August 18, 2004
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb

ICB sculpture The Segregation Wall, 09-Nov-03

 

Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 W. Lacy Rd
Fitchburg
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,
Andrea

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. Continue reading

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

11 June 2004

Friends,

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.

Continue reading

Gila Svirsky: Working to break the silence

6/6/2004

Friends,
 
Last week probably set a record for demonstrations in Israel against the occupation — a result not only of the 37th “anniversary” of the occupation, which we mark in June, but also of the ongoing violence in Gaza: Some 30-40 more Rafah homes were destroyed this week, while many Palestinians were arrested and some killed.  Comparatively speaking, the army is now showing restraint compared with the original onslaught, thanks to the outcry from people all over the world.  If you ever lose faith that your faxes and phone calls make a difference, remind yourself that hundreds of homes, maybe even thousands, were saved as a result of your efforts in this campaign.  Keep them coming.
 
The streets of Tel Aviv had “walking exhibitions” this week, as protesters donned “sandwich boards” showing photographs of Gaza and the so-called “security wall”.  On Wednesday, shoppers downtown and university students got to see these graphic scenes and, on Friday, a big beach day in Tel Aviv, the exhibitors snaked through beach chairs and blankets, bringing some reality into the sunbathing.  More reality was brought to Tel Aviv’s cultural set on Saturday night, as women brought the photos of Rafah’s destroyed homes to the lines of people waiting to get into the Philharmonic, Habima Theater, and a movie theater.  “How can you watch movies when homes are being destroyed in Gaza?” chanted the women.  Just in case people in cars missed the sights, the women also blocked the streets (see photo), and a car accompanying them projected slides onto the shutters of buildings along the road.
 
A remarkable photo and video exhibit opened on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, showing not art, but the abuse of Palestinians committed by Israeli soldiers in Hebron.  And who were the photographers?  30 soldiers who themselves had served there.  Through their stories and photos, this exhibit tells terrible tales of violence, physical abuse, and property vandalism during their tours of duty.   Yehuda Shaul, a 21-year old, organized this exhibit after completing his service in Hebron as an officer of a high level combat unit.  (After his release from the army, Yehuda stood with us several times on the Jerusalem vigil of Women in Black.)  When asked if the photos showed isolated incidents, Yehuda replied, “Breaking silence about this subject is exceptional, not the acts themselves.”
 
At Thursday’s gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Kveesa Shchora (“black laundry”), the anti-occupation movement of lesbians and gay men, marched separately carrying their own signs.  The ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemites turned out to insult and curse them, with a prominent Kabbalist rabbi declaring that homosexuals were “subhuman” and would be “reincarnated” as rabbits.  “Be careful what you wish for,” said a lesbian friend, thinking perhaps of the procreation patterns of these sweet animal friends.
 
On Friday morning, we held a bus tour for women attending the Feminist Conference in the north of Israel, bringing participants to see the “Security Wall”, which most had never seen before.  This was followed by a large Friday vigil of Women in Black, in which many conference participants took part.
 
Saturday morning saw a joint Palestinian-Jerusalem demonstration at ‘Aram, just north of Jerusalem, where the government has just begun work on the Wall.  Fortunately, this demonstration went smoothly, with no violence from the border police, which was another exception to the rule, unfortunately.
 
Saturday night, Peace Now held a demonstration in Jerusalem, where several thousand people showed up to demand that the government leave the territories.  Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former army Chief of Staff, called upon everyone to go see the photo exhibition of the Hebron-based soldiers (good for you, Amnon!).  Less nice was the part where Peace Now told the police to shut down the video screening of “Women Resist the Occupation” that we were showing on a side street – in no way interfering with the main body of the demonstration, which we supported.  If you would like to order a copy of this amazing film, see the end of this e-mail.
 
Finally, beautiful purple posters bloomed like flowers all over Israel this week, calling out “Dai Lakibush, Yad l’Piyus”, meaning “End the Occupation, Seek Reconciliation”, and having the women’s symbol on it (photo, above left).  We simply can’t imagine who would have illegally pasted posters in 3 cities, covering the walls, traffic signs, garbage cans, billboards, bus stops, & fences…
 
I end with a translation of the flyer we handed out all over Israel this week:
 
Shhhhhhhh, security!
They tell us not to speak of unemployment,
because the security situation is so bad.
They tell us not to talk about the municipal workers who haven’t received their salaries, or sexual violence, or hungry children, not right now, because we’re at war and there’s no one to talk to.
And not about the corruption of politicians,
because we’ll soon be leaving Gaza.
And not about selling the country to the World Bank
at end-of- season prices,
because who knows anything about that bank and anyway
we’re in the midst of war.
And not about foreign workers,
racism,
 clean air and water,
 selling women into bondage,
road accidents,
or breast cancer.
WE ARE FURIOUS
ABOUT THE OCCUPATION
and about
The capitalists who create this war,
The generals who continue to sleep well at night,
And the governments of occupation that bring us more and more destruction, killing, and hate,
37 YEARS OF OCCUPATION AND OPPRESSION ARE
37 YEARS TOO MANY!
 
The women’s actions this week were all organized and carried out jointly by the various member organizations of the Coalition of Women for Peace.  They are listed below.  In addition, we worked in alliance with our friends in many other wonderful organizations.  It’s not easy to bring reality into Israel, especially when the local media do not do their part, and we need all the friends and cooperation we can get.
 
Shalom from Jerusalem,
Gila Svirsky
Coalition of Women for Peace


 
Documentary: “Women Resist the Occupation”
This 20-min. video documents some of the bold and creative actions of the Coalition of Women for Peace, sometimes in cooperation with Palestinian women, in efforts to resist occupation and achieve a just peace.  Produced by experienced Israeli filmmaker Claudia (Cala) Levin and a team of 4 women from Israel’s Indymedia.  Available in US or European formats (NTSC or PAL).  To order, write to and we’ll mail it out at once.  Then send cash or a check for $25 (or 20 Euro) — less if this is too much for you, more if you can, to support our work.  If you send a check make it out to Bat Shalom, and mail it to:  
Coalition of Women for Peace
P.O. Box 10252
Jerusalem, Israel 91102
 
Members of the Coalition of Women for Peace:
Bat Shalom; The Fifth Mother; Neled – Women for Coexistence; New Profile; Noga Feminist Journal; TANDI – Movement of Democratic Women for Israel; WILPF – Israel chapter; and Women in Black.
 
Our principles:
·        An end to the occupation.
·        The full involvement of women in negotiations for peace.
·        Establishment of the state of Palestine side by side with the state of Israel based on the 1967 borders.
·        Recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of two states.
·        Israel must recognize its responsibility for the results of the 1948 war, and find a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
·        Equality, inclusion and justice for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
·        Opposition to the militarism that permeates Israeli society.
·        Equal rights for women and for all residents of Israel.
·        Social and economic justice for Israel’s citizens, and integration in the region.
 
2 ways to make a donation — we need your support!
(1) For a US-tax deduction, make out a check to “US/Israel Women-to-Women”, write on the memo line (or separately) that it is “For the Coalition of Women for Peace”, and mail it to US/Israel Women-to-Women, 45 West 36th Street, NY, NY 10018.
(2) If a US-tax deduction is not relevant, make out a check to “Bat Shalom” and mail it to the Coalition of Women for Peace, P.O. Box 10252, Jerusalem, Israel 91102.  Any currency is welcome!
 
***************************************
Coalition of Women for Peace:
http://www.coalitionofwomen4peace.org
***************************************

June 6, 2004
Mosaic Communities Program

The Crossing
1127 University Avenue
(University and Charter)
7:00 pm

The Mosaic Communities group is presenting two speakers, one Jewish and one Palestinian, and both members of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. Mosaic builds integrated (Arab-Jewish) housing in Israel.

Yasser Akawi, Board member, and Fred Schlomka, Executive Director, will present an update on the work of Mosaic Communities, including details of the pioneering project in the town of Ramle in Central Israel.

We will also talk about housing demolitions in Rafah and will link it to the issue of affordable housing in Madison.

Continue reading

Statement by European Jews for a Just Peace

Paris, 22 May 2004

We, European citizens from ten European countries gathered in Paris for a meeting of the organisation European Jews for a Just Peace, condemn in the strongest possible terms the Israeli governmentís policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and especially in Rafah. Many of its actions amount to war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

We express our support for those forces in Israel actively opposing the occupation and showing their solidarity day-by-day with Palestinians suffering under the Israeli army onslaught. We express our solidarity with the Palestinian people in general, suffering intolerable repression and hardship.

We call on the European Union and European governments generally to put pressure on Israel to call off its war against the Palestinian people. In particular, we reaffirm our opposition to the special privileges Israel enjoys under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, while it is in breach of the human-rights foundations of that agreement. We call on the European Union and European governments to participate in an international peace-keeping force to intervene to stop the bloodshed.

EJJP Executive Committee
Liliane Cordova (France)
Dror Feiler (Sweden)
Sveva Haertter (Italy)
Richard Kuper (United Kingdom)
Daniela Vorburger (Switzerland)
Max Wieselmann (the Netherlands)

EJJP is a federation of 16 Jewish organisations in ten European countries

Mazin Qumsiyeh: Sleeping on a bus and more

Mazin Qumsiyeh, 5/9/2004

Here is something to inspire you. Read this. It will help you believe your efforts are all worth it. — Jennifer Loewenstein

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution (again overwhelming support) to affirm that the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, remain subject to the 4th Geneva Convention (Israel as the occupying belligerent power). By a vote of 140 in favour to 6 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), the General Assembly also affirmed that the Palestinian people had the right to self-determination and to sovereignty over their territory, and that Israel had only the duties and obligations of an occupying Power. Does anyone still believe the US and Israel (and their minor four client states) can defy the will of 140 countries and the majority of the people (even in the US)? And besides countries and their politics, we have public opinion which ultimately no government can ignore (governments stand only as long as people give them permission to stand).

On Monday evening I was in Brattleboro, VT for the showing of Jenin, Jenin. Some 80-100 people jammed the room at the School of International Training (SIT) in this lovely New England town. A brief description of the event is provided at http://www.ibrattleboro.com/article.php?story=20040430120322712&mode=pri. I spoke before the film and then answered questions afterwards. I read a section from my contribution in the book “Searching Jenin” (an edited book I highly recommend; see http://www.searchingjenin.com/ ). Reem and all the organizers were just wonderful but those who took the time to attend really were the stars of the show. They all helped by donating and acting (money going to bring a Palestinian to SIT). We had the pleasure to meet Kate Casa, a journalist who was unfairly dismissed due to her truth telling. We spent the night in a home of a wonderful lady by the name of Rupa Cousins who has merged traditions from cabalist to Sufi mysticism in her healing techniques; we talked about poetry and philosophies from Hafiz to Rumi.

On Tuesday Morning I interviewed with two radio Stations in Brattleboro and then drove to Concord, New Hampshire for a meeting with the editorial board of the Concord Monitor. The editors were gracious and receptive. Later Tuesday evening, we had a lecture and a book signing (for my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan”) at Portsmouth, NH. This event was well publicized well ahead of time (e.g. at www.seacoastnh.com and thenewhampshire.collegepublisher.com ) and well attended. Those attending were quite interested (e.g. 22 books were sold by the cosponsoring bookstore). It was heartening to hear several Jews in the audience speak out in support; this followed a comment by one self-described “left Zionist” who seemed to grope for words of opposition against the one state solution. On Wednesday early morning (following a night at a home of an 81 year old WWII veteran and peace activist by the name of Robin Willits), we met with a reporter for the Portsmouth Herald who did a story on the book signing and on the local Seacoast Peace Response group that sponsored the event. I also got a $216 speeding ticket (unfairly I might add as I was not speeding). 🙁

On Thursday evening I hooked up with the Wheels of Justice (WOJ) bus tour in North Hampton, MA. I joined Mike Miles (bus driver, Iraq and Palestine volunteer, speaker, father, farmer, deep thinker, etc.) and David Lippman (entertainer, manager, artist, singing “CIA agent”). We spoke at the largest Catholic church in the area thanks to the efforts of Jacob and many local volunteers. Those who attended were extremely generous.

My experience of sleeping Thursday night inside the bus (converted bus with mattresses and a small kitchenette) was indeed a transforming experience. It is difficult with the images of Iraqi and Palestinian Children posted all around and inside the bus not to be changed. Having came back from Palestine in October, my discussion with Mike Miles and the pictures made me feel that I had been also to Iraq (Mike is a captivating speaker). It is also rewarding to think of all the other great people we met on the tour, from 18 year olds to 87 year olds.

On Friday, we were at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School in the beautiful Berkshire mountains. We spoke to four classes (and a fifth by an impromptu invitation). The students in these five classes were bright and engaged. It was one of the most rewarding experiences we had. It was especially poignant since it followed on the heels of a visit to the school by two IDF soldiers.

Continue reading

May 25, 2004
SILENT VIGIL & MARCH FOR ATROCITIES IN RAFAH!

Please check out this site for the latest news on Rafah: www.palestinemonitor.org

The Madison chapter of Al-Awda (Palestine Right to Return Coaliton) is hosting a silent march on Tuesday, May 25th, beginning at 7pm in rememberance of the recent atrocities in Rafah. We will meet at Library Mall and parade up state street to the Capitol where we will have an open forum for those who wish to share memories or stories of Palestine.
  
Please come dressed in black and bring a respectful sign if you wish.  We will have some candles, but feel free to bring some to share. 
 
Please remember this is a silent march, and is meant be a powerful represention of the recent death and destruction that has taken place in Rafah.  Silence is expected throughout the march.

If you have plan on attending, or have interest in co-sponsoring the march, please respond to this e-mail or contact us.

Contacts:
Renee Medved #414.305.1955
Genia Daniels #608.251.8147 or genia02 [at] yahoo.com