Animal rights NGO, Animals Australia, along with three Israeli animal protection groups – Anonymous for Animal Rights, Let the Animals Live, and Israel Against Live Shipments – have launched a campaign to end live exports.
The trade is objectionable to most Australians, due to the horrific conditions sheep and cattle are subjected to on the long voyages, and also upon arrival, where they are kept in feedlots until an often cruel and unregulated slaughter. All in all, these animals are kept in extremely unclean, overcrowded and unattended conditions for months. A great deal has already been written elsewhere about this ongoing horror.
But animal welfare is not necessarily a motive for those concerned over climate change. Here are some reasons I learned for condemning live exports also for environmental reasons:
The shipping of live animals for slaughter overseas is carried out by extremely polluting ships running on diesel fuel.
Upon arrival, excessive pollution is produced by cows in feedlots, by the concentrated animal sewage.
Then, countries often import grain for the feedlots, which in turn perpetuates the unsustainable grain industry in those poorer countries (this results in Dutch Disease – the decline of other sectors to give rise to grain production for export). Export-based economies put local producers at a disadvantage in different ways. But back to the environment.
Yet, Animals Australia has focused on animal welfare in its campaign to stop live exports. It also decided to support the Israeli animal rights NGOs in the hope that if Israel no longer imports Australian meat-producing animals, then its neighbour, Jordan, to which Australia exports a far higher number of livestock, might cease to do so as well.
Since New Zealand ceased the live export trade over a decade ago, its economy has benefitted, and of course so have the sheep.
What’s crucial to remember is the link between the beef industry and commercial vested interests. And agribusiness is extremely powerful. Meat production practices, combined with the forest clearing needed to produce grain for feed, together account for an untold percentage of carbon emissions. It seems outrageous that the myriad unsavoury effects of all this should go largely concealed while the status quo is maintained.
Visit Animals Australia to find out how you can help this campaign.
This post is part of Just Voices #11 – Climate Change.
The following is taken from the campaign page of the Centre for Jewish Nonviolence:
This summer, Jews from around the world are working with Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists to end the occupation and build a just future for all.
We’re invited to stand in solidarity with Palestinians living under daily threat of displacement.
Help us stand up to injustice with courage, so that we can plant hope for a future grounded in dignity and justice.
We need your support to:
We’re thrilled to announce that we have a matching grant of $1,000! During the first week of this fundraising campaign every dollar raised up to $1,000 will be matched by our Israeli partners in All That’s Left.
“The situation in Susiya is only one of many such situations in Area C of the West Bank. Several villages near ours have pending demolition orders as well. If Susiya is destroyed and its residents expelled, it will serve as a precedent for further demolitions and expulsions through the South Hebron Hills and Area C of the West Bank. This must not be allowed to happen.”
For years, Jews around the world have commemorated significant life events such as bar and bat mitzvahs or weddings by giving money to plant trees in Israel. The planting of a tree symbolizes life, growth, hope and steadfastness. This summer, the Center for Jewish Nonviolence is carrying these values into the fight against the injustices of Israeli occupation. Alongside our Palestinian partners we will be planting Za’atar herbs and helping to build infrastructure for future agricultural projects in communities that are struggling under Israel’s military occupation.
Agriculture is the economic life-blood of these communities, but Israeli policy and settler violence and intimidation prevent and suppress efforts made by community members to plant and harvest their fields.
Planting is not just about securing economic livelihood, it is also an important form of resistance to the Occupation. Our partners in the South Hebron Hills endure unending threats ofdisplacement as a direct result of Israeli governmental policy which has often resulted in home demolitions (for more information see Ma’an, Haaretz or +972mag). Planting trees and working the land demonstrate rootedness (Sumud) and a firm stand against the occupation, solidifying these communities’ ongoing presence on their lands.
* Donations to the Center for Jewish Nonviolence are tax-deductible under US law.
The Center for Jewish Nonviolence is a fiscally sponsored project of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call For Human Rights.
*All handicrafts the CJNV offers at various Donation Levels come from socially-conscious Palestinian artisans and crafts-makers, such as the Women in Hebron embroidery cooperative.
Who are we?
The Center for Jewish Nonviolence organizes international Jewish support for Palestinian & Israeli nonviolent resistance activists working to end the unjust occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Our campaign this summer, Occupation Is Not Our Judaism, will bring Jews from around the world to engage in direct action and nonviolent opposition to the occupation. We will spend 10 days with our partners in Hebron and the South Hebron Hills engaging in solidarity activism, standing with Palestinians being evicted from their homes and pushed off their land. As Jews from across the anti-occupation spectrum, we say to our own communities, to the Israeli government, and to the world that the occupation must not continue.
Will you help us stand in solidarity with the people of Hebron & the South Hebron Hills?
Answer the call and support this growing movement by contributing to our campaign.
Help us build a more just future for Palestinians, and for all the people who live between the River and the Sea.
Please give generously and Share this campaign with your networks!
Get to know the Center for Jewish Nonviolence’s Leadership team here
In yet another move to undermine democracy in Israel, the Netanyahu-led government has recently passed a transparency law (also called in Hebrew the organisations bill). Initiated by the Justice Minister, Ayeled Shaked, the law is ostensibly aimed at enabling government access to information about all NGOs funding sources and government affiliates.
Given the Israeli government’s growing passion for isolating, demonising and ultimately deactivating the Left in the country, the bill should clearly be recognised as a legislative move to weaken the opposition. This is most definitely not democratic. It serves only to demonise human rights organisations while enabling their nationalist counterparts to thrive.
Likened by some to a witch hunt, or the demand to wear a yellow star in the Knesset, this and related persecution of activists recently serves not only to infuriate human rights activists everywhere, but also draw out expressions of solidarity from those who’ve so far kept silent.
You can watch the following report on the ABC’s 7:30 Report on the transparency bill and in particular the way in which it is connected with Breaking the Silence.
To watch the report, click here: https://www.facebook.com/NIFAustralia/videos/1002349396496082/
Read more about this attack on free speech here.
In the past two weeks there has been an unprecedented attack against human rights activists in the Israeli media and in the Israeli political system. This includes what appear to be trumped up charges against two Jewish and one Palestinian employee on the basis of spying by semi-privatised intelligence agencies funded by settler organisations and supporters, filtered through sensationalist media.
As of January 22nd, it is still unclear if the Jewish detainees will actually be released next week, despite a court order. The Palestinian detainee has been removed from Israel civil jurisdiction and sent to a military prison, an example of the form of local apartheid that exists between Israel proper and the Occupied Territories. Guy Butavia, one of those arrested, said in court “This is a political arrest, its entire goal is to hurt our work for Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, and against the crimes and criminals of occupation. Everything they will try to pin on us, it won’t work. This case will crumble, and they can’t break us. They can’t”.
Coupled with a move to force NGOs that receive foreign funding to wear stigmatizing badge when in the Knesset building, and other activities by extreme right-wing organisations such as the ‘student’ organisation Im Tirzu, Israeli civil society is under threat. And of course, gangs still appear to be free to harass and conduct graffiti and other attacks against churches and mosques, pursue ‘mixed couples’, and books on such topics are forbidden in school.
In an environment wracked by the current wave of horrendous inter-communal violence, which we absolutely condemn, more than ever, it is time to show solidarity with human rights organisations in Israel.
The use of gag orders by the Israeli authorities–frowned upon by Menahem Begin–is a demonstration of how politicized and dangerous the situation has become, where a virulent nationalism has taken hold. We don’t know who is next to be caught up in a secret political swoop. What has been used for years against Palestinians is now being used against dissenting Jews (and we hold the same concerns for the secret conduct of investigations into the Duma murders). One of the benchmarks of a free society is open and due process. This is entirely missing now.
This will only serve to isolate Israel even further from the world community
What can you do? You can directly support affected organisations, by making donations to them via their websites, and by conveying your displeasure and concern to the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, here.
We mention organisations such as Ta’ayush (a non-Zionist human rights collective), and Rabbis for Human Rights (a strongly Zionist organistion), and B’tzelem or Shovrim Shtika/Breaking the Silence, also Zionist, because this range show that human rights and ethical behaviour is an issue that concerns people of different political and ethical orientations in the Israeli Jewish community.
But despite the campaign against civil society organisations in Israel, we must not forget the daily humiliation and harassment faced by Palestinians, and the important of witnessing organisations, such as Ta’ayush and RHR, which go out in the field, all the time. As Ta’ayush says:
“Harassment of Palestinian farmers and shepherds in South Hebron hills by both settlers and the army continues. These forces take over their lands and prevent them from accessing it. Without the presence of activists, many farmers don’t get the chance to cultivate their land.
There is a direct link between the number of activists who come to accompany the farmers and their ability to live a relatively normal life.” [found here]
We are also deeply disappointed that leading Australian Jewish community organisations have fallen silent in the face of attempts to demonise human rights activity in the country. Their silence and complicity at this time is indefensible. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Occupation, we need say, “Not in Our Name” and let this be known.
This official statement was released by the AJDS January 23, 2016
Apologies for the missing minute towards the end of her talk.
Last night’s 2015 annual dinner and fundraiser for the Australian Jewish Democratic Society at the fantastic Arabesque was a full house and a great success. Thank you to the hard working staff and executive members that volunteered to make it happen. It was great to so many members and supporters.
Shen Narayanasamy’s talk was inspiring, as she shared with us the unique yet relatable circumstances that led her to working on GetUp and No Business in Abuse, along with the shocking details of the refugee detention industry of this country. Good discussion followed, leaving us motivated to push corporations harder. Click here to read the No Business in Abuse report into Transfield’s (now Broadspectrum’s) complicity in abuse.
Thank you to the buyers of the auctioned rug, glassware and art, along with the raffle tickets (congratulations to Colleen Hartland on winning those delicious products from Canaan Fair Trade), t-shirts (buy yours here), and the other goodies.
We are most grateful to all of you who came along and helped the AJDS continue its work through your participation and generous donations.
Shen’s talk is also on youtube, view it here.
And finally, some pictures:
Back to home page.
Produced by Zochrot, this maps shows settlements destroyed in Israel, ‘since the beginning of Zionism until the 1967 war’, as explained in the legend at the top. The Hebrew names of extant settlements as one would normally see on a map of Israel, are all still visible, though recede in pale gray into the background. Instead, the names of 601 former settlements appear in black on top, conveying the destruction and dispersal of Palestinian communities in countless events. The map serves as a useful historical tool in visualising and recording the Nakba and tracing events through re-mapping.
The legend also contains two quotes, from two European Jewish thinkers who are nonetheless worlds apart:
“For Europe we shall constitute there [in Palestine] a sector of the wall against Asia, we shall serve as the vanguard of culture against barbarism.” – Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State, 1896
“This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in f’ront of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” – Walter Benjamin, Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History, 1940 [emphasis added]
Catastrophe; Sho’ah; Nakba. History repeats itself. Herzl’s fundamentally racist vision for Israel, which stands up to his colonial counterparts here in Australia or anywhere else, contrasts Benjamin’s sad crisis of faith. This map and quotations reflect the aspirations of the Zionist campaign, and the painful realisation in its aftermath that the destruction was, and continues to be, devastating, permanent and unjustifiable. Zochrot’s iNakba phone app integrates roaming technology into the act of re-mapping.
By Harold Zwier
Originally published in The Australian Jewish News (AJN) (19 June 2015)
The Counterpunch articles by Dvir Abramovich (AJN 15/5/2015 & 12/6/2015) about Israeli NGO “Breaking the Silence”, are a quite extraordinary attack on an Israeli soldiers’ organisation, whose support for the Israeli state is really not in question – unless one has a political agenda to set one part of the Jewish / Israeli community against another.
Dr. Abramovich is, of course, perfectly entitled to his political opinions, except that when he speaks, he does so as Chair of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC).
We therefore have to conclude that the ADC, an organisation whose principal aim is to oppose anti-semitism, racism and human rights violations, excludes allegations of human rights abuses when they are made against the Israeli Defence Forces and sees no irony in attacking other defenders of human rights, such as “Breaking The Silence”.
Dr. Abramovich joins some leaders of the Australian Jewish community who seem unable to distinguish between their responsibility to use their leadership position to represent the whole Jewish community in all its diversity, and their need to push a narrow political agenda.
The ADC may well believe that the entire world, including Israeli soldiers’ organisations, are out to destroy Israel and the Jews, but a more proportionate view of anti-semitism comes from our everyday experiences. I think the ADC needs to do some serious self-reflection and I think other communal leaders would do well to reinforce that clear need.
In response to the attacks on Oxfam from leading Australian Jewish organisations for parting ways with Scarlett Johannson over her conflict of interest (promoting Sodastream while being an Oxfam Ambassador) , two letters were published in the Australian Jewish News (14 Feb 2014).
One is from Andrew Casey who has a long association with the Australian union movement, including the ACTU. He is also a member of TULIP, Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine. It should be noted that Michael Danby, a member of the Australian Labour Party and Member for Melbourne Ports has slammed Oxfam’s position on Settlement Products and Ms Johannson. He is himself a former union official. It would be interesting to know his response to Andrew Casey’s letter
The second comes from AJDS member Larry Stillman.
by George Stein
“Aid … undermines the Palestinian’s political struggle, ‘normalises’ the situation of the occupation, and postpones a permanent solution” – Shir Hever in The Political Economy of Israel’s occupation: Repression beyond Exploitation.
In the early 1990’s a series of agreements known as the Oslo Accords were adopted in the Israeli Occupied Territories (OT) of the West Bank.
The Oslo Accords introduced a number of measures, ostensibly intended as first steps towards peace between Israel and Palestine. A key part of the agreements was the division of the OT of the West Bank into three zones known as Area A, B and C. Area A is now under the control of the Palestinian Authorities (PA), Area B under joint PA and Israeli control and Area C, comprising 61% of the West Bank under complete Israeli military control. The agreements were designed to operate over a five year interim period, with authority over Area C to eventually be transferred to the PA. Israeli military control of Area C is ongoing.
Oslo dramatically altered the framework within which the Palestinian national struggle was conceived: away from liberation and towards statehood. No longer was the focus on highlighting the inequality experienced by Palestinians living under occupation, but rather on ‘peaceful’ co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. Issues central to the Palestinian struggle – such as the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, the status of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital city, the existence of settlements and access to water – were relayed to so called “final status agreements”, following an interim period of five years. Almost 20 years later these issues remain controversial and unresolved.
In April 1994, Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Paris to sign the Paris Protocols, the economic component of the Oslo Accords. The protocols bind the Palestinian economy to Israel in a number of different areas, including customs, taxes, labor, agriculture, industry and tourism. The protocols established a “customs union,” to ensure no economic borders exist between Israel and the West Bank, but Israel maintains control over all external borders. This means that items imported into West Bank must meet Israeli standards, and Israel collects import taxes and transfers them to the PA. In addition, Israel has the power to unilaterally change the tax on import goods[i]. These measures disallow any kind of economic independence of a Palestinian state. Ultimately, Oslo and the Paris Protocol embed the Palestinian economy in a matrix of Israeli control, without requiring Israel to expend resources and energy in directly controlling the Palestinian population. The Oslo Agreements and the Paris Protocol force Palestinian markets open for Israeli goods, so in effect “the Palestinian community under the occupations is the biggest consumer of Israeli products and services. We are considered the second biggest market for the products of Israel or of products imported by Israel – second only to the Israeli community itself. We are considered the second biggest tax payer for the occupation,” says Fathy Khdirat, emphatically in an interview I conducted with him. Fathy is one of the founders of Jordan Valley Solidarity (JVS) campaign. He speaks passionately about the hardships faced by Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley and is critical of the way in which the international community has been engaging with this issue.
The Jordan Valley makes up 30% of the West Bank. 95% of its land is located in Area C. It stretches over 2,400sq KM, from the Dead Sea in the south, to the village of Bisan in the north. It encompasses the entire border between the West Bank and Jordan. The fact that it is situated over the Eastern Water Basin, coupled with its warm climate, means the land of the Jordan Valley is perfect for agricultural produce, much to the benefit of highly profitable settlement farms in the area. Israel intends to annex this land, effectively surrounding the West Bank on all sides and destroying any chance of an independent Palestinian state. In order to achieve this, Israel makes life almost unbearable for local Palestinians, who have been living in the Jordan Valley for generations. Israel does this by restricting Palestinian access to water, appropriating land for settlements, military training areas and so-called ‘nature reserves’, demolishing homes, confiscating tractors and livestock, to name only some of the harsh measures employed.
In response to this, the Jordan Valley Solidarity group was formed by local Palestinians. It is a grassroots campaign by local Palestinians and supported by international volunteers, who come from all over the world to support the Palestinian right to exist on their land. Fathy, one of the founders of JVS, claims that the Oslo Agreements and the Non Governmental Organizations (‘NGOs’) are normalizing the Occupation. He asks, “Are we going to accept the situation? To keep donating to the Occupation? To keep sustaining the Occupation and providing resources to the occupier? Are we going to continue encouraging development under the Occupation? Service development, infrastructure development, administration development, economic development?”
When asked what the NGOs and international groups working in area C are doing, Fathy responds, “you have to ask the international groups. They are working here since the Occupation and still nothing changes.” He says that there is no short supply of international groups claiming to want to help the Palestinian people. Yet the organizations must work according to Occupation regulations and laws. If they want to work in the OT they need permission from the Israeli Authority. Therefore, if the authority declares 95% of the land closed to Palestinians, they cannot work in 95% of the land. The only area in which they can work is area A, under the PA, where Palestinians can work and live. Fathy claims that by only working in area A, international organizations are normalizing the Occupation and helping it to implement its policy of displacing Palestinians, herding them into Bantustans (area A) and annexing area C, because if Palestinians in area C are not provided with basic needs like infrastructure, water, work and land, their lives become unbearable and they are forced to leave.
Indeed, it is an increasingly recognized worldwide that many NGOs are entering communities and implementing short-term oriented goals, which focus on alleviating harsh consequences of governmental policies. They functionally relieve governments of their obligations to people, most of whom have not benefited from the implementation of increasingly neoliberal policies (such as privatization of natural resources including water and land) accompanied by the shrinking of social welfare services. But these NGOs exclude the structure of the state or its economic policies as a site of injury to communities. They don’t attempt to target broader systemic causes of suffering. Therefore, the focus of NGOs is often identifying scarcity of resources as the problem, rather than institutionalized inequality and uneven distribution. Because the state is excluded from the site of injury, it means that laws, regulations and official practices by governments are naturalized and adhered to, rather than confronted, thereby perpetuating the very root of inequality. Most of the solutions offered by NGOs are no more than band-aid measures, which may provide temporary relief to some, but they are not transformative.
Because NGOs are often single-issue oriented, they tend to compartmentalize aspects of struggles and in the process fail to fully address the multifaceted, structural nature of conflict. In the case of Palestine, many NGOs do not necessarily focus on a critique of the Israeli occupation, but rather aim to train Palestinians to function in a newly established, post-Oslo ‘civil society’ characterized by Palestinian participation in free-market capitalism. Therefore, funding tends to be focused on projects which promote co-existence between Israel and Palestine, on joint projects rather than addressing their systemic inequality under occupation.
Fathy explains that the main issue in the Jordan Valley is water. Palestinians have no access to water sources right below their feet. Israel will not allow them to drill wells or renovate old wells in order to enhance their functionality. Yet, these international organizations will not address these systemic issues and “without water there is no life.” He says that the organizations are “giving soft help or donations like supplying people with tents or sheets. But this is not the main necessary thing. The most important thing is water and they are not offering sustainable water resources. These people used to drink from their own spring. The occupation confiscated and destroyed their water resources.” In an interview Fathy explains, “If anyone wants to support us they must support us according to the truth that we are people who want to resist the Occupation, who want to get rid of the Occupation.”
In 2007, Oxfam initiated a project in Al-Jiftlik village in the Jordan Valley to develop an underground water network which would allow residents to access and transport water more effectively and sustainably. In order for this project to proceed, Oxfam required several permits from the Israeli Authorities. The first permit required was for a water tank, the second to link up the pipes to Mekorot’s (Israeli water company) water supply, the third for the water pump and the last for a pipe to cross the village to Mekorot’s water supply. The procedure for applying for such permits is painfully slow and the slightest error requires restarting the entire process. So when Oxfam were denied permission to proceed with their project, they “changed the plan to distributing plastic water tanks to the community. Instead of building a useful 500 cubic metre water tank for the village, they distribute useless water tanks to each family,” says Fathy.
Anyone who researches about NGOs and donations in the OT will recognize straight away that the donations which are meant to come to these areas figure, over the last 15 years, in the millions. But this money is being funneled into projects which conveniently avoid the question of the Israeli Occupation. One NGO has a grant of half a million euros from the European Union to prevent owl extinction in the Jordan Valley, when people don’t have enough drinking water. These organizations “see no reason to challenge the Occupation, instead they invent soft projects which do not interfere with the Occupation. Take the owl project – it will not have a physical presence, you will not be able to see it on a map, it will not make any trouble with the Occupation authority.”
Because these organizations receive funding from various sources, they must protect their monetary interests by not crossing certain lines and by sticking to the status quo. In fact, it has been a well-cited phenomena that organizations which criticize Israeli policies risk being defunded and penalized. Such was the case of INCITE – Women of Color Against Violence. On their website, they explain that they began to receive funding from the Ford Foundation in 2000. Then, “unexpectedly on July 30, 2004, the Ford Foundation sent another letter, explaining that it had reversed its decision because of our organization’s statement of support for the Palestinian liberation struggle[i].”
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is obliged to supply those living in the OT with their basic needs. NGOs have stepped in because Israel is not fulfilling this obligation, but this is creating a climate in which the “Israeli military administration no longer take responsibility for the welfare of the people in Area C, they can even stop surveiling these Palestinian areas because now they have the NGOs to do it for them.” Fathy explains that NGOs receive a lot of money, but most of it goes towards the costs of the NGOs themselves, including supplying NGO employees with well-paid salaries. Fathy continues to explain that since the Oslo Agreements, a great number of NGOs started coming into Palestine, claiming they want to help and support the people. But millions are spent, supposedly in the name of Palestinian people, on this new sector of Palestinian society. This is evident by the fact that “they have fantastic houses and high salaries and huge offices. They have large running costs, financed by donations supposedly on behalf of the Palestinian people. The taxes they pay take up 22% of their budgets and they implement their work through outside contractors, giving large salaries to “specialists” and “international advisors”. What actually remains for the people is nothing.
When asked what should be done, Fathy responds:
“As Palestinians we need to depend on ourselves. We don’t want to keep looking for help from the international community. We can’t imagine that the American Marines will one day come to liberate Palestine. I can’t imagine that the European Union will bring the Israeli murders to the courts. They will not open courts for the Israeli war criminals. It’s impossible to imagine that the leaders of Israel will eventually feel so guilty, suffer inside so much, that they will eventually grant us our freedom. I’m not imagining that the world will join together to put in place sanctions or boycott Israel, especially not through caring about the Palestinian cause. None of this will happen without action taken by us as Palestinians.
Up until now we encourage the Occupation to continue and be sustainable. Now we must start to do something. If we keep going like this we are encouraging Israel in its policy of isolating the Palestinian people. They will continue pushing us to live on the minimum natural resources. Israel considers us a reservoir for cheap labor. They grant us no rights and take no responsibility for the Palestinian laborers. We are the second biggest consumer of Israeli products after Israel itself, especially for products that are of low quality and not suitable to be sold in Israel itself. We are the second biggest taxpayer for the Israeli authority. So why would Israel leave? Why would Israel leave this area that provides a bountiful supply of human beings to produce whatever they want? We must boycott the occupation and everything that is linked to the occupation, be it directly or indirectly, and to boycott all those who profit from the occupation. Those that profit from the occupation, they are more dangerous that the occupation itself.”
Fathy stresses the importance of grassroots organizations, like Jordan Valley Solidarity, “if we can get some money from our friends and supporters everywhere, then we will have enough to survive. We will not depend on funding.” People leading the struggle must come from within the struggle. Fathy also emphasizes this- we do not represent the community, we are the community.