The Northeastern University is developing new Middle East-focused international study abroad and graduate seminar programs, thanks to a $65,000 grant from a New York nonprofit.
Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America
Garnet Publishing, Authors: Jamal Krayem Kanj, ISBN: 9781859642627, Paperback, September 2010
From: Now Lebanon, March 2, 2011
ithout a doubt, Jamal Krayem Kanj has had an interesting life. He was born 10 years after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and grew up in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. As a youth, Kanj flirted with the idea of joining the armed resistance in Syria, survived Israeli airstrikes and fled war-torn Lebanon to finish schooling in Iraq, before eventually settling down in the USA. If Kanj were to put all this down in writing, then it’s definitely worth the read.
As bloody protests continue to rock the streets of Egypt, a panel convened at the Harvard Institute of Politics yesterday to discuss how the U.S. should approach the complex situation called it “the most historic moment in the modern Arab world in the last century.”
The panelists offered historical context for the recent spread of political instability across Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab nations, and said that even for countries in which the government remains in power, the unrest will fundamentally alter the political fabric of the region.
The panel—Rami G. Khouri, a journalist from the American University in Beirut; Tarek Masoud, a HKS professor; E. Roger Owen, a history professor; and Malika Zeghal, a near eastern languages and civilizations professor—said that high unemployment in many nations has been coupled with a widespread belief that governments have failed to protect their citizens.
The recent success of the Tunisian protests in ending former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s reign has sparked protest movements in other nations to oust governments that have grown unpopular with their people, Masoud said.
“The wall of fear has fallen and has changed the psychology and culture of the region,” said Zeghal. Several panelists agreed that while the U.S. is in a difficult diplomatic position, as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is a long-standing ally, the U.S. should stand strongly behind the demands of the Egyptian people for a fully accountable democracy.
Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta is a Canadian Jewish-Quaker activist, with over twenty years experience working with nonviolent anti-occupation activists in Israel and occupied Palestine.
The book has two underlying premises: the belief that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – since 1967 – is fundamentally wrong and illegal under international law; that Israel must withdraw from these lands. She believes the only way to force Israel to withdraw is through massive nonviolent resistance in Palestine, Israel, and the international community.
The book opens with Maxine introducing us to several Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists who tell us why they chose nonviolence, and why they got involved in activism against the occupation. Through their voices the book reflects on the last several decades of nonviolent activism in Israel/Palestine, the successes, failures and challenges of nonviolent organizing, and on the activists’ hopes and visions for the future.
It discusses the work of Israeli organizations like New Profile, which uses the power of the word to challenge the increasing militaristic nature of Israeli society; the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition which works in solidarity with Palestinians, using direct nonviolent action to resist the bulldozing of Palestinian homes; joint organizations like Combatants for Peace, which consists of former combatants from both sides who have now committed themselves to peace-building; Palestinian civil societies, like the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People, which teaches the skills of nonviolent resistance to the people of occupied Palestine.
One theme that recurs throughout is that nonviolent resistance is popular resistance. Active nonviolence allows entire oppressed communities to mobilize through boycotts, strikes, blockades, peaceful demonstrations and trespassing.
Many of the activists look back favourably to the First Intifada, from 1987 to 1993, when a largely nonviolent grass roots uprising occurred in occupied Palestine. The decision-making power was very much in the hands of the community. In 1994, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership returned to Occupied Palestine and imposed a very strong state structure on the West Bank and Gaza. This marginalized the civil society that had emerged in the preceding years. The Second Intifada since the fall of 2000 has been a much more state-centred operation,
with a more militarized focus. While a new wave of nonviolent resistance has emerged since 2000, its practitioners have often felt marginalized by the official channels of the state-based Palestinian struggle. (I use the term, state, in this paragraph rather loosely, since the Palestinian Authority might best be called a kind of quasi-state, with authoritarian institutions typical of a state, but without real autonomy or international recognition.)
While the book celebrates the many people and groups dedicated to nonviolence, it is honest about their frustrations. In Chapter Five, you feel the warmth and joy of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals gathered around a camp fire in the village of Bil’in, where grassroots Palestinians have maintained an ongoing nonviolent protest since 2005. In Chapter Six, you share the pain and frustration of activists who
talk about how marginalized the path of nonviolent resistance often is, in both Palestinian and Israeli society. Then in Chapters Eight and Nine, you share the hopes and dreams that the anti-occupation activists have for the future of Palestine and Israel.
Four reflective essays by individual thinkeractivists round out the book, and help ground the spiritual energy of the journey the book has taken. A bibliography and a list of related web sites invite the reader to explore these topics further.
There is perhaps one weakness in the book. It would have been helpful to have a first chapter that set forth the chronological background to the current situation, stating what happened in 1947, 1948-49, 1967 and 1987. An explanation is needed of how and why the Israeli occupation is illegal under international law, and describes the general nature of the occupation. Just as many in North America are unaware of nonviolent activism in Palestine and Israel; many are profoundly ignorant of the general historical facts. As it is, the reader pieces things together chapter
by chapter, or has to go elsewhere for historical background.
I agree with Ursula Franklin’s opening words. “This is an important book.” Every open-minded North American should read it, and more importantly, act upon it.
Saskatoon Monthly Meeting
Refusing to be Enemies is a good antidote to all those who have given up on peace in the Holy Land. It is a powerful and hopeful book about the possibility of a peaceful and just future for the people of Israel and Palestine. For all those on both sides of the conflict who say “There is no partner for peace”, … you will meet in this book hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis who are already active partners for peace.
In Refusing to be Enemies, Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta shares the stories of over 100 Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent peace and justice activists whom she interviewed in-depth. We learn why they have chosen nonviolence as a means of struggle and a path to real peace. Kaufman-Lacusta writes that increasing numbers of Palestinians are coming to see nonviolence as an active and effective means to challenge the Israeli military occupation of their homeland. Even some Hamas leaders are supporting nonviolent resistance as an effective means of struggle by Palestinians. And thousands of Israelis and Israeli organizations, as well as internationals, are joining Palestinians in ongoing nonviolent action campaigns, such as those that challenge the 26-foot -high separation wall, which is cutting off many Palestinian villages from their farmland Israeli and international participation in these Palestinian-led nonviolent local actions give moral support and some protection to the Palestinian demonstrators. In addition, notes Kaufman-Lacusta, the “outside” participants gain a heart-level understanding about the Palestinian experience of oppression living under the Israeli military occupation, and are inspired to return home to share their experience with others.
Her book provides firsthand evidence of the conversion experiences of many Israelis and Palestinians from a belief and confidence in the use of violence and the gun as a means of finding security to a belief in the power of active nonviolence.
We hear stories of both Israelis and Palestinians coming to realize that the security of their two peoples is bound together, and you can’t have security for one without security for the “other.”
Martin Luther King once said, “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence, but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” Israelis and
Palestinians are discovering nonviolence as the only alternative to an endless spiral of violence and counter-violence and security for none.
The stories in this book profiles the visions, hopes, and dreams of Palestinian and Israeli activists, as well as their thoughts about strategy on how to escalate the nonviolent resistance to the military occupation and build a just peace.
It is heartening to read of Palestinians and Israelis who say, “We are all one human family.” It is even more heartening to learn how they risk their lives in courageous nonviolent actions.
Refusing to Be Enemies helps us realize how important it is for us – Israelis in particular, and people around the world in general- to support the nonviolent initiatives and movements of Palestinians.
President John Kennedy once said “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.” Our job is to help make peaceful change possible in Palestine/Israel.
This excellent book encourages all of us to get beyond the all-too-common division of the world between “us” and “them,” and the need to use violence war, and killing as a way of solving problems and achieving security. Instead, we discover that we are all one human family and can act on that belief and “refuse to be enemies.”
David Hartsough is director of Peaceworkers and cofounder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce. He co-led a Middle East peace delegation last year
Source: David Hartsough, Fellowship Journal, p41, Nyack, NY USA, Fall 2010
In the November issue of the Friends Journal, a review on the book Refusing to be Enemies by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta was published by Robert Dockhorn. You can read the review here. The author has sent a reply to the reviewer and graciously shared her reply with us to publish here:
Letter to Friends Journal Forum from Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta (circulated with permission)
“I’d like to thank Robert Dockhorn for his very positive and helpful review of Refusing to be Enemies and also for his encouragement to submit a few words in response. The first thing I’d like readers of Friends Journal to know is that—in addition to requesting that their local libraries acquire the book—there is another way to avoid the prohibitive price of the $70 hardcover edition. The paperback is due for release in February of 2011, and is listed at $24.99 US (down from the original list price of $35, although the UK price remains unchanged at 19.99 BP), which will make it far more accessible. It is already listed on Amazon, and your local bookseller can order it from Ithaca Press’s North American distributer, ISBS in Portland, OR.
Regarding the FJ review, I would like to make one correction, clarify a couple of points, and clear up a misunderstanding.
A meaning-altering word substitution was inadvertently introduced in reproducing my capsule definition of “normalization” in the Israeli-Palestinian context. The correct quote is: “Normalization is a derogatory term denoting a relationship between Israelis and Palestinians (usually organizations) carried on as if all were normal between Israel and Palestine, even as the oppression [not “conflict”] continues.” I.e., the issue isn’t the persistence of the conflict, but of the power imbalance between Israelis and the Palestinians under Israeli rule.
I also would like to note that the protests that have “temporarily blocked construction of the wall, and in a few instances actually changed its path,” are not limited to Bil’in, although that village’s now 5-year nonviolent struggle is an extraordinary example. In fact, similar, if smaller-scale and less well-publicized, nonviolent efforts have been going on in many villages along the route of the wall since 2002. A number are mentioned in the book, including that of Budrus, where daily actions blocking bulldozers led to return of 95% of the land slated for expropriation from it and neighbouring villages. The film Budrus is currently being shown throughout the world, and the trailer and a schedule of showings may be viewed at www.justvision.org . Similarly, for a close-up of the Bil’in struggle, check out www.bilin-village.org, where you can also take a look at a clip of the also excellent, if somewhat older, film, Bil’in Habibti (http://www.bilin-village.org/english/agenda/3249-Bilin-Habibti-Bilin-My-Love-at-Voices-Forward-Festival).
Lastly, despite the overall positive tone of the review, one interpretation of the book gave me pause. It states: “Kaufman-Lacusta probes carefully the different interests of Palestinian and Israeli activists and how their activities should not always be conducted jointly. At the same time, she urges Israeli activists to do their part by steering nonviolent activities into Israel proper, in the form of noncooperation with the occupation, both to have a greater effect on the Israeli government and to heighten the awareness of other Israelis of the conditions in the occupied territories.”
I want to emphasize that this is not quite what I intended to convey, and I apologize if I gave the impression that this was the case. I definitely did not mean to imply that the interests of Palestinian and Israeli activists necessarily differ and that “their activities should not always be conducted jointly.” What I was saying is that working jointly in uni-national organizations seems to work better in many instances than working in joint, bi-national organizations; and, more importantly, that Israelis (and internationals) must be sensitive to the desires and needs of their Palestinian hosts, and neither impose their “help” nor take advantage of their greater access to influence with the authorities.
Likewise, in encouraging Israeli activists to engage more widely in noncooperation with the Israeli authorities inside Israel and work to combat racism and militarism within the borders of the state, I did not mean to suggest that Israeli activists should avoid participation in Palestinian-led nonviolent actions in the West Bank; quite the contrary!
These forms of activism are complementary, not an “either-or” choice. In fact, it is precisely those Israelis who stand side-by-side with Palestinians and see the conditions of their lives first-hand who are best able to “heighten the awareness of other Israelis” of these conditions.
Happily, by the time I wrote the Afterword for the paperback edition last fall, I was able to point to recent progress in both joint struggle and noncooperation inside Israel [* suggested footnote, if there’s room: BDS, the Palestinian-led international campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, was the third form of nonviolent resistance dealt with in the Afterword: see http://bdsmovement.net ]. In that connection, I especially encourage you to check out reports of the ongoing (weekly since January 2010) demonstrations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem (e.g., www.en.justjlm.org or just Google “sheikh jarrah”) and the expanding movement of noncooperation initiated in May by Israeli activist Ilana Hammerman (Google her by name), who concludes a recent article in the prestigious Israeli daily Ha’aretz:
I am nurturing the hope that the police will recommend that I stand trial. Because then, before they “prosecute me to the full extent of the law,” I will be given an opportunity to tell my story, and to bring up in the courtroom − the most appropriate place of all − my doubts concerning the legality of many of the laws of the State of Israel.
Thus encouraged, I’ve been ending the PowerPoint presentations I’ve been giving at book events since that time by wondering out loud—quoting the Afterword:
Could this be the beginning of the end “of the multi-tiered Israeli system of oppression” that [prominent BDS activist Omar] Barghouti describes? Have the “Israeli Jews with a conscience” that [pacifist Palestinian lawyer] Jonathan Kuttab referred to [see Epilogue section entitled “Joint Struggle in the Occupied Territories—Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea”] begun, at last, to “make a clean break with . . .. broader Israeli society” and to act upon their “more thoroughgoing critique of Israeli society,” as he proposed back in 2007? Could this, indeed, be the beginning of the “movement of Israeli nonviolent action, especially multiple forms of noncooperation, inside Israel” that I allude to in my Conclusions as a necessary complement to joint struggle in the occupied territories in the achievement of “a just, viable, and enduring peace” in the region?”
Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation presents the voices of over 100 practitioners and theorists of nonviolence, the vast majority either Palestinian or Israeli, as they reflect on their own involvement in nonviolent resistance and speak about the nonviolent strategies and tactics employed by Palestinian and Israeli organizations, both separately and in joint initiatives.
From examples of effective nonviolent campaigns to consideration of obstacles encountered by nonviolent organizations and the special challenges of joint struggle, the book explores ways in which a more effective nonviolent movement may be built. In their own words, activists share their hopes and visions for the future and discuss the internal and external changes needed for their organizations, and the nonviolent movement as a whole, to successfully pursue their goal of a just peace in the region.
A foreword on the definition and nature of nonviolence by Canadian author Ursula Franklin, analytic essays by activists Ghassan Andoni (Palestinian), Jeff Halper (Israeli), Jonathan Kuttab (a Palestinian activist lawyer with international experience) and Starhawk (an “international” of Jewish background), and an epilogue from the author, round out the book. Andoni offers an analysis based on his long experience of nonviolent activism in Palestine, while Halper postulates “Six Elements of Effective Organizing and Struggle” as a conceptual framework for the interviews. Kuttab argues that, even given the Palestinians’ legal right to armed struggle, “nonviolence is more effective and suitable for resistance”, and Starhawk describes the unique challenges faced by Palestinian nonviolence.