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‘I found a system of segregated roads’ — Anna Baltzer’s path to activism

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Anna Baltzer of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights is one of the most effective communicators on our side of the issue (she was on the Daily Show with Mustafa Barghouti, a highlight in mainstream exposure for the Palestinian cause); and a couple months back, she gave a talk at TEDx in Ocala, Florida, about how she became an activist. She described abandoning the ideal she had grown up with, that she should be neutral in a conflict, when she went to Palestine and saw Palestinian conditions first hand.

What is most compelling is that it didn’t take Baltzer long to commit to the fight for human rights. No, it only took, bearing witness:

I found a system of segregated roads, with nice roads for Jewish Israeli settlers and separate roads for Palestinians.

And all around me I saw inspiring Palestinian popular resistance and its violent suppression by Israel, a military superpower armed by my own country, the United States.

What more does anyone need to know? Baltzer had been a Zionist as a young woman, but she now turned against that ideology.

And I knew that Israel would pay me to move on to that Palestinian land, simply because I’m Jewish.

I did not know at the time that Israel’s Jewish majority could only exist through the removal of Palestinians.

When she broke through her own resistance, she was at first afraid, but it resulted in an enlargement of her own spirit:

When I finally gave myself permission to take a side and reject Zionism, I found a liberation I could never have expected: a liberation from my fear of the other; a liberation from the contradictions and the paralysis. I had worried I would lose so much, but instead I had found exactly what I was looking for. I was not rejecting who I was; I was finding who I was.

In pursuing that ancient goal, self-discovery, Baltzer has learned about the nature of struggle on behalf of others:

Taking a side means being accountable to those who are being oppressed, not deciding what they need and how they should get it. It means heeding their calls to action, which may look like starting conversations with your family and friends, or engaging in campaigns like boycotts and divestment, or stepping out of your comfort zone and taking to the streets.

She challenged the Ocala audience in a way that resonates for all Americans — citing the civil rights struggle:

Let me ask you something. How many of you, like me, celebrate the Civil Rights Movement and imagine that you would have been the one holding Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hand, marching from Selma to Montgomery; that your home would have been a stop on the underground railroad for runaway slaves, regardless of the personal risks? The thing is, it’s easy to stand against slavery and 1960s Jim Crow laws today. But we forget how controversial they were in their own time. We forget that the successes of the Civil Rights Movement did not come from legitimizing both sides; that slavery did not end from bringing both sides together. Change happened because people took sides, and took risks.

Anyone can celebrate Dr. King today, but there is one question to gauge the likelihood that you would indeed have been there with him. Where do you stand on the freedom struggles of our time? Do you stand boldly with the freedom fighters?

Baltzer brings Palestinian activism to the contemporary American stage, by going on to Ferguson, mass incarceration, and her own “internalized white supremacy.”

And she concludes by daring her audience to be activists too. “It only takes a small but critical mass to change the course of history.”

I’ve said before, we live in a radical age. A little bit of that radicalism, turned on the Israel/Palestine conflict, inside the U.S., would transform the politics of the conflict, and put real pressure on Israel. Baltzer is of course a supporter of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS– on these grounds, which the “conflict” has proven to be a rule, decade after decade:

It became clear that neutrality wasn’t a catalyst for mediation or change; it was the exact opposite. It was a trap — a dead end. It maintained the power imbalance exactly as it was, leaving the scales tipped in favor of those with power.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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18 Responses

  1. annie on March 18, 2018, 5:07 pm

    really excellent speech by Anna Baltzer

  2. JLewisDickerson on March 18, 2018, 5:32 pm

    RE: “I found a system of segregated roads, with nice roads for Jewish Israeli settlers and separate roads for Palestinians.” ~ Anna Baltzer

    SEE: “US Funds Apartheid Roads on West Bank” ~ by Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service, 5/24/10

    [EXCERPT] RAMALLAH – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is helping Israel to construct an apartheid road infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian West Bank by financing nearly a quarter of the segregated road system primarily for the benefit of Israeli settlers.

    USAID’s figures state that the agency has financed 235 km of roads in the West Bank in the past decade, and is preparing to add another 120 km by the end of this year, reported Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook in the United Arab Emirates paper ‘The National’*.

    According to an April report released by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), USAID has helped build 114 km of segregated roads in the Palestinian territory despite assurances from Washington six years ago that it would not assist in the construction after the Palestinian Authority (PA) protested.

    Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports that 170 km of roads in the West Bank are either off-limits to Palestinians or highly restricted.

    After the Oslo Peace Accord in 1994, Israel requested the international community to finance 500 km of roads for the Palestinians, later termed ‘fabric of life’ roads, including upgrading agricultural tracks and constructing many underpasses and bridges, at a cost of 200 million US dollars, reported Cook.

    However, donor countries rejected this request due to PA’s protests that the entrenched apartheid-system infrastructure would strengthen the settlements and make their presence a permanent fixture while justifying more expropriation of Palestinian land.

    But it would appear that the PA has been railroaded, at the behest of Israel, into accepting USAID in a take it or leave it scenario. . .


    * SEE: “US funds ‘apartheid’ road network in Israel” | By Jonathan Cook | | May 15, 2010
    LINK –

    P.S. ALSO SEE: “Palestinian Roads: Cementing Statehood, or Israeli Annexation?”
    By Nadia Hijab and Jesse Rosenfeld | The Nation | April 30, 2010
    New evidence indicates that the PA’s ambitious road-building program–heavily funded by the United States and Europe–is being used by Israel to facilitate settlement expansion.
    LINK –

    • on March 19, 2018, 10:15 am

      Thanks for sharing that. The mighty USA that stands for equality regardless of race, religion etc has financed apartheid roads while it’s own infrastructure crumbles.

      Clearly no neutrality – the USA firmly stands on the side of the oppressor

  3. jon s on March 18, 2018, 5:36 pm

    I agree with Anna Baltzer in regard to rejecting “neutrality”.
    The moral position is to take a side, not sit on the fence, and for me that means taking the side of peace and social justice and democracy.

    • eljay on March 18, 2018, 7:00 pm

      || jon s: … The moral position is to take a side … ||

      The moral position is to take a moral position and not just “a side”.

      || … and for me that means taking the side of peace and social justice and democracy. ||

      But never, ever the side of justice, accountability and equality because you:
      – do want Israel to continue to exist as a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine;
      – do not want Israel to have to honour its obligations under international law (incl. RoR); and
      – do not want Israel to be held accountable for its past and on-going (war) crimes.

    • CigarGod on March 19, 2018, 10:44 am

      Jon s dresses in camo, covers his eyes with his hands…and thinks we can’t see him.

  4. JosephA on March 18, 2018, 5:39 pm

    This was a powerful TED talk, thank you for bringing it to our attention!

    • amigo on March 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

      Just think Jon S, when The Greater Israel is realised and all those pesky Palestinians have been cleansed from the Jewish Historic Homeland , Israel will be in the number one position on the Happiness list.

      I wonder if Israeli Arabs (Palestinians) were asked how happy they are.

  5. jon s on March 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

    This is probably somewhat off-topic but the annual World Happiness Report is out. Israel is holding steady at 11th place. The U.S has dropped from 14th to 18th.

    • John O on March 19, 2018, 3:48 am

      I really hate to rain on your parade, but Israel has also dropped from 29th to 30th place in the Economist Democracy Index, once again brought down by its appalling human rights record.

    • CigarGod on March 19, 2018, 10:49 am

      “They’re Coming to Take You Away, Ha-Haaa!”

    • amigo on March 19, 2018, 1:30 pm

      Jon S , you omitted this part of the report ????.

      “The report found Israel is in the list of the world’s least accepting countries alongside Egypt, Iraq and Jordan in the Middle East. ”

      BTW , why the reference to the US ranking.Do you enjoy watching the demise of the land of your birth which provided you with an education and the funds to set yourself up on someone elses property in Occupied Palestine , plummet in the happiness ratings.

      My such gratitude and so very zionist .

      • Mooser on March 19, 2018, 2:29 pm

        “The report found Israel is in the list of the world’s least accepting countries alongside Egypt, Iraq and Jordan in the Middle East. ”

        And that accepting place, the US, slipped a couple of places. The implications are clear.

    • Marnie on March 20, 2018, 11:24 am

      It’s easy to be happy when everything is going your way. Who wouldn’t be happy when they know with assurety that everything is in their favor? What a stupid, stupid report. I’m quite sure that antebellum southern whites would have held at #1. Or white south africans before the end of apartheid. Or the aryans of hitler’s europe. Fucking DUH!

      What in the actual fuck is your point, Jon ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss??

  6. on March 18, 2018, 6:43 pm

    Thanks Phil – Ms Baltzer is an inspiration and a tireless advocate for human rights. I enjoyed hearing about how liberating it was when she rid herself of Zionism. This must be the case given the exclusiveness of Zionism and all racist ideologies.

    I’m convinced the Palestinians will one day feel the same liberation when they rid themselves of Zionists.

    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu

  7. JLewisDickerson on March 18, 2018, 7:04 pm

    RE: “When I finally gave myself permission to take a side and reject Zionism, I found a liberation I could never have expected: a liberation from my fear of the other; a liberation from the contradictions and the paralysis. “ ~ Anna Baltzer

    MY COMMENT: Perhaps she found a liberation she could never have anticipated . . . a liberation from all of the ‘cognitive dissonance’!


    “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” ~ Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

    ■ FROM BRITANNICA.COM [cognitive dissonance]

    cognitive dissonance – the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in a person is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers: the person rejects, explains away, or avoids the new information, persuades himself that no conflict really exists, reconciles the differences, or resorts to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in his conception of the world and of himself. The concept, first introduced in the 1950s, has become a major point of discussion and research.

    SOURCE –

    • JLewisDickerson on March 18, 2018, 7:27 pm

      P.S. FROM WIKIPEDIA AS OF 2/27/14:

      Defence mechanisms
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –

      [EXCERPTS] . . . In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, defense mechanisms are psychological strategies brought into play [primarily ~ J.L.D.] by the unconscious mind[4] to manipulate, deny, or distort reality in order to defend against feelings of anxiety and unacceptable impulses to maintain one’s self schema [and to minimize cognitive dissonance – J.L.D.].[5]

      These processes that manipulate, deny, or distort reality may include the following: repression, or the burying of a painful feeling or thought from one’s awareness even though it may resurface in a symbolic form;[3] identification, incorporating an object or thought into oneself;[6] and rationalization, the justification of one’s behavior and motivations by substituting “good” acceptable reasons for the motivations.[3][7] Generally, repression is considered the basis for other defense mechanisms.[3]

      Healthy persons normally use different defences throughout life. An ego defence mechanism becomes pathological only when its persistent use leads to maladaptive behaviour such that the physical or mental health of the individual is adversely affected. The purpose of ego defence mechanisms is to protect the mind/self/ego from anxiety and/or social sanctions and/or to provide a refuge from a situation with which one cannot currently cope.[8]

      Defence mechanisms are unconscious coping mechanisms that reduce anxiety generated by threats from unacceptable impulses.[9] . . .

      . . . The list of defence mechanisms is huge and there is no theoretical consensus on the number of defence mechanisms. . .

      ● Vaillant’s categorization of defence mechanisms [EXCERPTS]

      ♦ Level 1: Pathological

      The mechanisms on this level, when predominating, almost always are severely pathological. These six defences, in conjunction, permit one to effectively rearrange external experiences to eliminate the need to cope with reality. . .

      • Delusional Projection: Delusions about external reality, usually of a persecutory nature. . . [i.e., perceiving legitimate criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitism” ~ J.L.D.]
      • Denial: Refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening; arguing against an anxiety-provoking stimulus by stating it doesn’t exist; resolution of emotional conflict and reduction of anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant aspects of external reality (for example, convincing oneself that all of the Palestinian/Arab prisoners iincarcerated by Israel are “terrorists”) . .
      • Distortion: A gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs.

      ♦ Level 2: Immature

      These mechanisms are often present in adults. These mechanisms lessen distress and anxiety provoked by threatening people or by uncomfortable reality. . .

      • Fantasy: Tendency to retreat into fantasy in order to resolve inner and outer conflicts. . . [i.e., the illogical belief that the interests of the U.S. and Israel are identical is a nice example of fantasy ~ J.L.D.]

      ♦ Level 3: Neurotic

      These mechanisms are considered neurotic, but fairly common in adults. Such defences have short-term advantages in coping, but can often cause long-term problems . . .

      • Intellectualization: A form of isolation; concentrating on the intellectual components of a situation so as to distance oneself from the associated anxiety-provoking emotions . . .
      • Withdrawal: Withdrawal is a more severe form of defence. It entails removing oneself from events, stimuli, interactions, etc. under the fear of being reminded of painful thoughts and feelings. . .

      ♦ Level 4: Mature

      These are commonly found among emotionally healthy adults and are considered mature . . .

      • Altruism: Constructive service to others that brings pleasure and personal satisfaction.
      • Anticipation: Realistic planning for future discomfort.
      • Humour: Overt expression of ideas and feelings (especially those that are unpleasant to focus on or too terrible to talk about directly) that gives pleasure to others. The thoughts retain a portion of their innate distress, but they are “skirted around” by witticism, for example self-deprecation.
      • Sublimation: Transformation of unhelpful emotions or instincts into healthy actions, behaviours, or emotions, for example, playing a heavy contact sport such as football or rugby can transform aggression into a game.[24]
      • Suppression: The conscious decision to delay paying attention to a thought, emotion, or need in order to cope with the present reality; making it possible later to access uncomfortable or distressing emotions whilst accepting them. . .


  8. Maghlawatan on March 19, 2018, 5:02 am

    Take a side for the sake of Yossi Israeli. If a system has no future it will collapse.

    Justice is core to the Torah. Those ancient Jews were not stupid.

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