Dec 312008
 

In recent years, the darkness of the Winter Solstice season has become a time that allows me the opportunity of deep reflection. Last night I lay in bed under the warmth of my Grandmother’s comforter while the winds howled outside my window thinking about the horrible irony that just a few days after the celebration of Bethlehem’s most famous birth, with the seasonal tidings of “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards man” (sic) still ringing in our ears, the Israeli government began its latest war against the Palestinian people.

And here in this country, an ecologic disaster of epic proportions is unfolding in the state of Tennessee after 2.2 million pounds (the latest number) of toxic sludge from a coal-fired plant spilled from a holding pond, covering some 300 acres of land. According to the New York Times,

(I)n just one year, the plant’s byproducts included 45,000 pounds of arsenic, 49,000 pounds of lead, 1.4 million pounds of barium, 91,000 pounds of chromium and 140,000 pounds of manganese. Those metals can cause cancer, liver damage and neurological complications, among other health problems.

And the holding pond, at the Kingston Fossil Plant, a T.V.A. plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, contained many decades’ worth of these deposits.

As the footage above says in a way that words cannot, the myth of clean coal is a lie, a terrible toxic lie. Just as the notion that you can win peace by waging war is a deadly lie that also endangers us all. What really can one say, except that we cannot go on like this. Each time we kill, each time we desecrate the earth, the peril grows as we draw ever closer to the precipice.

It may well be that we have gone beyond the point where the damage done is fixable or even manageable in some livable way. But if we are to find a path towards sustainable survival, what we must understand is this–the killing in Gaza and the poisoning of the earth in Tennessee are not separate, unrelated events. They are both part of the toxic belief system that claims that empowerment comes from exerting power over land and people. If we are to truly be empowered, we would do well to head these words of Starhawk,

“Justice is not a question of one side defeating the other, but of finding the dynamic balance between them that generates the energies that sustain the world.”*

May this be our resolution for the New Year.

*These excellent words come from a statement by Starhawk that is included in the 2007 We-Moon calendar.

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 December 31, 2008  Posted by on December 31, 2008 1 Response »
Dec 312008
 

Joint statement from Israeli women’s groups on the violence in Gaza received via e-mail:

We women’s peace organizations from a broad spectrum of political views demand an end to the bombing and other tools of death, and call for the immediate start of deliberations to talk peace and not make war. The dance of death and destruction must come to an end. We demand that war no longer be an option, nor violence a strategy, nor killing an alternative. The society we want is one in which every individual can lead a life of security – personal, economic, and social.

It is clear that the highest price is paid by women and others from the periphery – geographic, economic, ethnic, social, and cultural – who now, as always, are excluded from the public eye and dominant discourse.

The time for women is now. We demand that words and actions be conducted in another language.

Ahoti: For Women in Israel
Anuar: Jewish and Arab Women Leadership
Artemis: Economic Society for Women
Bat Shalom
Coalition of Women for Peace
Economic Empowerment for Women
Feminancy: College for Women’s Empowerment
Feminist Activist Group – Jerusalem
Feminist Activist Group – Tel Aviv
International Women’s Commission: Israeli Branch
Isha L’Isha: Haifa Feminist Center
Itach: Women Lawyers for Social Justice
Kol Ha-Isha: Jerusalem Women’s Center
Mahut Center: Information, Training, and Employment for Women
Shin Movement: Equal Representation for Women
Supportive Community: Women’s Business Development Center
Tmura: The Israeli Antidiscrimination Legal Center
University against Harassment – Tel Aviv
Women and their Bodies
Women’s Parliament
Women’s Spirit: Financial Independence for Women Victims of Violence

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 December 31, 2008  Posted by on December 31, 2008 Comments Off
Dec 312008
 

As the crisis in Gaza continues, as always when it comes to discussing war and conflict, the voices most silenced are those of women.  One of the wise female  voices that we should be listening to in trying to forge a path of peace is Starhawk who, in the analysis below excerpted from an essay received via e-mail, accurately and eloquently explains the horrific consequences of invisibilizing that is done with state sanction in the name of religious imperative :

“I just don’t get it.  I mean, I get why suicide bombs and homemade rockets that kill innocent civilians are wrong. I just don’t get why bombs from F16s that kill far more innocent civilians are right.  Why a kid from the ghetto who shoots a cop is a criminal, but a pilot who bombs a police station from the air is a hero.

Is it a distance thing?  Does the air or the altitude confer a purifying effect?  Or is it a matter of scale?  Individual murder is vile, but mass murder, carried out by a state as an aspect of national policy, that’s a fine and noble thing?

I don’t get how my own people can be doing this.  Or rather, I do get it.  I am a Jew, by birth and upbringing, born six years after the Holocaust ended, raised on the myth and hope of Israel.  The myth goes like this:

“For two thousand years we wandered in exile, homeless and persecuted, nearly destroyed utterly by the Nazis.  But out of that suffering was born one good thing—the homeland that we have come back to, our own land at last, where we can be safe, and proud, and strong.”

That’s a powerful story, a moving story.  There’s only one problem with it—it leaves the Palestinians out.  It has to leave them out, for if we were to admit that the homeland belonged to another people, well, that spoils the story.

The result is a kind of psychic blind spot where the Palestinians are concerned.  If you are truly invested in Israel as the Jewish homeland, the Jewish state, then you can’t let the Palestinians be real to you.  It’s like you can’t really focus on them.  Golda Meir said, “The Palestinians, who are they?  They don’t exist.”  We hear, “There is no partner for peace,”  “There is no one to talk to.”

And so Israel, a modern state with high standards of hygiene, a state rooted in a religion that requires washing your hands before you eat and regular, ritual baths, builds settlements that don’t bother to construct sewage treatment plants. They just dump raw sewage onto the Palestinian fields across the fence, somewhat like a spaceship ejecting its wastes into the void.  I am truly not making this up—I’ve seen it, smelled it, and it’s a known though shameful fact.  But if the Palestinians aren’t really real—who are they?  They don’t exist!—then the land they inhabit becomes a kind of void in the psyche, and it isn’t really real, either.  At times, in those border villages, walking the fencelines of settlements, you feel like you have slipped into a science fiction movie, where parallel universes exist in the same space, but in different strands of reality, that never touch.

When I was on the West Bank, during Israeli incursions the Israeli military would often take over a Palestinian house to billet their soldiers.  Many times, they would simply lock the family who owned it into one room, and keep them there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days—parents, grandparents, kids and all.  I’ve sat with a family, singing to the children while soldiers trashed their house, and I’ve been detained by a group of soldiers playing cards in the kitchen with a family locked in the other room.  (I got out of that one—but that’s another story.)

It’s a kind of uneasy feeling, having something locked away in a room in your house that you can’t look at.  Ever caught a mouse in a glue trap?  And you can’t bear to watch it suffer, so you leave the room and close the door and don’t come back until it’s really, really dead.

Like a horrific fractal, the locked room repeats on different scales.  The Israelis have built a wall to lock away the West Bank.  And Gaza itself is one huge, locked room.  Close the borders, keep food and medical supplies and necessities from getting through, and perhaps they will just quietly fade out of existence and stop spoiling our story.

“All we want is a return to calm,” the Israeli ambassador says.  “All we want is peace.”

One way to get peace is to exterminate what threatens you.  In fact, that may be the prime directive of the last few thousand years.

But attempts to exterminate pests breed resistance, whether you’re dealing with insects or bacteria or people.  The more insecticides you pour on a field, the more pests you have to deal with—because insecticides are always more potent at killing the beneficial bugs than the pesky ones.

The harshness, the crackdowns, the border closings, the checkpoints, the assassinations, the incursions, the building of settlements deep into Palestinian territory, all the daily frustrations and humiliations of occupation, have been breeding the conditions for Hamas, or something like it, to thrive.  If Israel truly wants peace, there’s a more subtle, a more intelligent and more effective strategy to pursue than simply trying to kill the enemy and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity.

It’s this—instead of killing what threatens you, feed what you want to grow.  Consider in what conditions peace can thrive, and create them, just as you would prepare the bed for the crops you want to plant. Find those among your opponents who also want peace, and support them.  Make alliances.  Offer your enemies incentives to change, and reward your friends.

Of course, to follow such a strategy, you must actually see and know your enemy.  If they are nothing to you but cartoon characters of terrorists, you will not be able to tell one from another, to discern the religious fanatic from the guy muttering under his breath, “F-ing Hammas, they closed the cinema again!”

And you must be willing to give something up.  No one gets peace if your basic bargaining position is, “I get everything I want, and you eat my shit.”  You might get a temporary victory, but it will never be a peaceful one.

To know and see the enemy, you must let them into the story.  They must become real to you, nuanced, distinctive as individuals.

But when we let the Palestinians into the story, it changes.  Oh, how painfully it changes!  For there is no way to tell a new story, one that includes both peoples of the land, without starting like this:

“In our yearning for a homeland, in our attempts as a threatened and traumatized people to find safety and power, we have done a great wrong to another people, and now we must atone.”

Just try saying it. If you, like me, were raised on that other story, just try this one out.  Say it three times.  It hurts, yes, but it might also bring a great, liberating sense of relief with it.

And if you’re not Jewish, if you’re American, if you’re white, if you’re German, if you’re a thousand other things, really, if you’re a human being, there’s probably some version of that story that is true for you.

Out of our own great need and fear and pain, we have often done great harm, and we are called to atone.  To atone is to be at one—to stop drawing a circle that includes our tribe and excludes the other, and start drawing a larger circle that takes everyone in.

How do we atone? Open your eyes.  Look into the face of the enemy, and see a human being, flawed, distinct, unique and precious.  Stop killing.  Start talking. Compost the shit and the rot and feed the olive trees.

Act.  Cross the line.  There are Israelis who do it all the time, joining with Palestinians on the West Bank to protest the wall, watching at checkpoints, refusing to serve in the occupying army, standing for peace.  Thousands have demonstrated this week in Tel Aviv.

There are Palestinians who advocate nonviolent resistance, who have organized their villages to protest the wall, who face tear gas, beatings, arrests, rubber bullets and real bullets to make their stand.

There are internationals who have put themselves on the line—like the boatload of human rights activists, journalists and doctors on board the Dignity, the ship from the Free Gaza movement that was rammed and fired on by the Israeli navy yesterday as it attempted to reach Gaza with humanitarian aid.

Maybe we can’t all do that. But we can all write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. We can make the Palestinian people visible to us, and to the world.  When we do so, we make a world that is safer for every child.

Starhawk

———-

Postscript 12/29/08:

As of this writing, a third consecutive day of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed an estimated 315 Palestinians and injured more than 1,400.  According to the UN, at least 51 of the victims were civilians and 8 were children.  Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has vowed ominously “a war to the bitter end.”

Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip are being carried out with F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and naval gunboats all given to Israel by the United States with our tax dollars.

From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16′s and more than $100 million worth of helicopter spare parts for its fleet of Apaches. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel and signed a contract to transfer an addition $1.9 billion worth of littoral combat ships to the Israeli navy. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and “bunker buster” missiles.

Make no mistake about it-Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip would not be possible without the jets, helicopters, ships, missiles, and fuel provided by the United States.

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 December 31, 2008  Posted by on December 31, 2008 7 Responses »
Dec 292008
 

The year may be ending, but the violence that is being perpetrated on the citizens of Gaza continues unabated.  For an excellent eye-witness account, click here.

Press Release:

The International Women’s Commission (IWC) for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace demands an immediate cessation of the aggression by the Israeli military forces in Gaza, which has already cost hundreds of lives.

This slaughter can only further fuel the conflict and quash any remaining Israeli and Palestinian people.

The IWC calls on the international community, and specifically to the Quartet, to immediately deploy an international force to bring an end to this madness, to protect innocent civilians and to alleviate the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The IWC further appeals to the Quartet, and in particular to the incoming US Administration, to press for immediate resumption of peace negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative as the only way of bringing an end to the occupation and achieving sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine, and in the region.
Continue reading »

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 December 29, 2008  Posted by on December 29, 2008 Comments Off
Dec 292008
 

As we come to the final stretch of 2008, plagued as we are with the usual collection of horrors–Gaza burning, Tennessee buried in toxic ash, women and children being raped and killed in the Congo, and on and on, I’m sure y’all were just as relieved as I was to know that the FDA is considering approval of a glaucoma drug for eyelash enhancement, an idiocy I would have previously thought would be confined to the cable shopping networks.

“Federal regulators on Wednesday said a glaucoma drug from Allergan appears to make eyelashes longer and fuller, and experts soon will assess the safety of that new use.”

No word on any plans to regulate the thousands of cosmetics already on the market that contain toxic ingredients for safety but we sure the hell hope they read the drug insert on this one regarding possible side effects:

“Blindness; blurred or decreased vision; change in color vision; color changes in skin around eyes; difficulty seeing at night; eye color changes; fever or chills; lack or loss of strength; redness, burning, dry or itching eyes; redness, pain, swelling of eye, eyelid, or inner lining of eyelid.”

Yes indeed, you read that correctly, as long as you don’t mind losing your sight, you too can have lucious lashes in yet another fine example of the pharmaceutical companies robbing us, literally, blind.

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 December 29, 2008  Posted by on December 29, 2008 3 Responses »