Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘indian’

ListeningToNativeVoices

The old people came literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth, and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing. This is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.

—Chief Luther Standing Bear

PHOTOS

St. Francis House

Francis House and Agape Pond

AGAPE COMMUNITY & ST. FRANCIS

Agape Community’s annual St. Francis Day celebration, this year with the theme, “Listening to Native Voices, Standing Rock is Everywhere,” seeded by Brayton Shanley’s trip last winter to deliver straw bales to Standing Rock—what I believed then was clearly a fool’s errand—drew more than our usual maximum of 200. Suzanne Shanley (his wife and co-founder and co-director) thought maybe 400-500 attended. Clearly the line of parked cars on the road extended further than I’d ever seen it. I was in a good position to gauge because I’ve been on parking duty for years.

After parking and walking and lugging, a person approaches Agape and hears the drum, smells the sweet grass and is smudged, spots the tipi placed strategically at the entrance of the main gathering area, sees many people in brightly colored regalia, watches the dancers, notices the tent holding some 300 chairs (which would be a good index for crowd size estimate), and then spies all the food and beverages arrayed on many tables. Ah, I am here!

IMG_9536by Dave Legg - Listening to Native Voices at Agape-sm copy

Photo: David Legg © 2017

MY NATIVE HISTORY

I am here, thought I, because of my Native heritage, not in my genes but in my history. This panoply of native elements at Agape reawakened my experiences with Lakota Sioux people, dating back to my direct introduction in 1982, extending to my month-long visit to the Rosebud Reservation the following year, stretching to the crucial stop Louise, my former partner, and I made in the summer of 1990 at Rosebud and Pine Ridge during our cross-country journey. We learned about the upcoming Bigfoot centennial ride, which led to our participation in the Bigfoot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee that winter. That had been preceded and was followed by other personal Indian connections, like the National Day of Mourning, Boston American Indian Center, Slow Turtle, Wampanoag powwows in Mashpee on Cape Cod, visits to the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Reservations in Maine, American Friends Service Committee Indian program in Maine, etc. Names from Rosebud and Pine Ridge came back to me: Birgil Kills Straight, Ron McNeil, Mr. Kills in Water, Shirley Crazy Bull, Amy Respects Nothing, Mr. Tall Bear, Mrs. White Lightning, as names have also fled my memory such as Louise’s MIT student and her son who was so honored after the ride, and the first Lakota’s I met in 1982 when I picked them up as they hitchhiked across the rez. Fortunately, as a steering committee (AKA Mission Council) member I was able to weave some of my experience into planning the event, but Brayton’s trip was truly the major trigger.

Teepees2-4 SM

Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Reservation, December 1990. Photo: Skip Schiel © 1990

Growing up and slowly realizing what Whites had done to Indians in the past created a longing in me to return to that past and as a White person counter history. (With Louise, I made an effort during the Big Foot Ride.) Impossible but now I can struggle for Palestinian rights, one of my major current photographic projects.

MY PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITS

Fitting with the theme of sacred water, I exhibited photographs about water justice in Palestine and Michigan, demonstrating parallels. When I entered the chapel/exhibit room during lunch and a little after I’d been scheduled to speak, around 12:30, no one was there. Then a few people dribbled in and then—thanks to Sam, a fellow Mission Council member who’d help promote the exhibit—suddenly others popped in, filling the room. I announced myself as the photographer, leading to small conversations, speaking in a loud voice to be heard by others, but without interrupting their viewing.

photo exhibit

A photo exhibit by Skip Schiel, “From Palestine to Detroit and Flint: Water Justice”

Despite the small size of the space I was able to show most of what I’d brought, some 12 photos from the 2 sets, Palestine and Michigan, along with some descriptive panels outlining water politics. Without being explicit, I suspect the viewers could make their own connections between the Stand Rock Water Protectors and the struggles in Palestine, Flint, and Detroit. I also exhibited my photos from the Wounded Knee Memorial Ride, placing them in Francis House near the wood stove, centrally located.

wounded knee

Site of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Photo: Skip Schiel © 1990

arvol looking horse

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, at St Francis Day

CHIEF ARVOL LOOKING HORSE

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, was the anchor and perhaps major draw of the event. Luckily, because El, my fellow Mission Council member, and I arrived the day before to help set up, we were with Arvol and other Indian participants like Beatrice, informally during lunch and dinner. He seemed shy, not prepared to be such a major figure, tall and thin, weak and perhaps ailing, tired—and, I reluctantly claim, not skilled in public speaking. Rather, he appears, unintentionally, to play the role of the proverbial Holy Person. A bit cryptic, uniformly serious with slight breaks in this publicly and many breaks in smaller company, definitely rambling and repetitive; in short, for me, a disappointment as a speaker. Listening to him I often wondered what would be my experience with other Holy Persons, Gandhi, Thoreau, Dorothy Day, Rachel Corrie, Thomas Merton, Jesus, Mohammed. I know Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X would impress as speakers, but what of these others whose words have resonated thru the centuries? How well did they speak in person?

A “disease of the mind” has set in world leaders and many members of our global community, with their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring peace. In our prophecies it is told that we are now at the crossroads: Either unite spiritually as a global nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases, and tears from our relatives’ eyes. We are the only species that is destroying the source of life, meaning Mother Earth, in the name of power, mineral resources, and ownership of land. Using chemicals and methods of warfare that are doing irreversible damage, as Mother Earth is becoming tired and cannot sustain any more impacts of war. I ask you to join me on this endeavor. Our vision is for the peoples of all continents, regardless of their beliefs in the Creator, to come together as one at their Sacred Sites to pray and meditate and commune with one another, thus promoting an energy shift to heal our Mother Earth and achieve a universal consciousness toward attaining Peace.

—Chief Arvol Looking Horse

Perhaps because of the theme I remet many folks from various movements and decades who I’d not seen in years: Paula G. and Jim, Suzanne C., Nelia who I belated realized had been with Brayton and Tim delivering the straw bales (she is blind and I know her from Quaker gatherings, an indomitable spirit), John S. who brought 3 young people in his van, Ricky and Deb from the Auschwitz to Hiroshima pilgrimage in 1995; along with many Agape stalwarts like Eileen E, Kathleen and Dave Legg (Dave my photographic colleague at most Francis Days, this time we collaborated especially importantly because of the conflicting photographic policies—not during prayer, OK during most ceremonies, not Arvol too much because he gets distracted, etc; Pat W. who is another photographic colleague, and Pat F.); the largest contingent of Friends Meeting Cambridge Quakers in memory including David A., Minga C-B, Suzanne C., Maeve, Diana L., Dinah S., Patti and Bill M., but no one from my peace and social concerns committee except Suzanne C; and others whose names I’ve forgotten now and yet others whose faces were familiar but I didn’t know names. Such community strengthening was a major part of the event, not only for me I’m sure.

Who was missing? Louise most vitally, the only human being on the planet I share these issues so deeply with; my fellow Quakers and activists, Jews especially from the Palestinian rights movement; S. which pains me; M., surprisingly not there; Rob, Chuck, Lynn, and other close friends and family members. But this is contemporary life, contemporary community: wide-spread and fragmented.

Three children-Emily

Children’s view of the event, photo by Emily

WATER

As expected, water was a major theme—water is life, Mni Wiconi (pronounced mnee wi-choh-nee), Water is Life. Quabbin Reservoir was in the background, Agape Pond in the foreground where we held the water ceremony. I was able to do the ceremony twice, once early Saturday morning led by Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson, known as Bea, and Peggy, not photographing then; and at the conclusion of the program, photographing it from across the pond. As with Indians, water is a crucial ingredient in my life but I’ll not recount all the elements which began with nearly drowning when I was about 3 years old, rescued (as the family tells it, I have no conscious memory) by Fran, my dad. As the major ceremony began, rain very lightly fell, more speckles than drops, signaling sky presence of water. And thru the day clouds came and parted, at one point in the late afternoon singeing the treetops behind the garden, which stunned and awakened me once again to the power of light. I photographed it.

water ceremony

Water Ceremony at Agape Pond

Women and men lined up separately by the pond. After being smudged with sage and sweetgrass, two men assisted one woman as she threw tobacco into the water, tenderly hooking arms, for the moment intimate, followed by water from a copper cup. Once the women had done this, at least during the morning when we had fewer people, women helped the men. In the afternoon musicians played guitar and violin and sang, which added greatly to the otherwise long and repetitive ceremony. I doubt this was official Lakota, or even Indian, maybe an amalgam of various traditions. I noticed Arvol and most Indians did not participate.

STORIES

Then there were all the stories from Indians, mainly of current suffering and struggle. The genocide continues, but now with a velvet glove. One group in particular, the Lenape from New Jersey, who own land, but because of insanely difficult conditions required for permits are effectively barred from their land. In the crowd I watched for Two Clouds, a Ramapough person from Mahwah, New Jersey; Chief Dwaine Perry, Ramapough, also from Mahwah; Chief Iron Bear; Strong Oak Lefebvre of the Visioning Bear Circle; Gentle Hawk from the Worcester Intertribal Indian Center; and others unannounced. Apparently missing were official reps from Wampanoag, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people, plus folks from Plymouth Massachusetts, Boston Indian Center, etc. The absences were as indicative as the presences. Competing local Indian events, given the weekend’s name, Indigenous People’s Day, may explain some lacunae.

ManSpeaks-Agape-Francis_Day-Standing_Rock-IMG_7973

A member of the Ramapough people of Mahwah, N.J., who have long sought federal recognition as a Native American nation.

Counterbalancing stories of on going oppression, Arvol spoke about Standing Rock, the power of prayer, of story, of presence, saying he and colleagues never expected such wide publicity. During the informal session the day before I asked about the White Buffalo Calf Woman story and he, as I’d hoped, confirmed that the first elder and teacher of the Lakota people was a woman—or at least half woman, but certainly fully female. He began each of his two speeches with Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations), without translating it. His first language is Lakota and Suzanne whispered to me that he often has trouble translating his thoughts into English, which might be a factor in his speech making.

BURNING THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY

From a Christian perspective, one outstanding element for me was when we symbolically repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, that absurd and highly revealing papal bull (declaration from the pope) issued shortly before Columbus began his journeys of “discovery”—which were in fact journeys of exploitation. (That and priestly sexual transgression should effectively end the belief that Catholic clerics, from subaltern priests and brothers and nuns to highest rated popes, have direct communication with the so-called god. Is any more evidence needed?)

We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens [Muslim Arabs] and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property […] and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude.

—Pope Nicholas, 1452

How did we perform this repudiation (a goal without a clear plan long fostered in some Quaker circles)? A woman cleric led a recitative prayer about repudiating the Doctrine; another cleric handed a facsimile of the Doctrine to Brayton who burned it in our sacred fire (so-called sacred, what does all this religious language truly mean other than to establish an emotional tone?), and carried its ashes on a fiery torch to the pit dug for the white pine burial. All very Catholic in its pageantry (pageantry I sometimes yearn for while Quakering).

burying doctrine of discovery

Brayton buries the ashes of the Doctrine of Discovery in the pit in which the white pine tree will be planted, supported by members of various Christian communities.

I managed to miss photographing most of this, trying hard for position but wishing to maintain some modicum of politeness, not bump people aside who were in my way. The symbolism of this act may be important, but educating people might surpass the symbolism in importance: more people are now aware of the Doctrine and the imperative to ban it, an incentive to reverse its legacy. I suspect even the current pope himself, Francis—true also of our honored St. Francis—would choose to repudiate what one of his misguided predecessors did.

Brayton Shanley, co-founder and co-director of Agape

Brayton Shanley, co-founder and co-director of Agape

Suzanne Shanley, co-founder and co-director of Agape

Suzanne Shanley, co-founder and co-director of Agape

THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL AMERICAN INDIAN-LED, NONVIOLENT MOVEMENT AGAINST COLONIZATION?

Brayton had given a rousing introduction to Stand Rock—as did Suzanne to Agape—speaking personally about his experience last winter delivering straw bales, claiming that this is the first American Indian-led, global, nonviolent movement against colonization. Arvol has been speaking across the country, at Wellesley College the day before, and flew the next day to Cairo Egypt. This connection, Standing Rock and Egypt, suggests Standing Rock is an outgrowth of the Arab Spring. Being so-called Columbus Day, now transformed into Indigenous People’s Day, I wore my pin, “Discover Columbus’ Legacy: 500 years of racism, oppression, and stolen land,” which I acquired in 1992 during the resistance to the Columbian Quincentennial.

Columbus pin

Many have forgotten this moment exposing and opposing the Columbian Conquest but I suspect it was a key step toward Standing Rock. So if we devise a timeline of activism we may uncover the interconnectedness of the movement—its intersectionality, to use a now-current term for blended movements.

ColumbusBurn13 SM

“They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim’s feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive.” (“Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies” by Bartoleme de Las Casas, who was an eyewitness to the Columbian Invasion)

t shirt

T-shirt by Jared Yazzie (Navajo) available from Beyond Buckskin Boutique

MOVEMENT HISTORY

To recount from 1945:

  • Freedom struggle in the USA-1945-1968
  • Anti-war movement during the Vietnam era-1962-1975
  • First contemporary resistance at Wounded Knee-the occupation in 1973
  • American Indian and Black Power Movements weaving thru this period
  • Big Foot Ride Memorial Ride—Wiping the Tears, Mending the Sacred Hoop-1990
  • Columbian Quincentenary-1992
  • Arab Spring-2011-2014
  • Occupy-2011-2012
  • Black Lives Matter-2013-present
  • Standing Rock-2016-present

I’d like to think more about these interconnections, and consider all this against an article I’ve read in a recent New Yorker magazine about the failure of movements, or better, how movements can succeed (with better long-range strategy as in the Freedom Movement vs. hasty organization as in the Occupy Movement).

Agape-2017-Schiel-IMG_8171

Planting the white pine tree

THE WHITE PINE

Finally we planted a white pine, which is a key element in the Peace Maker story of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. As a final act of remembrance and anticipation most of us made tobacco offerings to the tree, how it can symbolize overcoming the Doctrine of Discovery and all that erupted from it in the past more than 500 years, Standing Rock a recent example. This planting is an act of confession, contrition, repentance, as well as resistance, renewal, and forward march into a more just present and future. Mni Wiconi, Water is Life.

I left reservation life and my native people, the Oglala Sioux, because I was no longer willing to endure existence under the control of an overseer. For about the same number of years I had tried to live a peaceful and happy life; tried to adapt myself and make re-adjustments to fit the white man’s mode of existence. But I was unsuccessful. I developed into a chronic disturber. I was a bad Indian, and the agent and I never got along. I remained a hostile, even a savage, if you please. And I still am. I am incurable.

— Luther Standing Bear (1921)

Luther Standing Bear

st francis and sultan

St. Francis with Sultan Malek al-Kamil, Egypt, 1219. Artist: Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

In 1219 St. Francis and Brother Illuminato accompanied the armies of western Europe to Damietta, Egypt, during the Fifth Crusade. His desire was to speak peacefully with Muslim people about Christianity, even if it mean dying as a martyr. He tried to stop the Crusaders from attacking the Muslims at the Battle of Damietta, but failed. After the defeat of the western armies, he crossed the battle line with Brother Illuminato, was arrested and beaten by Arab soldiers, and eventually was taken to the sultan, Malek al-Kamil. 

—www.trinitystores.com/store/art-image/st-francis-and-sultan

st francis

Holy humility confounds pride and all the men of this world and all things that are in the world. —Francis of Assisi

LINKS

“Marking the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi with the spirit of Standing Rock,” by Eileen Markey

White Buffalo Calf Teachings with Chief Arvol Looking Horse

What is the White Buffalo Calf story and why is it important to Lakota people?

“Ramapoughs Trial Continues As Tribe Claims Town Is Trying To Outlaw Prayer At Tepee Site,” by Daniel Hubbard (Patch Staff)

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

Doctrine of Discovery is Burned (video made during the day)

Why the white pine tree?

What is the Peace Maker story of the Haudenosaunee?

“Is There Any Point to Protesting?” by Nathan Heller

“On Turtle Island (North America), February—April, 1995,” an account of a Buddhist-led pilgrimage by Skip Schiel

“A Winter Count,” by Skip Schiel

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

—Arundhati Roy

bruleriver1891-21

Lakota Sioux along the Brule River

wkwinter2-2-4

Wounded Knee, December 29, 1990

woundedkneemasacre-1

The medicine man

img_2887

Ibrahem Shatali

g35_17448923

Palestinian men bury the body of 4-year-old Lama Hamdan at Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Lama and her sister were reportedly riding a donkey cart Tuesday near a rocket-launching site that was targeted by Israel. (MOHAMMED SALEM/Reuters)

INTRODUCTION

The Lakota Sioux Indian people, those massacred at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890 (that anniversary came just two days after the beginning of the massacre, December 27, 2008] had lived on the Plains for more than 100 years, long before white people settled there. And their roots on the North American continent continue back for perhaps 15,000 years. They were long-term residents. Whites entered the region in the early 1800s, mainly in wagon trains heading further west—to settle, they were settlers, they built settlements. Many of these whites believed god was on their side, that they had rights to the land because of their superior culture and because of their affinity with god.

Are there significant parallels between the massacre at Wounded Knee and the current massacre in Gaza?

OUTLINE

Lakota Sioux, 1890 Palestinians, 2008-2009
Some 300 killed As of January 9, 2009, more than 780 killed, 3300 injured and increasing
A few rifles, knives, perhaps bows and arrows Rudimentary rockets and mortars, some rifles
Against rapid firing Hotchkiss cannon
and other heavy weapons
Against Apache helicopters, F16 fighters, artillery, gun boats
Few noticed but some outcry existed Few noticed or spoke out, even among Arab-Muslim states, limited UN role
Massive firepower did not discriminate between Indian and civilian Massive firepower did not discriminate between Hamas militant and civilian
Forced onto reservations Forced into a concentration camp
White fear, in part a misreading of the Ghost Dance Jewish fear, in part a misreading of the Hamas Covenant
Memory of Indian raids, and especially Custer’s loss 14 years earlier Memory of the holocaust and two millennia of persecution of Jews
US belief in armed force, the
government resisted negotiations
Israeli belief in armed force, the government resists negotiations
Faulty treaties Faulty agreements, such as Oslo
Awarding Congressional Medals of Honor to 27 officers and soldiers Possible lauding of the officers and soldiers
Widespread white support Widespread Israeli and international Jewish support
Last major armed confrontation between Indians and rulers Last major armed confrontation between Palestinians and rulers?
Cemented white supremacy in the
United States
Cemented Israeli supremacy?
Accountability: virtually none altho some called for a truth and reconciliation process Accountability: virtually none altho some might call for a truth and reconciliation process, tribunal, or other forms of international adjudication
No rebuilding of the nation How will rebuilding of Gaza occur?

SET THE STAGE

For most of the 19th century the US army had forced American Indians from their ancestral areas into confined zones, mostly reservations with few natural resources. The Lakota Sioux people, a vigorous and hearty group of Plains Indians with roots on the east coast, were first “transferred” onto the Great Sioux Reservation (GSR), a large area in what is now South and North Dakota and Wyoming. This region shrank dramatically when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, originally a part of the GSR and for at least 2 centuries a sacred site for Lakota. By 1890 the remaining lands were minuscule compared with what Lakota roamed over in the late 18th century.

shermantreatylakota1867ftlaramie-61

General Sherman and other government officials with Lakota Sioux meeting about the treaty forming the Great Sioux Reservation in 1867

map1890

For good reason many Lakota resisted this imprisonment, notably Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. Whites orchestrated the murder of Crazy Horse by his own people, and then in December 22, 1890, Sitting Bull, also by his own Lakota. A band led by the peace chief, Big Foot, fled south. They were trapped along the Wounded Knee creek in the Pine Ridge Reservation. Next morning, surrounded by elements of Custer’s old unit, the 7th Calvary, they were massacred. Some 300 died, most of them women and children and elderly. Warriors offered little resistance, since they lacked effective weapons. (Incidentally, early road signs erected by the state of South Dakota called the massacre a “battle” until many opposed this misnaming and the state agreed to change the wording to “massacre” at Wounded Knee.)

800px-big_foot_dead_at_wounded_knee_1890-11

Chief Big Foot propped up in death for a photograph

Prior to the massacre, whites had been settling in the area. Observing the Ghost Dance of the Lakota people, a failed attempt to non-violently resist white incursion, local whites mistook this for a war dance. They feared; they demanded army protection. Using newly developed weaponry which had not been fully field tested, mostly the Hotchkiss rapid firing cannon, the soldiers, some of them reportedly drunk, many of them recalling the debacle of their once heralded leader, General George Custer at the Battle of Greasy Grass or Little Big Horn, fired on everyone in the camp. Chief Big Foot, already sick from pneumonia, was one of the first killed.

People in the East noticed; there was an outcry against the massacre, leading to a hearing that questioned the officers. They were cleared, and many officers and soldiers awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

POSSIBLE PARALLELS

Now, what might be parallels with the current killings in Gaza? Is it fair to call the Israeli attack on Gaza a massacre? Is it a battle? Is it the proper and legal exercise of Israel to defend itself? Is it justified killing?

g15_17434239

A wounded Palestinian girl is carried into the Al-Shifa hospital on December 28, 2008 in Gaza City, Gaza. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

As of this writing, January 9, 2009, at least 795 Palestinians are now dead (martyred in in the language of many Palestinians—a word I concur with), upwards of 3300 are injured (400 of them dangerously), at least 10 Israeli soldiers and 5 Israeli civilians are dead, some soldiers by friendly fire, some by militants shooting rockets and perhaps using other weapons. An unknown number of casualties lie beneath rubble. Among the dead—230 are children, 92 women, 60 elderly men, 6 medical assistants, 2 journalists, and 3 foreigners. (statistics based on UN and Red Cross figures) Estimates of the  proportion of civilian causalities ranges from 20% to more than 60%, that percentage rising with the ground campaign now underway. The carnage continues as I write this.

g11_17429551

Many bodies lie outside the Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on December 27, 2008. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Most media and most governments in the western world state, “Israel has a right to defend itself. The attacks will stop when Hamas stops firing rockets. Hamas broke the truce with their rockets.” However, numerous observers counter this and declare, “Back up a few steps. Israel has kept the Gazans under siege for nearly 2 years, ever since Hamas was elected in an open, fair, democratic election. Gazans have been suffering food, water, medical, and educational deprivations during this period, on top of the occupation that dates back to at least 1967. During the recent 6-month truce, ending on December 19th, Israel did nothing to end the siege. Palestinian rocket fire decreased dramatically.

g08_17444703

Samera Baalusha (34) (right) sits with her daughter Eman (15) and surviving son Mohamad (15 months) while waiting to see the body of her 4-year-old daughter Jawaher Baalusha during the funeral held for Jawher and her four other sisters who were all killed in an Israeli missile strike, on December 29, 2008 in the Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip. Jawher Baalusha and her sisters were killed during an Israeli air raid while they were sleeping together in their bedroom. Medics stated that the raid had targeted a mosque near their home in Jabalia. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Until recently the US either blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a cease-fire demand or abstained from voting. In addition, the US Senate voted unanimously for an unqualified declaration of support for Israel. Should Israel be found to be committing war crimes, the US Senate is complicit. Not only that but the US supplies most of the weapons used by Israel, including helicopters, fighter jets, heavy artillery and communication equipment.

In early November Israel broke the truce by attacking tunnels and homes at the ends of those tunnels that they claimed were used by militants to bring in weapons. They killed some 5 Palestinians. Only then did Hamas and other armed groups significantly increase launching their home made, poorly targeted rockets and mortars on Israeli civilians. They also deployed for the first time longer-range rockets. Indeed, Israel’s attack did nothing to stop the rocket fire, it exacerbated it. These rocket attacks on civilians are deplorable and constitute war crimes. I and many others oppose them. Do they justify the disproportionate Israeli attacks?

g23_17430563

A medic crouches over the body of an Israeli man after he was killed in a rocket attack launched from the Gaza Strip and hit the southern Israeli town of Netivot on December 27, 2008 following Israeli bombardment on the Palestinian costal strip. The rocket attack killed one man and wounded four others, according to the Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross. (HAIM HORENSTEIN/AFP/Getty Images)

During the late 1800s, whites claimed Indians had few rights to the lands they’d inhabited for centuries, and that Indian attacks on setters were grounds for retaliation. North American rulers left out the prior history—American Indian domination of the entire continent. And the fact that Indians never invited whites into their lands. Whites invaded and called it the equivalent of “Manifest Destiny,” or god’s will. They did not recognize the Indians rights to defend themselves, violently if necessary. Instead Indians were termed bloodthirsty savages, the 19th century equivalent of “terrorists.”

rosebudmargeryjumpingeagle2-1-1

Rosemary Jumping Eagle, town of Wounded Knee, 1982

Moreover: overwhelming white firepower against the Lakota matches Israel’s overwhelming force. World opinion, at least the western world, then and now, match. Resisting honest negotiation matches. Source of weapons matches for the most part: cannon, rifles, revolvers and ammunition used at Wounded Knee, and Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, 155 mm artillery rounds, artillery firing those rounds, missiles, rockets, bombs, all or mostly all USA made, and communication equipment made at least in part by Motorola, bulldozers if used manufactured by Caterpillar. Motives match: wipe out the Indians, wipe out the Palestinians, whether with the velvet glove, making conditions of survival so dismal that most, if allowed, would flee (as is happening in the west bank), or under cover of the “right to defend itself” commit outright murder—the Hanukah Massacres.

g09_17434407

An Israeli F15 fighter made in the United States flies over the northern Israeli-Gaza Strip border on December 28, 2008. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

OUTCOMES

Will results match? American Indians, altho surviving, are much diminished. What will become of the Palestinians? How will the Gazan nation—and the equivalent of a small nation it is—rebuild itself? Till now Israel prevents all building materials and most chemicals, experts, and money from entering. Unless the world community, thru the United Nations and the international court system, applies significant pressure, I’m afraid Israel will maintain its course of impunity. One possibility, as might be happening now in the US: self-destruction. A suicidal course. The minor empire in the Middle East, the “only democracy in the Middle East with its “army of pure means,” might founder. Israel, like the US, struggles with a hopelessly contradictory set of founding principles, more dishonored than honored. Can a nation hope to survive with such cognitive dissonance? Perhaps Marx will be right after all, not about the imminent implosion of capitalism, but of certain western nations whose war making boomerangs on them.

landloss-2-1

PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT

I am personally involved in both themes, American Indians and Palestinians. I’ve visited Wounded Knee several times, most recently for the Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee in 1990, commemorating the centennial of the massacre. Inspired by Black Elk who prophesied that the seventh generation of Lakota would be the last generation able to “Wipe Away the Tears” and  “Mend the Sacred Hoop,” i.e., end the mourning period and rebuild the nation, for two weeks the ride traversed the same path at the same time of the year used by Big Foot and his people. I’ve camped near Wounded Knee, summer and winter, and have felt the powerful negative—and positive—force fields emanating from the earth. I grieve for the Lakota people and all native peoples who have been dispossessed. However, I do not feel their cause is hopeless.

fixedriders-5

Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990

teepees2-4-3

Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990

staff2-5-2

Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990

Similarly I’ve been 3 times to Gaza since 2004, most recently just one year ago, January 2008. I’ve lived under the siege, suffering the loss of electrical power, the sealed borders, the lack of food, the buzz of the drone that might target me at any moment, the nearness of death—and the presence of resilience, sumud, in Arabic, steadfastness. I’ve met young men volunteering in their communities to serve the poor, I’ve met members of the Palestinian Initiative, a group dedicated to nonviolently ending the fighting between rival political parties, I’ve worked with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program watching as psychologists assessed the psychic damages of the siege on children (their offices suffered indirect attacks recently and are closed), and the American Friends Service Committee’s youth programs training in community building and leadership skills. And I’m in close daily contact—if electricity and Internet work—with friends in Gaza. I also hope to return in summer 2009. What and who will greet me then?

I was not able to be present during the Wounded Knee of 1890. I’m unsure what I’d have done if knowing about the impending massacre, or what I’d call for once I’d learned its results. I am sure about Gaza: the occupation of Palestine is apartheid, the attack on Gaza is a massacre, several parties are committing war crimes, and all must be held accountable, as is true for all those governments supporting Israel’s occupation, siege, and ruination of Gaza. Which includes me, as a citizen of the United States. Especially if I pay income tax. I can act, you can act. Now.

Some are guilty but all are responsible.

—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

g25_17436795

The body of a Palestinian security force officer lays in the rubble after an Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Fadi Adwan)

g36_17450371

Eli Azran father of Irit Shitrit (39), a mother of four, leans over her dead body as he mourns during her funeral on December 30, 2008 in Ashdod, Israel. Shitrit was killed yesterday by a Hamas rocket in Ashdod, Israel, after hearing a warning siren and taking shelter in a roadside bus stop. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

holocaust_remembrance_day_by_latuff2

Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2009

palestine013-1

Links:

Truly horrible photos from inside Gaza

“Too much to mourn in Gaza”
By Eva Bartlett, Live from Palestine, 8 January 2009

“US weaponry facilitates killings in Gaza”

Read Full Post »