Thursday, June 9, 2011

American Jewish activist, Lucas Koerner says "Not in my Name".

Dear friends,
no doubt may of you will have seen the footage already from the "Jerusalem Day" march by rightwing Israeli Zionists in Israel. The footage shoot by the Sheik Jarrah Movement, show the marchers chanting racist chants against Palestinians such as “let your village burn”, "butcher the Arabs", “death to Mohammad”, "I hate all Arabs" as well as “death to all leftist”. You can see the video here:

This annual march is little different to the Orangemen marches that took place in Northern Ireland. The pro-British Protestant Orangemen would deliberately march through the Catholic Republican neighbourhoods, The Orangemen march, like this march by Israeli Jewish Zionists, was all about the Occupier exerting their presence on an occupied people.

In the last few days other footage has emerged of a young Jewish American activist, who was arrested for standing on the sideline of the rightwing march. Lucas Koerner was violent arrested by the Israel police for peacefully demonstrating in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against Israel's occupation. You can watch footage of Lucas' arrest below in a video in which he explains why he is wearing a keffiyah, a kippah (traditional Jewish religious head covering for males), and Palestinian flag.
I have also included below Lucas' account of his arrest from his blog.

Lucas' treatment and arrest reminded me of a similar incident which took place in 2004, when I was with my Jewish team mates from IWPS, Kate and Hanah, who are two of the most amazing women I have the privilege of knowing. We had travelled into Occupied East Jerusalem from the West Bank to attend a counterdemonstration organised by Israeli leftists against a massive settler demo of 100,000 in opposition to Sharon's disengagement plan. In order to get from East Jerusalme to the counter-demo in West Jerusalem, we had to pass through the settler demonstration. Kate, never shy in hiding her convinctions, was wearing a "Jews for a Free Palestine" t-shirt. On our way back, we lost one of our newly arrived team mates in the crowd and so were standing to the side of the demonstration trying to ring and locate her. I noticed a number of people were quisically reading the slogan on Kate's t-shirt. Before we knew it an elderly American Jewish Zionist accosted Kate and Hannah and began screaming at them, calling them "dirty whores" and a range of other sexists names and raising his fist at them threatening to hit them. Kate and Hannah stood their ground and refused to be intimidated by the Zionist and his abuse. The man's behaviour was witnessed by uniformed Israeli police and Border Police but not one attempted to stop his violent behaviour towards a group of peaceful women.

After about 15 minutes, a young undercover Israeli police office made himself known to us and started to blame us for the disturbance. I had the presence of mid to challenge him saying "I thought Israel was suppose to be a democracy!". To my surprise, he was taken aback by this and then said sheepishly "yes". So I asked," then why are you letting this man threaten these women? You need to put a stop to it". Sheepisly and to my suprise he then went on tried to stop the American Zionist. However, the American Zionist's abuse was soon started again, after he saw me taking photographs and then it was my turn to be verbally abused and physically threatened. Kate and Hannah were now coping abuse from other settlers. Again the Israeli police and border guards stood by and watch and laughed. Eventually, they must have decided that they had enough fun and then came and stood five across in front of us and pushed us to about 500 metres away, despite the fact we had been completely peaceful and simply trying to locate a missing colleague. While they physically restrained us, they ignored the settlers who had been the ones who had acted violently. While we were lucky not to be on the receiving end of the treatment Lucas received but I recall at the end of the incident, all five of us were extremely upset and in tears after being verbally abused, threatened with mass physical abuse and manhandled.

I know for me it marked the "turning point" - up until that stage, I had taken everything I had witnessed in my stride. Given it was my first time witnessing the Occupation, I was surprised I had been able to deal with the preceeding 6 weeks so well. But the settler attack, marked my psychological breaking point. For the next week, I voluntarily withdraw from dealing directly with either soldiers or settlers, as I knew I would not be able to engage with them in a calm or rational manner, as I was too angry about what I had witnessnessed over the last weeks. IWPS has a rule, that any engagement with Occupation Forces or settlers must not escalate a situation further and must not make the situation worse for Palestinians. If at anytime our engagement is not able to meet this criteria, then we voluntarily step back and allow our other team mates to take the lead in dealing with the situation.

Please share Lucas' video and story with your networks

In solidarity, Kim

My Arrest by Lucas Koerner - 9th June 2011

Returning from Hebron Wednesday afternoon, I glanced outside my window, only to see miles and miles of blue and white. Today was Jerusalem Day, and a parade of thousands marched through the streets celebrating, as if in an orgy of nationalistic fervor, the 44th anniversary of the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem. What shocked me initially was how eerily monolithic the procession was: it seemed as though the ocean of Israeli flags was meant to blur all distinctions between old and young, boss and worker, women and men, settler and 48er. In light of the events of recent days, I sensed a strong political undertone beneath the cheers and yells of the ecstatic crowds. Coming on the heels of Netanyahu’s defiant speech before Congress, it appeared to me that the marchers streaming down Sultan Suleiman St. that evening sought to echo their PM’s bold remarks, that all of Jerusalem was “theirs” forever. Indeed, it seemed that this display of triumphal nostalgia concealed a deeper, far weaker emotion, a lurking fear of a future in which nothing between the river and the sea would be exclusively “theirs” but would have to be shared with the other.
After witnessing first hand, over the past week and a half, the many horrors the occupation has inflicted on the Palestinian people, my fellow delegates and I trembled with indignation at the chutzpah of these Israeli marchers as they boisterously paraded through East Jerusalem, brandishing their flags of conquest. Prompted by the traffic to walk the rest of the way to our hotel, we were inspired to launch an impromptu parade of our own. Donning our keffiyehs we had purchased at the Hebron Keffiyeh factory and our small Palestinian flags, we we’re met by spit, aluminum cans, and pure, unadulterated hatred. Police instantly set upon us, accosting me, demanding that I put away my 3 by 5 inch Palestinian flag. It was remarkable how so much as giving voice to the other, the “Arab”, the Palestinian, in 3 by 5 form in E. Jerusalem no less could ignite such visceral fear and hatred.

Upon returning to the Holy Land Hotel, my comrades (Haneen, Amanda, Peter, Lydia, Tammy & Tiffany) and I decided that we would go back to the parade merely to hang out and observe, this time without our small Palestinian flags. In order to avoid any provocations, we simply posted up on the side walk, and, still wearing our keffiyehs, we proceeded to wave and make peace sign gestures to the paraders, who marched on the other side of the street, separated from us by a high gate. The initial reaction of the marchers was a combination of shock and disbelief. I myself had elected to wear, along with my keffiyeh, a kippah adorned with a small Palestinian flag. This last article of clothing on my head contributed, I believe, more than anything else to the climate of collective bewilderment, especially among the youth. For them, Judaism and its physical symbol, the kippah, were inseparably bound up with the particular strain of ethno-religious nationalism associated with the state of Israel. It simply never occurred to them that a Jewish person would, in the name of Jewish ethics, stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. I feel that it was precisely this cognitive dissonance on a societal level that formed the motivation for my arrest.

As we walked up and down the sidewalk, waving our peace signs, many Palestinians of all ages approached to join us. With twenty or thirty people now gathered on the sidewalk facing the parade, we turned over leadership of what had become a demonstration to Palestinian activists, and we happily clapped and danced to their songs and chants. Standing on two feet high pylons, we tried to maintain our visibility as internationals in order to confer as much protection as possible to the Palestinians. The demonstration remained totally peaceful - just singing, whistling, and clapping. In fact, much to the chagrin of the paraders, we often danced to their music. Many Palestinians, fascinated with my kippah, approached me and exclaimed, “I love you”. For a moment, a space was opened for Palestinians to freely gather in their own streets and protest, peacefully demanding their basic rights. We were soon to learn just how brief that moment would be.

Suddenly, the police moved in without warning of any kind. Officers on horseback came so close to the sidewalk, nearly hitting some of the demonstrators. I stepped down from the pylon. In that instant, my impulse to flee was counteracted by the firm realization that, standing on a sidewalk waving a peace sign, I had every right to be there, and if I fled, who would stand with the Palestinians? I stepped back up on the pylon. Moments later, an Israeli police officer ran up, seized me, and dragged me to the other side of the street. He then punched me in the face, put me in a choke hold, and with four other officers, slammed me to the ground. I was eventually handcuffed and carried to the car; I allowed my body to go limp and refused to walk on my own in a gesture of nonviolent defiance. Throughout the whole affair, the only thing audible coming from the policemen was a constant stream of curses words, “motherfucker”, “piece of shit”, etc., which was to me a ringing confirmation of how infuriated and threatened they were by a 19-year old wearing a kippah and a keffiyeh standing with the Palestinians.

To be continued in the next post: “In Israeli Jail”

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