Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Audacity of Hope - Alice Walker on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Alice Walker, author poet and activist writes a very moving explanation of her decision to sail on the upcoming Gaza flotilla. Her letter, below, was published by CNN on their web site. As you hear news accounts of the flotilla, remember her words and take a look at the biographies of all the Americans going on the ship, Audacity of Hope.

Alice Walker's letter:

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: What else would I do? I am in my sixty-seventh year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content.

It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one's understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There is a scene in the movie "Gandhi" that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire. The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.

Alongside this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is for me an awareness of paying off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the side of black people in the South in our time of need. I am especially indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for help - our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection to non-violent protestors-and came to stand with us.

They got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few "good ol' boys'" of Neshoba County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Cheney, a young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Cheney, Schwerner flag in my own heart.

And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our President's latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorized, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the U.S. Congress to the prime minister of Israel?

Monday, June 20, 2011


Sometimes, like the Wise Men, we have to go away from home to discover the truth. That’s what happens when I go to Israel and Palestine. It is the miracle of pilgrimage. I receive the gospel—God’s good news of love and reconciliation—in a place most people think of as turbulent, conflicted and violent.

But that’s not what I find there. I find forgiveness, reconciliation and hope—the very same message Jesus preached on those lakeshores and mountaintops 2000 years ago. I find Palestinians willing to forgive the violence done to them in 1948 and 1967 and daily at the checkpoints. I find Israelis ready and eager to move on, to let go of their own awful suffering and make peace for the sake of justice for Palestinians, whose land they now call home.

And most amazingly, I find both Palestinians and Israelis—Jews, Muslims and Christians—ready to forgive me for my part in financing their suffering. Opening their homes and their hearts to me is the gospel-good-news of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness—a miracle of healing in a suffering world.

Yesterday I felt the same miracle of healing as I walked rainbow-decorated Colfax holding my sign, “God loves everyone!” And wearing the “Gummy Jesus” crucifix Lee gave us (see photo - Gummy Jesus Celebrates Pride in Denver).

Gummy Jesus on the cross understands what it is like to be rejected, persecuted, spat on and beaten. And the crowd knew it. I watched so many people as their faces lit up when they read the words.

They cheered, photographed my sign, shouted “Yes!” They were so happy they hugged Michael as he worked the edges of the crowd along the parade route. I wonder if Jesus’ disciples held up signs and hugged the crowds on Palm Sunday. No wonder the crowds cheered and waved palms!
Yesterday the gospel was preached at St. Paul at 8 and 10:30, and Saturday at 5:00, and the congregation, good disciples all, carried the message out into the world, preaching it all the way down Colfax and into Civic Center Park at our booth. And the thousands who heard it KNEW it was good news and they shouted for joy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Non-violent Protest in West Bank - Bassem Tamimi Speaks Out at his Trial

Almost every Palestinian man I have met, tells the same story you will read below. While the world has averted its eyes, Palestinians struggle every day to keep their homes, even when they live in areas "controlled" by the Palestinian Authority, on lands their families have lived on for centuries, or in houses where they fled for safety in 1948 (from Jewish paramilitary troops) or 1967 (from the Israeli Army as it conquered land placed under the administration of Jordan or Egypt). Bassem Tamimi lives in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, where he is the coordinator of his village’s "popular committee," organizing non-violent protests against Israel's demolition of homes. He was arrested in March. Photo shows Bassem Tamimi leading a non-violent protest in Bil'in in March.

American news media tends to present these demonstrations as a threat to public safety, while the participants characterize their actions as a challenge to the injustice they are experiencing, and a struggle for their human rights. As an occupied people, Palestinians have no rights in Israeli civil courts; when they sue there for the right to keep their homes, the courts either rule in favor of the Israeli government, or the authorities ignore the courts' ruling (this is the case in Tamimi's village of Nabi Saleh). You can read more of his story here, on Jewish Voice for Peace's (JVP) web site. Read a news account of his arrest and court appearance.

Bassem Tamimi, the subject of an action alert by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), speaks up for freedom on the 44th anniversary of Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, June 5th, 2011.

Tamimi’s statement, from JVP:

Your Honor,

I hold this speech out of belief in peace, justice, freedom, the right to live in dignity, and out of respect for free thought in the absence of Just Laws.

Every time I am called to appear before your courts, I become nervous and afraid. Eighteen years ago, my sister was killed by in a courtroom such as this, by a staff member. In my lifetime, I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost 3 years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralyzed as a result of torture by your investigators. My wife was detained, my children were wounded, my land was stolen by settlers, and now my house is slated for demolition.

I was born at the same time as the Occupation and have been living under its inherent inhumanity, inequality, racism and lack of freedom ever since. Yet, despite all this, my belief in human values and the need for peace in this land have never been shaken. Suffering and oppression did not fill my heart with hatred for anyone, nor did they kindle feelings of revenge. To the contrary, they reinforced my belief in peace and national standing as an adequate response to the inhumanity of Occupation.

International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist Occupation. In practicing my right, I have called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the Occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village, Nabi Saleh, where the graves of my ancestors have lain since time immemorial.

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.

We have the right to express our rejection of Occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.

The civil nature of our actions is the light that will overcome the darkness of the Occupation, bringing a dawn of freedom that will warm the cold wrists in chains, sweep despair from the soul and end decades of oppression.

We have exhausted all possible actions to stop attacks by settlers, who refuse to adhere to your courts’ decisions, which time and again have confirmed that we are the owners of the land, ordering the removal of the fence erected by them.

Read the rest of his statement here....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Israeli Jews and Palestinians Protest East Jerusalem's New Settlement

Last week, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the US Congress, Israeli officials were unveiling a new settlement in Palestinian East Jerusalem—in an area where most of the world had expected eventually to see the capital of a Palestinian state.

What does peace mean to a Prime Minister who SPEAKS peace, but ACTS takeover of Palestinian land? In the same week, on the public stage? Since Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, they have destroyed more than 18,000 Palestinian homes (Statistic from ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions:

Not all Israelis support their Prime Minister’s theft of Palestinian land and they protest every Friday in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jerrah. A year ago this week, I stood with them and clapped (since I don’t know Hebrew, the crowd’s chants were impossible for me!). The demonstrations continue. Watch some video of this week’s demonstration (see picture) and read one demonstrator’s story of what you are seeing: