Year-end and holiday giving: Two opportunities to help Gaza

December 12, 2007

Dear Members and Friends of MRSCP,

As we approach the holiday season and the end of the tax year, please consider donating to the following emergency appeals to help the people of Gaza.

The first is from the Middle East Children’s Alliance, a U.S. based group which we have worked with and highly recommend. MRSCP will be contributing $1500 toward this appeal and we strongly urge you to consider a gift as well. Contributions to MECA are tax-deductible.

The second is from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which is “planning an emergency dispatch of humanitarian supplies and a delegation of doctors, in order to supply limited emergency aid, to witness and report on the medical situation in Gaza, and to express protest and solidarity with the residents of the Gaza Strip under siege.” Contributions are apparently also tax deductible; please follow the instructions given in the appeal.

In the past year, and especially in the past few weeks, Gaza has literally become hell on earth as the U.S., Israel and Egypt have all but cut the densely-populated strip off from the rest of the world. Just this past week Israel began drastic cuts in electricity and fuel which are essential to keep people alive by providing drinkable water and emergency health care.

Palestinian Medical Relief Society calls for an immediate end to the murderous siege of Gaza
Excerpt: People are dying in Gaza. Patients die in their hospital beds because they are denied permits to access life-saving treatments abroad. Patients with such permits die at the Erez crossing because the Israeli military denies them exit, despite their permits. (Full article)

And, the latest casualty:

IOA blocks baby with a hole in the heart from leaving Gaza for urgent treatment
Excerpt: A Palestinian child, who was born almost two weeks ago with a hole in the heart, has been denied an Israeli permit to leave the Strip and receive urgently needed treatment for his case, medical sources reported. They said that the baby’s condition was worsening as he is suffering problems in the liver and swelling in his body. (Full article)

Both of the appeals above document the catastrophic situation further. Please be as generous as you can.

As always, thanks for your support.

Summit’s Goal: Perpetuate Repression of Palestinians

Barb Olson and Amal Othman, The Capital Times, December 07, 2007

“After meeting their own low expectations for the Annapolis conference amid intense skepticism, Bush administration officials crowed with delight,” said an Associated Press story.

And well they might. It was more symbolism than substance, but President Bush looked almost presidential.

But all Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert really agreed on was to negotiate — Bush called it “hard bargaining.”

“Hard bargaining” with Olmert and Abbas (and Bush too) at record low levels of support domestically?

“Hard bargaining” with the overwhelming power of the United States and Israel on one side and the divided and bloodied Palestinians on the other?

The United States is not an honest broker here. Congress just gave Israel another $30 billion for military aid over the next 10 years. That’s on top of the $3 billion to $5 billion annually it already gets.

Since 2004, Bush has officially committed the United States to help Israel keep Palestinian land stolen for Jewish settlements. This policy of using “facts on the ground” to gobble up Palestinian land, water and commerce has already sparked two Palestinian uprisings and is destroying the viability of any independent Palestinian state.

Was this policy reversed at Annapolis? No. Instead Bush asked Israel to pretty-please remove a few trailer park “outposts” and to stop expanding the settlements. (Wink, wink.)

Bush instructed the Palestinians not to focus on the “borders” of a state. No wonder — Israel has already set the borders by constructing the annexation wall deep inside Palestinian territory, leaving the Palestinians imprisoned in a handful of poverty-stricken ghettos on a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of their original homeland.

What’s next, a virtual Palestinian state?

Bush told Palestinians to focus on the “nature” of their state instead. It should be “democratic.” Oh really? The United States and Israel have starved and bludgeoned the Palestinians for having elected the wrong people, and then invited Abbas (who overthrew the elected government) to Annapolis.

Bush hailed the “transparency and accountability” of the Abbas regime. These are the same crooks who were thrown out of office for shamelessly lining their pockets with the meager contents of the Palestinian treasury.

Bush and Olmert seek a puppet regime that will pick up the garbage and police the prison-statelets that are all Palestinians can expect from this “hard bargaining.”

This is why the Abbas-Olmert agreement gives the United States (and thus Israel) a veto over any results, stating that implementation of the agreement will be “led by the United States” and “judged by the United States.”

Completely absent, in spite of pleas from Palestinian human rights groups, was any mention of international law, which long ago laid down two unavoidable conditions for peace: the return of all Palestinian (and Syrian) territory taken by force in 1967, including removal of the colonial settler infrastructure, and a just solution for the millions of Palestinians driven from their homeland since 1948.

Bush’s U.S.-Israel-Palestine bargaining process aims to circumvent this painful reality. Behind a fig leaf of endless negotiations, Israel will push ordinary Palestinians further into poverty and repression. Many will leave in order to survive. Those who remain face a grotesque form of apartheid, whose structure is already in place and whose foundation was laid by the logic of creating a “Jewish state” in a country populated mainly by others. Indeed, many Israelis openly hope that even so-called “Israeli Arabs” — Palestinians who stayed in 1948 and are now 20 percent of the citizenry — will be forcibly transferred to the new “Palestinian state.”

If you want to see the reality obscured by the lofty language of politicians, visit the concentration camp that is Gaza, invisible at Annapolis. Smell the stench of raw sewage and uncollected garbage. Listen to the cries of hungry children and watch sick people die from Israel cutting the electricity or the embargo on medicine or from waiting too long at the perpetually sealed borders. Watch women screaming over the bodies of children and husbands torn apart by Israeli bombardment or vicious fighting among rival gangs of camp inmates.

The original online transcript of Bush’s Annapolis speech referred to the “Iraqi soil of the West Bank and Gaza.” Official versions corrected this to “rocky soil.” But the cruel irony of this Freudian slip remains. Iraq certainly does resemble Gaza, with the West Bank close behind. This is not a path to peace.

Barb Olson and Amal Othman are members of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

© 2007 Capital Newspapers

December 9, 2007
Film: Reel Bad Arabs

Free preview showing and discussion!
Escape Java Joint
916 Williamson St.
Sunday, December 9, 7:00 p.m.

Discussion will be led by George Arida, co-host of WORT “Salamat” and member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Featuring author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs — from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding “terrorists” — and offers along the way some devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today.

Directed by Sut Jhally, this excellent new 50-minute documentary comes from The Media Education Foundation.

November 17, 2007
Rami Khouri Talk in Madison

Rami George Khouri – “A Fair and Balanced View from the Arab World”
Madison Civics Club November Meeting, Monona Terrace
November 17th, 2007, 10:55 a.m.–1:45 p.m.

Khouri is Executive Editor of the Beirut, Lebanon-based newspaper The Daily Star, the largest English language newspaper published throughout the Middle East, in partnership with the International Herald Tribune. He was recently appointed director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at American University of Beirut (AUB). Author of “A View from the Arab World,” an internationally syndicated weekly political column at agenceglobal.com, his commentary and articles center around the broad range of roles played by the Middle East — its culture, politics, and religion — worldwide. A Palestinian-Jordanian educated in both the Middle East and the US, Khouri returned to his homeland 35 years ago and now resides in Beirut, Amman, and Nazareth.

With a Special Public Affairs Presentation:
UW Law Professor Asifa Quraishi – “Islamic Law:
What Americans Don’t Know May Surprise Them”

Asifa Quraishi, a specialist in Islamic law and legal theory, joined the University of Wisconsin Law School faculty in Fall 2004. Professor Quraishi’s expertise ranges from U.S. law on federal court practice to constitutional legal theory, with a comparative focus in Islamic law. At the UW Law School, Quraishi is teaching a combination of core law school classes in Constitutional Law, and electives in Islamic law and jurisprudence. Asifa Quraishi made news in 2001 when she drafted a clemency appeal brief in the case of Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, who was sentenced to flogging for fornication in Zamfara, Nigeria.

If you are a nonmember interested in attending, please call Karen Icke at 238-4352. The luncheon fee for a nonmember who is not the guest of a member is $30. If a luncheon is sold out, there may be seating space (without the meal) for a fee.