Palestinians warm themselves by a fire inside a house, which witnesses said was damaged in an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip last week.
Joyce F. Guinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 27, 2012
On Nov. 5, along with 20 members of an Interfaith Peace-Builders Delegation, I entered the Palestinian Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip. We were received with great enthusiasm. We met with political representatives, farmers, families of prisoners, fishermen, water utility specialists, United Nations agencies, womens groups, union representatives and families in refugee camps.
We visited schools, centers for childrens activities, libraries, a music school, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a fish farm, the Gaza port, the destroyed airport and the parents of a 13-year-old boy killed during our visit while playing soccer in front of his house.
We learned that 80% of Gazans are refugees; that fishermen are not allowed to go beyond 3 miles to fish; that farmers are attacked if they approach their fields near the Israeli imposed 200- to 300-meter “buffer zone” on Palestinian land; that crops, greenhouses and animals are routinely attacked; that water is limited and unsafe; that electricity is limited to eight hours per day; that prisoners are held in Israeli prisons for years; that torture and isolation are routine; that children are traumatized; and that schools are running on two shifts because of destroyed schools.
On Sunday afternoon, December 16, citizens of the Madison area were fortunate to hear a presentation by Iyad Burnat, a Palestinian farmer and leader in non-violent protests currently on a four-month speaking tour of the United States. About 60 people gathered at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg to view photos and videos and to listen to stories of successful organizing of grassroots non-violent protests against Israeli occupation in a West Bank farming village called Bil’in.
Bil’in has recently become famous as the subject of the award-winning film, “5 Broken Cameras,” by Burnat’s brother Emad Burnat and Israeli director Guy Davidi.
Since the 1967 war, Israel has illegally occupied and expanded its military presence in the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in defiance of UN Security Council resolution 242 and many others which demand “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the (1967) conflict.” It has placed nearly 500,000 illegal Israeli Jewish settlers on Palestinian land in direct violation of international law.
In 2003, Israel began building a hugely controversial “separation wall” primarily on the Palestinian side of the “green line” between the West Bank and Israel proper. Burnat reported that the wall, which is 8 meters high in some places, has taken over half of Bil’in’s farm land. It was in opposition to this wall that Bil’in citizens began their weekly marches to the fenced area. Since 2005, Bil’in farmers have been joined by Israeli and International peace activists and protests have spread to about 20 other villages in the West Bank.
MRSCP member Michele Bahl will be interviewed about the struggle of Palestinian prisoners and other issues raised in her recent trip to Gaza. For current news on this issue, see:
Podcast: Israel wants to criminalize human rights defenders, says head of Palestinian prisoner’s rights group raided by army. The Electronic Intifada, 14 Dec — “We think that this raid was because the three organizations, especially Addameer, was involved a lot this year in the hunger strikes and the support for Palestinian political prisoners …
EMOHR calls on PA to prosecute occupation internationally
ANKARA/RAMALLAH (Palestinian Information Center) 14 Dec — The Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights (EMOHR) called on the Palestinian Authority to prosecute the Israeli occupation for the violating the international law in dealing with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike …
Rally held in hunger-strikers’ West Bank hometown
JENIN (Ma‘an) 14 Dec — For the second Friday in a row, Palestinians held a rally in the northern West Bank town of Arraba to support hunger-strikers in Israeli jails, including residents of the town. Tareq Qaadan and Jaafar Izz Addin from Arraba, near Jenin, both started refusing food in Israeli jail on Nov. 28, prisoners rights group Addameer said.
Annual holiday event benefits Memorial UCC partnership with the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem in the West Bank of Palestine. Fellowship Hall will be transformed into a holiday bazaar featuring holiday cookies sold by the pound and handmade crafts galore.
Iyad Burnat is head of the Bilin Popular Committee and a leader in the villages non-violent popular resistance movement. Since 2005 citizens of Bilin have held weekly demonstrations against the building of the Israeli separation wall through the communitys agricultural lands, and the steady encroachment of illegal settlements. The demonstrators are joined by Israeli and international peace activists, and have maintained a commitment to non-violent methods of resistance in spite of armed, military opposition that has resulted in many injuries and some deaths.
Memorial Library, Room 126
An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism, 5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. 5 Broken Cameras was shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who initially purchased a camera to record his youngest son. Structured around the violent destruction of that and four subsequent cameras, Burnat’s collaboration with Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi follows one family’s evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. “I feel like the camera protects me,” he says, “but it’s an illusion.”
In light of recent developments in the Gaza Strip and at the UN, 5 Broken Cameras is more relevant now than ever before.
This showing is free and open to the public. A request for voluntary donations to Gaza emergency relief will be made.
TSELA BARR AND MICHELE BAHL | members, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Cap Times, Nov 22, 2012
Picture this normal scene: Teenage boys are playing soccer in front of their house on a sunny day in November. Just one problem: These boys live in the Gaza Strip. Suddenly a 13-year-old drops bleeding to the ground, shot by an Israeli soldier in a helicopter.
We were in Gaza at the time and paid a condolence call to the parents of the dead boy. The grief of his mother was unbearable to see.
A man at the funeral said, “We hope you will be strong ambassadors to reflect our message that we need protection. We are looking for freedom and peace.”
Since we left Gaza, over 149 people were killed and over 850 injured during “Operation Pillar of Cloud.” A majority of those killed in this eight-day assault were noncombatants including women, children and the elderly. The many hundreds more who were injured were overwhelmingly civilians.
For Jennifer Loewenstein, April 19, 2002 was a “waking nightmare”. She stood silent at the edge of the camp, in disbelief–and horror.
Listening to the sound of wailing, she watched as medical workers lay out the bodies of the dead. The corpses, wrapped in white, were loaded onto the back of a pick-up truck.
“I will never forget this time,” Loewenstein recalls. “I stayed in the camp for two days, picking through the ruins and debris of people’s former lives–watching children and families look for their belongings–anything they could salvage from the wreckage.”