About this Blog

"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Electricity for Flowers, Not People

The Jordan Valley is a place where Israeli flowers have electricity and Palestinian people do not.

Located in the east, along the Jordan River, the Jordan Valley comprises approximately 25 percent of the land in the West Bank or Occupied Palestine. In previous times, landowners were known as “princes”, because of the availability of water and the fertility of the land.

Today, the Jordan Valley is a land of contrasts. There are Israeli settlements and farms that exist side-by-side (and sometimes through) Palestinian villages and farms. Israeli settlements have homes made of stone or concrete, with space to grow. Palestinian villages are often filled with homes made of tarp and scrap metal (making the homes cold in the winter and hot in the summer.) In some areas electric lines crisscross Palestinian villages, and water pipe lines run through them. But often Palestinians have no access to this infrastructure; they are for the Israeli settlements nearby. The Israeli authorities have fenced in the water pumps, so Palestinians can’t “steal” the water beneath their villages. However, the most striking example of racist distribution of resources is the Israeli flower plantations next to Palestinian villages. Flowers have rows of lights hanging over them, to make them bloom earlier for export to Europe. Yet the Palestinians living next to these farms cannot tap into these electric lines.

In sum, Israel encourages the growth of the Israeli settlement population. At the same time, the Israeli government attempts to force Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley off their land through the demolition of Palestinian homes, refusal of permission to build new homes and fix roads, and the control of water, electricity, transport of produce to markets. Additionally, the Israeli government refuses to allow Palestinians who do not have an address in the Jordan Valley to visit there.

Yet as in the rest of Palestine, the Israeli occupation does not have the final word. Palestinian communities are organizing in nonviolent resistance to Israel’s systematic oppression. By building schools for their communities (sometimes in defiance of the Israeli government), and providing electricity for themselves, by insisting on their right to remain in the Jordan Valley, some Palestinian communities are nonviolently resisting the forces of the Israeli Occupation intent on removing them.

For more information, please see the Electronic Intifada report: Israel Plundering the Jordan Valley.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Palestinian Nonviolent Resistence to the Israeli Occupation in Palestine

It has been quite some time since I have highlighted Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Lest you, dear readers, begin to form an inaccurate perception of the role of Palestinians in their struggle for justice (through nonviolent resistance), I present to you this video for your viewing enlightenment. It is about At-Tuwani, the village in which I work with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Villagers from At-Tuwani daily practice committed, disciplined, stratigic, nonviolent resistance. This video tells the story of the situation in Tuwani and gives an overview of the village's nonviolent struggle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Way to Go, 60 Minutes! -- A Beginner's Guide to the Israeli Occupation

On Sunday, 25 January, CBS 60 Minutes (a U.S. news broadcast)aired "Exposing Israeli Apartheid", an excellent (and accurate!) segment reporting on Israel's occupation of Palestine. Check it out:

And now act! Write to CBS 60 Minutes to thank them for their accurate portrayal of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation. The Gaza Justice Action Center makes it easy to do. I am so grateful that CBS had the courage to air this segment. Let them know you're grateful, too!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The "Numbers Game" Part 2

The numbers game will always bother me.

The world keeps insisting that human lives are valued on a sliding scale. Not all people are created equal in the image of God.

Listen to the media. I recently read "Off the Charts: Accuracy in Reporting on Israel/Palestine: The New York Times" by If Americans Knew. (They also produced a report on TV media coverage, but I haven't had the chance to read it yet.) The report focused on the New York Times' coverage of Israeli and Palestinian deaths during two years of the Second Intifada. A synopsis from the report:
In the first study period The Times reported Israeli deaths at a rate 2.8 times higher than Palestinian deaths, and in 2004 this rate increased by almost 30%, to 3.6, widening still further the disparity in coverage. The Times’ coverage of children’s deaths was even more skewed. In the first year of the current uprising, Israeli children’s deaths were reported at 6.8 times the rate of Palestinian children’s deaths. In 2004 this differential also increased, with deaths of Israeli children covered at a rate 7.3 times greater than the deaths of Palestinian children. Given that in 2004 22 times more Palestinian children were killed than Israeli children, this category holds particular importance.
This report covered data from 2000 and 2004. Yet even now the media plays the numbers game. "Israel has the right to protect its civilians." Three Israeli civilians have been killed in this recent war on Gaza. How many Palestinian civilians has the Israeli military killed? (To date, the death toll in Gaza is 1,188 Palestinians -- approximately a third of whom are children.) Where is the international outcry?

Then I remember: To the world, the death of a Palestinian is not worth the same as the death of an Israeli. I watch, horrified, on the news as the Palestinian death toll climbs. And I keep wondering: when will the scale tip? At what Palestinian-to-Israeli death-toll ratio will the world say, "Enough! A life is a life. And every death is a crime against humanity."

When will we end this spiral into madness? When will we hold sacred every human life -- regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion -- and treasure it as our own?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The "Numbers Game"

It happens. Often.

When I am speaking (or writing) about Israel's military occupation and Palestinian nonviolent resistance, people frequently ask me: "But Palestinians are violent! They're the ones killing civilians!"

I had this experience recently in chatting with a neighbor about the situation in Gaza. "Palestinians are the violent ones -- they're firing rockets!"

This comment -- and Western media coverage of Israel's military assault on Gaza -- astounds me. Since the beginning of Israel's assault on Gaza until now (27 December 2008 to 16 January 2009), the Israeli military has killed 1, 133 Palestinians. According to If Americans Knew, 300 of those casualties were children. In contrast, 13 Israelis have been killed in this war on Gaza. Three of them were civilians.

The media portrays Palestinians as the aggressors, the abusers of violence. Yet after looking at the numbers, one is left wondering: Who are the violent ones?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gaza Action in 30 Seconds

A co-worker directed me to this website as a way to act in response to Israel's military assault and blockade on Gaza. The site's format makes it easy send a statement to President Bush, President Elect Obama, and the Senators and Representative from your state. (The statement is pre-written, but editable, for anyone like me who always develops writer's block when writing to government officials.)

It is fast, simple, and advocacy. So, all you busy (and concerned) citizens, give it a whirl -- you have time to do this.

P.S. To readers outside the U.S. -- Apologies for being U.S. centric. If any of you know of a similar site for your respective countries, please let me know, and I will be happy to post them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine Release Statement on War in Gaza

Christian Peacemaker Teams deplores the use of violence, stands with the oppressed, and supports all nonviolent efforts to build justice and peace. We believe God loves both Palestinians and Israelis and regards every person's death a tragedy. With this in mind

-We call on all armed groups to cease killing and traumatizing the children of God.

-We implore our governments to do more to end this massacre in Gaza, including demanding that Israel immediately remove its forces from Gaza and cease aerial bombardment.

-We ask our government representatives to insist that Israel conform to International law in its dealings with the Palestinians.

- We urge our governments and media outlets to press beyond surface explanations as to the cause of this recent conflict between Hamas and Israel and address the 'root' problems (i.e. the systemic oppression and domination of the Palestinian people).