[This missive starts with a few event announcements and a call to keep public, international pressure up on Israel to drop the fabricated charges against Issa Amro. His next court date is July 4. Then there is a letter to the editor I wrote about false charges of antisemitism at SF State, a report from me about the harrowing experience I had on Jerusalem Day. And finally, some personal updates and some old, heart warming, family photos. Before I even start though, here’s a photo my friend Tariq took just a couple days ago at a Ramadan iftar in the cave CJNV and I helped prepare for Fadal and his family in Sarura to reclaim and re-inhabit after 20 years. People are still on the land there, after a whole month! This is empowering despite the ongoing harrassment from nearby settlers and soldiers, exceeding most expectations. This photo thrills me!
Thanks for caring, everyone. -Jim]
Starting off: Some immediate self-promotion…
Listen to me on KALW (91.7 FM) at 11:00 pm this Saturday, June 24, talking about my second Center for Jewish Nonviolence delegation, including Sumud Freedom Camp, my time in East Jerusalem, in Israel, the horror of Jerusalem Day, and what it all means coming home. Listen in live at KALW.org, webcast on Berlin’s multicult.fm or at 91.7 FM on an actual radio. Gaza Corner segments are archived at the Tangents Radio website. Dore Stein’s Tangents Radio (Saturday nights, 8:00 to midnight) has a regular segment at 11:00pm called Gaza Corner. It isn’t always about Gaza, but generally something about the Middle East. I was on last year after the 2016 CJNV trip, and I am happy to be welcomed back.
Joanna Macy Center Fundraiser Concert with Rising Appalachia,
Joanna Macy & Thrive East Bay Choir!
Monday, June 26, 7:00 to 9:00 pm (Doors open at 6.)
First Congregational Church
2501 Harrison, Oakland 94612
I just love Joanna Macy and her work. This benefit is for the Work That Reconnects Center at Canticle Farm (Oakland). It is going to be uplifting and beautiful. I hear amazing things about Rising Appalachia. Tickets are free, but donations are gratefully accepted in the spirit of free will offerings and the gift economy to support their work. This event was sold out, but then they shifted the venue, so more tickets are available again.
Support Issa Amro Now!
I gave space in the second June missive about Issa Amro. He and his case are very important to me and for the Palestinian liberation struggle. The letter being circulated in Congress is gaining some traction. Initially there were four sponsors of it, and now there are at least fifteen; small still, but a large increase. It calls on the State Department to try to get Israel to drop the 18 trumped up charges against Youth Against Settlements organizer, Issa Amro of Hebron. The link above has several other links to articles, the “Dear Colleague” letter by Congressman Marc Pocan, summaries of his two recent court dates, supportive UN statements, the determination by the EU that Issa is officially a “human rights defender” and more.
I have mentioned Issa before since he has been an important leader for me in both CJNV delegations I have gone on. I was amazed at his good humor and composure while dealing with the army busting into our camp during the night. [Click here or on the image of Issa to hear him welcome us to Sarura and the Sumud Freedom Camp. There is a bit of wind, but you can feel how fully he understands the power of organizing with nonviolent principles as he tells us to keep them in mind in case we are attacked by settlers or soldiers.]
See the SF Mime Troupe this year!
The show is entitled “Walls.” They have had to scale back their production size due to income stream problems. This was the case the last couple of years too, but the shows still packed quite a punch, musically, thematically and emotionally. Go to their website and be sure to come out. Donate to them through their website too. Free shows in Bay Area parks start in Berkeley on July 1. Dolores Park on Independence Day or Labor Day are always good, and remember to donate at the end when the thespians surround you. Also, their shows are great places to give out political literature.
At San Francisco State: Stand with Palestinian Students,
Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi and Middle East and Islamic Studies Program Against Trumped up Charges of Antisemitism
I just sent in this letter to the editor to the SF Chronicle in response to this article about a lawsuit being filed against San Francisco State University. They printed my friend Clyde’s letter which was great. JVP also created great talking points since the lawsuit garnered articles in other papers like the Washington Post and Ha’aretz. The university is being unfairly smeared as though it has an antisemitic administration. Actually, the administration is not nearly as supportive of its Arab students and faculty as it needs to be since they are under attack.
Concerning your article about the frivolous lawsuit being filed against SF State University for allegedly being antisemitic and not protecting Jewish students from threats or attack: The Jerusalem mayor was shouted down, and the outside investigator’s assessment was that the Palestinian students were not threatening (unless you consider interrupting menacing). Some level of civil unrest is valid, even necessary to express outrage. The Jerusalem mayor is overseeing the “Judaization” of Palestinian neighborhoods with increasing dispossession of their people. Video also shows they weren’t threatening. And as for Hillel and being welcome or not at the human rights fair: As David Spero, who was there, reported to our Jewish Voice for Peace chapter, “It was a bunch of talks by law people and a lot of human rights and activist orgs with tables. Hillel students were all over it, but they were not allowed a table at it, which makes sense to me as they are not a human rights group.” The lawsuit is frivolous and offensive against the university and any expression of Palestinian solidarity, even by Palestinians, who must be allowed to advocate for themselves. I’ve been a Jew at SF State. I think Palestinians have more to fear there.
I am concerned about how bullshit charges of antisemitism are used to silence and attack people and groups. This is not a new phenomenon, and the existence of real antisemitism doesn’t excuse the recklessness and methodical intentionality of these cases. From the files of my friend Allan Solomonow I have examples going back to the late 1960s. We all, activist and non-activist alike, need to be smart and discerning.
What Happened on Jerusalem Day?
I can’t go into everything about the CJNV trip at once, and a gestalt analysis is still percolating, so right now, consider what happened the Wednesday after the delegation ended, May 24, Jerusalem Day 2017. Jerusalem Day is a real thing. It is a day when Jewish Israelis and their friends parade all over the city including the Palestinian Quarter of the Old City. They are rude as they do it, proud, arrogant, at times violent, always a bit threatening. In the afternoon, small bands of white-shirted people with Israeli flags roam the old city singing loudly. Any sign of disapproval is met with a bit of in-your-face-ness. On Jaffa Street as I walked up to the bus station, it felt more celebratory than threatening as it did in and around the Old City. Around 4:00 pm, Palestinians vacate and are made to close their businesses because of the impending invasion. Damascus Gate is cleared by Jerusalem police at a busy time on a week day. Later, the large parade evidently snakes its way in and through the Old City. I didn’t stay that late since I needed to get back to Kibbutz Gezer. That was a bit of a relief as the vibe was starting to wear me down, and for my part, I wanted to keep a good demeanor.
We were encouraged to shop before the stores closed to show support for Palestinian business. That was a funny part of the action, but I was happy to spend a little money there in commercial solidarity. When a small group would go by a store I was in, I would go to the front of the store in case someone wanted to break something. Shopkeepers were appreciative of a customer showing concern for them. I think I over-relied on that to get me better deals than I did. I still needed to haggle more! As I approached Damascus Gate from inside the Old City a group walked past me. The nearby police officers gave me a blank looks when I asked them, if they arrest anyone who causes damage. [Click here or on the image to see a 40 second video.]
Some people I was on the trip with were Jerusalemites who along with internationals planned to nonviolently occupy part of the Damascus Gate plaza to hold space, maybe enough to make it hard for the white-shirts to march through. Some of us planned to link arms, and even pile on one another to make it hard to clear them out. I wasn’t at the meeting and was willing to be pushed around, but I wasn’t planning on pushing to the point of being arrested. It felt good to walk out Damascus Gate at that point and see my new friends, arms linked, singing, holding space. I immediately joined the line. It was an awesome few minutes before we were pushed hard, most people falling to the ground. I was on the end and didn’t go down, so I got my camera out, no longer part of the scrum, shifting from “most-risking” to “less-risking,” expecting more to be pushed and shoved than pulled and dragged. Click on image above or here for short, video of chanting and dragging, singing and more.
INTERESTING POINT: Time and again throughout this trip, the police and army would be rough, maybe detain people for a while, but they went out of their way NOT actually to arrest people. They just wanted everyone out of the way of the large march yet to come. They were rough as you can see in this video clip, and they broke the arm of Sarah Brammer-Shlay, my friend from both CJNV trips, and in fact, one of my small group leaders. Even
with Palestinians, once they pushed us out of the plaza and across the road, they just wanted us out of the way. At times a tourist would come and they would let them cross the road, or a Palestinian resident of the Old City. There was a moment when it seemed like police and army were grabbing someone, but people were able to be in the way enough that the people were liberated. You can see this short incident start at about 1;45 here or by clicking on the image to the right.
I feel the political turmoil in my bones and soul. It creeps into my about-to-wake moments and my conscious, doing life. It is important to find joy and bliss amidst the constant backdrop of escalating violence. I’m looking forward to Pride this weekend. And mixing the bliss and pain: my birthday was a real mixed bag in East Jerusalem.
We saw a peaceful vigil in support of the hunger-striking political prisoners end violently when police tased one man sending him to the hospital and arrested three others. And we weren’t able to work in Issawiya because of some confusion I will talk about another time. Still, our friends there arranged an amazing dinner for us and a heartfelt talk by Omar, an Issawiyan. We took a group photo in the wedding reception hall (something we weren’t expecting to encounter). Then, I was surprised with the most uproarious cake and singing for me since my 40th party.
I have found a paid house-sit gig in north Berkeley that will start sometime in July. I think it will last at least a couple months, depending on how fast the family can clear their mom’s stuff out, but it seems like that could be a slow, methodical process. I haven’t seen the place yet, but I believe it is going to work out great. I have long said if I had a place to live and a few hundred dollars a month, I could survive quite well. We’ll see. I did like settling in here, feeling like I had a room that was mine, but I may be entering a nomadic period again. We’ll see. I can’t define a trend yet.
I have some possible employment irons in the fire too, but I don’t want to get into them at this point. I am missing two weeks in a row of laughter yoga where my mom lives because of a virus in a wing there–not my mom’s–that causes them to cancel activities. Darn! I hope people get and stay well asap. Prayers for Baywood Court.
As I prepare to move out after a couple years, I am looking through books and boxes of photos and journals and letters, wanting to clear out space in my storage unit to put stuff back, but not to bury everything. I am enjoying looking at old photos and scanning some of them. My beautiful Aunt Marilyn passed away shortly before I left on my May trip. I missed the funeral, but there is a memorial gathering for her this Saturday that I am looking forward to. My heart is always warmed at remembrances. They soften people in my experience, amidst the sense of loss and grief. What is remembered lives.
And I realized that I have photos in my room of people from my life, but I was missing my own grandparents. Hardest to come across are shots of my mom’s dad, Papa Irv. Second hardest is my dad’s mom, “Nanny” to me. Here is a wedding photo that has them all in it, looking mighty good too! That was in 1955.
And finally, the classic Longs photo of my dad when the Serramonte store was opening in Daly City in 1968. I always knew my dad as a Longs Drug Store manager, so in a lot of ways this pic is quintesentially him. Loving and missing you, dad.