Update: May 18, 2021
EMERGENCY VIGIL FOR GAZA AND PALESTINE


Names of Palestinian Casualties as of May 16, 2021
Names of Palestinian Casualties as of May 16

Plaza at Trader Joes
Monroe and Spooner Streets
Madison, Wisconsin
8 — 9 pm

The devastation and loss of life caused by Israel’s unrelenting bombardment of Gaza is drastically escalating, with no end in sight. Today, a General Strike was held by Palestinians in the West Bank and inside Israel in protest of Israel’s assault and in support of Sheikh Jarrah and against Israel’s Apartheid rule. Meanwhile, the reported death toll has risen to at least 217 including 63 children and 36 women. Tens of thousands are displaced and there is widespread destruction of housing, government buildings businesses and infrastructure. For updates, see Middle East Eye.

Here in Madison, MRSCP has decided to hold a lighted sign vigil from 8-9 pm at the circular plaza in front of Trader Joes, at Monroe and West Lawn/Spooner Street.

We have decided to go ahead due to the urgency of the situation and the need to support the Palestinian call for a day of action despite the weather. If there is too much rain, wind, or lightning to do this safely we will shift the vigil to tomorrow night.

Please join us. Dress for the weather and bring umbrellas, a flashlight, and any signs you might have. We apologize for the late notice.

Thanks for your support,
Barb O.

Emergency Aid Appeal


First of all, thanks to those who turned out for yesterday’s banner drop and today’s demonstration at the Capitol covered by Channel 27 News. Demonstrations were held all over the world yesterday and today, even in France where they were prohibited by the Macron government at the last minute.

As I write this, live media coverage out of Gaza by Arabic channels is showing the constant bombardment of Gaza that takes place every night. As you may have heard, Israel destroyed yet another high rise building in Gaza, this time the one that also houses many press agencies including AP. Here is a video of the building owner pleading for just 10 extra minutes.

This was preceded by the destruction of 17 media offices and the wounding of 3 journalists in Gaza. Clearly Israel does not want anyone to know what is really going on.

Israel also destroyed a house in Shati (Beach) Camp and killed 10 members of one family.

And there were many injuries as Palestinians protested across the West Bank. Yesterday, 11 were killed by Israel.

The U.S. media is barely reporting and certainly not showing the extent of the damage and casualties. If you want know the reality including pictures please go to Al Jazeera English and Middle East Eye.

Also, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza issues daily reports documenting in excruciating detail the damage, deaths and injuries, including what is happening in the West Bank and to Israel’s Palestinian population.

And for direct, personal experiences and perspectives on life in Gaza be sure to regularly check out We Are Not Numbers.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Emergency Relief: At this time the Middle East Children’s Alliance recommends donations to the Paliroots Food Project.

Action: Four Things Recommended by MRSCP: (from our Op-Ed of today in The Capital Times)

  1. Demand that the Biden administration denounce Israel’s illegal expulsions of Palestinians and the demolition of their homes & property. Ask Senator Tammy Baldwin to follow the lead of Rep. Mark Pocan and others in Congress and do the same.
  2. Listen to and share the voices of Palestinians. Post those stories and photos on social media; Use #SaveSheikhJarrah and #SaveSilwan in all your social media posts.
  3. Support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it lives up to its obligations under international law.
  4. Urge your representatives to support HR 2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act, which is the first legislation of its kind to have the U.S. taxpayer stop paying for Israel’s arrest, torture, and imprisonment of Palestinian children, its demolition and destruction of Palestinian homes and communities, and the further annexation of Palestinian land. (Pocan is a co-sponsor, so thank him.)
  5. Continue reading

Update: Fresh Food for Families in Rafah

Josie Shields-Stromsness, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)

Update for Madison Rafah Sister City Project

BACKGROUND
The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating dramatically as a result of the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli blockade. The precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus including imposing of lockdowns and curfews have worsened the dire situation. As a result, more than 70% of the population are reported below the poverty line and food insecurity and malnutrition pose serious risks to the health of hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS
With donations from MRSCP, MECA and our local partner in Gaza, the Never Stop Dreaming Association, were able to provide nutritious food parcels to families in need in Rafah while also supporting local farmers and businesses.

We received additional funding from several individuals and organizations in the United States for this project and in total were able to provide 1413 families in Rafah, Khan Younis and the middle region of the Gaza Strip with food parcels. Families were nominated by community organizations in each location and then checked against official lists to ensure we are reaching people most in need. MRSCPs donations of $4655 provide food parcels to 116 families in Rafah governate in the southern Gaza Strip, the transportation, warehouse rental, and meals for volunteers were covered by other funding sources.

The contents of the food parcels were purchased from 4 farms employing 24 individuals and 3 small grocery stores. This project therefore provided critical income to 27 families in Gaza.

Each food parcel contained fresh vegetables, chickens, and other household staples designed to provide each family with the necessary items to make healthy, balanced meals for two weeks. MECA staff member Wafaa El-Derawi is a trained nutritionist and oversaw the contents of the parcels.

CHALLENGES
We faced some challenges with the COVID-19 restrictions in Gaza. We overcame this by having several distribution points, providing all staff and volunteers with masks and gloves, and by organizing pick up times well so there was not overcrowding at the warehouses.

Some families from remote areas could not reach the distribution points. With help from the local community organizations in each location, we were able to arrange transportation for these families.

The number of nominated cases was more than the food parcels. This was overcome through rapid research to identify the most difficult cases and families living in severe poverty to prioritize their coverage.

SUCCESSES
Beneficiaries had positive evaluation of the contents of the food parcels. We received many comments appreciating the fresh vegetables and chicken which are unusual in food parcels.

One family in Rafah that received the food parcel was particularly appreciated. She lives with her family – her sick husband and her 11 children – in a marginalized area. Their house doesn’t have a roof, instead corrugated iron board covers part of it, leaving them to drown in rains every winter. The family has no source of livelihood, and they live on food aid. They were very happy with the food and chicken package. She thanked and prayed for all those in charge of the project.


The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is joining with MECA, ZamZam Water, PaliRoots, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees to provide food parcels to families in Rafah. As always, MECA strives to support the local economy while providing much needed aid for families. With these food parcels many Palestinian farmers and cooperatives benefit, and the end result is a healthy and local package of eggs, vegetables, beans, lentils, rice, cheese, za’atar and more.

Continue reading

Biden should end support for bombing and starvation of Yemen


People run following an explosion at the airport in Aden, Yemen, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. No one on board the government plane was hurt but initial reports said several people at the airport were killed. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, The Cap Times, January 25, 2021

For over five years, Yemenis have endured a civil war which has already killed nearly a quarter-million people. Roughly half of those who perished died from war-induced malnutrition, disease and lack of basic services.

Intervening on one side, a Saudi-led and U.S.-supported coalition has used overwhelming military force — including laser-guided bombs and other high-tech weapons supported by our tax dollars — to systematically devastate huge areas of Yemen that their rivals control.

The U.S. has supplied combat ships that are vital to the naval and air blockade presently denying millions of people in Yemen essential food and medicine (90% of Yemen’s food supply is imported).

The U.S. has also directly carried out bombing raids against those it labels “terrorists.” Recently, Congress failed to stop the Trump administration from selling F-35s like those the Air Force wants to station at Truax to the United Arab Emirates, one of the countries bombing Yemen.

As was predicted, famine is now widespread. Two-thirds of Yemenis are hungry and many tens of thousands, especially children, are truly bloated-belly-and-stick-limbs starving. Moderate to severe malnutrition afflicts a quarter of the population, including more than 2 million children.

And now COVID-19 has joined cholera and diphtheria in exponentially compounding their misery.

Bad Yemen policy predates the outgoing administration, but things got worse under Trump. Along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the U.S. slashed contributions to international relief agencies trying to mitigate the carnage in Yemen.

Just as they applied “maximum pressure” to the recalcitrant Palestinians by eliminating U.S. funds to UNRWA, the UN agency critical to their survival, the Trump administration did not hesitate to further destroy the lives of the poor, weak, sick and elderly people of Yemen in pursuit of its foreign policy agenda.

Now the Trump administration has made good on its long-standing threat to label Ansar Allah, an Iran-supported Houthi militia in the coalition opposing our dear friends the Saudis, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This is designed to tighten the already suffocating blockade of Yemen.

In November, major international humanitarian organizations begged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to make this designation, warning that humanitarian relief could be crippled by charges of aiding terrorism for cooperating with rebels in delivery of relief to civilian populations.

Neither Ansar Allah nor the Houthis pose any threat to the U.S. or its citizens, but that didn’t keep the FTO designation from speeding ahead as Trump, egged on by his allies in Israel and Saudi Arabia, maneuvered to keep the Biden administration from altering our reckless, aggressive campaign against Iran.

No FTO designation has yet been reversed in less than two years.

Millions of Yemen’s children don’t have another two years.

Momentum is building to get the Biden administration to immediately reverse the FTO designation. Jan. 25 has been declared a worldwide day of action to finally stop the Yemen war.

Please contact your representative and Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, asking them to end the U.S. role in the vicious, criminal war on Yemen.

Pompeo Labels BDS Antisemitic, Threatens Blacklist

This week Pompeo broke with longstanding U.S. policy and visited illegal Israeli settlements. On his trip, he made several announcements, including that the State Department is designating BDS as antisemitic and calling for the U.S. Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism to create what is essentially a blacklist of organizations that support BDS. We will have more on this soon, but for now:

  • Please share the JVP Action statement condemning this widely (this is compliant to share on chapter lists and chapter social media). You can also re-share our petition to the State Department on this issue.
  • Here are other statements you can check out and lift up:
  • Amnesty International, 19 November 2020

    State Department’s attack on the BDS movement violates freedom of expression and endangers human rights protection

    Responding to the United States Department of State announcement designating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as antisemitic and planning to identify organizations supporting BDS with a view to reviewing and halting their funding, Bob Goodfellow, the Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, issued the below statement:

    “The Department of State’s targeting of groups advocating for using peaceful means, such as boycotts, to end human rights violations against Palestinians as antisemitic violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world. This is simply the latest attack from a US government determined to undermine the universality of human rights and the global fight against racism and discrimination, including antisemitism.

    The Department of State’s targeting of groups advocating for using peaceful means, such as boycotts, to end human rights violations against Palestinians as antisemitic violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world.
    Bob Goodfellow

    “Advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of non-violent advocacy and of free expression that must be protected. Advocates of boycotts should be allowed to express their views freely and take forward their campaigns without harassment, threats of prosecution or criminalization, or other measures that violate the right to freedom of expression. Instead of attacking and restricting BDS activities the US should end such measures and instead ensure that BDS advocates are free to express their views and take forward their campaigns without harassment or threats of prosecution.”

    “The US administration is following Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically motivated accusations of antisemitism to harm peaceful activists, including human rights defenders, and shield from accountability those responsible for illegal actions that harm people in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and here at home. The process comes across as particularly hypocritical and deceitful coming from an administration that has emboldened neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other groups who advocate violence and discrimination, shown a callous disregard for international law, and favored Israeli policies that result in institutionalized discrimination and systematic human rights violations against millions of Palestinians.

    Continue reading

    November 2020
    Virtual Fair Trade Holiday Festival

    Dear Members and Friends of MRSCP,

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

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

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

    You can also follow the Festival on Facebook.

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

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

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

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

    Barb O.
    MRSCP

    UNRWA USA’S Virtual Gaza 5K & Art Auction


    Announcing the First-Ever
    Nationwide Virtual Gaza 5K

    +
    Digital Festival Art Auction!

    Everyone’s mental health is being tested as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we won’t all suffer the same.

    From the United States to Palestine, no person should have to suffer constant distress.

    And while the global pandemic has caused events, travel, and even people to be canceled, you can join UNRWA USA for an interactive Gaza 5K + Digital Festival on Saturday, September 12, 2020, bringing together community, running, music, and entertainment for a good cause — providing mental health for refugee kids in the Gaza Strip. And now, due to the crisis in Lebanon, a portion of the proceeds from the Gaza 5K will be dedicated to our urgent relief fund for Palestine refugees in Lebanon.

    More on the Gaza 5k!


    More on the Virtual Art Auction!

    Your participation in and fundraising for UNRWA USA’s signature 5K walk/run event plays a vital role in our efforts to provide refugee children in the Gaza Strip with life-changing mental health care. given the increased needs, A portion of the proceeds from the gaza 5k will also be dedicated to our urgent relief fund for palestine refugees in Lebanon.

    Update: June 27 – 30, 2020
    Upcoming Online Events


    Saturday, June 27
    Local Letter Campaign to End Violence Against Black People
    6:00 PM – 8:00 PM CDT

    Damita Brown, Restorative Justice Director for the Dane County Time Bank’s Restorative Justice Program, will lead this action opportunity via Zoom.

    Sponsored by Building Unity, Dane County Time Bank, Freedom Inc. and Wisconsin Network for Peace, Justice, Sustainability (WNPJS). For more information see the Facebook page or register here.

    NOTE: The sponsors are looking for people or groups to host similar sessions. You can get a Co-conspirator Toolkit that shows you step by step how to host your own letter writing party for friends, neighbors, colleagues, family, co-workers and others. For more information, write to Damita Brown: damita at danecountytimebank.org



    Sunday, June 28
    Counter CUFI with FOSNA
    6 PM CDT

    Christian Israeli lobbies like Christians United For Israel (CUFI) leverage their political power to ensure the US gives moral and political cover to Israeli colonization, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.

    This Sunday, June 28th, Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA) is launching a nationwide effort to counter this deadly lobby and challenge its undue influence on American politics. Join us for a powerful day of action as we raise our voices in opposition to CUFI’s annual summit!

    Registration and event details



    Sunday, June 28
    Livestream: Singing Out for Refugees with Peter Mulvey
    7:00 PM – 9:00 PM CDT

    Peter Mulvey returns to the Threshold stage, this time virtually, to share his music, his insights, and his generosity with Open Doors for Refugees, an all volunteer not-for-profit organization that welcomes and supports refugees coming to the greater Madison area.

    For details see the Facebook page.




    American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

    Monday, June 29, 2020
    1:00 PM CDT

    The webinar will be held via Zoom. Register for the webinar here.



    Tuesday, June 30
    Christian Peacemaker Team Webinar on Annexation
    12 noon CDT

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is planning to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. What does this proposed annexation plan mean for Palestinians living in the West Bank? And how are Palestinians expressing their steadfastness or “sumud” in the face of these new policies and the Israeli occupation? Hear from CPT’s Palestinian partner and a member of the CPT Palestine team, as they discuss these latest developments, as well as an update on the effect of COVID-19 in al-Khalil (Hebron).

    REGISTER HERE

    June 15 – 21, 2020
    Fundraising for Mrs. Najah’s Kitchen & Gaza Emergency Meals

    Rebuilding Alliance

    GlobalGiving’s World Refugee Week Campaign is starting Monday, June 15th, at 9am Eastern / 6am Pacific time and Palestinian refugees are included in the competition this year. I’m delighted to tell you that our newest project, Mrs. Najah’s Kitchen – Gaza Emergency Meals, is part of this campaign and competing for big bonuses!

    Mrs. Najah’s emergency food program is a lifeline to keep the most impacted families in Rafah, Gaza safe and fed during the pandemic with the goal of delivering 200 meals a day, 1400 meals a week.

    Just $10 can feed a family of 5. Will you help?

    PLEASE DONATE

    During World Refugee Week, which starts this Monday, this project can win an extra $5,000 and $10,000 if we get the highest number of unique donors and the most total donations, respectively. Additionally, the first $750 of contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar by GlobalGiving. You and your donation may be the one that helps this important project win the bonuses!

    Mrs. Najah, a refugee herself and the head of Women’s Programs Center-Rafah for over 18 years says,

      “Hot meals delivered to homes make all the difference in this time of distress because we connect, safely and directly, with women and families who are sheltering in place under the direst of circumstances. We’re also providing jobs to our all-women chefs assisted by community volunteers at the professional kitchen of the Women’s Programs Center (WPC). Working together, we will ramp-up to reach our goal of delivering 200 meals or more a day.”

    Thank you for your help, and for all that you are doing in this important time.

    Sincerely,
    Donna Baranski-Walker
    Founder and Executive Director, Rebuilding Alliance

    May 14-15, 2020
    Key to Justice: Ending the ongoing Palestinian Nakba

    Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), 5/11/20

    #KeyToJustice Webinar – May 14, 4 PM Palestine time: Rafeef Ziadah, Marta Ill and Rey Perez Asis will discuss the connections between the Palestinian struggle to end the ongoing Nakba and the struggles of millions of refugees, migrants and those struggling for adequate housing worldwide, particularly during the pandemic.

    #KeyToJustice Global Action – May 15: Share a photo of yourself on social media holding a key, and tag your post with #KeyToJustice. Learn how to make a key at home with this do-it-yourself video. The key symbolizes not just Palestinian refugees’ return, but the connectedness of our struggles for equality, dignity and freedom, for all those without homes, facing brutality and resisting erasure.

    Online Nakba Day Rally – May 15, 9 PM Palestine time: With speakers and performers including DAM, Janna Jihad, Diana Buttu, Roger Waters and Ken Loach. Organized by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK), Jewish Voice for Peace (US), South African BDS Coalition, and the BDS Movement.

    Our collective mobilisations will help turn the #KeyToJustice.

    Help Palestinians in Gaza survive Coronavirus

    If Not Now, March 20,2020

    We have an opportunity to save thousands of lives — if we act now.

    As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps our country and the world, I am watching everyday people do what is necessary — in the vacuum left by our government’s failure — to help their communities. My friends are joining mutual aid networks and others are fundraising so the most vulnerable are financially stable.

    But our obligation to one another does not stop at the border.

    If we do not act now, Palestinians living under blockade in Gaza will suffer incredible losses from COVID-19. For 15 years, the Israeli government has blockaded 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, restricting their access to crucial resources, including medical supplies. And Israel’s regular military assaults have decimated much of Gaza’s public infrastructure.

    That is why I’m asking you to demand that the Israeli government live up to its legal and moral obligation as the occupying party and protect Palestinians in Gaza by lifting the blockade on Gaza and immediately delivering medical supplies — such as Coronavirus test kits, ventilation equipment, and medical masks — to Gaza.

    Currently, 1.8 million Palestinians live in the 141 square miles that comprise the Gaza Strip (roughly the size of Detroit). Though Hamas governs Gaza internally, Israel is still the effective occupying power because Israel’s military controls the land, sea, and air of Gaza. The blockade on Gaza has been inhumane for over a decade, but to refuse to lift it during a global health pandemic is immoral, outrageous, and unforgettable.

    And, with one of the highest population densities in the world and few medical resources, Gaza is one step away from a public health disaster. Those 1.8 million people only have access to enough COVID-19 test kits for 190 people, meaning only 1 in every 9473 Palestinians there can be tested. Additionally, there are just 20 available ventilation devices in all of Gaza — just 1 ventilation device for every 90,000 Palestinians there.

    Palestinians in Gaza must now weather the coronavirus in addition to the punishing, 15-year-long Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave. The international community has ignored the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza for too long. Rather than waiting to react to the coronavirus hitting Gaza, we must be proactive.


    Sign the petition!

    Failing to do so will result in thousands of deaths, and the blame will lay squarely with the Israeli government.

    Stay safe and stay in solidarity,
    Naftali
    IfNotNow