Palestinian non-violent resistance leader speaks in Madison

Veena Brekke, December 19, 2012

On Sunday afternoon, December 16, citizens of the Madison area were fortunate to hear a presentation by Iyad Burnat, a Palestinian farmer and leader in non-violent protests currently on a four-month speaking tour of the United States. About 60 people gathered at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg to view photos and videos and to listen to stories of successful organizing of grassroots non-violent protests against Israeli occupation in a West Bank farming village called Bil’in.

Bil’in has recently become famous as the subject of the award-winning film, “5 Broken Cameras,” by Burnat’s brother Emad Burnat and Israeli director Guy Davidi.

Since the 1967 war, Israel has illegally occupied and expanded its military presence in the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in defiance of UN Security Council resolution 242 and many others which demand “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the (1967) conflict.” It has placed nearly 500,000 illegal Israeli Jewish settlers on Palestinian land in direct violation of international law.

In 2003, Israel began building a hugely controversial “separation wall” primarily on the Palestinian side of the “green line” between the West Bank and Israel proper. Burnat reported that the wall, which is 8 meters high in some places, has taken over half of Bil’in’s farm land.  It was in opposition to this wall that Bil’in citizens began their weekly marches to the fenced area.  Since 2005, Bil’in farmers have been joined by Israeli and International peace activists and protests have spread to about 20 other villages in the West Bank.  

The videos showed creative methods used by from 200 to 4000 demonstrators every Friday and the violent response from Israeli soldiers. Demonstrators repeatedly endured injuries from tear gas rockets, chemical infused water, and rubber-coated metal bullets.  Burnat reported 40 deaths and 1,300 injured among all the villages. He argued that the goal of Israel’s separation wall is not security but the confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlers, the theft of Palestinian water to supply them, and to put more Palestinians in prison.

In a soft-spoken voice, Burnat explained that the “olive tree is the life of farmers in this area.”  He showed videos of demonstrators chaining themselves to olive trees and of the burning and bulldozing of olive groves, noting sadly that many Palestinian farmers who used to sell olive oil now have to purchase it.  As a result, over 60 percent of Palestinians are unemployed in Bil’in.

Burnat graphically described the hardship of Palestinian farmers and their families under the Israeli occupation: diminished farm land due to the separation wall, Jewish-only roads and settlements; lack of freedom of movement due to checkpoints and roadblocks; running water limited to one day per week or less; and nighttime curfews and raids that especially terrorize village children.  He observed that the Israeli settlement enterprise has now made it impossible for an Israel-Palestine two-state solution for peace in the region.

Burnat was asked how the Palestinians can maintain their commitment to non-violent protests in the midst of a very militarized Israeli opposition. Burnat said he finds hope from the solidarity with the other Palestinian villages, the support of the people who join from outside, and his firm belief that they will succeed in ending the occupation.  He cited the success of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi in ending oppression.

Burnat was also asked if he was troubled by the violent means used by others such as rockets shot out of Gaza. Burnat observed that Hamas is always blamed for violence when, in fact, the Israeli government wants to provoke such violence, such as when Israel recently assassinated the Hamas representative who was involved in peace negotiation talks. He asked the audience to remember that Hamas has been in existence for 25 years whereas the violent Israeli occupation of Palestine is 65 years old. He noted that in Bil’in, Israel has even sent “special forces” disguised as Palestinians to throw stones in order to justify the violent response from the Israeli soldiers.

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VOICES OF CONSCIENCE: DELEGATION to THE GAZA STRIP

Interfaith Peace-Builders, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012 – Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) is pleased to announce that our 21 member delegation to the Gaza Strip passed safely through the Rafah Crossing Monday morning and is now safely in the Gaza Strip.

Interfaith Peace-Builders has sent more than 44 delegations to Palestine/Israel since 2001. This is the first IFPB delegation to enter the Gaza Strip since 2003. Like other IFPB delegations, its purpose is to educate North Americans about the region and deepen their understanding of its conflicts.

On the eve of the Presidential Election in the United States, the US-brokered peace process continues to show few results and US military aid to the region continues to flow unabated.

This delegation focuses on the realities of Palestinian life in the Gaza Strip. Participants have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Palestinians throughout the territory regarding their hopes for peace and the role of the United States, the US government, and other international actors, in promoting a resolution to the conflict.

The Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation to the Gaza Strip is led by Michael Brown and Cindy Corrie. Michael Brown worked off and on in the Gaza Strip between 1993 and 2000 for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. A former IFPB board member, Michael continues to work today on the media and Palestine. Michael led an IFPB delegation in 2008. Cindy Corrie is the mother of human rights activist and observer Rachel Corrie who on March 16, 2003, was killed by an Israeli military Caterpillar bulldozer in the Gaza Strip.  Motivated by her daughter’s work and sacrifice, Cindy Corrie has dedicated herself to the pursuit of justice and peace in the Middle East and has visited Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza on numerous occasions. She is also president of the board of the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, inspired by her daughter.

del44gaza
a photo of the delegation in Gaza City

The delegation includes the following people:

Diane Adkin – Camas, Washington
Michele Bahl – Madison, Wisconsin
Carol Barr – Madison, Wisconsin

Michael Brown – Asheville, North Carolina
Marsha Carlton – Davis, California
Craig and Cindy Corrie – Olympia, Washington
Gary Doupe – Bainbridge, New York
Rich Forer – Yardley, Pennsylvania
Joyce Guinn – Germantown, Wisconsin
Maya Harris – Olympia, Washington
Wendy Hartley – Nevada City, California
Darlene Jones-Owens – Carrollton, Georgia
Declan Keogh – Decatur, Georgia
Ralph and Emily McCoy – Boone, North Carolina
Donna Nassor – Moonachie, New Jersey
Karen Peterson – Horseheads, New York
Cathy Sultan – Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Colleen Toomey – North Andover, Massachusetts
Sonja Wentz – Olympia, Washington

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March 18, 2012
Third Annual Rachel Corrie Commemorative Benefit Dinner

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project invites you to the

Third Annual Rachel Corrie
Commemorative Benefit Dinner


Sunday, March 18, 5:00 pm
The Nile Restaurant [Map]
6119 Odana Road, Madison, WI

Featured guests: Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel
(Program information to follow)

Cost: $20 per person/$35 per couple for a Middle Eastern dinner of hummus, falafel, salad, lentil spinach soup, fool moudamas, spinach pie and warbat dessert

All proceeds go to the Maia Project water filtration system for the Al-Shuka Girls Preparatory School in Rafah, Palestine

Space is limited and reservations are required. Please make your reservations now by contacting Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum (at) gmail.com or 235-7870. Payment may either be mailed to MRSCP, P.O. Box 55371, Madison WI 53705 or paid at the door before 5:30 pm. If you are unable to attend, please notify Donna at least three days before the benefit for others to attend.

TURN ON THE LOVE

Children at the Tuyar Al-Jena Kindergarten in Rafah turn on the tap

Here in Wisconsin we’ve hardly been hibernating. So much is happening at the state and local level, to say nothing of the 2012 presidential campaign.

But now and again we need to stick our noses out of our local dens and act as citizens of the wider world.

So for GROUNDHOG’S DAY we suggest that you check out our “CLEAN WATER FOR RAFAH’S CHILDREN” campaign and for VALENTINES DAY, turn on the love with a contribution towards a water filter/desalinization system for the Al-Shuka Preparatory Girl’s School in Rafah.

MAIA is Arabic for “water.” The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) began the MAIA campaign when children at a UN school in Gaza were asked what they wanted most for their school. The children replied, “clean water.”

Madison-Rafah Sister City Projct (MRSCP) has joined with MECA to provide water filter/desalination systems for schools in Rafah. We have already provided money for a system at the Tuyar Al-Jena (Birds of Paradise) kindergarten (see photo) and the Rafah’ Girls’ Preparatory School A.

Al-Shuka Preparatory Girl’s School, which serves over a thousand students, will be our third school. We’ve already raised over $4,000 of the $11,500 needed to pay for a system there.

In 2010 the UN General Assembly declared that “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.” Please help us provide this very basic human right to the children of Rafah.

You can donate by mail at:

    MRSCP
    PO BOX 55371
    Madison, WI 53705

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March 22, 2011
Ziad Abbas at MATC

MATC Downtown Education Center
211 N. Carroll Street, Room D240
Madison [Map]
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Ziad Abbas will speak on Water and Solidarity with Palestine. He will discuss Palestine’s water crisis in the broader context of ongoing displacement, military occupation, and the current political events in the Arab world.

He will tell you about the Middle East Children’s Alliance’s MAIA Project, which provides clean, safe drinking water for children in Palestine by installing water purification and desalination units in kindergartens and schools. To date, more than twenty-seven units have been installed serving nearly 30,000 children.

Ziad Abbas is from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank. He offers listeners his own experience growing up under Israeli Occupation, along with sharp political analysis and inspiration to take action. He will discuss Palestine’s water crisis in the broader context of ongoing displacement, military occupation, and the current political events in the Arab world.

Sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and the International Socialist Organization.

March 20, 2011
Annual Rachel Corrie Dinner

Cash bar/socializing 5:30 pm
Dinner 6:00 pm
Program 7 – 9 pm
Bunky’s Cafe
2425 Atwood Avenue
Madison [Map]

Film: One Family in Gaza
Speaker: Ziad Abbas of the Middle East Children’s Alliance

This year’s dinner will be a benefit for the MAIA clean water project of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA). The program will feature a talk by MECA’s Associate Director Ziad Abbas and the Madison premier of the new short film One Family in Gaza.

Ziad Abbas is from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank. He offers listeners his own experience growing up under Israeli Occupation, along with sharp political analysis and inspiration to take action. He will discuss Palestine’s water crisis in the broader context of ongoing displacement, military occupation, and the current political events in the Arab world.

He will tell you about the Middle East Children’s Alliance’s Maia Project, which provides clean, safe drinking water for children in Palestine by installing water purification and desalination units in schools and kindergartens. To date, more than twenty-seven units have been installed serving nearly 30,000 children thanks to the fund raising efforts of groups and individuals throughout the United States, including one provided last year to the Tuyor Al Jena (Birds of Paradise) Kindergarten in Rafah by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. MRSCP has now raised over 80 percent of the funding for a second, larger system at the UN Rafah Girls Elementary School.

One Family in Gaza tells the story of the Kamal and Wafaa Awajah family after the 2008 – 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are depicted either as violent terrorists or as helpless victims. The Awajah family challenges both portrayals. Through one family’s story, the larger tragedy of Gaza is exposed, and the courage and resilience of its people shines through.

The dinner menu will include a vegetarian stew on rice with house salad, falafel, hummus, and babaganouj. Bunky’s is also generously donating coffee, tea and baklava desert. There will be a cash bar beginning at 5:30 pm.

Cost is $15 per person or $25 per couple. Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 16 to Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum (at) gmail.com or phone 235-7870.

Rachel Corrie was killed in Rafah on March 16, 2003 by two Israeli soldiers who crushed her beneath the blade of a Caterpillar bulldozer while she attempted to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home. Please join us once again as we honor her memory by helping the children she sought to protect.

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February 20, 2011
Reception with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink

1:30 – 3:30 pm
RSVP to dwallbaum (at) gmail.com

Afternoon dessert reception with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. Come and help us raise funds for our second Gaza water filters project, meet Medea and discuss her experiences in Gaza. This event is at a private residence in Madison. To attend, please RSVP to dwallbaum (at) gmail.com or call 239-6005. Desserts and beverages will be served. A donation for our next Maia Project water filter for the UNRWA Elementary Girl’s School in Rafah Refugee Camp will be greatly appreciated.

Clean WATER for Rafah’s Children


We ask you to help us give the gift of

Clean WATER for Rafah’s Children

Children at the Tuyar Al-Jena Kindergarten in Rafah were excited to receive a Maia Project water desalination and filtration system provided by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project in memory of MRSCP member Ken Coffeen.

There is a growing water crisis in Palestine that affects the health of virtually every adult and child. In the Gaza Strip, poor sanitation and over-extraction have polluted the limited water supply. Israeli military attacks and the blockade have prevented repairs to water infrastructure. Water to Gaza is restricted and often too expensive for families to purchase from a safe source.

On July 28, 2010 the UN General Assembly declared that “Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.”

The MAIA (Arabic for water) project began when children at a UN school in Gaza were given the opportunity to choose the one thing they wanted most for their school. They chose clean drinking water!

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project has joined with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide water filter systems for schools in Rafah. We first raised $1,995 to install a filter for the Tuyor Al-Jena (Birds of Paradise) kindergarten, where children are now enjoying clean, safe water.

We next collected $13,700 for a second and much larger filter system at the UN Girl’s Elementary school in the Rafah Refugee Camp. This donation on June 7, 2011 helped supply 1,800 young girls with a very basic human right; something children and parents in Wisconsin take for granted.

Our current goal is to collect $11,500 to provide clean water to the Al-Shuka Preparatory Girl’s School in Rafah, with an attendance of 1,187 students. The total raised as of 4/30/12 is $6,890 or 60%.

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