Grief and Anguish

November 6, 2009

What is the difference between grief and anguish? Lately I have come to know both. On 17/08/09 my dear friend Tadd Gero passed away. With him, a voice, a light startling in it’s clarity of purpose and strength of heart.

I can’t help thinking- worrying- that despite the current outpouring of art and work about Palestine, the increasingly effective boycott and sanctions campaign and the deluge of highly visible op-ed articles about the intransigence and bellicose nature of the paranoid Israeli state, real facts on the ground make the establishment of any kind of Palestinian state (one or two) impossible. Brilliant Israeli journalist Amira Hass said recently:

Thousands of my articles and zillions of my words have evaporated. They could not compete with the official language that has been happily adopted by the mass media, and is used in order to distort reality–official language that encourages people not to know.

Indeed, a remarkable failure for a journalist.

To Israel Mahmoud Darwish says in his poem Under Siege:

[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.

Read Jean Genet’s description of Sabra and Shatila here.

In Hebron:

Once inside the Jewish Israeli settlement there was a complete absence of any signs of life or activity. All of the shops were barricaded and the trees and shrubs were reclaiming the buildings. To demarcate this desolate territory as exclusively Jewish all of the shop fronts have been sprayed with the Star of David along with plenty anti-Arab graffiti. One can’t help but feel that there is either a complete misunderstanding or disregard for history. Didn’t the Nazis mark all Jewish properties in the same manner?

In Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, she remarks on Eichmann as a self-deluding functionary; ” his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and presence of others, and hence against reality as such.” (Arendt 44)

Also, back home:

Those arguments will find a receptive audience in congress, which relies on rich campaign contributions from the banking, insurance and financial industries.

And that’s the real root of the economic excesses and inequities in the global financial system – the undue influence of corporate money in politics and public policy. Obama, in his campaign speeches, promised to end the influence of special interests in Washington. So far, he has done nothing about that.

Sorry for the sad post, but that’s really, all I’ve been thinking lately, while working, while functioning.

Extremely Disturbing

March 22, 2009


Words cannot even describe how sick this is. What is going on? What bizarre rip in the fabric of the moral universe occurs over Tel Aviv when the Palestinians are involved? 

Another soldier, describing how a mother and her children were shot dead by a sniper after they turned the wrong way out of a house, says the “atmosphere” among troops was that the lives of Palestinians were “very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers”.


The New York Times tried to have a balanced debate on this issue. Unfortunately, the four panelists they picked were all Israeli apologists. The commentators set them straight, however. Check it out here:


 “I don’t know whether she was suspicious, not suspicious, I don’t know her story… I do know that my officer sent people to the roof in order to take her out… It was cold-blooded murder.”


It reminded me of a passage from Talal Asad’s excellent book On Suicide Bombing. He accuses the mainstream media and “scholarly” discourse of at worst, an attempt to reduce the complex history of resistance struggles and civil wars to the trope of the morally bankrupt savage against the liberal, humane West. “Liberalism too has it’s own culture of death.” (50) He single-handedly dismantles the “civilized vs. uncivilized” argument used by America and Israel to justify their massacres of innocent civilians in Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq. Unfortunately, regarding the material above: “Guilt is no bar to the repetition of transgression.” (53) How many times have the same arguments been twisted, played out in a bizarre dance of memory/amnesia? 

On a personal note: “I felt more grown up earlier in life, more self determining, more autonomous, and it was because I had not yet been beaten down.”


On Tibet and Palestine

March 10, 2009



Before I learned about Palestine, I used to campaign for Free Tibet. What happened? I suppose I just got sidetracked by many other atrocities that were happening in the world. Because Tibet has nothing to offer the geopolitical interests of any major nation, it has been pushed out of the international consciousness and left in silence. It has been taken for granted that there will never be a free Tibet, that China will never give up its claim to the region. 

But today, after reading the Dalai Lama’s speech in which he describes Tibet as “hell on Earth,” I began thinking that occupation happens in very similar ways. Truck in a couple thousand troops, set up checkpoints and start building settlements on the ‘free’ land. Then, lay claim to the region’s natural resources, build roads (Palestine) or railroads (Tibet) to cart these valuable materials away. Then, deny that the occupied culture and/or people ever existed. Finally, make yourself indispensable to the international community (America and Western Europe) and its interests ($) so that no one will be able to interfere although they can criticize your human rights abuses to their heart’s pitiful content.


Chinese forces have set up checkpoints to seal off the region while foreign tourists as well as journalists were told to leave several weeks ago.

The government has also apparently stopped internet and text-messaging services – which helped spread word of last year’s protests – in parts of the region.

Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama still has hope that the truth will prevail in the case of Tibet. He advocates for a Tibetan autonomous region which would still fall under the political rule of greater China. The Tibetans are seeking only the freedom to keep their culture and heritage alive, something that the Chinese refuse to allow.

Lamenting that Tibetan culture and identity were “nearing extinction”, he said “even today Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear … regarded like criminals, deserving to be put to death”.


The Dalai Lama is frequently referred to as a “wolf in monk’s clothing”, by the Beijing authorities, and it is clear they regard him as devious and untrustworthy.

For his part the Dalai Lama seems to have reached a level of frustration with that process that has made him suggest he is on the verge of retiring.


Why Palestine?

February 18, 2009

I watched this link today.
“Israel is the last Western, settler, colonial project in the world… there is a moral problem here, an inadmisibility of the racist, exclusive ideology which Israel refuses to acknowledge.” This is from Ali Abunimah, author of One State: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli Palestinian Impasse

“Silence is complicity… non-Jewish Americans who are afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.” 

Questioning Israeli’s “special status” and right to self defense.

The fourth panelist was the Hampshire leader of Students for Justice in Palestine. On February 7th, Hampshire became the first college campus in the US to completely divest from Israel and other arms manufacturing companies. They were also the first to divest from apartheid South Africa in 1977. As a former college student, studying anti-colonialism, I identified with his statement about taking what one has learned in the classroom and then looking out into the “real world” to see Gaza as an occupied place.  “You can’t remain neutral on a moving train.” -Howard Zinn (or when your university is invested in military, arms and technology companies.) 

“These students have done a courageous thing… something that none of our politicians have been willing to do… a battle they have won… for peace and justice.” -Ali Abunimah “As scholars, activists, citizens, students, we are required to take a stance on this.”

“Resistance to Israel is also resistance to US hegemony in the region.” He makes the point that Barack Obama will not make significant foreign policy gains as long as he remains “silent or worse than silent… continues to endorse Israeli massacres.” 

Some American activists pointed out “a peversely two-tiered system…” within Israel. Israelis “did not deny the apartheid or the second-class citizenship but they justified it.” 

“Jews have to speak up for justice… that there is not this blind support for Israel… to make Israel accountable and to make the US accountable… no more blank cheques.” “I can understand in 1945… but by now, people should have learned better… that land was not empty… one of those myths of history that created so much damage.”

Emily Jacir interview

February 18, 2009