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February 3 2009

Dear All,

Last week, with initial hesitation but finally strong conviction, I
endorsed the Call for a U.S. Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel.
http://usacbi.wordpress.com/   I’d like to offer my reasons to friends,
family and comrades.  I have tried in fullest conscience to think this
through.

My hesitation:  I profoundly believe in the visible/invisible liberatory
social power of creative and intellectual boundary-crossings.   I’ve been
educated by these all my life, and by centuries-long cross-conversations
about human freedom, justice and power—also, the forces that try to
silence them.

As an American Jew, over almost 30 years, I’ve joined with other concerned
Jews in various kinds of coalition-building and anti-Occupation work. I’ve
seen the kinds of  organized efforts to stifle—in the US and
elsewhere–critiques of Israel’s policies–the Occupation’s denial of
Palestinian humanity, destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the
“settlements,” the state’s physical and psychological walls against
dialogue—and the efforts to condemn any critiques as anti-Semitism. Along
with other activists and writers I’ve been named on right-wing “shit-lists”
as “Israel-hating” or  “Jew-hating.”   I have also seen attacks within
American academia and media on Arab American, Muslim, Jewish scholars and
teachers whose work critically explores the foundations and practices of
Israeli state and society.

Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a
cultural and academic boycott.  But Israel’s continuing, annihilative
assaults in Gaza, and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven
me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges. Israel’s blockading
of information, compassionate aid, international witness and free cultural
and scholarly expression has become extreme and morally stone-blind.
Israeli Arab parties have been banned from the elections, Israeli Jewish
dissidents arrested, Israeli youth imprisoned for conscientious refusal of
military service. Academic institutions are surely only relative sites of
power. But they are, in their funding and governance, implicated with state
economic and military power.  And US media, institutions and official
policy have gone along with all this.

To boycott a repressive military state should not mean backing away from
individuals struggling against the policies of that state.  So, in
continued solidarity with the Palestinian people’s long resistance, and
also with those Israeli activists, teachers, students, artists, writers,
intellectuals, journalists, refuseniks, feminists and others who oppose the
means and ends of the Occupation,  I have signed my name to this call.

Adrienne Rich

http://rawi.org/CMS/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=146&Itemid=9

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Still In Gaza….

February 3, 2009

As the coverage of Gaza has eerily disappeared from the US news, thus from the minds and consciences of most Americans, here is an article from Al-Jazeera English: 

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/02/200922205613156996.html

The line here by Tzipi Livni, using a metaphor to describe the prospects for peace, is an absurd depiction of the political situation. 

“The dove is on the window sill,” Livni said.

“We can either slam the door or let it in. The choice is in your hands.”

This tactic, of blaming the Palestinians for the entire war in Gaza and for frustrating the peace process that the unscathed, politically unified and ideologically smug Israeli war machine apparently still believes in, is revolting. Never mind the fact that she referred to the window and then spoke of the door. It was already apparent that this dove that she speaks of is only an attempt to placate the international community into more lockstep compliance with Israel’s long-term agenda, to wipe out the Palestinian people and lay claim to an empty land, thus fulfilling the prophecies of Zionism. 

As the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe passes 60,000,
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2009/02/2009236249627261.html
here a poem by the Iraqi poet Nazik Al- Mala’ika, written after the cholera epidemic which swept through Baghdad in 1947. It’s a long poem so I’ve excerpted it here. If you would like the entire text, email me and I will send it to you. As with all Arabic literature, good and sensitive translations are hard to find, especially on the Internet. 
It reminded me of Gaza, and of the silence that the global outcry over the humanitarian situation has given way to. This happens with all crises. Now, it is up to small groups of committed citizens to carry on the search for truth in a world of irresponsible media, justice in terms of international law and the rebuilding of homes and institutions so that some semblance of human life can return to Gaza. 
Cholera

It is night.
Listen to the echoing wails
rising above the silence in the dark
the agonized, overflowing grief
clashing with the wails.
In every heart there is fire,
in every silent hut, sorrow,
and everywhere, a soul crying in the dark.
It is dawn.
Listen to the footsteps of the passerby,
in the silence of the dawn.
Listen, look at the mourning processions,
ten, twenty, no… countless.
Everywhere lies a corpse, mourned
without a eulogy or a moment of silence.
Humanity protests against the crimes of death.
Cholera is the vengeance of death.
Even the gravedigger has succumbed,
the muezzin is dead,
and who will eulogize the dead?
O Egypt, my heart is torn by the ravages of death.
Translated by Husain Haddawy, with Nathalie Handal
pg. 177 The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology. Ed. Nathalie Handal. Interlink Books: New York, 2001.