The Women in Black gathered in Pioneer Square on Friday at Noon to speak out for justice and freedom for Palestine. This has been a weekly event for over a year. This local group is an expression of the international Women in Black movement that started in Israel in 1988, where women began protesting Israel's Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Women in Black is not an organization, but a tactic. The recent attacks by the Israeli Army on a crowded residential neighborhood in the Gaza Strip which killed 14 civilians brought extra urgency to the Women in Black's message.
The Women in Black always flyer people on the street. Here are some excerpts from this week's flyer: "The U.S. government gives aid and loans to Israel, whose GNP is higher than the combined GNP of its neighbors Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza. Israel's GNP is higher than oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has given Israel at least $91,500,000,000 since 1949. We have always given them their billions in a lump sum at the beginning of the year. Because Israel can't spend this much fast enough, they invest this money back into our government and earn millions more in interest from our government. One third of all foreign aid goes to Israel."
"There is never any debate in Congress linking the payment of these billions to Israel improving its policies. Human rights violations, noncompliance to U.N. resolutions, and international laws violated by Israel with the support of the United States have kept us from attending the last two international human rights conferences.
"Colleges and peace groups around the country are connecting these funds to financing the occupation instead of peace and justice for the Palestinians. They are circulating petitions and calling for disinvestments from businesses that have close ties to Israel."
The Women in Black are part of that movement that is seeking peace and their regular public presence is a testament to their dedication and the fortitude of their beliefs.
The vigil ended in a song. I hadn't stayed until the end before and I was invited into the circle to join them. A "real reporter" would have stepped back of course, but that's not what Indymedia is about. I'm on their side. They began singing and I sang along. I had never heard it before, but the words came easily. These things are only difficult if you think about them too much. I simply looked from face to face and soon I heard my voice joining theirs. I can't remember a word of it now, but the vibration still thrums in my sternum. The power of music is pretty remarkable. People on the street noticed and none of the eyes I saw looking our way were disdainful. A wonderful moment, that.
When we work together with other people taking a stand for an issue we believe in, or organize an action, or try to make a group project function, we are creating not only a specific message, event, or effort, but also community. We might not be able to overthrow -- peacefully or otherwise -- the system of oppression we are fighting. It will likely crumble under its own weight, bring environmental disaster against itself, or simply cycle into another sphere outside the United States. In any case, the community we are building now will become our means of survival, whether that's tomorrow or in a generation. The only alternative to a system of oppression is a community of love. More bravery might be required for such an endeavor than is needed to rise up in open dissent. The latter is based on opposition, the former on embrace. Which is more difficult? To shut out and reject or to open and accept? I am not so cynical as to think that human nature tends towards the negative, but that true seed of self that is aflame in love is buried very deeply in most of us. The key is to peel away the layers and find that heart inside.
I glimpse this preternatural reality sometimes, and on Friday I felt it with the Women in Black.
Anyone is welcome to join the Women in Black weekly vigils, every Friday from Noon to 1:00, on the NW corner of the Pioneer Courthouse block, across the street from the Square.