Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mazin Qumsiyeh in Beit Sahour writes about Christmas in Bethelem: [read this on his blog:]  (photo is in Manger Square)

Also, be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the message: “Bethlehem Views” from George Rishmawi
Beit Laham
Bethlehem (Aramaic for House of Laham, the Canaanitic God of Sustenance) area is decked in colors and the best and most beautiful lights are the smiles on the faces of our children. On Saturday evening, we attended a Christian service that was a joint service with the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The Palestinian children bell choir was uplifting. Children led the lighting of the candles at churches, the singing, and the choirs and they outnumbered adults in most activities. We were blessed by visited homes of poor children of different faiths. On Monday 3500 members of marching bands/scouts (most youth under 18) led parades near the apartheid wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem towards the Nativity square. Some of the marching youth were Muslims. The marching band from Gaza (Christian and Muslim) was not allowed to participate by the Israeli occupation authorities. Earlier in the day, children in the square formed a large peace symbol and the words "LOVE ALL" with their bodies in front of the massive Christmas tree in the square. The United Nations Work and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) had banners asking people to remember the suffering children in Gaza and Syria.

Later in the day, the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement and the YMCA/YWCA Joint Advocacy initiative organized a children's program. Laughing and dancing lasted for nearly two hours and then gifts were passed to the kids by Santa Clause. We all should remember that Jesus was born 2000 years ago in a humble manger. My ancestors, the Shepherds of Beit Sahour recognized the message of hope and acted on it. They and Jesus were Palestinians living under a foreign imperial occupation managed by local individuals who claimed religion and law. Herod killed the Children of Bethlehem to advance the agenda of hate. Jesus advanced the agenda of love. His family became refugees from tyranny (like millions of Palestinians today). Jesus challenged military occupation with non-violent resistance and chastised Pharisees and Sadducees for hypocrisy. He called for peace and helped the oppressed. This important child of Bethlehem is recognized by Christians, Muslims, and most of humanity (including atheists and agnostics) as a great teacher and a saviour. He taught all humanity that it is important to tell the truth and stand with the weak and oppressed of this world. He taught by example. Palestinian Christians believe he became the first martyr for non-violent resistance to foreign occupation of Palestine. He said "let the children come to me" and implored us to believe in goodness in the same way that children do and then to ACT on our belief. Whether we are Christian or not, this is the message coming forth from Bethlehem this season and all the time.

If you are in the Bethlehem area let us get together and plan our actions for 2013 and beyond especially for the future of all children of our shared planet.

Tuesday/Today 4 PM Candle Light march for Palestine in Beit Sahour starting at the Shephetrds' Field followed by festival of Christmas with music etc.

Wednesday 6 PM: Service at the wall neaer Rachel Tomb area

Friday: At Izbet Tabib (near Qalqilia), Bilin, and other localities in Palestine, join marches against the apartheid wall

Video from the simulcast with the National Cathedral:

"do not ask whom for the bells (of Bethlehem) toll, they toll for thee"

Stay human

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Friday, November 30, 2012

Celebrating today!

Yesterday and today Palestinians all over the world are celebrating. Granted, it might not seem like much of a victory to go from "observer entity" to "observer state" in the United Nations, but it is the first time the world has acknowledged and affirmed Palestinians' desire to determine their own future. The map below shows the breakdown of the voting: red: NO ; green: YES; yellow: ABSTAIN; blue: absent. You can see the graphic and read Juan Cole's analysis: :

When I met Shadee at the Deheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, he told me that he was born in the Gulf states, went to school in Europe and returned to Deheisheh as an adult so that he could keep his claim to something that was taken from his family in 1948--their claim to the home they were forced to flee. He can see the land where the village used to be if he stands on the rooftop in Deheisheh and looks north to the hills. He has never been able even to visit the land where his village stood. It is now called "The American Park."

I thought about Shadee today. He told me that he doesn't expect to return to the village and reclaim his family's land. What he really wants is for the world to recognize that it was stolen from his family. He wants the world to acknowledge that his family and all the other 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed or forced to flee from their homes. He wants the world to acknowledge that they have been denied the right to return to their homes and they have not been given any compensation. He wants justice for the injustice that was done to his family. 

Yesterday when I saw the celebrations in Ramallah I thought of Shadee--I think that the UN vote is a tiny first step in acknowledging the Palestinians' suffering and the great injustice that was done and is still being perpetrated by Israel and the US. 

Even today as I write, bulldozers in the West Bank are gobbling up more land as they build Israel's security wall on Palestinian farmland and olive groves, and create "buffer zones" on Palestinian land to protect the settlements they are also constructing on Palestinian land. In a place where human rights are being denied every day, UN acknowledgement of the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own is a powerful sign of hope. Photo shows the hills where Shadee's village stood in 1948.

So, to Shadee and to all the Palestinians I have met, who have patiently educated me about what they have suffered, who have invited me into their homes and fed me, even though my government gives Israel the weapons to shoot at them,,,,,,,today I say Hooray!!! Viva Palestina!! Free Gaza!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Don't Fight!!! Talk!!!

This morning at St. Paul Lutheran I taught a session on the conflict in Israel/Palestine. When I teach about what I have learned in my travels, I always turn to the amazing people I have met and try my best to tell their stories. Usually it's Palestinians who have told me stories of separation--stories of soldiers forcing people out of their homes, bulldozing or blowing up their houses, churches and mosques, stories of standing in long lines at checkpoints and stories of searching for husbands and sons who were last seen being shoved into armored vehicles in the middle of the night.

This morning, as I was trying to put the recent attack on Gaza in some perspective, I told the story about my visit to Sderot--the closest I have ever come to Gaza. From our bus we could see Gaza in the distance where the wall took off downhill and we could see the farms of Bayt Lahiya (or maybe it was Bayt Hanoun) in the distance. This was in 2010, when I visited Nativ HaAsara, a moshav (a small town, a bit like a kibbutz) that sits in the south of Israel, right along the border with Gaza. 

Our  Compassionate Listening group met that morning with two women, Julia and Roni, in one of the community rooms on the moshav. I sat with one ear attentive to the two women, the other ear listening for the air raid sirens warning us a rocket was inbound. No sirens that morning. Although just a couple of days before the nine people had been killed on the ship to Gaza, the Mavi Marmara, our visit was during a relatively "peaceful" interlude--nothing like the last few weeks.

Roni and Julia told us about their work with a local organization, Other Voice, which works for peace with their Palestinian neighbors just on the other side of the wall. Other Voice urges the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinian lands so that they will be safe from the rocket attacks. During the most recent attack on Gaza, the group wrote a letter to their government asking for an end to the fighting and a dialogue that will lead to peace. They wrote:

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu
Minister of Defense Ehud Barak

We, members of Other Voice, from communities along the Gaza Border, call for the Israeli government to stop playing with our lives and to immediately begin talking to the Hamas government in Gaza! We are tired of being sitting ducks in the firing range that serves political interests.  

Rockets and bombs do not protect us. We have tried these war games for enough years, and both the Israeli and Palestinian populations have paid, and continue to pay, a high price of suffering and loss. It is time to work for a long-term agreement that will make it possible for citizens on both sides of the border to live normal lives.

Roni and Julia do not take this stand because they feel safe, but because they feel that their government is making their lives more precarious with its attack on Gaza. We may think Israel's attack on Gaza is something out of our control--something that does not concern us. But the US gives Israel $3-4 billion/year in military aid. Some of that is used for Iron Dome, the defense system that shot down the rockets fired into Israel by Hamas and other Gaza militants. But some is also used for weapons and planes to attack Gaza. So Israel's attack on Gaza is our problem too. 

Not all Israelis want to attack Gaza and hold Palestinians at checkpoints. There are many Israelis who want a different path to peace. Read more about them on Julia's blog: and on the web site for Other Voice: 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

From Gaza - Sunday, Nov 18

From the Free Gaza Movement----
Dr. Mona El-Farra, Director of Gaza Projects, is a physician by training and a human rights and women’s rights activist by practice in the occupied Gaza Strip. She was born in Khan Younis, Gaza and has dedicated herself to developing community based programs that aim to improve health quality and link health services with cultural and recreation services all over the Gaza Strip. Dr. El-Farra is also the Vice President of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip and a member of the Union of Health Work Committees and is on Free Gaza's Advisory Council in Gaza. Below is her report from the horrors of Israel's attack last night. Please share her report widely, join a demonstration
and donate to the organizations who are helping.
November 18, 2012 i could not sleep , as the naval operation continued for more than 3 hours , against Gaza Beach  , and mainly south of the beach , as they try to search the wreckage of the destroyed  Israeli jet fighter many successive shelling non stop , i was awake, as were most people of the city
Good  to be in touch with friends on the Facebook, some comfort feeling that iam not completely alone feeling    unsafe and tense ,the power is on , 6 am decided to switch off and get some sleep then all of a sudden 4 large explosions in the center of the town bang bang bang and bangggggggggggggggggg
Gaza 6 15am Sunday
4 big explosions in the center of Gaza city, what is th , by f16 , hit the Saraya governmental compound that has been completely destroyed ,during the cast lead operation 2008, now it is empty land surrounded with residential building , crowded homes , what is the aim ?more than terrifying of the civilians and tens of homes have been partially damaged !
look i think the Israelis have lost their compass , and their mission in Gaza, is mission impossible ! great failure despite of our lives and property loss , we have nothing to lose but our you all and remember we are here to stay and steadfast we are occupied and freedom fighters , we are not victims we are on the path to freedom.
i have not slept for continuous 3 nights and days love you all

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Frustrated with News Coverage of Israel's Attack on Gaza

Three interesting items:

  • Kai Staats, son of Linda Staats, who is part of the Rocky Mountain Synod staff, is working in Jerusalem with Bishop Mounib Younan and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, as the Interim Communications Director for the ELCJHL and assistant to Bishop Younan, on a 3-4 month contract. Kai is a lay person with a background in business and web development. His mom describes him as a “general entreperneur/inventor ….a world traveler, creative thinker and writer.” She put me in touch with the blog he is writing about his experiences in the Holy Land and all he is learning. His recent posts tell his story of living in Jerusalem as rockets and fighter jets are overhead:     
I’m personally struck by the disparity in how the news is reported about the attacks on Gazans and the attacks on Israelis. The blame for Israel’s attack falls on Hamas. I haven’t heard reporters question Israel’s assertion that Hamas is responsible for Israel’s attacks. What is missing in these reports is Israel’s everyday harassment and airstrikes on Gaza or information about the Gazan farmers, fishermen and children killed over the last month by Israeli military.

Reporters let Israeli spokespersons get away with claiming that they are only defending themselves. The only broadcast I’ve seen/heard on mainstream US media outlets that has mentioned the occupation as the cause of the current violence was Piers Morgan’s interview with Hannan Ashrawi last night. But in his interview with Michael Oren a few moments earlier he let the Israeli ambassador go unchallenged when he blamed the Gazans for Israel’s attacks.

The story I’m hearing on the US news is that Israel is only defending themselves—in spite of their airstrikes and bombs, they are seen as the helpless victims, while Hamas is the aggressor. I am frustrated that no reporters are investigating Israel’s stranglehold on Gaza—how the blockade is the primary reason Gazans are suffering, unable to import or export goods. In 2009-10, Israel destroyed their infrastructure—electrical plants, schools, government buildings. And since 2010, in spite of Ambassador Oren’s assertion that Israel has withdrawn from Gaza, Israel continues to control its borders, refusing to allow building materials through the checkpoints.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reading Israeli News

Op ed writer Gideon Levy writes in today's Ha'aretz about a recent survey of Israeli public opinion--very revealing to us as we sit here in the US and wonder whatever happened to the "peace process." Levy writes:

One-third of Israelis want to deny Arab citizens the right to vote; about half of Israelis favor a policy of 'transferring' Arabs out of the country; and a majority says there is apartheid here. We need to finally give up on the hope that things will get better.

Nice to make your acquaintance, we're racist and pro-apartheid. The poll whose results were published in Haaretz on Tuesday, conducted by Dialog and commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, proved what we always knew, if not so bluntly. It's important to recognize the truth that has been thrown in our faces and those of the world (where the survey is making waves ). But it's even more important to draw the necessary conclusions from it.
Given the current reality, making peace would be an almost anti-democratic act: Most Israelis don't want it. A just, egalitarian society would also violate the wishes of most Israelis: That, too, is something they don't want. They're satisfied with the racism, comfortable with the occupation, pleased with the apartheid; things are very good for them in this country. That's what they told the pollsters.
Until a courageous leadership arises here, the kind that appears only rarely in history, and tries to change this nationalist, racist mood, there's no point in hoping for change to come from below. It won't come; indeed, it can't come, because it is contrary to the desires of most Israelis. This fact must be recognized.
The world must also recognize this. Those who long to reach an agreement and draw up periodic peace plans must finally recognize that Israelis are plainly telling them, "No thanks, we're not interested." Read the rest of the article.....

Harsh words, but it also sounds a lot like what I am seeing here in the US as we plod on toward the election. I find that the Israeli media is often much more candid about what is happening there than our US news sources are.

Mayber part of my own darkness comes from reading Mornings in Jenin this weekend (by Susan Abulhawa), and the horrors of the early years of Israel's occupation--1948, 1967, the first Lebanon war, the massacres in Lebanon at Sabra and Shatila. Although it's a novel, the events in the novel actually happened--to hundreds of thoushands of unnamed Palestinians. The novel's characters have personalities, aspiriations, loving families, desires for wholeness and peace. The nameless victims are only statistics and Wikipedia articles and old photos of dead bodies piled in the streets.

This was in 1982. And Ha'aretz reports today.....would it be any different?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Flotilla to Gaza--sailors on Estelle detained by Israeli military

This week another ship sailed to Gaza to break the siege of Gaza which is being imposed by Israel. The ships sail to draw attention to Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza. Israel's military controls all the borders of Gaza, deciding what goods can be shipped out and what can come into the country. They say it is for Israeli security, but the banned items include food, school supplies and building materials--the stuff people need to survive.

Estelle crew approaching Gaza
Although Israel made a big deal about leaving Gaza in 2005 and emptying the settlements, forcibly evicting those who defied the removal orders, Israel still controls all the borders--the three sides with land boundaries and the western border, which is the Mediterranean. Nothing comes into Gaza or leaves without Israel's inspection. This goes for goods and for people--even when they have travel permits or medical emergencies.

The Free Gaza movement has sailed to Gaza to break the blockade ten times. Five times they were able to enter Gaza. Then, in May, 2010, the Israeli military killed nine of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of the flotilla. The Estelle, which attempted to break the blockade this week, was stopped in international waters off the shore from Gaza and towed into port in Israel at Ashdod. Although they were not attempting to enter Israel, this is what they will probably be charged with. They call it kidnapping, since they did not want to enter Israel.

They describe their mission:
"We sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel's ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights and will continue to challenge Israel's illegal siege on Gaza."

The ship carried: 2 olive trees; 41 tons of cement; wheelchairs; walkers; crutches; midwifery stethoscope; children's books; toys; 300 footballs; musical instruments; theatrical equipment; VHF radio (for a ship); 1 anchor (the last two items were for the Gaza's Ark project.) The ship was inspected at many ports. A video of the cement being loaded onto the ship is here.

The Estelle, the Finnish ship that sailed this week, carried 30 passengers, including three Israelis, and, among others:
Former Member of Parliament Manly James, Canada
Member of Parliament Hagen Aksel, Norway
Member of Parliament Britton Sven, Sweden
Member of Parliament Kodelas Dimitios, Greece
Member of Parliament Sixto Ricardo, Spain
Member of Parliament Diamantopoulos Evangelos, Greece

As of today, James Manly is still in detention, held by the Israeli military. Read more....

US Christian Church Leaders' Letter Attracts Attention

Last week at the Kairos Palestine workshop in Denver, we looked at the press release from the ELCA announcing a letter to Congress written by fifteen US Christian church leaders, including ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson. The letter to Congress has stirred up some controversy, especially among some of the leaders in the US Jewish community.  

If you’d like some background:
Response to the letter from the Jewish Anti-defamation League – calling the letter “outrageous and biased”. While asserting that the letter “fails to also call for an investigation of Palestinian use of U.S. foreign aid,” Abe Foxman seems to ignore the US withholding aid from the Palestinian Authority after elections that brought Hamas to power in 2006. The US frequently withholds aid in protest of Palestinian Authority policies.

Here are two articles written by Jewish leaders expressing support for the Christian leaders’ action
  • Mark Braverman’s response – he is an American Jewish supporter of an end to the occupation, who has repeatedly urged US Christians not to violate their principles of justice to support Israel in its current policies
  • Some rabbis support the Christian church leaders’ letter
 NYTimes has reported on the letter
What you can do: 


Saturday, July 7, 2012

One of the people we met in Ramallah in 2008 is Sam Bahour, a Palestinian and an American citizen, who returned to Palestine after the Oslo Accords, hopeful that peace was soon to come and that he could help in the development of communications for a new Palestinian state -- that was more than ten years ago. Today he sent this note from the daughter of a friend, Walid (Hanatsheh) Abu Rass, who has been detained by Israeli authorities, without being charged with a crime.

Here is Walid's daughter's appeal (you can read it on Sam's blog here: and read some background on Walid's case in his earlier blog posting:

Mays Hanatsheh, 15 years old

Letter from Mays:

The phone rang. It was unexpected. It was the lawyer. When we answered his voice was happy, flying in the sky, and he was so excited. We asked him what is going on and he said that today he received a verdict that is one of the best verdicts ever made for someone being held by Israel under Administrative Detention.

We were surprised and kind of mixed up so we asked what is going on one more time and he answered simply that my dad, Waleed, was going to be released in two weeks, on June 22! The next question was: what happened? He said the judge in the last court hearing said that dad didn’t have any new confidential evidence presented against him and the Israeli military judge decided that he should be released. This is why the lawyer was so happy and he was sure that dad was going to be released on June 22.

From that moment, me, my sister, and my mom started to prepare for the reception on June 22nd. We started thinking of what were going to wear and which food my dad prefers and the way we are going to meet him in front of the prison and many other small details.

But this happiness was short. Sunday was gone and we were happy because another day passed and only a few days were left. This was on Sunday, but Monday came and it wasn’t a good day because we got bad news. Israel extended my dad’s detention by three more months. This is the reason I have lost all hope toward these courts. The problem is that the judge, himself, said that there was no new confidential evidence and there was no reason to keep my dad in prison. So why did they extend his time? I need an answer!

Christmas is gone and he is not with us. Also, Easter is gone and he still not with us. Summer is going and he is not with us. All our birthdays are gone and he didn’t attend them. Ramadan is coming soon and he will not be with us.

So I need a person to tell me when my father is going to be with us in order for me to know how to plan for my future. I can’t plan anything because I don’t have a specific day of being with my father, so can you help me?

Mays Hanatsheh
July 6, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

As you fix your breakfast, think of others. 
Don’t forget to feed the pigeons.
As you fight in your wars, think of others. 
Don’t forget those who desperately demand peace.
As you pay your water bill, think of others who drink the clouds’ rain.
As you return home, your home, think of others. 
Don’t forget those who live in tents.
As you sleep and count planets, think of others. 
There are people without any shelter to sleep.
As you express yourself using all metaphorical expressions, 
think of others who lost their rights to speak.
As you think of others who are distant, think of yourself and say 
“I wish I was a candle to fade away the darkness."

The words of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, provide inspiration for 20-year-old Shahd Abusalama, living in Gaza. The daughter of a Palestinian political prisoner, she writes about her life and struggles from Gaza. Today’s blog is about the prisoners who are still engaged in a hunger strike against the Israeli practice of administrative detention (holding prisoners without charging them with a crime) and the widespread use of longterm solitary confinement, as in the case of Hassan Sallameh, moved after 13 years of solitary confinement.

The seeming victory of the prisoners on May 14, however, is diminished by the more than 30 administrative detention orders that have been renewed and the three new ones that have been signed since the agreement.

She also writes about Mahmoud Al Sarsak, the Palestinian football star who has been imprisoned since July, 2009. He is now in the 84th day of his hunger strike, weighing only 100 pounds. To write a letter to the Israeli Prison Service, see: Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network’s action alert.

Read Shahd Abusalama’s blog on the Electric Intifada.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Israel’s stepped-up blockade of Gaza.

Five years ago, in June of 2007, after Hamas won elections in Gaza and expelled Fatah leaders, Israel clamped down on Gaza, denying entrance to Gaza for many products—foods, construction materials, fuels, etc.

For twelve hours today The Guardian UK is blogging from Gaza, exploring life there today and the effects of Israel’s blockade. Take a look at interviews with some of the children of Gaza, telling about their lives and their hopes for the future:

There you can also see a report on Gaza’s fishermen and more about the history of the blockade.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Killing Without Consequence

Seeking justice for Ziad Jilani

June 11 marks two years since Ziad Jilani was killed by Israeli border-policeman Maxim Vinogradov in Wadi Joz, Occupied East Jerusalem. Driving home from Friday prayers as Al Aqsa mosque, Ziad’d windshield was struck by a rock and he swerved, causing a small accident. Border police shot at him, chased and killed him after he had already been shot in the back and was wounded, lying on the ground. He was unarmed. The case against Maxim Vinogradov and his commander Shadi Heir Al Din was closed for lack of evidence despite an abundance of irrefutable evidence that Ziad was executed while he was wounded unarmed and posing no threat to anyone.

Ziad’s death shows how Palestinians can be randomly killed, labeled as a terrorist and no one is prosecuted for the crime. Since the beginning of the second Intifada (2000) at least 6,444 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli security forces. During this time no Jewish Israeli soldier has been charged with murder for killing a Palestinian.

Ziad’s wife Moira, his family and friends, with the al-Mazaan Center for Human Rights, are organizing a campaign to bring his killer to trial. See: Killing Without  Watch a 9-minute video made by Moira, telling about Ziad and what happened on June 11. And sign the petition:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Pinkwashing" by Israel - LGBYTQ friendly?

Here is an interesting statement by the director of the Columbia Law School Center for Gender and sexuality. To read the entire statement, see

Hi, I’m Katherine Franke from Columbia Law School, and I’m sorry I can’t join you today in person at the Equality Forum’s panel on legal issues, I want to thank you for indulging my presence by video.

As you no doubt know, the Equality Forum has chosen Israel as it’s featured nation this year, and for that reason I thought this was a good opportunity to talk a little bit about the state of gay rights in Israel/Palestine. Last January, I was part of the first lgbtq delegation to the West Bank – 16 of us, academics, artists, journalists, community leaders, and even a lesbian rabbi – visited Palestine and Israel in order to get a first hand sense of lesbian, gay, trans and queer politics in the region. While we were there Tel Aviv was voted in poll to be the “world’s best gay city.” Lesbians and gay men have been openly serving in the Israeli military for years, same-sex couples’ marriages have been recognized by the state for some time, and Israel has much better sexual orientation discrimination laws than we do. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren often notes that, in his words: Israel “provides shelter to Palestinian homosexuals seeking safety from Islamists in the West Bank.”

Given all of this, I was really curious to hear what queer Palestinians had to say about the struggles they face. I met with Israeli gay activists in Tel Aviv, as well as the members of Al Qaws, the Palestinian lgbtq group based in Ramallah, and Aswat, an organization of Palestinian lesbians who are citizens of Israel and is located in Haifa. What they told us, and what I witnessed, complicated the story of gay rights in the region considerably. Here are some highlights of what I learned:

While Tel Aviv may have a hot and hunky gay bar scene – the tolerance or acceptance of homosexuality is not as common elsewhere in the country. Israel, like the U.S. is a complex place, and is increasingly religiously conservative – in fact when I was in Jerusalem I saw that many of the public busses are now sex segregated, men sitting in front, women in the back, and in one Jerusalem neighborhood women are banned from walking on the main streets entirely so as to avoid men having contact with them. A recent report documented that almost half of the out gays and lesbians serving in the Israeli military have been sexually harassed by other servicemembers, and a member of the Knesset and Education Minister recently said that gays “are not people like everyone else,” that we are an abomination. Ambassador Oren was mistaken when he said that Israel gives asylum to gay and lesbian Palestinians. Israel does not grant asylum to any

Palestinians, regardless of their sexual orientation, and in fact won’t even let an Israeli who marries a Palestinian share their Israeli citizenship with their spouse. Tel Aviv may have a great gay scene, but most Palestinians will never see it since, regardless of their sexual orientation, because they are not allowed to pass through the checkpoints and the Wall to enter Israel from the West Bank.

What I learned from the queer Palestinians I met was that gay rights organizing in Palestine has to be understood within the context of the Israeli occupation.

The Occupation is a totalizing experience – permeating all parts of life for Palestinians. It is impossible for them to isolate their gay or lesbian selves for special legal and political treatment, but rather the fight for sexual rights is part of a larger struggle for Palestinian self-determination and freedom. Let me give you a particularly salient example: Since 2000 Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, has had a policy of blackmailing Palestinians who are gay or who are perceived to be gay and threatening to out them unless they become informants against their own people. For this reason, gay people in Palestine have a reputation as collaborators with Israel – so some of the homophobia gays and lesbians in Palestine experience is the direct product of the occupation itself. Read more….

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Two Palestinian prisoners being held in administrative detention (without charges or trial), are nearing death after 63 days of a hunger strike protesting Israel’s practice of arresting and holding prisoners without charging them with a crime. Neither they nor their lawyers are permitted to see the charges or evidence against them, so they cannot answer the charges and defend themselves.

Bilal Diab was arrested on 17 August 2011, when Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) came to his home in the village of Kufr Ra’i, near Jenin, at 12:30 am. The family and a large group of friends and neighbors were sitting in the front yard, spending time together late into the night for Ramadan, when approximately 40 masked men, wearing civilian clothes, surrounded the house and entered the yard by climbing the walls of the neighbors’ houses. Bilal, along with four others, were sitting on the roof. After about 10 minutes, Israeli military jeeps arrived, accompanied by an intelligence officer.

The IOF began to throw sound bombs and shoot teargas into the yard, and then forced everyone to stand against the wall. Some of Bilal’s family members and friends were taken to a nearby store, where they were held until the arrest process was over. The rest of the group was kept in the front yard. Bilal’s brother, Issam, was thrown violently to the ground. His hands were shackled behind his back and then two soldiers stepped on his head.

Bilal and four of his friends were questioned for about 15 minutes. His four friends were then released, but Bilal was shackled, blindfolded and thrown to the ground. He was then dragged across the ground for 250 meters until reaching the military jeep. Bilal was taken to Megiddo prison, and then transferred to Salem Detention Center for interrogation.


Bilal was issued an administrative detention order for 6 months on 25 August 2011. As with all other administrative detainees, Bilal’s detention is based on secret information collected by Israeli authorities and available to the military judge but not to Bilal or his lawyer. This practice violates international humanitarian law, which permits some limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, but requires that the authorities follow basic rules for detention, including a fair hearing at which the detainee can challenge the reasons for his or her detention. These minimum rules of due process have been clearly violated in Bilal’s case, leaving him without any legitimate means to defend himself. Read more….

Thaer Halahleh was arrested on 26 June 2010 when Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) raided his home in Kharas village, near Hebron. Approximately 50 Israeli soldiers arrived to Thaer’s house at 12:30 am. They knocked on the door, but before giving the family enough time to open it, they broke down the door and went inside. The soldiers then made all the women and children step outside the house and searched the house with two dogs. After about 40 minutes, the IOF told Thaer’s father that they had an order to arrest his son. When his father asked for the reason, the officer only told him that Thaer was a “threat to the public”. This vague phrase is frequently used by the Israeli security service when putting a Palestinian in administrative detention. Thaer was subsequently transferred to Etzion detention center.

Thaer has been consistently targeted for arrest and administrative detention by Israeli authorities. He has been arrested eight times and spent six and a half years in administrative detention total. He was first held in administrative detention in 2000. After many other arrests, he was arrested again in 2008 and spent one year in administrative detention, only to be re-arrested the following year and placed back in administrative detention.

Thaer and his wife, Shireen, have a one-year-old daughter, who was born while he was in prison. His wife was seven months pregnant when he was arrested. His daughter, Lamar, has only seen her father in visits to prison, and has been forced to get to know him through photographs.
Thaer’s mother, wife and daughter are the only family members who have previously had permission to visit him. His father and five brothers have never received permission. Since the beginning of his hunger strike, he has received one visit from his mother, wife and daughter and was then subsequently denied all family visits.

Thaer’s father and brothers have all also been arrested. His brother Shaher was arrested in 2002 and is currently in Rimon prison, serving a 17-year sentence. Read more….

Here is how you can help Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh:
Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh be released immediately and that their administrative detentions not be renewed.

Email Brigadier General Danny Efroni Military Judge Advocate General 6 David Elazar Street Harkiya, Tel Aviv Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Lenten Geography

For the 40 days of Lent, read my Lenten meditations--my thoughts on people I have met and the news from Israel/Palestine as I read the lessons for the Sundays of Lent. I am writing three posts--Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week. Read them here...

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Israel Agrees to Free Khadar Adnan

Thanks for your support!

It appears that the Israelis have agreed to release Khadar Adnan and that he will end his hunger strike (although ending the hunger strike has not been officially confirmed at this time). Israeli human right organization Addameer has been supporting his case and reports: Because of the settlement, the hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was cancelled (Israel is 9 hours ahead of us in Denver, so as I write, it is 8 pm there.)

Thanks to Carol LaHurd for these updates---

From Haaretz:


From the Electronic Intifada:

Addameer posted the following message, in Arabic, on its Facebook page today, 21 February just after 11AM local time in Palestine. It has been translated by The Electronic Intifada:

A lawyer from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association was able to visit the prisoner Sheikh Khader Adnan (34 years old) and on hunger strike for 66 days in Ziv Hospital in the Upper Galilee city of Safad, on Monday 20 February 2012, to review the latest developments regarding his health status. The lawyer conveyed from Sheikh Khader his intention to proceed with his hunger strike and that he is in high spirits, and that he will not back down until freedom.

The lawyer said that that the prisoner’s health condition has entered a critical stage, especially after medical tests were carried out on him, and that his hemoglobin level declined from 10.9 to 9.9 in a short period.

Today at 3pm the Israeli High Court will hear the petition against the administrative detention order for Sheikh Khader, despite the fact that Khader was prevented from attending the court. A lawyer from Addameer will be present at the court to bring you the latest developments about the hearing and his medical situation.

The prisoner Khader sent his greetings and thanks to all parties, institutions and individuals who have supported his cause and his hunger strike and all who are working toward his victory.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is not this the fast that I choose: to let the oppressed go free....

Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the third month of a hunger strike by Khader Adnan, who was awakened in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, forced out of his home and arrested on December 17. When he was not charged with a crime, Khader Adnan began a hunger strike, protesting Israel's illegal detention of 301 Palestinian prisoners without charges.
Photo shows Randa Jihad Adnan, Khadar's wife, holding a photo of her husband.
I have always seen the Muslim veiling as a sign of the inequality of women in some Muslim communities, that the veil, the hijab, the burqa, are all signs of women's subordinate role. That women deserve more respect and should not be forced to veil themselves, when the men dress as they please.
Looking at this photograph, I am forced to reconsider. Her veil forces me to look into her eyes, to see her passion for justice, her grief for her husband, her dedication to the struggle for hunan rights for her people. Without her veil, I would not have seen into her soul.

Yesterday Randa Jihad Adnan visited her husband in the military hospital, with her two young daughters and her father-in-law, and then she spoke with reporters. They found him "weak and extremely thin, his beard unkempt and his fingernails long. He was shackled by two legs and one arm to his bed, and was connected to a heart monitor. Though mentally alert, he could speak only with difficulty. 'I was shocked,' she said yesterday. 'I couldn't speak for about three minutes, and it was the same for my daughters.'"

Today's story in The Independent (UK) concludes, "Randa Adnan recalled that her husband told one of his lawyers: 'I do not want to go to oblivion or death. But I am a man who defends his freedom. If I die it will be my fate.'"

Read the rest of the story in The Independent (UK)....

Lenten Meditations

Follow my posts through Lent on my blog: A Lenten Geography. I write meditations based on the three lessons for the following Sunday, remembering the people I have met in Israel and Palestine--peacemakers who are working for freedom, justice and a better life for their people.

Ash Wednesday's (February 22) post is already online because it is written about Khadar Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner being held in Israeli prison without charges since December 17. He will likely not be alive on Ash Wednesday.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bedouin Relocations in the West Bank

B'tSelem, Israeli Human Rights Organization, reports that Israel's Civil Administration is planning to relocate some 27,000 Bedouins living in Area C in the West Bank. At first, some 2,300 people will be expelled from their homes near the Ma'ale Adummim settlement and relocated to a site next to the Abu Dis garbage dump, east of Jerusalem. Members of the Khan al-Ahmar community explain how the move will affect them.
This is a map of the area - it is all in the West Bank - blue areas are Israeli settlements. Brown/tan areas are Palestinian villages and towns. More Swiss cheese, created by the Oslo Accords.
If you have been on a Holy Land Tour, you probably rode the bus down the highway to Jericho and saw the Bedouin camps along the highway. This is the area where they are being forced to move. Israel is doing this to protects the settlements they build on West Bank land, where the Bedouin have been living. Makes me CRAZY!!!