SermonsIsrael

Letter to J.K. Rowling: For the sake of all Palestinian children who love Harry you need to say their lives matter

I didn’t add this anonymous letter that appeared on Mondoweiss in October, because I was going to be heading to Hebron in the winter or Spring, but I think enough time has passed now that I can probably post it.

on 22 Comments

  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size
  • Adjust Font Size

The following was written by a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron. The author writes, “*I am not using my name because Israel has complete control over the borders of the West Bank and Gaza and routinely denies entry to human rights observers. Israel denied two of my colleagues entry in the last few months and banned another from Hebron because she took an Instagram photo showing the Israeli military violating the human rights of Palestinian children.  Furthermore, Israel may soon deny entry to anyone who advocates any sort of boycott, even of those products produced in settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

Dear J.K. Rowling,

I have worked as a human rights advocate in Palestine for twenty years and most of the people in my circles support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to one degree or another.  I am married to an Israeli who supports the boycott of settlement products and corporations that enable the Israel’s occupation of Palestine, but, like you, does not support the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  I believe it is possible for people of good conscience to disagree on this issue.

But I want to tell you that in the city of Hebron where I have worked for the last twenty years, I have, with my own eyes, seen Palestinian children attacked, beaten, arrested—without any of the due process the civilized world grants minor children—and in general treated with utter contempt by Israeli soldiers and settlers.  A major part of our work is monitoring the treatment of children as they walk through checkpoints on their way to school everyday in the Old City of Hebron.   The Israeli military’s of teargas has become almost routine when elementary children passing through—something Israeli families would never tolerate for their own children (and indeed the police do not use it against Jewish Israelis inside Israel.)

Several days ago, 17-year-old Dania Arshid was walking to her English class through a checkpoint.  Accused by Israeli Border Police of having a knife, she threw her hands in the air, backed away, and was summarily executed by multiple gunshots.

I can tell you, based on my experience, that no one will go to jail for her murder, or for the murder of Hadeel Hashlamoun, a few weeks earlier or for Fadel al Qawasmi.  In the impossibly slim chance an investigation into her extrajudicial execution occurs, the courts will exonerate the soldiers and racist Israeli social media will hail them as heroes.

As of the end of August, 133 Israeli children and 2065 Palestinian children had died since 2000 in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I view the death of any child of any nationality with horror, but in this conflict, it is the Palestinian children whom the agents of Occupation kill and abuse with impunity.

So Ms. Rowling, you do not have to support the Academic and Cultural Boycott, but for the sake of all Palestinian children who love Harry, you do need to say their lives matter.  You need to say they are entitled to exactly the same rights, dignities and freedoms that Israeli children are.   And you need to say that Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians, this Unforgivable Curse from which all the violence tormenting the inhabitants of this land emanates, must end.

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/rowling-palestinian-children/#sthash.ewShkzCY.dpuf

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

Restricting the life out of Hebron’s Old City– by Kathleen Kern

A repost from The Jewish Pluralist from my most recent assignment in Hebron.

Restricting the life out of Hebron’s Old City– by Kathleen Kern

IMG_2207

Every year when I return to Hebron I have come to expect that I will find the Israeli Military Occupation more entrenched, the people more battered, more resigned. I expect that the Christian Peacemaker Team I have worked with since 1995 will have new challenges to meet. When I rejoined the team in early March, however, the extent of the restrictions on team’s monitoring work at checkpoints during school hours frankly shocked me. Border Police no longer permit us to exit the Old City near our apartment and make the five-minute walk to the Qitoun checkpoint to document how the soldiers treat schoolchildren and teachers passing through. Instead, we must take a fifteen-minute taxi ride over the hills and around to reach a location we can see from the roof of our house.

Once we are there, we must stand on what my teammate Stephanie calls poetically “the teargas side of the checkpoint.” Occupation forces have built up the checkpoint considerably since I left and from where we stand, we can see only from a distance the interactions between soldiers and children. We can no longer hear what happens or ask the children what soldiers said to them. The situation is worse for the children at Qurtuba School. Our colleagues with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI) were intended to be present for students as they passed through Checkpoint 56 and the settlers on Shuhada Street who have a history of attacking them. Now they must remain on the H-1 side of the checkpoint, where they can do nothing if something happens to the children on the other side.

The Occupation’s restrictions on international monitors in the H-2 area of Hebron are of course falling more heavily on Palestinians, and nowhere is this more the case than those living in Tel Rumeida. Last fall, the military began assigning numbers to Palestinians living in Tel Rumeida. Hani Abu Haikel showed us two numbers written on the outside of his green ID case when we brought a visiting CPT delegation to visit. If you don’t have that number, you are not legally allowed to be there. It doesn’t matter if you are a relative or a friend. (Relatives and friends of settlers living there are of course, allowed to visit them.) Three days earlier, Hani had workers pruning his grapevines, and settlers “reported” them to the soldiers, who told Hani he had to get special permission to have his grapevines pruned. The morning we visited, his wife Rheem and daughter Bashaer had been walking to a dentist appointment and a settler boy told the soldiers they didn’t live there, so the soldier made them wait in the pouring rain for twenty minutes while he checked their IDs.

Last month, as Hani was arguing for his right to pass through the checkpoint, a soldier called his commanding officer and asked if he could shoot him, and he overheard the commanding officer say on the radio that Hani was “too old” to shoot. Last fall, when killings in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron were an almost daily occurrence, the Israeli military authorities evicted the International Solidarity Movement volunteers from their apartment just outside of the Gilbert checkpoint. That was when the neighborhood felt at its most vulnerable, an international married to a Palestinian resident told me after when I ran into him after our Friday afternoon mosque patrol. INTERNEMENT

“They want to make us afraid,” Hani said. Many of his neighbors have moved now. He says the intention of the occupation authorities is clear: to make life so unbearable in H-2 that Palestinians will leave. And of course, that is why they have placed the restrictions on international volunteers as well. They want to make us afraid, too—afraid of deportation, afraid of making the situation worse for our Palestinian partners, afraid that our work is becoming pointless, because we cannot reach the areas that where we need to do our documentation.

Listen to us carefully. If all of H-2 from Tel-Rumeida to Kiryat Arba becomes a settlement corridor, do not say you were not warned, because right now, the Israeli settlers here in Hebron are winning.

***

An Editorial Note—by Peter Eisenstadt
Kathy Kern is one of the bravest persons I know. As she mentions in her article, she has been going to Hebron as a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) for over two decades. CPT is a Christian pacifist organization, with its roots in the traditional peace churches, the Mennonitesand the Church of the Brethren, , though it is broadly ecumenical in its outlook. To quote from its website, CPT “ places teams at the invitation of local peacemaking communities that are confronting situations of lethal conflict. These teams seek to follow God’s Spirit as it works through local peacemakers who risk injury and death by waging nonviolent direct action to confront systems of violence and oppression.” They do not go into war zones, but areas, like Hebron, that are what might be called “near war zones,” areas of great tension between the oppressors and the oppressed, between the occupied and the occupiers.

Working in Hebron is hard and dispiriting. CPTers try to help Hebronites in their conflicts with settlers, soldiers, and Israeli officials. They document the daily indignities meted out to local residents. The team in Hebron is currently short-handed, in part because Israel sometimes does not allow CPT members to enter the country. (Kathy was once denied entry at Ben-Gurion airport.) And in the recent years, its work has been pervaded by the sense that Israel and the settlers are winning; and that it will win its long, slow war of attrition against the Old City of Hebron; as Palestinians are either forced out or leave because living conditions have become impossible.

I was privileged, in December 2014, to spend a day with Kathy and her husband, Michael Argaman, at the CPT apartment in Hebron. It is utterly chilling to think that however bleak things were at the time, the situation has radically deteriorated. As Kathy notes, the Qitoun checkpoint, which was a twisty-turny five minute walk from the CPT apartment is now inaccessible by foot, and unlike when I was there, the CPT team is now limited to the Palestinian side of the border, so they cannot see the interactions of the school children with the IDF soldiers. I accompanied the CPT team early one morning to watch children crossing the checkpoint on their way to school. I can still smell the tear gas. Hebron has been, in recent months, even more explosive. At the Quitoun checkpoint recently there was an incident when the IDF killed a Palestinian youth in an alleged stabbing incident. The Old City of Hebron for many decades has been the site of the hottest of cold wars, requiring little in the way of additional kindling to burst into flames. The Israeli occupation of the Old City of Hebron is where the occupation of the West Bank began, and if it ever ends, it will make its last stand in Hebron. All I can say is that Kathy and her CPT colleagues, trying to salve the half century old open wound of Hebron, are truly doing God’s work.

 

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

The BDS Debate In Our House

This post first appeared on The Jewish Pluralist website.
My husband and I met because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A progressive Israeli-American, he came to hear me give a presentation called “Eye-witness to the Intifada” in November 2001 and asked good questions. A few months later, we met at another Middle East peace event, talked for hours afterwards and have been together ever since.

While some may view us as an odd couple—a secular Israeli Jew and a religious Mennonite who works with a human rights organization in Palestine—we agree on the most fundamental issues at work in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. We believe that Palestinians and Israelis are entitled to the same human rights; no exceptions. We agree that the Israeli military occupation must end. We agree that Israeli leaders, supported by the U.S. Congress, have been most responsible for scuttling effective peace negotiations, but that most official Palestinian leaders have not done well by their people either.

Our arguments over points of disagreement never reach satisfactory conclusions, I think, because we are arguing from two different platforms. Israel was Michael’s home for fifteen years and he would still live there if family circumstances had not compelled him to return to the U.S. I, on the other hand, in addition to working in Palestine have worked with my human rights organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), in Haiti, Chiapas, Mexico, Colombia, and with Indigenous communities in North America. So I view the situation in Palestine through the lens of a human rights observer, rather than as from the perspective of someone with ties to a homeland.

This reality colors our disagreement over the Boycott, Divestment, and BDS-Sticker2009Sanctions Movement. Although even in that area, we probably agree more than we disagree. Michael always boycotted items produced in settlements, and as someone who does socially responsible financial planning for a living, he would boycott the corporations that reinforce and profit from the military aspects of the Israeli occupation—e.g., Motorola, Raytheon, and Caterpillar—anyway. But when it comes to boycotting products made inside Israel proper, or boycotting Israeli cultural and academic enterprises, Michael is passionately opposed.

I do not match his passion in my disagreement. Those of us who work on the CPT’s Palestine team could not ourselves agree on an ardent support of the full spectrum of the BDS movement when we tried to write our own statement on the topic. But when Palestinian Christian partner organizations launched the Kairos document in 2009, asking the international community to support them by adopting BDS principles, we felt we had to stand with them. For decades, the international community has lectured Palestinians on using nonviolent resistance against the occupation. BDS is nonviolent resistance, and, as the document says, Palestinian Christians are not viewing it as an act of revenge, “but rather a serious action in order to reach a just and definitive peace.” Those are principles very much in keeping with the philosophy of CPT.

I have heard all the arguments against BDS. Why is Israel being singled out when human rights abuses are so much worse in [insert country]? Answer: Idi Amin’s regime killed exponentially more people in Uganda during the 1970s than the South African government killed in four decades of apartheid. Does that mean the international community should not have been in solidarity with South African anti-Apartheid activists?

BDS will only make Israelis more recalcitrant. Answer: How could Israel be more recalcitrant than it is now? The same argument was used for South Africa, and for a time the South African government did push back, but ultimately, practical people like DeKlerk recognized that Apartheid could not go on forever.

The academic cultural boycott alienates the very Israelis who are most supportive of ending the occupation. Answer: A. there is a distinction between boycotts of artists and academics who are officially representing the state of Israel, and academics and artists who happen to be Israeli. B. Presenting an attractive, cultured face helps mitigate the barbarity of the occupation. It was, in fact the boycott by sports teams and entertainers, that swung white public opinion against apartheid in South Africa more than the economic boycott.

Israel is nothing like South Africa. Answer: Every South African Israeli I know, every South African I have met who has come through Hebron has told me the checkpoints and treatment of Palestinians by soldiers and settlers eerily evoke to them the worst of Apartheid’s heyday.(1)

I can keep generating responses like these. I have used them in many conversations with Israeli and Jewish friends, and I see that I cause them pain when I do so, which I hate. But I have seen Palestinian friends brutalized by soldiers and settlers. I have seen them lose their land and their homes. I have seen Palestinians shot, spit on, and in general, treated worse than animals by the hideous tentacles of the Israeli military occupation. And since I began working in Hebron in 1995, the situation has only gotten worse; no amount of dialogue, solidarity outreach, or top level diplomacy has stopped the erosion of civil rights and human dignity for the people in the Hebron district and the rest of Palestine.

So ultimately, the decision for my colleagues and me to support the BDS movement is this: Palestinians have asked us to participate with them in this nonviolent struggle of last resort. Their lives and livelihoods are not worth more than Israeli or Jewish lives. But they ARE worth more than Israeli and Jewish feelings, even the feelings of those Israelis and Jews I love the most.

(1). Michael and I watched a PBS special on the 25th Anniversary of Paul indexSimon’s Graceland album. During its production, Simon went to South Africa at the time of the Cultural Boycott and used prominent black South African musicians in the recording of his album, which caused a huge debate. Some, including founder of Artists Against Apartheid, Dali Tambo, argued he should be boycotted, while others argued he was providing employment for and celebrating black musicians. The special included a segment with Simon and Tambo cordially discussing the boycott. Dali Tambo still believed Simon should have been boycotted, but they hugged at the end of the conversation. My takeaway? We won’t know ultimately about the effectiveness of BDS in Israel and Palestine until we have some hindsight. Michael’s takeaway? Boycotting Simon was a ridiculous idea then, and it’s still a ridiculous idea.

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

Pope Francis in Palestine and Israel

My piece that appeared on The Jewish Pluralist website this past week:

Pope Francis in Palestine and Israel
Kathleen Kern

“I have a huge crush on the Pope,” I announced to my coworkers in our Hebron apartment* over supper last fall. “I suppose that’s weird, being Mennonite and all, but…”

“No,” my teammate said, “I’m Muslim and I have a crush on the Pope.”

Even my Jewish husband—who was at first skeptical of Pope Francis because of his silence as Archbishop in Argentina during the 1970s-80s when the U.S.-backed junta was torturing and murdering thousands of Argentineans—has admitted he has been a drastic improvement over recent occupants of the Papal See.

For me, the priority Francis places on caring for the marginalized, and the way he seems to have marginalized more popular obsessions of the Catholic church hierarchy tell me that he is serious about following Jesus, and encouraging the wider church to do so. And let’s face it, the guy is a champion when it comes to symbolism: washing the feet of Muslim women prisoners, confiscating the mansion of a rich bishop and turning it into a soup kitchen, choosing not to live himself in the luxurious Papal palace, but in small monastery apartment.

So I expected a certain amount of symbolism when he arrived in BoeCHcQIYAAXNrCIsrael/Palestine this past weekend. And sure enough, that moment happened at the wall that surrounds Bethlehem and which has strangled its economy: the Apartheid/Separation/Security Wall/Fence/Barrier.

Pictures of him laying his hand on the wall and pressing his forehead against it were probably meant to evoke the reverence with which people make contact with the Kotel on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif. Someone on my Twitter feed crowed, “This picture is worth a thousand Kerry visits.” But in a picture of the Pope laying his head against the wall I see something else. I see a certain slump in his shoulders. I see depression. I see futility—a “God, you must do something, I can do nothing” attitude.

Perhaps I am projecting. You see, I am married to someone who strongly believes in the two state solution as do his J-Street colleagues, whom I like and admire. And the human rights milieu in which I work contains strong proponents for the one-state solution, whom I like and admire. And I, who have worked in Hebron since 1995 and seen the settler population in East Jerusalem and the West Bank grow from 150,000 to 500, 000 believe this:

Neither solution, as I have studied them, can possibly work, not with the craven Israeli and Palestinian political leadership in power now. Not with Israel holding all the cards and continually confiscating land in the West Bank and building settlements while it claims to want negotiations. Not with the U.S. Congress prepared to give Israel all the aid it wants, no questions asked. I do not see what new or creative ideas Shimon Peres or Mahmoud Abbas, whom the Pope invited to the Vatican while he was in the region, could possibly have to offer to the peace process.

If some solution does come, it will not come from Popes or Presidents, but from people that nobody is watching right now. People who see a chink in the wall of the Occupation that is not widely visible now and a way to bring at least a small part of it down. They in turn will inspire others to bring another part of it down and so on and so on, and finally the politicians will move in, legislate the end and take credit for it.

But I have a feeling that Pope Francis, if no one has assassinated him by then, will know who’s responsible and will give credit where it’s due. (Okay, yeah, I have this worldview thing…)

*I work for a Human Rights organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams. We have projects in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine and with Indigenous Nations in North America.

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

Another easy entry after another denial of entry

After my easy entry and exit in October, I was expecting another easy entry, although I was expecting some scrutiny for having entered six weeks after I left the country.  Then the Israeli authorities denied entry to my colleague Patrick during the first week of December and the anxieties began building again.

IMG_9472

Bob is showing Christopher how to handle the finances. Maurice is standing behind them because I told him to.

When I exited the airplane, I noticed that shortly after I entered the terminal, a long time before I got to Passport Control, a crowd of people was standing.  I was jetlagged, had a migraine and was preparing myself for a grilling, so I had only a vague impression that many of them were Latinos.  One Israeli security person pulled aside a young man in his twenties who was just behind me, asked to see his passport and added him to the crowd.  When I got to Passport Control, there were very few people in line.  The young woman in the booth literally didn’t speak to me.  She waved me forward, looked at my passport, printed out my visa and waved me on.  I didn’t connect the two incidents until I got to my friends Ya’alah and Netanel’s apartment in Jerusalem—that the security people were pulling people aside before they got to Passport Control rather than Passport Control people sending “questionable” people to be interviewed by security.

I spent yesterday in Jerusalem because of a migraine, and upon arriving on team in Hebron this afternoon found that my new teammates Christopher and Maurice had had identical experiences.  Israeli security pulled aside the “questionable” people i.e., anyone who was not white, or under thirty to forty years old, soon after they exited the plane.  Christopher said he usually gets questioned, but he was deep in conversation with a German businessman as he was walking out of the plane, so the security people left him alone.

I’m going to leave it to Markie to discuss the level of snow and cold here from Winter Storm Alexa (yes they named it.)  I’m a little sad that Bob Holmes, one of my favorite colleagues, is leaving tomorrow before I really get a chance to work with him.  And Christopher and Maurice will leave in a couple weeks. And of course I was looking forward to working with Patrick; I had even bought Shinichirō Watanabe’s anime series Kids on a Slope to watch with him.  At least Mona will be here (she’s at home in Ramallah today.) Girl power.  Rah.

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

Ducks, and Dibs and final visits

by Markie

Hi kids!

Kathy and I had to kind of rush away on Saturday, but we spent the last two days visiting with her friends Ya’alah and Netanel.  And our friend Laura is ALSO visiting them so we got to visit with her, too! Hurray!

IMG_9467

In one picture Laura’s face looked silly and in another Ya’alah was scratching her head, so Kathy cropped them out. In this picture Laura is sharing her sweetie with me. They are a cross between a grapefruit and a pomelo. IMG_9466

One of the things Kathy and I have enjoyed doing most this month is feeding the team’s compost to the ducks and geese from the shop that is the only other building on our street that isn’t locked up.  They really like rotten tomatoes and they REALLY think the parts of cauliflower that humans don’t eat are yummy.

IMG_9371 IMG_9372 IMG_9373

On Friday, Kathy, our teammate JoAnn and I went out to the Beqa’a Valley to visit her friends Atta and Rodeina Jaber and their children.  Their daughters Dalia and Lara were helping them make dibs.  At the end of the grape harvest, all the grapes that aren’t the very best grapes get put in a pot and boiled and boiled into syrup called dibs and it is YUMMMY!  Especially when you mix it with tahini.  Normally you visit, and then tea comes out and some snacks and maybe a little dinner and then coffee.  Well for our visit, tea, thyme bread and coffee all came out in the space of about 20 minutes, and then Atta’s brother called to tell him that soldiers were shutting down the roads because so many Israeli settlers were coming in for a special occasion in Hebron, and JoAnn and Kathy and I  had to leave right then.  We missed out on a lot of yumminess and a good time with our friends!

IMG_9463 IMG_9464 IMG_9465Well I guess Kathy and I had better finish packing.  I hear there are storms in the Netherlands.  Hope they’re gone by the time Kathy and I land.  Goodbye Palestine! Goodbye Israel!  We will miss you!

I don't know why Kathy decided to take a picture of this earlier in the month when she was in East Jerusalem. But Kiwi-fried chicken doesn't really sound all that yummy.

I don’t know why Kathy decided to take a picture of this earlier in the month when she was in East Jerusalem. But Kiwi-fried chicken doesn’t really sound all that yummy.

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

Pictures–Pretty! Apartheid Wall–Yucky!

by Markie

Hi Kids!

Before we left Bethlehem a couple days ago, we visited the wall that Israel built around Bethlehem. Israel said it was going to build it for security between Israel and Palestine, but the wall isn’t built along the border of Israel and the West Bank.  It goes inside the West Bank and has confiscated thousands and thousands of acres of Palestinian land.  It surrounds Bethlehem on three sides.

Ever since the Wall went up people from all over the world have been painting pictures on it and writing angry or sad or hopeful or happy messages on it.  Kathy and I took some pictures.  Can you find me in them?

S

Some artist called Banksy who’s supposed to be a big deal did this.

IMG_9389

People who get really angry at the wall throw burning things at it. I got kind of dirty posing on it.

IMG_9387 IMG_9388 IMG_9391 IMG_9392 IMG_9393 IMG_9394 IMG_9395 IMG_9396 IMG_9397 IMG_9398 IMG_9399 IMG_9400 IMG_9401 IMG_9402 IMG_9403 IMG_9404 IMG_9405 IMG_9406 IMG_9407 IMG_9408

IMG_9416

Some mystery CPTer wrote this on the wall and no one knows who! My teammate Cory and I went looking for clues!

IMG_9409We came to a neighborhood that was almost completely surrounded by the wall.  A woman whose home had been surrounded by the wall came up to us and asked us to look at her shop.  She had designed some really interesting things.  One was an olivewood nativity scene with a wall separating the wisemen and shepherds from baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary (you could take it out.)IMG_9412

IMG_9410

IMG_9413

IMG_9414When we got home, I was really dirty! So Kathy gave me a bath. Now I am all sparkley clean!  Hurray!IMG_9417

 

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

Some call it Firing Zone 918, I call them Jinba, Al Fakheit. . .

Some call it Firing Zone 918, I call it Jinba, Al Fakheit, Isfey, al Fakheit, al Majaz, at Tabban, Jinba, Mirkez,  Halaweh and Khallet Athaba’

On Saturday evening Kathy, Gabriel and I took a taxi to Yatta to spend the night with the family of Mufid, who usually drives people from Christian Peacemaker Teams, the International Solidarity Movement and The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel to visit schools in an area that Israel calls Firing Zone 918. We had fun with Mufid’s children, especially LeamIMG_9317

IMG_9325Her big sister Leal and brother Odai taught me the Arabic alphabet.

Then the next morning we went out with another driver (not sure why we didn’t go with Mufid) in a car that the Japanese government donated through Unicef to pick up kids to take them to Al-Fakheit IMG_9334School. These kids live in very tiny villages far away from Yatta, so they either had to move to Yatta to stay with relatives to go to school or just not go to school. But now they have schools in Jinba and Al-Fahkheit they can go to. CPT, ISM and EAPPI ride with the driver into the area these villages are because the Israeli military does not want these villages or schools to be there and causes problems for the drivers.

IMG_9329Sunday morning, they were stopping drivers ahead of us, and our driver was nervous. The soldier told all of us to get out of the car. The soldier started asking the driver questions in Hebrew, and the driver said he didn’t speak Hebrew. So they started talking to him REALLY LOUD in Hebrew. I wanted to encourage them to think about rainbows but Kathy said she didn’t think it was appropriate. Gabriel said that the car had diplomatic plates and that Unicef wanted us to accompany the car, so the soldiers finally let us through.

Then we picked up the children–seven for the first trip. The driver IMG_9333makes three trips to get them all to the school. While the children waited for the other children and the teachers to get Al Fakheit, they played soccer.IMG_9335 Their ball didn’t have much air in it, and they built their goalposts out of these rocks, but they still had a lot of fun.

IMG_9336

GOOOOAL!

When the teachers got to the school, all the students line up according to what grade they were in and did exercises.
IMG_9339IMG_9340

IMG_9345

Road to Jinba

IMG_9365Then Kathy and Gabriel walked a long way to visit the school at Jinba that was built for younger children. Kathy fell on her face and hurt her knee.

IMG_9355

School at Jinba

The school at Jinba is smaller than the one at Al Fakheit, and only younger children go there.

I hope nothing bad happens to Jinba, Al Fakheit, Isfey, al Fakheit, al Majaz, at Tabban, Jinba, Mirkez,  Halaweh and Khallet Athaba’. I hope that these schools an the homes and wells and caves and animal pens are not destroyed. I also hope that the Israeli military stops practicing bombing and shooting near these villages, because it’s scary for the children and animals. The Israeli government said one of the reasons that all the people here have to move (except for the Israelis living in the area) is that it is a nature reserve, and the wild animals and plants need to be protected, but how can you protect plants and animals if you’re bombing and shooting? I talked to a gazelle about it and she agreed with me that that’s just silly.

IMG_9337

Looking at the South Hebron Hills from the school at Al Fakheit

Well that’s all for now. Back to doing school patrol in Hebron tomorrow!

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

Alicia Keys, if you’re going to play Israel, at least show this video when you sing “Girl on Fire”

Dear Alicia Keys,

This week, you will be giving a concert in Israel, in spite of pleas that you respect an academic/cultural boycott, observed by people like Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters and Stephen Hawking because of the military occupation of Palestine that Israel shows no intention of ending.

Since you have made this decision, I have another suggestion.

Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of New Mexico, put together an amazing video* of young Palestinian women resisting the Israeli military occupation set to your song, “Girl on Fire.” In its soulful opening strains, a young Palestinian woman with a Palestinian flag runs up the back of a huge water cannon truck used to disperse crowds at demonstrations. Then for the rest of your song we see young Palestinian women “on fire” as they protest the confiscation of their land, destruction of their farms, restrictions of their movement, and general assaults on their dignity. They do not back down even when soldiers beat them, pepper spray them, throw them to the ground or threaten them with weapons. Some of your lyrics, in fact, are hauntingly evocative of what we see the young women dealing with in the video.

When you sing “Girl on Fire,” this week, Ms. Keys, you could show these girls and young women to your audience. You could dedicate that song to all Palestinian and Israeli women who are struggling to end the forty-six-year-long Israeli military occupation of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinian girls study on the street in Hebron because soldiers will not let them access their school.

Palestinian girls study on the street in Hebron because soldiers will not let them access their school.

You have said, “Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.” These are laudable sentiments. But I think if you witnessed—as I have during my work as a human rights advocate for the last eighteen years in the West Bank—the utter contempt with which Israeli soldiers and settlers treat Palestinian women, children and men, I think your position would be more nuanced. If you explored the information put out by Palestinian and Israeli peace and human rights organizations I think you will begin to see that the only road to the peace that you say is the spirit of your show lies in ending this brutal occupation. If you want to unify Israelis and Palestinians, showing this video footage may be the only small way you can do so, since the majority of the Palestinians featured in that video live under Israeli military occupation and their movements are severely restricted to a limited geographical area. The Israeli military would never give them permits to see your show.

Ms. Keys, most artists never have the privilege of having their songs taken up by popular culture to support a freedom struggle. You could contribute to the soundtrack of a liberation movement. Or you, like most of your Israeli audience, can continue to behave as though the Palestinian girls, teenagers and women in that video are not suffering, are not having their human rights violated, are not worth being seen.

Your call.

Sincerely

Kathleen Kern

*Your people forced Youtube to take it down, even though they appeared to have no objections to parodies or other amateur performances of the song. I found it on Facebook and here.

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr

I want to have Noam Chomsky’s baby (Yes it’s a metaphor)

When I first started working in Hebron with Christian Peacemaker Teams, from the beginning, we networked with Israeli human rights and peace advocates. These Israelis took for granted that the reports of abuses we witnessed Israeli soldiers and settlers inflicting on the Palestinian residents in the Hebron area were accurate. They had witnessed similar abuses themselves. When I had returned from my first stint working with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Haiti, most people assumed I was telling the truth about the abuses I saw paramilitary thugs committing in 1993-94 (after the first time the Haitian military overthrew Jean-Bertrand Aristide.)

indexI wasn’t prepared, then, for the accusations from Jewish and non-Jewish partisans of Israel in the U.S. telling me I could not possibly have witnessed what I had witnessed in Hebron. That was the crucial point at which Noam Chomsky came into my life.* I was talking to a Jewish friend in Hebron about these partisans making feel as though I were crazy for simply reporting what I was witnessing and he told me I needed to read what Chomsky wrote about Israel and Palestine. I did, and I was hooked. If you take a look at my annotated history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (to which I stopped adding in 2002 because of an eye condition that makes reading normal-size fonts too painful) you’ll see he’s heavily represented.

So that’s the primary gratitude Chomsky compels from me: he confirmed I wasn’t crazy. He made me feel like I could trust my eyes and ears, and that I was witnessing virulent racism on the streets of Hebron, even though, back in Rochester, New York and other places around the U.S. where I spoke, people told me I was mistaken, or that I needed to provide “balance.” (Once, when I was speaking at Chautauqua, during the Q&A, a person told me that if he had come from outer space and heard my presentation, he would have a very unbalanced idea of what was happening in Israel and Palestine. I said that if I knew I was going to be addressing space aliens, my presentation would have been very different, but I assumed people at Chautauqua were already familiar with what got reported in the New York Times, etc. Learning experience? Clever retorts are never a good idea during Q&A.)

I am also impressed by his graciousness. Every time I have written to him, he has always responded to my letters. When I have gotten back from trips to conflict zones I know he monitors and had illuminating conversations with people there, I have sent him letters about these experiences, because I know from reading interviews with him he values eyewitness accounts of situations that are not being reported in the news. I always add the tagline, “I know you always respond to your letters, but as a sign of my gratitude for all you have done for me, I would prefer that you not respond to this one.” He always writes back anyway. And Chomsky, in general, makes time in his extremely busy schedule for small organizations who are working for justice. Recently he did an interview with our CPT interim assistant director, Tim Nafziger and even though he is not religious, if he believes that religious organizations are putting out better information than the New York Times, as was happening in Central America in the 1970s and 80s he will cite the information from those organizations.

And then there was the time four of my colleagues were kidnapped in Iraq in 2005-06. Chomsky was among the first of a group of intellectuals to sign a petition calling for their release and during their captivity, he said that our work there—when we sent people with the Iraq Peace Teams to camp out at water treatment plants, hospitals, and other vital infrastructure so they wouldn’t be bombed during the invasion—gave him hope.

So that’s why I want to have Noam Chomsky’s baby. And no, my husband is not jealous. index His metaphorical love is NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

________

*Well, actually, we had met in Haiti. A friend had brought a copy of Deterring Democracy with him, and as all literature was in short supply, I was reading that, while my friend was reluctantly trudging through my Jane Austen. I had been involved with Latin American solidarity movements in college, so it wasn’t news to me that the United States was supporting fascist regimes in Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. However, I was impressed at how coherently he laid it all out, with all the footnotes (oh, he made me a sucker for the footnotes), and I thought, “You know, if someone were just going to read one book, to see HOW the U.S. has prevented democratic regimes from gaining a foothold, this would be the one.”

Facebooktwitterlinkedintumblr