At home in Cambridge Massachusetts I am now recounting my trip to southeast USA with my photographic presentations about Palestine & Israel, in 15 parts, one for each day.
How’d I end up here? An apartment I’m sharing overnight with 3 students from Georgia State College and University (a name I asked about without getting a definite answer, an enigma), after a Gaza show to about 40-50 mostly students and a few faculty, on my way south, further south, tonight Valdosta Georgia, then Jacksonville Florida. Inexorable progress, true at least for this tour.
The show went very well, despite arriving just 10 minutes before show time without sufficient time to put out photos and literature and collect my energy. Questions about Hamas, secularization, USA response, Christian Zionism, action. I’d prepped the audience for the first time with a strong dose of history, which seems to have helped. That history with its inherent fascination conveys some of my motivation for dwelling on Gaza, besides my friendships, the AFSC, the horrors, etc. No hostile remarks. Indeed I seem to be encountering a strong willingness to see Israel-Palestine thru the lens of Palestinian oppression.
Ragdha’s family and compound in the Bureij refugee camp, Gaza Strip, May 2006—brother
Earlier and thanks to Dave and his friend C (now with tenure as sociology prof at University of South Carolina Aiken), and the blessings of her department chair which would ward off complaints about my perspective, I showed a brief version of Gaza during the noon hour. I’m learning how to shrink the show, starting later after the titles, concentrating on personal stories. This leaves about 10 minutes for discussion. An older man quizzed me about “collateral damage”: Doesn’t war entail the injuring of innocents, the unfortunate injury? Implying that Israel is not culpable for its infliction of suffering on civilians. I replied that the use of white phosphorus, the apparent deliberate targeting of UN facilities and schools and medical institutions, the attacks on the so called “safe house” soldiers forced residents into, plus any number of other killings as at demonstrations, strongly suggest the motivation, at least at times, is to destroy all Gazans, ultimately to drive them out—or create “ethnic containment” to be contrasted with ethnic cleansing. Ultimately for what purpose, I need to ask: the withering away of the Gazans?
I turned the question to others who seemed to concur. Later, a woman approached C to complain about my show, threatening to write or phone the department chair. Ah ha, C had wisely prepared for this!
Truly, I relish the controversy. I feel confident that my arguments and evidence will stand up against criticism. And now I must guard against smugness, another affliction I find common among Quakers. The thought that I have the truth, all those opposed are wrong. I must cultivate humility and good listening skills. Always listening for the heart of the matter, what causes the heat: Fears that Jews will be attacked. Cognitive dissonance from awareness without admission. Culpability. Shame.
A attended the Aiken show, good to see him; he treated C and me to Thai food.
Two folks I think from the university videoed me, promising to send me a copy. I gave them a copy of the show. This just after Dave and I had discussed putting some of my presentations on tape. Others at various venues have asked about this. I might be drifting toward this; the requests are a good sign that someone appreciates my work.
C is a sweet soul generous, compassionate, knowledge, soft. I enjoy knowing her, staying with her, her home immaculate, her office a shit heap. She told me about her semester on ship, teaching sociology as the 700 students cruised around the world with stops in places like Namibia, South Africa, Bahia in Brazil, and other conflict spots. She suggested to me that I could join such a program as an instructor. Maybe for later, for my retirement.
Dave, who drove me from Aiken to half way to Milledgeville, meeting Chris and Caitlin for the rest of the ride, is as always energetic and faithful, maintaining his strong belief in social change. Despite some of my earlier misgivings I think we’re becoming buddies in the struggle.
During this ride thru the agrarian countryside of South Carolina and Georgia, my phone rang: R from Cambridge, checking in. We chatted about civil disobedience; he asked me about my latest exploits with women, I joked with him about S, being stuck in the car with her and two other women in the night, lost, in the vacant country, and so maybe we should consider a motel room, shacking up. He confessed that he is living vicariously thru me. He also wanted to tell me about the nation-wide Israel apartheid organizing he’s doing in Boston, and that he is planning to attend the one state conference at end of March in Boston. We might do this together. Rick, a radical Jew as I term him to his face, is one of my best buddies.
Brother and sister
During my infrequent and short rest periods I do email, revise the schedule on my website, read computer news and mail, take care of occasional business, revise a show, walk, chat with hosts, snack and nap.
—February 12, 2009, Thursday, Milledgeville Georgia