Interview: On Contact with Chris Hedges: The BDS Movement

 

Miko discusses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement with Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges. They discuss the global campaign to economically and politically pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land, grant equality to Arab-Palestinian citizens and allow Palestinian refuges the right of return to their homes.

To learn more about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) visit: https://bdsmovement.net/

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Job Is Alive and Well and Being Held At A US Prison.

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The book of Job is considered one of the most important of the 24 books of the Old Testament. Job was a righteous man who, like the Patriarch Abraham, had his faith in the Lord severely tested and like Abraham he came out of the test having proven that his faith and his love for the Lord are complete and unconditional. Chapter one of the Book of Job describes a man blessed with children, livestock and property and whose belief and love of the Lord is beyond reproach. By the end of the chapter he has lost everything, including his beloved children, yet all he says is: “the Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” and the author makes the point that Job refrained from sin and did not blaspheme or curse the Lord.

Job’s greatness is not only that he was able withstand all that had befallen him, but that his faith and his love of God remained unshaken. He was remarkable because his faith was unconditional.  One may wonder if there might be people like this today? Are there people who can withstand such horrors as Job and still maintain a pure heart and a solid, unconditional belief in the Almighty? Probably not. At least this is what I thought until I began to communicate with Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi and Mufid Abdulkader, three of the five men involved in the Holy Land Foundation case, (HLF 5).  In a previous piece I brought a segment written by Mufid Abdukader where he describes their transfer from prison at Seagoville, Texas to CMUs, or Communication Management Units, one of the more diabolical inventions of the US Bureau of Prisons, or maybe it was the Justice Department.

Here is yet another segment from Mufid’s account.

“Before we got on the bus, they checked our files and names and numbers and gave us a lunch bag of meat sandwich with water & crackers.  After all inmates were seated, the trip started and we had no idea where we were going but at least we were finally out of Seagoville Detention Center.  While on the highway, you see the outside free world for the first time in a long time, you see the billboards and you see the green grass on the sides of the highway & people driving going about their business just like we used to do.  After a while, the bus stopped somewhere in Texas and the driver and guards got off the bus to eat lunch.  With our black box over our cuffs, we tried to eat our lunch but it was extremely hard.  Shukri and I were sitting next to each other and we were helping each other eat our food and drink water.  If you happen to need to use the bathroom, then you go to the back of the bus to relief yourself while still handcuffed.  That’s why I avoided eating or drinking anything beyond necessities to avoid using the restroom.  The trip continued for approx. 4 hours and we finally arrived at another prison in Texarkana Texas.  They took us inside the prison where they removed all the chains and handcuffs and gave us some food and then took us to another Special Housing Unit (SHU) (we are special).  This one even much worse than the Seagoville SMU.  The cells in this SHU are really very very small with three beds on top of each other with only 18 inches of separation between the beds.  There is no room to move around.  Ghassan and I could not even stand next to each other to pray.  We almost can hear each others breathing.  We were so tired that we finally went to sleep.  It was a night to remember.

Around 3:00 AM they woke us up and said it’s time to go.  We were handcuffed again and receivd the special black box treatment along with handcuffs for the legs and chains, hand & waist chains and a lock.  Before we got on the bus Elmezain asked one of the guards for his medication & the guard just could not understand why Elmezain needs his medicine and went off screaming at him.  After a while we were taken to the bus and another trip of pain was about to start.  Now we anticipated were going to Oklahoma City.”

“My Trip from Seagoville To USP Marion Part 2 of 5

This segment will describe the trip to Oklahoma City:”

“Today is Friday April 25, 2010.  We were still in Texarkana Prison preparing to head toward Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma City is a transfer/holding Prison Center for all inmates from around the United States. It holds over 5,000 inmates and it is a a hub where all inmates are flown in/out or bussed in/out to be transferred to their designated prison where they were assigned to serve their sentences.  Some are transferred from oner prison to another (for example from a High to medium security, medium to a low security prison ..etc).”

“We were getting shackled, handcuffed.  Again we were the privileged ones who received the black box special treatment.  Other inmates were also shackled and handcuffed but not with the black box.  You must be very special to receive that special gift from the Bureau Of Prisons (BOP).  Once the shakeling, chaining and handcuffing of all inmates was done, we were taken outside the Texarkana Prison and escorted to the bus like a herd of goats.  It was still very dark outside (around 4:00 AM or so).  We were first inline and also first seated in the bus (the 4 of us together).  After everyone else was seated, the trip started.”

“After the bus left the prison, it took a route of small roads & State Highways to Oklahoma City.  I have tried to stay awake so I would not void my Wudu (wudu is the mandatory act of washing hands, face, arms & legs prior to performing prayer).  I made wudu before we left the SHU in Texarkana.  I pushed myself hard to stay awake because I was worried that If I dosed off that I would end up voiding my wudu and having to do it again specially when there was no water on the bus.  Only a jug with some cups for drinking water.  And even if water was available, how will I make wudu with my hands and legs shakeled & handcuffed with the black box?  I can’t even move.  It is an impossible mission.  So I might as well make tayamom (this an alternate option when water is not available, Tayomom is a dry ablution).  Eventually, I ended up making tayamom.  I knew these are the times when Allah gave us permission for an exception under these difficult circumstance.  So now I had wudu and ready for Fajr prayer.  I knew that Fajr prayer Athan was at 5:45 AM in Seagoville Texas & even though we were not there, I figured it would not be that different from where we were.  But the question; what time was it now? I guessed that it was not time for Fajr just by looking on the outside I seeing it was very dark.  No one had a watch.  The only solution was to keep looking outside the bus hoping to see one of these big bank panel clocks that tells time and temperature.  So I kept my eye on the outside hoping to see one.  I finally noticed one from a distance & it was a big electronic panel that turns around in all directions.  By the time the bus made it there, the panel was displaying time and temp to the opposite side of the highway and I could not see it.  I have to try again, so I kept watching for another clock and kept my eyes fixed on any panel with lights.  Finally, I saw another bank clock and it showed the time to be 5:30 AM which is still short 15 minutes of prayer time.  After a while I estimated that 15 minutes has passed and made the Fajr Athan (Call for the prayer) inside the bus.  Elmezain and Ghassan were seated in front of us and Shukri and I were sitting in the seat right behind them.  We prayed the 2 rakka sunna and then I made iqama for the prayer and Elmezain lead the prayer as we were seated.  We started the prayer and brother Elmezain recited beuatiful Quran of Surat Alisra.  Our ruku was to bend our bodies just a little bit toward the seat and our sujood was to bend until our forehead touch the seat in front of us.”

“We prayed what I call the most heartfelt tearful prayer ever in my entire life.  Considering myself a political prisoner and praying under these conditions, you really feel the connection with Allah.  It was an overwhelming feeling that put you in a different world. It intensified my duaa.  It was Friday and I did all the things I normally do on Friday by reading Surat Alkahf as the Prophet Peace be Upon him has told us to do.  Also I made my daily morning remembrance of Allah duaas(Thikhr) and praising Prphet Mohammad Peace Be Upon him.”

“After that I tried to sleep in my seat but no matter which position I try to take or lay in, it was impossible to do with the black box.  I could not move my hands & the movement of the legs was also very painful specially when the legs’ handcuffs touches the ankle as it scrapes the funny bone above the ankle.  The handcuffs around the legs were extremely tight which caused extreme pain.  I tried to move to another empty seat but was afraid if I lay down it will be impossible for me to get up without help.  Finally I managed to take my shoes off and slung them backward with my feet toward me.  I managed to place and stack the shoes against the edge of the seat and use them as a pillow (I lost 61 pounds (28 kg) since I have been in prison and it was a major factor in helping me do that athletic maneuver).  I laid down my head on the shoes and I tried to go to sleep.  Half of my body was in the seat and the other half was hanging outside the seat.  I tried to stretch my legs but the seat was too short.  I could extend my legs to the next seat as a bridge to ensure my whole body is laid down, but this would block the pathway between the seats.  This pathway used by other inmates to move within the bus including going to/from the bathroom at the back of the bus.  Finally I settled down in my sleeping position by placing my feet on top of the seat in front of me at an angle, laying on my side with my head on my pillow (my shoes).  I do not recall how long I slept.  I was too tired and exhausted.  Shukri, Ghassan and Elmezain slumped in their seats and went to sleep as well.  After a while, I awoke and found someone has already moved in the seat in front of me.”

“The sun was rising announcing the birth of a new day.  I looked at this day as a new beginning, a new start with a fresh brand new 24 hours life.  I was determined that I would make the most out of it. I have been dealt with unjustly with a sentence of 20 years for volunteering to help Palestininan destitute children and families.  Yes, I was a volunteer and never an empolyee of the HLF.  By volunteering, I realized that my mission is to serve others & contribute to making this world a better place.  I LOVE and LIVE TO GIVE.  IT IS THE MOST FULFILLING LIFE EVER. ABSOLUTLEY NO REGRETS.  I know that Allah has wisdom behind the test I am going thru & I trusted him always in every aspect of my life and it is no different now.  I really thought that true faith shines at times of difficulties because at time of ease everyone is faithful and life is good and there are no worries or concerns.  Yes, even though I am being taken far away from my beloved family.”

“Every event in our life has a purpose and every setback its lesson.  I have realized that adversity, whether personal, professional, is essential in personal expansion.  It brings inner growth and a whole host of rewards.  Never regret your past.  Rather, embrace it as the teacher that it is.  I know that Allah SWT is rewarding my family for what they are going through as well.  I am not the only one being rewarded for this suffering, my family is sharing in the rewards.  I am not alone in this trip, my family is riding with me every step of the way.  They are always in my heart and soul.  Their image never leaves my mind.  My family is also being deprived as my daughter Sarah told me that there is a big empty space in our house and an eerie feeling because I am not there.  She told me that they miss my laughter, hearing my voice, my physical presence when they were used to seeing me walk thru the door.  They miss having dinner with me.  They miss me helping them with homework.  They missed my presence at the milestones events of their lives when they graduated from University and High School.  They miss the father they love and the husband who is not there to help and support them.

Life is not easy when all the responsibilities are assigned to one person (my beloved wife) to take care of all household affairs when we both shared this responsibility and it was still difficult to do.  At the end of the day, that assuring, dependable father who used to give Nadia (my 10 year old daughter) her good night kiss and tuck her in her bed and sing to her before she goes to sleep was not there.  All these and more are missing not becuase her father was a drug dealer or robbed a bank or killed someone.  No, no, it is because he helped feed Palestinian children, woman, the elderly, and provided Ramadan food packages (rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil, ..etc) and meat Udhiya at Eid Aladha to people who feel they are lucky if they have meat once a month. Provided shelters to Plaestininans whose homes were destroyed by F-16 bombers.  Also dared to give kids school packbacks, shoes, books, and clothes so they can go to school.”

“Yes, this charity work was a life line for so many desperate Palestinian families.  Every night I wake up hearing the voices of duaa of these Palestininan Children and I feel it in my heart, in my soul and in my spirit, and it gives me great inner peace.  This charity work was saving the lives of the same Palestininans whom the whole world has ignored.  Our work was the manifestation of that Islam is: Charity.”

“It has been close to 3 hours of painful tight shackeling handcuffing….”

As I was writing this, I shared the story of Job with my kids, and then told them a little about the contents of this piece. Even to them, the association was clear. I am not a believer, but if there is a God out there, I am certain he is proud of these men, these dedicated believers.

On AIPAC and Other Bullies By Miko Peled

It is typical for America to suddenly wake up to an issue that has been around for, well, forever. Today it is bullying. But there can be little surprise that America has a bully problem. American policies around the world have been marked and characterized by bullying, as one would expect from an empire, even an empire that likes to see itself as spreading freedom and democracy. Bullying in America is hailed and glamorized as heroism so really, what kid wouldn’t want to be a bully?

One bully that has gotten America by the, well, where it hurts is AIPAC. Everywhere you go you hear people complaining that nothing can be done to curb Israeli violence and brutality because this fierce all powerful lobby called AIPAC. Nowhere is this heard more than our nation’s capital Washington DC.

In AIPAC’s website they make the following claim: “From a small pro-Israel public affairs boutique in the 1950s, AIPAC has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement described by The New York Times as “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.” Wow!

I recently spent a weekend in DC and I heard two stories that exemplify the odd relationship between the world’s only superpower and this omnipotent organization, and that this has been going on for close to forty years. The first story takes place during the Carter administration when an attempt to put together a meeting between President Carter and one of the worlds leading Jewish leaders, Dr. Nahum Goldman was unsuccessful. When a mutual friend of Carter and Dr. Goldman, who told me this story, inquired with the President about this the President replied that a meeting with Dr. Goldman is not possible because Dr. Goldman really gets American Jews agitated.

Dr. Nahum Goldman was one of, if not the most important Jewish Zionist leader in America. He was a staunch Zionist his whole life and was the Co founder of the World Jewish Congress, which he led for several decades. But Goldman’s brand of Zionism was not palatable for Israeli leaders such as David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and well, the rest of Israeli politicians because Goldman tried to negotiate between Israel and the neighboring Arab states. He committed the crime of being critical of Israel for what he saw as an over-reliance on military might and for not making concessions after the 1967 Six-Day War. He further brought upon him the wrath of Jewish zealots by advocating a position that the only chance of long-term survival for Israel was to accept the rights of the Palestinians as a people. So how can the President meet with such a man?

Fast forward to today’s Washington DC. A young non-Jewish Ivy League graduate member of a DC think tank proposes to present a paper on the Palestinian perspective. She lived and reported from Palestine, she has first hand knowledge and a deeper understanding of the situation than most experts. After a long wait the paper is shelved fearing it will bring about too much debate and that it is one sided. Well, by presenting the perspective of a particular side of the conflict the paper was by definition one sided and as for creating debate, isn’t that what a think tank is supposed to do?

I have learned that on a local level agents of this ridiculous bully follow me and my activism quite closely. Self proclaimed keepers of the most zealous and uncompromising brand of Jewish nationalism have taken it upon themselves to attend, record, film and conduct classes on the things that I say about the heinous crimes and viscous attacks committed by Israel against the Palestinian people which it rules. I am not sure if I should be flattered or afraid. I mean, after all will they report me to the authorities? Will they deny me entry to Israel or the US? But of course I then recall that other than being a self-proclaimed policing force that refuses to see the ridicule and the tragedy in its positions and its actions these little bullies are really nothing.

Local elected officials are offered great trips to Israel, free of course. Happily the ones I know stood up to this bully and the favors it offers and refused the gift on grounds that it is wrong for an elected official to receive such expensive gifts. Besides, no gift of this kind is free. It comes with the expectation of future support for Israel’s draconian policies regarding the Palestinians.

It is said that AIPAC itself has the power to dethrone powerful people. That it is a king maker as well as a killer of political careers, even well established careers. But I have yet to hear an explanation as to why. Why is it that this organization and its self-righteous agents yield so much power of extortion over the world greatest power? What secrets do they posses that can yield such powers of extortion? While in DC I had the pleasure of meeting one man who is rather close to the President himself. He works with the President on issues other than the Mideast but when we met the Mideast we talked mostly about the Middle East. “Perhaps you over estimate the power of the President” is what this man said to me.

If President Obama said one sentence that truly relates to the horrors of Israeli policies, if he made one comment to criticize Israeli human rights violations or the treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons, if he publicly said what he surely knows, that Israeli insistence on building settlements for Jews only on land that belongs to Palestinians is wrong or even, God forbid that he should say that the situation in Gaza is unacceptable (not unsustainable as he said in the past). If the President says just one of theses things it would get the ball rolling sparking a serious debate and it will embolden others to ask these questions and make demands of Israel.

Far from me to suggest that politicians align themselves with what is right and what is just. However, those politicians who do care need to know the following: there are ways to stop bullies but succumbing to them and appeasing them are not included. To stop bullies one needs to stand up to the bullies and to make it clear that we will not take their BS!