Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Thursday, August 22, 2013
I grew up in a fairly traditional Jewish home, where I often equated Judaism with Israel. Much later on as I began to explore issues concerning the Middle East, I realized that I had only been presented with one side of the story. I began to question why, if Israel is only defending itself from supposed enemy attacks, why the victims of Israeli aggression seemed to disproportionately be women and children. I began to question why I, as a Jewish woman, could get automatic citizenship to a country where I had never set foot, when people who have been living there for generations don't even have basic human rights. And, I began to question why questioning these sorts of things seemed to be such a touchy issues in the organized Jewish community. A little while after this, in an effort to reach out to like-minded people, I joined Independent Jewish Voices. Independent Jewish Voices is a grassroots organization of concerned Canadian Jewish citizens who are against the unjust, illegal, and immoral occupation of the Palestinian territories. We come from diverse backgrounds, occupations, and affiliations but have in common a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion amongst the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole. We further believe that individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty. Independent Jewish Voices is also the first national Jewish organization in the world which formally adopted BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) in 2009. My practise of Judaism includes values such as compassion, social justice, and Tikkun Olam, which is the Jewish concept of healing or repairing the world. The occupation of the Palestinian people violates these principles. Ironically, like many other Jewish people who are also against the occupation, I have been called self-hating and anti-Semitic. I have learned that, besides being absurd (someone who self-identifies as being Jewish is hardly “self-hating”), these are tactics to try to discredit dissenting viewpoints and to try to shut the conversation down. In the Jewish community, there is a lot of misinformation about the connection between Judaism and Zionism. The bottom line is that the spiritual and cultural practise of Judaism and the political philosophy of Zionism are not intrinsically connected. Historically, Zionism was opposed by almost all organized branches of Judaism. Today, there are some very strong Jewish voices from within Israel who have remained fierce critics of Israeli colonial settlement policy in the Occupied Territories for many years. I try to communicate to other Jewish people that they should examine the situation in the Middle East from an objective point of view. They should be concerned that human rights violations and murder are being committed in our name. They should be concerned that, despite our culture of intellectualism and open debate, that when it comes to this issue, dissent is discouraged. It is my sincere hope that a new generation of Jewish people is coming of age that is more open to questioning these important issues and not blindly following the Jewish establishment.
Monday, July 01, 2013
The sacred surrounds us. It is just a matter of us realizing it and then calling upon it. And when we realize that much of who we are what what surrounds us is sacred, the importance of social justice, reconciliation between cultures, and other issues can be more effectively dealt with.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Probably getting the word out there about events and especially getting the media involved. From a personal perspective, I think that my politics often overshadow my persona, in that people who have never met me in real life and only know me from the photos and videos I post, from promoting events, or from standpoints I have taken, expect me to be some kind of crazy, left-wing, granola crunching, tree hugging, hippy. Which is why being invited to an event like Citizen Edmonton was so important to me - because I got a chance to reach out to a different crowd and perhaps dispel some myths about activists. Here are some questions that really stood out for me. What are some of the issues that tend to attract protests and protesters?
It really depends what current events are hot topics. We've seen recently lots of protests concerning education, cuts to programs for PDD, and the huge March Against Monsanto. People are more likely to attend a protest if they feel a personal connection to the issue, which is why we often see larger attendance at rallies that deal with civic or provincial issues. So, a way to attract people to events is to try to highlight that connection; how an issue affects all of us, even if it is something having to do with Canada's foreign policy or something else seemingly more detached from our daily lives. How can people protect themselves legally at protests?
Carry a phone that can record photos and video, and be prepared to use it if you see something going on that does not seem right. Be aware of your surroundings, and if someone else appears to be acting strangely or being an instigator, disassociate from them immediately. How can you tell if you are being effective through your efforts?
This can be measured in different ways. Attendance is one. Getting the message out there is another. Protests seek to attract attention about a topic, so whatever way you can get the message out increases that efficacy. And this is a large reason why I started Radical Citizen Media: to make sure that when protests happen, that they are documented properly so that people can see for themselves what was said, how many people were there, and what the issue is really about - all things that the mainstream media often do not cover in depth. What role does the media play? How do you connect with the media?
Press releases are often sent out to media outlets prior to a protest, at least in my experience. What happens next is often out of our hands. Mainstream media is often run by advertising, so hands are tied when a protest involves a sponsor or advertiser. Independent media, like Radical Citizen Media, does not have those constraints, but we also don't have the resources, so it can be a Catch-22. However, we do have an effect on the media, because in situations where, for example, attendance is under-reported, we use our photos and videos to show what actually happened, and this has resulted in retractions. What are the three biggest obstacles in the activist community?
Communication, or the lack thereof - misunderstandings and other inter-personal situations often result in certain groups of people or organizations not speaking to each other or preventing them from working together effectively.
Organizers being disorganized - making sure people know what they are responsible for doing and seeing that it gets done.
Becoming activist elitists - only hanging out with other activist, only going to activist events, cutting ourselves off from the rest of society where we seek to effect change: this is very counter-productive. I am going to whip out my chequebook and write three cheques. Where are the biggest needs?
I could not answer that effectively without knowing the financial situation of ever non-profit in Edmonton, but I would encourage someone to contribute to whatever organizations they are passionate about rather than just seeking out non-profits based on financial need. That being said, there are also many organizations that have needs beyond money - inner city organizations like Bissell Centre or The Mustard Seed often need practical items. I was far too busy to take photos or video at Citizen Edmonton, but several professionals were there to take care of that. I'll post them when they become available. On a final note, interVivos made an announcement that it now has a forest in Manning, Alberta. The trees will be named for the people who speak at event, and the seven of us who were panelists last night are the first seven seedlings. I hope to get out there one day to visit my tree! Maybe I will even hug it.
Last week, I attended a rally at the Alberta Legislature concerning cuts to education, organized by high school students. Taking Back Our Education saw students abruptly leave classes at 11 a.m., board buses, and head to the Legislature.
Aided by several unions, #TBOE (as it was also called) was a huge success. Hundreds of students and those in solidarity filled the area around the fountain. It was a moment where I could really feel my age. It was also a moment that caused me to reflect upon how I have ended up in life where I am now.
Many people know who I am and what I do, but don't know much about my background. I graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.Ed in Secondary Education (English major and Music minor). I wanted to become a junior high Language Arts teacher. Although I was already into writing and photography, and had actually been doing those things professionally as early as high school and throughout university, I viewed teaching as stable and something I could fall back on if my writing career did not pan out.
Well, there is an old Yiddish saying along the lines of "People make plans and God laughs." And I am sure the Almighty viewed this one as a gooder. I graduated in the mid-90s, in the midst of the Klein government's ravages to education. I, like numerous of my classmates, never made it into a classroom. There were simply no jobs to be had. Those who were lucky enough to find a job often lost it if they did not yet have their permanent contract.
Fifteen or so years later, the Conservative government is still in power and are responsible for more education cuts which will result in the loss of teaching jobs. I can empathize with those young teachers and those who are just graduating with their B.Ed degrees about the uncertainty of their futures.
On the silver lining side of things, those of you who appreciate what I do should thank the Conservative government for the fact I am the activist I have become. If I had landed a teaching job, I probably would not have the time to go out and document protests against all the incredibly destructive things this government has done. And the sheer number of rallies I attend are testament to the fact that this government does a lot of really destructive things.
Wanting to become a teacher should not be a pipe dream. Cutting teaching positions equates to larger classroom sizes, lack of personal attention to students with special needs, and just a lower quality of education overall. We apparently have a government that does not realize that its greatest asset is not actually the environmentally destructive tar sands. It is our future generations. Attending #TBOE gives me hope that a generation of voters (most of the students were in grade 12, so were 18 or almost 18) is coming up who will really be able to effect some tangible changes in the near future.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Sunday, March 03, 2013
A major news story in Edmonton last week involved a young Aboriginal woman who called the police to report an assault. The EPS who arrived at the motel room decided to act upon an old warrant and arrest her. According to the youth court worker who visited her in custody, the signs of her assault were visible. As well, he attests that the violations for which she was being held should not have resulted in jail time (read his blog post on the matter here.)
It was this youth court worker who broke the story on Twitter. His series of tweets resulted in much discussion and outrage, and yet the mainstream media ignored it. APTN did, however, and the rest of the media followed suit shortly thereafter.
Regardless of how the actions of the EPS are explained or justified, what happened is a major public relations faux pas on a number of levels. First of all, the subject in question is a young Aboriginal woman. This incident furthers a public perception that there are two levels of justice: one for Aboriginals, and one for everyone else. One need to only recall the incidents concerning Randy Frying Pan and the "sweatbox" case.
Secondly, what happened last week is an example of how a victim tries to access services, only to be re-victimized by those who should be helping her. Having a criminal record or a warrant should not be a barrier to access. I shudder to think that there are potentially those who are afraid to get help because they might get in trouble.
Re-victimizing victims is nothing new. Think of the sexual assault survivor who no one believes. The bullied child who is told she is just being overly-sensitive. The abused spouse who finds no community or social support in leaving the situation.
Policing is a difficult job which often involves making decisions on one's feet. I have known situations where the police have been wonderful and truly helpful. However, in this case, their actions and the resulting ripple effect is damaging and dangerous.