In the news

“…what such people miscall their religion, is a vent for their bad humours and arrogance.” David Copperfield

The big news around town lately is the discussion over the continuation (or lack therefore) of the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. After Netanyahu denied extending the settlement freeze at the end of September, and Abbas met with the Arab League this past week, Israel has now come out with a request for Palestinians to acknowledge Israel as the Jewish state (Israel’s cabinet has just approved a controversial bill requiring non-Jewish citizens to swear a loyalty oath to the country as a Jewish state). This might seem like a reasonable request… except for the fact that a Palestinian leader recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is tantamount to an upfront concession on the issue of the right to return, a de facto acknowledgment that Palestinians have no right to be there. This is far too much to ask for in exchange for a possible one- or two-month settlement construction freeze (what Netanyahu has offered). The Palestinian Authority has flatly rejected this most recent offer of Netanyahu’s, continuing to demand a full settlement construction freeze. This is a big deal, because Palestinians who lost their homes and land in 1948 and 1967, land that is now considered part of Israel, are still asking for the “right to return” (a catchphrase here) or compensation for land- and life-lost. This is an issue that has to be a part of final negotiations, and something that Abbas cannot give into as a concession to begin negotiations again.

Here’s a link to a youtube video (courtesy of my other Boren fellow here!), where random people on the streets of Jerusalem (mostly foreigners) are asked about the loyalty oath. It’s interesting. I love the girl who wouldn’t swear a loyalty oath to the Christian state of America, because “there’s freedom of religion there.” Hmm.

Anyway, it’s something to keep an eye out for, and also to try to understand why President Abbas and the PA leadership could never agree to a concession that, from the outside, might seem reasonable.

In other news, I saw a film last night at the film festival that completely made up for the nonsense of the first film I saw – this one was called “Twelve Angry Lebanese” and is a documentary of the Roumieh prison in Lebanon. This outside organization chooses 45 inmates to work for a little over a year to put on a production of the play “Twelve Angry Men,” and how the inmates feel and change and for the first time, for many if not all, feel success and pride for the first time in their lives. It’s a really well-done film, and it makes you think – everyone should have a second chance in life, no?

It makes you think of rehabilitation programs in prisons and instead of hardening the criminals, giving them skills and abilities and pride in themselves so that when they are released, they are humans and not the same person they were when they entered. But, my friend and I were discussing the film after, and it also makes you think – if you were the victim or a relative of the victim of some of these inmates, would you want your (government) money spent on bettering the life of someone who had ruined your life? I would like to think that I would be above all of that reproach, but it’s definitely something to think about, and it’s hard to say what you would feel!

This “Twelve Angry Lebanese” film reminded me of a film we saw in DC, “The Choir,” a documentary about South African prison choirs, another wonderfully-made film about life inside South African prisons and how giving these inmates the chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves, to learn about working hard and being a part of a team, really changes people. The best part about “The Choir” is it follows a few characters really closely, even following them after they’ve been released from prison, and how even though they might have changed personally, they return to the same surroundings – with a lot of structural violence that restricts them from really changing their behavior. They’re still poor, with few opportunities for education or betterment, with the same friends and family around, with the same problems they had before they entered prison… So what kind of a second chance are they really getting?

I’m also finally charging up my camera battery so I will hopefully be able to post some soon!



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