Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on November 8, 2008

We had our eighth social event of 2008 at Bill and Emily s home on Capitol Hill. We had a large turnout with close to 50 guests to hear our guest speaker Ed Mast. Thanks so much to Bill and Emily for opening up their home!



SAHMATAH: MEMORY OF STONES our guest speaker Ed Mast announced that a play by Ed and Hanna Eady will be playing Mondays-Tuesdays October 28-November 25 at 7:30 pm (no performances Nov 10-11) at The Shoebox Performance Space, 1404 18th Avenue , Seattle (between Madison & Union), $10 admission. (206) 774-6438 for reservations and information.

Sahmatah was one of over 500 Palestinian villages which were destroyed during the founding of Israel in 1948. Some residents were driven out of the country. Some still live nearby but even 60 years later are not allowed to return and rebuild their homes.

In SAHMATAH: MEMORY OF STONES, a one-act play for two actors, an old man takes his grandson on a pleasant walk over a meadow of pine trees and scattered stones. But as they walk, the memory of the place rises from the ground itself, and the grandfather leads his grandson through the appalling story of the destruction of Sahmatah, and of the people that once lived where nothing but pine trees grow now.

Rebuilding Hope Filmmaker Jen Marlow announced upcoming screenings of her new film Rebuilding Hope , documentary film featuring Gabriel Bol Deng, Koor Garang and Garang Mayuol, who were born in South Sudan. In 1987, as young children, they were forced to flee when militiamen led violent attacks on their villages. They crossed Southern Sudan on foot, reaching safety in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. They came to the U.S. in 2001 as part of a large number of Southern Sudanese young men nicknamed Lost Boys. The film documents Gabriel Bol, Koor, and Garang in their quest to find surviving family-members and rediscover and contribute to their homeland; it also sheds light on what the future holds for South Sudan in its struggle for peace, development and stability. Assisted by grants from the City of Seattle, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Rachel Corrie Foundation and the Nation Institute Fund for Investigative Reporting and the continued generosity of individual contributors the film is more than 3/4 of the way complete. Help in finishing the film is greatly appreciated! The vast majority of the funding has been raised through grassroots sources--individual donations and small fundraising events.

Below is information about work-in-progress screening/fundraiser events being held to show the film at its current stage and hope that people will want to support the film s completion! Secure online donations can be made at: For more information, please contact Jen at

Bellevue, WA: Saturday, November 22, 7:00-9:00PM. First Presbyterian Church, 1717 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA

Seattle, WA: Sunday, November 23, 4:00-6:30PM, M illumino, 6921 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle.

Palestine Solidarity Committee Peter Lippman announced the Palestine Solidarity Committee, which coordinates an action alert Response Network. The Response Network provides regular opportunities for participants to take action on important issues related to Palestinian human rights. The network enables concerned citizens to act in a coordinated way to contact the media and to influence U.S. foreign policy with regard to Israel/Palestine and the occupation. It coordinates writing campaigns to media and Congress. You can join by e-mailing: As a participant, you will receive action bulletins from us via email regarding the most urgent as they arise. Alerts are rarely posted more often than on a monthly basis. For more information on this campaign, contacting Congress, and more, check out the PSC web site at and click on "Take Action."

Additional bricks available Paul Carr announced that new bricks, available for your customized engraving, are available for special purchase in support of a maintenance fund for the new Statue of Liberty on Alki. Please visit for more information.

inSPIRe Book Club! We are now reading Collapse by Jarod Diamond for our next meeting, Dec 5th. To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to


Keynote Speaker:

Ed Mast. Edward Mast is a playwright and performer whose plays and solo performances have been performed in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Jerusalem, and other cities.  His play SAHMATAH, co-written with Hanna Eady, has been playing in the Middle East and Europe since 1998.   He co-developed the film PALESTINE FOR BEGINNERS with Linda Bevis, and has developed or co-developed several performances, tools and activities about Palestine, including THE OCCUPATION GAME, SHADOWS OF EXILE, and the new booklet-sized NAKBA: THE ONGOING ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINE.  Edward has done human rights work in Northern Ireland, Central America and the former Soviet Union, and in 2002 was jointly with Linda Bevis awarded the human rights award of the United Nations Association of Seattle.  Edward has volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank, and with Palestine Information Project and Palestine Solidarity Committee in Seattle. 

Palestine for Beginners Ed began his talk by holding up large maps of the Israel/Palestine geographical area. It was very striking just how small of an area this is. Ed related the entire area to the size of Western Washington, as well as the size of Gaza to that of Seattle city proper.

Ed then gave us the conclusion from all of his activism efforts on this issue over the years: Equal rights: all inhabitants within the Israel/Palestine area should be allowed to remain, but should be granted equal rights.

Ed doesn t have a vested interest in this issue. Ed is not Jewish, not Muslim, not Arab, etc. He is just interested in helping to work towards a solution in this human rights crisis. This area is effectively a military zone, with extensive security measures, guards, the killings of civilians on both sides, etc. And sadly, things just continue to get worse.

There are many causes to the crisis. The US government provides billions of dollars in US aid to Israel each year, as well as military and diplomatic support. Issues faced by the state of Israel are microcosms of problems faced in the USA. The United States and Israel have had a long-standing relationship, and because of this what is typically heard within the US media are issues presented from an Israeli perspective.

People often wonder why the Palestinians are resisting Israeli efforts. Often the actions and attitudes of the Palestinians seem full of hatred and based on historic ideals and religious extremism. This is not the case. When reviewing the history of this area, an honest conclusion is that both Palestinians and Jews have been in the area for thousands of years. Both have ancient and continuous evidence being in the region, but not to one dominating the other, and not to there always being a conflict between the two peoples.

The current conflict began in the 1800s. The history of the Jews in Europe shows that they have long suffered, facing racism, ethnic cleansing, etc. Jews were a landless minority in Europe, thus powerless and easy to scapegoat. In the 1800s, nation-states began developing in Europe. This concept gave Jews the idea to create their own national liberation movement. They considered many different geographical areas, including Africa, South America and others, but decided to focus a new Jewish homeland within the holy land of Palestine. This area was viewed by many in the world as a desert and wide open. Jews crafted a phrase to capture their goals in Palestine: a land without a people for a people without a land.

But a problem quickly arose in that there were already plenty of people in Palestine, which was largely fertile and only partially desert. Neither Palestinian Muslims nor Christians nor Jews wanted this new Zionist movement. The Zionist movement to Palestinians was a displacement movement, with Palestinians being displaced.

In the late 1800s there was Palestinian liberation movement for independence from the Ottomans. The new Zionist movement aligned itself with what was then typical of European imperialism, an attitude of protecting the European civilization against Barbarism of peoples of other colors. Typical attitudes of Europeans in this was not to take non-Europeans too seriously actually to be very racist against others. Calling Palestine a land without a people demonstrated this.

This attitude was very similar to that taken in the United States against minorities, especially against Native Americans. It included ideas such as they don t matter they have no relationship with the land. They don t develop the land. We ll make their lives better. This is the will of history; the will of God, etc. This type of de-humanizing has a long history in European dominance of others, including Arab peoples.

A key goal of the Zionist movement was to create a Jewish majority in Palestine. But without having near enough Jews in the region for this there was a need to remove the local Palestinian majority. An effort began, similar to efforts in the US against Native Americans, to remove the local population. So, facing this, why would the Palestinians ever go along with this movement? Clearly they wouldn t, and didn t. The process employed by the Zionists was to never ask the Palestinians if they wanted to migrate elsewhere, rather they were forced. This movement began to look more like an invasion. Neither side resisted attacking civilians.

Zionist Jews didn t see things this way. Their perspective was that they had gone through true hell to get to a new home, through centuries of European racism, through Nazi terror, etc. Just as American Westerners justifiably felt in the settling of the American west, the journey there was extraordinarily difficult and they were justified in their quest for a new home. The cleansing of the local population, whether Native Americans or local Palestinians, to the new settlers, seemed reasonable to them; but in fact both were part of ethnic cleansing movements.

Britain made things worse by making promises to both sides, including un-kept promises to the Palestinians. Britain supported the migration of hundreds of thousands of Jews to Palestine. Making things worse, both Britain and America closed their borders to Jewish immigrants after World War II. In 1947 the newly formed United Nations proposed partitioning Palestine in two, with 55% going to the Jews (then at only 33% of the population) and 45% going to the Palestinians (then at 67% of the population). To the Palestinians this felt like 55% of their land was being stolen and they rejected this proposal.

Many Jews considered 55% not enough and publically indicated this was just a stepping stone to a larger Israel. Zionists immediately tried to consolidate the land and soon war broke out. The Zionists won, resulting in their controlling/occupying now 78% of the historic lands. During the war, Jordan also captured land, as did Egypt. The result was that Palestine was now officially gone . Over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. The Palestinian population of 1.2 million before the 1947 war was reduced to 400,000 after the war. This was effectively a successful ethnic cleansing. The definition of a holocaust is a total burning , and this is what had happened to the Palestinians.

Of course the Israelis did not see it this way. They claimed that the Palestinians ran away leaving the Jews with a new majority and a majority of the land. The new Israel prevented efforts by Palestinians to return to the homeland. This was readily denied by Israel, just as America had denied our actions against Native Americans. An attitude of OK! All that is now in the past; let us move on! prevailed. But tensions continued, resulting in another war in 1967, the six day war that resulted in Israel annexing the entire city of Jerusalem, as well as maintaining military control of the West Bank and Gaza, leaving these areas in a continuous state of limbo.

The formal State of Israel now contains 5 million Jews as well as 1.2 million Palestinians. These Palestinians are citizens, but not equal citizens. Outside of Israel and Israeli occupied areas live millions more Palestinians. The West Bank contains 2.5 million Palestinians, non-citizens of anywhere. They have no civil rights, no freedom of speech, no freedom of movement. They were subject to Israeli government torture, arrest and detention without charge or trial, murder and other atrocities. Checkpoints were established all throughout the region. Ed showed a map to emphasize the vast number of checkpoints which severely restrict the ability of Palestinians to move within the area. And now Israel is building a new wall, specifically located to annex the region s vital resources, including the key resource of fresh water.

As opposed to the Palestinians, the 500,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza do have full citizenship and rights. Tax dollars, including taxes paid by local Palestinians, are used to support Jewish settlements in these lands. These settlements are built on lands confiscated from the Palestinians and on the lands with the best resources. Effectively, this is one ethnic group living on the same land with a different set of laws and a different set of rights than the other ethnic group, which is a precise definition of apartheid; and this is one ethnic group driving out another, which is a precise definition of ethnic cleansing. Palestinians are forced to watch this overt example of ethnic cleansing.

In 2005, in a highly publicized action, Israel removed 8,000 settlers from Gaza in a show of goodwill. What was not highly publicized was the moving of 20,000 new settlers into the West Bank during this same time. Israel maintained control of the Gaza s airspace, water rights, electrical grid, sea coast, imports and exports, etc. Gaza is still under Israeli occupation, and is effectively the world s largest prison camp . Israel has made no secret that their reason for pulling out of Gaza was to strengthen their hold on the West Bank.

Israel could choose to end the occupation immediately. Or on the other hand they could choose to annex both Gaza and the West Bank. If they did, they would lose the Jewish majority.

The Oslo Accord in 1993 established the Palestine Authority, but in reality provided no real authority to the Palestinians. The mandate to the Palestinian Authority was to manage the occupation of Palestine for the government of Israel. Supporters of Palestine resisted. The Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Yasser Arafat, was corrupt and inept. Palestinians began killing each other over the illusion of authority. New settlements of Jews in the Occupied Territories continued though Oslo indicated they should be stopped. Oslo s offer to the Palestinians was totally inadequate. Civilians were targeted on both sides. This led to killings, and more killings, and more killings In April 1994, in response to a massacre of 29 Palestinians by an Israeli Jewish settler, the region saw the first suicide bombing. The violence just spiraled.

Each year in the United Nations a resolution is introduced for a two-state solution to the problem. Each year two countries vote against this resolution: Israel and the United States.

So, given this history, Ed asked should the Jews be forced to leave Israel and go back to Europe ? To this Ed answered no . But what does need to happen is the acknowledgement of ethnic cleansing. It needs to be stopped NOW! Individual racism needs to be halted on both sides. More importantly, the system of racism that privileges Jews and discriminates against all others needs to be replaced, just as it was in South Africa. Many felt like apartheid in South Africa could not be ended without a blood bath. Those folks were wrong. Apartheid ended when the ruling whites realized that the apartheid system could not go on. They realized that they needed to negotiate a real solution now while they were still in power, and that they needed to do so for the sake of their own children.

Israelis are now realizing the same thing. The establishment of new settlements must stop. A two-state solution may be the answer Ed doesn t know the answer. He feels it is up to the people living there to find the answer. But the ethnic cleansing must stop. Ed believes that secular Jews and secular Palestinians, whom make up the majority of the population on both sides, will work together to fight the religious extremists on both sides. After apartheid ends, then the hard work of learning to live together with equal rights begin.


Q How could the minority Jewish population win that war in 1948 against a larger population?

A Historically, there was violent resistance by Palestinians against the Jews and Britain, and for this the Brits cracked down extremely hard on the Palestinians. This resistance was totally squashed. The Palestinians were disarmed. Jews were much better armed and were able to succeed. And, as mentioned before, they had many justifications they used, including their hard, hard journey to the new homeland .


Q Is it not true that the Arab lands supported Hitler during WWII?

A No. The former leader of Jerusalem supported Hitler, but the vast majority of Arabs did not.


Comment it is a shame that the locals did not focus on population stabilization as a potential solution to this problem .


Q are Kibbutz s a key part of the new settlements?

A No, they are different.


Q Where does Barack Obama stand on this?

A It s just more of the same old . Obama was not willing to say anything negative against Israel in the campaign. Obama focused on getting elected. Obama s new Chief of Staff, Rahmn Emmanuel is very pro-Israel. His father actually helped to funnel weapons to Israel in the past which is clearly a terrorist activity. In the past Republicans have shown more willingness to protest Israeli actions than Democrats.


Q You suggested that a possible way out is uniting Gaza and the West Bank. Can this happen?

A It could happen tomorrow, but the new settlements are destroying a two-state solution.


Q Numbers are important. The Palestinian population has grown rapidly. Doesn t this really show a pretty weak job of ethnic cleansing if that is what the Israelis really wanted to do?

A Ethnic cleansing did and continues to take place not just in killing people, but mainly in moving them out of the region or confining them in smaller and smaller reservation zones. Palestine has effectively the highest fertility rate in the world, which has led to the recent rapid population increase there.



We then took some moments to celebrate and discuss the election results, and what we must now do as progressives to insure our goals and programs are pursued by Obama and the Democrats. Many, many comments were made (and not written down!). These included the hope that the election of Obama will replace 9/11 as a defining moment for America, the need to put pressure on Obama not to escalate the war in Afghanistan, the clear excitement of whites, blacks and other minorities at the election of Obama, the need to work hard to push Obama where we want him to go, to support Obama when he does the right things, to not let ourselves get complacent, and many more.

Thanks to all of inSPIRe for helping to achieve terrific election results!!

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded. Sorry!

Many thanks to our hosts and our speakers!

See you at the next inSPIRe meeting!

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