(Fwd) ORGANIZE Fwd: 1050 coffins
williams at ainet.com
Sat Apr 13 22:26:39 MDT 2002
------- Forwarded message follows -------
From: "James Bartram" <hndsmcelt at hotmail.com>
To: ballew at writeme.com, jim at watkinscorner.org, organize at jasperneufeld.com,
passanie at hotmail.com
Subject: ORGANIZE Fwd: 1050 coffins
Date sent: Sat, 13 Apr 2002 15:53:39 +0000
>From: Gene Bluestein <geneb at csufresno.edu>
>To: Jean Kennedy <kennedy at mailbug.com>
>Subject: 1050 coffins
>Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2002 05:09:28 -0700
> Thousand Coffins at the United Nations
>David McReynolds <DavidMcR at aol.com>
>Mar 19, 2002
>Let's see if I can pull the words out at this hour, and
>write this in one flow.
>Today, shortly after 1 p.m., I got to Dag Hamaskold
>Plaza near the United Nations, to look at the "Coffin
>Display" arranged by Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved
>Families for Peace. (Two groups cooperated in this
>project, the Parents' Circle of 200 families in Israel
>and National Movement for Change in the Palestinian
>There, in the space where on other occasions thousands
>have rallied for various causes, were over a thousand
>coffins. 800 coffins draped with Palestinian flags,
>250 with Israeli flags. I am a hardened radical but as
>soon as I saw the neat rows of coffins my eyes filled
>with tears. I walked down the rows, looked at the
>banners posted on all four sides of the square -
>"Better Have Pains of Peace Than Agonies of War". I met
>some friends from the Fellowship of Reconciliation. I
>spoke briefly to a young Israeli woman who had lost her
>son to a suicide bomber. I thanked her for the action.
>She apologized for making me cry. I spoke briefly to
>the Palestinian mother, a relative of hers (perhaps her
>husband) holding up a photo of their child lost to
>Israeli fire. And then I walked away from the small
>crowd, found a concrete bench and broke down.
>I thought about why I was weeping, what had "broken
>through" my political shell. It was both the simplicity
>of the action, but also because it had "called me back"
>from my anger against Israel, and that I must explain,
>both for those of you who are younger and so easily
>throw around terms like "Zionism", and those of you who
>are older and may have chosen one side of the other too
>At UCLA I was the co-chair of a Christians and Jews for
>Israel Committee (l948, probably). In those days all of
>us in the socialist movement danced the hora, sang
>Zionist songs, had friends who were going to or had
>been in a Kibbutz. Israel, essentially a democratic
>socialist experiment to repair the horror of Hitlerism,
>was alone in a reactionary Arab Middle East dominated
>by oil, by feudal regimes, by Arabs who had sided with
>Time passed and reality set in. Israel was weak, one
>country alone. The American Jewish community was large
>and strong. It helped shaped US policy toward Israel
>(ask anyone in Washington DC about AIPAC). The Anti-
>Defamation League changed its old policies and began to
>treat anyone who sympathized with the Palestinians as
>anti-Semitic. I watched my old friend Irwin Suall, who
>worked for them, change and harden and drift away from
>Israel opposed the liberation of Algeria - it meant one
>more Arab state that would be hostile. But it also
>meant siding with French Colonialism. (Might Algerian
>policy have been different if Israel sided with the
>FLN? But the problem was the French were supplying
>Israel with weapons - a short range imperative). When
>Nasser, part of the proud new Arab nationalism that was
>breaking with the old regimes, took over the Suez
>Canal, Great Britain and France and Israel joined in
>invading Egypt. It was October, 1956. In Hungary
>workers had risen against the Communist Party. Soviet
>tanks were moving through the streets. In a way I could
>forgive Israel - she felt it a matter of life and death
>- but France and Great Britain chose the exact moment
>when the attention of the world should have been on
>Hungary to deflect it with this invasion. (The invasion
>failed, and like Israel's backing of France in Algeria,
>it helped leave a permanent hostility to Israel among
>moderate and secular Arabs).
>More years passed, and Israel made its alliance with
>South Africa under its old regime, and welcomed the
>leader of that country - a man who had been sympathetic
>to Hitler - to Israel.
>The refugees sweltered, used as political pawns by the
>Arab states (if you think the Palestinian refugees are
>fans of the Arab states you haven't had private talks
>with them), and ignored - simply ignored - by Israel,
>as if many of them had not been driven out of their
>homes by terror. (Does one still have to document
>this?). I remember Norman Thomas speaking of the
>problem of the refugees and some in the New York
>Zionist movement saying he had always been anti-
>Time passed and the settlements began in the Occupied
>Territory. A very deliberate and careful policy - one
>for which Sharon bears special responsibility, but
>Labor also - to make any independent Palestinian State
>Time passed and Israel said (I have the clippings from
>the Times somewhere in my dusty collection) "let us
>sell the arms to the Central American dictators - it
>looks bad if you do it, and we can use the money".
>Time passed and often on key votes in the United
>Nations the only dissent would be the US and Israel.
>Never did they disagree.
>Israel, under Sharon, invaded Lebanon, was responsible
>for mass killings by the Christian milita at the
>Palestinian refugee camps.
>It had become clear to us that Israel was now an
>apartheid state. In some ways worse than South Africa
>had been. The oppression of the Palestinians was
>largely ignored by Israelis. The Israelis were doing
>well. And, lets, face it, lets not play games, there is
>a deep thread of racism in Israeli society - not only
>against the Palestinians but also against the North
>African Jews - who formed the backbone of Likkud.
>And how was this different from my own country? A
>nation much of which was built by slaves. How many
>Americans cared that the Vietnamese lost over two
>million people? How many Americans have paused to
>wonder if the Vietnamese might not also grieve for
>their Missing in Action? How can we ignore that we, as
>a people, elected Richard Nixon twice. And Reagan
>twice. And now Bush. (Except, of course, he wasn't
>elected - he was anointed by the Supreme Court). How
>many Americans care about the children dying in Iraq?
>It only takes a government spokesperson to say it is
>really Saddam's fault and our minds are at rest. A half
>million die and we are not concerned. Iraq is an evil
>country - probably its children and elderly and weak
>are evil as well.
>I have no faith in the majority of Israelis (nor of
>Americans) to make right choices when the only facts
>they have are filtered through the mass media.
>All of this anger, all of this bitterness, dissolved in
>tears at what parents had done in front of my eyes.
>Parents - Jews and Arabs, Palestinian and Israeli -
>sharing only a common terrible grief of children, or
>sisters, brothers, parents, gone. Gone by Israeli jet
>attacks. Gone by a suicide bomber. But gone. And I look
>out at a display of life size (if one can say of an
>coffin that it is "life size") coffins, 1,050 of them.
>There in the plaza near the United Nations. On a day
>not yet quite spring.
>How dare I give up hope of change within the human
>heart when here in front of me were these long and
>terrible rows of flag draped coffins to remind us all
>of what stubborn political logic had bought. There is
>no military way out for Israel. It must negotiate. And
>we must want those negotiations to succeed.
>Oh yes, I think every Jewish settlement in the Occupied
>Territories should be yanked out by the roots. Oh yes,
>I think every inch of the Occupied Terroritories must
>be returned to the Palestinians, and a sovereign
>Palestinian State emerge there (even though I don't
>believe in states, I see no other choice now).
>This dreadful collection of death had been made visible
>here by the work of both Palestinian and Jewish
>contacts in this country. Shortly before I arrived an
>orthodox Rabbi had gone over to the Palestinian woman
>and asked if she wanted to talk to her relatives in
>Palestine, pulled out his cell phone and dialed - a
>human contact between an Orthodox Rabbi and a
>Palestinian grieving over her loss.
>Many Palestinians are weary of Arafat but Sharon cannot
>choose the leader of the Palestinians, nor can I choose
>the leader of Israel, weary as I know many Israelis are
>with that man, and wicked as I believe his policies to
>What we can do is speak with respect of the saving
>remnant on both sides who continue to work together, to
>suffer together, to reach out to one another. How dare
>I not do the same? How dare any of us on the Left, in
>the Peace movement, not support these elements of life
>which exist there? Our politics can be clear, but let
>our language be touched by the compassion of what both
>sides are living through.
>The coffins spoke to me. If I broke down after seeing
>them, it was because sometimes my anger is so great I
>forget that the seeds of life are what radicals must
>nurture - in this case seeds of life glimpsed in a sea
>of flag draped coffins.
>(on the staff of War Resisters League, Socialist Party
>candidate for President, 2000)
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