I loved 1967 (but this is not a senescent attempt at humor)

The Greek Theater, where life begins for all U of Redlands graduates

The Greek Theater, where life begins for all U of Redlands graduates

1967 was a very good year, for me. I graduated from the University of Redlands in California; I got married; I began the first of my graduate school programs; I had something of a psychological meltdown; and Israel “won” the 1967 War with its Arab/Muslim neighbors.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the 1967 War was a good thing. In 1967 I had the idea that it was good  that Israel could kick butt,  send its neighbors packing and reshape the borders the international community had established for it—for the first time violating a condition of its existence as defined by the United Nations.

Then came 1974.

I began my PhD program at the University of Iowa. My wife and I sold our house, packed up our most valuable belongings, and drove to Iowa in a rental truck. We had been in Iowa City about a month when on October 6 Egypt, Syria, and Jordan launched their attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. Israel not only rebuffed the attack but also conquered great swaths of Palestinian territory, once again unilaterally redrawing the international map. Well I remember a group of us in married students’ housing at the U of I toasting Gold Meier, Prime Minister of Israel, and her general, Moshe Dayan. We thought it was heady stuff that they had humiliated Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, little Ole Israel playing David against Goliath. Of course, what we chose not to think about was that both sides in that war were proxies, Israel for the US and the others for the USSR. The Cold War came dangerously close to being a hot war.

Thirteen or so years later, I was finally finished with that PhD program and was teaching music at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. In the interim, I had read some material on the inhumane treatment of and horrible living conditions of Palestinian refugees in their own country. I did this reading at the encouragement of a friend, an Episcopal priest who had gone to Israel with a group but had left the group and investigated the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza on his own. He returned with a story that contradicted the official story we were given about what had happened during the Yom Kippur War a few years earlier. He had pictures of the Rafah camp to illustrate what he was saying.

I read what I could find. Then In 1989, a young man who was a “foreign student,” of whom we had many, enrolled in my music history course. He was from Palestine. He told me at the beginning of the semester he might not be able to finish because his student visa was about to expire.

The Yom Kippur Prime Minister and her General

The Yom Kippur Prime Minister and her General

How I wish I had written down his story at the time because I’m pretty sure I have at least some of the details wrong. The student’s family had fled Palestine and were living on the Island of Malta. His parents had Israeli passports because they were born in a part of Palestine within the original borders of Israel. He, however, did not have such a passport because he was born in Rafah. He did not have a passport from Malta. He had no internationally recognized passport, only the student visa from the US. He could not go back to Malta or Palestine or stay in the US. He was a man without a country. I may not have the details correct, but I know the end result is correct. He promised to keep in touch. The last time I heard from him was about six months after he was deported. He was with Palestinian expatriates in a North African country.  I will not speculate on what became of him.

I know what became of me. I continued to study the situation “on the ground” in Palestine. Finally in 2003, I had the great honor to go to Palestine with a delegation of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. We went to Gaza. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few people anyone who reads this knows who has seen the Rafah Refugee Camp in person. It remains one of the most densely populated cities in the world, the Palestinians still segregated and subjugated in apartheid virtually cut off from the rest of the world.

In 2008 I returned to Palestine/Israel with a group mainly of Lutherans from Texas led by Ann Hafften.

This little blog posting is obviously too short—and I am not enough of a scholar—to say much of importance about the plight of the Palestinians. I am rethinking all of this in vivid detail for two reasons. The first is that yesterday I came across an article I think every American should read that goes a long way toward explaining why the “conflict” (what a ridiculous word—“conflagration” would be better) between Palestine and Israel continues seemingly intractable.

The second is Secretary of State John Kerry’s laudable and timely attempt to restart the “peace process” between Palestine and Israel. He would be more honest to say he’s restarting the process to end Occupation and Apartheid. No matter. What is important is that his efforts are almost by definition doomed to failure.

My friend Samia Khoury, a native of Jerusalem, a Palestinian Christian who has lived there for almost all of her 70-plus years, asked her friends to read an article that she says explains why Mr. Kerry’s efforts are doomed.

I’d be far more inclined to think Mr. Kerry’s initiative would bear fruit if I knew what had happened to my Palestinian student and friend.

Thirty feet of concrete Apartheid

Thirty feet of concrete Apartheid

More important than anything I can ever write; you will never see this in the American media.

The new home of the Al-Salaymeh family in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem. Israeli Occupation Forces destroyed their old home on May 29, 2013,  displacing the 13 members of the Al-Salaymeh family.

The new home of the Al-Salaymeh family in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem.
Israeli Occupation Forces destroyed their old home on May 29, 2013,
displacing the 13 members of the Al-Salaymeh family.

If you want attempts at humor you will have to go elsewhere today.

This is an open letter from Alice Walker (Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple) to Alicia Keys (pianist, R&B singer-songwriter, actress). Published yesterday.

Dear Alicia Keys,

I have learned today that you are due to perform in Israel very soon. We have never met, though I believe we are mutually respectful of each other’s path and work. It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists. You were not born when we, your elders who love you, boycotted institutions in the US South to end an American apartheid less lethal than Israel’s against the Palestinian people. Google Montgomery Bus Boycott, if you don’t know about this civil rights history already. We changed our country fundamentally, and the various boycotts of Israeli institutions and products will do the same there. It is our only nonviolent option and, as we learned from our own struggle in America, nonviolence is the only path to a peaceful future.

If you go to my website and blog alicewalkersgarden.com you can quickly find many articles I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own. Under a campaign named ‘Brand Israel’, Israeli officials have stated specifically their intent to downplay the Palestinian conflict by using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.

This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil. You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.

I have kept you in my awareness as someone of conscience and caring, especially about the children of the world. Please, if you can manage it, go to visit the children in Gaza, and sing to them of our mutual love of all children, and of their right not to be harmed simply because they exist.

With love, younger sister, beloved daughter and friend,
Alice Walker