The Sumud Freedom Tour

This is our moment of unity, of coalition building

Holy Land Trust

Mission

Holy Land Trust and Nonviolence International have partnered to develop a multilayered tour of peace and justice work in Israel and Palestine.

This tour unpacks the broad range of nonviolent resistance methods employed by Palestinians and their co-resisters throughout the region and internationally. From December 21, 2017 to January 3, 2018, you will meet with leaders of grassroots organizations, NGO’s, and agents of change in the community who are actively engaged in challenging the systems underpinning Israel’s prolonged military occupation.

This tour is designed for social activists who are committed to deepening their analysis of global oppression. Whether you are engaged in the movement for black liberation, entrenched in the battle for immigrant rights, or fighting for women’s equality, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can serve as an important theoretical and practical framework for nonviolent resistance.

This program is designed to promote an exchange of ideas between movements. Those who have little or no background in the history of the Palestinian struggle are encouraged to join, as the intersections between our movements will allow us to relate to and better understand one another. And as a result, this tour will help us lay the foundation for necessary relationships that lead to broad, diverse coalitions of change.

Who we are

Holy Land Trust is a Palestinian Non-Profit Organization (NGO), located in the heart of Bethlehem on Star Street. Our work is centered on strengthening communities to empower them to find nonlinear solutions to problems; solutions which are rooted in social justice, compassion, and love.

Nonviolence International (NI) is a decentralized network of resource centers that promote the use of nonviolent action. Founded by Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad in 1989, NI is a 501(c)(3) organization registered in Washington, DC, USA. NI is also a non-governmental organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

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Palestinian Authority arrests human rights activist Issa Amro

Michael Schaeffer and Omer-Man, +972, September 5, 2017

Palestinian authorities reportedly arrested Amro, an activist with Youth Against Settlements, for criticizing the PA in a Facebook post. Amro, who is also facing charges in Israeli military court for his political activism, has been recognized by the EU and UN as a human rights defender.

Palestinian nonviolent Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian nonviolent activist Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian security forces arrested human rights defender and well-known Palestinian activist Issa Amro in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday. The arrest was reportedly related to a Facebook post published by Amro, in which he criticized the Palestinian Authority for arresting a journalist a day earlier.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently signed an “Electronic Crimes” decree, effectively curtailing the little free speech that existed for Palestinians under Palestinian law, and which was believed to target online dissent against the PA, particularly on social media. The new law was roundly criticized by rights groups in Palestine and around the world. Israel also regularly arrests Palestinians for posts on social media.

The Palestinian Preventative Security Service (PSS) summoned Amro, who has been declared a “human rights defender” by the EU and UN, for interrogation about his critical Facebook post on Monday and arrested him at midday.

Amnesty International put out a statement Monday calling for Amro’s immediate release, saying it was “outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online.”

“Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty. “Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also published a statement Monday expressing concern at Amro’s arrest and urging his release.

Last month, Palestinian security forces arrested a large number of journalists in what appeared to be a campaign targeting members of the press working for outlets affiliated with political rivals of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas’s party.

Amro was reportedly able to make a phone call at the time of his arrest to a colleague at Youth Against Settlements, the Hebron-based group he co-founded, during which he sounded a defiant tone.

“All my writings on social media are part of the freedom of opinion and expression stipulated by the Palestinian Basic Law and are protected by all international laws and conventions,” Amro said, according to a press release Youth Against Settlements sent out on Monday night. “My arrest will not affect my defense of human rights and the rights of journalists to exercise their work freely and without pressure from the government.”

Amro has not been heard from since.

The Palestinian security forces are not the only ones targeting Amro for his defiant politics and activism. Amro is also currently on trial in an Israeli military court, where almost all of the 18 charges are related to his political activity and nonviolent action. Under Israeli military law, there is no legal avenue for Palestinians to protest or demonstrate politically. Amro’s activism, much of which is the basis for his current charges, has been reported by +972 here, here, here and here.

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Israel sunk in ‘incremental tyranny’, say former Shin Bet chiefs

“You live in a democracy, and suddenly you understand it is not a democracy any more”

Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, 6 April 2017

Ami Ayalon, ex-head of the Shin Bet intelligence services, suggests Israel has a dynamic ‘of ongoing war’ and ‘like 1984, there’s always an enemy’. (Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Two former heads of Israel’s powerful domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, have made an impassioned and powerful intervention ahead of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in June.

One of the pair warned that the country’s political system was sunk in the process of “incremental tyranny”.

Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon were speaking ahead of a public meeting at a Jerusalem gallery which is threatened with closure for hosting a meeting organised by the military whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence, one of the main targets of the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

During his recent visit to the UK, Netanyahu also asked Theresa May to cut UK government funding to the group – a request that baffled diplomats as no direct UK funding exists.

“Incremental tyranny [is a process] which means you live in a democracy and suddenly you understand it is not a democracy any more,” Ayalon told a small group of journalists, including the Guardian, ahead of the event. “This is what we are seeing in Israel. The tragedy of this process is that you only know it when it is too late.”

Ayalon cited recent moves by ministers in the Netanyahu government to change the laws to hit groups such as Breaking the Silence by banning them from events in schools and targeting their funding, while also taking aim at the country’s supreme court and independence of the media.

Issues of freedom of speech and expression have become one of the key faultlines in Israeli society – in everything from the arts to journalism – under the most rightwing government in the country’s history.

The Babur gallery is under threat of closure after being censured by the country’s culture minister, Miri Regev, for holding an event with Breaking the Silence on publicly owned property – a group which Regev claimed “hurts Israel’s image”.

Gillon was equally bleak in his analysis of Israel’s trajectory, saying that the country was being “driven by this occupation towards disaster”.

He added: “This country was established on the values of liberal democracy, values written in the only kind of constitution we have – which is our declaration of independence – values we don’t fulfil any more. You can analyse what happened to us in the last 50 years, but everything is under the shade of occupation. It has changed us a society. It has made us an unpleasant society.”

The comments by Ayalon and Gillon come amid a growing and heated debate between the right and opponents of the occupation over the historic meaning of the six-day war, in June 1967, which marked the beginning of the occupation. Rightwing ministers celebrated the occupation on Thursday as the “liberation” of the occupied territories.

“I am here,” added Gillon, “because I think that Breaking the Silence and groups like it are completely legitimate organisations. Sometimes I don’t like what they say, but the mission they took on themselves, through interviews with soldiers, should give a better understanding [about] what it means to occupy another people.”

The decision by Ayalon and Gillon to make such a public show of support, was seen as a big coup for the human rights group, which has been facing increasing official efforts to limit its activities.

The two also criticised the unwillingness of the Israeli media and senior opposition politicians to speak up for freedom of speech, in particular concerning the moves against groups like Breaking the Silence.

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Banksy Customizes A West Bank Hotel, Offering Rooms With A View Of The Wall

Bill Chappell, NPR, March 3, 2017

A doorman stands at the entrance of The Walled Off Hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Friday. Dusan Vranic/AP

There’s no pool, but there is a piano bar that exudes “an air of undeserved authority.” That’s part of the promise at The Walled Off Hotel, the artist Banksy’s vision of a hotel along the wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.

The project blends Banksy’s trademark style — a trickster’s eye for trompe l’oeil and a political cartoonist’s ear for satire — into more traditional hotel amenities such as food, drinks and well-appointed rooms. The hotel will begin taking reservations on March 11.

Just don’t call it the Waldorf. For a hint of what awaits visitors to the small hotel in Bethlehem, consider this description of the piano bar inside:

The Walled Off Hotel, which offers what it calls the “worst view in the world,” has rooms that look onto an Israeli security barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Dusan Vranic/AP

“Guests can peruse a collection of Banksy artworks that include vandalized oil paintings and statues choking on tear gas fumes. Warm scones and freshly brewed tea are served daily on fine bone china and the Walled Off Salad should not be missed.”

That’s from Banksy’s website, which adds that the engagement is open-ended: “We’re aiming to be here for the whole of the centenary year, maybe longer if people come.”

Israeli forces raid At Tuwani after women and children’s nonviolent action

Operation Dove, February 12, 2017

More information on Operation Dove

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This Saturday morning residents of the Palestinian village of At Tuwani were grazing sheep and enjoying a day of outdoor picnics when Israeli soldiers entered the village en masse, turning the peaceful village into a military theatre. The raid appeared to be part of the price paid by residents for their nonviolent resistance to settler violence in the South Hebron Hills:  twice in recent weeks Palestinians have gathered to peacefully plant olive trees on Palestinian land on the outskirts of the village, near the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on.

On the morning of February 11 more than a dozen Israeli soldiers entered the village in military vehicles. The heavily armed soldiers forced their way into houses and courtyards and began questioning the inhabitants, demanding to see all of their children between the ages of 13 and 18. They ordered Palestinians who asked for an explanation for the raid to show their ID’s, and forced several young men to spread their arms against buildings and cars while soldiers searched their bodies and clothing at gunpoint. The soldiers showed no official orders for the raid, but moved from house to house throughout the morning, questioning men and women, terrifying the children, and violating the human rights of the Palestinian residents of At Tuwani. Soldiers also demanded to see the passports of Operation Dove volunteers who were filming the raid.

Saturday’s military invasion was the second time in ten days that Israeli soldiers have completely disrupted work and life in the village of At Tuwani, and it will likely not be the last.  Before leaving the village this Saturday the soldiers threatened to return in the night.

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Operation Dove’s campaign #TogetherAtTuwani provides volunteers in the South Hebron Hills to support Palestinian shepherds as they remain on their land and choose to use nonviolent means, along with Israeli activists, to protect their lives and rights.

Operation Dove volunteers were first called to the village of At-Tuwani in 2004. Today, 13 years later, they still share daily life with communities throughout the South Hebron Hills. They support the popular nonviolent resistance by accompanying Palestinians on lands vulnerable to settler attacks and to harassment by Israeli soldiers.

You can donate to this effort.