Madison Area Peace Coalition: Flotilla attack shows need to end Gaza siege

Madison Area Peace Coalition, Cap Times, Jun 13, 2010

The Madison peace community condemns the Israeli murder of nine activists aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31. Nineteen-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Dogan was among the slain. Other unarmed activists, including American and Israeli citizens, were illegally arrested in international waters. Though the activists’ ship flew the flag of NATO member and erstwhile Israeli friend Turkey, the Israeli soldiers were undeterred. These brutal crimes against a peaceful flotilla of humanitarian aid vessels were acts of state piracy on the high seas.

While pretending to end its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel has subjected the population of Gaza to an illegal blockade for the past three years because it does not approve of the democratically elected Palestinian government. In January 2009 Israel inflicted a brutal, punitive assault on Gaza, killing 1,400 civilians. Numerous Israeli war crimes during this attack, including the use of white phosphorus munitions in civilian areas, are carefully documented in the United Nations Goldstone Report.

The prolonged Israeli siege prevents Gaza’s civilians from getting enough food and medicine for their daily needs and the necessary supplies to rebuild their devastated economy. Biscuits, chocolate, fishing line, seeds, toys, musical instruments and dozens of other household items are prohibited under the blockade. Even Gaza’s sewage system cannot be rebuilt due to a shortage of cement.

Opening Rafah crossing as lifeline for Gaza poses dilemma for Egypt

President Hosni Mubarak caught between Arab solidarity and pragmatic approach to Israel, his country’s neighbours

Palestinians carry their luggage to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Photograph: Eyad Baba/AP

Jack Shenker, The Guardian, 2 June 2010

Rafah — From the donkey carts trundling down near empty roads in the afternoon heat, you would never have guessed this patch of land lay at the centre of a diplomatic storm. Nor did the row of bored looking customs officers sipping tea in the shade give any indication that their work commands global attention. But the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has long been a place where rhetoric and reality rarely meet eye to eye.

Less than 24 hours after Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, effectively promised to break Israel’s siege of Gaza by opening the Rafah crossing indefinitely, today’s developments were no exception.

The trickle of Gazans who crossed into Egypt spoke volumes about the predicament Mubarak finds himself in after Israel’s deadly assault on the Free Gaza flotilla.

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Israeli attack on Gaza flotilla sparks international outrage

Israeli navy stormed the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of a flotilla of vessels crewed by pro-Palestinian activists

An Israeli naval vessel patrols beside one of six ships bound for Gaza in the Mediterranean SeaAn Israeli naval vessel patrols beside one of six ships bound for Gaza. Photograph: Reuters

Robert Booth, The Guardian, 31 May 2010

They came by sea and air, shattering the peace of a Mediterranean night. Shortly after 4.30am yesterday, in international waters, the elite Flotilla 13 unit of the Israeli navy stormed the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of a flotilla crewed by an alliance of pro-Palestinian activists who had combined to deliver 10,000 tonnes of aid to Gaza.

In a blitz of military strength, masked commandos rapelled on to the Turkish ship’s deck from a helicopter and boarded from the side by fast attack launch. They were armed with guns, stun grenades and tear gas. Assault craft drenched their target in dazzling light and used booming tannoys to warn the ship’s passengers to halt their mission or face Israel taking “all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade”.

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Did UW-Madison campus Hillel ‘freak out’?

Hard questions were asked about speaker’s views toward Israel

Bill Lueders, Isthmus, May 6, 2010

Steve Horn admits he was drawn to bringing in a Palestinian speaker to a campus-based celebration of Israel in part because he “didn’t want to be part of propaganda.”

Horn, a UW-Madison junior majoring in political science and legal studies, is a member of Kavanah, a liberal-leaning student group that operates under the auspices of the UW’s Hillel Foundation. Hillel, serving the campus Jewish community, sponsored a weeklong series of events in mid-April to celebrate Israel’s independence; Horn was a member of the event’s planning committee.

In late March, Horn was approached about sponsoring an appearance by Jad Isaac, a Palestinian academic from Bethlehem. Isaac, whom the Quakers were bringing to Chicago for other events, agreed to come to Madison on April 21 to give a talk at the UW about water rights in the West Bank.

“He’s a well-known scholar on environmental issues in Israel and Palestine,” says Horn. “I was pretty excited.”

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Cecil Findley, March 12, 1930 — April 13, 2010

Cecil and Helen Findley at Fighting BobFest

Cecil Findley
Public adviser, endorser and defender
during the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project debate

From the Wisconsin Network for Peace & Justice

We say goodbye to two dear friends of the Network who both fought tirelessly for peace and justice. We remember their work in the shape of favorite quotes: Nan Cheney, a founder of the Network, quoted Mother Jones: “Mourn them… and fight like hell for the living,” while Cecil Findley, former WNPJ Treasurer and Vice Chair, used Amos 5:24 as his favorite text: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

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Activists embrace nonviolence in world’s hot spots

Josh Brollier and Sister Pat Chaffee. Photo courtesy of Phil Haslanger.

Phil Haslanger, Cap Times, Apr 1, 2010

Josh Brollier and Sister Pat Chaffee are in many ways a study in contrasts with each other and with the way most Americans live — and those contrasts make this unlikely pair thought-provoking.

Chaffee is a 72-year-old Dominican Catholic sister who lives on the edge of Lake Michigan in Racine. Brollier is a 27-year-old religiously unaffiliated peace activist who lives in the heart of Chicago.

They were in Madison recently to speak at Edgewood College and other places about their participation in January’s Gaza Freedom March — a nonviolent direct action by 1,300 people from 43 countries that was planned to protest Israel’s isolation of Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas segment of the Palestinian leadership. The protest hit an unexpected barrier — the Egyptian government refused to let the protesters approach the crossing at Rafah, the southern point in Gaza that abuts Egypt. But the international protest nevertheless highlighted the terrible conditions that exist for the people of Gaza.

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The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted

Juan Cole, Informed Comment, March 16, 2010

On March 10, I posted on the humiliation heaped on Vice President Joe Biden by the Israeli government of far-right Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Biden went to Israel intending to help kick off indirect negotiations between Netanyahu and Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Biden had no sooner arrived than the Israelis announced that they would build 1600 new households on Palestinian territory that they had unilaterally annexed to Jerusalem. Since expanding Israeli colonization of Palestinian land had been the sticking point causing Abbas to refuse to engage in negotiations, and, indeed, to threaten to resign, this step was sure to scuttle the very talks Biden had come to inaugurate. And it did.

The tiff between the US and Israel is less important that the worrisome growth of tension between Palestinians and Israelis as the Israelis have claimed more and more sites sacred to the Palestinians as well. There is talk of a third Intifada or Palestinian uprising.

As part of my original posting, I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.

Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light.

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Netanyahu defies U.S. over Jerusalem settlement

Jeffrey Heller, Reuters, 15 March 2010

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday rejected any curbs on Jewish settlement in and around Jerusalem, defying Washington in Israel’s deepening crisis with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration.

“For the past 40 years, no Israeli government ever limited construction in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” he said in a speech in parliament, citing areas in the West Bank that Israel captured in 1967 and unilaterally annexed to the city.

The United States condemned Israel’s plan to build 1,600 new homes for Jews in Ramat Shlomo, a religious settlement within the Israeli-designated borders of Jerusalem, whose future status is at the heart of the Middle East conflict.

Israel’s announcement of the project during a visit last week by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden embarrassed the White House. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in unusually blunt remarks, called it an insult.

The Palestinians, who had just agreed to begin indirect peace talks under U.S. mediation, have said they will not go ahead unless the plan is scrapped.

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March 21, 2010
Building Hope for the Children

Commemorating the life of Rachel Corrie
Sunday, March 21
4:30-5:30 pm Silent Auction viewing and bidding
5:30-6:30 pm Vegetarian Dinner by Lulu’s restaurant
6:30-9:00 pm Program
Fellowship Hall, First United Methodist Church
203 Wisconsin Avenue, Madison [Map]

A benefit dinner and program sponsored by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and Madison Playgrounds for Palestine.

Tickets for the dinner and program are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. All proceeds will help provide Palestinian children with a new playground in Beit Sahour, West Bank through Playgrounds for Palestine, and a water purification system for a school in Rafah, Gaza through the Maia Project of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

Besides information on these two humanitarian projects, the program will mark the seventh anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death on March 16 with

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March 18, 2010
Momentum for Gaza: A report on the Gaza Freedom March

Photo: Laura Durkay

Edgewood College
Predolin Humanities Center [Map], Room 307
7:00 pm

Josh Brollier, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, will give a talk with slides about this historic January 2010 march where 1300 delegates from 43 countries tried to break the siege of Gaza from Egypt.

Sponsored by Pax Christi, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. For more information email rafahsistercity (at) or call 238-1227.