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“The Wanted 18,” Which Variety Calls ‘Ingenious’ to Screen in Long Beach

20 Jun

The Middle East Task Force of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will show on Sunday, June 24, at 4 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church, 6500 East Stearns St., Long Beach, the film, “The Wanted 18.”

Jay Weissberg, in his film review of Nov. 29, 2014, said, “Only the tragically absurd Israeli-Palestinian situation could transform the simple act of milking cows into a perceived threat to national security, yet that’s the amazing story of Paul Cowan and Amer Shomali’s ingenious documentary…Mixing talking heads, a smattering of archival footage, and smile-inducing claymation (stop-action animation with clay), the helmers (directors) bring to life a time during the First Intifada when the residents of Beit Sahour, in the Occupied Territories, started a dairy collective, highlighting the ridiculous without losing track of the seriousness of all acts of resistance….In 1988…citizens from Beit Sahour decided they were tired of being forced to purchase all dairy supplies from Israel, so they bought 18 cows from a sympathetic kibbutznik.  It was an anomaly on multiple levels: Palestinians have a sheep-raising (not bovine) (sic) culture, and, beyond that, this was a community of academics and professionals, so they sent student Salim Jaber to the U.S. to learn the finer points of milking and animal husbandry.”

To read the Variety review, click here.

The Al-Jazeera review of April 26, 2016 pointed out Beit Sahour was a “predominantly Christian Arab village.”

Cowan is associated with the National Film Board of Canada and has directed nine other films.

Shomali, besides directing the film, narrates.

According to the website of Columbia University’s Center for Palestine Studies, in welcoming Shomali as a visiting artist, Shomali “is a Palestinian multidisciplinary artist, using painting, digital media, films, installations and comics as tools to explore and interact with the Palestinian sociopolitical scene focusing on the creation and the use of Palestinian revolution iconography. He holds a Master’s degree in Animation from the Arts University Bournemouth in the United Kingdom and a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Birzeit University” and that “his work at many exhibitions around the world including France, Belgium, Greece, Tunisia, Germany and Canada.”

According to a PDF flyer for the event, at 6 p.m., a catered Middle Eastern dinner will be available, “free-will offering will be taken (donations accepted), an opportunity “to discuss the film and…current events” and at 7 p.m., there will be a “Prayer Service for Peace.”

According to the website of the Southern California Synod of the ELCA, more than 120 churches comprise the synod, serving the counties of Kern, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Khaled Bakrawi’s Legacy Continues: Refugee Resource Center Opens

7 Jun

Some months back while my wife and I were traveling, I received an email from the Palestinian Youth Movement, which announced the opening of the Khaled Bakrawi Center in El Cajon, California.  Because we were traveling where we only had at best unreliable access to the internet, I did not read the email until much later after getting home.  While it’s been more than four months since the center’s opening, I’m compelled to write about it.

The Khaled Bakrawi Center, according to the PYM (US) website, “was created for… serving immigrant and refugee youth by teaching various life skills, such as English language, and computer training…. (The) trauma informed services and culturally relevant programs generate a sense of collective healing and community power meant to minimize senses of alienation and loss which often accompanies war trauma and the struggles of exile for these children and youth. There is significance in opening a center catered to immigrant and refugee youth in El Cajon. Since the 1990s, this city, sometimes called ‘Little Baghdad,’ has been a hub for refugees, specifically Iraqi refugees fleeing dictatorship, sanctions, and imperialist wars.”

To read the PYM statement on the opening of the center, click here.

However, what I was most interested was to understand who Khaled Bakrawi was and how he died.  To that end what follows is my attempt at answering those two questions.

Much of Budour Youssef Hassan’s Feb. 18, 2015 piece “Syria’s disappeared Palestinians,” for the Electronic Intifada, is devoted to Khaled Bakrawi.

Hassan said Bakrawi was a prominent activist and co-founder of the Jafra Association for Aid and Development, which works to improve conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, and as “(a) refugee from Lubya (During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Israelis destroyed the town and its population was removed.), Bakrawi was active around Palestinian refugee rights well before the (Syrian Arab Spring) uprising began and was shot by Israeli occupation forces in June 2011 during the Naksa Day march to the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.  But after…displaced Syrians sought refuge in Yarmouk, he directed his efforts towards organizing humanitarian aid to them.”

Hassan, who is identified as an anarchist in the same story, also said, from interviews of Bakrawi’s friends, that Syrian security forces arrested Bakrawi in January 2013 and his family did not learn of his death until September.

To read Hassan’s story, click here, click here.

In a Zaman al-Wasl news story, “Khaled Bakrawi: Activist of Unforgettable Chivalry” of Feb. 22, 2015 by Faris al-Rfai with translation by Yusra Ahmed, al-Rfai quotes artist and activist Mohamed Zaghmout from his documentary, “Words about Khaled Bakrawi.” Zaghmout said, ‘Khalid -the camp- (sic) as his friends used to name him was an icon of aid and relief work inside Palestinian camps all over Syria, he participated in funerals, educated youth by (sic) many lectures and supported displaced children.’

To read the news story by Faris al-Rfai in Zaman al-Wasl, click here.  According to the Zaman al-Wasl news website, Fathi Bayoud founded Zaman al-Wasl in Homs, Syria in 2005 and it is “Syria’s leading news site delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping the war-torn country.”

Khaled Bakrawi Exhibit from the SYRIAN TORTURE VICTIMS Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Masih Sadat/The Turban Times

The 88-page study, “Palestinians of Syria: Bloody Diary and Unheard Screaming,” by the Action Group for Palestinians in Syria and the Palestinian Return Centre-London, claims Bakrawi was identified as being tortured through leaked photos.  According to the AGPS website, AGPS is “a London-based human rights watchdog that monitors the situation of Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria” and that “AGPS material is purely fact-based and rooted in real data compiled by a team of professional journalist, on-the-spot reporters, news correspondents, veterans and local activists.”  According to the PRC website, the PRC “is an independent consultancy focusing on the historical, political and legal aspects of Palestinian Refugees (sic).”

To read the study, click here.

According to the PYM announcement of the opening of the center, Bakrawi was 24 when he died.

 

 

JVP-LA to Sen. Harris: Condemn the Killing by Israel

20 May

Fifty people gathered, outside the Los Angeles office of California Sen. Kamala Harris at 11845 W. Olympic Blvd., on Friday, May 18, to mourn the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians the Israeli Defense Forces killed during the weeks of what Palestinians called the Great Return March and to request the senator to end her silence regarding the Israeli violence against the Gazan protesters.

Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles organized the event.

The crowd assembled a short distance from the senator’s office.  Toward the office, they walked on the sidewalk slowly and sung, in Hebrew, solemnly “Ahava V’rachamim Chesed V’shalom,” which means “We are sending love and compassion, kindness and liberating peace.”  The signs they carried read—Stop Killing Protesters in Gaza; Jews say: Let Gaza Live; Senator Harris, End your silence! Condemn the killing of Gaza Protesters.

On arrival outside the office, Dennis Korteuer, who is a member of JVP-LA and a Professor Emeritus from Cal State University Long Beach, read a prepared statement.  It said, “We stand together this evening in mourning for the over 100 Palestinians murdered in Gaza while protesting in the Great March of Return.  Invoking Jewish tradition and ritual, we offer our respect for those killed and love to their grieving families.  In addition, we affirm the right of Palestinians to protest and honor their struggle for the right to return home.  We call on Sen. Harris to end her silence on this week’s horrific events in Gaza and use her leadership to condemn indiscriminate killings and injuries of grassroots protesters and journalists.”

Some of those killed had their names called with their age.  As the names were called, either stones or flowers were placed near the burning Yahrzeit candles.

Barry Saks is a member of JVP.

 

Protest Outside Los Angeles Jewish Federation Results in 4 Arrests

13 Apr

 

 

 

 

About 40 people, mostly young Jews and their supporters, stood outside the Los Angeles office of the Jewish Federation of North America, on Wednesday, April 11, resulting in four arrests, to protest the deaths of 31 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Palestinians injured by the Israeli Defense Forces, and to demand JFNA issue a statement condemning the occupation and the Israeli violence during Palestinian border protests, dubbed the Great Return March.

The protest was organized by IfNotNowLA, which according to its website, is “(o)rganizing in Los Angeles to end the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation and to gain freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians.”

David Pocarfly, 27, a Los Angeles resident and a local IfNotNow leader, said nationally the organization has trained almost 1,700 people in organizing in about 15 cities. Pocarfly, who is a University of Southern California graduate student, estimated locally about 120 people have been trained with about 20 to 30 activists, who come regularly to events and meetings. He added the organization’s intent is to try to recruit people who are troubled by the occupation and therefore it welcomes people regardless of their other positions, such as support BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) or opposition to BDS, or for a one or two-state solution.

David Pocarfly

David Pocarfly is a IfNotNowLA leader. He is now a graduate student at the University of Southern California; photo by Barry Saks

 

Before the protest, a contingent of about 15 people marched from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the JFNA office, which is about .7 miles. The marchers did not chant and among the marchers, only one or two had protest signs.

At the office, five members of IfNotNowLA held a banner and blocked the entrance to the office. Soon after the protest began at the office, at the same time the Mourner’s Kaddish, which is a Jewish prayer of mourning, was recited, the names of the 31 killed Palestinians were read.

 

 

 

 

 

Later, volunteers taped each name of the 31 Palestinians killed on both sides of the entrance to the office.

 

 

 

Near the end of the protest, the emcee asked if anyone from the audience wished to speak. Rick Chertoff spoke about his journey toward opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

 

 

 

 

At the end of the program, four of five protesters were arrested and taken to the Wilshire Community Police Station. The fifth chose not to be arrested by removing herself from the office entrance and walking to the public sidewalk, a few feet away.

 

 

The Jewish Federation did not respond to a request for comment. The website of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles says, the mission is “(b)ased on Jewish values, The (sic) Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles convenes and leads the community and leverages its resources to assure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize on issues of concern to the local community, all with our local, national, and international partners.”

The Facebook page of the Great Return March says, “The Palestinian refugees issue is at the core of The Palestinian refugees issue is the core of the Palestinian cause. It is the issue of the expulsion of a nation from its original land 70 years ago using terrorism, to be replaced by a nation who denies the existence of the expelled indigenous nation….Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes and forced to leave their properties to become refugees in various surrounding Arab countries and around the world. A new foreign entity was established on the ruins of their societies and homeland known as ‘Israel’ (sic).”

According to the New York Times the Great Return March was “mostly peaceful.”

Barry Saks is an Ashkenazi Jew, an atheist and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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Photo by Barry Saks

 

Award-Winning Journalist to Speak on Friday, Jan. 13, in Long Beach, California

2 Jan
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From Creative Common, Images of Book Cover and Ben Ehrenreich

Award-winning journalist Ben Ehrenreich, on Friday, Jan.13, at 7 p.m., at the Christ Lutheran Church, at 6500 Stearns St. in Long Beach, will sign and discuss his new book, “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine.”

In December of last year, the Economist magazine in Britain announced it considers Ehrenreich’s book one of the best of 2016.

The New York Times called his book a “Love Letter to Palestine.”

According to a flyer issued before the book signing, People for Palestinian-Israeli Justice will sponsor Ehrenreich along with the cosponsors: Christ Lutheran Church, Peace and Justice Ministry Team of the Grace First Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles, Long Beach Area Peace Network and United Methodists’ Holy Land Task Force.

When being interviewed by Anne Strainchamps, the host of “To the Best of Our Knowledge” of Wisconsin Public Radio, Ehrenreich, regarding violence, said, “I think suicide bombings are terrible.  I think attacks on civilians are terrible…. I do think there is, however, extraordinary hypocrisy in the way we talk about violence in this conflict in situation.  So basically every act of Israeli violence, whether it is the bombing of Gaza, which left 2,200 people, two-thirds of them civilians, dead or shooting a 15-year-old boy in the back who was throwing stones, as happened this week and killing him, all of this is legitimate, all of the violence of the (Israeli) state.  It is never questioned whether or not Israel has the right to exert lethal violence on a daily basis against the civilian population.  But if there even is the tiniest amount of violence coming from the Palestinian side, it is immediately condemned, called terrorism.”

Ehrenreich, who studied religion at Brown University, won, in 2012, a PEN Center USA award for his journalism.  According to the website of PEN Center USA, it is “a branch of PEN International, the world’s leading international literary and human rights organization.”

In 2011, he won an Ellie from the American Society of Magazine Editors for feature writing.  In 2009, he won a GLADD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) media award for an outstanding magazine article.

Besides his immersion journalism, he’s written two novels, “Ether” and “The Suitors.”  His short stories have been published.  The Poetry Foundation has published his literary pieces.

Gatsby Books will be selling his book.

Parking and the event are free.  However, donations will be accepted.

People may call Dennis Korteuer at 310-427-2265 or email him at dkortheu@gmail.com for more information regarding the book signing.