I found myself a little dragging emotionally this past week. I was supposed to visit Eamon, but I cancelled. Caution was already in order, if just out of fear of getting stuck so far from home should some shit hit the fan. DC was already struggling with the corona virus, as is the Bay Area, as was greater Seattle where I was for a couple nights. (See below about the Pacific Life Community anti-Trident action.)
I need to bite the bullet and hit send today. I missed Friday the thirteenth for the ides of March. News I would report changes daily. Yesterday rules at Baywood Court were tightened, and I didn’t lead my exercise or laughter yoga classes, much less relax over lunch. I haven’t been back from out of state travel for two full weeks. The increased signage and reduced entrances on Saturday were much more restrictive and clear. Last week I taught with a mask on. Next week, Goddess knows. Mere days ago, I would have told you all I was planning to go to Iran at the end of May with CODEPINK. I was going to have a living room report back about the CJNV delegation next week. Several other great events were coming up at Kehilla Community Synagogue.
Read on about the recent CJNV delegation, focusing on Musrara, the Jerusalem neighborhood where we convened on December 30. I’m also very honored to present a true story, a parable from behind bars, by Mufid Abdulqader, of the wrongly convicted Holy Land Foundation 5.
Let me start off with a few mixed items of note. Most of which aren’t as time sensitive as they were. Several events have been postponed or cancelled due to the corona virus. I hope you’ll click the links for more on the “whys” even if you aren’t going to need the “where”. As I write, these events are going forward. Coronavirus intensity may cause any or all of them to be changed. I suggest you contact me later to find out if plans have changed.
- Support Palestinians weather corona virus. This portal is through the Rebuilding Alliance. Trust it and give generously. Some of the groups mentioned that they are partnering with on the ground there are the same people and places where I have been and have friends. There are other inspiring, mutual aid networks springing up nationally and by neighborhood. If you need to be in touch with some of that support, let me know. It takes a village, especially with our government.
- April 3, Noon to 2 pm: Annual, Public Reading of MLK’s Riverside Church Speech. Outside the Oakland Federal Building on Clay at 12th St. I’m not sure if we’ll just do one read through (17 parts) or more, two or three, later into the afternoon. This is an outdoor event.
- May 31, 3:00 to 7:00 pm: Challenging the Rise in Anti-Semitism: Rabbi David moderates a panel of speakers that includes Penny Rosenwasser, Binya Koatz, Pastor Ben McBride and Professor Rabab Abdulhadi. Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave. Piedmont (in the sanctuary). Check out the event listing on the Kehilla website for more details, bios and flyers. (This was originally planned for April 5.)
- The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions international committee put out a video on International Women’s Day that I thought was dynamic, clear and fair. Love it!
- Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota’s 4th District authored a piece of legislation that has gained more traction than you might expect since it is on behalf of something Palestinian. HR 2407 is the “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.” Well, AIPAC attacks on her were vile and extreme as usual, but her push back is exceptionally strong and inspiring. I shouted for joy in a cafe as I read her statement in response laying out why AIPAC is a hate group.
- Things like this going on today are “impossible to reconcile with wisdom, justice and love.” https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200225-israel-closes-60-year-old-jerusalem-bakery-for-distributing-bread-to-muslim-worshippers/
People Need to go Ballistic over Nukes
I just attended the annual Pacific Life Community gathering at lovely Pilgrims Firs, a UCC camp west of Seattle. I spent several hours in SeaTac airport and over on the Olympic Peninsula, not exactly ground zero in Washington for Covid-19, but not the other end of the state either. I paused for a while on the Coliseum BART platform on my way to the airport and consulted by phone and FB many wise and candid friends before I got on the AirTrain and ultimately the plane. Thank you all for sharing your concerns about traveling at this time. I decided that not going was no surer bet than going in this instance, and I needed the camaraderie of my antinuclear-action family’s annual gathering given the increased likelihood of a nuclear attack by the United States with the presence of a W76-2 on a Trident submarine with Donald Trump’s finger on the button.
The gathering was full of familiar faces, almost no unknowns. I decided to come for the comfort of community, so I was fine with it. Still, as we discuss what to do next year, there is a clear mandate for more time reflecting on what we do and why since we are an unexceptionally aging lot, and almost all white. PLC isn’t growing. Some strong encouragement for us to open up in new ways to new leadership has followed in evaluation, not for the first time. Thanks for the jump-start, Sam, and the personal challenge, Susan S. To be continued more within the PLC for now.
I “defiantly” crossed the designated property line at Kitsap-Bangor Trident submarine naval base on Monday, and I was dutifully cited and released along with my compatriots. In a few months I probably will be sent an arraignment date. Meanwhile, the W76-2 is out there somewhere on a Trident sub (see previous Missives). I fear for the people of Iran. Our government has never valued the lives of Persians. I feel duty bound to do what I can to stop more war crimes against them, so I made this small, defiant gesture. Alone, it amounts to nothing. Our very real nukes are the ones to worry about, that need to be disarmed first and foremost, not North Korea’s small force, nor the nonexistent nuclear weapons of Iran. Any death of an American troop or mercenary will be blamed on Iran without any proof and used to justify our own murderous assaults. We need journalists to ask the hard, probing questions lacking today even though Trump is insulating himself with willing handlers limiting access. There is plenty of money to heal the world of its wounds, but we have to raid the Pentagon and take it from the military. So few address the military budget. Most activists talk around it, occasionally including a mention of militarism, but more often than not avoiding it. It is so huge, and it is on very few people’s plates. Why is that? Is it me? Is it something I am doing that makes people not care, to stay away?
In my worst nightmare, I couldn’t have dreamed up something worse than nuclear deterrence, but Trumpism (the veneration of bombastic, narcissistic ignorance) is scary as hell with his finger on the button. The crimes and trajectory of United States militarism are so cruel, and so long-standing, it is almost beyond my comprehension that any argument exists against repentance and reparations for the people of the world by the United States. That we are threatening non-nuclear armed Iran with a nuclear first-strike should stop good people in their tracks. Military assaults need to stop amidst this global pandemic, but that isn’t what is happening. Violent opportunists see a weak enemy and want to come in for the kill. I’m really afraid we’re going to nuke Iran and no one is going to care. There is so little visibility given to efforts to stop it from happening, but I’m probably repeating myself. We’re having to trust in some sort of deep state military respect for The Constitution and the rule of law. We have to pray that Trump’s purge of federal employees who won’t carry out his every utterance without hesitation miraculously sidesteps the nuclear launch chain of command.
Somehow the people of this country have to start caring that our leaders habitually commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in our name. (Not that they are doing them FOR our benefit, really, but they do do them in our name. I have seen old cold warriors heartfully argued that their covert violence was necessary for the freedoms some of us are accorded.) We have to stop insane Trump and his ignorant lackies from committing a nuclear war crime of unparalleled scale with a nuclear first strike.
CJNV in Musrara: Meet Mizrachi, Israeli Black Panthers
Continuing to share profound moments from the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, let me start from the beginning. We met up in Jerusalem in the neighborhood of Musrara just outside the Old City. This neighborhood was taken by Israel in the early days of the creation of the state. Palestinians were forced out and fled. Israel moved Mizrachi Jews from north Africa and the Arab world to be a human buffer between the Jordanian army and Ashkenazi Jews from Europe. The hypocritical racism of the Ashkenazi Holocaust survivors is shocking, to so dehumanize these other migrants (or anyone). It was damning since it created a hell for the Palestinians made to pay for European Christian antisemitism, and it created a hell for these Jews, many of whom culturally were Arabs, who were denigrated because they had different practices and languages.
Our guide was Reuven Abergel who I remember from a couple of years ago when he toured the United States as a founder of the Israeli Black Panthers. His family moved to Musrara from Morocco when he was a child. He told us about being stuck in the crossfire, and routinely being denied safer shelter by Israeli forces from Jordanian sniper fire. He showed how the neighborhood is being gentrified in exclusionary ways now. It was interesting to learn about Israeli Black Panthers and their fight for respect and rights from the European leadership and racist bureaucrats. I have had to revisit the question of “Who am I” to question who is a person of color, who can pass for white and who can be considered a Black Panther. Reuven was present when the group met with Golda Meir. Years later, showing amazing good humor, they actually got an alley in the neighborhood named for her subsequent, public comment: “They’re Not Nice” Alley.
Since my return in January, I have had the great good fortune to befriend the premier Palestinian journalist of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Raymonda Tawil, a legacy of my late friend and mentor, Allan Solomonow. Raymonda has written about being in an Israeli jail in the 1970s because of her reporting and her way of not respecting the rules and norms time and again. One of the less cruel guards was clearly Arab, so she asked why she was working in this horrid, Israeli military jail. She said she was an Arab Jew from Iraq, and she told Raymonda about the terrible conditions they were forced to endure in Musrara at the hands of the Ashkenazi Zionists while being shot at by the Jordanians. She said they were given very little work opportunities also. So, twice in one month I am taught about Musrara, by Jews and Palestinians who lived it first hand. (And neither hates the other.)
Raymonda Tawil and Moshe Dayan’s first wife, Ruth, became lifelong friends despite unique paths and many passionate disagreements. They prevailed upon writer Anthony David to write about it in his book An Improbable Friendship. Historical figures spanning more than 80 years are humanized in a meaningful, just and sometimes unflattering way through the lens of the lives of these quite revolutionary women. I can’t recommend this book highly enough for interested parties to get a great view of the defining events for Israel and Palestine, its people and history-makers, from both sides of the divide. I think that this book can really build understanding. Get a copy, read it, and let me know what you think.
There are many sad reasons why Mizrachi/Palestinian unity and mutual aid have been slow to emerge. One aspect of the work of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence is to help foster that. The day I went to Isawiyah and Batan Al Hawa as described last Missive, some of our delegation visited two Mizrachi neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. There, the residents were poor, and had been neglected as neighborhoods. Now they have been gentrified with luxury apartments, and they are being forced out. With public awareness, their chances for just compensation increase markedly. Hopefully just compensation for our friends in Abu Kabir will be forthcoming soon.
Words of Wisdom from Behind Bars
I am constantly amazed at and uplifted by the warmth shown by Palestinians towards Jews despite it all. I know I only meet a subsection of Palestinians in the diaspora and when I’m there. That doesn’t negate my point! The norm is far more loving, generous and forgiving than anything they are subjected to or receive credit for.
Mufid Abdulqader is one of the Holy Land Foundation 5. See Miko Peled’s excellent book, Injustice, to learn more about the cautionary tale for other groups that help Palestinians in need. I have a couple more outstanding, short pieces I just received by a couple others of them, so they’ll be coming your way very soon.
This is a true Story
This young and successful executive was travelling down a neighborhood street, going a bit fast in his new Cadillac Escalade CTS with newly installed 28″- 4 giatos rims. He was listening to his list of favorite rappers with his newly installed subwoofer speakers. His list included rappers such as Dababy, Little Baby, Kevin Gates and many others.
He was watching for kids darting in and out of parked cars. He felt like he was on top of the world. Life was great and everything was going so well. He slowed down a bit and suddenly he felt something struck the door on his side of the Escalade. He was not sure of what happened but felt a jolt as a result of that. He slammed on the brakes and backed his Cadillac and opened the door and stepped out quickly to find out of what exactly happened. He looked at the door and saw a huge dent and saw a brick in the middle of the street. He was very angry and looked around to see who could have done that. He noticed a young kid standing looking at him and his car. He looked at him and asked him: “Did you do that? What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? This is a new car and the brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money, Why did you do that?
The young boy was apologetic.” Please, mister…., I am sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,” He pleaded.” I threw the brick because no one else would stop….”
With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot on an adjacent sidewalk just around the corner and said:”It is my brother, he rolled off the cub and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him.”
Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive,” Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He is hurt and too heavy for me to lift.”
Moved beyond words, the executive tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into his wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the boy’s fresh scrapers and cuts. He checked the young boy and everything looked ok.
‘Thank you mister and may Allah (God) bless you,” the grateful young boy told the executive.
Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the young boy push his wheelchair bound brother down a long sidewalk toward their home.
It was a long, slow walk back to his car with the damaged door. The damage was very noticeable , but he never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message:
“Don’t go through life so fast thinking life is all about you to the point where Allah (God) has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!”
This message is for everyone of us. For me, the brick that was thrown at me as I was thrown in prison back in 2008 and for being separated from my family for the past 12 years.
That Monday of the Thanksgiving week in 2008 looked to be just like any other Mondays of my life. We were going to the court as the jury continued deliberating our case. We did not worry much because this was our second trial of a pure political case that was initiated on behalf a foreign government (Israel) using the American judicial system to criminalize Palestinian American support for our home land Palestine.
After 12 years in prison, I hold no ill feelings toward anyone who has any role in the fabrication and prosecution of our case including the prosecutors and the entire justice system. I hold no grudges against anyone.
However, the lesson I learned and everyone should learn is that you should never take your family and loved ones for granted. You never know which morning you will wake up and go to work or leave to do others things and you never come back home and that would be the last time you would see them again. I never thought that that morning breakfast was the last one I would have together with my family. That early day hugs and kisses to my wife and children were the last ones we had outside prison.
It is a reminder that life is too short to take anything for granted. Things can and do change faster than we expect. We should count our blessings and cherish every moment we have with our loved ones.
We also should never hold grudges and seek revenge. It is easier said than done specially when we know what we have received was a raw deal.
I know we all are saddened with the death of Kobe Bryant (the NBA star legend) and how shocked we are of his death at the young age of 41. That should be a reminder for all of us that none of us is guaranteed his/her next breath and nobody is immune form death. Death does not discriminate and everyone is fair game. No age, ethnicity, color or medical condition is a criteria that death considers. Death will take anybody and everybody without any explanation.
So ask yourself the following question; Who is that person or persons that I need to forgive and make up or resolve any conflict or an outstanding issue with? I know we all have issues at times with other individuals or family members and yet keep them unresolved because of ego, pride or other considerations.
If we are not guaranteed our next breath, is it worth it to hold on a grudge or ill feelings toward anyone? The simple answer is no.
I hope that you never take anything for granted and cherish every moment of time you spend with your family and loved ones. Kobe did not know that Sunday was his last day on earth. Don’t leave this earth with regret of not being the best version of yourself as a father/mother, husband/wife, son/daughter or other roles you play in life.
Life is too short to live it with grudges and hate toward anybody. We must live it as it should be lived and move beyond, hate, grudged and other petty stuff. In the grand scale of things, it’s just not worth it.
And finally, I have one question for you: Did you hug and kiss your loved ones this morning or are you waiting for a brick to be thrown at you to give you a reminder?
Please share this with others,
M. Abdulqader, #32590-177
Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution
If I’m not there, does Eamon still grow? Of course they do!