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.
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert promised at the Annapolis talks and more clearly later to freeze all new settlement construction in the huge illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in East Jerusalem (and at other selected sites). Here’s what is happening: facts on the ground.
End of the southern road, for now, and soon to be home, inshallah.
Last night’s show at the University of Northern Florida, hosted by CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), an Islamic awareness group that apparently has branches throughout the United States, was spectacular. Nearly 200 people, many of them Arabic Muslim, a large contingent from Palestine, about 3 people from Gaza, many children, a group from a middle school with their young Black teacher who is an Iraq war Marine veteran, one of my best shows since I’ve come to know it so well, garnering a large financial contribution. The image was huge, tho faded; the sound clear, tho weak; my energy good, tho radio miked.
An argument broke out between two men about the role of Egypt, whether it treated the Palestinians unfairly. Yes, look at how they control the border. No, they are beholden to Israel because of the flawed peace treaty. Never experienced that particular argument during any of my shows. One boy asked if he could take a stack of Obama cards to distribute in school. Of course, and this ends my supply. Many looked thru the photos and bought some.
One woman, the heavy set woman sitting in front who read Dr Mona’s part, said during discussion, What’s the point of showing this to people like us who know all this already? Why not get it out more widely? I replied that I try, mentioning elder centers and universities and colleges. Later in a private discussion one of the Muslims disputed her, saying, We learned much. (About the American Friends Service Committee, hydropolitics, and perhaps my personal story—yes the history is well known to some, other portions are more unique, but she does raise a point: how to bring something new to an audience?)
Fadwa introduced me and like many who do this garbled my profile. For the past 10 years Mr. Schiel been teaching filmmaking at BC and he’s also a Harvard professor, he wrongly stated. People latch onto my Harvard connection and tend to exaggerate. Perhaps I should be more honest and correct them. I don’t, not entirely displeased with the illusion.
Muslim workers at prayer
I’d intended to add to my introduction the recent spate of good news I just received from Anne, about BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions), throwing shoes, and the like, didn’t have time. But I’ll add it here, summarizing:
1. An audience in Stockholm Sweden throws kisses-shoes at and hit their target,
the Israeli ambassador.
2. Numerous European countries including Spain, UK, and Norway, filed
charges before the International Criminal Court against Israeli political and military leaders, charging them with war crimes.
3. Church of England divests from Caterpillar killing bulldozer business—
4. Hampshire College becomes the first college institution in the US to divest
from Israel [this is later disputed].
5. South African dockworkers refuse to unload Israeli ships in solidarity with
the Palestinian People and in protest of the most recent genocidal Israeli
attacks on the people from Palestine/Israel. Israel allowed a small quantity of flowers into of Gaza.
6. Boycott, sanctions, and divestment campaign against Apartheid Israel heats
up. Remember the fall of South African Apartheid. Stay optimistic and hopeful.
[However, just today, April 20, 2009, I heard on Democracy Now that more European nations, led by Israel and the US, are boycotting the UN Durban Review Conference in Geneva because of possible slanderous remarks about Zionism and racism. I’m amazed that this connection is even disputed. Was Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad a good choice for the opening day’s speaker? I have to wonder.]
Clearing land for new houses
Indeed, despite much dreary news positive news seeps thru. A truce between Hamas and Israel is in the air. How much of a tipping point in the large story of conflict will Gaza prove to be?
Two families from Syria are hosting me, L, single mother of 2 sons, living in a palatial gated community house with a golf course, and her brother, Z, with his wife and 2 girls and infant son. Y is a cardiologist, his house also is huge and feels oddly empty, maybe only because they moved into it recently.
All my hosts in Jacksonville have been uniformly grateful to me for my work, honored to be hosting me, and aware, as Z told me last night, that I’m risking my life pursuing this mission. My life is intended to speak.
Y was curious about Quakerism, asked me a few questions in the car, and claimed he did more research last night on the web. The Quaker connection seems to generate much interest from many, playing off the not fully earned reputation we have. It is a talking point, so with Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of other faiths, some institutional, some not, it helps seed the conversation. And my story concerning my relationship with Quakers is mixed, realistically mixed. A believer, but only partially. A supporter of Quaker’s, only partially. Committed, only partially. I am a human being with flaws—many of them—and a modicum of virtues.
All my hosts are extremely and sometimes embarrassingly gracious to me: feeding me (special lunch yesterday, Syrian), cleaning after me, fitting me into an electronic comfy chair, providing me a private room, shower, etc. All I could hope for, reasonably hope for.
The house is gargantuan, ceilings are high, there are numerous rooms with virtually no furnishings. Few rugs so I walk on tiles. Blank walls. Endless corridors. Extremely fashionable fixtures like toilets, sinks, fridges, washing machines. All this reminds me of some of the houses I’ve witnessed in Palestine—more than ample. Perhaps proving wealth. I’m not sure what generates this ethic.
Waiting for the show to begin, I wandered around the University of Northern Florida campus. It has many ponds, many Canada geese pooping everywhere, a few white birds I couldn’t identify, many pine trees, large buildings, the inevitable campus construction, women in shorts, men in shorts, many wearing flip flops, many people of color. But, once again, I found nothing attracting my camera.
Today: a free day in Jacksonville with L, maybe an art museum, wander the waterfront, try to make some photos, prepare for the train ride which begins at 6:30 pm if the train is on time. Thank my hosts, give them a photo, say bye, see you another time, inshallah.
It is now raining, for the first time on this trip. I will now check the weather report.
—February 14, 2009, Saturday, Jacksonville Florida
Destroyed Palestinian olive grove to make room for settlement expansion