Hilarity from Gaza


Dear Jennifer,

I hope you are fine. I was reading the news on haaretz daily today when I encountered the following text:

    ‘The army’s presence around the southern town of Khan Yunis, however, is part of a routine operation to search for wanted men and weapons. Militants use tunnels running underneath the nearby border with Egypt to smuggle in arms’

I was surprised. Tunnels now extend from Khan Younis to the border of Rafah?!? Can you believe it? It is amazing how ridiculous the Israeli media can be, and even more the army media. They truly believe that people are idiots. –this claim is astounding, no?

I read an article by Amira Hass (Donating to apartheid, http://www.haaretz.com/donating-to-apartheid-1.134183) and think it is a very good piece. Try to read it if you have the time.

Have my best wishes.

Mahmud M. Abu Rahma
Coordinator of Training & Mass Communication Unit
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Tel/fax: +970 (0)8 2820447/2
Email: mahmud@mezan.org
Web: www.mezan.org

The direct distance from Khan Yunis to Rafah is 5 miles.

September 20-24, 2004


On September 20th and 24th, the Madison Area Peace Coalition and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project host the Wheels of Justice Tour. Rolling into town in a full-size, brightly decorated school bus, the tour brings eyewitness accounts from Iraq and Palestine to challenge and educate Americans about the repercussions of war and occupation, both on people abroad and at home.

Having seen and lived with war, terror and occupation in Iraq and Palestine, participants in the Wheels of Justice offer first-hand experience irrespective of partisan politics. The tour travels on a converted school bus that doubles as a mobile billboard and peace center. In the past three years, the bus has traveled more than fifty thousand miles to over four hundred locations throughout the United States. For additional information, visit www.justicewheels.org.

Locally, the tour includes stops at a number of Madison-area schools and colleges, such as MATC, Edgewood College, and East High School. In addition, there will be a free public forum:

Monday, September 20th, 7:00 pm
“From the Mouth of Madness: Deep Inside the Occupations of Iraq & Palestine”

with speakers, Michael Birmingham & Mazin Qumsiyeh
Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W. Gilman St., Madison, WI

Following the discussion, Mazin Qumsiyeh will sign his latest book, Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle.

“We advocate justice and human rights as the only real roadmap for peace at home and abroad,” states Rae Vogeler of the Madison Area Peace Coalition. “We call upon the United States to recognize and adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to stop the violence of war and occupation, and to immediately withdraw troops and military funding from the Middle East.”

Nationally, the tour is sponsored by Voices in the Wilderness (www.nonviolence.org/vitw/) and the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (www.Al-Awda.org) with support from affiliates of the International Solidarity Movement.

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Letter from a friend in Gaza


Here’s a message from a friend in Gaza. It talks about life in Rafah, Gaza City, working at the NGO Al Mezan. A true terrorist Palestinian with no other concerns than the destruction of Israel. — Jennifer Loewenstein

Dear J,

It was great talking to you yesterday.

When I told you I was tired, I was really tired; both physically and psychologically. Work’s craziness is unbelieveable, with every-day new tasks that I perform. As always there are several things to work on every day. Now, the follow up of the networks we are engaged with, the prisoners’ hunger strike, and the NGO monitoring on elections are the most urgent things. It’s unbelievable how much it takes to meet our obligation towards network, God, it’s too much, but so important, too.

Guests and social events never end in the summer. I went to Rafah on Thursday, and we made seven visits to people who we must visit. I had to develop a brief report on Beit Hanoun (with Sameer); and I had two very difficult days there.

I fasted until 9pm yesterday, trying to feel with prisoners; and I thought of them a lot. I am doing so today (only coffee, cigarittes and water), too. And life goes on.

You asked me about the bombing of Gaza yesterday. Well, there was an airstrike in Shijayia (east of Gaza City) on Tuesday, and 5 were killed. Yesterday there was a strike on Al Zeitun, also in Gaza City, but no ione was injured or killed. IOF said they bombarded a Qassam workshop. In Rafah, it is too difficult. And I mean much beyond how it used to be. The Israelis make everyday events (demolition, arbitrary firing, and now air strikes on empty homes at the border). In Tel Sultan, soldiers get amused every night when they fire on a major electricity transformer. The nieghborhood sleeps without electricity every night, really. The conditions in this town, God my town, are getting worse every day. Even the PA (Palestinian Authority) does not pay any attention to its problems any longer.

This is a kind of sad message, sorry, but it reflects what I am concerned about, among many other things. Life is really awful here, J, and becomes more diffcult every day. I hate this so much.

Still there are many things and people to live for and to appreciate. Sharaf is going to school in 12 days, can you believe this? It’s time to buy him the school needs (uniforms, a nice bag, and stationery). He will be a great schoolboy, I am sure, and proud of it. The girls grow so beatiful all the time. 

This is becoming so long. But I will not leave without asking about you and Stella. It’s great she reacted positively to returning home; this is great. I hope you are fine, and that you will cope with Madison soon. It’s a difficlt place for you, but there is much to do there (opinion).

Please take care of yourself.

August 18, 2004
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb

ICB sculpture The Segregation Wall, 09-Nov-03


Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 W. Lacy Rd
7:00 pm

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, will be speaking on the work of the International Center of Bethlehem. The ICB promotes the building of a civil society in Palestine by empowering the local community, training future leaders, and developing human resources.

Rev. Mitri, a native of Bethlehem, is the founder and General Director of the ICB, and founder of the Dar al-Kalima Model School and Academy. Rev. Mitri graduated from Philipps University in Marburg, Germany with a Ph.D. in Theology. He has authored many books and articles, including I am a Palestinian Christian and Bethlehem 2000: Past and Present.

For further information, contact Bonnie Van Overbeke, Pastor of Memorial United Church of Christ.

Back in Ramallah

Andrea Becker, 04 July 2004

Relatively easy somehow: went through Israeli security ‘lite’: no body massages, or bag checks, and treated my security interrogator to a discussion of Jabotinsky, prompting ‘why are you interested in this stuff anyway? Well, whatever. Have a nice day.’

Early morning arrival at Qalandia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem. Rose and gold sun lighting the familiar scene: dusty roads torn by use and Israeli military vehicles, cement blocks and the routined and ordered humiliations. Cars and trucks line up as far as you can see, barely 6 am –  but the wait has hardly begun. Once you’ve made the decision to try and get across by car there is no real way to turn back. Cement blocks on your left, a hill to your right. Cars in front and behind you. On foot, Palestinians wait in line, divided by cement blocks, divided into lines of relative privilege or discrimmination under the Israeli occupation ­ Jerusalem ID, West Bank ID. A line for women, a line for men. Israeli soldiers check cars and people at whichever pace suits them. Your day ­school, work, seeing friends, family, church, mosque, hospital ­ decided by some 18 year old with a machine gun. A claustrophobia of engines, lost hours and rising morning heat.

Checkpoint dust.  I walk through with that familiar sense of apprehension. Everything is quiet now, but this is a place of uncertainty, of teargas and barbed wire.  From hills above the scene is surveyed by more soldiers training their weapons with varying degrees of alertness ­on the people crossing. 

Away from soldiers and into Ramallah.­  Heavy incursions into Nablus by the Israeli military continue, but Nablus is a 45 minute drive away, hours away with checkpoints. Ramallah is calm. Surrounded by checkpoints, and slowly being closed in by dark grey cement walls, but a deceptive normalcy inside of people, shops, restaurants and markets.

It is incredible to be back here. It feels very normal, like I never left somehow. ­I am staying with my friend Nadya, who lives in a house hidden in a valley. It must be the nicest garden in Ramallah, where hours can drift by smoking shisha, reading, having barbecues.  After the tasteless vegetables and not having a kitchen in London, it is a treat to be able to roast peppers and garlic, and make marinades from
herbs you pick directly from outside, and olive oil from last year’s harvest. To cook with my hands. Fresh plums and white wine.

Salaamat to all from here,

US bulldozer firm in Mid-East row

A leading UN official has warned US manufacturer Caterpillar that it may be complicit in human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza

A Palestinian woman sits in bulldozer tracksThousands of Palestinians have had homes and livelihoods demolished.

BBC News, 15 June, 2004

The company supplies armoured bulldozers to the Israeli army that are used to demolish Palestinian homes.

Human rights official Jean Ziegler expressed “deep concern” over the sales, in a letter to Caterpillar.

The company says it shares world concern over the Middle East but it cannot police the use of its equipment.

Human rights groups estimate that around 3,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished since 2000.

Israel says the demolitions are necessary on security grounds.

‘Rights Violations’

Mr Ziegler is the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

In his letter, he described destruction by the bulldozers of “agricultural farms, greenhouses and ancient olive groves”. Continue reading

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

11 June 2004


I have just returned from a trip to Lebanon and Syria leading a group of 18 people to meet with the Palestinian Refugees in both countries.  In Lebanon, they live worse than ever.  No wild animal would live under such conditions.  In the thirty five years that I have been visiting with the refugees, I have seen the conditions in the camps in Lebanon get worse and worse.  The Lebanese Government does not accept the responsibilities of International Humanitarian Laws towards the refugees.  There are no services, no right to expand housing in the camps to meet the increased population, no right to work in more than 70 categories of jobs, and UNRWA has decreased its budget and services.  In Syria, the refugees live so much better and are treated very, very well by the Syrian Government.  So I and the delegates who went to the area are focused on the refugees in Lebanon at the moment.

Our friend and colleague, Rania Matar (she was on the Syria part of the trip, but originally grew up in Lebanon, and has a photo gallery of refugees in the camps there) will be going with her family from Boston to Beirut at the end of July to visit with her paternal family.  She is willing to receive your donations and take them with her.  The particular programs to which I suggest you contribute are the following:

Arab Resource Center for the Popular Arts (ARCPA) directed by Moa’taz Dajani.
This center provides popular arts programs for the children in various camps, as well
as producing films about the children and their families.  The impact of the Center in the camps has been very positive.  The art work of 3 year olds and up have been displayed in Lebanon and Europe.  Most of the themes of the children are about
Palestine and their dreams of a better future.  Arcpa plays a cathartic role for the children.  Email:  arcpa@cyberia.net.lb  They also do oral histories with the refugees.

Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation, Habilitation School, in Mar Elias Camp, directed by the exceptionally talented and dedicated Nahla Ghandour.  The School provides a special learning environment for children (Palestinians and Lebanese) who have learning and/or physical disabilities. I have a special place in my heart for those children because you all know that Arab countries try to hide or ignore children with such disabilities.  These children have a right to the best life possible.  Nahla Ghandour, herself a victim of polio, has done an amazing job in educating the children and empowering them.  Nahla’s email is: nahla@cyberia.net.lb if you wish to write to her.

Women’s Humanitarian Organization in Bourj Bourajneh Camp headed by Ms. Olfat Khalil Mahmoud.  Olfat is an amazing woman, strong, determined, compassionate, and brilliant in squeezing out from miniscule resources, ways to help women to deal with physical and mental health.  The camp life is horrible, and women carry the brunt of having to provide for their families and to deal with husbands frustrated by the blockage of the Lebanese government to allow them to find work and help their families.  Olfat is a truly humanitarian woman.  Her email is: pwho00@hotmail.com

Chatila Camp, Children and Youth Centre.  Their are two people who head up programs for youth and/or adult programs:  Abu Moujahed (Mahmoud Abbas) and Nuhad Hamed, who works with Najdeh, a Women’s Welfare Organization providing
services and youth centers in the camps.  As you may all know, Sabre camp no longer exists after the massacres and the 1982 war.  In a sense, it was collapsed into Chatila where also a number of poor Lebanese live.  The conditions are absolutely miserable as in just about every camp in Lebanon.  You can reach Abu Moujahed at:  cyc@cyberia.net.lb  and Nuhad through Association Najdeh: najdeh@cyberia.net.lb  put her name in the subject, or a note directed at that address to Raida Hatoum and ask Raida to pass on your message to Nuhad.

There are so many other programs and people in the camps who need help, but I have focused on the above because they are all within the area of Beirut.  Please note:  Rania Matar will be in that area from end of July well into August.  You can send a check payable to Rania.  She will record your donation, cash the check, take the cash to whichever of the programs above you designate, and she will bring you back receipts.  Friends, cash is easier for the recipients than having to wait to cash checks made out to them.  Usually, the Lebanese banks will charge them for cashing any check you send.  So please send your donations to Rania in her name.  She is totally trustworthy.  You can speak with Rania if you like at the following number: 617 538 2256.  You can send your check to her at:  Rania Matar, 143 Tappan St., Brookline, MA 02445.  You can email her at:  RaniaMA [at] aol.com

Do not sent me any money.    Please make direct contact with Rania.  Your donation in whatever amount will be deeply appreciated by the refugees.  They need to know that they are not forgotten.  Thank you in advance for your generosity.

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