“The Resistance”



“Oppression greets us from all angles. Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air. Oppression explodes with every sound bomb and sinks deeper into the heart of the mother who has lost her son. But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret five times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives.”

(Rest in peace and rise in power, Kayla Jean Mueller)



A State of Denial: Candidates, Consequences and the Road to Peace

This article was originally published in the January 2012 edition of The Kenyon Observer

In an interview with The Jewish Channel last month, Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich described the Palestinian people as “invented.” When questioned during a presidential debate a few days later, Gingrich continued to make misleading remarks, including “The word ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977,” insinuating that Palestinian schools foster terrorism.

These statements are untenable and reflect long-standing falsehoods propagated since the founding of the state of Israel. In the early twentieth century, approximately 93% of the land that makes up modern day Israel was inhabited by Palestinian Arabs. In fact, when a delegation of Viennese rabbis were sent to Palestine to investigate the possibility of establishing a Jewish state there, they wrote back to Theodore Herzl, saying, “the bride is beautiful but she is married to another man.” Since then, the bride has been involved in a dangerous affair with the United States failing in their self-appointed role as marriage counselor.

The distinction between Palestinians and other Arabs of the Levant region is demonstrable through several cultural mediums including food, dance, music, embroidery, jewelry, and more. The preservation and documentation of Palestinian identity, notably through photography collections, Traditional Palestinian Costume: Origins and Evolution by Hanan Karaman Munayyer, and the work of cultural organizations authenticate Palestinian claims to autonomy and identity. Legal documentation, including pre-Ottoman land deeds, further demonstrates this reality. The Balfour Declaration itself, a 1917 letter which paved the way for the formation of the modern-day state of Israel, acknowledges “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” However, since the late 19th century there has been consistent and indefensible rhetoric suggesting otherwise.

Gingrich is not alone in providing a bevy of antagonistic comments on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The day before the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum echoed Gingrich, telling a young voter that “there is no ‘Palestinian,’” saying that the residents of the Occupied West Bank are in fact Israeli.  Ironically, if this were true, it would reflect what is known as the one-state solution, in which the Occupied Territories are absorbed into the State of Israel and residents are given equal voting rights. Such an act would fundamentally restructure the Israeli “democracy,” almost certainly not in the way Santorum envisions. Texas Governor Rick Perry and House Resolution 1006 have argued that Jerusalem should be the sole capital of Israel. Front-runner Mitt Romney has threatened to end aid to Palestinians if they pursue statehood via the United Nations, similar to House Resolutions 2457, 1501, 2261 and 1475. Before withdrawing from the race, candidates Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, made news for offensive comments about the Islamic faith and right of return (or lack thereof) for Palestinians, respectively.

The alignment of many current GOP candidates with such revisionist history dangerously damages perceptions of America abroad and inhibits its ability to negotiate for Middle East peace. Many in the international community already disregard the United States as an impartial arbiter of the conflict, and the 29 standing ovations Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received during an address to the U.S. Congress last May leave little doubt as to why. In an “Arab Attitudes” poll conducted by the Arab American Institute in 2011, Arabs in Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Lebanon ranked “occupation of Palestinian lands” as one of their top two obstacles when asked to identify “the greatest [one] to peace and stability in the Middle East.” The Obama Administration’s cow-towing to Israeli demands likely contributed to overwhelming Arab dissatisfaction with their “handling of the Palestinian issue,” yet it ranked as the most important issue through which Americans could improve their relations with the Arab World. Continuous denial of Palestinian agency, as reflected in recent campaign remarks, damages the United States image and role in the international community, affecting our security and stability as a nation.

The effects of xenophobic, anti-Islamic, and blind pro-Israeli campaign messaging and legislation are felt domestically as well. In a December 16 Boston Globe editorial, former Senator John E. Sununu(R-NH) described Gingrich’s remarks: “His comments were a calculated — but demonstrably false — slander, designed to curry favor with a constituency for which he cares by insulting one for which he does not.” This theme is reflected in public outcry over the Park 51 project in Manhattan, (known in the media as “the Ground Zero mosque”) and more recently was demonstrated through major companies pulling their advertising, en masse, from TLC’s reality show “All American Muslim” in response to pressure from hate groups. To me, the most troubling conclusion one may draw from the flurry of misinformation propagated by politicians is this: the comments are not a reflection of candidates’ individual views, but rather are deliberate attempts to connect with voters. Pandering to constituencies is inevitable, but it is irresponsible when it coordinated bigotry of this ilk contributes to a climate of fear and suspicion of American citizens. Just last month, a University of Illinois law professor of Sri Lankan descent was brutally attacked in a bus station. His attacker mistakenly believed his victim was “Middle Eastern,” reportedly yelling, “this is my country” before jumping the victim and slashing his throat.

In a land built on religious freedom, tolerance, and plurality, GOP presidential candidates seem instead to be adopting a deeply un-American campaign strategy: discrimination and fear-mongering. Such a tactic will not lead to peace and security at home or in the Holy Land. Instead of embracing the status quo and digging heels into a process that continuously falters, GOP candidates and lawmakers alike should consider a wholly new approach: one that favors tolerance, relies on historical fact, and seeks to build trust, rather than sow fear.

Democratization and the Will of the People

“I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. … let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”    MLK JR

Every iteration of strength and hope I can muster I direct towards the people of Libya tonight, and to all my brothers and sister’s under the fist of oppressive regime and brutal dictatorship. I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Cornel West speak two nights ago, and he reminded the audience that, “A blues person is always a long distance runner.” I agree, but the omnipresent spark of  hope in me senses the finish line is just around the corner for the people of the Middle East. Your legs may be weary and heavy, but I urge you to keep pushing. The free world is watching, and we recognize our collective histories in your marches. Ya Yemen, Ya Jordan, Ya Bahrain, Ya Libya, we hear your pleas for freedom, and affirm your right for just governance, even if the governments representing us hide behind policies that support stability over justice. I reject  American hypocrisy and honor the nobility of your activism. Stay strong.


“Mubarak loyalists” my ass…

If Hosni actually wanted to “defend Egypt’s safety and stability and its people’s wishes” he would be on a plane.

Sending out hired thugs to “counter-protest” and incite violence does not reflect the wishes of Egyptians, it reflects and mirrors the last 30 years of your reign. Ya Mubarak, don’t plant looters and chaos, just get out. For over a week now, Egyptians have said it loud and clear: KHALAS, ENOUGH.

Your regime? khalas. Scare tactics? khalas. Thugs? khalas. Corruption? khalas. Police brutality, poverty, indignity, oppression, fear… khalas. As my Teta would say, enough is enough.

Get the hell out Mubarak. Egypt deserves better.


Belated Christmas Commentary

Truly He taught us to love one another

His Law is love and His Gospel is peace

Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother

And in His name all oppression shall cease

I enjoyed Father John Dear’s Christmas message of the potential for peace within Jesus’ birth and His Message for the world:

“I see Jesus as a nonviolent revolutionary who sets in motion God’s peace movement for the disarmament of every heart, every nation and every age. His nonviolent revolution continues to this day and, as participants in it, we celebrate his birth and his revolutionary life.”

Candlelight Christmas Eve services are one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. As flame travels from one candle to another, the sanctuary is illuminated and warmed by the Light, and voices join together and “all is calm, all is bright,” even if it’s but for a few moments, and the “dawn of redeeming grace” seems real.

The experience is one that encourages me; that perhaps the world can be like those candles: slowly warmed to the point of melting, giving light and heat to the notion of hope, warming souls to choose peace.

The childish naivety I cling to always hates having to blow my candle out at the end of the service. I want it to burn forever.

Dona nobis pacem. Merry Christmas.

From the Bottom Up

“University of Michigan students walked out of a speech by an IDF soldier in a potent silent protest Wednesday. No news coverage: how many more unheralded actions unfold daily?” -Abby Zimet

When I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Saree Makdisi a few weeks ago, we discussed the need for grassroots efforts to actually bring about change for the Palestinians. The question posed by Ms. Zimet is a good one. What is important now is for the events to continue; for the protests to grow louder; for BDS to increase and spread, and for media coverage to be accurate and honest.

There can be no peace without justice; nor justice without truth.

we didn’t start the fire

“… we are seeing forces that cannot ultimately be stopped by anyone – until they have wrought the hideous consequences so many zealots on all sides desire.”

Andrew Sullivan discussing the current political and emotional climate.

My heart aches… I seriously pray he is wrong.

As I have grown and sought my education and broadened my global awareness I have watched fundamentalism, literalism, dogmatism, and xenophobia grow globally.

How do we move beyond difference, toward peace?