Landmark Endorsement of Rep. Joaquin Castro for House Chair

Over 50 progressive organizations endorse Rep. Joaquin Castro for Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC). At the end of November, Democratic House members will vote on who takes leadership of this important committee. HFAC makes decisions on arms control and disarmament issues, international funding and aid, deployment and use of armed forces, drug policy, international sanctions, and global health issues, such as COVID.

Rep. Castro represents the kind of leadership we need to build a foreign policy that reflects the growing progressive calls for diplomacy, support of human rights, and justice. We welcome Rep. Castro’s commitment to ensuring that Palestinian voices are heard in the Committee and his recent statements pushing for accountability on Israel for violations of international law.
Adalah Justice Project

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Urgent news from Sheikh Jarrah

November 13, 2020

I’m writing with some urgent news from East Jerusalem that hits very close to home – we’ve just received word that new eviction orders have been issued to four families in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and they may be forcibly removed as early as Saturday.

Sadly, this is a story we’re intimately familiar with. Sheikh Jarrah was home to Just Vision’s first office and we witnessed the devastating takeover of the neighborhood by right-wing settlers, backed by the Israeli courts and police, over the course of years. The experience of this Palestinian community was chronicled in our 2012 short documentary, My Neighbourhood, and the El-Kurd family – whose teenage son Mohammed sat at the heart of the film – is one of the four who may find themselves homeless in the midst of a pandemic in just a few short days.

Mohammed is watching the heart-breaking developments from his apartment in New York, unable to get home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and is asking that we share this story far and wide. You can read his personal appeal – which has more context – below.

While the cases in Sheikh Jarrah are thinly veiled as a legal matter, the political motivations are clear. This latest round of evictions is part of a broader attempt by the Israeli state to forcibly displace Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The process is methodical and impacts thousands of lives on a daily basis. In the past month alone, Israel hid under the US election media frenzy to undertake the largest demolition of Palestinian homes and structures in a decade, and just yesterday, announced a new settlement, Givat Hamatos, that would effectively cut East Jerusalem off from Bethlehem.

This all happens under the United States’ watch – subsequent US administrations have done little to hold the Israeli government to account, and the latest administration has given a carte-blanche for unjust activity like this.

Israeli courts could determine the fate of the El-Kurd family, and several others, in a matter of days. And while the families are appealing the decision, their chances of success are extremely low.

With the courts and police working in lockstep with Israeli settler organizations, Sheikh Jarrah is calling on those in the international community who are concerned about what’s happening to help raise visibility and apply pressure to halt the evictions. Will you share this widely with your networks?

Thank you, and if you have suggestions of ways to amplify this story, please be in touch.

With determination,

Suhad Babaa
Executive Director, Just Vision


From: Mohammed El-Kurd
Subject: Critical Update from Sheikh Jarrah
Date: November 13, 2020 at 2:58:46 PM EST

Hello friends,

I’m reaching out because my family’s home in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, is facing the imminent danger of forced, legally baseless eviction by the Israeli government and settler organizations, alongside 11 other families.

On the 22nd of October, the Israeli magistrate court ruled to evict four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah—Jaouni, Iskafi, al-Qasim, and my own. The Israeli court also ruled that each family must pay 70,000 shekels in fines and fees to cover the Israeli settlers’ legal expenses. This ruling means that on November 21st, we will lose our homes. Our lives hang in the balance as the Israeli courts determine whether they will hear our appeal.

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Madison’s Virtual Fair Trade Holiday Festival is Open!

Our online store, Madison-Rafah Marketplace, has added crafts to our olive oil sales. We offer ceramics, embroidery, jewelry, kufiyas, woodcrafts, and calendars.

For the month of November make this your one-stop shopping for holiday gift giving. Spend your money on products that support your values. Give gifts that give twice, once to the producer and once to your recipient.

Since 2004 the Madison-Rafah Crafts Committee has worked with fair trade organizations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to purchase mostly traditional crafts. We buy them at fair trade prices, helping the artists support their families and the economy of Palestine.

We hope you will be able to participate in this annual event. As always, thank you for your support.



Browse other participating Fair Trade vendors!
You can also follow the Festival on Facebook.

Israel Sends Maher al-Akhras to Death

Ref: 115/2020, 02 November 2020

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights follows with grave concern the deteriorating health condition of Maher al-Akhras, as he enters the 99th consecutive day of his open hunger strike in protest to his administrative detention by the Israeli occupation authorities without charge or trial.

PCHR holds the Israeli occupation fully responsible for al-Akhras’ life and stresses that his continued detention is effectively a death sentence, with the collaboration of the Supreme Court of Israel which has, to date, refused four petitions for his release.

PCHR reiterates that al-Akhras was forced to practice his right to go on hunger strike in rejection to the injustice practiced against him, and because he was stripped of all means to access justice within the Israeli authorities, except his own flesh to receive his right to a free and fair trial. Hence, PCHR expresses its concern for the suspicious international silence over al-Akhras’ continued detention, particularly by the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Al-Akhras was arrested on 27 July 2020, and immediately decided to go on an open hunger strike in objection to his administrative detention. He was transferred to Kaplan Medical Center in Israel on 23 September 2020, due to his critically deteriorating health as he began to lose consciousness and develop serious complications. The Israeli occupation offered him demeaning compromises, but he refused them all maintaining his position, “Either freedom or martyrdom.” In the past few days, al-Akhras’ condition got more complicated as he suffers seizures, and severe aches across his body, blurry vision and a severe headache.

On 27 October 2020, the Supreme Court of Israel refused al-Akhras’ lawyer’s latest petition for his release and transfer for treatment at a Palestinian hospital in the West Bank. The Court had previously refused petitions for al-Akhras’ release, the first of which was on 23 September 2020, the second was on 01 October 2020, and they were both denied for trivial reasons. On 12 October 2020, the Court refused the petition, adding conditions for the non-renewal of al-Akhras’ administrative detention. This was a crucially serious precedent, which set the automatic renewal of administrative decisions as the norm, as the Court decision stated that: “We suggested that the current administrative detention order be effective from 27 July 2020 – 26 November 2020 without renewal, provided that the petitioner immediately ends his hunger strike, unless new information on the expected danger of the petitioner is presented, or if changes occur in a manner that intensifies the threat of releasing the petitioner.”

Administrative detention is practiced by the Israeli occupation authorities under Article (273) of Military Order No. 1651. According to the Military Order, which is based on the 1945 British Mandate-era Emergency Regulations, occupation authorities may arrest whoever they want without charge or trial. The detention is based on information provided by an Israeli intelligence officer in the area, and it is not disclosed in the court, nor is it given to the detainee or their lawyer under pretext that is it confidential. The Israeli Military Judge is the only person who can view this information. Consequently, the defendant is effectively denied their right to defense, since there is no charge to refute, and the lawyer cannot provide counter arguments.

PCHR notes here that it has sent an urgent appeal to Mr. Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; and Prof. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and Mr. José Guevara Bermúdez, Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to demand their immediate and urgent intervention for al-Akhras’ release.

PCHR expresses its grave concern over the continued administrative detention of al-Akhras and the suspicious international silence and holds Israel fully responsible for his life and safety. PCHR reiterates that the Israeli occupation’s policy and systematic disregard for international law shall only reap shame, whether with its continued adoption of the administrative detention policy or for al-Akhras’ particular case, especially under wide international condemnation for his continued detention by the majority of United Nations and international organizations.

PCHR condemns the Israeli authorities’ continued detention of al-Akhras despite his frail health and recalls its call upon the international community and the free people of the world and all UN human rights bodies and mechanisms to work for the immediate release of Palestinian detainee, Maher al-Akhras.

Lastly, PCHR calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to end the use of administrative detention and abolish it from its legislations and to release all administrative detainees in Israeli prisons.

Kafr Qasim Massacre, October 29, 1956

Today is the anniversary of the 1956 massacre at Kafr Qasim. Kafr Qasim is one of hundreds of Palestinian villages occupied by Israel during the 1948 ethnic cleansing campaigns. Located near the militarized border of Israel’s expanding colonial rule in 1956, Israeli “border police” enforcing an unannounced early curfew killed 47 Palestinian workers, 23 of whom were under the age of 18.

We created these social media graphics to create awareness of this tragic event and to show how the fight against Israeli settler colonialism is part of the movement for labor justice. We hope you’ll learn from these graphics and share widely.

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November 2020
Virtual Fair Trade Holiday Festival

Dear Members and Friends of MRSCP,

Mark your calendars for the upcoming Madison Fair Trade Holiday Festival, which has gone virtual this year due to the pandemic.

The sale will be during the month of November. Make this your one stop shop for all your holiday gift giving. Spend your money on products that support your values; give gifts that give twice, once to the producer and once to the recipient.

You will be able to browse all the participating vendors and order directly from their websites by visiting Madison Fair Trade Holiday Festival.

You can also follow the Festival on Facebook.

MRSCP will be participating in the virtual sale via our online store, Madison-Rafah Marketplace. We will carry most of our usual items.

(The store is currently up and running for olive oil sales; our complete product listings will be available when the Festival opens.)

Note: MRSCP CANNOT ship or deliver any purchases; they need to be picked up. You will receive instructions and a pickup window following your purchase. In hardship cases, we may be able to provide delivery.

We hope you will be able to participate in this annual event, and as always, thanks for your support.

Barb O.
MRSCP

Trump administration considers labeling top humanitarian groups ‘anti-Semitic’

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,
and Oxfam are included

John Hudson, Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2020

The Trump administration is considering labeling some of the most prominent humanitarian organizations in the world, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, as “anti-Semitic,” according to two people familiar with the discussions.

A declaration by the State Department could come as early as this week, the individuals said, adding that it might encourage other governments not to support the groups’ work.

The proposal has prompted sharp opposition from career officials in the department, who say it would be a gift to authoritarian governments that have long sought to delegitimize human rights groups for their work exposing mass atrocities and crimes against humanity, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss future policy decisions.

The organizations deploy scores of workers in dangerous hot spots, where they often face resistance from local governments.

The State Department declined to comment on a pending declaration, which was first reported by Politico.

Pro-Israel advocates have long complained of bias by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, saying they focus too heavily on the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government.

The groups, however, have a lengthy track record of spotlighting the mistreatment of individuals at the hands of governments elsewhere, including authoritarian regimes and Western democracies.

“It’s preposterous,” Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski (N.J.), who previously worked as Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said in a phone call. “They also document the treatment of the Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority. They are critical of every government in the world, including the United States. Yet the State Department under every previous secretary of state has relied on these organizations as credible sources of information and treated them as partners.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of anti-Semitism.

“Any insinuation that Oxfam supports anti-Semitism is false, baseless, and offensive,” Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America said. “Oxfam and our Israeli and Palestinian partners have worked on the ground for decades to promote human rights and provide lifesaving support for Israeli and Palestinian communities. We stand by our long history of work protecting the lives, human rights, and futures of all Israelis and Palestinians.”

Over the years, the groups, especially Human Rights Watch, have criticized the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, deeming them illegal under international law. Pompeo reversed years of U.S. policy by declaring that the United States does not consider the settlements a violation of international law.

If the State Department moves forward on the decision, it is likely to be celebrated by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pro-Israel Republican donors and a wide swath of Christian evangelicals, who say human rights organizations disproportionately target Israel.

Diplomats tour Palestinian communities Israel is expelling from the South Hebron Hills

The diplomats tour today. Photo by: B'Tselem\Breaking the SilenceThe diplomats tour today. (Photo: B’Tselem – Breaking the Silence)

B’Tselem, 19 October 2020

The representatives of 17 countries, including EU members as well as other countries, are currently visiting Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, whose residents Israel is seeking to expel. Since 2000 the residents have been waging a legal struggle in Israel’s High Court of Justice. Last August, before the last hearing in the case, the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research revealed a document that proved what was already clear: Israel had declared the area a firing zone to facilitate the expulsion of its residents. The judges ignored that information and the residents are currently awaiting their ruling.

Heads of delegations and other diplomats are currently visiting Palestinian communities in the Masafer Yatta area in the South Hebron Hills, whose home Israel has declared as “Firing Zone 918”, in an effort to drive them out. Around 1,000 residents are awaiting a forthcoming ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice in the latest petition in their
decades-long struggle against Israel’s attempts.

On the tour are representatives of the EU and of member states Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Ireland, as well as the UK, Norway, Switzerland and Canada, which concur with the EU’s position that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are unlawful and that Israel’s policy of forcible transfer of Palestinians is unacceptable. At the village of Khirbet al-Majaz, the participants are visiting the local school, built with EU funding, and meeting community leaders along with Nidal Younis, head of the Masafer Yatta local council, and Nasser Nawaj’ah, a resident of Susiya and Field Researcher for B’Tselem. The tour, which is adhering the most up-to-date Covid-19 safety guidelines, was organized by Israeli NGOs Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

Breaking the Silence Executive Director Avner Gvaryahu said: “We have come here today to announce that we will not stand by while the State of Israel declares hundreds of people illegal residents in their own homes. We will not stay silent when soldiers are sent to expel people from their homes, in which they lived long before the first Israeli soldier set foot in the West Bank. We invite everyone to come here with us and look these people in the eye. That is more than the policymakers, who are forcing entire families to live in constant fear of being driven out of their homes, have ever done. This is expulsion. This is occupation.”

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad added that “Israel has coveted Masafer Yatta for decades, viewing it as an area ready for exploitation were it not for what it perceives as the fly in the ointment – Palestinians who live in the area. The state wishes to expel all these families, demolish their homes and destroy their livelihoods, on one pretext or another. Declaring the area a firing zone was the excuse; cleansing the territory of Palestinians is the goal. This criminal plan must be stopped.”

The Khirbet al-Majaz community in Masafer Yatta. (Photo: B’Tselem – Breaking the Silence)

Background:
In the early 1980s, the Israeli military declared an area of about 3,000 hectares in the South Hebron Hills known as Masafer Yatta a restricted military zone, dubbed ‘Firing Zone 918’. At the time, dozens of Palestinian families had been living in the area for years, since before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. They lived in 12 small villages and earned a living as farmers and shepherds.

In October and November 1999, the military expelled around 700 residents of these communities. Following the expulsion, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Attorney Shlomo Lecker filed a petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on behalf of some 200 families. The court issued an interim injunction, in power to this day, that prohibited the state to expel the residents but also put their lives on hold. They continue to live in their homes and work their land, under constant threat of demolition, expulsion and dispossession. They are also barred from new development. Left with no choice, the communities built new homes without permits, as well as the necessary infrastructure, including for supplying water and power. The Israeli authorities issued demolition orders for these structures and in many cases carried them out, and confiscated infrastructure equipment, while many other demolition orders remain in power. Since 2006 and until the end of September 2020, B’Tselem has documented the demolition of 66 structures, which were home to 358 people, including 163 minors, in these communities. Since the beginning of 2012, B’Tselem has also documented the demolition of 21 non-residential structures in these communities.

After 20-odd years of legal proceedings, the High Court is set to issue its ruling soon. In the last hearing on the matter, held on 10 August 2020, the state argued that the petitioners had not been permanent residents of the area when it was declared a “firing zone”, and therefore had no right to continue living in their homes. It further argued that the communities were taking advantage of the interim injunction: people not included in it were moving into the area and residents were building without permits. The state counsel claimed that Israel had been willing to offer a “compromise,” such as allowing residents to live in their homes for two months a year with prior coordination or on weekends and Jewish holidays when the military does not train in the area, but that the petitioners had rejected all the proposals – which would have effectively destroyed their lives and forced them to leave. Relying on this statement, the justices directed the petitioners to examine various solutions that would enable the military to train in their area of residence, maintaining that “the solution lies in one balance or another.” In doing so, the court ignored an Akevot Institute finding last August that declaring the area a firing zone had been intended from the outset to help drive the Palestinians out, and was never a military necessity.

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