Sep 28, 2023
Sep 4, 2023
Having traveled over the past month in 12 states plus the District of Columbia, given 45 talks and met hundreds of good people (most for the first time), Jessie and I have a few observations. Some of our views were held before, some sharpened, some new. Our talks and conversations emphasize biological diversity, agricultural diversity and human diversity (hence by nature opposing colonialism, zionism, imperialism, racism). We also emphasize joint struggle for a more peaceful and sustainable planet. Our work in Palestine exemplifies this global growing power (e.g. http://palestinenature.org).
Aug 27, 2023
I can not begin to describe how grateful Jessie and I are for the hospitality, positive interest and support we received as we undergo a whirlwind tour of the US. 12 States (NY, CT, MA, DE, MD, VA, OH, MI, IN, AZ, CA, FL) and the DC area included some 45 talks over a little less than 5 weeks. So many great people and organizations hosting us. Organizing events is hard work so we thank those who organized events (many events also offered attendees food so that is lots of work). We thank those who attended the events. We thank those who hosted us in their homes allowing us to disrupt their lives and making us feel at home. We thank those who donated money and resources (in kind donations). We love you all. For those who could not come or are so inclined, we would love to get your support. Go to http://palestinenature.org/donations or http://palestinenature.org/volunteer Below are selected photos from some of our activities. And here is a partial list of groups and entities that hosted us
Middle East Crisis Committee; Palestinian Museum-Woodbridge, WESPAC-NY, Community Church of Boston , Jewish Voice for Peace, Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, Smithsonian Institution, Purdue University, Arizona Palestine Group, United Methodist Church, Jerusalem Fund, Bethlehem University Foundation, Rotary Clubs in several states, WSLR, KPFK, UC Berkeley among many others.
Jul 14, 2023
And he answered:
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 tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need by need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have—and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes. He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, or receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life—while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers—and you are all receivers—assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.
Jul 3, 2023
The past 30 hours, Israeli occupation and apartheid forces invaded the city of Jenin including the Jenin Refugee camp. They bulldozed streets and electricity and water infrastructure. They prevented ambulances and attacked he press. Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. A second etic cleansing for them. Our people are refused international protection and as before, Israeli atrocities are done with western and Arab world complicity. The few "statements" issued by some governments to express "concern" are satisfactory to the Israeli oppressors. While the Western powers hypcritically give billions of aid to Ukraine against Russia for occupying part of its territory, the same powers support the occupiers of Palestine. They support apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
I would like to make a personal reflection here. I am 66 years old and has spent all my adult life working for the cause of freedom, A vision of sustainable human and natural communities. Hope is indispensable because we cannot afford despair. Empowerment is far more challenging because it implies work on conviction. IWe find it most challenging to get enough people empowered to effect the change needed. Once empowered people engage and use methods they deem most effective to get the desired results. I discussed hundreds of methods people used here, most of them not armed, in my book "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment". I also engaged myself in dozens of popular resistance methods. For the past 9 years my wife and I have been volunteering full time (and 7 days a week) building up from scratch a "Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability. It is an oasis of hope and of sanity in the middle of mayhem. It is a candle in the darkness. I do not want you to have the illusion that we are 100% sure of our way. Doubts and uncertainty abound especially in difficult times which we face a lot and in times of crisis like this one with Jenin. For example, how certain are we (at a personal level) that our way is the right way when the Israeli regime has been bombarding us for 75 years, has caused 8 million refugees or displaced people? Was John F. Kennedy right to say “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”? Is there a survival of the meanest and the most wicked in this crazy world? Are the majority of Palestinians infected with mental colonization that immobilizes them (I wrote a chapter on this in a book on post-colonialism)? How many people have discipline and a work ethic and a commitment to make this a better world? How many people have "enlightened self interest" rather than narrow and foolish self-interest? Are my expectations of myself and those around me higher or lower than it should be? Last night as I pondered these and other questions in a sleepless night, I realized that I do not have many answers and what answers I have, they can only apply to me (afterall, we can only change ourselves in reality).
A blog I posted in late 2014 about life and how we live
B’Tselem Conquer and divide https://conquer-and-divide.btselem.org/
Palestine video 1938 https://www.facebook.com/watch?v=274064935115571
Palestinians are in Israel's cross hairs because they are not Jews
The Hindu Nationalists Using The Pro-Israel Playbook
Bill Clinton Lied—And So Did Everyone Else: A Mystery Solved in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Apr 10, 2023
On this day, Rachel Corrie’s Birthday, I reflected on her message which mentions loneliness (see message below). In my 65 years on this earth I talked to more than 120,000 people and I continue to find difficulty understanding connectivity and loneliness. The Beatles' song "look at all the lonely people" plays in my head with every encounter. “We feel alone, and in this we are connected” said Leo Babauta. In other words, everyone at some level is lonely. While many are reluctant to admit it: we are lonely even when we are surrounded by friends, a lover, and family.As a biologist and at an intellectual level, I can understand that. While we (Homo sapiens) evolved as a social species, our genome and chromosomes produce variations and characters that ensure uniqueness and individuality. This is both a blessing and a curse. Of course there are variations among people in behaviours and even in levels of feeling lonely. How different people react to their circumstances is also shaped by their background and upbringing. Being adored or being popular does not free you from loneliness. Stars and celebrities all feel loneliness and their mind may react to it in different ways generating behaviours ranging from self-destruction to charity. How many stars went down the path of self destruction (Elvis Pressly, Marilyn Monroe etc.)? On the other end of the spectrum we find people like Danny Thomas ("make room for Daddy") who went on to establish St Jude Children Research Hospital (where I worked in cancer research for two years meeting him three times before he died and old and happy man. My conversations with him as with Edward Said and many other "famous" people taught me that the most important aspect is to remain humble, to remain curious, to remain a student of life. This does not save you from loneliness. It does shed a new light on loneliness. Recognizing that we humans have a biological need for acceptance and validation, our mind and attitude can deal with this and manage it by inward reflection. The Buddhist philosophy says to mediate and be still. Be like water which seeks the lowest places yet can erode and shape rocks. But even when we feel pain, our Buddhist friends tell us: embrace it and do not fight it. It is part of you. Many religions even encourage followers to endure pain (such as pain of hunger when fasting) by keeping an eye for the goal. But we do not have to believe in heaven and hell (carrots and sticks) to do what all know is right (and not do what is wrong).
Loneliness is not the same as being alone or solitude. Loneliness can be turned around. It has to do with choice. You can take time alone (whether because you choose or because you are forced ) to learn from books, reading poems, reflecting on what you want to do next, and even to forgive yourself (we all have our sins to atone for including the sin of wasting time vegetating and being sorrowful!). Getting out of depressive loneliness like any other negative emotion (fear, hate, guilt) requires practice and mind "management." The only minds we can actually (& thankfully) control are our own minds. When I visited Mumbai many years ago I saw thousands of people in abject poverty on the streets. One image still etched in my mind: a family, father, mother, two children sprawled at 11 PM semi naked on card boads on a street with a cell phone that they were watching and laughing (their own TV). The sound of that laughter never leaves me. It is the same laughter I heard from Children at a Palestinian refugee camp who invited me to share a meager meal with them (hummus, zait and zaatar and bread). It was the jokes and laughter I heard from Palestinian prisoners sharing a cell with them (even though it was for one night, and I feld crushed to leave them). When I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I need to remember those times and places where hope, kindness, love, and camaraderie was shown. Those memories sustain us when we are alone (by choice or not) and certainly can pull us out of the loneliness (even that which happens when we are surrounded by people). I end with the words of our friend Rachel Corrie who wrote in January 2003 (two months before she was murdered by the Israeli occupation army):
"We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone. What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing? If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality. And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless. This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges. I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly. I can wash dishes...."
Rachel changed millions of minds and hearts… that is something to celebrate on her birthday (she would have been 44 today) …..
The rose that grew from concrete: Palestinian refugees in Jordan 'green' their camps to resist: https://www.newarab.com/features/palestinian-refugees-jordan-green-their-camps-resist
American held by Israeli occupation
Voices of the Silenced Majority
For first time more US democrats sympathize with Palestinians than Israelis according to Gallup poll https://news.yahoo.com/more-democrats-sympathize-palestinians-israelis-145542815.html
Feb 21, 2023
Last week I shared one inspiring story on my blog on my mother. This week, I share another two stories, one a bit controversial. You can read my reflections about Jimmy Carter and about Al-Haq (a Palestinian brilliant human rights organization) below.
President Jimmy Carter born 1924 whose mother was a nurse and father ran a general store in Plains, Georgia. It is hard to sum up his achievements in 99 years (he was just checked into a hospice). Racist Zionists vilified him for writing a book called “Israel: Peace not apartheid”. But let me leave this aside for few more sentences. Carter grew up in the great depression among African Americans greatly discriminated against, served in the navy, and became a peanut farmer in Georgia. Deciding to run for office to give him a platform to speak against racial discrimination. He succeeded and was inspired by John F. Kennedy (a president who was likely assassinated by the deep state as was his brother).
John F. Kennedy, tried to force Israeli lobbyist in the US to register as foreign agents (per the law) and to prevent Israel from developing nuclear weapons. To this day, many Palestinians in refugee camps still have JFKs pictures hanging in their homes. Carter became governor in 1971 but did it by employing what many considered unethical attacks on his opponent to gain the “white vote”. On Zionist David Rockefeller's endorsement, he was named to the Trilateral Commission in April 1973 and ran successfully for President in 1976. His inconsistent positions and trying to straddle the fence to pleas conservatives while losing liberals caught-up with him and he lost the election to Ronald Reagan in 1980. I think had he served a second term in office he would have rectified his mistakes. He tried to do that out of office. For example while in office he presided over a so called “peace agreement: between Israel and Egypt which basically sold out the Palestinians, strengthened the Egyptian dictatorship, limited Egyptian people access to their own lands, sent $billions more to Israel every year since, and resulted in removing Sinai Bedouins. Historian Jørgen Jensehaugen argues that by the time Carter left office in January 1981, he was "in an odd position—he had attempted to break with traditional U.S. policy but ended up fulfilling the goals of that tradition, which had been to break up the Arab alliance, side-line the Palestinians, build an alliance with Egypt, weaken the Soviet Union and secure Israel." It was the beginning of the normalization of an apartheid system that strengthened the right wing in Israel and led directly to what we see happening today in “Israel” (including a fascist government).
Carter's efforts at fixing things after he left office by speaking out for human rights where paved with good intentions but limited capacity. As the Democratic Party continued to follow the failing strategy of bargaining human righst to cater to Zionist funders (estimates of over half its funding come from Zionists). Carter is a ky figure in Habitat For Humanity (https://www.habitat.org/) and over a dozen other charities that help the poor and disenfranchised, The story of Jimmy Carter is the story of all politicians (and all of us): an angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other egging them on. I am reminded of the story of the old native American asked by a grandchild about good and evil. He answered that inside every person there is a good wolf and a bad wolf continuously fighting. The child asks which one wins. The old man answered “the one you feed”. Carter’s good wolf was fed well especially in the second half of his life. It is a lesson to learn from.
Now for an inspiring organization I wanted to also highlight here (most of the below is also from their website https://www.alhaq.org/. Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization, It was established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Al-Haq documents violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable. The organization does advocacy before local, regional and international bodies and works with governmental and non-governmental bodies to ensure that international human rights standards are reflected in Palestinian law and policies. Al-Haq is the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists - Geneva and is a member of the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PRHOC), and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). For its work in protecting and promoting human rights, the organization has been awarded the Fayez A. Sayegh Memorial Award, the Rothko Chapel Award for Commitment to Truth and Freedom, The Carter-Menil Human Rights Foundation Prize, the Geuzenpenning Prize for Human Rights Defenders, the Welfare Association’s NGO Achievement Award, The Danish PL Foundation Human Rights Award, the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic, the Human Rights and Business Award, the Bruno Kreisky Prize in 2022 and the MESA Academic Freedom Award 2022.
Professor Lynn Welchman published a book titled “Al-Haq: A Global History of the First Palestinian Human Rights Organization” - (University of California Press, 2021 - New Directions in Palestinian Studies). Read the publication in full at https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520379756/al-haq For the same activities Al-Haq was vilified by the Israeli occupiers reaching the point of banning travel of organization leaders and then in October 2021 declaring Al-Haq “illegal” with other organizations (see https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/19384.html).
I used their publications regularly in our own group’s work on human rights and environmental justice. Here is a recent publication so you can see their rigorous and very useful scholarship: Al-Haq 2022. Corporate Liability: The Right to Water and the War Crime of Pillage. https://www.alhaq.org/publications/20995.html