Saturday, January 3, 2015

Iyad in Gaza

Palestine Song فلسطين أغنية

He Might As Well Have Written to Santa Claus

Mohammed El Kurd

“Every time anyone says that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, I can’t help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.”

~ John Sheehan, S.J. (Jesuit priest)

Israel and Palestine have been in the news again recently because Palestine had the audacity to try to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), the intergovernmental, international tribunal located in the Netherlands that can prosecute people for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Palestine submitted documents to UN headquarters in New York yesterday saying they wanted to achieve “justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”

This comes as the official death toll from Israel’s 51-day Gaza offensive of last summer is revised to 2,310; the new, significantly higher number includes many Palestinians whose bodies were found in the rubble following the end of the Israeli bombardment as well as dozens who’ve died of their wounds in hospitals in the months since the conflict's end. (An additional 10,626 Palestinians were injured.)

Of course Israel and its lapdog, the United States, immediately condemned the ICC action; Israel decided to freeze the transfer of half a billion shekels (more than $127 million) in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians, and the U.S. threatened to invoke one of our laws law cutting off U.S. aid to Palestine – approximately $400 million in economic support each year – if Palestinians used membership in the ICC to make any claims against Israel.

I wasn’t aware that such a law was on the books but I’m not surprised.

I receive a lot of my information on the Israel/Palestine conflict from a Facebook group entitled, “Americans Against Genocide in Gaza.” The group just shared a compelling letter to President Obama written by 14-year-old Palestinian Mohammed El-Kurd that I’m reposting here:

Dear President Obama,

I am 14 and live in the Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Almost four years ago my family and I were evicted from part of our home by Israeli settlers, backed by Israeli court decisions. The process has made life almost unbearable for me and tens of thousands of Palestinians. Settlers are working towards Jewish control of all of East Jerusalem, at times using violence against Palestinians.

This was once a beautiful neighbourhood. Everybody was so close, and before part of my house was evicted, I was never afraid of going to sleep. We used to have no worries. Now it doesn't feel like a Palestinian neighbourhood any more. All the signs are in Hebrew, and the music too.

The people who've been evicted have lost financially and emotionally. My father has stopped going to work for almost a year, because it was so crowded and dangerous and every day there was tension and violence, so he couldn't just leave us alone in the house with the settlers. The little kids wet their beds. My sister couldn't sleep. The settlers have a dog in our house and every time it went past, she wet herself.

This thing that happened tore us apart. We were one big family, and now everyone lives in a different city. We are extremely uncomfortable and uncertain about what is going to happen here. Children my age and much younger are regularly arrested, interrogated and beaten by Israeli police, and violently attacked by settlers. For most of my life I have felt unsafe and threatened in my own neighbourhood and even in my own home.

Mr President, you have the power to change that. The most simple thing you could do is see our situation for yourself and speak out about it, to see the reality and talk about what you see. It's not like you don't know what's happening here. I'm sure you know everything.

On this trip I hope that you will speak out against the Israeli government's role in supporting the settlers and pressure the Israeli government to change its policies. US military aid to Israel is used directly against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators. I hope in the future you will stop giving military aid to support Israel's illegal occupation of my people.

I also hope that in the future justice will return to the people. I hope the world will begin to speak out against the oppression we face in my neighbourhood and [the oppression] against all Palestinians. That you and others will not remain silent while our homes are taken, children are arrested and injured, and our future threatened.

Mr President, we want our houses back. And our pre-1948 land. It's not fair what's happening here, and most of the world doesn't realise it. So if I had one wish I would get everyone's rights back. From a little ball they stole from a boy in the street to a big farm they stole from a grandfather.

Mohammed El Kurd

Mohammed is around the same age as my daughter Nikita. He should not have to write letters like this to the President of the United States.

And American politicians should stop taking their marching orders from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The following video, My Neighbourhood – directed by Julia Bacha and Rebekah Wingert-Jabi – tells the story of Mohammed El Kurd, a Palestinian teenager growing up in the heart of East Jerusalem. When Mohammed's family is forced to give up a part of their home to Israeli settlers, local residents begin peaceful protests and in a surprising turn, are quickly joined by scores of Israeli supporters. Mohammed comes of age in the face of unrelenting tension with his neighbours and unexpected co-operation with Israeli allies in his backyard. My Neighbourhood is the latest short film by Just Vision, an organization that uses film and media to increase the power and legitimacy of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and resolve the conflict nonviolently. Learn more about Just Vision at

Sources: Haaretz,, Guardian,, Americans Against Genocide in Gaza.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cub Cuteness

Merry Christmas, Darling - The Carpenters

Send a Card to Katie

I hate nursing homes.

I know it’s not fair to lump every single facility in this country together and make such a sweeping condemnation but I’ve been to more than one and I’ve found them to be really, really sad at best. It’s sad that we have them at all. It’s sad that many people have no other option but to deposit aging relatives in them. It’s sad that even the best nursing home employees don’t know how or don’t have the time to love, to honor, to care for our parents and grandparents the way they deserve to be treated. And it’s sad that so many nursing home residents become numbers, files, occupants to be bathed roughly and grudgingly, pushed to the dining room whether they’re hungry or not, left alone when they’re already lonely, forgotten by the same people whose diapers they once changed, whose school lunches they lovingly packed and clothes they laundered with affection and dedication.

I remember the surprisingly loud, haunting sobs that my beloved grandmother began emitting, alone in an empty nursing home dining room in suburban Georgia, as soon as my family members and I kissed her goodbye and headed for our car. I could hear them all the way down the hall and I still remember what they sounded like. My grandma wasn’t a manipulative drama queen. The 94-year-old woman, who probably weighed 100 pounds when wet, was just so devastated to be left alone that every fiber of her, every cell and bone, objected and she became unladylike, undignified, immature and out of control in her desperation. I remember thinking, “Somebody should go be with her, hug her, pat her hand.” When I voiced this to my oldest daughter, Amelia, she replied, “We should.”

Grandma passed away soon after that visit.

I still feel guilty that I didn’t do more with and for her in her final years. It’s so easy to compartmentalize, to push certain thoughts away and justify our individual status quos. And now I’m making the same mistakes with my elderly parents. I’m not doing enough.

So when I signed into Facebook the other day and read a friend’s solicitation on behalf of her own elderly mother, a nursing home resident here in mid-Michigan, I jumped at the chance to heed her call. Diane Hebert, an activist and environmentalist whom I’ve known for years, is doing as much as she can for her 94-year-old mother, Katie. She visits Katie regularly, bringing her favorite food – fish and chips, hush puppies and cole slaw – and complaining when the staff medicates her too much. She recently came up with the idea of requesting that people send Christmas cards directly to her mom so that the staff would see that there are people who care about Katie, so they would remember that she’s there, she’s loved, she’s more than a name on a file or a body in a room.

If you can spare a moment and have an extra holiday card and postage stamp lying around, please send it to:

Katherine “Katie” Beck C37
Brittany Manor
3615 East Ashman Street
Midland, MI 48642

Here’s your chance to spread a little holiday joy. Send a card to Katie and take comfort in knowing that you’ve done your part to keep Christ in Christmas.

Diane and Katie

P.S. I don’t mean to deride the staff at Brittany Manor, by the way. I’ve never been there or met any of them. I just know that they can’t love Katie as much as her daughter does and when I asked if I could issue a call for cards at “What’s the Diehl?,” Diane said yes.