Thursday, November 27, 2014

Do Something!

A young girl in the ruins of her home. Jabalia, Gaza, Nov 2012.

Burn It Down


Burn it down.
Burn the stores.
Burn the signs.
Burn the banks.
and the thin blue line.

Burn the symbols. Burn the guns. Burn the cars.
Burn it til it's all undone.
Burn the prisons. Burn the courts. Burn the sentences.
It's a last resort.
Burn it down.
Burn the system. Burn the constructs. Burn the norm. Burn the insults.
Burn it til we all transform.
Burn the broken hardheartedness.
Burn the hate.
Burn it down.
The world can't wait.
Melt the chains.
Crack the seed.
Burn the binds that cinch the mind.
A monk once said, "A single spark, the whole forest burns."
Light it up.
Burn it down.

(in memory of MLK and Mike Brown gunned down in the streets of America.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lost Lessons on 9/11


Thirteen years have gone by. Thirteen blood filled years. The number of deaths perpetrated by the United States boggles the mind. The numbers of U.S. deaths, including the first responders dying of cancers and lung ailments, soldiers dying on the battle field, or soldiers killing themselves at home, pales in comparison to the retribution we have meted out across the globe- often to completely innocent victims of our self serving “justice”. Yet our President endorses more bombing, more destruction, and more death. On the thirteenth anniversary, with the carnage stretching from North Africa to Central Asia our President says, “ISIL has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.” He could very easily be describing us.

This time he assures us, it is different. Our service members are less likely to die because there will be no boots on the ground, (he then explains he is sending hundreds of advisers to Iraq). The method is not much different than the policy of murder we have carried out in sovereign countries during Obama’s presidency. We will bomb them. Innocent men, women and children will die. The weapon manufacturers will prosper. Our Congress members will continue to enrich themselves. Opposition to the United States will grow.

The President points to Somalia and Yemen as success stories in the war on terror. He does not mention the street protests embroiling the capital of Yemen as that country teeters perilously close to chaos. He fails to mention Libya, now a failed state after our intervention. Iraq and Afghanistan are spun as success stories now that the troops are coming home, but incredible levels of violence persist.

He claims we are safer because of these interventions and in the next breath says we are in mortal danger.

He says, “We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world.” He goes on to claim, “Our timeless ideals will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.” Though these contradictions make no sense we are asked to accept them, and support them to show our “united front.”

President Obama speaks of living in a time of great change, yet our policies remain mired in violence and coercion. The promise of “change” propelled Obama into office. And change we’ve seen. President Bush has all but vanished, painting paint by number self-portraits in his shower. Cheney’s got a brand new heart and it’s a perfect match, he hasn’t an ounce of added empathy, and he may be even meaner than before. Obama has also changed, his rhetoric morphing into the words of his predecessors. Like Bush, Clinton, the senior Bush, and Reagan before him, he talks of America’s goodness, our endless blessing, our timeless values, and our leadership in the world. He speaks of our pursuit of freedom, justice, and dignity as F-16’s and drones decimate people around the globe. In times of crisis you may find him on the golf course. In due time he may be painting watercolors as well, though for two more years he will paint with a broader brush, his color crimson and his canvas the deserts and gardens of Syria and Iraq.

In New York there is a new museum display, a 9/11 shrine for family members of those who died in the towers is now opened for public viewing. You can go online and do a virtual tour and zoom in on the thousands of personal notes for those who were killed. It is heartbreaking. The multitudes of notes cry out about loss, and memory, and love. I recognize this heartbreak descending across the globe and settling on every village we bomb. Every innocent we kill has loved ones left behind. The shattered lives of 9/11 now echo and multiply exponentially across the globe.
I did not see any notes that call for retribution or endless war. This is the call of our government. Bombing is not the answer. Violence is not the answer. Vanquishing is not the answer. Thirteen years teaches us.

The lessons were not lost on our government. They have proven time and again they simply are uninterested or incapable of pursuing peace. The lessons lost are lost on us, the citizens of America. We are asked to remember our values, but not how they have been abused. We are reminded of our personal goodness, but asked not to apply it to the state. We are reminded of our greatness, but not of our faults. We are told to look ahead and asked to ignore the current enrichment of a few at our expense.  

How much longer will we tolerate our government’s endless war? How much longer will we tolerate our failing infrastructure, our failing schools, our failing economy with our leaders promising a brighter future that never comes? How much longer will we tolerate our soldiers returning home only to kill themselves? How much longer will we tolerate the crushing of dissent with our ultra-militarized police forces?  The war on terror brought to our streets.

President Obama likens ISIL to cancer. And like a good doctor he warns us that risks are involved. But like a bad doctor, he never tells the patient that they have alternatives to the often-fatal treatment he provides. He never warns the patient their behavior contributes to the cancers spread. He never tells the patient that they can be a proactive, positive influence on their disease.

The President proclaims we “Uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.” Lofty rhetoric aside, how much longer will it take Americans to recognize that it is our government who offers hate, divisiveness, and destruction to the world? How much longer will we accept the utter devastation of foreign peoples in the name of our freedom? How much longer?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Innocent in Gaza


The innocent of Gaza will never forget what is being done to them. In our ignorance we speak of non-violence. We debate the use of rockets. We call anyone who fights back a terrorist. We repeat, again and again, Hamas, Hamas, Hamas along with self-defense, self-defense, self-defense.

Some people in this world are entitled to self-defense. Some people are not.

What will we, in our ignorance, and from a great distance, ask of the innocents of Gaza? Will we ask them to forgive? To ignore? To pretend? Will we ask them, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?" Will we ask them why they don't want peace? Will we ask them to cooperate? To negotiate? Will we ask them why they hate? Will we ask them why they fight? Will we ask them to forget?

Yes, we will.

Gaza is being reduced to rubble. Living, breathing, beautiful human beings, just dust and ashes now. We watch from a distance. We believe we are doing all we can, or we believe there is nothing we can do. We absolve ourselves. Like a cold bucket of ice water, our concepts bathe us in a soft light of self-satisfaction.

While Gaza burns.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Are You Still Alive?



 
i passed you on the street one day.
You stood in front of the rubble
Of your once beautiful house,
Your palms extended to the sky.

i sat with you at
Your child’s funeral tent.
We drank sweet tea, you told me
“Fares was the engine of our home.”
Just another boy,
Martyred in his bed.

i was with you, reaping
In the fields of Khouza.
i was with you in the Gaza sea,
The gunboats lit us up.

You called me brother.
You called me habibi.

i saw you on the battlefront,
a flower in your hair.

i was with you in the camp.
You had a message for America,
You said, “Tell your friends,
We are here in Gaza,
But we are not afraid.”
Mohammed, eight years old,
brave beyond his years.

Today, i saw a picture
Of a small blood soaked shoe.
And the Israeli occupiers
Are bombing homes again.

Today, i have but one
Question for you:
My friend,
Are you still alive?




















A Message from Gaza by Intimaa Al-Sudoudi


DO Something!

Don’t let us- indigenous Palestinians- lose faith in YOUR humanity, because your silence is, literary, a crime against humanity. First, you have to consider that what the Sate of  Zionist Israel  is doing to us-Palestinians-, is apartheid by definition. Lynching our kids, uprooting our trees, destroying our houses,  killing our pregnant mothers, the medieval siege, the segregation wall and the nasty checkpoints are APARTHIED. Second, the current situation and the breaking news are showing that in each single spot there is a massacre; Gaza strip is a massacre, Gaza city is a massacre, and all Gaza camps are massacres.

Let me ask you a question! Why are you waiting? Children turned into hot, bloody pieces. Whole families have been slaughtered, and we are still waiting for you to wake up! We are fed up with your silence. We do not need a year or even another moment of your silence. We do not need another press release. We do not want you to condemn and deplore. What we need is a concrete action. Show us your humanity expel the devil out of your country because what is going on right now in Gaza is by your name and your governments  support of Israeli crimes that violate international laws.

Hello, I am sure that you heard that within less than three days  more than hundred Palestinian were murdered, and over six hundreds were injured, and the majority of them are kids and women. Hey, you! Don't close your eyes or give us your deaf ear.  Palestinians are not allowed to leave the Gaza Strip for urgent medication due to the imposed siege since 9 years and what did you do in all these years to stop this? How many decades do we have to stay in an open prison? Let alone the destruction of our houses, infrastructure, mosques, churches, schools, and hospitals. Have you not seen our loved ones turned into headless bodies, and dismembered corpses?! Have you not seen the murder of a fetus on his mother's womb?  How many decades do we have to die in silence while everybody is watching? Wake up!

We will not forgive your silence.  The children’s blood will always haunt your conscious.
Do not tell us that you are sending money, tents, and food! Shut the hell up! Do not tell me that you are going to post a solidarity statement on Facebook and Twitter!

Show us your anger, your rage, your humanity. Say no to the devil in your land. You’ve heard the children’s pleas haven’t you? You’ve seen Palestinian flesh, bones and blood scattered everywhere. True? What are you waiting for? More blood? We ask all of you, human beings, to go and protest against the Israeli embassy, look to them in the eyes and shout; stop Israel’s genocidal war, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment against civilians and innocent populace and end the horrific barbaric siege that is sucking our humanity.

Your actions matter, your rage can save Palestinian kids, and your support is your humanity.      

Message from indigenous Palestinian
Let me hear you as soon as possible,
There is an F16 hovering over my head,
Respond to the call of humanity,
Because Palestinians are human beings,
Exactly like your families.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Letter to a Friend as Gaza Burns

Thank you for your note. It is with a sick heart that i write this from my kitchen table. About 3 mos ago i made a vow to my partner that i would be here for her and not travel this summer as we prepare to move to Florida. i have already broken that vow once. i can not do it again.

It is incredibly difficult- i feel physically ill. Not because my presence in Gaza would solve anything, but only because what is happening to the people there is so egregious and so stunningly inhumane that i prefer to stand with them--- in a sense to reclaim my own humanity which is diminished every time a bomb demolishes a home. Anything less doesn't seem like enough. So i feel like i've failed, not just a small failure before me, more a universal failure----a failure without redemption.

For many days i have been besides myself with anger. Writing these words helps dissipate the violence in my mind and allows the incredible sadness of my being room to breathe. Unfortunately, it does nothing to stem the violence raining down on the people of Gaza.

i reach out to touch the beauty around me, my friend, my dog, the ocean, the blue sky and it sustains me for a moment, realizing it is a temporary panacea as the bombs (our bombs, my bombs) continue to fall far around the world. i recognize the people of Gaza have few moments to reach out as the unrelenting bombardment continues.

Last night they blew up the port and many fishing boats. They attacked a mosque (in this holy month of Ramadan), they attacked a hospital. They buried people in the rubble of their homes(as they have done everyday since the beginning of this onslaught). It is beyond my understanding.


When human beings, my friends, like the journalist (and a new father) Mohammed Omer write, "I don't know what else to say. I think we are going to die." And my dear friend Intimaa writes, "i am going to try to call my family. I hope they are not all dead." my spirit is crushed.


These are dark days.

May beauty sustain us. Love, Johnny

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The City of the Dead


The City of the Dead in Cairo is an ancient graveyard that for decades has been home not only to the dearly departed interred there, but for their relatives as well. The mausoleums not only house the dead, but one million family members who are some of the most marginalized people in Cairo. It is not unusual for generations of family members to be undocumented- without birth certificates or identity papers. Many never attend a school. To the government, these people are not only dead- they never existed in the first place.

In the run up to the first election since the military coup overthrew the Morsi government, Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made no electoral promises and guaranteed only one thing- that the going will be more difficult for Egyptians in the coming years.

In Cairo the pictures of Sisi are everywhere-from the shops in old Islamic Cairo, to the bridges over the highway, to the buildings downtown, they are plastered on taxis, donkey carts, and Mercedes automobiles. The slogans range from “Egypt is my mother and Sisi is my father” to “The Lord Jesus invites you to vote for Sisi in order to bring to an end the Muslim Brotherhood”, (when churches burn it may be important to remember this one).

It was most disheartening to see banners hanging high above Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution. The place where Egyptians of every sort gathered and talked about change and what they hoped for their kids in the new Egypt- the Egypt they were imagining together. An Egypt free of the Mubarak regime and their cronies, free of the corrupt business elite, and free of the military’s influence over the government. Tahrir Square, whitewashed and sanitized like all the massacre sites around Cairo, holds no hint of the young people who gave their lives for their country and their dreams. They too never existed. In the center of the square sits a monument to the martyrs erected by the hypocritical coup government, defaced the day it was unveiled, today a tombstone for the revolution. All of Cairo is a graveyard, a new City of the Dead and Sisi’s visage looks down on it all.

Outside several polling stations around the pro-military Abassaya neighborhood the atmosphere was festive and the cult of personality that surrounds Sisi was in full bloom. The young men and women who spearheaded the revolution were visibly absent. Parents and grandparents, with children in tow, danced and waved flags, holding up their hands with the now ubiquitous dyed finger. They wore t-shirts emblazoned with portraits of Sisi, and sang along to the blaring sound systems and the honking horns. They posed for photos with policeman and soldiers—some of them undoubtedly responsible for the murders of their countrymen at Mohamed Mahmoud St, Abassaya Square, Tahrir and Rabaa and they voted for the man who orchestrated their deaths. The chants of “Down with SCAF” and “No to Military Rule” echoed deep in my heart, but the voices that raised this cry in the streets of Cairo and throughout Egypt have been murdered, imprisoned, or silenced with threats.

Early returns show Sisi winning the election against his only opponent, Hamdeen Sabbahi with 90% of the vote. Not one poster of Sabbahi adorns any walls in Cairo. He is invisible too. You see he lives in the new City of the Dead. 

The turn out on Monday was so low Tuesday was declared a national holiday in order to get the vote out, when that failed, voting was extended for an additional day. The news anchors of the state sponsored news channels, some with tears in their eyes, implored people to vote. 50% of the electorate turned out to vote in the real elections- the elected government Sisi overthrew. Preliminary counts of voter turnout on Monday show an anemic turnout of 6.5%. It will be difficult to claim a mandate of the people or even a legitimate election if this number doesn’t improve. As I sit writing this, pictures of empty polling stations around the country are crossing my newsfeed. Trucks circle the neighborhood with sound systems cranked up, exhorting people to vote. The City Stars Mall, the largest mall in Cairo has been closed and people are being told to leave and go vote.

This will not deter the Western election observers from declaring a “clean” election. This will not deter Obama from declaring Sisi the legitimate leader of Egypt and renewing the military cooperation that never really ended in the first place- just last month the U.S. delivered 10 Apache attack helicopters to the coup government- they will be used against the Egyptian people living in the Sinai. No US Congressperson will raise their indignant voice to remind the American people that Sisi, like Saddam and Gaddafi and Assad, has killed his own people and should be removed from power. Sen. John McCain will not stand with the protesters demanding the ouster of Sisi. Asst. Secretary of State Nuland will not be delivering cookies.

Protests have been banned and the crackdown has been harsh- estimates vary widely as to those detained. Wiki Thawra announced that 41,000 people have been detained, many without trials, or sham trails- some courts sentencing hundreds to death in a matter of minutes. Included in the arrests are (mostly local) journalists attempting to alert the world to the situation in Egypt. Most of the major Western media outlets have disappeared--- the aftermath of the coup is a lot less photogenic than the spectacle of the “Arab Spring”. Independent journalists are under threat, and largely absent. On Friday three anti-government protestors were killed and dozens injured and arrested in protests around the country (which went unreported in western media) by a police/military force that has killed thousands of citizens with immunity since the coup in July 2013.

So it will be back to business as usual in Egypt. The election will be hailed as a democratic success. The average Egyptian will continue to suffer with a lack of food, poor sanitation, poor infrastructure, terrible schools, and decrepit hospitals. Government employees, doctors, nurses, and teachers will continue to receive a pittance for their labor. Others will scramble to survive. The crackdown will persist. Thousands will remain in detention and more will die. Sisi will move into the palace. Exchanging his uniform for a business suit, he will take Mubarak’s place at the trough.

The revolution, once the hope of tens of millions of ordinary Egyptians and people throughout the world, is buried. But those who live in the new City of the Dead exist and they will not remain invisible forever.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New York City Mayor de Blasio Visits AIPAC


The new mayor gives a speech to AIPAC. In the speech, he said visiting Sderot, a city near the Gaza Strip especially moved him. Mr. de Blasio said, “If they wanted to have time for their kids to play, they have to be in a missileproof, bombproof play area, because you could not know otherwise if your children would be safe.”

Back on Election Day, John del Cecato, the de Blasio campaign's chief media strategist, said, "De Blasio will win because New Yorkers have not accepted that this tale of two cities needs to be our future." I have a different “tale of two cities” for the new mayor.

Fare's father stands in his son's bedroom.
 I traveled further west, to the village of Beit Hanoun in Gaza, where I met a young father whose 8 year-old son had been decapitated in his sleep by an Israeli missile during the “Pillar of Cloud” attack. Fares Al-Basyouni was 8 years old. The children of Gaza have no “missile proof, bombproof” play areas, and they are not safe from Israeli missiles even while they sleep.

Paraphrasing Mr. de Blasio, “You can’t have an experience like that and not feel solidarity with the people and know that they’re on the front line of fighting against so many challenges.”

I stand on the side of justice.

If pandering to AIPAC is the “progressive path” the mayor claims to be on he will be a massive disappointment to real progressives.


Friday, January 24, 2014

A New Exhibit at the Museum


On Jan 11th, the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, WAT opened a new exhibit at the museum of American History- an interactive exhibit denouncing the Guantanamo Prison Camp and calling on the administration to close it down.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Free Djamel


CCR client Djamel Ameziane, one of the first men interred at Guantanamo Bay, has been sent from Guantánamo to Algeria against his will and in violation of international law. He is now being held in secret detention and is at risk. Djamel is an innocent man who has suffered detention at Guantánamo for over a decade, despite having been cleared by both President Bush and President Obama.

On Friday, December 6, in front of the Algerian embassy in NYC, representatives from CCR, Witness Against Torture, and World Can't Wait demonstrated to call on the Algerian government to release Djamel immediately, and to respect and protect his human rights.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Tension Between “Never Forget” and “Looking Forward, not Backwards”


It is reported that this year the commemorations for 9-11 will be “low key”. The names of the dead will be read. Bells will toll. Moments of silence will be observed. I didn’t lose a friend or a family member on 9-11. I imagine it is a rare day that goes by when a loved one doesn’t remember that dreadful day. I imagine life is never “low key”.

The same mourning is played out across the globe. For every person lost in the attack on the twin towers there have been thousands of deaths around the world. The brunt of America’s retribution fell on Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks of 9-11. America’s attack on Iraq was based on lies and fabrications. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions have died. Millions are refugees, their families dispersed on the wind. Babies are born each day with horrendous birth defects. Children die from cancers and diseases unheard of prior to America’s attack. President Obama often claims credit for ending the war in Iraq and bringing the troops home. Yet the war is not ended for those who served. Every day 22 veterans and service members kill themselves in the United States. Suicide is at epidemic levels, the death toll surpassing those killed on 9-11. No one claims credit for this. And Iraq is in chaos. Car bombs and suicide bombers kill dozens on a nearly daily basis. One thousand people died in July alone. The war is not over, though America has moved on.

Those responsible for the illegal war on Iraq remain free. Their lies have been exposed. Their crimes are obvious. Rather prosecute these men and women, Obama said he believed “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” There is expediency in looking forward, especially when your administration will take up the policies of your predecessor and continue to act in unlawful and immoral ways. Drone attacks now kill in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The President reviews a “kill list” on a weekly basis. Targeted assassination is the norm. Innocent men remain imprisoned in Guantánamo. Libya is decimated after our humanitarian intervention.

Syria, already in shattered from war, is now under threat of an American attack. After two years of watching the carnage unfold, an American red line has finally been surpassed. In the lead up to bombing, there has been little looking ahead and many calls to never forget. Hitler has been conjured by Kerry, Clinton, Obama and the media pundits, as usual, when America wants to demonize a “brutal dictator” like Ahmadinejad, like Hussein, like Gaddafi and now Assad. Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons (supplied by the United States) against Iran has also been called upon as evidence of Assad’s depravity. There has been no mention of America’s use of chemicals. No mention of dropping Agent Orange on Vietnam and the ongoing health crisis in that country four decades later. No mention of napalm (for this John Kerry should hang his head in shame). No mention of the chemicals sprayed over wide swaths of Latin America in our endless “War on Drugs”. No mention of white phosphorus used on civilians in Fallujah. Our “never forgetting” has its limits, you see, as does our “not looking backwards”. Quoting Kerry, “Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.” Unfortunately our morality has its limits as well.

President Obama claims our ideals, principles, and “world leadership” are at stake in Syria.

Laying out his moral justification for a cruise missile attack, on the eve of Sept 11th, Obama had the audacity to claim, “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

With humility and resolve Americans should deal honestly with our past, with our present, and with our dire future. With modest effort and risk we can make the future safer for all children. We can do this by simply demanding accountability of our leaders and recognizing the only thing that is exceptional about America is our inability to see other’s lives as valuable as our own.

No one forgets the loss of loved ones at the hands of their oppressors. No one forgets their child’s (or their parent’s) suicide when they return from war. Loved one’s memories are long and children inherit the stories. Looking forward does not erase the past, except perhaps in the “victor’s” history books.

In time, Hilary Clinton, John Kerry and Obama will find their places in history alongside Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, and Bush. Each and every one of them are hypocrites, liars, and war criminals. And as the world has paid for the criminal acts of 9-11, we Americans will one day pay for our countries crimes.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hunger Strike Song

Day 96 of a Hunger Strike at Guantanamo. The vast majority of the prisoners are participating. Many are being force fed. Contact your Congress people, contact the White house. Demand action. Close Guantanamo. Free all the men who are cleared for release. Share this song. Stand and sing!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I've Seen Them Before

i haven’t looked at the images from Boston. i’ve seen them before. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and myriad other places.

i haven’t read the stories emanating out of Boston. i’ve heard them before. Roz Mohammed, whose brother was killed in a drone attack in rural Afghanistan; little Ayoub, who was blown to pieces under the lemon tree in the family garden in Gaza City, his mother holding a blood splattered lemon as she spoke of her little boy, kissing her goodbye and running outside to go to school; eight year old Fares, the “generator” of the family decapitated as he slept in the family home in Beit Hanoun. These stories are commonplace in the world where American foreign policy is at work. And i am tired of hearing them. i am tired of mourning tents and mother's tears. My heart has been carved into little pieces. In this butcher shop of a world i begin again.

The mistake is the belief that there is a difference between here and there. There is not.

People, all of us, have been paying in endless death and dismemberment. If you woke up angry and vengeful this morning, take a very careful look in the mirror. Go beyond this blemish or that, and look in those angry eyes. Delve deep and see how tarnished and hard our hearts have become. If you do not recognize that the children killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, are as very precious as your children or the children injured and killed in Boston, you are gravely mistaken, you have been blinded.

We Americans, each and every one of us, are killers. We are supporters of terrorism. Each and every time a child is killed by a drone, a tank shell, a bomb (errant or not), machine gun fire, we hold the trigger. We are the terrorists we have been searching for.

There is no "just war". There is no "legal bombing". There is only hatred and ignorance or love. Until we recognize our place as perpetrators in this terrible cycle, hate and ignorance will out.

i choose love.


These stories resonate in light of Boston. It is beyond the time to find a new course in the world.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Land Day is Everyday, Everywhere

In the end they will take it.
Why not surrender?
Relent . Give up.
Decades of struggle.
Stones vs. tanks.
Like arrows vs. Gatling guns.
It’s silly.
Hopeless.
Undeniable as well.

They want it all.
Every last hectare.
Did they tell you?
There is no place for you.
Did they tell you?
Your children will die.

Manifest destiny.
Propaganda to propagate
colonizers on native land.
Judea and Samaria.
Propaganda to propagate
colonizers on Palestinian land.

Land day is everyday, everywhere.
It is not a nostalgic look back.
It is a possibility
of what yet might be.
A possibility to recover
what was lost.
Taken.
Stolen .

A possibility to stop
the theft happening now, 
in front of you.
You don't see it? 
You think 
it's ancient history?
You are trapped.
In your settler mind.
In your colonizer comforts.
i know. 
i too live on stolen land.

Land day is everyday, everywhere.
A possibility to resurrect
a way of life.
A possibility to
recover your heart.

Surrender is not an option.
Collaboration is a crime.
The savages are the civilized.
The terrorists are the state.
The fight will continue
Until the very last stone.
Until the very last drop of blood.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

In Honor of Mahmud Zagout

Thirty-seven years after the first Land Day demonstrations, Israel continues its expropriation and colonization of Palestinian land. Israel continues to expand its illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, forcing Palestinians from their land. Palestinians also face dispossession and displacement inside Israel.

Last year i was at Erez crossing as Palestinian youth threw stones and attempted to plant the Palestinian flag on the closed gate. Dozens were shot, one was killed by a shot to the neck. Mahmoud Zagout would be 21 years old this spring. His cousin, who was with him that day and carried his limp body from the front, said to me, "Mahmoud could not place the flag at the gate. I will. Or my children will. We will continue to resist until we win our rights. Mahmoud’s blood will not be wasted. Hundreds will take his place. We will fight for our rights, for our children, we will fight until we get our land back.”

“The occupiers want us to forget about our land, and about Jerusalem, by turning our focus on our troubles- no jobs, no cooking fuel, no power, no gasoline, but we will not forget. My family is a family of resistance. My uncles have been killed, they’ve been to prison. They died for Jerusalem. Everyone around you here may die for Jerusalem. We are proud to do this.”

Today is Land Day in Palestine. 37 years and youth are still being killed as they fight for freedom. How many youth will die today, resisting to live?

Mahmoud's cousin, Nazir

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Third Day of Spring, 2013 (#2)


This morning in the news, there is a photo of a man set on fire in Egypt and an entire neighborhood in Burma burning. Man's inhumanity is neverending. As the sun rose a mourning dove perched on the fire escape and sang to me. The whole world is burning. i am beyond talking about winning and victory. What we all need, each and every one, is the ability to surrender. Surrender into our brother’s arms and declare, "i wish to live in peace."

The Third Day of Spring, 2013

Tragedy everywhere, ongoing thru time. In the moment, peace arises. On the fire escape a mourning dove coos. The sun, a fiery orange, illuminates the street. A man is set on fire in Egypt. A community burns in Burma. Ashes to ashes, but by my brother’s hand? Screams of all the victims echo across the universe, they settle in my heart. i've heard said, "My religion is kindness." To live that, in the mayhem of this life, means it is time for me to begin work. (It is always time for me to begin this work, and i begin again.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

10 Years on i Remember

10 years on.

i remember peaceful people failed to stop the crime perpetrated on the Iraqi people by my government. One day justice will be served on those who lied and manipulated us into war.









Caught

i wrote this 10 years ago today, just 1 mo after returning from Iraq with Voices and CPT. In the ensuing years, millions marched to no avail. i often wonder about the hotel clerk, and i dread to think of the life he has led over these 10 terrible years.

March 19, 2003
IRAQ REFLECTION: Caught

The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. Two overwhelming powers approach
from opposite sides. Like an animal in a steel trap, they gnaw at their own
leg, hoping somehow for freedom, even at the cost of a limb. They watch as
the smiling hunter approaches, singing songs of freedom, singing songs of
righteousness. They hear the words, "In God we trust," and "God bless
America."

The clerk looks up and welcomes me "home" with graciousness and a smile
each time I enter the hotel. Since we have arrived in Baghdad, this man
has been kind to me, patient with my inability to speak Arabic, concerned
whether I had a good day or a bad day. He has a deep and abiding sadness
in his eyes.

Tonight, he asks, "John, what do you think about this war?" I explain that I
think it is immoral and a tragedy of enormous proportions. "Why did you
come?" he asks. I tell him I want to support my Iraqi friends and stand in
opposition to my government. I came to Iraq because he is not my enemy, but
my brother. He says, "You are better even than us. We do nothing. You come
here to help. We can do nothing, do you understand?"

"My family is here in Baghdad. My father, my brothers. Do you know I go home
each night and I just sit. I only think of one thing: 'What am I to do? War
is coming, What am I to do?' That's it. Tomorrow, the next day, I can do
nothing. I just sit. My brothers, my father, the same."

I look deeply into his eyes. Days, months, years, in this trap. "Why this
war?" he asks. I cannot answer. I want to console him, but I cannot. I want
to hold him like my child, and tell him it will be all right, but it will
not be all right.

"Thank you and your friends for being here, you have good hearts", he says.
He puts his hand over his heart--a common gesture here in Iraq. It is a
reminder for me. For a moment we stand across from each other, holding our
hearts, holding our anguish. We both begin to cry. When I can bear it no
longer, I turn and head for the lift.

The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. They watch as the smiling hunter
approaches, singing songs of freedom, and singing songs of righteousness.
Then they notice the look in the eye. The smile is not for them. The hunter
merely appreciates the prey. He is thinking he will end it quickly and go
home with his prize. The songs are not for them. In the eyes of the
approaching power freedom, democracy, and security is only for a select
group. As the prey looks up in a final plea for mercy, this truth becomes
self evident.

Among the Date Trees

On the anniversary of the start of the Iraq bombing and invasion, i dug out a piece i wrote 10 years ago when i was in Iraq with CPT and Voices.

Feb 7, 2003 -- Sitting in the shade of the palm trees, drinking fresh orange
juice, our hosts encourage us to eat more, drink more, enjoy the sun, enjoy
the company. The children are curious, our hosts relaxed. As the threat of
war looms like a firestorm on the horizon, here on this small fruit farm
the threat seems distant. The feeling is surreal. One of the boys sits next
to me and rests his head on my thigh. I love this child, who honors me with
his trust. More dates arrive, and cakes. But where, I wonder, are my
enemies here beneath the date trees? I feel no divisions here. Looking at
the table, an orange sits next to a grapefruit. Our host points out that
the skin is the same but for the color. Inside the fruit is so different,
but equally nourishing. "This is the greatness of God", he explains. I look
at his hand as he holds the orange, and I look at my hand too.

We take a brief tour of the farm, walking along a narrow path among the
orange, tangerine, and pomegranate trees, the date palms towering above us
swaying gently in the breeze. A boy no more than four picks dandelions as
he tags along (remember picking dandelions when you were just a child? It
has been too long since I have held that innocence, though it is a joy to
behold.) Our host picks oranges and insists that we eat. No is not an
answer, only yes,yes,yes. I recall the soldiers in the West Bank,
destroying olive groves under the guise of security. Where are my enemies?
Are they here amongst the silent trees?

We are invited inside to enjoy a bountiful meal. Our hosts stand behind us,
pulling tender lamb meat from the bones, and filling our bowls. The bowls
are piled high, a feast for guests who come in peace. (The skin is the
same, but for the color. The fruit inside so different, yet equally
nourishing, this is the greatness of God!)

Our leave taking is bittersweet. We place our hands on our hearts, and bow
our heads. We drive off with waves and shouts. Filled and smiling, the
truth is clear. There are no enemies here, just friends, just family. Will
we meet again? Inshallah (God willing), we will meet again, and peace will
fill the air as the date palms gently rock in the breeze.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Watch the News


Broken hearted i watch the news.
Arafat Jaradat is dead.
Thirty years old.
A son, a husband,
and a father--2 young kids.
His jailers claim a heart attack.
Broken bones in the arms, legs, neck, and back.
Tortured by the occupier he died a brutal death.
i sit at home. i watch the news.
Prisoners in the occupiers jails refuse their food.
The streets rise up, stones rain down.
Black smoke and tear gas choke the air.
i watch the news.

i want to be on a plane to beloved Palestine.
i hear the call. INTIFADA!
The Occupiers stamp in my passport
covers an entire page.
In bold black letters it reads:
DENIED.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Imagine

Can you imagine fleeing your home in terror?

Can you imagine fleeing your home in terror and consoling your children, who have fled in their bare feet, that it is just for a short while, soon you will return home.

Can you imagine finding yourself in a refugee camp with nothing.

Can you imagine your son shot on the "border" by the same forces that occupy your land until this day? Can you imagine they dare call your son "terrorist".

Can you imagine dreaming all these years later of the olive groves you planted as a child?

Can you imagine 65 years later, as you lay dying, handing the key to your home to your grand children and telling them, "One day you will return home. One day you will be free!"

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Deep Wound of Wounded Knee


December 29th marks the 122nd anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee. It is a story that remains fresh in the lives of many indigenous peoples across America. Each generation is taught to never forget.
In 1891, reviewing the history leading up to the massacre, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Thomas Morgan said,
“It is hard to overestimate the magnitude of the calamity which happened to the Sioux people by the sudden disappearance of the buffalo. The boundless range was to be abandoned for the circumscribed reservation, and abundance of plenty to be supplanted by limited and decreasing government subsistence and supplies. Under these circumstances it is not in human nature not to be discontented and restless, even turbulent and violent.”
Commissioner Morgan was not empathetic about the plight of the indigenous people. He was just stating facts. One year prior to the massacre, in Oct 1889, he issued a policy paper stating his convictions regarding the native population.
“The Indians must conform to "the white man’s ways," peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must. They must adjust themselves to their environment, and conform their mode of living substantially to our civilization. This civilization may not be the best possible, but it is the best the Indians can get. They cannot escape it, and must either conform to it or be crushed by it. The tribal relations should be broken up, socialism destroyed, and the family and the autonomy of the individual substituted.”
The Wounded Knee Massacre is still commonly depicted as a “battle” that no one can be blamed for, but if blame is assigned it is always made clear that a Lakota fired the first shot. This is the justification for all that followed. A century after the murders, Congress issued an apology, expressing “deep regret” for the events on that day in 1890 when upwards of 370 men, women, and children were gunned down as they fled for their lives. But the Wounded Knee Massacre was not an anomaly, nor was it an accident. Wounded Knee is the entire history of indigenous peoples relationship with Imperialism made manifest in a single event.

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.” Black Elk.

The descendants of the victims commemorate the massacre in order to honor those who have fallen and to foster healing of their still devastated communities. The descendants of the perpetrators ignore inflicting the wound and the wound festers.

From Wounded Knee, where just days after the massacre a young newspaper editor named Frank Baum (later to become famous for the children’s story “The Wizard of Oz”) opined, “The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.“

To Vietnam, where Lyndon Johnson’s call to win hearts and minds of the civilian population was corrupted by GI’s to, "When you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow."

To Iraq, where Madeline Albright was asked if the deaths of ½ million children during sanctions was worth it, she replied "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it."

To Gaza, where Dov Weisglass said, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

To Iran where a new sanctions regime is in place and the state department claims, “The sanctions are beginning to bite,” and dozens of places in between, the wound festers.

In each case, the power with the superior military claims that the occupied and oppressed are dangerous and threaten the very existence of the state, even as the state starves the population, restricts their every move and denies them the most basic rights under the guise of “security”.  All attempts by the “enemy” to seek peace are ignored or derided as “lies” while the theft of land and/or resources continue unabated. Each time the oppressed demand their rights or dare to strike back against their oppressors, the oppressor claims that the people are motivated by hate and seek the annihilation of the state. Negotiations are viewed as a sign of weakness and are rarely pursued unless they can be used as a tool to further oppression. The oppressors continually talk about “pursuing peace” as they systematically destroy any and all opposition.

We kill by starvation, we kill by denying medicine, and we kill by isolation. When that doesn’t silence dissent of the “malcontents” we do not hesitate to kill with bullets and bombs. Remember Commissioner Morgan’s words, “This civilization may not be the best possible, but it is the best they can get. They cannot escape it, and must either conform to it or be crushed by it.”

One day we too will be crushed by this flawed concept of civilization.

The Dahiya doctrine is a military strategy in which the Israeli army deliberately targets civilian infrastructure as a means of inducing suffering on the civilian population, making it so difficult to survive that fighting back or resisting occupation are no longer practical, thereby establishing deterrence. The doctrine is named after a southern suburb in Beirut with large apartment blocks. Israeli bombs flattened the entire neighborhood during the 2006 Lebanon War. But this doctrine is not a modern strategy for controlling populations. Nor is putting the people of Gaza on a “diet” new- subjugating an entire population through a combination of poverty, malnutrition, a struggle over limited resources, and violence is the American way, adopted by our closest allies, (and “the only democracy in the Middle East,” with the “most moral army in the world,”) the Israelis.

Dec 27th marks the 4th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, (the name derives from a popular Hannukah children’s song about a dreidel made from cast lead.) During this attack on Gaza, 1,417 people were killed (330 children), 4336 were wounded. 6,400 homes were destroyed. Hospitals, mosques, the power plant, and the sewage system were deliberately targeted.

Israel accuses Hamas of war crimes for shooting rockets without guidance systems indiscriminately into Israel. Israeli officials claim that “Hamas hides behind civilians” as a justification to bomb civilian population centers and infrastructure. Killing civilians in Gaza using precision munitions, is a war crime, no matter who is hiding behind them.

After the recent killing of 20 children in a Newtown, Connecticut grade school, President Obama, wiping tears from his eyes said,

This is our first task -- caring for our children.  It’s our first job.  If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.  That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations?“

The just completed eight-day Israeli operation against Gaza called the Pillar of Cloud (The name is derived from a Biblical passage) saw three generations of the al-Dalu family wiped out in a single bombing, including 4 children between the ages of 1 and 7 years old. The surviving son does not speak of surrender, relinquishing the families land, or disappearing. He demands justice. His tears are mixed with fury. Can he be blamed?

As the ceasefire went in to effect there was one consistent message from the people of Gaza. We are here. This is our home. We will never leave. They will have to kill every one of us.

Upon cessation of the bombing, our Congress immediately voted to replenish Israel’s bombs and munitions in order for Israel to “protect itself”. The wound festers.

In his speech the President went on to say,

“If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.” 

Wounded Knee has not disappeared. The Lakota people remain. Gaza has not disappeared. The Palestinian people remain. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia people grieve for the loss of their children. The violence wrought upon them in our name continues.  If we can take one step to save another child, we have an obligation to try.