Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Palestinians”

Forgot my Birthday?

Last year, my birthday fell during the once-every-four-years World Cup (soccer). I thought I could slow the aging process down by deciding that, like the World Cup, I would have a birthday once-every-four-years.

A great tribute to the peaceful South African revolution

So what do I want for my birthday? Something between my own house, world peace, and one of my books becoming a New York Times Bestseller. If you can arrange any of those three, please do. If you feel you have to prioritize (really, how long have we been friends?) then I suppose world peace comes first,

Otherwise, I am going to list 10 organizations that I have highlighted over the past year. Instead of buying me a fine bottle of wine or a box of chocolates that will have me working out for hours at the gym (after thoroughly enjoying them), why not consider donating the exorbitant amount of money you were going to splash on me to one of these great organizations. Please click on the link to the organization that catches your fancy.

1. The Lower Ninth Ward Village – a community center that will provide the only way to keep children in a safe environment over the summer.

2. Save A Child’s Heart – a hospital in Israel that gives free medical heart procedures to children from any country or religion in the Middle East and beyond.

3. One Voice – helping Israeli and Palestinian youth demand a non violent and just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

4. Jewish Funds for Justice – sending students to work in disaster-struck areas of the world and teaching the value of social justice.

5. World Reader – providing sustainable e-book solutions to children in Africa and other poor regions, allowing them to grow through reading and education.

6. Habitat for Humanity – a community helping to provide people with homes.

7. Jewish Heart for Africa – leveraging sustainable Israeli environmental technology to help the poorest rural African communities.

8. Darfur & The Berkeley Stove – providing stoves for women in Darfur, thereby avoiding the need to put themselves in violent situations.

9. Project Homeless Connect – offering bi-monthly services to the homeless of San Francisco.

10. Kiva Loans – a micro-loan organization that helps people create businesses to lift themselves out of poverty.

They are all good causes and I know there are many more. But it is amazing how just a small gift can save or change a person’s life. What a way to celebrate your birthday!

Thank you. Wanna slice of birthday cake?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Don’t Let The Extremists Control The Agenda

I recently shared my optimism that with the various demonstrations and upheavals in the Middle East, and specifically in Gaza and the West Bank, we were nearing a stage whereby the moderate Palestinians and Israelis were moving closer towards a shared agenda of a sustainable peace treaty.

Tragically, terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Itamar, multiple launches of bombs from Gaza towards populated areas of Israel and the anticipated military response of Israel, suddenly makes my blog post look, at best, wildly optimistic.

Anti-missile protection deployed for the city of Beersheva

But this is where we need to step back and gain perspective. Why did Palestinian extremists decide to up the ante now? Did they think the world wasn’t distracted enough by the upheaval in the Middle East, or the natural and nuclear catastrophe in Japan? Hardly makes any sense.

Perhaps they actually felt threatened by the peaceful demonstrations in their own backyard? Faced with the possibility that the majority of people, Palestinian and Israeli, were calling for a diplomatic solution, these extremists decided that the best way to prevent such progress was to blow it up in their faces – literally. They could count on cooperation from the Israeli right, who would immediately demand revenge and retribution.

It is easier to destroy than build bridges of peace and trust. It takes a single spark to ignite the powder keg that is the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Many say that when there is violence, we should be strong and not talk peace. I admit that I have felt this way in the past. But however painful it is when we see the pictures of victims, this is precisely the time to understand that there can only be one sustainable solution to the conflict. This must be the assertion of the moderates on both sides – that they will not tolerate their leaders straying from paths that will bring us closer to a permanent peace.

Egypt & Israel sign a peace treaty

Now more than ever, we need to be out in the streets, banging the drums of peace.

IT CAN BE ACHIEVED!

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

Hope Springs From The Youth

Last week I attended a meeting held by One Voice, a group made up of Palestinians and Israelis who are demanding an end to the violence and a sustainable, peaceful solution. One Voice is different from most dialogue groups in as much as they do not focus on dialogue with the other side, but with their own constituents.


“One Voice is an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward a two-state solution.”

One Voice began on the university campuses and is still primarily propelled by students. What amazes me and gives me so much hope is that there are many individuals involved whose lives have been impacted by violence and yet have chosen a path of peace.


The following video is a great 5-minute introduction to the movement. To steal one of One Voice’s sayings: Do you have 5 minutes to help end the conflict?

Today, more than ever, there is hope that the conflict will end. It is a hope based upon the millennial generation standing up and saying enough is enough. As one eloquent Palestinian, Bashar Shwaiki, told me: We are simply not willing to suffer the way our parents did. It is time to create a new narrative.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

 

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Palestine next?

With the world’s eyes focused on Libya, one string of events last week went under the radar. Led primarily by students, peaceful demonstrations were held throughout the West Bank. Most exciting, they began in Gaza, where mainly young people demanded that Fatah and Hamas stop the internal war and join together to build a state for Palestinians.

Last Week's Unity Demonstrations

Hamas violently seized control of Gaza, publicly executing and murdering Fatah employees and civilians. Fatah, in return, has cracked down on Hamas supporters in the West Bank. The violence and denial of basic human rights for those who support openly one side or the other, is bad enough.

But it has repercussions beyond their own border. Israelis, even the most left-wing, admit that they cannot imagine negotiating a final settlement with one side without the agreement of the other. Any comprehensive peace agreement would include an implicit agreement to cease violence and the destruction of the other people. With both countries so small,  everything is of strategic significance. The stability of a Palestinian government is vital to any validity of a peace agreement. Not everyone in Israel agrees with this, however.

Last Week's Unity Demonstrations

 

The world should pay more attention, offer more encouragement, and help bring about the stability of a Palestinian government. It is probably the biggest obstruction to final negotiations. The Palestinian youth should be praised for their resilience and their vision. It is encouraging to know that true peace partners are out there on the streets.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Week of Freedom – Abdallah Abu Rahmah

In January of this year, Abdallah Abu Rahnah was arrested, tried and convicted in an Israeli court to 12 months in jail. Abu Rahnah has been organizing demonstrations and other initiatives protesting the Security Wall that Israel erected to stop the waves of suicide bombers who were murdering random civilians throughout Israel’s major cities during the second intifada.

Though I was always very uncomfortable with the building of the wall (I demonstrated in Israel under the banner: build bridges not walls), I have to admit that it does its job of preventing suicide bombings. It has also severely restricted the flow of illegal, hard drugs into Israel. I do believe that there are many instances where the wall should have gone around a Palestinian orchards or neighborhoods, and that there was an element of vindictiveness in the implementation.

Abdallah Abu Rahnah has made the wall a focus of his protest. I would take issue with him on many issues that he supports. But he is in prison for expressing these opinions in a non-violent way. Israel is a democracy and we, as Israelis, take great pride in being one of a very few democracies in the Middle East and Africa. But democracy comes with a price. To be a democracy, you need to honor the views of those who don’t agree with you. When the line is crossed whereby someone is violent or intimidating, that is one thing. When Abu Rahnah was charged with violent acts such as stone throwing, the courts found him innocent.

In a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Amnesty International referred to him (and two others) as… “Prisoners of conscience, held for legitimately voicing their opposition to the fence/wall,”

The Middle East is a tough place to live especially when you value such principles as freedom of speech and expression. Israel has the right to defend itself and this includes those who use or advocate for violence. But Abu Rahnah should not be incarcerated for non-violent advocacy. It is an injustice against him and against the democratic state of Israel.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

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