Painting a green line through Jerusalem.

green line Jerusalem

An activist paints a literal Green Line on June 5, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (A. Daniel Roth)

There is a green line that runs through the city of Jerusalem.

It exists only on maps, and pretty much only on maps not printed by the State of Israel or other Jewish institutions, but it exists, and it represents a part of the international border between Israel and the West Bank as of June 4, 1967.

It exists even though official Israel and its supporters have done everything within their not-inconsiderable power to erase it in word and deed, creating a municipal behemoth that is currently one hundred times larger than the city was a century ago, pushing Palestinians out of neighborhoods and family homes and rendering fundamentally unholy the very city towards which Jews pray three times a day.

Today is June 5, of course, the anniversary of the opening salvos of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Jordanian army, the day to which many Israeli and Diaspora Jews look as the beginning of a miraculous liberation of our holy city—which is why a small group of Israeli and Diaspora activists chose this day to remind the world that no amount of governmental sleight-of-hand can change the fact that a border exists, and it runs through the very heart of a city that is endlessly declared Undivided.

Anti-occupation collective All That’s Left brought out paint and brushes, got down on the ground, and painted a literal green line where it exists on maps and should exist in political reality. Presumably because they’re good citizens (in Hebrew parlance,yeladim tovim Yerushalayim), rather than paint directly on the ground, they painted on long pieces of cardboard, and as they painted, they engaged with onlookers.

“Some have joined in the painting, others have yelled ‘jerusalem is only for Jews!’,” activist A. Daniel Roth tweeted as he painted, and later: “Religious Jewish woman agrees extremism is a problem, but wont concede the occupation is the cause…. Now the police are reading our literature and asking about the greenline that we are painting.”

Activist Emily Schaeffer explains:  “It’s disturbing to me that the average Israeli or visitor to Israel is able to go about daily life without noticing the occupation and oppression that exist on the other side of the Green Line, and that is because that line has been erased, both literally and conceptually.”

And of course, Israel has erased the international border, the Green Line, in many, many places, all up and down the West Bank, via settlement construction, Israeli-only roads, and the land-grabbing Security Barrier. The simple act of brushing green paint down a Jerusalem sidewalk was intended, activists say, to call attention to the entirety of occupation—not just that in the nation’s capital—on the anniversary of its beginning.

Yet it’s undeniable that the occupation is most easily denied in Jerusalem. Israeli and Diaspora Jews know what and where the West Bank is—they might support Israel’s settlement in that land, but they can’t fool themselves that it’s anything but a military occupation, at least for now.

But the average Israeli long ago stopped thinking of Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Eshkol, and French Hill as settlements. They’re just neighborhoods. Nice places to live, where the kids can run through the hilly yards behind sandstone apartment blocs.

Reminding them, the Diaspora community, and the world at large that these neighborhoods (and many more like them) are every bit as illegal as the West Bank hilltop communities they see on the nightly news is an important, subversive act.

Because if American and Israeli Jews are going to support the settlement project and all it entails—occupation, human rights violations, a possible end to the two-state dream—they need to be honest about it. They need to actually see what it means, especially in our holy city.

Green paint and cardboard are a good place to start.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Dear Israel: This is why my children are not growing up in Israel.

Israeli Border Patrol - not exactly cops on the beat. (Source: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

I’ve been particularly fixated this week on this story out of East Jerusalem (which, it should be noted, is a misnomer for the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages in and around Jerusalem which Israel is steadily Judacizing, many of which were not part of Jerusalem when Israel captured the city in 1967 but have since been unilaterally annexed):

Clashes erupted late Tuesday when the Israeli army entered the town in order to arrest a resident on charges of throwing stones. The arrest caused heightened tensions in the town and dozens of young residents gathered to confront the soldiers.

The clashes between the soldiers and the residents concentrated in Hai Abeid, which is downtown Issawiya, and continued until the early hours of the morning. According to witnesses, over a dozen Palestinians were injured. One of the wounded residents was hit with a rubber-coated bullet in his head and is currently in critical situation.

The Israeli border guard reported two injuries of Israeli soldiers who were taken to Hadassah hospital.

The army has deployed more soldiers to the area and the current situation is still tense.

Confrontations between the Israeli army and residents of Issawiya are very common, especially when the army enters the town. In the past two years dozens of residents have been injured and arrested and one [14 month old] child was killed from inhaling tear gas.

There are several reasons to get fixated, starting with the fact that this is the sort of news that people outside Palestine (and by that I also mean Israelis living a mile away) never, ever hear. I cannot tell you how I wish the world were more aware of the daily violence inherent to the occupation.

Then there’s the fact that “the Israeli army entered the town” to arrest someone for stone throwing.

I suspect the reference is to the Border Patrol, nominally a police unit but uniformed and armed as soldiers — neither Israelis nor Palestinians differentiate in any meaningful way between the two. So this means that virtual-soldiers swarmed Issawiya in order to arrest a resident of Jerusalem — a nominally undivided city — for throwing stones.

Is stone throwing nice? Nope. Can it lead to death? Yep. Is it the last weapon of the dispossessed in a frantic struggle to maintain some level of liberty and human dignity in the face of nearly monstrous power? You betcha. Does it warrant an influx of soldiers armed to the teeth using live rounds? No.

And there’s the little-known fact that Issawiya is literally on the other side of a wall from world-reknown Hebrew University, to which American Jews regularly send money and students. These clashes happen literal yards from classrooms, and no one has any idea. Lord knows I didn’t until I went to Issawiya myself.

But I also have a personal reason to fixate on this particular clash: A little more than a year ago, my family and I stood on that very ground, in solidarity and in a call for peace.

Click here to see a picture of Issawiya: IDF, Palestinians clash in East Jerusalem; one critically wounded — you see that fence in the foreground?

You should watch all of the following clip, but if you go to the 1:24 mark and look at that same fence in the top-right corner, you’ll see us walking alongside it: a little girl in green, a man in sunglasses, a woman in a black shirt, and a boy in a brown shirt. If you watch the next clip (and please do watch all of it, too), just after a sign that reads “Stop the Imprisonment of Isawiya” is moved (the top of the screen, 1:30 mark), you’ll see my daughter and husband again.

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So the other day, I called my son over and showed him the picture, and then with the cursor reminded him of where we had walked, where we’d turned up the street, where our Palestinian brothers and sisters had stretched an enormous Palestinian flag over us as we passed under and they welcomed us to their village — and told him that our army had shot more than 12 of the people living there, one of them critically.

Never have I felt more powerfully the fact that I have betrayed the forces of good by choosing to live in the US. And never have I been gladder that I am not raising my children to be sacrificed on the altar of the settlement policies that justify such rank injustice.

For a fact sheet on Israel’s tightening control over Palestinian Jerusalem, click here

Once more, with feeling: Israel forever slapping America’s face.

Yesterday Lara Friedman at Americans for Peace Now wrote a very pointed and accurate reaction to the fact that once again, on the eve of an important meeting with the US Administration, Israel has announced the expansion of settlements. She writes:

Does this all feel familiar? It should. We’ve seen this movie many times before. Some selected highlights include:

  • the announcement, coinciding with Secretary Clinton’s March 2009 visit to Jerusalem, of plans to demolish 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Special Envoy Mitchell’s meeting with Netanyahu’s envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, in London in November 2009, of plans for massive new construction in Gilo;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Vice President Biden’s visit to Jerusalem in March 2010, of plans for massive construction in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama in late March 2010,  of the issuance of permits to begin settlement construction at the Shepherds Hotel in East Jerusalem;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with Vice President Biden in New Orleans in November 2010, of the opening of the settlement floodgates in East Jerusalem.

I wrote a post bemoaning this precise issue back in November (re: the last bullet point, above), and have been flogging it mercilessly since yesterday, because, damn it, the post was good and I am just so furious.

So here it is again. (Perhaps the most telling part of this re-up is that I could re-publish the entire post today and the only thing I would have to change to bring it up to date, would be to change the link from the November news story to the current one).

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I often feel that I am absolutely out of words on Israel/Palestine. Out. Finished. Done. The well is dry, and the bucket has a hole.

But sweet baby Moses in the bulrushes, if Israel/Palestine doesn’t keep doing the same ol’ do, forcing me to search around in my bag for a little more verbiage. Woe, as they say, is me.

Of course, woe is them. Woe to the people who are constantly living in that absolutely solvable insanity, an insanity that no one has the stomach to solve. The stomach, the fortitude, the valor, the dash, the enterprise — nobody has it, apparently.

With this latest slap in the American Administration’s face (or, as it’s known in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: This latest incident of stealing land from people who have no home), I find myself almost punch-drunk with the ridiculousness of it all. Since about 1995, Israel has done nothing but piss in America’s cornflakes. And yet America seems pretty ok with that!

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Book review: Palestinians narrating.

It’s an axiom in my field that “Arabs aren’t allowed to narrate” — and it’s a pretty accurate one, at that, at least in the West (or: It was until last Friday. Perhaps the Egyptians are now ushering in a new age for the Arab peoples [with, of course, an important h/t to the Tunisians]).

I would submit, however, that nowhere is this axiom more true than with regard to the Palestinians.

The story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been seen in the West almost exclusively through the the Israeli lens. For many decades, this meant that the Israelis were the brave, besieged ones, whereas the Palestinians were the craven, evil ones — “Palestinian” often serving as something of a synonym for “terrorist.”

The good news is that last ten years or so have seen a certain re-focusing of the lens, as Western intellectuals, leaders, and the occasional Jew have rediscovered that other, rather more universal, axiom: There are two sides to every story.

The bad news is that we still have a long way to go. Because the truth is: Both sides have done evil. Both are victims. Both have been badly misunderstood and unfairly maligned. Both have stories of horror and heroism to tell the world.

But one side has a state. One side is supported by the world’s one remaining superpower. One side has tanks and a functioning economy, and one side is actually — literally — besieging the other. One side, the Israeli side, is still writing the history.

Into this breach, then, come two new Palestinian authors daring to narrate their own history, in beautiful, telling memoirs. I was lucky enough to review both for the Dallas Morning News yesterday:

… Sami al-Jundi’s The Hour of Sunlight (co-authored by Jen Marlowe) and Izzeldin Abuelaish’s I Shall Not Hate . Both men were born into Israeli occupation, but on opposite borders — al-Jundi grew up in Jerusalem , Abuelaish in the Gaza Strip — and the near-simultaneous publication of their memoirs creates an unusual opportunity to deepen the understanding of the conflict’s human cost.

Each author has spent his adult life dedicated to coexistence efforts, and the books deal at length with questions of nonviolence, mutual compassion and the search for Israeli-Palestinian peace — but as with all really good memoirs each also brings a great deal more to the table.

Yet for all that, Abuelaish’s convictions were unable to protect his family during the 2009 Gaza war: Two days before the cease-fire, the doctor’s residence was targeted by an Israeli tank — a shell ripped through a wall, killing his niece and three of his daughters.

Abuelaish recalls running to the shattered room: “Schoolbooks, dolls, running shoes, and pieces of wood were splintered in a heap, along with the body parts,” he writes. “There was brain matter on the ceiling.”

Yet somehow, he also writes of “the potential good that could come out of this soul-searing bad” — the possibility that the sides “might bridge the fractious divide that has kept us apart for six decades.”

Both authors are scrupulously honest (about their own limitations, as well as those of the peoples they long to see live in peace), their books heartfelt, moving and beautifully written, each in a distinctive voice, telling separate and equally important stories.

To learn more about/order these two marvelous books, please click here: Hour of Sunlight and here: I Shall Not Hate.

To read the rest of my review, please [UPDATE] click through to after the jump.

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