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Help, Support and Power for Black Crime Victims

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Since 1935, nearly every so-called race riot in the United States— there have been more than 100—has been sparked by a police incident. Whether reacting to an act of brutality or a senseless killing, these acts of resistance are fueled by underlying realities that run much deeper than any one event.
 
Black Americans understand that they do not get the same kind of “protect and serve” policing that typically occurs in white communities, where police seem so much less fearful and so more capable of discerning law-abiding citizens from those committing crimes.
 
This explains why so many black Americans hesitate to call the police for help when they become victims of crime. History has shown that when responding to 9-1-1 calls from African Americans, the police often cause more harm than good. It happened just this past week when Terence Crutcher called the police when his car broke down, but instead of helping him, they fatally shot him. The officers claimed Mr. Crutcher was reaching inside his car for what they feared was a weapon. A review of a video tape of the event, however, proved that Mr. Crutcher posed no threat and that the police were lying.
 
It is understandable that riots erupt in the face of senseless injustice. Ultimately, though, black communities seek improved relationships with law enforcement. They want their families and property to be safe. After all, black communities generally face higher rates of crime than their white counterparts (e.g., more than 50 percent of U.S. murder victims are black, even though they make up only 13 percent of the total population).

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Truth's Voice

The guns and tanks and political posturing make it hard to hear. But the human voice is different from other sounds. It can be heard over noises that bury everything else, even when it’s not shouting, even when it’s just a whisper. Yes, even the lowest whisper can be heard when it’s telling the truth. So I strained to hear truth’s voice during my human rights tour of Palestine/Israel. 
 
palestinian israeli embraceI met with people of all ages and persuasions: politicians and shop keepers, professors and refugee camp residents, researchers and farmers, Israeli settlers and Palestinian revolutionaries, Bedouin tent-dwellers and Christian peace activists. I explored the streets and social dynamics of  Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nazareth, Haifa, the Golan Heights, Nablus, Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. 
 
I wasn’t alone, of course. I was with twelve other Unitarian Universalists from across the country, including First Church member, Curt Bell. Together we explored the gaping chasms separating the people of this region and the systems driving them apart. 
 
This conflict is as contentious as few others in recent history and it is critical to work unrelentingly to be both just and broad-minded. We tried to embody this all along the way, even as we witnessed huge disparities in power, wealth and human dignity.  In the end, we all came to the same conclusion: something must be done to interrupt the structures of domination that are causing so much human suffering and inequity for Palestinians.

Some say that there is nothing we Americans can or should do. Some say that the situation is too complex and entrenched, that truth’s voice was long ago extinguished. I disagree. There are plenty of Israelis and Palestinians routinely working together in these times of pain, among them members of The Parents Circle -- which draws together the mothers and fathers of both communities who have lost loved ones, most often sons and daughters. Even as they grieve, they are defying the walls separating their communities and are building bridges of understanding and peace instead. But they cannot do this alone; they need our help.
 
This conflict exists today because there are structures of domination that are separating and repressing the human rights of people. Whether or not we do it consciously, we Americans are supporting these structures of domination. Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of financial support that dwarf the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll.  In 2015 alone, the U.S. is giving Israel $10.2 million each day [1]. This is unacceptable. Why? Israel is out of compliance with a number of international human rights laws.
 
Israel under Netanyahu’s leadership is changing in disturbing ways (see prior blog posts for details). The time has come to join the international community in telling the truth about the atrocities and to holding Israel accountable. History has shown us that the most effective way to do this is by applying economic pressure. Consequently, Palestinian civil society has issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. 
 
Not sure if you agree? That’s okay. In the coming months there will be plenty of opportunities to engage in conversation about Palestine and Israel. The first one will take place after church on October 11 when Curt Bell and I will share photos, stories and Middle Eastern food. I look forward to seeing you there!
 
Peace, Shalom, Salaam –
Kate

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How Could this Happen In Israel/Palestine?

When asked why I would want to travel in the heat of the summer to the conflict-ridden region of Palestine and Israel, my answer was clear:  “If we want peace, if we want to bring home our troops, if we want to put an end to drone strikes and perpetual war, we must first resolve the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Yes, I know the conflict seems horribly entrenched but perhaps I will gain some insights upon speaking with the people there.”
 
Now that I have traveled to Palestine and Israel, I can assure you that I have gained those additional insights.  Before I write another word, however, I must say something else: I did not come here to alienate, isolate or de-legitimatize Israel.  I am strongly linked to the Christian/Judeo tradition and have several Jewish family members.  No, I came here because I have read far too many accounts of Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians and needed to come here and see with my own eyes if they were true.  
 
Israel Palestine 8-6-blogIt breaks my heart to relay what I have discovered: all that I’ve been reading is true. 
 
Israel has been quietly changing and in alarming ways.  Like our own country, it is moving to the right politically.  Like our own country, it is becoming increasingly militaristic in the name of national security.  And like our own country, it has racist subgroups seeking to segregate themselves from “undesirable” populations.  In Israel these groups are Arab Druze, Bedouins, Muslims and Christians.
 
Yet, UNLIKE our country, Israel's West Bank has two separate legal systems: one for Jews and one for everybody else.  This allows them to systematically deny the rights of non-Jews to vote, to move freely, to build new homes, or to have access to their traditional sources of water, farmlands and electricity.  At the same time, Israel is erecting huge, barbwire-covered walls that encircle and alienate entire non-Jewish communities, most of which are beyond of the Green Line—the internationally recognized boundary between Israel and Palestinian. The waits to get through these checkpoints in these walls are notoriously long,  unpredictable and dehumanizing.
 
I am so sorry to say that it gets even worse.  In the first six months of this year alone the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, funded by the European Commission of the European Union and Partnership for Peace, documented the following hate crimes: 
 
1) There were 390 physical attacks on non-Jews by Jewish Settlers;
2) Over 134 Arab  homes were destroyed; and
3) Over 12,000 olive trees in the West Bank alone were either burned down or bulldozed by Jewish Settlers of the Israeli military, thereby destroying the Palestinian's major source of  income. 
 
I could go on with more disturbing statistics but I think you get the point.  There are bad things happening in Israel rights now and no one is holding Israel accountable. Not that no one  has tried. Every year the members of the United Nations try to address some of these violations in a resolution entitled, “Peaceful Resolution of the Palestinian Conflict. “ Yet every year the vote is the same:  Israel and the United States block its passage. 
 
The time has come to look deeper into the dynamics at play in modern day Israel and Palestine. In my next blog I will outline several rays of light that are emerging from this gathering darkness.   Please stay with me—even though it’s difficult—for the name of freedom and human rights and safety for all.
 
Peace, Shalom, Salaam –
Kate
 

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Bridges Between the Chasms

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I am standing on a hill in the Golan Heights near the border with Syria when the bombing begins. The United Nations Center sits directly below us, as shown, but it seems irrelevant at this moment. 
 
Can you see the plumes of smoke in the bottom photo? According to our guide, it is likely shelling between the Syrian Army and Al Qaeda. It's about 10 miles away but it seems so close right now--as close as the pounding in my now frightened heart. 
 
Surely the conflicts here are entrenched and complex; but it is land that lies at the center of them all. Land--the resting place of our ancestors and the place of our dreams ...  
 
We are told that the trajectory of our lives is "from dust to dust." The primary question we must all wrestle with as humans is: what shall we do with the time in-between?  Shall we let racism, greed and religious difference divide us and keep us in war’s tight grasp? Or shall we find bridges between the chasms between us and learn to share the land (equal rights included)?  

 -- Rev. Lore, writing from the Golan Heights region at the border of Syria 

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Giving Birth to Love in a Broken World

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Those of you who know me well, know that I am a sensitive, emotional person who often weeps over the state of the world--most especially the human propensity for cruelty. Yet here I am in Palestine on this human rights tour, witnessing horrific suffering and injustice. 
 
If you are wondering how I am managing to function amidst it all, it is because my spirit is being fed by my faith. I am walking the REAL Stations of the Cross. I am visiting the sites where Mary received the Annunciation and where Jesus was born. I am swimming in the Sea of Galilee! For someone who has based her life on the teachings of Jesus, I cannot tell you how meaningful this has been for me. I am reminded that Mary, too, weeps. I remember that hate never has the last say. 
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And I let compassion fill my heart as I commit myself--again and again--to doing all in my power to give birth to Love in this broken world and to never, ever, EVER give up! 
 
-- Rev. Lore, writing from the City Of Nazareth.
 

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