First I want to thank Pat for helping me set up a new website for Women in Black here in Melbourne, http://www.womeninblack.org.au/. I hope if any of you are members of Women in Black around the world, you will write and tell me the times of your vigils so we can post them on the site. You can contact me directly on the website. And in a way, this website and Pat sharing her expertise as a gift to us is connected to what I want to write about on this closing day of April.
How sane all these words sound now--how I was going to write about the connections between the April 19th commemoration for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that I attended at the Jewish Holocaust Center here in Melbourne, an annual gathering of the survivors and their children of the Polish Jewish community who were active in the Bund and still are. My friend, Michelle, sings in the Yiddish choir, Michelle, daughter of two parents who worked with JOINT (Joint Distribution Committee) first in the liberated camp of Belsen to care for the stateless Jewish survivors, and then in Africa, her father, a member of the French Resistance, Michelle born in Morocco, whose voice carries her diaspora wanderings, Vienna, Paris, Cambridge, Melbourne and now who sings and speaks in Yiddish. You see I cannot write in one line about all of this, about the crossings of our Jewish histories, about the Israeli raids on the home of New Profile feminists, about the prison letters of Rosa Luxemburg, about the lobby that is not a lobby, AIPAC, about the Partisans--"Fun grinem palmenland biz vaysn land fun shney/Mir kumen on mit undzer payn, mitundzer vey/Un vu gefaln s'iz a shrptis fun undzer blut/Shprotsn vet dort undzer gvure, undzer mut." (From the lands of green palm trees to lands all white with snow, We are coming with our pain and with our woe, And where'er a spurt of blood did drop, Our courage will again sprout from that spot.) from Zog Nit Keyn Mol!, The Hymn of the Partisans. You see I cannot speak of one without remembering all, I cannot escape the voices that soar over crumbling walls, Jewish or Palestinian, I cannot turn my eyes from the rough grabs of Israeli state police forcing protesters to the ground, dragging them hair first into the police stations, where they disappear behind a turn in the wall, or the young woman of Swat valley, held motionless by other women so she cannot deflect the public flogging deemed necessary by the Taliban code of morality, how to resist the flailing arms of hate, of women beaten to the ground, into silence, into desperation because they question. The Voice of Medea Benjamin, a member of America's Code Pink: "While I was being tackled by the security guards at Washington's Convention Center during the AIPAC conference for unfurling a banner that asked "What about Gaza," my heart was aching. I wasn't so bothered so much by the burly guards who were yanking my arms behind my back and dragging me along with 5 other CODEPINK members out of the hall. They were doing their job. What made my heart ache was the hatred I felt from the AIPAC staff who tore up the banner and slammed their hands across my mouth as I tried to yell out: "What about Gaza? What about the children?" "Shut the f---up. Shut the f---up," one staffer yelled, red-faced and sweating as he ran beside me. "This is not the place to be saying that shit. Get the f--- out of her."
If not there, where so many could change the course of events, then where? Where do we ask the questions, where will we not be called anti-Semitic, self hating Jews, duped leftists, effeminate Jews of the Diaspora who do not love our guns, where can we use words that describe reality like apartheid, racism, like Palestinian Bantustans that make a state a struggling impossibility, where can we in our imaginations say, the siege of Gaza reminds me of other sieges, against the Jewish people when they had no freedom of movement, no escape possible from state hatred, where can we say our memories, our histories are tormented by what is being done in small Palestinian villages in the way of the Settlements, the beatings, the terrors, use whatever it takes to make them give up their claim on that desert home or that one, no reporters, threatened activists, soldiers, always the soldiers, and the Settlers themselves, they will clean the land of these unwanted ones with cudgels and fists, no reporters, no police to protect, vigilante nationalism let loose on ancient hills but supported with modern money from modern companies like Leviev's Africa-Israel--once we know who is responsible we can take action and the people of the West Bank villages of Bil'in and Jayyous become part of our dreams of responsibility--the old, the young, real people kept in the shadows until another "fact on the ground" is accomplished, their eradication as a Palestinian village.