On the 7th anniversary of the attacks on the United States, 9/11/01
An earlier conversation between two friends about a culture of fear, acquiescence, silence; the topic is Palestine & Israel, the problem showing my photos:
August 21, 2008
I’m forwarding my note to Z because I thought you might be interested and can share some wisdom.
I’ve had a rough time finding sponsors for this photographic tour. Rougher than usual. Virtually no one so far has stepped forward to offer support. This includes people who I’m sure would be sympathetic but for various reasons other than what I write below have not found time to respond. Only the American Friends Service Committee in San Francisco has offered help (so far). I suspect that an overriding concern now is latent fear of the backlash, the Israel lobby as so effectively portrayed by Mearsheimer and Walt in their ground-breaking book, The Israel Lobby.
Any thoughts, analysis, suggestions?
Thanks and love,
Dear Z (forwarded to Anne),
One slight reflection on the current dilemma with your peace group sponsoring a presentation by me:
The picture is much wider than your group and me, wider than Israel and Palestine. It extends to the entire societal malaise, in my view: a culture of silence, acceptance, acquiescence. This is reminiscent of the 1950s when the entire nation was terrorized by the threat of communism. The stinking bodies and long fanged folks that bob referred to, scaring away others, in that era of silence were most anyone daring to question the mainstream ideology. Communist! Anti American! Anti Semite!
Here is Thomas Merton on that topic:
Every slightest effort at opening up new areas of thought, every attempt to perceive new aspects of truth, or just a little truth, is of inestimable value in preparing the way for the light we cannot see…In actual fact it would seem that during the Cold War, if not during World War II, this country has become frankly a warfare state built on affluence, a power structure in which the interests of big business, the obsessions of the military, and the phobias of political extremists both dominate and dictate our national policy. It also seems that the people of the country are by and large reduced to passivity, confusion, resentment, frustration, thoughtlessness and ignorance, so that they blindly follow any line that is unraveled for them by the mass media. (Emphasis added)
—Thomas Merton, 1963, Cold War Letters
This is a time to be still no longer…a time for crying out—as Hebrews cried out in bondage and Jesus on the cross… We need to give vent to our massive pain and fear. A people must move from muteness to outcry if it is ever going to take the next step.
August 21, 2008
This is such a tough situation, Skip. So very frustrating. In Ann Arbor Meeting when we were blocked by such concerns voiced by just a few, we held back with presentations for quite a while. Just lately they are asking for us to share more. But even in those discussions, there’s usually someone who worriedly objects to “one-sidedness.”
I’ll share your situation with our Palestine Israel Action Group chair, HF, who is very discreet and discerning. Maybe she will have some suggestions.
I’ve responded to the situation in some ways by hyping J Street, Brit Tzedek, Jewish Voice for Peace, Israel Policy Forum, and the Israeli Palestinian Center for Research and Information (on the QuakerPI website). I really do believe that leery people may become more open to discussion if they hear about this sea change in vocal, political, and public work by moderate U.S. and Israeli Jews who greatly support the existence of Israel, but who believe that its survival depends upon its making peace with its neighbors and having a viable Palestinian state.
I also believe people can hear Anna Baltzer because she “gives information and facts” rather than directly blasting Israeli govt. policies. Her presentational approach gets the viewer to form a conclusion. I’ve heard her say privately that this is a deliberate approach. But she’s she and thou art thee. You are following your Light, so to speak.
Anyway, this is all why I don’t use the “hard” approach that you mentioned in a recent letter about QuakerPi. I take your words to heart and am working to make sure QPI has much info about the suffering of the Pals and Israel’s seeming blockage of peace moves. I think and try to show that their governmental structure is fragmented and that they play to the deepseated fear of many Jews and that elements like the Settlers and the Orthodox block forward moves toward peace. We surely have the same situation in the US. Your Merton quotes are just fantastic. Will share ’em around.”
Anyway, my thought is that there’s another path, other than silence, or shouting out. It’s describing and it’s also including info about the new Jewish moderates’ public moves. (They say that rightwing hawks have controlled the “message” via AIPAC and have labeled peace workers as self hating Jews. They say that in fact most US Jews by far are leery of Israel’s occupation and warlike actions. So that now there is cover and encouragement for more vocal support for negotiations and withdrawal from the west bank and settlements.)
Perhaps you could send a note of concern with info about these groups and how people around the US & especially Friends may wish to be aware of their work and to support them. You could say that you speak about their focus in your presentation. It may be that there’s more worry among some folks now just because there’s been a bit more discussion openly on many fronts.
Hope this is not too vapid for ya.
Gotta hit the garden. It’s a great weather day here.
Will reflect & share.
Love and all,
August 21, 2008
Another thought, Skip, is the one a Jewish person recently pointed out: as irrational as it may be, many Jewish folks see us as speaking up early and often for “justice for Palestinians.” They believe, amazingly, that that is code for “we want to destroy Israel.”
IF we are to get skittery people and their imbedded allies — well, those who are their friends and take these fears seriously — we need to virtually start our announcements and presentations with something like (I can feel you wincing across the miles) “How can Israel obtain security?” or “How can israelis and Palestinians have equal human rights and security?” or “New approaches to security for Israel and human rights for Palestinians.” Maybe you could come up with a translation, a set of words that you could decide to feature in your announcements and presentations. How about “Can Israel be secure if Palestinians have human rights and a just peace?”
Reflexively worried Jewish people are everywhere. If we want at least to reach their friends, we may have to take their worries into account.
How can we achieve change for the Palestinians? Surely there is a role for shouting. But you’ve got to get your foot in the door.
August 23, 2008
Sailing: an act of changing course by turning a vessel’s head into and through the wind, so as to bring the wind on the opposite side (quoting a dictionary).
Thanks so much, Anne, for your wise counsel. I know I can rely on you for a seasoned reasoned set of suggestions. You’ve been thru much of what I’m experiencing now, you have good credentials.
As I understand you, you counsel me to back off, slow down, perhaps follow the style of Anna Baltzer who has been very active with presentations all over the country, facts and information only, let the audience decide. She has a huge following. I admire that. You also suggest emphasizing Israeli and American Jewish peace groups as a way to generate a wider audience among Jews. As you and colleagues do on your splendid website linking Quakers in the United States, quakerpi.org. Surely, as some others responding to my plea for support and counsel write, I should state clearly at the outset of any presentation that I recognize the millennial persecution of the Jews and their concomitant fear of annihilation, both as individuals and as a Jewish state.
However, as you mentioned, I should follow my own light. I appreciate your admonition. Here is a core question for me (for us all): what is my light, what does my light guide me to be and do?
I am a photographer presenting my experience, my truth, my passion. The main grounds for assessment, I feel, should be whether I’m doing my best at expression. Not whether I’m effective, not whether I’m balanced, not whether I’m upsetting some people, but whether I’m making best use of my tools, my craft, my experience as a photographer. (offerings)
I resonate so deeply with the words and lives of Frederick Douglass, and others like him, Lucretia Mott, John Woolman, the obstreperous George Fox himself, St Francis of Assisi going nude and experiencing the stigmata, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Dorothy Day and Rachel Corrie. I believe they usually resisted moderating their speech to widen their audience (Or did they? What dilemmas did they experience at times, encouraging them to slow down, temper their expression?) They were honest, direct, daring, courageous. They spoke their truth without equivocation. They drank from the well of respect and love for others.
Watching the video of Jimmy Carter on tour with his book, Palestine: Peace or Apartheid, I was enlivened when he spoke honestly to his critics, first listening to them respectfully and then speaking powerfully. When asked about using the word apartheid he replied, paraphrasing, I used that word to provoke debate, and because it accurately describes the situation in the West Bank. I suspect some of his advisors, maybe his book editor, counseled him to choose another word, one less likely to outrage some of his readers. He held his course, did not tack away from the headwinds, steered directly into the winds of opposition.
One might inquire, what are the guidelines for the Juneau peace group denying sponsorship of my Israel-Palestine presentations? Lousy photos and stories, untrue, inflammatory? Not grounded in the full reality of the region, deliberately hurtful of others? I suspect some could argue that some of this applies to me. His presentation is untrue. He’s demonizing Israel and Jews. He’s one sided, partisan. He intends to be provocative.
And what might lie beneath the apparent disinterest in my presentations expressed by some Quakers and Quaker meetings and at times their outright refusal to host me? I submit that part of the explanation is the Quaker culture of peace, so called peace, that deliberately avoids conflict.
Yes! I confess. I wish to be provocative, confrontative, afire with indignation, presenting a call for justice. Yes! I am outraged, call others to examine the situation and activate. Yes! I am partisan: for justice, with peace, with security for all. But justice is paramount. Holding all parties accountable to international law. Asking, are war crimes being perpetrated? If so, they must cease and those responsible held to justice.
I respect the fear and suffering of Jews. I agree that they have been viciously persecuted for millennia. And that the persecution remains a real threat. I’ve been to Auschwitz and wept at what my brothers, perhaps some of my blood family (my heritage is German) perpetrated. I admire the founding of the Israeli state, I question its present form, I support the right of Jews to a homeland—in which all residents, Jew and non Jew, have equal rights. I study and incorporate in my practice many elements of Judaism. I attend Jewish holiday celebrations at my local Quaker meeting whenever possible. Many of my closest friends, personally and in the movement for justice with peace and security in Israel-Palestine, are Jews.
Love grounds me. Or so goes my aspiration. I believe in love, hope to be held to this standard as well as excellence of craft. Am I a loving person, am I expressing love thru my work, am I respectful of all parties, all experiences, all perspectives?
The dilemma of being true to my experience and finding an audience is at the heart of my work; it is at the core of my direction. Yes, as some have stated, this is an opportunity to go deep, go far.
I wish to change course, to tack, facing the headwind, turning the sail to make best use of the wind’s power.
Nancy M, a friend and confidant, responding to my plea, wrote the following account of a recent denied tenure case slightly related to mine, hers much more serious but another weather vane showing one of the wind’s many directions:
It [censorship or retribution for challenging Israel] is truly shameful – and “it” is spreading far and wide. I just heard from B (who formerly worked with [a Boston Palestinian rights organization] but stopped about 5 years ago when her tenure application loomed at [a Boston area university]): here is what she said – “despite the fact that all 12 outside reviewers and every committee on campus recommended me for tenure and promotion, the provost has suddenly turned me down. He gave no explanation whatsoever. [The university used to do this all the time but the new regime has told us for years that tenure would be a transparent process. In my case, process has been completely ignored. Not only has my work been denigrated but the work that everyone else did who got involved with my case, on and off campus. I now have to appeal to the president and it’s completely unclear whether legality and professionalism will reign or corruption and discrimination.”
I don’t know how one can create enough noise to reverse these bigoted decisions — certainly the Finkelstein case created a huge outcry but they prevailed…it really is disgusting. Do you think there might be some Sabeel folks [where you’re having problems]?
August 25, 2008
Just a quick late night reply here, Skip.
Your passion and energy blow me over! Let that light of yours shine!
I’m pasting below a description of some blazing-light folks’s demonstration in Detroit last Thursday. The Michigan State Fairgrounds was turned over for one day to Michigan Jews, so they could celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence!
Our PIAG group decided to be part of the “Fair of Shame” demonstration but in the end we didn’t all go. You can see our Sol, the bearded one, in one of the pix, if they transmit. He’s the guy who recently signed off on the Jewish Friends chat list. Said he was tired of feeling like a pariah on the list. Farewell.
All photos from the web
Article in The Arab American News
Anyway, I didn’t get myself together to demonstrate. I was conflicted about hanging out with the synagogue vigilers, who were core organizers. But I’m feeling badly that I didn’t have the light in me to go. I guess we each have to try to honor who we are and what we find we have to give. I feel like a tired old woman so often, quite overwhelmed. But then I do what I can, with the website, the map card orders, the divestment survey, sharing info around, encouraging people. (I’m to help present on the divestment topic with Don Wagner at the Sept. Sabeel conference in the Detroit area. Gotta get my act together.)
Anyway, over the last 2 days and now tonight, I’ve been, as so often, conflicted about whether to be “speaking up” more passionately, as the demonstrators do; as you do, my friend.
I have this theory about “being heard.” Having to establish some commonality before one’s message can be heard. But I’m not sure that’s realistic. Truly our various ways of speaking and doing all surely reach various others in various other ways. Maybe each of our lights kindle something in somebody somewhere, and that’s what’s asked of us. To be true and reflective, mind and heart.
Your whirlwind of a statement is so fine and true. So are you, Skip, dear one. Give what we can. Relish life.
Have a look at this good report from Detroit kindred gutsy spirits.
August 25, 2008
Good to hear I can circulate the Finkelstein piece. [“Why Is Norman Finkelstein Not Allowed to Teach?”] Will do.
I remember a very moving moment when Finkelstein spoke before a big crowd on campus here maybe 5 years ago. The scene was the big old wood paneled ballroom in the Student Union. There was a great photographic exhibit, BTW, around the edges. Finkelstein gave a terrific presentation. During question time a young woman approached the microphone in the middle of the crowd, weeping. “I’m Jewish,” she said. “I’ve never heard these things you’ve told us, never in my life. If this is all true, then how can I go on. How can I hold up my head. I feel so ashamed.” Finkelstein answered her so gently and kindly. I can’t remember just what he said, but he was dear and reassuring and helped her get calm. And he did reassure her that everything he had said was true.
I take your point about Quakers’ polite minutes. Clearly they have a hugely different impact than those great freedom boats demonstrating to the world that 1.5 million human beings are imprisoned in Gaza.
Do you think maybe Quaker minutes make some kind of contribution toward the freedom of the Palestinians? I hope so. Maybe minutes represent uninformed or overwhelmed-feeling people daring to learn and to take a stand. That was a point that Arlene Kelly made — that the P-I situation seems to some people way too confusing and controversial even to look into. There was talk about the courage and gumption it takes for some people to pick up their first book on the topic or to come to their first discussion on the topic. I guess the “framing” that bedevils academics — the crazy anti-Semitism & self-hating Jew — baloney also scares some of us gentle souls from even taking a small step toward engagement. That’s a far cry from landing on the beach in Gaza. Is it worth something, even so? Maybe Quakers who’ve taken that step are then ready to hear your shouts, my friend.
On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
— Luke 6.1-13
An inspiring story of courageous action for justice.
We have just heard that our request for re-funding [from the European Union] has been rejected, in high probability because of pressure brought to bear by right-wing Israeli neo-cons who have campaigned obsessively against our funding while threatening publicly to close us down.
So we now face a real crisis.
That said, those who want us “gone” make a mistake in assuming that we will close if our funding is withdrawn. Our plan is to keep the office open and retain two staff; I will work on a voluntary basis
We continue to be very grateful for the support we’ve received from the ICAHD-USA community; your contributions have been an important supplement to the EU funding, allowing us to launch the Constructing Peace Campaign. Now we are turning to you for help; we must work together to preserve ICAHD’s position as a leader in the Israeli peace movement.
until the financial picture improves.
I promise you, no matter what, ICAHD will not be silenced.