Hannahreports on Zionism: “1948 is a tragedy happening today”


Richard Moore

From: "Judith" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: RE: [hannahreports] 1948, every day
Date: Sun, 2 Jul 2006 02:55:54 -0400

Hannah Mermelstein, a young woman spoke at the Woodstock Library about her trips
to Palestine and her organization, Birthright Unplugged which brings young 
people to Palestine as a counter measure to Birthright, which fully funds trips 
of Jews to Israel while denying the birthright of Palestinians whose families 
have lived on the land for generations. J.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hannah Mermelstein [mailto:•••@••.•••]
Sent: Friday, June 30, 2006 2:43 AM
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: [hannahreports] 1948, every day
For photographs of the past couple weeks:

June 29, 2006

Dear friends,

After a week of traveling with a Birthright Unplugged group, I'm sitting in a 
beautiful apartment in Ramallah, watching the BBC report about Israeli 
incursions into Gaza.

And staring at a blank computer screen.

What is happening to the Palestinian people is so wrong, so clearly wrong, that 
it's hard to know what to say.

Because I can't just start at the Israeli bombings and cutting of electricity, 
food, and water, and the abduction of more than 25 Palestinian parliament 
members and a third of the cabinet, which is in response to the killing of two 
Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of one, which was in response to the killing
of dozens of Palestinian civilians, including Huda's family on the beach.

I can't just start at the lack of salaries for one third of the Palestinian 
population, which is a result of the government having no money to pay its 
workers, which is a result of the banks refusing to transfer money into 
Palestine, which is a result of the United States' direct threats to banks and 
the rest of the world's complicity in that, as well as the worldwide boycott 
against the democratically elected Palestinian government.

I can't just start at the world's unequal and mostly unconditional support for 
Israel, the media's participation in the propaganda war, the fact that the law 
of force has consistently trumped the force of law, as a Palestinian friend 
often says.

I can't just start at Israel's refusal to engage in real negotiations with 
Palestinians over the years, the constant expansion of settlements and working 
out of agreements with the US that are then offered to Palestinian negotiators 
on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

I can't just start at the military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and 
East Jerusalem in 1967, which continues until today.

The truth is that 1948 is a tragedy unfolding every day.  The expulsion of at 
least 800,000 indigenous people from their land, and the establishment of a 
state based on religion and ethnicity, is an injustice that plays out in each 
moment of each day in this land.

This is not a political doctrine.  This is not rhetoric.  When I say that the 
events of 1948 continue to unfold each day, it is not a figure of speech.  
Yesterday I sat in the living room of a man who was in first grade when Zionist 
forces came to the outskirts of his village and began to shoot. He recalls 
bullets flying over his head, the killing of two of the village's residents and 
the resulting fleeing of the rest.  He remembers his father gathering up the 
family and the donkeys and leaving their ancestral lands, only to flee a few 
kilometers to where he now lives, as an Israeli citizen with fewer rights than 
other Israeli citizens because of the simple fact that he is not Jewish.  He 
spoke about the land in the village, the places he played at 6 years old, and 
his eyes welled up with tears.

We then went to visit his village, Al Lajun, which has been taken over by 
Kibbutz Megiddo.  We walked with him and two men in their 80s, along paths whose
stones had been the stones of the houses.  Each place we walked, one of these 
men, who were in their 20s in 1948, would point and say, this is where the 
Jabrin family lived, this is where Mahajne lived, this is where Mahamid lived.  
The pomegranate tree remains, the cactus remains, but the rubble from the houses
has been flattened into the landscape and covered over with pine trees planted 
by the Jewish National Fund.

The people from this village, even those who are Israeli citizens living just 10
minutes away, are disallowed from returning to their land.  1948 is a tragedy 
happening today.

I sit in refugee camps with people who dream of having the right to choose where
they live.  1948 is a tragedy happening today.

I find myself in a conversation with a Jewish Israeli man who runs a restaurant 
and bar in a building that used to be a mosque.  He knows the village's history,
he knows that the former inhabitants of the village, the builders of the 
village, live just up the hill in a new village unrecognized by the Israeli 
government.  He knows all this and he says that the past is past, that we must 
think about the future.  Which is what most people with power say.  After you 
have stolen something, after an injustice in which force has made you the 
"winner" and someone else the "loser," it makes sense that you would want to 
forget the past.  1948 is a tragedy happening today.

So as the Israeli tanks assemble on the borders of Gaza and begin a massive 
incursion, I think also of Adnan's tears as he remembers a pre-Israeli incursion
into his own village.  And I wonder how we can talk about one thing without 
talking about everything.  And yet I wonder how we can deal with anything when 
we're trying to deal with everything.  The state of Israel will not become 
secular or democratic by tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year.  
How do we stop this incursion into Gaza, or the next one, or the starvation of 
the Palestinian people by the world community?

I don't have clear answers.  I've been pondering effectiveness and frustrated 
with myself and the Palestine solidarity community for not figuring out how to 
mount an effective campaign about anything.  Because things here only get worse 
and worse for the Palestinian people, and the Israeli government is quite 
skilled at keeping the Palestinian community in crisis mode.  And the rest of us
in reaction mode.  So if Israel kills dozens of people in Gaza in the next few 
days, and then they stop, the world will thank them for stopping, justify 
collective punishment, and forget about anything that happened before.

So what can we do?  In general, we need more creative and public actions, 
everywhere, to draw attention to the political crisis here that has led to a 
humanitarian crisis.

In the short term, let's figure out how to get money here.  Friends who have 
never asked me for anything before are starting to ask if I can help them or 
find others to do so.  I have a critique of aid work and bandaid solutions both 
in theory and in practice, but when my friends can't afford food and medicine, 
I'm not sure whether this critique can stand.

In the long term, please please please figure out how to isolate Israel from the
world community, to force them to stop what they're doing.  I think the 
boycott/sanctions/divestment movement has some potential.  It has worked in 
other places.  Pressure your local supermarkets to stop buying Israeli goods or 
at least to label them so that consumers can choose which oranges to buy. 
Pressure your universities, religious institutions, companies, and 
municipalities to stop investing in Israel Bonds, Israeli companies, or American
companies like Caterpillar who continue to supply Israel with weapons.  Pressure
the US government to let the banks transfer money into Palestine, to pay the 
public school teachers and all other government employees who have been working 
without pay for 4 months.

And if you have any creative ideas, please let me know.  We can work together.


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