Letter to Myrna Melgar, member of the SF Board of Supervisors (Indybay)

Original online here.

Letter to Myrna Melgar, member of the SF Board of Supervisors

by Elizabeth Milos (elimilos [at] gmail.com)

Mon, Jan 8, 2024 4:01AM

A call to remember one’s past, and to be in the world on the side of Justice for Palestine.


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When we first met, you were a young woman very committed to women’s health and I was a young mother who had just come back from living in Chile for five years, under a dictatorship. We both had been hired for a CDC sponsored HIV prevention project at a local women’s nonprofit in May of 1993.

You told me you were Salvadorean and to me, you felt a bit like family because of the admiration I had for your people, for their bravery in facing down one of the most powerful countries in the world, fighting in the streets and in the mountains of El Salvador. I told you about the years I spent working with Salvadoreans in the Solidarity movement here in San Francisco during the early 80s.

We sat down for what seemed like a day and you were genuinely interested in my experiences in Chile. I told you I had not been in Chile during the coup in 1973, I had been living in NYC, my birthplace, and was 11 years old when it happened but I had gone back at 25 years of age as a photojournalist to lend my lens in the fight against the dictatorship. You said that you had barely been nine years old when you were forced to move to the US as soon as the fighting had started. You had studied political science and I was very impressed with your knowledge.

We reflected on how our childhood experiences had formed us. Both of us from strong mothers, committed in the struggle for liberation.

A lot of time has passed since that day and life has taken us down different paths but in all, I always thought that we were still, in essence down the same one.

Until I heard about your reluctance to vote Yes for a resolution demanding a ceasefire to stop the genocide in Palestine.

I heard you were among the members of the Board of Supervisors who voted to table the decision until the next meeting one month away.

During an ongoing genocide.

I truly believed that anyone who has seen what had happened to their country as result of war would never wish that upon any other people.

If I understood you correctly, you stated that you were divided on this issue because you are Jewish. I barely understood what you meant, because at this last Board of Supervisors meeting, there were 2,500 people there, many of them Jewish, asking you to vote YES.

Growing up in the US, during the Civil War in El Salvador, didn’t you feel the same way as I did, a kind of dread, sadness and impotence, from seeing pictures of bodies piled up along the sides of the roads, knowing the people had been killed by bombs and bullets and helicopters paid for by the US?

Why would being Jewish make you feel reluctant to save Palestinians from that fate?

Didn’t those videos of blindfolded naked Palestinian men on their knees in Gaza City, bring back any memories of what the Guardia Nacional (and US advisors) did to Salvadorean peasants before shooting them in the head and kicking them into mass graves?

What would motivate a person to table a decision to stop genocide? I asked myself.

As an 11 year old, working out of a solidarity office in Hell’s Kitchen after the coup, I felt an urgency with every fax we sent out to the international community and to newspapers that held the names of men and women who had been snatched and disappeared by Pinochet’s secret police. The urgency was to save their lives, to force the government to acknowledge their existence and their captivity. Now, 50 years later, there are many still missing. But even half a century later, many of their captors and killers are facing justice. Because we do not forget.

Now, 75 years later, Palestinians are still fighting not only for Israel to acknowledge their existence but also for the right to even exist. Once again. We do not forget.

How many are missing under the rubble in Gaza? How many of the thousands snatched by Israel and taken to indefinite detention will make it out alive?

Why are Israelis called “hostages” and Palestinians called “prisoners”?

Didn’t you grow up with that same sense of urgency to save lives? I thought you had when you told me about your passion for helping women.

Thousands of pregnant Palestinian women are giving birth in bombed out hospitals and losing their wombs and lives from infection because Israel has cut off their water.

I remember in 1981, during the FMLN offensive, we would hear stories of women giving birth while running from the army and the companeros and companeras, with rifles in hand, would defend their positions under fire at the retaguardia, at the back of the line, until they had delivered the baby and could bring them to safety. Some of the new mothers had to cover their newborn’s mouths tightly to stop their crying so as not to give up their location underground and have 500-pound bombs fall on all of them.

Those are unimaginable and excruciating decisions to make, not one that we are asking you and your colleagues to make which would actually help stop a genocide.

While I was in Laney College, we organized one of the first demonstrations in Berkeley in Solidarity with El Salvador right after the FMLN general offensive. We reached out to the General Union of Palestinian Students for help. The Palestinians not only extended their hand in solidarity but they also served as security for the march, protecting the undocumented Salvadoreans with their own bodies against the danger of being snatched by police and sent back to El Salvador.

During a meeting at the Women’s Building after the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982, I remember that some of the people, whom I considered progressive, who had been at our rallies in solidarity with El Salvador, Nicaragua and even for Chile, somehow felt conflicted about calling out Israel for their role in these massacres of Palestinians, because they were Jewish. Some of them cried. At the time, I wondered who they were really crying for.

Hadn’t they ever heard Martin Luther King’s statement about the indivisibility of justice? When it came to fighting for the right to return of the Chilean refugees, there was no question among US progressives. Why did some of them treat the right of return of Palestinians differently?

Now, the Jewish presence in the movement for justice in Palestine is much more visible. In fact, Jews have been at the forefront of this struggle for many years and the critical mass has arrived worldwide. Some were in a minority and over the years suffered serious consequences from attacks by Zionists for supporting the Palestinians.

There is something that happens to a young person’s psyche when there is an awareness of injustice yet the world keeps turning as if nothing is going on. It’s like being in permanent exile from your own body.

There is no post traumatic stress syndrome in Palestine because there is no POST. It is ongoing. In Gaza, if a child is lucky enough to survive to be 15 years old, he or she gone thru 6 extended bombing campaigns during all of their lives.

There is a new term used by Search and Rescue teams created just for Gaza: WCNSF. Wounded Child No Surviving Family.

There is something that happens to the world when a genocide continues unopposed and unpunished.

The world itself becomes untenable. For your children. For mine. For all of them way past our own lifetimes.

What gives me hope is that young people everywhere are seeing the world with clean eyes and know in their hearts to stand on the side of the most vulnerable.

What gives me hope is that young people are no longer following US mainstream media but are turning to groundbreaking, brave on-the-ground reporting from Gazan journalists and youth and very excellent reporters from Electronic Intifada as well as Flashpoints. At the same time we’ve all had our hearts broken when reporters in Gaza we have come to admire and to search for their news dispatches, are being called by the Israeli forces, tracked and bombed. But their poems and words and images live on, like world renown writer and teacher Dr. Refaat Alareer. We do not forget.

What gives me hope is that these young people are the generation that joined US unions and have been actively organizing within our ranks, fighting against their employers and often even their union bureaucracies to be in solidarity with the Palestinians. On December 16th, a massive and historic labor march in solidarity with Palestine took place in Oakland. This, against the backdrop of direct orders from the AFL-CIO to the SF Labor Council to not pass resolution for Palestine nor support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that Palestinian trade unions have been asking the world to adhere to.

What gives me hope is that once again, the word “Resistance” has the meaning I grew up honoring, such as the resistance of doctors who sing together that they will stay with their patients no matter what and like nephrologist Dr. Hamam Alouh who refused to leave his patients even though he knew he was facing death. Not the faux resistance touted around presumably against Trump only to carry out the same war mongering and supremacist policies.

If none of this has moved you to vote yes on the original resolution before you, let me leave you with this very concrete thought.

The US is a signatory to the Genocide Convention and we are all duty bound to Stop a genocide from happening. It is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (adopted 9 December 1948, entered into force 12 January 1951); the same Genocide Convention that was created in order to prevent another Holocaust from happening again anywhere.

You are a public official so I advise you to take a look at the case before the ICJ brought by South Africa.

It outlines very clearly how Israel has demonstrated beyond a doubt and with visual documentation (and hubris) its very deliberate intention to commit genocide to eradicate the Palestinians and take over not only Gaza but also the West Bank. All of the elements that define genocide have been met.

I ask you. Doesn’t being Jewish and Salvadorean actually compel you to act with even more strength?

I invite you to reach inside and find the courage to do so this time.


by Elizabeth Milos

Mon, Jan 8, 2024 4:01AM


Download PDF (602.1KB)


by Elizabeth Milos

Mon, Jan 8, 2024 4:01AM


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by Elizabeth Milos

Mon, Jan 8, 2024 4:01AM


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by Elizabeth Milos

Mon, Jan 8, 2024 4:01AM


Download PDF (674.2KB)


by Elizabeth Milos

Mon, Jan 8, 2024 4:01AM


Download PDF (1.5MB)

The South Africa ICJ Genocide case brought against Israel

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