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Angry in Ames

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Susan Johnson just completed a roadtrip through Illinois and Iowa talking about Gaza. Some more of her notes:

Des Moines. People were very concerned about condition of children, especially children’s trauma. Wanted to know what was and could be done to help them. Bombing of schools, hospitals, mental health facilities which denies services to children and adults. question: "Where can children be treated? Those places weren’t supposed to be targeted." reply:"Gaza is doing the best they can under the circumstances.They are determined, especially when it comes to their children" children’s centers we visited and their programs.

Audience was moved, shocked, sad, angry when pictures from Qattan’s art therapy program were shown. johnsonThey pointed out and discussed how awful it was for children to witness the things they had seen. Comment: "The children had to have seen those terrible sights; they are too young to make up those vivid pictures."

Remote control machine gun tower. Explained how it operates, opening like a flower, machine guns appearing, shooter is located in Israel and uses "joy stick" to shoot. 

Comment: "Unbelievable! And how do they get away with taking that land?"

Reply: "I believe they just take the land they want while other countries pretend they don’t know about it. Often they take and use Gaza"s best farm land. They shoot at farmers as they try to harvest their crops and tend their fields. Keep in mind the shooter only sees a person’s shape they can’t identify the person they’re shooting, yet they claim they are terrorists.

Comment: "I doubt you can prove that civilians are targeted."

Reply: "It’s impossible for the soldier to see exactly who she’s targeting. She shoots at an image and the victim can’t be identified until after the after the incident… Farmers [are] a prime target."

Ames. Held at Ames Friends Meeting, pot luck supper, yummy. Audience 16-18 people. Quite a mix of people, Christian denominations. Much discussion about their denominations’ action or lack of action on Gaza. Action is taken at the top, little input from individual churches and they don’t seem to follow the leaders.

After my presentation, great deal of time spent discussing "difficulties they are having with the Jewish Community" (their words). Groups met with a mediator with no success, sounded more like a facilitator than a mediator. Almost all problems were the Jewish community’s lack of cooperation.

My input: First, identify and work on your individual and group weaknesses. (The only person you can change is yourself).

Next: Some people in the peace group are very angry…it’s quite visible. (Who wants to talk with an angry person?) I mentioned to a woman that she sounded angry…"You’re right I’m very angry!!" "People hear your anger, not what you’re saying, even when you make a valid point" The rest of the evening she kept repeating "I guess I am angry."

But began thinking about it. If they want to have honest, open discussions with the Jews in Ames they need to "clean house;" have spokespeople who aren’t angry; find things you both agree on (not necessarily about the issue). When pushed, don’t take the bait; meet in neutral territory; keep your voice low; be respectful of the other person…you don’t have to agree with their opinion; don’t try to change their minds….concentrate on your opinion, ideas and beliefs.

Susan Johnson

I became involved in the issue of Israel's occupation of Palestinian in 2004 when I was invited to visit the West Bank with Women of a Certain Age. The experience turned me into an activist for Palestinian rights. In May 2009 I visited Gaza with a delegation of 13 people, Philip Weiss being one of them. That brought me to mondoweiss. The trip raised my outrage and passion to tell anyone who will listen (and some who'd rather not) about what I saw...which was devastation and an attempt to destroy the people of Gaza through the siege, constant harassment by the IDF and the Dec.-Jan. invasion and bombardment.

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