The Mindful Bard
Our Way to Fight
Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World
Volume 20 Issue 02 2012-01-13
Book: Michael Riordan, Our Way to Fight: Peace-work Under Siege in Israel-Palestine (Between the Lines 2011)
“. . . the struggle for Palestinian liberation should be led by Palestinians, and Israelis in the resistance movement need to be conscious of this at every level. For example, at demonstrations the soldiers prefer to speak to Israelis . . . So it’s important for us to say to soldiers, ‘It’s not my village, it’s not my land, you should be speaking to the Palestinians.’”
Kobi Snitz, Israeli member of Anarchists Against the Wall
“I dream all the time that I’m flying. We are not allowed to fly. To become a pilot [I'd] have to go outside the country, and then I wouldn’t be allowed to come back. But when I dream it, it gives me hope . . . In the night you dream about the idea and in the morning it exists. This is why I dream of flying.”
Mohammed Khatib, Palestinian leader of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements
The Creative Passive Resistance of Old Souls
On the eve of World War II, a large group of Nazi scientists worked for months on developing a deadly gas whose odour would not frighten prisoners into stampeding, but that would also not make the guards so careless as to get too close and be gassed themselves. It’s hard to imagine these scientists heading off to work each day after a nice morning coffee. How do decent citizens spend months and years consciously and deliberately creating and implementing evil procedures without at some point recoiling in horror?
The huge question that this book poses is how to build justice in an impossible situation, but a question that arises while reading it is how the injustice was built in the first place. The Israel-Palestine conflict has been going on for such a long time and is so conscious, deliberate, callous, blind, and self-righteous that it boggles even the jaded postmodern mind. In a world where at least some people have a moral compass, how do injustice machines get built and how do they manage to keep going? And once they’re up, how can they be dismantled?
Because of the Israel-Palestine conflict we’re now seeing this universal question writ large and inescapable. Our civilization will be grinding its wheels trying to move forward on environmental or economic or technological fronts if it can’t move forward on the peace front, and right now the axis of world peace is the Holy Land.
Even the revolutions in the Middle East bear some sort of correlation with Palestine, the main one being that dictators panting for American military support and funding have been all too eager to support the oppression of the Palestinians. This has enraged Arab citizenry the world over, and has created the mounting tensions we still see erupting.
At the same time, surrounding countries have not always been hospitable to their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Seen as victims bringing their own kind of bad luck with them, the Palestinians are often just as persecuted in the countries where they take refuge, treated like second-class citizens by governments urged to be diplomatic toward Israel by avoiding any appearance of coddling the refugees.
With the support of the world’s largest military power, Israel has repeatedly flouted international law in its efforts to secure as much of Palestine as possible. Its actions seem driven by a handful of government and business elites and a large group of zealots fuelled by a stubborn and passionate determination to occupy all of what is believed to be the Holy Land.
But this land is also holy to Palestinians. Many have been killed, many forced to emigrate, and thousands of others are living in Israeli prisons. They are humiliated at roadblocks, their houses are demolished, they’re shot and beaten and denied access to ambulances, they are forbidden or prevented from pursuing education and gainful employment, and in practice are guaranteed virtually no rights and freedoms. But still they hang on, persistently refusing to abandon the hope of living in a just society.
Riordan interviewed and spent time with Palestinian olive farmers, bloggers, guides, teachers, journalists, professionals, shantytown refugees, and peace activists—both from Israel and from many other countries. A network of international volunteers is up against the stubborn and fanatical resistance and violence of Zionist colonists, who like to be called the cozier-sounding “settlers” but who are occupying land illegally and usurping the power of the original.
Things are slowly changing. It takes a tremendous push on the part of activists to override the exigencies of free enterprise, but pressures are mounting to the point where doing business with Israel is becoming increasingly disreputable. There is a growing international refusal to patronize Israeli companies that, in the words of Norwegian Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen, “directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law.” The Norwegian ambassador won a scolding from Israel for this, but Norway was not alone.
Riordan gifts us twice. First, he shares a series of anecdotes that enable identification with the victims and activists in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Additionally, he provides us with a mountain of evidence colossal enough to flatten the accumulated pile of propaganda that’s been shovelled our way since 1970, when the United States became the main ally of Israel (a country formed when Zionists declared independence in 1948).
Our Way to Fight fulfills six of the Mindful Bard’s criteria for books well worth reading: 1) it poses and admirably responds to questions that have a direct bearing on my view of existence; 2) it stimulates my mind; 3) it inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation; 4) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; 5) it gives me tools of compassion, enabling me to respond with compassion and efficacy to the suffering around me; and 6) it renews my enthusiasm for positive social action.
Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.