Gaza’s Kids Need Your Help

Rafah Children in the Samira Project at the Rachel Corrie Memorial Library. (Photo: Jeff Bright)

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The Gaza Strip, one of the poorest and most densely populated places on earth, has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison. For nearly eleven years it has been tightly sealed off by the Israeli/Egyptian siege, which drastically restricts human travel as well as imports and exports. As a result at least 80% of the people live under the poverty line. Unemployment is around 43% while youth unemployment is over 60%. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Public services have been weakened more and more, especially psycho-social support and other programs serving mainly women and children. This situation has been made even worse by the continuing conflict between Fatah and Hamas, which means that public employees like teachers often go unpaid.

On top of this policy of imprisonment and siege, the people of Gaza are subjected to frequent Israeli military land and sea attacks, which sometimes turn into full-scale assaults and invasions. In 2014, your US tax dollars helped pay for a 50 day Israeli bombardment of Gaza that killed hundreds of children and severely injured thousands more. Entire families were wiped out, and every child in Gaza knows someone who was killed, injured or made homeless or destitute. The UN estimates that as a result, the number of repeatedly and severely traumatized Gaza children who need psychological support and healing is in the hundreds of thousands.

We’re so excited!

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Film: Gaza in Context

Arab Studies Institute

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 The Full 20-Minute Narrative
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“I did not think it was possible to examine in 20 minutes what Gaza in Context  does with such compelling clarity: Israeli policies toward Gaza and Palestine, which are inseparable; the core problems affecting Gaza and the deliberateness of the policies that have led to Gaza’s disablement; Gaza’s centrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and some common myths surrounding Gaza and the history of the conflict overall, which are straightforwardly debunked.
An immensely valuable teaching tool, the film’s power also lies in its fundamental humanity, a heartfelt entreaty to end the oppression and violence so that all people in this tortured part of the world may aspire to a future in which their children can flourish.–Dr. Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University 

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Oscars Celebrities #SkipTheTrip to Israel!

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Ramah Kudaimi, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 22 Feb 2017

With the Academy Awards fast approaching this Sunday, it’s been a full year since Israel offered all-expenses-paid trips to 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock and 25 top nominees including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Mark Rylance, and Cate Blanchett. The Israeli tourism ministry organized the trip with hopes that the superstars would use their platforms to show Israel in a positive light, countering worldwide outrage over Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

So what happened? It was an utter failure. One year later, it appears that not a single star visited Israel. Last night, the AFP wire service ran this extraordinary headline appearing in many media outlets, “Israel invited 26 Oscar stars to visit. So far none has.

Bringing celebrities to Israel has long been part of a “Brand Israel” strategy to improve the country’s image abroad. As Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin explained last year, “These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting. Their visit will have enormous resonance among millions of fans and followers, including social media.” But as of this week, the Israeli tourism ministry would not confirm any visits by the stars, and there was no evidence of trips on social media.

It seems that the harder Israel tries to improve its image, the worse it fails. Yesterday’s news comes on the heels of former Super Bowl star Michael Bennett and several other NFL stars also choosing to #SkipTheTrip that they were offered by Israel.

Far from achieving their desired effect, these propaganda trips give us an opportunity to create broader awareness about the Israeli government’s brutal policies and attempts to whitewash them. While not every celebrity will turn down such offers, our cultural boycott campaigns are ensuring that every celebrity facing the choice must now consider the Israeli government’s cynical motivations and the impact on Palestinian communities struggling to survive.

That’s why days after the Oscars trips were announced last February, the US Campaign helped organize a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli, European, and U.S. organizations to launch a #SkipTheTrip campaign including a petition to the stars, individual letters to actors, and a comprehensive social media strategy. The dynamic campaign included creative memes, a comical video, and a satirical invitation from the legendary Brian Eno highlighting the types of “holiday” experiences one could have visiting Palestine like being interrogated, tear-gassed, beaten, and shot at.

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Mideast Can’t Even Agree on What ‘One-State Solution’ Means

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a joint news conference at the White House last Wednesday.President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a joint news conference at the White House last Wednesday (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, The Associated Press).

Noah Feldman, Bloomberg View, February 20, 2017

For the last several years it has been increasingly common to hear Israelis and Palestinians alike say that the two-state solution to their struggles is dead and that the time has come to discuss a one-state solution.

President Donald Trump acknowledged that trend during a news conference last Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by saying that he is “looking at two states and at one state” while remaining open to whichever suits the parties.

There’s just one problem: “One-state solution” means something almost completely different on each of the two sides. Years of negotiation and debate have created the general contours of a two-state solution, but when people speak of one-state options, they lack that common ground.

On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the U.S. supports a two-state solution, but “we are thinking out of the box as well.” What might that mean for the Palestinians, for starters? (I’ll restrict this discussion to vaguely realistic visions that could be reached by compromise, not force — so I won’t consider the disappearance of either the Jewish state or the Palestinian national cause.)

For most Palestinian one-staters, the ideal is a democratic state offering equal citizenship rights to everyone living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, both Jews and Arabs. The state could be federated into two parts, so that each side would enjoy a majority in its own areas. Jerusalem might be treated as its own federal unit or divided between the two federations with shared responsibility for the Temple Mount.

In this picture, all citizens would be allowed to travel freely through the state and across federation lines. Probably all would be allowed to live wherever they chose.

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Israeli forces raid At Tuwani after women and children’s nonviolent action

Operation Dove, February 12, 2017

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This Saturday morning residents of the Palestinian village of At Tuwani were grazing sheep and enjoying a day of outdoor picnics when Israeli soldiers entered the village en masse, turning the peaceful village into a military theatre. The raid appeared to be part of the price paid by residents for their nonviolent resistance to settler violence in the South Hebron Hills:  twice in recent weeks Palestinians have gathered to peacefully plant olive trees on Palestinian land on the outskirts of the village, near the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on.

On the morning of February 11 more than a dozen Israeli soldiers entered the village in military vehicles. The heavily armed soldiers forced their way into houses and courtyards and began questioning the inhabitants, demanding to see all of their children between the ages of 13 and 18. They ordered Palestinians who asked for an explanation for the raid to show their ID’s, and forced several young men to spread their arms against buildings and cars while soldiers searched their bodies and clothing at gunpoint. The soldiers showed no official orders for the raid, but moved from house to house throughout the morning, questioning men and women, terrifying the children, and violating the human rights of the Palestinian residents of At Tuwani. Soldiers also demanded to see the passports of Operation Dove volunteers who were filming the raid.

Saturday’s military invasion was the second time in ten days that Israeli soldiers have completely disrupted work and life in the village of At Tuwani, and it will likely not be the last.  Before leaving the village this Saturday the soldiers threatened to return in the night.

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Operation Dove’s campaign #TogetherAtTuwani provides volunteers in the South Hebron Hills to support Palestinian shepherds as they remain on their land and choose to use nonviolent means, along with Israeli activists, to protect their lives and rights.

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Michael Bennett boycotts trip, says he won’t be used by Israel

Steve Almasy, CNN, February 12, 2017

Michael Bennett enjoyed his brother’s recent Super Bowl victory along with actor Mark Wahlberg.

(CNN) — Michael Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, is one of the NFL’s most outspoken players on social issues.

And once again he is in the middle of a controversy after announcing he was withdrawing from a overseas trip hosted by the Israeli government.

Bennett will be joined on the sidelines by at least one other player who objects to what the players say is Israel using them as political tools.

Bennett, whose brother, Martellus plays for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, tweeted Friday that he had been looking forward to the trip next week.

But he read an article in an Israeli newspaper, he said, where a Israel’s Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan was quoted as saying: “The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport.”

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and is a movement that aims to end what it sees as “international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

Another Israeli official said he hoped the players would become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.

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