US Congressman: Respecting Palestinian Rights is Key to Defeating Antisemitism


US Congressman Andy Levin

US Congressman Andy Levin has warned that anti-Semitism cannot be properly defeated without addressing Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Speaking earlier this week during an online discussion hosted by the progressive Jewish movement IfNotNow on how the Biden administration can combat anti-Jewish racism, the Michigan Democrat lawmaker mentioned his long track record of urging the US to oppose Israel’s occupation.

“Over 30 years ago, I was part of a little group of Jews and Christians and Muslims who organized an interfaith delegation to Israel and Palestine from Metro Detroit,” explained Levin. “We went to Gaza, we went to the West Bank, and I wrote a piece in the Detroit Jewish News saying ‘There’s no time left’,” He added that he “took a lot of c**p in my community. “And now it is 30 years later and we have to change things right now. We have to find the language to talk about this in a grounded way.”

He drew a comparison to the recent coup in Myanmar. “The Burmese military just conducted a coup and ended Burma’s fragile, 10-year experiment with democratic self-governance. During those 10 years, the rights of the Rohingya and the Karen and other minority peoples of Burma were never recognized at all.” The suggestion seemed to be that Myanmar could not be considered a democracy even while it held elections because of its failure to respect the rights of its minorities.

“And there was even a genocide of the Rohingya and more broadly the rights of minority peoples there were oppressed… We cannot accept a situation where we consider Burma to be a democracy when the rights of its minority peoples were never even established. Of course, it’s highly imperfect, but an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. Unless Palestinian human rights are respected, we cannot fight anti-Semitism.”

Levin was optimistic about the diversification of Congress which he said could be a springboard to combating racism. “I came in with a class with the first two Native American women ever in Congress and the first two Muslim women ever, including the first Palestinian, my sister from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib.”

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The village where Palestinians are rendered completely powerless

Help Harun Abu Aram Heal

Rebuilding Alliance is organizing this fundraiser and will be working with the family to meet their needs. They are a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to realize a just and enduring peace in Palestine and Israel founded upon equal rights, equal security, and equal opportunity for all.

Harun Abu Aram was shot and paralyzed by Israeli security forces on Friday in his village, where even having electricity is deemed illegal


Ashraf Amour and family members inside their home, in a cave in the village of Khirbet al-Rakiz, in the West Bank’s south Hebron Hills. (Emil Salman)

Amira Hass and Hagar Shezaf, Haaretz, January 5, 2021

"I blame myself for Harun’s injury,” said Ashraf Amour from the village of Khirbet al-Rakiz, near the cave where he and his family live in the West Bank’s south Hebron Hills.

“Ultimately, all that he did was come and help me when he saw soldiers confiscating my generator, and because of that, they shot him,” Amour said Sunday in describing the incident that left village resident Harun Abu Aram paralyzed from the neck down. 

'All that he did was come and help me when he saw soldiers confiscating my generator, and because of that, they shot him'

“It would have been easier for me if they had demolished my animal pen or my children’s swings or if Harun had been shot in the arm or the leg,” Amour said, not attempting to hold back his tears, “but the bullet hit his neck and came out the other side, hitting nerves. Now he’s lying in the hospital paralyzed.”

The incident near the town of Yatta occurred on Friday and the height of the confrontation was caught on video by one of Amour’s neighbors. The army issued a statement for this article saying that the incident is being investigated.


Ashraf Amour, left, and his son Mohammed stand next to the damaged generator in the village of Khirbet al-Rakiz in the West Bank’s south Hebron Hills. Credit: Emil Salman

Khirbet al-Rakiz is one of 12 villages in the Masafer Yatta region. In the 1980s, Israel declared about 30,000 dunams (7,500 acres) of it as a military firing zone. In 1999, the Israeli army expelled roughly 700 residents from the region and demolished many of their homes.

Petitions were filed to the High Court of Justice, which issued an interim order permitting them to return until a final verdict on the case was rendered, but they were not allowed to rebuild their homes. Efforts to settle the case failed, but any construction that the residents have undertaken, even of the simplest and most necessary kind, has been considered illegal.

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Why Was Harun Abu Aram Shot?

Help Harun Abu Aram Heal

Rebuilding Alliance is organizing this fundraiser and will be working with the family to meet their needs. They are a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to realize a just and enduring peace in Palestine and Israel founded upon equal rights, equal security, and equal opportunity for all.

Hamed Qawasmeh, Breaking the Silence, Jan 3, 2021

On Friday, IDF forces arrived at a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills and confiscated a generator. In the scuffle that followed – a video of which can be seen below – Harun Abu Aram was shot in the neck by the soldiers. He was not shot for attacking or threatening the soldiers; he was simply trying to prevent them from taking the generator.

Abu Aram probably understood that he was taking a risk by intervening. He knew the soldiers wouldn’t just let him take the generator back. But village residents depended on that generator; getting by without it would be hard at the best of times, let alone at the height of winter. This is particularly true in the handful of villages in the South Hebron Hills in an area known as Massafer Yatta, which has been declared ‘Firing Zone 918’, an area that has been designated for IDF training. Even though many of the Palestinian families in those villages have lived there since before the State of Israel was even established, they are now on the verge of being evicted from their own land. In the meantime, the residents have been subject to constant harassment by Israeli security forces. In fact, Abu Aram’s house was demolished on the IDF Civil Administration’s orders less than two months ago.

This is no coincidence. Documents exposed by עקבות Akevot show that since the 80s, Israel has been making a concerted effort to establish its presence in strategic areas in the occupied territories through a variety of methods – including the creation of IDF training zones. (We wrote about it in the past here.)

So it’s clear this isn’t just about a fight over a generator; it’s about policy and facts on the ground.

Pro-occupationists would probably say that Abu Aram and his family had it coming to them — they shouldn’t be living there without building permits in the first place, they tell us. But who decides who gets the permits? None other than the IDF’s Civil Administration, the unelected military body in charge of the day to day governance of the West Bank. And an investigation carried out last year found that 98% of Palestinian requests for building permits were rejected (see article in comments). Is there any doubt whose side they’re on?

All of this takes place on the backdrop of two weeks of violent riots in Jerusalem and across the occupied territories by settlers attacking Palestinians and Israeli police in response to the death of a settler teen killed while fleeing from the police after allegedly throwing stones at Palestinians. On Friday, human rights organization Yesh Din said that they’d documented 25 incidents of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank alone, and there were more over the weekend.

In a healthy democracy, you’d perhaps expect the country’s leadership to condemn such violence. But when it comes to settlers, not only are they not condemned; if anything, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana went out of their way to embrace the family of the settler, to signal to the Israeli right that they’re sympathetic to the settlers’ concerns. Election day is fast approaching, after all.

But when it comes to Palestinians, trying to stop soldiers taking a generator can get you paralyzed.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your activism,

Raed Jarrar
Advocacy Director, American Muslims for Palestine

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

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

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

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Urgent news from Sheikh Jarrah

November 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With determination,

Suhad Babaa
Executive Director, Just Vision


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

Hello friends,

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

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

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What Comes First, an Israeli Army Firing Zone or Palestinian Villages?


Palestinians in the southern Hebron mountains Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Amira Hass, Haaretz, 03/08/2020

Next Monday the justices of the High Court of Justice will discuss the State of Israel’s demand to destroy eight Palestinian hamlets in the southern West Bank. I should say: will once again discuss, because the government’s demand is not new.

For about 40 years the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration did everything in their power to make these communities disappear, while they, in their heroic and prolonged battle against the order to become extinct, also turned to legal channels and to petitions. In military Hebrew, the area designated for demolition and the eviction of its Palestinian residents is known as Firing Zone 918. In ordinary Arabic and Hebrew it is Masafer Yatta.

Now the High Court justices are being asked to decide once and for all what comes first: an area for military training exercises, or an ancient fabric of life and relations between a city and the villages that grew up around it.

The “what comes first” is a question of chronology, principle and ethics. Israel claims that the firing zone was declared as such in 1980 and the residents are “illegal squatters” who settled there afterwards. The geo-historical facts, which are not subject to dates, maps and the overt and covert intentions of the occupying power, indicate otherwise.

The rural roots of the city of Yatta, already in the Ottoman period, are not in doubt. Sheep herding and agriculture were the basis of its existence and the cultural heritage of its families. Its expansion and the urbanization process it has undergone are natural phenomena. In the second half of the 19th century there were about 2,000 residents. Today there are almost 70,000. The overall area of its land, which was recognized and determined long before 1967, is 170,000 dunams.

The constant increase in the number of residents and the size of the flocks led to the creation of rural offshoots, by people searching for more available land for grazing and planting, and additional sources of water or a place to dig a new cistern to collect rainwater.

In Yatta, like everywhere in the country, they remained in the distant location for several days and weeks, depending on the season, the calving and the sheep shearing. Natural caves were sometimes adapted for residential purposes. Gradually the seasonal offshoot became permanent.

The familial, economic and social links to the village of origin – now town – have been maintained. But over time every community also develops its own characteristics independently. How much beauty is contained in this geo-human continuum, and in the universal nature of the process, which can be identified all over the globe.

Israel operated and operates in a variety of methods to cut off this natural Palestinian continuum. Declaring a firing zone is one of them. Other methods are the prohibition on connecting to the water grid, eviction notices and actual eviction, a prohibition against building schools and clinics and bathrooms – and their demolition, confiscating tractors and water pipe, blocking roads, a refusal to prepare master plans, or preparing limited master plans that don’t allow for genuine development.

All these methods were also tried and are being tried on the dozens of natural offshoots of Yatta, which were created before 1948, and in which thousands of people are living. And so, in an unnatural manner, the number of people in each community has remained limited.

At first “918” covered 32,000 dunams of Yatta’s land. Over the years about 7,000 dunams have been subtracted from it. That is precisely the area in which several Israeli outposts cropped up and swelled, and some settlements expanded.

Israel is now offering a generous “plan,” in its opinion: for the shepherds and farmers to abandon their villages, and come to cultivate their land and use it for grazing only on weekends and Jewish holidays. The government is also considering enabling them to come for another two months a year, when intensive cultivation or grazing is needed.

As we can conclude from its response to the villagers’ petitions, the government expects justices Esther Hayut, Uzi Vogelman and Hanan Melcer to decide that the Jews always come first. That it’s always kosher, suitable and proper to erase the natural human-geographical continuum of the Palestinian communities.

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Israel issues demolition notice for Palestinian cave home

‘I didn’t make the cave. It has existed since antiquity,’ says Ahmed Amarneh from West Bank village of Farasin

Ahmed Amarneh and a neighbor chat outside his home, built in a cave in the village of Farasin, west of Jenin, in the northern West Bank on August 4, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)Ahmed Amarneh and a neighbor chat outside his home, built in a cave in the village of Farasin, west of Jenin, in the northern West Bank on August 4, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Times of Israel, 10 August 2020

Ahmed Amarneh’s home, with a wooden door opening onto cushion-lined rooms, is not the first Palestinian residence in the West Bank to receive a demolition notice from Israel.

But it may be the first built inside a cave that the Jewish state threatened to destroy.

Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer, lives with his family in the northern West Bank village of Farasin, where Israel requires permits for any new residential construction and can tear down homes built without approval.

“I tried twice to build (a house), but the occupation authorities told me it was forbidden to build in the area,” Amarneh told AFP, using a term for Israel used by some Palestinians.

The Oslo peace accords of the 1990s gave the Palestinians self-rule in parts of the West Bank.

However, some 60 percent of the territory, dubbed Area C, where Farasin is located, remains under full Israeli civil and military control.

Israel has allocated land there for construction of settlements.

Convinced he would never get Israeli approval to build a home in his village, Amarneh set his sights on a cave in the foothills overlooking Farasin.

Amarneh said he figured that as an ancient, natural formation, Israel could not possibly argue that the cave was illegally built, while the Palestinian Authority (PA) agreed to register the land in his name.