National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement
Subscriptions are $10/year, for your own complete illustrated paper copies.

June 2002. HEADLINES IN THIS ISSUE:

Click on a link or scroll down the page:

[Return to NWTRCC home ]    [Previous Newsletter]


Tax Day 2002: Thousands of War Tax Resisters Say No to Militarism and Yes to Life on Tax Day

From pie charts to lollipops, from Stations of the Cross to rubber ducks, activists from over 45 cities and towns across the country gathered on tax day to call attention to the skewed military budget and to redirect withheld tax dollars to life affirming groups. Thousands of dollars in redirected tax were given away. Here are reports from some of those events:

Andover, MA: A guerrilla theater group lined the entrance to the Raytheon plant with rubber ducks and conducted a die-in among the ducks to a rap-like lament for those who have died from our tax dollars at work. It was Saturday so the plant was closed, but several executive types and a lot of police were there.

Ann Arbor, MI: NWTRCC contact David Bassett arranged with Community Television Network to air the National Campaign for A Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) video, "Compelled by Conscience." It was shown about a dozen times in the first two weeks of April. The local war tax resistance group also placed an ad in the Ann Arbor News from NCPTF ("Would You Drop a Bomb on This Child? Then Why Pay Someone Who Would?".)

Asheville, NC: The Taxes for Life! Alternative Fund redirected $750 to three local groups. Their action included a small parade with a 30 foot long banner reading on one side: "$396 Billion for WAR. You get what you pay for!"and on the other side: "Military Budget = Waste and Destruction." They walked from the center of town to the post office where they distributed pie charts under the watchful eye of the local police as citizens obediently submitted tax forms in the drop-in post box.

Bangor, ME: At noon on April 16th, a merry band of activists from the local Peace & Justice Center swapped their cozy jeans & t-shirts for swanky gowns & tuxedos, hopped in a verrry conspicuous white stretch-limo, and motored their way to the P.O./Federal Bldg., to perform a bit of satire-filled street theater.

This division of the "Rich People's Liberation Front" did a skit to expose the huuuge tax breaks which America's corporations & our wealthiest citizens receive; then thanked intrigued passersby with Dum-Dum lollipops. ("Suckers for the suckers!")

Budgetary pie charts & thought provoking banners helped bring a sense of grim reality to this tongue-in-cheek parody. More than 50 interested people took part in a Penny Poll.

Lane County, OR: Military Tax Resistance of Lane County and Eugene PeaceWorks were out at the post office on Tax Day, distributing information on the federal budget and how to resist taxes for war. Participants contributed $1,500 to 19 local and international organizations.

Related activities included a silent "Taxes for Peace Not War" candlelight vigil Sunday evening in front of the Federal Building; the lMilitary Tax Variety Shown by Urgent Carnival at the Saturday Market; and leafleting in North Bend, Newport, Cottage Grove, and the Southside Post Office in Eugene.

Minneapolis: It was a most memorable time at the main Post Office for Tax Day in downtown Minneapolis this year -- record breaking weather and record crowds. Could anyone have seriously imagined 91 degrees, sandals, shorts, and sun screen on April 15 in Minnesota? Staying hydrated was a welcome respite from the usual annual efforts to stay thawed. And nothing seems to bring out the crowds to protest violence as well as a hot war.

Increased violence in Israel and Palestine sparked a well organized response to the Antiwar Committee's call for people to join the War Tax protesters this year. About a dozen people with the Minnesota Military Tax Resistance Network (M-TAX) found themselves awash in a sea of over 200 people chanting and holding signs to Stop The War in Palestine.

The antiwar protesters, many from the Palestinian and Muslim communities, were also a "warm audience" for the call for non-cooperation with military taxes. While eagerly receiving the War Resister League's Federal Budget Pie Chart, many actually opened and read with interest the new M-TAX brochure claiming the human right not to kill and the transforming power of non-violence.

Newton, KS: Folks from the Heartland Peace Tax Fund carried out a Stations of the Cross event on Good Friday, in which the "Stations" were the county jail, a drug rehab center, a place called Military Park, a victim/offender agency, etc. A hundred people showed up and walked the route carrying a seven foot cross. At each "station" or social agency they read the scripture usually associated with the traditional station ( arrest of Jesus, flogging of Jesus, stumbling while carrying the cross,....on to the crucifixion and burial) and then had a brief reflection. The reflection tied the scripture to that social agency's work and the shortage of funds for doing that work because of military spending.

Portland, OR: About 100 folks gathered on Friday April 12, first to honor longtime wtrs and activists Ann and Bruce Huntwork, then to redirect more than $1,500 in resisted federal income taxes.

The group then left for the federal building, in which the IRS and a number of other offices are located, at which 75 people burned tax forms and blockaded the street for a bit. There were no arrests. In conjunction with the tax form burning, they used a banner with the quote: lPardon us, friends, for the fracture of good order, for burning paper instead of babies,n sent from prison during the Vietnam War by Daniel Berrigan, SJ, for his role in burning Selective Service files at the Catonsville MD office. They offered their apologies for burning tax forms instead of Colombian villages, Palestinian schools, Iraqi hospitals, Filipinosm mosques and Afghan homes. ..

Monday, Tax Day proper, the Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance did a penny poll and found the Pentagon would receive about 10 percent of the tax moneys from the 101 people polled. Pie charts and other materials were shared and new wtr converts joined the activities. Wartime seemed to elicit interest in Portland. Southern California: This year SCWTR's action was seeing to the distribution of about 500 pie chart leaflets at activist events over the few weeks before April 15th. A few were to the general public, but their choice this year was to distribute mainly to those already active in peace/human rights/anti-war activities.

They memorialized recently deceased Pat Reif, SCWTR activist who had served as the alternative fund treasurer for ten years, by distributing 200 pie charts outside one of the memorial services held for her. Partners of Pat's from the adventurous Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were greeted outside the service with a pie chart and the remark that this the current version of the fliers Pat distributed for many years. Most mourners nodded, smiled, and agreed that Pat would have been giving out the flyers had she been present (physically).

Other occasions were a rousing rally for the rights and safety of the Palestinians now under siege. One speaker (not from SCWTR) spent considerable time on U.S. military spending around the world as well as in Palestine/Israel, and mentioned the taxation component. Pie charts were well received.

St Petersburg, FL: Along with pie charts at the post office, activists passed out gardenias, to sweeten the tax info!

[Return to List of Headlines]

Wally Nelson
March 27th, 1909 -- May 23rd, 2002

To have devoted one's life to peace and justice;
To have lived in harmony with the earth;
To have followed one's ideals;
To have shared a life-long loving partnership;
To have been so deeply loved by so many;
To have brought laughter and joy to the world;
To have inspired rebellion;
What better life could one person lead?

We will print a tribute to Wally in the August issue of More Than a Paycheck

[Return to List of Headlines]

Counseling Notes:

Frivolous Filing

IRS's website now addresses 20 different frivolous contentions offered by taxpayers to justify either not filing returns or not paying taxes, and reminded taxpayers of possible penalties for making frivolous claims. NWTRCC has continued to get calls from people having trouble with their phone companies. Some people have been either threatened to be cut off, or have had their service cut off for refusal to pay the federal excise tax. If you are having these problems, please call the NWTRCC office, because we want to keep track of the extent of the situation.

[Return to List of Headlines]

MANY THANKS

Many thanks to the following groups that have given since our last newsletter. Your support makes a difference!

National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund

Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia

[Return to List of Headlines]

Network List Updates

These are changes in the network list that gets sent out each fall.

In Washington, DC, change the email for the Washington Area War Tax Resistance to info@dcwtr.org.

North Central & Southwest Regions -- In Boise, Idaho, the contact person's name has changed from Blue to S. Thoresen, 314 Jasper Lane, Boise, ID, 83706. Email: cedar_sage@hotmail.comchange the email for Blue to: the1redqueen@yahoo.com.

[Return to List of Headlines]

  • The Austin Levy Party; A Different Response to Collection

    By Thad W. Crouch

    It was April 10th and I hadn't slept the night before. I had tossed and turned as I struggled with my conscience and my tax return. The question wasn't whether or not to pay. I had laid that question to rest four years ago. The question was whether or not to be public about my war tax resistance. On one hand, while such a witness might be very poignant during wartime, it could also be risky and cause me to leave my job if my employers told the IRS. On the other hand if I weren't vocal I would know I was choosing fear instead of hope. I waited for the coffee to pick me up as I listened to my voice mail. It was the payroll administrator from the national office. She said the IRS had placed a levy on my salary and that she needed to fax me some IRS levy forms. WHOAH! This had never happened before. Now I added stress, and fear to my fatigue.

    Soon I felt a little relief. Not just due to the coffee, but because I could now easily decide to be public since there was no question of risk, the levy was here and my employer knew about it. How fortunate to be levied a week before tax day. What a great media hook! I sighed. The real relief came as I drove home that evening. I thought singing prayer in the car might be comforting. I sang "Blest Are They" a David Haas song about the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. As I sang about being blessed for being persecuted for justice and for following Jesus, I realized the words were for folks in my situation. I sang the next line "Rejoice and be glad! Yours is the kingdom. Shine for all to see!" Suddenly I began laughing and laughing until tears came to my eyes. While the stress remained, all the fear vanished. I decided in that instant that not only would I publicly refuse to pay my taxes, I would throw a party to rejoice in my religious persecution and I WOULD INVITE THE IRS!!!

    I told the other members of the Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation (ACOMT) that in addition to leafleting the Post Office on tax day I wanted us to send press releases that I would publicly refuse to pay my taxes. We hammered out a press release together. On tax day Andy McKenna, Susan VanHaitsma, two prospective new WTRs and myself leafleted taxpayers and displayed Susan's large banner reading, "If you work for peace why pay for war? Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation."

    A couple of TV stations did interviews and Andy got us invited to a radio show. I baited the reporter of a local CNN affiliate by offering exclusive footage of me signing my refusal letter and dropping it in the mailbox with my 1040. Their news story mentioned WTR, explained the Peace Tax Fund, and was broadcast in Austin about every hour all through the night and into the next morning.

    The next day coworkers had many questions, so I e-mailed over 200 employees about WTR, the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund, and invited them to a party on Friday, April 19th. The invitation encouraged guests to bring musical instruments for rejoicing. About forty people ranging from six months to 70 years old enjoyed that fun-filled night as we sang, beat drums, recited poems, and laughed beneath the "peace tax cranes." A friend and I made origami peace cranes from tax returns and strung them from the ceiling. Midway through the party I took just a few minutes to thank everyone for coming. I explained my WTR, the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund, and why I was rejoicing in a levy.

    Ever an activist, I did one more thing before continuing the celebration. I asked guests to write a handwritten letter to our House Representative who sits on the Ways and Means Committee where the peace tax bill is stuck. Several guests ventured into "The Letter Writing Room," a room filled with handouts, paper, pens, envelopes and decorated with poster-size sample letters and suggested talking points. Ten guests took time out to write handwritten letters that ACOMT member Steve Olshewsky will hand to our representative in Washington, DC.

    Many party guests questioned ACOMT members about WTR and the Peace Tax Fund. The most popular question was "Did you really invite the IRS?" We were happy not only to answer yes, but also to entertain guests with the voice mail message of an Austin IRS agent thanking me for the invitation but declining on behalf of their office. Guests howled with laughter that I hope dispelled their fears as it had done mine the week before.

    I'll always remember that party as not only fun, but also as both a great organizing tool and a great comfort to me. Wanting my guests to remember it, I put a sign on the door asking them not to leave without getting a peace tax crane from me. This allowed me to thank them for coming and left them with a souvenir that I hope prompts questions from their friends and family. I have since seen peace tax cranes hanging in the cars and homes of a few friends.

    So the next time the collection agent comes knocking and you find yourself faced with tough decisions, stress and fear, take time to rejoice. Laugh, throw a party, educate others, and dispel fear!

    [Return to List of Headlines]

    What Brings Secutity? Board Game

    What are US priorities? What should they be? Try out this new activity for youth and adult groups:

    Democracy can be fun: Each small group gets 25 dried beans and this task: A) Place the beans on the six squares below to show how you think Congress should allocate your tax dollars to fight terrorism and to address the roots of conflict in the world. B) Write you total on each "should be" line. C) Choose a number for each "actual" line (_) to show the amounts you think are in the Bush Administration budget proposal delivered to Congress in Feb. 2002. (Each bean = 15 billion dollars.)

    1. US Military:
    personnel, weapons, training, support, etc.

    ________      (______)
    Should be       Actual
    2. Development Aid:
    mostly small-scale assistance to reduce hunger and poverty

    _______      (______)
    Should be       Actual
    3. Peacekeeping:
    including US contributions to UN Peacekeeping efforts

    _______      (______)
    Should be       Actual
    4. US Arms Sales:
    weapons given or sold to other countries

    _______      (______)
    Should be       Actual
    5. Peace Corps:
    people-to-people assistance in less-developed areas

    _______      (______)
    Should be       Actual
    6. Conflict Resolution:
    all State Dept. activities, US Institute for Peace research...

    _______      (______)
    Should be       Actual

    When everyone is finished, share the totals each groups arrived at. Then discuss the actual amounts for the current year and the 2003 budget.

    Answers, Next Steps

    Actual numbers from this year. As most people know, the largest total is in square 1, military. Put 22 beans on square 1 for the total the 2002 budget allots to the military, $330 billion. Square 4, selling and giving away weapons, gets 2 beans. Last year, the US sold more arms than all other nations in the world combined, $30 billion. The US budget for all nonviolent strategies like UN Peacekeeping, and all programs to address root causes of violence such as hunger and poverty receives half of 1 beans, that is, less than $7 billion.

    Shock: 22 beans on square #1 doesn't cover all military costs. We must add 15 beans for veterans benefits and the militaryms share of interest on the federal debt (elsewhere in the budget.) This year our government will spend 100 times as much for military responses to conflict as for all other ways of dealing with conflict and its root causes combined!

    The 2003 Bush Admin. budget: On top of $30 billion given the military after Sept. 11 (2 more beans), the budget asks for another $48 billion for military spending in 2003 (3 more beans), the largest increase since the 1960's. Most of these new dollars aren't even for anti-terrorism projects. In contrast, the total for squares 2,3, 5 and 6 will show little change in 2003 even with President Bush's promise of new aid money!

    If you think this is out of balance, please contact your members of Congress and say so. If our democracy means anything the people should determine such broad priorities as discussed here. Just the new military dollars unrelated to fighting terrorism if moved to square 2, development aid, could end hunger in the world! Something is wrong here! Together we can explore where to go next. Citizen pressure can change this picture. Will you help?

    This board game is reprinted from the Lutheran Peace Fellowship spring 2002 newsletter. For a free kit of handouts, background information, and tips on making the most of this game, see LPFms web site: www.LutheranPeace.org.

    [Return to List of Headlines]

    War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions

    Workshops and WTR Gatherings

    The NWTRCC office is aware of many more workshops and panels on war tax resistance in recent months than in quite a while. Here are some short reports:

    Portland, OR: On April 14, 2002 the Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance (OCWTR) held a workshop at the main branch of the Portland Public Library . The workshop had about 20 people attending, including five members of OCWTR. This was the largest turnout for a WTR workshop since the Gulf War in 1990. The two hour workshop started with the NWTRCC video Paying for Peace and then broke into small groups to discuss each person's ideas, fears and questions about withholding money from the IRS to redirect it instead to groups working for peace and justice.

    Richmond, VA: NWTRCC Ad Comm member Sasha Vodnick did an Intro to WTR workshop on April 12. Fifteen people showed up. The workshop was an hour and fifteen minutes long. He started with a brief overview of WTR history around the world and in the U.S. Then folks introduced themselves and talked briefly about their interest in WTR or why they'd come to the workshop. The rest of the time was question and answer about the practice and theory of WTR.

    By the end of the workshop they had a budding local network. They're planning to start regular support potlucks of current wtrs and supporters.

    The workshop was part of a Free School sponsored by the Richmond Community Space Project, and held at Queer Paradise, Richmond's queer community center.

    Brattleboro: Carrie Miller, a student at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, who is in a Social Action course, did a WTR training for fellow students as her final project in mid April. The ten participants were quite interested in pursuing WTR. This particular training focused on the very practical "how to do it" aspect. The training was a follow up to an earlier nonviolence training facilitated by Juanita Nelson and Betsy Corner among others.

    Then on May 12, a tax clinic was held in the basement of the Brattleboro Savings and Loan, with a turnout of eight organizers and five attendees. The small turnout worked well since it allowed for more intimate discussions of the subject. A history of WTR was given, followed by an overview of methods, then small groups for further discussion.

    Ithaca, NY: The Ithaca War Tax Resisters hosted a war tax resistance panel on March 30 at the public library. An event like this had not been done in over 20 years. About twenty people attended. One man came because he saw the poster right that moment at the front of the library; another came because he saw a poster on his friendms refrigerator. Four war tax resisters spoke about their own experiences, and questions and answers were discussed.

    A front page article about war tax resistance on April 16 generated three letters to the editor, two in disagreement, and one in agreement.

    Duluth, MN: Dan Lundquist and Judith Felker, along with Donna Howard, helped facilitate a workshop in Duluth, MN in late April. Three small group discussions happened, and conversation was lively. There were 15 people total, maybe half of whom have resisted war taxation one way or another. One young man, whom none had previously met, came because of the fliers handed out on tax day.

    Eau Claire, WI: A peace group from the Chippewa Valley in Wisconsin hosted a presentation on war tax resistance in early April. Fifteen people were present, and the reception was both positive and thoughtful. Only two or three people had done any form of WTR before. Included were three high school to college students, who expressed appreciation about getting the information now, as they choose the path forward which matches their values.

    The Eau Claire group leafletted at the post office on tax day, with an updated version of the EZ Peace form that was used many years ago.

    Indiana: Karen Brandow of Connecticut, who was on a singing tour, did a workshop with Phil Rieman at a peace conference in Manchester, Indiana in late March. About 15 people came attended. Karen and Phil shared their stories, which were quite different, and answered questions. NWTRCC literature was available.

    Virginia: NWTRCC contact Ray Gingerich, along with several other wtrs, had a great morning with their Sunday school class of about 30 in which four different persons shared on "Why I'm not a military tax resister." Understand, this is in a Mennonite (pacifist) church and not one of those present believed in war, yet only a few present were war tax resisters.

    They tried to make it easy for people to get started to be war tax resisters--without making them feel guilty that they aren't doing more or being more courageous, by confessing to their own complicity in a consumerist war economy. They handed out literature listing the many different levels of possible resistance. A separate, small meeting was scheduled for those seriously interested in resisting.

    Washington State: After the NWTRCC meeting in Portland in early May, NWTRCC Coordinator Mary Loehr traveled to Bellingham and Tacoma to speak at gatherings about war tax resistance. There were about eight people at the library in Bellingham, and about the same number at the Catholic Worker in Tacoma. Mary also spoke to a group at a college in Tacoma that is trying to get a peace studies program going there.

    Eugene, OR: The Military Tax Resistance of Lane County held a Boston Tea Party in early March, with five newcomers attending. Ages ranged from a young child to someone in her 80ms.

    Albuquerque, NM: The nationwide Arts & Entertainment TV cable channelms program City Confidential aired an interview with NWTRCC contact Don Schrader on March 6.

    [Return to List of Headlines]

    NWTRCC Business

    WTRs Romp in Portland

    The Oregon Community for WTR (OCWTR) did a smashing job of organizing the bi-annual NWTRCC meeting May 3-5. At its height, nearly 70 people squeezed cozily into the spacious living room of Metanoia house, a former consulate that is now a peace community and church. Not counting NWTRCC's Administrative Community, people came from as far north as Lopez Island, WA, and as far south as the Bay area, with diehards from Kansas and Georgia.

    Friday evening started with a show of hands for different categories, such as geography, types of war tax resistance, reasons for war tax resistance, etc. The exercise conveyed important information in a quick, fun way. We then shared either a way wtr has enhanced our life, or a concern or challenge that wemre facing regarding wtr. Several people mentioned that it brings them community, and others said that it helps in staying downwardly mobile. Sharing one thing that almost no one in the room knew about you brought revelations and laughter.

    Saturday morning was devoted to a wtr counseling workshop, facilitated by NWTRCC Coordinator Mary Loehr, and informally assisted by all the knowledgeable longtime resisters in the room. A workshop for brand new wtrs was led at the same time by Tana Hastings and Geov Parrish.

    After lunch, a panel titled "If not war, what are we for?" brought together local activists and scholars. That was followed by workshops. These included: WTR and Aging; Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism; Resistance to WTR; WTR and Relationships; and Using the Media, Becoming the Media. People got a lot out of the workshops. Saturday evening contained music from local bands.

    At the NWTRCC Coordinating Committee meeting on Sunday, the following decisions were made: Ninth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns, to be held in Berlin, Germany, September 5-8: We agreed to send a representative. If you're interested in representing NWTRCC, please contact the office.

    Future NWTRCC meetings: Our fall meeting will be held in Columbus, GA, in conjunction with the effort to close the US Army School of the Americas. It will be Nov. 14-15. The preferred site for our meeting in May of 2003 is Colorado Springs, with Sonoma County, CA, as a back-up.

    NWTRCC Administrative Committee: Jessica Stewart of Ithaca, NY, will move up to a full Ad Comm member. Peter Smith and Rick Bickhart remain as alternates.

    20th Anniversary Celebration: September will be NWTRCCms 20th anniversary. Wemll hold a small celebration at in Columbus in November, with a committee forming to plan it.

    Legal Working Group: Thanks to money granted from NACC (the Nonviolent Community of Cascadia) and Resist, and other fundraising efforts, we have raised nearly all the money that we need to update our booklet WTRs and the IRS. As previously agreed, Clark Hanjian will go ahead and start working on this project.

    Thank you so much to OCWTR for all your hard work in putting the weekend together! It's always good to be with other wtrs, to share stories and information.

    If you'd like the minutes for the NWTRCC Coordinating Committee meeting or for any of the workshops, contact the NWTRCC office.

    Represent Us in Berlin!

    NWTRCC is looking for someone to represent us at the Ninth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns, to be held in Berlin, Germany, September 5-8. If you're interested in representing NWTRCC, please contact the office ASAP. We need to make a decision by the end of June.

    [Return to List of Headlines]

    Resources

    Peace News on the Web

    Peace News, a nonviolence magazine out of Britain, and part of War Resisters International, is now offering a limited news service at the website www.peacenews.info

    In addition to it being a forum for news from the international peace/antimilitarist movements, they also hope it will be a place for inspiring and sharing activist and campaigning tactics within our community - a place we can meet to hear about what specifically nonviolent, peace/antimilitarist activists are doing.

    For more information, email: editorial@peacenews.info

    In response to recent issues of More Than A Paycheck, war tax resister Paul Glover of Ithaca, NY, has submitted the following information:

    Resisters & Health Insurance

    War tax resisters earning low wages to avoid liability seldom have health insurance. The Ithaca Health Fund proceeds, in the spirit of Amish mutual aid, to make grants for specified emergency needs to member who pay $100/year. Grants are made anywhere in the world with any health provider, so the Fund has members nationwide. As more people join the Fund, the menu of coverage expands. Each member may vote for the board of directors and suggest expansion priorities. Donations to the Fund are tax-deductible when made to: Southside Community Center (memo: Ithaca Health Fund). For details/membership/donation: www.IthacaHealth.org Ithaca Health Fund, Box 362, Ithaca, NY 14851

    Local Currency & Interest-free Loans

    The Ithaca HOUR local paper money system has made dozens of interest-free loans since 1992. The largest loan so far has been $30,000 (3,000 HOURS)and the smallest $50 (five HOURS). While dollars seek only maximum profit (weapons, prisons, downsizing, etc.), local currencies seek maximum community benefit (regional agriculture, energy efficiency, healing, co-ops). While dollar interest derives principally from enlarging dysfunctional macroeconomies, community currencies think globally and invest locally.

    For details, see www.ithacahours.com.

    [Return to List of Headlines]

    War Tax Resisters Join International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank

    by Audrey Stewart

    During the month of April, I traveled to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel with a delegation of five, all of whom are war tax resisters. As a child growing up in the deep south, I had often wondered how so many ^Sgood people^T stood by in the face of the terrible evils of slavery and segregation. Some of these "good people" were my family members. For me, going to Palestine was an important part of not becoming someone who stands by silently as innocent people are crushed. As an American whose government supports, financially and otherwise, the government of Israel in its unjust occupation of the Palestinian people, I felt a responsibility to respond to the pleas of Palestinian activists to come to the West Bank as a nonviolent force against the invasion.

    We arrived on April 8th as the invasion was still in full swing. We joined hundreds of other international and Israeli activists who were accompanying Palestinians through the shoot-to-kill curfews of most West Bank cities. We also worked to document the atrocities of the invasion. Although I had been aware of US aid to Israel, the reality of just how many US made weapons were used in the invasion and in the ongoing military occupation of the Palestinian people still stunned me.

    I awoke one morning about 6 am in a small village near Jenin to the sound of Apache helicopters (made by Boeing in the US) flying overhead. This sound was quickly followed by loud explosions from just over the hill as the Apaches unloaded their US made ammunition on the tiny villages next to us. While in Bethlehem, we photographed a missile, clearly stamped as being US made, that was shot into a civilian apartment building.

    Probably the most striking memory of the trip for me was in the Jenin refugee camp. We were walking with a young woman who had fled the camp when the invasion began and was just returning for the first time to see the destruction. We came upon a group of camp residents who were burying their dead. As we watched, the men and boys carried bodies into a makeshift mass grave. The women standing nearby slowly approached us and began talking. They said to us, "This is the responsibility of America;" "American aid to Israel paid for this;" "These apaches and F-16s that destroyed our homes and killed our children were made in your country." Over and over we said to them "We are so sorry," and "We don't pay our taxes."

    Just days after I arrived home, it seemed that the Israeli army was gearing up for an assault on the Gaza strip following a suicide bombing in an Israeli city. With the images of people's faces and destroyed homes still fresh in my mind, the work -- of standing in the way of an invasion, and in the longer term, working to end the occupation -- seemed even more pressing. Fortunately, the invasion of the Gaza strip seems to have been put on hold, as of this writing in mid-May. Still, it seems clearer and clearer that neither Israelis or Palestinians will be safe as long the military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip continues.

    With these thoughts in my mind, I found myself along with several others in the office of our congressperson talking with his aide about our experiences and urging him to work to end the brutal occupation of Palestine. The three of us from Ithaca who traveled to Palestine/Israel have also been sharing about our experiences to anyone who will listen; schools, church groups, local peace and justice organizations etc. Each time we talk, we mention tax resistance as one way of clearly saying no to the awful violence of the military occupation. We have also been hard at work spreading the word about the Freedom Summer in Palestine campaign, which would bring international activists into the West Bank and Gaza strip to engage in nonviolent direct action against the occupation. In all of these actions, I can only hope that I am somehow standing in the way of the tanks, Apache helicopters, and F16s that threaten both the children of Israel and the children of Palestine.

    Audrey Stewart lives in Ithaca, NY.

    [Return to List of Headlines]     [Return to NWTRCC home ]     [Previous Newsletter]

    =========================
    National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

    PO Box 6512
    Ithaca, NY 14851
    (800) 269-7464
    E-mail: nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org

    For technical questions about this website please e-mail webmaster