Nowhere safe

The one place that I have found to be a refuge in the past decade has been yoga. I went to a class in Hollywood this week at the yoga studio of a relatively well-known Kundalini teacher. I was excited to go because I was with a good friend who also loves yoga and we both needed the space to heal and recuperate from all of the insanity that we live in because of our belligerent nation and its client state, Israel. I went to the room where the class would be held and began to relax and center myself while waiting for the teacher. Then the energy changed. An Israeli man from Haifa, who I believe works at this studio, came in to tell us that his city was hit hard that day and that there were many deaths. He said that he wanted to hold a class on astrology to examine the astrological reasons for Israel and Lebanon and their conflict. But nowhere in this statement did he have anything to say about the innocent Lebanese civilians dying everyday–at a rate of at least 5 to 1 of the Israelis. Nor did the word Palestine ever get mentioned and the way that Israel is pounding them in the north. No, this man wanted to inform his captive audience (an ignorant one at that, I imagine) that Israel is the poor innocent victim of its aggressive neighbors. It was so troubling and disturbing and completely ruined my ability to find any shred of inner peace. I left the room to complain thinking that what he said and did was far from what yoga is about–truth, balance, union. But the yoga teacher could care less. She proceeded to spend at least 30 minutes discussing conflict in a way that made it seem that somehow by sitting in a Hollywood yoga studio we could all bring peace to the world. The whole evening made me question yoga and all the benefits I know it to have and all that it has given me in the past ten years. Instead, it seemed like an incredibly narcissistic activity. How is it that indulging in my own–or anyone else’s–spiritual or physical needs going to help those who are being bombed back into the stone age?

As if to sink my soul even deeper than it is now with all that is going on in the world I went to see a photography exhibit called Rwanda: After/Darfur: Now. It was on display at a Jewish museum in LA and I don’t know which was more horrifying: what was depicted in these photos or the fact that no larger context was applied that suggested anything about parallel contexts in the Middle East of refugees, of ethnic cleansing. The Darfur portion of the exhibit was especially simplistic making it seem as if the conflict in Sudan is all about an Arab/Non-Arab fight, which is precisely what the Jews want to show. They want to use this as an opportunity to demonize Arab people while pretending to only be concerned about intervening in another genocide (but of course for Jews one could never say that it is similar to or the same as what happened in Nazi Germany). At one point in the exhibit you could actually switch the words around and use Israel instead to describe what it is doing in Ghaza and Lebanon in similar ways to what the Sudanese government is doing to the people in the Darfur region.

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On another note, lots of marches and news happening this week. Here are some highlights:

Behind the media’s Gazan blind spot

Hypocrisy and the clamor against Hizbullah

Regressing a full generation

What Israel and the U.S. Wanted May Not Be At All What They Get

Israel’s New Middle East

Israel responded to an unprovoked attack by Hizbullah, right? Wrong

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And…for information on the marches coming up and activist work:

March on Washington & around the U.S.

March on Washington

And…for those of you who are interested in going to Lebanon to help:

‘Lebanon: An Open Country for Civil Resistance’ Civilian Resistance: Call For Action & Solidarity For Lebanon

We, the people of Lebanon, call upon the local and international community to join a campaign of civil resistance to Israel’s war against our country and our people. We declare Lebanon an open country for civil resistance.

In the face of Israel’s systematic killing of our people, the indiscriminate bombing of our towns, the scorching of our villages, and the attempted destruction of our civil infrastructure, we say NO!

In the face of the forced expulsion of a quarter of our population from their homes throughout Lebanon, and the complicity of governments and international bodies, we re-affirm the acts of civil resistance that began from the first day of the Israeli assault, and we stress and add the urgent need TO ACT!

We urge you to join us in defying Israel’s aggression against our country and in defending the rights of the inhabitants throughout Lebanon, and particularly in the South, to live on their land. When the United Nations, created to preserve peace and security in the world, is paralyzed; when governments become complicit in war crimes, then people must show their
strength and rise up. When justice and human rights are scorned, those who care must unite in their defense.

Building on our belief in our country, the efforts of the already-vibrant Lebanese civilian resistance, and on the arrival of the internationals coming to Lebanon for solidarity, we declare that Lebanon is an open country for civil resistance, starting from August 12.

On August 12 at 7 am, we will gather in Martyrs’ Square to form a civilian convoy to the south of Lebanon. Hundreds of Lebanese and international civilians will carry relief as an expression of solidarity for the inhabitants of the heavily destroyed south who have been bravely withstanding the assault of the Israeli military.

After August 12th, the campaign will continue with a series of civil actions for which your presence and participation is needed. Working together in solidarity we will overcome the complacency, inaction, and complicity of the international community and we will deny Israel its goal of removing Lebanese from their land and destroying the fabric of our
country.

“If you are from outside Lebanon and you are interested in joining either the convoy or in joining an international civilian presence in Lebanon after August 12th, please contact Adam Shapiro at adamsop@hotmail.com. You will then receive instructions regarding visas, transportation and accommodations, as well as training and orientation. You will need to
secure your own funding to get to Lebanon and for costs on the ground.”

Please check the website of this campaign for updates.

This campaign is thus far endorsed by more than 200 organizations, including: The Arab NGOs Network for Development (ANND), International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Cultural Center for Southern Lebanon, Norwegian People’s Aid, Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, Frontiers, Kafa, Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, Spring Hints,
Hayya Bina, Lebanese Transparency Association, Amam05, Lebanese Center for Civic Education, Let’s Build Trust, CRTD-A, Solida, National Association for Vocational Training and Social Services, Lebanese Development Pioneers, Nadi Li Koul Alnas, and Lecorvaw.
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Finally, here is some important information for those of you wanting to engage in diplomatic or legislative action but who need more information:

August 2006

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Open Letter To the People of Lebanon, of Palestine, and of Iraq, and to those who stand for peace in Israel

From People in the United States Who Believe that Only Justice Will Bring Peace

Dear Sisters and Brothers Living With War,

We write to you in anguish, to express what cannot possibly be contained in words. We need a new language to speak about what humanity means and still can mean, what our humanity must create in this danger.

We send our solidarity, our commitment, our love. We write to let you know that there are many in this country who are organizing, educating, protesting, and engaging in civil disobedience, working night and day to call for an end to this horror, to change US policy and reverse complicity in Israel’s war, working for recognition of your sovereignty, your rights, your lives, your truths.

We are filled with anger at the US role in supplying Israel with weapons – in violation of the government’s own Arms Export Control Act – and at US policies that gave Israel more time to continue its attacks.

We are women and men of all ages, from all parts of the country, all professions, all faiths, all races, all national backgrounds. We are not reflected in the mainstream media because of the stronghold of fear and lack of information strangling the imagination and collective public voice of this country. But we are here and we want you to know you are not alone. We work in small community groups, in nationwide coalitions, in places of worship and as artists, writers, teachers — from all walks of life. We want you to know that when we see and hear the news we are imagining your families, your homes, your hearts, your hopes, your terror. We want you to know.

We grieve for all lives lost in the Middle East, believing that all lives are precious and equal, whatever the race or creed. We are working hard for peace with justice. The pro-war forces arrayed against us are far more powerful than us. The road to peace is far too long, and many will suffer. But we vow to do all we can to bring an end to the US role in this violence.

* We are putting pressure on our elected representatives to support an immediate ceasefire and then negotiate a just peace. Although the war on Iraq still produces its unbearable toll of daily death, many more voices in Congress oppose the war since we came together to try to prevent the war and then to oppose it. And although Congress still expresses its misguided and uncritical support for Israel’s actions in Palestine and Lebanon, our efforts have contributed to unprecedented debates on the causes of conflict. And we will not give up.

* We are educating US citizens on the consequences of our Government’s foreign policy. We organize teach-ins in places of worship, trade unions, schools and other public forums. We ground our teaching in universal human rights and international law. Many of us promote the call to support boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it upholds international law, as called for by Palestinian civil society in July 2005 and by Lebanese cultural figures in July 2006.

* We seek to give voice to the suffering and the steadfastness of the people of Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon, and to the stand taken by Israeli and US citizens who refuse to serve in armies of occupation and who work for justice and peace.

* We seek as well to expose and redeem the damage to our own country. We know that militarism destroys our economy, our communities and our humanity. We know that many who fight our government’s wars are the young and poor who feel they have no other options. We know that our schools, our jobs, our democracy, and our civil rights are held hostage to the military economy that currently drives our government. Our struggle is thus one of solidarity, not of charity.

* We take our protests to the streets in demonstrations and vigils – outside Israeli Consulates, US Federal Buildings, and in all public spaces. We cannot remain silent and simply let our countrymen and women watch other countries and other peoples burn.

We will work until our country stands for peace and justice in yours and throughout the world.

Signed by the following organizations

The Steering Committee and Staff of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a nationwide coalition of 200 groups and organizations

United for Peace and Justice, a nationwide coalition of 1,400 organizations

Click here to endorse.

UN Security Council Resolution Talking Points

As you plan actions this week
to demand an emergency ceasefire there are likely to be many questions about the draft resolution at the UN Security Council. As it stands today, the draft will bring neither justice nor peace. Indeed, it will prove impossible to implement. We need to keep calling for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. The talking points below can be used to explain why:

1. The resolution requires Hezballah to “cease all attacks” while Israel is only required to cease “all offensive military operations”. Thus the resolution is not a ceasefire at all, but a one-sided call for Hezbollah to stop. Israel could continue its devastating attacks on Lebanon’s infrastructure as “defensive” measures – and no peacekeeping forces will want to venture into such dangerous terrain.

2. The resolution does not call for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. It ignores the 7-point program presented by the Lebanese government, which is backed by a national consensus, including Hezballah. That would include an immediate ceasefire, Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon, monitoring of the withdrawal by UNIFIL (the UN’s peacekeeping forces in Lebanon), and putting the Lebanese army in control of the southern part of the country.

3. The resolution reinforces the claim that the “root cause” of the violence was the capture by Hezballah of Israeli soldiers on 12 July 2006. In fact, there have been countless violations of the blue line established on the Lebanese-Israeli border after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. UN peacekeepers have documented 10 times as many violations by Israel as by Hezballah in the past six years. The broader context – including the fact that Israel holds several Lebanese prisoners as well as nearly 10,000 Palestinian prisoners – is ignored.

4. The language equates deaths and destruction of civilian infrastructure “on both sides.” It ignores the disproportionate civilian deaths and destruction of infrastructure caused by Israeli bombings. Well over 90% of all civilian deaths, combined with nearly a million Lebanese displaced are all a result of Israeli attacks. Whole neighborhoods, roads, the airport and ports, bridges, power plants, milk factories, and grain silos have all been decimated. Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian targets on this scale are crimes against humanity. See Human Rights Watch recent 50 page report: “Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon”

5. The resolution calls for the unconditional release of the two Israeli soldiers, only “encouraging” the release of the Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.

6. The resolution provides for international forces only on the Lebanese side of the border, whereas Israel has invaded Lebanon repeatedly in the past, most notably in 1978 and 1982, and has continued to violate its territory and airspace, with some estimates placing Israeli over-flights at as many as 11,000 since 2000.

7. Finally, the resolution makes no mention of the real root causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict: the continued occupation by Israel of the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem and its siege of Gaza, the continued Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, and the denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return and compensation, rights upheld by international law.

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One thought on “Nowhere safe

  1. Granted the situation is grim but maybe if you came from Haifa you would see this conflict very differently…. but your quote from an earlier post:

    “The image captures perfectly the fact that there are no innocent civilians in Israel.”

    makes me think that you would have a hard time putting yourself in his/her shoes.

    “The Dafur portion of the exhibit was especially simplistic making it seem as if the conflict in Sudan is all about an Arab/Non-Arab fight, which is precisely what the Jews want to show.”(i’m jewish and i didn’t even know the exhibit was on – i am always left out of these diabolical plans )

    You might want to double up on that yoga and get rid of some of the hatred…

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