Tag Archives: Palestinians

Because it is the Human Thing to Do

gaza boy 1Since Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza, a captive population in what is the world’s biggest open air prison, there have been scores of heartbreaking stories that have emerged from the Strip.  For the medical staff at Al-Shifa hospital there is barely a lull between patients flooding their corridors, bloody, screaming and near death.  But through it all these devoted staff members, many of them volunteers, have remained to help the wounded and comfort the bereaved.  They do this at great risk to their personal safety.  They do it because it is the human thing to do.

Politicians and military generals love to cite tactical statistics and spin their most heinous attacks into word games.  “Surgical precision” and “targeted killing” are some of the terms used this time in Gaza.  Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Gaza’s dead are “telegenic” meaning they have an “appearance or manner that is appealing on television.”  It is difficult to plum the depths of utter depravity in such a comment, but it is a defining characteristic  of the kind of person who can justify bombing hospitals, cafes and boys playing football on the beach.

The wordsmiths of organized murder will never understand the courage it takes to remain in a home, or a school, or a hospital even as the bombs are reigning down around them.  They will never know how a child’s hand feels as the life drains out of them on a cold, steel stretcher in a crowded corridor.  They will never no the crushing sorrow of having to tell a grandmother that her entire family has been killed in one indiscriminate attack.  They sit comfortably in leather chairs within the guarded, air conditioned catacombs they call “war rooms.”  They are shielded from such visceral experiences by the rhetoric they have carefully constructed to defend their patently indefensible actions.

But in the end their folly will be relegated to the dusty confines of a barely read book, while the warm touch of compassion generously given by a nurse, or doctor, or medic, will be remembered in the most sacred of places; the human heart.

Kenn Orphan  2014

Photo: Wounded Palestinian boy clutches medic, Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza (Photograph: Ezz al-Zanoun/APA images)

A Shroud of Shame that Suffocates Our Humanity

A woman holds the body of her daughter, who medics said died on Friday from injuries sustained in an Israeli air strike on Thursday afternoon, at her funeral in Rafah

Photographs of a mother’s grief have a way of transcending the cold, hollow and cruel rhetoric of politicians and military generals.  In this one, Netream Netzleam embraces her one year old daughter, Razel, killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.

The Israeli establishment stepped up its PR campaign along side its murderous assault on a largely defenseless and wholly captive population.  But no matter how they mince words, Gaza is an open air gulag.  A prison for a people who have been condemned by the world for decades.  And the prisoners are periodically and collectively punished in order to insure that their spirit is sufficiently crushed.

From the plains of the American West, to the Warsaw Ghetto, to the killing fields in Indonesia, it is an oft repeated saga.  The oppressor manages to deftly cast themselves as the victim, even as they rob, strangle, starve and plunder in the open.

This narrative has been necessary to carry out these crimes, for it is not only to convince the unconvinced.  It is intended to soothe the conscience of the oppressor.  It acts as both a balm and an elixir for the perpetrators of barbarity. The act of killing exacts an enormous price from both the victim and the victimizer.  One is seen very easily, the other is most often obscured in some dark corner of the soul, waiting to emerge in the silence of night, or as an unanticipated flashback to the horror once inflicted.

No jingoistic narrative can sponge this image away.  This mother’s sorrow is the very definition of injustice.  It is a curse to the hawks of war.  And it is a shroud of shame that suffocates our humanity as long as we remain silent in the face of such merciless savagery.

Kenn Orphan  2014

Photo by Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

The Crime of Playing Football on a Beach in Gaza

gaza children beachIt is virtually impossible to erase the image of four Palestinian boys lying dead on a beach in Gaza.  Their mangled bodies, one moment full of the vigor and the optimistic energy of youth, the next laying motionless on the hot sand.  In the midst of the horror of Israel’s inhuman assault on a captive population of 1.7 million people with no army, no air force, no navy, and no means of escaping a densely populated gulag, four boys played football and graced this misery with the normality of human inertia.  But that was all shattered by an Israeli shell.

Israel is usually quick in justifying virtually every crime it commits.  Regurgitating the same stale line that Hamas is using civilians as human shields, it repeatedly gets a free pass for brutality and murder in both the press and from the US government.  The human rights organization Amnesty International completed an exhaustive review of these claims after Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009 (see below).  They found no evidence of Hamas using any civilian as a human shield.  They did, however, find that the Israeli military used Palestinians as human shields on several occasions.

But like the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian boy who was kidnapped, tortured and burned alive by Jewish extremists, this crime too will likely be submerged in the morass of propaganda that surrounds every news story that comes out of the region.The mainstream media is expert at burying these kind of stories, like ignoring or downplaying the angry Israeli lynch mobs marching through the streets of Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs, death to leftists,” and attacking any one who appeared to be a Palestinian or an Israeli peace activist.  And sure enough they are doing the same here.  Quick as lightening, one of the journalists who witnessed the carnage first hand, Ayman Mohyeldin of NBC News, was removed from his post after he reported accurately about the massacre.  He witnessed it, after all.  Regardless of this, he has been replaced with a reporter far more friendlier to the Israeli establishment, Richard Engel, who was in Tel Aviv at the time of the attack, over 70 kilometers away.

Mohyeldin told us their names; Ahed Atef Bakr 10 yrs old, Zakaria Ahed Bakr 10 yrs old, Mohamed Ramez Bakr 11 yrs old, and Ismael Mohamed Bakr 9 yrs old.  He showed us their parents anguish.  He humanized a people who have been consistently dehumanized for decades by a colonial, apartheid regime.  And now he has been removed because of it.

The brutal murder of three Israeli settler teens in the West Bank was plastered on every headline around the world and received condemnations from every world leader.  The murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 18 members of one family, at least three disabled women, dozens of children, and the four boys on a beach in Gaza, barely register in the mainstream press.  All of these deaths should be mourned and condemned, but to the elite of the world, Palestinian lives are treated as less valuable and a mere consequence of a “complicated situation.”

But it really isn’t that complicated.  Four boys are dead for the crime of playing football on a beach in Gaza on a warm summer day.  And to their parents, as it would be for anyone, an entire world of hope and promise has been destroyed in a split second of utter barbarity.

Kenn Orphan  2014

Note:  I have decided not to post the photos of the massacre in deference to their families.
(Photo: boys playing football on Gaza beach/China Daily)

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE15/015/2009/en/8f299083-9a74-4853-860f-0563725e633a/mde150152009en.pdf.

A Perfect Storm

David Barton  Source Right Wing WatchAbout a week ago pseudo-historian, David Barton, told the hosts of TBN’s “Praise the Lord” show that if the US did not support Israel God would afflict it with “extreme weather, droughts, productivity declines, and agricultural disasters.”  Many have become familiar with these inane decrees.  Storms and droughts are routinely blamed on the gay community or because of women’s reproductive freedom by religious extremists.  But with Israel’s recent murderous assault on Gaza, the specter of Christian Zionism is again asserting itself in American foreign and domestic policy.
Gaza City Photo AFPUnlike the nationalistic, and largely secular, form of Zionism that formed in the late 19th century in Europe, modern Christian Zionism is primarily an American phenomenon.  It gained prominence from the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible, an annotated version of scripture written by Cyrus I. Scofield.  He was an American preacher in the early 20th century, with a checkered past and dubious claims of being a theologian.
Cyrus I. ScofieldScofield’s rather peculiar brand of eschatology, or the fate of humanity, insists that the Jewish people “reclaim” Palestine.  The fact that most Jews have never been to Palestine and have no ancestral links to the land outside of religious texts, and that such a reclamation would displace millions of people already living there, are considered logistical problems, not ethical ones.  And even though Islam’s third holiest site sits on top of the Temple Mount, and has since the 7th century, it proposes the re-building of the Temple of Solomon.  In an attempt to obscure the antisemitism that belies its public face, Christian Zionism generally avoids addressing one part of this interpretation.  According to its doctrine, in the end scores of Jews will ultimately reject Jesus as the messiah when he returns, and be eternally damned as a result.  Unsurprisingly, this is not a talking point at conferences with Israeli heads of state.

The Rapture.  Source: Theological GraffitiIn their lust for Armageddon, Christian Zionists are pouring petrol on the tinderbox of modern geopolitics.  This is evident in their fervor to attack Iran and crush any prospects for peace.  They are galvanized by an unshakeable belief that we are living in the “end times” and that turmoil is unavoidable.  Ironically, due to human caused climate change and the ever persistent menace of nuclear war, humanity may very well be looking at its demise.  But to the Christian Zionist, bringing about an end in fire is not only inevitable, it is necessary to ensure the fulfillment of prophecy.

This is the primary reason Israel is so important.  It is why various evangelical foundations have been set up in the US to fund illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.  It is why mission trips are arranged to these settlements to harvest grapes with colonists on the land they have stolen from Palestinians.  It emboldens hardline hawks in Tel Aviv to entrench apartheid and military occupation even more, while marginalizing the earnest efforts of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.  And it is what has allowed them to dehumanize and ignore the plight of the Palestinians, and justify nearly every crime the Israeli regime has inflicted on them for decades.
John HageeBombastic minister and head of CUFI (Christians United for Israel), John Hagee, and television evangelist and head of  “The 700 Club” Pat Robertson, are emblematic of this movement, and they enjoy huge followings.  But perhaps most troubling is the connection and influence they have on foreign policy.  They have the support of the biggest, pro-Israel lobby in Washington, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), and virtually every politician is loath to defy them.

Climate change plays an ominous role in all of this.  As it accelerates and worsens it emboldens fear mongering, denial, and scapegoating.   To the Christian Zionist, these events are punishments for the sin of opposing the Israeli regime.  And certain, out of historical context, scriptures, like Numbers 24:9 which says “Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed, and whoever curses Israel will be cursed,” are employed to drive this notion home to the faithful.  Science is simply not recognized in this equation because it does not match their scriptural exegesis. If it does not fit this religious narrative it is dismissed in explaining the erratic weather patterns, persistent droughts and rising sea levels that we are witnessing today.
Christian Zionism  Source Foreign PolicyChristian Zionism is an aggressive form of extremism that broadly effects ideology and policy in the American political establishment. It is certainly not a monolithic group of people and it does not represent all of Christendom; but the power of its leaders is both undeniable and menacing.  Movements like this are often derided and marginalized in times of calm.  But in times of upheaval, which are becoming more frequent, they have an astonishing way of taking center stage and influencing world events.  As the West negotiates with Iran in an attempt to avert a war with a nuclear armed Israel, global weather patterns are simultaneously becoming angrier due to our burning of fossil fuels.  And this is creating a perfect storm that may inadvertently guarantee that its most destructive prophecies are indeed fulfilled.

Kenn Orphan  2014

This is not defense, it is a massacre.

gazaForty one deaths in two days in the Gaza Strip from Israeli bombing. Today it is estimated at over 80. Over half of Gaza’s population are children, over 40% under the age of 14. Gazans do not have air raid shelters, emergency electricity, medical supplies or clean water; and they have no where to flee since the entire strip has been blockaded by Egypt and Israel. This is collective punishment of a captive population in the world’s biggest open air prison, and it is in violation of international law.

It is good that no Israeli lives have been lost yet in the last several days. But the media is portraying this as even sided. It is not. Israel has an army, navy and air force, Gaza does not. The rockets fired by militants, while deadly and reprehensible, in no way compare to the bombardment from Israel forces, that take out entire apartment blocks.

Demand Israel stop the siege!

Tuesday, July 8:

1. Mohammed Sha’aban, 24, was killed in a bombing of his car in Gaza City.
2. Ahmad Sha’aban, 30, died in the same bombing.
3. Khadir al-Bashiliki, 45, died in the same bombing.
4. Rashad Yaseen, 27, was killed in a bombing of the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
5. Riad Mohammed Kawareh, 50, was killed in a bombing of his family’s home in Khan Younis.
6. Seraj Ayad Abed al-A’al, 8, was wounded in the same bombing and succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday evening.
7. Mohammed Ayman Ashour, 15, died in the same bombing.
8. Bakr Mohammed Joudah, 22, died in the same bombing.
9. Ammar Mohammed Joudah, 26, died in the same bombing.
10. Hussein Yousef Kawareh, 13, died in the same bombing.
11. Mohammed Ibrahim Kawareh, 50, died in the same bombing.
12. Bassim Salim Kawareh, 10, died in the same bombing.
13. Mousa Habib, 16, from Gaza City’s al-Shujaiyah neighborhood, was killed along with his 22-year old cousin while the pair were riding a motorcycle.
14. Mohammed Habib, 22, was killed with Mousa Habib.
15. Sakr Aysh al-Ajouri, 22, was killed in an attack on Jabaliyah, in northern Gaza.
16. Ahmad Na’el Mehdi, 16, from Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, was killed in a bombing that wounded two of his friends.
17. Hafiz Mohammed Hamad, 30, an Islamic Jihad commander, was killed in the bombing of his home in Beit Hanoun, along with five of his family members.
18. Ibrahim Mohammed Hamad, 26, died in the same bombing.
19. Mehdi Mohammed Hamad, 46, died in the same bombing.
20. Fawzia Khalil Hamad, 62, died in the same bombing.
21. Dunia Mehdi Hamad, 16, died in the same bombing.
22. Suha Hamad, 25, died in the same bombing.
23. Suleiman Salman Abu Soaween, 22

Wednesday, July 9:

24. Abdelhadi Jamaat al-Sufi, 24, was killed in a bombing near the Rafah crossing.
25. Naifeh Farjallah, 80, was killed in an airstrike on the town of Moghraqa, southwest of Gaza City.
26. Abdelnasser Abu Kweek, 60, was killed in the bombing of Gaza’s central governorate along with his son.
27. Khaled Abu Kweek, 31, Abdelnasser Abu Kweek’s son, was killed in the same bombing.
28. Amir Areef, 13, died in a bombing in Sha’af.
29. Mohammed Malkiyeh, one and a half years old, died in a bombing along with his mother and a young man.
30. Amniyeh Malkiyeh, 27, Mohammed Malkiyeh’s mother, died in the same bombing.
31. Hatem Abu Salem, 28, died in the same bombing.
32. Mohammed Khaled al-Nimri, 22
33. Sahar Hamdan, 40, died in the bombing of her home in Beit Hanoun.
34. Ibrahim Masri, 14, Sahar Hamdan’s son, was killed in the same bombing.
35. Unknown
36. Sumoud al-Nawasra, a mother, was killed in a bombing along with her two children.
37. Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra, 4, arrived at the hospital “in shreds.”
38. Nidal Khalaf al-Nawasra, a child of unreported age, died along with Mohammed and Sumoud.
39. Salah Awwad al-Nawasra, was killed in the same bombing. His body was found under the rubble of the house.
40. Amal Youssef Abdel Ghafour
41. Ranim Jawde Abdel Ghafour, a young girl

Source: Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Al-Akhbar – Palestinian Refugees Right to Return

No Excuse

Palestinian boys watch a scene simulating clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers in Gaza CitThere is grief in Israel today.  Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, had gone missing in mid June, and their bodies were found yesterday in a shallow grave in the occupied West Bank.   The grief in Israel echoes the grief of Palestinians whose children have been targeted far more often and almost always with impunity by settlers and by the Israel Defense Forces.  In March of this year 15 year old Youssef Shawamra was shot to death by IDF troops  as he picked wild thistles to be used for a meal.  In May Israeli forces killed Nadim Nuwara, 17, and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, 16, in an unprovoked attack caught on CCTV.  And just this month Mohammed Dudin, 15, was shot to death by Israeli soldiers in the infamous “Operation Brother’s Keeper”.  And these are only a few cases.

The killing of any child is abhorrent, but looking at American media coverage, or lack thereof,  regarding such tragedies reveals an insidious bias and an endemic racism.  In the last decade thousands of Palestinian children have been killed or maimed by Israeli occupation forces and settlers, and many more have been snatched from their homes in the middle of the night and spirited away to military detention centers.  According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and the UN there is ample evidence of torture and inhumane treatment at these facilities.  But this reality is obscured by the mainstream media.  It is as if they do not exist at all.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu begins his rampage of collective punishment in the West Bank and Gaza this lack of fair and unbiased journalism only pours fuel on the fire of animus and indiscriminate violence and fosters the myth that the conflict is equal.  Israel has a military, has occupied Palestinian territories for decades, colonized its lands and kept its population in a constant state of terror and oppression through home demolitions, destruction of fields and orchards and carving up properties with the wall of separation.  Israel controls the sea and air space and routinely fires on farmers tending their fields or fishermen attempting to bring in their catch.  When militants respond with rockets, Israel responds with collective punishment through bombings that level entire apartment blocks or critical infrastructure or the use of white phosphorus that blinds and burns children.

Of course the abduction and murder of these three Israeli teens is deplorable and the criminals should be found and punished.  But it should be noted that these boys were the children of illegal settlers in a region where settlers routinely harass and persecute the indigenous population, and vandalize property and destroy wells and farm land with impunity.  To ignore the conditions out of which this tragedy was born is nothing less than irresponsible, and as long as it persists the result will continue to be the same.

There is no excuse for the crime of harming or murdering children.  And as we mourn Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel whose lives were mercilessly cut short, we should take care to remember and mourn for Youssef Shawamra, Nadim Nuwara,  Muhammad Abu al-Thahirand and Mohammed Dudin, whose lives were also robbed of them by meaningless violence, and whose worth as human beings was not one bit less.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(Photo: Reuters)

Ecology of Hopelessness and Despair

Israeli-soldiers-guard-Pa-007There has been a lot of coverage in the US media regarding the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage settlers who were abducted last week while hitchhiking outside of the occupied city of al-Khalīl (Hebron) in the West Bank. Of course this incident is nothing less than abhorrent and every person of conscience hopes that these boys will be returned safely to their families. But once again the egregious bias that the US media displays in covering incidents like this in Gaza and the West Bank is rearing its ugly head.

In contrast to the kidnap story, little to nothing was reported about the shooting deaths of two Palestinian teens last month, who were protesting on Nakba Day (the day Palestinians remember the “catastrophe” when they were driven from their homes by Zionist militias in 1948). In fact what little attention it did receive was orchestrated by officials in the Israeli government. Former ambassador Michael Oren was given a prime spot on CNN to throw out repugnant claims including one that suggested the killings were “staged” and that these boys may not even be dead. In fact, the boys were killed and another wounded. And, according to CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts, they appeared to pose no visible danger to anyone. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) immediately claimed that no live fire was used, only rubber bullets. But an autopsy done on one of the boys revealed that this claim was patently false.

Children have become the saddest casualty of the occupation on both sides of the Green Line. Both Israeli and Palestinian children have been maimed or killed by indiscriminate violence. But Palestinian children have suffered far more by the numbers and by the extent of the violence they are subjected to on a daily basis by IDF forces and illegal settlers. According to a recent UN report, Israel has incarcerated thousands of children in the past decade, some as young as 12 years of age, and placed them in a military tribunal system which subjects them to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.” Children have been ripped from their homes in late night raids by the IDF and taken to detention centers far from their families, usually for the offense of throwing stones at army tanks. The report also pointed out that “in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

All people who care about justice and universal human rights hope for these kidnapped children to be returned safely to their families. But to report about this incident without context is both unjust and reckless. By many accounts Hebron is ground zero for the occupation. Settlers, with protection of the IDF, have been successful at making ordinary Palestinians’ lives a living hell. Scores of people along Shahuda Street, a once thriving thoroughfare in the city, have been literally sealed in their homes, their front doors having been welded shut by the IDF, with the only escape route being their rooftops. Intimidation and attacks from settlers have become the norm and this harassment is committed with impunity. Segregated roadways are enforced by military personnel, with settler roads being the more well maintained and widest. Palestinian children are routinely terrorized on their way to school, often having stones lobbed at them.

It is within this ecology of hopelessness and despair that this tragedy has emerged. It is the product of systemic bigotry, dehumanization and discrimination. It is the offspring of apartheid. And until the entire story is told, justice for all sides will continue to be submerged in a sea of oppressive jingoism and meaningless rhetoric.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(Photograph is of Palestinian children being detained by Israel Defense Forces in Hebron: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA)

Images Can Be Powerful

pope3Images can be powerful. Arguably, this one of Pope Francis making an unscheduled visit to the Separation Wall in Bethlehem is just such an image. While the Israeli government claims it is for security, the facts tell a different story. The Wall has been widely criticized due to its carving up of Palestinian ancestral lands and has made life a living hell for the tens of thousands of people who must traverse its dehumanizing checkpoints to get to school, or the hospital, or to their own olive groves.

It is fatally easy to be cynical in this day and age. It is easy to be suspicious of every act taken, however symbolic, of a powerful religious or political figure. But one has to question whether such cynicism is warranted in every instance.

The Pope represents worldwide Catholicism, and there is much to be criticized about the institution of the Catholic Church from its horrendous record of child abuse and subsequent cover-ups, or its egregious stance on women’s and LGBTQ rights, or its bloody and cruel history. But there are millions of devout Catholics around the world who struggle for peace and justice. And there are nuns, priests and brothers who are persecuted and even killed for the stands they take to protect indigenous peoples from exploitation and ethnic cleansing. I have been fortunate to have known some of them.

This action taken by Pope Francis can be taken as an empty gesture; but I will choose to check my cynicism at the door this time. If this image can shed even a small amount of attention to the plight of the Palestinians, if it can open up the hearts and minds of people, regardless of their religion or lack there of, to the universality of human rights, if it can show that this ancient land is home to all who live there, be they Jewish or Arab, or if it can lead, even slightly, to the demolition of this wall instead of houses, then it is a worthwhile, welcome and beneficial gesture to be lauded.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(image courtesy of the International Middle East Media Center)

The United States Has Everything to do with It

Palestinian child Feb 6 2013I have often heard it said in this country that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has “nothing to do with us.” Such statements reveal a troubling ignorance that so many Americans have in regard to this and other foreign policy issues. In fact the United States has everything to do with it.

It is the US which has inserted itself into the conflict as being the only foreign agent that can “broker” a peace deal. It is the US that has shut out or suppressed  the UN from having any effective voice. It is the US that has emboldened hardliners in Israel to run rip shod over any reasonable and fair settlement by continually declaring itself as an unequivocal supporter of Israel regardless of its human rights abuses and incredible intransigence. It is the US which shapes the language used to describe the issues, the problems and any of the solutions. It is the US which has reinforced a decades long system of apartheid, complete with home demolitions, walls and checkpoints that carve up Palestinian land into what amounts to South African style Bantustans.

The US has looked the other way as Israel built a separate system of justice for Israeli citizens and Palestinians, one more fairer than the other.  It has ignored the illegality of the Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and ignored the increasing racist rhetoric and violence emerging from them. It has whitewashed or downplayed a brutal and oppressive military occupation and the indefinite detention and torture of children. And it has justified the creation of the world’s biggest open air prison in Gaza, where punishment is meted out collectively on a captive population through bombings, the use of white phosphorus, indiscriminate shooting of farmers and fishermen, home demolitions and a draconian economic blockade that limits and restricts food, medicine and construction materials.

John Kerry recently expressed a sentiment that, aside from the circus-like histrionics of the US media and both Democratic and Republican politicians, is shared by many prominent Israelis, Palestinians and one former US president. When he said that Israel was on a course toward apartheid he was only incorrect in making such a claim as a potential future. True to form, Kerry capitulated to the “pro-Israel no matter what” fanatics and apologized. But the facts remain. An institutionalized ethnocracy has been allowed to flourish. As in apartheid South Africa, this kind of system grows like a cancer. And it eventually effects all aspects of civil life in society.

Insidiously, the US has perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to suit its own foreign policy objectives as a colonial foothold in the Middle-east. It has continued to support an untenable system because doing so is more advantageous to its neoliberal interests in the entire region.  And the recent, momentous failure in the so-called “peace process” should make it clear to everyone, as tensions are at an all time high, that the US has proven itself incapable of being an effective and fair mediator. For the sake of everyone, it is more than past the time for it to remove itself as the sole arbiter of peace.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(Photo: Palestinian child sobbing atop the ruins of his family’s home that was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina/AFP )

Simple, Quiet, Steadfast Resolution

Palestinian womanThere are acts of quiet expression and beauty that transcend the stale or reactionary rhetoric that accompany conflict and oppression, and they often go unnoticed. This is one of them. Residents from the besieged Palestinian village of Bilin have transformed a tool of violence into a message of remembrance and a tribute to the universal struggle for human rights. They have planted flowers in spent tear gas canisters.

It is a memorial to Bassem Abu Rahmeh, an activist who was killed at a demonstration in 2009 when a tear gas grenade hit him in the chest. Tragedy followed this family. Bassem’s sister Jawaher was killed nearly two years later from inhaling Israelis tear gas at another demonstration against the apartheid wall. A wall that has carved up Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank, separated farmers from their fields and orchards, demolished homes, and divided families.

This garden is a silent memorial to their non-violent stand against an unjust system. It is a testament to the fortitude of the human spirit in a tide of seemingly unending brutality. It represents the countless Israelis and Palestinians who are united in their commitment to justice. It is, as one of the creators of the garden expressed, to show that “life can spring from death.” And it should encourage us all to take back the humanity that the brute and the oppressor have stolen; in simple, quiet, steadfast resolution.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)