Saturday, February 28, 2009

when I'm 85

I left for my morning walk today at 9 am and returned at 3:30 pm. I had not realized it was -28 when I left, so although it was brilliantly sunny, by the time I walked the 4 k to Alli's, my legs were tingling in spite of having worn tights. Just past the stairs on High Street I passed the old woman with the red gloves who shakes her fist at all passing cars. As I walked down the sidewalk and she walked up the hill, our paths crossed and she looked me boldly in the face and said firmly, "Never mind. You go home. You don't live here. I can take care of the cars." And off she went to her house covered in untrimmed trees and lilac bushes, her purse swinging against her mink coat, her 40s style cloche pulled low over her forehead. Before going up her front steps she turned and one last time pumped her red-fisted hand angrily in the air at the next passing car.

After cutting Alli's hair, we sat together and had coffee and I ate two suolakala sandwiches, one Hannan Tädin kukeksi and one pala of kirkon naisten tekemä pulla. She told me a very detailed memory/story about when she was 5 and her brother died and she thought his eyes had opened and when she was 7 and looked out of the window at her sisters sliding down the snow-covered hill, and since Urho on Tuesday had told me a very detailed memory/story about when he was 5 and heard the vanha pieni ukko playing the Sami drum in his tent back of their camp up in northern Finland/Samiland, I wondered if I too, when I am 85, will remember my childhood with such clarity to attention?

Then, Alli showed me, once again, photos of her grandsons' weddings, and she told me about her last visit to her doctor and what he said and what she said. Alli wanted me to get her Saturday's newspaper from the box down the street, but it ate my loonie and 2 quarters, so I went back to her place and asked her for a veiti and went back to the newspaper box and poked and jimmied the coin slot trying to push the jammed coins further into the coinbox, all the while my fingers were getting quite cold, and I jiggled and jimmied some more but the coins refused to budge so then huriana paasassin sitä paksia (you have to know Finliskaa to get that last word), and then lo and behold, when I tugged at the handle, the glass door opened. I took 2 newspapers.

After bringing the knife and one newspaper back to Alli, I walked to Bay St. to exchange the hand crafted Wojo hat I had bought on Tuesday at VillEdge Art Gallery. I thought I had picked the right one that day. I had tried on this hat and that hat and back to this hat and then that hat and finally settled for a variegated green hat, but after wearing it for one hour and having an itchy forehead, I realized it was not the hat I was looking for. Now I have a brown hat. It is a crocheted hat worn low over the forehead that snugs the head. I looked in the mirror. A sudden thought flashed by...oh dear. Do I look like that old Italian lady in the old mink coat who shakes her fist at all the cars?... Never mind. I stuffed the new hat in my bag.

After talking to Cy about my sister's website launch and art exhibit and a possible 'fusion' of creative energies - coffee house - music - something at the old bar upstairs at the Finlandia Club, and him telling me about a possible next-year cross-border snow sculpture symposium for the empty corner lot and a possible living street night/art "billboard" art-in-the-street project for the summer, and after talking art with random people who had dropped into the shop, I thought, I'd better get going.

I crossed the street, intending to turn up and head back home, but in front of the Hoito I bumped into Chris R who was admiring the ice crystals suspended from the tree where the birch log bird house hangs. "I almost didn't recognize you with your hat on," I said.

We had a long conversation about the drag festival last night (not a car drag but a drag ball that was held in the Hall; the drag party was packed and a success), Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and opium, young Aboriginal offenders and addictions, the Palestine Event last night (also a success!), the importance of the need for non-Aboriginal Canadians to get outraged about the third world conditions of the reserves in NWO, and about how much blatant racism there is in this city, particularly in institutions, such as health and education. Afterwards, I decided not to walk home because now it was getting late and instead go straight to The Resting Frog Yoga Studio for the Welcome Back drop in for Marjut, who had recently come back from a 6 month meditation retreat in Mexico.

Cutting down the backlane of Machar Ave and then through the Wilson St. park and past the ice rink, I spontaneously decided to swing by the Northern Woman's Bookstore to say hello to whoever might be working the shift, which turned out to be Barb, who turned out to also be going to Marjut's welcome back drop-in. And that's where we went.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

sentenced to be shot: one canary

The song of the caged bird is an artificial sound because the bird/song is missing its social history and environment of bird-dom. Taken out of its birdworld and brought into the caged world of humanity...inhumanity?...the bird cannot sing the song of its ancestors. Its song will mirror the built environment rather than the dynamic natural world. So, for example, my lovebird, Sydney, has learned to chirp a version of "gimme kiss" rather than the full vocabulary she would know if she were flying around the forests of south west Africa with her cabal of 20-30 bird buddies.

"Isolated birds are unable to learn the full song."

So states Mark J. Rauzon in Birdwatching, a book I received as a gift from my sister, Katja. Rauzon explains that

"Birds learn to sing early in the nesting stage. Chicks learn the song distinctions from their parents and other dialects of local birds. Variations on their theme song can occur within a bird's range. Northern birds may sing slower, faster, or with differing emphasis than the same species in the south....White-crowned sparrows raised in a lab can only sing a weak version of their songs."

Canaries, to their detriment and misfortune, not only are superb songsters, but also are highly intelligent birds. That was a deadly combination for canaries, ensuring their future in cages and to their exploitation as entertainment at exhibitions. Like dogs today, in the 1800s especially, canaries were trained to perform tricks to mimic human-like behaviour, from playing dead and balancing acts to acting like female milkmaids and "Venetian demoiselles", but even worse, military soldiers executing military combat.

from The Book of Cage Birds (1843) by Henry B. Hirst:

A second exhibition of this kind [entertainment spectacle of birds], more curious from the greater number of the performers, took place in London during the year 1820. The ingenious artist and owner was a Monsieur Dijon. The exhibited troupe consisted of twenty-four Canaries, who all performed numerous feats.
One of these represented a company of soldiers. They had a small camp, tents and other martial equipage; stood and relieved guard; marched and counter-marched; and went through various evolutions.

At last one of the company deserted, was pursued by a guard, brought back, and seemingly sentenced to be shot. The courageous little bird submitted, hero-like, to his fate, received the real fire of his companions from their little mechanical muskets, and fell apparently dead before the company. He was then taken up by his companions, placed on a small tumbril and dragged away to be buried. This concluded the performance.

To other qualities I may add their wonderful power of imitating various airs; for they have here the correctness and taste of an accomplished musician, keeping time
with the most scrupulous exactness and adhering strictly to the melody. They are taught these airs by means of a flageolet, or a serinette, or bird-organ. The manner of tuition I shall consider in a future section.

canary in captivity

In What really makes the caged bird sing, TR Birkhead explains that

"Birds have fascinated people for a long time. In the past they were caught for two things: for food or for their song. Plump and tender birds like larks, wheatears and ortolans were eaten – usually by the wealthy – as they still are in Italy. Birds with a good voice, like the nightingale, were kept for their song. If they were good looking and sang half-decently, like the goldfinch, they were also kept – but only the males, for only males sing; females were eaten.

For aeons the nightingale was the songbird par excellence. It was plain in appearance, but its voice was unsurpassed. But after the canary first appeared as a cage bird on mainland Europe in the late 1400s, it nudged the nightingale off its premier perch. Nightingales were difficult to keep, and sang only for a few weeks each year, whereas the canary (which was equally dull to look at, since the wild bird is streaky green, not yellow) had a voice nearly as good, was easy to keep and would sing through much of the year.

The people who kept canaries and other songbirds were of three types: those who simply liked their sound – birdsong was like having Radio 1 on in the background; those who used their charges to enhance their own status through singing contests; and thirdly, those (a minority) who actually studied them.

Singing for status was an all-consuming passion, and fanciers often competed using wild-caught goldfinches and chaffinches. They also used the canary – but the canary was a different case because, as it was a costly import, great efforts were made to rear it in captivity, and once it was breeding [sic], it could be artificially selected. The Germans led the way, and focused on producing superb songsters which, because of their rolling song, were to become known as roller canaries. From these Teutonic beginnings, all the 70 or so canary breeds that are now in existence developed."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

the enchantment of the canary

I've been looking up information about the canary, as the prompt for my writing group, RedShoes on Court, was a bird for each woman. From my stack of bird cards from Bird Signs, I pulled canary.

My '69 Webster's Dictionary says 'canary' means a wine made in the Canary Islands (I wonder if it tastes golden?); an old dance introduced from the Canary Islands into Europe (is it undulating like the flight of these small birds?), and a singing bird, belonging to the finch family, which has long been very common as a caged bird.

"I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free,
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deepest core,
but a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings.
~ excerpt from a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, African-Am. poet.

Maya Angelou used the line from Dunbar's poem as the title of her creative non-fiction, I know why the Caged Bird Sings, the first book of her life story.

To write her stories, she goes through a ritual of ENCHANTMENT. She wakes up at 5 a.m., goes to a rented hotel room, lies on the bed with a legal pad in her hands, a bottle of sherry, a Bible and Roget's Thesaurus close by, and a pack of cards. She leaves my early afternoon, having written 10-12 pages that she edits to 3 -4 in the evening. She goes through this enchantment to relive her memories, to place herself back in time, inside the girl and young woman she was.

Maya Angelou says she has to relive the pain, anguish and suffering through the enchantment ritual to access the Truth.

The truth about canaries is that they were not originally solid yellow. Caged, the birds' original dull olive green or greenish yellow streaked with yellow and black, turned yellow. That is, through its capture and centuries of breeding this tiny bird of strong magical song became yellow. And now 'canary yellow' is as much a part of our normalized sensibilities as inky black or cerulean blue. We can even eat canary cake, wild canary cake.

One of the centers of canary bird breeding was 15th and 16th c Austria and Germany; the people of the Hartz Mountains bred and trained the birds to sing for them. The singing of the canaries was inspiration for the meistersingers, the minstrel brotherhoods. Meisters wrote new verses to existing melodies and new tunes, too. Their songs were sung without accompaniment. This bardic schooling taught the power of sound, music and voice, which was simultaneously physical and spiritual.

Some think goldfinches are wild canaries.

How to catch a wild canary? Nets? Traps?
How many died en route, taken from their warm island climes to inland northern places? This is not recorded. Of course, many peoples traveled to the Canary Islands, from the Spanish who conquered and colonized it and its inhabitants, to Arab and Muslim traders. But it was the French and the Spanish who wiped out the Islands' indigenous population, the Guanches. Indeed, the Canary Islands were the "dress rehearsal" for colonizing, conquering and killing indigenous peoples around the world.

Palestinians are the descendants of the indigenous peoples of the area of Palestine. Incredibly, although it is Gaza and the West Bank which are both caged in by walls and fencing and sniper towers, and it is the Palestinian people who have been under threat of extermination for more than 61 years, Israel's defenders have appropriated the phrase "the canary in the coal mine" for that regime. Incredibly, they call Israel a canary of democracy caged in by despotic backward terrorist Arab regimes. Incredibly, the only country in the Middle East with nuclear bombs -- more than 200-- is Israel. Incredibly.

I'm not sure what sort of bird of Palestine this is. Perhaps it has the power of song, too.

The song of the canary is one of healing, of awakening. The power of the canary totem is the Power of Song and Voice. When the canary totem comes your way she alights on your throat and heart, opening them to increased feeling, to heightened sensitivity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Juma, Sadar and Amed

children of Saleha

Canadians, do you know where Saleha is? Well, you should because your representatives have killed 3 children from this village: Juma 4 yrs, her 12 yr old brother, Sadar, and 11 yr old Amed.

This news was buried on the back pages of my local newspaper.

Now, when Canadian soldiers die in Afghanistan it makes front page news. And one of the first things mentioned on the media releases issued is that the Canadian government acknowledges the tragic loss that the family has suffered. If you watch the clip on the Toronto Star online, and listen to the Canadian army major, there is no recognition that these children had a family. Now, you might think that is petty of me, but I say no. It is just through this kind of avoidance-speak that people are de-humanized. Their losses are never given the same respect as "our" losses. It continues "us" and "them" discourse and the unspoken narrative that "our" lives are more important. Don't be lulled by the army major's non-speak of culpability, his careful discourse of due process to investigate. Now, maybe this Canadian army major has young children at home. Maybe he does and that is why he has written his words down, keeps his eyes down, so not to stray into any emotional territory, heaven forbid! Better get the words right!

Whether it is Canadian ordnance left behind in the fields around the village that the Canadian army has claimed/confiscated/occupies for its military practice shelling, or as some of the villagers assert, a direct Canadian mortar artillery attack that killed these 3 children and left another child maimed, the Canadian army will "regret the loss of life." And that is it. On to the next news.

another routine day

Another routine day in the West Bank: arrest. One of many West Bank residents arrested. This Palestinian was shot while bound and blindfolded, Israeli Human Rights group reports.

Another routine day for West Bank residents: Israeli courts. Ofra Ben-Artzi, an Israeli, writes a report of a court case, one of many, translated from Hebrew by George Malent:

"'Khalas': a very common Arabic expression that literally means 'finished', or 'over'. In this context it is used as an interjection to express despair or resignation, and means something like, 'forget it' - trans."

proxy prison...
not only Israeli prisons hold Palestinian prisoners, but also Israel's proxy security forces, i.e. Abbas's police and West Bank prisons do the work for them.

Another routine night of West Bank raids by Israeli soldiers, Palestinians captured, "taken to unknown locations."

Another routine day in the life of people in Ni'lin, West Bank. Feb. 16, 2009.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Carlton U admin clamps down on freedom of expression

We knew that this would be a possible outcome, that using the words "Israeli Apartheid" or images such as the poster below by Carlos Latuff most likely would rankle people in positions of power who have veto power or who will make your work more difficult to do, so to spare our group, The Human Rights Education Committee, the headaches and battles, we carefully crafted our words to address Palestinian Awareness. Sometimes one has to strategize one's methods according to place, time, and available energies and resources. Of course, if we were in Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto where there are 1000s of people to help in the fight for one's freedom of expression, then we too could take up other tactics. But we are in Thunder Bay, with limited resources and time to battle obstructions to thwart our message, which is simply to get information about Palestine out into public spaces. The students at Carlton University, however, have the Administration to battle, and are asking for support in their right of freedom of expression. See below.

The "offensive" Israeli Apartheid poster. Image by Carlos Latuff, a political cartoonist born in Brazil.

Dear Colleagues - please scroll to end of e-mail to see Actions requested.

Carleton University Administration violates free expression - bans and confiscates posters
Write to Carleton University president to demand the restoration of student rights
February 18, 2009

On February 8, Students Against Israeli Apartheid at Carleton University put up 100 posters for "Israeli Apartheid Week", a series of lectures and public events that will occur on campuses in over 40 cities around the world. On February 9, these posters were taken down at the request of Carleton's Equity Services, under the rationale that the posters "could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario Human Rights code" and are "insensitive to the norms of civil discourse in a free and democratic society"

The poster was created by noted cartoonist Carlos Latuff and depicts a situation - a child being killed by aerial bombardment - that occurred over 430 times in Israel's latest attack on Gaza according to United Nations reports. We encourage everyone to view the poster: Since it depicts a situation that has a factual basis and its intention is clearly to invite people to a lecture series, the notion that it is an incitement or a violation to norms of civil discourse is preposterous.

This is part of a wider pattern of repression of academic freedom and rights to free expression, especially on Israel/Palestine, on Canadian campuses, including Carleton University. It is accompanied by double standards. When 56 Carleton professors asked President Roseanne Runte to condemn Israel's bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza, the President refused. Neither the direct killing of hundreds of children nor the direct bombing of a campus are enough to elicit condemnation, but her administration has decided that a poster inviting people to discuss the conflict ought to be banned. Instead of being lauded by their university, students affirming the humanity of all peoples and the universality of international law have been threatened by Carleton University's Provost with expulsion.

The Carleton administration had already taken a biased political stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and is now violating free expression to prevent alternative views. Both the current and former Carleton Presidents have taken very clear positions on the Israel-Palestine conflict by condemning the academic boycott of Israel out of hand, offering no alternative to this justice-oriented civil-society initiative. Students and faculty at Carleton have requested that the administration hold a public debate on the issue, to allow the Carleton community to determine the most responsible course of action, yet have been repeatedly rebuffed.

Far from defending human rights, the Carleton administration is treating them with contempt. In a memo to students on February 12, the Provost wrote that "all reported incidents of racial or religious intolerance will be investigated vigorously and addressed regardless of the persons or groups involved." The administration should begin a vigorous investigation of its own behaviour, including its discrimination against students who seek an open debate on a political issue but are being silenced because they happen to disagree with the president's stand.

That Carleton's administration is using human rights grounds to violate free expression on its campus is a double insult. Internationally, the movement against Israeli apartheid has been endorsed by hundreds of universities, unions, religious groups and social justice organizations. This campaign is proudly anti-racist, and founded on the principles of opposition to all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It draws its inspiration from the global campaign to end South African apartheid and is led by many of the same individuals who were at the forefront of that earlier struggle. By contrast, the administration that banned the poster could not summon enough concern for human rights or the right to education to speak against the bombing of a Gazan university.

SAIA Carleton demands that the Carleton University administration:

1. Immediately lift the ban on the Israeli Apartheid Week poster and publicly apologize for the banning.

2. Explain, publicly and precisely, how the profound error of banning the poster was made and address how to prevent such violations from occurring in future.

3. Sponsor a full public debate-- ensuring generous access to the entire university community-- on Carleton's position on the proposed institutional boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

4. Appoint a university/community Commission to investigate the record of the University in relation to democratic discourse and equity around issues of Palestine solidarity.

This attempt to repress free expression will ultimately fail. The Carleton University administration should understand that debates on campuses on some of the most important human rights questions of our times cannot be silenced by administrative rulings.

We call on student organizations, social justice groups and concerned individuals around the world to support students at Carleton and the broader fight for freedom of expression.

Please take the following actions:

* Immediately email the Carleton University President, Roseanne Runte, at demanding that she immediately restore the Charter rights of Carleton students and send a copy of your message of support to Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA Carleton) at

* Call or fax Carleton University President, Roseanne Runte, at 613 520-3801(phone) or 613 520-4474 (fax) demanding that she immediately restore the Charter rights of Carleton students.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Palestine Awareness events @ LU feb27-mar6

1. Palestine Awareness Night
Friday February 27th, 2009
6:30 – 9 pm
ATAC 1001
Lakehead University
Join us for an evening of developing greater understandings of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Short presentations start the night; the 2nd half features a Key Note Speech on the historical and contemporary contexts of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.

1. “The Importance of Raising Awareness on Palestine.” Bob Manson
2. “Understanding Crimes against Humanity: the Geneva Convention, genocide tribunals and Israel’s domestic policies on human rights.” Vanessa Lucky
3. “Israeli Media Filters.” Adam Dickerson
4. "Canada & Israel: The Myth of Canada as a human rights state." Josh Kolic
5. “Virtual Palestine: Resources of Resistance.” Web resources on Palestine. Taina Maki Chahal.

Key Note Speech
“Peace and Justice for Palestine: Making Sense of 61 years of struggle.” Walid Chahal

Discussion to follow. Everyone welcome. Free.

2. Palestine Awareness Booth
Tuesday March 3rd
10am-4 pm.
Agora LU
The week of March 1-8 is International Israeli Apartheid Week. On Tuesday, drop by the Palestine Awareness Booth in the Agora. Find out facts about Palestine, education under occupation, Israeli apartheid, and Palestinian human rights. Photo-based artist, Katja Maki, will be exhibiting art as activism.

3. Radio: The Question of Palestine
9 – 10 am Friday March 6
The Josh Kolic Experience Radio Program
CILU Radio 102.7 FM
Listen in Friday morning while Josh Kolic talks with Prof. Walid Chahal about Palestine, from human rights, Israeli apartheid, and media discourses to the role that the US and UK play in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

All events sponsored by The Human Rights Education Committee. Faculty, students and community members working towards social justice.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Article 37: no one is allowed to punish you in a cruel or harmful way

Pack of Trouble. Children of Nuseirat Refugee camp. photo John Harvey

Today at Mushkiki, I came across an eye-catching yellow poster, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child In Child Friendly Language. It is important that children know their rights, so that they are aware of their rights not be harmed by anyone. In light of the terrible harm brought recently to Palestinian children in Gaza, and for 61 years to all Palestinian children, I thought maybe someone/group should take up a court case against Israel for abusing Palestinian children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Countries like Canada and the US, that support sanctions and support Israeli abuses of human rights, could also be taken to court for abusing the rights of Palestinian children, on the basis of the Articles I've noted below.

Article 2
All children have these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what their parents do, what language they speak, what their religion is, whether they are a boy or girl, what their culture is, whether they have a disability, whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.

Article 6
You have the right to be alive.

Article 19
You have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, in body or mind.

Article 22
You have the right to special protection and help if you are a refugee (if you have been forced to leave your home and live in another country), as well as all the rights in this Convention.

Article 24
You have the right to the best health care possible, safe water to drink, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, and information to help you stay well.

Article 27
You have the right to food, clothing, a safe place to live and to have your basic needs met. You should not be disadvantaged so that you can’t do many of the things other kids can do.

Article 31
You have the right to play and rest.

Article 37
No one is allowed to punish you in a cruel or harmful way.

Article 38
You have the right to protection and freedom from war. Children under 15 cannot be forced to go into the army or take part in war.

Article 39
You have the right to help if you’ve been hurt, neglected or badly treated.

Monday, February 16, 2009

you can't have tabbouleh without parsley farmers


North American versions of tabbouleh recipes call for more bulgur than parsley, but in Middle Eastern recipes, lots of parsley is a must. And you never just make a smidge (that is, the Canadian style of cooking where you count out exact serving-sizes per person), you make a huge bowl, enough to feed everyone plus. Think bunches of parsley, bunches and bunches of verdant, springy, deep green, fresh-scented parsley.

In the Middle East, parsley is a staple. You cannot live without parsley.

photo from inGaza.

Parsley farming in the Gaza Strip, however, has its hazards.

On January 27, 27 yr old Arwaan was shot in the neck and killed while picking parsley and spinach. He was 700 metres from the Green Line, inside Gaza. Israeli jeeps opened fire with machine guns on the farmers, killing Arwaan instantly.

Below is an excerpt of an eye-witness account of Israeli soldiers firing at parsley farmers in the Gaza Strip 2 wks ago, written by a Canadian human rights worker who was there with other solidarity workers trying to help the farmers harvest their parsley. Goodness knows the people of Gaza NEED FOOD! Why don't the Israeli soldiers stop their harassment of the people of Gaza?

Shooting at Farmers, What Gives Israel the Right?

"As the farmers tried to leave with their donkey carts, the shots continued. The two carts were eventually able to make it away, down the ruddy lane, a lane eaten by tank and bulldozer tracks from the land invasion weeks before. Some of us accompanied the carts away, out of firing range, then returned. There were still farmers on the land and they needed to evacuate.

As we stood, again arms still raised, still empty-handed, still proclaiming thus, the Israeli soldiers’ shooting drew much nearer. Those whizzing rushes were more frequent and undeniably close to my head, our heads. The Italian film crew accompanying us did not stop filming, nor did some of us with video cameras.

We announced our intention to move away, the soldiers shot. We stood still, the soldiers shot. At one point I was certain one of the farmers would be killed, as he had hit the ground again but in his panic seemed to want to jump up and run. I urged him to stay flat, stay down, and with our urging he did. The idea was to move as a group, a mixture of the targeted Palestinian farmers and the brightly-noticeable international accompaniers. And so we did, but the shots continued, rapidly, hitting within metres of our feet, flying within metres of our heads.

I’m amazed no one was killed today, nor that limbs were not lost, maimed.

The human rights workers called the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv to report the shots by Israeli soldiers. Here is the lame response and advice to the Canadian human rights worker, which, once again, blames Palestinians for being on their own land and exonerates the continuing Israeli obstructions, threats to safety, and dispossessing Palestinians of their lands:

"My embassy rang me up, after we’d managed to get away from the firing: “We’re told you are being shot at. Can you give us the precise location, and maybe a landmark, some notable building nearby.”

I told Heather about the half-demolished house to the south of where we had been, and that we were on Palestinian farmland. After some further questioning, it dawned on her that the shooting was coming from the Israeli side. “How do you know it is Israeli soldiers shooting at you?” she’d asked. I mentioned the 4 jeeps, the soldiers on the mound, the shots from the soldiers on the mound (I didn’t have time to go into past experiences with Israeli soldiers in this very area and a little further south, similar experience of farmers being fired upon while we accompanied them.).

Heather asked if the soldiers had stopped firing, to which I told her, ‘no, they kept firing when we attempted to move away, hands in the air. They fired as we stood still, hands in the air. “ She suggested these were ‘warning shots’ at which I pointed out that warning shots would generally be in the air or 10s of metres away. These were hitting and whizzing past within metres.

She had no further thoughts at time, but did call back minutes later with Jordie Elms, the Canadian attache in the Tel Aviv office, who informed us that “Israel has declared the 1 km area along the border to be a ‘closed military zone’.”

When I pointed out that Israel had no legal ability to do such, that this closure is arbitrary and illegal, and that the farmers being kept off of their land or the Palestinians whose homes have been demolished in tandem with this closure had no other options: they needed to work the land, live on it… Jordie had no thoughts. He did, however, add that humanitarian and aid workers need to “know the risk of being in a closed area”.

Meaning, apparently, that it is OK with Jordie that Israeli soldiers were firing on unarmed civilians, because Israeli authorities have arbitrarily declared an area out of their jurisdiction (because Israel is “not occupying Gaza” right?!) as a ‘closed area’.

Filmed in Abassan Jedida, Gaza Strip on Feb. 02, 2009.
Returning to farm the land where Israeli soldiers had opened fire on them 2 days previously, farmers and HRWs [human rights workers] were able to harvest the parsley crop for only half an hour, before soldiers again began to shoot. A number of shots were fired into the air, before the soldiers started to aim in the direction of the farmers and international accompaniment. Bullets were heard to whiz past, close to peoples heads.

The Canadian human rights worker's eye witness account continues:

"If Israeli authorities recognized Palestinian farmers’ need to work the land, Palestinian civilians’ right to live in their homes, then they would not have arbitrarily imposed a 1 km ban on existence along the border, from north to south. What gives Israel the right to say that now the previously-imposed 300 m ban on valuable agricultural land next to the order extends to 1 full kilometre, and that this inherently gives Israel the right to have bulldozed 10s of houses in this “buffer zone” and ravaged the farmland with military bulldozers and tanks.

Furthermore, what gives Israel the right to assume these impositions are justifiable, and the right to shoot at farmers continuing to live in and work on their land (as if they had a choice. Recall the size of Gaza, the poverty levels?)?

Nothing does.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake, Fort Frances, Ontario. View looking across to the US from Our Lady of Lourdes yard, from the graves monument on the right side of the church.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Venezuela, Canada represents Israel

ei image

Much of Canada's support of Israel, as reported in the following article, is familiar to me. However, it is incredulous to find out that the Canadian Embassy in Venezuela is now also representing the state of Israel. Further, "A number of Canadian municipalities are 'twinning' with Israeli cities," states a page of the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa that details Sixty years of Canada-Israel friendship. Now, I wonder which Canadian cities are those seeking sisterhood with militarism, racism, oppression, apartheid, colonialism, and genocide?

The following article, Canada Becomes Israel, by Yves Engler, was posted in the Electronic Intifada on Feb. 12, 2009:

Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper's government publicly supported Israel's brutal assault on Gaza and voted alone at the UN Human Rights Committee in defense of Israel's actions three weeks ago. Now Canada has taken over Israeli diplomacy. Literally.

In solidarity with Gaza, Venezuela expelled Israel's ambassador at the start of the bombardment and then broke off all diplomatic relations two weeks later. Israel need not worry since Ottawa plans to help out. On 29 January, The Jerusalem Post reported that "Israel's interests in Caracas will now be represented by the Canadian Embassy." This means Canada is officially Israel, at least in Venezuela.

Prior to the recent bombing in Gaza, the Harper government made it abundantly clear that it would support Israel no matter what that country did. It publicly endorsed Israel's 2006 attack on Lebanon, voted against a host of UN resolutions supporting Palestinian rights and in January 2008 refused to criticize illegal Israeli settlement construction at Har Homa near Jerusalem (even Washington publicly criticized these settlements). Canada was also the first country (after Israel) to cut off financial aid to the elected Hamas government and Ottawa has provided millions of dollars as well as personnel to create a US-trained Palestinian police force to act as a counterweight to the Hamas government and to oversee Israel's occupation.

Harper's support for Israel is extreme, but despite what many well-meaning commentators claim, it is not a break from Canada's role as an "honest broker" in the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is a long history of Canadian support for Zionism, a European settler ideology that has violently dispossessed Palestinians for more than six decades.

Canada and Israel's Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau and Menachem Begin at a meeting in November 1978.

© 1978 Yaacov Saar- Israel Government Press Office. Photo from the Embassy of Israel- Ottawa website.

The idea for a Middle Eastern Jewish homeland to serve Western imperial interests has a long history in Canada. Since at least the 1870s Christian Zionists called for their biblical prophesies to be fulfilled under British auspices. By November 1915, Solicitor General (and then Prime Minister) Arthur Meighen publicly proclaimed, "I think I can speak for those of the Christian faith when I express the wish that God speed the day when the land of your [Jewish] forefathers shall be yours again. This task I hope will be performed by that champion of liberty the world over -- the British Empire." Two decades later Prime Minister RB Bennett began a national radio broadcast of the United Palestine Appeal with a speech about how the Balfour declaration and British control over Palestine was a step towards Biblical prophecies. "Scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled," he noted. "The restoration of Zion has begun."

During the 1947 UN negotiations over the British mandate of historic Palestine, Canada played an important role in creating Israel. Lester Pearson (then under-secretary of state for External Affairs) who chaired two different UN committees dealing with the mandate and Supreme Court Justice Ivan C. Rand, a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), played central roles in the negotiations that led to partition. In State in the Making, David Horowitz (the first governor of the Bank of Israel and first director general of Israel's ministry of finance) writes: "It may be said that Canada more than any other country played a decisive part in all stages of the UNO [United Nations Organization] discussions of Palestine."

The UN's 1948 partition plan gave the new Jewish state the majority of Palestine despite the Jewish population owning roughly seven percent of the land and representing a third of the population. Rand's assistant on UNSCOP, Leon Mayrand, provides a window into the dominant mindset at External Affairs: "The Arabs were bound to be vocal opponents of partition but they should not be taken too seriously. The great majority were not yet committed nationalists and the Arab chiefs could be appeased through financial concessions, especially if these accompanied a clearly declared will to impose a settlement whatever the means necessary." A dissident within External Affairs, the department's only Middle East expert, Elizabeth MacCallum, claimed Ottawa supported partition, "because we didn't give two hoots for democracy."

Above all else support for partition was driven by a geostrategic worldview. An internal report circulated at External Affairs explained: "The plan of partition gives to the western powers the opportunity to establish an independent, progressive Jewish state in the Eastern Mediterranean with close economic and cultural ties with the West generally and in particular with the United States." The Ottawa mandarins largely supported Israel as a possible western outpost in the heart of the (oil-producing) Middle East.

When the first Palestinian intifada broke out in 1987, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) that Israel's brutal suppression of rock throwing Palestinian youth was handling the situation with "restraint." When questioned by a CBC reporter about the similarity between the plight of Palestinians and Blacks in South Africa, Mulroney replied that any comparison between Israel and South Africa was "false and odious and should never be mentioned in the same breath."

A decade later, Ottawa signed a free trade agreement with Israel. It was only Canada's fourth free trade agreement. Begun January 1997, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of where Israel's custom laws are applied.

The political motivation for supporting Israel has not changed significantly over the years. The government in Ottawa today receives limited electoral support from the Jewish community, but is close to a right-wing Christian Zionist movement. Most importantly, the Harper government strongly supports Western (US-led) imperialism in the Middle East. This is why Canada has taken over Israeli diplomacy in Venezuela.

Yves Engler is the author of the forthcoming Canada on the World Stage: A Force for Good or Bad Actor? and other books. He can be reached at


One to the North

One to the South

a favorite food of birds in winter

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a house with many windows

Growing Gardens for Palestine. photo annie's letters blogspot

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland

.....Mahmoud Darwish

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ala's room

ISM photo taken Feb. 5, 2009.
Extra-judical execution in Qabatiya, Jenin area.

The Death Squad's Palette from anomalousNYC on Flikr:

'What is that noise?'
The wind under the door.
'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'
Nothing again nothing.
'You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

--T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"


Israeli forces extra-judicially execute man in Jenin area
International Solidarity Movement
February 7, 2009

A 21 year old man, Ala Ad-Din Abu Ar-Roub, from Qabatiya village near Jenin was killed early Thursday morning after his home was surrounded and entered by a large number of Israeli forces. According to family members, Ala was working on his computer in his room at 4:30am when the soldiers attacked the house, blowing open the front door and entering without warning. Ala was killed by multiple gunshots to the head and chest while his brother Muhammed lay sleeping on a mattress next to him.

The Israeli forces then forced all of the family members outside after violently subduing Ala’s mother who had attempted to come to his aid. The family members including children were not even permitted to put on outdoor clothing or shoes before exiting the house.

After the family was evacuated, the Israeli forces laid explosive charges inside the house, blowing open a large hole in one wall and damaging much of the internal structure of the house. The family was prevented from attending to Ala during this time and had no knowledge of his condition.

Family members claimed that they had been given no indication by Israeli forces that Ala was wanted on any charges although he had been imprisoned more than a year previously. They stated that he had not been involved recently in any political activity and would not have been living unprotected at the family home if he had believed he was a target of Israeli security forces.

Ala was the oldest child of the Abu Ar-Roub family, and is survived by his parents and brother Muhammed and seven sisters. He had previously studied electrical engineering and intended to continue his studies. He also enjoyed various athletic activities.

According to village sources, this is the first targeted assassination in the Jenin area in over a year, although arrests have been common by Israeli forces. Such extra-judicial executions by the occupying forces are flagrant violations of international and humanitarian law.

This Road for Jews Only

The following article was written by Shulamit Aloni, the former Education Minister of Israel. She has been awarded both the Israel Prize and the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel. by Shulamit Aloni, translated by Sol Salbe

Jewish self-righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what's right in front of our eyes. It's simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.

The US Jewish Establishment's onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp. All this is done in order to keep an eye on the population's movements and to make its life difficult.

Israel even imposes a total curfew whenever the settlers, who have illegally usurped the Palestinians' land, celebrate their holidays or conduct their parades. If that were not enough, the generals commanding the region frequently issue further orders, regulations, instructions and rules (let us not forget: they are the lords of the land). By now they have requisitioned further lands for the purpose of constructing "Jewish only" roads. Wonderful roads, wide roads, well-paved roads, brightly lit at night--all that on stolen land.

When a Palestinian drives on such a road, his vehicle is confiscated and he is sent on his way. On one occasion I witnessed such an encounter between a driver and a soldier who was taking down the details before confiscating the vehicle and sending its owner away. "Why?" I asked the soldier. "It's an order--this is a Jews-only road", he replied. I inquired as to where was the sign indicating this fact and instructing [other] drivers not to use it. His answer was nothing short of amazing. "It is his responsibility to know it, and besides, what do you want us to do, put up a sign here and let some antisemitic reporter or journalist take a photo so he that can show the world that Apartheid exists here?"

Indeed Apartheid does exist here. And our army is not "the most moral army in the world" as we are told by its commanders. Sufficient to mention that every town and every village has turned into a detention centre and that every entry and every exit has been closed, cutting it off from arterial traffic. If it were not enough that Palestinians are not allowed to travel on the roads paved 'for Jews only', on their land, the current GOC found it necessary to land an additional blow on the natives in their own land with an "ingenious proposal".

Humanitarian activists cannot transport Palestinians either. Major-General Naveh, renowned for his superior patriotism, has issued a new order. Coming into affect on 19 January, it prohibits the conveyance of Palestinians without a permit. The order determines that Israelis are not allowed to transport Palestinians in an Israeli vehicle (one registered in Israel regardless of what kind of numberplate it carries) unless they have received explicit permission to do so. The permit relates to both the driver and the Palestinian passenger. Of course none of this applies to those whose labour serves the settlers. They and their employers will naturally receive the required permits so they can continue to serve the lords of the land, the settlers.

Did man of peace President Carter truly err in concluding that Israel is creating Apartheid? Did he exaggerate? Don't the US Jewish community leaders recognise the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of 7 March 1966, to which Israel is a signatory? Are the US Jews who launched the loud and abusive campaign against Carter for supposedly maligning Israel 's character and its democratic and humanist nature unfamiliar with the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 30 November 1973? Apartheid is defined therein as an international crime that among other things includes using different legal instruments to rule over different racial groups, thus depriving people of their human rights. Isn't freedom of travel one of these rights?

In the past, the US Jewish community leaders were quite familiar with the meaning of those conventions. For some reason, however, they are convinced that Israel is allowed to contravene them. It's OK to kill civilians, women and children, old people and parents with their children, deliberately or otherwise without accepting any responsibility. It's permissible to rob people of their lands, destroy their crops, and cage them up like animals in the zoo. From now on, Israelis and International humanitarian organisations' volunteers are prohibited from assisting a woman in labour by taking her to the hospital. [Israeli human rights group] Yesh Din volunteers cannot take a robbed and beaten-up Palestinian to the police station to lodge a complaint. (Police stations are located at the heart of the settlements.) Is there anyone who believes that this is not Apartheid? Jimmy Carter does not need me to defend his reputation that has been sullied by Israelophile community officials. The trouble is that their love of Israel distorts their judgment and blinds them from seeing what's in front of them.

Israel is an occupying power that for 40 years has been oppressing an indigenous people, which is entitled to a sovereign and independent existence while living in peace with us. We should remember that we too used very violent terror against foreign rule because we wanted our own state. And the list of victims of terror is quite long and extensive. We do limit ourselves to denying the [Palestinian] people human rights. We not only rob of them of their freedom, land and water. We apply collective punishment to millions of people and even, in revenge-driven frenzy, destroy the electricity supply for one and half million civilians. Let them "sit in the darkness" and "starve". Employees cannot be paid their wages because Israel is holding 500 million shekels that belong to the Palestinians. And after all that we remain "pure as the driven snow". There are no moral blemishes on our actions. There is no racial separation. There is no Apartheid. It's an invention of the enemies of Israel . Hooray for our brothers and sisters in the US ! Your devotion is very much appreciated. You have truly removed a nasty stain from us. Now there can be an extra spring in our step as we confidently abuse the Palestinian population, using the "most moral army in the world".

Monday, February 9, 2009

gathering sparrows and flowers

Lina Hassan, 10, was killed by an Israeli shell

Children Bearing Rocks

with stones in their hands,
they defy the world
and come to us like good tidings.
They burst with anger and love, and they fall
while we remain a herd of polar bears:
a body armored against weather.

Like mussels we sit in cafes,
one hunts for a business venture
one for another billion
and a fourth wife
and breasts polished by civilization.
One stalks London for a lofty mansion,
one traffics in arms
one seeks revenge in nightclubs
one plots for a throne, a private army,
and a princedom.

Ah, generation of betrayal,
of surrogate and indecent men,
generation of leftovers,
we'll be swept away--
never mind the slow pace of history--
by children bearing rocks.

~ Nizar Qabbani

Father & Daughter . A father lifts up and plays with his daughter behind a makeshift mesh fence in the slum neighborhood of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.

A Song for Childhood

The moon rose
over childhood
And childhood was hills
gathering sparrows and flowers
in baskets under the moon
I'll pursue it, weeping and
falling on jagged stones.

It is a confiscated childhood.
From books and oil lamps, sometimes,
to prison and release, sometimes,
sometimes my life is counterfeit
Inside a city besieged by guards.

Light for Gaza

The moon rose
over childhood
And childhood was a pine tree
leaning across the shore of a sea
and twinkling above it, in dreams,
a star with many a mystery
I'll spend a sleepless night in that tree
in the dew
and light for it
an oil lamp.

This is a confiscated childhood
From books and oil lamps, sometimes,
to prison and release, sometimes,
sometimes my life is counterfeit
Inside a city besieged...

~ Hussein Barghouti

These poems are from the book Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation (1989), ed. Zachary Lockman and Joel Beinin.

X-ray Girl. A young Palestinian refugee girl stands on the streets of Beach Camp in Gaza City, clutching an x-ray photograph. Beach Camp is one of the world's longest-standing refugee camps. August, 2008.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Canada Park & Canadian Jewish anti-Zionism & Canadian Jewish Zionism

click on image to enlarge
Houria. Hadjira Pruere, Canadian Algerian artist. The Lands Within Me. Canadian Museum of Civilization.

A few years back, I wrote and presented a paper at a conference that discusses some of the meanings that can be read from Houria. I found Preure's Houria fascinating for the layers of meanings that can be decoded (remember, I teach Visual Culture), as did the audience, for there was much passionate discussion about the points of entry I introduced. But Houria also 'hailed me' [Althusser] because of what Preure said about the art/work that she produces: "For me, the most beautiful thing is hope, and light."

Striving for the universal call of hope and light in their own particular ways, The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) is a diaspora of Jews across the globe, who take up various strategies and activism to speak out against the Zionist policies that obliterate the human rights of Palestinians. Along with study, letter-writing, and other creative activist and solidarity strategies, they go out into the streets and put their bodies on the line to make visible their anti-Zionism (scroll down the page to see some of IJAN's recent actions)

LA Jews Shut Down Israeli Consulate to Protest Siege on Gaza: jan 14 2009. A short video produced by members of IJAN.

Please watch this excellent video. Then, ask yourself: would I put my body on the line for Palestine? And if not, then ask yourself why. Standing up for Palestine is the litmus test of how far your peace, your justice, your compassion, your Jesus, your Zen, your democracy actually go. The members of IJAN show that their dream of justice is all-embracing, not exclusive. If they can speak out, why not you? Even if it is just a squeak?

During the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, IJAN issed a statement saying "We stand with the majority. We will not be silent on Gaza." In that statement (well worth a read) they link the indifference of the world community during the 40s and the genocide of Jews with the silence of the world community today in the genocide of Palestinians:

"As Joseph Massad recently wrote, Gaza is in uprising against genocide, and is receiving today the same indifference from the capitals of the West that the rebels in the Warsaw Ghetto received in 1943."

A Canadian contingent of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network has recently banded in Sept. 2008; they explain who they are and their mission:

About Us

We believe IJAN will be useful in addressing the isolation of anti-Zionist Jews in Canada by connecting our work internationally. As the politics of Canada have been moving right, adopting and implementing the neo-liberal political and economic policies of the US and the Bush Administration, it is critical to counter Jewish conservatism with clear Jewish anti-Zionist politics.

IJAN will support the Canadian Palestinian solidarity movement and specifically, the campaigns in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. With its clear articulation of the strategic role for Jews in the Palestine solidarity movement, the Network hopes to challenge Jewish privilege and exclusivity and promote anti-racist practice in the work.

The Canadian IJAN statement was written before O, yet it is important to stress that neo-liberal economic and political policies are integral to the Obama administration, too, just as they were to the Bush administration. There will be no change on that. As US political philosopher Sheldon S. Wolin explains in Chris Hedges' It's Not Going To Be OK :

“The basic systems are going to stay in place; they are too powerful to be challenged,” Wolin told [Hedges] when [he] asked him about the new Obama administration. “This is shown by the financial bailout. It does not bother with the structure at all. I don’t think Obama can take on the kind of military establishment we have developed. This is not to say that I do not admire him. He is probably the most intelligent president we have had in decades. I think he is well meaning, but he inherits a system of constraints that make it very difficult to take on these major power configurations. I do not think he has the appetite for it in any ideological sense. The corporate structure is not going to be challenged. There has not been a word from him that would suggest an attempt to rethink the American imperium.”

Last November, the Canadian arm of IJAN, sent a letter to Victor Rabinovitch, president and CEO of The Canadian Museum of Civilization. This is not the first time Rabinovitch has been criticized for his pro-Zionist bias; the canceling of The Lands Within Me, an exhibit of Canadian Arab artists, right after 9/11 caused a flurry of activist outrage resulting in his recanting of that proposed cancellation. I have lots to say about that as I have written and presented papers about the politics of The Lands Within Me exhibit, and the racialization practices and the demonizing of Canadian Arabs and Muslims that surfaced...later.

In the IJAN letter to Rabinovitch, the Canadian Jewish anti-Zionists express their concerns about the links between the Canadian Museum of Civilization, The Canadian branch of the Jewish National Fund, and Canadian funding of illegal Israeli projects such as Canada Park.


Dear Mr. Rabinovitch,

The International Jewish anti-Zionist Network is writing to express how disturbed we are by the granting of permission to the Jewish National Fund to hold its annual Negev fundraising dinner at Canada’s Museum of Civilization.

It is our understanding that a founding principle of the Museum is to insure that activities which promote intolerance will not be supported. We are therefore confused that you would choose to support an event being organized by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF is a quasi-governmental organization whose historic and continued role has been to acquire land for Jewish-only settlements. It is one of the key mechanisms through which Israel’s agenda of ethnic segregation, transfer and expulsion of Palestinians is carried out. Two-thirds of JNF land was forcibly taken from Palestinian refugees.

One such example is “Canada Park,” maintained through JNF-Canada contributions, and built on the site of three Palestinian villages captured in 1967, whose 10,000 residents were expelled, and all their homes razed to the ground. The existence of Canada Park and the financial support it continues to receive from the Jewish National Fund of Canada breaches Canada’s charitable status laws, which prohibit charities from violating Canadian public policy. At the same time, Canada Park is only one part of the JNF’s practice of expropriation of Palestinian land in Israel and throughout the West Bank for exclusive use by Jews.

The JNF is a political organization, and as such should not hold charitable status in Canada. By allowing the JNF to hold this fund-raiser, you are supporting and therefore a party to Israel’s institutionalized racism and ethnic cleansing.

We believe that it is not in the interest of Canadians to allow for the use of the Museum of Civilization as a stomping ground for the JNF. Now that we have brought this to your attention we expect the Museum to live up to it's stated principles and cancel. Not to do so means that the Museum is in violation of its own founding principles, and is complicit in the continuing violations of the rights of Palestinians to their land and resources.

Respectfully yours,

Sue Goldstein and Naomi Binder Wall,
Canadian members of the International Coordinating Committee,
International Jewish anti-Zionist Network


Did the fund-raising dinner happen? Yes, it did. 600 people attended this posh event in the Grand Hall. The dinner's Key Note speaker? Ambassador Dennis Ross, Special Adviser to President-elect Barack Obama.

Some of the guests or Canadian Zionist Jews and Zionist-Jews-by-choice who work to continue the theft of Palestine and its resources. This particular photo honors those working on ongoing water theft, especially Barbara Crooks, who is holding her award for the continuing dispossession of Palestinians.

The dinner was a fund-raiser held to honour of Canadians Dan Greenberg and his wife Barbara Crook, who for many years "have been quietly and generously supporting many worthy causes in the Jewish and general communities". Barbara is a self-defined "Jew by choice", and director and North American representative of the Zionist organization, Palestine Media Watch, an organization that furthers stereotypes, misrepresentations, lies, untruths, and other materials to promote the continued non-understanding of Palestinians and Palestine.

The last paragraph of the Jerusalem Post article is telling in hitting the nail on the head of one of Israel's key reasons to build the Apartheid Wall and refuse to settle peace with Palestinians or negotiate a Palestinian state: the demand for water.

"Israel has just about exploited all its renewable water sources and the future of its water supply depends on the country's ability to develop new sources of water, such as wastewater recycling."

Friday, February 6, 2009


Just as many Canadians have never met nor talked on a friendly or neighbourly level with a First Nations person, so too many Israelis have never met nor talked on a friendly or neighbourly level with a Palestinian. Many Canadians only know ABOUT First Nations peoples from newspapers, documentaries, classrooms, and occasionally, passing by someone on the street. I know many Finnish-Canadians in town who have never talked with an Anishnaabe person and who know nothing about Anishnaabe culture except for the most superficial, stereotypical things, but boy! do they have some mean things to say about the Anishnaabek.

In Israel, as Cynthia Enloe notes in The Space Between Us, in her chapter on working with Israeli and Palestinian women, many Israelis have never met nor talked with a Palestinian. Now, it's not easy for an Israeli to met a Palestinian because the state is apartheid: military checkpoints to keep Palestinians out, highways where only Israelis and tourists who do not have passports stamped with an Arab country can drive on; the Apartheid Wall, the wall/fence around Gaza, to name a few. So an Israeli person who truly seeks to understand Palestinians and their call for right-of-return, restitution and reparations, and land, needs to really work hard to move out of the straightjacket his/her state has created from him/her.

As others have written, and Enloe concurs, those who are the occupied, the colonized, the enslaved, the abused, or the policed know much more about the "Master" than he/she knows about the people they and their "lifestyles" subject. So, as Enloe explains, many Israelis know very little about Palestinians having never met one.

Indeed, Enloe states that for those few Israelis who have actually spoken to a Palestinian (we're not talking here about soldiers at the military checkpoints or the guards at the Israeli prisons and detention centres (where Palestinians are held without charge or trial) overwhelmingly populated with Palestinians, but average, everyday folks), it is the case that it is a male Palestinian who is doing some day labour or other low-level work in Israel. Israelis have even less direct contact with Palestinian women.

Like in Canada, it is the role of the colonizer and the privileged to move out of their comfortable spaces and step out, risk, and reach out to those who our state, with our compliant, sometimes silent--but not always so-- permission, has repressed and oppressed: the First Nations. It is not the job of the oppressed to reach out, to teach, or to assuage the feelings of those whose status is confirmed in everyday life, those whose lives are predominant in the media over and over again; those who "won" because of colonial power-over. It is not the job of First Nations peoples to convince Canadians that their (FN's) concerns are valid.

No, it is the job of those who reap the fruits of colonization to enter the decolonizing process and listen to what those who have been subjected have to say. It is their responsible to interrogate how history has been constructed to exclude and disparage FN peoples as well as create romantic fossilized notions of them. It is their responsibility to do the work to see how their benefits and progress in society is BECAUSE of continuing unequal relations and the continuing denial of the human rights of First Nations people in Canada.

Just as many Canadians only get their information about First Nations peoples from the mainstream media, government representatives, and from state-produced and education institutions and academic documents and narratives, so too the Israelis use similar channels to tell themselves about the Palestinians, to tell themselves their own made-up stories about the Palestinians.

It is no wonder many, many Israelis, like many, many Canadians, are confused and defend the dominant myths, stereotypes and lies, especially the ones that might ask them to look at their own lives, their own lifestyles, their own privileges, their own exclusions, their own practices.

One example of how distortions emerge that inhibit one's access to a more comprehensive knowledge of the ground beneath one's feet and the people who live on it, or who have been expelled from it--which happened in Canada (and is not over because of resource extraction, massive toxic dumping on FN lands and refusal to settle land claims, to name a few) and continues to happen in Israel--is history books.

And by history books, I mean websites and other media where dominant history is CONSTRUCTED, that is, made.

The victor, the colonizer, writes the history books that are told in school and the histories that we find on websites that purport to tell us the "history of this land." This is true in Canada, as it was true in Finland (only since about 20yrs ago did Finns start to bring in the red history to the "real" history of Finland, which was only version of the whites, with the reds as the add-on), and this is true in Israel.

In Canada you can still find people--I met someone just yesterday--who have never heard about Residential Schools until just last year or so when our Prime Minister had to make an official public apology about this abuse of First Nations human rights. How is it that many Canadians had their head in the snowbank about this?

Those who colonize write "the history" and conveniently leave out the ugly, brutal parts of their creating of that history, and when it is brought in, use euphemistic language to whitewash that violence (one ex. using "immigrant" instead of "settler", using "nation-building" instead of "colonization"). The ugly history of the Canadian government's and Canadian churches' residential school system, which was an institutionalized means of "killing the Indian" of each FN child they snatched into its system and attempting genocide through "education" (they did not succeed), was a hidden history for many, many years. It still is not resolved, and many people in Canada still live inside of its ugly legacy.

To speak of decolonization means that everyone in society, not just the First Nations, acknowledge the violence of colonization, the lies used to cover it up, and the continuing impact and effects of that distortion of history FOR ALL CANADIANS, First Nations and non-native. De-colonization is not just for the oppressed; it is also a requirement--an obligation--of each person from the dominant groups and those groups who benefit in society because of silencing, misrepresentations, and the unequal benefits some have received at the cost of the continuing oppression of peoples, in the case of Canada, First Nations.

The school where I am teaching in Fort Frances used to be one of those residential schools. One of those state institutions that cleansed the ugly work it was doing through the language and practices of everyday bureaucracy.