Land Day in Israel/Palestine and Fridays with Billy.

Today is Land Day in Israel/Palestine, a memorial day commemorating the March 30, 1976 deaths of six Palestinian-Israelis, killed while protesting Israel’s practice of expropriating Palestinian-Israeli land.

Since then, Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel-proper have marked March 30 as a day on which to protest not just issues concerning land within Israel’s internationally-recognized borders, but also Israel’s generally discriminatory practices toward its Palestinian citizens, and the occupation/settlements.

So far (1:45 pm, CST) one protester, Mahmoud Zaqout, has been killed in Gaza, but at least one other person has been critically injured by Israeli fire, so it’s likely that the number of dead will rise by at least one. Many others have been injured and/or detained.

Such a day seems a particularly good day to run Billy Bragg’s “The World Turned Upside Down,” about a 17th century land protest.

There are, of course, myriad differences between any and all 17th century realities and those of our century, and certainly between that of peasants claiming land for common use in England, and a nationalist war over a scrap of land in the Middle East. Indeed, the Diggers of whom Billy sings would likely not have begun to know what to do with the notion of nationalism, an idea born in the late 19th century.

Never mind. Some words, some ideas, some suffering is, in fact, universal, and carries down through the ages. And the echoes are frighteningly close to what we still see today, nearly 500 years later.

May this Land Day be the last, and may Israelis and Palestinians alike soon know peace and justice, amen amen.

In 1649
To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs


From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
But still the vision lingers on

full lyrics;What is Fridays with Billy?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Open thread is as open thread does.

The crazy work schedule has passed – and I’m actually even less available. Huh! Spring break, friends and family stuff, readying the house for Passover, etc and so on.

Having said that, how could I forget you, my Horde? Have at it! And if you get stuck in moderation because I’m hardly even at my desk right now, I’ll fish you out as soon as ever I can.

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

My President is a feminist II – President Obama addresses Planned Parenthood supporters.

“Let’s be clear here: Women are not an interest group…. They’re half of this country.”

“If you truly values families, you shouldn’t play politics with a woman’s health.”


(Do you think the President saw my tweet?)

The shtetl abides – an open thread.

The crazy work schedule has passed – and I’m actually even less available. Huh! Spring break, friends and family stuff, readying the house for Passover, etc and so on.

Having said that, how could I forget you, my Horde? Have at it! And If you get stuck in moderation because I’m hardly even at my desk right now, I’ll fish you out as soon as ever I can.

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

Huge correction re: Ehud Olmert & the Arab Peace Initiative.

For years now, I’ve written some version of the following words:

“All 22 members of the Arab League, including the Palestinian Authority, offered a comprehensive peace in exchange for a two state solution not once, but twice: in 2002 and 2007. Both times, Israel entirely ignored the offer.”

I wrote these words in good faith, but it turns out I was wrong. Wrong matters.

Late Monday night, while he was speaking to the annual J Street conference, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this: “Those who say that Israel did not address itself to the Arab Peace Initiative do not speak the truth. Israel was prepared to negotiate within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative.”

I took note but was busy transcribing the speech for a client, so couldn’t do anything at the moment. By the time Olmert was done, JTA’s Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas had tweeted:

I tweeted back a question asking for clarification, and he very kindly obliged — and lo, it turns out that at the Annapolis Peace Conference in November 2007, then-Prime Minister Olmert said in his address:

I am familiar with the Arab peace initiative, which was born in Riyadh, affirmed in Beirut [in 2002] and recently reaffirmed by you in Riyadh. I value this initiative, acknowledge its importance and highly appreciate its contribution. I have no doubt that it will be referred to in the course of the negotiations between us and the Palestinian leadership.

So first of all: I was wrong.

This is information that I didn’t have, and I’ve been functioning under, and spreading, a misconception for years.

I can even tell you why I was wrong: I had so little faith that anything would come out of Annapolis (and, in the end, nothing did) that I paid no attention to the proceedings. I have only rarely in my life been paid to pay attention to these things, and when I’m not being paid, my despair will sometimes overcome my curiosity and thoroughness — and that, as we can see, is not helpful. Because aside from anything else, it leads to enormous error.

I apologize for that error.

I didn’t address this yesterday, because I was hoping to find the time to do a little research. The question for me now becomes about the significance of Olmert’s remarks: Israeli officials are forever saying the right thing, and then doing something else all together. Witness my most recent post about the settlements; witness Netanyahu’s verbal insistence that he’s all about a two-state solution, vs his constant and consistent efforts to undermine any progress toward such an agreement. It’s also meaningful that the Israeli public as a whole remains unaware that the Arab Peace Initiative even exists — I believe that if the government had any genuine interest in pursuing the API (or any peace initiative), it would have worked its way into (or, indeed, been purposely introduced to) public discourse. It never has.

But I haven’t found the time I need to really dig into these questions, and at a certain point, knowing that you’re wrong but leaving that fact unremarked (other than a few tweets) is just not ok. So, inspired by my Twitter pal @dotanh, who has issued his own, Hebrew-language correction, I decided to write the above. I’m hoping to write something more in-depth soon, but for the time-being, I will leave it at:

I was really, really wrong. And I am deeply sorry for (and more than a little horrified by) the error.

On The Hunger Games and general female badassery.

We saw The Hunger Games on Sunday — and oh my God.

That’s kind of the sum total of my review, because, dudes: Oh my God! So good!

Sosososososo good!

Ok, there could have been a few fewer hand-held close-ups — but mostly they worked. And ok, Gale should have somehow been given a few more minutes to establish just how close that relationship is. And I’m not sure Lenny Kravitz was really meant to act.

But other than that? OH MY GOD. (And come on come on, the 12 of you who are silly enough to have any Josh Hutcherson [Peeta] hate. He.was.perfect. Haterz to the left! Done).

Plus, bonus: We didn’t go on our own. We brought the boy (who got me into the books in the first place) and one of his closest friends — two seventh grade boys absolutely determined to see a girl with a bow kick some serious ass on opening weekend. They loved it. LOVED it. The boy’s one critique? “Jennifer Lawrence was great and everything – I just wish Katniss could have been even fiercer, somehow.”

The times? They are achangin’, my friends. (And they and the husband were kind of pumped about the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer, too).

I, of course, have long been a fan of badass women. And of geekry (such as that inspired by these amazing books) of all kinds.

The only problem is that in most fantasy worlds, women are not, actually, badass. And unlike Katniss in both book and movie, they are all too often clothed in a fashion that would not only render badassery impossible, but sheer survival would be tough.

So, yes. Part of why I loved this movie so much, and the book, is the sort of thing that I hope will one day be entirely unremarkable: Its main character behaves and dresses as a person in her position actually would. This is also part of why I’m so excited to see Brave, and so loved its trailer (below), wherein we see the main character literally rip her dress at the seams, so that she may shoot her arrows.

And it’s part of why I, too, was totally pumped to see the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer — because this young woman

will not be fainting onto a dwarf’s bed and awaiting salvation anytime soon.

It’s also why I love this

source; artist

and this

source; artist

and this

source; artist

so very, very, VERY much.

It’s why I could flip through sources like the Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor tumblr (my source for the three above images) for hours. I am hungry to see women who look like what my dreams look like, who look like what we really are, who look like they could stand their ground and win the day.

We so rarely see such women in our culture.

But in the wake of The Hunger Games, and in advance of Brave and Snow White and the Huntsman? I do wonder if the times might be changing for more than just my boy and his friend.

I may have to take up archery.

On the West Bank, Israel does whatever it wants.

In yesterday’s HaAretz, leading Israeli political columnist (and national treasure) Akiva Eldar wrote about a dicey Palestinian decision to call on the UN to investigate Israel’s West Bank settlements (about which I wrote here, if you’re looking for a brief primer) — his point boiled down to: Such a gambit is simply not likely to pay off for the Palestinians, and then what?

However, on his way to making that point, he also happened to sum up, almost incidentally, the last decade or more of Israeli behavior on the West Bank, which in turn boils down to: They do whatever the hell they want, no matter what.

To wit:

Why would a rational person think a UN probe into the settlements would lead to any other results than those the results of the [2001] Mitchell Report, which recommended that construction be completely stopped and that outposts be evicted, or of the [US-backed] Road Map [signed and committed to by Israel] that recommended the Mitchell Report findings be implemented?

What more can we learn from an investigation into the settlement that we haven’t yet learned from [Israeli] Attorney Talia Sasson’s  report on illegal outposts [commissioned and committed to by the Israeli government]? What will the UN probe into the settlements teach us about the settlers’ attacks on the rights of Palestinians that haven’t been made public in the periodic publications of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or the websites of Peace Now, B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Bimkom, and Breaking the Silence?

It’s enough to look through the archives of the Israeli High Court of Justice and the Israeli press to determine that the settlers – aided by Israeli government after Israeli government –  are depriving Palestinians of their land, restricting their freedom, and generally making their lives generally more difficult. It is a shame to waste money on the stipends of the investigation staff.

So why did the Palestinians decide they need this investigation? They know no good came to them from the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead. It is hard to believe that they have forgotten the onslaught they suffered in the hands of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the American Congress, as a result of their failed attempt to be admitted to the UN and their admission to UNSECO.

(All links added by me).

I highly recommend that you click through and read the whole thing, but I read that part, and honestly, it took my breath away. And that’s just since 2001!

But yeah, of course. The Palestinians and their damn precondition that construction on the settlements stop before they negotiate — that’s the problem. Oy li.

To conversate – a verb? Discuss – an open thread.

You know what to do! (Don’t forget: I’m super busy with work – if you get stuck in moderation, I’ll fish you out as soon as ever I can!)

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

A Muslim mother of 5, beaten to death in her home.

Shaima Alawadi

Shaima Alawadi, a 32 year old mother of five, died yesterday as a result of a vicious beating she received earlier in the week in her in El Cajon, California home. Beaten on the head with a tire iron, she was found in a pool of her own blood by her 17 year old daughter, next to a note that a friend has reported read “go back to your own country. You’re a terrorist.” Alawadi was an Iraqi immigrant but had lived in the US for nearly twenty years, and had only recently moved to the San Diego area from Michigan. As far as I can tell, the children (aged 8-17) are all American-born citizens. The family reports that a similar note was left on their house earlier in the month, but that Alawadi dismissed the note as a prank. Family friend Sura Alzaidy described Alawadi as “a sweetheart… a respectful modest muhajiba,” meaning that she wore hijab, Muslim head covering, as a matter of course in her daily life.

Unlike in the case of Trayvon Martin, there are (as far as I know) no suspects in the case, there’s no phone record, there are no publicly available facts other than the above. There is a possibility, of course, that the killer actually knew Alawadi and the note was left as a diversionary tactic, and of course, one never knows what the investigation may reveal — El Cajon police Lt. Mark Coit very rightly told the San Diego Union-Tribune: “Although we are exploring all aspects of this investigation, evidence thus far leads us to believe this is an isolated incident. A hate crime is one of the possibilities and we will be looking at that. We don’t want to focus on one issue and miss something else.” This is what I want to hear from law enforcement: A willingness to go where the evidence leads, and nowhere else.

Yet having said that, and leaving room for the possibility of new information — I’m not the El Cajon police, and I can go ahead and make the leap of judgement. Shaima Alawadi was almost certainly killed for the color of her skin, the accent in her voice, and most importantly, the scarf on her head. The way in which she worshiped her Maker. And it just makes me ill.

In a country in which entire police departments feel justified in spying on Muslim Americans across state lines; in a country in which entire communities, across the country, are whipped up into a froth over plans to build houses of worship; in a country in which elected officials feel free to call Muslim faith-based philanthropic events “pure, unadulterated evil” — should we, in fact, be surprised that many believe “Muslim” to be  synonymous with “terrorist”? Should we be surprised that some act on the rhetoric?

There is a clear, shining thread between the murder of Trayvon Martin and the murder of Shaima Alawadi: Both victims represented, in their very bodies and in their very being, something, an otherness, that the majority Americans are taught to fear. I do not believe that most people who say reprehensible things or write off the faith of more than a billion followers as “evil” will bash in a young mother’s head — but I do believe that those who are willing to do so are guided by the scripts we provide.

When we normalize vicious hate, when we normalize violent rhetoric, when we normalize dehumanization – the deranged take their cues. It may well be that you have to be deranged to chase someone down in order to kill them “in self-defense” or to take a tire iron to a stranger in their own home — but the bigotry that guides such acts is normative. It is all around us.

And we have seen this all-too-American hate, this all-too-American dehumanization, before. We saw it in 1943 when Lt. Gen. John DeWitt delared that “we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map”; we saw it in 1960, when white Americans stood on sidewalks howling “Nigger!” at six year old Ruby Bridges; we saw it in 1979, when Sikhs and Mexicans were savagely assaulted for looking like Iranians; and we’ve been seeing it ever since September 11, 2001, when a group of criminals who hijacked a faith as surely as they hijacked those planes murdered 3,000 Americans — Muslim Americans included.

I do not believe that this hate, this dehumanization, is more prevalent among Americans than it is among other humans — but as I wrote the other day, Americans are the humans among whom I live. Americans are the humans among whom I am raising my children.

And we Americans are all too willing to blame the clothing, behavior, or supposed co-religionists of victims for their own deaths. We are all too willing to dismiss our own responsibility for creating, nurturing, and perpetuating a climate that supports those who would commit brutal crimes.

This is on us. If we want 17 year old black boys and 32 year old Muslim women to be safe from humanity’s most horrific side, we have to step up. We have to talk, to tell the truth, to write letters, to educate ourselves, to reach out, and above all, to find allies and build community.

As Dalia Mogahed, co-author of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think wrote yesterday: “We rightly accept that anti-Jewish rhetoric can lead to violence. When will we make the same connection for anti-Muslim rhetoric?”


Some more resources:

Muslim responses to terrorism.

Muslim American heroes.

For all the black, brown, yellow, and red boys we have killed – Fridays with Billy.

If we are honest with ourselves, Americans will admit that we face a range of racisms that frankly boggles the mind. I suppose it’s not “Americans,” per se, I suppose it’s humans — but Americans are the humans among whom I live, among whom I raise my babies. It’s our racism with which I must grapple.

Asian Americans are our “model minority” today, stigmatized and locked into behavior and qualities that we claim to value, even as we reduce human beings in all their complexities to a check list of traits and expectations.

But in the 1940s things looked quite different. Japanese Americans — and often others, lumped together based on physical appearance — were such a threat that people felt the need to tear them from their homes and lock them away.

I don’t like to write about anti-Asian bigotry as if it began and ended with the internment of Japanese Americans, but those camps remain one of the greatest stains on our collective soul, a stain that I believe we are all too ready to forget.

Billy Bragg sings a song about those camps, something that you would think an Englishman would be unable to access, and sings it from the soul of someone else, almost, sings it from the dirt in which young men lay dead, in a war that engulfed a generation, even as some left mothers, fathers, wives and children back in internment camps in order to fight for the country that had put them there.

In this 2010 live version, Billy brings the song (by Barbra Griffin and Leah Cooney) up to date in his introduction, with his usual astute grasp of human nature and sneaky sense of humor. He’s a gift, this man, and in a week in which Americans are talking about the killing of brown boys, I think also of the other brown boys, and yellow boys, and red boys, and girls, and men, and women, and babies who we have killed in our ignorance. In their memory, I give you Billy Bragg, singing “Everywhere.”

lyrics;What is Fridays with Billy?

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