Posted by: Harold Knight | 06/07/2020


Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo.  “The Structure of Racism in Color-Blind, ‘Post-Racial’ America.”  American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 59, no. 11, Oct. 2015, pp. 1358–1376.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is a Puerto Rican political sociologist and professor of sociology at Duke University. Since August 2017, he has been the president of the American Sociological Association.

Foster, Douglas A.  “Reclaiming Reconciliation: The Corruption of ‘Racial Reconciliation’ and How It Might Be Reclaimed for Racial Justice and Unity.”  Journal of Ecumenical Studies, vol. 55, no. 1, Winter 2020, pp. 63–81.
Douglas A. Foster has Professor of Religian at Abilene (TX) Christian University since 1991.

Gardner, Trevor George.  “Police Violence and the African American Procedural Habitus.”  Boston University Law Review, vol. 100, no. 3, May 2020, pp. 849–893.
Trevor George Gardner is Associate Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis.

Harriot, Michael.  “Why We Never Talk About Black-on-Black Crime: An Answer to White America’s Most Pressing Question.”    The Root. October 3, 2017.
Michael Harriot is an author, podcast host, and columnist based out of Birmingham, Alabama. Michael has wrote The Situation in South Carolina. He is a content contributor to popular publications like Ebony and The Root.

Lovell, George I.  “Reflections on a Funhouse Mirror-Racist Violence, the Protection of Privilege, and the Limits of Tolerance.”  Law & Social Inquiry, vol. 42, no. 2, Spring 2017, pp. 571–576.
George I. Lovell is Divisional Dean of Social Sciences, Professor of Political Science, and Adjunct Professor of Law, Societies, and Justice at the University of Washington.

Lundberg, Matthew D.  “Deception, Blinders, and the Truth: On Recognizing and Acknowledging Racism and Its Violence.”  Journal of Ecumenical Studies, vol. 55, no. 1, Winter 2020, pp. 20–32.
Matthew D. Lundberg is Professor of Religion at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, MI, where he has taught since 2004.

Lundberg, Matthew D.  “Race and the Orders of Violence: Applying the Just War Tradition to Racialized Violence.”  Journal of Ecumenical Studies, vol. 54, no. 3, Summer 2019, pp. 381–399.

Nance, Jason P.  “Implicit Racial Bias and Students’ Fourth Amendment Rights.”  Indiana Law Journal, vol. 94, no. 1, Winter 2019, pp. 47–102.
Jason P. Nance is Professor of Law and University Term Professor, University of Florida Levin College of Law and Professor of Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Siegel, Michael.  “Racial Disparities in Fatal Police Shootings: An Empirical Analysis Informed by Critical Race Theory.”  Boston University Law Review, vol. 100, no. 3, May 28, 2020, pp. 1069–1092.
Michael Siegel is Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health.

Trivedi, Somil and Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve.  “To Serve and Protect Each Other: How Police-Prosecutor Codependence Enables Police Misconduct.”  Boston University Law Review, vol. 100, no. 3, May 28, 2020, pp. 895-934.
Somil Trivedi is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Criminal Law Reform Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brown University and an affiliated scholar with the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of two books.

Tyner, James A.  “Hate-Crimes as Racial Violence: A Critique of the Exceptional.”  Social & Cultural Geography, vol. 17, no. 8, Dec. 2016, pp. 1060–1078.
James A. Tyner is Professor of Geography at Kent State University and fellow of the American Association of Geographers.

Webb, Clive.  “The Hitlers in Our Own Country.”  History Today, vol. 69, no. 7, July 2019, pp. 18–20.
Clive Webb is Professor of Modern American History at the University of Sussex.

(Selections above the line are from “popular” sources; below the line are academic articles with abstracts from the authors.)

Fernandez, Paige.  “Police Unions Should Never Undermine Constitutional Policing.”  American Civil Liberties Union.  May 15, 2019.
“What police unions may not be able to achieve in the public sphere, they can accomplish through employment contract provisions that shield police officers from accountability and ensure disciplinary processes favor officers over community members.”

——— “MN councilman explains how police unions block real police reform.”   All In. MSNBC. June 3, 2020.

Morillo, Javier.  Seven reforms needed now to loosen the grip of the Minneapolis Police Federation on the city it is holding hostage. Or, how to quash a rebellion (no, not that one.)”  Minnesota Reformer. June 3, 2020.

Scheiber, Noam, Farah Stockman and J. David Goodman.  “How Police Unions Became Such Powerful Opponents to Reform Efforts.”  New York Times, June 6, 2020.
Half a decade after a spate of officer-involved deaths inspired widespread protest, many police unions are digging in to defend members.

Surowiecki, James.  “The Thick Blue Line.”   New Yorker, vol. 92, no. 29, Sept. 2016, p. 36.
The article discusses the refusal of police unions to heed the calls for reform. Topics discussed include the controversy over San Francisco 49ers football quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem on August 26, 2016 as a protest against police brutality and efforts of police unions to block policing reforms.
Benns, Whitney.  “Unholy Union: St. Louis Prosecutors and Police Unionize to Maintain Racist State Power.”  Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal, vol. 35, Apr. 2019, pp. 39–63.
In late December 2018, St. Louis County prosecutors voted to unionize and join the St. Louis Police Officer Association (“SLPOA”), the infamous St. Louis City police union that represents many of the city’s white police officers. This vote came on the heels of former St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch — whose almost three-decade tenure in the position is most defined by his failure to win an indictment of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown — losing re-election and being replaced by Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell after a robust and highly successful grassroots campaign aimed at McCulloch’s defeat. Bell ran on a platform of police accountability and bail reform.
Before he had even been sworn into office, St. Louis County assistant prosecutors voted in a secret ballot to join the ranks of the SLPOA. This article seeks to share some of the local and historical context that helps us understand the political and racial underpinnings of this move. . .

Bies, Katherine J.  “Let the Sunshine In: Illuminating the Powerful Role Police Unions Play in Shielding Officer Misconduct.”  Stanford Law & Policy Review, vol. 28, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 109–149.
The article offers information on the role of police unions in shielding officer misconduct. Topics discussed include confidentiality laws behind arguments for and against police officer misconduct; development of civil union to encourage greater accountability and transparency in police department; and police unions and the development of police officer privacy rights.

BOWERS, JOSH.  “Annoy No Cop.”   University of Pennsylvania Law Review, vol. 166, no. 1, Nov. 2017, pp. 129–212.
As a matter of practice, these prevailing rules may prove too rigid–benefiting the state only. This Article uses Fourth Amendment doctrine to examine that asymmetry. I coin the term “meaningful understanding” to describe the functional Fourth Amendment methodology by which courts sometimes accommodate law-enforcement needs, fears, and even mistakes. The enterprise is admirable, but there is a dark side: a judge cannot understand meaningfully a reasonable officer in his particular situation without concurrently tolerating an otherwise impermissible intrusion upon autonomy. The officer enjoys a piecemeal exception that the individual experiences as a piecemeal (and often unanticipated) burden. In this way, meaningful understanding works to excuse unexpected coercion. The individual is left unfairly surprised–unable to plan a law-abiding life consistent with the promise of the legality principle.

CHAMBERS, K.  Citizen-Directed Police Reform: How Independent Investigations and Compelled Officer Testimony Can Increase Accountability.”   Lewis & Clark Law Review, [s. l.], v. 16, n. 2, p. 783–825, 2012.
The article discusses the efforts involved for police reforms directed by the citizen of the U.S. It provides information regarding the independent investigations of police misconduct by the citizen oversight agencies for the reformation of the police. It analyzes municipal opinion to collective bargaining agreements in context of police oversight and the methods stated by citizen oversight agencies to gain more power and independence. It presents that the police needs to be held accountable.

Gardner, Trevor George.  “Police Violence and the African American Procedural Habitus.”  Boston University Law Review, vol. 100, no. 3, May 2020, pp. 849–893.
How should an African American respond to a race-based police stop? What approach, disposition, or tactic will minimize his risk within the context of the police stop of being subject to police violence? This Essay advances a conversation among criminal procedural theorists about citizen agency within the field of police-administered criminal procedure, highlighting “The Talk” that parents have with their African American children regarding how to respond to police seizure. It argues that the most prominent version of The Talk–the one in which parents call for absolute deference to police authority in the event of a police stop–may be as reasonable as it is ineffective. If African Americans, as a matter of course, respond to the race-based stop with unqualified submission to police authority, the race-based stop becomes a tidy and efficient exercise.

Manes, Jonathan.  “Secrecy & Evasion in Police Surveillance Technology.”  Berkeley Technology Law Journal, vol. 34, no. 2, Apr. 2019, pp. 503–566.
New technologies are transforming the capabilities of law enforcement. Police agencies now have devices to track our cellphones and software to hack our networks. They have tools to sift the vast quantities of digital silt we leave behind on the Internet. They can deploy “big data” algorithms meant to predict where crimes will occur and who will commit them. They have even transformed the humble closed-circuit video camera–and its more recent companion, the body camera–into biometric tracking devices equipped with artificial intelligence meant to pick faces out of a crowd and, eventually, to mine gigabytes of stored footage to automatically reconstruct the movements of their targets. These kinds of novel police technologies test the constitutional limits on surveillance and raise profound questions about privacy, personal freedom, and potential abuse. Yet the government shrouds them in secrecy. Even as new surveillance tools transform the relationship between people and the police, the public is often left in the dark about how police use these tools and the rules, if any, that govern them. What justifies this secrecy?

Rolnick, Addie C.  “Defending White Space.”  Cardozo Law Review, vol. 40, no. 4, Apr. 2019, pp. 1639–1721.
Police violence against minorities has generated a great deal of scholarly and public attention. Proposed solutions–ranging from body cameras to greater federal oversight to anti-bias training for police–likewise focus on violence as a problem of policing. Amid this national conversation, however, insufficient attention has been paid to private violence. This Article examines the relationship between race, selfdefense laws, and modern residential segregation. The goal is to sketch the contours of an important but undertheorized relationship between residential segregation, private violence, and state criminal law. By describing the interplay between residential segregation and modern self-defense law, this Article reveals how criminal law reinforces racial subordination in areas where it is nominally prohibited by law.

RUSHIN, STEPHEN.  “Police Union Contracts.”  Duke Law Journal, vol. 66, no. 6, Mar. 2017, pp. 1191–1266.
This Article empirically demonstrates that police departments’ internal disciplinary procedures, often established through the collective bargaining process, can serve as barriers to officer accountability. Policymakers have long relied on a handful of external legal mechanisms like the exclusionary rule, civil litigation, and criminal prosecution to incentivize reform in American police departments. In theory, these external legal mechanisms should increase the costs borne by police departments in cases of officer misconduct, forcing rational police supervisors to enact rigorous disciplinary procedures. But these external mechanisms have failed to bring about organizational change in local police departments. This Article argues that state labor law may partially explain this failure.

Posted by: Harold Knight | 08/18/2017

Palestine InSight

Please check my blog
Palestine InSight
News from Palestine and relating to Palestine.

The blog is a daily compilation of news items from Palestine. I also include short quotations from and links to scholarly articles as background for the day’s news and a poem by a Palestinian poet with a link to its source.
Thank you, Sumnonrabidus (Harold Knight)


Lovely home in the Israeli Settlement Pisgat Zeev. Photo Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

Lovely home in the Israeli Settlement Pisgat Zeev. Photo Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

Susanne Langer theorizes that

. . . in this physical, space-time world of our experience there are things which do not fit the grammatical scheme of expression. But they are not necessarily blind, inconceivable, mystical affairs; they are simply matters which require to be conceived through some symbolic schema other than discursive language (Langer, Susanne. Philosophy in a New Key. Third ed. Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press, 1970. 88).

If I were a poet or a painter or a sculptor or a novelist or a writer, I would be able to express some infinitesimal part of what I have experienced in the last eleven days in Palestine in a way that would communicate better than I can through the “grammatical scheme of expression” which for me is so limited.

The situation, in general, as I see it (as I with no expertise or real knowledge of history see it – in fact, I may find that this is so polemical that I have to delete it; however, it is my immediate reaction having left Israel less than 48 hours ago):

Certain Jewish persons living in diaspora managed through manipulation of two or three Western governments in the first half of the 20th century to confiscate the land of an entire people, and brought about a two-tiered untenable situation for that people: diaspora or living in absolute subjugation in their homeland.

This project began half a century before the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust at the hands of the German Nazis, but the Holocaust was used to convince the guilt-ridden Western governments to bring the project about to help assuage their guilt for ignoring the Holocaust.

A street without municipal services in Jerusalem - the Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beit Hanina. Photo by Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

A street without municipal services in Jerusalem – the Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beit Hanina. Photo by Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

What those Jewish persons managed to create is a society (it is hardly a nation in the sense that a nation has a stable constitutional structure and a legal system that is adhered to in daily life) that can never be safe, secure, or “happy, joyous, and free.” Just as it is impossible for the playground bully in an elementary school to relax and live peaceably with the other children, the State of Israel must forever be on guard, must forever make itself more and more ridiculously belligerent, must spend more and more of its resources (and that of other countries, particularly the United States) to be ready to pounce in preemptive attacks to prevent any other playground child (nation) from threatening its position as the master bully.

It is, in my humble opinion and through my un-authoritative observation, impossible for any citizen of Israel to be happy.

The certain Jewish persons (Zionists) who were successful in taking over a land belonging to another people have, in effect, created for themselves a state in which they are barely more secure than so many of their brothers and sisters were in Warsaw before 1940. It may appear that they are making the desert bloom, but the bloom has a rot in its roots that will never allow it to be healthy.

On November 11 (the day Americans and Canadians celebrate the victory of “freedom” over “oppression” in 1918 and honor veterans of their wars) I posted the following mournful statement on Facebook:

Israel can be described in one sentence: it is a lawless society. It has no constitution. The “settlements” (background) where one-fourth of the population live are illegal under international law, the depopulation of 400 Palestinian villages (foreground) is illegal under international law. Laws are made piecemeal based on medieval ideas (the Talmud) forced on the Knesset by religious fanatics who pay no taxes simply because they are fanatics and their support was necessary for the creation of Israel. One such law is that a religious fanatic who murders a non-Jew must not be prosecuted. If this is democracy, I will choose to live under tyranny.

I have begun scholarly research about this. I do not know for sure if the Talmud actually says that Jews should kill non-Jews (and if it does, do scholars and religious leaders actually say to follow it – I would appreciate any reader’s help in discovering the truth). However, something has prevented the Israeli government from prosecuting those they know are responsible for firebombing the Dawabsha family home in Duma village, killing the parents and their infant son. This is far from the only such failure of the law.

There are too many examples of the lawless oppression by Israel of the Palestinian people, both Muslim and Christian, to begin to write about them here. I will offer one experience of last week. Our group drove by bus through the Israeli settlement (on confiscated Palestinian land, in contravention of international law) of Pisgat Zeev to arrive at the only Palestinian Refugee Camp inside Jerusalem, Beit Hanina. The drive through the two neighborhoods – separated only by the Apartheid Wall – was startling enough, but when we arrived at our destination, one of the hundreds of Palestinian homes demolished by the Israeli government in Jerusalem, we came face to face with the physical reality of the lawless state.

A demolished home in the Beit Hanina Refugee Camp. Photo, Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

A demolished home in the Beit Hanina Refugee Camp. Photo, Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

As we walked around in – what? horror, grief, anger? – two Muslim women who had been neighbors of the family whose home was destroyed approached us. Our Palestinian leader translated as they spoke of the fear and depression of living in a neighborhood where their homes could easily be the next to be destroyed. This is not an irrational fear.

One of our group asked them what makes them happy. “Nothing.” They live only in fear and hope.

That is all. Fear and hope.

In the “physical, space-time world of our experience there are things which do not fit the grammatical scheme of expression. But they are not necessarily blind, inconceivable, mystical affairs. . .” They are lived realities for several millions of persons, Palestinians, Arabs, Christians, Muslims.

You do not need to trust my completely biased and incomplete thoughts on these matters. If you want to begin to understand, there are writings by scholars and historians. Three of the most accessible:
Khaidi, Rashid.
The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.
Pappe, Ilan. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2006.
Shalim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.
(All are available at any online bookseller. All are available as NOOK books.)

On my way to them, I pass Him by,
(as, on his way, God passes me by)
for as we go our separate ways
we see no one but those on high.
The beds are allotted before the violet dawn.
The back and endless night is spent alone
and then the cataclysm comes
that will seed them from the borders of Palestine
the Great Thorn.
They are the only roses that grow.
From where they stalk the edge of paradise
the first paradise.
From where the children use thorns
to draw maps of this paradise.
From this spot.
We raise in the sky a glorying arc
the first milestone to Mecca
and we leave a kiss for those who left
with neither luggage nor papers for their passage.
This is the way the journey will always be.
They leave their bags for the postman to deliver
He takes them from the hands
of those who follow
And those who follow leave their packages
as the first ones do.
It’s hard for the post to make it to paradise.
There is no address
neither here nor there.
—translated by Rachel McCrum

Abdel Rahim al-Sheikh is from Jerusalem. He teaches philosophy, history, and creative writing at Bir Zeit University and the Qattan Center in Ramallah, and is the author of many literary and academic books.
From A BIRD IS NOT A STONE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY PALESTINIAN POETRY (Glasgow: Freight Books, 2014) –available from Amazon.

Neighbors who live in fear and hope. Photo, Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

Neighbors who live in fear and hope. Photo, Harold Knight, Nov. 5, 2015.

Please visit

Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/07/2015

They are made of stronger stuff than I (or probably you)

My friends continue to tell me through email and Facebook posts they hope I am having a good time in Palestine 

A street in Shufat Refugee Camp, Established 1948, Jerusalem
I am grateful for those good wishes.And I am having a good time.

Getting to know 27 interesting and like-minded (at least on one subject) new friends. Seeing sights that are fascinating, some of them beautiful. Spending time in this place that I love (no, that is not the drama queen speaking).

However, the purpose of my visit is not to have a good time.

Anyone who knows me knows that.

The purpose is to see once again so I can talk and write about with some tiny bit of insight the horrors of the situation “on the ground” here. The situation for the Palestinian people has deteriorated almost beyond belief since I was here in 2008.

I do not know how the Palestinians do anything other than simply to give up hope. To a person, woman, man, and child, they are made of stronger stuff than I or, I fear, most of my friends. 

Two days ago we passed through an illegal Jewish settlement on the way to the Shufat refugee camp. The settlement is a lovely, clean, well-kept, green-lawned upper-middle-class neighborhood. The kind of place anyone reading this would like to live.

Shufat is a neighborhood where the city (Jerusalem) does not pick up garbage, does not repair streets, does not repair traffic signals (none in the entire Camp works), does not provide basic services such as delivery of water and electricity, does not police (to use the word incorrectly, “literally”).

   A Palestinian home demolished by the Israelis

Many of the residents of the illegal settlement pay no taxes because, in order to get their support back in 1948, the Zionists guaranteed that Orthodox Religious Jews would never have to pay taxes. Residents of the refugee camp (separated from the illegal settlement only by a wall) pay the highest taxes in the nation. For what — ? (To provide the Israeli government with the second third of its operating expenses — after the US provides the first third.)

The city does not even pay to educate their children, but leaves that expense to the United Nations.

The one stop we made in Shufat was to look at the ruins of a home demolished by the Israeli government, demolished it because it was built without a permit (50 years ago). We took pictures and, as good empathizers would, wrung our hands in dismay.

And then two women walked up the street to see what we were doing. Two neighbors. Our leader Omar talked with them and translated for us. They live in fear that they may be the next to receive demolition orders for their homes. They try to impress on their children that they must never do anything provocative ( or even go near) an Israeli soldier for fear of being shot dead for no reason.

One of our group asked Omar to ask them what brings them happiness.

Nothing. They are not happy.

  New friends. Mother of Isaac and Mother of Umar,

They simply live in hope and trust Allah to save them. A chance encounter, and we know more clearly than we wish we did how the Apartheid regime of the last 48 years has all but destroyed the lives of the Palestinians.

I am not yet able emotionally to write about seeing Ofer Prison (for political detainees), about which I read so much in the daily news from Palestine for my blog Palestine InSight.

Yesterday we visited the Apartheid Wall in Bethlehem. No comment is necessary except to say that the Israelis continue extending the wall. Soon Bethlehem will be completely surrounded — and, like all other cities in Palestine, an open air prison for 100,000 people.

The only difference between the lives of the Palestinians and the lives of the black Africans in Apartheid South Africa will be that here there are actual physical walls around the Bantustans.

  An illegal Israeli “settler” home on stolen property, paid for by taxes on Palestinian homes. Pisgat Zeev “settlement,” Jerusalem. 

(This post is two days old. I only now had time to finish it. I hope I will have another today.) 


 Photo: Jerusalem, November 4, 2015. Harold Knight.

On Wednesday, November 4, 2015, members of the Sabeel Fall Witness Visit approached the Lion’s Gate on the east side of the Old City of Jerusalem. As we waited for the stragglers to  catch up (the climb up from the Kidron Valley between the Mount of Olives–where we were coming from–and the city wall is moderately steep) we were chatting about what we had just seen when we noticed a young Palestinian man coming down the steps on the other side of the street. Two Israeli soldiers (about the same age as the young man) stopped him at the bottom of the stairs.

Immediately seemingly out of nowhere, three more young soldiers appeared. The five of them surrounded him and obviously ordered him to empty his pockets, take off his jacket, and stand spread-eagle leaning against the wall. They frisked him, and then kept him in that position apparently questioning him.

One of the members of our group walked across the street with his camera. One of the soldiers told him to stop taking pictures and rejoin us on the other side of the street. We were taking pictures as we watched the little scene.

After a few minutes the soldiers backed away from the young man and sent him on his way through the gate and into the Old City.

Later that day I posted a couple of my pictures of the soldiers and the young man on Facebook.

One of my friends commented on my posting that he couldn’t understand how one could tell (“one” being us and/or the soldiers) that the young man was Palestinian.

Americans can have no concept of the constant harrassment of the Palestinians by the Israeli military. There was no doubt that the young man was Palestinian – for several reasons. No Israeli youth would be walking in that area by himself. It is, after all, the Arab Quarter of the city. An Israeli would have no reason to be there. If an Israeli youth did happen by, the soldiers would have known instantly by his speaking Hebrew that he most likely was not Palestinian.

But the overriding reason the soldiers knew he was Palestinian was their purpose in being there: to keep the Palestinians on constant alert and to remind them 24/7 that they live in occupied territory, that they have no freedom except what the Israelis will grant them at any given moment, and that they are always under surveillance.

All of that is incomprehensible to Americans who have not seen it. Americans, for the most part, do not understand the possibility that the military might be deployed to keep civilians in line. Most Americans (I know I should not make generalizations, but this one is too obvious to need to take care) believe that this 20-something lone Palestian man somehow posed a threat to five soldiers in full battle dress and carrying M-16 rifles.
No one needed to ask the young man if he was Palestinian. The liberal “live-and-let-live” attitude of Americans makes us immune to the realities of life in much (most?) of the world. We can’t understand that Latin American kids would want to walk from Guatemala to Nuevo Laredo and hope to enter the US. We can’t understand why 2,000,000 people would leave homes in Syria and neighboring countries and risk their lives to cross the Aegean Sea in rubber dingys.

And we can’t believe that the State of Israel is not under seige by teen-age boys throwing rocks and needs to protect itself with full battle regalia, automatic weapons, and the full force of modern weapons of mass destruction.

Simply that Americans cannot understand does not make these things untrue.

Our egalitarian beliefs, our being taught in Sunday School and elsewhere that we should not judge a person by appearances, our mouthing the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and our conviction that the good guys are always right–without trying to discern who the good guys really are–none of these things change the reality of life for huge segments of the people of the world.

To ask the question, “How does one know he is a Palestinian,” is not only naive, it is symptomatic of a lack of empathy for the struggle for safety and human dignity that is the daily lot of billions of people.

I was born without a passport

I grew up

and saw my country

become prisons

without a passport
So I raised a country

a sun

and wheat

in every house

I tended to the trees therein

I learned how to write poetry

to make the people of my village happy

without a passport
I learned that he whose land is stolen

does not like the rain

If he were ever to return to it, he will

without a passport
But I am tired of minds

that have become hotels

for wishes that never give birth

except with a passport
Without a passport

I came to you

and revolted against you

so slaughter me

perhaps I will then feel that I am dying

without a passport

* Translated by Sinan Antoon. From Rashid Hussein, Al-A`mal al-Shi`riyya (al-Taybe: Markaz Ihya’ al-Turath al-`Arabi, 1990)

East Jerusalem.

The Ritz Hotel.

Almost anywhere.

I have written before about my being advised in about 1988 that I needed to go to Jerusalem. This by a Jewish Jungian psychiatrist who thought that my natural bent (my neurological disorder) toward the mystical would respond to the history, both political and religious, here as it would to no other place on earth. The archetypical wonder of the place would certainly reach the depths of my spirit (or the misfiring cranial synapses) profoundly.

He was right, of course. The first time I came here in 2003 I was changed forever. But I’m not sure it had anything to do with religion or spirituality or any of that. I was changed by my introduction to realities of human life and social organization that I had only the vaguest notion of before. We privileged first-world (American) citizens are so accustomed to living at some level of unreality that we don’t notice when the real impinges upon us. We drift along in our materialistic cocoons and seldom notice that human life is a history of struggle and hardship.

On the flight from Dallas to Tel Aviv I was immediately reminded that even people who look and act very much like everyone I know have a different view of the world than we have. Don’t ask me for particular details. I will try to spell them out in the next ten days — if that seems important. The Orthodox Jewish men standing in the aisle at the front of the cabin saying their morning prayers (I presume that was what they were doing, and I wanted very much to talk with them about the meaning of the scarves and belts and other paraphernalia they used, but was unable to get within speaking distance from them) would not — I’d guess — have done that on plane headed, say, from Dallas to London.

Already the differences were striking before it was announced that the Israeli government requires that as soon as a plane enteres Israeli airspace — for security reasons — all passengers must be buckeld into their seats. To prevent a highjacking? and incident? When was the last time that happened? I didn’t see any rock-throwing Palestinian teenagers on board, but I didn’t see everyone. What do I know? Or has the Israeli government convinced its citizenry (and consequently all Americans) that they are under constant threat so they will follow whatvever “security” orders are given? I don’t know.

I will try to discern such things in the next ten days — in case My discernment in two trips here before was faulty. In the meantime, I will have a nice lunch today with my friend Samia (and try to figure out why this blog won’t let me upload pictures when my other blog will).

Yesterday was the annual “Legacy of Literacy” breakfast benefitting the Aberg Center for Literacy in Dallas, TX.

I am humbled and proud (is that possible?) to be teaching a GED preparation class at the Aberg Center as a volunteer. Marcus Borg, in his book The Heart of Christianity, writes about what he calls “thin places”. These he describes as “anywhere our hearts are opened.” When I volunteered, I had no idea I would discover a “thin place.”

My purpose was to “do good,” not to have my heart opened.

I heard of the Aberg Center a couple of years ago when a friend invited me to attend a “show” starring Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett of NPR’s “A Way With Words,” one of my favorite programs on any kind of media. It was a benefit for the Aberg Center, and I ― knowing that I was about to retire ― put it in mind as a place to stay busy and perhaps do some good.

Yesterday’s breakfast was poignant for me because a young woman who had been in my class spoke as the newest Aberg Center high school graduate. She’s on to college in the spring semester ― a Hispanic woman, mother of three, who dropped out of high school when she was 15 to have her first child as she told the breakfast crowd. Mileyvi Medrano de Herrera and her husband are now, ten years later, working together to continue building a life for their children (and themselves).

Mileyvi and other members of my class. Spring semester, 2015. Photo: Harold Knight

Mileyvi and other members of my class. Spring semester, 2015. Photo: Harold Knight

Mileyvi’s talk was a “thin place” for me in the way the Episcopal liturgy used to be (and might still be if I ever went to church).

As an old man (I say that with a sense of wonder and humor, not fear or dismay) who has virtually given up my faith (not as Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins have), I sometimes return in my mind to the year I graduated from college (1967) and Dionne Warwick singing her Academy-Award-winning hit, “What’s it All About, Alfie?” I’m right back to what was then my sophomoric searching for “the meaning of life.”

Now, as an almost-apostate, asking “What’s it all about?” comes as close as I can to any sense of religiosity. Asking the question is itself the answer.

With Milton Munitz,

I am prepared to leave many aspects of traditional theology in mystery. For instance, I am not committed to any particular view of God as creator, or even to the claim that God is a creator. I am most comfortable with asserting that there is a mystery to my existence and a mystery to the existence of the universe. . . . It is within this mystery that I seek insight. (Milton K. Munitz. The Mystery of Existence.)

He goes another step, however, that I am not prepared to take ― explanations of what he does believe in.

One aspect of my gratitude for the “thin places” at Aberg, the gift of interacting with and (possibly) helping the students learn useful and spirit-opening skills, is that it helps me overcome my depression, an uncomfortable theme running through my life.

I misspoke. It does not help me “overcome” depression. It helps give it meaning. I am aware of the danger of this line of thought. I am not looking for justification or martyrdom here, simply for a way to think about the mysterious.

Another theologian (I read too many theologians for an apostate!) whose writing means more to me as a non-believer than it did as a person of faith is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His interpretation of, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4), is that

By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity: He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose- buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that for all the jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship).

I don’t know how any grown-up with any ability to see the world as it is, any ability to think about being part of the “social contract” that keeps us from hunting and eating each other as do the wild animals who descended from the same early life forms from which we descended; how any grown-up who has the ability to keep from destroying anything and anyone around them for their own benefit; how any grown-up with empathy to say, “There but for the grace of God” (or rather but for the totally undeserved accident of my birth in a “developed” nation) can do anything other than mourn

The human-family-wrenching refugee crisis emanating from Syria (and elsewhere).
The unbearable, unspeakable, murderous poverty in much of the world.
The privilege and power of the few that contribute to that poverty.
The destruction of relics of the history of mankind by ISIS.
The racism and xenophobia that informs the social structures of nearly every nation.
The subjugation of American women as a tenet of a religious belief about conception.
The continuing and unabated arming of the world, both nations and individuals.

Do I need to list more reasons to “mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune?”

I am preparing to fly in a couple of days to one of the places of the greatest “mourning” in the world. Intractable mourning. Made worse because it is not necessary. Because we, we Americans, are making possible its continuation.

This will be my third trip to Palestine/Israel. The first time I went, I thought I would “do good,” that I would learn about the decades-long conflagration and do something to help (help what or whom I was not sure).

This time I have no illusions of helping. I have tried for 12 years to “make a difference.” I am not sure I have ever done so or ever will. What is more likely to happen is that I will run up against one of those “thin spots,” a place where, in the suffering and the reality of people I meet as well as those I already count as friends, I will have my “heart opened.”

It is probably not clear how my thinking proceeded from Mileyvi to Palestine.

They are, for me, part of the same process. Making myself vulnerable to the processes of other people, to help if I can, simply to be with them if I cannot. And to rejoice in, but know I am not responsible for changes in the world―in one life or a nation.

If there is a God, I’m pretty sure that’s where I will find God.
I list here four articles that might help someone understand why Palestine/Israel is a place of mourning. I invite you to read. If you think these are one-sided, all you need is to look at Main Stream Media for another point of view.
Ramzy Baroud: “Palestine Remains the Core Struggle in the Middle East.”
October 25, 2015
“Amnesty International: Israeli forces have ‘ripped up the rulebook’”
October 28, 2015
Marc H. Ellis: “Living and dying by Netanyahu’s ‘forever’ sword.”
October 28, 2015
Robert Cohen: “Dear Chief Rabbi, your sermon on Palestinian violence failed tests of moral and communal leadership.”
October 25, 2015

Est Jerusalem. Palestinian home destroyed by the Israeli government, 20088. Photo: Harold Knight.

East Jerusalem. Palestinian home destroyed by the Israeli government, 2008. Photo: Harold Knight.

Looking east into Syria past the Occupied Golan Heights from the site of Tel Dan, Israel. Tel Dan was the site of the temple for the Northern Biblical Kingdom of Israel after the split from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. A pagan altar to Baal existed on the site before the temple was built there. (Photo: Harold Knight, 2008)

Looking east into Syria past the Occupied Golan Heights from the site of
Tel Dan, Israel.
Tel Dan was the site of the temple for the Northern Biblical
Kingdom of Israel after the
split from the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
A pagan altar to Baal existed on the site
before the temple was built there.
(Photo: Harold Knight, 2008)

PLEASE VISIT MY OTHER BLOG, ME SENESCENT, for information about the new way in which I will be using this blog beginning about November 1.  Thank you.

By one of the important poetic voices of the Palestinian people, both those living in the Occupation and in the Diaspora:

Will you not open this door for me?
My hand is exhausted from knocking at Your door.
I have come to Your vastness to beg
Some tranquility and peace of mind
But Your door is closed in my face,
Drowned in silence.
Lord of the house,
The door was open here,
A refuge for all burdened with grief.
The door was open here,
And the green olive tree rose high
Embracing the house.
The oil lamb kindling without fire,
Guiding steps of one walking at night,
Relieving those crushed by the burden of Earth,
Flooding them with satisfaction and ease.
Do you hear me, O Lord of the house,
After my loss in the deserts;
Away from You I have returned to You
But Your door is closed
In my face, drowned in silence.
Your house is shrouded
With the dust of death.
You are here. Open, then, the door.
Do not veil Your face.
See my orphanhood, my loss,
Amid the ruins of a collapsing world,
The grief of the world on my shoulders
And terrors of a tyrant destiny
To be undone.

From: A Lover From Palestine and Other Poems: An Anthology of Palestinian Poetry. Ed. Abdul Wahab Al-Messiri. Washington, DC: Free Palestine Press, 1970. Available from Amazon.
Fadwa Tuqan obituary.

A group of friends from Dallas, TX, wading in the Sea of Galilee. (Photo: Harold Knight, 2008)

A group of friends from Dallas, TX, wading in the Sea of Galilee. (Photo: Harold Knight, 2008)

Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/24/2015

Just a test

I’m checking to see if I can post on one of my blogs from my iPad.

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