Israel has come under increasing criticism for seeking to silence groups that are critical of the 50-year military occupation of the West Bank. The Israeli Parliament passed a law in March barring entry to Israel for foreigners supporting a boycott of the country.
IAN FISHER, The New York Times, APRIL 25, 2017
Sigmar Gabriel, the German foreign minister, in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Mr. Gabriel’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was canceled because Mr. Gabriel met with members of Breaking the Silence, a group opposed to the occupation of Palestinian territories. (Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency)
JERUSALEM — It was hardly the first time a top-level meeting had been canceled over hard feelings. But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called off a session with the German foreign minister here on Tuesday, it seemed a particularly sharp reflection of the tension within Israel, and with its allies, these days.
Israeli and German officials said the cancellation of the top-level meeting planned for later in the day came after the German minister of foreign affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, met with the group Breaking the Silence, which opposes the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Mr. Netanyahu has accused the group of “slandering” Israeli soldiers.
The tension began when the Israeli news media addressed the possibility that Mr. Gabriel would visit with the group and reported that Israeli officials — and probably Mr. Netanyahu himself — were threatening that the visit would be a deal-breaker for the planned top-level meeting ahead.
Perhaps predictably, Mr. Gabriel, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, did not take it well.
“It simply can’t be,” Mr. Gabriel told reporters in Israel. “Imagine if we would invite Mr. Netanyahu to Germany and he wants to meet with NGOs that are critical of the government and we say, ‘If you do that we’ll break off the visit.’ People would tell us we’re crazy.”
He refused to speculate on whether the cancellation was a tit-for-tat move after the German leadership postponed a governmental exchange with Israel, originally planned for May, citing scheduling conflicts. “The whole situation has to cool down,” Mr. Gabriel said.
After the meeting of the two leaders was called off, an Israeli official in Mr. Netanyahu’s office, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Gabriel refused to take a phone call from the Israeli prime minister. German officials could not immediately be reached to comment.
“Diplomats are welcome to meet with representatives of civil society,” Mr. Netanyahu’s office said, “but Prime Minister Netanyahu will not meet with those who lend legitimacy to organizations that call for the criminalization of Israeli soldiers.”
Breaking the Silence, which includes Israeli combat veterans, declined to comment.
Germany is one of Israel’s strongest allies in Europe, but it has often been critical of Israeli policies. The tension increased recently after Germany criticized an Israeli law that would retroactively legalize thousands of homes in a settlement built on private Palestinian land.
Mr. Gabriel’s visit to Israel came the same week as Holocaust Remembrance Day. He visited Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial to the six million Jews killed by the Nazi regime in World War II.
Saturday, April 22
1 pm Lisa Link Peace Park, 452 State St, Madison
2 pm State Capitol Building
Join the Peace Contingent
in the Madison Climate March
Please join with MRSCP and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in a Peace Contingent as part of Madison’s Climate March. We will assemble at 1 pm at Lisa Link Park for a “Solidarity Hour” and then march up State Street to join the main rally, which begins at 2 pm at the State Capitol Building. Wear your kuffiyehs and come help us carry our banners!
American Muslims for Palestine, April 22, 2017
(WASHINGTON DC 04.21.2017) — The federal government has dropped the charges against AMP staffers Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny. Stephen Rickard, Deputy Chief of the misdemeanors section in the U.S. Attorney’s office notified the men’s attorney Ann Wilcox on Friday evening.
Filing what is called a “nolle prosequi,” or a formal notice of abandonment, the charges have been dropped and the case is closed.
“The United States of America, by and through its attorney, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, hereby notifies the court and the defense that the government is entering a nolle prosequi in this case, thereby causing the information to be dismissed without prejudice.”
“We are overjoyed,” Herzallah said. “We showed the federal government we were not going to take their biased charges silently. This really shows the power of the people to speak truth to power.”
Herzallah and El-Hosseiny were arrested in February along with four others from Code Pink and If Not Now for protesting at the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Ambassador David Friedman. Herzallah and El-Hosseiny — the only two Arabs and Muslims in the group — were the only two with criminal charges filed against them by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Three of the protesters were allowed to pay a small fine the same day. One had his case transferred to traffic court.
The men rejected a plea deal that would have required 32 hours of community service and included being banned from Capitol grounds for a lengthy period of time. Instead, they opted for a trial to fight the selective prosecution charges on the grounds they were based on racial, religious and ethnic bias.
El-Hosseiny added, “This proves that all the public, organizational and faith-based support sent a strong message to the federal prosecutors.”
In addition to a successful social media campaign, which was joined by several Palestinian rights and social justice organizations and that reached upwards of 1 million accounts, the Huffington Post, AJ Plus, Mondoweiss, Muftah and other media outlets kept the case in the news. The Associated Press had also started working on a story.
The American Muslims for Palestine is extremely grateful for how our partners rallied around our colleagues and supported their effort to fight the charges that amounted to selective prosecution.
“AMP thanks NLG attorney Ann Wilcox for her expertise, professionalism and willingness to fight for justice and to see this through to the end,” said Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, AMP national policy director. “We could not be prouder of our colleagues and we’re relieved at the positive outcome.”
AMP is also thankful to all the individuals and groups who helped spread the word, including the US Palestinian Community Network, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Friends of Sabeel North America and the 15 faith leaders who signed the letter of support, DCI-Palestine, Adalah, IfNotNow, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace national, as well as the DC and New York chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace.
American Muslims for Palestine Action Alert, April 12, 2017
During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.
The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.
Don Paterson, the prize winning Scottish poet, has never been to Gaza, and yet following the news of the Israeli attack on the Strip in the summer of 2014 found that he could not remain silent. He wrote a sonnet about the Israeli shelling of a boy playing on the beach. The sonnet is called The Foot and it begins with the line:
I have no words so here are the no words
Often during that dreadful summer I also found that I had no words in the face of such inhuman shelling by the Israeli military of so densely a populated area as the Gaza Strip. But Anne Paq and Ala Qandil in this web documentary found the words and took photographs that tell the stories of ten families whose lives were literally shattered by the Israeli offensive of 2014.
What we hear from Gaza, as from other war-torn areas of the world, are always the numbers and figures; the news is often so grim that we are numbed and feel we can no longer imagine what it’s like to live there. The significance of this project is that it brings us through word and image the intimate lives and tragedies befalling the Gaza families and makes it impossible for us, the readers and viewers, to shield ourselves and not to profoundly feel the experience of those who lived through the Israeli bombardment during that black summer of 2014.
When approaching carnage there are some who may exhibit a pornographic interest in the subject, callousness, lack of empathy or an attitude of voyeurism in their observation of others. This was perhaps true of some of the Israeli soldiers who carried out the bombing, one of whom the author caught smiling right after he shot towards the sight in which she stood. It is certainly not so with the sensitively woven and narrated accounts in this web documentary.
The documentary’s cover photograph was taken with a wide lens from a high point. It is of a young man standing in the midst of a yard that is full of pieces of metal, wood, porcelain, cement and stone. These are the remains of what had once been the factory which he owned and his nearby home, where two of his brothers along with their wives and kids were waiting to be evacuated when they were bombed along with all the walls, furniture, personal belongings, and photographs, all reduced to rubble.
It is tragedy enough to lose one’s home and place of work, and worse still to lose one’s loved ones or one’s entire family. But what is not often remembered is the consequence on the survivor’s life and future of losing all one’s documents: birth certificates, property deeds, school and university certificates and health reports, as happened to many Gaza residents whose houses were bombed. Just imagine the complications that would arise from being unable to submit to any authority proof of your past and the details of your previous existence. It is difficult to imagine how one can manage to build one’s life anew after such immense loss.
And yet in the midst of all this destruction, the young man whose life was shattered stands tall, looking up, seemingly ready to go on, a true representative of the legendary resilience of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. There are also two portraits of Hussein al-Najjar, whose family is amongst the ten shattered lives that are highlighted here. In neither of them does he look at the camera. In one of the photographs his seeing eye (the other is bandaged as is his head) is looking down, introspective, sad, terribly sad, but not seeking sympathy. In the other, his left hand covers his mouth as if he did not want to speak; he wants to be left alone to think his own thoughts, lost in his own world as he tries to figure out how it has come to this, to this horror that humans can bring on other humans who live close by.
In the introduction we are told that Hussein went to pray when his house was bombed. He lost consciousness, then when he opened his eyes again he learned that his wife, two children and 16 other members of his family were killed. The question that comes to mind is: how could anyone want to wake up after such knowledge? And yet, from following the news from Gaza one knows that the people in the Strip do just that. Four months after this photograph was taken, Anne Paq returned to Gaza and visited Hussein and wanted to give him the photograph. But he refused to take it because, as he told her, “I don’t want to remember that day.” His reaction made her shift from being the researcher and documenter to the human being she is and she writes that she felt ashamed and cursed herself. She then adds: “I felt that for a moment I had lost that fragile balance between documenting the tragedy and bringing more sorrow into the already devastated lives of the survivors.” She adds: “Everyone wants an original account of the attack, a piece of their intimate feelings, a few personal details…” The authors of this documentary are not among those who try to take anything. Instead, they generously give back to the people of Gaza. This work would move many a viewer to tears.
One of those whose stories are told in this book, Saleh Kilani, says: “Life in Gaza has always been consumed by war.” But has it always? Before the Israeli occupation the people living in the Strip were known for their humor and ability to live happy, carefree lives, as any other people who lived by the sea. One day the siege of Gaza and its occupation by Israel will end and, in the words of one interviewee, ’natural’ life will be possible again in Gaza.
by Rajah Shehadeh
The Gaza Strip is part of the Palestinian Occupied Territory; together with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. More than 70% of Gaza Palestinians are refugees, forced to leave their homes in the lands grabbed by the nascent state of Israel in 1948 and forbidden from returning.
Thursday, April 27
Alicia Ashman Library [Map]
733 N. High Point Road, Madison
7:00 – 9:00 pm
“Returning to Haifa” by Ghassan Kanafani
(in the collection Palestine’s Children)
“Returning to Haifa” tells the story of a Palestinian couple forced to flee Haifa in 1948 without their infant son. Returning to Haifa for a visit for the first time in 20 years, they discover that the boy has survived and been raised as a patriotic Israeli by the Jewish couple who moved into their house. Kanafani’s story was made into an Arab-language movie with subtitles, and served as the inspiration for an Iranian-made movie The Survivor and Susan Abulhawa’s novel Mornings in Jenin. More recently, it was made into an Israeli play called Return to Haifa: The Other’s Story.
If you don’t already have Palestine’s Children, contact us by Friday, April 14 to order one from A Room of One’s Own for $16. It is also available from Amazon. You can order a copy of the “Returning to Haifa” story only for $2. Please RSVP for either book or story to Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum [at] gmail.com by Friday, April 14.
April 9 is the 69th anniversary of the Deir Yassin Massacre. 2017 also marks 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the beginning of the Nakba, and 50 years since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel. We think “Returning to Haifa” is a very appropriate choice for this year’s discussion and we hope that you can join us.
Librarians and Archivists with Palestine invites you to join our annual international reading campaign, One Book, Many Communities held in April 2017, in concurrence with the national Reading Week in Palestine.
This project draws inspiration from the “one book, one town” idea, where people in local communities come together to read and discuss a common book. This campaign is designed to introduce readers to the richness of Palestinian literature, and create a broader awareness and understanding of Palestinian history and the struggle for self-determination.
Librarians and Archivists with Palestine is a network of self-defined librarians, archivists, and information workers in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. The hashtag for the campaign is: #lap1book.