“Refusing to be Enemies”, an exclusive video interview with Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta at the Peoples Social Forum 2014

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Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation is an interview-based study that presents the voices of over 100 practitioners and theorists of nonviolence, the vast majority either Palestinian or Israeli. In their own words, these activists share examples of effective nonviolent campaigns and discuss obstacles encountered in their pursuit of a just peace. Attention is also devoted to the special challenges of joint struggle and to hopes and visions for a shared future in the region. OFFICIAL WORDPRESS BLOG

PATHS TO PEACE
by Eduardo Carli de Moraes / Awestruck Wanderer

2cxsnWlWhile the People’s Social Forum was taking place in Ottawa, between August 21 and 24, the bloodbath in Gaza was still raging. Even mass demonstrations and rallies, held in several cities all around the world (London, Cape Town, New York, Toronto, and many others), couldn’t stop Zionism’s genocidal machine, which once again bombed Palestine with total disregard for basic human rights. Many protests were voiced during the Forum against Israel’s regime, which  is backed-up in North America not only by the United States but also by Stephen Harper’s regime in Canada (watch Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines with Avi Lewis).

According to the latest report from UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), dated September 11, 2014, at least “503 Palestinian children are confirmed killed” and  “the cumulative death toll among Palestinians is at least 2,150, including 260 women. It is reported that the cumulative Israeli fatality toll is 71, of whom 66 were soldiers and one civilian fatality was a child.”

The huge disparity between the two sides of this “conflict” makes it almost obscene to call it anything but genocide. Let’s drop the euphemisms: Israel has obviously attacked once again not only military targets or Hamas militants; it has engaged in mass killings of Palestine’s civil population. Gaza, once again, looks like Guernica, but with no Picasso to paint it. Its infrastructure has been blown to smithereens, including hospitals, schools, power plants, universities and thousands of houses. The excuse for all this is, of course, The War On Terror, which seems to permit acts of unspeakable terror as means to attain victory over terrorists…

Anyone who deems justifiable the murder of more than 500 children and 260 women is nothing but a dangerous psychopath, and the doctrine of “collateral damage” is but the lunacy of serial killers which unfortunately hold State power. To put it plainly: these were monstruous war crimes and repeated violations of Human Rights, which the state of Israel can only get away with because of its Western allies:

“Israel’s staunchest political and military ally is and always has been the US government. The US government has blocked, along with Israel, almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict. It has supported almost every war that Israel has fought. When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that smash through Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives several billion dollars from the US.

What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people who suffered so cruelly themselves — more cruelly perhaps than any other people in history — to understand the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom they have displaced? Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty? What hope does this leave the human race with?” – ARUNDHATI ROY [Read the full post, including 3 documentaries]

During the Peoples Social Forum, I’ve listened carefully to a highly captivating lecture by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, author of Refusing to Be Enemies, and afterwards she was kind enough to grant this blog an exclusive interview (watch at the end of this post). She is “a Quaker Jew who lived in Jerusalem for seven years and has written widely on Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activism and related topics”.

Israel's Vision for a Palestinian StateWhat’s fascinating about Maxine’s work is how devoted she is to the discovery of paths to peaceful coexistence among Palestinians and Israelis. More than one hundred people were interviewed by her about the whys and hows of their choice for nonviolent resistance. Veronica Cohen, for example, states: “Violence begets more violence. I’m morally and tactically opposed to violence.”

This is a common thread of non-violent activists: they refuse to add more fuel to the fire of violence both because they deem it morally wrong (killing people in order to reach peace: isn’t this a sick interpretation of the doctrine of “the end justifies the means”?) and because it doesn’t work pragmatically (it provides the enemy an excuse for violent retaliation). Nuri el-Okbi, a Bedouin Israeli activist, sums it up beautifully: “One who is right does not need to use violence. Every drop of blood that is spilt is a sad waste.” Similarly, Jean Zaru, Palestinian Quaker, argues: “Violence dehumanizes the powerful and the powerless. Nonviolent resistance is the only way to bring transformation.”

Nonviolent resistance has many faces: civil disobedience, boycotts, demonstrations, hunger strikes, and so on and so forth. Mass media in the West usually depicts Palestinian resistance as relying heavily on terrorism and violence, but Maxine argues that we shouldn’t believe that Hamas-way is the only way: the bulk of the resistance against the systemic Zionist violence and military occupation is a non-violent resistance, including simply refusing to leave. She mentions, for instance, the movements in Gaza and the West Bank who oppose Israel’s invasive policy which aims to grab Palestinian territories, demolish Palestinian homes and build Jewish settlements, in explicit violation of International Law.

During the Second Intifada, in 2000, Maxine jokes that she was “a little bit older to be blocking bulldozers”. She is not alone in feeling that throwing rocks and molotovs against the Israeli’s war tanks will hardly serve the purpose of building lasting peaceful relations in the area. Refusing to Be Enemies attempts to provide various nonviolent ways to fight against Israel’s policies, including non-cooperation with institutions of the occupation and attacks made not against the living bodies of Israelis, but on the separating walls and barbed-wire fences that stink like Apartheid.

While discussing the “rockets” fired by Hamas militants into Israeli territory, which serves as a justification for Israel’s war of aggression against Gaza, Maxine suggested quite a radical approach: “I like the idea of firing rockets at the wall instead of over the wall.” If I understood her well, she means that the walls of Apartheid needs to be brought down and that dialogue and co-existence are the way to go.

As long as Israel isolates itself behind the walls of a bunker state, and refuses to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians to lead normal lives, without being crushed by military occupation and genocidal aggression, the cycle of violence won’t stop. An attitude of openness is needed, then; an ability to respect otherness, to relate healthly with difference. My doubt is, however, if this is possible in a context of religious creeds dogmatically believed in. Perhaps the path to peace lies only in moving away from fundamentalism and fanaticism, and into the realm of a secular democracy which respects and protects multi-culturalism?

“Fears”

Huwaida Arraf (ISM), from the Free Gaza Movement, argues: “If you want to fight Mike Tyson, you’re not going to do it in the boxing ring.” The military power of Israel, with all the aid it receives both in cash and weaponry from the U.S., makes it a Mike Tyson, unbeatable on the boxing ring, and that’s one of the reasons why nonviolent resistance is the chosen path by many activists, who inspire themselves on the examples, practices and theories of Gandhi, Thoreau or Gene Sharp.

Among the Israelis, there are many who refuse to serve the Army, even though they can be jailed for that. Peretz Kidron, one of this refuseniks, explains his choice of refusing to follow the orders of the military authorities: “I will not obey a law who is part of a broader policy and exemplifies it in a nutshell. It’s like Gandhi going down to beach to make his own salt. It was illegal. It wasn’t violent but it was deliberately flouting the law and inviting prosecution.”

A significant number of both Israelis and Palestinians are involved in nonviolent resistance, argues Maxine, and they use their criativity to come up with innovative ways to act, including writing protest songs with satyrical lyrics, refusing to engage in battle (and accepting disagreements to be dealt with through dialogue discussion), or wearing the colors of the Palestinian flag as a sign of solidarity with the independence struggle. The international community can also join this struggle by boycotting corporations whose cumplicity with Israel’s war crimes are proved: a large movement calling for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has gained momentum in 2014 as Gaza was under attack, and mass demonstrations have erupted all around the world, as the streets screamed out their solidarity with the Palestinian people. Global civil society is also a player in this nonviolent resistance movement and we must voice our outrage with all global powers who have blood in their hands.

It’s possible that the World Wide Web is truly helping out in the job of re-shaping international solidarity: while people were been slaughtered in Gaza by the hundreds, the Internet was flooding with reactions. Quickly, protest movements have come to life whose efficacy and immediacy would be unthinkable without the use of social media as tools. Sadly, 2014 is another tragic year for Mankind (we still haven’t managed to give peace a chance), but maybe there’s reason to be hopeful that Marshall McLuhan prophecy about the Global Village is becoming flesh: Gaza doesn’t stand alone. Its suffering is not being ignored. War crimes and Human Rights violations won’t be forgotten. It’s our collective duty to struggle to find paths to peace amidst these endless turmoils of violence. However, the question remains: will those who refuse to be enemies one day outnumber or overpower those who refuse to be friends?

In the following video, Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta provides some of her insights about these matters and how could we built another world by refusing to be enemies:

Cornel West interviewed by Avi Lewis @ Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines (25 min)

Justice is Love in Public

He was the first African-American to get a PhD in philosophy at Princeton.

He went on to write more than 20 books, receive more than 20 honourary degrees, to teach at Harvard and Yale, and hold classes at universities from Paris to Addis Abeba.

With his latest hip hop CD he was named “MTV’s artist of the week”, and he has provided futuristic philosophical commentary on all three Matrix movies.

In a famous spat with the then president of Harvard University he called Lawrence Summers “the Ariel Sharon of higher education.”

Avi Lewis talks to Cornel West, a professor of African American Studies at Princeton, hip hop artist, and one of the most controversial academics in the US, about the state of democracy for African-Americans today, the Obama administration, and his dispute with Lawrence Summers.

He also shares his views on US foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan, global recession, and the growing pressure on Barack Obama.

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See all episodes of Fault Lines: http://www.youtube.com/show/faultlines
Meet the Fault Lines Team: http://aje.me/ZhfAbH

Shaking Hands with Other People’s Pain

Gaza, July 2014

Gaza, July 2014

“Nous n’avons pas toujours assez de force pour supporter les maux d’autrui.” 
LA ROCHEFOUCAULD (1613 – 1680)

Here’s the trouble with solidarity, altruism, compassion, brotherhood and other values we often pay lip service to, while practising them so shabbily: it isn’t always easy or pleasant to join in a common struggle with some human being or community who is suffering a terrible fate. As the French moralist said: “We don’t always have enough strenght to bear other people’s sufferings.” (La Rochefoucauld) Let’s not idealize human beings: egotistical as we so often are, we would rather turn a blind eye to other people’s pains and keep paying attention only to our tiny little selves. Human as I am, when confronted by events that would disturb my peace-of-mind, like these who are flooding the news during the last weeks, my first impulse is to run for cover in the comfort of blissful ignorance. Why should I care if the Israeli army is bombing Gaza to a heap of ruins? Why should I look at the photographs of dead babies, injured women, dismembered elderly? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to choose the easiest path and retreat from these horrible occurrences, refusing to acknowledge their existence? Am I to blame if I’d rather act like an ostrich that hides its head in the sand?

Voltaire (1694 – 1778) once said that “every one is guilty of all the good he did not do”. That sounds to me a much more courageous and demanding statement than the one quoted in the epigraph. La Rochefoucauld’s phrase sounds like someone who uses a personal weakness to justify his choice of indifference. Voltaire wants us to take responsability on our hands and act on behalf of others; doing nothing may be sometimes considered a criminal cumplicity to the perpetrators of oppresion or genocide. La Rochefoucauld’s comment, on the other hand, seems to excuse a behaviour of inaction and voluntary ignorance and lassitude, when we’re confronted with “les maux d’autrui”. Myself, I can’t help but feel some contempt for the attitude of those who don’t give a damn about other people’s miseries and care only about their private little matters. My heart fills with admiration by people like Arundhati Roy or Joe Sacco, Simone Weil or Che Guevara (to mention just a few), highly sensitive and creative persons, who devote their life-works to shaking hands with other people’s pain. And acting in order to diminish human grief in our Samsarian planet (good planets are hard to find). Empathy, methinks, is a praiseworthy virtue, and one of the best definitions of it I know of is by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara: “feeling anguish whenever someone was assassinated, no matter where it was in the world, and of feeling exultation whenever a new banner of liberty was raised somewhere else.”

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Such thoughs have been fermenting in my mind during insomnias and daytime anxieties, as the numbers of injured and dead keep getting higher and higher in Palestine. But let’s not take numbers too seriously and forget the real heartfelt human suffering that numbers tell us nothing about. Let’s not allow our minds become numb with an overdose of tragic numbers. Each number is to be perceived as flesh-and-blood, as sentience and conscience, as beating heart and thinking brain, torn apart by war.

From a safe distance, I follow the news and they tell me a lot about other people’s miseries – “gunshot injuries, broken bones, amputees” (Sacco, pg 30). I feel powerless as I witness this horrors brought to me by Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and the Blogosphere. I feel impelled to do something, even though I know quite well how little difference I can make by sharing Al Jazeera videos, sending to my friends the photos of demonstrations, or writing a post in a tiny little corner of the World Wide Web. A bitter taste of powerlessness and despodency nails me down to the chair as I witness the Zionists’ latest massacres in Gaza. Then I remember Voltaire and he inspires me to decide: the fact that one person can’t do much isn’t a reason to do nothing. If only everyone did this tiny bit, perhaps it would add up to something powerful enough to bring down from their bloody pedestals all these Masters of War?…

palestine-covers

Sitting at home, far from refugee camps, I take a journey aboard Joe Sacco’s compelling graphic novel Palestine. Sacco takes me to see a re-presentation of what he himself has witnessed in Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza etc. In Sacco’s pages, I see kids  throwing stones against tanks and getting shot at by soldiers armed with M-16s and other hi-tech rifles. My brain fills with some sort of psychic vomit when I picture such scenes. If I had been born in Gaza, if I was a Palestinian kid, wouldn’t I be the one throwing stones against the invading army? Wouldn’t I howl in rage against these grown men in uniform who only speak the language of violence? Which language would I learn to speak, in such an environment, if not the language of precocious rebellious stone-throwing? And if my best friend’s life had been taken away from this world by a bullet in the heart, wouldn’t I be angry enough to, a few years later, join a jihadist group and become a suicide-bomber on the road to glorious martyrdom?

gandhi_-_an_eye_for_an_eye_will_make_the_whole_world_blind_-_quote_large_poster__gn0097Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight for Intifadas, I fear, because no community will accept without resistance the sort of life conditions imposed by Israel in the occupied territories. Too many wounds have stirred too much rage, too much hunger for revenge, for any peace to be something reasonable to expect in the short term. Fuel keeps getting added to the fire of mutual hate. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”, said the barefoot bald-headed pacifist Mahatmas Gandhi. But neither Zionists nor Jihadists seem to give a damn about Gandhi, especially when the wounds are fresh and the heart screams for vendetta.

I can’t begin to understand how and when all this mess began. I look back into the past, trying to get a grip of the historical roots of the conflict, but History looks like a mad circus of chaotic antagonism. It seems to me that Israel was born as a consequence of one the hugest tragedies of the 20th century – the Holocaust. The Nazi’s III Reich almost wiped-out the Jews from the face of the Earth, and when Hitler’s regime fell in 1945 it was mandatory to find the survivors a Safe Home,  in which they would be protected from ever having to be victims of such a mass-scale massacre. The “ideal” Israel would be a nation for the victims, for the survivors of that “Industry of Death”, to quote Steven Spielberg, which the Nazis set in motion in their collective psychosis of anti-semitism, racism, blind nationalism and totalitarianism.

But an old and un-answered question I’ve got is this: why should the Palestinians pay for the crimes of the Nazis? If Germany, infected by anti-semitic ideologies and imperialism, went on a killing frenzy against the Hebrews, why weren’t the Germans obliged, as the main perpetrators of the Holocaust, to offer some just compensation? Why shouldn’t Germany be made to concede, let’s say, one third of their territory for a Jewish State? Yeah: I see perfectly well that this solution wouldn’t work out. These neighbours, I suspect, wouldn’t live peacefully side-by-side with such monstruous memories of past bloody deeds haunting their coexistence. Despite the fact that Holy Jerusalem is considered a conditio sine que non by Jews: there’s no Israel without it.

Reading about these matters, I also discover, in the works of Joe Sacco and Arundhati Roy, that the plan to create a Jewish state in Palestine pre-dates the II World War. In 1917, the English minister of Foreign Relations, Lord Balfour, signs a Declaration in which the British Empire makes a commitment to create a nation for the Jews in Palestine – a place which, according to a deceitful Zionist slogan, was a “land with no people for a people with no land”. Which, of course, is bollocks. Big time bullshit. At least 700.000 Arabs were living then in this land which the Zionists’s cynicism claimed to be a desert – and promised to them by God himself. But, as Bob Dylan sang in the 60s, “you don’t count the dead when God’s on your side”.

Sacco1 Sacco2 What awes me is also how yesterday’s victims can metamorphose into today’s oppressors. How was it possible that the people who survived the Nazi Holocaust became perpetrators of a new “Palestinian Holocaust”? What Israel is doing in Gaza – bombing schools, hospitals, UN-shelters; killing hundreds of babies, children, women, elderly, civilians… – isn’t this reducing a whole community to a status of Subhumanity? People in Gaza know today how it felt for Jews in Auschwitz to be treated as less-than-human and devoid-of-basic-rights.

One could argue that Jewish experience in Europe was far from sweet and didn’t teach them much about gentleness between different cultures and nations. Pogroms, persecutions, concentration camps, gas chambers – these were some of the tragic cards the Jews were dealt throughout their wandering existence of chronic sufferers. In 1948, when they declared “Independence” and Israel was born, maybe they dreamt of Peace, finally? Anyway, if they did, the Dream has been shattered over and over again, for decades. There was never any peace. Israel is born into war and the nation’s first events, the first steps of this new-born child, have been tough as hell. Israel’s first breath was still sailing in the wind and the country was already dealing with the 1948 invasion from the Arab’s armies. After the defeat of the III Reich – who was supposed to last for a 1.000 years, according to the Nazi’s megalomania, but crumbled apart after 12 years – the Jews wouldn’t be allowed no peaceful retreat into well-deserved tranquility. They still felt endangered, they still feared annihilation, there were still enemies to fight. If they didn’t defend themselves, they feared that the Arabs would drown them all in the Sea.

Sacco3 I would argue that fear and violence often go hand-in-hand: a frightened animal is much more likely to attack than a tranquil, unafraid one. The human animal is also capable of bursting into terrible violence when he’s terribly afraid. When I look back at History’s madness, I see the Jews, after the II World War, trembling with fear and shocked with trauma. They had lost 6 or 7 million to the Nazi’s machinery of mass murder. And yet their survival instinct, their conatus (to speak in Spinozean language), was surely alive and kicking. To survive this tragedy they would need some radical means to establish themselves in some sort of safe spot. They would a massive Police State; one of Earth’s strongest armies; why not some atomic bombs? The U.S. would provide the means for Israel to become a military power whose self-confidence would be boosted by the  possession of weapons of mass destruction. Israel, then, was born like a Bunker State, warmed to the teeth, with one of the world’s most rigid and paranoid Defense Mecanisms of any nation on Earth.

But did they really believe they would build a safe haven in Israel after kicking out almost a million people from their homes in 1948? I’m sorry for my language: I’m quite aware that kicking out is not quite the right word. They did much more than kick out – they burned entire villages, they massacred entire populations, they created a huge mass of refugees, pushed very ungently, at gun point, into Gaza and the West Bank. Israel’s masterminds certainly don’t like this comparison, but this is how it feels to me: just like the Nazis deported the Jews from their homes and pushed them into the trains headed for the concentration camps, the Jews kicked out the Palestinians from their homes and pushed them into Palestine’s open-air concentration camps. Now it’s July 2014 and the world is asking in horror: is Israel applying the Final Solution? Is there anywhere or anyone in Gaza that isn’t a target?

gaza

In the occupied territories, most of what we take for granted as civilization’s basic gifts to citizens simply don’t exist – right now, as you’re reading this, more than 1 million people in Gaza have no access to proper drinking water. Almost no one has access to electricity – especially after the only power plant in Gaza was bombed to ashes in July 29. In Joe Sacco’s book, I discover that, in the Palestinian schools, it’s forbidden by the Israelis to teach history or geography with any book that mentions Palestine – it’s not supposed to exist in the textbooks. Israel would like to erase it from the maps. Is Israel trying to accomplish in fact the lie that has been written in textbooks, that is, “Palestinians don’t exist”?

In a clinic, Joe Sacco meets two doctors who reveal that they see “a lot of respiratory illnesses from bad ventilation and overcrowding, problems related to political and social conditions” (p. 48). Life in Gaza and the West Bank can be quite cruel, unealthy, insecure, always threatned to end precociously. But the web of everyday violence is woven by acts of cruelty not only to people, but also to their means of existence. Joe Sacco draws, for example, a heartbreaking scene with decapitated olive trees, cut off by the Israelis, and then gives voice to the Palestinians’ suffering:

Joe Sacco2

“The olive tree is our main source of living… We use the oild for our food and we buy our clothes with the oil we sell… Here we have nothing else but the trees… The Israelis don’t give people from our village permits to work in Israel… The Israelis know that an olive tree is the same as our sons… It needs many years to grow, six or seven years for a strong tree… Two years ago the israelis cut down 17 of my trees… my father planted those trees… Some of them were 100 years old… They obliged me to cut the trees myself. The soldiers brought me a chainsaw and watched… I was crying… I felt I was killing my son when I cut them down.” (Sacco, pg. 62)

This personal wound may seem tiny, but we need only to multiply it to get a picture of the collective wound inflicted by 120.000 trees up-rooted by the Israelis during the first four years of the Intifada.  Besides the massive bulldozing of trees, Palestian homes were also demolished in great numbers: 1.250 of them were brought down to the ground during the same four first years of the Intifada; in the same period, no less than 90.000 Palestians were arrested and put behind Israeli barbed wire, watched by soldiers with their fingers on the trigger (Sacco, pgs. 69 and 81). All those who dared rise up against Israel were crowded into prisons, put into cages, treated not so differently than the Nazis did with the inmates of Dachau or Auschwitz. One man interviewed by Sacco remember the time he was arrested in an overcrowded tent, “a sort of hell”, “3×4 meters with 21 persons”, in which “the ventilation was very bad, just a coin-sized hole in the door for injecting gas in case of a riot.” (Sacco, pg. 84)

Eduardo Carli de Moraes @ Awestruck Wanderer
Toronto, July 2014

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(TO BE CONTINUED IN ANOTHER POST…)

Recommended reading & viewing:

Bloodshed in Gaza – The Historical Roots of the Conflict

Art by Venezuelan artist Eneko, with reference to Pablo Picasso's "Guernica"

Art by Venezuelan artist Eneko updates Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica”

Arundathi Roy:

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

In 1937 Winston Churchill said of the Palestinians: ‘I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done to the red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place’. That set the trend for the Israeli state’s attitude towards Palestinians. In 1969, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said: ‘Palestinians do not exist’. Her successor, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, said: ‘What are Palestinians? When I came here [to Palestine] there were 250,000 non-Jews, mainly Arabs and Bedouins. It was desert, more than underdeveloped. Nothing’. Prime Minister Menachem Begin called Palestinians ‘two-legged beasts’. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called them ‘grasshoppers’ who could be crushed. This is the language of heads of state, not the words of ordinary people.

In 1947 the UN formally partitioned Palestine and allotted 55% of Palestine’s land to the zionists. Within a year they had captured 78%. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was declared. Minutes after the declaration, the US recognized Israel. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan. The Gaza strip came under Egyptian military control. Formally, Palestine ceased to exist except in the minds and hearts of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people who became refugees.

In the summer of 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Settlers were offered state subsidies and development aid to move into the occupied territories. Almost every day more Palestinian families are forced off their lands and driven into refugee camps. Palestinians who continue to live in Israel do not have the same rights as Israelis and live as second-class citizens in their former homeland.

Art by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff

Art by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff

Over the decades there have been uprisings, wars, intifadas. Tens of thousands have lost their lives. Accords and treaties have been signed, ceasefires declared and violated. But the bloodshed doesn’t end. Palestine still remains illegally occupied. Its people live in inhuman conditions, in virtual Bantustans, where they are subjected to collective punishments, 24-hour curfews, where they are humiliated and brutalised on a daily basis. They never know when their homes will be demolished, when their children will be shot, when their precious trees will be cut, when their roads will be closed, when they will be allowed to walk down to the market to buy food and medicine. And when they will not. They live with no semblance of dignity. With not much hope in sight. They have no control over their lands, their security, their movement, their communication, their water supply.

So when accords are signed and words like ‘autonomy’ and even ‘statehood’ are bandied about, it’s always worth asking: What sort of autonomy? What sort of state? What sort of rights will its citizens have? Young Palestinians who cannot contain their anger turn themselves into human bombs and haunt Israel’s streets and public places, blowing themselves up, killing ordinary people, injecting terror into daily life, and eventually hardening both societies’ suspicion and mutual hatred of each other. Each bombing invites merciless reprisals and even more hardship on Palestinian people. But then suicide bombing is an act of individual despair, not a revolutionary tactic. Although Palestinian attacks strike terror into Israeli civilians, they provide the perfect cover for the Israeli government’s daily incursions into Palestinian territory, the perfect excuse for old-fashioned, 19th century colonialism, dressed up as a new-fashioned, 21st century ‘war’.

Israel’s staunchest political and military ally is and always has been the US government. The US government has blocked, along with Israel, almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict. It has supported almost every war that Israel has fought. When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that smash through Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives several billion dollars from the US.

What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people who suffered so cruelly themselves — more cruelly perhaps than any other people in history — to understand the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom they have displaced? Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty? What hope does this leave the human race with? What will happen to the Palestinian people in the event of a victory? When a nation without a state eventually proclaims a state, what kind of state will it be? What horrors will be perpetrated under its flag? Is it a separate state that we should be fighting for, or the rights to a life of liberty and dignity for everyone regardless of their ethnicity or religion? – ARUNDHATI ROY

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To delve deeper into the roots of the matter, I share with Awestruck Wanderer’s readers three excellent documentaries. They have taught me a great deal about the history of the Middle East’s conflicts and still have a lot to say to us under the present tragic situation. They are: BBC’s The Birth of Israel; Ilan Ziv’s Six Days in June – The War That Redefined The Middle East; and B.Z. Goldberg’s Promises. I’ve managed to gather these films here – including YouTube or Vimeo full-lenght videos, official synopsis and other relevant information. If you find this documentaries as relevant as I do, please share the knowledge!

the-birth-of-israel

“On 14 May 1948 Prime Minister David Ben Gurion announced the establishment of the state of Israel in the portion of Palestine allocated by the UN as a Jewish state. For the Israelis, the events of 1948 were a triumph; for the Palestinians it was the beggining of the ‘naqba’ – the catastrophe which saw them driven from their homeland. Within 24 hours the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked. What followed was the first of many bloody wars between Israel and the Arabs – a bitter struggle which has dominated the region for the past 60 years and continues to threaten global security. Jeremy Bowen travels to Israel and the neighbouring countries involved in the conflict to take a fresh look at the events leading to the foundation of the state of Israel. Using a combination of rarely seen archive footage, historical eyewitness accounts and interviews with the surviving political, diplomatic and military figures of the time from both sides of the divide, Jeremy uses the history of the period as a prism to reflect the current state of the Israeli / Palestinian conundrum. Interviews include Shimon Peres, David Den Gurion’s right hand man and now president of Israel, and Hassan Nusseibeh, Jordanian Ambassador to the UN, among others. Challenging existing myths – promulgated by both sides – about the founding of Israel, this is a fresh perspective on an ongoing conflict.”

BBC Production. 2009. 60 mins.

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“In June of 1967, a war pitted the Israelis against the Arabs and the US against the Soviet Union. It lasted only 6 days, but it changed the Middle East, and America’s policy towards the region, and the war’s results are embodied in every aspect of the current bloody Middle East conflict. This groundbreaking documentary provides a fresh perspective on the war, bringing to life its battlefields, politics, and the personal histories of the many lives it affected. Today, the regions remains trapped in a never-ending cycle of occupation, terrorism and reprisal, much of which is caused by the same animosity that triggered the war in the first place. Shot in location in Israel, Palestine, Egyps, Syria, Jordan, Moscow and Washingston, and using newly declassified archives, home movie footage and personal photographs, evocative recreations, and dozens of interviews with participants, this film offers unprecedented insight into the story of the Six Day War. With an extraordinary cast of characters – Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Field Marshal Amer, and Lyndon B. Johnson, to name a few – Six Days in June examins how the war came about, how it was fought, and how it reshaped the regional political landscape… all in six days.”

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Brazilian poster for B.Z. Goldberg’s Promises

“B.Z. Goldberg, an American filmmaker who was raised in Jerusalem and is fluent in both Hebrew and Arabic, returned to the Middle East to help make this documentary, which chronicles his encounters with seven children between the ages of 11 and 13, some Israeli and some Palestinian, who discuss their political views, their thoughts about the ongoing violence in their homelands and the possibility of a lasting peace, and the impact the aggression has had upon them. Encompassing extremists and moderates on both sides of the fence, the seven youngsters are interviewed individually and then brought together, where their common interests become clear — as well as the fact that it’s quite possible they’ll never live together in peace. Co-directed by Goldberg with Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado, Promises won the Audience Award at the 2001 Rotterdam Film Festival.” – Amg All Movie Guide