John Quinlan Interviews Sahar Abbasi Baidon

John Quinlan, Forward Forum
KSUN Channel 983, November 2, 2015

John Quinlan talks with Sahar Abbasi Baidon, a mother of four and Women and Children Activities Coordinator at the Madaa Silwan Creative Center in East Jerusalem.

Sahar came to Madison on a national tour of Room Number 4, a photographic campaign prepared by the Madaa Silwan Center and War Child Holland to illustrate the violations of Palestinian children’s rights in East Jerusalem.

She shares stories from her experience and the importance of improving the life of children and women. Kathy Walsh from Madison-Rafah Sister City Project also joins the show to build awareness of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and help bring understanding between the two communities.

November 1, 2015
Room No. 4 Photos and Speaker

room no. 4 handcuffed

Sunday, November 1, 2015
First Unitarian Society
900 University Bay Drive, Madison
1:00 – 2:30 pm

“They left me in the room for 5 hours with my hands tied behind my back and my legs tied to each other. When I refused to confess, they slapped me and tightened the hand ties more and more.” 15-year-old boy

Room No. 4 is a photographic campaign prepared by the Madaa Silwan Center and War Child Holland to illustrate the violations of Palestinian children’s rights in East Jerusalem. The 12 staged photos are accompanied by written testimonies from the children themselves. Room No. 4 is the name of the Israeli interrogation room at the Russian Compound Detention Center in Jerusalem. An additional 10 documentary photos of life in occupied East Jerusalem taken by Majd Ghaith will further demonstrate the violations of children’s rights from home demolitions to settler violence.

Come hear from Sahar Abbasi Baidon – Direct from Palestine! Sahar is a mother of four and the deputy director of MECA’s partner, Madaa Silwan Creative Center, in East Jerusalem. Born and raised in Silwan, Sahar and has worked at Madaa focusing on projects to improve life for children and women. She works directly with children who are arrested, and her interviews and research (“The Impact of Child Arrest”, a study published by Sahar and Dr. Kasahun) are the basis for the Room Number 4 photo exhibit.

Free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted to benefit the Madaa Silwan Creative Center in hiring a psychologist to help these children.

Sponsored by Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison. For more information visit MECA or contact rafahsistercity (at) yahoo.com.

Israeli Intransigence Lets BDS Into the Mainstream

Alex Kane, December 21, 2010

The world is fed up with Israel, with its continued colonization of the West Bank, its continued ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, its suffocating siege of Gaza and its crackdown on nonviolent Palestinian popular resistance. This major Human Rights Watch report exposes the infrastructure of Israeli apartheid.

Israeli intransigence on the settlements issue has provided an opening for some more mainstream endorsements of the the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Human Rights Watch report states:

The United States should consider suspending financing to Israel in an amount equivalent to the costs of the Israeli government’s spending in support of settlements and the discriminatory policies documented in this report, since the US’s $2.75 billion in annual military aid to Israel substantially offsets these costs.

And a week and a half ago, twenty-six former European Union leaders penned a letter that called for sanctions against Israel.

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B’Tselem: Israeli Security Forces Killed 660 Palestinians During 2006

Haaretz Service Dec 28, 2006

Report: Threefold increase in number of Palestinians killed compared to 2005; 23 Israelis killed in 2006.

According to an annual B’Tselem report, from the beginning of 2006 to December 27, Israeli security forces have killed 660 Palestinians, a figure more than three times the number of Palestinians killed in 2005, which was 197.

The data compiled by the human rights organization also indicated a significant decrease in Israeli casualties. Palestinians killed 23 Israelis in 2006 – 17 civilians, among them one minor, and six Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The figure constitutes less than half of the 50 Israelis killed in 2005.

B’Tselem also listed the overall figures for casualties since the beginning of the intifada, with Palestinian casualties at 4005 and Israeli casualties at 1017, 701 of which were civilians.

The report states that 2006 saw an improvement in the realization on Israeli civilians’ right to life, while, on the other hand, also seeing “a deterioration in the human rights situation in the occupied territories, particularly in the increase in civilians killed and the destruction of houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.”

According to the report, about half of the Palestinians killed, 322, did not take part in the hostilities at the time they were killed. 22 of those killed were targets of assassinations, and 141 were minors.

The report says the majority of Palestinian casualties were killed in the Gaza Strip in the second half of 2006, following the capture of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit. During this period, 405 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip alone, of them 88 were minors and 205 did not take part in the hostilities at the time they were killed.
According to the report, the IDF demolished 292 Palestinian houses, 95 percent of them in the Gaza Strip. These were home to 1,769 people.

B’Tselem’s report says the owners of 80 of the homes received advance warning to the demolition. Israel demolished 42 additional homes in East Jerusalem that were built without a permit. These were home to about 80 people, according to the report.

The report indicates that movement restrictions in the West Bank became more severe in 2006. Israel currently maintains 54 permanent checkpoints in the West Bank that are usually staffed, and 12 other checkpoints within the city of Hebron.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there is an average of 160 flying checkpoints throughout the West Bank every week.

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Tawfiq Nasser: Palestinian Doctor Tells Of Life Under Occupation

Samara Kalk Derby, The Capital Times, October 10, 2005

To get to work each day, Tawfiq Nasser needs a green card, known as a “dirty ID.” He also needs what is called a magnetic card to show that he is not a terrorist or security threat.

On top of that, he must carry two permits, both of which have to be renewed every few months.

Nasser is one of the lucky ones. As director and CEO of Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, the Palestinian doctor moves about the city and the rest of Israel with some aggravation and complication.

“This is a privilege, a real privilege,” he told an audience of about 40 Sunday afternoon at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg.

Nasser, who has studied and worked in the U.S., was in Madison to give a presentation, “A View From Jerusalem: Challenges for Palestinian Health Care.” He also spoke at St. Stephens Lutheran Church in Monona. His appearances were co-sponsored by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

“I am not angry,” said Nasser, 40, noting that he makes a good living and has a driver to help navigate the checkpoints.

But with its 52 permanent and 60 “flying” or mobile checkpoints, and now its security fence almost half complete, the Israeli government punishes the whole Palestinian population for the crimes of a few, creating “more anger, polarization and radicalization,” he said.

Suicide bombers — whom Nasser calls creative and “literally crazy” — will plan their attacks close to the wall to make holes in it, he said: “Just to signify to the world that we need a way out. We can’t just be prisoners.”

Israel contends that its controversial 435-mile security barrier — a mixture of concrete, razor wire, ditches and electronic fence – is crucial in keeping out Palestinian suicide bombers.

Hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed and injured in suicide attacks in the last five years. Israel maintains that the wall has cut attacks significantly.

The U.S. administration is talking about a viable Palestinian state, Nasser said.

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October 9, 2005
Dr. Tawfiq Nasser in Madison


A View From Jerusalem – Challenges for Palestinian Health Care

Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, CEO of Augusta Victoria Hospital, Jerusalem

St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church
5700 Pheasant Hill Rd., Monona
Dr. Nasser will preach at 8:00 & 10:00 Worship
and make a presentation beginning at 9:10

Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 Lacey Rd., Fitchburg
Dr. Nasser will speak from 4:30 – 5:30

Evening Reception of Hospitality and Conversation
At the home of Rev. Bruce Burnside
1109 Gilbert Rd., Madison
RSVP Requested to Rev. Burnside (see below)

The public is invited to any and all events of the day. For Information or directions please contact Rev Bruce Burnside, 608-222-1241 or revbhb@tds.net.

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL stands atop the Mt. Of Olives in East Jerusalem where for over 50 years it has, as a project of Lutheran World Federation, provided exceptional health care to Palestinian people, primarily from East Jerusalem, many refugee camps and villages in the West Bank. Numerous challenges have threatened the work of the hospital, its staff and patients over the years, but none, perhaps, as great as those now being faced because of the Israeli “Security Wall” and an Israeli tax decision. A great deal of the hospital’s care is provided on a charitable basis.

The Director of the hospital DR. TAWFIQ NASSER grew up in Ramallah and Jerusalem and now lives in Ramallah with his wife and children. Nasser is a Palestinian Christian in the Anglican tradition. His work as CEO of the hospital is characterized by tremendous resourcefulness, amazing stamina and noble dedication. Under his leadership the hospital has developed a first class pediatrics dialysis department, has recently opened an enviable radiation oncology unit and has developed a series of mobile clinics to travel into the West Bank to provide medical care for Palestinians who no longer have access to the hospital because of closures, checkpoints and the “Security Wall” which cuts the hospital off from the West Bank. While bureaucracy, economic hardship and movement restrictions plague the hospital, Dr. Nasser continues to break new ground as a visionary and man of compassion.

An articulate and energetic speaker, Tawfiq Nasser will inspire you with stories and challenge you to support the cause of justice and peace.

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Meanwhile, Israel grabs the rest of Jerusalem

Hind Khoury, The International Herald Tribune, AUGUST 11, 2005

JERUSALEM — After more than 38 years of its oppressive military occupation of the Gaza Strip, Israel will soon begin evacuating the few thousand settlers who have been denying freedom to more than a million Palestinians there. Israel has marketed the Gaza withdrawal as yet another historic opportunity to jump-start the peace process. But Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem indicate that Israel’s unilaterally imposed disengagement was never meant to start a peace process, but rather to end one.

As the world’s attention is diverted by scenes of the removal of settlers who had no right to be in Gaza in the first place, the real strategy behind disengagement is revealed by Israel’s aggressive moves to consolidate its occupation of Jerusalem’s eastern Palestinian sector.

At stake is the very basis of peace between Palestinians and Israelis – a negotiated two-state solution. Israel’s plan is to use “concessions” in Gaza to remove Jerusalem from the negotiation table. But without Jerusalem as a shared capital for Palestinians and Israelis, there is no two-state solution.

In violation of President George W. Bush’s May warning not to prejudice the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli cabinet recently approved a decision to complete Israel’s wall in East Jerusalem by the end of August, while the world’s attention is on the Gaza disengagement. The wall, which Israel is using to redefine Jerusalem’s borders, is being routed through occupied territory in such a way as to maximize the number of Palestinian Jerusalemites behind the wall, while maximizing the amount of Palestinian land on the “Israeli” side. About 55,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem will be effectively cut off from the their city, forced to access their schools, hospitals and even families through Israeli military gates which, as Palestinians know from experience, can be closed at a soldier’s whim.

These Palestinian Christians and Muslims will be denied free access to the holy sites in their own city. Already, Palestinian Christians and Muslims in the West Bank can no longer freely pray at the Old City’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher or the Noble Sanctuary (Haram al Sharif).

Difficulty in accessing their own city will cause Palestinian Jerusalemites to go deeper into the West Bank for educational, medical and religious services. Israel will then have a pretext – “insufficient links” to the city – for revoking their Jerusalem residency rights. To date, more than 6,500 Palestinians have lost their residency rights in the Jewish state’s unstated but measurable efforts to rid the Holy City of as many Christians and Muslims as possible.

Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in and around occupied East Jerusalem are increasingly common, with more than 50 homes destroyed so far this year. Sixty-four homes in a Palestinian neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Old City have demolition orders pending against them, even though the homes were built on privately owned Palestinian land. According to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, there are more than 10,000 outstanding demolition orders against Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem. Such orders are usually enforced without warning and in the middle of the night.

As the homes of Christians and Muslims are destroyed, new Israeli settlements in and around East Jerusalem continue to expand. A few months ago, Israel announced plans to build 3,500 Israeli housing units to the east of Jerusalem – in an area which would complete the encirclement of occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli settlements. The Israeli press announced recently the planned construction of 21 new Jewish homes in the heart of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. Muslims have no equal right to build homes in the Jewish Quarter.

Israel greedily insists on retaining control over the whole of Jerusalem, rejecting Palestinian compromises to share the city on equal terms. Indeed, Israel, as a Jewish state, rejects the very idea of a pluralistic Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is sacred to all three of the world’s monotheistic religions – it cannot be the monopoly of just one.

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The Jerusalem Powder Keg

The International Crisis Group, REPORT No. 44 / MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA, 2 AUGUST 2005

While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem.

Executive Summary

While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem. If the international community and specifically the U.S. are serious about preserving and promoting a viable two-state solution, they need to speak far more clearly and insistently to halt actions that directly and immediately jeopardise that goal. And if that solution is ever to be reached, they will need to be clear that changes that have occurred since Israelis and Palestinians last sat down to negotiate in 2000-2001 will have to be reversed.

Since the onset of the Arab-Israeli conflict, control over Jerusalem has fluctuated, as have the city’s contours. Speaking of the city today, one refers to substantial areas, some Jewish, others Arab, that were part of the West Bank and that no one would have recognised as Jerusalem prior to 1967. Stretching municipal boundaries, annexing Palestinian land and building new Jewish neighbourhoods/settlements, Israel gradually created a municipal area several times its earlier size. It also established new urban settlements outside the municipal boundary to surround the city, break contiguity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and strengthen links between these settlements, West Jerusalem and the rest of Israel.

Settlement expansion has been pursued by Labour and Likud governments alike and has always been highly problematic and deemed unlawful by the international community. But Prime Minister Sharon appears to be implementing a more focused and systematic plan that, if carried out, risks choking off Arab East Jerusalem by further fragmenting it and surrounding it with Jewish neighbourhoods/settlements:

  • The separation barrier, once completed, would create a broad Jerusalem area encompassing virtually all of municipal Jerusalem as expanded and annexed in 1967 as well as major settlements to its north, east, and south. This new “Jerusalem envelope”, as the area inside the barrier euphemistically has been called, incorporates large settlement blocks and buffer zones, encompasses over 4 per cent of the West Bank, absorbs many Palestinians outside of municipal Jerusalem and excludes over 50,000 within, often cutting Palestinians off from their agricultural land.
  • Expansion of the large Ma’ale Adumim settlement to the east of Jerusalem and linking it to the city through the E1, a planned built-up urban land bridge, would go close to cutting the West Bank in two.
  • New Jewish neighbourhoods/settlements at the perimeter of the municipal boundaries would create a Jewish belt around Arab East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the West Bank and constricting Palestinian growth within the city.

As virtually all recent Israeli-Palestinian peace plans, as well as Crisis Group’s own 2002 proposal, recognise, Israel’s future capital will include Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem that were not part of Israel prior to 1967 and are home to over 200,000 Jews today. Moreover, Israel has legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, where Palestinian attacks since the intifada have led to hundreds of dead and more than 2,000 wounded. Addressing them will require energetic steps, including Israeli but also and importantly Palestinian security efforts. But the measures currently being implemented are at war with any viable two-state solution and will not bolster Israel’s safety; in fact, they will undermine it, weakening Palestinian pragmatists, incorporating hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli side of the fence, and sowing the seeds of growing radicalisation.

Of most immediate political consequence, Israeli steps are further damaging the domestic credibility of Palestinian President Abbas. For Palestinian groups inclined to undermine the cease-fire, the fate of Jerusalem offers a potent pretext. The establishment of new Jewish neighbourhoods coupled with the route of the barrier is creating Palestinian enclaves in East Jerusalem, reducing economic opportunities, and producing overcrowded living conditions. If the process is completed, some 200,000 Palestinian East Jerusalemites will end up inside the Jerusalem envelope, live under greater Israeli control, and increasingly be separated from the West Bank; the remaining 55,000 will be outside the barrier, disconnected from the city that has been their centre of gravity, fearful of reduced social services and, in many instances, determined to find their way back into the fenced-in areas. That will be an explosive mix.

Perhaps most significantly, current policies in and around the city will vastly complicate, and perhaps doom, future attempts to resolve the conflict by both preventing the establishment of a viable Palestinian capital in Arab East Jerusalem and obstructing the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state. None of this is good for the Palestinian people, the people of Israel, or the peace process.

Although Israel’s disengagement from Gaza is hailed as an historic opportunity for peace, prospects for early subsequent progress are dim. With the dominant Palestinian Fatah movement in disarray, sharpening power struggles with Hamas and legislative elections due to be held by 20 January 2006, Abbas is unlikely to be in a position to launch a major diplomatic initiative in coming months. On the heels of the traumatic Gaza withdrawal and on the eve of a difficult Likud primary and then Israel’s parliamentary elections (probably in mid-2006), Sharon will not contemplate further withdrawals in the short term. Electioneering and subsequent political manoeuvring — a period that typically lends itself more to political posturing and catering to extremes than daring diplomacy — will drag on until mid to late 2006. And even this modest scenario presumes maintenance of a fragile cease-fire.

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