Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Little Visit

During all the hard times of my life, the Lesbian Herstory Archives demanded that I pay attention to its needs in a myriad of small ways. Through bouts of illness, the filing was there, the mail pick ups with Deb, the greeting of visitors--always the need for touch, hand to paper, a thin thing but a life line, and in a way, the archives is doing that again. I am afraid I have let too much time go by to for the project that has gripped me for the last two years: creating the pastiche, as I see it now, the portrait of a city and a community and one apartment. You know this project as "13A: The Story of an Apartment, a Community and an Idea: LHA from 1974-1990." I am now deep in touching papers once again, all made possible by Rachel who works with LHA back in Brooklyn. She is my paid research assistant and has managed to provide me the correspondence of the first 20 years of LHA's existence. Last week I sent out the call for memories on my Face book page and the stories, two or three sentences at times, call to others--the early archives reforming itself forty years later, the researchers, the traveling musicians, the women who need a New York bed for the night or for a few spoke to me. As I said to Chocolate Waters, a poet whose work came to the archives so many years ago, this is not about nostalgia but about resistance and communal generosity.

This is my first writing about my project now, a beginning of sharing with you the progress of this work, some discoveries, and thoughts and feelings I cannot predict, but I can share with you a very personal gift the correspondence has already given me. Two thousand pieces of printed letters,in  an old fashioned way, in pencil, in pen, on envelopes, on home made stationary with all our symbiotics--paired axes, intertwined women's bodies, double women gender signs, in inks of all colors. Then this, its reference number, 1980--12--098. The year, 1980, the month December, the first part typed.

                               Dear Joan,
                               I'm desperately trying to finish this rewrite by the new year. I
                              just retyped this page and I'm sending it to you because I thought
                             of you when I did it, and how often we seem to be at crossed swords
                             which are not real, because we both are survivors. I wish we did
                             not only communicate when there's a function or a problem, but I
                             guess that's a  piece of the lives we live.
                                The last time I saw you you said you'd send me some of your writing
                             but you never did. Is that because of too-busy or is there something else?
                                 Anyway, it was nice and unexpected to find you coming up in this
                            obsessive undertaking I'm doing here, kind of like a little visit. That's 
                            from my heart, Joan. May this new year be a healthy fruitful one for
                            you and for Deb, and for all those you love.

                           [In pencil] In the hand of Afrekete, 
                               2:30 AM

I have no memory of ever seeing this letter, perhaps it was enclosed in the monthly LHA mail and so it never reached me but yesterday it did, reached me to the depths of my heart. I said to my two younger friends, Maddy and Sam, visiting today with tears rolling down my face, never turn away from the offer of comradeship, no matter how unworthy you may feel, I let my aching body rest in the hands of Afrekete, I let the sword drop, something I should have done a long time ago--dear Audre, from my heart, let us be in each other's presences now, a little visit, dear fierce gentle woman poet warrior.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

From the Electronic Intifada:

Alice Walker disinvited from University of Michigan over ‘Israel comments’

Ali Abunimah 15 August 2013

World-renowned American author Alice Walker has been disinvited from giving a speech at the University of Michigan because a donor objects to her views on Israel, the agent negotiating the contract was told.
Walker, the Pultizer Prize winning author of The Color Purpleposted on her blog an excerpt of a letter from the agent informing her that the invitation to keynote the 50th anniversary celebration of the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan had been withdrawn.
The agent wrote:
I’m saddened to write this because I’m a proponent of free speech and have been brought up to allow everyone to have their say. But I also realize that there are other considerations that institutions are faced with. This afternoon I was contacted by the University of Michigan instructing me to withdraw their invitation due to the removal of funding from the donors, because of their interpretation of Ms. Walker’s comments regarding Israel. They are not willing to fund this program and the university/Women’s center do not have the resources to finance this on their own. They are deeply regretful but I wanted to let you know immediately either way. I hope you can appreciate the fact that I’m uncomfortable even having to send this email in the first place. Hopefully we can work together again down the road. Thanks for understanding. I wish things had turned out differently.
Calling the withdrawn invitation “Censorship by Purse String,” Walker wrote, “Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances. Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us.”
Walker is listed as one of the speakers represented by the American Program Bureau agency.

Alice Walker not “optimum choice”

Gloria D. Thomas, director of the Center for the Education of Women, acknowledged that Walker had been disinvited, but said that the matter was a “misunderstanding.” In an email to The Electronic Intifada, Thomas wrote:
The [Walker’s] blog was a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. As director of the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), I decided to withdraw our invitation because I didn’t think Ms. Walker would be our optimum choice for our 50th anniversary. 
Our 50th anniversary funding is assured. All donations, for this and other events, are accepted with no provisos or prohibitions regarding free speech. In fact, in a conversation with one of Ms. Walker’s friends/representatives, I indicated that I would be willing to speak with other units around campus to serve as a possible co-sponsor for a lecture by Ms. Walker in the near future.
Asked if a speaker had been chosen to replace Walker, Thomas wrote, “No contract has been signed yet. This information will be made available on our website once the contract is confirmed.”

Walker: supporter of Palestinian rights

In recent years, Walker has become increasingly outspoken in her support of Palestinian rights, sometimes likening Israel’s abuses to the Jim Crow racist system she grew up with in the southern United States.
Walker has written about her visit to Gaza, and participated in the June 2011 solidarity flotilla that attempted to reach the territory besieged by Israel, which led to her being demonized by the Israeli army.
Her position on boycott has also been deliberately distorted by Israeli media.
Walker has campaigned for other artists, most recently Alicia Keys, to respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
In her letter to Keys, Walker wrote:
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.
Could Walker, one of the most celebrated figures in American letters, now be paying the price of refusing to be silent about Palestine?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Europe Opens Borders, Israel Builds More Walls

What does a poet make of the floating bodies, washed so gently and so lifeless up on a desired shore, what does a poet make of Israel, inhabited by a people who knows what happens when shores are closed to the endangered ones, now building more and more walls until like a pearl of hardened irritation, it is impenetrable to any other histories. What does the poet do with the knowledge that the thousands of Palestinian families in the destroyed refugee camps of Syria cannot flee to their own nation, because Israel and Egypt have not allowed it to have shape. Only rubble is their fate.  

Other users of words, reporters,  lawyers,  UN workers, politicians, rush after the floating bodies.

Opposition Labor party leader Isaac Herzog, called on the Israeli government "to act toward receiving refugees from the war in Syria" ( AFP/Jack Guez, File)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Opposition Labor party leader Isaac Herzog called Saturday for Israel to take in Syrian refugees, recalling the plight of Jews who sought refuge from past conflicts.
"Our people has experienced first-hand the silence of the world and cannot be indifferent in the face of the murder and massacre raging in Syria," Herzog posted on his Facebook page.
Speaking at a panel discussion in Tel Aviv, he called on the government "to act toward receiving refugees from the war in Syria, in addition to the humanitarian efforts it is already making."
There is already hostility in Israel toward asylum-seekers from Africa and a concerted government effort to repatriate them.
Official figures show there are 45,000 illegal immigrants in the Jewish state, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan.
Most of those who are not in detention centers live in poor areas on the south side of Tel Aviv, where there have been several protests against them.
Someone identifying himself as Sefi Kamrani wrote on Herzog's Facebook page: "Take all the refugees into your home if you're so worried about them. I'd like to see you live just one week in south Tel Aviv."
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the United Nations Saturday to press Israel to allow Palestinians from refugee camps in Syria to take shelter in the Palestinian territories, whose external borders are controlled by the Jewish state.
"President Abbas has asked the Palestinian representative to the UN to implement as quickly as possible, in coordination with the UN secretary general, measures for the return of Palestinian refugees from Syria to the Palestinian territories," his office said.
The UN says there are more than 525,000 Palestinian refugees at its camps in Syria, many of whom have been displaced by the civil war there.
Israel has long been treating wounded Syrians who reach Israeli lines on the occupied Golan Heights, but hostility among the Druze of the area has flared due to rebel attacks on their brethren in Syria.
In June Druze attacked an Israeli military ambulance on the Golan transporting wounded Syrians to hospital, killing one of them.
Previously, Druze in northern Israel's Galilee region stoned a military ambulance they suspected was taking Syrian rebels to hospital.

From NY Times article
“We are not waiting,” Netanyahu said. “To the extent that it is possible we will encompass Israel’s borders with a security fence and barriers.”"

"You Have Forgotten What It Is To Be Jews" 
                words of Isaac Herzog

"The issue of Arab asylum seekers is further complicated by the unresolved and politically loaded question of the fate of the
 Palestinianrefugees who fled or were expelled during the war over Israel’s creation in 1948 and their millions of descendants who demand the right of return to their former homes. ThePalestinian refugee issue has become one of the most intractable of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Israel, a state of about eight million people that was largely founded by refugees, has long been torn between the humanitarian demands of taking in non-Jews in need and its fears about maintaining its Jewish character and security in a hostile and increasingly chaotic region. It is still grappling with the presence of tens of thousands of African migrants and asylum seekers who surreptitiously crossed the border from Egypt in recent years.
President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Saturday instructed the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations to act to bring Palestinian refugees now fleeing the war in Syria to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The presidency has asked the United Nations, the European Union and other players to press Israel to allow Palestinian refugees in, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in some areas of the West Bank, but Israel controls the borders and entry points to the territory.
In broadcast remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu said, “Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa. We have already devotedly cared for approximately 1,000 wounded people from the fighting in Syria, and we have helped them to rehabilitate their lives.”
But he added, “We must control our borders, against both illegal migrants and terrorism.”
Mr. Herzog replied to his critics with a post on Facebook on Sunday, writing, “You have forgotten what it is to be Jews. Refugees. Persecuted.” Calling again for Israel to take in a limited number of refugees who would be vetted, he added that Mr. Begin “must be turning in his grave.”
The African migrants and asylum seekers already in Israel are in a kind of legal limbo. Most are from Sudan and Eritrea, and are afforded blanket protection from deportation in line with international conventions. But Israel has granted only a very few of those who have applied official status as refugees, and their future remains uncertain.
Israel has mostly halted the influx of Africans across the border from Egypt over the last couple of years, in large part by completing construction of a 150-mile, 16-foot-tall steel border fence stretching from the southern resort town of Eilat to Gaza.
Having also built security fences on its frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, through parts of the occupied West Bank and along the border with Gaza, Israel now says it is moving ahead with a previously announced plan to build a fence along the border with Jordan. Although Jordan and Israel have signed a peace treaty and that border has long been calm, Israel fears that it could become a vulnerable entry point for illegal migration and hostile infiltrations.
Mr. Netanyahu said Israel would start by building the fence along a roughly 18-mile stretch from Eilat to Timna, where an airport is under construction.
“We are not waiting,” he said. “To the extent that it is possible we will encompass Israel’s borders with a security fence and barriers.”"