Sunday, October 31, 2010

Women in Black--On the Street Corners of the World, We Are Still Standing

ellie bernstein

 Contribute to complete the documentary, "We Are Still Standing--Stories of Women in Black." My passion to film Women in Black has taken me to Israel on two separate occasions--in 2003 and in 2006--the first time in Paris Square and Tel-Aviv, the second time, after the Israel Lebanon war, when I filmed the Women in Black of Haifa and Nazareth. I filmed the Women in Black of Belgrade and traveled with them on their fanastic bus ride to the 12th International Women in Black Conference in Italy. In Colmbia, I traveled with the courageous Women in Black of the Ruta Pacifica as they made their way through the dangerous roads to support the women in Choco. I also filmed the "Wheel" Women in Black in Seattle, standing in vigil for deaths due to homelessness. The words of Ellie Bernstein, the film maker. Ophelia's Media Productions Inc., 38 Delaware Street, Albany, New York 12202,
show details 9:24 AM (7 hours ago)
Go to Kickstarter ( contribute to film on Women in Black, 
the largest Womens Peace Group in the World. View the trailer at: 

I have never loved gray hair so much as I watched the footage of Women in Black.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Murderous State--Perhaps It Was a Dream

Here on the Pacific rim, I sometimes drift between sleep and awakening, sometimes images from the square box at the foot of my bed slip into my dreams. Was this a dream? I see a man overlooking the main street of an Israeli-Arab town, speaking of what is happening, I see two bus loads of shouting settlers pouring into the street, proclaiming their ownership of the town, proclaiming that it is their god given right to displace the Arab citizens. I see, along with the man on the stone balcony, looking down on all of this, a few Arab Israeli young men shout back, pick up stones, and then as if it had all been planned before hand, the provocation, the slogans of ethnic cleansing, come, from out of the picture frame, endless barrages of tear gas canisters, falling like thick snow, and as the youth fall, rushing into my dream come Israeli soldiers, in their black uniforms, faces covered, and in fives and ten, they bend over the fallen youths and start to beat them--tell me this is a dream. Hundreds of soldiers attacking the Arab citizens of this town--chosen I think for practice, for the civic uprisings that will come when the loyalty oath comes into law. Tell me this is a dream. This calculated plan to taunt and then punish unto death a whole population within the state of Israel, the state that in other dreams I have been told is democratic and akin to all the United States and the West holds dear. Tell me I am a haunted Jew, a self-hating Jew, that I am dreaming of an impossible meanness of the Israeli national  spirit--that such a thing never happened, that god does not travel on such a bus, that masked soldiers beating helpless youths who can't get air into their lungs, just for practice, is not something Jews would do. Tell me I am dreaming. 
Another dream, a Palestinian man and woman harvesting their ancient olive tree.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Complexities of Manipulated Hatreds: Sending Pride and Love after the Hate Attack in Belgrade by Lepa Mladjenovic

In the previous entry, I posted a letter by my friend Lepa about what happened in the streets of Belgrade on 10/10/10. I have since received this letter, clarifying what happened and trying to prevent confustions about who were the victims. I also need to tell you that the night before the march, angry nationalists invaded the offices of Belgrade's Women in Black. Again Lepa's voice: yes it was all as you wrote there--two nazi-kids ready to kill entered [the Women in Black office] and yes imjured three activists who were in the Women in Black flat, preparing for the Pride event. The other sad part was that one activist, middle aged brave woman, went to the urgency department of the hospital and they did not have fine enought thread to sew her eye lid. She was hit in the eye and bleeding. Six hours later she was treated and is infe now.

Dear beautiful Women in Black feminist lesbians!
What wonderful fantastic women--ah I love your words of care full of tenderness that in our feminist politics have such deep meaning! Nowhere else. Thank you.

After ten years of fascist regime from 1991-2000, a whole new class of fascists are produced. They came out the first time on the streets to fight lesbians and gays in 2001 in our "Massacre" Parade in Belgrade. After that a whole series of events made them come out in the public and destroy the city and its citizens.

The summing up follows:
The state of Serbia now is made up of pro-democratic parties, less then more, but still those who are trying to make this state enter the EU in ten years time from now. The opposition parties are extreme nationalists and they, together with the Serbian Orthodox church, are ordering the young me to beat all who are different--who are contaminating the 'blood and soil of Serbia.' That means Women in black and all those who want war criminals in prison, those who are supporting an independent Kosovo, the Roma people, and then us, of course, lesbians and gay men, queers and trans people.

But in fact, the destruction seen a couple of days agi is primary addressed against the state as much as against us. The nationalists do not want Serbia in Europe because that means leaving Kosovo to be independent, that means Roma people and LGBT people will have full rights and that means killers from the war--their heroes--will be in prison.

This is crucial to understand: the state this time decided to protect activists and citizens in the Pride Parade because the state knows this is one of the conditions to enter the EU. But the opposition does not want this. So they ordered 5,000 men to come out, as well as arrive from small towns in Serbia and destroy everything in the center of the city, including the two headquarters of the parties in government, the Ombudsman office, one Roma house and injure badly about 100 policemen. Not one of the activist was injured during the Parad, except those three the night before in the flat of Women in Black.

The opposition, extreme nationalists, believe in using violence in order to get to their aim, ultimately to overthrow the government and the state as it is now. We have already seen in 2003 that the pro European state secretary Zoran Djindjic was killed on the street. That time the process of the the development of the state was blocked.

This makes us now permanent anri-fascist activists.
This also means that violence against women is on the rise because these street destroyers, every time they come together in violence they get the feeling that they are more powerful then the state. They get very small fines or no fines at all. Imagine what it means when they get back home. You all know it much too well. This means we have a whole battalion of thousands of men who glory in their power and control, they will only do what they want and violence is their means of reaching their aims. This means this class of men are disconnected from their feelings, from community networking, ready to kill if need be.

It is not nice to live knowing they are around us. But so it is.
In many countries in the world as well.

Lesbian activists in Belgrade's march
And so from the football thugs to the Tea Party to devote Israeli settlers to Hezbella fanatics, from the anti immigration Leagues of Europe that shake hands across the ocean with American bloggers of hate, the word is out, destroy the Other, those who endanger the glorious union of the Nation and our God and Free Markets. We must hold each other tightly, queers all, and with non-violent determination, step by step, crack their walls of hate. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Courage in Belgrade, 10/10/10--the Voice of Lepa

Lepa, in red coat, behind the banner "Together We Can"
Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010 at 9:30 AM
dear dear beautiful Joan,
here I am. We were organizing the fourth attempt of Pride LGBT Parade here in Belgrade! and so it went totally strange, this time 5,000 policemen! can you imagine, 5,000 policement, to control 4,000 neo-nazi kids ready for violence!!
they cleared the streets around the park for Parade, but that also meant that we stood in an emptry public space!! streets that are in public vaccum!! incredible!!
I could not have full full joy, just occasionally, and then in nearby streets violence started, and yes we knew it.
so it went on--police finally took 10 by 10 activists to drive to police stations, and then we took taxi to go home!
here I am in the police car holding the banner LOVE/LJUBAV--I am on the right side in redish colors, and Tijana my best friend it sitting in blue, already phoning and the policemen are closing the door.
some joy was only at the beginning, when we entered the park, but soon we realised that we are totally in the middle of the empty streets cleared of any citizens whatsoever. they had to do it, in order to keep our safety. so then, the police got the violence instead of us.
and yes, this was a strange notion of public space without public
and yes,
this is a phase in history of the country I live in,
protest before celebration--and many years so.
but this is my only life, to survive I am activist, living the protest, breathing through every phase.
loving myself and other lesbians.
remembering lesbians before me. YOU:
I love you dearly, my dear Joanizza Buba Mara,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An Illegal Act on a Beach in Tel Aviv and a Book

"Shifting Sands:Jewish Women Confront the Israeli Occupation" edited by Osie Gabrial Adelfgang, Whole World Press, 2010
An Israeli woman with her "contraband," two young Palestinian women who because of Israel's restrictions have never been able to see the sea that borders their home land

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bodies--Open to the Elements

The sea, the beach, the wall, the strip of desert keeping a man from a job to feed his family, the bridge--all sites of bodies open to the elements, the elements of the constricted human heart. On the seas, a small boat, The Irene, carrying its bodies, 9 men and women from Israel, the United States, Britain and Germany, carrying hand drawn placards asking Israel to end the blockade of Gaza, the hands holding the petitions belong to Rami Elhanan, a peace activist whose daughter was killed by a Palestinian bomber, belong to Lillian Rosengarten, 75 year old hands, the hands of a woman who fled the Nazis as a child in Frankfurt, the burly younger hands of brothers Yonatan Shapira and Itamar, former Israeli military bodies, now bodies at sea, trying to find the eye of Israel's ultra-nationalistic storm, a small collection of Jewish bodies, hauled out of the sea by Israeli marines, away from their destination of hope. September 28, 2010

The beach of Tel Aviv, three women sitting in the sun, near the glistening waters, three women's bodies doing such a simple thing, their flesh growing warm in the sun together, three bodies declared illegal in their sharing of the beach. Riki, in her 63rd year, breaks the Israeli law by sharing the sea with two Palestinian young women, so they too can share the delights of the Tel Aviv beach scene so many brag about. "As Tel Aviv nears, the Palestinian passengers silently survey the tall buildings and outdoor cafes and seem especially taken with the ubiquitous motocycles and mopeds that speed around the city. 'I would like to ride on one, like that, said Sara. but all the Palestinian women have just one request: to go to thesea. For most, it's their first trip to the seaside, even though it is a short drive from home. Once on the beach, Sara asks for a piece of paper to form a small boat with her name on ite, so she says, 'the sea will remember me.' The women watch as the paper boat with a forbidden name breasts the small waves. Bodies bound by courage and desire and the will to confront a state that bans the sea. September 17, 2010

The wall,  Izzedine Kawazbeh, 35 years old with five children waiting for him back at his home on the West Bank scrabbles up the rope ladder, hauling his large body over the Separation Wall so he can be one of the first at a job site in Israel. Israeli police spot him and soon he is dead. His body too large to move quick enough, his body, the body of a worker, deemed not human enough to be spoken to, to be touched with concern. He never made it to the contstruction site that day. And his body, fallen in a bare desert strip along the gray Wall, is the body of so many of whom we never hear and if we do......? The human element of wanting a national home that feels safe for some, for us--dismisses the father's body; it is just one of them, an unwanted, suspect body, a Romany body in the desert.

The bridge, a young man playing a violin, puts it away for the last time. His body that so loved the feel of the carved and stringed wood in his hands also loved the kiss of another body like his. There is no privacy for some bodies, for so long shame has haunted them, state sponsored shame, religious sponsored shame, the simple ridicule of young people who live in times of endless wars, and see another's difference as fair game and so Tyler Clementi climbs the barrier and sways in the winds that push up the Hudson River Valley Basin, and throws himself into the air, over water, into the sun, away, away from the human element.