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Thursday, August 04, 2005

 

Thoughts on Boulos' "How can we keep what we cannot defend?"

"What can we do?" "There's nothing we can do." "It's too late. The whole country has been taken over." "The whole land has been devoured." Reverend Naim Ateek quoting activists

"How can we keep what we cannot defend?" This question is posed by Zaki Boulos in his thought provoking essay which must be read in its entirety at peace palestine. This essay will just deal with this bottom line question.

"How can we keep what we cannot defend?" There are many ways of answering this question. In some instances, Palestinians and those working on their behalf in the West are attempting to defend Palestinians, at least through divestment efforts, efforts to sway public opinion, and efforts to sway politicians. This is not the time for me to discuss the merits of Palestinian defense militarily; at least one analyst, Shibel, has documented the deleterious effects of the intifada on Israel's economy. I will leave this type of defense for him and others to consider.

"How can we keep what we cannot defend?" Edward Said addressed this when he admonished those of us living in western countries to concentrate our efforts on American and European public opinion. He also advocated that we seek an Israeli audience. He cited the example of Arafat's inarticulate nephew who was the PA's man in the US (thankfully soon to be replaced with the articulate and urbane Afif Saffieh). Contrast the PA's efforts in the US with the highly efficient and organized Israeli Hasbara campaign.

Just one example of its effectiveness was to change the discourse at Oberlin College. How to deal with anti-Zionists on a left-wing campus, the Hillel Zionists asked? Prior to its efforts, which included joint evenings with the Muslim Students Association, forums, etc., anti-Zionist discourse was the norm on campus. Its campaign was so successful that the discourse has moved in a "two-state" direction, which is exactly what the Hillel Zionists sought to do. They're pretty happy with themselves, having successfully countered attempts for divestment. By portraying themselves to be working toward co-existence, they've apparently sidelined those who seek peace and justice based upon international law and UN resolutions to the "lunatic fringe" corner. It is sincerely hoped that those who seek peace with justice will emerge from this defeat stronger.

"How do we keep what we cannot defend?" I do not live in the US anymore and have only read about efforts of some college anti-Zionist groups, affiliated with Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Campaign. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is one example. It appears from the campus newspaper that two activists, are working to engage the college in a divestment campaign. Mohammed Abed (thanks peace palestine)and Fayyad Sbaihat's well written essays have appeared on the campus' on-line newspaper. Their efforts have been met with a barrage of mostly racist and hateful comments on the same site. However, Mohammed and Fayyad, like any Palestinian advocates, are by now inured to the hateful diatribes. Their efforts have led to a resolution sponsored by the Association of University of Wisconsin Professional Statewide Employees urging divestment. These professionals are affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and encompass twenty-five University of Wisconsin campuses.

"How do we keep what we cannot defend?" The Faculty Senate of Platteville, Wisconsin is the first university faculty body to adopt a resolution calling for divestment. The Presbyterian Church (USA) will divest its portfolio from companies aiding Israel's occupation of Palestine. The World Council of Churches has recommended that its 347 member churches follow the example of the Presbyterians and the Anglican, United Methodist, and United Church of Christ are now considering divestment.

"How do we keep what we cannot defend?" For all the positive news reported above, we still find that Israel is undeterred in building its Apartheid, Strangulating Wall, in spite of the fact that the International Court defended the rights of the Palestinians not to be cut off from their farms, schools, hospitals, families, etc. We find that Israel is resolved to "maximize Jews," and "minimize Palestinians," and this from the Deputy Prime Minister.

"How do we keep what we cannot defend?" George Bisharat, the articulate lawyer, writes beautiful op-ed stories which appear in widely circulated newspapers. No one could read one of his stories and not be moved by his love for Villa Harun ar-Rashid, the house which was confiscated in 1948. When Dr. Bisharat visits the house after many years, the current Jewish occupant insists, "But the family never lived here." Telling, isn't it?

"How do we keep what we cannot defend?" One of the most tireless advocates for Palestinians is, as she describes herself, "just a housewife," Annie Annab, who writes around four-five letters-to-the-editor daily, many of which are published. Here's an example of a letter that she submitted today, August 4 to George Bush. I've included a link so that any Palestinian American eating sunflower seeds right now can wash his/her hands and take a five minute break and write a letter.

http://www.congress.org/congressorg/bio/userletter/?letter_id=444594786
Letters To Leaders
All messages are published with permission of the sender. The general topic of this message is Foreign Affairs:
Subject:Stop Israeli racism-
Support real justice for Palestine : Support the Right of Return.

To:President George Bush
August 4, 2005

Israel's unilateral "disengagement" from Gaza dominates our news, obscuring Israel's continued land grabs and attacks on Palestinians.Today, while all eyes are on the "disengagement" Israel has quietly announced plans to expand yet another West Bank Settlement. And today a Jewish resident of the West Bank settlement of Tapuah, dressed in a Border Police uniform, opened fire inside a bus killing two adolescent girls and the driver of the bus in the Arab town Shfa'amer (Shfaram in Hebrew).

The shooter also directed his fire outside the bus, and the casualties included people outside the bus. Five victims wounded in the shooting were evacuated to Rambam Hospital in Haifa. All were in moderate to serious condition.Israel's Channel 2 when reporting on the incident said the incident was not a terror attack: 57 years ago Zionist terror helped create Israel- and Zionist terror continues to this day... and the persecuted and impoverished Palestinians are called terrorists and imprisoned- or killed- because they dare object. But when reporting breaking news, Israeli Jews aren't called terrorists by the Israeli media.

They are subsidized by the state to live in illegal settlements and make life miserable for the native non-Jewish population of the Holy Land.

Israel's refusal to respect U.N Resolution 194 from 1948, the Palestinian refugees inalienable right of return, reinforces Israeli racism and encourages religious fanatics to wreck havoc through out the region.

Israeli racism is building that awful ugly concrete segregation wall.

And Israeli racism also encourages the media to frame stories that dismiss the very real suffering of the Palestinians.

Please- support real justice for Palestine : Support the Right of Return.

On September 24 there will be a peace march in Washington DC- another peace march because many citizens of this world really do still believe in the rule of law... and real democracy with full and equal rights for all...and peace and possibility....However right now our racist "friend" Israel does not.

Please stop supporting Israeli racism - and Zionist terrorism.

Zionism really is racism- and racism really is wrong. Annie Annab

"How can we keep what we cannot defend?" I have only relayed a few instances of people who are actively defending the right for Palestinians to live with peace, justice, and dignity. We need to keep working with steadfastness to educate westerners about the morality of the Palestinians' cause. We can start defending our relatives in the Holy Land through our efforts in the US and Europe. It is real easy to walk into your congressman's office. I did it a few weeks ago because I needed to help my husband expedite his application for naturalization before we left for Europe again. I could have just as easily walked into Congressman Bill Thomas' office in Bakersfield and engaged the office staff in a conversation about Palestine or left some literature for the congressman. Everyone was quite cordial. I also recommend writing letters and mailing them to your congressman or MP's office/s. E-mails may get overlooked, but if that's all for which you have the energy, please write an e-mail. Write letters to your local papers. Throw in that the US provides Israel with three billion plus dollars a year. Talk to your parish council or deacons about divestment.

"How can we keep what we cannot defend?" My apologies to Zaki. I am forever grateful to him for asking this question and to cutter of peacepalestine for publishing his essay because it has certainly helped me to focus and clarify my thoughts on how one individual may effect a bit of change. In addition to efforts to redouble our activism, it is important to tell our children our history. Every Palestinian home should have a copy of Whalid Khalidi's Before Their Diaspora and All That Remains. It is equally important not to give in to apathy, nor despair. I hesitate to go on about the examples of the spirit that are so inspiring because I do believe that for all his faults Yasir Arafat was right when he said that the Palestinian was not the Red Indian. Despite the Native Americans' almost physical annihilation, they have graced the US with a beautiful spiritual legacy. But we should not be too quick to say that "We will fight no more forever, my children are all dead," as Chief Joseph did and then take comfort in our embroidery, our food, our music, our history, and our spirit. There are nine million Palestinians on this planet, five million of whom are living in exile, and a good many as citizens in western countries. Everyone in the west must aid this struggle; we must work to defend those who remained by biting the hand that feeds the enemy.

"My hope is not built on changing, fluctuating circumstances. Ultimately, my fiath and hope is in a God who would see to it that the situation would change." Reverend Naim Ateek




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