November 14, 2009
Israel/Palestine Workshop at the Wilmar Center

Saturday, November 14
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center
953 Jenifer Street, Madison [Map]

A workshop by the Madison Area Peace Coalition Israel/Palestine Task Force on how to talk about the conflict.

We will be viewing and discussing a DVD of the workshop presented by American-Jewish peace activist Anna Baltzer across the U.S. in the past year.

We will also be providing copies of Q & A handouts from the workshop. For more information, contact dvdwilliams51(at)

Lee Brown: The U.S. should stop blindly supporting Israel

Editorial, Cap Times, November 6, 2009

Dear Editor:

In Cairo on June 4, President Obama promised “to work aggressively to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” This week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that she has not been able to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet face-to-face.

Perhaps, when all else fails, the United States should commit itself to upholding the rule of law.

Since 1972 the U.S. has used its veto 41 times to shield Israel from criticism by the United Nations Security Council. These resolutions concerned military attacks, rights of Palestinian people to self-determination, airstrikes that killed civilians, and violation of human rights in occupied territories — major infractions of international law. Yet the U.S. veto is so predictable Israel has assumed it had permission to ignore recognized standards of behavior.

There is no better time than now for the U.S. to announce it will not use its veto power to defend Israeli crimes.

Lee Brown

Amal Othman with Interfaith Peace-Builders

“Do You Have Family Here?”

Interfaith Peace-Builders, October 29, 2009

As expected, all 31 delegates went through passport control at Ben Gurion airport in Israel with no hassles. Except for me.

I am a U.S. citizen, and yet I was questioned by four different airport officers.

Racial profiling? My name is Amal Othman, my country of birth is Jordan, and my parents are Palestinian refugees. I handed my American passport to the young Israeli officer and right away, she asked me for my father’s full name. Without any hesitation, she got up out of her booth, and said: “follow me”. I took a deep breath, smiled, and walked behind her. I was so relieved when I noticed Mike (one of IFPB leaders) walking right next to me. We were escorted to a waiting area, and it did not take long before I was called in for questioning.

What is your father’s full name? What is your mother’s full name? Where were they born? What is your “hamoula” (clan) name? How old are they? Where do they live now? Have you been to Israel before? Do you have family here? Why did you come here? With whom? How did you become a U.S. citizen? And the questions continued.

I was then taken to a different waiting area, with lots of other people, mostly Arabs, a Turkish couple, and an Asian woman. We, Mike and I, waited for a while, perhaps 15 minutes or so. I was then called by another officer who took me to a different room, questioned me again, same exact questions.

The scenario repeated itself four times, like a broken record.

The Israeli officers were trying to find records of my parents and their family history. I learned later that the Israeli government has kept records of every Palestinian family, village, city, land and olive trees. They were searching for my status to determine if I pose a threat to Israel as a refugee returning to reclaim ownership of Palestinian property or if any of my family participated in the Arab revolt of 1936.

My parents were not found in their database! It was just a game of inconvenience. I stayed calm, polite and cooperative. After an hour or so, I was granted entry.

Israel accused of rationing water to Palestinians

Patrick Moser, Agence France Presse, Oct 27, 2009

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Israel of denying Palestinians adequate access to water while allowing Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank almost unlimited supplies.

Israel, the human rights group said, restricts availability of water in the Palestinian territories “by maintaining total control over the shared resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.”

“Israel allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies,” Amnesty researcher Donatella Rovera said in a report.

Israel consumes four times more water than Palestinians, who use an average of 70 litres (16 gallons) a day per person, according to the report entitled: “Troubled waters – Palestinians denied fair access to water.”

Amnesty said the “inequality” is even more pronounced in some areas of the West Bank where settlements use up to 20 times more water per capita than neighbouring Palestinian communities which survive on barely 20 litres (5.28 gallons) of water per capita a day.

“Swimming pools, well-watered lawns and large irrigated farms in Israeli settlements in the OPT (occupied Palestinian territory) stand in stark contrast next to Palestinian villages whose inhabitants struggle even to meet their domestic water needs.”

Israel insists it shares common water resources with Palestinians in a fair manner, saying the Palestinians have access to twice as much water as the 23.6 million cubic metres (833 million cubic feet) they are allocated annually under a mutual agreement.

“Israel has fulfilled all its obligations,” the foreign ministry said in response to the Amnesty report.

The Palestinians on the other hand, it said, “have significantly violated their commitments” by drilling 250 wells without authorisation and failing to build sewage plants.

The Amnesty report pointed out that Palestinians are not allowed to drill new wells or rehabilitate old ones without permits from the Israeli authorities, which are often impossible to secure.

In addition, many roads in the West Bank are closed or restricted to Palestinian traffic which forces water tankers to make long detours to supply communities not connected to the water network.

The report said between 180,000 and 200,000 Palestinians in West Bank rural communities have no access to running water, while taps in other areas often run dry.

In the Gaza Strip, the 22-day military offensive which Israel launched on December 27 damaged water reservoirs, wells, sewage networks and pumping stations.

Further aggravating an already dire situation, Israel and Egypt have sealed off the impoverished territory to all but basic goods since the Islamist Hamas movement seized control in June 2007, severely hampering the upkeep of basic infrastructure. Related article: Palestinian farmers struggle with water crisis

The sewage system has been particularly hard-hit, as Israel does not allow pipes to be imported for fear they could be used by Palestinian militants to build rockets.

“The coastal aquifer, Gaza’s sole fresh water resource, is polluted by the infiltration of raw sewage from cesspits and sewage collection ponds and by the infiltration of sea water (itself also contaminated by raw sewage discharged daily into the sea near the coast) and has been degraded by over-extraction,” Amnesty said.

UN experts say the underground water supplies upon which Gaza’s 1.5 million population depend are in danger of collapse.

Researchers have found levels of nitrates in Gaza rising as high as 331 milligrams per litre, well above World Health Organisation guidelines for a maximum of 50.

High nitrate concentrations in ground water have been linked to a form of potentially fatal anaemia among newborns known as “blue baby syndrome.”

Israel Supreme Court: Open 'apartheid' road to Palestinians

Ilene R. Prusher, The Christian Science Monitor, Oct 23, 2009

Jerusalem – In the first ruling of its kind, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israeli army on Thursday to allow Palestinians to travel on a West Bank road they had been banned from using.

The case, filed by the Association for Human Rights Israel (ACRI) on behalf of 22 Palestinian villages in the area south of Hebron, is being hailed by human rights activists as a victory in their battle against segregated roads in the occupied West Bank. While most West Bank roads are open to both Israelis and Palestinians, a few major ones are closed to Palestinian traffic, leading critics to decry them as “apartheid” roads.

A spokeswoman for ACRI said that it was the first time that the Supreme Court had ever ruled on road closures imposed by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). Following the outbreak of violence in the second intifada in September 2000, the IDF closed roads in many areas in what it said was a move to protect Israeli citizens, including both Jewish settlers and passing Israeli motorists. Approximately 10 of these roads remain closed, ACRI says.

“The Supreme Court never made a decision before relating to a particular place where Palestinians are banned from driving on a road just for being Palestinians,” said Nirit Moskovich of ACRI. The group is disappointed, however, that the Supreme Court did not seize the opportunity to make a ruling on segregated roads in general, she added.

“In our petition, we put great emphasis on the fact that the entire notion of prohibiting public resources to people based on their ethnic or national identity is forbidden and should be outlawed,” Ms. Moskovich said. “But the Supreme Court did not refer to that at all in their decision. It was based on the circumstances of that particular case.”

The 29 members of the Jadallah family in the village of Beit Awa were a compelling example of the hardships caused by the policy. They live adjacent to the road in question, Road 354, which they haven’t been allowed to use since 2001. That left the only route to and from the family homes over treacherous, unpaved mountain roads. Older family members found it impossible to travel at all.

“It is hard to downplay the damage caused to the local residents, as clearly demonstrated by the petitioners,” the Supreme Court justices said in their ruling.

Israel’s Supreme Court is one of the country’s more liberal-minded institutions, and has often made rulings that are at odds with other spheres of power in the Israeli establishment. Ten years ago, ACRI, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and HaMoked: the Center for the Defense of the Individual, won a Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the use of torture by Israel’s security services. The groups complain that the anti-torture ruling is regularly violated.

Thursday’s ruling is likely to provide additional pressure for the high court to decide on Road 443, a larger and well-trafficked road also closed to Palestinians.

“Today’s ruling is particularly relevant as it may influence future court decisions on the legality of this separation regime, such as the notorious case of Route 443. ACRI submitted a petition against the segregation of this road and is awaiting a ruling,” Attorney Limor Yehuda said in a release.

“As such, it is alarming that Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish refers to the notion of proportionality in the present ruling and avoids confronting the principle at stake: the legality of Israel’s policy of segregation and discrimination in the West Bank.”

The army said in its petition that the closure order was issued to protect residents in the West Bank settlement of Negohot and other settlement outposts, where about 200 Israelis live. The court gave the IDF three months to find another solution.