The people of Gaza suffer

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.

We saw amazing signs of hope and steadfastness exhibited in buildings restored with materials carried through tunnels, a literacy rate of over 80%, continuation of normal activities under abnormal conditions, developing the talents of women and creative programs for children.

We heard their pleas for justice for ending the United States unquestioning support for Israel, for stopping the military aid to Israel, for recognizing that theirs is not a humanitarian problem but a political problem, for encouraging Palestinian unity instead of working against it, for respecting international law and human rights, for following our own laws for export of military aid and for accepting moral responsibility for our part in the ongoing occupation.

And then came the bombs. They fell during the night. They shook our hotel. They warned of worse things to come.

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Palestinian non-violent resistance leader speaks in Madison

Veena Brekke, December 19, 2012

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.  

The videos showed creative methods used by from 200 to 4000 demonstrators every Friday and the violent response from Israeli soldiers. Demonstrators repeatedly endured injuries from tear gas rockets, chemical infused water, and rubber-coated metal bullets.  Burnat reported 40 deaths and 1,300 injured among all the villages. He argued that the goal of Israel’s separation wall is not security but the confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlers, the theft of Palestinian water to supply them, and to put more Palestinians in prison.

In a soft-spoken voice, Burnat explained that the “olive tree is the life of farmers in this area.”  He showed videos of demonstrators chaining themselves to olive trees and of the burning and bulldozing of olive groves, noting sadly that many Palestinian farmers who used to sell olive oil now have to purchase it.  As a result, over 60 percent of Palestinians are unemployed in Bil’in.

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December 16, 2012
MRSCP Gaza Visit on WORT

WORT 89.9 FM
6:00-6:30 pm

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.

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December 15, 2012
Bethlehem Christmas Lutheran Church Benefit


Craft and Cookie Sale to benefit Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem

Saturday, December 15
Memorial Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 Lacy Road, Fitchburg [Map]
9 am 12 pm

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.

For information contact Nancy Baumgardner: nancybaumgardner (at) gmail.com.

December 16, 2012
Talk by Iyad Burnat of the Bilin Popular Committee

Sunday, December 16
Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 Lacy Road, Fitchburg
2:00 pm [Map]

Trailer "5 Broken Cameras" from Guy Davidi on Vimeo.

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.

These demonstrations are the subject of the recent award-winning documentary film 5 Broken Cameras, which was made by Iyads brother, Emad Burnat.

Iyad was born in Bilin in September of 1973. He is married and has four children. He became involved in popular resistance as a teenager, and was arrested by the Israeli military for the first time at age 17. He was accused of throwing stones, and imprisoned for two years. Since then he has been arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli military several more times.

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December 5, 2012
Film: 5 Broken Cameras

Memorial Library, Room 126
UW-Madison [Map]
7:00 pm

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.

Join the UW Students for Justice in Palestine, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Muslim Students Association, Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund and the Havens Center for the Madison premier of this film and be informed on the reality of life in Palestine. For more info on the film, call 215-9157.

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Tsela Barr and Michele Bahl: Recent visit to Gaza heartbreaking

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.

We were in Gaza with a delegation organized by Inter-Faith Peace Builders. We met with human rights groups, women’s groups, fishermen, farmers, schoolchildren, refugees and other residents. Everyone we met has been severely impacted by Israel’s ongoing economic siege and by the destruction of “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008, when Israel killed an estimated 1,400 Gazans and destroyed thousands of homes and buildings.

Farmers are not allowed to export their crops, the water and sewage system has been destroyed, no garbage trucks are allowed in, fishermen are continually shot at, and people are not allowed out for crucial medical treatments. And for years, Israel has struck into Gaza at will, killing and injuring ordinary Palestinians on a daily basis.

While every death or injury is a tragedy, the enormously lopsided casualty figures are proof that this is not an even playing field for both parties. Israel is the occupier, with the world’s fourth-largest army supplied by the U.S. government, provoking and relentlessly bombing a small strip of land that they have lain siege to for the past six years, to which they control nearly all entry and exit by sea, air and land.

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One Jewish Woman’s Fight for Palestine

One Jewish Woman’s Fight for PalestineYasmin Mogahed, Nov 19, 2012

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.”

Loewenstein was in Jenin.

She had spent much of the previous two years working as an editor and freelance journalist at the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza. During that time she traveled frequently to the Rafah refugee camp to visit friends. It was in that way that she came to know Rafah so well and later started the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project in December of 2002.

But Loewenstein’s decision to take on the plight of the Palestinian people was not an easy one. She has since been shunned by her community and accused of being a “terrorist sympathizer” and “self-hating Jew”–a term she considers as ludicrous as calling her a “self-hating human” for opposing human rights abuse.

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American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Meets with State Department

Demands End to Siege in Gaza and Justice for Rachel Corrie

Ongoing Attacks in Gaza Underscore Urgent Need for Human Rights Defenders in Occupied Palestine

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | November 19, 2012 — Last Friday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), CODEPINK, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation delivered to the U.S. Department of State more than 17,000 signatures and an open letter signed by over 50 U.S. organizations asking the State Department to investigate the death of Rachel Corrie and each case involving the death or serious injury of an American citizen by the Israeli military since 2001. The groups also met with State Department officials to discuss the need for accountability in the deaths of human rights defenders like Corrie, a need made more urgent by this week’s deadly attacks by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

In recent days the Israeli military launched a new major military operation on Gaza. The attack has left dozens dead, including an 11-month-old infant and a woman pregnant with twins, and 270 wounded since Wednesday.

Nabil Mohamad from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, “Rachel’s case is an example of the lack of accountability for Israel’s killing of Palestinians and non-Palestinians alike. American citizens and non-violent activists have been, and will continue, to be killed by Israeli forces unless Israel is held responsible. We call upon the U.S. government to launch an independent investigation led by the Department of State and Department of Justice to bring justice and prevent further loss of life.”

Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the U.S. Campaign, shared that, “Israel’s ongoing attacks against and illegal siege of the Gaza Strip necessitate an end to Israeli impunity for human rights abuses of Palestinians and human rights defenders acting in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal military occupation.”

Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, expressed, "We greatly appreciate the efforts of all who have carried this message today to the Department of State about the need for accountability in all cases of human rights observers harmed by the Israeli military. Lack of such accountability has only contributed to the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military and made not only human rights activists, but also Palestinians and Israelis, less safe.”

CCR’s Laura Raymond, shared that, “Defending human rights in Gaza should not come at the risk of death. Now more than ever we need human rights defenders on the ground to be able to carry out their work without fearing mortal danger.”

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Why Gaza Must Suffer Again

The Four Guilty Parties Behind Israel’s Attack

JONATHAN COOK, November 19, 2012

Nazareth — A short interview broadcast by CNN late last week featuring two participants – a Palestinian in Gaza and an Israeli within range of the rocket attacks – did not follow the usual script.

For once, a media outlet dropped its role as gatekeeper, there to mediate and therefore impair our understanding of what is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians, and inadvertently became a simple window on real events.

The usual aim of such “balance” interviews relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is twofold: to reassure the audience that both sides of the story are being presented fairly; and to dissipate potential outrage at the deaths of Palestinian civilians by giving equal time to the suffering of Israelis.

But the deeper function of such coverage in relation to Gaza, given the media’s assumption that Israeli bombs are simply a reaction to Hamas terror, is to redirect the audience’s anger exclusively towards Hamas. In this way, Hamas is made implicitly responsible for the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.

The dramatic conclusion to CNN’s interview appears, however, to have otherwise trumped normal journalistic considerations.

The pre-recorded interview via Skype opened with Mohammed Sulaiman in Gaza. From what looked like a cramped room, presumably serving as a bomb shelter, he spoke of how he was too afraid to step outside his home. Throughout the interview, we could hear the muffled sound of bombs exploding in the near-distance. Mohammed occasionally glanced nervously to his side.

The other interviewee, Nissim Nahoom, an Israeli official in Ashkelon, also spoke of his family’s terror, arguing that it was no different from that of Gazans. Except in one respect, he hastened to add: things were worse for Israelis because they had to live with the knowledge that Hamas rockets were intended to harm civilians, unlike the precision missiles and bombs Israel dropped on Gaza.

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