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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Past Shows


Friends Don't Let Friends Condone Genocide

January 11, 2009

3P-009 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the ninth episode of Third Paradigm, entitled "Friends Don't Let Friends Condone Genocide". We'll start this week's show by looking at what policy and media watchdog groups are saying about Gaza. Although a more important point is what the mainstream media isn't saying. I get more news via Peru than in the newspapers. My friend there sent an email with many graphic photos, which I showed to my High School student group. They were stunned. One said they'd just watched a class film on Rwanda and the students were outraged, wondering where everyone was at the time. She wanted to shout, "This is happening now, open your eyes, what are you doing?" But what shocked them even more were the maps showing how Israel has consumed Palestine down to the final crumbs. A picture's worth a thousand words and I guess a scripture of entitlement is worth a million lives. My 10-yr-old daughter's friend told her that in Hebrew school they were taught that giants had lived in Israel before them. They were good giants, but they died off, leaving the land to the Jews. My daughter asked if she believed in giants, and the other girl said "not really." "Well then," my daughter answered, "I think what I'm saying about bombs is a little more factical."

We'll look more at what's mythical and what's factical in the news on Gaza, but first, we'll start with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, which she dedicates to her daughter and I dedicate in my reading to the victims in Gaza:


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~,category,MusingsandRamblings.aspx
From Words From Under the Words: Selected Poems

Naomi Shihab Nye has a Palestinian father and an American mother. During High School, she lived in Ramallah, Jordan, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas. If you go to YouTube, you can find two other excellent poems "Blood" and "Walking Past the Refugee Camp." They're written on top of slideshows set to music, and are a little difficult to read, but the photos are worth the extra effort to discern the words.

Over the Christmas break, I called some of my Jewish friends and asked what they knew about the attack on Gaza. Some of the responses were gratifying, others not so much. Some agree readily that those who are Jewish have a responsibility to know the facts and speak up. They are embarrassed not to have been better informed and ask where they can go. One source I recommend is an NGO called ANERA – American Near East Refugee Aid – whose last email reads "Gaza was already a humanitarian crisis – now it's a nightmare." They've added a page to their website that compares the UN statistics on Gaza before and after the bombardment, demonstrating that it's gone from worse to unimaginably awful.

Another useful site has been FAIR – Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. It cites headlines and quotes from USA Today, NBC, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News and the NY Times, then shows how they're contradicted by data from the UN, humanitarian groups, their own reports, and official Israeli data.

An excellent NY Times Op-Ed, for instance, is by Rashid Khalidi, called "What You Don't Know About Gaza." I found out that 1 out of 4 Palestinians in Israel lives in Gaza, which is 1.5 million people living on 1.5% of the land. At 20,000 people per square mile, it's one of the most densely populated regions of the world. Three quarters of residents are refugees who've been herded there by the Israeli army. Over half of the refugees live in eight refugee camps. Half of the entire population are under 18, which makes 750,000 children. For motives on the attack, Khalidi quotes a former Israeli Defense chief: "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people."

A foremost authority on the topic is Phyllis Bennis, from the Institute for Policy Studies. On their website, she has talking points on US complicity and the Israeli violations of international law. For instance, the Geneva Convention obligates an Occupying Power to protect an Occupied Population, and prohibits collective punishment. Palestinians, like any people living under a hostile military occupation, have the right of armed resistance, but that doesn't include firing on unarmed civilians. Although the low-budget Hamas rockets can't be aimed, no Israeli had been killed by one in over a year until after Israel attacked. On the other hand, Israel receives $3 billion a year in taxpayer-funded military aid from the US. Last year, the US signed a $1.3 billion dollar contract with Raytheon for thousands of Israeli Hellfire and bunker-buster missiles. These have sophisticated targeting devices, so when the UN provides the coordinates for elementary schools where 1000 refugees are concentrated, their aim is precise. I've ordered Phyllis Bennis' book Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: which is a primer in question and answer format, so I can understand the history and context better.

In addition to ANERA, the nonprofit I've chosen for my own support is Grassroots International. Rather than having their own people on the ground, they find local community-run organizations. Their Gaza partners include:

  • The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). PARC's urban gardening projects promote food security for refugee communities. The destruction of more than 80 multi-family apartment buildings in Gaza means that PARC will need to rebuild and rehabilitate their rooftop gardens.
  • The Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) responds to escalating mental health needs resulting from the stress of occupation and violence for Gaza's traumatized population. On December 30th, shelling significantly damaged their building, forcing them to suspend services.
  • The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR ) monitors violations by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities. Its lawyers defend victims of human rights abuses, illegal detention and torture.
  • The Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) is the largest NGO healthcare agency in the Occupied Territories. Grassroots recently facilitated, in conjunction with ANERA, a shipment of $4.5 million in medical supplies. But hospitals and clinics that haven't been destroyed by the violence lack access to even clean water and electricity.

I also just joined The Campaign for Labor Rights' working group on Gaza. Through them, the Palestinian Farmer's Union sends this appeal to the Int'l comm.:


An Appeal for help from the Palestinian Farmers Union for all living consciences of the world.

At the time we try to pull together our wounds, our voices are calling for help and support. We in the Palestinian Farmers Union appeal to all our brothers in the farmers and peasants Unions, we also appeal to all international organizations and solidarity with Palestinians organizations to work to stop the massacre, to stop the siege and to help and assist the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, for what they are facing steadfastly of Barbarian fierce attack by the Israeli occupation forces, as this aggressive bombardment reached children, women and the elders and even trees and stones.

We are in the provinces of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, are living these days a state of panic and shock to the size of the heinous crime committed by the Israeli occupying authorities against the defenseless Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and what we appeal to the brothers and friends in the world is to work on:

  1. The organization of marches of solidarity with the Palestinian people and demand the world to intervene to stop Israeli aggressions against the Palestinian people.
  2. To expedite the provision of financial support and in-kind for the benefit of the Gaza Strip.

It is essential that right will win at the end and injustice will vanish.

From your brothers and friends in the Palestinian Farmers Union

In solidarity that right will win and injustice will vanish, we'll break for a hopeful song by David Rovics which I dedicate as a reminder to Palestinians, Israelis, and pro-Israeli Jewish-Americans that there will be an "after."

[David Rovics – What If You Knew]

My prediction for 2009 is that Israel will be the straw that breaks the empire's back. The US is already buckling and reeling, although we're determined to go down with a sneer on our face. The President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d'Escoto, has said that Israel proves that the Security Council protects privileged interests and not human rights. But now that even privileged interests are losing money on our dollars, I suspect that they'll soon take the high road and blame the atrocities on us.

When this event is seen in the long view of history and the wide view of the world, how will pro-Israel Jews answer their grandchildren who ask, "What side were you on, Grandma, when our faith in equality was tested?" Will they reject a scripture that values a piece of property ahead of human lives? If I have a scripture that says God gives me my own room, Grandma, do I get it?

Israel is like someone who uses a wounded child to gain entry into a house. But as soon as they're in, they pull out a gun and force the family into the closet. After 41 years, they're now pulling them out and killing them one by one - elders, fathers, mothers, and for every third victim, a child. I've asked my Jewish friends how Israel came to be. As they've explained it, the feeling was that Jews couldn't reclaim their original homes and live in mixed societies after what their neighbors had done. So those who profited were, I guess, left with their spoils while a neutral person's land was taken – two wrongs making two wrongs.

So doesn't the same logic now hold for Palestinians? Why should a permanent UN peacekeeping force be brought in, as liberals suggest? Isn't that like moving a police officer into the house to stand guard between the imprisoned family and the usurper? Israel has proven itself untrustworthy. It seems only fair that those who refuse to fight be the only ones allowed to stay. For the rest of the evicted Israelis, pro-Israel Jewish-Americans should be compelled to take them into their own homes. With what they save on housing, they can pay a reparation tax to rebuild, replant, and counsel the traumatized Palestinian children.

The analogy that David brings up is one I ask my Jewish friends – was the Holocaust only wrong because it was your people? Would it have not been wrong if you'd been on the other side? On the playground, I asked a Jewish mom what she thought of the events in Gaza. She said that she was avoiding the news because it made her anxious about people she knew there. "Oh," I said, "Palestinians? Or do the six Israelis killed bother you, rather than the 600 Palestinians?" She said she didn't want to talk about it, but I kept going, saying, "You have to make a decision. Do you stand with the Nazis or with the Jews, who happen, in this case, to be Palestinian." The guy next to her cut in, "She said she doesn't want to talk about it. You have to go away now."

To put his statement in another context, he was saying, "The nice German lady doesn't want to hear about the concentration camps. You leave her alone." I know that I'm being rude and obnoxious, but I have to ask – if my children and I were the ones in the ghetto with no food, no clean water, no gas for heat or cooking, no medicine, and nowhere to hide from the bombs, would you be polite? Would you say, "Gee, I'd like to be your spokesperson, here in the open air, but I can't force it on people who don't want to hear. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. It would be wrong of me to judge."

I have to ask the pro-Israeli parents of my daughters' friends, "If my daughter had the courage of a Rachel Corrie to stand in front of the bulldozers, would your daughter run her over?" Is it only the roles that we're in that protect me from you? If you're willing to condone something by proxy when no one's forcing you to, what are the chances that you'd refuse to do it if we were born into the direct roles? Would my child's doctor supervise my torture, making sure I lived to feel more pain? Would I be alone in the dark, my daughter dying in my arms, knowing that for you, life was going on, dinner plans being made, the news turned off, anxiety medicine taken? These are real questions that every Jewish-American is answering in the affirmative if they don't take a stand. Whatever you condone doing to someone else with your silence, you'd do to me and mine if the roles we were born into were different. But here on the playground, you're the civilized, innocent victim and I'm the ranting madwoman.

My 16-yr-old daughter is much smarter and more temperate than me. When her Jewish friends talk about the war, she innocently asks, "What war?" When they tell her about Hamas rockets, she answers with statistics on the death counts. But she also invites them to bring her their articles because she wants to know more. Then she can exchange information point by point and ask them to show her where her data's wrong. I'm glad that people like her are inheriting the world because I have a hard time making nice, as the Dixie Chicks would say.

Many of the Jews I know feel that ordinary German citizens, who didn't do anything directly to the Jews, are still responsible. Some have told me that they feel guilt should be borne to the third generation – those who hadn't been born yet. But I'm more reserved in my blame for the ordinary German for the same reason that I'm reserved in my blame for the ordinary Israeli – because I know myself to be a coward. If siding with the Palestinians meant that I'd be in prison, at the mercy of Israeli guards, and separated from my children, I don't know if I could do it. If it meant that my children could be killed or imprisoned, I wouldn't want them to be heroes. The greater the potential consequences are, the less I feel that I can judge.

But Jewish-Americans bear the full brunt of their freedom. With freedom of information, there's nothing stopping them from finding all the sources I just mentioned – my Jewish friends certainly know how to research. With freedom of speech and association, they can talk and question, even in the synogogue. I'm not a friend to them if I allow the rest of their lives to be burdened with a guilt they can no longer do anything about. They're not a friend to Israelis if they allow them to be used as a US mini-me in a proxy resource war. This has cost them their reputation, and may lose them their right to stay. The legacy of international sympathy for post-Holocaust Jews is being erased for their children's generation. No matter which way you choose to do it, talk to your Jewish friends. Would you let a friend do something that they'll regret for the rest of their lives? Friends don't let friends condone genocide. This is Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm, produced and edited by Skidmark Bob.

[U2 – In the Name of Love]

Thanks for listening.