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.