Monday, May 31, 2010

"Urgent, we have threat from Israel"

In the darkness of night, seventy miles out to sea, in the international waters beyond Israel, 19 people were shot to death by elegantly armed Israeli soldiers. Perhaps Israel hoped the night would shroud the horror of their young people's actions--give them guns, give them nationalistic fervor, give them heavy doses of Israel's exceptionalism and turn them loose on the "enemy." I am writing words in shock, in despair, in rage--I am taking in the shouts of pain and disbelief from my peace activist comrades around the world, including Israel. We can reach each other, but we cannot stop a nation gone mad and all the others who empower the killers--the American government who pours money into the military coffers of Israel--paying for those helicopters from which the young people lowered them selves onto the boats, paying for those state of the art commando uniforms, the guns which they turned on those marked only as the enemies of the Jewish state. I want to say I love you, all who tonight sit at their screens, as I do, reaching out, so we are not alone with the horror of witness only, we recommit to honoring human life, to honoring each one who died in the darkness of the night, amidst a cargo of hope. We do not know the names or countries of those who have died--that will come in the morning light. We do not know if Hedy survived or did Israeli bullets do what the concentration camps could not. Again, as I have always written, I write from a Jewish heart, Israel is my concern, my burden, my shame--and activism in the face of the brutalities of a mad State is my Jewish heritage.

From on the boats in the flotilla:

Lubna: Greta urgent we have threat from Israel
Greta: Lubna. What is happening?
Lubna: two Israeli ships coming toward us
Greta: Please try to stay on this so I can tweet it
Lubna: they contact the ship asked who we are and dissappeared now they getting close to the ship we can see them stay here 3 boats coming not two 3Israeli boats we are 78 mile from Israel
Greta: I'll keep writing
Lubna: people here their life jackets every body peppering here
Greta: ok. You are the lifeline to our Twitter account.
Lubna: we may loose the wireless, we didn't expect them now, we thought they will arrive at the morning. Please stay in touch with the other boats.
Sent at 10:50 PM on Sunday
Greta : We can't reach anyone
Sent at 10:52 PM on Sunday

Today, I just received word that Hedy Epstein was not on any of the flotilla boats; she is in Cyprus, waiting for another flotilla.
Greta: Where are you? Are you there?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This old fellow, blind, now sleeps in his front yard, wrapped against the early winter chill. Cello and I walk pass him quite regularly these days and he raises his head to greet what he cannot see. "A good old dog," his owner told me one day. "A wonderful friend to our family." Now he rests where he can do no damage. I have grown more and more aware of how badly animals have fared in our human world--dragged, prodded, pulled, against their will, our constant battering at their dignity. It is all connected, isn't it--arrogant States and arrogant corporations and blinded armies, assumed gender and racial superiorities, all tied to our certainty of the power and right of our will. I wish this old fellow a good journey, he is loved and safe and one day he will be gone from his patch. I honor him.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Body in Time

Cello and the doorbell all going off at once. I open the door and there is a carefully wrapped package from Florida, USA, left on the veranda by the postman whose orange- clad back I can just barely see as his motorbike scoots onto Dawson Street. A gift for me on the eve of my 70th birthday from an old friend, an old lover. I sit, my back aching from my recent surgery, unwrap Skeezy's gift: an old boxed set of Replique, the perfume I wore as a young femme on the lower East Side of New York.
Dear Joan 4-29-10
So many years, so many accomplishments, so many memories. Yet we are still here, still talking, and still caring. You are as young to me on your 70th as you were on your 20th.
Enjoy this piece of your past that my senses will never forget and--have a very Happy Birthday.
As ever, Skeezy
Skeezy--now a grandmother several times over, and I learn over and over that the body leaves its touchings long into the time of our lives; thank you, old friend, for carrying that young woman and her perfume back to me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Morning Light

Yesterday, after a night of rare rain, the garden was touched by the magnificence of early morning light. That path of old stones is the work of La Professoressa, who between reading student papers, writing her essays and looking after Cello and me, shapes her native garden. Yesterday, I received word of the death of Rhonda Copelon, a feminist teacher and activist long associated with the Queens College Law School, the pioneering law center that I watched grow into being as I taught all those years. I have no easy words for these deaths, of comrades, of colleagues, sometimes even of adversaries. It is the human way, but oh so hard. And so the light, a needed simple splendor.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Archives Never Leave Me

As many of you know, I have lived with archives most of my life. Now in my Australian home,
I once again put up the shelves to give a home to the writers, thinkers, who give me life. This rich vision of history,
touch, story telling never sits quietly. An archives never does, always making present something we name the past. Here, also, I am using my archival passions to preserve the history of Melbourne's Women in Black Community that has been standing vigil for peace in the Middle East since 1988 and so I present you these images of two documents--a poster announcing the 1989 vigil and an 1991 issue of the Australian Jewish Democrat newsletter with an article by Marg Jacobs about why she rises early on Saturday mornings to get to downtown to join the vigil. Many histories cross in these documents--women's Australian history, Lesbian history since several of the women in Women in Black in the past and now are gay women, the history of resistance, Jewish and otherwise, the history of the Australian Jewish left. Documents irrepressible in their aging declarations, documents that now move into a digital age but carry with them an old tenacity, the struggle to do better.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Our May Vigil and a New York Comrade, Harry Weider

Harry Wieder, always concerned with making power do more for those whose dignity was under daily assault

Our Women in Black May Vigil in the streets of Melbourne

Here we are, Sivan, Hellen, Hinde, Sandra, Sue, Esme, myself, and once again, Hagrid from Hebron, in her red jumper, intensely engaging in discussion with a young Palestinian-Australian man. After, we always have coffee and talk, plan more actions, find out what other struggles we are involved in. At the table you see us all reading a petition against the Northern Territory Intervention Act and its racist implications. All of this, this swirl of street life, of passionate engagements, of my comrades' beautiful faces, of Hagrid looking up at me, saying she is in exile from her own tribe because of her peace work in Israel, standing vigil at check points to try to limit the soldiers' arrogance--I am in exile she says and I hold her and say that no, we will make another country of the heart, for all the Jews who are painted as the enemy by our own people, for all the Jews on hate lists and black listed from jobs and podiums, another country of the heart and conscience. With rising European anti-Semitism and rising Israeli right wing nationalism, we will hold each other close and never fall silent in the face of another people's tragedies.

You know I am far from the streets of New York but from time to time the New York Times brings me news that takes me back to the gay activist days of the 70s and 80s and the dear people who struggled in the streets and in the city council hearing rooms to gain civic respect for gay people and others. Sadly, because it marked his death, I once again saw the face of Harry Weider, a small man with a large forehead, a fierce heart and an irrepressible commitment to justice in life or as the Times said, "a gay, Jewish, nearly deaf and otherwise disabled dwarf from Queens." Harry and I often ran into each other at demonstrations or at planning meetings. I remember him sitting at the archives table one afternoon as we talked about the state of gay social struggle. He often offered me a drive home from actions. "The only child of Holocaust survivors," Harry pushed and pulled others to pay attention. He was coming from a community meeting, the Times went on to tell me, when he was hit by a taxi in mid street. Charlotte Weider, his 86-year-old mother, said "In spite of my very strong feeling to protect him,I could not hold back his good." Hold back his good. Dear dear Harry. You gave New York your life.