Sunday, May 6, 2018

FINKELSTEIN: Traitor or Pragmatist?

In 2012 Finkelstein undertook a lecture tour in England and talked extensively of the Israel-Palestine situation. What he said in one of his lectures drew loud and bitter criticism, not from the supporters of Israel but, strangely, from the supporters of Palestinians! Some even called him a traitor to the Palestinian cause which he has been defending all his life, at great risk and cost to himself. I examined the issue and here is what I wrote.
This was published widely by several media outlets including VIEWZONE.COM.
My article was submitted to Finkelstein for response and that appears here just after my article
This 2012 article and Finkelstein’s response are as relevant today as they were in 2012. They contain very interesting and informative facts.  

March 27, 2012
FINKELSTEIN: Traitor or Pragmatist?
Palestinians at a crucial juncture
By: Gulamhusein Abba
It is all very well for us, sitting in the comfort and security of our homes, to be purists. We do not live with drones flying over our heads 24/7, we do not experience any difficulty travelling from one place to another, we do not live in fear of bombs falling on our homes.
Neither I nor the talking heads nor the pundits and pen pushers and keyboard warriors operating from the comfort and security of their homes, nor the Finkelsteins of this world, nor anyone else can tell the Palestinians what they should do or not do. It is for them to decide how to shape their destiny."
After receiving several e-mails forwarding bitter attacks against Finkelstein for his pronouncements at several colleges and in private interviews during his recent lecture tour in UK, I read, in full, the posts sent to me. I then hunted out several reports and videos about Finkelstein's UK lecture tour and, though it took hours spread over several days, read all the reports and saw all the videos.
It became clear to me that the attacks on Finkelstein were based on the single 30 minute interview he gave to a private person in the confines of a small private room. I feel that if those on the attack had heard the long and detailed speeches Finkelstein gave to large audiences in University Halls and at other places, they would change their mind.
I find that Finkelstein has not changed a bit on fundamentals. In his lectures during his recent tour, he came out very hard on Israel and recounted and described in graphic language several horrible acts Israel has committed. And he affirmed very clearly and explicitly that according to the International Court of Justice, UN resolutions, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to mention just a few entities, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are Palestinian territory, the transfer of Israelis to these parts is against international law, the Israeli settlements are illegal.
In his lectures he also mentioned atrocities committed by Israel elsewhere too.
He made no attempt to justify any of Israel's acts with reference to Palestine. To the contrary he has condemned them unequivocally.
Israel's right to exist
Regarding Israel's right to exist, he ridiculed Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognize its right to exist and said that Israel's demand to be recognized as a Jewish state had no legal basis. Indeed, he indirectly admitted that Palestinians are entitled to claim that Israel, whether Jewish or secular, has no inherent right to exist though it can claim that it has acquired the right to have its existence accepted. And indeed that is the current position of Hamas and Fatah also. Both deny Israel's right to exist but accept the fact of its existence.
Right of return
As for the refugee question, Finkelstein, in his London tour lectures, never denied the right of return. To the contrary, he has ridiculed the Israeli suggestion that an international fund be set up and the refugees be compensated from that. He said that Israel cannot disclaim any responsibility for the refugee problem and he insisted that Israel must accept the principle of the right of return. He pointed out that the figures projected by Israel are imaginary. The real number of refugees wanting to return to Palestine would be far less. The refugee problem is not insurmountable and can be worked out through negotiations.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
Nor did he express any objection to the means the Palestinians are using to achieve their rights. In fact he said he fully supports the BDS campaign. His criticism was of those behind the BDS campaign claiming that they are agnostic about the existence of Israel. He pointed out that people are not fools. They see that the demands made by the Palestinians will mean the end of Israel's existence as it is constituted at present.
The question, he said, is of tactics, of politics. He maintains that if the Palestinians want to present themselves as ones who are reasonable, ones who are rights-based, ones who just want the UN resolutions enforced, then they cannot ask for a one state solution, simply because an Israeli state is part of the UN resolution. One cannot ask for selective enforcement.
One state or Two state solution
He has admitted that if the facts on the ground have been changed by Israel to such an extent that it is now no longer possible to have a contiguous and viable Palestinian state, then it would be quite legitimate for the Palestinians to ask for a one state solution. But, he claims, that position is not true. And he showed, by using maps, that by giving up just a little more than one percent of the West Bank, and insisting on retaining the entire West Bank other than the said one percent, Palestinians could have a viable and contiguous state. That, according to him, knocks out the one valid argument for a one state solution.
His argument is that though it might be right morally to insist on a one state solution, that demand cannot be based on the argument that a two state solution is no longer possible on account of the demographics having been changed so completely by Israel.
As I understand it, the demand for a one state solution is based on the fact that Israel has so carved up the West bank that, even if it withdraws completely from the West Bank, it will not be a contiguous state, especially if the proposed land swap is accepted.
There can be no question that Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens amounts to apartheid. One can denounce that and demand suitable action against Israel for that. But one cannot, on that basis, demand that the occupied territories be combined with what is now Israel to form a single democratic and secular state.
Idealism versus pragmatism
Finkelstein has been criticized for advocating a pragmatic approach rather than one based on human rights, international law, justice, morality and ethics.
It cannot be denied that moral action, such as human rights campaigns, should never be guided by "mainstream public". Their very task is to change mainstream public opinion.
Nowhere do I find Finkelstein denying this. All that he says is that changing public opinion on the issue of one state versus two states is going to take a very, very long time. Palestinians will be able to get their legitimate demands met more quickly if they abandon the demand for a single state and stick to a demand for an end to the occupation, a sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state in the borders contained in the UN partition resolution and the right of return for the legitimate Palestinian refugees.
Either the Palestinians say it loud and clear that the UN partition resolution itself is unjust and morally wrong and on that basis they aspire to end a Jewish state and create in its place a democratic and secular state with equal rights for all its citizens OR they demand the full implementation and enforcement of the UN resolution, which includes having Israel as a state (though not as a Jewish state).
What Finkelstein is saying is that if the Palestinians stick to the first position, they will be morally right, but it will take many, many years to achieve their goal. If they choose the second course, which does not in any way contradict their three layered demands, they stand a better chance of achieving their goal, a better chance of bringing to an end the misery and deaths being inflicted on the Palestinians by the Israelis, a better chance of allowing the Palestinians to get on with their lives.
He further argued that though it has taken years of hard work to do so, the world is at last ready to listen sympathetically to the demands of Palestinians, ready to admit that what Israel is doing is unjust and contrary to international law. It is ready to see the establishment of a two state solution. It is NOT yet ready to accept a one state solution.
He argued that rather than go on fighting for a demand which may be morally right but which will entail years and years of waiting and many, many more Palestinian lives lost, purely from the tactical point of view, it would be better for the Palestinians to grasp this opportunity and adhere to the demand of full implementation of the UN resolutions (which include the state of Israel).
On whose side is Finkelstein?
If one listens carefully to all the videos, one begins to see that what he is saying is not that the demand for a one state solution has no moral underpinning or that it is not based on the rights of Palestinians. He is merely stating that there is an alternative solution, a two state solution, and it would be easier and quicker to get that rather than ask for a one state solution.
The impression one gets after listening to all the lectures is that his main concern is not preserving the state of Israel, as those who are now criticizing him claim, but rather to suggest to Palestinians a tactic that would more quickly bring an end to the Israeli occupation and all that comes with it, and allow them to get on with their lives. Implicit was that the final choice, of course, rests with the Palestinian people (as opposed to ideologues or so called leaders who have their own personal agendas to pursue).
Is Finkelstein trying to "ease his guilty conscience"?
All this talk about Finkelstein being concerned about how the world, and specially the Israelis, remember him after he delivered his lectures  and his lectures being an attempt to ease his conscience and his not wanting to be remembered as an anti-Semite who advocated Israel shouldn’t exist at all, all this is pure conjecture, quite baseless and wholly undeserved. I found no evidence of any such concern and desires. I saw no trace of a guilty conscience trying to redeem itself.
An exception to Finkelstein's "swap" suggestion
I must confess that even I, who am so outraged by the atrocities of Israel and by the UN carving up Palestine and giving more than 50% of it to a foreign entity to establish a state of their own thereon -- even I have often urged what Finkelstein is now suggesting. With one exception. Though it is going to be an uphill task, the demand, I feel, should, at the very least, be for the entire West Bank to be restored to the Palestinians, including the one percent that Finkelstein believes the giving up of which would lead more quickly to the Palestinians achieving an independent state of their own. Presenting the Israelis with this one percent would amount to rewarding an invader with a part of his spoils to make him disgorge the rest. Apart from it being unjust, it would set a bad and dangerous precedent for future invaders. Truth to tell, I personally feel that the Palestinians should demand the full implementation of the UN partition plan and all the relevant UN resolutions thereafter, as Finkelstein now suggests. But, the demand should be for Israel withdrawing fully and completely, to the borders delineated by the UN in its original partition plan, not the 1967 borders.
Of course, it can be argued that even if Israel withdraws completely from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, it would be impossible for these areas to live in peace because of the Israeli settlements and connecting roads that Israel has dotted these areas with and on that basis, a two state solution is no longer viable and the only solution is a unified, single, democratic and secular state.
Finkelstein not free from criticism
Is Finkelstein completely free from criticism? Certainly not. His downplaying the achievements of the BDS campaign is most unfortunate, disturbing and contrary to facts. Many trade unions have participated in it. Several artistes have cancelled their appearances in Israel. Divestment has taken place. Products and companies have been boycotted. More important, as pointed out by Finkelstein himself, in solidarity marches and protests all over the world, those taking part are no longer just Palestinians. The majority of them are non-Palestinians. And, again as pointed out by Finkelstein himself, the perception of the world about Israel has changed. It is being increasingly isolated. While it is true that Finkelstein himself has played not a small part in making this change occur, the BDS campaign can rightfully take full credit for this phenomenon.
Similarly, his constantly repeating that Palestinians should adopt a tactic based on what the mainstream public worldwide is ready to accept was, initially very disturbing and jarring. But I listened, over and over again, to what Finkelstein was trying to convey and I realized that he was not saying that what he is proposing is the right stand, in terms of what morality and ethical norms demand. He was merely presenting this as an alternative choice. What are the advantages and disadvantages of adopting this stance?  And what are the costs of adopting a strictly morality based stand?. One has to choose. Clearly Finkelstein feels that sticking to a two state solution and, while insisting that the right of return be accepted by Israel in principle, being flexible on the way it is implemented -- this is, in the present circumstances, the better choice for the Palestinians.
He was also dead wrong in suggesting that Palestinians should stop criticizing Israel for the way it treats its minorities, particularly the Arab citizens of Israel. Not only Palestinians but anybody and everybody in the world has a right and a duty to condemn this apartheid. On this question, I fully agree there can be no question that Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens amounts to apartheid. One can and should denounce that and demand suitable action against Israel for that. But, I submit, one cannot, on that basis, demand that the occupied territories be combined with what is now Israel to form a single democratic and secular state.
On the whole
On the whole, my sense of the situation is that if it is put to the vote, whether Palestinians should continue to fight for a single state solution or accept the realities and agree to a two state solution within the parameters of UN resolutions, -- if this is put to the vote, the majority of the Palestinians would say that they have had enough of fighting, enough of the hardships inflicted on them, enough of deaths, and want to move on with their lives. I feel they would say they are now willing to accept a two state solution, provided it includes a fully independent, sovereign, viable and contiguous state of Palestine within the borders of the UN partition resolution and the right of return for the Palestinian refugees.
We all know that Israel accepted only that part of the UN resolution which authorized the Jewish entity setting up a state of its own in Palestine. It never accepted the BORDERS. Israel has never defined its borders. And there is a reason for this. Zionists, from the beginning, were bent on extending Israel's borders to all of Palestine west of the Jordan River. Indeed, their ultimate goal was, and remains, extending the borders to include Jordan. But it "accepted" the state that was given to it, to use it as a step to achieve its final goal.
Ultimately it is for the Palestinians to decide
Perhaps the Palestinians should learn from this. Perhaps the wise thing to do would be to accept the two state solution, get it set up and recognized, build it economically, politically and in all other ways, and then, when they are in a position to do so, campaign for one single, democratic, secular state, on the ground and with the argument that it would benefit both, the Israelis and the Palestinians.
On the other hand, one can be an idealist, a purist and go on insisting that the UN had no right to carve up Palestine, no right to impose a foreign government on the Palestinians, and go on insisting on a one state solution on that basis alone.
Ultimately, I feel that it is for the Palestinians to decide what they want to do. It is all very well for us, sitting in the comfort and security of our homes, to be purists. We do not live with drones flying over our heads 24/7, we do not experience any difficulty travelling from one place to another, we do not live in fear of bombs falling on our homes. Palestinians do.
A personal note
First, about Finkelstein. He is clearly no traitor of the Palestinian cause. He has been at the forefront advocating for Palestinian rights. For more than three decades he has been telling the world about Israel’s oppressive policies. He did this again and again in his lectures in UK recently. His commitment to ending Israel's oppressive policies remains as strong as ever and he continues to be an important and forceful critic of Israel and supporter of the Palestinian cause.
This has not been easy for him nor is it easy for him now. He has paid a very heavy price for his public denunciation of Israeli actions. There is no need to repeat what he has borne. The record is known to all.
Quartering him and throwing him to the dogs is height of ingratitude and is folly exemplified.
What Finkelstein deserves from the Palestinians and the supporters of their cause is not vilification but praise, continued support and yes, gratitude.
I have written this with a very heavy heart. Here are my innermost thoughts, beliefs and feelings:
*The Jews did not really need a state of their own.
*The European powers decided to set up a separate state for the Jews in Palestine not out of compassion for the Jews or to fill a perceived need for them to have a state of their own but for their personal ulterior motives, namely to provide a salve to their guilty conscience (for not doing what they could have done to prevent the holocaust), keep the thousands upon thousands of refugee Jews from their own shores, and, to have a paw in the Middle East.
*The UN had no right to practice charity at the expense of the Palestinians. The UN erred grievously in agreeing to partition Palestine and imposing a foreign government on the Palestinians against their expressed wishes.
*The UN added insult to injury by giving more than 50 per cent of Palestine to this foreign entity.
*Israel being the creation of the UN, the UN has a duty and an obligation to see that Israel respects international law. It is the duty of the UN to take necessary action, such as imposing sanctions and taking any and all other necessary actions, to compel Israel to end its illegal and brutal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights instead of leaving the defenseless Palestinians at the mercy of the Israelis and forcing the Palestinians to negotiate a peace deal with them.
*What is needed is not negotiations between the powerful aggressor and the helpless victim but implementation and enforcement by the international community of UN resolutions on record.
I personally am for the eventual establishment of a single democratic and secular state on all of the land west of the Jordan River which comprised Palestine prior to the establishment of Israel.
For the present, I feel, the best strategy would be to focus on getting the UN to enforce the UN partition resolution and all the subsequent UN resolutions on the subject.
Simultaneously, the BDS organizers should strengthen the campaign, proposing neither a two state or a one state solution but concentrating on calling for BDS against Israel solely on the grounds of it violating international laws and human rights and practicing discrimination against its Arab citizens and other groups.
The BDS campaign is an inclusive one, embracing all human rights advocates including Palestinians, Israelis, American Jews, and American Palestinian Christians and Muslims who together hold Israel accountable for its horrendous policies and actions and call for an end to its illegal and brutal occupation.
These are just my personal thoughts. What strategies should the Palestinians adopt? I firmly believe that neither I nor the talking heads nor the pundits and pen pushers and keyboard warriors operating from the comfort and security of their homes, nor the Finkelsteins of this world, nor anyone else can tell the Palestinians what they should do or not do. It is for them to decide how to shape their destiny.
Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s response:
UPDATE: This article was sent to Dr. Norman Finkelstein with a request that if there be any statement, argument, belief attributed to him in the article to be untrue or incorrect, he should let me know. He has responded and made only the following clarifications:
He has stated:
"I am not aware of any authoritative statements by jurists or legal bodies that equate Israeli policies vis-a-vis its own Palestinian-Israeli citizens as constituting Apartheid. No sane person denies the discriminatory nature and policies of the Israeli state, but Apartheid under the Rome Statutes constitutes a 'crime against humanity', and so it requires crossing a very high threshold before one equates a State's discriminatory policies with Apartheid."
With regard to my suggesting that he urges the Palestinians to accept a two state solution and agree to swap about 1.9 per cent of existing West Bank for a land equal in size and value, he has stated categorically: "I do not believe that Palestinians should accept anything less than the full 100% of their territory."
The article refers to a map he showed at the lectures with the 1.9 percent of West Bank that was being asked for a land swap. The implication was that this was a map drawn up by Finkelstein. With regard to this he has clarified that the map was actually a map that had been presented by the Palestinians in 2008.
About Palestinians recognizing Israel, while not denying what he said at the lectures that Israel was not entitled to insist on the Palestinians recognizing its right to exist as a state, much less entitled to insist that they recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, he has stated, "If one wants to anchor a resolution of the conflict in international law, I do not agree that the decision is the Palestinians to make whether or not they recognize Israel. The law is the law; and according to the law Israel is a member state of the United Nations and has the same rights and duties as any other state." It must be emphasized that the purpose of this article is neither to endorse or reject any of the statements, claims, arguments, beliefs, suggestions presented by Dr. Finkelstein in his recent UK lectures but merely to present a true and correct picture of what was said.
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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Otherwise Occupied

DEFYING SILENCE: Otherwise Occupied: As if Israel Did Nothing Shameful Before the Advent of Smartphones Amira Hass This article first appeared in Haretz of April 16, 20...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

“With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” ..Nikki Haley.

Nikki Haley next President of USA? In 2028? 2024? 2020? Even sooner?
Or will she end up getting fired?
By Gulamhusen A.Abba

Nikki Haley is a smart, tenacious and ambitious woman. She shot to the national stage when she, as Governor of South Carolina, took down the Confederate flag. She moved a step higher when Trump appointed her as the US Ambassador to United Nations.

When she, in that capacity, appeared at the 2016 annual convention of AIPAC, she played to the hilt to the gallery, stating that in their company she felt like she was among friends. And she, instead of blowing kisses to the audience, wafted her heart to them. She clearly was the star of the show, eclipsing even the Jewish Democratic leader in the Senate Schumer, and got a thunderous applause.

The moderator almost blurted out, “Here is your next President of the US.”!!!

I posted about this and remarked that she was clearly positioning herself for that post.
However, it seemed for a time that she became overconfident and crossed her limits.

In the UN she has hit Russia hard. According to New York Times, Trump is upset over Nikki’s strong rhetoric on Russia and he has grown suspicious of her ambition, convinced that she was angling for Secretary of State Tillerson’s position and increasingly wondering whether she wants his own. Trump reportedly does not like such people. He particularly does not like people who pre-empt him, especially when they work for him.

Though Trump is reportedly looking to avoid levying new economic sanctions on Russia in response to a suspected chemical attack by Syria, Nicki Haley on Sunday, in Face the Nation program, announced sanctions would be unveiled on Monday, designed to send "a strong message" denouncing Russia's backing of the Syrian government. She did this reportedly before Trump had approved the sanctions.
According to the New York Times, he grew angry and yelled at the TV during Haley’s appearance, as he believed he hadn’t approved any new sanctions.

This led to the White House publicly backpedaling Haley's statement on Monday. When asked about the discrepancy between Nikki’s statement in the interview and the official White House statement, a White House official said there was “internal confusion” about the plan.

The situation escalated. On Tuesday afternoon, chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied that the misstatement was the result of “internal confusion” in the White House, and suggested it was solely Haley’s blunder. Here is what he said: “She got ahead of the curve. She’s done a great job, she’s a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that,” he told reporters.

Nikki shot back. “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” she told Fox News’ Dana Perino, in a statement that was read on-air Tuesday evening.

There was speculation that this might lead to her undoing. Trump, already upset with her and suspicious of her ambitions, might take this opportunity to cut her to size. But it turned out to be otherwise,
Kudlow called Haley to apologize and admitted he was mistaken in a statement to the New York Times. “She was certainly not confused,” Kudlow said. “I was wrong to say that — totally wrong.”

This attests to Niki’s confidence in herself and to the position she holds in the White House....for now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

‘Palestinian Gandhi’ welcomed with a hail of Israeli bullets.

Another Nakba awaits?

By Gulamhusein A. Abba

For years Palestinians have been taunted with “Where is a Palestinian Gandhi”? It has been an unwarranted and uncalled for question. The real question was and continues to be, “Why is Israel not being compelled to vacate its long lasting and brutal occupation of Palestinian land – an occupation internationally recognized as being illegal.

A few months back a social-media activist in Gaza started the idea of a mass non-violent protest. Hamas adopted it and organized the protest.

The plan envisaged 45 days of protests along the border with Israel, starting on March 30, which Palestinians observe as Land Day, and leading up to May 15, the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, the day Palestinians observe as Nakba or catastrophe.

The plan required setting up camps between 700-1000 meters from Israel’s border fence, outside the Israeli army’s unilaterally imposed buffer zone, where anyone who enters is liable to be shot.

Tents were pitched to accommodate the protestors.

To a casual observer it might seem rather callous on the part of Palestinian leaders to plan this action, knowing fully well that the Israelis are bound to respond with brutal force.

Let it be remembered that no one was dragged by their hair, or at gun point, to participate in this sit-ins and march. If thousands came it is because the international community has, through all these years, turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to their suffering, to their cry for justice

This is no terrorist attack or incitement to violence. This suicidal march is their last hope to awaken the conscience of the international community. It is a testimony of the hopelessness of the Palestinians and the blindness and deafness of the international community.

If it takes the deaths of hundreds or even thousands of innocent, unarmed, nonviolent martyrs to make the world take notice, the indomitable Palestinians are ready to pay it.

The leaders of the protest took pains to emphasize that this was going to be a nonviolent, peaceful march. The participants would carry no arms, not even stones.  Al-Kurd. one of 20 organizers of the planned march, reiterated again and again that the protest will be completely nonviolent, contrary to how it is being described in Israeli media.

Israel immediately dubbed it as a Hamas organized event designed “to wipe Israel off the map”! This in spite of the fact that the flag waved was not a faction flag but the Palestinian flag. Introducing Hamas into the equation serves as a justification for Israel to employ violence against them

On its side, while the Palestinians were pitching tents and preparing for the march. Israel deployed a large contingent of armed forces, including several infantry brigades, along the border, with orders to shoot to kill. Israel Defense Forces warned that it would open fire on anyone who tries to breach the border fence and enter Israel or even come into the unilaterally imposed buffer zone imposed by Israel inside Gaza

On March 30 the opening day of the protest, an estimated 30,000 Palestinians gathered at the border.18 protesters were killed by IDF and hundreds injured, making this the deadliest day of the ongoing conflict since the 2014 Israel Gaza war

With the stage set for an imminent massacre, Kuwait requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss “grave concerns at the border” in Gaza, reaffirm "the right to peaceful protest", express the council's "sorrow at the loss of innocent Palestinian lives" and call for an "independent and transparent investigation" of the violence.

A closed meeting was held late evening on March 30. On March 31 the United States Representative to the UN dismissed the Palestinian March as “bad actors, who use protest as a cover to incite violence and endanger innocent lives.”

The Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mandsour, explained what happened on the Gaza border. “Those who wrought the violence and the killing are the Israeli armed forces. Our people in the Gaza Strip, raising, not a banner of faction but the Palestinian flag, demonstrated peacefully, peacefully, peacefully and they were attacked by the Israeli armed forces. It is a massacre by them.” 

UN Secretary General and the EU diplomatic chief called for an independent investigation but Israel’s Defense Minster rejected the idea.

Israel has said it will not soften its response to the Hams-led demonstrations and may target militant groups within Gaza

On April 7, 9 Palestinians were killed, 293 shot, over 1,000 wounded. This makes it at least 30 killed since the protest began last Friday. All for no other reason than demonstrating non-violently on their own land.

“March of Return” could end in Palestinians attempting to cross the Gaza border on May 15, the last day of the protest and the anniversary of the 1948 Nakba.  This could well be their second Nakba 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Gale Courey Toensing

Tribute to an icon
By Gulamhusein A Abba
 On Monday, February 5, 2018 Gale Courey Toensing, after a tough battle with Parkinson’s disease, died peacefully, surrounded by family members, She was born on April 7, 1946 in Montreal, the daughter of Mae (Kenmey) and Philip Courey. She emigrated to the United States and became a citizen and received her MFA from Norwich University. She is survived by her husband Craig; her daughter Liz and husband Ethan, of West Cornwall; her son Seth and his wife Beth, of Somerville, MA; her brother Jeffrey Courey and his wife Myrna and their two children, of Mississauga, Canada; and her niece Jennifer and her husband, of NYC. She was predeceased by her sister Joyce

In Palestine, Mazin Qumsiyeh and his colleagues planted a tree in Gale’s honor and money was donated to a museum in her name.   

A celebration of her life will be held in the spring and will be announced once plans are finalized
Gale Courey Toensing

With Gale’s passing away, all those who support Palestinians and their cause, Native Americans and their cause, truth, justice, freedom and equality, those who oppose tyranny, oppression and inequity, those who know the remarkable Gale Courey Toensing -- all of us have suffered a grievous loss.

She was a writer, journalist, a gifted poet and fearless and passionate activist, a champion for the rights and welfare of the common people.

For the Palestinians, she published on her web site The Corner Report forceful articles and opinion pieces. She put not only her talents, time and work for them but put her life itself where her mouth was and was on one of the ‘aid to Gaza’ ships. It was intercepted by Israel in international waters. The entire crew, including Gale, was taken into custody by the Israelis.

Gulamhusein Abba when he, along with Andrew Ziegler, visited  Gale

As for Native Indians, she started reporting for Indian Country Today since May of 2005. In addition she regularly contributed articles covering the array of issues in Indian country, publishing more than 100 articles per year on a variety of subjects. demonstrating mastery of the complexities of issues in Indian country.

Among her articles were:
What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale
It gave a better understanding of what really happened 401 years ago at the first Thanksgiving, and what Wampanoags do today.

Indian-Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst US Presidents

Schaghticoke Tribal Nation’s $610 Million Lawsuit Against CT Inches Forward. It reported that
the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation alleges that the State of Connecticut sold off its land without paying; it's suing for $610 million.

Keith Harper on Obama, Trump and Global Human Rights
In this article attorney and Cherokee citizen Keith Harper, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, opens up about global issues.

First Wampanoag-Pilgrim Treaty Signed on April Fools’
The first Wampanoag-Pilgrim Treaty was signed by Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag Nation, and the leaders of Plymouth Colony on April 1, 1621.

Expand Your Reading List With These Seven Books: 2016 Hot List
About a long list of promising titles covering the full range of reading tastes.

 ‘No Diplomacy with a Hungry Lion’: Native Leaders Look Ahead for 2016
Five tribal leaders were asked to revisit last year’s thoughts and look ahead to what they expect or hope for in 2016.

Sonny Skyhawk Bringing His War Bonnet to Oscars, Fighting for His People

In an eulogy to her, Christopher Napolitano, former Indian Country Today Creative Director,      wrote: “Toensing was working as a reporter in Connecticut when her curiosity and nose for injustice was alerted by state-level skullduggery aimed at repealing the federal recognition of an obscure Native nation in nearby Kent. Her first article on the subject for Indian Country Today, a precursor of many more pieces to come, appeared in May 2005, “Schaghticoke Status Attacked.” The fight of the Schaghticoke was never far from view for Toensing; a dozen years later, when her health was failing but her determination to investigate and publish the truth remained firm, she came through with her last piece (pre-hiatus for the fully-staffed ICTMN)—an excellent summation of the case so far—on September 3, 2017: “Schaghticoke Tribal Nation’s $610 Million Lawsuit Against CT Inches Forward.”

She did not just write about them. She attended annual NCAI, NIGA and USET conferences and worked in Washington DC to provide coverage of issues facing tribal leaders and federal policy
She even went to their Pow Wows!

Andrew Ziegler when he went with Gulamhusein Aba to meet Gale
One of her friends,  Pat Mechare has written,“Some might not know that Gale’s interests were broad. She sought justice for the Native Americans and worked for a prestigious Native American Journal. There she focused on current litigations involving the Native American community. She traveled several times to the Middle East to see first-hand the struggles of the ordinary people in those regions and was another voice of support for them. She became a part of several groups in the area who worked for peace there and found lifelong friends.

“She loved to garden and see the blooms of the flowers she grew. She loved reading, debating and family and was so very proud of her children, Liz and Seth. She had a gentle and wry sense of humor. We owe her a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. We extend our sympathies to her family, especially her husband, Craig, who lovingly cared for her during her illness, with the reminder that her deeds and the person she was will not soon be forgotten.”

Gale was also an accomplished poet, having earned an MFA in poetry from Norwich University in Vermont. She wrote evocatively, tenderly, lovingly. Here is an example of her poetry, her remembrance of her mother

Personal Belongings.
My mother’s nightgown lies furled at the back of the drawer,
flimsy like a shadow someone forgot to pack.
I stashed it there unwashed five years ago,
death cells still clinging to its fibers. I want to take it out
and shake it, run it through the washer by itself
on gentle cycle, small load, dry it with a sheet
of Bounce and fluff it back to when she was a paradox,
a five-foot giantess, reliquary of bad advice.
I remember her pitying stare, poised dressed-to-kill
and dripping jewels on the living room sofa,
her daily exhortations, flipping through fashion magazines—

You look like death warmed over in those black clothes.
Why don’t you make yourself glamorous?
Go get a permanent and learn how to cook,
don’t show how brainy you are, show some cleavage,
that’s the way to catch a man—and the night her own brain,
hooked by a random ruby red hardening of blood, cleft itself
into smooth-surfaced planes between clearing
the dinner dishes and serving the tea, how her body
slid to the floor, fluid as a silk negligee tossed off a creamy shoulder,
the porcelain cups tinkling into shards like the memories
she tried to piece together the next four years, and never could.

I’d enter her room from the coded elevator
and she’d say my name, then Sister! Or, lost somewhere between
Intention and expression, Blue! as she waved the only hand
she could still move to flaunt the diamond rings my father
had given her through the years, until she grew so small they slid
over the bones of her fingers and fell into the safe
deposit box at my bank where I keep them with her gold bracelets
and emerald necklace and other sparkling things,
in a rectangle of steel as dark as the coffin she was buried in
or the drawer where her nightgown lies,
so I can tell her shimmering from mine.
–Gale Courey Toensing (1997)

Though Gale has left us physically, she continues to be with us in spirit and will forever inspire us.

A personal note: Gale and I had been friends for a long time. We started exchanging views, opinions, personal news and feelings from February 2006 and wrote to each other pretty regularly

We had hoped to meet on June 15   2016. This would be the first time she and her husband Craig and my wife and I would be meeting together “to break bread” and chat. She was very happy about this and looked forward to it. On that day, after keeping a medical appointment with Craig’s doctor, they were on their way to pick up my wife and myself. Half way through, Gale’s illness started acting up and they had to return home. She called to let us know. I told her not to worry about it and that we will meet soon,” Inshallah”. Here is what she replied; “Dear Gulamusein  My mother used to say "inshallah" when I asked if I could do something she didn't want me to do but didn't have a good reason to deny my request. Then when something happened to prevent whatever it was I asked for she could say "It was God's will." I never believed her. But now I find myself longing to understand and accept Allah's will. I'd very much like to talk to you about that, if that's possible. I will try to call you tomorrow around 1pm after I return from physical therapy. I was so exhausted when we got home that I fell asleep on the sofa and woke up 10 minutes ago -- just in time to go to bed 🙂 I think tomorrow will be a better day -- inshallah! Talk to you then. Good night...”

Unfortunately her illness prevented her from making a trip to Danbury again. I too became too ill to go out.  Besides I had no transport. But I was determined to find a way to go and meet her. I tried very hard. Ultimately my good friend, Andrew Ziegler offered to take me there and look after me all the way. And so, armed with a urinal and assisted by my friend, at last visited her on Saturday, December2. 2017 to pay our respects to her, express our appreciation and thanks for all that she had done, and do what she loved—'break bread’ with her!. As usual, in spite of limitations due to her illness, she went about being a perfect hostess, flitting about in her wheelchair from the dining area to the kitchen area, bringing food, getting the dishes, setting the table, lovingly putting food onto our plates: “You must taste this. My husband specially made this”!! She ignored our pleas to forget about being a host and the food and just sit and talk with us. That is what we had come for, we told her. We did manage to have some conversation with her and promised to come again, bringing food with us. But that was not to be. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Gandhi’s 70th.death anniversary

By Gulamhusein A. Abba

On this day, January 30, in 1948 Gandhi fell to the ground, shot by a young Hindu extremist, Nthuram Godse, while he was walking, at about 5 pm., to his prayer meeting in the lawn of Birla House, New Delhi


Painting by Anis Hamadeh

 That event is very personal to me. I had seen Gandhi, attended a couple of his prayer meetings, was at a large public meeting being addressed by Gandhi at Chowpaty, Bombay and heard his speeches live on radio. That is not all. I actually met him, not as an admirer but as an antagonist. I greeted him but not with a Namaste. Instead I stuck my hand out for a handshake and he graciously responded. And I bluntly asked him why he hated us Muslims and why was he opposing our getting a homeland of our own within India. He patiently explained.

I was alive and in India when he undertook his fast unto death in Noakhali to end the massacre between Hindus and Muslims, and again when he undertook his last fast, after the partition of India, to compel the government of India to pay to Pakistan its share of the assets left behind by the British and which were in India’s control.

I started out as an antagonist but ended up being an admirer, albeit with reservations on certain issues.

On the day of his death I, along with my friend Mehboobali Khan, was at the Strand cinema in the Fort area of Bommbay. watching a Rock and Roll movie. The screening was stopped before the movie ended. The audience was informed that Gandhi had been shot dead and that curfew had been imposed in the whole of Bombay. We were told to go home as soon as possible and by the safest route we could find. It was a long and frightened journey home that day.

Initially the news was that he was shot by a Pathan, a Muslim. It signaled a bloody massacre of Muslims. Fortunately, it was soon confirmed that the assassin was a Hindu.

It was chaotic and frightening for some time, Even as the nation mourned it was puzzled and dazed. A pall settled on the country.

It listened with rapt attention as Jawaharlal Nehru rose to the occasion and delivered his now famous “The light has gone out of our lives” speech.

If there is a national day of mourning for Indians, wherever they may be, today is the day.

 Here are some pictures that stir up memories

The trinity; Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sadar Vallabh Bhai Patel

Gandhi's famous visit to Jinnah at his house. He went there to persuade him to give up his demand for Pakistan. He even promised him that the Congress would accept him to be he head of the Indian governmen when it attained its independence

Gandhi's body laid out after his death

Gandhi's Samadhi

Modi paying his respects


Saturday, January 27, 2018

*A Republic of Inhospitality: India, January 26th

January 27, 2018 by Vinay Lal

India has just finished celebrating Republic Day, and as the chests of millions of Indians swelled with pride at the thought of our immense diversity and imagined military prowess, it is well to reflect on what kind of Republic the country has become.  We may begin with some elementary if often forgotten meanings of the word “republic”:  a republican form of government is not merely one in which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch; rather, the modern republic rests on the idea that sovereignty resides in the people, and that the will of the people, as expressed through their representatives, is supreme.
What has, however, been critical to the idea of the ‘republic’ everywhere is the notion of inclusiveness, even if this does not form part of the word’s typical dictionary definition. In this respect, the stories that have been coming out of India in recent years tell a tale that is chilling to the bones, a tale which leaves behind a stench that no amount of sloganeering about ‘swacch Bharat’ or even something more than a symbolic wielding of the broom can eradicate.  If inclusiveness is the touchstone of a Republic, what is characteristic of India today is how increasingly large constituencies are being excluded from the nation. Muslims and Dalits have been hounded, garroted, and lynched; the working class is being trampled upon; the Adivasi is nothing more than an obstacle course for a mining company.  None of this is news, some might argue; perhaps things have only become worse.  Such a view is profoundly mistaken, because whatever India may have been in the past, it has never been, certainly not to the extent it is today, a Republic of Inhospitality.
There are other ways, too, of understanding the pass at which we have arrived.  On his last day of office some months ago, the Vice President, Hamid Ansari, warned that Muslims were feeling increasingly insecure in India and that there was a corrosion of Indian values.  His successor, Venkaiah Naidu, was dismissive of these remarks and shot back, “Some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda. Compared to the entire world, minorities are more safe and secure in India and they get their due.” The Prime Minister, who appears a model of graciousness when he is in the company of foreign dignitaries but has been glaringly contemptuous of political opponents and previous occupants of his office, could not resist taking a dig at Mr. Ansari.  The veteran politician, Mr. Modi suggested, had spent too much time in the company of Muslims—at Aligarh Muslim University, as a member of the Minorities Commission, and as a representative of India to West Asia—and his sympathies did not really lie with India.  One should, of course, not expect anything else from this Prime Minister, What Naidu and the Prime Minister failed to understand was Ansari’s unease at the fact that India no longer seemed a hospitable place to him. India does not even remotely feel like a hospitable place to the Africans who have been set upon by mobs or to those from the Northeast who been humiliated and killed since they seem too much like the Chinese—aliens all.

African students injured in mob attacks in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, April 2017.  Source:
More than anything else, India has long been a land of hospitality.  I use the word hospitality with deliberation and with the awareness that our present crop of middle-class Indians who study hotel management and business administration with gusto will assume that I am speaking of the ‘hospitality industry’.  There is a different story to be told here about how some of the richest words in the English language have been hijacked for the narrowest purposes.  I use hospitality in place of tolerance since both the right and the left have demonstrated their intolerance for ‘tolerance’.  To liberals and the left in India, all discussion of Hindu tolerance is merely a conceit and at worst a license to browbeat others into submission.  Surprisingly, but perhaps not, the advocates of Hindutva are equally unenthusiastic about proclaiming the virtues of ‘Hindu tolerance’.  It was Hindu tolerance that, in their view, made the Hindus vulnerable to the depredations of foreign invaders.  ‘Hindu tolerance’ is only for the weak and the effete.

A delegation of students protesting the death of 19-year old Nido Taniam, a student from Arunachal Pradesh killed in the south Delhi colony of Lajpat Nagar.  Photo Source:  Press Trust of India.
What, then, does it mean to speak of the culture of hospitality that has long characterized India and that is eroding before our very eyes, turning this ancient land into a most inhospitable place not only for foreign tourists, African students, and the various people of northeast India, but even for the greater majority of its own citizens?  We may take as illustrative of this culture of hospitality three narratives that are humbling in their complex simplicity.  There is a story that is often told about the coming of the Parsis to India, although some doubt its veracity.  As they fled Iran, so the story goes, they were stopped on the border as they sought to make their way into India.  The Indian king already had far too many people in his dominions and could not accommodate any more refugees.  The cup was full.  The Parsis are said to have responded, ‘We shall be like the sugar that sweetens the cup of tea.’

Parsis outside their Fire Temple, Mumbai.
Those who wish to make the story plausible will offer dates and there may be mention of the political dynasty that prevailed in Western India in the 8th century with whom the first batch of Parsis would have come into contact.  The story may well be apocryphal, though if that is the case it is wholly immaterial:  its persistence suggests something not only about the tenor of those times but the continuing attractiveness of the idea that those who came to India have each, in their own fashion, sweetened the pot and added something to the country.  But there may have been many other registers of hospitality in India, as Tagore sought to explain to his audience on a visit to China.  The Mahsud, a Pathan tribe inhabiting the South Waziristan Agency in what is now the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan, were being bombed from the air.  A plane crash landed in one of the villages; the pilot was desperately trying to extricate himself from the plane which was already on fire.  Though the villagers had been plummeted by this very pilot, they ran to the plane and lifted him out of the cockpit; he was wounded, but they nursed him back to health; and some weeks later he made his way back to England.  It was a culture, indeed an ideal, of hospitality, and their notion of dharma, that made the villagers act as they did; however, as Tagore tellingly adds, their behavior was “the product of centuries of culture” and was “difficult of imitation.”
Though Nehru shepherded the country after independence, it was Mohandas Gandhi more than anyone else who was committed to the constituent idea of the Republic, that is inclusivity and what I have described as hospitality.  It is, therefore, fitting that my last story should end with him.  Gandhi was a staunch vegetarian, but he often had visitors to the ashram who were accustomed to having meat at nearly every meal.  He took it upon himself to ensure that they were served meat; and he also adhered to the view that if he had insisted that they conform to the rules of the ashram and confine themselves to vegetarian food, he would be visiting violence upon them. Although reams and reams have been written upon his notion of ahimsa, little has been said of how hospitality was interwoven into his very notion of nonviolence.  And, yet, it is in this very India that Muslims and Dalits have been killed on the mere suspicion of eating, hoarding, and transporting beef.  On this Republic Day, at least, Indians should ponder on precipitous has been the decline of their country into a Republic of Inhospitality.
The above is from Vinal Lal's blog at:
[A slightly shorter version of this was published under the same title in the online edition of The Indian Express, 27 January 2018.]