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.

Despite this opposition, Loewenstein continues her struggle to expose an injustice she wasn’t always aware of herself.

“I never really knew much about the plight of the Palestinians until I was much older,” says Loewenstein. “I didn’t begin to question all the information I’d gotten on Israel and on Arabs until I got to college (at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem).”

Loewenstein grew up in a secular Jewish family, but was instilled early on with a concern for Israel. She still remembers the day when her favorite dress was sent to her cousin overseas. She was only six, but gave up the dress because her family in Israel needed it.

Although her parents were not “avid Zionists”, their loyalty to Israel was strong. But even stronger than their loyalty to either Israel or Judaism was her family’s loyalty to peace.

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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.”

Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in March 16, 2003, as she protested the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah, Gaza. She was 23 years old. Since 2001, a number of other cases have been reported involving the death or serious injury of American human rights defenders in Palestine caused by the Israeli military.

The State Department declined to act on previous calls for an investigation into Corrie’s death, citing a civil trial in Israel brought by the Corrie family against the Israeli military. In August 2012, however, that case concluded when the presiding judge absolved the State of Israel of any liability and ruling that Corrie’s death was "an accident she brought upon herself." U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro called Israel’s investigation into the case unsatisfactory and lacking in transparency.

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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.

The interview returned to Mohammed. As he started to speak, the bombing grew much louder. He pressed on, saying he would not be silenced by what was taking place outside. The interviewer, Isha Sesay, interrupted – seemingly unsure of what she was hearing – to inquire about the noise.

Then, with an irony that Mohammed could not have appreciated as he spoke, he began to say he refused to be drawn into a comparison about whose suffering was worse when an enormous explosion threw him from his chair and severed the internet connection. Switching back to the studio, Sesay reassured viewers that Mohammed had not been hurt.

The bombs, however, spoke more eloquently than either Mohammed or Nissim.

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Stories of Peacebuilding in Gaza and the West Bank

John Quinlan, WORT 89.9 FM – A Public Affair, November 19, 2012

On Monday November 19th, host John Quinlan was joined in conversation with visitors from a peace delegation sponsored by the Interfaith Peace-Builders.

The delegates just returned this past week from Gaza and and the West Bank. Permission for foreigners to obtain passage to Gaza is rare, and thus these interviews provided listeners with a vital opportunity to understand daily life in the Palestinian territories and how this existence is being affected by the current conflict. John spoke with Tsela Barr and Michele Bahl who just came back from a peace delegation to Gaza on November 12th. During the second half of the hour John spoke with Veena Brekke who recently returned from a peace delegation to the West Bank.

According to their website, “Interfaith Peace-Builders believes in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation. Given the opportunity to speak directly with Israelis and Palestinians, delegates return to the United States better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.” Tsela, Michele, and Veena shared with WORT listeners their fascinating experiences from both Israel and Palestine.

Read more about Interfaith Peace Builders on their website: http://www.ifpb.org/

Listen to the entire show:

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Democracy Now! Interview with Mohammed Omer in Gaza City

Breaking Truce, Israeli Strikes Kill "Moderate" Hamas Military Chief, Palestinian Civilians in Gaza


Democracy Now!, November 15, 2012

Israel is threatening to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after breaking an informal ceasefire with an ongoing series of deadly attacks. At least 13 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including a baby and a mother pregnant with twins, in addition to more than 100 wounded. Israel says it has launched the strikes to prevent Palestinian rocket fire, but the latest round of violence began last week when Israeli troops killed a young boy in Gaza. The situation has escalated since Saturday, when Palestinian militants fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Israel-Gaza border. After Palestinian militant groups agreed to an informal truce on Monday, Israel broke two days of quiet with Wednesday’s attack. Israel’s attack on Gaza marks its largest since the U.S.-backed operation that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians nearly four years ago. We go to Gaza City to speak with Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer.

Rush Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: Israel is threatening to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after breaking an informal ceasefire with a series of deadly attacks. On Wednesday, an Israeli air strike assassinated Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing. The bombing continued throughout the day and night, killing at least 13 civilians, including a baby and a mother pregnant with twins. More than a hundred Palestinians were also wounded. The toll is expected to rise.

At least three Israelis were killed today when Palestinian rockets hit a residential building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, the first Israeli fatalities since the latest fighting began. Israel says it has launched the strikes to prevent Palestinian rocket fire, but the latest round of violence began last week when Israeli troops killed a young boy in Gaza. The situation has escalated since Saturday, when Palestinian militants fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Israel-Gaza border. After Palestinian militant groups agreed to an informal truce Monday, Israel broke two days of quiet with Wednesday’s attack.

Israel’s attack on Gaza marks its largest since the U.S.-backed operation that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians nearly four years ago. It was just about this time, just after President Obama was elected for the first time, that the attacks, Operation Cast Lead, began.

We go now to Gaza City, where we’re joined by Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Mohammed. Can you describe what’s happening now on the ground?

MOHAMMED OMER: Well, the only thing you can hear, Amy, here is the bombing and F-16s and missiles dropping across the Gaza Strip, and everywhere in the Gaza Strip. Let us start by the northern part of the Gaza Strip, where we just heard a number of missiles fired by Israel F-16s and the drones. When you look at the Gaza sky, you find F-16s hovering and drones; you cannot tell the difference. There is in the east part of the Gaza Strip—we are talking about here Khan Younis, Gaza City, Rafah—and also the southern part of the Gaza Strip, in particular, where the bombing is taking place from the Israeli warships.

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Israel Attacks the Gaza Strip

On the day that the Interfaith Peace Builders delegation (with four women from Wisconsin) safely left Gaza, Israel’s attacks began … please read the following message and watch the news. The great fear is a repeat of Operation Cast Lead, launched exactly four years ago following the U.S. presidential election … emergency demonstrations are being organized around the world. There may be one in Madison, possibly downtown in the late afternoon on Friday, details TBA.

In the meantime, the US Campaign to End the Occupation is asking people to call the White House.

Today, Israel launched a major offensive in the Gaza Strip, killing the Hamas leader nearby civilians, including two girls under the age of five. The death toll continues to rise. The US Campaign strongly condemns these brutal attacks, carried out with U.S. weapons given to Israel as military aid and paid for by U.S. taxpayers, and Israel’s ongoing, illegal siege of Gaza.

Please act now and call on the Obama administration to exert diplomatic pressure on Israel to bring about an immediate cease-fire and to initiate an investigation of Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons against Palestinians in this and previous attacks.

White House: 202-456-1111
State Department: 202-647-6575

An Ongoing Terror

Michele Bahl, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, November 14, 2012

Yesterday we visited the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Since the siege, which started in 2006 when Hamas won the election, there has been a medication shortage. Israel controls everything that comes into Gaza, and we were told that cancer medications are not allowed in. There are so many things that are not allowed into Gaza, such as materials to rebuild from the Israeli bombings, and utility vehicles to collect garbage. People are dying in Gaza not because there are a shortage of hospitals, but because there are a lack of supplies due to the severe restrictions that Israel imposes on the people of Gaza by this siege.

I haven’t seen one Israeli soldier here, but the population of 1.7 Gazans feel Israel’s presence here all of the time. It is a terrifying presence.

During Operation Cast Lead, which took place in Dec. ’08/ Jan. 09, Israel killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Over half of the population of Gaza is under 18 years old. There is no place that people feel safe in Gaza due to the reality that Israel can attack Gaza and cause widespread destruction at any time.

There is ongoing terror that people face every day, but Americans never hear about it. I believe if my fellow Americans were aware of the ongoing systematic violence that Israel carries out, they would be outraged and want to do something to stop it. If I didn’t believe this, I would have no hope.

Raji Sourani, the head of the Palestine Center of Human Rights, shared the following: “Never ever tell a free person what to do; a free person should know what to do.”

Through all of this disaster and trauma, the people of Palestine are incredibly resilient and will never give up their hope of having justice and being free. The many people we spoke with made it clear that the cause of the suffering of the Palestinian people is political, not humanitarian.

“We have the right to plan for our future, if even for one minute. It is a dream for us.”

“Everyone in the world wants to trust tomorrow, but you cannot trust tomorrow in Gaza.”

Gaza is an open air prison and I will work as hard as I can when I return to the United States to expose this truth and do whatever I can to work toward change. This is what the people in Gaza have been imploring our delegation to do.