Samira Remedial Education


Barb Olson, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, March 9, 2018

For the third time, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice to fund the Samira Remedial Education Project in Rafah. Organized by the Rafah branch of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), this project employs special education teachers and a social worker to provide psycho-social support to 180 economically disadvantaged and learning-disabled children age six to twelve and their families.

The Gaza Strip, turned by Israel’s siege into the world’s largest open-air prison, is already one of the poorest and most crowded places on earth. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Sanitation, water and electrical services barely function. Public services are weak and underfunded, especially those serving mainly women and children. The recent US cuts to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) threaten to turn crisis into catastrophe. Three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are refugees dependent on the schools, hospitals and food distributions of UNRWA just to survive. In addition, Gaza is subjected to frequent Israeli military land and sea attacks and has not recovered from the last decade’s three full-scale bombardments and invasions. Every one of the close to 1 million children in Gaza knows someone who was killed, injured or made homeless.

Gaza Community Mental Health Program

Children have been affected more than others because every aspect of their lives, especially the education system, has been repeatedly disrupted if not destroyed. Psychologically, the negative impact on children is enormous: nightmares, racing thoughts, nail-biting, panic attacks, uncontrolled urination, violent behavior and hyperactivity are common symptoms. It is estimated that at least 30 percent of all children in Gaza are so severely affected that they require some form of structured psycho-social intervention.

For the past couple of years, the Samira Remedial Education Project has been successfully intervening to develop the children’s skills and increase their ability to learn (especially reading, writing and mathematics); to support them psychologically and socially and rebuild their confidence; to implement scientific solutions to learning disabilities and reduce violent and disruptive behavior; to train families to better support their children; and to create job opportunities for qualified professionals in this field. Field trips, a children’s library and activities such as theater, music, art and reading help the staff to understand the children and create a space for the children to express their feelings.

The total cost of this project for the current phase is $14,049. The Rachel Corrie Foundation has pledged $2,000, MRSCP will contribute $2,500 and aims to raise at least $5,500 more by June, 2018 so that the project can be fully funded by MECA. We need your help to meet this goal! Please make checks payable to MRSCP with the note “Samira”, and mail to:

    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

If you prefer to donate on line, you can do so through the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and all donations are tax deductible. Checks to MRSCP will receive a letter at the end of the year acknowledging your contribution. Contributions made online will receive a receipt from MECA.

Students for Justice in Palestine call for Univ. of California to divest!

Anna Baltzer, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 14 March 2018

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) just launched a groundbreaking campaign, calling for the entire University of California (UC) system to divest from Israeli apartheid! Today, SJP students are showing up, uninvited, to the UC Regents Board meeting in Los Angeles to announce the new statewide #UCDivest campaign.

The students are taking this step because, despite student bodies passing resolutions at nearly every school across the UC system calling for the withdrawal of university investments from corporations profiting from Israeli apartheid, administrators have refused to act. The UC Student-Workers Union UAW Local 2865, representing 17,000 teaching assistants, readers, research assistants, and tutors, also voted to support divestment. This campaign pushes UC administrators to implement the principled change that students and workers are standing behind.

Student campaigns like #UCDivest have resulted in more than 35 campuses across the USpassing student council divestment resolutions. These divestment campaigns are an effort to heed the Palestinian call for institutions around the world to stop profiting from the abuses of Palestinian rights, and the resolutions passed call for universities to withdraw investments from corporations complicit in Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime.

The SJP students have justice on their side, but they are up against entrenched institutions and big money. They need you, and allies everywhere, to show support for #UCDivest:

1. Follow UC Divest on social media, and share their campaign announcement and other postings widely throughout the day. Follow them on Facebook at UC Divest; on Twitter at @UCDivest; and on Instagram at ucdivest.

2. Show UC SJPs that you stand with them! Share a photo and message of solidarity using #UCDivest.

3. Tweet messages of solidarity, using #UCDivest. Here are some sample tweets:

Click to tweet: Universities shouldn’t invest in corporations complicit in Israeli occupation and apartheid. UC Regents, do the right thing and divest! #UCDivest

Click to tweet: Why is the University of California school system profiting from abuses of Palestinian rights? UC Regents, now is the time to divest! #UCDivest

Click to tweet: Using tax and tuition dollars to profit off the oppression of Palestinians is NOT OK. UC Regents, stand on the side of justice and divest from corporations complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses! #UCDivest

Click to tweet: Students across the University of California system have spoken. It’s time for UC to stand on the right side of history and divest from Israeli occupation and apartheid. #UCDivest

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A Bogus ‘Compromise’ Senate Bill Would Prolong Atrocities in Yemen

The Nation

The Young/Shaheen measure would allow continued US participation in Saudi war crimes. Support the Sanders/Lee/Murphy bill instead.

Mark Weisbrot, The Nation, March 13, 2018

Yemen airstrikePeople carry water tanks at the site of a Saudi-led air strike, north of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, March 8, 2018. (Reuters / Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

Sometimes the most important stories about what our government is doing don’t get a lot of media attention. That’s the case now, when the Senate is about to hold a historic vote that could decide whether millions of people live or die in the near future. The US military is directly participating in a war that has pushed those millions to the brink of starvation and caused the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.

The war is in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia is leading the bombing and blockade that is denying people medicine and food as well as the fuel and infrastructure they need to pump clean water. The deprivation and destruction led to the cholera epidemic, which has sickened a million people and killed thousands. American military planes are not only providing midair refueling to the Saudi bombers but helping them with intelligence and targeting.

This constitutes military involvement under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, as well as Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, neither of which allows the executive branch to engage in such hostilities without the authorization of Congress. Any doubts about the constitutionality of US participation in the Saudi attempt to “starve Yemen into submission,” as a November New York Times editorial-board headline described it, were put to rest by a vote in the House of Representatives in November. The House voted 366 to 30 for a resolution that declared US military involvement to be unauthorized.

It is therefore illegal under US law. On February 28, Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced a bill to put an end to this illegal war. Under the War Powers Resolution, the Senate majority leaders cannot block a debate and vote on this legislation. And a number of experts believe it could pass; for one thing, the last vote in the Senate on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in June, passed by a margin of only 53-47.

But the Saudis have a powerful lobby: They spent $16 million last year on lobbying and public relations that was recorded under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This does not include other spending, such as contributions to think tanks (and that of their allies such as the United Arab Emirates). And along with the Saudis are the big military contractors that profit from these weapons sales.

On the other side, members of Congress, as well as antiwar and other public-interest groups have mounted an offensive of their own to publicize the horrors, illegality, and targeting of civilians in this war. (People can call their senators at 1-833-786-7927, with helpful talking points supplied here; and thousands have done so.)

On March 8, Republican Senator Todd Young and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced a new bill that poses a grave threat to this historic effort to stop the war. The bill would require the secretary of state to submit certification to determine “whether the Government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking: (1) an urgent and good faith effort to conduct diplomatic negotiations to end the civil war in Yemen; and (2) appropriate measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

Of course, the secretary of state could simply make this certification. We have seen this trick many times. In the 1980s in El Salvador, where the US-funded government sponsored death squads that were murdering civilians by the thousands, Congress passed a law saying that the president had to certify every six months that the Salvadoran government was improving its human-rights record. President Reagan did this, and the murders and other horrific atrocities, aided by US tax dollars, continued.

We can expect the same result going forward if the Young-Shaheen bill is passed. Most recently, the Trump administration has followed that same pattern in Central America: Just two days after the Honduran government was widely seen as stealing the presidential election, and despite worsening human-rights abuses, the administration certified that the government was combating corruption and supporting human rights.

Antiwar and humanitarian groups are trying to get Senators Young and Shaheen to withdraw their “compromise” bill. This is very important, because even if the Sanders-Lee bill is voted on separately—or even first—the presence of the “compromise” bill will tempt those who want the US military to continue its participation in the Saudi war to use that bill for political cover. Senator Young had been previously lauded by aid groups for his efforts to persuade the Saudis to ease their blockade on food and medicine. But these groups, as well as many other observers, will see this latest move as having the opposite effect, by helping to prolong the war. Continue reading

April 8, 2018
Radiance of Resistance: A Madison tribute to Rachel Corrie

Please join us for our Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration and Benefit

    Sunday, April 8
    St. James Church
    1128 St. James Court
    Madison 2-5 pm

2018 marks 15 years since MRSCP was founded, and 15 years since Rachel Corrie was killed by Israeli soldiers in Rafah, where she was deliberately run over by a Caterpillar® bulldozer as she protested the demolition of a family home. Each year between March 16, the day of Rachel’s killing, and April 10, Rachel’s birthday, MRSCP celebrates her life with an event that benefits Palestinian children.

This year’s program will feature a visit by Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s parents, and a presentation by Palestinian and U.S. representatives of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the group that Rachel was volunteering with when she went to Rafah. The event also includes a clip from from the new film, Radiance of Resistance about Palestinian youth activists Ahed Tamimi and Janna Ayyad.

Interfaith Peace-Builders Delegation, Gaza, November 2012

Refreshments including baklawa, hummus and tabbouleh will be served, and the ever-popular DOOR PRIZES will be awarded. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, zaatar & maftool, embroidery and other crafts will be available for purchase.

The event is free and open to the public, with a $5 suggested donation to cover the cost of food. Donations will be gratefully accepted to help support the Samira Remedial Education Project for disadvantaged and traumatized children in Rafah, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, and the ISM tour.

Please RSVP to rafahsistercity at so that we are sure to have enough food.

Can’t make it to the event? Consider a donation to the Samira Project in Rachel’s name. You can mail a check with the note “Samira” to

    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

You can donate online through the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and all donations are tax deductible. Checks to MRSCP will receive a letter at the end of the year acknowledging your contribution. Contributions made online will receive a receipt from MECA.

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One woman tackles two of Gaza’s toughest challenges

We Are Not Numbers, February 23, 2018

A Gaza man with a SunBox

Two of the Gaza Strip’s most pressing challenges are a blockade-induced shortage of both electricity and building materials. And, in this conservative, patriarchal society, it’s a young, female engineer who is tackling both.

Twenty-four-year-old Majd al-Mashharawi, a 2016 graduate in civil engineering, first figured out how to turn ash and rubble—of which Gaza has a lot—into a material she calls “Green Cake” that can replace cement. Now, she is turning her attention to renewable energy technologies, starting with a solar kit named SunBox. Now in the piloting phase, SunBox is, she says, the first off-the-grid solar kit in Gaza.

“Gaza has an extreme shortage of electricity—receiving just three to six hours a day. But the entire Middle East suffers from a lack of sufficient electricity,” Mashharawi says. “This severely affects both quality of life and opportunity for economic growth. But the region has a resource that can be harnessed—an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an ideal source of electricity production.”

Mashharawi researched solar options in use in Africa and India, where electricity outages also are common. However, she ended up turning to China for the most applicable solution. Her SunBox product is a small solar energy collection kit she imports, modifies to accommodate local electrical outlets and voltage and sells for US$355—a price her market research shows is affordable to most households. (She hopes to partner with microfinance businesses for those families who need to pay in installments.) The kit generates 1,000 watts of electricity—enough to power four lamps, two laptops, two phones, an internet router and a TV/fan/small refrigerator for a full day, before needing a “refresh” (using either the sun or the electrical grid, when available).

Mashharawi (far right) using a SunBox to power a light and laptop

If the Gaza launch goes well, Mashharawi is already dreaming of expanding into other markets—West Bank refugee camps, Syrians in Jordan and off-grid Bedouin communities throughout the Middle East (perhaps the largest of the populations, at an estimated 3.2 million).

Early inspiration

Mashharawi attributes her entrepreneurial spirit to her 11th grade math teacher.

"He forced us to find a way to solve math assignments on our own—rather than simply memorizing the formulas. It was the first and most difficult challenge of my life," she recalls.

This led Mashharawi to spend her entire, three-month summer holiday figuring out the "why" behind the answers so she could compile a booklet to distribute to other students. Mashharawi considers this her first startup.

“I didn't know how to change it into a business, however,” she laughs. “I was young and unaware of how businesses work.”

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