December 2, 2022
Israel/Palestine on WORT

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Esty Dinur on A Public Affair this Friday has guests Iman Abid of US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Haggai Matar of +972 Magazine.

Iman Abid is the Director of Advocacy and Organizing at the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). Prior to joining USCPR, Iman was the Regional Director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New York (ACLU of NY) for six years.

Haggai Matar is an award-winning Israeli journalist and political activist, and serves as executive director of the nonprofit that publishes +972 Magazine.

A Public Affair is WORT’s daily hour long call-in talk program. It aims to engage listeners in a conversation on social, cultural, and political issues of importance. The guests range from local activists and scholars to notable national and international figures.

Join The Conversation! Listeners may call (608) 256-2001, extension 9 and ask questions of the guests. You can join us on Facebook and Twitter as well!

An open letter to UW-Madison regarding anti-Zionist chalking

In keeping with the Jewish practice of tokhehah, which could be translated as “calling-in,” we are asking you to recognize and redress the damage that these responses have caused.

This letter also appeared in The Cap Times on November 29, 2022 as Memo to UW: Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same thing.

Bascom.jpg
Photo by Taylor Wolfram | The Daily Cardinal

Stepha Velednitsky , Ri J. Turner , Joshua Garoon , Tsela Barr and Annie Sommer KaufmanThe Daily Cardinal, November 28, 2022

Dear Chancellor Mnookin, Vice Chancellor Reesor, and Chief Diversity Officer Charleston,

We are writing as Jewish members of the UW-Madison community in response to the recent anti-Zionist chalkings on our campus, and especially to the reactions from your offices, UW-Madison Hillel and other campus organizations, and media on and off campus.

As Jews, we care deeply, both about our own experience of “inclusion and belonging” (as Chancellor Mnookin has put it) in the UW-Madison community, and about the well-being of Palestinians on and off campus. The responses in question — including, but not limited, to the blame Chancellor Mnookin and Vice-Chancellor Reesor inappropriately placed on the UW-Madison chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — were harmful to both. In keeping with the Jewish practice of tokhehah, which could be translated as “calling-in,” we are asking you to recognize and redress the damage that these responses have caused.

We understand that past experiences may have inclined you to seek those responsible for this incident among UW student groups. In the recent past, Jews on campus have been upset, justifiably, when members of UW-Madison student groups — including leaders of the undergraduate student government — have not acted with respect for Jewish religious practice when it comes to campus actions on Israel and Palestine.

We agree that “education and accountability” are critical in such situations. The statements from your offices, however, provided neither. Instead, they impatiently and inaptly condemned the small and only recently reconstituted UW-Madison chapter of SJP for actions its members deny conducting — contributing to their scapegoating in the media. Those students deserved more from you.

We agree that it is antisemitic to hold all Jews accountable for the acts of the Israeli government, regardless of their connection or lack thereof to Israel. That treats Jews as a monolith and conflates Jewish identity with blanket support for Israel. But here we must ask: who in this situation truly conflated Jewishness with the political ideology of Zionism?

Two of the organizations called out in the chalkings, the UW-Madison chapters of Hillel and Chabad, are indeed Jewish organizations. The primary function of both is to support the religious life of Jewish students on campus. Simply attending the religious services at those two organizations — the only ones that offer them on campus — does not justify attacking Jewish students, and we urge those carrying out pro-Palestinian actions to respect such religious events and spaces.

At the same time, both the Hillel and Chabad chapters have identified themselves as explicitly pro-Israel. This combination of Zionist politics with Jewish religious practice has become the norm for Jews on campus and across the country. Yet many Jews do not consider support for Israel to be essential to their Jewish identity. On the contrary, for some Jewish students, the perception of being “required” to espouse pro-Israel positions as a precondition for participating in Jewish life on campus dissuades them from participating at all. In fact, Hillel has so constrained Jewish student speech and organizing on Israel and Palestine that Jewish students who felt alienated from Jewish life on campus as a result formed an “Open Hillel” movement, and in particular Open Hillel’s Judaism on Our Own Terms initiative, to try to create more space on campus for diverse Jewish viewpoints.

When organizations explicitly prohibit participation of organizations, groups, or speakers — including Jewish ones — on the basis of their political stance, they can no longer claim that they are apolitical, “big tent” Jewish organizations that define themselves primarily around Jewish identity.  To insist that their critics strictly separate the religious and the political, then, is disingenuous and hypocritical.

What’s more, three of the organizations the chalkings criticized (J Street U at Wisconsin, TAMID, and Badgers for Israel) do not self-describe as Jewish organizations. (In fact, the last of the trio explicitly describes itself as “nonreligious.”) Their primary function is to support Israel. And while criticizing such organizations for being Zionist might be controversial, it is not antisemitic. Nor is it antisemitic to claim that Zionist organizations should be held accountable for Zionism’s ills, or that racist and genocidal acts have been committed in the name of Zionism.

So we must reject UW Hillel’s charges that the chalkings were antisemitic because they were “targeting student organizations because of their connection to Israel” and thus constituted “an attack on the identity of Jewish students.” Similarly, we must reject your offices’ claims that the chalkings were antisemitic because they “attribute broad actions or beliefs to Jewish student groups.” In both cases, it was Hillel’s and the university administration’s statements, not the original chalkings, which conflated Jewish identity and practice with support for Zionism within and beyond Jewish communities.

We call on you to apologize to the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine for scapegoating them for this incident without evidence that they were responsible for it.  We call on you to refrain from conflating Zionist viewpoints with Jewish identity — a move that exacerbates the exclusion of non-Zionist Jews from Jewish life on campus, and normalizes the suppression of free speech about Israel and Palestine within campus or campus-adjacent organizations, including Hillel.  We also ask you to educate yourselves about the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism more generally. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which was signed by about 200 scholars of antisemitism and related studies from around the world, including Israel, is a good place to start.

Finally, we call on Jewish individuals and organizations on and off campus who share our perspective to express support by signing on to this letter. 

Sincerely,

Ri J. Turner, graduate student, History
Joshua Garoon, Assistant Professor, Community and Environmental Sociology
Tsela Barr, staff, International Division
Annie Sommer Kaufman, alumna, ’01
Stepha Velednitsky, graduate student, Geography

Additional Signatories, UW-Madison-affiliated:
Susan Nossal, UW-Madison academic staff
Zayne Chrysanthemum, student
Cora Segal, graduate student, Gender & Women’s Studies 
Jacqueline Krass, graduate student, English
Daniel Levitin, graduate student
Melissa Marver, PhD Candidate and alumna, Population Health
Heather Rosenfeld, Smith College (PhD from UW, 2019)
Asher Bruskin, alum, ’08
Jeffrey Schiffman, former employee
Esty Dinur, retiree
Elizabeth Conn, alumna, ’07
Ace Lynn-Miller, alum ’08
Paul Cotton, graduate school alum ’73
Lynne Kavin, alum ’89, member of JVP Chicago
Lynne Joyrich, former professor in the UW System
Elaine J. Cohen, daughter of alum
Judith Laitman, alum
Betsy Buczakowski, alum ’19
Liza DiPrima, alum (BS in Elementary Education)
Marc Rosenthal, UW alum, BS in Nursing 

Additional Signatories, Organizations:
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA
Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles
Jewish Voice for Peace-Milwaukee
Ithaca Committee for Justice in  Palestine/Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA
Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago

Additional Signatories, Individuals:
Rabbi Salem Pearce
Elizabeth Bolton, Reconstructionist Rabbi (RRC ’96)
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, JVP Rabbinic Council
Rabbi Noam Lerman, UW-Milwaukee alum
Rabbi Ariana Katz 
Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg
Rabbi Brant Rosen   
Dr. Benay Blend, retired professor (PhD University of New Mexico)
Sarah Combellick-Bidney, Augsburg University
Elsa Auerbach, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Merry Maisel, UC San Diego
Daniel Segal, Professor at Pitzer College
Alice Rothchild, MD, Harvard University
Mark LeVine, UC Irvine, Dept of History, Global Middle East Studies
Benjamin Kersten, graduate student, UCLA Department of Art History
Charles Manekin, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland
Ivan Huber, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ, Madison, NJ
Emmaia Gelman, Sarah Lawrence College
Hassan Melehy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jodi melamex, Marquette University
freygl gertsovski, Jewish cultural worker
Ari Pollack, Madison native
Benjamin Ben-Baruch,  Retired Jewish educator
Alan Levien, civil rights lawyer
Elizabeth Ingenthron, Jewish scholar and activist
Judith Utevsky, Jewish resident of Madison 
Barbara Parmet, JVP member
Eve Hershcopf, Member of JVP – Bay Area
Rick Chetoff, JVP Los Angeles member
Bob Herbst, JVP member
Beth Harris, member of Ithaca JVP
Burton Steck, UVP
Rachel Rubin, JVP, Health Advisory Council
Jena doolas, member of JVP Chicago
Carol Muskin, member of JVP Chicago
Jon Moscow, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Cinda Rubinstein, member of JVP
Shelley Cohen Fudge, member of JVP-DC Metro Chapter
Nicole Cohen, member of JVP NYC
Munk Munk, member of JVP
Alice Golin, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Harry Soloway, member of JVP Westchester
Rachel Ida Buff, UWM/Milwaukee JVP
Martin Levine, member of JVP – Chicago
Mara Horowitz, member of JVP Westchester 
Lawrence R. Wolf, member of JVP Westchester
Laura Myerson, Educator, member of JVP
Steve Golin, member of JVP
Wendy Fisher, member of Northern New Jersey JVP
Lesley Williams, JVP member
Trude Bennett, JVP member
Sue Saunders, member of JVP – Sacramento, CA
Elizabeth G. Lent, Episcopal Peace & Justice
Sandra Castillo
Mary Fox
David H Slavin, PhD
Oren Maximov
Alan Meyers
Andy Stitt
Sam Friedman 
Seth Morrison 
Estee Chandler
Nina Stoller 
Cindy Shamban
Andrew Courtney
Steve Siegelbaum 
Joe Sokolinsky
Bobbi Siegelbaum
Priscilla Read
Zackary Sholem Berger
Ed Oltman
Stephen R. Shalom 
Lex Rofeberg
Sophia Sobko

Rafah Family Guided Home Construction

A fundraiser by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Our goal is to raise $10,064 to renovate a family apartment in the Tal al Sultan neighborhood of Rafah, where in 2005 we funded a playground for local children.

This family consists of a father, mother and three children. The father has become disabled and the mother works to try to keep the family afloat. Their small apartment is desperately in need of roof repairs, interior renovations to the main living area and bath, and the addition of another room — especially now that the cold and rains of winter have arrived.

The building condition directly affects the family’s health and well being. The family covers the roof panels with cloths to try to keep out the rain, but that’s not enough to keep the rooms dry. They cannot afford to repair the concrete ceiling.

The family was nominated by the Al Amal Society for Rehabilitation, a Palestinian Non-Government Organization in Gaza that has partnered with Rebuilding Alliance since 2017. Our grant will be transferred to and administered by this partner organization. Rebuilding Alliance’s Site Engineer, Heba El Khozondar, will supervise the project to sign-off for each phase.

The project will have three construction phases, each commencing as soon as enough funds have been donated:
▪ Phase 1: $3,080  Poured concrete roof repair
▪ Phase 2: $3,555  Main Living Space
▪ Phase 3: $3,429  Adjacent new room
$10,064  Total

Donate Online

You can also mail a check to MRSCP marked “house repairs” to
MRSCP
P.O. Box 5214
Madison, WI 53705

Mailed contributions will NOT count toward the Global Giving match on November 29.

As always, thank you for your support.

Gaza Background
Israeli raids in Gaza and the humanitarian fallout, December 16, 2022
Gaza archaeologists find ‘complete’ Roman-era cemetery, 12 December 2022
Caged Sparrows: Palestinian Stories from the Gaza Sea, December 12, 2022
Israeli warplanes attack Gaza as EU calls for ‘accountability’, 4 Dec 2022
Photos: Gaza struggles to accommodate the living and the dead, 6 Oct 2022
Fifteen years of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, 03 July 2022


Gaza’s olive harvest from farm to table

Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season.


A Boy in the Shahin Family Helps His Family Pick Olives During the Olive Harvest Season in Gaza, October 2022. (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Tareq S. Hajjaj, Mondoweiss, October 28, 2022

The Shahin family sits happily in a circle in their home, located in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City. The house is warm and lively, and the smell of the meal inside the oven fills the whole room. Everyone can barely contain their excitement at tasting the season’s new olive oil. On the menu is musakhan, a traditional Palestinian dish utilizing the freshly harvested olive oil to make a layered dish of taboon bread, onions cooked in copious olive oil and sumac, and often topped with chicken.

Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season. Starting in October, families prepare harvest tools, mats, plastic rolls, high ladders, and pails, venturing out in the early morning to visit their lands, finally able to pick the olives after an entire year tending to the trees. 

The Shahin family picking olives (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Everyone in the Shahin family participates in the harvest, considered the most important season of the year. They spend weeks on end together, enjoying the olives, and the resulting fresh and thick green oil, as an accompaniment to their meals. “When I dip the first piece of bread into the oil we made, I feel all the effort we put into harvesting melting away,” Amr Shahin, 13, says from his family farm.

He is part of a group of teenagers participating in the harvest. As they continue to pick up olives from the ground, Hassan, 12, points his finger to his cousin Mahmoud, a year older.

“Take Mahmoud for instance,” says Hassan. “If he doesn’t have olive oil for a week, he will die!” They all snicker, coming down from their ladders to participate in the interview.

The Shahin family harvest their olive trees in Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The olives go through a short process to be ready for consumption, either as pickled olives or as fresh-pressed oil. The family all joins together under the tree to carry out a designated task within the division of labor necessary for olive picking. 

Picking as a family tradition

The Shahin family owns eleven acres of land, home to three hundred olive trees. They work daily, from afternoon to sunset, taking advantage of the presence of the young boys after they get off from school to climb up the tall ladders and pick the olives from the top of the trees.

Their mothers wait for them to get back from school. They have their lunch at home quickly, then get to work. Mothers sit under the tree while the boys are up on the ladders, picking the olives and letting them fall down amid their mothers and sisters, who pick it up and separate the olives, dividing the green and black olives into separate bags. After harvesting, the olives are taken home in plastic bags. The family sells a few bags to their neighbors when they get back home.

The Shahin family harvest their olive trees in Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The fastest way to prepare the olives for eating is to smash them with the flat side of a rock, without breaking the pits. Then the olives are mixed with salt and red pepper, and stored in containers for a week. After the curing period, the olives are ready.

And when the family judges the quantity it harvests to be enough, they send it over for pressing. 

Olives into oil

 Extracting the oil from the olives is a long process, entailing taking the olives through several stages in the ancient olive press factories in the Gaza Strip. 

Kishko olive press, al-Shuja’iyya, Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Located among the farms east of al-Shuja’iyya, the Kishko Olive Press receives hundreds of people, who bring olives from their land in plump bags.

“This year the olive harvest is good, and when trees hold an extra amount of olives, the oil extracted becomes less than usual,” Salah Kishko, the owner of the press, tells Mondoweiss

According to Kishko, this year a gallon of olive oil — containing sixteen liters — would require over 150 kg worth of olives. During the previous season, it would only require 120 kg. The amount varies each year, says Kishko, depending on the season’s prevailing climate. The amount of olives that his press goes through daily numbers over three hundred tons, which explains the good season. 

Processing olives at the Kishko olive press in al-Shuja’iyya, Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The first step of this process is dumping the olives into a steam machine, in which the olives are moved through a tiny steel conveyor belt to be cleaned as the steam drags the tree leaves and other impurities.

First stage of olive pressing at the Kishko olive press in al-Shuja’iyya, Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The olives are cleaned and washed by water, and then transferred to another machine for mashing. The olives then are pressed, turning the olive into wet mush.

Washing olives at the Kishko olive press in al-Shuja’iyya, Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

This renders the green olives soft and ready for oil extraction. At the end of the machine, two young boys received the olive paste mixed with the pits on a canvas, who transfer it to the pressure machine.

Dozens of burlap sacks loaded with the smashed olives are lined up between the jaws of the press. The pressing continues for over an hour, during which time the pure oil leaks into a metal basin and then into a filter tube. When the pressing ends, the cores remain inside the ceramic circles, while the pure oil goes to purification.

In the last stage of this process, the pressed oil is fed into the purification machine, splitting the unclear oil into a long pipe, while the clear oil is refined by water. The pipe carrying the oil has two faucets, one for impurities, and the other for the clear olive oil. 

Fresh and clear olive oil at the Kishko olive press in al-Shuja’iyya, Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

At this stage, people fill the fresh oil into gallon containers and take them home, to distribute among their family members or take to market to sell. 

Fresh olive oil at the Kishko olive press in al-Shuja’iyya, Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

This season, the price of a 16-liter tank is 450 NIS (about $127 USD).

The oil is now ready, not only for consumption in the typical seasonal meals, but also for daily use, like in manakish za’atar pastries, musakhan, or just on the side, dipped with bread. 

From farm to table

The olives and the olive oil are essential components of any Palestinian table. Palestinians in Gaza believe that as long as a family has olive oil at home, they will never go hungry. 

Another important part of the season, especially for those who buy oil on the market, is the search for the best olive oil. If you have a neighbor who owns land with olive trees, you would usually ask them to keep you a tank — usually enough to last a family for a year.

A Palestinian family has breakfast in their land during the olive harvest in Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mothana Al-Najjar)

And as the new oil flows in, people start to find ways to use up the leftover oil for last year. Weeks before the harvest season, most families start to use up their stores, using the old oil in several cooked meals.

Manakish

Samera Al-Astal, 52, lights her traditional handmade clay oven to bake bread. Her daughter, Nidaa, prepares the bread dough in between mixing olive oil with zaatar — a blend of sumac, sesame, salt, and Palestinian thyme. 

Mixing zaatar with olive oil (Photo: Mothana Al-Najjar)

The rest of the family helps out, preparing one of the best breakfasts you can have — zaatar manakeesh with fresh olive oil. The smaller children are already seated, anxiously anticipating the food.

The wild thyme and oil mixture is spread across the flattened dough, which is then placed in the oven for fifteen minutes, until it comes out bubbling and green.

Topping dough with zaatar and olive oil mixture (Photo: Mothana Al-Najjar)

“Oil, olives, and thyme have been produced by this land for thousands of years,” says Samera. “Palestinians understood their land and used its bounties for their survival.”

And they continue to use it to this day.

Al-Astal family prepares breakfast during the olive harvest, October 2022, Gaza (Photo: Mothana Al-Najjar)

Musakhan

Nidaa, Samera’s daughter, is 28 years old and has a family of her own. She happily prepares Friday lunch for them, which usually includes chicken or meat. With the olive season, most families tend to make Musakhan, which as a dish makes heavy use of olive oil. 

Nidaa’s family gathers ahead of lunch, while she prepares the meal.

Musakhan, perhaps the quintessential Palestinian dish, consists mainly of chicken, onions, and Taboon bread. A kind of rough flatbread, the “taboon” loaf is derived from the traditional oven of the same name, when the dough is laid over hot rocks inside the taboon, leading to the flatbread’s characteristic dimples and uneven pockets — ideal for catching and soaking up the season’s olive oil.

Preparing onions for Mushakhan (Photo: Mothana Al-Najjar)

After the bread is made, Nidaa chops up a hefty amount of onions, and mixes them with a large quantity of olive oil and sumac. Marinated chicken bakes in the oven, with the oil and onions underneath it, catching the chicken juices that mix with the copious amounts of oil.

Chicken for musakhan (Photo: Mothana Al-Najjar)

Once the chicken is cooked and the oil-and-onion mixture underneath is tender, it’s time for assembly.

The taboon bread is covered — in fact, soaked — with the onion, sumac, and olive oil. Once they’re all assembled, the flatbreads are layered on top of each other, and then finally topped with the roasted chicken. When they pick up the bread, it is dripping in oil.

Fattoush

After a heavy lunch, dinner is comparatively light, but no less replete with the season’s olive oil. Nidaa’s family gets ready for dinner at a leisurely pace, cutting vegetables for a light salad — fattoush.

It is a favorite meal for the elderly in Palestine, as it is soft and smooth. Small diced pieces of crisped bread are added to oven-roasted eggplants, fresh tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and green pepper, seasoned with salt and dressed generously in olive oil.

(Photo: Mothana Al-Najjar)

This meal can be head for breakfast or dinner, and is served alongside the prepared olives. 

The Palestinian relationship with olive trees has been millenia in the making. Palestinians in Gaza consider the olive as their symbol and their most prized property.

Reflecting on how vital olive trees are for Palestinian survival, Amr Shahin said: “When we feel hungry, we eat the olive. When we get tired, we rest in the shade under the trees. And when we are cold in winter, we use the wood for warmth.”


Tareq S. Hajjaj
Tareq S. Hajjaj is the Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent, and a member of Palestinian Writers Union. He studied English Literature at Al-Azhar university in Gaza. He started his career in journalism in 2015 working as news writer/translator at the local newspaper Donia al-Watan. He has reported for ElbadiMiddle East Eye, and Al Monitor. Follow him on Twitter at @Tareqshajjaj.

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.

Love Football. Hate Apartheid.

Score a goal for Palestinian rights

The men’s World Cup starts in just a few days. 
The world will turn its attention to the largest sporting event on the planet. 
Major sporting events, organized by corrupt sports governing bodies and fed with dirty sponsorship money, are often used in an attempt to mask human rights abuses or push through unpopular policies.

Let’s turn that on its head.

As social movements across the world take advantage of the visibility of the men’s World Cup to call for justice for all, let’s shine a spotlight on Palestinian rights and on companies complicit in Israeli apartheid.

Score a #Goal4Palestine!
Score a #Goal4PalestineScore a Goal for Palestinian rights on InstagramShine a light on Palestinian rights on Facebook

Throughout the men’s World Cup, let’s keep the attention on Palestinian rights and call out the complicity of sporting bodies and companies like FIFA and PUMA in Israeli apartheid. Make sure the Palestinian flag is flying high. Hang it alongside the flags of teams you support and share it on social media.

Remind fans to #BoycottPUMA over its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association, which governs over and advocates to maintain teams in illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Take action: Love Football. Hate Apartheid.

Stay tuned for more actions throughout the men’s 2022 World Cup. 

DONATE

The nonviolent BDS movement for freedom, justice and equality is supported by the absolute majority in Palestinian society. BDS rejects all forms of racism and racial discrimination.

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Tell Marvel Studios: No Israeli Apartheid Superheroes

MPower Change

As salaamu alaykum, 

Marvel Studios is out of touch. They’ve announced a new film featuring an Israeli Mossad agent named Sabra.

Mossad agents are notorious for carrying out targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders. They should not be held up as heroes — even in the fantasy world of Marvel.¹

Tell Marvel Studios to do the right thing: No pro-Israeli apartheid superheroes in the next “Captain America” movie.

The cultural impact of Marvel Studios films can’t be overstated. Marvel movies are seen in huge numbers — over 100 million people worldwide saw Avengers: Endgame.

If Marvel goes ahead with its plan to feature a murderous, pro-apartheid “superhero” named Sabra in its next Captain America movie, over 100 million viewers stand poised to see Palestinians dehumanized and vilified on screen.

The character Sabra has a long, disturbing history in Marvel Comics.² As written in the comics, the character Sabra is an agent of the real-world Israeli spy agency Mossad, who have an infamous track record of assassinations, torture, and numerous other egregious human rights violations.

The land theft and violent suppression of multiple popular Palestinian uprisings against Israel’s occupation have led to real tipping points in U.S. discourse. According to recent Gallup polling, progressives have now “fully crossed the threshold and now sympathize more with Palestinians” than with Israelis.³

The backlash against Marvel has already begun. But we need your help to ramp up the pressure.

Take 15 seconds now to tell Marvel: No Israeli apartheid superheroes.

A growing chorus of international human rights groups, from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to Israel’s B’tselem are finally echoing what Palestinians have said for decades: Israel is an apartheid regime.

Join us in telling Marvel Studios: Don’t endorse Israel’s apartheid regime with a pro-apartheid superhero.

We have the power to win this. 

In solidarity,
Granate, Linda, Lau, and the team at MPower Change


Sources:
1. ”A Secret History of Israeli Assassinations”, Newsweek, February 2, 2018
2. “Disney’s new Israeli superhero film hits a raw nerve with Arabs”, CNN, September 16, 2022
3. “Key Trends in U.S. Views on Israel and the Palestinians”, Gallup, May 28, 2021

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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.

  • The Biden administration said in early July that Abu Akleh was likely killed by unintentional Israeli fire, but a ballistics test of the bullet fragment removed from her body was “inconclusive.”
  • Citing witnesses, as well as visual and audio evidence, independent investigations by several news organizations, including the Washington Post, AP and the New York Times, found that it was likely that an Israeli soldier fired the fatal shot.
  • A probe conducted by the UN human rights body came to a similar conclusion.

Israel’s Far-Right Draw on U.S. Funding Despite Terror Labels

Some in D.C. express concern about Netanyahu’s coalition, but little is done about tax-exempt U.S. support of Israel’s far right.


Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israeli far-right lawmaker and the head of the Otzma Yehudit party, gives a statement following the exit polls of the 2022 Israeli general election on Nov. 2, 2022 in Jerusalem. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Daniel Boguslaw, The Intercept, November 2 2022

ON THE WEBSITE for the Israeli group Chasdei Meir, one member of the staff stands out: “The Magician.” He’s the only employee of the anti-miscegenation group with a photo that doesn’t show his face. “He hits the streets every day to find Jewish women who are involved with Arabs,” his short bio says. “He works his magic to bring the daughters of Israel back to their people.”

This isn’t a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. Chasdei Meir is one arm of a far-right movement whose surging political party, Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, appears to have propelled Benjamin Netanyahu to victory in Israel’s Tuesday election.

According to exit polls, Otzma Yehudit is poised to seize multiple seats in the Israeli parliament. Otzma Yehudit formed an alliance with two other extremist political parties, HaZionut HaDatit and Noam, as part of a coalition to boost Netanyahu. Should the coalition take control, as exit polls suggest it will, Netanyahu will reportedly give its leader Itamar Ben-Gvir a seat in his cabinet.

The party — and its leaders — are famously anti-Arab. On October 13, Ben-Gvir drew his gun in a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem and told his followers, on camera, to shoot Palestinians. For Ben-Gvir, the provocations against Arabs have proved effective at bolstering his image as Israel’s most hard-line extremist politician — and now a kingmaker in Israeli parliament.

The Jewish supremacists who delivered Netanyahu his victory are the ideological descendants of Meir Kahane, an American-born Zionist and founder of the Jewish Defense League, which has been responsible for bombings on American soil, killings, and attacks on both Arabs and moderate Jews in Israel. Organs of the Kahanist movement have been consistently designated as terror groups by the U.S. and continue to receive funding from a network of U.S. based allies.

FOR SUPPORTERS OF Israel in America, the ascent of the Kahanists raise troubling political issues. As a Nation investigation detailed in 2019, Chasdei Meir, Otzma Yehudit, and HaZionut HaDatit (also known as National Union or the Religious Zionist Party) are supported by a network of tax-exempt American nonprofits that fund Israeli extremists — many of them based in New Jersey and next door in New York. At least one of the far-right Israeli groups receiving support subsidized by American tax breaks is designated as a terror organization by the U.S.

Many of Israel’s backers in the U.S., however, oppose these groups, and some of them have made it known. At least one liberal Democrat on Capitol Hill who can be relied upon to take Israel’s side has reportedly expressed their concern directly to Netanyahu. Ahead of the elections, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a Democrat and the chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly issued a stark warning to Netanyahu in a closed-door meeting: “The composition of such a coalition could seriously erode bipartisan support in Washington, which has been a pillar of the bilateral relationship between the US and Israel.”

In his own backyard, meanwhile, Menendez has looked the other way, remaining silent on the network of tri-state organizations that fund the very groups he opposes. (Menendez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

The network of tax-exempt organizations in the U.S. funnels donations to Ben-Gvir and his followers, supporting their efforts to ethnically cleanse Palestinians through violent attacks and illegal settlements. The groups are still registered with the IRS, and filings show that since The Nation’s investigation into donations made in the early 2000s, many of the groups continued raising money into 2020, the most recent year for which records are available. Lawmakers and federal regulators appear to have done little. The Intercept also uncovered a previously unreported nonprofit — Tomchei Tzedaka — tied to the Israeli far right that has raised over $15 million dollars since 2017.

“It is unacceptable that the U.S. government continues to subsidize funds that are used for illegal activities and to fund violent groups operating in Israel-Palestine,” Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now told The Intercept. “This is an issue that has been going on for decades. The fact that there are nonprofits subsidized by America taxpayers that support organizations designated by the U.S. government as terrorist groups shows that Israel continues to be treated in an exceptional way in Washington, D.C.”

Israeli right-wing demonstrators gathering with the flag of the far-right Jewish group "Lehava" (Flame) and banners reading in Hebrew "Jerusalem is not Sodom" (referring to the legendary biblical city destroyed by God for wickedness), during a protest against the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade, in Jerusalem on June 2, 2022. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli right-wing demonstrators gather with the flag of the far-right Jewish group Lehava and banners saying “Jerusalem is not Sodom” in Hebrew, during a protest against the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 2, 2022. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

JUST AS A tangled web of U.S.-based support groups fund the Israeli far right, a complex and dizzying network of organizations inside Israel and occupied territories is on the receiving end of those transactions. 

Among the main organs of the Kahanist right is Lehava, a 10,000-strong Jewish supremacist organization that has attacked police, committed arson against mixed Jewish-Arab schools, and organized pogroms in Arab neighborhoods. Lehava shares its headquarters with Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party, and Ben-Gvir, a lawyer, has represented members of the group tried for crimes against Arabs. In addition to its political and activist wings, the movement has a religious arm: Yeshivat HaRa’ayon HaYehudi, or the Jewish Idea, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. due to its affiliation with Kahane’s ideology.

Groups associated with Kahanism were delisted from the State Department’s official Foreign Terrorist Organizations list this year, but remain classified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224, which allows the U.S. to block any financial support. Michael Ben-Ari, a leader of both the Otzma Yehudit party and the Yeshivat HaRa’ayon HaYehudi, was denied entry to the U.S. in 2012 for his terrorist affiliations.

The name “Jewish Idea” is itself drawn from the terrorist organization founded by Kahane in 1987. In addition to the yeshiva, a host of groups in Israel, the occupied territories, and the U.S. use the name. One such U.S. group, Friends of HaRaayon Hayehudi, is based in Skokie, Illinois. The group coordinates with its counterpart, the Charity of Light Fund, Inc., first registered in New Jersey in 2001. As recently as 2020, both U.S. organizations have donated to the Yeshivat HaRa’ayon HaYehudi in Israel, despite the terror listings.

Many top officials in the network of Kahanist groups have a history of violence. Levi Chazan, a director of both Friends of HaRaayon Hayehudi and the Charity of Light Fund, was convicted of shooting nine Palestinians in Ramallah in 1984. Chazan also works with the Kahanist organization Chemla in Israel, which counts multiple operatives in Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party as employees. Among them is Ben-Zion Gopstein, who runs Lehava and was indicted in Israel on terrorism charges in 2019 for inciting violence against Arabs. The vigilante anti-miscegenation group Chasdei Meir, named after Meir Kahane, lists Chazan as a member. The organization says he runs a home to “save” Jewish women.

THE U.S. DONATION button on Lehava’s website redirects to the Tomchei Tzedaka Corp, registered in Lakewood, New Jersey. According to tax filings, Tomchei Tzedaka has raised over $16 million dollars in donations since 2017, with most of the funds being passed on to undisclosed organizations in Israel. When reached for comment, a representative of Tomchei Tzedaka told The Intercept that he could not speak on the relationship between Tomchei Tzedaka and Lehava due to “Rabbinic law.”

Related
This Is Not Fine: Why Video of an Ultranationalist Frenzy in Jerusalem Is So Unsettling

Despite funneling millions of dollars to the Yeshivat HaRa’ayon HaYehudi and its affiliated groups in Israel, none of the U.S.-based nonprofits or donors to these organizations have faced federal oversight for their actions.The exception is the New York-based Central Fund of Israel, which temporarily halted its activities supporting Honenu, a Lehava-linked extremist organization, after facing public pressure and an IRS inquiry instigated by research and advocacy from T’ruah, a Jewish human rights group. (Central Fund denied any wrongdoing in the IRS inquiry.) 

Despite the well-documented history of violence swirling around the figures who returned Netanyahu to the prime minister’s office, one member of Congress, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., spoke out forcefully against Otzma Yehudit in the run-up to the election. “As #Israel heads towards another election in November, I urge Israeli political leaders from all sides of the political spectrum to ostracize extremists like Itamar Ben-Gvir whose outrageous views run contrary to Israel’s core principles of a democratic and Jewish state.” Sherman tweeted. “These extremists undermine #Israel’s interests and the U.S.-Israel relationship, which I and my colleagues have worked to strengthen.”

Correction: November 4, 2022
This article was corrected to clarify that Central Fund of Israel did not support Lehava directly, but gave to an organization that supports members of Lehava — and that they temporarily halted those activities following an IRS inquiry.

ACTION ALERT: The Israeli army closes Youth Against Settlements Community Center

Friends of Hebron (FOH)

Dear Friends,

The Israeli army showed up and closed our community center! The house belongs to Human Rights Defender Issa Amro, who is now left alone and isolated while under threat from the nearby Israeli settlement and army base. Tell the U.S. State Department to act now!

While Americans were celebrating Halloween, Israeli soldiers enforced a special closed military zone order onto Issa’s house, which doubles as the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) center.

A closed military zone order (CMZ) means that no one can enter—no journalists, volunteers, family members, or medical personnel. Issa is left alone, isolated, and fears for his safety. He has already received multiple death threats from settlers and soldiers.

The CMZ order specifically targets Issa’s house, as this satellite image shows.

Please sign the petition and don’t forget to donate! 

Israel Hayom‘s lies were the same lies about Issa that have often been perpetrated by the Israeli settlers in Hebron who terrorize the local Palestinian population on a daily basis in the city. These lies show that the newspaper had gotten used to publishing slander promoted by settler populations about Palestinians without any consequences, promoting these narratives without any actual journalistic standards or investigation.

The house is a meeting point for international and Israeli delegations, a training center for local volunteers, and a community center for Palestinians living in Hebron’s most restricted areas.

YAS were in the middle of a campaign to help local Palestinian famers harvest olives from their trees. Israeli settlers assaulted and harassed the farmers and volunteers multiple times during this period. Mr. Amro attempted to file a complaint at the local Israeli police station, but was refused. His house was closed the following day.

Help us call on the U.S. State Department to pressure Israel to lift the closure!

“Israeli settlers have long been asking the Israeli military to close my house in Tel Rumeida,” Amro stated. “They don’t want me to talk to any international and Israeli audience about the Israeli apartheid and the Israeli occupation.” Amro stated that he is now isolated and afraid to leave the house, and has faced death threats by Israeli soldiers and settlers since the closure.

Friends of Hebron has a U.S.-registered IRS 501(c)3 charity status. Donations are tax-deductible.

During these tense times, please consider supporting our work on the ground in Hebron by donating.

With peace,

Friends of Hebron
Working for Peace and Justice
https://www.friendsofhebron.com/