Hold It All

Category: Middle East


Diane, Hedy, and friends, 2004


by Hedy Epstein

Throughout the 1960s, I became involved in local civil and human rights activities, as well as anti-Vietnam war protests. In the spring of 1970, it became public knowledge in the United States that, as part of this war, the U.S. Air Force had been carpet bombing Cambodia for several months.

This triggered an entire set of thoughts in my head. In opposition to the war, I had picketed, marched, sent letters and telegrams to the President and to congressional representatives, yet nothing adverse happened to me or to my family. Doing this, I had neither risked my life nor that of my family. I had put neither my life nor that of my family in jeopardy.

Then my thoughts travelled across the years and across the ocean, back to Germany. I realized then, had the German people done what I did, during the Hitler regime, they would have risked their lives and perhaps that of their family. I was fully aware that there was opposition and resistance to Hitler regime by some people and that most of these people unfortunately did not survive because of it. Then I asked myself, how can I condemn an entire people for not risking their lives, when I am not sure if I would be willing to do the same? Fortunately, I have never had to risk my own life.

With that, all the old hatred, which was a part of me for decades, disappeared and has never again raised its ugly head. I would like to believe that I am better person as a result. I know I am a happier person since I no longer hate.


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An Actor

Sealing the Deal

A couple of months after The Book of Mev came out, I did a reading and signing at at Left Bank Books in Saint Louis’s Central West End. I asked one of my former students, Magan Wiles, to read the very last chapter of the book entitled, “The Gospel according to Mev.” Magan did a riveting reading but I noticed she was weeping as she read Mev’s words. She told me afterwards she would let me know why she had been crying. A week later, she emailed me this explanation:

“I was crying because my heart was broken, and filled up at the same time. I was crying because I knew I could never move to New York and just be a poor bohemian stage actress, which is an old and outdated dream, and it breaks my heart to let it go. I was crying because right then I knew I was going to Palestine, and I knew that after that I will go many places to join the struggle. I was crying because right then I realized that the struggle is my life, and it always will be, it will never be over. I cannot compartmentalize, I cannot just leave it for a little while to go do something else. I have seen, and I cannot look away. I will live my life as Sisyphus, and while this ignites a fire in me, it also makes me ache. My heart is broken and full. I am humbled by your book, and by Mev’s clarity in her life’s mission. It forces me into more focus. Please know that the honor was mine, that speaking those words sealed the deal.”

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Share the Wealth with Mark Chmiel: Dear Love of Hedy

With Hedy and Chrissy, Damascus Gate, East Jerusalem, December 2003


In this share, I plan on talking about one of the major threads of my recent “book” (published at my blog and on Facebook) Dear Love of Comrades, which I described to Rachel Sacks last fall as a “tribute to friendship.”

I’ll focus on the youth, political activism, and last years of Hedy’ Epstein’s long life. As I’ve done with events pertaining to The Book of Mev and Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, we will take turns doing readings and sharing what pops into our consciousness as a result.

Join us
Sunday 20 September
7:00 p.m. CST.
Via Zoom
Email me for URL

Dianne Lee and Hedy Epstein

Back from the Soulless Void

Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian, Collateral Damage: America’s War against Iraqi Civilians 

Campbell: But you have this: I remember my unit was coming along this elevated overpass. And this kid is in the trash pile below, pulls out an AK-47 and just decides he’s going to start shooting. And you gotta understand… when you have spent nine months in a  war zone, where no one—every time you’ve been shot at, you’ve never seen the person shooting at you, and you could never shoot back. He’s some guy, some fourteen-year-old kid with an AK-47, decides he’s going to start shooting at this convoy. It was the most obscene thing you’ve ever seen. Every person got out and opened fire on this kid. Using the biggest weapons we could find, we ripped him to shreds…. Everyone was so happy, like this released that they finally killed an insurgent. Then when we got there, they realized it was just a little kid. And I know that really fucked up a lot of people in the head….They’d show all the pictures and some people were really happy, like, “Oh, look what we did.’ And other people were like, ‘I don’t want to see that ever again.’  25

Reppenhagen: It’s just the nature of the situation you’re in. That’s what’s wrong. It’s not an individual atrocity. It’s the fact that the entire war is an atrocity.  48


How do we support the troops?  By listening to the terrible truths about war from the troops who know it first-hand.

This book complements the documentary film of 2006, The Ground Truth, inasmuch as it details through interviews the reckless, willful, and calloused actions of the U.S. military toward the Iraqi civilians.

What matters first and foremost is not “politics”—liberating Iraqis or reconstruction, or anything other than surviving, kill or be killed.  All you care about is yourself and your few buddies and getting back home. (Where you will be miserable, too.)

When people are under such extreme pressure cooker situations, and when they are being shot at by unknown enemies, they reach a breaking point.  And the context might be a convoy, a checkpoint, a raid at 4 am, or in detention center, something goes “SNAP” and abuses and killing ensue.  Whom do you take it out on?

Collateral damage is the death of innocent civilians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Read the rest of this entry »

Paying Attention

A year ago, I was recommending that friends read a short, invigorating book by Rebecca Solnit, entitled, Hope in the Dark. This year, I will recommend an amazing tour de force of paying attention, in two parts: first, Eliot Weinberger’s “What I Heard about Iraq” and second, Weinberger’s update, What I Heard about Iraq in 2005.”   These two works are, among other things, a breath-taking catalogue of deception, an unflinching account of unnecessary misery, and dossier of the cavalier, smug, macho, and delusional bravado of the Bush Administration.  In the spirit of Charles Reznikoff’s documentary works, Weinberger tenaciously compiles a litany with each paragraph beginning with the line, “I heard …”

Here are few paragraphs from his first installment:

I heard an old man say, after eleven members of his family- children and grandchildren-were killed when a tank blew up their minivan: “Our home is an empty place. We who are left are like wild animals. All we can do is cry out.” [paragraph 75]

I heard Captain Todd Brown say: “You have to understand the Arab mind. The only thing they understand is force-force, pride, and saving face.” [99]

I heard the Marine colonel say: “We napalmed those bridges. Unfortunately, there were people there. It’s no great way to die.” [105]

I heard the President’s mother say: “Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths? Why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” [117]

I heard Captain Donald Reese, a prison warden, say: “It was not uncommon to see people without clothing. I was told the ‘whole nudity thing’ was an interrogation procedure used by military intelligence, and never thought much about it.” [131]

I heard the President say: “Today, because the world acted with courage and moral clarity, Iraqi athletes are competing in the Olympic Games.” Iraq had sent teams to the previous Olympics. And when the President ran a campaign advertisement with the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan and the words “At this Olympics there will be two more free nations-and two fewer terrorist regimes,” I heard the Iraqi coach say: “Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself.” I heard their star midfielder say that if he weren’t playing soccer he’d be fighting for the resistance in Fallujah: “Bush has committed so many crimes. How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?” [148] Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Matthew Miller: Rumi, Sufi Path of Love, and the Politics of “Mysticism”

Matthew Miller will lead us in a wide ranging discussion about Persian Sufi poetry. He will touch on the problems with many popular translations of Rumi and explore the “Sufi path of love” by introducing us to a few new Sufi poets who have not received as much popular acclaim in the “West.” Laced throughout this discussion will be a consideration of how the “mystical” and political are intertwined in both liberatory and oppressive ways.

Matthew Miller grew up in Cincinnati, OH, spent many, many years in school in St. Louis at Washington University, and current lives in Washington, DC. His day job is as an assistant professor of Persian literature and digital humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park. In his free time he tries to be a social justice activist and urban farmer, too.

Join us
Sunday 31 May
7:00 p.m C.S.T.
Via Zoom
Email me for URL


Share the Wealth with Bob Suberi: A Delegation to Palestine

Growing up as a Labor Zionist in the 50’s and 60’s instilled a sense of community and pride in being a Jew. Although I grew up in a predominately white Christian suburb of Los Angeles, I spent my childhood summers at Habonim, a Labor Zionist camp where my mother worked as the camp cook and “mother.” At the tender age of 10 or 11 I was introduced to Socialism, Zionism, liberal politics and the inspiring folk songs of the labor movement and its impact on the settlement of the Jewish homeland. We sang and danced in celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people and the establishment of the State of Israel. Throughout my life I viewed Israel through this lens; a haven for a persecuted people in an otherwise vacant land. The problem, of course, is the fact that the land was not vacant. And the rationale for displacing the Palestinian occupants, a process that continues, has become more difficult to justify. 

Our delegation to Palestine was sponsored by the Center for Jewish Non-Violence, a group of Diaspora Jewish activists committed to defending the human rights of Palestinians. We call it co-resistance and we work at the direction of Palestinians along with other concerned groups within Israel. We also acknowledge the moral injury inflicted by the Israeli government upon its own citizens by their mistreatment of Palestinians. I quote Carlos Mesters, the Carmelite liberation theologian:   “If I hit you, I am dehumanizing you, but much more than that, I’m dehumanizing myself. The moment I mistreat someone I’m hurting myself more.”

Join us
Sunday 1 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Bob begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Bill Quick and Dianne Lee
7457 Wise Avenue
Richmond Heights, MO

The Power of Footnotes


My idea of the ideal text is still the Talmud. I love the idea of parallel texts, with long, discursive footnotes and marginal commentary, texts commenting on texts.

–Noam Chomsky, Mother Jones interview, 1987


Text from Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, p. 386 (South End Press, 1983):

[On the Sabra-Shatila massacres] There was also a reaction from Elie Wiesel, who is much revered internationally and in the United States for his writings on the Holocaust and on moral standards and has been proposed many times for the Nobel Peace Prize for these writings, again for 1983, by half the members of Congress according to the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.* Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Shahed Megdal: The Arab Conference at Harvard

About the conference: Arab Conference at Harvard is the largest Arab conference in America, bringing together thousands of students and professionals to discuss key issues with the region’s most prominent politicians, business people, and civil society leaders. The conference focuses on different issues happening in the Middle East as well as to Arabs around the world. Throughout the networking, workshops, and panels, attendees are learning about the ways we can help raise awareness, refugees, and other key issues.

What I did there and how it impacted me: Attending the conference as a volunteer. I represented 2 refugees organizations that they were not able to send representatives. I volunteered in the healthcare track as well as the refugee fundraiser and helped raise > $50,000 for refugees.

Growing up as a refugee myself, having this opportunity was a big thing for me. Being able to help my people, and my community while I’m here in the United States, meant a lot to me. The conference opened my eyes and mind on many issues that are happening in the Middle East such as refugees, sexual assault, LGBTQ+ community assault, and so much more. The conference’s panels and workshops improved my leadership skills and increased my understanding on many things. Read the rest of this entry »

Sara Roy speaks to Germans

Your sense of guilt, if that is the correct word, should not derive from criticizing Israel. It should reside in remaining silent in the face of injustice as so many of your forebears did before, during and after the Holocaust. —On Equating BDS With Anti-Semitism: a Letter to the Members of the German Government