Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reading Israeli News

Op ed writer Gideon Levy writes in today's Ha'aretz about a recent survey of Israeli public opinion--very revealing to us as we sit here in the US and wonder whatever happened to the "peace process." Levy writes:

One-third of Israelis want to deny Arab citizens the right to vote; about half of Israelis favor a policy of 'transferring' Arabs out of the country; and a majority says there is apartheid here. We need to finally give up on the hope that things will get better.

Nice to make your acquaintance, we're racist and pro-apartheid. The poll whose results were published in Haaretz on Tuesday, conducted by Dialog and commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, proved what we always knew, if not so bluntly. It's important to recognize the truth that has been thrown in our faces and those of the world (where the survey is making waves ). But it's even more important to draw the necessary conclusions from it.
Given the current reality, making peace would be an almost anti-democratic act: Most Israelis don't want it. A just, egalitarian society would also violate the wishes of most Israelis: That, too, is something they don't want. They're satisfied with the racism, comfortable with the occupation, pleased with the apartheid; things are very good for them in this country. That's what they told the pollsters.
Until a courageous leadership arises here, the kind that appears only rarely in history, and tries to change this nationalist, racist mood, there's no point in hoping for change to come from below. It won't come; indeed, it can't come, because it is contrary to the desires of most Israelis. This fact must be recognized.
The world must also recognize this. Those who long to reach an agreement and draw up periodic peace plans must finally recognize that Israelis are plainly telling them, "No thanks, we're not interested." Read the rest of the article.....

Harsh words, but it also sounds a lot like what I am seeing here in the US as we plod on toward the election. I find that the Israeli media is often much more candid about what is happening there than our US news sources are.

Mayber part of my own darkness comes from reading Mornings in Jenin this weekend (by Susan Abulhawa), and the horrors of the early years of Israel's occupation--1948, 1967, the first Lebanon war, the massacres in Lebanon at Sabra and Shatila. Although it's a novel, the events in the novel actually happened--to hundreds of thoushands of unnamed Palestinians. The novel's characters have personalities, aspiriations, loving families, desires for wholeness and peace. The nameless victims are only statistics and Wikipedia articles and old photos of dead bodies piled in the streets.

This was in 1982. And Ha'aretz reports today.....would it be any different?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Flotilla to Gaza--sailors on Estelle detained by Israeli military

This week another ship sailed to Gaza to break the siege of Gaza which is being imposed by Israel. The ships sail to draw attention to Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza. Israel's military controls all the borders of Gaza, deciding what goods can be shipped out and what can come into the country. They say it is for Israeli security, but the banned items include food, school supplies and building materials--the stuff people need to survive.

Estelle crew approaching Gaza
Although Israel made a big deal about leaving Gaza in 2005 and emptying the settlements, forcibly evicting those who defied the removal orders, Israel still controls all the borders--the three sides with land boundaries and the western border, which is the Mediterranean. Nothing comes into Gaza or leaves without Israel's inspection. This goes for goods and for people--even when they have travel permits or medical emergencies.

The Free Gaza movement has sailed to Gaza to break the blockade ten times. Five times they were able to enter Gaza. Then, in May, 2010, the Israeli military killed nine of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of the flotilla. The Estelle, which attempted to break the blockade this week, was stopped in international waters off the shore from Gaza and towed into port in Israel at Ashdod. Although they were not attempting to enter Israel, this is what they will probably be charged with. They call it kidnapping, since they did not want to enter Israel.

They describe their mission:
"We sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel's ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights and will continue to challenge Israel's illegal siege on Gaza."

The ship carried: 2 olive trees; 41 tons of cement; wheelchairs; walkers; crutches; midwifery stethoscope; children's books; toys; 300 footballs; musical instruments; theatrical equipment; VHF radio (for a ship); 1 anchor (the last two items were for the Gaza's Ark project.) The ship was inspected at many ports. A video of the cement being loaded onto the ship is here.

The Estelle, the Finnish ship that sailed this week, carried 30 passengers, including three Israelis, and, among others:
Former Member of Parliament Manly James, Canada
Member of Parliament Hagen Aksel, Norway
Member of Parliament Britton Sven, Sweden
Member of Parliament Kodelas Dimitios, Greece
Member of Parliament Sixto Ricardo, Spain
Member of Parliament Diamantopoulos Evangelos, Greece

As of today, James Manly is still in detention, held by the Israeli military. Read more....

US Christian Church Leaders' Letter Attracts Attention

Last week at the Kairos Palestine workshop in Denver, we looked at the press release from the ELCA announcing a letter to Congress written by fifteen US Christian church leaders, including ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson. The letter to Congress has stirred up some controversy, especially among some of the leaders in the US Jewish community.  

If you’d like some background:
Response to the letter from the Jewish Anti-defamation League – calling the letter “outrageous and biased”. While asserting that the letter “fails to also call for an investigation of Palestinian use of U.S. foreign aid,” Abe Foxman seems to ignore the US withholding aid from the Palestinian Authority after elections that brought Hamas to power in 2006. The US frequently withholds aid in protest of Palestinian Authority policies.

Here are two articles written by Jewish leaders expressing support for the Christian leaders’ action
  • Mark Braverman’s response – he is an American Jewish supporter of an end to the occupation, who has repeatedly urged US Christians not to violate their principles of justice to support Israel in its current policies
  • Some rabbis support the Christian church leaders’ letter
 NYTimes has reported on the letter
What you can do: