Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Running in Trance

Sometimes  - oh so rarely - the elements of a run flow together so perfectly, that we momentarily step outside ourselves and are blessed with a glimpse into an elusive, unitive state of consciousness.

Liminal Space

Canada Goose. In Still Water.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rambling Towards the Light

Cliffs of Moher - Ireland
Pathway to the Sacred as depicted in Stone Age Malta
Pathway to the Sacred as depicted in Stone Age Ireland

Peek into the Numinous - Ireland
Iconography throughout Ages - Valletta, Malta

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

One Year After the 'Ceasefire' and the War on Gaza is Not Over

War is Over. If You Want It.

It was a bright, cold January day in Toronto. The year was 1969. I was a high school student gazing upwards in wonderment, as the small airplane was skywriting John and Yoko’s message of hope and empowerment.  The Vietnam War was raging and world resolve to end it was gathering.  It was another six years before that war was to be over.

More recently, between July 7 and August 26, 2014, Israeli forces killed 2,205 Palestinians in Gaza. According to UN figures at least 1,483 of those fatalities were civilians. 521 were children. The Israeli Government had the temerity to call this one-sided massacre Operation Protective Edge. 71 Israelis were also killed in the fighting; 66 were soldiers. In other words, 70% of Palestinian deaths were civilians and 8% of Israeli deaths were civilians. All human life is sacred, but to claim victimhood and shared culpability (“Israel is exercising its right to defend herself”) amidst such disproportionate carnage is turning reality on its head. 18,000 homes were destroyed in those fifty-one days last summer, leaving over 100,000 Palestinians homeless. One year after the ceasefire, the rubble remains and those 100,000 people are still internally displaced. Nearly 80% of the population requires food aid. Electricity and potable water are in short supply. (One Israeli home was destroyed during the same period.) Entire families, places of worship, journalists and their news gathering organizations, hospitals and clinics, UN facilities, schools, civilian infrastructure – were all targeted and destroyed. Beyond the devastating loss of life and enormous structural damage is the on-going psychological trauma that negatively impacts all aspects of daily life. Over 300,000 children require psychosocial assistance to help them cope with the loss of family members, physical disabilities sustained, symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and the ever-present fear of subsequent bombardments. Children six years and older living in Gaza have experienced three wars in their short lives. Long-term consequences of such barbarity are inestimable. Indeed the phrase “post traumatic stress” is misleading in this context of interminable suffering. There is nothing “post” about the continuous trauma of living life amidst on-going military occupation and siege.

A ceasefire was agreed upon on August 26, 2014. Benjamin Netanyahu disturbingly boasted of Israel’s “great military and political achievement.”  The apocalyptic air, sea and land assault on a captive, largely civilian population is a war crime. Reframing it as a great achievement is unconscionable. Terms of the ceasefire included an easing of the seven-year crippling blockade of Gaza. Israeli forces continue, however to shoot at Gazan fishers, target farmers working their fields – and not one single home has since been rebuilt!  This is an on-going human rights and public health catastrophe. Not a ceasefire.

According to a recent World Bank report, Gaza is “on the verge of collapse”. Less then 28% of international reconstruction pledges have been disbursed and at 43% – Gaza has the world’s highest rate of unemployment. With more then half the population under the age of 18, a youth unemployment rate greater then 60% is especially troubling. This unfathomable devastation is the result not of an earthquake or hurricane, but of a carefully planned, long-term strategy that over the years has shamefully been given unconditional support by the Harper government. Since 2007, an economic and military blockade has restricted the movement of goods in and out of Gaza resulting in the catastrophic de-development of society, and a concomitant deep deterioration of the quality of life of the 1.8 million inhabitants who are locked-in and isolated within the 360 square kilometre tiny Gaza Strip. Recurring ferocious military attacks within this hapless context puts all humanity to shame.

On the first anniversary of the supposed ceasefire – where the oppressor continues to be recast as victim, and occupation forces continue to traumatize the besieged people of Gaza – it is time for Canadians to insist that this country uphold its obligations under international law and demand an end to war crimes in Palestine. It is totally unacceptable for the Canadian Government to maintain its uncritical backing of such institutionalized, violent oppression.

It won’t be long before candidates for the Federal Election start soliciting our support. Ask them what their position is on Palestine. Do they endorse a just peace that celebrates the universality of human rights and which reflects international law?  What is their position on illegal settlements in the West Bank? What about the on-going illegal blockade of Gaza? Do they acknowledge Palestinian refugees the right to return? Canada’s policies and behaviours in the Middle East can either foster peace or ensure continuing injustice, trauma and chaos. Let’s vote wisely.

End the Occupation. Lift the Siege.
Then as now – War is Over. If You Want It. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Peak Experience. Peek Experience.

Walking amidst the splendour of Kyrgyzstan's Tien Shan (Celestial) Mountains, it isn't difficult to appreciate how cultures around the world, and throughout the ages, have continued to revere mountainous landscapes as portals to the Divine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Seville Semana Santa

The Easter Holy Week in Seville is like none other on Earth. The entire citizenry is deeply immersed in a centuries-old devotional process. Hooded penitents carry crosses and candles. Enormous platforms with life-size statues depicting the Passion of Christ are carried by young men. Some date back hundreds of years. Imagine a slowly moving mobile Medieval cathedral. Others walk the procession routes carrying statues of Mother Mary enrobed in stunningly embroidered and bejeweled fabrics. Her facial expression depicts a sublime expression of grief offset with a subtle brush of hope.

It's three o'clock in the morning on  Good Friday in Plaza del Salvador. The mournful sound of an oboe announces the arrival of the procession. El Silenzio. Conversations gradually die down and the massive crowd watches reverentially, as an ancient tradition sweeps us up in a timeless mystery.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Held an Atlas in My Lap

Today I had the good fortune to learn of Warsan Shire, a young Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer  and educator, now based in London.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?                                                 
it answered

Warsan Shire

I am reminded of walking in this parched Bolivian landscape. A teardrop replaces that long forgotten raindrop.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Towards Peace and Justice


We appreciate your interest in learning more about the world’s longest on-going colonial project and the massive human rights violations stemming from the associated military dictatorship. 
Israel. Palestine. Occupier. Occupied.

What are the stickers all about?

The stickers are a graphic tool to raise awareness about Israel’s systematic and violent abuses of the human rights of the Palestinian People and Canada’s complicity in maintaining these violations of international law.

Israel is the largest military power in the Middle East and the only state in the region with nuclear weapons. The United States is the world’s most powerful military power. It provides 8.5 million dollars of military aid to Israel - per day.  In addition to American military aid, the US and Canada provide unconditional diplomatic support to Israel. What the Israeli Government does with this disproportionate largesse is to subject the indigenous Palestinian people to a racist and violent system of institutionalized oppression and control. Palestinians’ human rights are brutally trampled upon on a daily basis. Their land is forcibly stolen to make way for ever expanding illegal, Jewish-only  “settlements” - in effect, militarily backed, illicit settler colonies.  Fundamental rights that Canadians simply take for granted, are routinely denied. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement and access to one’s own land, for instance are regularly curtailed by Occupation forces. Those protesting the State’s theft of private property are subject to violent military raids and arbitrary imprisonment. Colonialism is a crime. That such crimes against humanity are taking place in the 21st century with the uncritical backing of our Canadian Government is unconscionable and totally unacceptable.

People of conscience around the world are demanding that their governments stop enabling Israel in its ongoing theft of Palestinian land and brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.

The aim of the Israeli Apartheid – Don’t Buy Into It sticker campaign is to educate Canadians about our Government’s role in propping up a belligerent military occupation and to provide a peaceful strategy to help end the injustice and violence.

Is Israel an Apartheid State?

Many people when they hear the word “Apartheid” think of South Africa and its history of racial segregation and control. They may recall the white supremacist government’s punishingly hard control over the lives of the Black population between 1948 and 1994.

In fact Apartheid is not limited to any one specific situation. Apartheid is an institutionalized form of racism used to establish control and maintain domination of one group over another. Apartheid moreover is an international crime against humanity. In 1973, the UN General Assembly ratified the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Every country in the world is legally bound to respect the prohibition against it.

The legal definition of the Crime of Apartheid applies to any situation, anywhere in the world, where three core elements exist.

                       1. Two distinct racial groups can be found.

International law defines “racial” to include aspects of ethnic and national origin. “Racial group” can therefore refer to sociological as well as biological factors; Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
                   2.    “Inhuman acts” are committed against the subordinate group by the oppressing group in order to maintain the domination. 

    Inhuman acts perpetrated against the Palestinian people by Israeli authorities include targeted killings, military incursions, home demolitions, lethal force against Palestinians demonstrating against Israeli war crimes, arbitrary arrest, torture of political prisoners, incarceration and abuse of children, violations against the right to movement, military occupation, expropriation of land and theft of water, colonisation, and numerous discriminatory policies in the areas of housing, education and health. Jews living in segregated illegal settlements in the West Bank are governed by Israeli civic law and vote in Israeli elections. The indigenous Palestinian residents of the West Bank live under martial law and have no voting rights. 

                  3.   Such vicious human rights violations are committed systematically in the context of an    institutionalized regime of oppression and domination by one group over a subordinate group. The violence is thus not random or isolated but represents a coherent, state-sanctioned project.

    Israel clearly meets the international definition of the Crime of Apartheid in its dealings with the People of Palestine. South African Apartheid Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd said so himself as far back as 1961. “Israel, like South Africa is an Apartheid State.” Over the years, the state-sponsored ruthless violence has escalated and continues to undermine Palestinians’ right to freedom, equality and self-determination. See The Israeli Law Resource Center and The Russell Tribunal for further clarification and documentation.

    Israeli Apartheid moreover is not limited to policies and practices that subjugate Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Twenty per cent of the population of the State of Israel are Palestinians - Christians or Muslims. Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against as Israel insists that it is the State of the Jewish People. By definition, Palestinians are therefore relegated to second-class status; the Jewish State is inherently not a democratic state of all its citizens. This blatant racism is in fact institutionalized. There are more than 50 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures.

    Palestinians residing in the diaspora outside Israel or Palestine are also subject to Israeli Apartheid practices. While Jews living anywhere in the world qualify for Israeli citizenship, Palestinians expelled from their homeland are not permitted by Israeli law (and contrary to International Law) to return home.

    By providing unconditional support to Israel, Canada plays a key role in Israel’s continuing discrimination against, dispossession of, and military occupation of Palestine. Our country’s uncritical backing of Israel therefore enables the subjugation and expanding colonisation of Palestine to continue with impunity.

    The Canadian Government is facilitating Israeli war crimes against the Land and People of Palestine! If this is unacceptable to you, we encourage you to consider BDS.

    What is Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)?

    In 2005 Palestinian civil society initiated a call to the world to boycott Israel until it complies with international law and ends the occupation and siege of Palestine. The global campaign is similar to what was effectively applied to South Africa during its era of Apartheid.

    Given that all forms of international intervention have failed to convince or force Israel to uphold its obligations under international and humanitarian law, BDS is a growing global movement to exert pressure on the Government of Israel to end its illegal Occupation. (Full text of the Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS.)

    In addition to Boycotting Israeli products and companies that profit from Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights - the focus of our Sticker campaign, there is Divestment from portfolios of Israeli companies and institutions complicit in human rights abuses, and Sanctions that Nations can apply to   encourage Israel to fall in line with international human rights norms.

    Broadly speaking, there are three goals BDS aims to achieve.

    1.  Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the illegal Separation Wall that cuts Palestinians off from their communities, properties and families. 
    2.  Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
    3.  Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.

    What to Boycott Until Israel Terminates its Occupation and Subjugation of Palestine?

    Don’t buy goods from Israel or companies that support Israel’s colonial expansion. In the Vancouver Area your consumer boycott may include Chapters, Home Depot, Sears, SodaStream, Re/Max, Eden Springs water, Golan Heights and Galil Mountain Winery, and certain fruit and vegetables, labelled “Grown in Israel”, but often produced on occupied Palestinian land. Lists of products being boycotted can be found on the BDS National Committee’s website and the Vancouver-based, Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign’s pamphlet. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East has good, comprehensive background information and specifics on products and companies to boycott here.

    What’s the significance of the long number beginning with 729 on the sticker?

    Every country has a barcode assigned to it. It is referred to as the UPC – Universal Product Code. Israel’s begins with 729. Checking for this on product packages can serve as a rough guide, for while the code does indicate which country a company is from, it doesn’t tell you in what country the product was produced. If a Dutch company for example sells a product made in Israel, the package will display 871 – the Netherland’s bar code and not Israel’s 729.

    Please use the stickers responsibly.

    They are meant to be used as an educational tool to facilitate social and political change by raising awareness about human rights violations. Use them wisely, for example on your personal property - to launch a conversation on human rights abuses in Palestine, and to explore strategies to improve the situation. Do not place them on private or public property where it may be illegal. Please do not place stickers in places that may result in violations of local laws. PAC cannot be held responsible for consequences of vandalism or any other inappropriate use of the stickers.  

    Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself about the on-going humanitarian and political crisis in Palestine. Together we can end this Occupation!

    The Palestine Awareness Coalition

    “The temptation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine … yet we would be less than human if we did so.” 

    - Nelson Mandela