This Missive was going to come out for Father’s Day, then Pride, and now it is July 1. My first drafts usually suck, so it is hard to put them out in one sitting. When I revisit them later, I have new material to work in and old pieces that have lost or shifted relevance. I have an unfinished letter to the judge in the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 case I wanted to include and a testimonial about a friend’s film to write, but I needed to get this to you all and out of my computer. I missed June! I’m sure my train of thought can be dizzying. At the same time, I worry I spend too much time sitting contemplating plants growing, the cat sleeping and looking at the light and breeze playing with the nearby redwood tree. I envision sharing simple little bon mots of odd insights or observations, but then…
Covid Alarm from a Friend Inside
I have shared a couple of true stories from Mufid Abdulqader in the last year. He is one of the Holy Land Foundation 5 who were wrongfully convicted of abetting terrorism as retaliation for their humanitarian work in Palestine. Mufid isn’t due for release until December 12, 2025. Mohammad El-Mezain is due for release on September 17, 2021. He is in Oakdale FCI in Louisiana, and news of covid there surfaced in March. Now, Mufid tells me that it is present and growing where he is in Seagoville, Texas. Abdulrahman Odeh is in Milan, Michigan, and he is due out on August 21, 2021! I hope they all make it. The honorable Shukri and Ghassan received such long sentences that they don’t expect to make it out alive, but Inshallah they get a reprieve or any miracle. I’ve been so touched by you. God willing, the other three will survive the immediacy of the pandemic to breathe free soon. [Please forgive my shifting from 2nd to 3rd person. It is funny to write about people who also receive what I am writing.]
I am trying to find campaigns to plug into on their behalf rather than trying to start something myself. Of course, action is needed across all carceral systems. This link will take you to the federal bureau of prisons form to “Voice Your Inmate Concerns.” Someon posted on a bulletin board recently that these online forms may be better for submitting comments than trying telephone lines or even email for reliable delivery. This is the simple message I left. I did one to Oakdale II also:
I got word from a friend in Seagoville FCI that covid-19 is spreading among the inmates and staff. If you love your families, I hope you will have the wisdom to care about the well-being of the people incarcerated with you. Don’t make inmates play a form of viral Russian roulette. People convicted of murder don’t even deserve that.
I may write again and include my info and that of the person I know there, but I fear retaliation against them, so for now I will sign off anonymously.
Here are two e-mails I just received from Mufid:
The number of inmates and staff that are infected keep increasing. As of Saturday they were 30 inmates and 3 staff. We see them taking many more inmates every day from other buildings and taking them to other quarantined building. The situation is scary and dire. There is no way you can social distancing in a place shared by close to 300 inmates using the same bathrooms, sinks, computers and phones and each five living in a room approx. 8X6 feet.
It is crazy but we will get thru it Insha Allah. Can’t change it because it is decreed.
And this one arrived on June 30 too:
Today is Friday, 6/26 and things got worse than before. So far we have a minimum of 12 inmates as of right now who have tested positive for the CPVID-19. They are testing inmates in other buildings and we don’t know how many more do have it. Things are getting worse and worse. Limited phones and computers as a way to force social distancing.
Please pray for us as things will definitely get worse and worse before they get any better and I hope and pray that I would not catch the COVID-19 virus.
Allah knows best and we submit to his will all the time. He is the ever most merciful.
Kehilla, Right on!
It is July 1, the day Israel insists it is annexing the West Bank but not granting any rights to the Palestinians who live there. I haven’t looked at the news yet. There are lots of conflicting possibilities, none of them amounting to equality in law or practice. I’m proud of the following statement from my synagogue, it shouldn’t be controversial, and it should be replicated in Jewish communities everywhere. It won’t be, but it should.
Statement Against the Annexation of the West Bank
Passed by unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees of Kehilla Community Synagogue, May 26, 2020
Since 1985, Kehilla Community Synagogue has affirmed that Israelis and Palestinians must come to a resolution in a manner that honors the rights and the dignity of all the people living there. In 2016, we affirmed in the Kehilla Statement of Values on Israel/Palestine that the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of the Gaza Strip must come to an end in that they not only violate the dignity of the people subjected to these conditions but also can defeat the prospects for a just and lasting peace and do not ultimately benefit the security needs of the people of Israel.
The annexation of lands in the West Bank as contemplated by the new Israeli
government, tentatively scheduled for July 1, 2020 will create or further an apartheid-like situation where Israeli Jews in the occupied territory will live with privileges and rights unavailable to the Palestinian people who will be surrounded by the land annexed to the State of Israel.
For the Palestinians under occupation, democracy is already highly limited, if not nonexistent. After annexation, we fear that any possibility of human rights and selfdetermination for those under occupation will be eliminated. This will make a peaceful resolution impossible and will create a total or near-total disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people defeating their hopes for self-determination.
In Kehilla, we aspire to live by these Jewish values that we have learned from the Tanakh and Talmud:
“Do not oppress the stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger since you
yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9) וְגֵר֖ לֹא֣ תלִחְָץ֑ ואְתַּ םֶ֗ ידעְַתְּםֶ ֙ אתֶ ־נפֶ֣שֶׁ ה גַּר֔ כּ יִֽ־גר יִֵ֥ם ה יֱיתִםֶ֖ בּאְרֶ֥ץֶ מצִרְ יָֽם ׃ִ
“There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who lives among you” (Exod 12:48-49) תּוֹ רהָ֣ אַחתַ֔ יה יְִהֶ לאָ זֶֽרחְָ֑ ולגְַּרֵ֖ הגָּרַ֥ בּתְוֹכ כְֶםֽ׃
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the entire Torah” (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 31A) דַּעלֲךְָ סנְי לחְבַרְךְָ לאָ תּעַבֲיֵד — ז וֹה יִא כּ ׇ ל התַּ וֹרהָ כּ וּלּהָּ
Thus, as the Kehilla synagogue community, we cannot support annexation nor remain silent while maintaining any moral authority to teach Jewish values to our children. The annexation plan represents an egregious violation of our fundamental Jewish values, and, we believe, is not in the best interest of our Jewish siblings in Israel / Palestine. We therefore oppose the annexation plan, and call on our government to do the same.
Please also read this op-ed by Kehilla’s Rabbi Dev Noily, Senior Rabbi and
Hazzan Shulamit Wise Fairman, Music Director that made a real difference on the final vote at the Oakland Unified School District board meeting about including Arabs and Palestinians in the ethnic studies curriculum. Here’s the link: https://www.jweekly.com/2020/05/27/why-jews-should-support-the-states-ethnic-studies-model/
Please, my family and friends, don’t support Jewish institutions like the AJC, the JNF the ZOA, and the SF Jewish Federation that fund and encourage the dispossession of Palestinians, and tell them why! Illegal Jewish Israeli settlers are attacking people I know, my friends. They’re destroying water cisterns in the desert. They’re destroying trees and killing people with disabilities. …in the name of Judaism, or Zionism, they purposely conflate the two so people who look can be falsely accused of antisemitsm. It’s an affront! As I write, I realize: We’re poisoning our own water here and the minds our own children with lead and other chemicals, and we’re burning the forests of the world for short term profit, so why should I expect different from us for Palestine? I don’t know what I expect, except that we need to keep on keepin’ on. Let’s go!
Police Violence Isn’t Israel’s fault, but…
They need to charge the cop who was on George Floyd’s chest with murder, not accessory. I am not sure I have tried to breathe when my neck was pinned, but I know how hard it is to breathe when my chest can’t rise and fall even if I’m trying to breathe with my diaphragm.
Sadly, the knee-on-the-neck technique is something that Israelis have been using on Palestinians for years. Israeli courts have even come out against its use, but the IDF continues to train it to US and other police forces as well as many other suggestions on the table, like Joe WTF Biden’s call for police to maim people by aiming for their legs. Also, the shooting out of eyes of bystanders with “less lethal” projectiles…How can that be done in the name of Judaism? Blows my mind.
Well, I’m pretty far away from Eamon right now. I don’t have any of my own pictures to share. My story as a father is one of distance. I want to honor the fathers who are caring for their children. I have special feelings of love for Eamon, but I am not with them for the joys and exhaustion of day to day or even half-time parenting. I know Lacy hopes I can visit again soon, but it is probably going to be several months more before I make it there for a visit which would probably include some necessary quarantine time. I’m grateful that Eamon and Lacy visited the Bay Area and my mom and family twice. It is going to be a while again. Here is one wonderful picture from a day that Eamon and Lacy were in the streets recently.