upon territorial swaps of 1:1 in the amount of about 3% of the West Bank, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, some sort of international regime in the Old City, or the Old City quarters divided along demographic lines, with an agreed upon solution to the refugee issues according to the Arab Peace Initiative.

For this kind of peace to be viable, it must also include peace with Syria (meaning the full return of the Golan Heights in exchange for all of Israel’s security demands) enabling the normalization of relations with the entire Arab world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

See WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE (Porter Speakman)

Dear Friend,
Monday November 22,2010, the FPI - Holland group views and discusses half of WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE, produced by Porter Speakman in connection with "The Rev" Stephen Sizer. In it, the Christian Zionists get to espouse their view of unqualified support for the (ethnic) state of Israel.
People like Stephen Sizer, Ron Dart, Gary Burge and others counter these arguments with a different, (more accurate) interpretation of especially New Testament scriptures. It is a "must see" for those who want to argue that Israel has a special "right" to the "land" of Palestine.
In promoting this film, I attached the following "witness" from Deppen Webber, who recently returned from a trip to the "land" with the Interfaith Peace-Builders (Fellowship of Reconciliation). JRK


It's my last day here. I will be sad to leave but miss my daughter immensely. I met a Palestinian professor yesterday, a former Oxford staff member, who now teaches at Hebron University. He thinks that I would have a good chance at landing a teaching position there. And if I wanted to bring my daughter, she could go to school alongside other American children with families at the University. Maybe for one year or two? We'll see!

I wanted to talk more about settlements here and how it works. There are two types of settlements of Jews in Palestinian Territory. One type is where very large developments of homes, malls, schools, etc. are built with money from the Israeli government. Roads are constructed to travel to and from Israeli proper. Palestinians are not allowed to travel on these roads that cut through their land. Many times the roads will cut through a farmer’s land, essentially cutting off large sections and making it impossible to farm because the Palestinian farmer is forbidden to cross the settlement road. His land, unable to be worked, is then confiscated by law by the Israeli government after two years of inactivity. Any Jew from around the world is welcomed to move to these settlements.

The second type of settlement is just as disturbing. This is when civilian Jewish settlers break into the existing homes of Palestinian families, throw them out, and claim the homes for themselves. I have seen this first hand in every Palestinian city I've visited. The homes can be easily identified in Muslim neighborhoods by the Israeli flags waving as to claim ownership.

Today (Friday) I will be attending a weekly protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem where Akrum's family has lost their home to young Jewish American settlers. In Al Khalil (Hebron), settlers have taken over the second story homes overlooking streets of Arab storefronts. There, they throw trash, dirty water, metal bars, feces, anything down onto the streets of the Muslims. Here, the settlers are protected by a large visible presence of the IDF; young, armed soldiers tasked with protecting the civilian Jewish settlers. Settlers behave as high school bullies, and much worse, and Palestinians cannot defend themselves. This goes on daily in the neighborhoods where the Palestinians were born and raised, yet they cannot fight back or will be shot, imprisoned, and tortured.

This ongoing humiliation of a proud, peaceful people is too much to stomach. Yet the US government stands behind Israel with little action to stop them. Please join with me in condemning these acts by writing your congressperson, or by supporting pro-Palestinian organizations in your communities.
- Deppen Webber