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Richmond IndyMedia Live! Every Tuesday, 12:30 - 1PM on 97.3 WRIR LP-FM, and streaming online from wrir.org!

Review :: [none]

Dalit Baum Brings Israeli Activism to Virginia

With stops in Blacksburg, Richmond, Smithfield, and Charlottesville that included a wide variety of meetings and people, the Virginia Anti-War Network's first state-wide tour featuring Dr. Dalit Baum was a resounding success.

Dalit Baum brought a sense of humor and clarity to a number of topics - the Israel/Palestine conflict, the apartheid wall and the relationship between various types of oppression, just to name a few. Connecting issues was a prevalent theme throughout all of Dalit's appearances, such as when she spoke in Richmond about the group Black Laundry and how it ties gender, sexuality, and occupation issues together:

"It actually wasn't so weird to connect these things, because we saw that people on the other side of the street in the counter-demonstrations were always connecting them - just like calling Women in Black 'whores'. They immediately saw the connection between being a sexual traitor and a national traitor, so why wouldn't we recognize it? What brought me to the peace movement was my gender and sexuality. Obviously, there is a connection. So the idea was to bring everything we are to everywhere we go and say everything we want to say."

All of Dr. Baum's presentations centered around the apartheid wall that is now being constructed between Israeli and Palestinian settlements. She provided disturbing images of this wall and the communities it affects, and also showed people the very latest map (just three days old) of the wall's path, which snakes through Palestinian territory, creating eight isolated Palestinian areas. People can find this map online at the Israeli government's own website.
Several dozen people filled an auxillary room of the Pace Center this Saturday to hear an informal lecture by Dr. Dalit Baum, an Israeli peace activist who has worked and organized with of a number of anti-occupation groups in the West Bank, including the Women in Black, Black Laundry and Anarchists Against the Wall.

Dalit began her own story by discussing her participation with the Women in Black - a silent vigil against the occupation of Palestine that takes place in cities all over the world one day a week. She explained that the participants of Women in Black demonstrations are often called "whores" and "lesbians who sleep with Arabs" by people in the streets who oppose their actions, and then expertly tied together these ideological slurs of nationalism and gender:

"Everything I want to say is there already. [These insults] mean that you are a traitor, and to be a traitor as a woman usually means that you are a sexual traitor. That you are not faithful - to your husband, to your nation, to patriarchy."

This was a recurring theme throughout the night as she explained how Black Laundry, a group of queers and other sexual minorities against the occupation, had been questioned about the connection between sexual orientation and the politics of Israel-Palestine:

"It actually wasn't so weird to connect these things, because we saw that people on the other side of the street in the counter-demonstrations were always connecting them - just like calling Women in Black 'whores'. They immediately saw the connection between being a sexual traitor and a national traitor, so why wouldn't we recognize it? What brought me to the peace movement was my gender and sexuality. Obviously, there is a connection. So the idea was to bring everything we are to everywhere we go and say everything we want to say."

Much of Dr. Baum's presentation was centered around the apartheid wall that is now being constructed between Israeli and Palestinian settlements. She began by anticipating arguments in support of the wall, and then took them apart, one by one. Technical difficulties prevented her from showing us slides, but she was able to project several videos of actions taken against the construction of the enormous wall.

I felt a sickening sense of deja-vu as the stories played out. The shouts of demonstrators accented by the silvery fog of tear gas. Soldiers shooting unarmed demostrators. I hadn't seen this particular video, but I'd seen it all a thousand times before. With a slight change of scenery, this footage could have been filmed in any one of a hundred locations. Repression and resistance, it seems, have no national borders.

Dr. Baum encouraged everyone present to view maps of the wall for themselves. Then, she assured us, we would plainly see the painstaking degree to which Israel had gone to appropriate land and resources of the Palestinian people. An interesting fact I hadn't known: The path of the wall is so serpentine, so convoluted, that there exist eight Palestinian settlements that are completely encircled by it. I saw photographs of one single house that was completely surrounded by surveilled security fences; it's occupant must be granted passage through an armored gate just to leave his home.

Dalit Baum brought a sense of humor and clarity to a number of topics - this conflict, the wall and the relationship between various types of oppression, just to name a few. She also provided us with web sites for further research on these topics:

www.stopthewall.org
www.coalitionofwomen.org
mod.gov.il (for the newest map of the wall's path, fresh from the Israeli government)

With stops in Blacksburg, Richmond, Smithfield, and Charlottesville that included a wide variety of meetings and people, the Virginia Anti-War Coalition's first state-wide tour was a resounding success.

The only regrets were the noticable absence of the Jewish and Muslim individuals and groups that were invited. Perhaps next time with VAWN's ongoing efforts, they will feel comfortable attending and importantly participating in events such as these that aim to break down typical stereotypes and dichotomies.
 
 


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