Friday, December 28, 2007

Assassinations of those who represent change have marked my time in this moment of human history--Mahtama Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Salvatore Allende, Anna Politkiovskaya, Indira Gandi, Anwar al-Sadat, Yitzah Rabin and now Benazir Bhutto. Allende, my first experience with what some governments call "targeted assassinations," political erasure through the barrel of a gun or the belly of a plane, the determined campaign to break the spirit of a people and then, our invention of mass assassinations, called "ethnic cleansing," the whole century marked by some of us slaughtering large unwanted groups of other of us. The planet warms under us, as hot as our mutual antagonisms. Surely as a species, we have set a poor example. With all the god talk and supplications, we simply cannot stop killing each other. I do not mean that our cruelties are our biological destiny, but across this shattered globe, we have done our best to make sure that most of us have the least reason to pursue joy. Hunger, untreated illness, barricades of all kinds to protect profits of all kinds, borders just porous enough to let in cheap and desperate laborers, but sound-proofed against laughter. Oh Joan, there you go again, as so many of us do now--once the subject of Swift's broken heart is raised--man's inhumanity to man--we mourn the connection between the heart and mind, the litany of cruelties is too long and to know is to weep but then always, to act. And to act if one is a Russian or Iraqi journalist or an artist or a woman or a queer or a nonbeliever or a dissenter from the scripts of corporate and national power, is to court, for some, small assassinations and for others, the bullet in the head.
How expert we have become in building prisons, walls, check points, guard posts, interrogation cubicles, how frenzied our politicians rush to assure their constituencies that foreign workers are not really human, but aliens who must never under any circumstance be allowed the trappings of decency--keep them on their knees, in the shadows, on the edges, in the fields, under the machines of commerce, in the shiny kitchens, in the children's bedrooms, on the edge of their cots where they hug their stomach pains close because any revelation of their body's needs will stop the dollar from reaching their own desperate families. Perhaps I have just been away to long, perhaps I am not reading or hearing the right news, but it seems the more punishing the candidate promises to be, the louder the populace cheers. Perhaps because I have stood frozen at a border, my lover on one side and I on the other, waiting for the man in the uniform to make his decision about our future, I over relate to the border-stricken, or perhaps it is just empathy, an imagined knowledge of our human hearts.
On December 18, I read in the New York Times, "Gays Living in Shadows of New Iraq," by Cara Buckley and I had been reading of the Muslim women killed in newly "calm" provinces and of the Saudi Arabian woman who was raped and then ordered to receive lashes for her crime--an order which rescinded and the story of the man who took it upon himself to murder many women who worked as prostitutes and bury them in his backyard and all the other stories that tell us that many women all over this heated up earth are aliens, exiles from human care. ..."Being openly gay is not an option in the new Iraq, where the rise of religious extremism has left Mohammed and his gay friends feeling especially vilified." (Buckley) As I read Buckley's short article of this small moment in a huge national tragedy, I heard again Lepa's words, her question to me, "Joan, what happens to lesbians and gay people in wartime, to their desire?" What happens to women, undomesticated and well as wives and mothers during wartime, their desires? What happens to artists with all their quirky ways and unwanted visions during wartime? Oh my queer ones, you will find ways to hide as we have always done, you will pack away your colors and perfumes and strong clothing, your longings for love in the sun, and no Friedman or Brooks will write columns about your losses, but never again will I not see your face, your bodies in the war torn streets, I will look for you at the borders, in the cubicles, at the check points, against the walls of all governments; as my friend Allan Berube did, in wars of the past, telling your stories while others never saw you. On all sides where god talk reigns, we are the hunted ones.
"One night shortly after Saddam Hussein fell, American soldiers burst into the apartment that Mohammed shared with his two brothers. They were looking for insurgents, but took one look at Mohammed, with his long hair and shapely body wrapped in a robe, and teased him, he said.
'What are you, a lady man?' He remembered them barking. 'A Boy? Or a girl?' The turned to one of Mohammed's brothers, 'Who is this?' they asked, 'Your girlfriend?"
The news raced through Mohammed's building. 'All my neighbors came to know that I was gay,' he said. 'My brother said, Mohammed, leave the house; you can't live here anymore.'"
Thank you, Cara Buckley, for seeing a human story where no one else has.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So what have we done to them

By Nehemia Shtrasler

An old Jewish joke tells of a devoted mother who briefs her son before he sets out to battle: "Kill a Turk and rest," she advises. But the son asks: "And what happens if in fact the Turk tries to kill me?" She opens her eyes wide in surprise: "Why would he want to kill you? What have you done to him?" This is exactly the kind of self-righteousness that accompanies our attitude toward the Palestinians. It is evident in the reports on the television, radio and in the newspapers - which paint only a partial picture of the conflict. Because when considerations of ratings and just plain cowardice determine coverage, the information the public gets is biased. In this way an extremist public opinion is created, which believes that all of the justice is on our side only, because "what have we done to them?" Last Wednesday, the media reported the severe rocket attack on Sderot. Twenty rockets landed on the city and Mayor Eli Moyal resigned on live radio. The broadcasts, on all three television channels, were dramatic. Reporters interviewed furious residents who demanded immediate and harsh military action in the Gaza Strip. One of the Qassams hit the home of Aliza Amar, and she was taken in moderate condition to Barzilai Medical center in Ashkelon. It is clear that the situation in Sderot and the Gaza-envelope locales is very difficult and is deserving of comprehensive coverage. However, the story also has other angles - which the television channels are not presenting at all. None of the channels saw fit to remind its viewers that several days prior to the attack on Sderot, the Israel Defense Forces had begun an extensive action in Gaza, the second largest since the disengagement. Last Tuesday, the day before the barrage on Sderot, three people were killed in Gaza by a tank shell fired into a house southeast of Khan Yunis. Two more were killed by a bomb dropped by a plane on their car and another "met his death" in the area of Beit Hanoun. According to the IDF, all of the dead were terror activists, members of the Islamic Jihad. A total of 13 people were killed in the action and 40 were arrested for interrogation. The Islamic Jihad announced that it would take revenge and the following day the barrage of rockets landed on Sderot. The connection is clear. But it doesn't film well. To talk about Arabs "avenging" their dead really does not serve the ratings. It is much easier and popular to show only one side of the story, the suffering of Sderot's inhabitants. That way the story becomes simple: bad and irrational Arabs who are firing on us for no reason. The discussion of the withdrawal from Gaza suffers from the same one-sided superficiality. We are told that we have withdrawn from Gaza and for some reason they are still shooting. But we pulled out of Gaza in the worst possible way. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon did not want to talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and did not coordinate the withdrawal with him. He did not want to grant the moderate leader any achievements. Therefore he withdrew unilaterally. Is it any wonder then that Abbas was thrown out of Gaza by Hamas? Immediately after the withdrawal, quiet was in fact maintained. But who remembers and who is prepared to remind us? Qassams were not fired and the truce was honored. But then Israel said that although it had indeed withdrawn from Gaza, in the West Bank it would continue to pursue Islamic Jihad activists. The IDF embarked on extensive assassination operations in the West Bank, and then the Jihad in Gaza declared that it would not abandon its people there and would retaliate where it could. Thus the firing on Sderot was renewed, at a greater pace, and the IDF responded with assassinations in Gaza. From there the action-reprisal wheel spun and could not stop - including the latest daily incidents, which are leading to further escalation. There is a lot of talk here about the withdrawal from Gaza, but nobody mentions that Gaza is surrounded and starved. The situation there has been degenerating ever since the withdrawal. Unemployment stands at 60 percent. Of 1.5 million Palestinians, 1.1 million are alive thanks to the food they receive from United Nations organizations - the highest proportion in the world. Israel recently reduced the transfer of goods, including food, and the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip. All this is leading to extreme shortage, tremendous despair and a feeling that there is nothing to lose. It is clear that in a situation like this, hatred wins out and the desire to avenge is the only hope. But here, all they are talking about is the suffering of Sderot. Just like that Jewish mother - "What have we done to them?" --~--~---------~--~----~------------~-------~--~----~
First I want to make clear that many many lesbian feminists and queer people of all kinds, in America, in Israel, in the occupied territories, around the world, are working very hard to stop the violence against Palestinians in Gaza and in Israel, to stop the use of violence by militias or state military on either side. In an earlier post, I expressed my anger at friends who were not doing enough as American Jews to lessen the suffering of Palestinian civilians and by so doing ensuring the greater possiblity of what they claim to want--safety.
I want to thank Sherril and Dorothy and all the others who keep me in the loop of every day events in Palestine/Israel and always Hannah and Dalia. Here I offer you two more moments of a people's bravery, thanking Dorothy N. who forces us to see with different eyes as do the dissenting journalists of Haaretz.

Call for Solidarity - Please Forward!

Silencing and Violence Against Students Protesting at an International Political Conference - the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Tuesday, December 18

This evening (18//12/07) the Hebrew University held a public conference entitled " Can Democracy Overcome Terror? Democracy Fights Terror With One Hand Tied Behind It's Back. When, Why and How Must This Hand Be Untied ", with the participation of the former President of the High Court of Justice Prof. Aharon Barak, President of the Hebrew University Prof. Menachem Megidor, and Efraim Halevi, former Head of the Mossad and the Head of the Center for Strategic Studies. Flayer distributed in the audience stated: " Democracy's hands are "tied" by international humanitarian law. Untying this hand means legitimizing violations of basic human rights in the form of torture, collective punishments, and war crimes. " and further: "Presenting international humanitarian law as restrictions to military effectiveness endangers us all". We protest the fact that the university provides a stage for legitimization of sever violations of human rights and academic protection to torture and collective punishment. As Aharon Barak spoke of the "balance" between "security" and "international humanitarian law" in Israel, including in his rulings on the Separation Wall and separation of families, it was our moral duty to protest against the daily violations of human rights and security, often backed by the rulings of Aharon Barak.
We insist on our right to protest against anti-democratic conferences in a public university, sponsored by education budgets. Conferences discussing democracy cannot give stage to white men of the ruling elite, while completely excluding people whose rights are being actively violated.
We protest against the verbal and physical violence inflicted on us when university's security officers dragged us outside the conference hall by force, refused to identify themselves and held us illegally, even though we had asked to leave the campus.
We are dismayed at the violence of the public who demanded to activate force even before the security officers did so. As women were dragged on the floor, the public was applauding.
We demand accountability from the President of the Hebrew University Prof. Menachem Megidor and the former President of the High Court of Justice Prof. Aharon Barak, as in their presence verbal and physical violence was activated against women who expressed their protest in a democratic manner. They continued speaking of democracy. Unlike the version of some news services, we did not "leave the hall quietly" but the security officers dragged us by force, at the sound of the crowd's applause. This conduct reflected fairly the reason to our protest: the false "balance" between security and human rights is in fact a deliberate and systematic crushing of elementary human rights, from the freedom of speech to the right to life. Today, 5 students are at risk of the disciplinary committee and sanctions of the university.Please forward this call.

To join radical activity at the Hebrew University:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What does a change of worlds bring you. "No matter how long, I am here," says Mr. P. "I still long for you, for New York." The night is dark and Mr. P has to get up at the crack of dawn so he can reach the Vietnamese restaurant in which he works early enough to get the food ready. We laugh, this small wiry man who so loves his family and his God that he barely has time for his other passion, music, and me--old enough to be his mother, riding through the streets of Sunshine, home of newly arriving Vietnamese families. In the darkness, we long for bustling cities while we drive through the dark empty streets. And when he says the word, "Saigon," I am flooded with memories I have no right to have--the intrigues of a war torn city, the sounds of a cosmopolitan humid city fighting for its life, thin work worn farmers and laughing frightened soldiers. How close I feel to this man.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The night is long and I miss my Professora. I haven't heard her voice for 9 days and I worry about her. I am used to her calling me from far away places--Beijing, Cuba, KL, London--but for some reason Mumbai has defeated her. In her last letter, she wrote of not feeling well, and so an uneasiness sits with me tonight. To comfort myself, I want to write a memory to you all--how odd--but so it is. A moment of my times.
The year, perhaps, is 1965. I was living on the lower East side in a tenement on 9th street--the bathroom in the hall, dank and well used; the bathtub in the kitchen, its porcelain top camouflaging it during the day, the old sink and then the small stove out of which one day jumped a small rat, as scared as I was. 37$ a month was the rent--for this three room railroad flat in a condemned building--but oh what joy I found there. Dinah and Nancy on the top floor, my comrades from the march on Selma, Steven across from them, a handsome Black folksinger, under whom I would lie from time to time, and outside on the tenement lined street, the whole flow of the 1960s. I would sit on my steep stoop and smile at the layered life before me. One morning a group of bearded young men passed before me carrying their version of Jesus on a cross, heading for Tompkins Park. I nodded my head at them as if every day I saw gods carried by. And this takes me to where I wanted go on this lonely night. Gods walking the streets.

Often I would walk to Second Avenue to get my bagels, and one early morning, with the sun already brightly shining, I fell into step behind a tall man who had come out of a corner building with a garden on its second floor and as I passed him, I realized who the possessor of that craggy face and shambling walk was, W. H. Auden. I had discovered his poetry in my 20th century literature course in Queens College--the education that gave me all my mother could not--and made my anthem for those many-lover-days his
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on your faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary power,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
(January, 1937)

You see, queer lezzie youth knew its voices when it found them, even though we were invisible as erotic forces even then. I thought of Candy and Rachel and Merril, all of whom shared my bed in that tenement flat and the men, Steven, Ajax, Vincent, and one whose name I cannot remember. But most of all, I think now of Carol, the moppy golden haired woman who melted me with her brave kisses, she who had all to loose, her Jamaica Estates family, her fiance, gaining only eternal damnation according to her therapist--"if you let a lesbian kiss you," she said, the star therapist of the Ackerman Family Foundation,"you will be lost forever." Perhaps it was because I had nothing to loose and loved the poets we both studied, Carol bent over me, her lips a never-ending gift. We read the poets in the old girl's reform school that now passed as a college and made love in her tiny red car in the Queens College parking lot, our books thrown to the floor. We began our affair in 1960 perhaps and by 1964, Carol of the crooked smile and broad shoulders was dead from a careless big shot doctor and ovarian cancer. She was perhaps, 23, and I was 24. I sleep here in a small bedroom and on the book shelves the Professora has built for me, is a fading colored photograph of Carol, with low mountains behind her, she is in a boat, I think, wearing a blue polka dotted shirt, with its sleeves rolled up, her hair, with those golden tints, frosted, I think they called it then, a close lipped smile and a hazy satisfied look in her now fading corn-flower blue eyes, and on the back these words: Joan, This is one of my favorite pictures--I always think of myself as big enough for this world in this picture because I can stand up to anything. And since you make me feel "big enough for this world," I want you to have this. No symbols, no mush, just plain old honesty--C.L. Here in a Melbourne night, when I feel mortality all around me, when I rail at my world that so desires killing certainties, is so sure in its hatreds, I wrap myself in Auden's words, the warmth of the human faithless touch, and all these years away, I feel Carol's kiss upon my lips. This is what I had to tell you this night.
Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards fortell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Nor a kiss nor look be lost.
from W. H. Auden: Collected Poems, ed. by Edward Mendelson, 1994

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Privatising Zionism--Increasingly, Israel is Handing over its ‘Judaisation’ Project to Private Firms - Leading to a Corrosion of Accountability" by Neve Gorden and Erez Tsfaida

from The Guardian/UK, Friday, December 14, 2007

For less than four dollars an hour, the Jewish teenagers removed furniture, clothes, kitchenware and toys from the homes and loaded them on to trucks. As they worked diligently alongside the many policemen who had come to secure the destruction of 30 houses in two unrecognised Bedouin villages, Bedouin teenagers stood by watching their homes being emptied.When all the belongings had been removed, the bulldozers rapidly destroyed the homes. All those present, Jews and Bedouins, were Israeli citizens; together they learned an important lesson in the discrimination characterising civic life in the Jewish state.
The current demolitions are part of a strategy that began with the foundation of the state of Israel. Its ultimate objective is the Judaisation of space. In this case, the demolitions were carried out in order to establish two new Jewish villages. Their establishment, though, is part of a much larger plan that includes the construction of about 30 new Jewish settlements in the Israeli Negev, the seizure of Bedouin land for military needs, and the creation of dozens of single-family farms on land that has been inhabited by Bedouins since they were relocated to the region by the state in the early 1950s.
After witnessing the demolitions, a Bedouin activist asked one of the Jewish teenagers why he had agreed to participate in the eviction. Without hesitating, the teenager replied: “I am a Zionist and what we are doing here today is Zionism.” The teenager was not wrong. And yet he was probably too young to recognise that even though Zionism’s major goals have not changed, the methods deployed to realise them have been undergoing a radical transformation. While, traditionally, the state itself performed the task of Judiasing space, over the years the government has been outsourcing more and more of its responsibilities to private firms.
The teenager himself was hired by a personnel agency, which was employed by the state to carry out the job of expelling Bedouins from their homes.The process of privatising Zionism has been slow. For over five decades the state was the sole agent responsible for all planning of new villages, towns and cities, and only the construction was carried out by private contractors. Now, land from which the Bedouins are being expelled is sold at rock bottom prices to big real estate moguls, who are then responsible not only for building Jewish villages and towns, but also for planning them. The private contractors manage to garner larger returns than ever before, since the difference in price between “unplanned” land and land that has undergone “planning” is enormous.
The personnel agencies and contractors are, however, not the only heroes in the crusade to privatise Zionism. A five-minute drive separates the two unrecognised Bedouin villages whose houses were demolished from a number of single-family Jewish farms established in the last few years. The state gives these Jewish farmers large plots of land and connects them to basic infrastructure like water and electricity, and, in return, expects them to be part of an apparatus whose role is to contract and restrict Bedouin movement and development and to help the security forces keep an eye on the Negev’s indigenous population.
If one drives a few kilometres further and crosses the Green Line into the occupied Palestinian territories, one may notice that military checkpoints are also being privatised. In the past year, at least five such checkpoints have been handed over to subcontractors and are currently managed by corporate warriors. The difference between IDF soldiers and corporate warriors is that the latter operate within the gray areas of the law. They are Israel’s Blackwater. Thus, as this privatising trend continues the checkpoints in the West Bank, which have already earned notoriety under the management of the Israeli military, will surely become sites of more misery for Palestinians trying to pass through.
The checkpoints, though, are just a recent development in a process that has been going on for several years in the occupied territories. In the early 1980s, the Israeli government allowed private contractors to appropriate land within the occupied territories and sell it at great profits, while the military created settler militias to help it police the Palestinian inhabitants. These civilian militias were given military-issue personnel carriers, weapons, and communications equipment and were asked to patrol around their settlements, which, in practice, often meant policing nearby Palestinian villages.
Zionism’s privatisation does not symbolise a strategic change but rather a tactical one. The state has been shedding some of its responsibility, while private entities have been taking on the tasks that until recently had been carried out by the government. The major difference is that the private firms are even less liable than the state. Hence, the use of teenagers to evict Bedouins from their homes is not only a reflection of this insidious process of privatisation, but also the unrelenting corrosion of moral accountability.

Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He is the author of From the Margins of Globalization. His book Israel’s Occupation will appear in 2008 (University of California Press). Erez Tzfadia teaches public policy at Sapir College in Israel.
"Corrosion of moral accountablity." To my American Jewish feminist lesbian friends who dismissed my politics of concern as the usual words of the left, as the words of a self-hating Jew, I ask you, how long will you be silent, how long will you not risk your comforts, how long will you allow all questions to be silenced because once we suffered from the hatred of nations , from that "corrosion of moral accountability" that made the Holocaust possible?

In honor of Allan Berube (1946-2007), a gentle man whose smile and dedicated explorations gifted us all in the early days of gay and lesbian history work.
"I have been lucky enough in my own life to have participated in the beginning moments of a people's movement from private history to public discourse. I remember the early meetings in Boston, Manhattan, Maine, San Francisco, Toronto, where a handful of men and women gathered to share their discoveries and to agonize over how to find the money to continue their work, how best to share their discoveries with the communities they were documenting, and how to balance the need for anonymity--a survival tactic of our people for so long--against the delight of revelation. I remember the flickering slide shows, capturing the lost faces and communal streets of other gay times, and the stunned recognition of audiences who were meeting for the first time with their own public story. In those days, we were not always sure that this fledgling idea of lesbian and gay history would find a home in the world..." (from A Fragile Union)
These were the years that brought Allan to me, as it did Deborah Edel, Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis, Jonathan Katz and Amber Hollibaugh, John DiEmilio, Pat Gozemba and Bert Hanson--sitting cross legged on a San Francisco wooden floor, at a meeting of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Grass Roots History Project, Allan sharing his discoveries in turn of the century California newspaper articles of passing women, sitting on a bench outside the Sex and History Conference in Toronto--I have a photograph I gave to the archives of Allan, Liz, Bobbi and Deb mugging for the camera on that bench at this ground breaking conference of queer grassroots historians and sex workers. In these 1970s days we overflowed with our passions for this new thing--the freaks turned into history--comrades we were with our slightly out of focus slide projectors, Jonathan with his index cards filling all surfaces in his village apartment and his black and white kitten rubbing his cheeks against what would become an entry in Gay American History. We were the archives girls, schlepping, schlepping artifacts of lesbian life from pillar to post, spreading the word, inspired by the rich discoveries of our comrades in Buffalo, in Boston, in San Francisco. And I looking to my own erotic past, took with me to small towns and larger ones, my images and words of butch and fem women from the 1950s --determined that feminism and queer history would be their home.
Dear Dear Allan--it has been many years since last we met--but I can see your face so clearly, remembering your gentle but insistent speaking out about the closing of the bath houses, remember that quiet grin, impish and smart, never did I feel smaller in your presence. You made large things possible with a minimal amount of self aggrandizement and your history work changed the story this country tells about its self.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The other face of Israel--this is what makes nations "exceptional," not the amassing of power, not the largest armies, not the richest companies, not the self conceit of partial democracies--I am thinking of Roger Cohn's latest column of the truth of American "exceptionalism."


We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, support and uphold the call of a coalition of organizations and individuals in Gaza for an international campaign to end the siege on Gaza. We call on members of Israeli society to join the campaign.

Since June 2007, Israeli isolation policies towards the Gaza Strip have escalated. While controlling all points of exit from the Gaza Strip, the government of Israel has increasingly restricted passage of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip, leading to severe hardship and a drastic curtailing of the basic sources of sustenance and health of the population of the Gaza Strip.

All but 12 basic commodities have been blocked entry to the Gaza Strip, causing shortages in water, fuel, medications, essential equipment, raw materials and thousands of other essential commodities. In November alone, 13 patients died after Israeli authorities denied them access to medical care that is unavailable in Gaza.

Both Palestinians and Israelis have a right to live in peace and security, but the Israeli government policy of collective punishment is pushing the entire region further from security, and is morally and legally unjustifiable.

No progress can be achieved in any peace process while Gaza, still an occupied territory, is excluded from discussion and its civilian population punished. The lifting of the siege is therefore at the heart of Israeli, Palestinian and regional interests.

In November 2007, a group of Palestinian non-partisan human rights organizations and civil society leaders launched a call for a joint Palestinian-International-Israeli campaign to end the siege on Gaza.

The aims of the campaign are to call upon the Israeli government to lift the siege and stop other collective measures imposed on the civilian population of Gaza, to raise the awareness of the Israeli public and the international community to the deteriorating living conditions resulting from the siege, and to mobilize governments and communities to stop the boycott of Gaza.

The End the Siege campaign is humanitarian, non-partisan and based on the tenets of human rights and social justice. It is guided by the wish to end all forms of violence in our region.

On the Palestinian side, End the Siege is initiated and managed by “representatives of civil society, the business community, intellectuals, women activists, and advocates for human rights and peace from both the West Bank and Gaza, all expressing their commitment to peace and their respect for human dignity”. On the Israeli side, End the Siege supporters include human rights organizations and other actors in civil society. The call is open to all who wish to join it.

From the call: “We are determined to move hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder with all people who believe in freedom, human dignity and peace…. It is time to put aside any partisan conflicts and unite people in the pursuit of freedom, justice, and peace.”

Planned activities include:
- Documentation and dissemination of information on the impact of the siege: a website, posters and video clips of daily life in Gaza.
- International symposium in Gaza: “Breaking the Siege on Gaza: Together for a United Front for Peace”.
- International delegations to Gaza and Israel.
- Meetings and cultural activities in Gaza, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and different cities in the world.
- A peaceful march to Erez Crossing from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the Crossing with peace activists from all over the world.
- A “Free Gaza Movement Day” in May, including a boat journey from Cyprus to Gaza.

For details or to join the campaign, contact:


Anarchists Against the Wall
Bat Shalom
Bat Tsafon
Coalition of Women for Peace
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
Gush Shalom
Hamoked Centre for the Defense of the Individual
New Profile
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Shomrei Mishpat - Rabbis for Human Rights
Ta’ayush – Arab-Jewish Partnership
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
The Israeli Committee for the Palestinian Prisoners and Detainees
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel


Sunday, December 9, 2007

from La Professora:
Hotel Fidalgo, 18th June Road, Panaji, Goa, India
....Last night was some kind of religious (Christian) festival--which I could see from the minibus--so I hurried out as soon as I could after checking in, and wandered among the crowds, eating local sweets and chili potato chips from the street stalls, and watching people take strings of orange and white flowers and candles, up the steps to the white Catholic church at the top of a rise, with a flood lit immaculate Mary looking out over the town. They had fireworks later, but I was by that time back in my room, showering the remnants of my travels off my body, putting my swollen ankles up to recover, watching a CNN special l report on the protests in Burma and preparing to sleep.

There are of course many homages to the elephants and I am waiting for just the right little likeness to bring home to you.

I had Indian breakfast food at the hotel--tasting all sorts of little delicacies without knowing what should go with what--delicious. The newspapers could almost be from home--rising prices of property and cars; concern about water and a plan to charge more to consumers to keep it all in check; domestic violence; cricket (of course) and many political machinations that I could not decipher.

I walked around after breakfast--through fairly quiet streets as it is Sunday, taking in the rather dilapidated but still grand Portuguese architecture--reminding me a bit of Havana--the heavy tiles on the roofs, the wonderful wooden balconies and other decorative touches, the overhanging verandas to keep the streets cooler, the lush trees, the broken footpaths, the old dogs lying in the dust, people walking and riding motor bikes going about their business, the heat (though not overwhelming), the alleyways that beckon, the open windows that I crane to see through, the wooden shutters. Every one is very friendly and I feel very safe. Best of all, I found as local market--fruit and veggies, fish and meat, flowers, clothes--a Goa equivalent of Victoria Market--a crush of people getting their week's supplies.

How I wish you were here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

La Professora is somewhere on a road to Goa, her hennaed head hanging low by now, I would think. But soon after a good night's sleep, she will sparkle with her passion for international discourse.

My recent dear authors, continued. Guy Gavriel Kay and his 1990 "fantasy" novel, "Tigana," a story about a struggle over memory and sad, revengeful power that cannot sustain its own immense power. A created world that is always vaguely familiar, medieval, colonial, and one that is suffused with erotic yearnings of all kinds, with a gentleness in the midst of callous abuse of power. A father using his dwindling magic to save his prancing and strong hearted son, who so loved his early stable boy lover, from terrible torture for his perversions. In his afterward, Kay speaks of the resonances in our near history that gave him the outline for the emotional tensions of his Peninsula of the Palm: " The novelist Milan Kundera fed my emerging theme of oppression and survival with his musings about the relationship between conquered peoples and an unstable sexuality: what I have called 'the insurrections of night.' The underlying ideas, for me, had to do with how people rebel when they can't rebel, shattered self-respect can ripple through to the most intimate levels of our lives."
Sometimes when I write these words to you in this space, I want to apologize that I am not writing about the "insurrections of the night," at least in the way I have in so much of my work--the yearning of a fem lesbian body moving through the second half of the 20th century, but as my fingers curve to the keys, as the darkness of a Southern hemisphere night falls around me, I touch with every thought I mark on this new kind of page, I offer myself as I so often did, finding the wonder of life in the lifting of my hips, words to lips.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Again, so much I want to say to you. Even the choice made where to begin tells a story--pushing at my head is the image of Romney, manicured and politically handsome, telling us that America is the land of the believers, that religion is the now spoken badge of American identity--at a time of war, where deaths pile up at our door--but they have been doing this for such a long time--the assassination of Allende, the non-believer, always pulls at me--Right wing politicians are pushing God to the center of their real politick, how the righteous thrive in killing times. I listened to an excerpt of Romney's speech on the weekly program that carries me over the seas back to America--the Lehrer Report--and the conversation about it afterwards. Then I read Brooks' column, trying to pull of his peculiar balance of quoting authorities, fear of radicals, half ashamed, a little ashamed, of the world he is helping to build, one marked by economic, cultural, class, gender safety for his kind. How quickly we are moving to demonize our own non-believers--from Charles O'Reilly's rantings about the dark forces of secularism to the white house. Of course, I am a queer, old lesbian non-religious socialist Jew so what do I know--be careful, oh people of America, of how you draw your circles of who is human and who is not--we know many of you have already decided the alien, the worker without papers but with strong arms to do your work, is already beyond the pale. Oh Whitman, poet of the ever widening glory of American human possibility, as you nursed the dying soldiers and kissed the tram conductor, how narrow, how unlovely we are becoming--never were pagans needed as much. What god is this that appears on money and in the cavernous public mouths of power seeking men--it is in the quiet places I thought you were found and whatever kisses one chose to send your way,
were the gifts of private small selves--you better run, Mr God, if you don't want a whole nation saying you made them do it, the torture, the neglect, the selfishness, the greed, the lying, the waste, oh the waste--I, a non believer, worry for you.

But you see, I did not want to begin my day with you this way--it just feels as if so much is slipping away so fast and well meaning people are just slightly turning their heads away--perhaps it is only me that is slipping away and you will be stronger and clearer. I had a day of terrible pain yesterday and night, pain of the body, and I am less a body for it. I have used Emily Dickinson's poem, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes" in one of my earlier pieces, but I think what I am learning now is the aftermath of great pain, the shaken smaller body that fears the next visit. This is just to tell you of deeper day.
Last night at 1 in the morning, La Professora left for Goa, India, to give a paper at a conference. So often our relationship has been this way; I catch her between nations and this is her joy. Oh darling, we spoke last on Singapore lines and now you will find me here when you reach India. My day started early--5:30 am, the three dogs stretching their Skippergee bodies to greet me and get their day's rations. Because of drought conditions, we can only water gardens twice a week in the early morning so I began the rounds, a short woman in her nightgown in the dawn of a mild early summer day. As I walked down the right side of the house where the orange tree is and the fern trees, Anna called out to me, thinking I was you--"Buongiorno, Dianna, como esta?"
"Buongiorna, Anna, it is me Joan, Di is in India." A pause and over the old wood fence, I see the top of her broom knocking down spider webs, "Good morning, Joan--I am here, if you need anything I am here."
Grazie, Anna, thank you.
I walk to the shops to buy bird seed for our visiting wild parrots and a chicken for my soup; on the way home, I pause to cross the street and a tall old woman in a blue jumper and white skirt, with a graying little shepherd mix, a rescue dog, I find out, called Gemina, begins to talk with me. The streets are empty, as they often are and the morning air is fresh. The bird seed gets her going and then she tells me she will be 90 years old in January and she was born on Fitzgibbon Avenue all those years ago. "I don't believe in this multiculturalism," she looks down at me and says, her tongue moving between her only two front teeth. "In my day the Scandanavians lived over there," and she points up the street, and "the Germans lived over there, that's my family, high German"--she points down the street--"but we were Australians, this new lot, they never want to fit it in but they sure do want everything else." I know from my own limited knowledge of West Brunswick's history that this new lot, the Italians, the Lebanese and the Vietnamese have been living here for over 40 years. I try to convince her that change is a good thing--"what is your name?" Joan. And yours, "Wyn." I wonder how after the bird seed the very first thing she needed to say to someone on this morning was her dislike of the old change in her neighborhood. She goes on speaking to me for a half hour, about her life as a public servant, about her mother's friendship with Emily Pankhurst back in Manchester. The years stretch out behind her, almost a century--at pauses, I suggest she should make a tape with the Brunswick Historical Society--"my niece says that too, but I would fight with them." Then she introduces me to her dog who is growing impatient--saved her, no one else wanted her, she is the nervous type."
My bags are growing heavy and I still have Anna's words in my ears, Anna, who came as a migrant 45 years ago and worked in textile factories most of all those years, Anna who shows me the old photos of her mother left in Calabria so many years ago and holds her hand over her heart and say, "Joan--in that special way she says my name--"I am so sad sometimes, so sad, " Anna who gives me her precious words, "I am here, I am here."

To close, I love Lorena Ochoa as much as I do Tiger Woods.

Welcome to a new country, my love and light a candle for our elephant protector.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thank you, V. Kingsley and I will write LHA about your request--you know we have a vast collection of t-shirts as well at the archives--these moments of cloth worn close to our bodies, announcing our agendas, our dreams, our vanities, our certainties, our affiliations, our victories, our desires, our refusals and our yes's literally speak to the future. If you want, write to me from my website with your e-mail address and we can speak at greater length.

And Seth, newly of Riverdale, welcome to my home, dear man. I always carry images of you with me and of your father as well--in suit and liberation tie and so much more. Love to you.

You know, dear friends, syntax is all and should not be rushed as I do so much of the time. When I read over my discussion of the books I had been reading, I realized I had constructed a careless sentence that made it seem as John le Carre was one of those who used an African setting cheaply and that is not what I meant at all. I have just finished reading his "The Mission Song," and discovered that this writer I had thought was a cold war romanticizer, had great anger at and skepticism for the marriage of the profit motive and political-cultural adventurism. This novel has at its heart a hybrid young man of Irish-Congolese background who while offering his services as a translator is educated in the ruthlessness of power, both African and European. I think of all the shrieking fanatics--and here is a writer showing the rich humanity of cultural uncertainties. Like Mankell, Le Carre lets us hear the screams of the tortured and shows us the calculated moral vacuum that employs such a technique to get its answers. Bruno Salvador carries many histories with him, on his tongue, on his skin, as he looses his innocence but holds on to his humanity. Once again, like a bad ghost the voice of O'Reilly from Fox propaganda floats into my head--sometimes I watch because I cannot really believe what I am hearing and even more difficult, that this channel is the most popular "news" media in the United States. Yesterday, he was ranting on how he has saved Christmas from the "dark side," from the evil secularists. In America in 2007--and then in the same day, I read these words, "Tom," Mrs. Comer said she asked, "am I getting fired over evolution?" (NY Times, "Official Leaves Post as Texas Prepares to Debate Science Education Standards") and finally, I hear about a Republican candidate, Huckabee, who is gaining popularity, launching a TV add with the words, "A Christian leader." America in 2007. And I see this country where I was born fading from the world stage--a good thing if it inspires humility and a sense of connection to other world views--but I fear, it will not. When I think why do things seems so much worse this time around, it is the Fox propaganda channel that comes to mind--back in 40s, the radio bigot-"patriots" who spouted hatred for so many were ultimately laughed off the national airwaves and McCarthy was revealed in all his spiteful mad littleness--but now we have a so-called news channel that speaks of the dark side, of the evil ones. And we fear fanatic Muslims? Think they are foreign in their world view?

"Tom," Ms. Comer said she asked him, "am I getting fired over evolution?"

Monday, December 3, 2007

A rare day here, a day after a drenching rain so the air has that cleansed shine, the light here is always a wonder, its mix of desert clarity and then skies with cloud scapes of layered reds, purples, and even at times rainless rich grays and then those high summer days, when you are sheltering from cold winds and frozen hail, and the skies here are a mono shattering blue that is merciless in its reflection of heat. A high cloud appears as a brave or lost traveler trying desperately to find its kin. I join so many elderly emigrees who while overwhelmed by all they have left behind, by all the uncertainties of aging bodies and not quite as sharp minds take great delight in focusing on the huge daily changes of live on earth, the sky, the weather, the nature of the wind. Perhaps we have been defeated by the vagaries of smaller life--too high rents, shrinking income and gums, friends too much ocean away--but the sky with its constant messages refuses to loose sight of us.

And my other constant private companions, books. You who have read my other words know how Zola sat with me as the bags of yellow poison known as chemotherapy dripped into aching veins, know how the sounds of Patrick O'Brien's straining clipper ships and revolutionary naturalists and salt of the earth British sea captains reached me way beyond the grinding fatigue of radiation. From my early days in the Bronx to these much later days in West Brunswick, once called the Bronx of Melbourne because it was such a down but not out neighborhood, books, the hard handable caught in amber moments of human heart and mind, pushed me out of dead ends into Joan's possibilities --I hope I have repayed in a very small way those other writers from every culture and every time in every language that endured the loneliness and self doubt of creation and to all my students in Queens College SEEK through the mid 60s until the 90s, it was this highway of teeming visions--both yours to visit and to create--that I tried so hard to lay at your feet.

My authors who sit beside me now--Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel "Half of a Yellow Sun," her novel of the killing time in Nigeria in the 1960s, told through characters that span the worlds of witnesses and victims, history marked on bodies with desire, women's voices not reduced in either their longings or their outrage. Years ago with those same students I have mentioned we read together Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and then Bessie Head and Echemeta--it is time now for us to see the varied history of the nations of Africa through their own creative visions, another kind of Africa. As Adichie quotes these lines of Achebe: "Today I see it all-/Dry, wire-thin in sun and dust of the dry months-/Headstone on tiny debris of passionate courage." ( from "Mango Seedling" in Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems)

Henning Mankell's "Kennedy's Brain," Mankell is a Swedish born novelist who is most known, I think, for his compelling detective series with Inspector Wallender and the cold often silent world with touches of burning hearts through which his characters enter our line of vision and whose every book of whatever genre I will always seek out--Mankell has for several years run a theater company in Mozambique where he was living last I read of his life. Here through the voice and journey of a Swedish mother whose son has disappeared in Mozambique, Mankell has created a "thriller" as the copy says that is also his expression of fury at the cynical reductions of African lives by those who profit from human suffering in so many ways--like John LeCarre--even worldly men are fed up with the callousness of unleashed profit motive. As he writes on the closing page of his afterward to this novel, "What is written in this book is exclusively the result of my own choices and decisions, of course. Just as the anger is also mine, the anger that was my driving force." How close I feel to this man, how warmed by his anger I am, this writer who moves from harbors encased in fog and ice to a glaring sun much like the one I know here--bringing unflagging interest in how people move through the hardness of unexplainable actions on one hand or how they survive manipulated human coldness on the other.
I must walk now my poor Cello who is suffering from a spider bite. More another day and night.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Written August 22, 2007 two months after our return to Melbourne from our sojourn in Palestine-Israel:
Our trip to Israel and parts of the West Bank has plunged me into a seemingly never ending story, a history of betrayals, of wounds that can never heal on the backs of another people, of confused visions of nation states and religious fervor--for four decades, I walked the streets of the Upper West Side of New York, watching over the years the invisible highway between this strip of Broadway and Israel becoming more and more evident, and I delighted in the feel of lancemen all around me, the huge warehouses of kosher holiday foods that would spring up right before Passover with their family size boxes of matzoh and jar after jar of gefilte fish. Jewish in that New York cultural way to my bone, I always thought, but now I have seen other bones, I have seen biblical dreaming turn into national agendas of ethnic cleansing and apartheid walls and one way roads, of human beings trapped behind barbed wire fences, deprived of water, food, of medical care--urban punishment for the wrong vote. Cages are easily come by in this strip of desert, military power determining whose back will be against the wall, who will never bath without permission in the Mediterranean again.

My reading started before we left New York: Amos Oz, like an Israeli Studs Terkel, presenting the pith of his conversations with Jewish Israelis from the old days in their cafes, the author purposely seeking out the communities who most disagree with his progressive view of things, the ultra Orthodox in Northwestern Jerusalem, and I read, the words burning on the paper, of fierce convictions, some speak of their hatred for the Diasporic Jew, "the Diaspora with glass jars of cucumbers pickled in parsley and garlic on every window still, with pale flesh, stooped shoulders,"others of the Western influenced "perverts" who show the need for Orthodox purity and I stop and write down these connecting moments between my selves--the Jew, the pervert, the Diasporic--center of dislocated understandings and I remember Hannah Arendt again, with her own racial convervatisms, still trying to understand where the pariah can show light. Before we see the desert lands of Palestine-Israel, I have met the molten bodies of thinking on Oz' pages: the Judeo-Nazi speaks,"Throughout history, anyone who thought he was above killing, got killed. It's an iron clad law. Let them see we are a mad dog nation--Maybe the world will finally begin to fear me instead of feeling sorry for me. Maybe they'll start quaking in fear of my whims instead of admiring my nobility...To live without fists, fangs, claws in a world of wolves is a crime worse then murder." As Oz said, I am coming to a people caught between "Hitler and the Messiah," between history and pre-history, between shame and God's own Military, between the need for the West and the rejection of the pluralism of perverts. This the author tells me and I will learn for myself is only one reflection glinting off the desert stones--his own words, kept for the end of the book to show what a careful listener he is even though his heart is bursting, "The idea of a nation-state is a gentile's delight. I would be more then happy to live in a world composed of dozens of civilizations, each all developing in accordance to its own rhythms, all cross pollinating one another, without any one emerging as a nation state, no flag, no emblem, no passport, no anthem--only spiritual civilizations somehow tied to their land ,without the tools of statehood and the instruments of war." In short the strengths of the diaspora and the Jewish world before Hitler. And after--Oz goes on to write"Perhaps we should take smaller bites, relinquish the totality of the Land for the sake of internal and external peace. Concede heavenly Jerusalem for the sake of the Jerusalem of the slums, waive messianic salvation for the sake of the small, gradual reforms, forgo messianic fervor for the sake of prosaic sobriety. And perhaps the entirety of our story is not a story of blood and fire or of salvations and consolations but, rather, a story of the halting attempts to recover from a severe illness."
When we arrive in Haifa and I tell our friend Hannah what I have been reading in preparation for our visit, she says Oz is out of date now and not as forward thinking as I suggest. And yet, because his words were the first that opened up my first window on the turmoil of all kinds that shapes this land, I am grateful for his listening and his own telling of the story. (written on Monday, December 3, 2007 on a rainy morning in Melbourne, with thunder pealing in the distance and the much longed for sound of water flying off the wheels of cars rushing down Dawson Street and tapping, tapping on our corrugated iron roof)
August 22, 2007-- I read the words of Ben Gurion in Jacqueline Rose's book, "The Question of Zion," calling for the expusion of as many Arabs as possible from their homes, this land "will be Jewish whether the Arabs want it or not." I ask myself why did I never ask where did the people who lived in Palestine go after 1948--were they never there? Did they become dust blown over the Sinai desert? I was too young in 1948 but now I am not, I never had any formal Jewish education in my younger life, but now I can educate myself, I never received the accepted story of how it all came about from relatives or religious or community leaders--I was too busy surviving my own chaotic queer life, but now I am old and I can read and listen and travel with and to loving friends and see in my mind's eye, the over 700,000 Palestinian exiles living in their makeshift tented cities in the desert, waiting for the right to return home, which never came, waiting for the world to recognize their plight which never happened. Instead the wounds of the Holocaust tried to heal themselves around conquering Jewish armies, all was acceptable, even heroic in the name of Jewish safety--so many betrayals on which to build a nation--the double dealing of the British, the deafness of the Arab League, the false public reassurances, the private truths that called for another people's expulsion, because they were not as "civilized" as the conquering wounded army.
And always there were other Jewish voices calling for respect for the Palestinian peoples who already walked the trails between the bone clad hills, who warned that once a country is won by the gun, it will wake and sleep with terror. And here, on the streets of West Brunswick, between my Italian and Vietnamese neighbors, I sometimes long for those familiar sights of housewives shopping for Shabbas chickens and the freshly made chicken soup with matzoh balls, and I ask my German-Australian lover to take me to the small Jewish market in Baclava so I can buy a glistening bottle of Kosher pickles and packets of matzo meal while I console the shop owner, an Orthodox youngish Jewish man with his tsalis flying under his shirt about the new freezer he has just had delivered. "Did I do the right thing," he sincerely asks me, a total stranger,"it costs so much money," and I, perfectly understanding his worries, can say with all sincerity, "do not worry, I am sure it will work out fine." Such are the permissions of the Diaspora.