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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Village Demolitions, Close to Home

Qalunya: a Palestinian village that no longer exists. It was destroyed around
the same time as the lower part of my street.
When is something about transportation or housing to a great enough degree that I should write about it? This is a question that often boggles me. Contrary to the Twitter peanut gallery, I care about a lot of issues besides bikes, but I try to stay reasonably focused on the blog so as not to dilute my message.

I went to an event last night sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace which I think sits on the edge of this gray zone. Lia Tarachansky, a woman who grew up in a West Bank settlement and has since become a vocal activist for Palestinian rights, came to speak about her country's struggle to come to grips with its role in forcibly displacing the majority of Palestinians from their homes over the last six decades (spoiler alert: they're not doing so great with that conversation, but then again, neither are we). 

What really struck me deeper than ever was the parallel between our own history. The direct parallels to Providence are what made me decide to write this on the blog.

The speaker talked about the quest for ethnic homogeneity and how villages had been bulldozed during the 1948 War of Independence/al Nakba, and then gradually made to seem as if they'd never existed. Many of the villages were covered over with new settlements or even by national parks, and pieces of their ruins that continued to give hints of a human presence were labeled as Roman relics instead of evidence of an expelled culture. Streets were taken out. Sometimes new streets were put in, with totally different names. 

The event was held at Moses Brown School, just blocks from "University Heights" which I've recently blogged about. The neighborhood was bulldozed at around the same time, and many of its streets were done away with (try looking up "Mallett Street" in Providence, for instance), its institutions taken away, and its memory erased. It felt strange to be talking about the process of removing villages just a block or two from a neighborhood (map) we had removed.

The speaker went to great lengths to talk about how the current occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are intertwined with this earlier history. It's interesting to think of how what for Israel/Palestine is the earliest depths of its history is for us the recent past, and to think of how the creation of University Heights is a continuation of early American patterns.
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