How the ADL Director Emeritus foments antisemitism
The earliest references to Jews having murdered Christian children appear in Greek sources from the first century. However, the Blood Libel myth metastasized into its ugliest form during the Middle Ages in Europe. The libel usually portrayed Jews using the blood of Christian children in Passover matzoh or crucifying children to re-enact Jesus’s death by torture.
Norwich, England, 1144 was the first documented incident of a blood libel accusation, and it set a pattern for the centuries of slander that followed. The body of 12-year-old William of Norwich was found in the woods. An anti-Semitic monk, Thomas of Monmouth, wrote a screed blaming Jews for his death. He further claimed that every year an international council of Jews chose a country where they would kill a child during Easter because of a Jewish prophecy saying that doing so would ensure the restoration of Jews to the Holy Land. Monmouth’s entirely invented story resulted in massacres of Jewish communities in London and York. During the following centuries, when a murdered European child turned up, Jews became a convenient scapegoat (and murderers went unpunished). Thousands of Jews died because of this pernicious lie.
Even in recent times, the myth has persisted in Syria (2003), Russia (2005), Poland (according to a survey of the belief among Christians done in the 2000s), Saudi Arabia (2012), Lebanon (2014), Jordan (2014), and Italy (2020).
Blood Libel, by definition, is false. No one ever produced evidence that the thousands of lynched and massacred European Jews murdered a Christian child, crucified a Christian child, and used their blood in matzoh. I won’t even go into Jewish dietary regulations because that would afford the accusation too much credit.
On May 21st, 2020, the Israeli newspaper of record, Ha’aretz, published pictures of children killed in yet another Gaza war that traces back to provocations against Palestinians by Israeli police and right-wing extremists in Jerusalem. On May 22nd, the New York Times published these pictures.
Abe Foxman, Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on Twitter,
I am cancelling my subscription to NYTimes. I grew up in America on the NYT- I delivered the NYT to my classmates- I learned civics- democracy and all the news”fit to print” for 65 years but no more. Today’s blood libel of Israel and the Jewish people on the front page is enough.
Mr. Foxman, these children were not a falsehood. When Israeli bombs fell on their homes, their suffering and their deaths happened. Before that, they were real human beings, loved by their families, as, I assume, you love your own children and grandchildren.
Billions of people in this world have not learned the history of European anti-Semitism. However, they know their own histories of brutal colonization by European empires, which considered the lives of their peoples and the lives of their children disposable. Some people in these countries will hear you dismiss the deaths of Palestinian children as anti-Semitic slander and will draw certain conclusions. You have made the world less safe for Jews.
Rochesterians observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
by Kathleen Kern with Rochester Witness for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace-Rochester
November 29, 2020 marks the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. As residents of the Rochester area, we know Palestinian-Americans as friends, colleagues, students, doctors, shop owners, and educators. Many of us have worked in Palestine or traveled there on delegations. We have mourned with Palestinians who have lost land, homes, and livelihoods to voracious Israeli settlement expansion. We have witnessed with our own eyes the abusive behavior of Israeli soldiers and settlers towards Palestinians, and the apartheid network of checkpoints, walls, and roads, intended to maintain Israeli hegemony over the region.
With the Biden Administration and the new Congress taking office in January, our country has a fresh opportunity to do justice by the Palestinian people. Doing so promotes the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens. Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians has been used as an excuse for violence by Middle Eastern actors for years, including violence directed at United States citizens. Furthermore, our government sends more than 3.8 billion dollars in aid to Israel every year. Of the 75 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, Rochester ranks third in child poverty, behind Gary, Indiana and Flint, Michigan. Yet Monroe County tax dollars go to pay for Israeli weapon systems that bomb impoverished families in Gaza and military infrastructure that strangles the economy in the West Bank.
Biden and Harris won this election only because a coalition including young people, Black people, Native Americans, and other U.S. citizens yearning for a more just and equitable nation turned out for them. These citizens will no longer accept the Democratic National Committee’s tacit support of the Israeli government’s cruel and racist treatment of Palestinians. We certainly will not and ask that readers hold their elected leaders responsible in the coming year.
We ask that you support Rep. Betty McCollum’s House Bill (formerly H.R. 2407) when it comes up for a vote again in 2021:
“To promote human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation and require that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill- treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.”
Because not paying for the abuse of Palestinian children with our tax dollars seems like an excellent way to show solidarity. Please ask Representatives Joe Morelle, Tom Reed, and Chris Jacobs to sign the bill as well. They have yet to support it.
Photo by Joe Carr. Carr worked with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza and later with CPT in Hebron and At-Tuwani. His sequence of photos showing the bulldozer running over Corrie was not enough to convict the driver of her death.
by Kathleen Kern
Note: Our director asked if we were going to remember Corrie in some way, so I wrote this for CPTnet. Not sure if I hit it out of the park, but I don’t necessarily have to do that every time.
In 2003, when the Hebron team heard that the Israeli military had crushed Rachel Corrie to death with a Caterpillar bulldozer, the news hit all of us hard. Some of us had conducted nonviolence trainings for the first waves of International Solidarity Movement volunteers that had poured into Palestine to address violence of the Second Intifada. These volunteers had included Corrie, and Tom Hurndall who was shot and later disconnected from life support, as well as Brian Avery, also shot and permanently disfigured. Most of us had at one time or another stood in front of a bulldozer or had friends who had stood in front of bulldozers in an effort to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. Israeli soldiers and police had roughed us up, detained us or arrested us. Until Corrie died, I don’t think we believed that soldiers would run us, our friends or the Palestinian homeowners over.
Sixteen years later, if I heard soldiers had deliberately run over anyone with a bulldozer in Hebron in this current political climate the news would not shock me. The number of extrajudicial executions that happen in this city simply because Palestinians make soldiers nervous is frightening. Yet right now, less lethal things chip away at my soul: for example, young Israeli soldiers addressing professional Palestinian men in their forties and fifties as “walid” or “boy” as they walk through the checkpoint. Also, can you think of anywhere else in the world where elementary schoolchildren are regularly, routinely blanketed with teargas as they walk to and from school? And little children scurrying from teargas aren’t even the images that haunt me. It’s the faces of soldiers laughing I can’t shake. They laugh as they load the teargas grenades into their launchers, preparing to shoot them at the children.
Adam Serwer, a writer for the Atlantic, wrote an article last year about the Trump era, entitled “The cruelty is the point.” Nothing is quite so demoralizing as cruelty for the sake of cruelty, as watching grown men and women in uniform taking pleasure in mistreating children and our other neighbors in the Old City of Hebron.
But while this cruelty can haunt and even paralyze those who care about Palestinians, that’s not the lesson to take away from Corrie’s life. I remember reading emails to her family after her death and being struck by her optimism and her plans for the future. Her final email to her father particularly moved me:
Thanks also for stepping up your anti-war work. I know it is not easy to do, and probably much more difficult where you are than where I am. …
Also got an invitation to visit Sweden on my way back – which I think I could do very cheaply. I would like to leave Rafah with a viable plan to return, too. One of the core members of our group has to leave tomorrow – and watching her say goodbye to people is making me realize how difficult it will be. People here can’t leave, so that complicates things. They also are pretty matter-of-fact about the fact that they don’t know if they will be alive when we come back here.
I really don’t want to live with a lot of guilt about this place – being able to come and go so easily – and not going back. I think it is valuable to make commitments to places – so I would like to be able to plan on coming back here within a year or so. Of all of these possibilities I think it’s most likely that I will at least go to Sweden for a few weeks on my way back – I can change tickets and get a plane to from Paris to Sweden and back for a total of around 150 bucks or so. … Let me know if you have any ideas about what I should do with the rest of my life
As the cruelty of the Israeli military occupation increases, and internationals find it increasingly difficult to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territories because the Israeli government denies them entry, Corrie’s words remind us that Palestinian resistance ultimately does not rely on outsiders. And, that like Corrie’s father, internationals can undertake much of that resistance in their home countries and communities. Corrie’s words also remind us that while internationals can seriously commit themselves to the cause of Palestinian liberation, they do not have to take themselves so seriously. We do this work knowing the risks, but assuming there is a future. And that even if we cannot envision the change that is going to occur, we know that something will change.
In March, I attended the 2017 MadCap Writing Cross-Culturally Workshop. Although I was disappointed that more adult literary writers did not attend, much of what I learned was helpful to any writer about representing worlds—fantasy, Sci-Fi or real life—accurately.
In order to write accurate representation of the world around us, having actual relationships with people outside your own ethnic/religious/etc. group is helpful. Maybe some of those people will even read your novel and tell you where you’ve gotten their culture right and where you’ve really messed up. And now you can pay someone from a marginalized group, called a Sensitivity Reader, to evaluate your manuscript for offensive, weird or “off” content.
However, sensitivity readers are not a panacea. One recent book that caught the attention of author and social critic Justina Ireland is the Young Adult book American Heart. Set in a time when the U.S. government is detaining Muslim Americans, the narrative, according to its critics, seems designed entirely to support the emotional growth of a white teenage girl as she helps a Muslim university professor escape to Canada. What the professor experiences is beside the point. As someone on the Twitter feed pointed out, American Heart is analogous to a man writing the The Handmaid’s Tale. The author had a Pakistani American read it, but Ireland maintained on her Twitterfeed the author used a sensitivity reader as a stamp of approval, rather than a wish for honest engagement.
For my fourth novel (working title Don’t Call Me Buffy) I have paid three sensitivity readers to take a look at the manuscript in addition to my usual faithful crew of beta readers: a neurodivergent MIT graduate student, a Palestinian Christian, and a Muslim. I am also asking a white evangelical writer to take a look at it, since I have not lived in that culture for some time, and I am actively looking for someone from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to read it.
I felt confident enough to have a young Palestinian woman be one of the three viewpoint characters in my narrative, because of my relationships with Palestinians. I deliberately chose not to write from the viewpoint of a Seneca Nation character, because, I am ashamed to say, I have traveled halfway around the world numerous times to Palestine, but spent very little time on the Seneca reservations near my home in upstate New York. I also chose not to make the novel primarily about the encampment that follows when the Seneca nation takes over a church property on their land—a church pastored by the father of another viewpoint character. Given the profound spiritual importance of the #NODAPL encampment in Standing Rock last year, I knew that the right to fictionalize the encampment experience belongs to an Indigenous writer. Nevertheless I want to have a Haudenosaunee reader look at my novel to correct mistakes of culture, etc. that I assume I will have made. Also I have some concerns that I have created a fictional piece of land, and a fictional treaty abrogation, and fictional medical waste dumping by a fictional western New York University on the actual Allegeny Reservation, when the real life traumas that the Federal government and State of New York have committed against the Seneca Nation are immense. The database of Writers from the Margins does not contain Haudenosaunee readers, so I have taken out classified ads in the local papers, and have contacted the Director of Indigenous students at nearby University to see if any of her students might like to make a little extra income reading it.
If any of you have Haudenosaunee friends who like to read, I’m hiring!
I took a leave of absence from Christian Peacemaker Teams beginning in January 2017, having a long list of goals to accomplish in mind. I knew from the experience of my sabbatical four years ago that I would not accomplish all or most of these goals. Still, despite the fact I have played way too much Plants vs. Zombies and have been dealing (gladly) with unexpected health crises of elderly relatives, here are some things I have accomplished:
I wanted to finish my novel, working title Don’t Call Me Buffy, and I did. I don’t have the perfect pitch yet, but here’s a summary:
Jubilee McVey, brought up in an evangelical purity culture, deals with the shames heaped on her by her family and church by brutally restricting calories and indulging in mutilation fantasies. Then Rania Khalidi, an energetic social justice activist and Lior Artzi—who views the world through the lens of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, approach her one day to tell her that she has been called by the Council of Huldah to convince her father to stop building his dream church on land belonging to the Seneca Indian Nation. She assumes that what they are asking her to do is impossible, but the encounter pulls her into a world where she discovers abilities she had not imagined.
What Rania, Jubilee and Lior do not know is that the Prophet Huldah, briefly mentioned in the book of II Kings, is alive and grumpy and teaching Biochemistry in western NY. She has little interest in God or prophecy. Mostly, she wants to support her talented student Jayce, a member of the Seneca Nation who is investigating medical waste dumping on the Allegeny reservation. But as she sees a prophetic movement beginning to emerge in Western NY the way it did in Israel and Judah, and as Jubilee flees to Jerusalem to escape her prophetic obligations, Huldah wonders if the land belonging to the Keepers of the Western Door has been chosen to change history.
Currently, my beta readers say it reads very fast, so that’s always good news.
I also cleaned out boxes that had been sitting in the upstairs alcove of our house pretty much since we had moved in, as well as some that came my way after Mom moved into the nursing home. I found recycling my mother’s stuff emotionally wrenching as well as other keepsakes, so I dealt with it by posting about it on Twitter:
Today I recycled my mother’s proofreading notes on my second novel.
Today I recycled a handwritten coupon good for “1 hour of sewing help from Sylvia D. Klassen exp. 12/25/04” @SylviaDHook
Today I recycled my 1984 college commencement program and dozens of Christmas letters from people I love.
A more amorphous “success” for the year was that I generally said “yes” to my husband Michael when he suggested an activity for the evening or weekend instead of telling him I was too tired or had too much work to do and that felt good.
When I think of what I did not achieve around the house and yard, well, it’s a pretty long list, and I won’t go into it; besides, I’ve still got two months, right? Probably of most concern was not just my neglect of spiritual growth, but my inability to focus on spiritual growth. I found sustained attention on prayer, meditation, or anything remotely spiritual almost impossible. Coming along with this acknowledgement of my deficit is that I realized I have for some time been dealing with low-grade PTSD, and I’m not sure what to do about it. After serving in Palestine since 1995, and seeing small victories, friendships built all get swept away, seeing the relentless cruelty of occupation get more and more entrenched—I think it has broken something in me. And I am reluctant to use the word “trauma” in relationship to myself when I’ve been coming over just once a year, because the people of the Old City are living with this brutality every day. It seems like whining, or attention-seeking behavior.
But this year, for the first time I had to walk out of a movie at the Palestine Film festival after eight minutes. I had already seen those faces at home demolitions. I had seen those terrified children being dragged away by soldiers. I didn’t need to watch them on the screen. And I had to stop watching a documentary about Israeli women soldiers on our local public television station for the same reason. I acknowledged it was a good thing they were coming clean about their abuses of Palestinians, but I kept seeing the faces of those Palestinians they had abused.
So I probably won’t be going back to Hebron when I return to work in January. Perhaps I will work on another team, or perhaps I will just take a year off to work with Christian Peacemaker Teams’ new Communications Director. And maybe I’ll figure out how to classify my stupid trauma. Maybe I just did.
I am a U.S. citizen who has worked in the West Bank City of Hebron since 1995 with the human rights organization Christian Peacemaker Teams. I am currently serving with two Australian teammates who brought to my attention a picture of the four you enjoying time in Jerusalem under the caption, “Bringing peace to the Middle East.”
I do not know you, but if I were to see a similarly captioned photo of Democratic and Republican lawmakers from my country in Jerusalem, I would feel it like a kick in the gut. People are dying over here. In our context, it happens most often when soldiers shoot them at checkpoints in extrajudicial executions with complete legal impunity. For years at the checkpoints we monitor in the morning, we have watched Israeli soldiers shoot teargas at small children walking to school—something that you would never tolerate in your own electorates. We cannot count all the other indignities and humiliations we have witnessed this military occupation inflicting on the inhabitants of Hebron—as it is in the nature of all military occupations to do.
And the geographically expansive region of “The Middle East,” to which you referred encompasses the people caught up in the carnage currently engulfing Aleppo, Syria, as well as the violence in Iraq, Yemen, Egypt. These are real human beings, loved by their families, who feel pain when bombs and bullets slice though their flesh, or who who suffer that stab of utter horror when they realize it is their child buried beneath the rubble. In other words, peace in the Middle East is not a joke, Mr. Marles, it is a moral imperative for all people of conscience.
Colleague of [names redacted in order to foil Israeli security officials who think Palestinians have no right to have internationals spend time with them and who have complete control over the borders of Palestine.]
Diya (11) is arrested by an Israeli Border Policeman
I didn’t add this anonymous letter that appeared on Mondoweiss in October, because I was going to be heading to Hebron in the winter or Spring, but I think enough time has passed now that I can probably post it.
The following was written by a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron. The author writes, “*I am not using my name because Israel has complete control over the borders of the West Bank and Gaza and routinely denies entry to human rights observers. Israel denied two of my colleagues entry in the last few months and banned another from Hebron because she took an Instagram photo showing the Israeli military violating the human rights of Palestinian children. Furthermore, Israel may soon deny entry to anyone who advocates any sort of boycott, even of those products produced in settlements, which are illegal under international law.”
Dear J.K. Rowling,
I have worked as a human rights advocate in Palestine for twenty years and most of the people in my circles support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to one degree or another. I am married to an Israeli who supports the boycott of settlement products and corporations that enable the Israel’s occupation of Palestine, but, like you, does not support the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. I believe it is possible for people of good conscience to disagree on this issue.
But I want to tell you that in the city of Hebron where I have worked for the last twenty years, I have, with my own eyes, seen Palestinian children attacked, beaten, arrested—without any of the due process the civilized world grants minor children—and in general treated with utter contempt by Israeli soldiers and settlers. A major part of our work is monitoring the treatment of children as they walk through checkpoints on their way to school everyday in the Old City of Hebron. The Israeli military’s of teargas has become almost routine when elementary children passing through—something Israeli families would never tolerate for their own children (and indeed the police do not use it against Jewish Israelis inside Israel.)
Several days ago, 17-year-old Dania Arshid was walking to her English class through a checkpoint. Accused by Israeli Border Police of having a knife, she threw her hands in the air, backed away, and was summarily executed by multiple gunshots.
I can tell you, based on my experience, that no one will go to jail for her murder, or for the murder of Hadeel Hashlamoun, a few weeks earlier or for Fadel al Qawasmi. In the impossibly slim chance an investigation into her extrajudicial execution occurs, the courts will exonerate the soldiers and racist Israeli social media will hail them as heroes.
As of the end of August, 133 Israeli children and 2065 Palestinian children had died since 2000 in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I view the death of any child of any nationality with horror, but in this conflict, it is the Palestinian children whom the agents of Occupation kill and abuse with impunity.
So Ms. Rowling, you do not have to support the Academic and Cultural Boycott, but for the sake of all Palestinian children who love Harry, you do need to say their lives matter. You need to say they are entitled to exactly the same rights, dignities and freedoms that Israeli children are. And you need to say that Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians, this Unforgivable Curse from which all the violence tormenting the inhabitants of this land emanates, must end.
– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/rowling-palestinian-children/#sthash.ewShkzCY.dpuf
Every year when I return to Hebron I have come to expect that I will find the Israeli Military Occupation more entrenched, the people more battered, more resigned. I expect that the Christian Peacemaker Team I have worked with since 1995 will have new challenges to meet. When I rejoined the team in early March, however, the extent of the restrictions on team’s monitoring work at checkpoints during school hours frankly shocked me. Border Police no longer permit us to exit the Old City near our apartment and make the five-minute walk to the Qitoun checkpoint to document how the soldiers treat schoolchildren and teachers passing through. Instead, we must take a fifteen-minute taxi ride over the hills and around to reach a location we can see from the roof of our house.
Once we are there, we must stand on what my teammate Stephanie calls poetically “the teargas side of the checkpoint.” Occupation forces have built up the checkpoint considerably since I left and from where we stand, we can see only from a distance the interactions between soldiers and children. We can no longer hear what happens or ask the children what soldiers said to them. The situation is worse for the children at Qurtuba School. Our colleagues with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI) were intended to be present for students as they passed through Checkpoint 56 and the settlers on Shuhada Street who have a history of attacking them. Now they must remain on the H-1 side of the checkpoint, where they can do nothing if something happens to the children on the other side.
The Occupation’s restrictions on international monitors in the H-2 area of Hebron are of course falling more heavily on Palestinians, and nowhere is this more the case than those living in Tel Rumeida. Last fall, the military began assigning numbers to Palestinians living in Tel Rumeida. Hani Abu Haikel showed us two numbers written on the outside of his green ID case when we brought a visiting CPT delegation to visit. If you don’t have that number, you are not legally allowed to be there. It doesn’t matter if you are a relative or a friend. (Relatives and friends of settlers living there are of course, allowed to visit them.) Three days earlier, Hani had workers pruning his grapevines, and settlers “reported” them to the soldiers, who told Hani he had to get special permission to have his grapevines pruned. The morning we visited, his wife Rheem and daughter Bashaer had been walking to a dentist appointment and a settler boy told the soldiers they didn’t live there, so the soldier made them wait in the pouring rain for twenty minutes while he checked their IDs.
Last month, as Hani was arguing for his right to pass through the checkpoint, a soldier called his commanding officer and asked if he could shoot him, and he overheard the commanding officer say on the radio that Hani was “too old” to shoot. Last fall, when killings in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron were an almost daily occurrence, the Israeli military authorities evicted the International Solidarity Movement volunteers from their apartment just outside of the Gilbert checkpoint. That was when the neighborhood felt at its most vulnerable, an international married to a Palestinian resident told me after when I ran into him after our Friday afternoon mosque patrol. INTERNEMENT
“They want to make us afraid,” Hani said. Many of his neighbors have moved now. He says the intention of the occupation authorities is clear: to make life so unbearable in H-2 that Palestinians will leave. And of course, that is why they have placed the restrictions on international volunteers as well. They want to make us afraid, too—afraid of deportation, afraid of making the situation worse for our Palestinian partners, afraid that our work is becoming pointless, because we cannot reach the areas that where we need to do our documentation.
Listen to us carefully. If all of H-2 from Tel-Rumeida to Kiryat Arba becomes a settlement corridor, do not say you were not warned, because right now, the Israeli settlers here in Hebron are winning.
An Editorial Note—by Peter Eisenstadt
Kathy Kern is one of the bravest persons I know. As she mentions in her article, she has been going to Hebron as a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) for over two decades. CPT is a Christian pacifist organization, with its roots in the traditional peace churches, the Mennonitesand the Church of the Brethren, , though it is broadly ecumenical in its outlook. To quote from its website, CPT “ places teams at the invitation of local peacemaking communities that are confronting situations of lethal conflict. These teams seek to follow God’s Spirit as it works through local peacemakers who risk injury and death by waging nonviolent direct action to confront systems of violence and oppression.” They do not go into war zones, but areas, like Hebron, that are what might be called “near war zones,” areas of great tension between the oppressors and the oppressed, between the occupied and the occupiers.
Working in Hebron is hard and dispiriting. CPTers try to help Hebronites in their conflicts with settlers, soldiers, and Israeli officials. They document the daily indignities meted out to local residents. The team in Hebron is currently short-handed, in part because Israel sometimes does not allow CPT members to enter the country. (Kathy was once denied entry at Ben-Gurion airport.) And in the recent years, its work has been pervaded by the sense that Israel and the settlers are winning; and that it will win its long, slow war of attrition against the Old City of Hebron; as Palestinians are either forced out or leave because living conditions have become impossible.
I was privileged, in December 2014, to spend a day with Kathy and her husband, Michael Argaman, at the CPT apartment in Hebron. It is utterly chilling to think that however bleak things were at the time, the situation has radically deteriorated. As Kathy notes, the Qitoun checkpoint, which was a twisty-turny five minute walk from the CPT apartment is now inaccessible by foot, and unlike when I was there, the CPT team is now limited to the Palestinian side of the border, so they cannot see the interactions of the school children with the IDF soldiers. I accompanied the CPT team early one morning to watch children crossing the checkpoint on their way to school. I can still smell the tear gas. Hebron has been, in recent months, even more explosive. At the Quitoun checkpoint recently there was an incident when the IDF killed a Palestinian youth in an alleged stabbing incident. The Old City of Hebron for many decades has been the site of the hottest of cold wars, requiring little in the way of additional kindling to burst into flames. The Israeli occupation of the Old City of Hebron is where the occupation of the West Bank began, and if it ever ends, it will make its last stand in Hebron. All I can say is that Kathy and her CPT colleagues, trying to salve the half century old open wound of Hebron, are truly doing God’s work.
Note: This article originally appeared on the The Jewish Pluralist website. (I sent a penultimate draft from Hebron, so this represents a corrected draft.)
Shopkeepers in Hebron now address me respectfully as ‘Amti, or “Auntie”—a title that means I am not elderly, but well, matronly. And it means that I have worked in Hebron for a full generation—twenty years, minus the five that the Israeli government decided to deny me entry into Palestine.
In 1995, my organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, responded to an invitation from the Hebron Municipality to address the violence of the Hebron settlers in the Old City for a period of five months beginning in June At the time, people believed there was a realistic chance Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would remove the Hebron settlers and an actual plan existed to redeploy the Israeli military from Hebron at the end of the summer.
Every Saturday afternoon, at about the same time settlers would attack Palestinians, their homes, shops and cars on a short length of Shuhada Street—formerly the main street of Hebron—referred to as Dubboya Street. Our main focus of that first summer of 1995 was to spend Saturdays on Dubboya documenting settler intimidation of Palestinians there and if possible, intervening to prevent violence.
Yigal Amir assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. It turned out that Amir was behind many of those attacks on Dubboya Street and for a time, much of the settler violence subsided. Our focus shifted to home demolition and land confiscation in the late 1990s and then the Second Intifada exploded and gun battles in the streets of Hebron became a nightly occurrence. The stipulations of the Oslo Accords that Shuhada Street remain open to all traffic—stipulations never respected by the Israeli government… well, by that time everyone agreed Oslo was dead.
This week, our team received a call that the Israeli military was evicting an elderly woman and her daughter from their home on Dubboya Street. As is often the case in fraught situations like these, it took us awhile to get all the facts right. The police said that someone had thrown Molotov cocktails from the women’s roof, but they had given the women no warning before they sealed their home. They said they should have known someone was throwing Molotov cocktails from their roof. And while soldiers were welding their home shut they laughed and settlers taunted them.
We posted an album of photos and our basic understanding of the story on Facebook and our website. And then the comments exploded. On our Facebook page, people kept posting this video, which they say proved the daughter was encouraging her mother to cry on cue, although when my teammates got there they tell me the women were genuinely distraught. JewishPress.com framed the video with an incredibly factually inaccurate piece entitled, “What gets a foreign anarchist up in the morning.” No, we’re not all anarchists and no, we’re not trying to settle in the abandoned buildings.) If you want to know the facts of the story, see this video by Hebron Defense Committee member and Al Haq researcher Hisham Sharabati.
I went to visit the two women the next day. The older Zuheira was depressed and tired, her daughter, smiling and energetic. I don’t know why she was smiling in the video. My bad photo of the two of them seems to indicate that it seems to be her natural disposition.
I do know this: In 1995, even though many shops on Dubboya Street had already closed due to settler and soldier harassment, some were still open. Many people still lived there. Palestinian cars were still able to drive on it. And today, when you walk on the street, door after door after door is welded shut. As Hisham notes in the video, settlers have broken into the backs of the shops to steal the electricity. Most of the families have moved out. The settlers have largely won the battle for Dubboya Street by a process of attrition.
So don’t tell me that Zuheira was crying over fake losses. The Palestinians of Dubboya Street have seen nothing but loss for the last twenty years. And I find it disgusting that people are trying to score propaganda points off the tears of an old woman who has just been evicted with no warning or due legal process.
Note: I originally wrote this reflection for my blog, then adapted it for my organization’s CPTnet. I’m adapting it back again a little.
Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account. Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets. We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account.
I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.) That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe. In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable.
If you want to drive Colombian farmers off their land so that you can make big profits with palm oil plantations, it’s okay to assault them, to threaten to rape their nine-year old daughters, to kill their animals, to burn their homes, to use the instruments of the Colombian state illegally to evict their communities’ teachers. And of course, you can do much worse. The types of violent harassment cited above are just some issues the communities we work with have been dealing with recently.
In Iraqi-Kurdistan, our civil society partners have had to drop most of their work to focus on the some most disposable people in the world: refugees. And these refugees have included those from the Ezidi/Yazidi community, whose wives, sisters, and daughters are now in ISIS/DAESH brothels, women considered worthless except for sexual gratification.
And then there is the project CPT Europe participated in this summer, welcoming the refugees that Europe wishes would just disappear, and who, because of European policies, have drowned by the thousands in the Mediterranean, fleeing the violence in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
In Palestine, for nineteen long years, we have watched the forces of military occupation say it is acceptable to arrest, jail and torture Palestinian men, women and children without due process, and destroy their homes if Israel wants their land for settlement expansion. It is acceptable for soldiers to shoot teargas at Palestinian children on their way to school and look on as settlers attack them.
In our work with Indigenous partners, we have watched again and again naked racism strip them of their sovereignty, strip their lands of their resources, and leave behind the toxic poisons of their industries. We have watched the Canadian government shrug as 1800 Indigenous women are reported murdered and missing.
So I think it’s all related—Mike Brown, VonDerrit Myers, Tamir Rice, Tina Fontaine, Loretta Saunders, Bella Laboucan-McLean, Marissa Alexander, Jalil Muntaqim, Leonard Peltier…People of color who lost their lives, livelihoods, and freedom because here in North America they were considered just as disposable as the people we work with in Colombia, Palestine, Lesvos, Turtle Island and Kurdistan.
The good news, of course, is that our Colombian, Indigenous, Palestinian, Kurdish, and refugee partners are revealing to the world that they are a treasure—as are the people of Ferguson. The season of Advent is upon us. Let us listen.
Good hashtags to follow #BlackLivesMatter #TheologyofFerguson #StayWokeAdvent. Good accounts: @FaithinFerguson, @BroderickGreer @MikeBrownCover. The #Ferguson hashtag has a lot of good information, but you will also find really racist tweets there.
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