Mission: Hebron by Israeli filmmaker Rona Segal was published recently in the opinion section of the New York Times website, and can be watched there (with a subscription) or on YouTube.
Mission: Hebron is a short documentary based on interviews conducted by the director with Breaking the Silence testifiers about their service in Hebron. Describing a horrifying yet mundane routine of manning checkpoints, invading homes, nighttime arrests, and violently dispersing protests, they paint a picture of what serving in the second largest Palestinian city in the occupied territories requires, the atmosphere in the city, their interaction with the local population, both Palestinians and settlers, and how they felt about it all.
Screened around the world at international film festivals, the film won the Shagrir Prize at last year’s Jerusalem Film Festival and is now long-listed for the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary.
In the South Hebron Hills, the southernmost region of the West Bank, there are about 122 communities of shepherds and farmers totaling about 80,000 inhabitants. The communities settled there in the early 19th century in order to be close to the pastures and agriculture they owned. In recent decades Palestinian residents have suffered abuse from violent settlers, which the army either turns a blind eye to or cooperates with. Living in a land declared as a ‘closed military zone’ by the army, Palestinians in the area experience daily the expropriation of their land, the demolition of their homes, and the cutting of their water pipes. (tv.social.org)
Join Just Vision and +972 Magazine on Thursday, July 29 at 1pm ET / 8pm Jerusalem time for a conversation on what’s happening in the South Hebron Hills, speaking with activists who have been organizing in the area for years.
In the South Hebron Hills (known locally as Masafer Yatta) in Area C of the West Bank – which the Israeli military has full control over – authorities demolish homes and infrastructure on a regular basis while refusing to grant building permits. For residents of the area, fear of violence from the Israeli settlers that surround their villages is ever-present, and the heavy military presence only leads to greater impunity for the settlers.
In the face of this decades-long struggle, Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills, with support from Israeli and international activists, are using tools – from journalism and social media, to storytelling and non-violent direct action – to resist ongoing annexation and draw local and international attention to the injustices they experience or witness daily.
Speakers for this event include Basil Al-Adraa, a Palestinian journalist, activist and resident of the area; Yuval Abraham, an Israeli reporter for Local Call, our Hebrew-language news site co-published with 972 Advancement of Citizen Journalism; and Natasha Westheimer, Australian-American water management specialist and anti-occupation activist based in Jerusalem. The discussion will be moderated by Just Vision’s Executive Director and Local Call Co-Publisher, Suhad Babaa.
WASHINGTON – How does a lawmaker go from surface-level familiarity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to being one of the most vocal proponents of Palestinian rights in the history of Congress?
It starts with Humpty Dumpty.
Rep. Mark Pocan had visited Israel on congressional trips since entering office in 2013, where he spent a bit of time in the West Bank. But it was always through an Israeli lens. After learning more about the conflict from the pro-Israel left-wing J Street organization, the progressive Wisconsin Democrat went again in 2016 on the first-ever congressional trip to Palestine organized by the Humpty Dumpty Institute.
Despite being organized by an NGO that Pocan jokingly admits has “one of the worst names in Washington,” it provided him with a first opportunity to see the land from a Palestinian perspective.
“Having a chance to see things from that perspective opened my eyes about what was going on, and the barriers in getting to a two-state solution that I have advocated for,” he tells Haaretz. “Seeing and talking to people in Palestine firsthand and walking through all the different issues really mattered a lot.”
Pocan, 56, and colleagues Reps. Hank Johnson and Dan Kildee were slated to visit Gaza, only to be verbally denied access 24 hours prior to their visit. They attempted to go anyway, demanding the denial in writing.
“In Wisconsin, we’re common-sense people. When someone says ‘No you can’t go in that room,’ I think there’s something going on and I should check out that room,” Pocan explains. “That was a giant red flag for me.”
US Congressman Andy Levin has warned that anti-Semitism cannot be properly defeated without addressing Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Speaking earlier this week during an online discussion hosted by the progressive Jewish movement IfNotNow on how the Biden administration can combat anti-Jewish racism, the Michigan Democrat lawmaker mentioned his long track record of urging the US to oppose Israel’s occupation.
Rep. Andy Levin from Michigan also wants the Biden administration to appoint a special envoy to combat antisemitism, someone who recognizes the broader far-right threat https://t.co/PRUPZVRGFc
“Over 30 years ago, I was part of a little group of Jews and Christians and Muslims who organized an interfaith delegation to Israel and Palestine from Metro Detroit,” explained Levin. “We went to Gaza, we went to the West Bank, and I wrote a piece in the Detroit Jewish News saying ‘There’s no time left’,” He added that he “took a lot of c**p in my community. “And now it is 30 years later and we have to change things right now. We have to find the language to talk about this in a grounded way.”
He drew a comparison to the recent coup in Myanmar. “The Burmese military just conducted a coup and ended Burma’s fragile, 10-year experiment with democratic self-governance. During those 10 years, the rights of the Rohingya and the Karen and other minority peoples of Burma were never recognized at all.” The suggestion seemed to be that Myanmar could not be considered a democracy even while it held elections because of its failure to respect the rights of its minorities.
Yesterday, I traveled to the southern West Bank, including the Palestinian village of Susya, which the Israeli government has destroyed twice and currently denies access to water. pic.twitter.com/VTDzdoJTyl
“And there was even a genocide of the Rohingya and more broadly the rights of minority peoples there were oppressed… We cannot accept a situation where we consider Burma to be a democracy when the rights of its minority peoples were never even established. Of course, it’s highly imperfect, but an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. Unless Palestinian human rights are respected, we cannot fight anti-Semitism.”
Levin was optimistic about the diversification of Congress which he said could be a springboard to combating racism. “I came in with a class with the first two Native American women ever in Congress and the first two Muslim women ever, including the first Palestinian, my sister from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib.”
Following his visit to the occupied West Bank in 2019, Levin condemned the Israeli government for denying local residents’ access to water.
Levin also led 106 Democrats in condemnation of the Trump administration’s policy shift on Israeli settlements. “The State Department’s unilateral reversal on the status of settlements, without any clear legal justification, therefore has offered a tacit endorsement of settlements, their expansion, and associated demolitions of Palestinian homes,” the lawmakers said in a letter to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to reverse the policy.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights listed General Mills as one of the companies supporting illegal Israeli settlements. AFSC’s own research shows that the land the factory was built on was confiscated by force. The factory is located on land that used to be part of Beit Hanina, a Palestinian town which was dissected by Israel’s separation wall. Israel annexed this area into Jerusalem.
We wrote a letter to General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening, urging him to stop doing business in an illegal settlement—and received no response.
2. Boycott Pillsbury products until General Mills stops manufacturing on stolen land.
3. Help us spread the word. Share more information about the campaign with your networks as well as our campaign website: BoycottPillsbury.org. Support our call for justice for Palestinians and join us in boycotting Pillsbury today.
Economic Activism Associate
American Friends Service Committee
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its deep concern over the repercussions of the Gaza Power Plant scheduled shutdown on Tuesday, 18 August 2020, on all basic services for the Gaza Strip population, especially health and sanitation services, industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities and other services. PCHR reiterates that the Israeli systematic policy of tightening the closure on the Gaza Strip as declared on 10 August 2020, is a form of collective punishment and inhuman and illegal reprisals against Palestinian civilians since 2007.
According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Palestinian Energy And Natural Resources Authority and the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) declared on Sunday, 16 August 2020, its decision to suspend the power plant at full capacity on Tuesday morning, 18 August 2020, as the fuel required to operate the Plant ran out due to the Israeli authorities’ suspension of fuel entry for the seventh consecutive day. The Israeli authorities alleges that their decision to tighten the closure and ban entry of fuel was in response to the launch of incendiary balloons at Israeli outposts adjacent to the Gaza Strip. This will increase the shortage of electric supply by more than 75%.
The shutdown of the power plant will have implications for basic services received by the Gaza Strip residents and will increase the hours of power outage at civilians’ homes to 16 – 20 per day. The power outage will most significantly impact the quality of health and sanitation services, including drinking water supply, sanitation and other services, such as reduction in diagnostic and treatment services at both governmental and private health facilities. Additionally, drinking water supply will be interrupted for long periods, and the power shortage will result in untreated sewage water being pumped into sea. Furthermore, the Gaza Strip’s economy will suffer huge losses as work is suspended in industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities that depend on electricity in their production mechanism, putting them at risk of being shut down and collapse.
PCHR expresses its grave concern over the catastrophic consequences that may result from the disruption of public utilities if power outages continue, which will affect all basic services provided to the public, especially hospitals, water and sanitation facilities; Thus, PCHR:
• Calls upon the international community to force the Israeli occupation authorities to stop using collective punishment policy against the Gaza Strip population and urgently intervene to guarantee import of fuel and all other needs for the Gaza Strip population; and
• Reminds Israel of its obligations and responsibilities as an occupying power of the Gaza Strip under the rules of the international humanitarian law.
Register here for the final Special Session on June 13th at 3PM eastern featuring Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and Dr. Bassam Zakout of the Palestine Medical Relief Society. It will include a detailed look into the Psycho-Social and Physical Health of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, both inside clinics and out in the streets. Dr. Abu Jamei and Dr. Zakout are practitioners with a profound depth of experience serving their community from Gaza’s hospitals to the front lines of protests.
Thank you again to Nidal and Zena for their courageous work. You can access Zena Agha’s research and written pieces here. Please stay tuned for updated information on 1for3’s upcoming projects here. Lastly, you can gather statstics and information on Water in Palestine by signing up to ARIJ’s Newsletter here.
Available for a limited time! Can you help put us over the top?
We are happy to report that we are less than $1,500 away from funding the latest Maia Project clean water filter system for a school in Rafah, Palestine.
This will be the fifth Maia filter provided to Rafah schools through the efforts of MRSCP and other citizens of Madison.
Thanks so much to those who have contributed to this project.
We need to raise the balance of the $16,000 needed to provide clean, safe water for 2,200 students at the the Al-Shuka Preparatory school in Rafah by March 29, the date of the Rachel Corrie Freedom is the Future fundraiser, this year featuring Tarek Abuata of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA).
For a limited time, we are offering a premium of a 22 oz. Trek II aluminum refillable water bottle with this Maia logo for all donations of at least $60.00.
Donations of $80 or more can also receive a red/black/white & green GAZA logo pin. Get ’em before they are gone!
The bottle premiums will first be available this Saturday, Feb. 29 10 am – 5 pm at our table at the International Festival at Overture Center. You can make your donation in person and walk away with your premiums in hand!
If you can’t stop by, you can send a check payable to MRSCP marked “water” to:
P.O. Box 5214
Madison, WI 53705
Please indicate if you would like the premium(s). They can be picked up at the Rachel Corrie event on March 29, where donations will also be accepted. If you can’t make it there, we will make alternate arrangements … be sure to include a phone number where we can call you.
Another option is to purchase some Holy Land Olive Oil from MRSCP; $3 of every bottle sold will go toward the Maia Project. The new shipment has two sizes: 750 ml for $25, and 500 ml for $20. Six-packs are also available at a discount. If interested in buying oil, please come to our events or email veena.brekke at gmail.com.
As always, many thanks for your help in providing clean, safe water to kids in Gaza. We couldn’t do it without you.
All contributions are tax deductible; if you donate online, Middle East Children’s Alliance, the Maia Project sponsor, will send you a receipt; if you send a check, MRSCP will send you one in January 2021.
A Palestinian activist sticks a sign bearing the Palestinian name of Ein Albeida spring over an Israeli street sign with the name Avigail Spring, south of the village of Yatta near Hebron in the occupied West Bank on January 3, 2020. (Hazem Bader-AFP via Getty Images)
Recently, nonviolent Palestinian activist Kifah Adara drew water from the Ein Albeida spring near her West Bank village of Al-Tuwani for the first time in 15 years. The spring is a natural water source that was used by Palestinian communities in the region for generations, but a decade and a half ago, nearby Israeli settlers started swimming in the spring, which dirtied the water and made it unsuitable for drinking. For years, due to settler violence and intimidation tactics, Palestinians couldn’t access the spring at all.
That all changed after a massive nonviolent direct action in which a group of over 150 Palestinian, Israeli, and diaspora Jewish activists reclaimed and rehabilitated Ein Albeida, thereby enabling Adara to walk from her village to fill water buckets for the first time since her youth. “I remember coming to this spring with women from my village to collect water for our families,” Adara said after the action. “We would travel 1.5 kilometers on our donkeys, just like we did today. Once Israeli settlers began swimming in this spring, it was no longer safe for us to drink. For many years, we could not access the spring at all. I am so happy to be back at this spring. I hope that, through the work we started today, the people of this region can use this water again.”
Kifah Adara and her donkey carry water from Ein Albeida spring to nearby olive trees. (Emily Glick)
Ein Albeida, which means “White Spring” in Arabic, is the only natural water source for people living in Al-Tuwani and other nearby villages. The spring is also near Avigayil, an illegal Israeli outpost established in 2001. Settlers living in Avigayil have access to electricity and running water provided by the Israeli government, despite the outpost being considered illegal under Israeli law, while the Palestinian village of Al-Tuwani lacks these services. This is representative of one of the many structural inequalities of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, where services are systematically denied to Palestinians while brazenly given to Israeli Jewish settlers.
The coalition of activists who participated in the action with Adara joined her to show their solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against occupation and to assert their commitment to justice in the region. Adara invited the Israeli and diaspora Jewish members of this coalition to demonstrate their commitment to Palestinian solidarity by leveraging their privilege, as Jews, to protect her and other Palestinian activists from settler and state violence.
I participated in the action through a delegation with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, a group that brings Jews from around the world to engage in nonviolent direct action and co-resistance projects alongside Palestinian and Israeli partners. My participation is central to my academic research investigating Jewish anti-occupation activism and the politics of Jewish identity.
Members of All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective gathering water at Ein Albeida spring. (Emily Glick)
My research points to two important things with regard to this delegation and the action to rehabilitate and reclaim Ein Albeida. First, whereas previous research claimed that Jews engage critically with Israeli policies of occupation out of love for Israel and a desire to make it better, many of the activists with whom I am working are instead motivated by a deep commitment to justice, especially for Palestinians. Second, though there are many methods and tactics used to end the occupation, the co-resistance model is one of the most impactful in showing tangible results to improve the lives of Palestinians on the ground. The nature of this organizing model also builds a vibrant, intersectional, and powerful anti-occupation social movement by building trust and relationships through embodied actions.
Co-resistance means that Palestinians, Israelis, Jews from the diaspora and international activists resist policies and structures of occupation in collaboration with one another. In the co-resistance model, Palestinians set the conditions for action and invite partners to join them based on the shared commitments to bring a just and equitable end to the Israeli occupation. Only those truly committed to dismantling the connected systems of oppression that harm communities in Palestine and Israel are invited to participate in co-resistance actions.
Through co-resistance, Palestinians, Israelis and international Jews build alliances across their differences that enables them to resist in relationship to each other. Building relationships structured on resistance is rooted in the tacit understanding that the liberation of one is deeply intertwined with the liberation of another. The co-resistance model demonstrates, in practice and on the ground, the words of Paulo Freire, who wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “[W]e cannot say that in the process of revolution someone liberates someone else, nor yet that someone liberates himself, but rather that human beings in communion liberate each other.”
A Center for Jewish Nonviolence leader planting olive trees next to Ein Albeida spring as the Israeli Army surveys in the background. (Emily Glick)
As exemplified by the direct action that allowed Adara to return to Ein Albeida, co-resistance shows how the symbolic power of Palestinians, Israelis and international Jews coming together is a model for what a future of liberation and equality for all people who live in Palestine and Israel could look like.
When Jewish activists join together in co-resistance and engage in projects to make life more livable for Palestinian communities, we refuse to enable the occupation. Co-resistance is therefore a rejection of the continued annexation of Palestinian land and resources, and the erasure of Palestinian life and culture. By engaging in co-resistance, we uplift Palestinian resilience and leadership and show by our physical presence that occupation is not our Judaism. This type of activism is a way of asserting a liberatory Jewish identity based in justice for all people while reclaiming Judaism from Israeli state violence.
In these dark days, co-resistance is a ray of light that inspires hope for the possibility of a more just tomorrow.
The stakes have never been higher
As attacks on women’s rights, health care, the environment and democracy intensify, we’re going to need truth-telling journalists more than ever.
At Truthout, unlike most media, our journalism is free from government and corporate influence and censorship. But this is only sustainable if we have your support. If you like what you’re reading or just value what we do, will you take a few seconds to contribute to our work?
Oren Kroll-Zeldin is the assistant director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco, where he is also an assistant professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Follow him on Twitter: @orenkz.
GAZA CITY — Jana Tawil was born in 2012, the same year that the United Nations released an alarm-raising report on the state of the Gaza Strip: If the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continued, the organization warned, the besieged coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt would become unlivable by 2020.
The United Nations revised its initial rating in 2017 to warn that “de-development” was happening even faster than it first predicted.
Jana’s father, 35-year-old Mahmoud Tawil, never thought much of that assessment.
“When the U.N. report [said] that Gaza would be unlivable, I felt that Gaza was not fit for life in the same year, not in the year 2020,” he said.
That is the bleak reality facing Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents as they approach a new year and new decade: still stuck living in a place the world has already deemed uninhabitable in perhaps the most surreal of 2020 predictions.
The Tawil family lives in Gaza’s al-Shati refugee camp, or the Beach camp, where cramped and crumbling rows of homes sit adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. It is in theory a scenic view — but life here persists on a parallel plane.
The elder Tawil, a psychologist, fears the sea: It’s full of sewage, pumped in because there’s not enough electricity and infrastructure to run Gaza’s war-torn sewage system. Hospitals, schools and homes are similarly running on empty, worn down by the lack of clean water, electricity, infrastructure and jobs or money. Barely anyone has enough clean water to drink. The only local source of drinking water, the coastal aquifer, is full of dirty and salty water. By 2020 — basically, now — that damage will be irreversible, water experts have warned.
“There is no stability in work, and there is no money for people,” Tawil said. “We cannot drink water or eat vegetables safely, [as] there is a fear that it will be contaminated.”
He continued: “We need a just life, and we need hope that there is a possibility for us to live on this earth. … The various Palestinian parties do not help us in Gaza to live, just as Israel imposes a blockade on Gaza. Unfortunately, no one cares about the residents of Gaza.”
Perhaps the hardest part of it all is that, relatively speaking, none of this is new.
When the United Nations issued the 2012 report setting 2020 as the zero hour for Gaza’s unlivability, the organization knew even then that no one should be living in Gaza’s already dangerous conditions.
“From our perspective, [the report] was a useful sort of ringing the alarm bell a couple of years ago,” said Matthias Schmale, the director of operations in Gaza for the U.N. Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. body responsible for Palestinian refugees. “But for us it’s no longer really the issue that by 2020 it will be unlivable. … The key question is how do we prevent total collapse?”
Gazans battle daily with the same crushing question.
It has been a dark decade, and then some, in a place Palestinians liken to an open-air prison. In 2007, the extremist group Hamas seized control after ousting its rival, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel and Egypt in response imposed a land and sea blockade, citing security concerns and the aim of squeezing Hamas out. It hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, since 2009, Hamas and Israel have fought three bloody wars, alongside countless flare-ups. In the meantime, Israel flexes control via policies on who and what can enter and leave Gaza, barring most Gazans and goods from leaving. Hamas’s repressive and conservative rule has in turn caused people to feel squeezed from all sides.
Schmale cited four factors keeping Gaza afloat: Palestinian solidarity, such as businesses writing off debts; the inflow of cash sent by Palestinians abroad; Hamas’s autocratic rule, which has restricted internal unrest; and support from international bodies such as the United Nations.
All of these factors also remain subject to change. In 2018, President Trump cut aid to UNRWA and other Palestinian aid programs, threatening to topple the whole model set up in the 1950s to serve displaced Palestinians. Of Gaza’s 1.9 million residents, 1.4 million are refugees, and 1 million of them depend on UNRWA for food assistance. The rate of dependence on food aid only grows, Schmale said.
Despite the Trump administration’s much trumpeted economic-focused Middle East peace plan, no tangible progress has come out of it for Palestinians. A long-term, political solution to Gaza’s impasse (and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) remains far-off.
The depletion of Gaza’s coastal aquifer was one of the main factors in the United Nations’ “uninhabitable” calculus. According to World Health Organization standards, 97 percent of the aquifer’s water is unsuitable for human consumption: It’s been so heavily pumped that saltwater and other pollutants have poured in where groundwater was taken out.
Gazans who can afford to do so buy water from private companies using small-scale desalination projects. But the water from these sources can also become contaminated during unregulated distribution and storage in unclean tanks. One-fourth of all illnesses in Gaza are waterborne, the WHO found.
Tamer al-Aklouk, 21, is one of those water sellers finding any way to get by. He is fed up with reports making dire predictions when they’re released at fancy events while the situation on the ground remains the same or worsens.
That’s why 27-year-old Iman Ibrahim’s New Year’s wish, like so many of her generation’s, is a way out.
Ibrahim studied agricultural engineering in the hope that she would find a job. Now she’s an unemployed graduate, and she and her father, who paid her university fees, are frustrated.
Ibrahim is looking for a scholarship to leave, like many of her peers. In the last two years, Gaza has had a painful brain drain of those who can afford to pay the hefty fees and bribes to exit through Egypt. An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people had left Gaza since mid-2018. Hamas even started preventing doctors from leaving as so few remained.
“I am trying to get a chance, but this is not easy for a girl who lives in a conservative society,” Ibrahim said.
That’s the crux of the matter: Unlike some involved in policies and programs for Gaza, Ibrahim doesn’t have the luxury of moving on.
“Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, the Arabs and the United States are responsible for what is happening in Gaza, and they must work to help some people here in Gaza,” she said. “We are on the threshold of the year 2020, and Gaza has been uninhabitable for years, not next year.”