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

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.

November 2020
Virtual Fair Trade Holiday Festival

Dear Members and Friends of MRSCP,

Mark your calendars for the upcoming Madison Fair Trade Holiday Festival, which has gone virtual this year due to the pandemic.

The sale will be during the month of November. Make this your one stop shop for all your holiday gift giving. Spend your money on products that support your values; give gifts that give twice, once to the producer and once to the recipient.

You will be able to browse all the participating vendors and order directly from their websites by visiting Madison Fair Trade Holiday Festival.

You can also follow the Festival on Facebook.

MRSCP will be participating in the virtual sale via our online store, Madison-Rafah Marketplace. We will carry most of our usual items.

(The store is currently up and running for olive oil sales; our complete product listings will be available when the Festival opens.)

Note: MRSCP CANNOT ship or deliver any purchases; they need to be picked up. You will receive instructions and a pickup window following your purchase. In hardship cases, we may be able to provide delivery.

We hope you will be able to participate in this annual event, and as always, thanks for your support.

Barb O.
MRSCP

Israel Bans Fuel Entry to Gaza

Warning of Gaza Power Plant Shutdown

Ref: 75/2020, 17 August 2020

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its deep concern over the repercussions of the Gaza Power Plant scheduled shutdown on Tuesday, 18 August 2020, on all basic services for the Gaza Strip population, especially health and sanitation services, industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities and other services. PCHR reiterates that the Israeli systematic policy of tightening the closure on the Gaza Strip as declared on 10 August 2020, is a form of collective punishment and inhuman and illegal reprisals against Palestinian civilians since 2007.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Palestinian Energy And Natural Resources Authority and the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) declared on Sunday, 16 August 2020, its decision to suspend the power plant at full capacity on Tuesday morning, 18 August 2020, as the fuel required to operate the Plant ran out due to the Israeli authorities’ suspension of fuel entry for the seventh consecutive day. The Israeli authorities alleges that their decision to tighten the closure and ban entry of fuel was in response to the launch of incendiary balloons at Israeli outposts adjacent to the Gaza Strip. This will increase the shortage of electric supply by more than 75%.

The shutdown of the power plant will have implications for basic services received by the Gaza Strip residents and will increase the hours of power outage at civilians’ homes to 16 – 20 per day. The power outage will most significantly impact the quality of health and sanitation services, including drinking water supply, sanitation and other services, such as reduction in diagnostic and treatment services at both governmental and private health facilities. Additionally, drinking water supply will be interrupted for long periods, and the power shortage will result in untreated sewage water being pumped into sea. Furthermore, the Gaza Strip’s economy will suffer huge losses as work is suspended in industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities that depend on electricity in their production mechanism, putting them at risk of being shut down and collapse.

PCHR expresses its grave concern over the catastrophic consequences that may result from the disruption of public utilities if power outages continue, which will affect all basic services provided to the public, especially hospitals, water and sanitation facilities; Thus, PCHR:
• Calls upon the international community to force the Israeli occupation authorities to stop using collective punishment policy against the Gaza Strip population and urgently intervene to guarantee import of fuel and all other needs for the Gaza Strip population; and
• Reminds Israel of its obligations and responsibilities as an occupying power of the Gaza Strip under the rules of the international humanitarian law.

IOF Tightens Gaza Strip Closure

Fuel Entry Suspended and Fishing Area Reduced

Ref: 72/2020, 13 August 2020

On Wednesday, 12 August 2020, Israeli authorities announced new restrictions on the movement of goods entering the Gaza Strip and reduced the fishing area, in alleged response to the launch of incendiary balloons towards Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Kamil Abu Rukun, stated that pursuing to security consultations, it was decided to immediately stop the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip and reduce the permitted fishing area from 15 to 8 nautical miles until further notice. Abu Rukun added that “These decisions were made in light of the ongoing violence and launch of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory.”

This decision followed the Israeli authorities’ former decision to close Karm Abu Salem crossing issued two days ago (starting from Tuesday, 11 August 2020) except for the transportation of goods for vital humanitarian cases and fuel.

The decision suspending the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip deepens its electricity crisis and increases its 64% power deficit (pre-suspension decision). In the best case scenario, the Gaza Strip available power reaches 180 Megawatts (120 MW from Israel, and 60 MW from the Gaza power plant), a far cry from its 500 MW minimum need.

In light of the Israeli decision, it is expected that the power deficit would reach 76% after the power plant shuts, raising the hours of power outages to 16 – 20 hours per day.

This development bears warning to the impact on the lives of the 2 million Gaza residents, as their homes and workplaces will turn into hell, preventing them from leading normal lives due to the high heat and humidity. Most significantly, as the electricity crisis intensifies, basic services are expected to rapidly deteriorate, particularly health and sanitation services, including drinking water sources and sanitation services.

Furthermore, reducing the fishing area negatively affects and undermines the livelihoods of 4,160 fishermen and 700 workers in professions associated with the fishing sector i.e. the main providers for their families (a total of 27,700 persons). Even before this decision, Gazan fishermen already suffered an inability to fish and sail freely in the allowed fishing area due to the recurrent Israeli attacks at sea, the entry ban of equipment and necessary supplies for fishermen. Consequently, hundreds of fishermen are effectively unable to provide their families’ basic needs, such as food, medicine, clothing, and education.

The impact of the new Israeli decisions would deepen the humanitarian and living crises in the Gaza Strip, especially raising unemployment, poverty and food insecurity. Statistics pre-recent restrictions indicate a dangerous unemployment rate at 46%, i.e. 211,300 unemployed workers; this rate is highest among youth at 63%. Also, more than half of the Gaza Strip population suffers poverty, as data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) indicate that the prevalence of poverty among the Gaza Strip population exceeds 53%, and more than 62.2% of the Gaza population is classified as food insecure according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

These decisions fall under the framework of the complete, illegal and unhumanitarian closure policy imposed by the Israeli authorities on the Gaza Strip since June 2007, as the Gaza Strip crossings have witnessed tightened restrictions on the movement of goods and persons.

Regarding commercial crossings, Israeli authorities continue to impose strict restrictions on the entry of goods classified as “dual use materials.” The Israeli authorities officially list 62 items as “dual use items” which contain hundreds of goods and basic materials. The items on the “dual-use goods” list are essential to the life of the population, so imposing restrictions on them contribute to the deterioration of infrastructure and the deterioration of economic, health and education conditions. Israeli authorities also continue to ban the export of Gaza Strip products, excluding limited quantities that do not surpass 5% of Gaza’s monthly exports before the closure in June 2007.

As to the crossing dedicated for movement of individuals, the extreme measures enforced by the Israeli authorities on the freedom of movement from and to the Gaza Strip via Beit Hanoun crossing are still in effect. Since early March 2020, restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority continued for the purpose of combating the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). These measures decreased and limited the number of persons and categories allowed to travel, as all categories were banned travel, except for limited humanitarian cases, and only patients are allowed to travel for treatment abroad.

PCHR is deeply concerned over the Israeli occupying authorities’ decisions to tighten the closure on the Gaza Strip. PCHR also considers this decision a form of collective punishment and an act of revenge against Palestinian civilians.

In light of the above, PCHR calls upon the International Community to:

    • Immediately and urgently intervene to cancel these decisions and allow the entry of fuel and all the Gaza strip population’s needs;
    • Immediately and urgently intervene to put pressure on Israel in order to expand the permitted fishing area to 20 nautical miles off the Gaza shore;
    • Force the Israeli authorities to abandon the policy of collective punishment imposed on the population of the Gaza Strip; and
    • Remind Israel of its obligations as an occupying power of the Gaza Strip to its population, in accordance with Article 55 of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which states: “The occupying Power shall, to the fullest extent of its means, provide the population with food and supplies and must take into account the needs of the civilian population”.

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The Madison-Rafah Marketplace is Open!

In keeping with the times, we are now offering Palestinian Olive Oil and Donation and Membership services at the Madison-Rafah Marketplace, a secure online store. A new link has been added to the header menu above. Crafts may be available at the Marketplace in the future.

The Marketplace is currently offering Holy Land Olive Oil in 500 and 750-ml bottles, with discounts for cases of six. It is an extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil imported directly from Palestinian growers.

Buyers in Madison have been impressed with the oil’s quality and flavor. The oil has a brilliant green color and freshness that you can taste: nutty with a little sharpness or bite, particularly in the finish, that is typical of fresh oil.

This oil comes from West Bank villages in the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a certified fair trade organization. The oil from the 2018/19 harvest had a peroxide value of 7, an acidity of 0.37%, and a pleasant fruity flavor characteristic of fresh ripe olives. It was mellow, not bitter or peppery, and pleasantly aromatic.

Palestinian farmers are having great difficulty selling their produce due to Israeli policies of occupation and closure. Neither Jordan nor Israel, the two natural markets, will accept the oil which is now the only source of income for many people.

The Madison-Rafah Marketplace is a secure site hosted by Square that meets the Payment Card Industry security standards.

Store Policies
  • Pickup only — We cannot ship or deliver items.
  • We’ll contact you by email to schedule your pickup day and time.
  • Questions? Contact veena.brekke at gmail.com or ‭(608) 332-8745‬.
  • We cannot accept returns on any items.

What Valentine’s Day Means in Gaza, Palestine

Hani and his uncle and daughter in front of an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip
Hani and his uncle and daughter in front of an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip

UNRWA USA, February 7, 2020

Hani Almadhoun is UNRWA USA’s new Director of Philanthropy.

Though he now lives in Virginia with his wife and daughters, he grew up in the Gaza Strip. Hani’s father was an UNRWA teacher in Gaza and his family benefited from UNRWA services there, so he can speak firsthand from personal experience about the work UNRWA does and how the Gaza Strip has changed over the past few decades.

Below, Hani reflects on these changes through the lens of Valentine’s Day.

Hani Almadhoun’s reflection on Valentine’s Day and
what it means for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip

The U.N. once predicted Gaza would be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. Two million people still live there.

The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day.   (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images )
The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day (Mohammed Abed-AFP-Getty Images)

Hazem Balousha and Miriam Berger, The Washington Post, January 1, 2020

GAZA CITY — Jana Tawil was born in 2012, the same year that the United Nations released an alarm-raising report on the state of the Gaza Strip: If the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continued, the organization warned, the besieged coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt would become unlivable by 2020.

The United Nations revised its initial rating in 2017 to warn that “de-development” was happening even faster than it first predicted.

Jana’s father, 35-year-old Mahmoud Tawil, never thought much of that assessment.

“When the U.N. report [said] that Gaza would be unlivable, I felt that Gaza was not fit for life in the same year, not in the year 2020,” he said.

That is the bleak reality facing Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents as they approach a new year and new decade: still stuck living in a place the world has already deemed uninhabitable in perhaps the most surreal of 2020 predictions.

The Tawil family lives in Gaza’s al-Shati refugee camp, or the Beach camp, where cramped and crumbling rows of homes sit adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. It is in theory a scenic view — but life here persists on a parallel plane.

The elder Tawil, a psychologist, fears the sea: It’s full of sewage, pumped in because there’s not enough electricity and infrastructure to run Gaza’s war-torn sewage system. Hospitals, schools and homes are similarly running on empty, worn down by the lack of clean water, electricity, infrastructure and jobs or money. Barely anyone has enough clean water to drink. The only local source of drinking water, the coastal aquifer, is full of dirty and salty water. By 2020 — basically, now — that damage will be irreversible, water experts have warned.

“There is no stability in work, and there is no money for people,” Tawil said. “We cannot drink water or eat vegetables safely, [as] there is a fear that it will be contaminated.”

He continued: “We need a just life, and we need hope that there is a possibility for us to live on this earth. … The various Palestinian parties do not help us in Gaza to live, just as Israel imposes a blockade on Gaza. Unfortunately, no one cares about the residents of Gaza.”

Perhaps the hardest part of it all is that, relatively speaking, none of this is new.

When the United Nations issued the 2012 report setting 2020 as the zero hour for Gaza’s unlivability, the organization knew even then that no one should be living in Gaza’s already dangerous conditions.

“From our perspective, [the report] was a useful sort of ringing the alarm bell a couple of years ago,” said Matthias Schmale, the director of operations in Gaza for the U.N. Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. body responsible for Palestinian refugees. “But for us it’s no longer really the issue that by 2020 it will be unlivable. … The key question is how do we prevent total collapse?”

Gazans battle daily with the same crushing question.

It has been a dark decade, and then some, in a place Palestinians liken to an open-air prison. In 2007, the extremist group Hamas seized control after ousting its rival, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel and Egypt in response imposed a land and sea blockade, citing security concerns and the aim of squeezing Hamas out. It hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, since 2009, Hamas and Israel have fought three bloody wars, alongside countless flare-ups. In the meantime, Israel flexes control via policies on who and what can enter and leave Gaza, barring most Gazans and goods from leaving. Hamas’s repressive and conservative rule has in turn caused people to feel squeezed from all sides.

Schmale cited four factors keeping Gaza afloat: Palestinian solidarity, such as businesses writing off debts; the inflow of cash sent by Palestinians abroad; Hamas’s autocratic rule, which has restricted internal unrest; and support from international bodies such as the United Nations.

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Gaza 2020: How easy it is for the world to delete Palestinian pain


A man holds the hand of Maria al-Gazali, a 14-month-old Palestinian baby, as her body lies on a stretcher at a hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza on 5 May 2019. She died during an Israeli air strike (AFP)

David Hearst, Middle East Eye, 13 December 2019

I would like you to try an exercise. Google the words  “family of eight killed” and you will be given several options – one in Sonora, Mexico, another in Pike, Ohio, yet another in Mendocino County, California.

But Google’s massive memory seems to have suffered amnesia over what took place just one month ago in Deir al-Baba, Gaza.

To recap, because you, too, may have forgotten: on 14 November, an Israeli pilot dropped a one-tonne JDAM bomb on a building where eight members of one family were sleeping. Five of them were children. Two of them were infants.

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The bodies of five children from the same family killed in an Israeli air strike on 14 November lie in a hospital ward in Gaza (MEE/Atiyya Darwish)

At first, the Israeli army tried to lie its way out of responsibility for the killing of al-Sawarka family (one other family member has since died of injuries, taking the total to nine). Its Arabic-language spokesman claimed that the building was a command post for an Islamic Jihad rocket-launching unit in the central Gaza Strip.

However, as Haaretz revealed, the target was at least a year old. The intelligence was based on rumours, and no one had bothered to check who was living inside that building: they just dropped the bomb anyway.

The Israeli army need not have bothered lying. No one took any notice

Military intelligence capable of identifying and hitting moving targets like Bahaa Abu al-Atta, the Islamic Jihad’s commander in the northern Gaza Strip – or attempting to kill Akram al-Ajouri, a member of its political bureau in Damascus – is simultaneously incapable of updating its target bank from one year ago.

The Israeli army need not have bothered lying. No one took any notice. Neither the exchange of rocket fire nor the killing of the Sawarka family made the front pages of the Guardian, New York Times or Washington Post.

Israel’s diet plan for Gaza

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December 15, 2019
Laila Hassan from Women in Hebron


Madison, WI
1:00 — 3:00 pm
RSVP for directions

 

Please join us as we welcome Ms. Laila Hassan of the Women in Hebron crafts cooperative to Madison, where she will be displaying and selling some of the crafts made by the women of the Hebron area. Women in Hebron plays a vital role in supporting 150 women and their families.

Snacks and refreshments including Arabic coffee will be served. Palestinian extra virgin olive oil will also be available for tasting and sale.


This event will be held at a home in Madison. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to dwallbaum@gmail.com by 10 am on December 15.

Co-sponsored by MRSCP, Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison and Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison.

Laila will also be on WORT Radio’s A Public Affair with host Gil Halsted on Friday, December 13 from noon to 1, and Her Turn on Sunday, December 15 at 11:00 am.