Light in Gaza Speaking Tour in Milwaukee


Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire book cover. (Photo: AFSC)

American Friends Service Committee, Sep 27, 2022

    11/17/22 update: WORT’s Gil Halsted talks with Yousef Aljamal and Asmaa Abu Mezeid, two of the Light in Gaza authors now on tour in the U.S.

Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire brings together sixteen essays and poems by twelve Palestinian writers. The book includes political essays, personal narratives, economic analysis, and poetry. The book is edited by American Friends Service Committee staff Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing, and Mike Merryman-Lotze and published by Haymarket Books. Read the full press release here.

AFSC is excited to host a speaking tour featuring Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal, contributors to the Light in Gaza anthology.

Join us for a discussion of this new literary anthology featuring two of the book’s co-authors: Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal.

This book imagines what the future of Gaza could be, while reaffirming the critical role of Gaza in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

“This is a different view than most Americans see in the news.  Usually we see people in Gaza being killed or living without electricity. So they are either victims or superhumans. You miss the everyday family gatherings, the importance of nature. We hope this book inspires people to want to learn more,” said Jennifer Bing, director of the AFSC Palestine Activism Program in Chicago and editor for the Light in Gaza book project.

We will talk with the authors about their contributions to the book, and discuss the current conditions in Gaza. We will also be discussing the role that we here in Turtle Island can play in support the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

This event is co-sponsored by: Milwaukee 4 Palestine (milwaukee4palestine@gmail.com); Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation (Milwaukee), Jewish Voice for Peace (Milwaukee), Students for Justice in Palestine (UWM), Students for Justice in Palestine (Marquette University).

About the speakers:

Asmaa Abu Mezied is economic development and gender expert working to address issues of gender, development, and climate change.  Her main area of focus is women’s economic justice through gendered economic policies, women’s rights in economic sectors, unpaid care and domestic work campaigning, inclusive markets, and feminist economics in fragile and conflict areas. Asmaa is a beginner gardener in the Gaza Strip and is interested in the intersection of Palestinian political, agricultural, and environmental identities. Asmaa is a policy member and a current fellow at Al Shabaka, a Palestinian think tank.  She was an Atlas Corps Fellow with U.S. President Obama’s Emerging Global Leaders, a Gaza Hub-Global Shaper Alumna in the initiative of the World Economic Forum, and a 2021 Mozilla Foundation Wrangler at “Tech for Social Activism” space. 

Yousef M. Aljamal is a Palestinian refugee from Al-Nusierat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He has obtained an MA degree from the Department of International and Strategic Studies Department at the University of Malaya. He is now a PhD Candidate at the Middle East Institute at Sakarya University in Turkey. Aljamal, besides his research interests in diaspora, security, and indigenous studies, has contributed to a number of books which highlight the Palestinian narrative. He translated two books on Palestinian prisoners entitled The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag (2013) and Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak (2016). He also co-edited the book A Shared Struggle Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers (2021). Aljamal has published a number of journal articles on topics that include Palestinians in the diaspora, travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians, and struggles for liberation. Over the years, he has spoken at various forums and platforms to highlight the plight of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

FBI investigation is proof that continuous pressure works

Americans for Justice in Palestine (AJP Action) welcomes the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement that the FBI will be conducting an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli military.

AJP Action, along with our partners and supporters, has spent considerable energy in recent months lobbying Congress and the State Department, as well as petitioning the White House, to launch this investigation instead of taking Israel’s self-exoneration at face value, and we are glad that the Biden administration has finally come around to doing the right thing.

    “While we applaud this critical step to investigate Shireen’s killing, justice will not be served until her killers are held accountable and face the consequences of their murderous actions,” said AJP Action Executive Director Osama Abuirshaid.

    “We hope that the Biden administration is committed to seeing this process all the way through. This is critical for Shireen’s family, but also for the sake of all journalists who are targeted by oppressive governments to know they won’t be allowed to get away with it.”

Shortly after the FBI investigation was announced, the Israeli government indicated that it will not cooperate with this investigation. Israel has a lengthy history of refusing cooperation in investigations of its crimes by independent actors–a practice aimed at covering up the atrocities that have become routine against Palestinians.

    “It is simply unacceptable that Israel gets billions of our tax dollars every year and then refuses to cooperate with U.S. investigations into the killing of American citizens,” said AJP Action Advocacy Director Ayah Ziyadeh, adding: “It is time to end U.S. funding for the Israeli military until Israel complies with U.S. and international law and respects the basic human rights of Palestinians.” 

The announcement of an FBI-led investigation is a step in the right direction, however, our work doesn’t end here. We are deeply committed to continuing to pressure our government until Israel is held responsible for its crime and justice is served.

Sincerely,
Americans for Justice in Palestine Action

AJP Action, an affiliate of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization lobbying for legislation that supports the human rights of the Palestinian people.

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FBI opens investigation into killing of Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the FBI decision “a grave mistake” and said Israel will refuse to cooperate.

“The IDF conducted an independent and professional investigation. I have made it clear to the U.S. government that we won’t cooperate with any external investigation and won’t allow any interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added.


A Palestinian student from An-Najah University holds a picture of Shireen Abu Akleh during a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Nov. 6. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Barak Ravid, Axios, 14 Nov 2022

The U.S. Justice Department recently informed the Israeli Justice Ministry that the FBI has opened an investigation into the death of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in May while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli officials said Monday.

Why it matters: Such an investigation is highly unusual. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the FBI decision “a grave mistake” and said Israel will refuse to cooperate.

  • The investigation could lead to a U.S. request to investigate the soldiers who were involved in the operation — a request Israel would almost certainly reject.
  • The investigation could also lead to tensions between the Biden administration and the Israeli government.

Driving the news: The FBI decision to open an investigation into the case was first reported on Israel’s Channel 14 on Monday.

  • Five sources briefed on the issue, including four Israeli officials, confirmed to Axios that DOJ notified the Israeli Justice Ministry about the decision. The sources requested anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly speak on the issue.

What they’re saying: Gantz said later Monday that “the U.S. Justice Department decision to investigate the tragic death of Shireen Abu Akleh is a grave mistake.”

  • “The IDF conducted an independent and professional investigation. I have made it clear to the U.S. government that we won’t cooperate with any external investigation and won’t allow any interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added.

White House National Security Council spokesperson referred Axios to the DOJ.

  • “Our thoughts remain with the Abu Akleh family as they grieve this tremendous loss. Not only was Shireen an American citizen, she was a fearless reporter whose journalism and pursuit of truth earned her the respect of audiences around the world,” the NSC spokesperson added.
  • The DOJ did not reply to a request for comment.

Between the lines: The administration has faced pressure by dozens of congressional Democrats and Abu Akleh’s family to do more to ensure accountability. More than 20 Democratic senators signed a letter calling for an independent FBI investigation.

  • U.S. Sen Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a statement that “this is an overdue but necessary and important step in the pursuit of justice and accountability in the shooting death of American citizen and journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh.”

Flashback: Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera correspondent, was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “press” when she was killed.

  • The Palestinian Authority and her family accused the Israeli military of intentionally targeting her.

The IDF concluded in September she was most likely killed in “unintentional fire” from an Israeli soldier who did not realize she was a journalist. The findings were a shift from the IDF’s initial position that it was not possible to know who shot Abu Akleh. Continue reading

Amnesty Says ICC Israel Probe Should Include ‘Crime Against Humanity of Apartheid’

“Israel’s apartheid remains the root cause of Palestinians’ suffering,” said the group.


Palestinians inspect the ruins of a collapsed building destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on August 6, 2022. (Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

JULIA CONLEY, Common Dreams, October 25, 2022

Calling for the International Criminal Court to open a new investigation into possible war crimes by Israeli military forces in Gaza in August, Amnesty International on Tuesday said the court must also include Israel’s illegal apartheid policies against the Occupied Palestinian Territories in its probe.

“As well as investigating war crimes committed in Gaza, the ICC should consider the crime against humanity of apartheid within its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The organization’s call centered on the three-day offensive launched by Israel between August 5-8 in the Gaza Strip, with advocates saying its research suggests three specific attacks could amount to war crimes.

Seventeen civilians were among the 49 Palestinian people who were killed by Israeli forces during the offensive, while seven were determined to have been killed by Palestinian rockets that were likely misfired. The group could not determine which side was responsible for the deaths of seven other civilians.

Amnesty noted that Israel, which claimed the attacks were “preemptive” and targeted the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, has set the stage for such deadly assaults on civilians for years by imposing a blockade and other apartheid policies on Gaza.

“These violations were perpetrated in the context of Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade on Gaza, which is a key tool of its apartheid regime,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, in a statement. “Palestinians in Gaza are dominated, oppressed, and segregated, trapped in a 15-year nightmare where recurrent unlawful attacks punctuate a worsening humanitarian crisis.”

“As well as investigating war crimes committed in Gaza, the ICC should consider the crime against humanity of apartheid within its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Callamard added.

The group said Israel’s policies—including military control of Palestine, restrictions on the movement of millions of people in the West Bank, and denial of essential services—are the “root cause of Palestinians’ suffering.”

The call comes eight months after Amnesty outlined Israel’s apartheid system in a report, saying “the international community and the ICC should all investigate the commission of the crime of apartheid under international law.”

In its report released Tuesday regarding the three-day offensive that took place in August, the group said it had interviewed 42 people including attack survivors, family members of those killed, eyewitnesses, and medical professionals. A fieldworker, the organization’s evidence lab, and a weapons expert determined that at least three of the 17 attacks Amnesty documented should be investigated by the ICC as possible war crimes.

An Israeli tank fired a projectile on August 5, hitting the home of 22-year-old art student Duniana al-Amour and her family in the southern Gaza Strip. Al-Amour was killed and her mother was wounded. Amnesty concluded in its analysis that the family’s home had been “deliberately targeted,” even though there is “no evidence that any members of the al-Amour family could reasonably be believed to be involved in armed combat.”

Five children were killed on August 7 when a missile struck Al-Falluja cemetery, near the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. The children ranged in age from four to 16.

Continue reading

Online Film and Discussion: The Settlers

    November 13
    2 pm Central
    Zoom Registration

    After registration you will receive a link to watch the film prior to the discussion.

Combining history and headlines, THE SETTLERS is the first comprehensive look at the sensitive issue of Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Radicals, idealists, messianic fanatics, true believers and political opportunists, living on the fault lines of an age-old conflict, come face to face with history itself. Today, the settlers threaten to destroy what little peace remains in the Middle East.

Register now and join us for a discussion of the film with:

  • Shimon Dotan – Filmmaker, university instructor on Political Cinema and Film Directing
  • Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro – Scholar, author, and Board Director at International Council for Middle East Studies
  • Moderator Lara Freidman – President, Foundation for Middle East Peace.

Presented by Voices from the Holy Land Film Series.

“You Can Be the Last Leaf” by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat directs the Palestine Writing Workshop on the West Bank. She’ll read poems & be in conversation with poet Deema Shehabi.

    A Virtual Book Celebration!
    October 29, 2022, 1 PM CT
    Benefit for the Palestine Writing Workshop, Tickets $10
    RSVP and share!

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat is a Palestinian writer, storyteller, and mother based in occupied East Jerusalem. Each day she passes through Israeli checkpoints, like the infamous Qalandia checkpoint, to direct the Palestine Writing Workshop, one of MECA’s partner organizations. Maya and her team at the Palestine Writing Workshop have published award-winning Arabic children’s books and led hundreds of interactive workshops from Nablus to Silwan to Gaza for children, youth, librarians and parents on reading aloud, creative writing, and storytelling. Her work is grounded in the belief that art and literature can change lives and aims to improve Palestinian children’s literacy and also encourage their imaginations. She is a gifted storyteller who captures the attention of children of all ages (and adults too!). Maya also runs writing courses for former prisoners, helping them transform trauma into art.

She has published four collections of poems, four novels, and numerous children’s stories, including The Blue Pool of Questions. She contributed to and wrote a foreword for A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry, and she is an editor of The Book of Ramallah. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Cordite Poetry Review, The Guardian, and Literary Hub. Please join us to learn more about Maya’s work and life in Palestine!

Deema K. Shehabi is the author of Thirteen Departures From the Moon and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she received the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award. She co-authored Diaspo/Renga with Marilyn Hacker and won the 2018 Nazim Hikmet poetry competition. Her work has also appeared in Literary Imagination, the Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, Poetry London, and Crab Orchard, and has been translated into French, Farsi, and Arabic; she has been nominated for the Pushcart prize several times.

Cosponsored by Middle East Children’s Alliance and Sacramento Bethlehem Sister City. Info: meca@mecaforpeace.org, 510-548-0542.

PRAISE FOR “You Can Be The Last Leaf”

“The Palestinian poet’s U.S. debut gathers two decades of her intimate testimony about private life in a public war zone, where ‘those who win by killing fewer children / are losers.’”—New York Times

“Al-Hayyat’s latest devastating and courageous collection captures the precarious everyday lives of Palestinians with enormous empathy and glistening clarity . . . The vivid translations by Fady Joudah will jostle readers into discomfort and pin Al-Hayyat’s stunning voice into their ears.”—Booklist

“Abu Al-Hayyat explores the broader political and geographic aspects of Palestinian life under colonial rule while at the same time interweaving the quotidian aspects of life and loss in such settings. Within these frictions of exterior trauma and private contemplations, large constraints and small freedoms, these poems soar.”—Chicago Review of Books

Investigate war crimes during August offensive on Gaza



© MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Amnesty International, October 25, 2022

The International Criminal Court (ICC) must investigate unlawful attacks committed during Israel’s August 2022 assault on the Gaza Strip as war crimes, Amnesty International said today in a new research briefing. Using ph​otographs of weapons fragments, satellite imagery analysis and testimony from dozens of interviews, the organization reconstructed the circumstances around three specific attacks, two of which were carried out by Israeli forces and one most likely by Palestinian armed groups. The briefing, ‘They were just kids’: Evidence of war crimes during Israel’s August 2022 Gaza offensive, sets out why these attacks may amount to war crimes.  

Amnesty International found that the two Israeli attacks together killed six Palestinian civilians. Throughout the August offensive, Israeli authorities boasted about the precision of their operation. Yet Amnesty International found that victims of these ‘precise’ attacks included a four-year-old boy, a teenager visiting his mother’s grave, and a 22-year-old student at home with her family. The third attack, which killed seven Palestinian civilians, appears to have been caused by an unguided rocket launched by Palestinian armed groups.

Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza lasted only three days, but that was ample time to unleash fresh trauma and destruction on the besieged population.
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

“Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza lasted only three days, but that was ample time to unleash fresh trauma and destruction on the besieged population. The three deadly attacks we examined must be investigated as war crimes; all victims of unlawful attacks and their families deserve justice and reparations,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. 

“These violations were perpetrated in the context of Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade on Gaza, which is a key tool of its apartheid regime. Palestinians in Gaza are dominated, oppressed and segregated, trapped in a 15-year nightmare where recurrent unlawful attacks punctuate a worsening humanitarian crisis. As well as investigating war crimes committed in Gaza, the ICC should consider the crime against humanity of apartheid within its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” 

Amnesty International interviewed 42 individuals for the briefing, including survivors of attacks, relatives of those killed or wounded, eyewitnesses, and medics. Israeli authorities have denied Amnesty International access to the Gaza Strip since 2012, so the organization worked with a fieldworker who visited 17 attack sites and collected evidence such as photographs of weapons remnants. Amnesty International’s weapons expert and Evidence Lab analysed evidence collected on the ground, as well as satellite imagery and other open-source material such as footage of attacks.

Amnesty International considered it had sufficient evidence to assess the lawfulness of three of the 17 attacks it documented, and these are the focus of the report.

The organization wrote to the Israeli authorities and to Palestinian Islamic Jihad on 30 September 2022, providing a summary of its key findings and requesting comment. It had not received a response from either at the time of publication. 

Dozens of civilians killed 

On 5 August 2022, Israel launched what it described as a “pre-emptive” military offensive on the Gaza Strip, targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its armed wing the Al-Quds Brigades. Israeli authorities said the offensive was in response to threats of attack.  

According to the UN, 49 Palestinians were killed as a result of the fighting. Amnesty International’s assessment is that 33 of these, including 17 civilians, were killed by Israeli forces.

Of the remaining 16 Palestinians who were killed, Amnesty International concluded that 14 were civilians. The organization gathered sufficient evidence to conclude that seven of these were killed by a rocket launched by Palestinian armed groups; it was unable to conclude which party was responsible for the seven remaining civilian deaths. These seven civilians were killed in four attacks, after which remnants of weapons were immediately removed, preventing Amnesty International’s researchers from accessing material evidence. As noted below, this removal matches the pattern identified in past cases where Palestinian rockets misfired.

In this conflict, rockets launched by Palestinian armed groups did not cause deaths or serious injuries among Israeli civilians.

Continue reading

This is no “terrorist wave,”
it is an uprising

Gush Shalom, October 18, 2022

The State of Israel is going
to general elections,
but in the election campaigns
there is virtually no mention
of the main, existential problem
facing all who live in this country.

The West Bank is on fire,
as are the neighborhoods
of East Jerusalem.

This is not “a wave of terrorism”.

This is an uprising
of young people
making a simple
and self-evident demand:
to be a free people
in their country.

Armed with stones
and a few light arms,
young Palestinians are facing
the strongest army
in the Middle East.

Many of them pay
with their lives —
and they are not deterred.
They continue their struggle.

Two soldiers were killed this week.
A young man and a young woman,
Israeli contemporaries of
the Palestinians they face.

These soldiers were not “murdered”.
They were not “victims of terrorist attacks”.
They fell in the battle to which
the State of Israel sent them.

They fell in an unjust war,
a war for maintaining
an oppressive occupation regime,
a war for the settlers
who steal Palestinian lands.

A war which is not worth fighting
and certainly not worthy
of sacrificing one’s life.

The real heroes
of Israel 2022
are the refusers and
conscientious objectors,
held behind bars
at the Kfar Yona military prison.

The prison to which the army gave
the Orwellian name “Abode of Justice”.

Young men who refuse to wear
the uniform of
an army of occupation and oppression
and prefer to go to prison.

Young women who reject with disgust
the distorted idea that for Israeli women,
taking part in the oppression of
Palestinian women and men
is some sort of
“Women’s Empowerment”.

They are the last remaining Israelis
in whom one can take pride.


Gush Shalom (Hebrew: גוש שלום, The Peace Bloc) is an Israeli peace group founded by Uri Avnery, a former journalist and Irgun and Knesset member. The organization has been controversial for sending a relief convoy to Gaza under Hamas administration, and the mainstream Israeli media has described it on occasion as “radical” and “extreme”. In 2010 the American Friends Service Committee said the group was “one of Israel’s most influential peace organizations”.