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PART I - WHAT I WITNESSED FROM THE GRASSROOTS IN PALESTINE (2008)

On October 7th, 2008 I travelled to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories and documented ongoing widespread human rights abuses in the West Bank. I will never forget what I witnessed, a Palestinian nonviolent resistance to oppression that absolutely astounded me. I met incredible everyday people leading this work at the grassroots despite facing constant violence from the Israeli government, the IDF and Israeli settlers. This violence was militarily backed and supported by Western governments. In Israel and Palestine I met very brave Israelis, internationals from around the world, as well as local Jews, Muslims, Christians, Agnostics and others standing in solidarity with Palestinians. I saw diverse communities working  together at the grassroots (not at the government level) trying to either reduce violence, end the occupation and apartheid... or more modestly to at least bear witness to crimes, amplify stories, and stand in solidarity and accompaniment with those suffering. 

I witnessed Palestinians constantly welcoming others who could easily be seen as "the enemy" for the things our governments have done. Radical hospitality. I experienced these Palestinians feed us, house us and share their most painful stories with us, all while facing brutal restrictions under occupation and poverty. I witnessed time and time again a humanizing of the other even when being dehumanized, as well as determination towards nonviolent resistance to the occupation with the help of others. I also witnessed Israeli Rabbi's working with Palestinian farmers during olive harvest as the farmers faced ongoing threats of settler violence and the destruction of their livelihood by the cutting down of olive tree farms. In Jerusalem I listened to two grieving men speak together, one a man whose daughter was blown up on a bus by Hamas, travel with a Palestinian man whose boy was murdered by the IDF; they spoke together as friends having met through a Palestinian-Israeli bereavement network. Together they called for an end to collective punishment in the occupied territories.

I met and travelled with Israeli human rights organizations like B'Tselem, as they extensively and meticulously documented daily human assaults and atrocities in Israel and Palestine. Finally, I saw internationals using their privilege and presence to elevate the work of local people including local peacemakers engaged in nonviolent direct action.(You can read more about community peacemaker teams vision and work to support that here). And finally I also saw internationals face harassment and bodily harm as they accompanied local peace activists and Palestinians in day to day activities like walking children home from school or helping during the olive harvest.

Today, I carry close to my heart the teachings of the educators of peace I met in Palestine and Israel. These peacemakers taught and continue to teach me/us so much about peace, justice, courage and resilience. Their examples motivated me to further my education in peace and conflict transformation studies. Witnessing what was happening at the grassroots in Israel and Palestine changed my life and inspired the last fifteen years of small actions in community building, filmmaking and art-making at home and abroad. I owe a forever debt of gratitude for their leadership.

In this important moment in history, we in the West must stand together in courage and creativity and resistance to call for an end to state violence and terrorism, especially when our tax dollars actively fund and support it. It is astounding to me the denial and complicity when it comes to supporting and justifying atrocities. May we help bring an end to devastating generational cycles of violence including putting pressure on our western governments and media who in some cases directly fuel the flames of violence and oppression in Palestine, Israel and beyond. 

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Witnessing assaults on farmers, journalists and peacemakers.

CLIP: STORIES OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

These are some clips from a 2009 video i made to share with friends, family and supporters who helped send me on a community peacemaker teams delegation to Palestine

Accompanying Palestinian school children between school and home as one of CPT's mandates for violence reduction. Palestinians often told us soldier violence decreased with international presence but that the same could not be said for Israeli settler violence. We witnessed harassment of children by settlement adults on numerous occasions including during the accompaniment in the image below.

INTERVIEW WITH ZOUGHBI ALZOUGHBI 

May accountability and justice come to companies and corrupt politicians who spend trillions of dollars on "military aid" instead of addressing root causes, ending poverty, and supporting grassroots initiatives for restorative and transformative justice and peace. 

 

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." - MLK

Please take a minute to watch a bit of footage I filmed in 2008 combined with an interview clip of one of these grassroots peacemakers, Zoughbi Alzoughbi, Founder and Director of Wi'am - The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center. 

CEASEFIRE NOW. RELEASE ALL CAPTIVES. END THE OCCUPATION & APARTHEID. FREE PALESTINE. 

At this time, I want to continue to keep the focus on the current crisis unfolding for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and on prioritizing Palestinian and Israeli voices for peace.

Please seek that out in your local community, find ways to support grassroots nonviolent resistance, and visit sites like democracynow.org for a more accurate up to date news reporting from journalists, doctors, humanitarian workers and most importantly the people at the grassroots.

If you still wish to continue and know more about my own backstory and motivation for this work, you can read on to Part II and Part III of this post. Part II From the Frontlines of American Fundamentalism and Part III Resistance in our Blood.

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