Moving forward

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Jewish American group rises to the challenge

The link below will allow you to register you concern to President Bush. This link will take you to the work of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. The only Jewish organization that I know of actively looking to end this conflict with reasonable goals for both sides. This is exactly what the Palestinian community needs to mirror. However, coming from the Jewish community, it means much more. I believe it will take this type of activity to make a difference. Knowing that we can all (Jew, Arab, Americans, people all over the world) read it and agree with it, is encouraging.

So, send your message through this link. You don't have to be Jewish. Aliza Becker, Executive Director of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, I commend you!!!

Saffiya Shillo

Monday, January 24, 2005

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Thou Shalt Not Steal
Surely, everyone can understand the eighth of the Ten Commandments relayed to Moses by God to the people on Mount Sinai after they were delivered from slavery in Egypt.

“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God…’

“Thou Shalt not Steal.”

What we are witnessing today, not far from the Sinai is blatant theft of land by the Israeli government. Palestinians now living 20 miles from their homes and properties have been forced out by Israel. The Palestinians are unable to get to their land due to the Wall built by Israel. A Wall built on Palestinian land, not on proper borders.

As reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “The Sharon government implemented the Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem last July, contrary to Israeli government policy… The decision was presented to the prime minister and attorney general and met with their approval, but the decision was not publicized until now and is not listed on the Web site of the Prime Minister's Office.”

This law allows for illegal and immoral theft of property from the rightful and present owners.
The article went on to say, “When East Jerusalem came under Israeli law, then-attorney general Meir Shamgar directed that the law not be applied to West Bank residents who have property in the parts of East Jerusalem that became part of the State of Israel. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reissued that directive in 1993.”

Palestinians are watching their land being stolen right from under them. Via this unlawful law, Israel matter-of-factly steals the land. It’s just absolute theft!

People often wonder why those people in the Middle East have been fighting over land for over 50 years now. Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. The Israeli’s are stealing land owned by Palestinians, and have done so for before. What this creates are more Palestinian refugees. You can cast blame where you want but, ultimately, it is the Israeli's that are stealing land. Right NOW they are displacing Palestinians. Not just by theft but by home demolition as well. You don't have to go back 50 years this time.

These acts are immoral and against all religions and conventions. The silence is deafening.

In America today we take the simple-one message approach. Things are either good or bad; you're either on the side of good or evil. Well, this issue forces us to choose sides and be accountable for the consequences. Why? Because, we sit by and watch our ally, one we support monetarily, a supposed democracy, arrogantly thumb its nose at morality with our help. Security is no excuse.

Palestinians have been owners of the land for thousands of years. Palestinians and Jews have lived as neighbors side by side in peace for thousands of years before the inception of Israel. They are all "people of the book."

The land in East Jerusalem is being stolen NOW. Don’t support it and don’t be a party to it. The result is only more conflict with more children dying on both sides.

The onus is on America to act swiftly and on principle. And, more importantly, Jewish Americans, the Israeli public and Jews all over the world should be outraged and vocal. How can they sit by and allow this to happen. Their image has and will continue to be tarnished worldwide. Their children will continue to live in conflict for years to come because of this. It is the root of evil in this whole conflict.

You cannot steal a person's home and property while they are on it, erase their history and deny them a future. It won’t work. You should not turn a blind eye to it either. No matter how strong your army, your lobby, your influence in mass media… the ugliness and ill-effects will present themselves. The quest for freedom and justice and the will of the Palestinian people cannot be deterred.

We can all register our indignation on this.

Another simple understandable piece to this--the last of the Ten Commandments:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house… or his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your

It has to stop now--for the love of God.

Saffiya Shillo

Saturday, January 15, 2005

24/7 without resolution...

Some days I check my email a little too often than I want.

I am involved in discussion with so many people, American, European, Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, you name it. I feel so wiped out at the end of the day from trying to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I organize events for the Arab community where I live and nine times out of ten I am so beaten up by the community before, during and after the event that I wonder why I even bother.

I just can't give up on my people. I see where we need work and I forgive them but it erks me how they behave. Someone didn't get the spotlight; someone else doesn't like my politics and tells others not to come; someone else doesn't like my friends; others boycott the event because I talk to Jews; some don't like any one of the listed organizers, some organizations won't align with an event because they have class issues or political differences, some don't want to appear involved in any politics, some are afraid of undercover FBI or law enforcement presence; someone else expects a free ride; others want their name all over the event and then don't even show up and/or support it... the list goes on and on.

The problem the Palestinian community faces is their inability to agree or agree to disagree amicably. They are so divided on so many issues that they can't even unite under one message... ending the occupation, justice for the Palestinians. They attack.

Some groups have criteria you have to accept before they can stand together with you or you with them. Some groups require a resume to get in; some a B.A. a Masters, Ph.D. or ; others require you to be rich (with or without the smarts). Almost none require accountability to the people they represent because they don't go grassroots. They have the money and the influence but they don't use it in a manner that can result in success. Oh they have successes here and there, but they tend to be more for the person not the people. Some are understandably afraid to go grassroots. They don't want to invite discourse or the end of all they've worked for. The time to stand up is now. We need role models, mentors, leaders that will stand up for what's right, educate our own on how to move forward and move. All this dialog and never ending anxiety can channel into proactivity through a grassroots movement that speaks for everyone. The elements are already there for the making... it just hasn't clicked yet. We see injustice and we can speak to it but we don't see the damage we do to ourselves and our brethren by not mobilizing together.

Yet, still our children are dying, people are suffering, my Uncle in the West Bank can't get to the doctor for his medicine, my cousin wastes away in prison for trying to get to work while his baby is born without a doctor under curfew... horrific loss of life and homelessness abounds the people--my people. As I go on from the comfort of my home feeling bad about not being able to do more and being able to live my life in freedom, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Where can I do more, why am I not taken seriously, why can't I get people to listen? Why can't WE do more, why can't WE come together, why don't WE use our affluence and influence to the betterment not detriment of our people? Why? Why has it taken so long to get where we are and we still need to go so much further?

Saffiya Shillo

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Palestinians Moving Forward

The Palestinian people have elected a new President. That tells the world that under the duress of a brutal occupation and against all odds, the Palestinian people's will to prosper cannot be defeated.

If you live in the U.S. you will never get a fair account of their story and daily struggles.

I know, the Palestinian people want a better life; they want peace; they want an end to the death and destruction of their lives and future. They voted for a candidate whose message was no violence. Resistance and violence are two separte issues that have been blurred by hate. Security is also no excuse to use inhumane violence against anyone.

As I see it, the Palestinians are under a brutal occupation and ordinary day to day life is difficult so they are reluctant to say anything against supporters of violence. They did speak up at the ballot box. I don't believe there was any corruption within the voting system that took place... nothing that would have rendered a different outcome.

I am Palestinian and have family there that I am in contact with. One way to help remedy the situation should involve a trusted Palestinian leadership connected globally that educates their own first about how to be vocal, organize and defend their just cause. This movement requires a strong base in Palestine and U.S.--where changing the way things are done to effect change can effect results. The movement will not exclude Palestinians all over the world. It requires unification under a strong, clear and solid message. How that message is delivered from within and to the outside world is key.

People need to allow good leadership to lead and recognize that peace with justice requires a willingness to compromise for a better life. What is, is. We cannot change the past. We can make a better life and prosper. It's not enough to express regret and condemnation among ourselves when things go wrong. We have to work to change things.

The violence over the past several years has taken away the essence of our just cause. No matter what your feelings about the violence--it has been instrumental in skewing the facts, blurring the cause and creating strife from within but most of all it results in the homelessness and killing of more of our children. We suffer more. There is no excuse for killing innocent people no matter who they are Israeli or Palestinian--no more children should die. NO MORE CHILDREN SHOULD DIE! What does it take to move a people to effectively make change happen?

As Palestinians, we need to work on ourselves first in order to be effective and create a movement globally with one message. I meet and talk with Palestinians, young and old, all over the world. They are all looking to shed the fear of speaking out but have no vehicle to do so.

In addition, I have been in contact with many Palestinian leaders and organizations that have what it takes. However, something is always holding them back. It saddens and frustrates me. I know exactly what it is that holds us back and I'll write more about it in my next piece. v

Saffiya Shillo