Sunday, March 29, 2009

putting on a red dress

I am quite excited about Cuetlaxachitl's rebirth into red! Cuetlaxachitl came to my house Dec. 2007, a gift from my mother, who, as I told you before, calls her joulukukka. After Cuetlaxachitl dropped all of her red last summer, I put her outside in my garden. She was quite happy out there amongst her much more northerly sisters, whose roots reach deep into the earth to survive the claw of winter. As the summer days shortened and before the nights brought a frosty mantle onto the earth, I carried Cuetlaxachitl indoors into the back sun room. She was quite happy there in the chill of that room as the nights lengthened. After Winter Solstice, I carried her upstairs to look out a little window, southwards, towards the winter sun. She seemed quite happy there in her quiet green way. So, you can imagine my surprise when I went to check on her recently and saw that she had taken up red again! She's tired of winter! She's putting on her red dress again!

Farewell Wild Woman (I), by one of my favorite poets, Lorna Goodison

I seemed to have put distance
between me and the wild woman
she being certified bad company.
Always inviting me to drink
bloody wine from clay cups
and succumb to false promise
in the yes of slim dark men.
Sometimes though when I'm
closing the house down early
and feeling virtuous for living
one more day without falling too low
I think I see her behind the hibiscus
in dresses competing with their red,
and she's spinning a key hung on a
cat's eye ring
and inviting me to go low riding

Thursday, March 26, 2009

a northern nine heavens

I drove through a haunted, magical forest today listening to some haunting, magical music: Nine Heavens by Niyaz. (thanks to my friend, Gerry, for sending me this CD!) At first I couldn't figure out what sort of music it is. Is it Iranian? Is it Indian? There were some other Eastern influences suggested but I couldn't put my finger on it--or should I say ear? The music is maddeningly magical in its elusiveness, in its strange but familiar calling. Niyaz, it turns out, is an Iranian trio which includes one of my favorite singers: Azam Ali, whose music my friend, Fataneh, introduced me to a few springs ago in Stockholm. Niyaz is a mix of Sufi mysticism and electronic trance, blending Iranian, Turkish, and Indian music with poetry by Rumi and other lyrical messages.

In the northern nine heavens that I traveled through, spruce trees and aspens were bent over with the weight of ice, some were lying with their tips curving onto the ground as if they were doing a graceful yoga asana in the boreal forest, other trees were tilting this way and that seeking support against each other, yet other trees less fortunate had snapped cleanly in half, with the top parts lying in confusion on the forest floor, and still others looked like sentinels of white branching coral or white multi-limbed skeletons standing in mute colonies along the roadside.

This entombment in ice is a result of an ice storm that recently visited our region and covered all trees, streets, steps, sidewalks, shrubs, driveways, cars, and whatever is outside with a thick layer of glazed ice. Driveways turned into skating rinks. To get into your car, you first had to get to your car! A feat in itself. Not a day for fashionable shoes or boots, now was a time for sensibles. After inching your way carefully to your car, you then had to hack away at the hard shell of ice encasing it.

After the ice storm, we've had sunshine, snow squalls, and more ice and more snow. And more snow. Winter does not want to quit. So, the landscape has become encased in ice and snow. It looks heavenly but it is not heavenly if you have to drive somewhere.

So, I wasn't really looking forward to driving to Fort Frances today, which is about 350k west of Thunder Bay, down Hwy. 11.

I had to drive down Hwy 11 today to teach my class on writing, which is at the 7 Generations Institute on the Couchiching Reserve. I usually have taken a Bearskin Air flight to Fort Frances (the planes are such in size that you have to stay ducked and walk bent over to get to your seat--and if you feel queasy or frightened when there is air turbulence, do not get on these flights). But because there is no flight out of Fort Frances after my last class is done, I usually have taken the bus back. There is no lack of stories you get told when you take the bus from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay, even if there are only 4 passengers on the full-sized Greyhound Bus. Who knows? Maybe you get more stories told to you because there are only 4 passengers? But, a couple of weeks ago, the bus schedule changed so now there is no way to get out of Fort Frances after 2:30 pm on Friday other than car.

So, take the car it was.

To get to the Hwy 11 turn-off to get to Fort Frances, first go to Shabaqua corners on Hwy 17; then turn left.

As I drove down this near-empty highway, I had been thinking how beautiful and magical the forests around me looked. That is, until I saw the red flashing police car lights ahead. A car had flipped onto its side after sailing off the road into the forest. There were a few police cars and an ambulance; the police officer waved me through. I slowed down my speed after seeing the underbelly of that car. I hope the driver and passengers are o.k.

Highway 11, because of last night's snow, was snow covered on the edges, so cars had to drive in the middle of the road. So, when there was an oncoming car or truck (rare), you had to slow down because then you'd have to drive over the slippery icy slush--which is why, I assume, that car flew off the road.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hasbaraniks in space

You know those pro-Zionist Jews, the ones who can't argue themselves out of a paper bag, who hit my blog now-and-then to tell me in rude words how hate-filled my site is, yet they do not read what I write? Well, there's a whole bunch of these internet sleuths for the protection of Israel out there. Randa Abu Shakra explains:

"Israel launched a campaign after the end of the Gaza war (January 18) to counter negative blog postings about Israel. “The Absorption Ministry is recruiting new immigrants and Jews living abroad who have access to a computer and who speak a second language to a volunteer effort to improve public relations for Israel on the internet,” Saranga said.

The ministry said over 1,000 multi-lingual internet users have invaded blogs, posted comments on news sites, joined social networking, opinion and polling websites, and posted videos on Youtube. “Some 60% of the applicants are immigrants, old and new. The rest are Jews living in the Diaspora, Israelis living abroad, and even non-Jews who support Israel and want to help out,” Saranga wrote

In The Guardian online, Richard Silverstein has also written an article discussing Israel's new media propaganda strategy. Silverstein's article is called: "Hasbara spam alert. With Israel's foreign ministry organising volunteers to flood news websites with pro-Israeli comments, Propaganda 2.0 is here." He writes:

"The [Israeli] foreign ministry shouldn't get a pass on this one. It may view such hasbara as maximising its efforts to "explain" Israel's position in the world media. I view it as a cynical attempt to flood the web and news media with favorable flackery in a vain attempt to tilt public opinion toward Israel. Not only does it do Israel a disservice, it stains every legitimate effort that the ministry might make to explain Israel to the world, since no one will believe a word it says knowing it engages in such outright propaganda.

Not to mention that this is such cheap pennyante stuff. What do they gain by this? How effective can it be and how many can be convinced? By the way, I've even noticed the hasbaraniks in my own blog. You can see them a mile away because they've never published a comment before yet write something like: "I've enjoyed your blog for a long time, but anyone with a brain in their head knows that Hamas is out to destroy Israel blah, blah blah." Pretty formulaic stuff. Also, you can Google a few phrases of the comment and if you find it appears elsewhere on the web you know you either have a hasbaranik or someone who has repetition compulsion

There are numerous hasbara (pro-Israel information)sites and groups, from Israel Citizens Information Council Hasbara and Hasbara at York University, to The Jewish Agency for Israel's The Department for Jewish Zionist Education Hasbara Israel Advocacy Your Guide to the Middle East Conflict site.

The article by Randa Abu Shakra that I linked to at the beginning discusses in particular the joint media campaign that Israel and the Israeli Consulate General of New York have recently undertaken to freshen up the image of Israel, that is, to wipe out the ugly, violent images of their military actions and the occupation of Palestinians and replace that with, what else? images of nature:

"Israel has launched an unprecedented number of public image campaigns in the last year to help present a unified narrative of the Jewish state to the world.
The [Israeli] consulate [General in New York] has long been spearheading various innovative PR projects and now it stands to fly seven media experts to Israel, including video and stills photographers, who will be tasked with capturing the country's more beautiful and unfamiliar sides, on film,” Eichner said.

The article states that an online search for “Israel” reveals horrible pictures of the Israeli bombing of civilians in Gaza, or of the Dimona nuclear plants, it is a blight on Israel's public image.

The new [Israeli] Foreign Ministry media project that Eichner describes will attempt to divert these internet searches to Israeli websites that include photographs of Israel's natural heritage sites, one of the Negev's cowboy ranches, Sde Boker, Caesarea, Akko and the Galilee, as well Israel's beaches, parks, cafés etc.

The Foreign Ministry is also trying to organize an aerial tour of Israel for the mission, so it may have a bird's-eye view of the country's sights. The photos are to be loaded up to prominent websites the likes of Wikipedia, Wikimedia, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, as well as to be featured in several blogs.

I wonder if on these sites there will acknowledgment about the confiscation, appropriation and theft of these nature sites and beaches? Of the Palestinian blood shed to make them pristine? to make them the playgrounds of leisure for Israelis and Western tourists who are non-Arab?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

blitz of films to cleanse memories of Gaza

All visual representations exist within complex contexts; they are never isolatos devoid of cultural, political, social, historical, or economic power relations; they must be viewed intertextually for their making and viewing are mediated by the social world.

In a thought-provoking article on JewishJournal online where he explains the difference between films about the Holocaust and Holocaust-related films, Tom Teicholz states that

"Holocaust-related movies so crowded the end-of-year releases that at one point it seemed that on any given weekend you had to choose which Holocaust movie to see."

Teicholz begins his critique of what he calls Holocaust-related films by asking "Are Holocaust movies good for the Jews? Or even, for that matter, for society at large?," and then listing some of last year's films:

"This year’s offerings include “Defiance,” a story of a group of Jews who were heroic resistance fighters; “The Reader,” a story of post-war revelation about a Nazi woman who beds down with a German boy; “Good,” about the moral compromises of a German university professor in the Nazi era; “Adam Resurrected,” based on Yoram Kaniuk’s novel about a demented Holocaust survivor living in Israel; “Valkyrie,” about the Nazi plot to murder Hitler; and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” about the friendship between a German officer’s son and a Jewish child in a concentration camp. The lineup even includes a horror movie, “The Unborn,” which features a Mengele-Auschwitz plot point. And then there’s Roberta Grossman’s documentary, “Blessed Is the Match,” about Hannah Senesh, which was on the early lists as an Oscar contender."

His article is worth a read for he discusses whether truthfulness can be accessed or represented in films "about" the Holocaust. He argues that the films are fictions that selectively re-present constructions which are narratives, that the films are inventions constructed by particular narrators:

"But herein lies the conflict: Films tell stories, and they can move and educate people and sometimes even change them. But the Holocaust is a reality and not a teaching story or an action adventure. The reasons a film does or does not work and the reasons we find it a credible rendering of some aspect of the Holocaust exist on separate tracks that of necessity must overlap to make a successful film.

And there’s the rub. Because good filmmaking is not about historical accuracy; it depends upon fakery and invention.

A movie, even a documentary, generally conforms to what audiences have come to know. A film has a certain length and a certain narrative structure. There are heroes and villains, often played by movie stars. There is conflict; there is drama; there are love stories; and there is often a point to be made. A work that “breaks the rules” still does so in the context of a set of expectations — and that format doesn’t by its nature fit the facts of the Holocaust.
There always will be winners and losers among Holocaust films. Some may be memorable and may indeed have a large impact on how history is perceived. Nevertheless, we must also acknowledge that these films, by their very nature, are — like the shadows in Plato’s cave — mere projections, personalized recantations or reinventions of an epic series of events.

So, there cannot be a “good” Holocaust film, only a good film about Holocaust-related events

Teicholz's article helps reminds us that films, whatever their subject matter, with the Holocaust being no exception as in his piece it is an exemplary example to draw on to show the impossibility of accessing "the truth", are selective, partial constructions. Films are representations and not "the truth", yet this truthfulness is however how they are perceived.

Brad Pitt is also joining the rush to make a Holocaust-related film: “now Brad Pitt can add a completely new role to his repertoire: an American-Jewish hillbilly from Tennessee.

Pitt has signed on to play Aldo, aka "Aldo the Apache," in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming World War II film, "Inglorious Bastards," about a handpicked group of American-Jewish soldiers who kill Nazis in brutal and violent ways in order to undermine the Third Reich. Pitt's character has "the Apache" moniker due to his signature move of scalping Nazi soldiers.”

Also, Helen Mirren. Mirren went to Israel recently (so much for any support from her of BDS) to film the final scenes of a film where she will take up a role as a femme fatale Nazi hunter who, with 2 others, goes on a 30 year hunt of Nazis:

"Helen Mirren, Oscar-winning star of "The Queen", has swapped crown and sceptre for cloak and dagger in her new role as a Nazi-hunter.

The 63-year-old British actress is in Israel this week shooting final scenes for "The Debt", about a retired Mossad femme fatale forced to make amends after bungling the capture of a German war criminal, a production source said."

Both Tom Teicholz's critical review of Holocaust-related films and the article about Brad Pitt's new role as Jewish scalper of Nazis, refer to "Defiance", a film released late last year:

"Jewish fighters in the Holocaust is the subject of another upcoming blockbuster, Defiance, which stars the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, as Jewish partisan Tuviel Bielski."

Now, while the patriarch of the Jewish Israeli/American/European family that this movie is based on states that becoming a soldier and going to war is genetic in his family, "It's just genetic," Yakow said. We're warrior Jews."

other documents dispute the narrative that is told in the film "Defiance":

A new movie about a band of Jewish partisans who fought the Nazis during the Holocaust has led some in Poland to suggest that the group may also have been murderers.

In anticipation of the December release of "Defiance" starring Daniel Craig, aka James Bond, a Polish newspaper ran an article headlined, "A Hollywood Movie About Heroes or Murderers?"

The article in Gazeta Wyborcza contrasts the film's portrayal of Tuvia Bielski as a Moses figure leading frightened women and children through the forest, with a recently released report from a Polish government investigative body. The government report suggests that Bielski and his followers may have participated in a massacre of civilians in the eastern Polish town of Naliboki

However, those involved in telling the story of the genetically-disposed to war Jewish brothers state in the above article that the Polish report on possible war crimes committed by this band of brothers is anti-Semitic.

I also came across another film called "Infiltration" by Dover Koshashvili, director and screenwriter, but this film looks like it tackles Jewish and/or Israeli soldiering from a critical perspective. It is not a Holocaust-related film, but a film that looks at the racialization processes in Israeli society as they play out in the Israeli military:

"Koshashvili immigrated to Israel from Georgia when he was six years old, and his engagement with the community of immigrants from his native country has already become his cinematic trademark (along with his lack of inhibition about showing stark nudity and direct, unsanctimonious sex scenes in his films). Although "Infiltration" diverts him from this familiar environment to new realms, this time, too, Koshashvili continues to deal with characters who are trying to fit into the Israeli environment where they are still considered foreign and different.

"Infiltration" will try to outline the Israeli "melting pot" that is forced on immigrants who come to this country, and the demand directed at them to leave behind any sign of weakness or "diaspora mentality" in favor of adopting the values of the local society, with it's bullying and macho characteristics. He himself is able to identify in a certain way with the characters in his new film, says Koshashvili, because he, too, went through boot camp at Training Base 4. Although this happened much later than the 1950s, and although he did not undergo training for recruits with a low fitness profile but rather regular boot camp, after which he went to a squad commanders' course and commanded rookies, most of the experiences the characters in the film encounter are familiar to him.

"The whole military atmosphere that pervades the film," he says, "reminds me a bit of those days. The harassment of the rookies, the infinite power in the hands of the staff - these are things that I definitely remember. The soldiers in the film do undergo experiences that are a little different, but we too were made to crawl under barbed wire and go though all kinds of bullying."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

your turn next

A news clip of George Galloway debating the director of the Jewish Defense League of Canada, Meir Weinsten. It begins with Canadian Minister of Immigration Kenney's director of communication, Alykhan Velshi, explaining why Galloway is "infandous" and a security threat. Bear in mind, Velshi, following the Gaza massacre, told the Canadian Arab Federation on Feb 9, 2009 to stop sending press releases to his office because he is not interested in reading them and in fact finds them HILARIOUS. On this news clip, Weinsten threatens that the Jewish Defense League of Canada is "extremely determined" to "uncover agents" (like Galloway!) and will "look into" and will be "seeing to it that the Canadian government" will monitor any individual or group that is planning to help Galloway talk in Canada. This means that Stop the War, church groups, and any individual who helps Galloway will be monitored and "looked into."

Watch out. The Canadian government, on behest of the Jewish Defense League of Canada, will look into YOU.

As a Finnish-Canadian, this history of the government monitoring individuals is not new. In the early 1900s in Canada, Finnish-Canadians were "looked into", too. More than 800 were deported as undesirables, for suspicion of "being red".

And, of course, we have the history of putting Japanese Canadians into internment camps in the 1940s and confiscating all their properties, money, and possession. Many, too, were deported as "undesirables."

Is this where we are headed back? Each time with a new targeted group? When will they come for you?

a white dove & a red poppy

photo Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters

2 doves in a window in Rafah, Gaza

photo Khaleel Reash Ma'an

two red poppies in a field in Qalqilia, West Bank

Saturday, March 21, 2009

George & George

Why this George and not the other George?

Canada's Minister of Citizen, Immigration, and Multiculturalism bans George Galloway from speaking in Canada, but why, using Kenney's (il)logic and use of Canada's (corrupt) anti-terrorism law, wasn't the other George banned by Kenney from coming into Canada to speak? That is, George Bush the war criminal?

Why was this dangerous George who is responsible for land and resource theft of magnanimous proportions, i.e. of a whole country--Iraq--and the deaths of 100,000s of Iraqi people and the deaths of American soldiers and the maiming of Iraqis and American soldiers, and the creating of 100,000s of refugees and widows--and this is only his gutting of Iraq, not Afghanistan--why was he not stopped at the border in accordance to Canadian anti-terrorist legislation?

No, this George of death was paid 6 figures to speak at a $400/plate dinner to 1500 George and Georgette wannabes in the heart of cowboy capitalism and neo-liberalism: Calgary.

Yesterday, my sister, my husband and I were wondering, where have all the investigative journalists disappeared? It is even more pressing to have investigative journalists in today's neo-liberal climate where all sorts of oppressive practices are normalized, such as the George Bush administration's looting and terrorism, as well as the rewarding of bonuses to the criminals in the US who are responsible for taking capitalism to uber-criminal heights rather than putting these corporate criminals in jail where they all belong!

So, I was pleased to find Thomas Walkom in this Saturday's Toronto Star. Thank you, Thomas Walkom, for stepping up to the public plate. Kudos to Walkom for writing a good critique of Immigration Minister Kenney's ridiculous banning of George Galloway from Canada.

[Walkom also wrote an article on the political economy, A Union Divided, which sheds good light on the state of unions in Canada today (only 30% of our workforce is unionized), through a particular case example, the attempt to organize Toronto's poorly paid hotel workers.]

Walkom's piece on Kenney's barring of the anti-George, that is George Galloway, caught my eye for his daring to speak out. Imagine, that in Canada it should be considered bold to defend the right of free speech! His article rightfully points to the larger issue regarding the banning of George the-exposer-of-state-terrorism, because it is not an issue just reduced to Galloway and his beliefs, but to the highly problematic anti-terrorist legislation that Canada enacted after 9/11. This draconian legislation is seriously in need of repeal. See, for another example, what has happened to Mohammed Majoub, "Canadian Secret-Trial Detainee Mohammad Mahjoub Forced Back to Jail by Draconian Conditions That Have “Broken” His Family."

Find Thomas Walkom's article on Kenney's idiocy below:

Banning British MP a clumsy, dangerous move

"Jason Kenney has gone over the edge. The increasingly erratic immigration minister made headlines last week when, in a fit of pique, he cut off funding to an Arab organization that helps newcomers learn English. Now, Kenney has banned British MP George Galloway from entering Canada, on the spurious grounds that he supports Middle East terrorism.

It's a clumsy move, designed presumably to bolster the Conservative government's support among voters who ardently back Israel.

But in a roundabout way it does illustrate how absurdly broad Canada's new anti-terror laws are and how dangerous they can be in the wrong hands

Friday, March 20, 2009

Canada bars George Galloway

Truly, I just want to enjoy this weekend. Truly, I just want to have fun at the Northern Woman's Bookstore, maybe celebrate Spring equinox and Norouz, just have fun like regular folks do, not think about things that make me mad/sad/furious/outraged ...but what! I made the mistake of reading the Toronto Star online, and what did I find?

Canada blocks outspoken British MP

[please read the whole article, for it details specifics; below is just a bare bones excerpt]

OTTAWA — Canadian officials have denied outspoken anti-war British MP George Galloway entry into Canada on grounds he poses a threat to national security.
Galloway, who was expected to begin a Canadian speaking tour in Toronto on March 30, called the ban outrageous.

Galloway said his supposed support for Hamas amounted to leading an aid convoy into Gaza to break the "illegal siege" following the month-long Israeli incursion in January.

"I led a convoy of 110 British vehicles, more than 300 British citizens, to break the illegal siege of Gaza just a few days ago. Most people in the world think that feeding people under siege is something to be commended rather than something to get you banned," he told the Star in a telephone interview from his London office.

I can not believe our government is so fascist and f#%^&*ed up. After reading about this latest stupidity and injustice of our current f#%^&*ed up Canadian government, I was just furious. Outraged. What sort of country do I live it, anyway? I was so angry, I immediately sent out the link to some friends, the local Peace group, and, of course, wrote a letter in 5 minutes flat and sent it to Kenney, who incredulously, is Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. With a person like him heading this very influential ministry, woe is Canada and any prospective immigrants! His ministry cut $2 m. in funds to the Canadian Arab Federation for their language classes. Woe is Canada. His ministry wrote a letter to the Canadian Arab Federation accusing them of anti-Semitism! Woe is Canada. Empty heads in positions of authority. Wrong-headed people in positions of power. People with narrow minded views that reek of racism, exclusions, and other things better left in the garbage heap of history. Woe is Canada.

Here is Minister Kenney's email to tell him how wrong he is to forbid a person to come to Canada TO SPEAK!!!!

My letter:

Minister Kenney,

I am outraged at the decision of Canada border services, under your auspices, to bar Member of British Parliament George Galloway from entering Canada. Since when is a duly elected--democratically elected-- British member of Parliament a security threat to Canada? If he is indeed a security threat, that means he must also be a security threat to Britain. But how could he sit in parliament if he is a security threat? Apparently, he is not seen as a security threat by the government which our government is modeled on!

It is clear that your decision is motivated by your condemnation of Galloway's vocal support of the Palestinian people and their duly elected, democratically elected government, the Hamas.

Galloway was recently in Canada so in the past he came legally through the border. Now he is a threat after he has been to Gaza to deliver truckfuls of much needed aid to the beleaguered Palestinians? What sort of threat is he? Will he fill my ears with Qassam rockets?

I am shocked at this banning of Galloway. Even the US has not banned him from speaking! How can you possibly defend this censorship that disallows Canadians from hearing what he saw in Gaza, his analysis of the issue? How can you defend that a British Member of Parliament is a security threat if even Britain does not see him as one?

Happy Norouz!

When I think of anything Iranian, I think of saffron. My Iranian friends make the best saffron rice. Fataneh gave me some of the saffron her mom brought to her from Iran when I visited her a few springs ago in Stockholm and this saffron has a heavenly scent and a delectable flavor! Rice is such a versatile grain and the Iranian saffron way of preparing rice is one of the dreamiest and most fragrant.

The best saffron is from the stigma (female) of the crocus flower, not the stamina (male):

"Stigma, also called style (central part of a flower, female sexual organ). Approximately 150000 flowers are needed for one kilogram of dried saffron; typically, one would need 2000 m2 field area per kg harvest. Less expensive qualities include also the yellow stamina (male sexual organ), which do not have any taste of their own."

7 seen image from Iranmaniacards

Happy Norouz to all my Iranian friends!

"Noruz, is the first day of the Iranian solar year, translated literally as "New Day". Since the Achaemenid era (12th B.C.), the official year has begun with the New Day when the sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, a fire sign, signifying the Spring Equinox.
The moment the sun crosses the equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and families gather together to observe the rituals. Noruz is considered the major civil celebration of the year. Coinciding with March 20 or March 21, the first day of the first month of Farvardin, brings about a rebirth of nature.

The image above depicts a tradition of Norooz, Haft Seen, which is a table set a few weeks before in preparation for Norooz. I told you about the goldfish, Ruth, that I bought 2 years back to participate in Haft Seen, but she did not like her glass bowl, at all.

"Haft Seen is a traditional table decorated with at least seven or "Haft" symbolic objects, nutrients or plants beginning with the Persian letter "s" or "Seen". They often consist of hyacinth "Sonbol", red apples "Seeb", the spice sumac "Somagh", garlic "Seer", vinegar "Serkeh", coins "Sekeh", Bohemian olives "Senjed", and a dish of germinated wheat or barley seeds "Sabzeh".
The hyacinth blooms in the springtime, symbolizing the rebirth of nature. Red apples provide color as well as representing the First Fruit, from the time of Adam and Eve. Sumac is said to be the spice of life and garlic is believed to chase away evil spirits. Vinegar is a symbol of fermentation, having originated as grapes and undergone many transformations. The coins represent wealth and hopes for prosperity. The germinated seeds represent the fertility of the land in Spring.
The tablecloth used on the Haft Seen table is made of hand-woven cloth, known as "Termeh". The Holy Book of the household is placed on this table. On the table are also placed a mirror for the reflection of life, candles representing the light of life, goldfish in a bowl as a sign of living form, a painted egg for each member of the family, traditional pastries and bread to symbolize a plentiful year."

photo from

Northern Woman's Bookstore's 25th celebration!

Victorian women reading, image collage from tidbits

This year


Help celebrate this proud milestone on March 21

65 South Court St.
Drop in 2-5 p.m.
and/or join us for a potluck at 6 p.m.

We look forward to seeing all of you, sharing good food and 25 years of stories!

For further information, please contact the store at 344-7979

ruby throated hummingbird at the jewelweed. photo by Katja Maki

Along with celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Northern Woman's Bookstore is also part of Definitely Superior's Urban Infil Art in the Core3. There are 3 displays at the NWB, bringing art into urban spaces: Katja Maki is exhibiting a series of magic photo artwork on birds, from hummingbirds to cardinals and redpolls and other fine feathered flying friends (you can also see her gorgeous poppy image on the DefSup site I linked to above); Sarah Horsley has sketched and painted a cheery visual of the interior of NWB (with Margaret inside!--and cyclamen girl blooming on the edge!), and the Willow Springs Creative Centre has some literature about their upcoming workshops and their work with students and youth detainees. Drop by to see the work!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

dogs of occupation

Also fallen prey to occupation: a breed of dogs. Pariah dog from northern coastal Palestine, from The Book of the Dog, edited by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald, 1948. The Pariah dog, indigenous to the land of Canaan, was seen as needing "developing", that is, it was bred for military purposes necessary for settlement of Jews into Palestine. The 'new and improved' Canaan dog was a breed developed by Dr. Rudolphina Menzel.

"This was the situation of the native Pariah Dog until the arrival of Dr. Rudolphina Menzel who was asked by the Haganah [proto-Israeli armed forces] to develop a dog for guarding the isolated Israeli settlements and supervise the build-up of war dogs for the fighting of the War of Independence. Remembering the Pariah Dog living in the desert, she knew only the fittest would have survived the hardships of their native land. She captured specific Pariah Dog stock from which she developed the Canaan Dog breed. As a breed the Canaan Dog proved highly intelligent and easily trainable, serving as sentry dogs, messengers, Red Cross helpers and land mine locators. During World War II, Dr. Menzel recruited and trained over 400 of the best dogs for the Middle East Forces as land mine detectors, and they proved superior to the mechanical detectors."
[this site, however, problematically reduces the history of the Pariah dog to Israelites, yet the contradiction is evident with the reference to the spotted dog of the Beni-Hassan tombs]

Paramilitary forces, such as the Haganah, as well as mercenaries and private militias have, in the past, been seen as renegade forces; however, since the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it is now common for Western nations such as the US to use these services. Same dirty business; only the name has changed. Now, these private military groups, which are multiple in purpose and focus, are euphemistically referred to as "private security."

For example, you can sign up for classes led by former US military interrogators and learn "techniques of extracting information", that is, learn to become an interrogator and torturer. Don't let the closing of Gitmo dissuade you--there will be plenty of jobs in prisons in Afghanistan! Just sign up at Team Delta school for your workshop on interrogation!

Also, Obama has not rescinded 'rendition', so does this mean that 'the black sites of disappearance' won't disappear? "This secret system included prisons on military bases around the world, from Thailand and Afghanistan to Morocco, Poland, and Romania-"at various times," reportedly, "sites in eight countries"-into which, at one time or another, more than one hundred prisoners...disappeared.[3] The secret internment network of "black sites" had its own air force and its own distinctive "transfer procedures..."

Israel, like its partner in crimes, the US, also uses private military and security companies to control, oppress and harass Palestinians.

The Coalition of Women for Peace, which consists of numerous Israeli women's peace and feminist organizations, explains:

Private Security in the Occupation

"One of the fastest growing industries in Israel is that of private security. In recent years, many military responsibilities were handed over to civilian companies. Private security firms guard settlements and construction sites in the occupied territories; some are also in charge of the day-to-day operation, security and maintenance of some of the checkpoints."

I found out about Israel's use of private security/military companies in an article from the Monthly Review which was written by the Coalition of Women for Peace to announce their new database: "Who Profits from the Israeli Occupation? Announcing a New Online Database: .

"Now, more then ever, Israeli activists need a powerful global movement to help us build a just peace in Israel/Palestine. Looking for effective tools for ending the occupation, we have launched a new website listing companies directly involved in the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The grassroots initiative, of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, includes a database and an information center and reflects an ongoing two-year effort, rigorous research, documentation, and site visits.

This unprecedented online resource already lists about 200 companies, and hundreds more will be added during 2009, offering an extensive and intricate mapping of the corporate aspects of and interests in the continued occupation. The website offers a new useful categorization of all corporate interests in the occupation and exposes specific examples of direct involvement of many international and Israeli companies for the first time. In tracing ownership links, it shows in detail how some of Israel's largest corporations are tied in with the occupation.

K-9 Solutions

One of the many companies that the Israeli women list on Who Profits? from the occupation industry is K-9 Solutions. Part of the "military, security and surveillance training and services" that K-9 Solutions offer for sale, is training and providing dogs to enable the occupation and the suppression of Palestinian human rights:

K-9 Solutions

The company provides dogs and professional dog handlers for security searches in cars of Palestinians at checkpoints.

The company is owned by Nir Menachem. CEO: Itay Dolev.

On the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute Aerospace and Homeland Security site, I found out that

“K-9 Solutions" is built from military trainers, officers with years of professional and operational experience…The core staff is comprised of instructors with multinational military backgrounds who specialize in weapons , tactical expertise , special operations and sharpshooters round out an internationally recognized group of professional trainers."

I posted earlier that Israelis are concerned about their dogs' mental health and provide government assistance for dogs traumatized by Hamas rockets, so, I thought, hmmm. Is there not also an outcry for these K-9 dogs who are brainwashed into militarism?

No, rather there is a call to Remember Israel's Fallen Dogs:

"There are many dogs serving in Israel's security forces, trained in order to protect her soldiers and civilians. Sadly many have been killed whilst carrying out their duties. Today is Israel's rememberence day, a day when Israel remembers her fallen soldiers and civillians killed by terrorism. It is also fitting to remember all those brave and heroic dogs who have fallen serving Israel."

K-9 Solutions training attack dogs

Israeli working dogs are trained to work with the occupation; Israel's dogs of war are dogs of occupation. Israeli journalist Amira Hass has written a report for Haaretz: Palestinians: IDF first sends dogs into Gaza homes, then soldiers

"M., a Jabalya refugee camp resident, told Haaretz, "the army moves very slowly. The tanks approach houses, then they send the dogs. If it's a three-story home, they send three dogs: The dogs have a camera on one leg and a walkie-talkie on the other. That's how the dogs transmit what is in the house. Then the tanks advance up to the doorway by rolling over the fence, and the soldiers exit the tank."

And was there an outcry about the killing of 90 dogs owned by Palestinians in 1995?

"Israeli Patrols Kill 90 Dogs in Arab Town....While the town's mostly Palestinian residents were confined to their houses by the curfew, armed Israeli employees of the civil administration moved through the streets, hunting down and shooting dozens of dogs.

The balance of the quarter-page article [in the NY Times] quotes various sources on the reason for the shooting. Israelis claim that they were taking action against rabies. Palestinians claim that the dogs barked at night, alerting them to the movement of Israeli army patrols. Israel's Environmental Minister calls the shootings "unacceptable." Hebron's Palestinian health official points out that many of the dogs were pets and working shepherd dogs. A shepherd who lost a dog to the operation is asked by the reporter if he has filed a complaint. "To whom?" he asks. Meanwhile, the Israeli soldiers guarding a small Jewish settlement in mid-Hebron keep a dog of their own. Asked why she was spared, a soldier replies, "She's not dangerous.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Baghdad International Poster Exhibition 1979

In 1979, this poster, Letter, by Polish artist Jacek Kowalski, won 1st prize in the Baghdad International Poster Exhibition which was held in April in London, England, and then in May in Baghdad. Kowalski received £1500 -- a sizable monetary prize for art in 1979! The poster competition was organized by the Iraqi Cultural Centre of London and sponsored by the Ministry of Information of Iraq. "The poster depicts a letter sent by the peoples of the world bearing a UN stamp to an address in Palestine. The letter is returned [stamped "return to sender-no such address" by the Israeli post office] because there is no longer a country called Palestine," writes Dia al-Azzawi.

al-Azzawi wrote an article about the Baghdad Poster Exhibition called, "Posters against falsehood and oppression," for the May-June-July 1979 edition of the UR magazine devoted to Arab culture, published by the Iraqi Cultural Centre. al-Azzawi was the art editor and designer of the journal. This is the cover of the journal, which is made of heavyweight high gloss paper.

The poster competition fell under two themes: Palestine, a Homeland Denied; and the Third World's struggle for Liberation. Most of the posters dealt with the first theme. This image is the back inside cover of the journal.
Top row: Al Bashir, Iraq; Daniel Saubidet, France; Piskorski, Poland.
Center: Piech, USA; Thierry Guerin, France; Javed Badar, Pakistan
Bottom: Rafie Al-Nasiri, Iraq; Alexiev, Bulgaria; Dradi, Italy

The poster in the center of the top row, is the 2nd prize winner. It is by Finnish poster artist Reijo Kalevi Ström [click on the links on his virtual gallery site to see his more recent work, and click on the icons to enlarge]. Ström's poster depicts "the arm of a Palestinian, or any human being for that matter, stretching beneath barbed wire to grasp a handful of earth from the denied country. Next to the barbed wire are the unmistakable footprints of the occupying soldier," writes Khalid Kishtainy in another article on the exhibition called "An Exhibition with a message."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Canadian military companies and Israel

Slide 3 from the Canadian Coalition to Oppose the Arm Trade (COAT) slideshow Afghanistan, Iraq and Missile Defense: Exposing Canadian Hypocrisy and Complicity in the Big Business of War.

COAT has also released a new report Canadian Military Exports to Israel: Aiding and Abetting War Crimes in Gaza (2008-2009) written by Richard Sanders, who is the coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) and the editor of Press for Conversion! magazine.

"In response to the bombing of Gaza and the deaths of hundreds of innocent children and other civilians, the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) -- an Ottawa-based, Canadian anti-war network -- has produced this research report on Canadian military companies that have direct or indirect export links to Israel.

Included below are links to ten tables of data providing detailed information about over 200 Canadian military exporters.

On the COAT site you can also watch Mother's Day at the War Show, a 30-minute COAT documentary on children, militarised air shows, the 1991 Iraq War and the cultural epidemic of violence as entertainment.

You can also read some full-text back issues of their Press for Conversion! magazine, such as "The New Face of Terror in Afghanistan: How so-called “Democracy” Empowered our Allies; the Fundamentalists, Warlords and Drug Barons." (Sept 2006).

watch a demo of Myths for Profit

Watch for the spring 2009 cross-Canada tour and arrival in your city of a new Canadian anti-war film Myths for Profit: Canada's Role in Industries of War and Peace. The film is made by Wide Open Exposure, a new production team based in Montreal made up of social justice organizers and media activists.

Their new film debunks 3 myths about Canada:

MYTH 1) 'Canada is a peacekeeping nation'

MYTH 2) 'Canada’s military purpose is defence'

MYTH 3) 'Canada's aid is helping people around the world'

"Some would have us believe that Canada is an altruistic peacemaker helping people around the world. But, is this accurate? This documentary examines how this mythology is maintained and who gains by perpetuating it. By understanding the systems of power in Canada we can challenge how they operate and move forward to create change."

Monday, March 16, 2009

ahmed, yousuf, arafat, mohammed, and tristan

excerpt from "American Citizen Critically Injured After Being Shot in the Head by Israeli Forces in Ni'lin" on ISM. I found the link via AnomalousNYC on Flikr, who has digitized the photo of Tristan Anderson found on the ISM site.

"Tristan Anderson was shot as Israeli forces attacked a non-violent demonstration against the construction of the annexation wall through the village of Ni’lin’s land. Another resident from Ni’lin was shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four Ni’lin residents have been killed during demonstrations against the confiscation of their land.

Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29th July 2008. The following day, Yousef Amira (17) was shot twice in the head with rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving him brain dead. He died a week later on 4 August 2008. Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22), was the third Ni’lin resident to be killed by Israeli forces. He was shot in the back with live ammunition on 28 December 2008. That same day, Mohammed Khawaje (20), was shot in the head with live ammunition, leaving him brain dead. He died three days in a Ramallah hospital.

Residents in the village of Ni’lin have been demonstrating against the construction of the Apartheid Wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Ni’lin will lose approximately 2500 dunums of agricultural land when the construction of the Wall is completed. Ni’lin was 57,000 dunums in 1948, reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, currently is 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after the construction of the Wall.

Orly Levi, a spokeswoman at the Tel Hashomer hospital, tells Ha’aretz: "He’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests.” She described Anderson’s condition as life-threatening.

Earlier today, my friend Gerry, sent me a link to an article by David Bromwich, "Thoughts on the Death of Rachel Corrie", as today is the anniversary of her killing, which comes on the heels of the maiming of Tristan Anderson by Israeli forces.

"Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie. On March 16, 2003, in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, she was run over by an armor-plated Caterpillar bulldozer, a machine sold by the U.S. to Israel, the armor put in place for the purpose of knocking down homes without damage to the machine. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old, from Seattle; a sane, articulate, and dedicated American who had studied with care the methods of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. At the time that she was run over, and then backed over again, she was wearing a luminous orange jacket and holding a megaphone. There is a photograph of her talking to the soldier of the Israel Defense Forces, in the cabin of his bulldozer, not long before he did it. None of the eyewitnesses believed that the killing was accidental. Perhaps the soldier was tired of the peace workers; it was that kind of day. Perhaps, in some part of himself, he guessed that he was living at the beginning of a period of impunity.

The Israeli government never produced the investigation it promised into the death of Rachel Corrie (as her parents indicate in a statement published today). The inquiry urged by her congressional representative, Adam Smith, brought no result from the American state department under Condoleezza Rice.
Her story was lost for a while in the grand narrative of the American launching of the war against Iraq. Thoroughly lost, and for a reason. The rules of engagement America employed in Iraq were taught to our soldiers, as Dexter Filkins revealed, by officers of the IDF; the U.S. owed a debt to Israel for knowledge of the methods of destruction; and we were using the same Caterpillar machines against Iraqi homes. An inquiry into the killing of Rachel Corrie was hardly likely, given the burden of that debt and that association.

she sings for the whole powerless world

One of my favorite poets, Suheir Hammad, has a new poem. Hammad's latest book of poetry, published Dec. 2008 by Cypher Books, is called Breaking Poems. I found the poem "jabaliya" online, on the back cover of al-Majdal, Issue No. 39/40 (Autumn 2008-Winter 2009), Palestine's Ongoing Nakba. Al-Majdal is published by Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights:


by Suheir Hammad

a woman wears a bell carries a light calls searches
through madness of deir yessin calls for rafah for bread
orange peel under nails blue glass under feet gathers
children in zeitoun sitting with dead mothers she unearths
tunnels and buries sun onto trauma a score and a day rings
a bell she is dizzy more than yesterday less than
tomorrow a zig zag back dawaiyma back humming suba

back shatilla back ramleh back jenin back il khalil back il quds
all of it all underground in ancestral chests she rings
a bell promising something she can’t see faith is that
faith is this all over the land under the belly
of wind she perfumed the love of a burning sea

concentrating refugee camp
crescent targeted red

a girl’s charred cold face dog eaten body
angels rounded into lock down shelled injured shock

weapons for advancing armies clearing forests sprayed onto a city
o sage tree human skin contact explosion these are our children

she chimes through nablus back yaffa backs shot under
spotlight phosphorous murdered libeled public relations



a bell fired in jericho rings through blasted windows a woman
carries bones in bags under eyes disbelieving becoming
numb dumbed by numbers front and back gaza onto gaza
for gaza am sorry gaza am sorry she sings for the whole
powerless world her notes pitch perfect the bell a death toll

Sunday, March 15, 2009

voi häikäle ~ for shame!

I've told you that I have lots of old books lying around, ones that catch my eye when I'm rummaging through tables of junk at rummage sales. This is the back cover of a book I bought a few years ago on Bay St. It smells a bit musty, like it was in somebody's basement or garage for many years; it was published in 1975. The text on the back cover says "Our cover photo is a photo taken by Osmo Viljanen of Saari village's Kitu bridge. There also used to be a mill in this spot, but it was torn down years ago." I wasn't sure when I paid the 25c for the book what village's history was written up in it, but I bought it anyway because it looked like it had some interesting memories written up in it, like "Mitä vaari näki?" [what did the old man see?" and "Kehdon ääressä" [beside the cradle] and "Muistattekos vielä" [ do you still remember this?]

This is the title page inside the book, which translates roughly to "for shame!" or "what a shame!" ...maybe. I think. I'm not that familiar with the expression voi häikäle! My cousin, Ari, will know for sure, though. My dictionary says häikälemättä means 'shamelessly' or 'ruthlessly' or without scruples. The subtitle identifies the Finnish town/village: Mäntsälä. It says this is a book by the people of Mäntsälä for the people of Mäntsälä, a book by friends for friends. So, this is a book for my cousin, Ari because he lives there.

There are photos scattered throughout the book. This one looks like a photo that had gotten partly destroyed so someone took a pencil to it and sketched in the missing part. The caption reads: "In the gardens of Kartano, the last picnic/amusement gazebo, which was torn down in 1933."

There's a section of black and white photos at the back of the book: "Photo album of memories". The caption of this photo reads "Church village matriarch Mrs. Niemi feeding the pigs 50 years ago."

Top caption: the view from the town's current intersection 50 years earlier. On the front right, Suomi's barn and Färjäri's house. On the left, the old KOP and then Tuomi's, Juseliuki's, and Perhela's houses.
bottom caption: Interior shot of the Jussila's of Nimmiste old-fashioned "tupa" or big room of socializing, eating and sleeping, too.

Means of transportation

Before automobiles

Saturday, March 14, 2009

will Israel reject the colonial project?

Not that long ago, I visited a Palestinian blog where a woman named Yasmine wrote a very heart-rending post of feeling hopelessness and abandonment because of the destruction incurred by the Israeli military and public apathy to her/their predicament in Gaza, and in the comment section, the one comment posted was written by an Israeli Jew that was so soul-crushing in its rudeness, racism and denial of any human connection that I was saddened by the writer's heartlessness and meanness. I left the following comment to this hate-filled Israeli:

We all have things to learn from each other, and to teach each other. No "side" or nation or person owns the 'truth'; however, having said that, it is very important in all of our deliberations to look at the issue of justice. It is also very important to keep dialogue open and not slam doors with our words, not close our eyes or hearts to other peoples' ways of being and thinking. A question I often ask myself: is my language making a space for others to enter? or am I silencing others? shutting them out?

Multiculturalism, an experiment which Canada has been undergoing for many decades is a wonderful exercise in living amongst difference, in speaking across differences. Canada's multiculturalism is, of course, flawed, as flawed as the people who attempt to make it work. Some Canadians deride new immigrants (especially those who have brown skin or the Islamic faith) and tell them publicly to "do it the Canadian way or go home". Of course, by this they mean the white, middle-class, Christian way.

They forget that their families came as colonizers to Canada and displaced the First Nations peoples.

Israeli policy and law, sadly, is against multiculturalism. In 2005 a university course on multiculturalism was proposed, instead, your Ministry of Education cancelled it. Israel is an exclusive nation, not an inclusive one. That is in your laws. Your closing of doors is codified.

Like Israel, Canada is a nation built by colonizers, and like Israel's suppression of the rights of Palestinians, Canada, too, continues to discriminate against the people it subjected--and subject--to its rule (First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples). We have 75- 100 land claims still in court, many of them decades old. The Canadian government is slow to redress the wrongs it did and continues to do to the First Nations peoples.

Is the answer then not to address these wrongs? Many Canadians and the Canadian government wish that the First Nations peoples would just give up these land claims. Many white Canadians (of all immigrant backgrounds, and including some brown Canadians too who have not informed themselves) think the "the natives" (as they call them) have everything given to them and enough is enough.

Meanwhile, First Nations health indicators, poverty, suicide levels, housing, etc. are all atrocious and worsening as true justice and the elimination of racism remain illusive, cloaked in the legal language of Canadian equality and multiculturalism. Theft of resources continues. The reserve system Canada created as a solution to "the Indian problem" is no solution.

Is repatriation, returning of lands, and financial restitution feasible? Yes. Is it a difficult process? Yes. Will there be some obstinate people on both sides who say no to everything? Yes. Will those who have benefited from the stolen lands feel the most effect and pain to return those lands or provide financial restitution? Yes. Will those who are the colonizers have to recognize that they collectively as a nation have colonized and that they have been on the upperhand side of an unequal power relation that has benefited them at the expense of First Nations? Yes.

Canada's flawed system of multiculturalism and its sorely small and deficient beginnings of attempting to redress wrongs against its Indigenous inhabitants have some things that other nations, other peoples, can learn from. From what we did wrong and continue to do wrong, too. The First Nations in Canada can fill you in on that, on our failings. Our government and our image in the world as peacemakers show only Canada the good, but that image is just an image--it's a fiction.

So, to my Israeli friends: it is our responsibility as privileged members of our nations to inform ourselves of the perspectives of the people we have displaced and colonized. It is our responsibility as citizens who enjoy more rights than others to really listen to those with less rights. That may make us uncomfortable. Well, the truth is we have made others suffer pain because of our comfort.

Perhaps your government and the Israeli people can learn from multiculturalism, its successes AND ITS FAILURES and then perhaps teach us Canadians how we can do it better.

I wrote that response because I believe that while Canadian colonization and Israeli colonization are different, we share the fact that we are colonial nations. I also think that multiculturalism, although it has its problems, is a viable way to live together on one land as long as we redress past wrongs.

When we held our Palestine Awareness Night, I responded to a question from the audience that I favour a one-state solution for the question of Palestine / Israel. A 2-state solution would continue militarism, policing, apartheid and racism. How, for example, would Gaza and the West Bank be linked? Through a tunnel that is is encased in barb wire and cement and sniper towers? Should the walls and barriers and checkpoints around the West Bank and Gaza continue to exist? No. Should the 1.2 million Palestinians who currently live within the borders of nation known as Israel be expelled to Gaza and the West Bank? No. What about the right of return and reparations for those Palestinians whose lands and homes still lie inside the state that is called Israel? Will they not get justice? A 2-state solution is no solution because it would continue with injustices, racism, and separation.

The One State Declaration

In light of these stark realities, we affirm our commitment to a democratic solution that will offer a just, and thus enduring, peace in a single state based on the following principles:

1. The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status;
2. Any system of government must be founded on the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens. Power must be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all people in the diversity of their identities;
3. There must be just redress for the devastating effects of decades of Zionist colonization in the pre- and post-state period, including the abrogation of all laws, and ending all policies, practices and systems of military and civil control that oppress and discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion or national origin;
4. The recognition of the diverse character of the society, encompassing distinct religious, linguistic and cultural traditions, and national experiences;
5. The creation of a non-sectarian state that does not privilege the rights of one ethnic or religious group over another and that respects the separation of state from all organized religion;
6. The implementation of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194 is a fundamental requirement for justice, and a benchmark of the respect for equality.
7. The creation of a transparent and nondiscriminatory immigration policy;
8. The recognition of the historic connections between the diverse communities inside the new, democratic state and their respective fellow communities outside;
9. In articulating the specific contours of such a solution, those who have been historically excluded from decision-making -- especially the Palestinian Diaspora and its refugees, and Palestinians inside Israel -- must play a central role;
10. The establishment of legal and institutional frameworks for justice and reconciliation.

Ali Abunimah, one of the signers of the above One State Declaration, has written a book The One State Solution:

"Clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate, ONE COUNTRY revives an old and neglected idea of sharing the country. Although living together might seem impossible, Abunimah shows how Israelis and Palestinians are by now so intertwined -- geographically and economically -- that no kind of separation can lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have. He reveals the bankruptcy of the two-state approach, takes on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a binational solution, demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all, and asserts that the country can remain a homeland for both Jews and Palestinians. The absence of any other workable option can only lead to ever-greater extremism; it is time, Abunimah suggests, for Palestinians and Israelis to imagine a different future and a different relationship."

In his article "The one state solution is the most visionary and the most suitable," Mark Satin writes:

"Jeff Halper, an Israeli anthropologist, expects that the one state -- seamlessly combining the talents and energies of Israeli Jews and Palestinians -- would become one of the “leading forces for democratization and development” in the world. Gavron couldn’t agree more, claiming that “the integration of all the different peoples . . . into one pluralistic entity will release enormous forces of inventiveness [and] creativity.

In Newsweek, Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, reminds us that:

"It is important to remember that the Palestinian national movement only began to endorse the idea of a two-state solution 20 or 30 years ago, as a practical compromise. Realizing that Israel wasn't going anywhere, moderates decided that their best hope for a state was one alongside Israel, not one that sought to replace it. Yet the 15 years of negotiations that have followed have produced little, and thus it's no surprise that faith in this supposedly pragmatic option is waning. The lack of progress, as well as the unmistakably expansionist reality on the ground and the growth in popularity of Hamas, have left little room for anyone seeking a positive future for Palestine. Except, that is, to rejuvenate the old idea of one binational, secular and democratic state where Jewish and Arab citizens live side by side in equality."

I found the following report from Press TV about a CIA report predicting the demise of Israel as it currently exists interesting:

"A study conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has cast doubt over Israel's survival beyond the next 20 years.

The CIA report predicts "an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region."

The study, which has been made available only to a certain number of individuals, further forecasts the return of all Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, and the exodus of two million Israeli - who would move to the US in the next fifteen years.

"There is over 500,000 Israelis with American passports and more than 300,000 living in the area of just California," International lawyer Franklin Lamb said in an interview with Press TV on Friday, adding that those who do not have American or western passport, have already applied for them.

"So I think the handwriting at least among the public in Israel is on the wall...[which] suggests history will reject the colonial enterprise sooner or later," Lamb stressed.

He said CIA, in its report, alludes to the unexpectedly quick fall of the apartheid government in South Africa and recalls the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, suggesting the end to the dream of an 'Israeli land' would happen 'way sooner' than later.

The study further predicts the return of over one and a half million Israelis to Russia and other parts of Europe, and denotes a decline in Israeli births whereas a rise in the Palestinian population.

Lamb said given the Israeli conduct toward the Palestinians and the Gaza strip in particular, the American public -- which has been voicing its protest against Tel Aviv's measures in the last 25 years -- may 'not take it anymore'.

Some members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have been informed of the report."


Thursday, March 12, 2009

give George the boot -- into jail!

George Bush is coming to Calgary! Send shoes to give George the boot

Matthew Brett writes:

"George Bush’s first international speech after finishing his presidency will be to the Calgary Rotary Club on March 17th, the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and the Calgary’s activist community would like to give him the welcome he deserves.

There will events throughout the week leading to Bush’s visit but for those outside Calgary we wanted to give you a chance to give him his due welcome. To that end the local activist community in Calgary is asking people from around Canada to send us your old shoes so they can be a symbol to boot Bush Out of Canada! We are hoping people will send shoes in from across the country to show solidarity.

Also, people can include notes or letters with their shoes and we will post them with the wall of shame or attach them to the shoes at the rally for people to see.

Bill Kaufmann says "Dinner footwear may be optional" and continues that

"Paying to hear Dubya weighing in on world challenges he made considerably more dire is like Dick Cheney charging for safe hunting tips.
To its neighbours, Calgary's fast becoming Canada's receptacle of infamy.
They're just waiting for Dick Cheney to hit our red carpet.
Ottawa gets Obama, Calgary gets Bush -- naturally.
It must be a sturdy thing, our western hospitality -- patient and forgiving.
Allowing its exploitation is nothing new, with those white hats handed out so unscrupulously.
But 400 bucks is pretty princely rubber-necking, even for prime disaster porno.
Maybe a ringside seat to the ascent and normalization of lawlessness really is worth the price of admission.

A group of lawyers is set to challenge Dubya's impunity to lawlessness:

Ban Bush From Canada for War Crimes: Lawyers

A lawyers' group has asked the RCMP to bar former U.S. president George W. Bush from entering Canada, citing torture and war crimes committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a letter to the RCMP war crimes section and copied to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and other federal ministers and opposition MPs, the Lawyers Against the War group claims that Bush is "inadmissible to Canada . . . because of overwhelming evidence that he has committed, outside Canada, torture and other offences" as detailed in Canada's War Crimes Act.

Bush is expected to visit Canada on March 17, to give a speech in Calgary as a guest of the city's chamber of commerce.

The letter, dated Wednesday, asks the Mounties to "begin an investigation of George W. Bush for aiding, abetting and counselling torture between Nov. 13, 2001, and November 2008 at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and other places."

It also asks the prime minister, attorney general and ministers of immigration and public safety to ban Bush for heading an administration that "engaged in torture and other war crimes against humanity."

The group offers to provide evidence of incidents of torture.

This isn't the first time the group has protested against Bush.

In 2005, a B.C. Supreme Court judge rejected their attempt to put the then-U.S. president on trial for war crimes.

Israel support work

This is a book sitting on my shelf. It was published in 1986. It lists a number of pro-Israel groups in the US, of which there were many at the time of its publication and, I am sure, which are even more effective today because of how the internet has enabled organizing, mobilizing, networking, and the dissemination of information. The author looks at the major pro-Israel Jewish organizations in the US for "the content and impact of their pro-Israel support work. It is intended to delineate their organizational structure and political agenda within a historical and contemporary context." He also states that, "The sheer number and complexity of American Jewish organizations greatly complicate the task." O'Brien notes that more research is needed on "the Jewish community's gradual shift to the right and the implications of this shift for its historical, social, and political agenda." This shift to the right, especially solidified through the Reagan years and the rise of neo-liberal capitialism, is an area that I would like to learn more about. Especially, because Jewish history and Jewish people are presented as static and homogenous and also, regarding the creation of the state of Israel, as socialist. The idea of the kibbutz doesn't quite mesh with neoliberal far-right politics, which is the government of Israel today.

Sometimes I read Zionist and other pro-Israel websites. Here's a notice on JTA, a pro-Israel Jewish news agency that purports that "It has no allegiance to any specific branch of Judaism or political viewpoint. We receive funding from a diverse array of sources" but check out that how they define "diverse array of sources" actually means funders with pro-Israeli stances.

AIPAC doubles earnings

February 12, 2009

"WASHINGTON (JTA) -- AIPAC's fund-raising nearly doubled in four years.

Tax records show that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee raised $46.9 million in 2004, including $15.1 million for its affiliate, the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable group that funds campus activities, seminars and missions to Israel by students, government officials and lawmakers.

By 2007, AIPAC showed $86 million in income, including $35.1 for the foundation.

Contributions to AIPAC began soaring after the eruption of the second Intifada in 2000 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

In recent years, the lobby has raised funds for a new headquarters in downtown Washington, opened a year ago, and for expanded campus activities."

The powerful mainstream institutionalized AIPAC group appropriates the language of "grassroots" and "activism" to do its work of ensuring the deaths of Palestinians. AIPAC boasts 100,000 members and is able to gather funds, mobilize and effectively network to ensure pro-Israeli stances. Check their list of "highlights" on their website. Out of 11 that they list, NINE have to do directly with military armaments. Here's one 'highlight' that they proudly boast of:

"Passing legislation requiring the administration to evaluate all future military sales to Arab states in the context of the need to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge over potential adversaries."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

telling whose stories?

This short video, Closed Zone, is animated by Yoni Goodman, the director of animation for the recent much ballyhooed Israeli animated film, Waltz with Bashir. The Closed Zone video was made with Gisha - the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, a human rights group in Israel: "Gisha calls on the State of Israel to fully open Gaza's crossings and to allow the real victims of the closure - 1.5 million human beings - the freedom of movement necessary to realize their dreams and aspirations."

On the Gish Closed Zone site, if you scroll down a bit you can watch a clip about the making of the video and listen to what Goodman relates about his methods in making it.

One of the things Goodman says is that he deliberately made the animated character ambiguous, in that he could be either a boy or a young man.

Perhaps, addressing from a child's perspective and through a child-like medium (animation) a message that is actually meant for adults is a good way for opening a space for talking about the issue of Israeli occupation, that no one wants to own or see themselves in (I'm thinking here of an Israeli or non-Palestinian/pro-Israeli viewer). So, through a child, one can come to some realizations in a way that is less accusatory.

By Goodman making him a boy, and an animated character, to boot, the issue that is addressed -- the barriers of Israeli occupation as thwarts to Palestinian boys' dreams -- can be approached in a way that reduces personal finger-pointing and allows the issue to be opened up for discussion rather than shut down.

Interestingly, too, the video clip has no dialogue, only animation. Animation makes it more child-like, too, as it harkens back to comic books and cartoons. Also, as Goodman notes, the boy could be a young man and also he could be either Palestinian or Israeli--it's hard to tell. Is this ambiguity to show that we are more similar than we are different? that it is larger systemic forces that create barriers between us?

But as it is Palestinians who are caught and blocked behind the closures, the ambiguity of the boy's may-be Israeli-ness, is but an introductory hook for the Israeli viewer to identify with the boy as he leaves his home. For he then has to reconcile his identification with the blocks that surface inside Gaza, created by Israel, and hence, revealing the truth of who is hemmed in by who. There is no ambiguity now.

Goodman was a soldier during Israel's bombing of Qana, Lebanon in 1996, what Israel called the "Grapes of Wrath operation" but was revealed to be the Qana massacre. During this military offensive to "get Hezbollah", the Israelis bombed a UN compound--one that had been there for years and is clearly marked-- where civilians had taken refuge. Sound familiar? UN building, with civilians sheltering, yet Israel "accidentally" hits it?

106 civilians were killed and 116 injured, including 4 UN soldiers.

When Waltz with Bashir came out, a number of viewers gushed about it--like Gilad Atzmon, who was an Israeli soldier during the 1982 invasion and killing fields of Lebanon. Atzmon tells us that

"The film is a smashing success in Israel. The Israelis love to weep collectively, and to express regret for the Christian Phalangists who killed on their behalf. They apparently come out of the film saying, ‘Only here, in our wonderful free country, can we confront our past so bravely.’"

Wonderful free country? For who?

Confront the past so bravely? Much of Israel WIPES out the history of how that country came to be. Isreali websites and geographic places are replete with not looking at the past beyond Zionist re-writing.

I haven't seen Waltz with Bashir yet, nor do I intend to. When I first heard about it I thought oh, it sounds like just the kind of film that liberals will flock to. I'm sure it will be very popular, I thought. It sounds like the kind of film that liberal-minded folks can watch and then exclaim about its 'fairness of portrayal'. It sounds like the kind of film that doesn't enter certain grounds that would make for more difficult examinations and troubling realizations; the kind that allows for whole issues to be left out, such as whose stories get told and how and by whom and who promotes them and why and what that then reinforces.

Further, I find very problematic films and stories that humanize soldiers and give them a life that the viewer can sympathize with yet which in that doing leaves their victims voiceless, silent, an afterthought, misunderstood, re-stereotyped, and, in the end, re-victimized. The power relations are not even disrupted, never mind dismantled.

It's the story of "our boys" that I find so problematic, as too often what ends up being reproduced is a division between 'us' and 'them.' Those faceless, nameless, have-no-lives-no-communities-no-dreams-no-families-no-struggles-no-joy-no-laughter not-us Others.

Others have been critical of the film for many reasons. Below are some excerpts of film reviews of Waltz with Bashir that talk about its problematic humanizing of Israeli soldiers at the expense of Palestinians, decontextualizing of political and historical contexts, its focus on the Shabra and Shatilla massacres and its avoidance of looking at the almost 18-20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians who dies in 1982 AT THE HANDS of Israel, and what that implies:

Naira Antoun:

"To say that Palestinians are absent in Waltz with Bashir, to say that it is a film that deals not with Palestinians but with Israelis who served in Lebanon, only barely begins to describe the violence that this film commits against Palestinians. There is nothing interesting or new in the depiction of Palestinians -- they have no names, they don't speak, they are anonymous. But they are not simply faceless victims. Instead, the victims in the story that Waltz with Bashir tells are Israeli soldiers. Their anguish, their questioning, their confusion, their pain -- it is this that is intended to pull us. The rotoscope animation is beautifully done, the facial expressions so engaging, subtle and torn, we find ourselves grimacing and gasping at the trials and tribulations of the young Israeli soldiers and their older agonizing selves. We don't see Palestinian facial expressions; only a lingering on dead, anonymous faces. So while Palestinians are never fully human, Israelis are, and indeed are humanized through the course of the film.
As Folman and those he speaks with recount what happened when they were in Lebanon, there is a lot of "while they're shooting at us from all directions," "we are attacked, we retaliate." There is no sense that Israel invaded Lebanon -- the word "invasion" is barely used in the whole film. The soldiers are young men going off to war in fighting spirit, fantasizing about women, wondering at how to prove their masculinity, licking the wounds of being dumped by girlfriends. They are singing songs with upbeat tunes and lyrics such as "Good morning Lebanon ... you bleed to death in my arms," "I bombed Sidon," "I bombed Beirut, I bombed Beirut every day." These lyrics are supposed to grate, but one nevertheless gets a sense of naive hapless kids who have no sense of the trauma that they are unwittingly walking into. One imagines that Folman would respond to the criticism that Israel's role is not made clear in the film, that these hapless kids are also members of an invading army committing acts of aggression, by saying that this would be going into the realm of politics, and rather this is intended to be a human film. One of the more disquieting views coming from admiring quarters is that the film is great for a general audience because one doesn't need to know any background information to appreciate the film. That Israel launched a brutal offensive that led to the deaths of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians is apparently not relevant. With "politics" and the "background" rendered off-limits, we are left with something that is misleading and inane. Its principal message becomes "war sucks." And why does war suck? Because it is traumatizing -- principally for the soldiers. When Waltz with Bashir won the Golden Globe for best foreign film in January, while the force of the Israeli military machine was being unleashed against Gaza, while war crimes and atrocities were being committed by Israeli soldiers, Folman could only muster, "My film is anti-war, and therefore would, sadly, always be relevant." Given the evasion of responsibility and decontextualization that lie at the core of this film, this was hardly surprising."

As'ad AbuKhalil:

"The film doesn't want to speak of history. It doesn't want to speak of suffering. Even when Zionist liberals touch upon suffering, they mean the suffering of the murderers. The nightmares of occupation soldiers are more important than the suffering of the victims of Sabra & Shatila. The soldiers speak of only their suffering, and don't allow Arab victims to speak about their own suffering. The nightmares of occupation soldiers were more horrible than the killing of children in brutal Israeli bombardment before and after Sabra & Shatila.
Read Zionist literature from the beginning to find in their representation—if they were there at all—backward peasants or lowly bedouins or nondescript refugees without citizenship, later transformed into "saboteurs" (and this is the same name that the Phalangist "Voice of Lebanon" radio used in the course of the war) in the 1960s, until Zionist propaganda finally settled upon the description "terrorist". The film doesn't deviate from the formula, even with regard to that splendid boy when he fires an RPG launcher in the face of the occupier.
But, the (im)moral standard of the film is evident from the beginning when the narrator suffers from nightmares because he killed some dogs in South Lebanon. And in another scene, an Israeli soldier bemoans the plight of the horses in Beirut's hippodrome, for the animals are more valuable than the Arab according to a racial hierarchy that doesn't differ in its essentials from Nazi hierarchy. There is a liberal American organization—which has been utterly indifferent to the lives of the people of Palestine—that ran a campaign to care for the animals in Gaza. The Arab and the Muslim in the liberal standard of the white man is of a lower rank than the animal. The Western viewer will sympathize with the Israeli soldier because he seemed the most affected by the killing of animals at the hands of the Arabs in the devastation of 1982.
If a Hamas writer were to shoot a film about his experience in Gaza would the Hollywood community welcome him with open arms, and would the liberal media shower him with praise? With or without the "anguish" of the Israel soldiers."