Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Woodstock Brand

To the Editor:
A few weeks ago, the Woodstock Times published an article about the origin of the familiar circular peace sign, which often appears via strings of light, tie-died shirts and woven vines and flowers in store windows and on porch railings of our village. The title of the article was "Peace is the Woodstock Brand".  As such this is a deeply hypocritical branding.

Woodstock is home to a crucial cog in the imperialist war machine that runs this nation.  Ametek Rotron's fans are essential components in the many of the most deadly instruments of destruction and death commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense, Israel and other war mongers.  A few years ago a group of Woodstockers held a conference where the war machine was examined and discussed. Peace activists from Texas and Missouri, Massachusetts and Maine came to share their distress in the ways their communities are likewise bound into the war machine. While Obama berates Romney for outsourcing, we need to look closely at the in-sourced war business in our back yard.  Response to the call that Woodstock convert to peaceful manufacturing was never seriously discussed by our local officials.  If peace is our brand, we must convert the "dark satanic mills" in our midst to constructive and ecological industry for the future of our town and our children.

DeeDee Halleck

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nabil is Home Again

Just a few days ago I heard that Nabil is home again. On June 6 soldiers took him at gunpoint from his home in the West Bank, at 3 am, in front of his terrified wife and small daughter. It was two weeks before he had any access to a lawyer or communication with his family, and more than four weeks before charges were made, which did not hold up in court. Nabil is the artistic director of the acclaimed Freedom Theatre, bringing hope and creative expression to young people who have spent their entire lives under the occupation.

Thousands of Palestinians are held without charges in "administrative detention" for as long as the Israeli army wants to hold them, sometimes years. In contrast, an Israeli cannot be held for more than 48 hours without being charged. Nabil was lucky, you could say: people all over the world spoke up on his behalf. Perhaps that made a difference.

I was in the West Bank and Israel this past spring, teaching theatre. I spoke to Israelis who are themselves outraged at the injustices and humiliations that Palestinians are subjected to. They see us, the Americans, as enablers, with our massive aid to the Israeli government--$3 billion per year, paid for by my taxes and yours.

Let's support those Israelis who have the courage to protest the inhumanity of their government. And let's tell our own government to stop enabling injustice.

Jo Salas

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Broken Cameras, Unbroken Dreams
By Lisa Mullenneaux
For Hudson-Catskill Newspaper

The documentary film “5 Broken Cameras” (2011), playing at Time & Space Limited July 5-8 and 12-14 tells the story of life under Israeli occupation through the lens of Emad Burnat, an olive grower who lives with his wife Soraya and their four children in Bil’in. When his son Gibreel is born in 2005, Burnat begins to record his growing family and “buildings that pop out of the land.” But whose land? Burnat’s neighbors discover that half of their farm land is threatened by a planned separation barrier and the settlements mushrooming behind it. They organize weekly protests, hire an Israeli attorney, and petition the High Court of Justice—and win. Burnat records it all—at the risk of his life. As Gibreel learns the Arabic words for “wall” and “army” and gets tear-gassed (“I hope he grows a eview tough skin”) his father tries to get as close to the action—now drawing international supporters—as he can. Villagers march unarmed but are often met with physical violence. Burnat’s five cameras are shot or smashed, olive trees are burned, houses bulldozed, he is critically injured and cannot work, his brothers are arrested, his friends are killed.

Still Burnat continues to document the village’s weekly demonstra- tions, often against his wife wishes. “Find something else to do,” she demands after soldiers start arresting villagers, including children. But as the farmer-turned-cameraman explains, “When wounds are forgotten they cannot heal. I film to heal, to survive.” His survival is precarious; his third camera takes a soldier’s bullet intended for him.

Life is bloody and unpredictable; for five years Burnat’s camera records how that instability affects the families around him. When one man takes a direct hit from a tear-gas grenade and dies, neighbors are grief-stricken, enraged. “Clinging to nonviolent ideals isn’t easy when death is all around,” Burnat admits. As a tribute, he gathers the villagers and screens his footage, increasing their solidarity and endurance.

Burnat, a Palestinian Arab, and his collaborator Guy Davidi, an Israeli Jew, say “we knew we would be criticized for working together,” but they tried to use their cultural differences creatively. The Israeli filmmaker was at first reluctant to make “just another film on [West Bank] resist- ance.” Then as he reviewed Burnat’s years of footage, Davidi saw the image of an old man climbing onto a military jeep to stop it from taking his son away. He asked Burnat who the man was. “It’s my father,” said the cameraman. That, says Davidi, is when he knew “we had the making of a new film that would tell the events the way Emad experienced them.”

“We decided the film had to be as intimate and personal as possible,” says Davidi. “That was the only way to tell the story in a new...way.” That choice, concedes Burnat, meant exposing “difficult moments in my life” but the result is a compelling portrait of one family’s steadfastness in the face of dwindling hope and resources.

“5 Broken Cameras” has so far won awards at Utah’s Sundance and Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film festivals and will be screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July. For more information, including additional playdates, see