24 December 2010

Peaceful Holidays

I recently heard a pundit say that there's more violence in America's living rooms than on America's streets. That may or may not be true, but what I do know is that it can be easier to talk about peace in the Middle East than it is to address making peace in our own families. I'm fortunate that I come from a loving and intact family, yet we still have our differences. Like many families in the 21st century, mine spans several different religions and a wide range of political views. Plus, we have plain old individual quirks that can drive each other nuts from time to time. There's nothing like the holidays to bring all of that into the forefront.

It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I discovered a powerful weapon for keeping the family peace: Intention. Rather than approaching the kitchen table with trepidation, just waiting for the first jab or disagreement, I realized that I could approach my family with the intention of bringing peace. I could stop focusing on who loved and accepted me and who didn't. I could resolve to simply love and accept every person at the table just for their quirky beautiful selves. I could stop waiting for love and resolve to be the Lover.

That lesson was solidified for me when my father was sick with cancer and was driving us nuts recounting the same stories over and over again. I realized that even though it was irritating to hear the same words again and again, a time was fast approaching when I wouldn't be able to hear his voice at all. So I learned to say, "Yes, daddy, I love that story. Please tell it again." And then I would listen to that voice I had known since childhood, its tone and timbre, and try to memorize its song. I still miss his voice at Christmas these 10 years later.

I go now to the family table, bringing food and a few small gifts and especially bringing my intention to love. May we be happy. May we feel joy. May we be at peace.

And may you, my online friends, be happy. May you feel joy. May you be at peace.

love, Annie

22 December 2010

Adding The Separation Barrier


Today I printed a new block in red, outlining the location of the West Bank Separation Barrier in the region of Qalqiliya.

In 2002 the State of Israel adopted the plan to build a security wall along and within the West Bank. Supporters of the wall maintain that the barrier is essential in preventing terrorists and suicide bombers from entering Israel. In fact, since the erection of the Separation Barrier, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. Thus, the fence seems to be doing its intended job.

Opponents of the barrier object that the route substantially deviates from the Green Line (see previous post) into the "occupied territories" captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. They see the barrier as an attempt to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security.

Others object on humanitarian grounds, noting that the wall restricts Palestinians' ability to travel freely within the West Bank and to access work in Israel, isolating them in non-contiguous walled ghettos closely controlled by Israel. Qalqiliya, the area I've chosen to depict here, has been cut off on three sides by the wall. The single entrance to the town is an Israeli checkpoint which the 40,000 inhabitants must pass through whenever they come or go. In a 2004 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice found that "the construction of the wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law."

There are other opponents, mostly Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who object to the wall because it appears to renounce the Jewish claim to the whole of the Land of Israel, including the entire West Bank.

In all the research I did for this print, I understood most from an interview with journalist Yossi Klein Halevi on a Speaking of Faith show that aired March 9, 2006. An Israeli Jew, Halevi poignantly described the struggle that many Israelis feel within themselves about their predicament. Speaking of Faith host Krista Tippett wrote the following about the interview:
Daily life, Halevi told me, felt like a crossroads between apocalypse on the one side and collective transcendence on the other. And he described a constant debate inside the mind and soul of most Israelis, not just between his country's "right" and "left." We struggle with our responsibility for the suffering of Palestinian society, he confessed. And at the same time, he insisted, we feel ourselves engaged in a life and death struggle to survive in a volatile Middle East that has declared war on us since before we were a state. In Jews, he said, whether secular or devout, this awakens a tension between competing biblical, ancestral commandments: to remember that your ancestors were slaves in Egypt and to care for the poor and the weak in your time; and on the other hand, to remember how the Amalekites attacked Israel after it crossed the Red Sea, when it finally felt safe, and never to let that happen again.
My next step in the print is to begin adding some "players" to this "stage."

19 December 2010

The Green Line


Last week I finished carving the Islamic pattern for the Palestinian territories and also the "Green Line." The Green Line, so called because green ink was used when it was first marked on a map, refers to the lines of demarcation that were agreed upon in the 1949 Armistice between Israel and its neighbors after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Green Line is not a definitive and legal international border, but in practice it defines those areas which are administered by the State of Israel and those which are administered by the Israeli military or the Palestinian National Authority.

The area I've focused on in this print is a portion of the West Bank where Israeli settlement incursions have penetrated deeply into lands east of the Green Line. Because these settlements consume land where a Palestinian state could emerge, they have made it extremely difficult for a two-state peace solution between Israel and Palestine to be achieved. The settlements also antagonize Israel's Arab neighbors and erode some of the support Israel receives from United States. But perhaps most importantly, some argue that the settlements are a real threat to Israel's democracy because they set up an untenable situation where Jews who live east of the Green Line in the West Bank are voting citizens of Israel while Palestinians living in the same land are not. Human Rights Watch has just published a report examining these separate and unequal policies in the West Bank.

The photo above shows the print-in-progress as it stands now, with 11 layers of color. There are still about 5 more layers to come. Here's a shot of the Islamic pattern before I printed it:


10 December 2010

I Won't Be Your Enemy-Part 2

I love the powerful, fierce expression of refusal in this poem by Suheir Hammad, who appeared at the TED Women conference in Washington DC on December 8, 2010. Hamad is a Palestinian-American poet, author and political activist. She was born in Amman, Jordan to Palestinian refugee parents and immigrated with her family to Brooklyn, New York City when she was five years old.

What I Will

by Suheir Hammad

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin beak for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you nor dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain’t
louder than this breath.

08 December 2010

I Won't Be Your Enemy


I'm carving again. This time I'm working on a pattern that will overlay the tan-colored areas of the print, the "Palestinian territories" on my map. I like using patterns to show cultural ties to land. I first did it on the Locusts In Babylon print and then I used patterns again on Vast Unpeopled Lands. I searched online for an Islamic pattern to use and this one stopped me in my tracks when I saw that it includes a 6-pointed star. The inclusion of the star speaks to the ancestral ties of the Jewish and Palestinian people (both tracing their lineage back to Abraham) and it can also represent the Bible-based claims some Jews make to West Bank land.

While I carve, I continue to contemplate peace. Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation in the last post about peace and not eating meat. I found a lot to think about there and I'll probably circle back around to that topic again.

Being an artist, and especially working with a method that could be called "slow art," I do have a lot of time to contemplate. And being a blogger, I receive input from other people that helps my contemplation develop. My blogger/printmaker friend Katka (her relief printing blog is The Blue Chisel) left a comment last month recommending an author named Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta. I Googled her and discovered that Kaufman-Lacusta is a peace activist who has written a book called Refusing to Be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation. The book looks excellent, but it doesn't exist in audio form and I can't read while I carve and print, so I didn't buy it. But I've gotten a lot of mileage out of simply contemplating the title: Refusing to Be Enemies.

Thinking about it, I realized that I've been on the receiving end of someone's refusal to be enemies, and I can attest that it is an utterly disarming tactic. It happened almost 20 years ago when I first started dating my partner Lynn. Between us, Lynn has the sunnier disposition while I can be a little pessimistic and prone to outbursts. One day I was especially irritable and I was trying to pick a fight with her. I kept saying argumentative things and Lynn kept deflecting my comments, letting it all roll off her like water. Finally she simply said "I'm not going to fight with you." So there I was, all wound up with nobody but myself to fight with. The fire that I had been trying to ignite quickly sputtered out.

Not that it's easy to refuse to be enemies. When someone wrongs you, the easiest thing in the world is to become indignant. Righteous anger can be pretty exhilarating. If the confrontation is over more than a trivial matter it can take tremendous effort to restrain oneself. But it can be done. Maybe peace isn't the absence of conflict. Maybe peace is a decision to stop fighting. Or even a decision to stop struggling against fighting. Lynn could have fought with me about fighting, but she didn't even engage with me at that level. She just refused to allow me to turn her into my enemy. We have that power.

06 December 2010

Peace On Earth, Good Will to Animals

Walton Ford, "The Island" (Image via Paul Kasmin Gallery)
Anybody who blogs will be familiar with the phenomenon called "comment spam." Comment spam comes in several varieties. Some are anonymous comments full of links that blatantly advertise other web sites that have nothing at all to do with your blog. Other comment spam is actually relevant to the content of your blog, but advertises its own agenda. Usually this type of spam is done by using an alert program that hunts for relevant keywords and then places the spam into conversations about those words.

This morning I received the latter type of comment spam on my latest post, "Studying Peace." Rather than place it in the comments section I thought I'd elevate it and give it a post of its own, as it deals somewhat with the subject of "peace." Since it was an anonymous comment, I can't credit the writer, but because it falls into the category of spam I'm going to delete the portion of the comment that sends the reader to a vegan web site. (If you're interested in visiting a vegan web site, I'm sure you know how to find one.) Here's the comment:

A Holiday Thought...

Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed. Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer. So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

First of all, let me state right up front that I'm repulsed by factory farming of animals. My own meat consumption has gone from daily when I was a child to about 2ce monthly just from contemplating the unpleasant notion of eating the carcass of a frightened cow. I also agree with the sentiment that humans are amazing. And I agree with the implied message that human logic is often ridiculous and flawed or simply absent.

What I don't like in this neatly packaged paragraph is the idea, also implied, that if we were all to stop eating meat there would somehow be peace on earth. To me this is a wishful oversimplification, not unlike "cut taxes and government spending" as the solution to all our economic problems or "just say no" as a method of stopping drug traffic. If things were that simple we'd be done with them.

As I discovered in my research for the Pilgrim series, the practice of keeping domestic animals is quite ancient and it came to North America with the colonial settlers. The practice of eating animals goes back forever as far as I can tell. So does the practice of making war. I don't know if it's possible for us to entirely stop doing either one.

The question we seem to be facing right now, in almost all areas of our living, is how/whether we can keep doing our human things at a global scale. How long can we continue to make war before our weapons wipe out the planet? How long can we keep privatizing goods and resources before we've sold our children's futures? How long can we keep consuming cheap goods before we run out of cheap labor and fuels and we have to pay what things are really worth? Our food cycle certainly falls into these categories too -- industrial farming of both plants and animals is unsafe and unsustainable.

Getting back to the topic of my current print, I'm pretty sure that adopting a vegan lifestyle will do little to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But what would peace there look like? I believe that both the Palestinians and the Israelis want peace, but they disagree about what a peaceful Israel/Palestine would look like.

What would peace on earth look like? Is it possible?

Thanks for the topic, mr. spammer!

05 December 2010

Studying Peace


Here's the Israel Separation Barrier print in progress, after 9 applications of color. The tan areas are Palestinian territories, the blue areas are Israeli territories/settlements, and the density of the color indicates population densities.

As I've been working on this print I've been thinking a lot about peace. Lynn and I had a 7-hour drive over the Thanksgiving holiday that gave us lots of time to talk, and when she asked me how the print was coming along I heard myself tell her "I think I'm a pacifist." Sort of a dorky thing to say, but I appreciated it when Lynn then asked me, "but what does that mean? What's a pacifist?"

Since then I've been trying to articulate to myself what I really believe about peace -- whether I think it's humanly possible for there to ever be peace on earth, whether I even believe it's possible to be truly peaceful in my individual dealings.

So while I continue to procrastinate on fixing my baren, I'm also reading about peace. It's a good season to study peace, I think.

01 December 2010

God's Walls

My plan for this Israel/Palestine print is to describe the situation using Old Testament Bible stories. Since the print is about a wall (Israel's separation wall), the story of Joshua and the Wall of Jericho came to mind.

First reduction for Wall of Jericho

Joshua was the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, and he led the 12 tribes in their conquest of Canaan (Israel). Their first battle was at Jericho, one of the earliest known walled cities in the world. In the Bible account God destroys the wall and as the huge stones fall they kill everyone inside the city, except a woman who who had helped the Israelites. Here's the passage:

1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

Joshua 6:1-5

I have to admit that I hope a loud shout and a blast on the trumpets will bring down Israel's separation wall someday.

Second reduction for Wall of Jericho

There's another wall of great importance in Israel which I won't be showing in this print but which I'll mention, namely the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall. Located in Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount, this wall is a remnant of the wall that surrounded the ancient temple's courtyard. It's one of the most sacred sites in Judaism and also a source of strife between Muslims and Jews, as Muslims worry that the wall is being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, which Muslims also claim.

Israel seems to have a long history of wall issues.

MY next issue is this:


For five years I've managed to wriggle out of this task by getting other people to do it for me, but it's finally time for me to learn to tie a baren cover. I won't be a real moku hanga-ka until I've done it, so wish me luck.