Friday, May 28, 2010

Peace is the Road That Takes You Somewhere

He says he wanted to talk to someone about his trouble with the Jewish soldiers. The young man next to him wants to make peace--he lives where Jews and Arabs live together and he believes "Peace is the road that takes you somewhere." Then one of the young women spoke up--when she came, she discovered that she was not alone; there are others who want peace. She was shocked by how easy it was, making friends across the cultural divide between Arab and Jew.

Some of them have families that support what they are doing. Others talk about how their families are divided--some aunts, uncles, cousins, think that peace is possible; others think it is not possible. Most of them said their hopes rise and fall--sometimes they are hopeful; other times they despair that anything will ever change here in Israel/Palestine. Some of their families support peace; others do not think it will change anything.

We are sitting in a meeting room at the Ecce Homo convent in the Old City of Jerusalem and the young people we are meeting all have found a home by being part of Sulhita, the youth outreach of the Sulha Peace Project, a grassroots organization that "aims to rebuild trust, restore dignity and move beyond the political agenda." "Sulha" means mediation.

It is our first night in Jerusalem and, miraculously, we are beginning with the hope here on the ground in a part of the world where conflict is usually what makes the news.

They all believe that change will come if everyone gets to know one another at a young age. But they don't just sit around and talk. One young woman wants to make this dream a reality. She is setting up a peace camp this summer for Bedouin and Jewish children. They will come together to play and learn for a week of day camp. She is doing a year of voluntary service, between graduating from high school and before her mandatory service in the army. She is living and working this year in Beer-sheva, in the south of Israel.

Sulhita trains young people to be leaders, to empower them. They tell us it is easy to control people who are afraid. But these young leaders believe there is another way. They want the world to know that Israel is doing something good. 12,000 young people have participated in Sulhita since its beginnings. And they want us to come home and "Tell the truth."

They all shared their favorite part of what they are doing:
  • looking into the eyes of the other and knowing them
  • knowing that others share feelings of peace
  • having friends, singing

A Palestinian young man tells us, "When I see how the soldiers treat people, I don't believe in peace. When I see what is happening, I can't believe in peace." But when he comes to Sulhita, he finds others who share his desire for peace and he has hope.

So do I.

If you would like to share in their hope, take a look at their website: There is even a way to donate to their work online! (click on "donate" and then look for the page for donors from the U.S.). When I get home (or find a computer with a USB port) I'll upload a picture of these amazing young people.

This is Compassionate Listening in Palestine/Israel.

Shalom....Salaam....Peace be with us all.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"You Are Not Alone" --Leaving for Israel/Palestine

We are sailing away, with hope in our soul
Sailing to say, “You are not alone.”
Sailing today, “Salam, Shalom,”
For peace on the shores of Gaza.

These are the words of Irish singer, Tommy Sands, who wrote the song 'The Shores of Gaza," a theme song for the Free Gaza Movement’s current voyage from Ireland to Gaza. The cargo ship, MV Rachel Corrie, and the rest of flotilla of eight ships has set sail and is bringing humanitarian supplies—among other things, medical supplies, children’s school materials, and cement—to the people of Gaza, who are still living under Israel’s blockade of their port and land routes. [See Thursday’s blog to hear the song and find out more about Free Gaza.]

These words express my feelings too, as I prepare to leave on Monday for a Compassionate Listening delegation to Israel and the West Bank. It’s what the people there—both Palestinian and Israeli—who are working for a just peace, have asked of me on previous trips. They say “Come and See,” “Bring others”—and “Tell our story.”

I, indeed, have “hope in my soul”—this injustice and fear cannot go on forever. And I am going there to tell them that they are not alone. Although American tax dollars are spent every day ($7m each day) to supply and maintain the soldiers stationed in the West Bank, there are Americans who are working for a just peace too.

Compassionate Listening has the power to bring about understanding and reconciliation. It is a way of listening deeply that transforms both speaker and listener, and in so doing, is a seed of hope for an embattled world.

So, please hold all of us in your prayers. I will write on my blog when I can find internet access: . I’ll be gone May 24-June 5.

An update on the Free Gaza flotilla from Greta Berlin:
We will soon have a new page added to our website called . You will be able to follow us as we journey to Gaza over the next two weeks. You can watch our own 'video reports' twice a day, reports from the boats and from Gaza. Everything on the page is connected to make it easier for you to access TWITTER, Facebook, YouTube and FLICKR. Watch for it in the next day or so.

For the update on the boats, the Turkish passenger ship left yesterday from Istanbul to the next port to pick up more passengers. The Irish/Malaysian ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, is on her way to the Mediterranean. The Greek/Swedish cargo ship, the passenger boat from the European Campaign and the Free Gaza passenger boats are ready to leave Greece this week.

We will all meet in international waters off the coast of Gaza, turn and steam into Gaza City port sometime between May 28 and June 1 depending on the weather.

The Israelis are nervous.
The Palestinians from the occupied West Bank to Gaza to the diaspora are ecstatic.
The internationals are determined.
The boats are ready.
The world waits.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

“Sailing to say you are not alone” -MV Rachel Corrie sets sail for Gaza with humanitarian aid

On May 14, 2010, the MV Rachel Corrie pulled out of the docks in Ireland and began her long journey down the coast of Europe to the Mediterranean. She is named after the 23 year old American, Rachel Corrie, who was killed in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer as she was protecting the home of a Palestinian doctor. She will join seven other vessels in the Mediterranean and sail to Gaza to deliver vitally needed construction, medical and school supplies to the imprisoned population of Gaza.

“Sailing to say….. you are not alone”

• Take two minutes to watch a video telling about the purpose of their trip:

• And another three minutes to watch a video of the launch and the material aid they are taking to Gaza:

• And a four-minute video of an interview with Rachel Corrie, on March 14, 2003, two days before Israeli Defense Forces killed her with a bulldozer that was demolishing another Palestinian home. The really sad part of watching this interview is that NOTHING HAS CHANGED in the seven years since her death:

Another three and a half minutes to see what materials are being denied under Israel's blockade of Gaza:

Check out their web site to follow the progress – Israel apparently is planning to prevent the ship from breaking the blockade with these supplies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Independence Day/Al-Nakba

May 14 is celebrated in Israel as Independence Day—the day in 1948, when the British removed all their troops from the areas of the Mandate and Israel declared their independence and the formation of the State of Israel.

May 15 is commemorated by Palestinians as Al-Nakba, “the catastrophe,” because Israeli independence meant the removal of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and their lands as Jewish militias attacked villages and forced families out of their homes—or, families fled in terror, hearing of massacres in nearby towns and villages. Like all people fleeing violence, they assumed that they would return to their homes in days or weeks, when the fighting was over. However, they were prevented from returning to the homes; Jewish soldiers guarded their villages and farms. Many of their homes were destroyed by shelling; many of their lands were declared parks or simply given to Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. Palestinian olive orchards were burned to remove any trace of the former landowners. Bank accounts were confiscated and village names were changed to Hebrew names on the road signs.

(for stories of these families, read The Olive Grove, by Deborah Rohan; or Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, or, for the story of both a Palestinian and an Israeli family who at different times lived in the same house, read The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan.)

Click on the picture to view a 10-minute video describing the history and documenting the removals of Palestinians in 1948.

Free Ameer Makhoul—on May 7, I sent out information about the arrest of Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian Israeli leader in the movement for Palestinian political rights, director of Ittijah, which works to promote the development of Palestinian civil society, advocating for political change, economic and social development. See the information below to advocate for his release.

Write to the US consulates in Israel:
In Jerusalem-- Email:
In Tel Aviv-- Email:
In Haifa—(where Ameer Makhoul lives) E-mail:

The US Canmpaign to End the Occupation provides more information on his case:

In yet another disturbing sign of its increasing repression against Palestinians working to defend their civil and human rights, Israel has arbitrarily arrested and detained one of its most porminent citizens working for civil equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, Ameer Makhoul, the General Director of Ittijah-The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations.

The following is adapted from an action alert on Makhoul's arrest issued by Addameer:

Ameer Makhoul was arrested on 6 May 2010 at 3:10 a.m. when Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents accompanied by Israeli police raided his family home in Haifa. According to his wife, Janan, the police confiscated items including documents, maps, the family's four mobile phones, Ameer and Jana's laptops, the hard drives from the girls' two desktop computers, a camera and a small tape recorder containing not-yet transcribed oral histories Janan collects as part of her work.

Approximately 40 minutes after their arrival, a group of the security forces left with Mr. Makhoul in custody. Makhoul was transported to Petah Tikva interrogation center, where he remains. At around the same time, the Israeli authorities raided the office of Ittijah - The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and confiscated documents and the hard drives from all of the organization's computers.

Ameer Makhoul's arrest, detention and a previously imposed travel ban are based on emergency regulations and "secret" information that is never disclosed to the defense. They are a flagrant violation of the UN Declaration and the EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. Palestinian human rights of freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association as well as the right to protection from arbitrary arrest are daily violated.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association in Palestine urges the international community to take action to help Ameer Makhoul:

- Write to your own elected and diplomatic representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Mr. Makhoul and to put an end to the ongoing harassment against Palestinian human rights defenders.
- Write to the International Bar Association to protest Israel's use of arbitrary detention and the use of 'secret information' and incommunicado detentions; and,
- Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that: Mr. Makhoul be released immediately, and the travel ban against him be lifted; Israeli security authorities immediately cease their unlawful arrest and detention policies of Palestinian human rights defenders; and, Israeli authorities end the practice of arbitrary detention, the use of "secret information", and incommunicado detention. For more information, click here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

NON-VIOLENT Popular Resistance Continues in the West Bank

This is an entry from the blog of Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, currently living in the Bethlehem area. Follow the news on his blog: See ACTION ideas at the bottom

A poll reveals that a majority of Israeli's are willing to see the banning of human rights organization in the 'Jewish state' and a bill was introduced in the Knesset to outlaw any Israeli human rights organization which exposes Israeli war crimes. Yesterday, one peaceful protester hurt and 6 detained in Bilin weekly protest against the apartheid wall (itself declared a war crime in violation of the 4th Geneva convention). Those arrested include our friends Ashraf Abu Rahma (28, who was videotaped at another event as he was blindfolded and shot, brother of martyr Bassem killed at peaceful protest), Abed Al-Fattah Burnat (Committee member, 53), Haitham Al-Khatib (34, Photographer), Roy Vackner, and Uri Baytman (Israelis), and a 27 year old US citizen Stormy.

And Israeli secret agents arrested a Palestinian leader in Haifa (head of Ittijah organization, Ameer Makhoul) on secret evidence and puts a gag order on the media (read more about his arrest on this blog--May 7 posting).

And the Israeli government will 'legalize' outposts in the West Bank (that is how most of settlements came to get Israeli government recognition even if they are illegal per International law). And settlers continue to harass Palestinians.

Thus, we descend further into fascism in this apartheid racist state even as the Israeli propaganda machine still babbles about 'the only democracy in the Middle East'. But the demonstrations yesterday in Bil'in, Ni'lin, and elsewhere went on successfully. In Al-Ma'sara demonstration, something unusual happened. As always, village people walked towards their lands and the soldiers blocked the road with razor wire and armed jeeps. But after a while and some negotiations, the officers allowed the marchers to march along the main road to their lands. Something new happens here every day.

Better and shorter videos of our arrests in Al-Walaja
and pictures of popular resistance including in Al-Walaja

Israeli military shoot dead a Gaza farmer
and attack fishermen

Inspiring event showing how isolated Israel is becoming (except by spineless government officials who need to be challenged). Activists disrupt "Israel Technology" event at Boston Museum of Science (a propaganda effort). Report on event here

ACTION: We need to act in a last push to stop Israel's accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development . Read this OECD Bends Rules for Israel
Then act here

ACTION: Join Palestinians in peaceful expression and commemoration of Nakba in Washington DC, Saturday May 15th, 2010 3:30 - 6:00 PM. The boat leaves at 4:00 PM, we will start meeting at 3:30 PM. Washington Harbour, 3000 Mass Ave., NW. at the bottom of 31st St in Georgetown. Additional Information:
The boat ride is 1 hour, we will regroup afterwards around our digital billboard truck that will be displaying documentary video and pictures of the Nakba 1948 and the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians today. Bring posters that read: Free Palestine, End the Occupation, Nakba...62 years is enough, Stop U.S. tax Dollars to Israel, End the siege of Gaza. Please do not deviate from this theme. If you have a boat, please join our flotilla on the Potomac. If you do not wish to ride the boat, we need supporters cheering the boat from the Key Bridge; we also need photographers and videographers to document this event and help us submit a video to the Gaza Freedom March Nakba competition. The first prize will be $100 donated to the Free Gaza Flotilla. This is a Family Friendly Event, bring your children for a beautiful ride on the Potomac.
We'll be singing songs from the 60's. Sponsored by: Washington Peace Center, Gaza Freedom March, Free Gaza Movement, US Campaign To End The Occupation. RSVP and more info: ,

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Friday, May 7, 2010

Israel Increases Repression of Palestinian Leaders

In a week when the University of Denver announced a lecture by Israeli Defense Force Colonel Bentzi Gruber, who is free to travel the world and present his justification of Israeli military actions, we receive news that these same soldiers are carrying out a crackdown on Palestinian leaders who want to tell the world how Israel is using weaponry, arrests and denial of travel papers to deny Palestinians the same rights. Israeli Palestinian human rights activist Ameer Makhoul was arrested this week and detained without charges.

Israel's repression of its Palestinian citizens unites us in struggle
Ameer Makhoul, The Electronic Intifada, 6 May 2010

Israel is increasingly oppressing Palestinian leaders in Israel.

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah and chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of the Political Freedoms, was
arrested by Israeli forces during a raid of his home, two weeks after a travel ban was imposed on him by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. Police have also raided the offices of Ittijah and confiscated equipment and documents.

Makhoul, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, submitted the following op-ed to The Electronic Intifada prior to his arrest:

Last month, when I traveled from Haifa to the land border between Jordan and Israel, the Israeli border police prevented me from leaving my country. The police handed me an order issued by the Israeli Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai prohibiting me to leave Israel for two months. The travel ban imposed on me is part of an increased campaign to intimidate and to spread fear among Palestinian civil society. The repression is meant to divide us, but it has had the opposite effect. We Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora are only more determined and united to claim our rights and to build a nation where we can live in freedom and have equal rights.

The Israeli minister of the interior holds the opinion that my travel outside the country "poses a serious threat to the security of the state," according to article 6 of the 1948 emergency regulations. I am the director of Ittijah, Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and the chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms, which is a sub-committee of the High Monitoring Committee of Arabs in Israel. All three bodies unite Palestinian Arabs in Israel and we jointly decided not to appeal my travel ban at the Israeli high court.

Any meeting in the Arab world or with any Arab person anywhere in the world arouses the suspicion of the authorities. The accusations against me are made on the basis of secret evidence that I am not allowed to see, and the high court merely acts as an extension of the Israeli General Security Services (GSS), or the Shin Bet. Israel does not need to prove that there is reason for suspicion; instead, I have to prove that there is no need for their suspicion. The Israeli legal system is far from fair for Palestinians.

Israel is intimidating Ittijah and the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms because we are reasserting our community's stake in the Palestinian struggle. Twenty years ago few considered the Palestinians in Israel as a part of the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause. During the Oslo process of the 1990s, we were considered an internal problem for Israel to deal with, but our networking, advocacy and lobbying has changed this. Israel is increasingly repressing us to divide Palestinians from each other and isolate us from the outside world.

The repression and persecution of Palestinians in Israel is not new. Since 1948 Israel imposed a policy of control under the guise of security. In 2007, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin introduced a new policy targeting the whole Palestinian community as a security risk to thwart democratic efforts such as the issuing by Palestinian civil society in Israel visions of a state for all its citizens.

Repression has increased dramatically since then and more than 1,000 Palestinian youths in Israel were interrogated by the Shin Bet after the Gaza massacre of winter 2008-09. Leaders of the Palestinian civil society, like myself, are under attack. Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic movement, is being persecuted for his involvement in the protection of Jerusalem from ongoing Israeli colonization and extremist settlers. Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) Mohammed Barakeh was shot in the leg with a sound bomb when he tried to protect protesters from the aggression of Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Bilin. MK Said Nafa was stripped of parliamentary immunity because of his visit to Syria, while former MK Azmi Bishara found himself in an imposed exile since three years for the same reason. One year ago, the Shin Bet ordered me to come to their offices and they interrogated me for one day in an attempt to silence my protest of the Israeli massacre in Gaza.

Israel applies a multi-track approach to attack our struggle: the authorities repress and persecute Palestinians while they prohibit foreign solidarity activists, organizations and journalists from visiting the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Additionally, right-wing groups within Israel commit public violence against Palestinian families in places like Acre and Jaffa, with total impunity. One week ago the right-wing group Im Tirtzu published posters inciting violence against individual members of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights.

Palestinian civil society protests Israel's repressive policies of intimidation but at the same time resolves to continue our struggle. We have achieved unity, and it is important for us to protect this. We will not allow Israel to isolate members or parts of our community. We have become more influential in the Arab media and we will use this influence. We have built our international networks and we call on them to support us. The attacks that are meant to divide us have had the complete opposite effect. Injustice unites us; we are all together in this struggle.

Action Alert - Urge Your Representative to sign letter to President Obama

This action alert from Churches for Middle East Peace comes to us through the ELCA Peace Not Walls campaign.

Send an email to your representative urging him/her to sign on to a letter to Pres Obama, supporting the views of Gen Petraeus and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is essential to both US and Israeli security. Representatives need to sign the letter by Monday, May 10. So please read and respond TODAY.

Ask your Representative to Sign Letter Urging the President to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to advance U.S. National Security Interests

A new letter to President Obama led by Representatives Kind (WI-3), Delahunt (MA-10), Price (NC-4), and Synder (AR-2) highlights the views of General David H. Petraeus, Commander of U.S. Central Command and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the national security interest of both the United States and Israel.

Both senior national security leaders share similar views about the risks inherent in continuing conflict without achieving a negotiated resolution. Gen. Petraeus has said, "The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance [U.S.] interests in the [region]...The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas."

Defense Minister Barak has said, "The lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within the historic Land of the most serious threat to Israel's future."

Click here to email your Representative, asking him or her to sign the letter to President Obama highlighting the security benefits of a negotiated two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

*The deadline for Congressional sign on is Monday, May 10, 2010.

Click here to read the full text of the letter.