JIM’S JUNE MISSIVE vol.2: The Personal is Political

Dear Missive Readers, Here are a couple of urgent action items followed by some reflections sparked by my trip to Palestine and Israel. The urgent actions keep me from ruminating too long, but the first action item is really immediate..by the end of the day Tuesday (tomorrow). I still have lots of lessons to process and share from my time away: too much for one sitting or post. In this Missive, I touch on various parts of our time together, but I focus a little more on the hunger strike that was going on at the time. I will fill in the holes about Issawiya, Sarura, Sumud, Battan Al Hawa, Gezer, Istanbul, interpersonal lessons and dynamics in the next couple of missives. Ask me for any clarifications. Your questions will help guide my reporting. Thanks for your interest, support and patience.  -Jim

VERY TIME SENSITIVE.
THEY ARE TAKING THIS UP TUESDAY NIGHT, JUNE 20:

Tell Berkeley City Council Not to Participate in Urban Shield
or other Insidious, Militarized, Police Training Programs

(Speak up, even if you aren’t a Berkeley resident)

In an unprecedented move, the Berkeley City Council is considering fully withdrawing their participation in Urban Shield. A decision in favor of pulling out of Urban Shield by the Berkeley City Council paves the way for other cities in the Bay Area to do the same. The Council has scheduled a special hearing on Urban Shield for vote on Tuesday, June 20th at 6pm at Longfellow Middle School, 1500 Derby St in Berkeley. Rally Facebook event.

The community wants resources for mental health crises, earthquake and fire preparedness. We say no to increased militarization of police, our emergency medic services and our communities.

We want to redouble our efforts at the upcoming meeting in showing the Berkeley City Council that they need to stand on the side of the people and not on the side of militarization and oppression. More background is in this great op-ed in the local Berkleyside.

First: Fill out this poll conducted by the City of Berkeley itself: http://www.peakdemocracy.com/portals/257/Issue_5095/
(non-Berkleyites too, please)

Second: All letters sent to council@cityofberkeley.info will be sent to the Mayor and each council member, and will be included in the agenda packet (which is also posted online for the public). (non-Berkleyites too, please) I think the Facebook event above also has phone numbers of councilmembers if you want to call them.

BERKELEY RESIDENTS: Sign the Berkeley petition to demand Berkeley pull out of Urban Shield.

ALAMEDA COUNTY RESIDENTS: Sign the Alameda County petition to demand county officials pull out of Urban Shield.

TIME SENSITIVE:
Act Now to Help Keep Issa Amro of Hebron Free.
http://www.codepink.org/stand_with_issa

“In the midst of nonviolent struggle, I have never
trusted anyone more!” -Jim

Past petitions have helped Issa and other nonviolent activists hold their own against biased Israeli courts and military and civil administrations. Stand With IssaPRESSURE LIKE THIS CAN ACTUALLY MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE! Despite fickle Democratic leadership (at best) on human rights, and despite the way Palestinians are generally treated as inherently violent and guilty, members of Congress (including Republicans) have stood up for Issa and others before, so please click on this link to share a letter with your representatives: http://www.codepink.org/stand_with_issa.

Here is a short video clip of Issa addressing CJNV and others as we arrived at Sarura where we all created the Sumud Freedom Camp. Here is an article by Issa that also came out in May.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH ISSA:

I was amazed by Issa’s creative, steady, brave and uplifting leadership in 2016. He had us start cleaning up a shuttered factory to turn it into a movie theater for the people of Hebron and Tel Rumeida. After being injured during that action, he still directed us as we wound our way through Kiryat Arba to demonstrate outside the police station where our friends were being held.

I was even more impressed this May as he led us to create, defend and maintain Sumud Freedom Camp in Sarura, a Palestinian village in the south Hebron Hills that Israel cleared out in the late 1990s. Issa Amro was instrumental in formulating  and carrying out such a clear and powerful plan with a winning spin no matter how it played out.

Jim_Issa

Jim and Issa at Sumud Freedom Camp, Sarura.

The Israeli military (IDF) came into camp at 11:30 pm on May 20 to steal equipment, rip up tent and shade material, and harass our legal, peaceful gathering. They produced no orders or legal basis for their intrusion. They acted afraid even though they were the ones with the guns. They came as armed invaders into a camp organized not just in the name of justice and peace, but as an explicitly nonviolent effort.In the face of their imposed authority, Issa met them time and again with good humor, even jokes, but also with his good-sized but non-threatening body. He addressed them in Hebrew, English and Arabic. He directed us as we held our space. He even took a moment to ask me to cover food so it wouldn’t get ruined. There was chaos in the dark. Cell phone lights barely helped. People chanted, yelled, tried to engage in dialog. Issa knew what was what and led us warmly and selflessly. Then, when it was obvious that we couldn’t keep them from leaving with our supplies, he directed us back to camp, to regroup and check in with a levity that was so genuine it was quite surprising. Issa kept our spirits up. I want to go back and stand with him again. I want to be like Issa when I grow up! (smile) Right and wrong are so clear sometimes. Which side are you on? Please act now!

Hunger Striking Political Prisoners and a Young, Freed Detainee

The May delegation took place near the end of what would turn out to be a rather successful hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners that lasted for forty days. My work group attended a rally/vigil in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of

Hunger_Strike_vigil_Sheikh_Jara_Free_Prisoner_Jim

Ali Jeddah was freed in a 1985 prisoner swap. He was remarkably gentle for all he has been through

 

It felt like a rally I could have helped organize in the USA. And like what sometimes happens here, at the very end of the peaceful gathering, the police moved in and picked out a few people to arrest. A Palestinian pointed out that supporters of Israel better hope that their nonviolent efforts bear fruit. Hamas negotiates prisoner exchanges for a few Israeli soldiers and hundreds or thousands of Palestinians. It makes Hamas look successful, even to Palestinians who don’t like them. There is power in nonviolence, but we need to win some fights, or people will  continue to turn to violence. As John F. Kennedy put it: “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”

Speaking of prisoners: For our first three days, CJNV divided us up into six work groups. Mine went to Issawiya, a village near/neighborhood in East Jerusalem. It is near Mt. Scopus and Hebrew University. A national park continues to be planned on some of the only open space there even though the people of Issawiya continue to move their master plan ideas successfully through the Jerusalem civil administration process. Even when they win, a new hurdle is suddenly created, so it seems like they lose no matter if they win. More on that in my next Missive.

In Issawiya we met a sixteen year old girl named Sondos who was just released from Israeli detention after five months. She was held on suspicion of planning to carry out a knife attack, but she was released because there must not have been any evidence against her. She was presumed guilty and spent five months in jail as a minor.

Uri_Sondos_Muhammed_Issawiya
Uri of Free Jerusalem was our guide and interpreter in Issawiya. Mohammed Abu Hummus (right) is a community leader in Issawiya who was our community liaison. Sondos is in the middle.

 

Relating her story to my sister and others on Kibbutz Gezer garnered a response that I am disturbed by: Since I don’t really know this person, how can I take her side? Even though the system is biased against her, I should remember that I don’t really know the whole story. There is truth in that, but still…The system formally treats her as guilty until proven innocent whereas it would treat an international or Israeli as innocent until proven guilty. To ask me to suspend judgement in the face of such injustice is to ask me to buy into the separate and unequal legal systems instituted prejudicially against Palestinians. I won’t do it, and I don’t want other people to either. The system convicts Palestinians over 99% of the time, and almost never convicts settlers or soldiers. In this case, the arrested must be treated as victims by well-meaning people. The rights and needs of victims’ families must not be cynically used to justify wrongful detention and to mute the outrage of good-hearted people. And the real possibility of trumped up charges being used to oppress activist Palestinians or their communities can’t be overstated, as in the case of Issa Amro.

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL:
REFLECTIONS ON MY SECOND DELEGATION TO PALESTINE
WITH THE CENTER FOR JEWISH NONVIOLENCE

  • My gratitude and respect for the Center for Jewish Nonviolence continues to grow. The way they helped us follow the lead of our Palestinian partners who’s invitations/pleas/asks for help we were responding to could be a model for nonviolent resistance and solidarity for the whole world (not that one size fits all).
  • Work done during the May trip continues on the ground. It wasn’t just relevant
  • Sarura_cave_shadeThe IDF invaded on Saturday night. On Sunday, we used a sizable remnant of material to make a smaller canopy in the courtyard outside Fadal’s cave. He and his family have moved back in despite threatening visits from the military and nearby settlers. Sumud Freedom Camp has continued to be a rallying point for Palestinian, Israeli and international activists. People hope to keep a presence in Sumud and Sarura through the end of Ramadan at least.  I just saw photos of a Ramadan iftar held in Fadal’s cave that we helped prepare for living in. Palestinian life in Sarura continues!
  • I get teary-eyed when I think about the people I met sometimes. I’m very sensitive that way.
  • Sumud_camp_Eid_Awdah_Jim_Tarek_UmmIlKheir

    Eid, Awdah and Tariq of Um Il Khair, with yours truly in Sumud Freedom Camp. New friends from 2016, together again in 2017!

    I have been so touched, enriched and empowered by everyone involved, sometimes I cry for a warm remembrance, and sometimes I cry in dismay and outrage. The time together is very intense with an amazing amount of trust flowing across presumed walls of difference and indifference. There is a deep connection between Palestinians, Israelis and Jews from the diaspora in this work. This emotional response comes up for me with people from my sister’s kibbutz as well as with Palestinians and other people from the delegation.

  • For three days in Sarura, we cleared paths of rocks and thorny weeds. Sarura_FadalWe helped pave a road so water can be brought in more cheaply (by pick up truck instead of farm tractors) since Israel refuses to let Palestinians in Area C have water, sewage or power hook ups. We mixed and poured concrete to floor the cave of an elder named Fadal so he and his family could move back in after twenty years in exile. In between military raids, they fired up their oven and made the first pita bread on site since 1997! And as I type this, they are still there! Seeing the FB post this morning of last night’s iftar there really drove home to me how important every little effort is for peace since big ones are built on little ones…and EXISTENCE IS RESISTANCE!
  • A SOMEWHAT MORE PERSONAL LESSON/REFLECTION: I need to stop interrupting people so much. Am I really that impatient for the other person to get to their point? Am I so scared that I will forget what I was going to say? Am I afraid my thought or question will no longer be relevant? Do I feel a need to be the first to make a good point? Do I think my point won’t be said, and then the conversation will go off track or get bogged down? Do I really know where the conversation had better go? Answering “yes” to any of those questions doesn’t justify interrupting people. And yes, men interrupt women more often than the other way around. That point isn’t lost on me either, though I think I’m an equal opportunity interrupter. In this case, the political is personal!

NEXT MISSIVE: The personal is political continues; More lessons from my trip; The problem and attraction of police dramas on television; If I no longer have David Nesmith to care for and I am no longer staying at his wife Annie’s home, where am I, and what am I doing?

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