Caitlin Williams

Caitlin Williams (Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy - MEND): Caitlin earned a joint degree in Religious Studies and International Relations from Brown University. She worked as a research assistant at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. At the time of her fellowship, Caitlin was studying for a joint degree at the Arab Studies program and Georgetown Law School. After her fellowship, Caitlin wrote: “While I don’t think I did much in the way of real capacity-building at MEND, I do think I have provided much needed temporary help in the office and some real help for the Palestinians that participated in the workshops I helped to organize. The two workshops provided me with an immense amount of satisfaction and a new perspective on nonviolent resistance in Palestine.”

A Fistful of Shekels

03 Jun

I’m starting to get acclimated now. The man who runs the vegetable stand near my house knows who I am and I try out my new Arabic words on him while he smiles uncomprehendingly.

I feel like I understand what goes on around the office better because of a staff meeting we had yesterday. One of the projects I’m most impressed with is a radio ‘soap opera’ that they’ve conceived of, helped write and produced. The first episode went on the air over this past weekend. They’ve done 26 episodes where the message of nonviolence and nonviolence as a way of life is woven into the stories. I’m not sure how they will measure the effectiveness of it, but I think it’s a great idea and the fact that so small an organization was able to execute it, I find extremely encouraging.

Yesterday the Israelis shut down all the roads for a few hours because of a terror alert. It’s amazing how effective restricting the physical movement of a population can be in not only disrupting everyday life but effectively freezing just about any group activity you can imagine. It’s time that the Israelis are controlling, like an effective football (soccer) team, they seem to be running down the clock while making their opponent run themselves ragged around the field.

The most startling thing I’ve seen so far was at the Israeli mall I went to in West Jerusalem this weekend. It is really just like an American mall except they search your bag before you can enter and everything is in Hebrew. But the picture that still flashes through my head is that of the settlers walking around with handguns on their hips, like it was a wallet or cell phone (which was on their other hip). It was like the old west in America, except with air conditioning, neon lights and plastic. I find the parallel between the Israeli and the early American experience pretty amazing.

Both populations fled their countries for religious freedom. Both built a dynamic, industrial society out of mostly undeveloped land and both systematically pushed another population off their land and placed them in camps or on reservations. Of course the overall historical context is pretty different, but it makes me think, if I had lived back in the days of my great, great-grandmother, what would I have done and how different is that from what is going on right now?

I can’t remember the name of the author, but there is a Palestinian author who compares the ‘Red Indian’ to the Palestinian in a poem. When I saw those settlers with their guns I thought I could hear the echo of cowboy boots and spurs and the beginning of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack.

Posted By Caitlin Williams

Posted Jun 3rd, 2003

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