This is an open message to anyone who can hear to understand, see to be influenced, think to reflect, and speak, write, and walk to act. For those who have been receiving messages and are silent, maybe it is time to chose to stand up or give up on your humanity. Let us review scenes from this week and reflect:
Last Sunday at noon, and every Sunday at noon, a group of activists in New Haven stood at a street corner holding signs and distributing flyers at an intersection.
On the same Sunday, so many people slept in then had food and drinks with their families and friends while millions around the world are starving, while over 40% of Palestinian Children are malnourished.
On the same Sunday, an article in the Observer in England revealed that a ” Secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members” and this revelation went ignored in the US media.
This past Monday, groups of citizens were at Federal buildings protesting the war.
On the same day, millions went to jobs oblivious to the plight of Palestinians. Israeli forces continued to keep Palestinians in Ghettos & not allowed to move from one Ghetto to another, not allowed to get to schools and jobs and even hospitals.
On the same day, AIPAC & ADL refused to condemn inclusion of ethnic cleansers in new Israel government. See this article by Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 3 March 2003 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article1210.shtml
This past Tuesday, several letters appeared in newspapers across the nation calling for no war Iraq, for stopping aid to Israeli apartheid, for justice and peace.
On the same day, millions of useless email messages were exchanged between people who now forgot what were the emails were about.
On the same day (and every day), hundreds of thousands bought coffee at Starbucks whose chairman supports ethnic superiority for Jews, Israeli apartheid, and supports even more violence against the Palestinians.
This past Wednesday, 11 Palestinian civilians were killed in “retaliation” for a suicide bombing in Israel that killed 15. Since then an additional 15 Palestinians were also killed bringing the totals since the start of the Palestinian uprising started against the occupation to 2400 Palestinians (30,000 injured) and 700 Israelis killed (5000 injured). The vast majority in both sets of victims being civilian.
On the same day, an article by UN Relief and Work Agency spoke of food running out and starvation imminent in the Palestinian areas occupied by Israel (now the longest lasting occupation after 36 years).
On the same day, the Green Party of New Haven voted to not take positions on the Israel/Palestine question for the time being because it is a “controversial issue.” I could not sleep that night.
This past Thursday, an article in the Hebrew language daily Haaretz by Shulamit Aloni (previous government minister and parliamentarian) spoke of the actions of the Israeli government against the Palestinians as genocide “We do not have gas chambers and crematoria, but there is no one fixed method for genocide.”
On the same day, the US transferred $12 million ($4-5,000,000,000 annually) in military and economic aid to Israel which it used directly to oppress the Palestinian people. Israel is asking for more.
On the same day, thousands of Arabs and Muslims enjoyed their meals, did their prayers, and kept silent while their leaders where making fools of themselves bending over backwards to serve imperial interests (Arab Summit and Islamic Summit).
This past Friday, Yale University workers ended a five day strike asking for better wages and a decent retirement.
On the same day two articles appeared (Robert Malley in the Herald Tribune http://www.iht.com/articles/88890.html and Edward Said in Al-Ahram http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/628/op2.htm) that explained who is really pushing for a war on Iraq which will cost $200 billion dollars and why. The warning signs and the facts are ignored and the media pundits in the US continued the comical interviews with “terrorism experts” (those who support Israel right or wrong) and military experts (those who are telling us the technicalities of killing Iraqis).
This past Saturday was the International Women Day. Women across the globe demonstrated against the war. In New Haven, a great event transpired with speakers ranging from a Palestinian American Poet (Ahlam Shalhout who spoke of the Palestinian rights including the right of return and healing) to a Guatemalan human rights activist who spoke of the injustice inflicted on her people for corporate power.
On the same day, millions went shopping at fancy malls and ate at fancy restaurants and chose not to know, not to act, or at least not to engage with deciding the future of their society.
On Sunday, March 9, 2003 (today), Senator Joe Lieberman held a $2000 per plate fundraising lunch at the lawn club in New Haven for his presidential bid. There was a lot of diversity among his audience: those who drove BMWs, those who drove Mercedes, those who drove SUVs etc. There was even an occasional Saab.
On the same day and place, a truly diverse group of local activists gathered to protest Lieberman’s support of genocide of the Iraqi people (via the US led sanctions) and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine (made possible by his support of the billions we send to Israel every year). We pointed out that $2000 feeds a 1000 Palestinian families.
Dozens of International activists who have sacrificed jobs and careers to go where they are needed. A group in Jenin responded to the mass arrest and beating of Palestinians and another group gathered in Tulkarem in solidarity with Palestinian women (and men) prisoners of conscience who are under Israeli administrative detention (no charges, no trial; over 5000 prisoners).
On the same day, many people of good conscience chose to spend their day differently. What was it, watch (and curse) the TV, movie, shopping for sales items, chats with others?
Stay tuned for how next week will turn out. Where will you be? The Buddhists have a saying: let us have joyful participation in the sorrows of this world. The universal principle asks to first do no harm, then do good. So I note with sadness and joy that there is positive participation, silence, and negative participation in the sorrows of this world. Where do you fall in this spectrum? And is silence complicity?
“You give but little when you give of your possessions; it is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And what is fear of need but need itself.”
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923
(Dr. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh is Chair of the Media Committee, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.)