Category Archives: Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

Staunching Wounds, By Richard Krawiec

 

antonio-rotta-helping-hands-approximate-original-size-24x30Staunching Wounds

By Richard Krawiec

 

Recently I met with a group of women who had suffered terrible transgressions and losses in their lives from an early age. Deaths of loved ones, violent rape and abuse, humiliations by friends and abandonment to strangers.

We all know the clichéd responses to this, right? When life gives you lemons…put it behind you and move on…etc.etc.

But I think there is something ultimately dismissive in failing to recognize that sometimes we suffer damage we can’t get beyond. Sometimes we suffer damage that creates a wound so deep it will not heal. We can learn to live through it, we can try to accommodate it, to go forward despite the wound – but the wound remains. It’s what is meant by the term ‘survivor’ I think. The person who knows what happened can’t be ignored, or changed, but has found a way to live past without denying the damage.

Many of us have things happen to us that are difficult to move on from. I had a girlfriend who was haunted by the memory of watching her father die on their kitchen floor, begging God not to take him from his family. I can’t seem to get past my best friend as a child growing into an estranged teenager who blew his brains out with a shotgun; I’m still haunted by memories of the time I walked out of a Juvenile Court in Pittsburgh without the 5-year-old girl who was returned, by the courts, to her sexually abusive father.

I know these incidents pale in comparison to what others have to deal with. I didn’t survive the concentration camps. I wasn’t a child growing up in war-torn Gaza. No gang of soldiers raped me in a tent. I wasn’t that girl, that friend.

So it always feels childish, whiny to admit these things still create a profound sorrow in me when I think about them. But we don’t choose our damage, and to a large extent we don’t choose, at least initially, our ability, or inability, to deal with the traumas of our lives. Aren’t our ways of response to at least some extent conditioned by those around us, especially those around us when we were growing up?

On another thread a woman speaks about visiting her father in the hospital and holding his hand, like she used to when she was a child. I can’t remember ever holding my father’s hand. He wasn’t a cruel or abusive man, but he wasn’t attentive in that way.

When friends died in high school – from hanging, drug overdose, leukemia – I don’t remember any of our parents offering support, advice, condolences or ways to deal with the loss to those of us who remained.

When you don’t have a way to deal with a wound, it remains unstaunched. People find different ways, not so much to move forward as to cover it up, to bandage pain with sex, drugs, violence. Because they don’t know how, or aren’t allowed, to look at it. Just put it aside, we’re counseled, forget about it, so you can become a productive member of society again. It’s a type of cultural denial, isn’t it? But what do people do when they can’t. Well there is the previously mentioned trinity –drugs, sex, violence. But there are other ways for people who can’t articulate but somehow know their concerns aren’t being addressed.

Some people turn to writing, others to song, painting, dance. Because nothing offers a better path into the interior, a more honest and unflinching way to look at what has happened, as well as a better vision of new paths out of that darkness, than art. I think it was Springsteen who once said the best part of him existed in his songs. In real life he could be a mess. I know that feeling. God, do I know it.

But the point is, art offers us the potential to examine the past and an array of paths – spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, psychological – that can lead to a future full of what, in another context, David Brooks calls “the eulogy virtues”.

I never thought I’d say Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a probing piece -but there it is. In today’s NYT, Brooks talks about something that resonates with what I’m thinking about here. He discusses how we live in an age of self-absorption; we are told to be individualists, “be true to yourself…follow your own path.” It’s easy, Brooks says, “to slip into self-satisfied moral mediocrity.”

And he contrasts this with those whose lives had followed a pattern of “defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding…The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative.”

What’s the connection with this and damage? I guess that what I’m trying to say is this – the culture that says take an anti-depressant when your loved one dies so you can obscure your pain is not a culture that accepts damage. Damage is distasteful, unpleasant, not something we want to discuss. Let’s all get beyond it as quickly as possible so we can go out and have fun.

And if you don’t? Why isn’t there something wrong with you?

Because if we really, truly looked closely at the damage people endured, and it’s long-lasting effect on them, wouldn’t we have to do something to help?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec

Richard KrawiecRichard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award. His latest collection is Women Who Loved Me Despite (Press 53).  To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

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Meet Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserAs a Palestinian, peace for me is the the end of Israeli policies of the occupation of our historical lands, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and racial discrimination that have been continuously condemned by human rights and international law organizations, yet Israel chooses to ignore all these calls with full impunity. Peace is by putting so much pressure on this settler colonial state to abide by human rights and international law. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one of the tactics that has proved its success to tell Israel that you’re no more impune; the world is watching and looking for a peaceful Globe. I use writing as a way to raise awareness and to express myself. It is good to have approachable platforms that one can use to reach a large number of audience around the world.

~Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian activist, freelance writer living in Sheffield, and our newest member of the Writing for Peace Young Adviser’s Panel. A powerful voice for peace and justice, Malaka graduated with a BA in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza and a MA in global politics and law from the University of Sheffield in Britain. Read Malaka’s articles on Huffington post here.

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBeyond Extreme Energy: Uniting to Retire Fossil Fuels

Clearing the FOG speaks with activists from Washington State to Washington, DC who are taking on Big Energy to say “no” to more fossil fuel infrastructure. We begin with four organizers who walked across the United States last year to raise awareness about the climate crisis. They visited front line communities along the way. When they arrived in Washington, DC, they spent a week protesting the little known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the Beyond Extreme Energy coalition. Now they are planning more resistance. In Washington State, the “SHell No” campaign is organizing a Flotilla to keep Shell Oil out of the Port of Seattle. We’ll discuss why direct action is the necessary tactic to end fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources.

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

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Conscientious Objector’s View From The Ground In Israel, by Natan Blanc

A Conscientious Objector’s View From The Ground In Israel

by Natan Blanc

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserWhen I started writing this post, the Israeli government and the “Hamas” organization were on the verge of agreeing on a cease-fire, and ending the current cycle of violence. By now, the cease fire talks are ancient history. Hamas has rejected the cease-fire, and continued shooting missiles towards Israel,  Israel has retaliated, and we have very little hope for some peace and quiet in the near future.

This cycle of violence has been going on since I was a kid. Luckily for me, I live in the northern part of Israel, far away from the Gaza missiles. But ever since I was a kid, I keep hearing about Hamas’s attacks, Israel’s counter attacks, Hamas’s counter-counter attacks etc. I think I have heard more pompous prime-ministerial speeches about “stamping out the terror” in Gaza then I have heard speeches about the Israeli economy.

The most amazing thing about the endless war in Gaza is that almost nobody, on either side, seems to have any actual goals to achieve through it, except making the other side stop. A few people on the Israeli side talk about conquering Gaza, and a few people on the Palestinian side talk about conquering Israel, but nobody really takes them seriously.

The other amazing thing about this fight is that there is actually nothing to fight about. Unlike other conflicts that Israel has in other places (e.g. the west bank, the Syrian front), this specific conflict doesn’t include any territorial dispute, or any complicated issues. The hypothetical peace treaty in this issue could be written on a napkin. It will contain two sentences- “Israel agrees not to attack in Gaza, and remove the blockade on it. Hamas agrees not to engage in terror attacks towards the citizens of Israel.

Why, then, if everyone is so interested in peace and quiet, and if it is so easy to achieve, does this war continue? The answer to this question is complicated, but it comes down to two issues:

  1. The power of inertia- once the boulder of violence has started rolling, even after nothing is pushing it forward anymore, it will continue rolling, taking innocent lives with it. It will not stop until it has ruined enough lives, enough homes, enough families.
  2. The power of the extreme- the most frustrating thing about this conflict is to see how a handful of extremists can drag millions of people into a never-ending cycle of war, death and violence. One terrorist who fires a missile during a cease-fire, one Israeli soldier who beats up a Palestinian kid, a few 9-year old racists who write “death to the Arabs” on Facebook. These extremists can light a fire that is extremely hard to extinguish, despite the fact that 99% of the citizens on both sides oppose them.

So despite the stupidity and absurdity of this war, the continuation of this cycle, and the next war in a year or two, seems inevitable. If we don’t want to lose hope, we must try and remind ourselves all the time that this stupidity can’t last forever. That eventually, sooner or later, this conflict will end.

About Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Natan Blanc was born in Jerusalem, and moved to Haifa (a major city in Israel) when he was a kid. Haifa is a “mixed” city, with both Arabs and Jews, so he learned about co-existence and peace between people of different religions at an early age. During his teenage years, Natan took part in quite a few different peace activities and organizations. He was also part of a social-democrat youth movement called “hamahanot haolim.”

When Natan was 19, he was drafted (like any Israeli after high-school) to join the IDF (the Israeli army) as a combat soldier. He refused, saying he wouldn’t be part of such an army. Natan told the IDF representatives that serving in this army was against his conscience, because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan was jailed repeatedly for his refusal. In total, he was sentenced 10 times, to a total of 178 days in jail. “Eventually,” said Natan, “the army tired of me.” He began an alternative civil service the September after his incarceration.

Natan’s struggle was first of all a struggle for the freedom of conscience, but it was also a struggle for peace between the Jews and the Arabs in Israel. “I hope that my actions, then and in the future, might help end this conflict that has been going on for more than 70 years.”

Natan currently serves in the MDA (the national rescue organization) as a medic (E.M.T.I) in an ambulance. He is also  involved in assisting and guiding potential conscientious military service objectors, as well as the forming and running of “Shelanoo” – a non-profit cooperative for socio-economical change.

To learn more about the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and what you can do, see Natan’s recommendations here.

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  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition On Track for Release

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace McNaughton & Gunn has completed the printing and we’ve received notice that the books have shipped. Contributors will be notified directly by email regarding their personal copies. Contributor pages will appear on the site later today. Official release date is July 30th, one week from today!

  • Website Changes

You may have noticed the blog posts scrolling in the right sidebar. We’ve updated the blog titles to include the author’s name so you can easily find posts from all our amazing advisers and guest writers.  This is the first of many exciting changes that will make Writing for Peace content more accessible. Watch for our 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” pages and a new header reflecting the beautiful black and white photography by our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

  • Facebook

Our Facebook page has taken on a new life! You’ll find inspiration there, about the craft of writing, peace, and the intersection of the two. Check it out, like and share. Help spread the word about Writing for Peace!

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Diminishing The Hatred Between The Two Peoples, by Natan Blanc

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserMy name is Natan Blanc and I am 20 years old. I live in Haifa, Israel.

When I was 13 my city was hit by missiles during the second Lebanon war. We had only a few minutes to run to the bottom floor every time the alarm was heard. My friend’s house was hit by a missile and was completely destroyed. Fortunately, she was not at home at the time.

When I was 15, another war broke-  the  Gaza War of 2008. My city, Haifa, is in northern Israel. It is close to Lebanon and far away from Gaza. Northern Israel was hardly affected during the Gaza War. Even though my city wasn’t hit, no friends’ houses were ruined, and my life went on as usual,  of the two wars, the Gaza War was far harder for me. The reason was the hatred I suddenly saw all around me.

People were happy when the enemy was hit. People rejoiced every time news came of another bombing, another attack on enemy territory. People were indifferent to innocent lives lost on the other side, indifferent to children dying.

The war was four years before my destined date for joining the Israeli army. I heard my friends saying, “Boy, I wish I were in the army now so I could go and kill those Arabs!”

That was when I learned the real evil of war- it causes death and ruin, but even worse than that is the blinding hatred and demonization it causes between the two sides. The houses ruined by the missiles could be rebuilt, but the hatred between the people will be almost impossible to reverse.

It was during the Gaza War that I decided that I would not  serve in the Israeli army. I decided I will not take part in building up the hatred between the Israelis and Arabs in Israel. I changed my mind a few times in between, but four years later, in November 2012, I reported to the induction base and refused to join the Israeli army. I was imprisoned a total of ten times, spending six months in and out of prison. Eventually, the army tired of me, and I will begin alternative civil service in September.

I don’t know if this conflict in the Middle East will ever end, but I hope my refusal was a small step towards diminishing the hatred between the two peoples.

About Natan Blanc, Young Adviser

Natan Blanc was born in Jerusalem, and moved to Haifa (a major city in Israel) when he was a kid. Haifa is a “mixed” city, with both Arabs and Jews, so he learned about co-existence and peace between people of different religions at an early age. Learn more about Natan here.

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Congratulations To Our New Young Advisers

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce two remarkable young peace activists, the founding members of our new panel of Young Advisers. Both have shown an extraordinary commitment to peace. Check their pages and watch our blog for their inspirational posts.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan Blanc is an Israeli who refused to serve in the IDF (Israeli army) “because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.” Natan held fast to his convictions, despite being jailed ten times.

Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a Navajo poet and peace activist from Taos, New Mexico, who has found her home in the service of humanity.

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination and contact information to editor@writingforpeace.org, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

 DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Finding Peace in Palestine, by Pamela Olson

Doves Take Flight, by Artist-in-Residence, Paula Lietz

Finding Peace in Palestine

by Pamela Olson

Pamela Olson, Writing for Peace AdviserI stumbled into Palestine at age 23, young, impressionable, and naïve about the ways of the world.  What I saw absolutely shocked me.  The way Palestinians were treated was traumatizing to witness.  It violated everything my heart had ever believed about fairness.  The brutality of it—against the people, against the land, against common sense and decency—was breathtaking.  And yet it was happening, and the people who were doing it were just people, not so different from myself.  They just happened to be in a political and social situation where such brutality was acceptable.

What people in the US hear about is mostly the brutality of Palestinians—their rocks, their bombs, their angry demonstrations.  Yet everyone I tour-guided in the West Bank (including Israelis and Americans) said the same thing once the situation began to become clear in their minds: “I can’t believe Palestinians aren’t more violent!”

This speaks of two things.  One is the tendency of Israelis and Americans to project their own attitudes onto others.  As regional and global hegemons, violence has often been ‘necessary’ to maintain Israel’s and America’s edges of power.  So violence has become normalized in those societies.  It has to, or they could not convince their citizens to perform and support such violence.

The second is the incredible ability of Palestinians to sublimate their anger and frustration and channel it into productive actions such as helping the less fortunate, engaging in non-violent resistance, or simply doing what they have to do to survive on land they have inhabited for centuries.  This is a story rarely told outside of Palestine, yet it is seen constantly within Palestine.

I brought my American sensibilities with me to Palestine, and at first I had a hard time controlling my outrage.  It was maddening to simply accept the conditions imposed on my friends without doing something, but in my angered state I couldn’t think clearly about what.

It was the Palestinians who convinced me, through their example, to calm myself as best I could rather than lashing out, at least at the beginning, and to keep learning and doing what I could day to day to improve things a bit (such as visiting injured Palestinians in hospitals) and try to educate my fellow countrymen about a situation about which most Americans are sadly ignorant, despite the fact that our government bankrolls an unjust occupation with billions of our tax dollars.

I started out working as a volunteer, then a journalist, but after a while I became frustrated.  The statistics and anecdotes in my 800-word reports could never capture the full gestalt of the situation for people who didn’t already have a good understanding of the history, culture, and politics of the region.  Most Americans in particular have a one-sided framework in their heads that distorts any attempt to explain a given situation.

I finally realized that if I wanted to reach people in a meaningful way, I would have to write a book that could take them through all the steps I went through, first to become intrigued about the state of affairs, then charmed by the region, then horrified about the situation, and finally confident enough to engage fully and fruitfully, with a kind of holistic understanding backed by years of research and soul-searching, always open to new information and analyses.

I tried to get that all across in 300 short pages targeted to American audiences (plus a sequel I’m working on that focuses more on the “special relationship” between the US and Israel and the intolerable situation in Gaza).  I hope it can make some kind of contribution toward real peace—sustainable peace that includes enough justice and understanding to serve as a stable foundation for what comes after peace is made.  I hope it can serve as a wake-up call to many Americans who believe the conflict is primarily about “terror” and “security,” who are comfortable with this framework, and who know nothing of Palestinian history, culture, or humanity.

It’s a small contribution in the grand scheme of this decades-long conflict, and it’s difficult to know if it will do any good.  As Palestinian superstar singer and UN youth ambassador Mohammed Assaf said, “There are many ways to make a difference in life, but my way is as an artist.”

If you do what you love, with an intention of peace—maybe it’s the best we can all do.

I won’t lie.  Sometimes it’s still very difficult to control my anger when another mother’s son or daughter is brutally taken from this world, or another piece of beautiful land is stolen and bulldozed into prefabricated settlements, and the killers and thieves escape any kind of justice.

But then I think of examples like the Palestinian family whose son was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a Muslim holiday, who grieved as much as any family who loses a son, searched their souls, and donated the boy’s organs to Israelis in need.

And I feel deeply humbled, and like there are better emotions than anger to motivate a human being.

What were the experiences that shaped Pamela Olson’s understanding of Palestine? Read an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Fast Times in Palestine, showing her first taste of both the wonder and oppression of Palestine.

About Pamela Olson

Fast Times in Palestine, by Pamela OlsonPamela Olson grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, and studied physics and political science at Stanford University. She lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s 2005 presidential campaign.

Pamela wrote an award-winning book about those experiences called Fast Times in Palestine.

Learn more about Pamela Olson’s work here. And check out Pamela’s website here.

About PD Lietz, Artist-in-Residence

Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-ResidenceThe art for this piece was contributed by Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Pd Lietz.

Pd Lietz is a widely published writer, photographer and artist who lives in rural Manitoba Canada. Ms. Lietz was awarded first prize United Kingdom Frost Photography International Competition 2011. Learn more about Pd Lietz here. View works by Pd Lietz here.

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Young Advisers’ Panel

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of extraordinary young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination, and contact information to editor@writingforpeace.org, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

 

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.