Fighting Fear

Monday 5 March 2012

My roommate came home tonight and said, in walking the few blocks home after having dinner with a friend she was a little apprehensive, not wanting to get mugged. There have maybe been a few extra reports of some purse snatching and a holdup at a nearby Subway, but nothing that I would consider a “crime wave.” In reality the neighborhood is probably just as safe/unsafe as it was a few weeks ago, but for her, the perceived possibility of an attack, even though minor, was still a cause for an added level of vigilance.

It’s no secret that fear is used to get people to do a lot of things they might not do otherwise. Most people would agree that fear was the driving force behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and likely the reason the USA PATRIOT Act (does that name still gross anyone else out?) was able to get the support it needed to pass through Congress. Fear is a powerful tool often used to convince, and it continues to be used by those in power to keep control and avoid rebellion and retaliation by those being oppressed.

This past Friday night, a group of 30 students occupied an upper level floor in the DePaul Student Center in the late evening, calling for a discussion with trustees about a vote the next day about possible tuition hikes. As I followed the story via twitter and time approached the 1am closing time of the Student Center, news came across that students were being threatened the possibility of losing their financial aid if they did not leave. Fear. The 30 students discussed with one another their desire to stay the night or leave together in solidarity, knowing that they might be putting their education on the line should they stay. In the end, while students voted 16-14 to all stay, because many feared losing, only 14 stayed behind to continue the occupation.

The next morning I woke up, thinking about the situation. What would happen (there may be forthcoming repercussions, we don’t know) if the administration cuts grants and financial aid? It would probably be a shit of a PR fiasco, I would imagine. Many local news stations covered the occupation, so likely the financial aid controversy would be an interesting story, too. Or what if the students had been arrested? The university obviously knew this wouldn’t be good for business (it is a private school, so technically an educational business), so students were actually allowed to stay, though were moved to the ground floor.

Then today, Monday, my twitter feed told me about the passing of the bill H.R. 347, the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.” It basically ups the ante on the penalty — now a felony — for protests or actions in certain conditions and locations in restricted area. This informative article on a socialist website tells the (frightening) details. If I want to protest, now I have to be worried about the possibility I might be committing a felony — something that in many states would even restrict my right to vote! Fear.

When I think of “restricted” areas, I’m hearkened back to my time in the West Bank. Areas in the West Bank are often called restricted to keep Palestinians out, either temporarily or long term. Are these oppressive practices what the US is now turning too?

It continues to worry me the way this country is moving, continuing to support the rich and powerful while oppressing others, using the government and courts to provide legitimacy for the oppression while still seeming to be acting in the good of all. In Syria, we see the results of an oppressive regime taken to the extreme: death to those who resist. I hope we may possibly turn things around in this country before that happens, but the more days go by, the more I wonder what this country will look like in 50 years.

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oh, israel, what are you up to now…

Tuesday 12 July 2011

While everyone in Washington continues to deal with this whole debt crisis thing, an interesting thing happened in Israel that could easily slip under the radar. At least for a while, as this is pretty atrocious, so hopefully news will spread and people will start to understand what’s up over there.

The article headline pretty much tells it all: Israel Bans Boycotts Against the State.

See, Palestinians have called for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel and Israeli companies by Palestinians and their international supporters.  However, this legislation makes it illegal for any Israelis or Israeli organizations to join in that movement, which aims to end the occupation and oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Any proponent of peace and justice living in Tel Aviv, Haifa, or anywhere Israel feels it can impose its might.

In the U.S., we value free speech as the foundation of a democratic country, but here we have Israel, the country many claim to be the only “true” democracy we can count on in the Middle East, clearly imposing  limits on speech, in particular speech that criticizes the state, perhaps the most sacred of speech needing protection.

How much longer can the U.S. unconditionally support a country that continues to oppress such a large group of people, now adding to the tally of the oppressed the ranks of those within its borders who also want to push for the equality and freedom Palestinians deserve?  I hope not too long, but the way things are these days, I really have no idea.


beer and economics in the west bank

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Beer in the Middle East?  You Bet!

(Click for a short video.)

(A similarly themed op-ed is here.)


the neverending palestine/israel show continues! (pt. 3)

Thursday 25 March 2010

So while the U.S. continues to talk about the health care reform bill(s) (my comments come next week), the p/i show continues!  First, some recent news articles on the issue:
Mon 22 Mar: Clinton accuses Israel of hurting U.S. credibility (AP)
Wed 24 Mar: Israel approves new building in East Jerusalem (AP)
Thurs 25 Mar: U.S. Fails to Persuade Israel on Housing Dispute (NY Times)

On to today’s post!

Both the blogs in pt. 1 and pt. 2 on this topic talked about Israeli policy in relation to Palestine and Palestinians, and in this blog I want to focus mainly on whether or not those policies are actually positive for Israel’s future, brought about by an Op-Ed by Uri Dromi, who was spokesman for the Israeli governments from 1992 to 1996, titled “Will Israel Join the March of Folly?

Dromi begins this way:

“Barbara Tuchman, in her classic book “March of Folly,” examined four cases in history when governments acted contrary to their own best interests: the Trojans who let the Greeks bring the fatal horse into their midst; the papacy, which allowed and even brought about the Protestant secession; the British who lost America, and America, which lost the war in Vietnam.”

He continues shortly after with his thesis at hand:

“By expanding settlements instead of separating from the Palestinians while we still can, we Israelis are dooming ourselves to lose the Jewish and democratic state that has been won with so much sacrifice. In other words, we are immersed in our own march of folly. And we are doing it with our eyes open.”

I went to a session last fall that detailed some strategies for talking with members of Congress about the Palestine/Israel issue and conflict, and one of the main points to suggested to use was that a sustained people, involving a Palestinian state, was in the best interests of the the U.S. and Israel.  And that is Dromi’s point, too.  However, the current Israeli policies are running counter to that objective and leave Israel open to continued critism and possibly, in the end, it’s own downfall.

This week continued the dispute of the last two, and Britain joined in the criticism, too (see Israel Absorbs Twin Rebukes From Top Allies).

Dromi’s point comes to a head this way:

Consider the following scenario: The Palestinians decide to do nothing, just wait patiently until there is no way to divide the land anymore. The country just becomes one, binational state.

Then, assuming that the Israelis wouldn’t dare or wouldn’t be allowed by the rest of the world to run the country as an apartheid state, the Palestinians start voting in elections and running for Parliament.

Thus, the existence of a Jewish national state, which many people do desire (I’m not against it, actually; I just want justice for all), is no more.  Do you see why the U.S. needs to continue it’s rebukes?

So while the settlements in the West Bank may pose the most problems for a Palestinian state, as I said in pt. 2, Jerusalem is likely the final sticking point for any agreement.  It may be that Palestinians will not even begin peace talks until settlement construction and home takeovers in East Jerusalem cease, and with the current Israeli policy of a unified Jerusalem, can peace ever happen?

This Map of Settlements Around Jerusalem shows one reason the Palestinians are so mad.  If you click on the map, you can see a red dotted line that demarcates what Israel claims to be Jerusalem, much of which is on the Palestinian side of the 1967 Green Line.  I counted a dozen settlements Israel considers part of Jerusalem that are on what many would consider the Palestinian side of the boundary for a future state.  There are also Palestinian towns inside this boundary, and even one in the bottom left corner you can see that is planned to be encircled by the wall/barrier Israel is constructing.  (Read about that town, the village of Al-Walaja, here.)

It would be impossible to simply reverse the last 40+ years since the 1967 Six-Day War.  However, if Israel continues forward with it’s current policy, Israel as a Jewish state may soon cease to exist.  If that’s not how you want the future shaping up, I suggest you make your voice heard and do something about it.

(Also, I have here a link to another Op-Ed I thought I’d want to write more on by Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States which mainly just says that the U.S. and Israel are best buds and it needs to remain that way (especially from an Israeli perspective).  Read his take on things here:
For Israel and America, a Disagreement, Not a Crisis)


the neverending palestine/israel show continues! (pt. 2)

Sunday 21 March 2010

OK, so if you haven’t read pt. 1 yet, please do that now…

Ready for part 2?

If you’ve been keeping up with the news the past two weeks, I’m sure you’re at least semi-familiar with this whole U.S./Israel “spat,” “feud,” or whatever you want to call what’s been happening these past couple of weeks.  In case you’re not (or to get you back in the mood), here are two options:

The situation in news articles (I’m big on the AP and NY Times these days) (please click at least one — it’s time consuming to link all these articles!):
Tues 9 Mar: As Biden Visits, Israel Unveils Plan for New Settlements (NYT)
Thurs 11 Mar: Biden to Leave Mideast Amid Unease (NYT)
Fri 12 Mar: Clinton Rebukes Israel on Housing Announcement (NYT);
Clinton slams Israel on housing announcement (AP)
Sun 14 Mar: Israeli settlement action ‘an insult’: Obama aide (AP)
Mon 15 Mar: Israel Feeling Rising Anger From the U.S. (NYT);
US Israel criticism ignites firestorm in Congress (AP)
Tues 16 Mar: US envoy cancels Mideast trip, Israel feud deepens (AP) ;
US, Israel try to back away from the brink (AP)

Fri 19 Mar: Clinton Calls Israel’s Moves to Ease Tension ‘Useful’ (NYT)
Sat 20 Mar: UN Chief says Israeli settlements must be stopped (AP) (OK, so this one is a little off topic, but still in the vein of all the rest, perhaps the best to read!)
Sun 21 Mar: Israel: No building restrictions in east Jerusalem (AP)

What brought about the curious events of the past two weeks was simply an announcement of  a planned building project that occurred when Joe Biden was visiting prior to planned mediated peace talks scheduled for last week.  Then Biden, upon hearing the announcement, condemned the plan, and the spat began.  Members of Congress and pro-Israel groups in the U.S. criticized the criticism, and the back and forth began.  When you break down this whole fiasco, though, it really comes down to the issue alluded to in that last article: Israeli building in East Jerusalem.

Just as the West Bank was land Israel took control of during the Six-Day War in 1967, so were the lands we currently refer to as East Jerusalem.  While most people can understand and accept that Palestinians living in the West Bank desire this land for a future state.  However, the issue of Jerusalem is definitely much murkier, specifically because it’s hard to think of a city being divided between two countries, as it was between 1948 and 1967.  However, it is also unacceptable for either Palestinians or Israelis to give up what was under their control during that 20-year span.

However, this quote speaks volumes:

“As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv” and there would be no restrictions, Netanyahu told his Cabinet.

Later in the article we here this:

Netanyahu has always opposed compromise over Jerusalem. Israel captured the city’s eastern sector from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, a move not recognized by any other country. Over four decades, Israel has built a string of Jewish neighborhoods around the Arab section of the city.

Jerusalem may, in the end, but the one sticking point that can’t be overcome.  One past plan included Jerusalem being an “international” city, belonging to no country in particular but under unified control by a body such as or similar to the United Nations.  However, with Jerusalem the current capital of Israel and East Jerusalem usually declared the capital of any future Palestinian state, we seem to have a problem.

The question is whether, knowing this and all the other issues needing to be resolved, the U.S. will show some force in using its power of influence politically and monetarily (or withholding money from Israel, as the case may be) to make true change happen.

I have more to say, but since I like to keep these pretty short, I’ll hold off for a part 3.  Before I close, though, I wanted to pull a few quotes from a NY Times feature, “Room For Debate,” which features multiple people talking about a particular subject.  In this case, the issue was titled, “Israel’s Challenge to the U.S.”  Read on, and click the article title link here for more on this topic.

From Amjad Atallah

The United States has been sending its messages with carrots and great diplomatic restraint. The current Israeli government, in stark contrast, has been responding like a petulant child, outraged that it hasn’t been able to get U.S. acquiescence to its own short-term political strategy.

There is a great deal at stake in this public and private dispute between Israel and the United States. President Obama should consider responding in a similar manner, by creating his own facts on the ground, and ending all forms of U.S. cover and support of the settlement enterprise and other policies that sustain the occupation.

From Daoud Kuttab

All attempts to appease and reward Israel for its acquisition by war has resulted in pushing peace away. If President George W. Bush truly believed, and President Obama truly believes — as they both publicly stated — that an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state is in the “national interest” of the United States, Washington must resolve once and for all that any Jewish settlement built on Palestinian territory forcefully taken in 1967 will not be tolerated.

Once America regains its resolve in this area, the peace train can proceed to its destination.


the neverending palestine/israel show continues! (pt. 1)

Friday 19 March 2010

Well… This blog post has been a long time coming. I starting compiling articles to link and use for this post over a week ago, and I’ve been trying to continue to keep up with them ever since, but it’s been a challenge.

I wanted to write some of my thoughts on the whole U.S./Israel “dispute,” and the commentary and articles written on the subject just kept on coming!  However, in looking at all my articles, I realized that this “spat” has overshadowed and not really included an event that happened a few weeks before the U.S./Israel “issue” began and which has caused much more concern for Palestinians but not such a”sexy” news story for Americans — thus, the reason you’ve likely not heard of it!

On 21 February 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu issued a list of Israeli national heritage sites that included two West Bank sites of importance to Palestinians (Muslims in particular, though they’re significant for Jews, Christians, and Muslims).  As the NY Times said,

“[Mr. Netanyahu] said he intended to include the Cave of the Patriarchs, also known as Ibrahimi Mosque, the Hebron shrine revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians as the burial place of Abraham, on the list of about 150 sites. In 1994, a Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, fatally shot 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers inside the shrine.

“Mr. Netanyahu said he also planned to include Rachel’s Tomb, a shrine just inside the West Bank city of Bethlehem.”

(The full article is titled “Israel’s Plans for 2 Sites Stir Unrest in West Bank.” — I actually couldn’t find an article solely about the announcement, only was an article written once the “unrest” began… interesting.)

Oh, and did I mention that this announcement came the very same week as the anniversary of the Goldstein rampage mentioned?

Which leads to this: Israel Seals Off West Bank

“JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has sealed off the West Bank for 48 hours, preventing Palestinians from entering Israel because of fears of unrest.

“There have been clashes after Friday prayers at mosques in Jerusalem and elsewhere in recent weeks, sparked by deadlock in peace talks and Israel’s inclusion of two West Bank shrines on a list of national heritage sites.

“Several Palestinians have been badly wounded and dozens of protesters and Israeli policemen have suffered light injuries.

“Police say only men over 50 will be allowed to pray Friday at the shrine at the center of the disturbances — the Jerusalem compound Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary. There are no limitations on women.

“The closure began at midnight Thursday and will end at midnight Saturday.”

Right, so Israel basically makes an announcement that they’re going to continue to impose themselves in the West Bank, it riles up Palestinians (and shouldn’t it?) for a few weeks (likely a bit more than those summer health care town hall meetings, I’d think), and then Israel, out of  “safety concerns,” shuts down the West Bank for the weekend (for men under 50).

Oh, and then, days later, the big U.S./Israel spat begins, and the world forgets about this issue — but the Palestinians don’t.

Now for my opining: That seems to be how things work in the Middle East.  There’s a lot of slight of hand, “Quick, look over there!” happening on and it just leads us to forget about what really happening — Israel is slowly making the “facts on the ground” such that removal of Israel and Israelis from the West Bank will simply be unfeasible, and then what?  Either it’s an Israeli/Palestinian joint state (rights of all TBD) or Palestinians are somehow forced out.  Either way, this “two-state solution” everyone seems to think is the way to go isn’t the outcome.

I’m convinced there’s more than one way to peace in the Middle East, just as there’s more than one way to crack an egg (a nice non-violent alternative to that “other” euphemism).  But if the U.S. and the rest of the world continue to turn a blind eye to the oppression and injustice occurring in the West Bank, the bigger the challenge will become.

Have the events of the past 2-ish weeks shown that maybe the U.S. is taking notice to Israel’s slow infiltration of the West Bank?  Come back for pt. 2 of the Palestine/Israel show late Sunday — it only get’s better!  (And now with a part 3!)

(And if/while you’re waiting, read some comments to the NY Times article about restricted access to Muslim holy sites.)


just take a look

Saturday 3 October 2009

Hopefully I’ll soon not have to spend my extra time looking for a job and be able to post more regularly on here.  Until then, I’ll continue to try and do a little bit when possible.

Today, I want to show you some seriously disturbing video from the West Bank of a night of home raids in a town know for its weekly demonstrations against the Israeli Wall, 16 September 2009.  The description from the second video is below.  Total viewing time of both videos is about 15 minutes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy1qOMJXk5A&

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqy7uyVKYMA&

Shortly after 1:30am, Israeli forces invaded Bil’in again. They raided the house of Abdullah Mahmoud Aburahma in an attempt to arrest him. However, he was not home at the time. Palestinian and international activists intervened by jumping over the wall into the garden since the soldiers had shut the gate closed. Some international activists were threatened with arrest unless they move back. The soldiers had sealed off the house while operating inside. They forced open two doors breaking the locks and destroying the doors. They trashed several rooms and beat Mohammed Khatib who had come to the rescue of Abdullah’s family. He was taken to hospital in Ramallah for treatment and returned to the village later.

Military reinforcement arrived in five Jeeps. Outside the house, one Palestinian activist, Emad Burnat, who was filming, was pushed to the ground. One soldier also broke his camera. Hamde Aburahma and other Palestinian journalists were threatened with arrest unless they stop filming. They hit Ashraf Aburahma, another activist, with the gun injuring his right hand.

The house of Abdullah’s brother, Khaled Aburahma, was raided as well, which traumatized his children that were pulled brutally out of their sleep. The invading forces said that until they find Abdullah, the entire neighborhood was theirs. They searched every room and trashed one room downstairs next to the store. They stole Palestinian flags, banners and posters used during demonstrations, and then left the house.

The invading forces exited the village around 3am without any victims.

Abdullah Aburahma called all the Human Rights organizations worldwide to help stopping the night raids in Bil’in, and to support the demonstrations against the occupation which is a legal activity