Saturday, January 29, 2011

Youth Peace Volunteer Killed in Beit Ummar

More news from Beit Ummar (Ommar), between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank—this time from the Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP). In the last two weeks I have written about the violence in Beit Ummar against Jamal Muqbul, whom we met in May. Yousef, the boy who was killed Friday, is a close friend of Jamal’s son Yazan. Jamal writes of their sorrow: “yes.. we are so so sad about Palistinin who killed by settler yesterday morning especially he is close friend of my child Yazan. …. now there is many soldiers in the village.” Take a few minutes to read about Yousef, who was involved in non-violent actions and was learning peacemaking in Beit Ommar. Read this information and more on PSP’s website:

Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2011 21:18:39 -0600
Subject: [PSPUpdates] PSP Youth Volunteer Shot by Settlers and Now Brain-Dead

Earlier today, Yousef Fakhri Ikhlayl, a 17-year-old youth from Beit Ommar who has worked very closely with PSP over the years, was shot in the head by settlers and he is currently brain-dead in a Hebron hospital. Yousef attended nearly every unarmed Saturday demonstration, was frequently around the PSP house, and participated in both the Freedom Flotilla Summer Camp, and the photography class organized by the Center for Freedom and Justice. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Please consider holding solidarity actions or events in your communities to demand his killers be brought to justice, and for Yousef to be the last victim of an ongoing brutal occupation.

Below is more information about the circumstances of Yousef's shooting.

With anger and grief,
The Palestine Solidarity Project


Friday, January 28th 2011, 9am: Around 100 settlers from Bat Ayn settlement descended upon the Palestinian villages of Saffa and nearby Beit Ommar in the southern West Bank, shooting 17-year-old Yousef Fakhri Ikhlayl in his head, leaving him critically injured. Doctors have announced that Yousef is currently brain-dead in a Hebron hospital.

Settlers also shot 16-year-old Bilal Mohammad Abed Al-Qador with live ammunition in his arm.

The large group of armed settlers began shooting towards Palestinian homes in Saffa at around 9am, leaving Bilal injured. At the same time, a second group of settlers attacked an area of Beit Ommar called Jodor. Yousef was shot in the head in this area while he was standing in grapes vines he had planted on his family’s land.

Dozens of Palestinians from Beit Ommar and the nearby village of Surif began coming to the area to defend their communities. Seven jeeps of Israeli Forces also arrived in the area and escorted the settlers back to Bat Ayn.

This is the second settler attack with live ammunition on Palestinians in as many days. On January 27th, Uday Maher Qadous was shot and killed in Iraq Burin, in the Nablus district, by armed settlers as he was working his land.

Yousef Fahkri Ikhlayl is from the village of Beit Ommar and has worked on initiatives with the Palestine Solidarity Project, an ant-occupation organization in Beit Ommar. In the summer of 2010, Yousef attended the Center for Freedom and Justice’s Freedom Flotilla Summer Camp where he engaged in educational projects, community service, and unarmed demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. In the fall of 2010 Yousef was a participant in a youth photography class also sponsored by the center.

“Yousef was a kid who hoped for a better future for Palestine. His life was ended prematurely by right-wing extremists. People around the world should be outraged by his shooting, and should work to bring his attackers to justice. “
-Bekah Wolf, American citizen who worked with Yousef in the Center for Freedom and Justice

Settlers from Bat Ayn routinely attack and harass Palestinians in the Beit Ommar area. In January 27th, 2011 settlers in the area destroyed several hundred olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.

Free Palestine!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More from Jamal in Beit Ummar

Jamal Mequbul writes from the Palestinian town of Beit Ummar (Ommar) in the West Bank. It's between Bethlehem and Hebron, in an area where Israeli settlements are closing in, taking more of their farmland. Jamal is a barber in the town, although now there are fewer customers because everyone is just struggling to stay alive. He is part of an Israeli-Palestinian group called Wounded Crossing Borders. He refers to this group in the first email.

We talk a lot about terrorism - it's become our excuse for most anything we want to do as a country. When I read Jamal's words, I realize that, rather than BEING at terrorist, this Palestinian is the VICTIM of terrorism. But since it's not a suicide bombing or planes crashing, we don't hear about this terrorism. (Photo shows Margee from our Compassionate Listening delegation and Jamal's wife Saddiye)

Tuesday, January 25

Thank you a lot and every one who concern and care a bout us ; your caring support us a lot , we hope your messeges to B'tselem and Dr Micheael Oren will help to end this difficult days, every day we're suffering from gas even the vegetables in our area taste and smell is gas, we can't move , yesterday three israeli's from our group were in a visit to our area , it was hard to let them come and see what is happening , they don't imagine and believe what I told them before but yesterday they saw the soldiers shooting a lot of gas and closing the road to my house , also I took them to visit the Mayer he is really a wonderful person , he told them many stories , the situation is unbelievable.

THE children finished their exams they're starting a holiday for 12 days, every family is so worry a bout there sons .
We're ready to welcome the Compassionate Listening Project any time, Are you be able to come with them?. They can coordinate by e.mail and phones.

Also on Tuesday:

The tru i live in very very difficult situation, i dont know how to start my day, every morning i wake up and i cant thinking, many Responsibilities many pressure, also i cant live or work Naturally, when Saddiye call me and ask me to go quickly to my home to help to care them, and i cant do any thing, also i cant use the road because the soldiers close it. other thing many from my town ask me to help because i am with peace group at the same time others ask me to leave the Israeli group also i lose most customers that mean I am not able to secure the expense also the UNRWA stooped the Aid for us before 3 years, they till me you are live out the camp, add to my health, some time i cant move my body, before 2 weeks when my brother Mohamad take me to hospital the doctor ask me to do ct skan for my back quickly, believe me i cant do it its Expensive for me. dear Mum pls you must know those Examples to understand more and more about my life, not only me most Palestinians like me, always i hope to tell you good news but this is what i have i so so sorry to bother you and the others. sometimes i think to leave this area.

All of us now sleep in the same room, my kids are so worry and fraid from the Israeli soldiers, may be the soldiers come at any moment to take Zain or Yazan, now we think to let them go to Jericho and live there in my friend house period of time. i am sure that you and the others nice friends pray to us.

big hugs to all

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Week in Palestine...

Today I’m writing because I have had a couple of alarming notes from Jamal, who hosted us at his home in Beit Ummar in the West Bank, just south of Bethlehem. In May, Jamal invited our Compassionate Listening delegation to meet with his group—Wounded Crossing Borders. This is a group of Israelis and Palestinians who have all lost loved ones or been wounded in the conflict. They meet together to get to know one another and to build bridges of understanding. Our group sat with them in the shade on Jamal’s patio as the late afternoon sun filtered through the grapevines. The geraniums were blooming—pink, red—and the Muqbul family had prepared a feast for us, coordinated by Jamal’s wife Saddiye. As we sat eating our homemade humus, pita, chicken, rice and vegetables, we heard the story of Jamal’s 14-year-old nephew Ibrahim, who had just been arrested (he has now been cleared of all charges, with the help of the Israelis in Wounded Crossing Borders).

That warm afternoon on his patio, with Palestinians and Israelis who are seeking peace, seemed far away as I read his email on Thursday [photo shows Jamal and my friend Margee, who introduced us to Jamal in May]:

January 20—All time we afraid about our kids always we worry, last night the Israelis soldiers come to my family houses, they brock windows and doors then they ask about my son Zain they need him, my be they will return back in any moment, Sadiye crying all the time and she ask me to keep them in another place but where ? i call all of my group if we can do any thing, i am sure the Israelis IDF dont need me work for peace.

January 18 he also wrote—Here it’s so bad with the Israelis soldiers, every day they coming to the area and start shooting allot of Gaz [tear gas] also they close the road for 5 hours every day then we must go or come from fields, some from my group need to come today to speack with the soldiers, yesterday I try to talk with them but they refused also 3 of them beat me and shooting Gaz at my car then I stay in hospital few hours, I am okay now, the mean problem for us is Amr (3), all time he is afraid every night he crying and need to sleep near to me also many kids like Amr. my nephew Malik, 11 months, stay 7 days in the hospital because he smell allot of Gaz when the soldiers shooting 3 bombs in my fathers house. Saddiye [Jamal’s wife] worry
about everything especially our kids have exams these days.

This week in Palestine—GAZA:

  • On Tuesday, Israeli forces killed Amjad Sami Ahmed al-Za'anin, 18, when they fired seven artillery shells at Palestinian workers in Gaza, who were collecting scraps of construction materials near the town of Beit Hanoun, about a third of a mile from the border with Israel. Two other workers were wounded. On Sunday, two other workers were wounded in another area of Gaza.
  • On Wednesday, another worker was injured collecting construction materials. You see, Israel is still not allowing construction materials through the checkpoints into Gaza, so young men earn money scavenging in the rubble for materials, which can be sold and used to rebuild Gaza, which is still in ruins from the attack in 2008-2009.
  • Israeli soldiers are still not allowing Palestinians to leave Gaza for medical procedures, commerce or family visits. The ban on exports from Gaza continues.

And, in the West Bank:

  • Israeli forces conducted 54 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, abducting 27 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children.
  • Israeli soldiers positioned at military checkpoints in the West Bank abducted two Palestinian civilians.

Information from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), as reported in the International Middle East Media Center’s weekly report:

I don’t know if Jamal’s night of terror is included in the 54 incursions, but I do know that he is a man of peace. He has worked for years to stand up for his rights as Israel has confiscated the lands around his village so that they can establish an Israeli presence in the West Bank with their settlements. Like all but a handful of Palestinians, he has not resisted with guns or bombs or even rocks. He has resisted by remaining in his town—building a home, marrying and raising a family, going to work every day. Even though the settlements are continuing to close in on his town, stealing farmland from his people, he remains. And he reaches out to get to know Israelis who have also been wounded in the conflict over the land. This is his life; it is his resistance.

Because the Israeli military is stepping up its attacks on civilians in the West Bank and Gaza, I am worried for Jamal’s safety and especially for the safety of his young sons, who seem to be the special target of these raids. If you would like to protest Israel’s actions, please write:

[If you are not in Colorado, you will have some different contacts]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Al-Walaja in the News!

This morning on NPR, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Al-Walaja, the West Bank village I wrote about on Monday, where Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh is part of the group organizing demonstrations against Israel’s wall now being constructed.

This is a map of the village’s position in the West Bank. Al Walaja is next to Jerusalem, just to the northeast of Bethlehem, surrounded by the (blue) Israeli West Bank settlements of Gilo, Har Gilo and Betar Illit – where Israel is currently completing their wall (the dotted red circle), which, as you can see, is being built to completely surround the village. Since the land belongs to the village, Israel’s wall confiscates their land.

Take four minutes to listen to Lourdes Garcia Navarro’s coverage of their story:

And, if you are in the Denver area, plan to come hear Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh give a firsthand account of what is happening in Al Walaja and other places in the West Bank:
Sabeel-Colorado Film and Lecture Series
Sunday, March 6, 3-5 pm
At Montview Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia, at the corner of Montview and Dahlia in Park Hill

Photo shows Al-Walaja resident Sheerin, with pepper-spray on her face, being detained by Israeli soldiers during a peaceful demonstration against the wall December 23.

Monday, January 17, 2011

We Are Not Afraid.....Today

Today we celebrate the life of a man of peace, a pastor, a leader of the American Civil Rights movement, and a strong advocate and leader in non-violent actions against injustice. He led massive civil demonstrations, using popular resistance to dismantle a system of discrimination and oppression.

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Dr. King said, “I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted up from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

I read these words yesterday in Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh’s recently published book, Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment (Pluto Press, Jan 2011: Read about the book.). Dr. King’s speeches and writings have provided inspiration and strength for Palestinians engaging in non-violent civil disobedience, his dreams offering a vision for their future as well.

Education is very important to the Palestinians I know. Most of them are much better educated than Americans (many have earned degrees from prestigious American universities), and so it is not surprising that non-violent movements around the world have given them courage in their struggles against discrimination—including Mohandas Gandhi’s non-violent movement against British rule in India and the American Civil Rights movement. But, as Dr. Qumsiyeh notes in his new book, non-violence in Palestine is much older than these movements, going back at least as far as the “earliest philosopher of popular resistance in Palestine…Jesus.” (p30)

Dr. Qumsiyeh goes on to recount the non-violent roots of Islam. The Islamic movement was founded as a religion of justice and for thirteen years the prophet Muhammad used non-violence in his struggle in Mecca. Jihad, often understood by those of us in the West as an act of violence, is, in fact, an act of peace—a personal struggle to live a life faithful to God, Allah, and to improve the Muslim world. Jihad is the sacred duty of every Muslim, and many Muslim scholars would deny that it has anything to do with war or violence. The Prophet Muhammad and his immediate followers did not employ any form of violent jihad. In his book, Dr Qumsiyeh chronicles the use of non-violence as an important tool in Palestinians' resistance to oppression from Ottoman times to today.

Yesterday, in worship at St. Paul Lutheran in Denver, we closed by singing the anthem of the American Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome.” The words brought tears to my eyes as we sang, “We are not afraid, We are not afraid….We are not afraid some day,” and I thought about the civil protests against the building of the Israeli wall around Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

Every week, the villagers, other Palestinian supporters, and international volunteers, protest in front of bulldozers in places like Al-Walaja. (see Al-Walaja on the left of the map--where the wall is being constructed today to surround the village). Dr. Qumsiyeh is an organizer and leader of these protests. He left his comfortable life in the U.S. to return to his home in Beit Sahour, in the Bethlehem district, so that he could stand with his people in resisting Israel’s occupation. He is a genetic biologist, teaching and doing research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. He has been arrested twice this past year, once as recently as December 23.
Read about their arrest
Read his own description of the events
Watch his video describing his experience
See photos of the arrests
Listen to Pete Seeger singing "We Shall Overcome"

Someday....the hope of the Palestinians. Come hear Dr. Qumsiyeh talk about popular resistance and his new book when he is in Denver in March:

Sunday, March 3, 3-5 pm
Sabeel Film and Lecture Series
at Montview Presbyterian Church
1980 Dahlia, at Montview Boulevard

We shall overcome, We shall overcome, We shall overcome some day.
Deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand….We’ll walk hand in hand some day.
Deep in my heart I do believe we’ll walk hand in hand some day.

We shall all be free…..
We are not afraid, We are not afraid today,
Deep in my heart, I do believe……
The truth shall set us free…..
We shall live in peace…..someday.
Deep in my heart, I do believe…..