Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Journey to Bethlehem in Advent, 2009

Journey to Bethlehem in Advent, Meditations on a Pilgrimage

When I have visited Israel and Palestine and heard the stories of the people there - both Israeli and Palestinian - who are working for peace and reconciliation, I have asked what I can do as an American to support their work. They always tell me, "Tell our story." One person told me that surely, if Americans knew what was really happening, our government's policies would change and there would be a more balanced approach, honoring both Israel's needs and Palestinians' needs.

So, again this year I am writing about these amazing people. Reading the texts for Advent, I remember the land I have walked on my travels to Bethlehem and the amazing people I met who have shown me what it really means to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, to bring good news to the widow and orphan, to the prisoner and those held captive. The ones imprisoned behind the 24-foot high security barrier Israel is building in the middle of the city in Bethlehem.

The meditation are some of the stories I heard on my visits to Israel and Palestine in 2008 and 2009--stories of desperation and stories of amazing gospel-good-news-hope from the Christians, Jews and Muslims living today on the holy land of Jesus' birth. Read the meditations for your Advent devotions:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of Walls Torn Down by the People

On yesterday’s news shows we saw images of a wall that, by the sheer strength of the will of the people, came down—a wall that seemed permanent, a wall that looked solid and impenetrable. Like the wall I’ve seen between Bethlehem and Jerusalem (actually built on Bethlehem’s own land, separating the city from the olive groves of Bethlehem’s citizens, making their work of tending their trees almost impossible).

As we went through the checkpoint at the entrance to Bethlehem two weeks ago, we saw a wall 8 meters high (that’s 24+ feet! Towering over the arid landscape). The wall at the entrance to Bethlehem has tall guard towers, like the ones we see at the prisons here in Colorado. The guard towers may (or may not) be staffed by Israeli snipers, watching everyone who comes or goes from Bethlehem. One never knows whether anyone is watching—part of the strategy of keeping Palestinians nervous and worrying about whether a gun has them in its sight.

The wall, Israelis say, protects them from gun-wielding, suicide-bomb-wearing Palestinians. But the wall I have seen in Bethlehem is not finished. I have walked around the wall where it ends in Beit Jala, in Sami’s orchard, where the wall ate up about 30 feet of his fruit trees, burying them under the rubble built up to support the wall. Sami’s orchard destroyed, his land taken for a wall that has never been finished. An unfinished wall that pretends to protect the Israeli settlement also built on his village’s lands. The photos show me standing beside the wall on the pile of rubble that buried Sami's fruit trees and the wall where it ends in Sami's orchard.

Israel's wall is approximately three times longer than the Berlin Wall, with concrete, razor wire, and a no-man's-land stretching over 400 miles.

Today I pray that people will come together in unity against Israel’s wall too. A groundswell of people protesting the injustice of a wall that gobbles up land that does not belong to it. A groundswell of people shaking the very earth where the wall stands, breaking down the barrier that isolates and imprisons.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Urgent: Bethlehem University Student Deported

Recently returned from the Holy Land (Friday), what I experienced on this trip makes me more committed than ever to advocating for changes in US policy that will free Palestinians from the endless oppression of permits and checkpoints. Unbeknownst to our group of traveling pilgrims, the incident described below occurred while we were in Bethlehem. The story of Berlanty Azzam reminds me of another young woman, Angie, whom I met while she was studying at the University of Bethlehem and who now works as the communications officer for Pastor Mitri Raheb at the International Center in Bethlehem. Angie has been unable to begin studies in America because she cannot get permits to travel, or even permits to go to Jerusalem to apply for the permit to travel.

Read last week’s CNN story about Berlanty Azzam below. You can also take action, as described following the news item:

Berlanty Azzam, a senior at Bethlehem University, was blindfolded, handcuffed, and brought in the night from Bethlehem to Gaza Wednesday, Oct 28.
She was born in Gaza City and moved to Bethlehem in 2005 to study at Bethlehem University. She is not accused of any crime or any security infractions whatsoever!

Here is a CNN article:

A petition against Berlanty's deportation has been filed in Israeli courts. The courts have ordered attorneys for the State of Israel to submit a preliminary written reply to the petition by Tuesday, 3 November 2009. Your support matters! If you can, it would be helpful if you would contact your own elected representatives and Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton. The US State Department Website is Click on this link. Scroll down to the bottom of the page .. the very bottom. In the middle, you will see "CONTACT US" Click on that link. Then click on the BLUE TAB on the top that says "EMAIL A QUESTION OR COMMENT" Fill in the form and submit it.

Here is the link that will take you directly to the form - it is a long URL. bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=94yLvOLj&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPSZ
Your message might say something like:

I am writing to you regarding the case of Ms. Berlanty Azzam, a fourth year student at Bethlehem University, who was detained in Bethlehem and deported to Gaza by the Israeli military on October 28, 2009. Ms. Azzam, 21 years old, is only few months away from completing her four year Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. A petition against Berlanty's deportation has been filed in Israeli courts. The courts have ordered attorneys for the State of Israel to submit a preliminary written reply to the petition by Tuesday, 3 November 2009. Your support matters! I ask that you request the government of Israel on compassionate and humanitarian grounds to allow this young woman, Ms. Berlanty Azzam, to return to Bethlehem to complete her studies. She has not been accused of being a security threat and has committed no crime. I believe permitting her to return to Bethlehem to complete her degree would also be in the spirit of the „Agreement on Movement and Access negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in 2005 and facilitated by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Muslim-Christian Dialogue conference

October 9, 2009
ELCA and ELCJHL Bishops Deepen Conversations among Christians and Muslims 09-224-JD

WASHINGTON (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, were among 1,000 people who attended the fourth major Muslim-Christian dialogue conference here Oct. 7-8.

"It has been both the challenge and the hope for this conference that common words would lead to common deeds," said Hanson. "We have heard stories of places where particular Muslims and Christians are deepening their understanding of one another in dialogue that leads to engagement in their communities." Read more....

Lutheran Bishops Urge Continued Commitment to Middle East Peace, Oct 14

October 14, 2009

Lutheran Bishops Urge for Continued Commitment to Middle East Peace 09-226-JD

WASHINGTON (ELCA) -- Lutherans are asking the Obama Administration to "remain firm" in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. In an Oct. 13 letter, 58 of 65 synod bishops and the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) expressed concern over the stalemate and the "fading hopes" for a two-state solution.

"We urge the U.S. to insist upon an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as well as an end to Palestinian violence against Israelis," the letter said. The bishops stated their appreciation for the past leadership of the administration and asked the president to "remain firm in your commitment to achieving a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians." The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said, "The call of ELCA bishops for an even stronger leadership role by President Obama recognizes both ...(more)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"For Gaza and the Palestinian People"


As I pack for Greece, Israel and Palestine this week, I’m thinking about the people we will meet—the people I’ve already met and the new ones we will meet on this trip. We will see the way the soldiers ignore the Palestinians waiting at the checkpoint, while they flash friendly smiles and say “welcome” to us in English when they see our blue American passports. We will see the teenagers in uniform, the girls checking their hair and makeup in the mirror, standing in groups in the plaza, flirting with one another, automatic weapons casually slung over their shoulders. We will see Palestinians bravely starting a new college in Bethlehem, ignoring the obstacles of building permits, and supplies held for weeks by the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint.

We won’t see the devastation of Gaza, however. The bombed-out buildings, the tunnels built to bring in much-needed food and building supplies, still under attack. The farmers still shot at while they try to harvest their crops. The fishermen still shot at by the Israeli soldiers when they put out to sea in their boats. We won’t see the children who get only one meal a day and the ones who join the military clubs because they don’t have anything else to do or to hope for. But I remember them as I visit one more elected official this week, to tell my story of what I have seen and heard.

Mairead Maguire writes about it in her poem, composed while she was in the Ramle prison in Israel in June, after she was arrested for trying to bring medical supplies to Gaza:

For Gaza and the Palestinian People*

As long as
The People of Palestine
Have no liberty, no freedom
Those of us with a voice to speak:
Must speak!

As long asThe Children of Gaza
Live in fear of Israeli
Bombs and occupation
Those of us with a voice to speak:
Must speak!

As long as
Six million Palestinian refugees
Are deportees around the world
Those of us with a voice to speak:
Must speak!

As long as
Millions of God's Children
Are hungry, imprisoned, and without hope
Those of us with a voice to speak:
Must speak!

Because it is in speaking
We find our liberty, our freedom
And no prison bars can take away
Our peace, our love
Which is the true Spirit of Humanity!*

Written by MAIREAD MAGUIRE, Nobel Peace Laureate, during her incarceration in Ramle prison, Israel 3lst June, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Avraham Burg: US Churches Must Stop Following Israel Down the Trauma Trail

Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, has concluded that Israel and the West must change course, and challenges American Christians: “American churches are filled with “otherwise rational, compassionate people” who remain oblivious to the reality that they are sponsors of Israel’s Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. They are a people who are living in the darkness of their ignorance.”

From Friends of Sabeel--North America, Voice of the Palestinian Christians

US Churches Must Stop Following Israel Down the Trauma Trail
by James M. Wall

Avraham Burg , former Israeli Chairman of the Jewish Agency and former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, has written a book with the provocative title, The Holocaust is Over; We must Rise from Its Ashes.

In a PBS interview with Charlie Rose, Burg told Rose why he wrote the book.

"I realized that we must deal with the psyche of the place. And the psyche of the place goes back to the trauma. We're a traumatized society. My suggestion in the book is a suggestion for a new strategy for the Jewish people, and maybe a new strategy for the West in general, and this is to move from trauma to trust."

Rose: Traumatized by?

Burg: By everything, but mainly the Holocaust. It goes like this. Whenever there is a victim in Israel, whenever somebody is killed in a terror activity or whatever it is, that's one victim on top of seven wars, on top of 6 million, on top of 2,000 years of problems. So it always the history, nothing is just contemporary state of affairs.

In his book and in his conversation with Rose, Burg, a well-known figure in Jewish political life, offers his explanation as to what leads otherwise rational, compassionate people to cling tightly to the certainty that the 1948 "invasion of Arab armies" grants permission to the state of Israel to use whatever methods are at hand to defend their "newborn Jewish state".

American churches are filled with "otherwise rational, compassionate people" who remain oblivious to the reality that they are sponsors of Israel's Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. They are a people who are living in the darkness of their ignorance. (To continue reading, click here.)

Friends of Sabeel--North America
PO Box 9186, Portland, OR 97207;

Friends of Sabeel--North America PO Box 9186 Portland OR 97207

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"It's Sad That We Can Leave and They Cannot"

From Pat Hewitt (from Denver) who is currently in Gaza. Some of her impressions of what she is seeing there:

We met today with John Ging from UNRWHA. Just an amazing and inspiring person. He's worked in Congo, Balkans, Ireland (he's Irish), Rwanda, and now here. You might remember him from during the Cast Lead conflagration when he defied the Israeli line when they said they had accidentally fired artillery into the UNRWHA school and he told CNN that they fired two hours later again, and that there were no soldiers or Hamas anywhere to be found on that compound.

Speaking fo Hamas, we have an escort. They follow us everywhere and claim that it is for security. Tighe (CP organizer) is deeply offended by this and keeps trying to evade them. Apparently there is an extreme faction here that is harassing people who don't toe their line...Like women not covering. So they are "protecting us". It's become kind of a game. They are just guys (with beards) doing their jobs. They work for the government.
Today we also went on a fishing boat out as far as they can go (2miles, so they are not able to catch much). We saw an Israeli military boat off in the distance, and heard them shooting. Don't know what at, though. Gorgeous coastline ‘til you get up close and see all the bombed out places.
The people here are so welcoming..they so appreciate that we've come here because they feel so forgotten.

Last night we met with Ahmed Yousef the deputy foreign minister (Hamas govt). A very savvy man. He lived in the US for quite some time and has written a bunch of books. He is very much in favor of a unity government for Hamas and Fatah. We were at his house...a villa in Rafah.
Then we left and went to see the tunnels that run between Gaza and Egypt. There are too many to count, visible from the moon practically. We went inside one place that houses a tunnel and a few of us went down into it (you have to be lowered on a pully swing thing) and I declined, chicken that i am about tight spaces, but it was a major kick anyway. We could hear gunshots from a distance and were told that it was between Egyptian tunnel owners over who has what right to what .

It's Eid here and this morning in the hotel lobby I looked out and there went by a donkey cart with 20 or so kids singing like "carols". Just the most wonerful site.

I've been blown away by meeting with Dr Ahmed Yousef, the minister of foregin affairs. We've visited one of the most beautiful and child centered facilities I've seen anywhere...the Qattan Ctr for Children. It's all free and serves 16000 kids. Other child centers have been shut down because funding was cut after the election in 06, but this one survives because it is funded by a wealthy Palestinian livng in Britain. If he'd been American he'd probably be in jail now (funding terrorist organization). Extraordinary.

Gaza is so loaded with problems that it's hard to see a way forward. John Ging from UNRWAH spent a lot of time with us and is so dedicated that it's hard not to see him as a saint of some kind. In fact all the people we have met with are totally dedicated to helping. It's sad that we can leave and they cannot.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pres Obama's Task to Support a Middle East Peace Agreement

“Settling for Failure in the Middle East ” an article from the opinion page of last Sunday’s Washington Post, provides an excellent short summary of what President Obama has done to encourage a peace settlement, how the Israelis have responded, the challenges he faces, and what is needed from the U.S. to ensure a peace agreement. It is written by Stephen M. Walt, the Harvard professor who co-wrote “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” with John Mearsheimer. I heartily commend this short article if you want to understand why peacemaking is so difficult and what is needed from us for peace to be achieved.

He begins:

“Like so many of his predecessors, President Obama is quickly discovering that persuading Israel to change course is nearly impossible.

Obama came to office determined to achieve a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. His opening move was to insist that Israel stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem -- a tough line aimed at bolstering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and persuading key Arab states to make conciliatory gestures toward Israel. These steps would pave the way for the creation of a viable Palestinian state and the normalization of Israel's relations with its Arab neighbors, and also help rebuild America's image in the Arab and Muslim world.

Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has no interest in a two-state solution, much less ending settlement expansion. He and his government want a "greater Israel," which means maintaining effective control of the West Bank and Gaza. His response to Obama's initiative has ranged from foot-dragging to outright defiance, with little pushback from Washington.

This situation is a tragedy in the making between peoples who have known more than their share. Unless Obama summons the will and skill to break the logjam, a two-state solution will become impossible and those who yearn for peace will be even worse off than before.” Read the rest of the article:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“Do not stand aside. Do not let us sink back into the cycle of violence…..”

“Do not stand aside. Do not let us sink back into the cycle of violence…..” With these words, Israeli Rami El Hannon tells us Americans what he needs from us so that the violence in his country will come to an end. His words are the plea of one Israeli father whose daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Today’s BBC “Outlook” broadcast features two fathers, Rami El Hannon and Bassam Aramin, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who have used their grief to try to change the future. They are part of a group called Parents of the Bereaved, where Palestinian and Israeli parents whose children have been killed by the violence, meet and get to know one another. They listen to each others’ stories, drawn together by the grief that they share.

Today’s broadcast of “Outlook” on the BBC World Service (I heard it in Denver at 10:30 this morning) is an interview with these two men--one fought in the Israeli army and the other spent time in Israeli prisons. Now they are trying to make a difference through their work of peace and reconciliation. As Rami says, “Everybody knows exactly what needs to be done to get peace tomorrow morning….”

As President Obama meets today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ( , we can pause to think about what we can do to support a peace effort.

Listen to the 13-minute interview with Matthew Bannister: Their story is told in a new book, “Nine Lives, Making the Impossible Possible,” by Peter Braaksma:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UN Report on Israeli, Palestinian War Crimes Seeks International Criminal Court Referral

Today's post is from Tikun Olam: Make the World a Better Place - essays on politics, culture and ideas about Israeli-Arab peace and world music, a blog by Richard Silverstein.

I like this blog, belonging to an American Jewish writer who describes it, "one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs," which he began in 2003. I am committed to building bridges between, not only myself (American Christians/Lutherans) and Palestinian Christians, but also between myself and American Jewish people who are interested in finding ways to build peace in the Middle East. Richard Silverstein seems to be one such partner. Take a look at his latest posting, which provides a succinct, ease-to-understand description of the UN findings on the January war in Gaza. Like much of what I read about Israeli-Palestinian relationships today, these findings are very disturbing.

UN Report Finds Evidence of Israeli, Palestinian War Crimes, Seeks International Criminal Court Referral

Photo: Richard Goldstone inspecting damage from Gaza war (Ashraf Amra/ AP)

The respected South African jurist, Richard Goldstone, just released his long-awaited report for the UN Human Rights Council on human rights violations leading up to, and during the Gaza war. He found significant evidence of war crimes by both Israeli and Palestinian forces. Here is how the N.Y. Times characterized the elements of the report dealing with Israel:

…Though the 575-page report condemned rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli civilians, it reserved its harshest language for Israel’s treatment of the civilian Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, both during the war and through the longer-term blockade of the territory. The report called Israel’s military assault on Gaza “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

…The report focussed on 36 cases that it said constituted a representative sample. In 11 of these episodes, it said the Israeli military carried out direct attacks against civilians, including some in which civilians were shot “while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags.”

In all but one of these civilian attacks, the report said, “the facts indicate no justifiable military objective” for them.

The report cited other possible crimes by the Israelis, including “wantonly” destroying food production, water and sewerage facilities; striking areas, in an effort to kill a small number of combatants, where significant numbers of civilians were gathered; using Palestinians as human shields; and detaining men, women and children in sand pits. It also called Israel’s use of weapons like white phosphorus “systematically reckless,” and called for banning it in urban areas.

…The panel rejected the Israeli version of events surrounding several of the most contentious episodes of the war.

Israel’s mortar shelling near a United Nations-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, which was sheltering some 1,300 people, killed 35 and wounded up to 40 people, the report said. Read more.....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Can We Talk? The Middle East "Peace Industry" is Not Producing Peace

Photo from The Electronic Intifada: Attempts to establish "dialogue" while Israel continues to oppress Palestinians only undermine the call for boycott. (ActiveStills)

Can we talk? The Middle East "peace industry
by Faris Giacaman, The Electronic Intifada, 20 August 2009

Attempts to establish "dialogue" while Israel continues to oppress Palestinians only undermine the call for boycott. (ActiveStills) Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote "coexistence" and "dialogue" between both sides of the "conflict," no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel -- the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians' rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known "people-to-people" initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught "to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills -- all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation." They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against "coexistence," they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that "dialogue" and "fostering coexistence" is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these "dialogue" groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between "both sides of the conflict," in order to "build bridges" and "overcome barriers." However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking. Read more....

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Non-violent Protest in Palestinian village of Bil'in

From Jewish Peace News - the people of the village of Bil'in are trying to protect their farmlands from settler encroachment:

A NY Times article on August 27 <> discusses Bil'in, a Palestinian village that is a frequent site of confrontations between protesting Palestinians and the IDF over the Israel's separation barrier, which has foreclosed access by villagers to much of Bil'in's historic farmland and olive groves. Bil'in has become a model for Palestinian civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories, attracting a series of high profile visits from high profile public figures, such as Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, but also from less obvious political players, like Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, and Jeff Skoll, founding president of eBay, as well as from a wide range of international state and grassroots leaders.

In recent months, Bil'in has been the subject of a series of night raids by IDF forces bent on breaking the back of the village's protests by arresting the town's leaders. But villagers have not ceased waging weekly protests in the village's streets -- and extending their efforts to remove Israel's separation barrier by taking the fight into Israeli courts, where in 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled the route of the barrier "highly prejudicial" to Bil'in (subsequent Supreme Court rulings, however, have ratified the building of new Israeli settlements on land confiscated from Bil'in). Protests in Bil'in have often been creative: Bil'in's children, for example, participated in a recent "We Want to Sleep" demonstration captured on a YouTube video <>.

Bil'in maintains a blog on its Web site, which makes for highly informative reading <>. The site, which makes mention of allied political struggles around the world and asks site visitors to not forget the plight of Gaza, offers activist resources and suggestions for supporters who want to help the village defend itself against Israeli occupation and ever encroaching land confiscation by Israeli settlers.

--Lincoln Z. Shlensky

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Free Palestine: It Is Time

Take three minutes to watch this new video about the situation in Gaza:

"Sometimes you wonder….sometimes racism prevails over humanity"

  • Israeli laws discriminate according to religion - 22 laws have been enacted since 1953
  • 1.5 m people are under siege in Gaza
  • food, medicine and building materials are not allowed into Gaza
  • 400 people have died as a result of the siege in Gaza
  • 2 million trees have been uprooted
  • 28,000 people have been expelled from their homes by the separation wall
  • 10,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1987
  • 1390 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli army since 2000

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gaza STILL Under Siege

Each week it is difficult to choose which stories to highlight on my blog – enough to inform, not so much to overwhelm. The suffering continues and, in spite of the photos we have seen of diplomatic visits by George Mitchell and Secretary Clinton and ships breaking the sea blockade of Gaza, life is not improving for anyone in Palestine. I have never been to Gaza because it is a dangerous place to visit. International visitors are not welcomed by the Israeli forces at the checkpoints and tourist accommodations would be difficult to find. The people of Gaza are truly some of today’s “widows and orphans.” (last Sunday’s epistle, James 1.27)

Even though money has been committed for the rebuilding of Gaza by the international community, piles of rubble are still to be seen everywhere in Gaza. Israel still controls the borders. The Israeli Defense Force holds building materials, food and other needed commodities at the checkpoints; food rots in the sun. Gaza remains devastated, with medical facilities, homes, and schools still piles of rubble, with no signs of rebuilding. Not only are Israeli troops preventing food from entering Gaza, they are also shooting farmers who try to plant their fields, where these fields are deemed too close to the border with Israel.

Take 8 minutes today to watch Gaza Under Siege, which exposes the failure of the international community to make any headway on reconstruction and recovery of Gaza since the attack by Israel in January. "Gaza Under Siege" is a new documentary video by Jordan Flaherty and Lily Keber, posted on the Electronic Intifada website. "The Electronic Intifada (EI) is a not-for-profit, independent publication committed to comprehensive public education on the question of Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the economic, political, legal, and human dimensions of Israel's 40-year occupation of Palestinian territories. EI provides a needed supplement to mainstream commercial media representations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." [MORE]

Another story details the way Israelis hold the supplies at the border: Gaza-bound Goods Stuck at the Border

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Israeli Apartheid Wall still being constructed

Palestinians in Ni'lin have organized weekly non-violent protests to stop the building of the Israeli wall on the villagers' lands. Last week the Israelis began to replace the fence with a cement wall 24 feet high.

In April, an American citizen from Oakland, California, Tristan Anderson, was cricitally injured, shot in the head with a tear gas canister, as he protested the building of the wall on the village's lands. His injuries were severe - he has lost one eye and has had three brain surgeries, including the removal of part of his frontal lobe. It is expected that he will need to remain in Israel for 6-18 months before he is able to return home. Read about the incident:

Read more:

Israeli forces begin construction of new cement wall on Ni’lin’s land

Posted on: August 20, 2009

For Immediate Release:
Friday, 21 August 2009 at 12:30pm: A demonstration will be held against the new cement construction of the Wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin.

Israeli forces have begun placing 8 meter high cement blocks, in place of a fence that was built before.

Since May 2008, residents of Ni’lin have been organizing and participating in unarmed demonstrations against construction of the Apartheid Wall. Despite being deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, the Occupation continues to build the Wall, further annexing Palestinian land.

Ni’lin will lose approximately 2,500 dunums of agricultural land when construction … Continue reading

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Hate-filled Morning in Silwan, West Bank

This is a chilling report, from a film crew working in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is on the Palestinian side of the 1948 Green Line, assumed by many to be the de facto boundary between East and West Jerusalem. It is part of the West Bank. When I visited last June, Jewish Israelis were buying up land and houses and building large condo developments in these Arab neighborhoods. Here are the words of some of these people, explaining what they are doing.

This story came to me from Sam Bahour’s ePalestine newsletter, but was originally in Hebrew on the Middle East News Service. See more information on the sources below.

[Middle East News Service comments: Sometimes it is the role of a news service to report the news of the future. The name Silwan is not all that well known outside the circle of those who have an intensive interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But it is a name to remember. As the Ir Amim [city of nations] people explained it to me last year in Jerusalem this is where there is an intensive effort by settlers to move in the middle of an Arab neighbourhood. The project is tied in with a lot of archeological work exploring the “City of David” as it is known in Hebrew. Just how much hatred is there already is explored by Meron Rapoport in article he contributed to Haokets [The Sting], a left-wing website concerned primarily with issues of social inequalities and human rights. Until about a year ago Rapoport was a leading reporter for Haaretz – Sol Salbe,]

[Thanks again to Keren Rubinstein for translating this article.]

Hebrew original:

A Hate-Filled Morning

Meron Rapoport , 24th August 2009

Last Thursday was a heat wave, but along the paved stone path that ascends through the centre of Silwan – The City of David, it was more pleasant. Perhaps it was the cool breeze, or the cool stone houses mollifying the air, or maybe it was broad vista of Jerusalem’s mountains. There were three of us – Ilan the director, Michael the cameraman, and me, the interviewee. We were making a film that explores the overt institutional discrimination against this East Jerusalem neighbourhood’s Palestinian residents. It is accompanied by a discrimination in favour of the Jewish settlers who for their part do not hide their desire to “Judaise” the neighbourhood and erase its Palestinian nature.

Even before we manage to position our camera, a group of religious girls comes up the path (we could tell they were religious by their skirts). They were around eight to ten years old, smug and beautiful chatterboxes. One of them slowed down beside us. “Film me”, she said amiably. “What would you like to tell us”, we asked. “I want to say that Jerusalem is a city that belongs to us, the Jews”, she said while walking – “it’s just a shame there are Arabs here. The Messiah will only come when there’s not even a single Arab left here”. She walked on. The girls giggled and sauntered along with her.

Two minutes later, a robust young man arrives carrying a weapon and walkie-talkie, bearing no identification on his clothes. Even before he opened his mouth I surmised that he was a security guard, employed by the private security company, operated by the settlers but financed by the Housing Ministry to the tune of 40 million shekels, annually. This security company has long ago become a private police force that polices the whole neighbourhood and terrorises the Palestinian residents without any legal basis. A committee set up by the Housing Minister determined that this arrangement must be stopped, and that the safety of the inhabitants (both Jewish and Arab) must be in the hands of Israel’s Police force, as applies to the rest of Israel’s citizens. The government adopted the committee’s recommendation in June 2006, but changed its mind six months later. The settlers had been lobbying The private police continue to operate here.

“What are you doing here”, the young man asked. “What are you doing here”, I asked him. “I’m a security guard”, he answered, “tell me what you’re doing here”. “We’re standing here in the street”, I told him. “Tell me what you’re doing here”, he became irate. “It’s none of your business”, I told him. “What’s your name”, he asked me. “And what’s your name”, I ask him. “Doesn’t matter”, he answered, “I’m a security guard”. “So it doesn’t matter what my name is either”, I replied. The irritated guard talks on his walkie- talkie. Were we Palestinian, we would have long ago been gone. That is the unwritten protocol. But we were Israelis, Hebrew speakers and a problem. Headquarters apparently explained to him that there was nothing he could do, that this was a public area. The guard took his position beside us, with his weapon, and didn’t leave us alone throughout our stay.

We moved our position. Two-three minutes later two young women came up the path. They are seventeen or eighteen years old. Secular, evidently not local residents. One of them stood in front of the camera. “Take my picture”, she fawned. “Do you want to be interviewed”, we asked her. “Yes”, she said. She’s from Gan Yavneh, came to visit Jerusalem, the City of David, she said. “Why the City of David in particular”, we asked. “Because this is where David was a king, this is a very important location for the Jewish people. It’s just a shame there are Arabs here. But soon all the Arabs will die, God willing, and Jerusalem will be ours alone”. She walked on.

Two minutes went by. An Orthodox family came up the path. The husband, dressed in black, asked Ilan the director: “say, do both Arabs and Jews live in this neighbourhood?” “Both Palestinians and Jews”, Ilan replied, “but the majority is Palestinian”. “That’s temporary”, the Orthodox man allayed his concerns; soon there will be no Arabs left here.

I look at Ilan and Michael. Barely a quarter of an hour had passed since we arrived; we had not interrogated anyone about their attitude to Arabs, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about the future of Jerusalem. We just stood in the middle of the street. Like pylons. The hatred poured on in our direction, like a river to the ocean. Freely, naturally. “Say”, I asked Ilan. “Will we encounter anyone who’ll tell us something positive, something humane, something good about humankind?” “Forget about humane”, Ilan replied. “Give us someone who’ll say: “what nice air we have here, in Jerusalem’”.

Silwan. Remember the name. Soon it will help you forget Hebron.


[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements
Please note that while our own comments are not copyrighted we do appreciate acknowledgement. Items forwarded may be copyrighted and are forwarded to alert you of their existence.]

Saturday, August 15, 2009

News from Gaza

If you like your news quick and simple, see this 8-minute sound bite on why there is so much suffring in Gaza - see this week's video from the Free Gaza Movement, explaining their campaign to end Israel's blockade of Gaza, so that food, medicine, building materials and other humanitarian aid can get into Gaza so that it can be rebuilt from the rubble of the war there in January:

You'll even find ideas about what you can do to change the situation in Gaza on their web site:

Israelis arrest non-violent protest leaders in Bil'in - August 3, 2009

As Americans, many of us have seen Palestinians protesting only as suicide bombers and in rocket attacks. We rarely see the ongoing non-violent protests against the occupation.

Bil’in village in the West Bank is one of the places where Palestinian villagers have organized weekly peaceful protests against the separation barrier Israel has erected on their lands. The wall in Bil’in, as in many places, separates the Palestinian village from its farmlands. Those of you who have seen my slides have seen a similar situation in Jayyous, where the wall is actually a road with barbed wire, separating the village on the hill above from its olive orchards and farmlands below. Much of Jayyous’s farmland was taken to build the Israeli settlement of Zufin. [The picture here shows the Israeli “wall”/road separating Jayyous from its farmlands. The smaller road crossing the security barrier is where the villagers must wait for Israeli soldiers to let them cross at a checkpoint every time they go to work.You can see pictures of Bil’in on their web site:]

Here is the latest news from Bil’in:

“At 3AM on Monday, August 3, the Israeli army raided Bil’in and arrested Mohammad Khatib, along with six other Palestinian community activists and one American human rights observer from the village. This move is an attempt by Israeli authorities to silence a popular resistance movement gaining international attention and inspiring other Palestinian communities. This West Bank agricultural village, known for its weekly protests against the Israeli apartheid wall, has become a symbol for the Palestinian popular resistance to Israel’s ongoing military occupation.

While many are quick to condemn Palestinians when they resort to armed resistance, Israel has been left free to harass, imprison and sometimes kill Palestinians who nonviolently resist the confiscation and destruction of their land in Bil’in and elsewhere.

In June 2009, Mohammed Khatib traveled to Canada for preliminary hearings on an historic lawsuit launched by Bil’in village against two Quebec-based companies, Green Park International and Green Mount International. Both companies are building illegal Israeli-only settlements on Bil’in’s land.

Mohammad’s arrest is just one in a series of many carried out by the Israeli military in Bil’in since June 2009, coinciding with the beginning of these legal proceedings. Video of the ongoing struggle in Bil’in, including interviews with Mohammad Khatib and Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, can be seen at

To date, 25 people (most under 18) have been arrested, and 18 of them remain in detention. Having experienced Israel's interrogation/ intimidation/torture tactics, two of the arrested minors 'confessed' that the Bil'in Popular Committee urges the demonstrators to throw stones. Then based on these forced 'confessions', Israeli forces arrested Mohammad Khatib and other leaders in Bil’in. They have been charged with ‘incitement to damage the security of the area.’

An August 13, 2009 statement issued by the Bil’in popular committee declared that Mohammad Khatib, Adeeb Abu Rahmeh and other leaders of the Palestinian popular struggle, “are being targeted because they mobilize Palestinians to resist non-violently. "Israel is stealing our land from us and then prosecuting us as criminals because we struggle non-violently for justice," said the statement.” Read more…..

In the days since Mohammad’s arrest, protestors, including international supporters, have rallied almost daily to publicize this injustice. Read more about the non-violent protest movement against the wall in Bil’in on their website:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Support for the people of Gaza

Sometimes the despair is overwhelming when we read about and watch what is happening to Palestinian civilians, caught in the violence, treated like terrorists. There are many ways Palestinians and their allies are maintaining their sense of power and control over their lives, which are often lived at the whim of an Israeli soldier. Watch an inspiring video chronicling some of the actions people are taking to change the situation in Gaza:

"I want to feel that my children are not dying in front of me"

Months after the fighting has ceased, thousands of Gazans have not been able to rebuild their homes, which were destroyed in the attacks by Israeli Defense Forces. Israel is still not allowing building materials into the country. See a video report by Guardian reporter Inigo Gilmore, who visited Gaza in June, six months after hostilities ended:

If you are longing to see some hope in the misery of the people of Gaza, see this story. On a happier note: on July 31, the children of Gaza got to participate in a kite festival. See a photo gallery of the festivities:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

From Jewish Peace News - more Palestinian Evictions and Reaction toMurders at Tel Aviv LGBT Center

Two interesting articles this week from Jewish Peace News (

Israel’s “Hamas”: the Sheikh Jarrah evictions

The eviction by Israeli authorities of two Palestinian families (53 residents in total, including 19 minors) from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on August 2 has produced extensive international condemnation. The evictions were authorized by Israeli courts in a highly controversial decision (here's a timeline of the 37-year case: ), and the Netanyahu administration's effort to hastily enforce the ruling seems intended to fortify Israel's disputed claim to sole sovereignty over Jerusalem. Beyond the shameful events themselves, what is particularly outrageous, writes Jerry Haber (the pseudonym of an Orthodox Jewish Studies professor who divdes his time between Israel and the US), is how Israeli national radio has dishonestly framed the information about the evictions of the al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families.

Haber's article is a must-read, because it details a typical case in which the Israeli government-run media presents a version of events that fits the government's deeply distorted ethno-nationalist narrative, rather than the facts. He also dissects the blatant falsehoods of the Netanyahu administration's claim that Arabs can live anywhere in Jerusalem, and therefore so should Jews.

Haber concludes: "if you are a decent human being, you cannot but shout, My God, how long will this robbery -- or to use the Biblical Hebrew word, this 'Hamas' --continue? Isn't what we stole after 1948 and 1967 enough?" Read more:

Watch a video documenting the evictions.
Mairav Zonshein and Joseph Dana have a new video on the evictions, including an interview with the father of the Hanoun family, evicted yesterday:

A Response to the Murders at the Tel Aviv GLBT Center:

The following talk was given by Tamara, a queer activist from Tel Aviv, at a demonstration held in Berlin on August 7th, in solidarity with the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans community in Israel, following the mass shooting at the Tel Aviv LGBT youth center, killing two and injuring 15. Tamara's words at the Berlin demo, attended by some 2000 people, expressly and clearly linked the gun violence let loose at the LGBT center with Israel's militarized hypermasculine gun culture and connected the institutional persecution of queers in Israel with the violent institutional persecution and oppression of other groups and minorities; Palestinians, migrant workers, dissenting protesters. "Homophobia is racism," Tamara said. "Racism is homophobia."

For a video of the Berlin demonstration and Tamara's talk, see:

Rela Mazali


Last Saturday a nightmare came true: we were hunted down.

A faceless man went into a room full of youngsters and opened fire.

Now 2 of them are dead many wounded. Some teenagers outed on a hospital bed.

When the news of the murder came, it was all too easy for me to picture the scene - I used to spend most of my waking hours in this secluded basement flat in central Tel Aviv, the offices of the Israeli GLBT association, Haaguda, working on Pride and AIDS awareness events.

We felt very safe there. Confidant. We had the of City Tel Aviv on our side, hanging rainbow flags on demand. We had the police doing our bidding instead of detaining and forbidding.

Ok, we had to swallow a few LGBT - phobic jokes from officers, bureaucrats, and commercial sponsors. But we thought it was a small price to pay for ten’s of thousands marching in the streets of Tel Aviv, safe and proud, landing courage to countless kids across the country.

The price we paid now isn’t small. It is immeasurable. The life of 2. The health of 15 , a collective trauma.

I do not feel safe now In Tel Aviv. Our strong hold. Our ghetto. I feel grief stricken and furious and betrayed. Read more….

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NPR story about Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank

Today’s news on National Public Radio tells how President Obama’s words expressing his goal to freeze settlement building in the West Bank are influencing the prices of real estate in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing to allow for “natural growth” of the settlements – continued expansion so that family members can stay together. However, today’s story points out that 40% of the people moving into the settlement are not doing so for family reasons, but because real estate is more affordable in the subsidized construction in the settlements.

The story continues tomorrow with coverage of how the Bedouin and Palestinians are being affected by the possibility of a settlement freeze.

Listen to NPR today or read the story: And listen for tomorrow’s story – it is encouraging to hear more reporting on what is happening in the West Bank.

For those of you in the Denver area, Christ Lutheran in Highlands Ranch is hosting a three-part series on peacemaking in the Holy Land – this coming Sunday, July 26, Hasan Ayoub, a Palestinian from the West Bank and a graduate student at DU’s Korbel School for International Studies, will speak about the Palestinian history and possibilities for peace, 9:30 am, 8997 S Broadway St, Highlands Ranch.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Breaking the Silence - Israeli military speak out about Operation Cast Lead

Some of you may have heard this story on the BBC today. It is encouraging that more Israelis, especially the military, are speaking out about the Israeli army’s treatment of Palestinians and that this is being covered in mainstream media. On their trip in May, the Colorado Sabeel delegation met with representatives of Breaking the Silence, the organization of Israeli soldiers that gathered this testimony. Read the BBC story and below you will find a link to some of the solders’ testimony.

Israel soldiers speak out on Gaza
Soldier testimonies appear to contradict official Israeli statements

A group of soldiers who took part in Israel's assault in Gaza say widespread abuses were committed against civilians under "permissive" rules of engagement.

The troops said they had been urged to fire on any building or person that seemed suspicious and said Palestinians were sometimes used as human shields.

Breaking the Silence, a campaign group made up of Israeli soldiers, gathered anonymous accounts from 26 soldiers.

Israel denies breaking the laws of war and dismissed the report as hearsay.

The report says testimonies show "the massive and unprecedented blow to the infrastructure and civilians" was a result of Israeli military policy, articulated by the rules of engagement, and encouraged by a belief "the reality of war requires them to shoot and not to ask questions".

One soldier is quoted saying: "The soldiers were made to understand that their lives were the most important, and that there was no way our soldiers would get killed for the sake of leaving civilians the benefit of the doubt."

From Paul Wood, BBC Middle East correspondent:
Until now, Israel always had a ready answer to allegations of war crimes in Gaza. Claims were, they said, Palestinian propaganda. Now the accusations of abuse are being made by Israeli soldiers.
The common thread in the testimonies is that orders were given to prevent Israeli casualties whatever the cost in Palestinian lives.
The Israeli military says past allegations of wrong-doing in Gaza were the result of soldiers recycling rumours.
But Breaking the Silence has a long - and to many, credible - record in getting soldiers to talk about experiences which might not reflect well on the army.
Breaking silence on abuses

Another says: "People were not instructed to shoot at everyone they see, but they were told that from a certain distance when they approach a house, no matter who it is - even an old woman - take them down."

Many of the testimonies are in line with claims made by human rights organisations that Israeli military action in Gaza was indiscriminate and disproportionate.
Amnesty International has accused both Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in charge in Gaza, of committing war crimes during the 22-day conflict which ended on 18 January.

Israeli officials insist troops went to great lengths to protect civilians, that Hamas endangered non-combatants by firing from civilian areas and that homes and buildings were destroyed only when there was a specific military need to do so.

Read some of the soldiers’ testimony: Breaking the Silence report on Operation Cast Lead[469KB]

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Source for News about What is Happening to Palestinians Today

The American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights announces today a new monthly news source. For those of you who attend St., Paul Lutheran in Denver, this is the organization that Heidi Schramm works for in Washington. They have put together an excellent newsletter. I encourage you to subscribe and to take a look at their web site: Click on “Latest News” for some good stories about what it happening on the ground in Palestine.

I also encourage you to support Ezra Nawi (see story below), an Israeli plumber and openly gay man who frequents the South Hebron Hills, where Israeli settlers continually harass and injure Palestinian sheep herders. Ezra was arrested in 2007 for trying to prevent the bulldozing of a Palestinian home. Read his story below and write or donate to help prevent his imprisonment. Read more about him and see video footage of his arrest:
AAPER Introduces the America-Palestine Report

Today, AAPER announces the launch of the America-Palestine Report (APR), a monthly newsletter that will inform American elected officials and policymakers in Washington, DC about the situation in Palestine, and inform supporters of an equitable U.S. policy toward Palestine about developments in U.S. policy in Washington, DC. More...

Israeli Settlements: Actions Vs. Words
Freezing Israeli settlements has taken paramount importance in U.S./Palestinian/Israeli negotiations over the past several months. According to former Israeli cabinet advisor Daniel Levy, “the administration's public position is that settlements undermine confidence in the two-state solution. [Obama's Middle East envoy George] Mitchell was clear about this in his report eight years ago, that there has to be a settlement freeze.” More...

Israeli Activist Jailed For Peaceful Protest
On July 22, 2007, Ezra Nawi stood with a Palestinian family inside of their home in the small village of Um al Kher. Ezra, an Israeli Jewish man, watched from the doorway as the bulldozer approached, ignoring the shouts of the Israeli soldiers to get out of its way. Even though the bulldozer showed no sign of stopping, it was not until the family was forced to abandon their home that Ezra moved to safety. For this act of nonviolent resistance, Ezra now faces up to eighteen months in an Israeli prison. More...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Free Gaza aid workers Speak from Ramle Prison

The peace activists traveling with the Free Gaza movement boats taking medical supplies, construction materials and other humanitarian aid to Gaza, were detained and taken to Ramle prison near Tel Aviv. The group includes one American, former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. Here is a report of what they are seeing and doing:

The majority of the group ended up in Ramle Prison. Those of us who are Free Gaza organizers had been hearing some news from them, statements, interviews and letters since they arrived. From the first night, the Free Gaza 21 have been busy trying to get news out of the prison about the illegality of Israel's actions in relation to themselves and the other inmates inside Ramle Prison who have no voice.

Report from E: I received a 2am phone call during one of the first sleepless nights from Ramle Prison to let me know that in one of the cells, four of the FG group had been busy writing a press release on an old phone one of their cellmates had loaned them. It had taken them hours to write the press release. but they were just ready to send it out, and ‘could I check my email to see if I had received it?' Read more....

Watch an al-Jazeera report about the prisoners and listen to the Al-Jezeera interview with Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, speaking from Israeli jail cell after her arrest while delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza:

Read Cynthia McKinney's letter from Ramle Prison:

This is Cynthia McKinney and I'm speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies - and even crayons for children, I had a suitcase full of crayons for children. While we were on our way to Gaza the Israelis threatened to fire on our boat, but we did not turn around. The Israelis high-jacked and arrested us because we wanted to give crayons to the children in Gaza. We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. Read more....

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Israel Attacks Justice Boat, Kidnaps Human Rights Workers, Confiscates Medicine, Toys and Olive Trees

From the Free Gaza movement (see previous post) -


For more information contact:Greta Berlin (English) tel: +357 99 081 767 /
Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish): tel: +357 99 077 820 /

[23 miles off the coast of Gaza, 15:30pm] - Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

“This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. “President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey.”
According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are “trapped in despair.” Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel’s December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.

“The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead”. Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”0AArraf continued, “Israel’s deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release.”



CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Justicetel: +972 2646 6666 or +972 2646 6340fax: +972 2646 6357

CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairstel: +972 2530 3111fax: +972 2530 3367

CONTACT Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:tel: +972 5 0620 3264 or +972 2670

CONTACT the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask for their assistance in establishing the wellbeing of the kidnapped human rights workers and help in securing their immediate release!

Red Cross Israeltel: +972 3524 5286fax: +972 3527
Red Cross Switzerland:tel: +41 22 730 3443fax: +41 22 734 8280
Red Cross USA: tel: +1 212 599 6021fax: +1 212 599 6009


Kidnapped Passengers from the Spirit of Humanity include:

Khalad Abdelkader, Bahrain Khalad is an engineer representing the Islamic Charitable Association of Bahrain.

Othman Abufalah, Jordan Othman is a world-renowned journalist with al-Jazeera TV.

Khaled Al-Shenoo, Bahrain Khaled is a lecturer with the University of Bahrain.

Mansour Al-Abi, Yemen Mansour is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera TV.

Fatima Al-Attawi, Bahrain Fatima is a relief=2 0worker and community activist from Bahrain.

Juhaina Alqaed, Bahrain Juhaina is a journalist & human rights activist.

Huwaida Arraf, US Huwaida is the Chair of the Free Gaza Movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Ishmahil Blagrove, UK Ishmahil is a Jamaican-born journalist, documentary film maker and founder of the Rice & Peas film production company. His documentaries focus on international struggles for social justice.

Kaltham Ghloom, Bahrain Kaltham is a community activist.

Derek Graham, Ireland Derek Graham is an electrician, Free Gaza organizer, and first mate aboard the Spirit of Humanity.

Alex Harrison, UK Alex is a solidarity worker from Britain. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Denis Healey, UK Denis is Captain of the Spirit of Humanity. This will be his fifth voyage to Gaza.

Fathi Jaouadi, UK Fathi is a British journalist, Free Gaza organizer, and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Mairead Maguire, Ireland Mairead is a Nobel laureate and renowned peace activist.

Lubna Masarwa, Palestine/Israel Lubna is a Palestinian human rights activist and Free Gaza organizer.

Theresa McDermott, Scotland Theresa is a solidarity worker from Scotland. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Cynthia McKinney, US Cynthia McKinney is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice issues, as well as a=2 0former U.S. congressperson and presidential candidate.

Adnan Mormesh, UK Adnan is a solidarity worker from Britain. He is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Adam Qvist, Denmark Adam is a solidarity worker from Denmark. He is traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Adam Shapiro, US Adam is an American documentary film maker and human rights activist.

Kathy Sheetz, USKathy is a nurse and film maker, traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Free Gaza ships to sail - posponed a day

Some stories about why the participants are making this potentially dangerous voyage:

(Larnaca, 24 June 2009) As the Free Gaza Movement gets ready to set sail on our eighth mission, many of our passengers are reflecting about why we are sailing to besieged Gaza.

Ahmed is returning to his home in Gaza. Israeli occupying forces will not allow him to see his mum. “I have tried to go home for six years, six years I have not been allowed to see my mother, and she is terribly ill. This is my chance to go home. I must go home.”

Sixteen nations are represented on this voyage. Many of us have traveled thousands of miles to show the world that we will not stand by while the Palestinians of Gaza continue to be violated. Read more.....

Watch a video about the group--meet the peace activists who are sailing and hear their stories:

Thursday's sailing postponed because of fears on the part of the Cypriot authorities

(25 June 2009, LARNACA)--...We had hoped to announce that our two ships, the Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, departed from Larnaca Port on a 30-hour voyage to besieged Gaza, carrying human rights activists who have travelled to Cyprus from all across the world for this journey, 3 tons of medical supplies, and 15 tons of badly needed concrete and reconstruction supplies.

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, returning for her second trip to Gaza aboard one of our ships, said "[The people of Gaza] must know that we have not and will not forget them."
That was our hope, but that is not what happened.

Instead, our ships were not given permission to leave today due to concerns about our welfare and safety. Our friends in Cyprus tell us that the voyage to Gaza is too dangerous, and they are worried we will be harmed at sea. Read more...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Food for Gazans: how the occupation works

The suffering continues in Gaza. An article in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz last week tells about the process by which Israeli securit forces restrict the goods that are allowed into Gaza. It is clear the embargo of goods continues and that the people of Gaza continue to suffer because their needs for food are subordinate to other considerations, like Israeli growers' needs, the stabilization of market prices for food in the Israeli towns north of Gaza, and on and on. In the article, the Israeli rationale for the restrictions is connected to the imprisonment of Gilad Shalit, the soldier detained by Hamas in a cross-border raid from Gaza in 2006, and held hostage ever since. Gilad Shalit must be released, but it is important to remember that, while Hamas holds one Israeli prisoner, 7669 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israeli jails, 449 of these held under adminsitrative detention, held without charges, deemed to be a threat to Israel's security (like the people held at Guantanamo). One of the 449 administrative detainees is the brother of a woman I met in Jayyous, Ghassan Knaled, professor of law at the univeristy in Nablus. Read his story in one of my previous posts.

Bribes are also an important part of the decision-making when goods are allowed or banned from Gaza. Read the article:

This week the Free Gaza movement is sending more boats bringing humanitarian aid to break the continuing blockade of Gaza. Read about their work and support them: .

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Israeli Independence Day, April 29

On Saturday night we went to a concert at Temple Micah, a benefit for Open House, organized by Rabbi Adam Morris. Last summer Rabbi Morris traveled to Israel with a group of high school students who had been studying the conflict between Jews and Palestinians. He and his family have strong ties to Israel, but this trip was different.

He discovered on this trip that his story - the story of his family's ties to Israel and their hopes and dreams for the future - was not the story of all of the residents of Israel. As he met Palestinians who told a different story, his own story was forever changed. He discovered that his own story needed to be retold.

He was also inspired by his meeting with Dalia Landau, whose story is told in the book, The Lemon Tree. In 1948, after her family came to Israel from Bulgaria, they moved into the house in al-Ramle, the house with the lemon tree in the back yard. They were told the Arab owners had abandoned the house. Then in 1965 she met Bashir, whose family had been forced to leave the house in 1948. Her journey of understanding is the story of "The Lemon Tree." She eventually founded Open House, a center created to bring Jews, Christians and Muslims together, to hear one another's stories.

As Rabbi Morris prepared, with the rest of his community, to celebrate Israeli Independence Day on April 29, he realized that he needed to find a way to celebrate that honored his new understanding of Israel's existence. He wrote about his ambivalence and his decision to plan this concert to benefit Open House:

"This year I am planning to do something with this ambivalence! I havedrawn such great inspiration from Dalia Landau<> and Open House<> - the community center she opened inRamla, Israel to promote co-existence and tolerance between Israeli Jewsand Palestinians. So, at the beginning of the week of IsraeliIndependence Day (April 25th @ 7:30pm), Temple Micah will be hosting aconcert to benefit Open House. Our resident musicians, David Ross and Hal Aqua will lead the concert band in an evening of music of peace,hope and justice."

Rabbi Morris's Yom Kippur sermon in the fall of 2008, is a letter to his two children, telling them what he learned, his message to them about his experience in Israel. He concludes: "the moment that we who were strangers in Egypt, forget how to treat the stranger; the moment that we who have been abused by those in power, become abusers to those over whom we have power; the moment that we create within another human being an inkling of the humiliation, subjugation or despair that Jews have known through the course of history than we betray the very essence of what we are called to be as Jews."

And so, as the Jewish community celebrates Israeli Independence Day, Rabbi Morris encourages Jews to travel with him the journey of getting to know the other. The concert on Saturday was a beginning.

Read some of his journey on his blog:

The lyrics of one of the songs we heard Saturday night, "Two Thousand Years," by singer/songwriter David Ross, speak eloquently to the struggle of the Jewish community:

In the beginning, there was the cold and the night,
Prophets and angels gave us the fire and the light.
Man was triumphant, armed with the faith and the will,
That even the darkest ages couldn’t kill.

Too many kingdoms; too many flags on the field.
So many battles, so many wounds to be healed.
Time is relentless, only true love perseveres.
It’s been a long time and now I’m with you,
After two thousand years.

This is our moment, here at the crossroads of time.
We hope our children carry our dreams down the line.
They are the vintage—what kind of life will they live?
Is this a curse or a blessing that we give?

Sometimes I wonder, why are we so blind to fate?
Without compassion, there can be no end to hate;
No end to sorrow, caused by the same endless fears.
Why can’t we learn from all we’ve been through,
After two thousand years?

There will be miracles, after the last war is won.
Science and poetry rule in the new world to come.
Prophets and angels, gave us the power to see,
What an amazing future there will be.

And in the evening, after the fire and the light,
One thing is certain: nothing can hold back the night.
Time is relentless, and as the past disappears,
We’re on the verge of all things new.
We are two thousand years.

Tuesday, May 5, 7 pm, in Denver, we will be discussing Dalia Landau's story, the "Lemon Tree." If you'd like to join us, please email me:

JERUSALEM, April 26, 2009 (AFP) - Israel will seal off the occupied West Bank for three days beginning at midnight on Sunday ahead of its annual Independence Day celebrations, the army said.

The Palestinian territory will be sealed until midnight on Wednesday, an army spokesman told AFP.

During that time, entry into Israel from the occupied West Bank will be severely limited to urgent humanitarian cases and journalists, he said.

Since the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, Israel has usually sealed off the West Bank ahead of major holidays, saying the move is necessary to prevent attacks.

The Jewish state marks its 61st anniversary on Wednesday, in accordance with the Jewish calendar.
Copyright (c) 2009 Agence France Presse:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Soldier's Aunt Struggles, Shares Her Own Pilgrim's Tale

From the aunt of an IDF soldier, worries what the occupation is doing to him. She read an article in March 21 Haaretz and shares her concerns with the broader Jewish community, through Jewish Peace News.

Dear all...

My nephew, whom I greatly love, was conscripted not long ago into the IDF after a year of national service, and chose to join a combat unit. To my knowledge, I am the only one in the family who is unhappy about all of that (except the national service part, when he worked with disadvantaged urban youth).

However, this is not my child, but my sister's child. Since I am not the parent, what could I have said? How much could I have interfered?

I sent him an email when he was inducted, saying, basically: "Sometimes after people get in the army, they discover that it is not what they thought it would be and they are troubled when they learn how it really is. If this happens to you, there are resources -- people you can talk to, outside of the army"-- and I gave him some suggestions.... names of organizations he can contact. --Meantime he has finished basic training and is in an officer's course. I wonder what slogan will be on the T shirt someone in his unit will print to mark the end of the course (see below)?

Will I be sorry later that I did not dare to interfere more vocally? I think about what he will almost certainly be required to inflict on others, including noncombatants, including children, unless he opts out somewhere along the way, a choice requiring a very strong resistance to groupthink and to a lifetime of brainwashing, a choice grounded in a profound inner conviction that the IDF is wrong, wrongly deployed, an instrument of a criminal and oppressive national policy, massively transgressing the norms we are supposed to hold dear -- a conviction which I can't see how he can possibly have developed, all of a sudden. And, since we become what we do, I think also about what this behavior of his will be doing to him. When he comes home on leave, surely he will be treated like a good son, a good brother. No one will ask for details of what he has been doing since his last leave. How is he to know he is doing wrong if everyone around him acts like all is well? That vacuum, that silence, seems to me to be criminal. That silence makes the families of IDF occupation soldiers into accessories to the murder of noncombatants. Doesn't it?

Today, after reading Uri Blau's "No Virgins, No Terror Attacks" in Haaretz, I sent my nephew another email - pasted below. I try to be gentle with him because I keep reminding myself that this is not a volunteer army. My nephew was conscripted, and if all the brainwashing he has been subjected to, and his misplaced patriotism, made him a willing conscript into an army of occupation, still he was a conscript, nonetheless. That distinction, of course, will have no bearing on his culpability for any war crimes he may commit while in uniform.... Not even the Qassams fired from Gaza at civilian populations in Israel will have a bearing on his culpability for any war crimes he may commit while in uniform...

Dear G.,

I hope you are well and doing OK, hon...

When I saw this article (below), I immediately thought of you. You are the one I worry about these days, for a lot of reasons. What they talk about in this article is one of the reasons...
Try to take care of yourself somehow in the midst of all the insanity.

Read the Haaretz article online:
I rest my case.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ir Amim Works for Equitable and Stabel Jerusalem

There are many Jewish organizations in Israel that are working to stop constuction of Israeli settlements on Arab lands. They do this because the settlements interfere with a future two-state solution and they fear that the settlements destabilize Israeli society. Ir
Amim ("city of nations") is one of these organizations. Their non-profit organization is "founded in order to actively engage in those issues impacting on Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem and on the political future of the city. Ir Amim seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city, while generating and promoting a more politically sustainable future." They seek to maintain Jerusalem as a city of "two peoples and three religions."

Ir Amim is involved in:
  • Monitoring and exposing critical developments in Jerusalem, and informing / alerting target audiences in Israel and in the world.
  • Legal advocacy aimed at halting or mitigating unilateral actions that harm the fabric of life in Jerusalem, and create obstacles to reaching an agreed-upon future for the city and the region.
  • Policy advocacy with decision makers, both local and international.
  • Public outreach and media work aimed at raising awareness of developments in the city and understanding of their local and global significance. Activities include study tours of East Jerusalem, professional seminars and public events.
  • Strengthening, and working with, civil society organizations in East Jerusalem to advance a more equitable Jerusalem.

One more group working for peace and justice, walking with the Palestinians who have lived in East Jerusalem for many years, whose homes are threatened by the continuing construction of Israeli settlement in this Arab area. Read more about their work:

Their map showing Israeli settlement-building in the Old City of Jerusalem:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who Profits from the Israeli Occupation?

Jewish Peace News is a news clipping service that seeks to promote a just peace, Jews on their own pilgrimage of discovery of what it means to be Jewish in the context of the Middle East conflict:

Who Profits from the Israeli Occupation?
Announcing a new on-line database:

Now, more then ever, Israeli activists need a powerful global movement to help us build a just peace in Israel/ Palestine. Looking for effective tools for ending the occupation, we have launched a new website listing companies directly involved in the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The grassroots initiative, of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, includes a database and an information center, and reflects an on-going two-year effort, rigorous research, documentation and site visits.

This unprecedented on-line resource already lists about 200 companies, and hundreds more will be added during 2009, offering an extensive and intricate mapping of the corporate aspects and interests in the continued occupation. The website offers a new useful categorization of all corporate interests in the occupation, and exposes specific examples of direct involvement of many international and Israeli companies for the first time. In tracing ownership links it shows in detail how some of Israel’s largest corporations are tied in with the occupation.

The database allows for advanced searches, such as: Which U.S. corporations support the West Bank military checkpoints? Which of the companies are listed in the London stock-exchange? What settlements’ production is formally registered inside Israel? Note, however, that the on-line data is always partial, always growing, and please send us any relevant information, further requests for information or suggestions.

As Israeli activists, we feel obligated to try and educate ourselves and others about the economic incentives and corporate involvement in the occupation, but this is not enough. You can support our efforts by continuing this investigation in your own country, by informing others of our website, or by sending us a much needed donation.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: