Tag Archives: Barry Saks

Friends of Sabeel of Los Angeles and Orange Counties to Host Educational on Palestine and Israel

7 Nov

Friends of Sabeel of Los Angeles and Orange counties will host an educational conference, which it titled, “No Way to Treat a Palestinian: Gaza, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) and Jerusalem,” on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Christ Lutheran Church, 6500 Stearns St., Long Beach, which will feature Donna Baranski-Walker, who is the founder and executive director of the Rebuilding Alliance, a nonprofit organization that helps Palestinian villages build affordable homes and schools.

Barranski-Walker, who was awarded the Medal of Gratitude at Poland’s Gdansk Shipyard in 2010 for her work nearly 30 years before in support of Solidarity, the independent trade union, will speak on the difficulties of working in Gaza.

To visit the Rebuilding Alliance website, click here.

Besides Barranski-Walker speaking, a panel will focus its discussion on Jerusalem.

According to a flyer distributed online before the conference: the conference costs $20, cash at the door; scholarships are available; and inquiries may be sent by email to NW2TAP@gmail.com.

The same flyer listed the conference endorsers as Al-Awda: The Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Episcopal Peace Fellowship/PIN-LA (Palestine-Israel Network), Jewish Voice for Peace, Kairos (propitious moment for action) USA, LA Jews for Peace, ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) SW (Southwest California) Synod Middle East Task Force, PAWA-SC: Palestinian American Women’s Association of Southern California, People for Palestinian-Israeli Justice, Presbyterian Synod JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee) and the United Methodist Holy Land Task Force.

To view the flyer, click here.

In emails before the conference, Tony Litwinko, who characterized himself as a member of the conference organizing committee, said, “We in Friends of Sabeel LA and Orange County are very concerned about the decision of the Trump administration to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, but more importantly, in its decision to stop supporting UNRWA and to radically cut support to the Palestinian Authority, impacting educational and health facilities in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories, (w)e offer this conference for the general public in order to educate them about the deep humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the continuing unjust annexation and manipulation of land in the Jerusalem area. We especially welcome people who have recently begun to understand the importance of the struggle for justice in Palestine.”

According to the Friends of Sabeel North America website, FOSNA “supports Sabeel, an ecumenical liberation theology movement founded by Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. We share Sabeel’s mission to amplify the voice of Palestinian Christians and work with peace builders of all faiths who stand with the oppressed and promote a just peace in Palestine and Israel. FOSNA challenges distortions of the Bible and theologies that lead to racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and condemns all acts of violence, whether committed by states, individuals, or groups. We organize and participate in events and nonviolent advocacy campaigns that advance peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

To visit the FOSNA website, click here.

Barry Saks is a member of JVP.  He may be reached at barry@barrysaks.com.

Jafar Farah Explains the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People

12 Oct

Jafar Farah remembered the first demonstration he went to when he was an 11-year-old boy.  It was in solidarity with the Chileans against General Pinochet.  He knew then he had an obligation to protest even though the coup occurred thousands of miles away and didn’t affect him directly.

Decades passed.  Farah graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts in education and sociology.  At Haifa University, he was President of the Committee for Arab Student from 1988 to 1989 and then the Head of the National Union of Arab Students from 1989-1990.  He was a journalist for Haaretz newspaper from 1990 to 1997 and an investigative journalist for Israel’s Channel 2 News.  He founded the Mossawa Center in 1997 and now serves as its director.  He speaks Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Like his expression of solidarity with the Chileans at 11, he has been touring the United States most recently asking for solidarity from people in the United States, regarding the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

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Israel’s new Basic Law was explained by Jafar Farah to an audience of about 50 people, on Sunday, Oct. 7. Farah is at the podium with Rick Chertoff to his left. Photo by Barry Saks.

About 50 people heard Farah, on Sunday, Oct. 7, at what is known as the Peace Center at 3916 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, where he spoke generally about Israel and specifically about the Basic Law declaring Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles sponsored the event, which was co-sponsored by Al-Awda (the Palestine Right of Return Coalition), All Saints Episcopal Church, CODEPINK, Interfaith Communities for Justice and Peace, LA Progressive, LA Jews for Peace, the North America Nakba (the Arabic term for the 1948 events, when most Palestinians were expelled from their homeland by the new state of Israel) Tour and United Methodists Holy Land Task Force.

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Waiting to introduce Jafar Farah and Rick Chertoff is Linda Milazzo. Milazzo is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles and CODEPINK. Photo by Barry Saks.

Linda Milazzo, who said she was a member of JVP-LA and CODEPINK, introduced Farah and Rick Chertoff.  Of Chertoff, Milazzo said, “In the late ‘90s, he was the Director of the Jewish Labor Committee, working out of the Jewish Federation here in Los Angeles, he co-founded LA Jews for Peace…He organized a course on the Palestine-Israel conflict at UCLA Labor Studies….and has published articles in the online magazine, LA Progressive.”

To listen to the audio of the introduction by Milazzo and the conversation between Farah and Chertoff, click here.

The format of the event was a back-and-forth conversation, consisting of remarks by Chertoff, followed by a question to Farah, followed by his  response.

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Jabar Farah is speaking at the podium with Rick Chertoff listening on Sunday, Oct.7, at the Peace Center, 3916 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City.  Farah is speaking about the Basic Law declaring Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.  Photo by Barry Saks.

Chertoff asked Farah to describe the events in May 2018 in Haifa, where Farah was arrested and beaten by an Israel police officer in the police station.

Farah said he had just come back from Italy.  His two sons and nephew were at a demonstration, where about 300 youth in Haifa were protesting in solidarity with Gaza and against the attacks by Israel.  From Facebook accounts, he knew the demonstration was becoming a problem.  He went to the demonstration, which the police declared illegal.

Meanwhile, the police were arresting demonstrators.  He convinced his two children and nephew to leave the demonstration.  He asked the police if they could leave, which he documented on his cellphone.  The police refused to let them leave.  He was not arrested, yet.  However, his youngest son and nephew were among about the 20 who were arrested.

While going to the police station, he observed the Secret Service, the head of the Haifa police department and the same police officer, who refused to let him and others leave earlier were following him.  At the police station, he observed his son and nephew were bloodied with all those arrested on the ground.  It was there, where he was arrested and an officer broke his knee because authorities wanted the evidence on his cellphone.  When the police offered to let him leave under “home jail,” he refused to be treated differently from the other arrested.  Police jailed him for almost 50 hours with his broken knee, his son and nephew.  He added because of his previous connections with the mass media, for a week after the incident, police violence against Palestinian Arabs was in the news.

To read the Washington Post story of May 21 on the arrest of Farah, click here.

To read the Haaretz story of Oct. 8 for the latest news of the arrest of Farah, click here.

Chertoff asked Farah to describe Mossawa’s efforts at coordination and communication among the different groups among the different populations of the Arab Palestinians, who are on both sides of the Green Line and other locations.

Farah said that after the Oslo Accords of 1995 for a while, the Palestinians were isolated inside the Green Line and that Hamas and Fatah each thought they could run a state.  Now they understand they don’t run a state but jails “and today they understand much better the importance of the Palestinians inside Israel because we are the only Palestinians that stayed on our homeland.  We have to take into consideration almost on every issue while we have similarities, but also we have different legal frameworks.”

He pointed out that the legal frameworks are different on both sides of the Green Line, for Israeli settlers, for Gazans, for the West Bank and so on.  Then, he said, “(T)here is something inhuman(e) to be Palestinian…and (to) see your home, to see your village and to see your cemetery, to see your land and still you can’t go back and practice the right to go back to this village….(W)e are the only group, only Palestinian that we have the political platform that from the Islamic Movement to the Communist Party and the secular groups, sitting together in one political group called the Joint List….There is an illusion that Israel inside the Green Line is the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Chertoff asked Farah, “Tell us what this (the Nation-State Law) really changes because what you describe is already a de facto and de jure segregation and the kind of oppression and impunity and so what could make it possibly worse?”

In response, Farah said, “We have the dream to be equal.”  He pointed out that before the passage of the Nation-State Law, Israeli case law required equal treatment in housing and said, “There is an article in this law that say(s) that the state should encourage Jewish settlements.”  Another example he pointed out is that by privileging the Hebrew language, “they went and downgraded the Arabic language.”  Near the end of his response to the question, he added, “We would like the next election in Israel to be around which country this will be. (Will) this be the country of occupation, separation, discrimination and humiliation of people, which this is the situation today? Or will it be…a democratic country, a country where there will be peace, reconciliation (and) social justice?”

Chertoff asked Farah to speak about how to talk to the Jewish-Israeli minorities, like the Mizrahim (Jews from the Middle East), Sephardim and Jews from Russia.

Farah said in the case of the Mizrahim and Sephardim who overlap with the Mizrahim, these are people who are not hostile to Arabic or Persian culture and languages, at least for some Sephardim.  They listen to Middle-Eastern music and food; and, they don’t speak Hebrew.  Regarding Jews from Russia and Ethiopia again, they don’t speak Hebrew and some of them hide they are really Christians.

Chertoff then asked how to talk with others about the one-state versus the two-state solution.  He argued for a two-state solution by pointing out a one-state solution abandons the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and gives Netanyahu a way out of the present situation. He said, “Let Netanyahu go the international community and say I am not interested in a two-state solution.”

According to the Jerusalem Post of July 19, the full text of the Jewish-State Basic Law, which passed the night before, reads, “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people in which the State of Israel was established….The state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, religious, and historic right to self-determination….The fulfillment of the right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people….The name of the state is Israel.”

“The flag of the state is white, two blue stripes near the edges, and a blue Star of David in the center….The symbol of the state is the Menorah with seven branches, olive leaves on each side, and the word Israel at the bottom….The national anthem of the state is ‘Hatikvah’ (and)….[(f)urther] details concerning the issue of state symbols will be determined by law.

“[The] unified and complete [city of] Jerusalem is the capital of Israel….Hebrew is the language of the state….The Arabic language has a special status in the state; the regulation of the Arab language in state institutions or when facing them will be regulated by law….This clause does not change the status given to the Arabic language before the basic law was created.

“The state will be open to Jewish immigration and to the gathering of the exiled….The state will labor to ensure the safety of sons of the Jewish people and its citizens who are in trouble and captivity due to their Jewishness or their citizenship….The state will act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious legacy of the Jewish people among the Jewish diaspora….The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.

“The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the secular calendar will serve as an official calendar. The usage of the Hebrew calendar and of the secular calendar will be determined by law….Independence Day is the official holiday of the state….The Memorial Day for those who fell in the wars of Israel and the Memorial Day for the Holocaust and heroism are official memorial days of the state….Saturday and the Jewish Holidays are the official days of rest in the state. Those who are not Jewish have the right to honor their days of rest and their holidays….This Basic Law may not be altered except by a Basic Law that gained the approval of the majority of the Knesset members.”

According to the Mossawa Center’s website, the center was established in 1997 and aims to promote the economic, social, cultural and political rights of the Palestinian-Arab citizens in Israel, and the recognition of this community as a national indigenous minority, with their own national, cultural and historical distinctiveness; it also develops programs to promote a democratic society, and acts against all forms of discrimination based on race, nationalism, religious affiliation, social status, gender, and disabilities.

 

 

Barry Saks Reads the Poetry of James Baldwin and Lynn Nottage

22 Jun

I’m using the occasion of a party on Saturday, June 23, in which Marlene and I cannot attend to read two poems to express my solidarity with the folks there.

I must credit Marlene for putting this together.

 

 

 

But life is also more complicated than we think.  I forgot to show the covers of two small books I read from.  So we needed to re-shoot a little.  The video below was an outtake from the re-shooting.  It put a little smile on my face.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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