A letter from Gaza to the Natives of Standing Rock

Israa Suliman, WE ARE NOT NUMBERS, November 15, 2016

Dear Native Americans,

Although we are of different color, religion, culture and place, I have learned, as I read about the protests at Standing Rock, that we have much more in common than differences. When I read your history, I can see myself and my people reflected in yours. I feel in my core that your fight is my fight, and that I am not alone in the battle against injustice.

My ancestors were not the only ones who lived in Palestine. Jews, Christians and Arabs all lived side by side in my country. But my ancestors—including my grandparents and great-grandparents—were the indigenous people, just like you. And they suffered the same fate as your people. America's policy of occupation and displacement through forced marches like the Trail of Tears, and the gradual transfer of so many of your people to massive, impoverished reservations, hurts me deeply because it is so similar to the ethnic cleansing of my ancestors by the Israeli military occupation in what we call “al-Nakba” (the catastrophe). We know what you know: that our land is sacred.

In 1948, my ancestors—along with nearly a million other Palestinians—were frightened away or forced off their lands, in some cases at gunpoint. More than 10,000 others were massacred. Hundreds of our villages and cities were completely destroyed in a systemic plan to erase our identity—just as yours has been under continuing assault.

Native Americans' Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears

Palestine today is just 22 percent of our original homeland. Like you, some of my people (an estimated 1.5 million) must live in degrading “camps” (our word for reservations), where living conditions are "comparable to the Third World." Like your reservations, they are characterized by high rates of unemployment, poverty and suicide.

Many other Palestinians (about 6 million)—now including descendants of the original residents—are scattered elsewhere around the world, just as yours are around the United States. Today, not only has the military occupation taken over our land and declared it "the state of Israel," but it continues to carry on a policy of expulsion, demolishing Palestinian houses in the little bit of land we retain, building illegal settlements and preventing free movement with a network of “security checkpoints.”

Nakba
The Palestinian Nakba

Like you, we don’t control our natural resources. Just as you were not consulted about the Dakota Access Pipeline that will traverse your land and contaminate your water supply if installed, we are not consulted by Israel, which wants to mine the gas supply in our harbor for its own use and monopolizes the water supply in the West Bank for the green lawns of its own residents—leaving Palestinians parched and dry. In Gaza, where I live, only 10 percent of our water supply is drinkable due to the conditions in which we must live. We too know that “water is life.”

When I was young, I saw how the media portrays negative images of you, especially in Hollywood films—depicting you as uncivilized, savage, racist and drug abusers. Likewise, my people are portrayed as terrorists, “backward,” misogynists and anti-Semitic. And yet no one regards whites as all the same.

Like yours, our resistance has been labeled as acts of terrorism and violence rather than as a fight for survival and dignity. That's not surprising, since this is the policy of every oppressor who seeks to criminalize others to justify its acts. It is the oppressor's way to create its own version of reality to rationalize its behavior and brainwash the masses. And it is the oppressor's plan to make the colonized feel weak and alone. But you are proving they won’t succeed and I want you to know that my people are with you.

Seeing your women, elders and youth stand together to protest the pipeline and your exclusion from decision making is so inspiring! It gives us strength to go on with our own struggle.

As a Palestinian in Gaza, I have grown up feeling detached from the rest of the world as Israel tightens its decade-long blockade. I am sure many of you feel the same way. But we are not isolated. We are “soulmates” in the way that counts.

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Breaking Ground at Cinema Hebron

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Shalom Rav, July 17, 2016

This past Friday, I had the honor to participate in an incredible, unprecedented mass action of civil disobedience in the H2 section of Hebron – in the heart of Israel's unjust and illegal occupation.

I'll start with a little bit of history:

In 1968, a year after Israel conquered the West Bank, a group of radical religious settlers led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, led a group of followers to a hotel in Hebron – with the government’s support – to observe a Passover seder. When it was over, they refused to leave; and following a negotiation with the government, they were allowed to create a settlement to the east of Hebron that they named Kiryat Arba Since that time, Jewish settlers gradually moved into Hebron proper. Over the years tension gradually increased in Hebron. Things changed drastically in 1995 after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi mosque. Fearful of reprisals, the IDF imposed increasing curfews and restriction of movement on the Palestinian population.

In 1996, as part of the Oslo agreement, Hebron was divided into two sections: H1 and H2. H1 is locally governed by the Palestinian Authority and is home to approximately 120,000 Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in H2 along with 600 Jewish settlers. Since the Second Intifada, Israel increased their security crackdown on this part of the city, blocking off major streets to Palestinians – most notably the main commercial road, Shuhadah Street. (The army refers to them as “sterile roads”).

Virtually every Palestinian shop in H2 has been closed and their doors welded shut by the army. Because the Palestinian residents of Shuhadah St. are not allowed to walk on the road, they must enter and exit through the rear of homes because they cannot leave their own front doors. Because of these measures – and the ongoing harassment and violence at the hands of Jewish settlers – what was once the busting commercial center of Hebron has become a ghost town. 42% of its Palestinian homes are empty and 70% of its Palestinian business have been shut down.

We visited Hebron earlier this week and it was a truly chilling experience. Our group went on a tour led by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli army veterans who are speaking out about the abuses the IDF are committing in Hebron. I did a BTF tour in 2008 during my first real foray into the reality of contemporary Hebron. Today, the situation there is even more dire if such a thing is possible.

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Thank Rep. Mark Pocan for Speaking Up for Palestinian Children

Just Foreign Policy, June 21, 2016

Your Representative, Mark Pocan, was one of 20 signers of the Congressional letter to President Obama urging his administration to take steps to “address serious human rights abuses against Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation.” The letter, organized by Rep. Betty McCollum, calls for a Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth to work with human rights organizations, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the rights of children are protected.

According to a report from Defense of Children International-Palestine, three-quarters of detained Palestinian children suffer physical violence. As the lawmakers note, an ever-present fear of arrest, detention, and violence for Palestinian children both violates their human rights and serves to fuel the conflict.

Please call Rep. Mark Pocan at (202) 225-2906. When you reach a staffer, mention that you are a constituent and thank them for using their power to uplift the human rights of the most vulnerable.

And please share this video highlighting the human rights abuses Palestinian children face by the Israeli military occupation using the hashtags #700ChildPrisoners and #NoWayToTreatAChild.

Thanks for all you do to help make U.S. foreign policy more just,

Avram Reisman, Robert Naiman, and Sarah Burns
Just Foreign Policy

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“We’re at a Turning Point”

Josh Ruebner & Tamar Ghabin, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, June 16th, 2016

Tell DNC & RNC to Put Palestinian Rights in Their Platforms

Last week former Rep. Robert Wexler delivered a banal justification of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians before the Democratic National Convention’s platform drafting committee.

Dr. Cornel West, a member of the committee, respectfully pushed back. “For too long, the Democratic Party has been beholden to AIPAC,” West responded to applause. The party “didn’t take seriously the humanity of Palestinian brothers and sisters.”

But “we’re at a turning point now,” West continued. “And of course it’s going to be a slow one in the Democratic Party, but some of us will be working outside the Democratic Party to make it quicker. And that’s why I support the BDS [movement].”

Cornel West is right. If these conversations are happening at the highest levels of political parties, then we are indeed at a turning point.

And with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia approaching next month, we have an amazing opportunity to make our voices heard loudly.

Right now, the Democratic Party and Republican Party want to hear from you what they should include in their platforms.

Let’s make sure that support for Palestinian rights is on their agendas!

Submit your testimony to the Republican Party here and to the Democratic Party here.

In your own words, tell the DNC and the RNC that they should support Palestinian self-determination, freedom from Israeli military occupation, justice for refugees denied their right of return, and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Tell the parties that they should support ending US taxpayer-financed weapons to Israel and back our right to engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns rather than continue to legislate against it.

Let’s show the DNC and the RNC that there is an ocean of support among Americans like you who back Palestinian rights and want them to also.  

As a nonprofit organization, we can’t endorse political parties or candidates, but we are excited to let you in on a bit of what we’re planning this summer to make Palestinian rights a crucial issue in this year’s election.

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February 13, 2016
Students for Justice in Palestine Palestinian Culture Night

Saturday, February 13
Red Gym, On Wisconsin Room
UW-Madison Campus
5:00 PM

Students for Justice in Palestine presents Palestinian Culture Night! We will showcase a part of Palestinian culture through music, dance, and henna tattoos!

We will begin the night with a Debka performance by Chicago based Firqat Al-Watan. Debka is a traditional Palestinian folk dance. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j91jyiTJyK4).

A performance by Omar Offendum will follow. Offendum is a Syrian-American Hip-Hop artist, raised in Washington DC and living in Los Angeles. He has been involved in creating several critically acclaimed songs about the uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUNGlVfqgWs)

We will end the night with an open mic event where all are welcome to showcase their talent! If you are interested in being a part of the open mic portion of the event, email Amal Ayesh, aayesh at wisc.edu

Invite your friends and join us for a night not to be missed!