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Home arrow Blog arrow January 2009 arrow January 1, 2009

January 1, 2009
WAWA Blog January 1, 2009: The Double Standard Must End-Godspeed on it! UPDATE: Jan. 2, 2009 LEADS

January 1, 2009 - We Lived to Tell the Story:  Lebanon Rescued Us
By Cynthia McKinny

Yesterday, we met with the President of Lebanon, the Chief of the Military, and the Interior Minister who all thanked us for responding and risking our lives on a mission of mercy; we profusely thanked them for rescuing us.

What would we have done, stranded out at sea, prohibited from reaching our destination, low on fuel, with a badly damaged boat if Lebanon had not accepted us?  Lebanon sent their ships to find us.  Lebanon rescued us.  Lebanon welcomed us.  And we are truly thankful.

It's official now.  We've been told that the sturdy, wood construction of our boat, Dignity, is the reason we are still alive.  Fiberglass would probably not have withstood the impact of the Israeli attack and under different circumstances, we might not be here to tell the story.  Even at that, the report that came to us yesterday after the Captain and First Mate went back to Sour (Tyre) to inspect the boat was that it was sinking, the damage is extensive, and the boat will take, in their estimation, at least one month to repair.  Tomorrow, we will bring the Dignity from Sour to Beirut.  And now, we must decide what to do and from where we will do it and how we are to get back to wherever that might be.

My personal, and I know the group's, thanks must go to Al Jazeera, that allowed three of their reporters to be onboard with us on our voyage.  As a result, Al Jazeera carried the story of the Dignity live, from castoff in Cyprus when our spirits were high, right up through the menacing maneuvers of the huge, super fast Israeli ships before they rammed us, the Israeli calls on the ship phone after the ramming calling us terrorists and subversives and telling us to return to Cyprus (even though the Israelis later claimed that they didn't know who we were, they knew enough about us to tell us where we had come from), and the fact that we didn't have enough fuel to follow their instructions, right up to their threat to fire at us if we didn't turn around, ending with our beaten-up boat limping into Sour harbor in Lebanon.  Al Jazeera carried our story as "breaking news" and performed a real service to its audience and to us.  Al Jazeera called the Israelis to inquire about the incident right as it was happening and I am sure the Israelis were prepared to leave none to tell the story.  Al Jazeera told the story and documented it as it was happening.

One of those Al Jazeera reporters with us was Sami El-Haj, who was detained in Guantanamo by the United States for six incredibly long years.  What an honor to even exchange glances with such a humble man who had endured so much pain at the hands of the U.S. government.  I apologized to him that my tax dollars were being used in such a despicable way.  And Sami's crime according to the U.S.?  Born in Sudan, and reporting for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, Sami was the wrong color, the wrong nationality, the wrong religion, reporting for the wrong news outfit, telling us the truth about a wrong war.  And for that he survived incarceration for six long years.  Sami El-Haj, Guantanamo prisoner number 345.

Another incredibly committed journalist who was with us was CNN's Karl Penhaul.   Karl reported the truth even when his own station was repeating Israeli disinformation.  The fact that we were traveling with these alert journalists added to the flat-footedness and obvious crudeness of the Israeli response.  Sadly, Israel has changed its story too many times to count, and that's because they are not telling the truth.

We lived to tell the story.   Karl's incredible reporting, just a portion of our story, can be seen on CNN at:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/12/30/gaza.aid.boat/index.html

where there's also video and a photo of our damaged boat.  A little more of the story and film of the extensive damage can be seen at:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/12/30/gaza.aid.boat/index.html#cnnSTCVideo

This video and the photos of Karl's report is particularly interesting given that Israel claims that our boat was only scratched and that, in actuality, our captain, while trying to outmaneuver them, damaged their warship.

I'm told that CNN only played my full statement once--and that's the time that it aired live.  Of course, they cut the reference to the U.S.S. Liberty.  What are they afraid of?

Last night I was on PressTV.com, along with others who were on the Dignity, and we debated a representative from WINEP, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  I reminded the audience that the Palestinians don't have nuclear weapons, depleted uranium munitions, white phosphorous, or F-16s, but the Israelis do.  The facts, however, tend to get garbled after being processed by the "Grand Wurlitzer" organ of state-sponsored disinformation utilizing the world's press.

With the truth clearly on our side, Israel has been reduced to releasing ridiculous bombast.  With their multiple, conflicting stories, it is clear that the Israelis did not expect us to live to tell the truth.

On the drive from Sour through Saida to Beirut, we were welcomed like heroes because our ordeal had been seen by everyone on Al Jazeera.    The mayor of Sour came to welcome us.  The mayor of Saida insisted that we stop there, on our way to Beirut, for a special ceremony.  But there was something else that was visible along our drive, and that is the devastation that Lebanon, itself, has received as a result of the Israeli war machine.  The scars of the war are still evident everywhere.  I will write more on that tomorrow.

And one final note, President-elect Obama roared like a mighty lion onto the political scene, but now he is as silent as a lamb in the face of the death and destruction that is happening in Gaza.  As we approach the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. let us remember what Dr. King said:

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

And after five days of aerial bombardment by Israel, the carnage in Gaza continues.



Oh What a Day!

by Cynthia McKinney

I'm so glad that my father told me to buy a special notebook and to write everything down because that's exactly what I did.

When we left from Cyprus, one reporter asked me "are you afraid?" And I had to respond that Malcolm X wasn't afraid; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't afraid. But little did I know that just a few hours later, I would be recollecting my life and mentally preparing myself for death.

When we left Cyprus, the Mediterranean was beautiful. I remember the time when it might have been beautiful to look at, but it was also filthy. The Europeans have taken great strides to clean it up and yesterday, it was beautiful. And the way the sunlight hit the sea, I remember thinking to myself that's why they call it azure. It was the most beautiful blue.

But sometimes it was rough, and we got behind on our schedule. We stayed on course, however, despite the roughness of the water and due to our exquisite captain.

There were no other ships or boats around us and night descended upon us all rather quickly. It was the darkest black and suddenly, out of nowhere, came searchlights disturbing our peace. The searchlights stayed with us for about half an hour or so. We knew they were Israeli ships. Who else would they be?

They were fast, and they would come close and then drop back. And then, they'd come close again. And then, all of a sudden there was complete blackness once again and all seemed right. The cat and mouse game went on for at least one half hour. What were they doing? And why?

Calm again. Black sky, black sea. Peace. And then, at that very moment, when all seemed right, out of nowhere we were rammed and rammed again and rammed again the last one throwing me off the couch, sending all our food up in the air; and all the plastic bags and tubs--evidence of sea sicknesses among the crew and passengers--flew all over the cabin and all over us. We'd been rammed by the Israelis. How did we know? Because they called us on the phone afterwards to tell us that we were engaging in subversive, terroristic activity. And if that if we didn't turn around right then and return to Larnaca, Cyprus, we would be fired upon. We quickly grabbed our lifevests and put them on. Then the captain announced that the boat was taking on water. We might have to evacuate. One of my mates told me to prepare to die. And I reflected that I have lived a good and full life. I have tasted freedom and know what it is. I was right with myself and my decision to join the Free Gaza movement.

I remembered my father's parting words, "You all will be sitting ducks." Just like the U.S.S. Liberty. We were engaged in peaceful activity, a harmless pleasure boat, carrying a load of hospital supplies for the people of Gaza, who, too are sitting ducks, currently being bombarded in aerial assault by the Israeli military.

It's been a long day for us. The captain was outstanding. Throughout it all, he remained stoic and calm, effective in every way. I didn't know how to put my life jacket on. One of the passengers kindly assisted me. Another of the passengers pointed out that the Israeli motors for those huge, fast boats was U.S. made--a gift to them from the U.S. And now they were using those motors to damage a pleasure boat outfitted with three tons of hospital supplies, one pediatrician, and two surgeons.

I have called for President-elect Obama to say something. The Palestinian people in the Gaza strip are seeing the worst violence in 60 years, it is being reported. To date, President-elect Obama has remained silent. The Israelis are using weapons supplied to them by the U.S. government. Strict enforcement of U.S. law would require the cessation of all weapons transfers to Israel. Adherence to international law would require the same. As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, let us remember that he said:

1. The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and
2. Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter.

I implore the President-elect to not send Congress a budget that contains more weapons for Israel. We have so much more to offer. And I implore the Congress to vote "no" on any budget and appropriation bills that provide more weapons transfers, period.

Israel is able to carry out these intense military maneuvers because taxpayers in the U.S. give their hard-earned money to our Representatives in Congress and our Congress chooses to spend that money in this way. Let's stop it and stop it now. There's been too much blood shed. And while we still walk among the living, let us not remain silent about the things that matter.

We really can promote peace and have it if we demand it of our leaders.


Israel's 'victories' in Gaza come at a steep price
The Jewish ethical tradition means embracing Palestinians, too.
http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0102/p09s01-coop.html
By Sara Roy
January 2, 2009 edition

Cambridge, Mass. - I hear the voices of my friends in Gaza as clearly as if we were still on the phone; their agony echoes inside me. They weep and moan over the death of their children, some, little girls like mine, taken, their bodies burned and destroyed so senselessly.

One Palestinian friend asked me, "Why did Israel attack when the children were leaving school and the women were in the markets?" There are reports that some parents cannot find their dead children and are desperately roaming overflowing hospitals.

As Jews celebrated the last night of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights commemorating our resurgence as a people, I asked myself: How am I to celebrate my Jewishness while Palestinians are being killed?

The religious scholar Marc Ellis challenges us further by asking whether the Jewish covenant with God is present or absent in the face of Jewish oppression of Palestinians? Is the Jewish ethical tradition
still available to us? Is the promise of holiness – so central to our existence – now beyond our ability to reclaim?

The lucky ones in Gaza are locked in their homes living lives that have long been suspended – hungry, thirsty, and without light but their children are alive.

Since Nov. 4, when Israel effectively broke the truce with Hamas by attacking Gaza on a scale then unprecedented – a fact now buried with Gaza's dead – the violence has escalated as Hamas responded by sending hundreds of rockets into Israel to kill Israeli civilians. It is reported that Israel's strategy is to hit Hamas military targets, but explain that difference to my Palestinian friends who must bury their children.

On Nov. 5, Israel sealed all crossing points into Gaza, vastly reducing and at times denying food supplies, medicines, fuel, cooking gas, and parts for water and sanitation systems. A colleague of mine in Jerusalem said, "this siege is in a league of its own. The Israelis have not done something like this before."

During November, an average of 4.6 trucks of food per day entered Gaza from Israel compared with an average of 123 trucks per day in October. Spare parts for the repair and maintenance of water-related equipment have been denied entry for over a year. The World Health Organization just reported that half of Gaza's ambulances are now out of order.

According to the Associated Press, the three-day death toll rose to at least 370 by Tuesday morning, with some 1,400 wounded. The UN said at least 62 of the dead were civilians. A Palestinian health official said that at least 22 children under age 16 were killed and more than 235 children have been wounded.

In nearly 25 years of involvement with Gaza and Palestinians, I have not had to confront the horrific image of burned children – until today.

Yet for Palestinians it is more than an image, it is a reality, and because of that I fear something profound has changed that will not easily be undone. For how, in the context of Gaza today, does one speak of reconciliation as a path to liberation, of sympathy as a source of understanding? Where does one find or even begin to create a common field of human undertaking (to borrow from the late, acclaimed Palestinian scholar, Edward Said) so essential to coexistence?

It is one thing to take an individual's land, his home, his livelihood, to denigrate his claims, or ignore his emotions. It is another to destroy his child. What happens to a society where renewal is denied
and all possibility has ended?

And what will happen to Jews as a people whether we live in Israel or not? Why have we been unable to accept the fundamental humanity of Palestinians and include them within our moral boundaries? Rather, we reject any human connection with the people we are oppressing. Ultimately, our goal is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone.

Our rejection of "the other" will undo us. We must incorporate Palestinians and other Arab peoples into the Jewish understanding of history, because they are a part of that history. We must question our own narrative and the one we have given others, rather than continue to cherish beliefs and sentiments that betray the Jewish ethical tradition.

Jewish intellectuals oppose racism, repression, and injustice almost everywhere in the world and yet it is still unacceptable – indeed, for some, it's an act of heresy – to oppose it when Israel is the
oppressor. This double standard must end.

Israel's victories are pyrrhic and reveal the limits of Israeli power and our own limitations as a people: our inability to live a life without barriers. Are these the boundaries of our rebirth after the
Holocaust?

As Jews in a post-Holocaust world empowered by a Jewish state, how do we as a people emerge from atrocity and abjection, empowered and also humane? How do we move beyond fear to envision something different, even if uncertain?

The answers will determine who we are and what, in the end, we become.

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern
Studies, Harvard University, and the author, most recently, of "Failing
Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict."



SABEEL'S REFLECTION ON GAZA
 
The Narrow Gate of Justice
 
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
 
On Saturday, December 27, 2008, as the children of Gaza were about to leave their schools to return home, the Israeli air force carried out a massive air attack against the people of Gaza.  In less than 4 hours, over 150 people were killed and 200 injured - men, women, and children.  By the end of the fourth day, over 390 Palestinians were killed and almost 2,000 injured.  On the Israeli side, 4 were killed and no statistics are available on the number of injured.
 
FACTS ABOUT THE GAZA STRIP:

Population:  1.5 million.  75% of them are refugees.  45% of them are under 14 years.
Area:  360 sq km, 139 sq miles.
Population density: 4,167 people/sq mile (The highest in the world.)
80% of Gazan households live below the poverty line, subsisting on less than $3 per person a day.
80% of all Gazan families would literally starve without food aid from international agencies.
 
The Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, similar to that of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, started with the 1967 June war.  In September 2005, the Israeli army pulled out of Gaza and removed its illegal settlements.  However, the illegal Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip did not come to an end.  Israel maintained its tight control over Gaza's borders (air, land, and sea).  To make things even worse, Israel imposed a siege on Gaza in June 2007, thus tightening its border restrictions and causing the humanitarian conditions to deteriorate further.  Under the brutal siege, every aspect of the lives of the people of Gaza was controlled.  They were totally dependent on Israel for fuel, electricity, cooking gas, medical supplies, food supplies (even flour), building material, etc.  Israel made sure that the Palestinians would remain alive at barely the survival and basic subsistence level.
 
On November 14, 2008, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon issued a statement that said, "The Secretary-General is concerned that food and other life saving assistance is being denied to hundreds of thousands of people, and emphasizes that measures which increase the hardship and suffering of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as a whole are unacceptable and should cease immediately."
 
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:
 
FIRST:  A word about tahdi'a (the period of calm or truce).  It is important to note that among the terms of tahdi'a was the understanding that Israel would lift the siege of the Gaza Strip, and gradually extend the truce to the West Bank.  This Israel did not do.  It only partially lifted the siege and allowed a trickle of vital commodities into Gaza which kept the people at the level of mere survival.  Israel's raids into the West Bank continued on a daily basis and scores of Palestinians were arrested or assassinated.   
 
The International Herald Tribune reported on December 19, 2008 that it was Hamas' understanding that after the tahdi'a Israel would open the crossings and allow the transfer of goods that have been banned since the siege was imposed.  There was never a return to the 500 - 600 truckloads of goods shipments that used to go into the Gaza Strip before the siege.  "The number of trucks increased to around 90 from around 70."  The facts and figures tell the real story.  Sadly, however, many western leaders have shut their ears, eyes, and mouths against the cry of the oppressed and they fell into the deceptive snares of Israel.  Most of the world judges Israel by what it says and not by what it does; while they close their ears to the comprehensive and workable 2002 Peace Initiative adopted by all the Arab leaders including the Palestinians.  Even Hamas has agreed to a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders as expressed to President Carter on his latest visit to Syria.
 
SECOND:  So long as Israel holds the Palestinians in general and the Gazans in particular under occupation, they (the Palestinians) have the right, according to international law, to resist the "seemingly never ending" belligerent occupation and struggle for their liberation.  Israel, therefore, cannot demand from the international community sympathy and political support and from the Palestinians calm and security, while it maintains its inhuman and illegal occupation.  It is only when Israel ends its occupation that it can have a legitimate right to defend its borders.  Israel stands in violation of international law and is the aggressor due to its belligerent occupation.    
 
THIRD:  The Arab leaders and governments can do more for peace.  Many people accuse them of a conspiracy of silence.  Most of the Arab people are ashamed of the positions of their governments because they have not used their resources collectively to end the occupation.  Sabeel is not talking about the use of force although many of our Arab people do.  We believe that the Arab governments could have contributed much more towards a resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict through nonviolent means.  Tragically, this did not happen.
 
FOURTH:  Although Sabeel wishes that Hamas and other Palestinian factions had chosen a nonviolent way to resist the Israeli siege, we feel that the disproportionate use of military force against the Gaza Strip and the number of casualties that it produced must be strongly condemned.  It is a shame that once again many western leaders have failed to see the deeper issues that are involved.  They chose to stand with the occupier rather than with the occupied, with the oppressor rather than the oppressed, and with the powerful rather than with the weak.  It is important to continue the resistance against the belligerent occupation.  But we call on our Palestinian people to abandon the armed struggle and to choose a more potent and effective way - the way of nonviolence.   We can do it and we can win.  The Palestinians are capable of setting an example for the rest of the world.  This is what we must do; and this is what can restore to us our human pride and dignity.
 
In fact, we must look to a world where wars, and weapons of violence and destruction would be banned and where oppressed nations would choose the higher moral ground and resist the evil of belligerent occupations by nonviolent means.  We hope for a world where a reformed United Nations would never be held hostage by powerful nations, but would enjoy the freedom to establish justice for the oppressed of the world.
 
FIFTH:  We believe that the real message of the Palestinians to the world is a genuine cry for freedom and liberation.  The Palestinians did not initiate the violence.  The prolonged illegal Israeli occupation is the real cause for the violence in our area.  Israel has shut the door on justice.  The only way that can guarantee a lasting resolution of the conflict is for the United States' new administration to dare and open the door of justice.  We believe that it is the narrow gate of which Jesus Christ spoke.   It is the gate that leads to a life of peace and security.  "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it."  This is the narrow gate of justice.  This is the basis of international law.  The way of military domination, occupation, violence, and wars is the wide gate that leads to destruction; while the gate that seems narrow and hard is the one that leads to justice, peace and security for both sides.  We have tried the wide gate and it has only brought us destruction.  It is high time to try the narrow gate of justice so that we might find life.
 
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Jerusalem
December 31, 2008
www.sabeel.org




 
Friends of Sabeel-North America joins international cry for end to Israeli attacks on Gaza
 
Friends of Sabeel-North America calls on Christian leaders in the U.S to speak out in a strong, concerted voice to condemn Israel's excessive violence against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza.  President George Bush, president-elect Barack Obama and his transition team, and all members of Congress, need to hear from church leaders urging immediate and decisive political action to end Israel's attacks.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sabeel's international patron, said in a statement on Sunday that "the attacks would not bring Israel security or peace", adding, "It is a blight not only on the Middle East, but on the entire world - and particularly world leaders who have consistently failed the people of Palestine and Israel over the past 60 years."
 
Sabeel in Jerusalem and its Friends in the U.S. promote nonviolent solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recognize the great disparity of power and Israel's misuse of its massive military power against a people long oppressed by its illegal military occupation. With the world's fourth most powerful military, Israel is guilty of excessive violence that far exceeds that of the occupied Palestinian people.
 
Sabeel's peace partners in Israel also condemn their government's violence. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, for example, stated: "Let's be crystal clear. Israel's massive attacks on Gaza today have one overarching goal: conflict management. How to end rocket attacks on Israel from a besieged and starving Gaza without ending the impetus for those attacks, 41 years of increasingly oppressive Israeli Occupation without a hint that a sovereign and viable Palestinian state will ever emerge."
 
Sabeel asks Christian leaders to stand for the poor and oppressed and to speak and act on their behalf. Leaders should demand that: Israel immediately end the bombing of Gaza, as well as its 15-month long blockade of food, fuel, electricity and  medicines into Gaza, and its collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazan men, women and children.  In addition, Hamas should immediately end rocket fire into Israel.


   
 
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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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