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....