Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tikkun Olam Gift ideas

I know its too late for Chanukah gifts, but here are some things to keep in mind if you find yourself with some disposable income/time.

Click Here:

Monday, December 7, 2009

American Jewish World Service

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Settlers vs. Palestinians in a brawl over stolen property!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I said I wasn't going to put up any more of my actual Div III work, but this one is still relatively short, so here it is

Water Politics

In its hegemonic control of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel breaks UN Resolutions 242 and 338, Customary International Law, as well as Jewish Law. In this way it shows its lack of commitment to being a true democratic state that exists peacefully within a globalized context, as well as living up to its claim of being a Jewish State. In this study, I intend to show how Israel has intentionally used water as a tool of warfare and Occupation. However, even Israel knows that the water resources in its territories, on both sides of the Green Line, are scarce, and requires cooperative operations for supplying the demand. In this way, I believe that the water crises in the Middle East can be turned on itself to be a tool of peace.

Currently, there are 359 abstraction wells in the West Bank under Palestinian control, most of which are privately owned. Combined, they yield 62 million cubic meters per year (mcm/yr). Israel controls an additional 36 abstraction wells in the West Bank, which yield 42 mcm/yr (Jayoussi, 60). Considering Israel also has access to the 600 mcm/yr from the Jordan River (a source which Palestinians are prohibited from using), and the use of five aquifers within its 1948 borders (Lake Tabariyya, the Western Galilee, the Coastal, the Naqab/Negev, and the Carmel), and considering the populations of Israelis and Palestinians are comparable, it seems unnecessary that Israel should need almost half of the West Bank groundwater resources (Daibes, 10). Aside from the groundwater, Palestinians do control all 300 springs in the West Bank, which yield a total of about 103 mcm/yr, but half of that water is brackish and unusable for anything other than agricultural use. In Gaza, 53 mcm/yr is allotted to the Palestinian Municipal and Industrial sector, of which approximately 2% is bought from Mekerot, the Israeli water company. Because most of the water in Gaza is undrinkable, and desalination plants are expensive and require land that the Gaza Strip cannot afford to industrialize, 85% of the groundwater is used purely for agricultural purposes, with small percentage of water, supplemented by Mekerot, going to public consumption.

Domestic public consumption varies from 30 liters per capita per day (l/c/d) to 110 l/c/d, according to geographic area and time of year. This is an average of 60 l/c/d, which fall far below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) minimum of 100 l/c/d. Israelis within the 1948 borders consume approximate 300 l/c/d (Jayyousi, 67). Settlers in the West Bank (despite their very existence being illegal by International Law) consume on average six times more water per capita than their Palestinian neighbors.

Even though settlers are a different symptom of the Occupation, I think I’d like to just touch on them, and on the Wall here, and how they both also affect this environmental warfare. Settlements are often built on top of hills, where the water extraction points are, and even though they have the money and infrastructure from Israel, they often have just as few or ineffectual wastewater treatment facilities as the Palestinians. As a result, the sewage runoff often falls into the Palestinian towns in the valleys below the settlements, and it effectively poisons the Palestinian water sources. The Wall has been rerouted in some areas to separate the settlements from the Palestinian side, to keep the water extraction points on the Israeli side, or in the name of “nature preservation,” keeping land with rare plants or animals on the Israeli side, the implication being that Palestinians do not know how to conserve, while the reality is it’s just a part of this land grab. All of this also violates Customary International Law, parts of the 1907 Hague Convention, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and UN Resolutions on Israel. I need some more time to collect my thoughts on this, and decide if this is the right place to put that paragraph or two. I have read Hollow Land, which is pretty detailed on this matter.

This is the situation as it currently stands. But how did the Israeli Occupation over water become so extreme? The general conflict over water is rooted back in pre-State of Israel colonialism and has been further complicated over the course of nearly one hundred years by the ever changing of colonial power of the Palestinians. First, under the Ottoman Empire, water was considered public property by Shari’a Law, a “gift of G-d” (Daibes, 22), administered by the municipality to the citizens as needed. Then, the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement occurred, in which France and Britain divided the zones of their mandates without ensuring water rights, would be consistent with land rights, or without really mentioning water rights at all. In 1917, the Zionists were promised a national home by the Balfour Declaration (again, an act of colonialism, since the land the declaration afforded the Zionists was not the creators’ own to give), but the plans that were drawn up for this Zionist homeland in 1919 did not include adequate water resources for the Zionists’ standards. Overall, the British Mandate generally adhered to the Ottoman standards of water distribution, but also stipulated that any water extraction would require a permit by the High Commissioner of Palestine. These British Mandate laws pertaining to water access were maintained in the West and East Banks of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan up until the 1967 acquisition of the West Bank by Israel, and are presumably still in place in the East Bank in Jordan.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1948 War, with the control of water being handed from the British to the newly constructed Israel, the number of Jews living in this land increased by 53%, most of whom came from Eastern Europe and were used to a certain level of comfort in their limitless water supply, not to mention considerable more greenery (fed by water resources) than is found in the deserts of the Middle East. Plans were drawn up as early as 1948 for a National Water Carrier (NWC), although its operations did not officially commence until 1964, to divert water from the Jordan River basin to the Northern Negev, in order to “make the desert bloom,” as is the Zionist mission. Even before the 1967 Occupation, Israel was already tapping into the Western Mountain Aquifer, which rests within the West Bank. From 1967 on, the utilization of groundwater in the Occupied Territories was governed by Israel alone and was subject to Israel’s 1959 Water Laws, allowing Palestinians to access water only from wells drilled prior to 1967, while Israel continued to survey more underground water resources and drill wherever it found necessary. Mostly, Jordanian Law continued to apply to the wells that were already drilled, in the Palestinians had free access to them, but Israel declared in June of 1967 that West Bank water could be subject to changes at any time according to the ’59 Water Law, which made land ownership distinct from water rights, and disallowed water use to be transferred, among other stipulations. In 1995, the signing of the Interim Oslo Agreements, lifted some (but not all) of the restrictions on drilling, and explicitly granted Palestinians 80 mcm/yr more (Daibes, 8).

The Interim Agreements signified the recognition from both parties the need to protect the environment and water rights, among other things. However, Appendix 1 of Annex III, Article 40 of this document only dealt with the immediate water needs of the Palestinians, granting them an extra 80 mcm (Daibes, 33). No effort was made at this time to establish an equitable water sharing plan, merely the recognition that one was needed. In a lot of ways, this overlooking of sustainability for the Palestinian water rights only further legitimized the control Israel already held over the 36 wells in the Mountain Aquifer System.

The Interim Agreements were negotiated by the neutral party, the United States, and followed the Customary International Law standards, based on equitable and reasonable utilization of resources. The Palestinian Authority was willing to accept the terms of this agreement, as they believed it to be a step forward toward their goal of self-determination and autonomy from the Occupying force. Since this was the negotiation to discuss water rights at all, even the 80 mcm they received seemed like a good sign. Israel, however, has been resistant to acknowledging any sovereignty over them of International Law of any kind, because they are enjoying the illegal hegemonic control over Palestine that they currently hold. Acknowledging the law or these agreements would be to acknowledge that they have been acting in contradiction to them, and force them to relinquish some of the West Bank water that they are so dependent on. Furthermore, as difficult as it is to enforce Customary International Law (non-codified rules) on any sovereign nation, the case of Israel/Palestine is made all the more complicated by the lack of sovereignty on the side of the Palestinians.

This is a matter of fierce debate. While it is true that Palestine is not a sovereign nation, it does – to some extent – fulfill the four stipulations of statehood under International Law: permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states. Although its population is growing by its increasing birthrates, and some families have returned from abroad in the last 60 years since leaving their homes as a result of the 1948 War, the population is mostly stable, and has not been subject to massive migrations since 1948. It has a defined territory with the Green Line, despite how much of that land Israel has tried to acquire through illegally moving civilian populations or building the Wall (in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention V Article 49). The Palestinians in the West Bank are governed by the Palestinian Authority (Fatah), and in Gaza governed by Hamas. It is unclear if the International Law requires a unified government, or only some proof that governance is in place, so the fulfillment of this stipulation is shaky. Palestine has the capacity to enter into relations with other states, as is evident by its constant negotiations with Israel. Palestine has even declared independence, in 1988. Despite the fact that Palestine is still not free, it should be under the protection of and held accountable to International Law, as the Montevideo Convention on Human Right and Duties of States provides that the political existence of a state is not dependent on the recognition of its existence by any other state (Daibes, 20).

I know there is still a lot more to talk about. I want to talk about the recent war in Gaza as an example of Malthusian warfare, which obviously requires first a discussion of Malthusian warfare. I am just not ready to talk about any theory at this point. I will want to reread Homer-Dixon, and possibly find more sources for exploring these issues on the abstract level. Also, I haven’t even begun to talk about the more recent water negotiations or the Palestinian Water Authority in the path toward peace.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Please ignore the fact that there are three videos. I don't know how to use the internet. It's all the same video.

Sarah Palin is stupid

First of all, I don't think Sarah Palin has any idea what she's talking about, so I know I shouldn't be concerned about this. But still, it's infuriating. At the end there, it feels like it cuts off abruptly, right? That she probably says something else, to back up why Israel should be allowed to continue to build settlements on Palestinian land? Well, she doesn't. I looked up a longer version of this. She has nothing more to say and Barbara Walters quickly moves on to an unrelated question. I mean, its clear she just repeats herself and then stops short of any explanation because she doesn't know ANYTHING about Israel or Palestine. Not to mention the few reasons she does give are ridiculous. The US doesn't have the right to tell Israel to freeze its settlements? Excuse me, Ms. Republican? If the US has the right to invade Iraq on the grounds of securing peace and removing WMDs, or was it to establish freedom and democracy? Well anyway, we clearly had a G-d Given right to tell Iraqis what to do, even the right to determine whether or not they get to live, continuing long after disposing of the despot leader. But we don't get to tell Israel to stop breaking international law, UN resolutions specific to Israel and general on human rights and rules of Occupation and Warfare, even though they're effectively doing this with our money?
And why are we planning on needing the settlement housing for so many more Jews flocking to Israel in the days, weeks, and months to come. Is Sarah Palin planning on driving us out of the US, in such large numbers that we not only could not live in pre-determined Israeli towns and cities within its proper borders, but would also HAVE TO go live in the illegal settlements, not in any of the currently uninhabited or sparsely inhabited areas of the Northern Negev?

She's just so stupid! I don't understand why she's still even in the limelight! Why did anyone let her get a book published?! She probably can't even read! And Fox News has to do the WORST video editing job, the most shameful display of flat out lying in the history of journalism to show what a "success" her book tour has been (in case you missed out on this, look it up, the Huffington Post had a good article on it a couple days ago, but basically Fox News should footage so OBVIOUSLY from the campaign tours and claimed it was the book tour)! A classmate told me (although she couldn't remember where she'd read this statistics, so at this point they're extremely convoluted, but still) that something like 47% of Republicans think Sarah Palin is ready for the presidency in 2012. 10% of Democrats agree. This is horrifying! I decided in response to our country's love for stupid stupid politicians, I'm going to create a campus game show called "Are You Smarter than a US President?" and look up facts that US presidents over the last 50 years famously didn't know or (more likely) were vocally flat out wrong about, ie, the proper pronunciation of a certain type of energy source, how economics work, basic geography, etc. In set up, it would run like Jeopardy!: three contestants, in a race to come up with the correct answer first, and if they are "smarter than a US president" they get points, etc. I think it would be fun.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mondoweiss: Follow-Up

My post actually was put onto Mondoweiss in its entirety, and I'm super excited about that! You can view it here:
and if you register with the forum, you can comment on my writing for the whole world to see! (Dad- please don't write anything referring to me as your "baby" or anything that would discredit my seriousness and embarrass me). Right now I'm waiting on pins and needles for my registration to go through so I can respond to the comments on my own post! It's killing meeeeeeeeee.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I wrote this article for a lefty blog, called Mondoweiss, who approached me during the J Street conference. It's 1:30 and I'm heavily caffeinated, so its a bit rambly, and I expect a lot of it will be cut out before making it to the blog. So read it here in its entirety!

Amidst "Progressive Zionists": J Street Conference

The idea of a three to four day conference (depending on personal choice of attendance) solely devoted to the “Voice of the American Jewish Left” sounded inspiring. It sounded like J Street might finally allow a forum for those who have felt afraid to voice their opinions on Israel within their own Jewish communities. Personally, I have always felt that certain opinions – viewpoints which are not actually mine – were expected of me, as a self-proclaimed future rabbi. The shock I see from people when I state my concern for the Palestinian people over the ideology of a Zionist state often threatens to push me back into silence, particularly when it comes from the aunt who told my parents I clearly wasn’t raised correctly, or the WORMS (We Openly Resist Military Stupidity) buddy from Viet Nam who more or less told my father I’d be more useful lying under a bulldozer. Well, I wasn’t raised one way or another when it comes to Israel, and I certainly have no intent to martyr myself for the cause, but I do walk that difficult line that faces many within the progressive Jewish movement: how to express my leftist ideals without the risk of being exiled from my Jewish community?

In trying to find that line, that voice, J Street let me down. They first let me down when they invited my college president, Ralph Hexter to speak, despite his notorious [at least to Hampshire students] cowering to Alan Dershowitz in the midst of Hampshire College Divestment from OCCUPATION (which never claimed to be a divestment from Israel) last year. During the first panel President Hexter spoke on, the one for students attending the J Street U conference (which started a day earlier than the general conference) was entitled, “Reckoning with the Radical Left on Campus: Alternatives to Boycotts and Divestments.” Surprisingly, I felt this panel went fairly well. Though still disappointed that J Street would invite Hampshire’s president without consulting the student or faculty body from Hampshire, I was relieved to hear President Hexter speak relatively positively of the idea of selective divestment that Hampshire SJP pushed for last year. The students in the room also responded in a way that was pleasing to me, as a member of Hampshire’s SJP. A few even seemed interesting in the idea of collaborating with their schools’ pro-Palestine groups in working on a divestment and boycott scheme that only affects the companies that are directly involved in the Occupation, such as Ahava, as Aziz Abu Sarah suggested. While I’m sure none of those students will be attending the National Campus BDS Conference that Hampshire SJP is hosting at the end of this month, it is reassuring to know that they are at least thinking about the ideas of how money can talk. I cannot say the same for the panel on Sunday for the general conference, entitled more simply, “Israel on Campus.” To be honest, I can’t even tell you what the response to that panel was, because I was so distracted by President Hexter’s claims of “excessive zeal” surrounding the BDS movement, but also the need to stand up to donors who try to intimidate a college to do their bidding with their money (of course, the implication being he is able to fulfill this need for his college). It was easy for him to project a completely different view on BDS, as I didn’t see any recognizable faces from the first panel.

Second, J Street let me down with the overwhelming white-ness of the conference body. Is there no way to reach out to Jewish people of color? While living in DC over the summer, I attended a dinner for the college-aged interns from Jewish and Indian/South Asian communities, which included Jewish Indians. So I know there is at least one community of Jews of color within DC. The fact that they – and assuredly others – were not reached out to, says something to me about the very nature of American Jewish Zionism, even on the so-called left.

Then, they let me down again with their repetition of the slogan, “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace,” which I had thought included a “Pro-Palestine” [SOMETHING] as well. Speaking of pro-Palestine, the final letdown was the constant mention of the two-state solution as though it were the only solution. My understanding was that this conference was the first of its kind, and as such, would be a forum for discussion as much as education. Though each panel I attended Monday was educational and fascinating for me, there was no space that day, nor at any of the events I attended solely for the J Street U conference-goers, to talk about leftist Zionism. There really wasn’t an official space to talk about dissension at all. Some students did gather during the lunch break on Sunday to discuss similar frustrations, an informal event that was extremely necessary. At other times when I felt rebellious, such as regarding President Hexter’s panels or the student “lobbying” on Tuesday, I was sought out and “calmed down” in a way I found very patronizing.

I appreciate what J Street tries to accomplish. I understand that many fall directly under J Street’s politics, and up until last weekend they found the space furthest left for American Jews to talk about Zionism to be AIPAC (a frightening thought to me). For those people, and for the sake of a tactful approach to Israel, I support J Street. I understand that the collapse of the nation-state paradigm is not going to begin with the world’s one Jewish state, and as such, the two-state solution probably is more viable than a bi-national state. On a less radical note, I also understand that many people are afraid to attach stipulations to the money the US grants Israel. But after all the knowledge gained at this conference, I am left with questions. What are the alternatives to Boycotts and Divestments? Why should US money continue to go to Israel, if Israel’s settlement building is going to continue, spitting in the face of President Obama and Special Envoy Mitchell? Where do I get to talk about Israel’s hypocrisies with other Jews?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chapter one, Draft One, to be discussed with my committee in 15 minutes


1. Introduction

a. Background on personal involvement

Machon Arava (otherwise known as the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies) is a peace-building environmental leadership program in the Southern Negev, accredited by Ben-Gurion University, which teaches by the motto “Nature knows no borders.” It is also the place I called home from mid-September 2008 until January 31st 2009, along with Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and other Americans. While there, I learned, and often saw firsthand, the environmental racisms that accompany the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. While there were many issues with land use and pollution, Israel’s mistreatment of Bedouin lands, and conflicts of interest within the Israeli political parties who purported to be the “environmentalists,” the conflict that struck me most was water sharing. While it is understandable that there will be obvious difficulties with water when so many people, already warring over land and identity, share a small desert country, the hegemonic control of water that Israel holds is inhumane. In the next chapter, the extent of the water conflict will be better explained, but at present, it is merely important to understand that the root of this thesis is my personal reaction to all I read about the water issue, to the stories my Palestinian friends told me about having no water in their faucets, and the anger at the Kibbutz on which Machon Arava is placed, which constantly had broken irrigation sprinklers that would run water unnecessarily all day.

a. Background on political situation (approx 5-10 pages)

i. Brief overview of politics and history of conflict from Independence to present

Before fully explaining Machon Arava, the fall 2008 students, and the extent of water politics, first a brief history of Israel is necessary. To understand the power dynamics within and surrounding the Palestinian Territories, it is important to note that there has never been a sovereign state of Palestine. Before the birth of the State of Israel, British governments controlled the Palestine, and before that, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. At the fall of the Ottoman Empire following WWI, the British took military control of Palestine and, three years later, set up official rule over the land and its people. In the twenty eight years of British control over the area, there were high tensions between the Palestinian Arabs, the British, and the Zionist immigrants that the British had promised certain rights over land to. After the atrocities against Jews during the Holocaust, the call for a Zionist homeland increased, and along with it, the tensions and British control in the region also increased. On May 15, 1948, the Palestine Mandate was officially dissolved and the state of Israel was born. The rest of that year is marked with a regional war against Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq; a war over which Israel was victorious. Beside fending off invading forces, Israel gained new territory, and the UN proposal for a Palestinian Arab state collapsed. The War of Independence, or al-Naqba (how the Palestinians refer to the War of ’48; it means “The Disaster” in Arabic), and its subsequent regional conflicts (including the June War of 1967 during which Israel gained control of Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights) led to hundreds of thousands of refugees, vaguely defined borders, acquisition and occupation of new Arab Lands, and a complete lack of recognition for Israel from its neighbors and from Israel for the Palestinian Arabs who had fled their homes during this time.

I’m not yet completely sure how much depth this history needs; how to bring this “beginnings of the conflict” paragraph all the way to the present without adding in too much. I can’t tell at this point what is relevant, but I think the basis on which Israel was founded is important to understanding power dynamics (again, I am unsure at this point how to delve into that; I think it will appear in depth later in this chapter, but I will still want to touch on the issue here).

i. Machon Arava demographics

Many of the Israelis and Arabs I met at the Arava institute in the fall of 2008 still hold onto these pains. Israel still occupies Palestinian Territories; Palestinian refugees continue to live in slums in the West Bank as though they are still waiting to go home to a place they have not lived in for sixty years. Despite increasingly limited freedom of movement, Palestinian terrorism continues to penetrate Israeli society, bring forth for many Israeli Jews feelings of Holocaust-era anti-Semitism. Israel still awaits recognition of its right to exist from many of its neighbors, without recognizing its responsibility for its own provocation of the terrorism it faces. These continue to be arguments among my friends, the students of Machon Arava.

The demographics of the Fall 2008 students consisted of 13 Israelis, 15 Americans, seven Palestinians, and three Jordanians. Of the American students, one was raised Christian but was in the process of converting and becoming an Israeli citizen, one was born in Israel and had dual citizenship (though she spent the majority of her life in New York state), one had made aliyah that semester and would not be going back to the United States anytime soon (עליה, or aliyah, means “ascent,” and is the term for moving to Israel and becoming a citizen), and the rest were Jewish Americans, mostly of Ashkenazi descent and white-skinned. The staff of the Machon, too, reflected diversity, consisting of Americans, Canadians, British, Curacaos, Jordanians, Palestinians, Israel-born Israelis, and new Israeli citizens originally from all previously mentioned nationalities, as well as South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Venezuela.

i. Overview of Machon Arava, Kibbutz Ketura, ethnographic methodology, personal stories from interviews/important moments from F08 semester

As I was also a student at the Machon Arava, growing and learning right alongside those whose stories appear in this chapter, I am a part of this ethnography as well. It is important to note this deviation from traditional anthropological study, in order to properly understand my own biases which may become clear in later pieces of this thesis. Most of the observations I make from the time that I was there; I make as a friend and colleague of the people I observed. The interviews I conducted one year after our semester together were each tailored individually to the student I was interviewing, based what I already knew of them and what they told me during the interview. Certain questions were specific and presented to everyone: “What is your family background/how were you raised to view this conflict,” “Can you name one moment from Machon Arava that sticks out to you or encapsulates your experience there,” and most importantly, “Do you really believe that this environmental approach to conflict resolution can really bring about peace for Israel and Palestine?” Any questions for specificity, questions regarding their studies or where life has led them in the last year, varied according to the interviewee. The interviews were mostly conducted via Skype, not in person, and were directed more through casual conversation than formal interrogation, though each interviewee knew that these questions were specifically for my academic purposes. As certain students requested specifically that their names be changed, I have decided that all names in this study be changed, to protect their privacy.

The Machon is located on Kibbutz Ketura, in the Southern Arava Valley of the Southern Negev. The Southern Arava Valley is just over 30 miles north of Eilat, Israel’s southernmost port city. Kibbutz Ketura was about six miles from the Egyptian border, and three miles from Jordan. It is possible to walk to Jordan from the Kibbutz, though it is a dangerous endeavor. There is no fence or any sort of border mark on the other side of Kibbutz Ketura’s date fields, but if one walks too far out, even accidently (as some Machon Arava students and Kibbutz Ketura volunteers have done), the military will track the border-jumper down, and they will not be happy.

i. Kibbutz K’tura demographics

The demographics of Kibbutz Ketura at large are not nearly as interesting as those of the corner the Machon is placed on. The Kibbutz consists of handful of Israeli-born kibbutz chaverim (חברים meaning “comrade,” a term carried over from when all kibbutzim were actually communist), and some immigrants from South America, South Africa, and a single Arab family (the family of a professor at the Machon), though the vast majority of the 140 adult members of the kibbutz are Americans who have made aliyah, mostly in the 1970’s. The founders of Kibbutz Ketura were a part of the Young Judea youth movement, a non-denominational Jewish-American organization for education on Zionism. As such, Kibbutz Ketura is a “pluralistic religious” kibbutz, unlike others in the area, which are mostly secular. Religious pluralism, in this case, means that prayer services are lay-lead by a different Kibbutz member every Friday night/Saturday morning/holiday in the traditional Conservative fashion, which falls in the middle of the orthodox-liberal spectrum of Judaism, and is egalitarian, but includes all the traditional prayers and prohibition of instruments. The Kibbutz store, pub, coffee shop and library are shut down for the Sabbath, and everyone gets the Sabbath off from work. So it is for all intents and purposes a religious community, because of the influence of the Young Judea founding sentiment. Though Young Judea is not officially affiliated with a movement, most of its participants are from Conservative or Modern Orthodox movements, thus creating a more traditionally religious environment. However, being religious is in no way a part of the Kibbutz Ketura rules, and there is always a Kibbutz car going to one of the neighboring kibbutzim for Friday night pub for those less traditional.

Relations between Machon Arava students and the majority of the Ketura chaverim are lukewarm, at best. The founders of the Machon Arava happened to be members of the kibbutz, and felt that environmentalism was an under-taught discipline in Israel, and saw that it could be a path toward peace for Israel with its neighbors that share so many of the same resources. As a result, they were able to create this institute on Kibbutz Ketura land. Perhaps at first the chaverim were more open to the idea of foreign students. Considering everything on the Kibbutz must be voted on by various committees, it seems likely that they must have been friendlier in the beginning, to have let the institute open on Kibbutz Ketura. By the time I studied there, twelve years after the founding of Machon Arava, most chaverim were less than pleased by the presence of strangers who were not cooking their food or doing their laundry (as the kibbutz volunteers, also strangers, do).

Students do, however, have their allies among the chaverim. There are still several Arava professors, office staff, and sympathizers of our cause living on the kibbutz. However, even among some of these sympathizers, they cannot always leave aside their personal prejudices to perpetuate the message of peace and equality the Machon is trying to spread. When the war in Gaza broke out, Machon Arava staged a peace vigil. Our signs were benign (messages like “We refuse to be enemies,” “Violence is not the answer,” “Jews and Arabs stand together”); we were not trying to scold Israel for its military actions, but to speak for peace for all. But because the signs were in Arabic, as well as Hebrew and English, the vigil raised a raucous. The timing may have also been an issue, as the Hamas rockets had been going on for years, and only when Israel reacted was there a response from the “yafeh nefesh,” as one angry Israeli stranger called us (נפש הפי , meaning “beautiful soul,” is like calling someone a “bleeding heart”). Kibbutz Ketura felt as though Machon Arava had betrayed and insulted them as hosts, and tensions were high for the remaining month and a half of the semester.

Though Kibbutz Ketura is made up of mostly American-born Jews who would probably consider themselves liberal (many of them voted for Obama by absentee ballot) and some of them even work for this idealistic cohabitation environmentalist network, it is important to remember that these American-born Jews uprooted their lives with their families to move to Israel. They were raised to be Zionists, though still living in Diaspora, to believe that Israel belonged to the Jews, that it is the birthright of the Jews that has finally been restored after 2,500 years of Diaspora, as though in apology for the Holocaust, the latest and most brutal attempt – of many – to annihilate Jews. They believed in Zionism enough to end Diaspora for themselves and become Israeli. To them, each war Israel fights is a holy nationalist war for the very survival of the Jewish people. This is the atmosphere in which Machon Arava is placed.

Once a week at Machon Arava, there is a mandatory three-hour peace seminar, Peace-Building and Environmental Leadership Seminar (PELS). In my experience, most often these PELS sessions would dissolve into shouting or crying, or both. I would call this the “competing victimhood.” The PELS session would start out as Israelis and Palestinians trying to relate to one another the personal pain the conflict has caused them, while the Jordanians and especially the Americans tried to understand what it means to live in a state of constant war, or at least the threat of it. It would seem promising for a while. How else do we start to create peace than to put faces to the targets that bullets and rockets hit, faces to those on the buses that get bombed, faces to those starving in Gaza? Once each side realizes young enough that to continue the fight would be to potentially hurt someone they love, they will not have the desire to continue the fight. That is the hope of Machon Arava, anyway. Sadly, though, the PELS would often end up in people feeling as though they had to impress upon the “other” that their pain was worse. Conversation among ten people who shared a deep friendship would become a rivalry starting all the way back with grandparents, the Holocaust and the Naqba and continue chronologically to competing the pain in their personal lives of suicide bombers, checkpoints, Hamas rockets, bombs.

Throughout the semester, in PELS, everyone participated in the counter-productive blaming and competing victimhood, including Jordanians and Americans on occasions (often “siding” with those who share their ethnic background). However, it was noticeable how much the Israeli students took the stories of the Palestinians to heart. Although they would fall into the same trap of blaming “the other side” eventually, it became clear that of the students in our PELS, the Israelis were more inclined to see the Palestinian pain than the Palestinians were to see the Israeli pain. I noted this in my field notes toward the end of the semester, January 21st, that “it hurts me to say this, as I was never raised a Zionist, and have always been more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause,” but it was not possible to reconcile that observation. The complete lack of balance of power makes the violence from the Palestinian side more understandable. But violence is still violence, and being understandable is not the same as justifiable.

In one of the more emotional PELS, the discussion was about the balance of violence, power, and the comparison of life on one side of the conflict versus the other. It was December, the week following the first air raids on Gaza, and the discussion started because the count of Israelis killed by Hamas rockets had reached maybe seven by that point, and the Israeli military had already killed hundreds of Palestinians. Gaza is a small and crowded territory. It is not possible to shoot large weapons from planes and hit only Hamas targets. In the process of defending nationality and the “competing victimhoods” once again, someone mentioned Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier who was kidnapped during the violence of 2006. In exchange from his release, Hamas demanded 450 Palestinian captives. The same story flipped: one life for hundreds. Israel refused to release any of their Palestinian prisoners, and Gilad Shalit remains a hostage. Again, in defense of nationality, the student sitting next to me pointed out that an Israeli prison is more humane than whatever hole Hamas keeps Shalit in, where the Israeli public is not even sure if he is alive or dead. The tensions rose, and we were dismissed for a break. My Palestinian friend approached the Israeli friend beside me, in tears, and said, “The prisons are only humane for the names the public pays attention to. There are other prisons where Palestinians ‘disappear’ to. Women and children, Neta. Why would children need to disappear?” The power imbalance makes the situation so complex. I do not know of the reality of such prisons, but the energy that is created by believing them to exist is moving enough. The Palestinian fight becomes a civilian’s fight because there is no strong military or government to fight for the people’s freedoms, and as a result children who ought to be free to play are taught to hate and be a part of the war.

ii. Exploration of power dynamics within Israeli politics and society, as well as with Arab populations and governments

1. Who are the parties involved?

2. How does power affect responsibility for change, for peace?

3. How Israel’s relationship with Palestinians affects its relationships with Arab sovereign neighbors, or Arab Israeli citizens (Bedouin, Druze, etc).

Here will be a discussion of the power dynamics of the Occupation, drawing from theoretical reading I have not yet fully finished reading/analyzing.

As working through such an on-going conflict through personal contact is a slow and painful process, Machon Arava also approaches our environmentalist attempt at peace through the academics. Classes are all centered on environmental studies, most specifically to the Israeli/Palestinian environment. As such, many issues are also central to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The best example of the academics at Machon Arava is “Environmental Mediation and Conflict Resolution,” a class entirely about solving conflicts, particularly over environmental issues. The majority of this study of water politics and environmental approaches to conflict resolution in the Middle East draws from that particular class.

Most likely dispersed through this chapter, but also possibly condensed right here, stories from the students of the Machon Arava will be added later when I have completed interviews and can better judge which ones I want to use.

a. Background on Environmental situation

ii. Environmental movements in Israel

iii. “Greatest” environmental threats to Israel

1. Alon Tal, leader of the Megama Yarooka (Envrionmentalist Political Party)

iv. Acknowledgement of shared resources, shared dangers of misused resources

I have not even begun to figure out how to write this part, although I do have some materials coming to me that will greatly aid the development at least of parts ii and iii.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Div III Outline

Elizabeth Goldstein

14 October 2009

Div III Outline

1. Introduction (approx 12-22 pages)

a. Background on personal involvement (approx 4-7 pages)

i. Machon Arava demographics

ii. Kibbutz K’tura demographics

iii. Overview of Machon Arava, ethnographic methodology, personal stories from interviews/important moments from F08 semester

b. Background on political situation (approx 5-10 pages)

i. Brief overview of politics and history of conflict from Independence to present

ii. Exploration of power dynamics within Israeli politics and society, as well as with Arab populations and governments

1. Who are the parties involved?

2. How does power affect responsibility for change, for peace?

3. How Israel’s relationship with Palestinians affects its relationships with Arab sovereign neighbors (Jordan, Egypt, etc), or Arab Israeli citizens (Bedouin, Druze, etc).

c. Background on Environmental situation (approx 3-5 pages)

i. Environmental movements in Israel

ii. “Greatest” environmental threats to Israel

1. Alon Tal, leader of the Megama Yarooka (Envrionmentalist Political Party) and founder of Machon Arava

iii. Acknowledgement of shared resources, shared dangers of misused resources

2. Water Politics Between Israel and Palestine (approx 13-24 pages)

a. Environment in War (approx 4-7 pages)

i. Water as a weapon

ii. Water/Land as victim

1. pollution from Israeli industry

2. pollution from poor infrastructure in Palestinian Territories

b. International and environmental laws (approx 5-10 pages)

i. Palestinian responsibility to, and protection under, said laws.

ii. Israeli responsibility to laws

1. Interim Agreement, Article 40 (legitimizing seizure land and aquifers)

iii. Power?!

c. Environment in Peace (approx 4-7 pages)

i. Water sharing plans for informal cooperation/cohabitation

ii. Informal equity possible to lead to autonomy, better trust-building for final status agreements

iii. International Arab involvement

1. Egypt, Turkey playing roles in water-related informal peace talks with Palestine, Syria and Israel shows understanding of need to share resources (both natural and infrastructural)

3. Conclusions (approx 5-15 pages?)

a. Personal Conclusions (approx 3-5 pages)

i. Final analysis of study (academic, field study, and ethnography)

ii. Thoughts for the future

1. Field Notes

2. Current reflections

b. Interviewees’ conclusions (approx 3-5 pages)

i. What have they done in the last year since our field study to further the cause, their knowledge, etc?

ii. Thoughts for the future of Israeli/Palestinian conflict and environment

c. TBA???

Works already read/noted:

Edmunds, W.M. “Silent Springs: Groundwater Resources Under Threat.” Managing Water Resources. Ed.: Julie Trottier & Paul Slack. Oxford University Press 2004.

Daibes, Fadia. “Water-Related Politics and Their Legal Aspects – A Progressive Approach For Solving The Water Conflict.” Water in Palestine. Ed.: Fadia Daibes. Passia 2003.

Grover, Velma. “General Overview.” Water: Global Commons, Global Problems. Ed.: Velma Grover. Science Publishers. 2006.

Homer-Dixon, Thomas. Environment, Violence, and Scarcity. Princeton Publisher Press. 2001.

Jayyousi, Anan. “Water Supply & Demand Development in Palestine: Current Status and Future Prospects.” Water in Palestine. Ed.: Fadia Daibes. Passia 2003.

Nasser, Yousef. “Palestinian Water Needs and Rights in the Context of Past and Future Development.” Water in Palestine. Ed.: Fadia Daibes. Passia 2003.

Serageldin, Ismail. “Water Resource Management: A New Policy for a Sustainable Future.” Water Resources Development, Vol. 11, No. 3. 1995.

Trottier, Julie. “Water and Conflicts.” Managing Water Resources. Ed.: Julie Trottier & Paul Slack. Oxford University Press 2004.

Vinogradov, Sergei & Jones, Patricia & Wouters, Patricia. “Transforming Potential Conflict into Cooperation Potential: The Role of International Water Law.”PCCP Publications. 2003.

Works on Hand to possibly of use:

Chomsky, Noam. The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. South End Press Collective 1999.

Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East: third edition [chapters 13, 17, 18, 23]. Westview Press, A Member of the Perseus Books Group 2004.

Gordon, Uri. Anarchy Alive! Pluto Press 2008.

Orr, Akiva. Israel: Politics, Myths, and Identity Crises. Pluto Press 1994.

Zeitoun, Mark. Power and Water in the Middle East: The Hidden Politics of the Palestinian-Israeli Water Conflict. I.B. Taurus &co Ltd. 2008.