March 3, 2024
A Reading of “The Aida Camp Alphabet”

A bilingual Arabic alphabet book, written &
illustrated by kids at the Aida Refugee Camp

Communication Madison
2645 Milwaukee Street
Madison
[Map]
10 am – 12:30 pm: Screen-printing and art making with local artist Lesley Ann Numbers. Donations will help a family leave Gaza.
1:00 – 2:00 pm: Read Palestine!

Join us for story time and activities about Palestine. Best for ages 5-9 but everyone is welcome. Learn some Arabic too! Sponsored by the “Read Palestine” project and MRSCP.

More Information

Read Palestine! Book Clubs

The Read Palestine! project, supported by Madison Rafah Sister City Project, is hosting book clubs for 4th – 12th graders. Please fill out this form if you’re interested in participating. Meeting times, format and next books to read will be decided by the group once it has formed. Different grade levels will read different books:

4th-5th: Farah Rocks Summer Break by Susan Muaddi Darraj
6th-8th: Ida in the Middle by Nora Lester Murad
9th-12th: They Called Me Lioness by Ahed Tamimi and Dena Takruri

Refaat Alareer Was a Brilliant Poet and Intellectual

He Was Also My Teacher

To those of us lucky enough to learn from him, Alareer offered a chance to explore new worlds and stories, defying the laws of physics and oppression.

JEHAD ABUSALIM, THE NATION, DECEMBER 15, 2023
 
A photo of the renowned Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer is displayed at a protest calling for a cease-fire and a free Palestine in Cologne, Germany, on December 9, 2023.
A photo of the renowned Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer is displayed at a protest calling for a cease-fire and a free Palestine in Cologne, Germany, on December 9, 2023. (Photo by Ying Tang/ NurPhoto via Getty Images)

On a hectic weekday in 2004, I was unexpectedly called to the principal’s office at my school in Deir el-Balah, a city in the central Gaza Strip. As a 10th grader, I was sure I hadn’t done anything to warrant this unexpected summons. I sat down, surrounded by the principal, his deputy, and members of the teaching staff. After a period of waiting and suspense, the principal informed me that I had been selected to attend a one-year English language ACCESS Microscholarship Program offered by the American educational nonprofit Amideast in Gaza City. I felt a surge of pride, joy, and excitement.

On the course’s first day, I traveled with other students from a meeting point in Deir el-Balah to Gaza City by bus. The commute involved passing through the Israeli “Sea Checkpoint,” then located near the illegal Israeli settlement of Nitzarim, which separated Gaza City from the central and southern parts of the Strip. As I entered the classroom, I was greeted by a young teacher with a light beard and a gentle smile, welcoming every student into his classroom. He introduced himself as Refaat Alareer, whom we affectionately called Mr. Refaat. From the first day, we, his students, realized how fortunate we were to have Mr. Refaat as our teacher. The moment he picked up his Expo marker—a symbol later used to honor his memory—he taught us English as not just a language of vocabulary, grammar, and structures but also a tool for more profound understanding and expression.

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On December 7, Refaat was tragically killed in an Israeli air strike that flattened his sister’s apartment, also taking the lives of his brother Salah, Salah’s son, his sister Asmaa, and Asmaa’s three young children. Upon seeing a post on X accounting Refaat’s death, I was engulfed in shock and disbelief. News of his death swiftly spread worldwide. As Yousef Aljamal, one of Refaat’s closest friends put it, he was a universal figure. Refaat yearned to be part of a world that extended far beyond the confines marked by Israel’s walls. In his quest, he forged strong bonds and friendships globally. Those familiar with him, his writings, and his students’ words, as well as those who heard his lectures and interviews, recognized in him a reflection of Gaza’s potential. They were all deeply saddened and devastated by his brutal death.

To understand the impact of Refaat’s loss, it helps to understand a bit about him. As a professor of English literature at the Islamic University in Gaza, Refaat was respected as an intellectual integral to Gaza’s cultural scene, but he was also more than a teacher and professor. For him, the English language was a vehicle for liberation and empowerment. In Gaza, a place beset by decades of occupation, de-development, and isolation, connecting with the outside world was a formidable challenge. Refaat understood that teaching and learning English presented a unique opportunity to break through the physical, intellectual, academic, and cultural barriers imposed by the occupation. He viewed English as an act of resistance and defiance.

Meanwhile, for those of us lucky enough to study under him, being in his classroom transcended the traditional educational experience; he made learning English cool and enjoyable. Refaat did not just impart knowledge; he offered a glimpse of hope, a respite from the relentless pressures of Gaza. His classes were journeys, both intellectual and cultural, beyond the confines of the blockade, allowing us to explore new worlds and stories, defying the laws of physics and oppression.

Refaat taught his students Shakespeare and John Donne, but that was not all. He also introduced his students to Malcolm X, feminist literature, and even the poetry of Yehuda Amichai. This brief exposure allowed us to experience a world far beyond Gaza’s borders, igniting a desire to claim our place in it.

Refaat was born in 1979 in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood, east of Gaza City, where the residents are known for their tenacity, humility, hard work, pride, and dignity. Throughout his childhood and beyond, he grappled with the challenges of living under Israel’s occupation. Even so, despite our nearly two-decade acquaintance and his dedication to empowering others to share their stories, he seldom shared his own.

In 2020, I invited Refaat to contribute to the anthology Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire, which explored Gaza’s future in the context of its past and present. I initially suggested he write about the educational sector’s challenges in Gaza. However, after some contemplation, Refaat expressed his desire to share his own story. He titled his chapter, “Gaza Asks: When Shall this Pass?” In it, he detailed how, growing up, people in Gaza would reassure each other with the phrase, “This shall pass” during times of tragedy, loss, or hardship. Refaat, however, witnessing the despair of his brilliant students, friends, and neighbors amid poverty and unemployment, transformed this line of reassurance into a question posed to the outside world.

Refaat saw his contribution to Light in Gaza, as an opportunity to shed light on not just his own plight but that of the 2 million people living and dying under siege; his hope was that it would inspire others to take action. As Gaza’s isolation under the Israeli blockade intensified, he felt a pressing need to bridge the gap in the outside world’s understanding of the pain inflicted on Gazans.

Despite his significant efforts, Refaat knew he was addressing only a fraction of the vast challenges faced in Gaza. Teaching and writing were helpful, but only up to a point. In recent years, as a tenured professor at a university where his position was once considered prestigious, he found himself working two jobs to support his family amid the worsening economic conditions in Gaza.

This situation left Refaat constantly anxious and worried. In revealing his story in Light in Gaza, he acknowledged that while storytelling is crucial, it requires an audience that is willing to listen, absorb, and act. His and his students’ narratives were not mere artistic expressions but heartfelt pleas for empathy and action to alleviate the suffering in Gaza.

Refaat ended his chapter in Light in Gaza by writing:

When I was approached to write for this book, the promise was that it will effect change and that policies, especially in the United States, will be improved. But, honestly, will they? Does a single Palestinian life matter? Does it? Reader, as you peruse these chapters, what can or will you do, knowing that what you do can save lives and can change the course of history? Reader, will you make this matter? Gaza is not and should not be a priority only when Israel is shedding Palestinian blood en masse. Gaza, as the epitome of the Palestinian Nakba, is suffocating and being butchered right in front of our eyes and often live on TV or on social media. It shall pass, I keep hoping. It shall pass, I keep saying. Sometimes I mean it. Sometimes I don’t. And as Gaza keeps gasping for life, we struggle for it to pass, we have no choice but to fight back and to tell her stories. For Palestine.

Today, in Gaza, the very fabric of Palestinian society is under assault. So, too, is Gaza’s intellectual community—educators, authors, doctors, and poets like Refaat. It’s a cruel and deliberate attempt to extinguish the flame of hope to eradicate the guiding lights of Gaza. Yet Israel overlooks a fundamental truth: With each fallen intellectual, with each destroyed center of learning, a new generation rises, inspired and more determined. They carry forward the legacy of their predecessors, fueled by a shared vision of freedom and liberation. Echoing the title of Refaat’s book, Gaza Writes Back, we will continue to write back. We, his students and those who hold his words and memory dear, will persist in narrating his stories and ours. We will keep telling these tales until we claim our rightful place in the world, until we are free.

Jehad Abusalim

Jehad Abusalim is executive director of the Jerusalem Fund/​Palestine Center. The views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.

    The story you just read is made possible by a dedicated community of Nation reader-supporters who give to support our progressive, independent journalism. A generous supporter has agreed to match all donations up to $100,000 from now until the end of the year. Make a contribution before 12/31 and double your impact. Donate today!

FREE EBOOK: From the River to the Sea 🍉

Verso Books

From the River to the Sea: Essays for a Free Palestine

An urgent editorial intervention, published in collaboration with Haymarket Books.

Red, green and black image with text "Essays for a Free Palestine. From the River to the Sea. Free ebook""

In the final months of 2023, as this ebook is published, Israel is committing a genocide in Gaza.

Israeli officials have repeatedly made their intentions to do so extremely clear; talking of collective punishment, mass murder, and ethnic cleansing in newspapers, at press conferences and on television. While Western governments have supported the unjustifiable, or spoken inane words of condemnation while failing to take any concrete action, millions around the world have poured into the streets to denounce their complicity, to demand a ceasefire and a free Palestine.

From the River to the Sea collects personal testimonies from within Gaza and the West Bank, along with essays and interviews that collectively provide crucial histories and analyses to help us understand how we got to the nightmarish present. They place Israel’s genocidal campaign within the longer history of settler colonialism in Palestine, and Hamas within the longer histories of Palestinian resistance and the so-called ‘peace process’. They explore the complex history of Palestine’s relationship to Jordan, Egypt, and the broader Middle East, the eruption of unprecedented anti-Zionist Jewish protest in the US, the alarming escalation in state repression of Palestine solidarity in Britain and Europe, and more.

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Taken together, the essays comprising this collection provide important grounding for the urgent discussions taking place across the Palestine solidarity movement.

Published in collaboration with Haymarket Books.

Cover design: Tom Greenwood.

From the River to the Sea: download here

Contributors

We thank the following who have contributed to the essays in this collection, alongside the Palestinian writers published pseudonymously:

Dr. Reda Abu Assi, Asmaa Abu Mezied, Tawfiq Abu Shomer, Khalil Abu Yahia, Dunia Aburahma, Spencer Ackerman, Hil Aked, Dr. Yousef Al-Akkad, Jamie Allinson, Dr. Hammam Alloh, Riya Al’Sanah, Soheir Asaad, Tareq Baconi, Rana Barakat, Omar Barghouti, Sara Besaiso, Ashley Bohrer, Haim Bresheeth-Žabner, Nihal El Aasar, Mohammed El-Kurd, Sai Englert, Noura Erakat, Samera Esmeir, Rebecca Ruth Gould, Toufic Haddad, Adam Hanieh, Khaled Hroub, Rashid Khalidi, Noah Kulwin, Saree Makdisi, Ghassan Najjar, Samar Saeed, Reema Saleh, Alberto Toscano and Eyal Weizman.

Further resources

We have made a number of books from across our publishing free to download, including Ilan Pappe’s Ten Myths About Israel and Gideon Levy’s The Punishment of Gaza. You can find the full list here, alongside other reading resources from the Verso Blog, and our Free Palestine reading list.

See also Haymarket’s past and future live-streamed events in Until Liberation: An Event Series for Palestine.

Solidarity with Palestine: Further Resources

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December 16, 2023
Dar al-Kalima University Cookie and Crafts Sale

9:00 – noon
Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 Lacy Rd, Fitchburg

This will be the 19th year of selling crafts and cookies to support a full-year scholarship to a student at Dar Al Kalima University of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem.

We sell hand-made crafts made by the congregation, and Christmas cookies by the pound.
 

MECA colleague and friend Doaa Al-Masri killed in Gaza

Middle East Children's Alliance


Doaa receives a group of schoolgirls at the Edward Said Library in Gaza

Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza continue and each day more precious lives are lost. We are sad and enraged by the news that our friend and colleague Doaa Al-Masri was killed with her family on Thursday night. Doaa was the librarian at the Edward Said Public Library in Gaza. She was a kind and energetic young woman who organized many activities for children and youth at the library including reading groups, classes, and field trips for schools.

Doaa was also a volunteer in many other projects. During each Israeli attack on Gaza, she joined her colleagues at MECA partner Youth Vision Society in procuring, packing, and delivering emergency aid to children and families. Just last week, in the midst of intense Israeli attacks, she joined two other volunteers to provide warm clothes to children in northern Gaza. 

We mourn the loss of Doaa, a loss for MECA, for the many children whose lives she touched, and for Palestine. We will miss her smile and her radiant energy. Doaa is one of tens of thousands of people killed in Gaza over the last 64 days. Each one is a terrible loss to those who knew and loved them.


Doaa emcees a special event showcasing children’s art and music in Gaza


Doaa facilitates a cultural exchange between Palestinian children at the Edward Said Libraries in Gaza and East Jerusalem
 

December 2, 2023
Fair Trade Holiday Festival

Annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival
Monona Terrace
8 am – 3 pm

Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Palestine Partners, and Madison Playgrounds for Palestine will once again be selling our fair trade Palestinian products.

This year more than ever we ask you to help Palestinians to remain and thrive on their land by buying the great variety of beautiful and useful products that our three groups are able to bring to you.

In spite of the situation, we do have a good supply of embroidery, ceramics, olive wood products, earrings, Hirbawi keffiyehs, olive oil, olive oil soap, zaatar, and more.

We will also be promoting awareness of the crisis in Palestine, and raising funds for Gaza relief and the Madison-Masafer Yatta Olive Grove.
 

Israeli History Teacher Arrested for Posts Opposing Killing of Palestinians

 


On November 9, Israeli police arrested Jerusalem history and civics teacher Meir Baruchin after he posted a message on Facebook about his opposition to the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians. Police seized his phone and two laptops before interrogating him on suspicion of committing an act of treason and intending to disrupt public order. After being in jail for four days, Baruchin was freed but lost his job as a teacher and is still facing charges. “These days Israeli citizens who are showing the slightest sentiment for the people of Gaza, opposing killing of innocent civilians, they are being politically persecuted, they go through public shaming, they lose their jobs, they are being put in jail,” says Baruchin, who says if he had been Palestinian, he would have faced more violence.

Transcript
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We turn now to look at how the Israeli government is cracking down on Israeli citizens who criticize their government’s bombardment of Gaza. We’re joined now by Meir Baruchin, a history and civics teacher from Jerusalem who was recently jailed for four days in solitary confinement after he posted a message on Facebook about his opposition to the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians, especially women and children.

On November 9th, Israeli police ransacked his house and arrested him. They also seized his phone and two laptops. Police interrogated him on suspicion of committing an act of treason and intending to disrupt public order. He was then jailed for four days and labeled a high-risk detainee. Baruchin has since been freed, but he has lost his job as a teacher and is still facing charges. Despite this, Meir Baruchin has refused to stay silent and is joining us now from Jerusalem.

Meir, welcome to Democracy Now! It was hard for us to get in touch with you over the last few days because your electronic devices, like your phone, were taken. Can you talk about exactly what happened to you? What did you post? And then, how did the Israeli police come to ransack your house?

MEIR BARUCHIN: First of all, thanks for having me.

When I got to the first interrogation, the interrogators presented 14 posts, most of them before October 7th. There were posts from four years ago, from two years ago. Only one or two posts were after October 7th.

What I’m trying to do in my Facebook posts is this. For most Israelis, Palestinians are really vague images. They have no names, no faces, no family, no hope, no plans. And I’m trying to give them names and faces, introduce them to Israelis, so more Israelis would be able to see Palestinians as human beings. So, that’s what I do in my Facebook. The police didn’t like it, so they arrested me.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you were arrested, what was the substance of the interrogation against you during that time? And how were you treated?

MEIR BARUCHIN: On November 9th, I got a call from the police to come over for interrogation on sedition. I called my lawyer, and he said that in order to interrogate an Israeli citizen for sedition, they need an approval from the general attorney. The police did ask for approval but was rejected, so they decided to interrogate me for intention to commit an act of treason and disrupt public order.

The minute I walked into the police station, they shackled my hands and legs, and they showed me a warrant to search my house. Five detectives took me to my house and ransacked the place. Then I was taken back to the police station for the first interrogation, that lasted four hours. After that, I was taken to the jailhouse. Like you said, I was categorized high-risk detainee, separated from everyone. I wasn’t allowed to bring anything with me, a book or something. I spent there four days. In order not to go crazy, I exercised every hour and a half, two hours.

On Sunday evening, November 12th, they took me for a second interrogation. And their technique was — it wasn’t really asking questions. It was more of a rhetoric. When you install the answer inside the question, you don’t really let the other person choose his own answer. For example, they said something like, “As someone who justifies and legitimizes the rapes by Hamas people on October 7th, don’t you think that…” — you know, that was their technique. Also in my second interrogation, at a certain moment they said that my Facebook posts are just like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Now, I’m history teacher, so I asked them, “Did you ever read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?” There was no comment.

I was taken back to the jailhouse. And on November 13th, I was released by the judge, and still they kept me in the jailhouse for another three-and-a-half hours.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what has been the response of fellow teachers in Israel and of the press to your arrest and detention?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Most of mainstream media embrace the statement of the police spokesman who accused me as justifying and legitimizing the rapes committed by Hamas people on October 7th.

As for my colleague teachers, hundreds of them are telling me, “Meir, I am fully behind you, but I have children to support,” “Meir, I’m with you, but I’m paying a mortgage,” “Meir, I’m with you, but my daughter is getting married,” “Meir, I’m with you, but we just started to redecorate the house.” They are afraid to speak up. They are afraid to lose their jobs. They see very clearly that these days Israeli citizens who are showing some — the slightest sentiment for the people of Gaza, opposing killing of innocent civilians, they are being politically persecuted, they go through public shaming, they lose their jobs, they are being put in jail. So they are afraid.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, published an editorialheadlined “Arresting Arabs and Left-wingers: How Israel Intends to Crack Down on Domestic Dissent Over Gaza War.” In it, Haaretz wrote about your case, saying, quote, “Make no mistake: Baruchin was used as a political tool to send a political message. The motive for his arrest was deterrence — silencing any criticism or any hint of protest against Israeli policy. Baruchin paid a personal price.” So, Meir, if you can talk about the fact that you were fired from your job? You have four children, right? And also, how unusual is your arrest and being put in solitary confinement, both for Israeli Jews and for Palestinians?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Well, first, I must admit that the fact that I’m Jewish played a key role in my arrest. Had I been Palestinian, it was completely different. There would have been much more violence from the police officers and also in the jailhouse by the wardens.

I think it’s a clear message for not only to the teachers, but to all Israeli citizens. One of the newspaper men from Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben-Dror Yemini, he called me a “soldier in the service of terrorist propaganda,” in those specific words. Other newspaper — other journalists also embraced the police statement without getting my response or without even trying to challenge the police statement.

AMY GOODMAN: They took your phone and also your computer?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you gotten it back?

MEIR BARUCHIN: They took my phone. They took two laptops. No, no, not yet. My lawyer is working on it. But the case is still not closed. I’m still facing charges. Also, the Ministry of Education suspended my license, so I cannot go back and teach anywhere in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you tell your kids? We just have 30 seconds, Meir.

MEIR BARUCHIN: My kids are proud of me, and that’s the most important thing.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us. Meir Baruchin is an Israeli history and civics high school teacher who was jailed for four days, held in solitary confinement, after criticizing the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians. His case is still open. He could still go to trial. He’s speaking to us from Jerusalem.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
 

Have the People Protesting a Palestinian Literary Festival Read Any Palestinian Literature?

 
Sources Cited in this Video

  • The Palestine Writes Literature Festival, held last weekend.
  • A letter by University of Pennsylvania alums asking the university to denounce the festival.
  • A letter by the Brandeis Center claiming that the Palestine Writes festival will endanger Jewish students.
  • Why Zionists in the US and Europe express higher rates of antisemitism, as traditionally defined, than anti-Zionists.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Hi. Our guest this Friday at noon EDT, our normal time, will be with Samuel Moyn. Our conversation will be with Samuel Moyn. Samuel is a professor of law and history at Yale. He’s written a really important new book, which has gotten a lot of attention, called Liberalism against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times. It’s a portrait of a series of influential thinkers like Lionel Trilling and Isaiah Berlin, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Judith Shklar, whose discourse he argues has had really profound and negative effects on the way Americans think about politics and liberalism in particular today. But for our purposes, it’s also interesting because he talks about the way they thought about Zionism, and the relationship between Cold War liberalism and Zionism. And so, the book, I think, has a lot to say also about the way that period in the middle of the twentieth century has influenced, shaped discourse in the US about Zionism too. So, that’ll be Friday at noon for paid subscribers who also get access to our library of previous calls with people like Ilhan Omar, Bret Stephens, Thomas Friedman, Noam Chomsky, and others.

I wanted to say something about this literary festival that was held this weekend the University of Pennsylvania. It’s the only North American Palestinian Literary Festival. And it elicited this letter from alums of the University of Pennsylvania, basically calling on the university to denounce it, and not saying it should be shut down, but basically saying that Penn and other institutions like that should basically make it harder for these kinds of things to take place. And I looked at the names of those folks and I thought, you know, I bet I know some of these people, and if not, they’re only one degree of separation away from me. We’re probably roughly the same age, me and these alums. I’m obviously Jewish too, and I went to a similar kind of university. And I feel like I wish I could speak to the folks who wrote that letter, and so this is kind of my effort to do so. And if you are one of those people, thank you for listening. And if you know some of those people, maybe consider passing this on to them.

And the question I would ask the folks who signed the letter is: how many novels by Palestinians have you read? How many books in general about Palestinians have you read? How many lectures have you heard Palestinians give? How much time have you spent talking to Palestinians about their experience, seeing their experience in the West Bank or even inside Israel proper? Now, there may be some folks on that letter for whom the answer is they’ve done that a lot. Good for them. But my assumption is going to be that for the vast majority, the answer is very little or not at all. Because that’s the norm in the organized American Jewish community is that listening to Palestinians is very unusual. Jewish organizations in general don’t expose their communities to Palestinian perspectives. And so, it seems to me, if that’s the case, there is a really sad, even tragic, irony in this, right? Because a group of people who have not exposed themselves to Palestinian cultural and literary production are basically going out to try to make it hard for Palestinians to speak publicly about Palestinian art, culture in the public square. And I really believe that if more of those folks who signed the letter actually had had the very experience that the Palestinian Rights Literary Festival is trying to create, they would not be trying to demonize it and trying to get the University of Pennsylvania to make it harder for it to operate.

And the reason is this. The discourse in this letter, which is typical of American Jewish discourse, is that the speakers in this literary festival, or at least some of them, are antisemitic and hateful because of what they say about Israel and Zionism. And generally, what they say about Israel and Zionism that people claim to be antisemitic and hateful is that a Jewish state is inherently immoral, and unjust, and it’s settler colonial, and it practices apartheid. These various kinds of things, right? These very hostile and fundamental critiques of the very notion of Israel and Zionism, and even some speakers have said that they support armed resistance against Israel. So, this is interpreted as antisemitism.

But if you listen to Palestinians talk about their own experience, then you have a fundamentally different context from which to understand these kinds of comments, right. Because Palestinians suffer brutal oppression at the hands of the Israeli state. And that’s not new, right? They have for a very, very long time. And so, if you understand that context, then these statements of hostility towards Israel and Zionism don’t necessarily seem antisemitic and pathological, they seem like a response to the Palestinian experience. But what happens in American Jewish discourse is the question of what has actually happened to Palestinians—what happened to Palestinians when most Palestinians were expelled in the Nakba in 1948, what it’s like for Palestinians to live today in the West Bank without the most basic rights, the right to be a citizen of the country in which you live—all of that is pushed to the side, not discussed at all. Or if it’s discussed, it’s discussed in a way that basically suggests that Palestinians are to blame for their own dispossession. And once that’s shunted to the side, there’s this claim that these statements of hostility to Israel and Zionism are antisemitic and endanger Jews.

But if we were to think about another group of people who experience oppression and the way they talk about their oppressors, we would immediately understand that this interpretation doesn’t make sense, right? So, if you were thinking about a Ukrainian literary festival, and the way they would talk about Russians, or a Uighur literary festival and the way they would talk about the Chinese state, right, and you saw that those literary festivals had speakers who had said, these states are fundamentally unjust. They’re fundamentally discriminatory. They are committing horrific acts of violence, right? And they use terms like colonial, or settler colonial, or apartheid, or racist, or whatever, or even a Nazi analogy, right? We might not agree with every particular statement, right? But we would recognize that it doesn’t come from pathological hatred. It comes from the experience of oppression. We would understand that that experience of oppression is central, right, to the hostility that you would see among Uighurs towards the Chinese state or Ukrainians towards the Russian state. And if somebody Ukrainian said they supported armed resistance against the Russian state, we would say we understand the reasons for that. And if they supported armed resistance against Russian civilians, I would say I oppose it just like I oppose armed resistance against Israeli civilians. But I would also understand that it comes out of a context in which these people are themselves the subject of tremendous violence. All of this would be kind of obvious, right? Because in American public discourse and Jewish public discourse too, it’s taken for granted, it’s accepted that Uighurs and Ukrainians are being denied basic rights. But when it comes to Palestinians, that central fundamental, foundational fact, right, is basically treated as irrelevant, or denied all together.

And so, I think that we have in this situation a kind of an effort by people inside the Jewish community to essentially reproduce our own ignorance. Because it is the ignorance of the Palestinian experience that I think leads people to not understand that there are very good reasons for Palestinians to have hostility to Zionism and Israel. Doesn’t mean that you have to agree with every particular statement that any particular person has made, but that you have to understand that that’s the foundational context, right? Just as you would understand that if you’re dealing with essentially discourse of Black Americans vis-à-vis white Americans, or any group of people that’s oppressed—or, you know, the way Jews thought about Polish or Ukrainian people a hundred years ago—that a context comes out of that. That there’s a context of oppression that you have to have to understand this discourse.

And so, instead what you see from this letter is this idea that Jewish students are endangered by this discourse, which I think is really nonsense. In fact, if you look at the best data that we have—and I’ve said this time and time again about antisemitism United States, antisemitism defined the old-fashioned way like statements about Jews as Jews, you know, are they disloyal? Are they dishonest, etc., etc.? It’s vastly, vastly higher on the right. In fact, I think there’s pretty compelling evidence that anti-Zionists in the United States have lower levels of antisemitism than do Zionists. And I’ll link to some of the stuff I’ve written about this. But instead, what we have is this fervent effort always to connect Palestinian critiques of Israel and Zionism with assaults on Jews, right, even though the data shows that in fact—and I’m quoting Hersch and Royden’s paper here, which is the best thing we have on the subject, that ‘antisemitic attitudes are rare on the ideological left but common on the ideological right.’

Despite that, we had this constant discourse of keeping Jewish students safe, which really, actually mirrors the kind of worst, most caricatured version of ‘woke’ safe space discourse. Jewish students at Penn are not threatened by Palestinian speakers talking about their experience. And the language of safety in this case is actually an effort to try to keep them ignorant of the Palestinian experience, right, and to try to get the university to make it less likely that they will actually listen to Palestinians. Which is fundamentally antithetical to the purpose of a university. What we should be doing is encouraging these Jewish students to go outside of their comfort zone and listen to Palestinians even though it’s going to be difficult, and produce cognitive dissonance for them, and be painful in some ways for them to hear that the state that they have been raised to love has actually done these terrible things to Palestinians. That’s not violence. That’s not a threat to someone’s safety. It’s education. This is what we should want all students to be experiencing while they’re at university. And it drives me crazy that many of the people who understand that point the most clearly and make it so often when it comes to the safe spaces of Black students or LGBT students or whatever. When it comes to Jewish students, they actually want to prevent that process of education because they describe the process of education vis-à-vis the Palestinian experience, as an experience of threat to the safety of Jewish students. It’s not. It’s actually an experience of education that we should welcome. So, again our call on Friday is going to be with Samuel Moyn at noon. I hope many of you will join us.

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September 16, 2023
Bright Stars of Bethlehem’s Virtual Fundraising Gala

Join us on Saturday, September 16th at 7 P.M. CDT for Bright Stars of Bethlehem’s Be The Hope 4th Annual Virtual Fundraising Gala! We’ll take you on a virtual trip to Palestine by sharing student stories, hearing from special guests, and getting Dar al-Kalima University updates from Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb.

More information and registration

URGENT! Stand with Masafer Yatta today!

MRSCP has decided to join in an emergency campaign sponsored by Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and Stop the Wall Coalition to provide emergency shelter and schools for the families of Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron hills area.

You will hear more from us in the coming week about our portion of the campaign, and about the experiences of MRSCP member Cassandra Dixon who is currently in the area.

MECA has a deadline of March 31 to raise $25,000 to begin the work and we want to encourage all our supporters to give what you can now.

As always, we thank you for your support.

They can demolish our houses, schools, and clinics but they can’t destroy these caves nor our determination to keep steadfast until we have achieved justice and freedom.
— Abu Mahmoud of Masafer Yatta

Dear Madison-Rafah,

I’m sure, like all of us at MECA, you have watched in horror these last few months as Israeli settler and military violence gets more severe and more widespread every day.

Give now for emergency shelter & schools for the families of Masafer Yatta.

Meanwhile, the people in the villages of Masafer Yatta of have suffered some of the worst abuses of Israeli Apartheid. The Israeli government designated Masafer Yatta as a “military zone.” The government and illegal settlers are intent on expelling the Palestinian families who have lived there for hundreds of years.

Last year, after an Israeli court order, bulldozers entered several of the small, rural communities in Masafer Yatta, smashing homes, clinics, and schools to rubble.

While Israeli leaders and US politicians alike watch—even encourage and support—Israeli violence there IS something you can do now to support the people of Masafer Yatta who are steadfast in defending their land and fierce in their commitment to the education of their children.

Masfer Yatta has two very significant resources. They have natural caves which, with your support now, will be turned into homes and schools. They also have the solidarity of people like you who stand against the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Your contribution to MECA now for our joint campaign with Stop the Wall will help to renovate 36 caves to create homes and schools in Masafer Yatta and provide 10 tents and 10 electricity generators as temporary shelter in case of demolition.

This is part of the Defend Masafer Yatta Campaign, and the goal is to raise an initial $25,000 by March 31 to begin the work. Please give the most you can afford today.

Shukran (Thank you),

Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch
Executive Director

P.S. The Defend Masafer Yatta Campaign must eventually raise a total of $70,000 to complete the renovation of caves for homes and schools.  Please make the most generous contribution you can now to start this work immediately and support the steadfastness of the people of Masafer Yatta. Many thanks.

Middle East Children’s Alliance
1101 8th Street
Suite 100
Berkeley, CA 94710
United States
 

Update: Back-To-School Backpacks For Rafah Kids

135 backpacks to Rafah by MECA on our behalf
[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”27″ display=”basic_slideshow”]More MECA photos from Gaza

 


 

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide back-to-school backpacks to 2000 poor children in Gaza, including Rafah and Rafah camp which suffered significant damage and casualties in the latest Israeli assault.

Our goal is to provide at least 100 Gaza-produced backpacks that MECA will distribute at schools and kindergartens in Rafah. The backpacks cost $17.50 each for a total of $1,750. MRSCP will match half the cost of the first 100 backpacks before the end of August, when school resumes in Gaza. 100 percent of your donation will go to this project.

The people of Gaza suffered terribly from the recent Israeli bombardment, which was just the latest in a series of what Israeli officials callously refer to as “mowing the grass” — periodic military assaults on the two million people (one million of them children) with no safe place to hide in what has been called the world’s largest open-air prison.

But even when bombs are not falling, Gazans struggle to survive under the Israeli land, air and sea blockade that deprives them of safe drinking water, medical care, employment, and fuel, and which kills and traumatizes them day in and day out through this cruel policy of deliberate deprivation.

Your tax dollars are paying for this outrage. Please consider partially offsetting them by contributing to the backpack campaign.

 

School Backpacks for Gaza!School backpacks for Gaza

Send a check payable to “MRSCP”
and marked “Backpacks” to:
MRSCP
P.O. Box 5214
Madison, WI 53705
or donate online:

Donate

Thank you for helping the children of Gaza.

 

AND…Here at Home:

Urban Triage will be distributing shoes and coats to families on Saturday, September 24th, for their Back to School Give Back event!

“Help us in keeping kids warm during this upcoming Wisconsin winter season, where weather conditions can change rapidly and temperatures can reach to -20, with wind chills down to -40! Adequate shoes and coats can prevent hypothermia and frostbite. With your donations, Urban Triage will distribute shoes and coats to up to 75 families at Penn Park on Saturday, September 24th, from 2:30 to 4:30 PM.

We are now accepting donations. Donate Gift Cards and Cash to support vulnerable families this fall.

To make financial donations online, please fill out the donation form!

Drop off checks and gift cards (and NEW coats & shoes) at 147 S Butler St, Monday thru Thursday from 12 to 5 PM.

For more information, please contact Charnice: canderson at urbantriage.org.

Thank you for donating and keeping kids warm this winter!”