Tag Archives: Gaza

Free Dr. Tarek Loubani and Prof John Greyson From Wrongful Imprisonment in Egypt

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On World Humanitarian Day, I think of all the remarkable people who risk their lives to save the lives of others. I celebrate their contributions, and mourn the violence, imprisonment, suffering and loss of life many of them have had to endure while trying to make the world a better place for all of us. I think of their family and friends who love and admire them so greatly, they tirelessly support them, fight for them, defend their human rights, and often suffer grave consequences to their own health and lives in doing so.

I think especially of family and friends of Dr. Tarek Loubani and Prof. John Greyson, arrested by Egyptian authorities on Friday, August 16, 2013. They are experiencing a horror, far too similar to the horror I experienced almost exactly four years ago, when my precious friends Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd, were captured by the Iranian regime. Dr. Loubani is an emergency room physician in London, ON, and John Greyson, an associate professor at York University and director of York’s graduate program in film, in Toronto, ON. Both have long-standing admirable records of global humanitarian work.

I have worked with Dr. Loubani, and Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care to advocate for health care for refugees in Canada, collaborating in a National Day of Action just two months ago. Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care released the following statement:

“Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care is deeply concerned by news that one of its members, prominent London, Ontario emergency physician Dr. Tarek Loubani has been arrested in Egypt. Dr. Loubani was in Egypt providing volunteer health services and was arrested along with a colleague, York University Professor John Greyson. Egyptian authorities should be aware of Dr. Loubani’s extensive work providing medical treatment to people in need in the Middle East. He is also well respected in Canada for assisting refugees — including refugees from the Middle East — in securing public health care in this country.”

York University has released this statement:

“York University is extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of John Greyson, an associate professor at York University and director of York’s graduate program in film, as well as Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor from London, Ontario, who have been detained in Cairo, Egypt.”

According to the Facebook group launched by family and friends, “Tarek and John were in Cairo on their way to Gaza, where Tarek was to participate in a medical collaboration that has been established between the University of Western Ontario and the Emergency Department of Al Shifa Hospital (Gaza’s largest hospital), and where John, a professor at York University’s Department of Film, intended to conduct preparatory work for a film project.”

Justin Podur, a close friend and colleague of Dr. Loubani and Prof Greyson, elaborates that Dr. Loubani was traveling to Gaza as part of a group of Canadian doctors “to train physicians there in advanced cardiac and trauma life support.” Prof. Greyson joined him to “explore the possibility of a film project about the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.”

On World Humanitarian Days 2010 and 2011, I fought to build global support for the freedom of humanitarians Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd, held hostage by the Iranian regime for 2 years and 2 months. As WHD 2013 approached, I was preoccupied with the fourth anniversary of the day Josh, Shane, and Sarah were captured. Though I was not always conscious of it, my body, mind, and spirit felt the anniversary approaching. My trauma symptoms increased, I felt a sense of foreboding…my body remembered what I went through four years ago, and each annual anniversary of their captivity.

Now, I am experiencing a déjà vu I would prefer not to. I am compelled to campaign to prevent Dr. Loubani and Prof. Greyson, and all their loved ones, from experiencing the unnecessarily protracted and painful detention we did. I call on Egyptian authorities to free them and enable them to continue their critical humanitarian work. I call on the Canadian government to ensure that happens without further delay. And I call on you to keep up the global call for their freedom.

Please sign this petition, and join this Facebook Group to stay informed of progress, calls for action, and a Facebook Page and website coming soon. Every action you take makes a difference to their spirits, the ability of their loved ones to keep fighting, and ultimately to their freedom. I know from experience.

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Note: A website has just been launched for the latest news and calls for action. Please share it far and wide.

Re-posted from Huffington Post

Deepak Chopra: Spoiler Alert — Why There Can Be No Peace in Palestine

During the time last week when Egypt was brokering a truce in Gaza, televised news reports said that the proceedings were going slowly because the two sides – Israel and Hamas – refused to face each other in the same room.  Whatever one side said had to be conveyed by messenger to the other. This sort of mutual intolerance more or less symbolizes why there is no peace in Palestine. The most basic requirements for negotiation have not been met.

The conventional wisdom, today as in the past, is that a two-state solution is inevitable, but the road to getting there hasn’t been found. The US has been viewed as an honest broker during the entire Palestinian standoff, going back to the Nixon era, until the Iraq War aroused tremendous anti-American hostility on the Arab side.  As events swing back and forth, as hostilities rise and fall, conditions on the ground have remained remarkably the same as they were in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded.

At that moment a yawning gulf was established between a new country that sees itself as Western, democratized, and advanced and a dispossessed mass of refugees who are poor, backward, and politically chaotic.   The cultural mismatch was extreme, as it remains today. Over time, the possibility for peace was made impossible for one simple reason: Neither side wants it enough.

Peace isn’t arrived at when one side has suffered enough pain to give up or has been forced by armed might to surrender. If it were, Israel would have prevailed long ago.  The defiance of the Hamas leadership who taunted Israel to invade last week is the same kind of suicidal impulse that drives fanatical jihadis to strap bombs to themselves.  Peace isn’t arrived at through exhaustion, either; time always brings a new generation ready to rearm and throw themselves into the fray. Peace isn’t arrived at because one side owns the moral high ground. In this case, Israel has the moral high ground when it says it wants merely to survive as a state – that’s a basic claim no one can deny. But at the same time the rise of the religious right in Israel means that both sides claim that God is on their side. Moral persuasion fades when religious fundamentalism is in force.

The reality on the ground is a state of perpetual non-peace, and the fact that both sides can live that way is testimony to the endless ability of humans to adapt. Israel lives behind a wall, recruits its citizens into universal conscript, acquires advanced military systems, and carries on being a Western -style democracy. The Palestinians carry on as a defiant ghetto culture, perpetually aggrieved, helpless to better their lot until families find a way to emigrate somewhere else.  The ghetto could be turned into a prosperous region with a fraction of the oil revenues amassed in the Arab world, but their neighbors have their own differences with the Palestinians and prefer to have a rhetorical weapon that can be used against Israel.

Both sides are so well adapted that they don’t want peace enough to pursue it.  On television one sees rage, frustration, pain, panic, and intransigence – Israel and the Palestinians pay a price for non-peace. The price is never-ending stress.  Since peace is never achieved through pain, the stress level will rise and fall, as it has in the past. Truces will be made and broken.  At intervals blood will be shed. The only chance that peace will have, in some far-off tomorrow, depends on a culture of peace arising on both sides. Such a culture is possible. Germany and Japan arrived at one after catastrophic defeat. America has a percentage of the population dedicated to one, and if there is ever a tipping point, peace already has millions of voice to counter militarism, arms dealing, nuclear stockpiles, and a taste for war among the right wing.  The culture of peace has yet to prevail anywhere. A shift to peace consciousness is the best hope for the world and the only hope for the Middle East, however long it takes.

www.deepakchopra.com

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photo by: Takver

Gotham Chopra: Dancing on Osama’s Grave

It came up at least four times today. Once at the office with a colleague, once on a conference call with a partner with whom whom I’m producing a television show, once in line at Starbucks, and finally with my nine year old niece at dinner at my sister’s house.

“My friend at school said,” Tara remarked between bites of her chicken sate, “that she was kind of sad to see people singing and dancing about some dead guy.”

“I mean I know he was, like a terrorist,” she qualified, “but it was kind of weird to see everyone celebrating like you did when the Celtics won the Superbowl or whatever.”

I reminded her it was the NBA Finals, not the suberbowl, but point taken.

Tara’s point of view was pretty much the consensus of those that I hang with. But then again, we’re all Hollywood types, you’know the pagan liberals with no real values or moral eqilibirum. Our only allies, ironically, are the east coast ivory tower snotty intellectuals whose worldliness these days are considered a liability and source of anti-patriotic weakness. It seemed for the most part that my 2000 odd face book friend shared my same point of view.

Listen – I’m not really wavering on this. Late Sunday night shortly after President Obama not so subtley declared “mission accomplished” by telling the world that Osama Bin Laden was dead, I tweeted the following: “Celebrating vengeance is uncomfortable to me.” It’s on the record – you can check it.

To me, there was something disturbing about watching all the singing and dancing outside the White House, the partying in the streets, the chants of “USA..USA…” as if, well, the Celtics had just won the Superbowl or whatever. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve explained countless times over the last few days in stating my position, I have no empathy for Osama Bin Laden who by all objective accounts was  mass murderer who never had any remorse for the countless lives and families that he destroyed. It would seem the only thing that stopped him from continuing his hellstorm of murder was that he’d been forced into a literal corner of the world hiding out like some lame thug that his mob family no longer considered worth protecting. When fate came knocking on his door, there were no protectors saving their master, just a few “couriers” and sad sack wives used as human shields.

Still, to me, even at the most instinctive level – for at the time few details had leaked of the nature of Osama’s kill – something about seeing frat boys flexing their muscles and singing “God Bless America” rubbed me the wrong way. Why? Countless reasons really. It reminded me of frenzied celebrations I’d seen as a reporter covering processions in places like Gaza where you Arab men burned Israeli and American flags in effigy. it was reminiscent of the horrid story I’d just heard a few hours before when 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan described her assault just weeks ago in the chaotic “celebrations” that had occurred in Tahir Square in Cairo.

I’m not sure how to say it, except that all the jubilation from the bloody death of another human being just plain felt undignfied to me. Yeah – I think I’m beter than that. I get the fact that this Human Being barely qualified as part of our species and had few, if any, sympathizers in the first world, but still.  It’s not even the “messaging” of it all to the Arab world, how it might spur retribution, much of which was talked about on talk radio and elsewhere. It’s deeper than that. It’s, dare I say, a spiritual issue to me. Because how we react as a people to the vengeful killing of another person defines us in many ways. Are we people who celebrate life? Or death?

Here’s my confession: I’m happy Osama Bin Laden is dead. It’s not even some sort of karmic thing to me. For surely in this tangled several decade long war, sponsored by and then resolved by (for now) the CIA and other like western agencies, there are a lot of karmic debts to pay in the cards, a lot of blood on a lot of people’s hands. But nope, Osama being assassinated by the President of the United States – and make no mistake, that’s what this appears to be – sends a clear message to those that prey upon the innocent through acts of terrorism: no matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs, no matter where you hide – in a cave or some Pakistani version of Palos Verdes – you’ll get your comeuppance. There’s something badass about that which I quite respect. Seal Team Six definitely has my admiration, even if Tara and her third grade friends have even more for simply questioning the dignity in dancing on the grave of some dead guy.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / John McNab

Chicago Tribune – Ahmed Rehab: Do actions of the ‘Jewish state’ represent Jewish values?

http://www.ahmedrehab.com/2010/06/do-actions-of-the-‘jewish-state’-represent-jewish-values/

 

Israel is often dubbed “the Jewish State” by its supporters, so it is not out of left field to question whether its actions should be taken as a reflection of Jewish values. That is a question ultimately for Jews to answer.

Personally, as a Muslim whose own faith values are often undermined by the misdeeds of those who claim to act in the name of defending the honor and freedom of Muslims, I know better than to blame Jewishness for Israel’s egregious violations.

Israel’s failure is not a failure of Jewish values. If anything, it’s a failure to apply Jewish values.

 

Yesterday’s massacre of humanitarian aid activists by Israeli commandos who stormed their flotilla in international waters made global shockwaves. The flotilla hoped to deliver 10,000 tons of food, medicine, and construction materials to the besieged Gazans who experts say face a critical shortage of basic needs following three years of a land, air, and sea blockade imposed by Israel, and abetted by Egypt. The incident was met by a flurry of condemnations and protests by many around the world who felt that Israel’s pre-dawn attack was just another example of Israel thinking it can breach international law with special impunity.

Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu said of the incident:

“This action was uncalled for. Israeli actions constitute a grave breach of international law. In simplest terms, this is tantamount to banditry and piracy. It is murder conducted by a state. It has no excuses, no justification whatsoever. A nation state that follows this path has lost its legitimacy as a respectful member of the international community.”

But here at The Seeker, a blog that concerns itself with religion and its role in the public sphere, we ask the question, does this crisis have anything to do with religion?

Well, not directly. Israel’s decision to storm the flotilla was more likely motivated by political rather than religious considerations. While Israel could probably tolerate the delivery of international aid to the Gazans, it is doubtless queasy about the flotilla’s role as a symbol of defiance against its state-imposed blockade and its national will power. After all, the blockade is itself a political strategy to force the Palestinians into despair and thus revolt against Hamas, the democratically-elected party perceived by Gazans as a legitimate resistance and social services enterprise, but deemed by Israel as a terrorist organization.

So where does religion come in?

Religion, whether Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or any of the other great global faiths of the world, at its core works to address a problem that is man’s most treacherous undoing: his reckless drive for power. It does so by mitigating this force of human nature via a concept arguably more powerful: morality (the notion of self-imposed red-lines).

Israel’s failure is no doubt one of moral proportions:

Israel’s willingness to send its armed commandos to attack unarmed activists in international waters is doubtlessly a clear breach of international law, but more importantly it is a breach of a basic moral code of honor. Former Israeli Knesset member, Uri Avnery, opines: “a warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists, it is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do.”

Israel’s willingness to inflict collective punishment against a civilian population of 1.5 million people in the form of a life-choking blockade poses many legal problems, but more importantly it poses a moral dilemma amid concerns of human dignity and human rights.

State morality is a concept that gets little play, it is a meek concept that quickly buckles under the weight of the somber rhetoric of realpolitik; it’s the classic “let the dreamers make way for the big boys” and “welcome to the real world” treatment.

Judaism, like Islam and Christianity has a long tradition of respecting and honoring human life. The challenge for Jews, like it is for Christians and Muslims, is whether or not those values will stand strong in the face of life’s tests and tribulations, or whether they will merely be celebrated in theory, only to quickly make way for raw human ego and unabashed power trips when the going gets tough.

 

 

Bumper Stickers, Lapel Pins and Sound Bytes, Oh My!

I remember the first time I saw one . . . a white on black bumper sticker with large clear lettering:

1.20.09

There was small print underneath it, too small for me to read. At an intersection, I inched the bumper of my car as close as I dared to the car sporting the date so I could read the words. Now they say things like "Barack Obama Inauguration Day," and "The end of an error," but the originals read:

Bush’s Last Day

This was a few years ago. I smiled at the time. And said something like, "Amen," out loud.

On Thursday evening this past week, I watched the outgoing president’s thirteen minute farewell to the nation speech. Speechless is how he left me. History, by its nature is subject to revision because of the permeability of memory, but I have to agree with Arianna Huffington’s summation on The Rachel Maddow Show. She said (in her magnificent Greek accent), "I have to go with Art Garfunkel on this. ‘Still crazy after all these years.’"

It’s hard to strike me dumb, but #43 managed it. Afghanistan is a young democracy encouraging girls to go to school — and having acid thrown in their faces for their trouble. Iraq is a friend of the United States in the Middle East — Hamas is bombing Gaza at the same moment. New Orleans is doing just fine thanks after Katrina. The bottom line? According to his lapel pin flagged self, America is a better America because of George W. Bush.

The Great Rabbi of Nazareth teaches a spectacular lesson about bearing self-witness in the Gospel of John. "If I bear witness of myself, then my testimony is not true." The law of the land at the time insisted that three witnesses were necessary to establish truth.

Mr. Bush has had plenty more than three witnesses. In fact, the full complement of the American people have watched the past eight years in varying degrees of shock, awe, incredulity, and acclaim. His revisionist, self-witnessing history remains appalling.

And yet, and yet . . . on Tuesday, we enter a new era with new bumper stickers, new lapel pins and new sound bytes. Perhaps Mr. Obama might take a page out of the masterpiece of L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?

What he needs to be a great leader are three things he has developed over the many years of his public service: a brain, a heart, the noive. The October 1900 issue of Kindergarten Magazine characterizes these archetypes as "the really thoughtful Scarecrow, the truly tender Tin Woodsman, and the fearless Cowardly Lion."

Let’s see Mr. Obama taking the Oath of Office, swearing to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States with thoughtfulness, tenderness, and fearlessness. I’ll gladly bear witness to that.

 

Visit Susan Corso’s spiritual blog or subscribe to Seeds at www.susancorso.com.em>

Originally posted for The Huffington Post

Ode to Gaza

Much of the killing in Gaza has stopped. All we have are remnant cries of mothers hunching at child limbs lost, of fathers sobbing at houses bashed, and tears of babes in tearless awe. The Muslim missiles across Jewish borders are nearly hushed. All we have are remembrances of cowered Jews bunkered underground, awaiting metal into waiting flesh, and blood-splattered men rushed to scalpels ready. All that’s left is a cratered faith in Abraham.

I once knelt beside Muslim hands that opened up to Allah and aimed terror’s praise at Hamas. I once sat beside Jewish fingers that pointed to God and piously dug into the ground of Islam’s envy. I witnessed covenants that were choosing rocks.

Religion is moving no mountains. We are wearing dynamite and driving the tank, sending the drone and hurling the knife. We are building homes and hating him who covets what we posses. We are insisting it is our own God who’ll win, while planting bombs to clear His way. We stack our walls and carve our tunnels, shouting our pieties and boastful creeds, hoping that they split the souls of those who don’t believe.

Once upon in Gaza, Samson fell, and in turn his vengeance upon the Philistine fell. Today in Gaza the Jewish hammer falls, and from there the falling Muslim rockets land. In Gaza we see the Old Testament tale, where murder is faith.

My religion looks back with pride and front with fear. Can we at last grab our patch of dirt and fruit, and in humble work feed our mouths? Bowing not to Heaven but to ourselves. I pray my faith may one day touch the lips of all lovers and babes, and damn the gods of Arabs and Jews, and believe in no one and in nothing but the kiss. So help me God.
 

Steve Posner is the author of "Israel Undercover: Secret Warfare and Hidden Diplomacy in the Middle East." His latest book is "Spiritual Delights and Delusions: How to Bridge the Gap between Spiritual Fulfillment and Emotional Realities." Visit his website at steveposner.com

The Heart of The War in Gaza

 I recently booked a family at our School for Wonder retreat in Santa Fe for the month of January. Little did I know this family would instantly become my hotline to the war in Gaza, and a whole new view of the friends I have known for over thirty years who live on the West Bank in Jerusalem.

Our current School for Wonder retreat guests are the parents of Jason Hicks. I learned that when his mom phoned me about how to use an appliance at the retreat house. We got to talking, and I mentioned the war somehow, my friends in Jerusalem, and Pam Hicks said, "Yes, my son is there right now, working for peace."

I was dumbstruck. The same morning I had gotten a phone call from a high school friend who lives on the West Bank in Jerusalem. I was presuming this retired couple on retreat had no interest in the outside world, and certainly not the war in the middle east. Jason’s father is a Democratic delegate from Wisconsin, and left on a plane today for the Inauguration! Pam stayed behind with two friends to continue the retreat, hooking primitive rugs around the kitchen table.

The conversation that followed was so tender, as Pam explained the situation to me from Jason’s point of view, a Palestinian devastation beyond my comprehension. 

Her son Jason is working for peace through the Isreal Palestine Delegation in Jerusalem. Jason is a wonderful man, whose mother is teaching me to look much deeper than my personal friendships, to the heart of desecration in Gaza. My friendship with Israeli’s who grew up in my hometown of Mishawaka, Indiana had said their government had no choice but to attack, to save their lives and their homes.

Jason’s mother quietly shared his perspective with me, explaining how it simply isn’t true, without giving any indication of judging my friends as she spoke. The US has been backing the slaughter of people living in Gaza with merciless aggression, refusing to sign a sustainable cease-fire. The more I learn about what has actually occurred, I can’t imagine broaching the subject with my friends in Jerusalem now. The levels of fear are so high, any suggestions would be met with resistance.

Jason mentioned in his call home to the retreat house today that he intends to visit my friends on the West Bank. This amazes me, and comes in response to my asking what I COULD DO FOR HIM! I am so amazed by how this retreat family feels like my own extended family overnight, simply by sharing a moment. Jason has emailed me and said he would be thrilled if I posted a link to his blog.

 

Jason’s blog can be found at http://israelpalestinedelegation2008.blogspot.com/

War seems so impersonal and political until it’s your best friends from high school calling to say they are closing the schools 40 miles from their settlement, completely unaware of any wrongdoing on the part of the Israeli government. It’s not for me to judge, only to love and be a witness to the horrible fear that creates this kind of devastation. Jason will go to see them, and carry my love. What a miracle that is!

My love for these families far outweighs my need to try to change their perspective. Instead, I allowed my own perspective to be changed, and have since done the research to understand the history of this war. Amy Goodman has done an incredible job of interviewing brilliant scholars on Democracynow.org to clarify the history of this war. I have no excuse for relying on my friends on the West Bank for a clear perspective. I can love them fully, and send mercy through a man who is doing what he can to create peace.

Will you join me in writing a comment of support for Jason and his family? I’ll send your post to them in an email.

peace, Jess

http://www.schoolforwonder.com

 

Haunted By Your Pain, Gaza

I was at the Times Square, New York City protest held by the Palestinians against the Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

 I am not a Palestinian, and I am not an Arab, but I can say one thing with certainty, I am not who I was anymore either.
 
I did not go to participate in the Protest as much as I wanted to observe the people. I stood back and watched, and absorbed the emotions, the feelings, the chants, the anger, the frustration, the pain of this large group of people who felt the disenfranchisement of a dispossessed people at their very heart..

I came across the young, the old, Jewish, Arab, Christian, Hindu ranging from all different nationalities, holding placards chanting for a common belief. The belief that humanity must not be abused such in the 21st century. Despite freezing temperatures, the crowd stood their ground with a lot of fervor.  Emotions were running high as they made their way to the west side of the city, in a big swarm
 
While there, I engaged with a few people in conversation. It didn’t take long to be awed by the energy rooted in their desperation, but I was interested to see what lies beneath all this trepidation. I encountered a young man, his head wrapped in the Intifada scarf, which has come to be quite the fashion statement in New York I noticed, and parts of Europe this last Fall. He proclaimed that e was not a Muslim…but this protest had nothing to do with being Muslim or Palestinian.  He was quite simply enraged at the Human Right’s atrocities that are taking place in Gaza. "Today we are all Palestinians," he said, regardless of religion or ethnic allegiances.  For how long will Israel pound Palestinians and treat them like caged animals? He went on to say that he had no sympathy for Hamas up until this moment.  But now he thought, that Hamas was justified in its anger and its hate toward the Palestinians.

The lack of coverage of this carnage on American Media has been so disturbing to people, especially since the average person supports Israel’s actions because of the Katyusha’s that Hamas keeps firing at Israeli cities.  These poor people are not aware of the fact that Israel controls their land, and has put a siege all around their living areas. That people who lived in that land prior to the creation of Israel are now not allowed to travel any distance without first being humiliated and searched at various check points. Their children have no access to schools or food or aid. Because by the time anything is cleared by the Israeli’s it is almost always too late.  In their own land, they have been reduced to live the lives of deprived of any human dignity and hence the Katyusha’s are a desperate cry at this constant inhuman assault on a people’s basic rights.

I also met a young Jewish student who is training to be a Rabbi, and polite as he was, his understanding of the problem was simply Hamas. And I don’t blame him either, because living in America what else would you conjure the problem to be?  When I pressed him for what he thought was a solution, for after all no human being wants the lives of innocent children to be lost on either side. In his opinion the problem of the Jews and the Arabs was the complete removal of Hamas, and that action would pave the way toward a solution- which he did not quite fully articulate but suggested, that trade could be a constructive common goal that both Palestinians and Jews could get involved in.  The chap in the Intifada scarf felt now Hamas deserves sympathy and they have a right to fight back this mechanized death unleashed on the Palestinian civilians. His voice rose in tempo as he spoke…and his anger flushed all around us.

From among the crowd, an elderly woman walked up to us, and her grief was tantamount to someone who might have lost a close relative in the  torture that Israel is putting the Palestinians through, and she lamented as though beating her chest and screaming and spewing her hatred for what the Israeli’s have done to a people they have dispossessed. I stood there watching her screams and her hate, absorbing her pain, her anger and felt shaken when she screamed, "I Love Hamas," in my face. But it was her rage and it was her pain and it was her anger that I can’t shake off. Watching her, in the middle of Times Square in such a state on this cold day, I thought to myself that there is no way I can even begin to fathom the state of the mothers who actually lost their children in this unfounded, disproportionate and completely out of context aggression.

A young Israeli who was passing by, said that the Palestinians need to help their own people and that they should not have usurped all the aid that was given to their leaders. "All the financial aid that was given to Arafat is in Paris, right now." I have heard this line so very many times before, that at that point I thought I was transported back to the 80’s. My question to him would be, do all Israeli leaders have pristine reputations? Was it not very recently that Olmert was fighting off corruption charges against himself? Apparently he had usurped hundreds of thousands of dollars from a New York based financier, Morris (Moshe) Talansky. Obviously blaming the leaders for their corruption has not yielded much good for these people. Is it not true that the Israeli’s have converted all the money that the US gave them in aid, into military armament, over and above the ammunition they receive from the United States, anyway?

And then repeatedly the young Rabbi-to-be ranted about how wonderful things were in the West bank. Why could the Gazans not behave like the Fatah party?  After all they were not being targeted and killed and their lives were not being dispossessed. I absorbed this too, and while I mentioned to him that Fatah just did not have it in them to pick on an enemy with the military size that Israel has, and are only really concerned with surviving from one day to the next, he went on to say the one thing I heard from him throughout our conversation, that Hamas needs to be pulled out completely and the Gazan’s need to take a page out of Fatah’s book.

Soon the crowd started gathering momentum and chanting, "Allahu Akbar" in unison (God is great) as they marched on to the west side. I then into a Palestinian doctor and asked him a few questions about why he was there and what he thinks is the solution to this constant carnage in the Middle East. Incidentally, he belongs to the West Bank and his family currently resides in Nablus, where it is nothing short of hell for them, he said. He went on to tell me that though his family is safe from immediate military danger from Israel, their lives have been reduced to those worst than animals. In a land that was their own, where their forefathers lived and where his family had resided for so many years, today they were under a complete siege. There are clear demarcations that divide the West Bank from Israel, and for them to get to any point at all they have to send a letter of permission to the Israeli authorities to be allowed to travel the distance. For this  permission to be granted it can take up to 3-4 days. He looked me square in the eye, and shouted, "Is this some way to live?"  "Nothing can go out, and nothing can get in." If children want to go to school , they go through several check points. There are some 80 check points in an 8 mile distance, so getting out of their houses to any destination becomes more of an ordeal and a humiliation than anything else.

I can’t begin to imagine how crushed their spirit must be? How they must feel that life cheated them, while they were still alive. How they must fear for their children? And now with the constant bombing of Gaza what sense of security do the West Bank Palestinians really feel? What sort of a terror do they constantly live under and how dangerously it distorts their perception reality? 9/11 came and went in a matter of a few hours but it let its effects reverberate to this day. However their 9/11 has been progressively happening each and every day for the last two weeks. What security do they have, knowing what Israel can do to the Palestinians on the other side? How is their fear any different than the ones that are constantly getting bombarded. Their children are growing up in this terror. What sort of generations is the world going to be seeing?

The easy answer it seems from the Israeli side was to pull Hamas out and destroy it. Well, Hamas does not govern the West Bank, why then are those people treated like animals? If Hamas is destroyed, does that mean that the Gazans will then have lives like that of the West Bank Palestinians to look forward to? How is that any better than the hell that they are in right now? At least this way, immediate death is a way out, but to die every day like those in the West Bank, without any dignity must surely be the harder way to go.

 

Unconditional Love – Gaza and All

While cashing a check at my local bank, I noticed that the two bank tellers working inside were both Muslim women. As they processed my transaction I started to think about the middle east conflict escalating in Gaza.

She put the check in her drawer, handed me my cash, and that should have been the end of the transaction. Instead though, I looked her right in the eyes and said, "Peace be with you". As if pleasantly surprised all she said back was "thank you", but the look in her eyes was one of emotional aching and the tone of her voice conveyed deep appreciation for my words. Very unexpectedly, I started to feel a profound human connection to her and I started cry uncontrollably.

I left the bank and sat in my car for a long time, agonizing over all the suffering resulting from religious conflict. As I sat there crying, I became even more upset at the lack of a clear solution to the middle east conflict.

I do not have "the" answer. But as a person committed to the practice of nonviolence I do have MY answer: No matter what happens, I will not kill anybody. No matter what happens, I will not kill anyone. Even if my country is stolen from me, even if my house burned down, and even if my family is murdered by religious extremists… I will not retaliate with violence.

In my heart of hearts I know with complete and total certainty that my choice, my path, and my life purpose, is Unconditional Love.  Will you join me?

Infinite Blessings,
Zach Perlman

Executive Director
Monks Without Borders
www.MonksWithoutBorders.org

Why Do So Few Speak

Commentator Rober Sheer provides an essential backgrounder on Gaza and Israel that is a must-read for those trying to make sense of the situation. Here’s an exceprt:

Why is it that there is such widespread acceptance, beginning with the apologetic arguments of President Bush, that whatever Israel does is always justified as necessary to the survival of the Jewish state?

It is not.

While the Hamas rocket attacks are reprehensible, they are also an ineffectual challenge to Israel’s enormous security apparatus, and the severity of Israel’s response to them is counterproductive. Clearly, the very existence of Israel is not now, nor has it ever been, seriously challenged by anything the Palestinians did. Not back in 1948, when Israel was established as a state with insignificant Palestinian military resistance, nor at the time of the 1967 Six-Day War when Egypt, Syria and Jordan fought Israel.

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