“Justice. Justice you shall pursue.”
That’s “JUSTICE” not “JUST US”!
I was closing in on sending this out when I learned about the massacre in Gaza on March 30. The Palestinian organizers did all they could to broadcast the nonviolent nature of their plans for an encampment and marches. It was known that Israel would probably allow its “most moral army in the world” to shoot unarmed Palestinians and then blame them (and Hamas and anyone else) for it, and they did, killing at least sixteen and injuring well over a hundred on the first day of the “March of Great Return.” This isn’t exactly new behavior.
Inspiring photo of Palestinian resistance by Miki Kratsman
The problem is; THIS IS NOW! “Tens of thousands of Palestinians swarm Gaza border, 16 killed by IDF fire” (Ynet) “Israeli army opens fire as tens of thousands march in Gaza” (972 Magazine) “As ‘March of Great Return’ Begins, Israeli Forces Gun Down Palestinian Protesters Along Gaza Border” (Common Dreams)
Passover is hard to swallow right now. If I can’t avoid a Seder, I will drink no wine, make no toast and eat no dessert. I won’t sing or chant unless we’re singing solidarity songs for Palestine. Is it chutzpah or blind insensitivity that allows Jews to hold Passover Seders to celebrate and retell our mythic liberation story while the people of Gaza are fighting for their lives because Zionists are attacking them in the name of all Jews everywhere. Israel is the existential threat to Palestinians, and Zionism is poisoning Judaism. I am grateful for the response I got for my Facebook post:
I couldn’t skip the Seder. I didn’t drink any wine or toast any cups or eat any dessert…Who is Pharaoh today? Don’t even try to blame Hamas or the people of Gaza for this!
Last year I was party to helping create the Sumud Freedom Camp in the south Hebron Hills. We were invaded by the army around 11:30 pm on our second night there, Saturday, just after Shabbat. I knew from the announcements about the “Great March of Return” that Israel would be brutal, but I also could feel the essence of the appeal, and who was behind it, and it felt familiar, like I know these people. They’re my comrades in protest: People creating encampments standing up for what is fair and decent and right. In this case, Gazans who’ve been under siege for years in encampments are standing up for themselves, as they have every right to do and the Zionist state is gunning them down in my name.
They must rise up since Israel has the big control there and seems committed to starving the people of Gaza or poisoning them with non-potable water, crimes against humanity. I don’t want to pray with Jews or anyone who tries to explain away the targeting of schools and hospitals and the destruction of water infrastructure to deadly levels. And Gazans are choosing to organize with nonviolence…again…still. We better hope they succeed! Please, I beg you, don’t blame the victims. Do something to try to influence the situation and make Israel stand down and see the light of day for a change. If you feel lost, JVP.org is a good place to go to find honesty, compassion, and some way to plug in.
Earth Day Cometh! Do you know where your military is?
(Breast milk, climate change and Gaza.)
For a long time I have encouraged people to see how the United States military overshadows pretty much everything. Not that it is the only angle to take as we organize against social ills and oppression, but it is rarely included in spite of the scale of its widespread impacts. We’re not going to end gun violence in schools if we keep bombing schools and children abroad. We can’t really insulate ourselves from the brutality we as a nation dish out. There is a callousness that creeps into our domestic life from offenses we commit in other lands.We’re not going to avert climate chaos if we ignore the single largest purchaser of petroleum in the world and its exemption from treaties and environmental regulations. Breast milk in women the world over now contains perchlorate, a toxic remnant spread by rocket motors used in many munitions.
Disarmament organizers have thus far been unsuccessful in their efforts to get climate change and environmental organizations like 350.org and the Sierra Club to broach, much less stir up their members about how war hurts the earth, (#WarHurtsEarth). Militarism is nowhere to be seen in the programs of the official Earth Day Network nor the choices people were given in selecting this year’s worthy focus, A World Without Plastic Pollution.
I was heartened to be arrested at the Nevada Test Site with some activists from New Mexico who are working to stop uranium mining at the Canyon Mine which abuts the Grand Canyon and in general. #HaulNo
For Earth Day 2018, five organizations, CODEPINK, Environmentalists Against War, Just World Educational, Traprock Center for Peace & Justice, and World Beyond War, have created a sign on letter for citizens and organizations around the U.S. to express to the Earth Day Network support for a campaign about the military and its toxic legacy. It reads in part: “We appeal to our fellow citizens to recognize the damage that warfare and preparations for war inflict on our land, air, water, and climate; to commit to educating others about these impacts.” The statement then lists specific policies “which can reduce and start to repair the damage that militarism inflicts on the Earth” that are suggested for people to organize around. I also want to direct people to CODEPINK’s Divest from the War Machine campaign. We need to get people who aren’t ready to say we shouldn’t have one at all to rein it in then!
People’s Life Fund Granting Opportunity Until April 15!
Around the country there are different local groups that make up the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. Each one is independent, and most of them maintain funds that people donate to instead of paying federal income taxes in full or in part. They also maintain escrow accounts for war tax resisters to set aside some funds in case the feds ever come after them. The Bay Area group is called the People’s Life Fund. Groups in the Bay Area can still apply for money in the current cycle. We hold a granting pot luck dinner on April 15 in Berkeley. The official deadline has passed, but grant applications are still being accepted. Please check out past grantees and the application and explanation of priorities.
“No Arms, No Armies: Addressing the Roots of Militarism and Gun Violence in the US”
“No Arms, No Armies” was the title of an outstanding piece by Emma Burke, originally published on TruthOut’s Buzz Flash. I first saw it in a great e-blast from the War Resisters League (for whom Emma is Development and Membership Coordinator) with the longer title that came to my inbox on March 29.
For communities of color, the terror of gun violence isn’t contained to mass shootings…Militarism is deeply entrenched in US society, and the phenomenon of mass shootings and gun violence in the US must be understood in the context of settler colonial histories of slavery, genocide and white supremacy sustained by centuries of warfare…Let us expand our imaginations for a vision of disarmament that not only includes weapons of mass violence on the streets, but a full disarming of the systems of state violence that drive it: the police and military.
It also contained a link to a petition sponsored by World Beyond War calling for the removal of JROTC programs from high schools. In that vein, I had never heard of the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) until Pat Elder brought it up after a Nation article focused on JROTC didn’t even mention this influence on gun attitudes in our country. Pat pointed out that CMP’s “Marksmanship Nights” have even more reach than does the military’s recruitment scheme.
Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr, assassinated April 4, 1968.
MLK’s national holiday is around his birthday in January like other celebrations of people. In the last few years there has been a lot more organizing that goes on to de-icon-ify him in our national mind and re-politicize gatherings in his memory. The anniversary of his murder, April 4, 1968 never seems to get its due as a rallying point for our political attention. I usually want to join celebrations of him in January and scream his powerful words over loud-speakers as we commemorate his terrible assassination in April.
As I have discussed before, King gave one of the most important speeches of the 20th century on April 4, 1967 in Riverside Church in Manhattan, one year to the day before he was gunned down. He clearly and carefully denounced the Vietnam war, on logical grounds. Then he said we need a “radical revolution of values” as he called for widespread noncooperation with war in general, on moral and religious grounds. Anti-war activists often organize political discussions and readings of that speech which was historic (although his similar talk at the National Conference for New Politics on August 31 of that year speaks to us of the future even more clearly). The points he made half a century ago are still frighteningly relevant today. “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” is still the United States of America.
I sometimes fear peace activists sound like a broken record about the Riverside Church speech, but really, sadly, it is too obscure to be concerned about that. Some black activists implore white activists not to speak of or quote MLK because too often we ignore other wise people and leaders of color who deserve to be celebrated and quoted. But King’s words are powerful and poetic, challenging yet uplifting, and consistently hit the nail on the head. It pains me to be told to step away from King as a matter of course. I resist. I think we all need to dive more into his wise words even as we widen the sources of our inspiration.
Anyone outraged by the Ford truck commercial from the Super Bowl ad would do well to listen to or read “The Drum Major Instinct” which is where that clip was from. It was his last sermon and was delivered two months before he was killed. It shows where King’s political evolution had led him. Evidently not all of the King family wanted to let Ford use it, but it is galling to consider that the movie “Selma” was not allowed to use any of King’s actual words.
“A Time to Break Silence: Beyond Vietnam” Readings on April 4
At Noon (and probably later in the afternoon too) on Wednesday, April 4, take part in a public reading of “Beyond Vietnam.” Outside the Oakland Federal Building on Clay between 13th and 14th Sts. Keep insisting that his strong analysis about the fundamental need for antimilitarism to be included in a progressive agenda how we remember him.
Also, on April 4 at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison St. in Oakland from 7 to 9 pm, the seriously informative but delightful Vijay Prashad will give a talk entitled Long, Bitter and Beautiful Struggle for Freedom. He was on KPFA a couple of days ago, and the talk will have a lot to do with King’s “Beyond Vietnam” message. I’m going, for sure!
Relatively Short Sentence for Palestinian Girl is a Relief but Shows Something Very Wrong with such Legal Proceedings in Israel
Ahed Tamimi, age 17, was sentenced to months instead of years in detention by the Israeli military court system for slapping a heavily armed, Israeli soldier, and this is actually seen as a relative victory. lot of international organizing
Part of Palestinian Susiya (foreground) in 2016, now demolished.
And also from B’Tselem on March 22, this action item against the “forcible transfer” of Palestinians from Area C, like in the south Hebron Hills where I have written about extensively over the past couple of years. And just this morning (March 28), a friend from that area sent out a notice that the army was in Susiya demolishing buildings, something that even the likes of Dianne Feinstein spoke out against.
Who Calls Anyone Civilized?
by Cathy Breen
March 31, 2018
[Cathy Breen is a co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has spent significant amounts of the past two decades in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. I went to Afghanistan in March, 2011 with Kathy Kelly and Voices. Photos of Mosul are by Abu Mohammed.]Building in Mosul decimated by bombing, March 2018″ and “Shop remains open in area of Mosul decimated by bombing, March, 2018
Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and professor of Creative Writing at Texas State. Her father was Palestinian and a refugee journalist. In one of her poems after 9/11, entitled “Blood,” she writes:
Shop remains open in area of Mosul decimated by bombing
I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?
I myself tried to write something for the 15 year “commemoration” of the US war against Iraq, but wasn’t able to complete it. It was too much for me. A couple of months ago I was invited to go to the Northwest to speak about “Fifteen Years After the War.” It was too much for me emotionally, and somewhat shamefully I had to decline.
As I write, I have the phone next to me. I am texting a young Iraqi boy who is alone in Turkey. About ten months ago he was kidnapped in Iraq. Through a chain of events, he ended up in Syria. About two months ago his father was contacted and was able to get his son smuggled across the border into Turkey. Last month his son turned 18 years of age and was eligible to register as a refugee with UNHCR. But he will not get an interview for many months to come.
Building in Mosul decimated by bombing, March 2018
Traumatized, missing family and without friends, he tells his family he wants to come home. But it is much too dangerous for him to return. Trying to draw him out of his boredom, I ask him to tell me how his day was. What did he eat? Did he get outside? What is the weather like? I ask him what words he has learned in Turkish. I tell him what I ate, about the soup I cooked or the rainy weather. By the length of time between our messages, I suspect that he is looking up some of the English words. Sometimes we speak by phone and get to see each other.
For some reason I find our simple conversation today so tender. His family in Baghdad is grateful that we are in contact. They have another son who was also kidnapped. They do not know whether he is alive or not. The boys were separated after the kidnapping. The grief of this family seems to have no end. And this is just one family.
I was in Iraq for the month of October last year. One of the hardest things for me on that trip was the feeling I heard expressed that the country has become invisible. A doctor friend in Baghdad, his hurt palpable, told me he felt as though Iraq has been completely forgotten by the global community.
A friend from Baghdad sent me photos a couple of weeks ago, photos that he took from a bus window of the destruction in Mosel, and it was the side of the city that had suffered only “minimally.”
Stop Urban Shield Victory in Alameda Board of Supervisors!
On Tuesday, March 27th, the Stop Urban Shield Coalition successfully built community pressure and convinced the Alameda County Board of Supervisors not to fund the 2019 Urban Shield expo and military-type training, putting an end to the largest militarized SWAT training in the world. Urban Shield takes place in the Bay Area on the weekend of 9/11 each year, and is a war games training and weapons expo that involves international and local law enforcement agencies and emergency responders. board voted not to support the 2019 Urban Shield, but the 2018 fair and exercises were already funded, so stay tuned. This is a powerful victory for a very strategic coalition, but of course, we must stay vigilant and not let up, even as we have to celebrate a little.