Thursday, June 30

[quote of the day]

I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.
- Woodrow Wilson

Wednesday, June 29

[quote of the day]

I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze.
- D.H. Lawrence

Monday, June 27

[music and identity: south sudan]

South Sudan is preparing to become the newest nation in the world. What does mainstream thought tell us that a state needs? Boundaries on a map, a flag, a political and economic infrastructure, the creation of cultural meaning specific to this new nation, etc. In summary, an identity must be created.

This is a great article on one aspect of that process in South Sudan: the creation of a national anthem.

Democratically selected as the result of a talent show, here are the lyrics of the national anthem of South Sudan, courtesy of the aforementioned article:

Oh God, We praise and glorify you for your grace on South Sudan, Land of great abundance. Uphold us united in peace and harmony. Oh motherland, We rise, raising flag with the guiding star And sing songs of freedom with joy For justice, liberty and prosperity shall for ever more, reign.

Oh great patriots, Let us stand up in silence and respect Saluting our martyrs Whose blood cemented our national foundation. We vow to protect our nation. Oh God, bless South Sudan.

[quote of the day]

(not my image)

Peace appeals to the hearts; studies to the brain. Both are needed, indeed indispensable. But equally indispensable is a valid link between brain and heart. And that, in a nutshell, is what peace studies and peace practice are all about.
- Johan Galtung

Saturday, June 25

[quote of the day]

Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
- Arundhati Roy

Friday, June 24

[quote of the day]

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make sense.
- Rumi

Thursday, June 23

[quote of the day]

If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather reach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Wednesday, June 22

[quote of the day]

The real war will never get in the books.
- Walt Whitman

Tuesday, June 21

[quote of the day]

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull forward like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again.
- Marge Piercy

Monday, June 20

[quote of the day]

When someone stands up to violence in such a courageous way, a force for change is released. Every action for peace requires someone to exhibit the courage to challenge the violence and inspire love. Love and sacrifice always set up a chain reaction of love and sacrifice.
- Thich Nhat Hanh on Thich Quang Duc

Sunday, June 19

[quote of the day]

Where the map shows a vast green emptiness, the land is alive.
- Barbara Kingsolver

Saturday, June 18

[quote of the day]

Those who love peace must learn to organize as well as those who love war.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, June 17

[quote of the day]

If you can't answer a man's argument, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.
- Elbert Hubbard

Thursday, June 16

[quote of the day]

There are nothing but gifts on this poor, poor earth.

- Czeslaw Milosz

Wednesday, June 15

[quote of the day]

(Derrel Myers, via)

"Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead"

- Arundhati Roy

Tuesday, June 14

[arrested jewish-american lucas koerner talks to electronic intifada]

Lucas Koerner's (mentioned in previous post) interview with Electronic Intifada was released today.

Read it here

(from the Facebook page, We are all Lucas Koerner)

Here are some highlights:

"I was taken to a police station right afterwards, where I was held for about four hours before I saw a lawyer. I was threatened numerous times with being tased and being put to sleep by various weapons they had."

"What struck me most about my time in prison is that it is a reflection of the rest of Israeli society in that it's completely segregated. I was placed against my will in the Jewish cell. I asked to be put in the Arab cell. The Jewish cell conditions weren't bad at all; it was still jail, but it was bearable. I did see the Arab cell or at least one of the Arab cells and the conditions there were absolutely abominable."

"I received no support from the US consulate. My friends and family had contacted them and, from what I heard, they basically said that this happens a lot and there's nothing [they] can do. They didn't even come to my trials."

"The Israeli judicial system is very strange in that you can't have a lawyer while being questioned. ...there are no laws within Israel that prevent you from being almost indefinitely detained before being charged. I was never formally charged but I was detained for two days."

[quote of the day]

There has been no other period in my life when picking up a morning newspaper seemed like such an invitation to begin your day in a state of crippling rage. The wish to know the worst has to fight it out daily with the desire to get through the day, to work, to spend time with your loved ones, to experience pleasure."

-Charles Taylor

Monday, June 13

[Egypt: the essence of the enterprise]

On January 25, 2011, on the heels of the Tunisian demonstrations, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians flooded the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and Nile Delta cities in an astonishing show of solidarity against President Hosni Mubarak.

Within weeks, a large portion of the Middle East was in the midst of an anti-status quo, pro-democracy upheaval. Protesters in Egypt united across ideological lines in opposition to President Mubarak’s authoritarian regime and the stagnant Egyptian economy that has left millions of their ranks jobless.

Utilizing the power of social media and building on previously organized communities, youth and other revolutionaries organized weeks of almost entirely nonviolent protests without the overt support of established parties or clear leadership. In the time leading up to Mubarak’s departure, coalition-building was a efficient tool for powerful parties and vulnerable groups alike to unite under their common opposition to the regime.

But what comes next for Egyptians in a post-Mubarak Egypt has yet to be made clear. Perhaps the best place to start is by exploring the first few months of 2011.

The protesters in Tahrir Square and in other locations around Egypt in January 2011, though diverse and cross-sectarian, were composed primarily of urban, politically independent people with access to social media and connections with the urban labor rights movement. Impressively organized in terms of protest tactics and coordination, this heterogeneous population has been striving to form an entity capable of articulating its political and economic demands.

Should that entity be a political party? Several political parties? A non-governmental organization tasked with monitoring politics in a post-Mubarak Egypt? A business-oriented faction with union leanings? How will marginal populations, such as women and Coptic Christians, fit into this picture, and through which mechanisms will they articulate their needs as a community or simply as Egyptians?

Results indicated that 77% of voters favored the package, in accordance with mainstream Muslim Brotherhood opinion, and 23% stood with the revolutionaries and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei in opposing the reforms contained therein. These reforms included term-limits for the president and a commission to draft a new constitution following the parliamentary election, among others.

Some voters who were opposed to the reform package voted no because they believe that “early elections would give extraordinary advantage to Mubarak’s old political party and the Muslim Brotherhood, which have strong organizational structures and would move to centralize power.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates echoed this concern and recommended that elections be delayed in order to give up-and-coming parties a chance to organize.

With parliamentary and presidential elections anticipated before the end of 2011, communities that were once more easily categorized but are now undergoing a shift in identity and aspiration (such as revolutionary, laborer, Muslim Brother, businessman) are being courted by both existing and developing parties.

Who participated in the demonstrations?

Shortly after the protests began, many of these dissident parties came together under the umbrella of the Revolution Youth Coalition, with representatives "from the April 6 Youth movement, ElBaradei supporters..., two Muslim Brother[s], [two] from the Democratic Front Party and [two] from the Youth for Justice and Freedom."

The Coalition is not entirely representative of the plethora of opposition groups. Despite that, one coalition member, Ahmed Ezzat, expressed the hope that “it expands to include all the other young activists, including young members from the Karama party, Labor party, Kifaya and all others, including independent bloggers and Internet activists.”

Forming a single coalition like the Revolution Youth Coalition can reduce friction among parties with similar agendas and constituents and help diminish the chances of potential ‘cannibalization’. Forming an organized coalition can create credibility and legitimacy for the parties within the coalition by proving to Egyptians (and the world) that the youth are not only organized enough to revolt, but also organized enough to govern. A coalition of like-minded parties that fronts only a few main candidates is more likely to ensure that they are represented in government. Otherwise, constituent voters may split their votes, possibly denying these emerging parties a seat at the table. Emerging groups will need to establish a clear platform along well-defined ideological lines in order to clarify their position for voters and to differentiate themselves from other major parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

The coalition’s chief purpose has been to serve as a forum for opposition groups in order to “provide representation for the young who have played a role in political life in Egypt and have contributed to the current revolt” and to “articulate its demands and keep them at the forefront of public consciousness as Egypt prepares for change.” Those elementary demands have been the uniting factor for the heterogeneous groups belonging to the Coalition, including free and fair elections, the removal of President Mubarak, and the elimination of emergency law, although now that the President has stepped down, the Coalition had to reexamine its mandate. These groups will need to revise their strategies in a way that takes into account the absence of Mubarak but also the presence of the institutions and structures that he has left behind.

It is possible that the parties’ experiences within the Coalition have primed them for a nonviolent transition to democracy. Even if the parties within a coalition do not all agree on a common for-agenda besides an against-agenda, a coalition creates a space where these diverse factions interact regularly and are forced to discuss their ideas. Diversity and pluralism become the norm, and extreme ideas and tactics are subject to examination and become less acceptable. As anthropologist Talal Asad stated in a 2008 lecture on the Kifaya coalition,

"It is not that there is now a happy union of all these elements, but that an irreducible plurality persists as a foundation of political sensibility…However, this situation is not merely negative [oppositional]; it also provides a space of daily interaction and negotiation."

The Revolution Youth Coalition boasted representatives from a multiplicity of opposition groups, but it lacked well-defined leadership roles and figureheads. In the process of the demonstrations in January and February, this lack of clear leadership was an advantage that made it more difficult for the regime to negotiate with or target the opposition movement. In the post-Mubarak era, however, the parties’ transition into politics demands clear leadership. This could be an advantage for the recently formed groups in that the calcified leadership of the older ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood display a rigidity and structure that may not appeal to Egyptian voters in an upcoming election. In addition, the revolutionaries’ demonstrated ability to reach out to frustrated Egyptians in the course of the protests bodes well for their capacity to form a political entity that can connect with these supporters.

Substantial use of social media and virtual political activism aided the success of the January revolution, and built on a growing trend of youth engagement in digital political activism.

The expansion in usage of social media networks in concert with an enlarged (though not complete) freedom of the press within Egypt created a space for young Egyptians to carve out a political niche for themselves, outside of the confines of traditional identity lines and protected from the repercussions of declaring such an identity in the ‘real world’.

After Kifaya was founded in 2004 with immense support from the blogosphere, “the number of blogs [in 2005] had jumped from a handful to the hundreds and are now estimated in the thousands.” As a greater diversity of bloggers and Facebook users entered the scene, cross-community interaction allowed activists to find common ground in their opposition to President Mubarak despite their other ideological differences. "The blog and Facebook format, with its personal profile page, allows for individual bloggers to fashion a political persona that transcends the Islamist-versus-secular divide, allowing young women and men to write critically about hot political issues."

Regional and international powers have been consistently supportive of democracy in theory, but will find it necessary to readjust to a new democracy that takes Egypt and the Middle East away from the status quo of carefully negotiated treaties and economic structures that do not benefit the average citizen. The United States is providing more aid to Egypt, but the implicitly (and explicitly) attached strings are not a harbinger of genuine U.S. support for the Egyptian people.

Economic interests are also a significant aspect of the upcoming pre-election period. The established political and economic structures of Mubarak’s decades in power mutually reinforce each other. Professor Bassam Haddad explores this nexus between political and economic elites, coming to the conclusion that, “initially, it is the public sector, which explains the initial informal relations and networks that develop between state officials and businesspeople using the public sector as the cash cow or the golden goose.” Haddad continues,

“the more business actors can accomplish without state patronage, protection, facilitation, the more they can be independent and, depending on how political economies develop, this can lead to even more mutual interests between power and capital—because capital becomes power.”

Egyptian scholar Emad Shahin recommended that, at the very least, these revolutionary groups should “organize into pressure groups and operate at the grassroots level to monitor the government, participate in development-related projects and engage the population.” In fact, on 7 April 2011, the April 6 Movement announced its decision to, “instead, become a non-governmental organization advocating for civil liberties, democracy and human rights.” As an NGO, the April 6 Movement can certainly endorse particular candidates in the upcoming elections, but the organization’s wide-reaching networks and ‘revolutionary legitimacy’ may be better put to use as a monitoring and advocacy organization.

What's next?

A 41% turnout on the recent constitutional referendum may have broken records, but that number does not represent society-wide consensus among all classes of Egyptians. A get-out-the-vote campaign, undertaken by emerging parties and established parties alike, can educate the masses on new political platforms and ideologies before elections occur. Coalitions are perfectly situated for this endeavor, with wide-reaching social media networks, connections within the labor rights scene, and tried-and-true organizing techniques that have given them a degree of transparency and legitimacy not common among contemporary Egyptian parties.

Perhaps a Yalla Vote campaign is next? More demonstrations? Economic and political restructuring? One thing is for certain: the revolution is not complete.

Here are some great pics of some of the younger Egyptian demonstrators:

(the child's forehead says 'Egypt' in Arabic)

Do you think that the demonstrators used appropriate tactics of resistance? What should they do next to ensure their interests are represented in the upcoming elections?

[quote of the day]

We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.


[the statement in the stamp]

Several sources around the web have published that a Palestinian art student named Khaled Jarrar has taken it upon himself to create a Palestinian passport stamp.

A gorgeous (in my opinion) design, the stamp is offered purely for symbolic purposes. It is also a compelling, highly visible act of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Jarrar is reported to approach foreign tourists as they exit buses in Ramallah, politely explain the purpose of his stamp, and offer to stamp passports. Some folks have been nervous about being questioned upon their departure from Israel, and others have enthusiastically handed their passports over to be stamped.

Jarrar set up this Facebook page to explain and support his idea.

The use of art, design, fashion, etc., can be powerful tools for any movement, and Jarrar is clearly utilizing local and international networks to connect with a large audience and share his dreams for an independent Palestine. Said Jarrar,

"Around 20 activists from several European countries expressed their readiness to work as volunteers to help me publish my stamp all over the world and advocate the campaign to other countries."

It is possible that Jarrar's act will inspire controversy among Palestinians and among Israelis. There is potential for administrative drama -- an unofficial passport stamp, not endorsed by the Palestinian Authority? Imagine the frustration and puzzlement for Palestinian officials.

Imagine an Israeli checkpoint inside the West Bank. Though Jarrar's stamp is harmless, it has the potential to inflame the Israeli administration and public imagination as well. A confused IDF soldier is a dangerous soldier, and this stamp may befuddle and/or aggravate Israeli soldiers, leading to increased human rights abuses toward Palestinians or those who hold passports with Jarrar's stamp. It's a long shot, but a Palestinian passport stamp may also arouse the suspicions of the Israeli administration, who could interpret the stamp as a precursor to a Palestinian revolution or the third intifada.

(on a separate note, recent polls indicate that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis do expect a third intifada)

However, Jarrar's stamp is a courageous act of beauty, creativity, and resistance. This sort of engagement and visibility is exactly what oppressed communities around the world can count on to make international headlines.

Sunday, June 12

[quote of the day]

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


Saturday, June 11

[quote of the day]

"At present, we are stealing the future, selling it to the present, and calling it gross domestic product."

- Paul Hawken

reading list

I, probably like many of you, am guilty of creating massive reading lists including some works that interest me greatly and others that would be 'good' for me.

Below is the current version of my topic-specific reading list. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment box, or email them to!

  • Rediscovering Palestine
  • The Economics of Women & Work in the Middle East
  • The Political Economy of Regional Cooperation in the Middle East
  • Economic & Political Liberalization in the Middle East
  • Rebuilding Devastated Economies in the Middle East
  • The Economics of Middle East Peace
  • The Arab Minority in Israel's Economy
  • State Practices and Zionist Images
  • Islam & the Political Economy of Meaning
  • Desiring Arabs
  • In Quest of an Islamic Humanism
  • The Dynamics of Neutralism in the Arab World
  • Overstating the Arab State
  • Belated Travelers
  • Nationalism in a Non-National State
  • A Compassionate Peace: A Future for the Middle East
  • Conflict Management in the Middle East
  • The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem
  • Negotiating Jerusalem
  • The West Bank Handbook
  • Crossing the Green Line Between the West Bank and Israel
  • The Yellow Wind
  • The Third Way
  • The Others Within Us
  • Strengthening Palestinian Public Institutions
  • Displaced at Home: Ethnicity & Gender Among Palestinians in Israel
  • A Voice of Reason
  • Genealogies of Conflict: Class, Identity, & State in Palestine/Israel and South Africa
  • Arab-Israeli Conflict: Psychological Obstacles to Peace
  • Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict
  • Practical Peacemaking in the Middle East
  • From Confrontation to Cooperation
  • The One-State Solution
  • Occupied by Memory: The Intifada Generation & the Palestinian State of Emergency
  • Bridging the Divide: Peacebuilding n the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  • Holy War, Holy Peace
  • Israel & the Palestinians: Israeli Policy Options
  • Palestine Inside Out
  • The End of the Peace Process
  • Disenthralling Ourselves
  • Nakba

Looking forward to lots of library time this summer! What books are you reading?

[the vernacular of the visionless]

My alma mater, Smith College, is currently hosting a small group of current students in Israel for a summer of participation in one of several Global Engagement Seminars. Students are invited to contribute to an official Smith blog as they travel, expand their horizons, complete internships, and talk with the locals.

A few weeks ago, an entry was posted titled "Words Matter," by Katy Swartz, '13. The piece discusses the use of the word 'apartheid' in describing contemporary Israel, and the author believes that 'apartheid' is an inaccurate and damaging characterization of Israel's policies. She cites a letter from the Vanguard Leadership Group that states,

"The use of the word 'apartheid' by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in its characterization of Israel is patently false and deeply offensive to all who feel a connection to the state of Israel. Your organization's campaign against Israel is spreading misinformation about its policies, fostering bias in the media, and jeopardizing prospects for a timely resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

I'm going to re-state her main points, and show where Katy has gone wrong.

The main points, as I understood them, were that 'apartheid' cannot be applied to Israel because of the following reasons:

  • 'Apartheid' refers to race, and "Judaism is not a race"
  • 20% of Israel's citizens are Arab, and they have "full and equal rights under Israeli law"
  • If Israel were racist against Arabs, it would not act justly toward its own Arab-Israeli citizens on the one hand, but unjustly toward Arabs and Palestinians elsewhere
  • Self-governance, as the author defines the presence of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, would not occur under apartheid
  • "An apartheid regime would...[wish] to remain sovereign over the group it were oppressing because it would likely be benefiting from the forced labor of the citizens"
The author also makes the following (I think, problematic) statements:

  • Palestinians were offered a two-state solution and rejected it; as such, they are implicitly to blame
  • Palestinians were offered citizenship in East Jerusalem and "refuse[d] to participate in the city government"
  • "Israel is still committed to the establishment of the state of Palestine in the Palestinian territories"
  • Israel's recent 'control' policies are "a result of Palestinians blowing up innocent Israeli civilians (which of course did not happen in South Africa)"
  • "Israel remains dedicated to finding a solution within the parameters that allow for the Jewish state to remain in existence alongside a future Palestinian state"
Well. Let's unpack some of this, shall we?

First of all, some background on the author:

Katy Swartz will be a junior at Smith next year, self-identifies as an orthodox Jew, and is a Jewish Studies major at Smith. By no means am I claiming that Jews are innately unable to make valid contributions to this conversations (and, as Lucas Koerner proved, Jewish ethics can be a large motivating factor to stand with the Palestinians), but I believe that knowing an author's background is an essential part of understanding their belief system and teasing apart their biases.

She is on this summer program with other Smith students of varying opinions and identities surrounding the conflict. I'm sure the experience may at times feel threatening to her beliefs and her identity. I applaud Katy for attempting to engage in these difficult conversations, and for making public her opinions and her frustrations.

Katy was raised in a Jewish household (see above interview) and I have seen her, along with other student members of the Smith Israel Alliance, at many related events on campus. I particularly remember her presence at a presentation by scholar and author Norman Finkelstein on campus in Spring 2011. She and her peers put up posters from CAMERA on the doors to the venue where Finkelstein was speaking, and handed them out to folks as they entered the building.

These fliers are despicable, shabby, inaccurate, discriminatory pieces of literature with a Zionist agenda and absolutely no constructive or intellectual value, in my opinion, and in the opinion of others, including Uri Strauss with the Palestine Action Coalition (see his piece on apartheid and Israel here and note his comment on Katy's post here).

Here's the flier (from CAMERA)... And here's Finkelstein (from his website)

The flier from CAMERA purposefully utilizes a photograph of a gun-toting, turban-wearing, bearded Arab man for shock value, and coercively manipulates the viewer into associating Finkelstein with the fear and hatred of 'the Arab'. It utilizes the color pink in a way that suggests that Finkelstein is effeminate or gay, and subversively uses homosexuality as a reason to discredit Finkelstein's academic and intellectual value (indeed, when typing 'Norman Finkelstein' into Google, 'Norman Finkelstein gay' pops up). More crucially, the flier contains biased sources and surface-level answers that are absolutely inappropriate and disrespectful to the event and to the speaker and the hosting organizations. I hold anyone who hands out these fliers responsible for their message.

Uri Strauss, currently the Law Fellow with Western Mass. American Friends Service Committee, published an article in 2002 titled "Defining Apartheid: Israel's Record." Strauss points out that 'race' is widely interpreted under UN Conventions, and would include Jews as a race. We cannot use the technicality of language to allow occupiers and human rights abusers to escape responsibility. I would suggest that perhaps genocide is a more accurate description, as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2:

Whether or not Judaism is considered a race, Israel is still upholding blatantly discriminatory and abusive policies.

Katy's second point about the "full and equal rights under Israeli law" for Arab citizens of Israel is simply incorrect. The Arab citizens of Israel have been subject to consistent and repressive policies since the founding of the state of Israel, including land grabs, racist laws, home demolitions, forced migration (see this article from Middle East Monitor). Even if Arab citizens of Israel were treated like royalty, this has no bearing whatsoever on the treatment of other Palestinians within the borders that Israel currently claims.

Her next point (that a racist regime does not pick and choose where it practices racism) is ridiculous. Any racist act by a regime means it is a racist regime, in the same way that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere" (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). Sure, everyone's a little bit racist sometimes from a sociological perspective, but we're not all committing systemic genocide on a societal level.

Katy also states that self-governance would not occur under apartheid. Firstly, self-governance can absolutely occur under apartheid (Bantustan, anyone?). In addition, the Palestinian Authority has been perceived by Palestinians to be corrupt, unrepresentative, and unsupported and disrespected by the majority of the outside world. The PA may wear the mask of self-governance, but it does NOT represent genuine self-governance.

She also makes the point that an apartheid regime would wish to remain sovereign over the oppressed group to benefit from its forced labor. Israel either DOES implicitly benefit from cheap Palestinian labor, with crowds of men sitting near roads hoping to land a temporary menial labor job with a passing Israeli, OR the ridiculous permit system in combination with checkpoints prohibit Palestinians from having good jobs within Israel or within the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

For me, Katy's analysis relies on a lack of historical understanding of what power dynamics, collective memory, cultural narratives, and 'resistance' mean, and more specifically what these terms mean to Palestinians. Decades of mistreatment and neglect from the majority of the international community have created generations of Palestinians that are struggling with notions of identity and homeland. Many Palestinians still hold the deeds to land inside Israel. Millions of Palestinians have been born outside the holy land, but still identify with the history, the myth, and the physical place of Palestine. Without a fully functioning, recognized, supported government, and subject to all forms of economic sanctions, physical and mental abuse, I wonder how Katy recommends that Palestinians reconcile their past, their present and their abusers, and their dreams for a future.

Arundhati Roy describes it well, saying

"Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation."

Palestinian suicide bombers are resisting occupation and humiliation. I do not condone violence against anyone or anything, but I understand why certain parties are behaving and reacting in the ways that they do; as Arundhati Roy says, they are 'resisting annihilation'.

Katy also explains that Israel is not committing the crime of apartheid, but rather utilizing 'control' strategies as a result of "Palestinians blowing up innocent Israeli civilians." The destruction of human life (or animal life, or natural forms of life, in my opinion) is never desirable. But we must call a spade a spade. Or it's not quite a spade, let's call it 'frustrating' and 'harmful' if we don't have the right words to describe it.

In the end, we can all agree that something is clearly wrong in the holy land, and we are all responsible for what has happened in the past and for what will happen in the future. We are all complicit parties to this conflict, until it is resolved. No one -- neither Israelis nor Palestinians nor aid workers nor tourists nor Druze, etc. -- feels secure, and everyone deserves that right.

I believe it is possible to achieve a satisfying, secure outcome for all parties, and that the first step is to watch our language and listen to each others' stories. But as long as the vernacular of the visionless presides, there will be neither peace nor justice in the Holy Land.

To Katy (and others reading this), this is not meant to be a personal attack, and I do apologize if it feels that way. If you're reading this, I'm interested in hearing back from you. You can post a comment or email me at, and I promise to respond respectfully and promptly.

Friday, June 10

[the profane in the holy land]

I've spent the last few weeks trying to gain a better understanding of what daily life in Palestine is like. From everything I've read thus far, it seems to me that the Palestinian experience and identity is shaped not only by a shared narrative and intense collective memory, but also by interactions with the 'Other'. In this way, Palestinians define themselves, but Israel, or opposition to Israel, also defines Palestine.

Israel claims a monopoly on legitimacy, politics, resources, morality, and international support. I recently stumbled upon an article with an accompanying video that I'd like to share: ("Israeli police wrestle US citizen to ground, put knee on his neck," from

The video includes 19 year-old Lucas Koerner's explanation for his presence at the rally, and shows footage of at least three Israeli police roughly pushing Koerner to the ground and pinning him down beneath their knees as they handcuff and carry him to their vehicle.

(Lucas Koerner, from electronicintifada's article)

From what I can tell, the young man (American-Jewish) was being a nonviolent presence and standing in solidarity with the Palestinians at an Israeli settler rally on Jerusalem Day earlier this month. He had affixed a Palestinian flag to his kippah and another to his keffiyeh. The video showed the clear transition from surprise to confusion to anger at this seeming clash of symbols. As the young man stated on his blog,

"For them, Judaism and its physical symbol, the kippah, were inseparably bound up with the particular strain of ethno-religious nationalism associated with the state of Israel. It simply never occurred to them that a Jewish person would, in the name of Jewish ethics, stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. I feel that it was precisely this cognitive dissonance on a societal level that formed the motivation for my arrest."

I am interested in identity formation at the societal/communal level and how such an identity can aggravate conflict or set the stage for peace. Koerner mentions the conflation between national and religious symbols in mainstream Israeli identity. Israel is guilty of portraying Palestinians as hopelessly fused with Islam, fundamentalism, and terrorism. And it's not alone.

Not all Jews are Israelis, and not all Israelis are Jewish. Not all Palestinians are Muslim, and not all Muslims are Palestinian. It may sound ridiculous to state such obvious facts, but the way that we characterize, conceptualize, and use our language to frame a situation have great impact on how we perceive the participants, behavior, and possible solutions.

It's not about anti-Semitism. It's not about Arab terrorism. It's not as simple as Israelis versus Palestinians. Those categories are so much bigger and more complex than a single person, a community, a religion, or a state.