Illinois faculty rejects efforts to suppress Palestinian freedom

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism
Grave implications for free speech, distracts from actual racism

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN. (INSTAGRAM)

OPEN LETTER, Mondoweiss, DECEMBER 23, 2020

As faculty and staff within the University of Illinois system, we are writing to renew our outrage at the rampant anti-Semitism and racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred and dehumanization.

We are also deeply concerned about the way anti-Semitism is defined in a joint statement issued by UIUC, the Jewish United Fund, Hillel groups, and the Brandeis Center in response to complaints that these avowedly pro-Israel groups filed against the University based on student speech and activism for Palestinian human rights.

Specifically, the statement identifies incidents “that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students…[or] subjects them to double standards” as expressions of anti-Semitism. This conflation of Jewish religious and ethnic identity with a viewpoint that supports the state of Israel or Zionism as a political ideology is a dangerous tactic that is expressly aimed at silencing any and all debate about Israel and Zionism on college campuses.

The way that anti-Semitism is defined in UIUC’s statement correlates with a definition that has been pushed by pro-Israel groups in legislatures, agencies, and institutions around the country and that was adopted by Donald Trump in an executive order issued in 2019. Those same groups have often funded Islamophobia across this country and have allied themselves with right wing organizations. The definition itself is uncontroversial, but it is accompanied by several illustrative examples intended to guide its interpretation and use. For instance, critiques of Israel as a racist state are treated as expressions of anti-Semitism. As the Brandeis Center has said explicitly in the complaint it filed against UIUC, the definition means that: “anti-Zionism is a contemporary form of anti-Semitism.”

The political project to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is harmful on several levels, and we urge the University of Illinois administration to reject this effort because of the grave implications it has for academic freedom and student free speech on our campuses, the way it distracts from actual racism happening on our campuses, and the ironic consequence of creating an anti-Palestinian/Arab/Muslim environment on campus by targeting students for expressing their experiences and views.

1) The harm to academic freedom and student speech

Whether or not one agrees with Israeli policy, anyone concerned about academic freedom should be gravely concerned about this definition because repressing the free exchange of ideas is antithetical to the purpose of campus life and the opportunity for students to learn how to engage with diverse viewpoints.

Part of the university experience means hearing ideas that may clash with your own, being challenged to consider different perspectives, and approaching issues with intellectual rigor. UIUC’s statement eviscerates this by demanding that students with a certain political viewpoint – that is, support for Israel – be shielded from opposing ones. That is impossible, and untenable. No one would expect the university to protect students from Myanmar from criticism of its treatment of Muslims, or supporters of South Africa’s apartheid regime from its critics. That’s because we do not conflate criticism of a country with hatred of people who are from or support that country’s policies. And we must not do that for Israel either. Neither Israel, nor any other country, can be shielded from criticism in a university setting, and people who support Israel – as with any other issue – must learn to contend with differing viewpoints.

We are especially concerned about the impact this definition will have upon academic freedom in the area of teaching and debate in our classrooms, as well as on our scholarship. This creates an environment of fear in our classroom, making even faculty worried about being attacked for scholarship they assign in their courses and lectures and research projects they pursue. At colleges and universities across the US, pro-Israel organizations have called on the US Department of Education to enforce this definition by silencing students, faculty, courses, and events expressing support for Palestinian freedom. It is particularly concerning to see the adoption of this definition by the UIUC administration, in light of Prof. Steven Salaita’s experience having a job offer withdrawn by UIUC for comments made on his personal social media and other experiences of harassment of faculty and graduate students at UIUC. Indeed, the University has at times been responsive to ensure that explicit Islamophobic comments are not tolerated by staff, especially those in key positions on campus. Yet these responses are not nearly enough. Anti-Muslim sentiment and practices are integral to today’s unleashing of white supremacy across the country. Students across various U of I campuses continue to raise grave concerns about the lack of administrative response to the ways Islamophobia impacts their lives and academic success and they continue to fear for their safety. In January 2020, UIUC extended an invitation to JUF to train staff of the housing department. And now, for example, the University is dismissive of student concerns.

If UIUC accepts that criticism of Zionism, or opposition to Israel’s establishment as a state in historic Palestine that privileges Jews over indigenous Palestinians, is the equivalent of anti-Semitism, the University will insert itself into the position of a political censor of classroom, scholarly and campus discourse. The First Amendment won’t allow that, and neither will faculty or students who are here to experience a diversity of thought and to think and associate freely.

We urge the UIUC administration to stand up against external pressure and put the mission of the university before the political interests of organizations external to the university. These groups cannot dictate the terms of our academic and extracurricular discourse.

We are at a critical point in the history of free speech and racial justice on U.S. college campuses. Will the University of Illinois administration commit to being consistent in its support of free speech and academic freedom around all issues of racial justice? Or will the University of Illinois adopt a strategy that ends up undermining racial and social justice work because external right-wing political groups insist on dictating the agenda and determining what is acceptable discourse on our campuses?

2) Actual racism on our campuses

Anyone truly committed to ending anti-Semitism should be equally concerned about UIUC’s statement, and its response to incidents on campus. Indeed, this definition prioritizes protecting Israel from critique over ending anti-Jewish animus, as its deployment against campus advocacy for Palestinian rights – including at UIUC – has vividly shown. To truly address anti-Semitism, we must work together to root out white supremacy from our communities and institutional structures.

Emboldened by four years of the Trump regime, white supremacists are publicly expressing hatred and regularly perpetrating acts of racist violence towards Jewish, Black, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Muslim, immigrant, LGBTQ, and gender non-conforming people. White supremacists are in various positions of power within the Trump administration and various reports have continued to record and document their influence in and out of the White House. These groups are fueling anti-Semitic incidents across the country.

Incidents of anti-Jewish hatred at UIUC, including swastikas on university buildings, reveal the danger of white supremacy on our campuses and in our society. We condemn these incidents in the strongest terms. At the same time, incidents of racism and bias continue to take place on campus; many carry the historical legacy of racism, such as noose hangings, and others manifest themselves at particular moments in response to our context, such as racial slurs related to COVID-19.  

Throughout the University of Illinois system, Jewish students, faculty, and staff are actively helping to build joint struggles against white supremacy. Jewish activists around the country are speaking up against injustices and building alliances to address all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab/anti-Muslim/anti-Palestinian racism, and Zionist support of Israeli settler-colonialism.

We expect our university administration to be able to distinguish political speech from hatred of a people, and to address racism in all its forms in a holistic way that takes into account the needs of our vulnerable and targeted students, not in a way that reinforces power dynamics and further oppresses groups.

3) A hostile climate for students

The definition that pro-Israel groups are insisting on will undermine the university’s effort to promote inclusion in the face of discrimination and hatred on campus. As we have seen when similar definitions have been adopted elsewhere, it will specifically silence and exclude Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students and anyone who speaks up for justice, democracy, and human rights for Palestinians living in the face of Israeli state violence.

It is unacceptable that students speaking about their experiences as Palestinians, and students organizing to get their campus to divest from human rights abuses and racial injustice, should face the barrage of harassment and condemnation that UIUC students have been subjected to. UIUC’s statement makes clear that their viewpoints and experiences are unwelcome because those who support Israel don’t approve.

We feel strongly that students should not have to fear investigations and attacks from the university for sharing their experiences and viewpoints. Nor should they be put in a position where other faculty, staff, students and online communities are emboldened to complain about, harass, intimidate, or threaten them with impunity.

Therefore, we call on the UIUC administration to reject the politicized and distorted definition of anti-Semitism pushed by pro-Israel groups and imposed by the Trump administration on executive agencies like the Department of Education. Criticism of Israel must not be conflated with expressions of white supremacy or anti-Semitism, and universities like UIUC have a constitutional obligation to protect speech for Palestinian rights from censorship and punishment.

We demand that the University of Illinois stand on the just side of history by standing up against external efforts to suppress academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas on our campuses. We ask that:

  • The University retracts its previous statement equating anti-Semitism with critique of Israel.
  • Create a U of I wide committee on Arab and Muslim affairs to ensure Islamophobia and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian incidents are swiftly addressed and provide trainings to various campus units.
  • Establish a Middle East and North Africa Cultural House at UIUC to act as a home and a support space for students and provide educational events to our campus community.

It is well established that students learn most when they are exposed to a variety of viewpoints and taught how to think critically and come to their own opinions. As co-signers, we stand with all of our students and everyone on our campuses to support their learning and growth, not to protect a few from ideas that challenge a state’s policies.

It is imperative that the University of Illinois live up to its mission, integrity, and values.

We stand united in opposition to hatred and discrimination against all communities.

We reject the effort to silence Palestinian narratives and criticism of Israel.

And we stand together in the struggle against white supremacy.

Signatories

  1. Nadine Naber, Professor, UIC
  2. Andy Clarno, Associate Professor, UIC
  3. Zeina Zaatari, Director, Arab American Cultural Center, UIC
  4. Sarah Abboud, Assistant Professor, UIC
  5. Mark Martell, Director, UIC
  6. A. Naomi Paik, Associate Professor, UIUC
  7. Anonymous, Assistant Professor, UIUC
  8. Lynette A. Jackson, Associate Professor, UIC
  9. Gayatri Reddy, Associate Professor, UIC
  10. Kat Fuenty, Staff, UIUC
  11. Anna Guevarra, Associate Professor, UIC
  12. Eman Saadah, Director of Less Commonly Taught Languages Program, UIUC
  13. Nicole Nguyen, Associate Professor, UIC
  14. Akemi Nishida, Faculty, UIC
  15. Ronak K. Kapadia, Associate Professor, UIC
  16. Junaid Rana, Associate Professor, UIUC
  17. Norma Claire Moruzzi, Associate Professor, UIC
  18. Kishonna L Gray, Assistant Professor, UIC
  19. Pauline Lipman, Professor, UIC
  20. Patrisia Macias-Rojas, Associate Professor, UIC
  21. Claire Decoteau, Associate Professor, UIC
  22. Helen Jun, Associate Professor, UIC
  23. Molly Doane, Associate Professor, UIC
  24. Gilberto Rosas, Associate Professor, UIUC
  25. Cedric Johnson, Associate Professor, UIC
  26. Faranak Miraftab, Professor, UIUC
  27. Zohreh T Sullivan, Professor Emerita, UIUC
  28. Ellen Moodie, Associate Professor, UIUC
  29. Rico Gutstein, Professor, UIC
  30. Kenneth M. Cuno, Professor, UIUC
  31. Amanda Lewis, Professor, UIC
  32. Elena Gutierrez, Associate Professor, UIC
  33. Laurie Schaffner, Associate Professor, UIC
  34. Lorena Garcia, Associate Professor, UIC
  35. Xóchitl Bada, Associate Professor, UIC
  36. Ralph E. Cintron, Professor, UIC
  37. Jennifer A Jones, Associate Professor, UIC
  38. Michael Jin, Assistant Professor, UIC
  39. Jane Rhodes, Professor, UIC
  40. Karen Su, Clinical Assistant Professor, UIC
  41. Alyson Kung, Assistant Director for Education and Outreach, UIC
  42. Junaid Quadri, Associate Professor, UIC
  43. David Stovall, Professor, UIC
  44. Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Associate Professor, UIC
  45. Rosa Cabrera, Director, UIC
  46. Nik Theodore, Professor, UIC
  47. Iván Arenas, Associate Director, UIC
  48. Ken Salo, Lecturer, UIUC
  49. Wail S. Hassan, Professor, UIUC
  50. Joe Iosbaker, Civil Service Employee, UIC
  51. Rachel Havrelock, Professor, UIC
  52. Bruce Rosenstock, Professor, UIUC
  53. P. Zitlali Morales, Associate Professor, UIC
  54. Johari Jabir, Faculty, UIC
  55. Susila Gurusami, Assistant Professor, UIC
  56. Barbara Ransby, Professor, UIC
  57. Madhu Dubey, Professor, UIC
  58. Beth E Richie, Professor, UIC
  59. Ainsworth Clarke, Associate Professor, UIC
  60. Chelsea Birchmier, Staff, UIUC
  61. Logan Middleton, Staff, UIUC
  62. Adam Goodman, Assistant Professor, UIC
  63. Sabrina Jamal-Eddine, Staff, UIC
  64. Kathryn J. Oberdeck, Associate Professor, UIUC
  65. Anonymous, Assistant Professor, UIC
  66. Cynthia Blair, Associate Professor, UIC

Students and other supporters

  1. Anonymous, student, UIC
  2. Hiba Ahmed, student, UIUC
  3. Anonymous , student, UIC
  4. Yuki Takauchi, Graduate Student, UIUC
  5. Jordan R Alcantar, Graduate Student, UIC
  6. Andrea Herrera, Alumni, UIUC
  7. Estibalitz Ezkerra, Alumni, UIUC
  8. Anonymous, Ally
  9. Aminta Zea, Community member, supporter
  10. Pauline Park, Alumni, UIUC
  11. Malak Afen, Student, UIC
  12.  Sara Rezvi, Doctoral Candidate, UIC

To add your signature fill out this form: https://forms.gle/t7mMi6M4wZ7r3i9u6 

Israeli Strikes on Gaza: 3 Civilians wounded and Buildings Damaged

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, December 27, 2020

Three Palestinian civilians, including a child, were wounded and many civilian buildings were damaged due to IOF air strikes in a densely populated area in Tuffah neighborhood, east of Gaza City.

According to investigations conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), at approximately 00:40 on Saturday, 26 December 2020, Israeli warplanes fired 5 missiles at an empty land near a residential compound on Salah al-Din Street, east of Tuffah neighborhood, east of Gaza City. As a result, 3 civilians, including a child, sustained wounds as the windows shattered. The wounded were: Yasmeen Mohammed Yehia al-Ashqar (6), Hani Mahdi Rasheed Hajjaj (55) and ‘Emad Khamis ‘Ali al-Haddad (32).

The IOF air strikes caused varying damage to many facilities and civilian objects -mostly shattered windows and displaced doors. The damaged establishments include al-Durra Children’s Hospital, a Ministry of Social Development rehabilitation center for persons with disabilities, Shuhada Gaza Elementary School, eastern Gaza Directorate of Education training center, al-Wedad Mosque, Al-Tuffah Club Stadium, and al-Yaziji Group Company for Soft Drinks. It should be noted that the eastern facade of Yaziji Group Company was destroyed, windows were broken, and its tin-plate roof collapsed.

Furthermore, Ramlawi Plastic Company, al-Sawaferi carpentry, Omar al-Shendi’s spare parts shop, the electricity network and many houses sustained severe damage due to the intensive aerial strikes.

The IOF air strikes not only caused material damage, but also caused fear and panic among the civilian residents, especially women and children.

PCHR emphasizes that the continued Israeli attacks on populated residential areas and the use of weapons on the basis of collective reprisals constitute grave violations of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, amounting to war crimes.

PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop Israel’s crimes and reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the oPt.

December 11, 2020
MRSCP END OF YEAR APPEAL

As 2020 comes to a close, we are writing to ask for your end-of-year contribution to two great efforts: one for Rafah and the other right here in Dane County.

RAFAH

The economic situation in the Gaza Strip was already terrible due to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Lockdowns, curfews and other measures taken to combat COVID-19, while initially slowing the spread of the virus, ultimately worsened the situation. COVID-19 is rapidly spreading and more than 70% of the population is now reported below the poverty line.

MRSCP is therefore partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide some of the poorest families in Rafah with fresh, nutritious food parcels. Each family will receive a food parcel with essentials like rice, beans, and lentils as well as fresh local produce and poultry. We are excited about this project because an estimated 20 small farmers and cooperative members will also benefit from providing the produce and locally-made packaged goods such as jam and maftool.

$40 provides one family with a 2-3 week supply of this food. Priority will be given to poor families that have disabled individuals or those with chronic diseases, and to female-headed households. More information on this project including a video and a description of the food parcel contents and selection criteria can be found at our website.

Donate directly online:


DANE COUNTY

Here in Dane County, besides straining our healthcare system, the COVID-19 crisis has swelled the ranks of the unemployed and working poor. Children may have lost access to school-provided meals. So this year, we are also asking you to support The River Food Pantry.

The River Food Pantry is Dane County’s busiest, offering free groceries, meals and mobile lunches to anyone who comes for help. Located in a warehouse on the north side, The River is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods and subsidized senior housing—exactly where they are needed the most. They provide a mobile lunch program for children and teens and distribute nutritious packed lunches in the neighborhoods on non-school days.

The River also provides a warm and welcoming family atmosphere where everyone is treated with respect, encouraged to find needed support, and given chances to share what they can with others. Serving over 1,000 Dane County families per week, The River handles over 50,000 pounds of food per week or about 2.7 million pounds each year. Over $1 million worth of clothing, furniture & household items are also distributed annually.

You can donate directly online at:


If you prefer to mail a check for either project, please see the addresses below. Mailed checks go 100% to the projects; online donations charge a small transaction fee. All contributions are tax deductible.

As always, we thank you for your support, and we wish you and your family health and good fortune in the New Year.

USPS MAIL DONATION ADDRESSES

    Rafah Food Parcels Project
    c/o MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

    (Make checks payable to MRSCP with “Food” in the memo line)

    The River Food Pantry
    2201 Darwin Road
    Madison, WI 53704

    (Make checks payable to The River Food Pantry)

Racism in Policing in the US

BLACK LIVES MATTER RESOURCES

MRSCP supports the Black Lives Matter movement, both because of its inherent demand for justice and also because of the similarities between how the U.S. treats its citizens of color and how Israel treats Palestinians whether they are citizens of Israel, residents of Gaza and the West Bank, or refugees in the Palestinian diaspora.

We see shocking and undemocratic parallels of civilian populations being coerced and controlled by a system in which by intention or default they have little or no representation or power.

This parallel is particularly stark when it comes to the issue of policing, mass incarceration and population control.

So we want to pass on to you this set of resources for understanding the call for radical reforms of the justice and policing system in this country,

In particular, we hope you will check out this slideshow of infographics on visualizing racial disparities in this system.

Biden needs to reverse Pompeo on Israel/Palestine


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make a joint statement after meeting in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool)

Tsela Barr and Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, The Cap Times, Dec 4, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in another lame-duck effort to tie the hands of the incoming administration and give a parting gift to the far right in Israel and to right-wing Christian Evangelicals at home, has just poured kerosene on the fire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The most senior U.S. official ever to publicly visit an Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, Pompeo proclaimed that settlement-produced goods imported to the U.S. will no longer be labeled as they had previously been, “made in West Bank/Gaza.” Instead, they can now be labeled “made in Israel,” despite the fact that neither U.S. law, nor the United Nations, recognizes Israel’s de facto annexation of large swaths of Palestinian territory.

Trump and Pompeo hope to drive one more nail in the coffin of long-standing official U.S. policy, which, while not sufficiently supportive of the aspirations of the Palestinians for legitimate self-governance on their own land, at least until now has held the settlement enterprise to be illegal, illegitimate, counterproductive to the cause of regional peace and stability, and even damaging to Israel’s own interests.

But there is an even more dangerous part of Pompeo’s pronouncements: that henceforth, the U.S. will officially label the international grassroots movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as anti-Semitic and will create what amounts to a blacklist of organizations that support it.

The BDS movement is an international effort by millions of people to try to pressure the Israeli government to respect the human, political and economic rights of Palestinians. It is inspired by a similar movement that targeted and helped overthrow apartheid rule in South Africa.

While, as American Jews, we have serious concerns about rising anti-Semitism, which is traditionally defined as hostility to, prejudice toward, or discrimination against Jews, we are united in opposition to labeling BDS (or other criticism of Israeli policies), as anti-Semitic and even worse, to using the power of governments at all levels to outlaw or punish the BDS movement.

Labelling BDS and other criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic is a cynical move to suppress speech and action critical of Israeli violations of human rights. This is plainly and simply wrong, and indeed dangerous. What happens when actual anti-Semitism does take place? Will it be taken seriously when politicians make up their own contemptuous definitions of genuine hatred of our people?

In 2018, we worked together to try to stop such an effort right here in Wisconsin, where both then-Gov. Walker and the majority of the Wisconsin Legislature — from both parties — succeeded in writing unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation into law.

All who believe in free speech and the right to press governments to end injustices must speak out against yet another authoritarian move from this lame-duck administration. We call upon the incoming Biden administration to firmly reject Trump and Pompeo’s Israel/Palestine policy, including the dangerous BDS-as-anti-Semitism falsehood.

While Pompeo’s last-ditch efforts may make finding a just solution for the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict more difficult for President-elect Biden, they don’t make it any less necessary.

Tsela Barr is a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison Chapter. Jeff Spitzer-Resnick is past-president of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim.

Update: December 3, 2020 Rep. Mark Pocan Virtual Town Hall on Palestine

Please thank Rep. Pocan for participating in the town hall and for being a champion for Palestinian rights. His DC office line is (202) 225-2906.

The town hall was an amazing event that you don’t want to miss. The situation for Palestinians is so dire in so many ways, and hearing their stories directly should spur us all to action.

It’s not easy for Members of Congress to take a principled position on Palestinian rights, but Congressman Pocan has been on the frontlines despite the risks and pushback. In his town hall speech, he lists some of the amazing initiatives he’s led or participated in on Capitol Hill related to Palestinian rights just this year, and the list is admirable. Please take a minute to call his office and show appreciation for all he’s done.

Thanks for your activism,

Raed Jarrar
Advocacy Director, American Muslims for Palestine

Rep. Mark Pocan will be holding a virtual town hall this Thursday, December 3 at 9:30 am CT on Palestine, covering the impact of COVID-19 in Gaza and demolitions in the West Bank.

Co-organized by American Muslims for Palestine and the Rebuilding Alliance, the town hall features these on-the-ground speakers:

  • Eid Abu Khamis Jahalin, a community leader for his village of Khan Al Ahmar.
  • Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, an architect and urban planner who leads Bimkom’s activities in the West Bank.
  • Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei, Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.
  • Dr. Ahmed Mhanna, General Director Of Al Awda Hospital.

Please consider attending, and thank Rep. Pocan for his outstanding leadership on Palestine.

Palestine Partners and Women in Hebron


Dear Friends,

Last year at this time my friend Laila was visiting the US, bringing the fabulously beautiful hand embroidered work of Women in Hebron to Fair Trade holiday craft shows and church basements and the homes of friends.

Laila can’t travel here from Palestine now, and the cooperative can no longer sell their work to tourists in the Old City of Hebron, because there are no tourists in the Holy Land. Their shop in the souk, the first to be operated by women, is shuttered and dark along with all the rest.

This video tells the history of Women in Hebron Fair Trade Co-op since their founding in 2005.

But now you can support Women in Hebron from home by shopping at their new online store at Palestine Partners, and I really hope that you’ll join me in doing just that this holiday season. You’ll find find beautiful one-of-a kind hand made tree ornaments, bags, purses, pillow covers, placemats, backpacks, and more there, all decorated with stunning Palestinian embroidery. And best of all, buying these products will make a huge positive difference in the lives of the women who make them.

Shop now at Women in Hebron’s Online Store

Laila worked so hard on last year’s trip here. She kept a schedule that would put most people on the couch for weeks – traveling back and forth across the US on trains and busses, with two huge duffle bags and a backpack filed with gloriously colored hand embroidered ornaments and scarves and placemats and pillow covers and coin purses and bags – and even small cats wearing tiny traditional Palestinian Kuffiyas. She has a huge heart, and an unbelievably strong spirit, and I have never known her to complain, but she recently told me that the impact of COVID has turned the clock back 20 years for the women she works with.

For many of these women the co-operative presented the very first chance to independently earn a living and care for themselves and their families through their own labor in a just and supportive cooperative setting. Now with COVID, the loss of sales has been devastating. Beautiful products are waiting on shelves, and the cooperative is unable to purchase additional materials, or pay women for the creation of new products, until they are able to sell the inventory.

So I’m asking you now, please, shop at their online store. These women need to work.

Thanks and love.

Shop now at Women in Hebron’s Online Store

Pompeo Labels BDS Antisemitic, Threatens Blacklist

This week Pompeo broke with longstanding U.S. policy and visited illegal Israeli settlements. On his trip, he made several announcements, including that the State Department is designating BDS as antisemitic and calling for the U.S. Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism to create what is essentially a blacklist of organizations that support BDS. We will have more on this soon, but for now:

  • Please share the JVP Action statement condemning this widely (this is compliant to share on chapter lists and chapter social media). You can also re-share our petition to the State Department on this issue.
  • Here are other statements you can check out and lift up:
  • Amnesty International, 19 November 2020

    State Department’s attack on the BDS movement violates freedom of expression and endangers human rights protection

    Responding to the United States Department of State announcement designating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as antisemitic and planning to identify organizations supporting BDS with a view to reviewing and halting their funding, Bob Goodfellow, the Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, issued the below statement:

    “The Department of State’s targeting of groups advocating for using peaceful means, such as boycotts, to end human rights violations against Palestinians as antisemitic violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world. This is simply the latest attack from a US government determined to undermine the universality of human rights and the global fight against racism and discrimination, including antisemitism.

    The Department of State’s targeting of groups advocating for using peaceful means, such as boycotts, to end human rights violations against Palestinians as antisemitic violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world.
    Bob Goodfellow

    “Advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of non-violent advocacy and of free expression that must be protected. Advocates of boycotts should be allowed to express their views freely and take forward their campaigns without harassment, threats of prosecution or criminalization, or other measures that violate the right to freedom of expression. Instead of attacking and restricting BDS activities the US should end such measures and instead ensure that BDS advocates are free to express their views and take forward their campaigns without harassment or threats of prosecution.”

    “The US administration is following Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically motivated accusations of antisemitism to harm peaceful activists, including human rights defenders, and shield from accountability those responsible for illegal actions that harm people in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and here at home. The process comes across as particularly hypocritical and deceitful coming from an administration that has emboldened neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other groups who advocate violence and discrimination, shown a callous disregard for international law, and favored Israeli policies that result in institutionalized discrimination and systematic human rights violations against millions of Palestinians.

    The US administration is following Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically motivated accusations of antisemitism to harm peaceful activists, including human rights defenders, and shield from accountability those responsible for illegal actions that harm people in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and here at home.
    Bob Goodfellow

    “This process also hurts Jewish people by equating Israel with Judaism and likening criticism of Israeli government policies and practices to antisemitism. It undermines our work in the Middle East and other regions to protect the rights of religious and other minorities.

    “We will continue to support our Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, including BDS activists, who like human rights defenders around the world, speak up when justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.”

    Read more:

    Pompeo announcement on Israeli settlements places occupied Palestinians at increased risk (November 18, 2019)

    Criticism of Israeli Government’s Policies are Free Speech, Not Antisemitism (August 15, 2019)

    This statement is available at: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/statedepartmentantisemiticprocess/

    Landmark Endorsement of Rep. Joaquin Castro for House Chair

    Over 50 progressive organizations endorse Rep. Joaquin Castro for Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC). At the end of November, Democratic House members will vote on who takes leadership of this important committee. HFAC makes decisions on arms control and disarmament issues, international funding and aid, deployment and use of armed forces, drug policy, international sanctions, and global health issues, such as COVID.

    Rep. Castro represents the kind of leadership we need to build a foreign policy that reflects the growing progressive calls for diplomacy, support of human rights, and justice. We welcome Rep. Castro’s commitment to ensuring that Palestinian voices are heard in the Committee and his recent statements pushing for accountability on Israel for violations of international law.
    Adalah Justice Project

    https:::3ba8a190-62da-4c98-86d2-893079d87083.usrfiles.com:ugd:3ba8a1_3668d70d0ea94288bd085814b38b85c8

    Urgent news from Sheikh Jarrah

    November 13, 2020

    I’m writing with some urgent news from East Jerusalem that hits very close to home – we’ve just received word that new eviction orders have been issued to four families in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and they may be forcibly removed as early as Saturday.

    Sadly, this is a story we’re intimately familiar with. Sheikh Jarrah was home to Just Vision’s first office and we witnessed the devastating takeover of the neighborhood by right-wing settlers, backed by the Israeli courts and police, over the course of years. The experience of this Palestinian community was chronicled in our 2012 short documentary, My Neighbourhood, and the El-Kurd family – whose teenage son Mohammed sat at the heart of the film – is one of the four who may find themselves homeless in the midst of a pandemic in just a few short days.

    Mohammed is watching the heart-breaking developments from his apartment in New York, unable to get home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and is asking that we share this story far and wide. You can read his personal appeal – which has more context – below.

    While the cases in Sheikh Jarrah are thinly veiled as a legal matter, the political motivations are clear. This latest round of evictions is part of a broader attempt by the Israeli state to forcibly displace Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The process is methodical and impacts thousands of lives on a daily basis. In the past month alone, Israel hid under the US election media frenzy to undertake the largest demolition of Palestinian homes and structures in a decade, and just yesterday, announced a new settlement, Givat Hamatos, that would effectively cut East Jerusalem off from Bethlehem.

    This all happens under the United States’ watch – subsequent US administrations have done little to hold the Israeli government to account, and the latest administration has given a carte-blanche for unjust activity like this.

    Israeli courts could determine the fate of the El-Kurd family, and several others, in a matter of days. And while the families are appealing the decision, their chances of success are extremely low.

    With the courts and police working in lockstep with Israeli settler organizations, Sheikh Jarrah is calling on those in the international community who are concerned about what’s happening to help raise visibility and apply pressure to halt the evictions. Will you share this widely with your networks?

    Thank you, and if you have suggestions of ways to amplify this story, please be in touch.

    With determination,

    Suhad Babaa
    Executive Director, Just Vision


    From: Mohammed El-Kurd
    Subject: Critical Update from Sheikh Jarrah
    Date: November 13, 2020 at 2:58:46 PM EST

    Hello friends,

    I’m reaching out because my family’s home in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, is facing the imminent danger of forced, legally baseless eviction by the Israeli government and settler organizations, alongside 11 other families.

    On the 22nd of October, the Israeli magistrate court ruled to evict four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah—Jaouni, Iskafi, al-Qasim, and my own. The Israeli court also ruled that each family must pay 70,000 shekels in fines and fees to cover the Israeli settlers’ legal expenses. This ruling means that on November 21st, we will lose our homes. Our lives hang in the balance as the Israeli courts determine whether they will hear our appeal.

    The Israeli court has continually refused to discuss the land ownership or interrogate the validity of the settler organizations’ claims on a legal technicality. As a result, the court has disregarded documents demonstrating Palestinian ownership of the land, which pre-date those provided by the settler organizations. The likelihood that our appeal will change the current outcome is extremely low.

    As some of you may already know, Israeli settlers—backed by Israeli courts and police—have been relentless in stealing our homes in Sheikh Jarrah for decades. Sheikh Jarrah was built in 1956 by UNRWA and Jordanian government after families like mine were made refugees in the Nakba. In 2009, the homes of Ghawi and Hannoun families, as well as half of my home, were taken by settlers under the protection of the Israeli military and police. Today, a total of 12 out of the remaining 24 Palestinian families who live in Sheikh Jarrah are on the brink of homelessness (87 persons, including 30 children).

    I’ve been on the phone with my parents a few times since I heard the news. Their response is like that of tens of thousands of Palestinians facing dispossession: we won’t leave. But this resilience isn’t enough to keep their roofs over their heads. We must act fast.

    As we know, the Israeli judicial system is created by and for Israeli settlers that benefit endlessly from Israel’s settler-colonial regime. Our lawyers are doing the best they can, but the courts are stacked against us despite our historical ties to the land.

    In my brief twenty-two years, I have seen Palestine dwindle in size and spirit: countless families displaced, homes demolished, and entire communities reduced to nothing. This cannot be the fate of Sheikh Jarrah.

    That is why I am asking you to help ensure that my community is not erased in silence. For those of you who are well-connected with journalists, editors, and other people of influence, I ask that you share this information to spotlight this urgent situation. I’m happy to provide data and background information on Sheikh Jarrah and answer questions or be connected with media outlets.

    We are witnessing Israel wipe out all Palestinian presence from Jerusalem in real-time. We must not stand by quietly.

    Sincerely,
    Mohammed El-Kurd

    Madison’s Virtual Fair Trade Holiday Festival is Open!

    Our online store, Madison-Rafah Marketplace, has added crafts to our olive oil sales. We offer ceramics, embroidery, jewelry, kufiyas, woodcrafts, and calendars.

    For the month of November make this your one-stop shopping for holiday gift giving. Spend your money on products that support your values. Give gifts that give twice, once to the producer and once to your recipient.

    Since 2004 the Madison-Rafah Crafts Committee has worked with fair trade organizations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to purchase mostly traditional crafts. We buy them at fair trade prices, helping the artists support their families and the economy of Palestine.

    We hope you will be able to participate in this annual event. As always, thank you for your support.



    Browse other participating Fair Trade vendors!
    You can also follow the Festival on Facebook.

    Israel Sends Maher al-Akhras to Death

    Ref: 115/2020, 02 November 2020

    The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights follows with grave concern the deteriorating health condition of Maher al-Akhras, as he enters the 99th consecutive day of his open hunger strike in protest to his administrative detention by the Israeli occupation authorities without charge or trial.

    PCHR holds the Israeli occupation fully responsible for al-Akhras’ life and stresses that his continued detention is effectively a death sentence, with the collaboration of the Supreme Court of Israel which has, to date, refused four petitions for his release.

    PCHR reiterates that al-Akhras was forced to practice his right to go on hunger strike in rejection to the injustice practiced against him, and because he was stripped of all means to access justice within the Israeli authorities, except his own flesh to receive his right to a free and fair trial. Hence, PCHR expresses its concern for the suspicious international silence over al-Akhras’ continued detention, particularly by the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

    Al-Akhras was arrested on 27 July 2020, and immediately decided to go on an open hunger strike in objection to his administrative detention. He was transferred to Kaplan Medical Center in Israel on 23 September 2020, due to his critically deteriorating health as he began to lose consciousness and develop serious complications. The Israeli occupation offered him demeaning compromises, but he refused them all maintaining his position, “Either freedom or martyrdom.” In the past few days, al-Akhras’ condition got more complicated as he suffers seizures, and severe aches across his body, blurry vision and a severe headache.

    On 27 October 2020, the Supreme Court of Israel refused al-Akhras’ lawyer’s latest petition for his release and transfer for treatment at a Palestinian hospital in the West Bank. The Court had previously refused petitions for al-Akhras’ release, the first of which was on 23 September 2020, the second was on 01 October 2020, and they were both denied for trivial reasons. On 12 October 2020, the Court refused the petition, adding conditions for the non-renewal of al-Akhras’ administrative detention. This was a crucially serious precedent, which set the automatic renewal of administrative decisions as the norm, as the Court decision stated that: “We suggested that the current administrative detention order be effective from 27 July 2020 – 26 November 2020 without renewal, provided that the petitioner immediately ends his hunger strike, unless new information on the expected danger of the petitioner is presented, or if changes occur in a manner that intensifies the threat of releasing the petitioner.”

    Administrative detention is practiced by the Israeli occupation authorities under Article (273) of Military Order No. 1651. According to the Military Order, which is based on the 1945 British Mandate-era Emergency Regulations, occupation authorities may arrest whoever they want without charge or trial. The detention is based on information provided by an Israeli intelligence officer in the area, and it is not disclosed in the court, nor is it given to the detainee or their lawyer under pretext that is it confidential. The Israeli Military Judge is the only person who can view this information. Consequently, the defendant is effectively denied their right to defense, since there is no charge to refute, and the lawyer cannot provide counter arguments.

    PCHR notes here that it has sent an urgent appeal to Mr. Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; and Prof. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and Mr. José Guevara Bermúdez, Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to demand their immediate and urgent intervention for al-Akhras’ release.

    PCHR expresses its grave concern over the continued administrative detention of al-Akhras and the suspicious international silence and holds Israel fully responsible for his life and safety. PCHR reiterates that the Israeli occupation’s policy and systematic disregard for international law shall only reap shame, whether with its continued adoption of the administrative detention policy or for al-Akhras’ particular case, especially under wide international condemnation for his continued detention by the majority of United Nations and international organizations.

    PCHR condemns the Israeli authorities’ continued detention of al-Akhras despite his frail health and recalls its call upon the international community and the free people of the world and all UN human rights bodies and mechanisms to work for the immediate release of Palestinian detainee, Maher al-Akhras.

    Lastly, PCHR calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to end the use of administrative detention and abolish it from its legislations and to release all administrative detainees in Israeli prisons.