The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

“When there are no [other] IDF forces [in the area] … the shooting is very unrestricted, like crazy. And not just small arms: machine guns, tanks, and mortars.” ‘I’m bored, so I shoot’: The Israeli army’s free-for-all violence in Gaza

  • June 25, 2005
    Rebuilding Homes in Rafah, Rebuilding Hope in Palestine

    Panel Discussion with Craig and Cindy Corrie
    and Khaled and Samah Nasrallah

    Saturday, June 25, 2005
    7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
    The Crossing, 1127 University Ave., Madison, WI
    (corner of University and Charter)

    Cindy and Craig Corrie are the parents of U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip. Khaled and Samah Nasrallah lived in the house that Rachel died defending. They will present the story that links their families, and speak about their involvement with the Rebuilding Homes Alliance.

    The event is free and open to the public. There will be fundraising for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

    This event is part of the U.S. Campaign Upper Midwest Regional Organizing Conference. For more information, contact rafahsistercity at

  • Mezan Center is Key Partner in Palestine

    Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, May 9, 2005

    Madison — The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) has enlisted the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Palestine as its key partner in maintaining peopleto-people relations with the citizens of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. The Mezan Center is a non-profit, non-partisan, transparent and accountable human rights organization with the mandate “to promote, protect and prevent violations of human rights in general and economic, social and cultural rights in particular,” and “to enhance the quality of life of the community in marginalized sectors of the Gaza Strip.” Core donors are the Netherlands Representative Office , the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the French Consulate, and the Ford Foundation.

    In the past, Al Mezan has been instrumental in acting as an intermediary between MRSCP and grassroots organizations in Rafah including the Rafah municipality under the mayorship of Said Zoroub, the Palestine Health and Education Ministries, the General Union of Palestinian Women, the Gaza Community Mental Health Center-Rafah Branch, the Palestine Children’s Parliament, and the Palestine Center for Human Rights.

    Based in Gaza City, the Mezan Center has recently opened a branch office in Rafah. Since communication with the Gaza Strip is extremely difficult, this extension presents MRSCP with an unique opportunity: acting as a local liaison, Al Mezan can provide assistance in establishing new sistering ties, facilitate delegations from Madison, coordinate humanitarian and cultural projects between MRSCP and other parties, offer translation assistance and logistical advice, and maintain regular contact and records with its Madison-Rafah counterparts. Annual meetings and delegations to and from Rafah are among the primary goals of both MRSCP and Al Mezan in the coming years.

    In April 2005, MRSCP has successfully completed its Playground for Rafah campaign. Two delegations from Madison have traveled to Palestine, one with Playgrounds for Palestine (PfP) to Rafah, another with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions to Israel and the West Bank. In its current project, MRSCP plans to purchase Wisconsin powdered milk and deliver it by September 2005 to the people of Rafah.

  • Israeli Extremists Lose, as a New Generation of Palestinians Wins

    Mohammed Omer, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2005

    THEY BREATHE the same air, drink the same water, are covered by the same blue sky, yet the extremists among the Israeli settlers in occupied Palestine live in a different universe from that of their Palestinian neighbors.

    Ariel Sharon, who originally championed the settler movement in defiance of international law, is now determined to evacuate the 8,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip this summer. President Mahmoud Abbas and all the Palestinian militant factions agreed to a cease-fire to expedite the Gaza evacuation and restart peace negotiations. In a move designed to re-ignite the intifada and destroy the Gaza withdrawal plans, however, extremist Israeli settlers declared their intention to attack the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Sunday, April 10.

    The Haram al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, is actually a 35-acre compound which includes the Dome of the Rock, the al-Aqsa Mosque, and many other cultural and religious treasures. All Palestinians feel an obligation to safeguard these Islamic holy places—not just for the world’s Muslims, but for all people of good will. Thousands of Palestinians remained within the Sanctuary after Friday prayers on April 8. Israeli police forbade the Sunday demonstration, arresting some of the extremist settlers who defied orders to disperse.

    “We will sacrifice our blood and bodies for the sake of our Holy Land,” said 41-year-old Abu Adham from Gaza’s Khan Younes refugee camp, “and we will never, never, never allow those people to attack our holy places.

    “We are standing alone in front of this injustice,” he added, “but we will never give up when it comes to [attempts to] destroy our holy places.”

    Abu Adham’s exact feelings are shared by hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and even in Jerusalem itself, where eyewitnesses emphasized that thousands of Palestinians who remained as residents after 1948 were able to move inside Al Haram under very difficult security obstacles and spend Saturday night inside the mosque, so as to protect it from any harm by extremist Jewish settlers the following morning.

    Even more important than the physical victory, however, was the moral victory of young Palestinians, who understood that Al Quds — the Arabic name for Jerusalem, which literally means “The Holy” — has been historically Palestinian for centuries. Fair-minded people everywhere saw how the right-wing Israeli extremists are desperate to destroy any chance for a just peace. That Sunday, university students throughout occupied Palestine mounted peaceful demonstrations to protest “Al Quds in Danger.”

    The previous day, Israeli troops again violated the cease-fire being observed by the Palestinian resistance when soldiers killed three teenagers who had chased a soccer ball into a “forbidden zone” in Rafah, near the Gaza-Egypt border. Although the Israeli occupiers apologized and militant leaders attempted to preserve the calm, other Palestinians militants fired Qassam rockets at illegal Israeli settlements. Apologies weighed against murdered children—is there any balance to such an equation?

    Mohammed Omer reports from the occupied Gaza Strip, where he maintains the Web site <>.


    Rachel Corrie: The Beautiful Face of America

    March 16, 2003 was like any afternoon in Rafah’s Block O near the razed border with Egypt. Huge American-made Caterpillar bulldozers were threatening civilian homes, while a group of peace activists from the International Solidarity Movement wearing bright orange vests and shouting through bullhorns asked the Israeli army driver to observe international law and spare the civilian dwellings. As she had done many times before, Rachel Corrie, 23 years old, took her turn directly in front of the bulldozer. That day, however, as her friends screamed in horror, the driver, the sharp blade of his machine lowered, drove over her. Then, without raising the blade, he reversed the machine over her buried body as her ISM comrades raced to dig her out.

    Screams, shouts, sirens—all of Rafah turned upside down as word spread that one of the “internationals” had been grievously injured. “No, no, it’s impossible they ran her over!” cried ambulance driver Saed Awadllah—but Rachel’s broken and lacerated body proved the “impossible” had happened. Dr. Samir Nasrallah, whose house she had been trying to protect, rushed to assist. Her only words before passing out were, “I think my back is broken,” and she died before reaching the hospital.

    “She was a great example for me and my family,” Dr. Nasrallah said about Rachel. “Her death left a terrible emptiness in our hearts. When the Israeli army crosses the line to killing unarmed internationals, surely they kill Palestinians with even greater impunity.”

    Throughout Rafah, Corrie was already known and loved for her work in protecting water wells and homes on the border—and especially for her work with children. Her e-mails to her friends and family are eloquent descriptions of the daily war crimes suffered by the people of Rafah. Her body was still en route out of Gaza when shahada (martyr) posters, showing the brutal slash on her face and the bruising around her eyes, appeared on virtually every wall in Rafah. Three days after she was killed the United States invaded Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of Americans were joined by people of conscience worldwide protesting an unjust war. The Palestinian ambassador to Cuba hailed Rachel Corrie as “the beautiful face of America.”

    Rachel died without achieving her goal of learning to speak fluent Arabic, and the peace and justice she sought for Palestine is only marginally closer. But her smile, her laugh, her willingness to share the daily dangers of Rafah’s people transcended any language barrier. She was the first international to be killed in Rafah—but not the last. In the following two months, an Israeli soldier shot British photographer Thomas Hurndall as he was moving children out of the line of fire, and British cameraman James Miller, holding a white flag, was killed by Israeli tank fire.

    Two years after her death, justice remains as elusive for Rachel Corrie as it does for the people of Rafah. One would think the Israeli government would spare no effort to learn how an unarmed citizen of the U.S., its great friend and ally, had been brutally killed by its army. Instead, despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary, after a cursory investigation, it ruled Corrie’s death “accidental.” To this day, her family has been unable to see the entire Israeli report, a situation the U.S. government accepts without protest.

    In Rafah, the second anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death was marked by children gathering to light candles and plant olive trees in her honor. As the intifada ground on, Israeli authorities refused re-entry to all the ISM volunteers who left Gaza to renew visas, and kept new international volunteers out. But Rachel’s example has inspired even more Americans to work for justice for Palestine. Although she died before she had her own family, her own children, Rachel has earned a lasting place in the hearts of her huge “second family” in Rafah.— Mohammed Omer

  • A Gift to Rafah

    How Madisonians helped create a respite from violence for Palestinian children

    Kathy Walsh, Isthmus, April 29, 2005

    Children were everywhere. They were standing on rooftops, shooting marbles in the streets, playing “football” wherever there was bare ground, making their way to and from school. And always in the background there was machine-gun fire.

    This was a “quiet” time in Rafah. There were no tanks in the streets, no missile-firing helicopters overhead, no Israeli soldiers to be seen. But day and night, there was firing from Israeli towers on the edges of town.

    I visited Rafah from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5 with my daughter Karen, a recent UW-Madison graduate. We hoped to help dedicate a new playground built in part with funds from Madison residents and support from the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, a group whose appeal for official city recognition was rejected by Madison’s mayor and Common Council last year.

    Rafah is a Palestinian city and refugee camp of about 145,000 people in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt. More than 80% of its residents are refugees. Many have lost their homes two or more times and lived under the constant threat of losing them again as the Israeli Army razed row after row of homes along the Egyptian border.

    The “camp” areas of Rafah where we spent most of our time are concrete jungles. The homes that remain nearest the border are pockmarked with bullet holes. Tanks, bulldozers and missiles have severely damaged many buildings.

    Yet people continued to live in them. If they left, the homes were deemed “abandoned” and destroyed, and there was no place to go. Amid this rubble, children continue to play, go to school and live their lives.


    Last spring, Playgrounds for Palestine donated a playground to be built in the Tel al-Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. One of the poles for the playground was missing from the original shipment, so the playground was stored in a neighborhood home.

    Then, in May, the Israeli army launched “Operation Rainbow,” a code name for one of the most devastating incursions ever into Rafah. The Tel al-Sultan neighborhood was hit particularly hard, despite its lack of strategic significance. Ten homes were destroyed, and another 156 were damaged. Roads, water and sewage pipes were ripped up. Twenty-six Palestinian civilians were killed, including nine children. The site of the planned playground was completely razed.

    Loss of the park was hardly the worst disaster that befell the children of Tel-al-Sultan. But the park represented a hope for a more normal life. So last summer, the Madison-Rafah Sister City project set out to raise the $10,000 needed to rebuild this park as a gift from Madison to the children of Rafah.

    America-Near East Refugee Aid, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), advanced the money so work on the park could begin over the winter. By January, construction of the playground had begun. The missing pole had been shipped and was waiting to cross into the Gaza Strip from Israel.

    Karen and I went to Rafah to document the playground installation. When we arrived, children were playing soccer in the park, though it was not much more than a field of sand. The first pole of the playground was in place, and many children were checking out the playground construction team and their equipment.

    Later that day, we were exposed to the precariousness of life for the children of Rafah. Two schoolgirls standing in their school courtyard were hit by machine-gun fire, apparently from a nearby Israeli surveillance tower. One of them, 11-year-old Noran Deeb, was shot through the head and died instantly. The other, 7-year-old Aysha Al Khatib, was shot through the hand.

    We saw Aysha at the hospital, then stopped briefly at the morgue to see Noran’s body. (The Israelis denied involvement, saying the bullets were from a Palestinian celebrating by firing his gun in the air, although the trajectory of the wounds did not support this.) School officials told us this was not the first time fire from the sniper tower was directed at the school, but it was the first to cause injuries and death. Later, classes were dismissed and children surrounded us, asking us questions, laughing and posing for photographs.

    Throughout the week we talked with city officials, health-care workers and members of nongovernmental organizations. We learned more about homelessness, malnutrition and stress disorders among Rafah’s children. At night, we were told, there is an epidemic of nightmares and bedwetting.

    Every day, we visited the playground and were surrounded by active, seemingly happy children. We visited Aysha in the hospital. Her father told us that her hand was healing well. Aysha sat up and smiled shyly for a picture.

    When we left Rafah, the missing pole was still being held at the crossing into Gaza. But children were playing on the partially completed playground. And, as always, there was machine-gun fire from the direction of the Israeli towers.

    Both the fund-raising and the installation have since been completed. The missing pole was finally allowed into Gaza during the last week of March.

    The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is now working with Family Farm Defenders in Wisconsin and the Women’s Empowerment Project in Rafah to send powdered milk from Wisconsin’s dairies to Rafah.

    Noran Deeb was the 99th child in Rafah to die from Israeli violence since September 2000, when the Second Intifada began. The toll reached 103 on April 9, when three 14-year-old boys from the Tel al-Sultan neighborhood were shot. I am left wondering if these boys were among the children I met in the park that Madison helped rebuild.


    Suffer the children
    Since September 2000, a total of 118 Israeli children and 678 Palestinian children have died as innocent victims of the violence in the Middle East. For information on these children, visit “Remember These Children” at For information on “Operation Rainbow,” visit the Human Rights Watch Web site at

  • Statewide Academic Union Calls for University of Wisconsin Israel Divestment

    Al-Awda, The Electronic Intifada, 27 April 2005

    (Madison, WI- 04/27/05) – The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals (TAUWP) has adopted a resolution that calls on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to divest from companies that provide the Israeli Army with weapons, equipment, and supporting systems. TAUWP is a statewide local of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin representing faculty and academic staff from 25 University of Wisconsin campuses. The resolution was passed at the TAUWP delegate assembly on April 23rd by a vote of 24 to 2, with four abstentions.

    Citing the precedent set by the University of Wisconsin’s elimination of investments in apartheid era South Africa, the resolution urged divestment from Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Raytheon ‘based on evidence of the active role these companies play in enabling Israeli forces to engage in practices that violate international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.’ The University of Wisconsin Trust Fund’s investments in the companies specified by the resolution exceed $3.8 Million.

    The resolution is part of The University of Wisconsin Divest from Israel Campaign, a project led by Al-Awda Wisconsin (The Palestine Right to Return Coalition), in partnership with several local social justice, student, and community organizations. The campaign gained significant momentum when the Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville passed a similar resolution at it’s regular meeting on January 25th 2005. The UW-Platteville senate became the first University faculty body in the United States to adopt a resolution calling for divestment from companies providing material aid to Israel. A similar resolution was adopted by the Teaching Assistant Association and called on the Board of Regents to divest from weapon manufacturers.

    TAUWP cited reports by independent international, Palestinian, and Israeli Human Rights organizations that document widespread war crimes and human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians. It was pointed out that in many instances, these abuses are perpetrated using weapons and equipment manufactured by the companies identified in the resolution. Holdings in these companies are therefore contrary to the University of Wisconsin’s code of socially responsible investment, which requires the Board to divest from companies whose corporate practices or policies are discriminatory or cause substantial social injury.

    Caterpillar Corporation – one of the companies identified in the resolution – provides the Israeli Army with the D-9 bulldozer and other equipment used to carry out widespread and systematic demolition of Palestinian civilian homes, acts which have been classified by the UN Commission on Human Rights as war crimes.

    Numerous civil society institutions have recently voiced support for divestment from Israel. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has resolved to divest its portfolio from companies aiding Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Earlier this year, the World Council of Churches recommended that its 347 member churches and denominations follow the example of the PCUSA. Other churches such as the Anglican Church, United Methodist Church, and United Church of Christ are currently considering divesting their investment portfolios from companies with links to Israel. Several US-based labor unions, and organizations such as the National Lawyers Guild, have endorsed divestment from Israel. Last week, the Association of University Teachers, the UK’s largest lecturer’s union, voted to boycott two Israeli universities for their role in facilitating human rights violations perpetrated by the Israel government.

  • April 30, 2005
    Madison Community Seder

    St. Mark’s Lutheran Chapel
    605 Spruce St., Madison
    7:00 PM

    This season of Passover is observed with the Seder ceremony, which celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery. This year we will have the opportunity to participate in a Seder celebration that is open to people of all beliefs and supports two excellent causes.

    The Seder service will be held on Saturday, April 30, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Chapel, 605 Spruce St., Madison, beginning at 7 PM and followed by socializing and refreshments. Because our Seder falls during Passover, all food will be Kosher for Passover so that everyone will be able to take part.

    The Seder is rooted in the Jewish tradition of celebrating liberation. During a Seder stories are told to teach about the universal meaning of past experiences, and to inspire us in contemporary struggles for freedom from human suffering.

    Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman will lead this Seder event, co-sponsored by the Madison-Arcatao Sister City Project, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Shaarei Shamayim (Madison’s Jewish Reconstructionist and Renewal Community), and the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua.

    The Seder is also co-sponsored by the Romero Celebration Committee, which will put this collaborative event forth as this year’s annual citywide celebration honoring Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who died 25 years ago in El Salvador on behalf of his people.

    During this event participants will have an opportunity to make a donation to two hopeful initiatives. Proceeds will be divided equally between the Oscar Romero Memorial Tree Project, which aims to plant 50,000 trees in environmentally degraded and desperately poor rural areas of El Salvador, and the Rafah Milk & Vitamins Project, which plans to send Wisconsin powdered milk and vitamins to the women and children of Rafah, Palestine, who are suffering from increasing deficiencies in protein and vitamins.

    If you would like to attend the Seder, please contact Sr. Maureen McDonnell to reserve your place, by phone at 663-3233 or e-mail at mcdonnelbat at

  • University of Wisconsin Investments and Social Responsibility

    On Tuesday, April 12, 2005 the Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) of UW-Madison debated a resolution calling on the UW to divest from companies doing business with the Israeli military. Discussion of this issue had been tabled at the March general meeting when members voted to hold an additional information session on the divestment issue (held on April 5th and attended by 50 people). The proposed resolution had been submitted through the efforts of the University of Wisconsin Divestment Campaign.

    The original motion was brought up for reconsideration and was discussed for approximately 45 minutes of debate. Two amendments to the original motion were made, both of which were adopted after considerable debate. The first amendment removed all specific references to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and called on the UW to divest from all military contracts. The second amendment reinserted the names of specific military contractors known to provide material to many governments around the globe, including those which had been targeted for their role in supplying weaponry to the Israeli military. Once the references to Israel were removed, the amended motion passed by a large margin. The full text of the resolution as finally adopted:

    WHEREAS, American principles, values, and traditions emphasize the right of the individuals to basic freedoms without regard to ethnic origin or religious affiliation and support the protections and extension of these freedoms to all peoples around the globe, and where the systematic denial of these freedoms prompted the University of Wisconsin System to affirm its commitment to socially responsible investment by divesting its holding in the Apartheid era South Africa, in accordance with investment policy 78-1;

    WHEREAS, independent human rights organizations have documented serious and widespread violations of international law and human rights around the globe;

    WHEREAS, there is irrefutable evidence that U.S.-based companies in which the University of Wisconsin is invested provide material aid to military associations around the globe in the form of weapons, equipment, and supporting systems used to perpetrate human rights abuses against innocent civilians, and where knowingly continuing this support implicates these companies in practices that violate international humanitarian law;

    WHEREAS, in so far as the effort to divest from these companies has as its foundation a commitment to international law and the fundamental rights that belong to every human being, it lays the groundwork for a just and enduring peace and is therefore an expression of the hope for a free and secure future for all peoples around the globe;

    WHEREAS, the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 22 USC sec. 2304, provides that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”;

    WHEREAS, University of Wisconsin System Regent Trust and Fund Policy 78-01 provides that “[i]n accordance with Sec. 36.29(1) Wisc. Stats., all investments ‘made in any company, corporation, subsidiary or affiliate which practices or condones through its actions discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, creed, or sex. . .’ shall be divested in as prudent but rapid a manner as possible”;

    WHEREAS, University of Wisconsin System Regent Trust and Fund Policy 97-1 (Investment and Social Responsibility) provides that “the Board acknowledges the importance of maintaining an awareness of public concerns about corporate policies or practices that are discriminatory (as defined by 36.29(1) Wis. Stats.) or cause substantial social injury, and (that) it will take this factor into account”;

    BE IT RESOLVED that the Teaching Assistants’ Association of the University of Wisconsin calls upon the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to divest from U.S.-based companies in which the University of Wisconsin is invested that provide material aid to military associations around the globe in the form of weapons, equipment, and supporting systems used to perpetrate human rights abuses against innocent civilians, and where knowingly continuing this support implicates these companies in practices that violate international humanitarian law, which companies include, but are not limited to, Bell Textron, Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hughes, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Oshkosh Truck Corporation, Raytheon, and United Technologies (and its subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation);

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Teaching Assistants’ Association of the University of Wisconsin urges all University of Wisconsin System governing bodies to adopt similar resolutions aimed at ensuring the implementation of University of Wisconsin System investment policies and by extension upholding international law and safeguarding the human rights of all peoples.

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  • Know When To Say “No”: A Call For Divestment From The Israeli Occupation

    Shamai Leibowitz, The Electronic Intifada, 24 March 2005

    The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has led to an explosion of “people power” in the streets of Beirut, in which hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens have called for an end to Syria’s occupation of their land. These calls have been celebrated and echoed in other capitals, and nowhere more so than in Washington. However, there is another area in the Middle East where a struggle to end foreign occupation has brought the natives only death and destruction. For decades, Israel has crushed the 3.5 million Palestinians living under military domination, beating them into submission while taking away their civil rights and their land.

    As an Israeli Jew committed to peace for Israel and our neighbors, I was shocked and disgusted by the recent terror attack in Tel Aviv, which took the lives of innocent Jews. Such acts of terror have made headlines and been rightfully condemned by the international community. However, deadly Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians have not received significant press attention in the West or led to appropriate, decisive international action. For decades the Israeli army, equipped with US arms and technology, has killed, maimed, beaten and tortured tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians. Clearly, America could have put an end to this. Instead, however, it chose to allow Israel to continue with the brutal oppression of the Palestinians, and never demanded from Israel to stop committing war crimes.

    From 1986 to 1991 I served in the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian territories. During this period I was shocked and disgusted at what my comrades and I were repeatedly ordered to do to Palestinian civilians. To crush the uprising for independence and statehood, we were ordered to brutalize them. In one of our army bases in the West Bank, there was a mysterious room. Every day we watched Palestinians being led into it. After a couple of days our commanders would lead the Palestinians out, black and blue from bruises and their faces swollen. They resembled sacks of potatoes more than human beings.

    We later realized this room was a torture chamber. On some days, we could hear screams coming from the room. It was a sickening experience. However, we continued participating in the occupation because Israeli politicians persuaded us that we were in the midst of a “peace process.” So effusive were they in their lectures on how Israel “only wants peace” that we were blinded from seeing the reality of how the state is brutally oppressing, subjugating and dehumanizing the Palestinian people.

    As many Israelis realize today, when Israeli governments talked about the peace process during the Oslo period, they were pulling the wool over the world’s eyes. Israel continued colonizing the West Bank and Gaza with its Jewish-only settlements and, at the same time, entrenching a cruel military regime over Palestinians.

    The same is true today with Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” plan, which is being marketed by Israeli propaganda as a “painful concession” toward peace. Many of us who live in Israel and visit the occupied territories recognize the truth: Israel is continuously intensifying its military rule in the West Bank while stealing more Palestinian land and building more illegal Jewish-only settlements.

    After years of failed political efforts by the Israeli and international human rights community aimed at ending the occupation, it is clear that new approaches must be implemented. For years, American taxpayer money has funded the occupation—the torture chambers, the military apparatus, the bulldozers used in house demolitions, the building of settlements and now the construction of the West Bank wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It is high time that American companies and institutions united in a multi-tiered campaign of strategic, selective sanctions against Israel until the occupation ends.

    The first step for American civic institutions is to engage in selective divestment—withdrawal of their investments from companies that are, directly or indirectly, funding the occupation. First and foremost, states, cities, universities, churches, unions, banks and pension funds should divest from Israel Bonds, which finance the occupation, and from any company that sells arms, ammunition or other military equipment to Israel.

    This should include companies like Caterpillar, which manufactures and sells the bulldozers that have flattened thousands of Palestinian homes, and General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon and other corporations, because these companies play an active role in enabling Israeli forces to engage in practices that violate international humanitarian law.

    Second, the West should hold Israeli military personnel and political leaders personally accountable for human rights violations, including trial before international courts and bans on travel to other countries. This strategy has been implemented in other conflicts (Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and South Africa, for example), proving its deterrent value and effectiveness.

    Prohibiting the sale of arms and military equipment to Israel is, in fact, called for by existing US law. According to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 USC S2304), “No security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

    The current hypocritical American Administration is not enforcing this law with regard to Israel. It is, therefore, up to American civil society to uphold the law and prevent the sale of any military equipment to Israel by pressuring the government, filing complaints against companies that violate this law and withdrawing all investments from such companies.

    The Presbyterian Church took a positive step in this direction when in July 2004 its General Assembly passed a resolution calling for selective divestment from companies that profit from the occupation. This past February the World Council of Churches, which brings together more than 340 churches worldwide, issued a similar resolution. While criticizing the severe human rights abuses inherent in the occupation and the construction of the illegal West Bank wall, these resolutions also affirm the right of the State of Israel to exist securely and peacefully, and they categorically reject the tragic cycle of indiscriminate violence perpetrated by both sides against innocent civilian populations.

    Sanctions are a powerful and nonviolent means to insure that the Israeli government abides by international law and ends its appalling human rights violations in the occupied territories. We have witnessed the power of worldwide economic pressure in the collapse of the South African apartheid regime. If American civic institutions follow the same strategy, we could see the end of the Israeli occupation in our lifetime. Americans should stand up for human rights and justice, follow their own law and take the most productive step toward peace and security in the Middle East.

    Shamai Leibowitz is a human rights lawyer from Tel Aviv who has represented asylum seekers, migrant workers, Palestinians and human rights activists in the Israeli courts. He is a reserve tank gunner with the rank of staff sergeant in the Israeli army, and part of a group of over 1,400 soldiers who have refused to serve in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He can be reached at legal at A longer version of this article was first published in The Nation magazine on 16 March 2005, and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

  • Inside scarred minds

    On his first visit to the Gaza Strip, Daniel Day-Lewis meets the Palestinian families living in the heart of the danger zone — and the psychologists who are counselling them

    Authors in the Frontline: Daniel Day-Lewis
    The Sunday Times Magazine, March 20, 2005

    Mossa’ab, the interpreter, leads the way, carrying a white Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) flag. Its psychology team, myself and the photographer Tom Craig are in full view of an Israeli command post occupying the top floors of a large mill. It is draped in camouflage netting, as is the house close by. It is to this house that we are heading, across 200 yards of no man’s land; the last house left standing in an area once teeming with life.

    Civilians have been the main victims of the violence inflicted by both sides in the Middle East conflict. In the Gaza Strip the Israeli army reacts to stone-throwing with bullets. It responds to the suicide bombs and attacks of Palestinian militants by bulldozing houses and olive groves in the search for the perpetrators, to punish their families, and to set up buffer zones to protect Israeli settlements. It bars access to villages, and multiplies checkpoints, cutting Gaza’s population off from the outside world. MSF’s psychologists are trying to help Palestinian families cope with the stress of living within these confines; visiting them, treating severe trauma and listening to their stories. Their visits are the only sign sometimes that they have not been abandoned.

    Israel’s tanks and armour-plated bulldozers can come with no warning, often at night. The noise alone, to a people who have been forced to suffer these violations year after year, is enough to freeze the soul. Israeli snipers position themselves on rooftops. Householders are ordered to leave; they haven’t even the time to collect pots and pans, papers and clothes before the bulldozers crush the unprotected buildings like dinosaurs trampling on eggs — sometimes first mashing one into another, then covering the remains with a scoop of earth. Those caught in the incursion zone will be fired on. Even those cowering inside their houses may be shot at or shelled through walls, windows and roofs. The white flag carried by humanitarian workers gives little protection; we’ll have warning shots fired at us twice before the week is out.

    Sometimes a family will not leave an area that is being cleared, believing if they do leave they will lose everything. It is a huge risk to remain. Sometimes a house is left standing, singled out for occupation by Israeli troops. The family is forced to remain as protection for the soldiers. Last year an average of 120 houses were demolished each month, leaving 1,207 homeless every month. In the past four years 28,483 Gazans have been forcibly evicted; over half of Gaza’s usable land, mainly comprising citrus-fruit orchards, olive groves and strawberry beds, has been destroyed. Last year, 658 Palestinians were killed in the violence in Gaza, and dozens of Israelis. This ploughing under, house by house, orchard by orchard, reduces community to wasteland, strewn and embedded with a stunted crop of broken glass and nails, books, abandoned possessions. As we weave our way towards the home of Abu Saguer and his family — one of several families we will visit today — we are treading on shattered histories and aspirations.

    Abu Saguer’s own house is still standing, but its top floor and roof are occupied by Israeli soldiers. His granddaughter Mervat is with us, a sweet, shy seven-year-old with red metal-rimmed glasses, her hair in two neat braids held by flowery bands. She wears bright-red trousers and a denim jacket. Last April her mother heard an Israeli Jeep pull up briefly at the military-access road in front of their house. Some projectile was fired and when Mervat reappeared — she had been playing outside — she was crying and her face was covered in blood. They washed her. Her right eye was crushed. A month later in Gaza an artificial eye was fitted. It was very uncomfortable, so a special recommendation was needed from the Palestinian Ministry of Health to finance a trip to Egypt for one that fitted properly. Mervat needs this eye changed every six months, so the ministry must negotiate with Israel each time for permission to cross the border. Fifty cars are permitted to cross each day; each must carry seven people.

    Abu Saguer has five sons and four daughters — “You’ll go broke with more than that,” he says. He lives near the big checkpoint of Abu Houli in southern Gaza. He wants the photographer, Tom Craig, to take his picture and put it on every wall in England, Germany and Russia. He is 59. At 12 he went out to work, and at 16 he began to build the house he had dreamt of, “slowly, slowly” as a home and as a gathering place for his extended family. He had grown up in a house made of mud in Khan Yunis, which let the water in whenever it rained, and all his pride, hope and generosity of spirit had invested itself in this ambition. He had worked in Israel, like so many here, before the borders were closed to all men aged between 16 and 35.

    For over 20 years, Abu Saguer had his own business, selling and transporting bamboo furniture. During the second Gulf war all his merchandise was stolen. After that he relied on his truck for income. He had cultivated 300 square metres of olive trees, pomegranates, palms, guavas and lemons in the fields around his home. After the start of the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) his crops were destroyed by the Israeli army — for “security”. A road that services the Israeli settlements of Gush Katif had been built, and during our visit the traffic passes freely backwards and forwards, along the edge of the barren land where his orchards once flourished.

    On October 15, 2000, Abu was at home with his wife when Israeli settlers emerged on a shooting spree. He and his family fled to Khan Yunis. After four days he returned. He was hungry. There was no bread, no flour. He killed four pigeons and prepared a fire on which to grill them. The soldiers arrived suddenly, about 20 of them, and entered the house. He followed them upstairs. “Where are you going?” he asked. One smashed his head into a door, breaking his nose. They kicked him down the stairs and out of his house. They kicked half his teeth out and left him with permanent damage to his spine. “If you open your mouth we’ll shoot you,” they said. They left, returning in a bigger group an hour later, to occupy the top of his house, sealing the stairway with a metal door and razor wire. The family has lived in constant fear ever since. The soldiers urinated and defecated into empty Coke bottles and sandbags, hurling them into his courtyard. They menaced his children with their weapons. After two years of this an officer asked: “Why are you still here?” “It’s my house,” he replied.

    For four years, Abu Saguer has been afraid to go out, afraid to leave his wife and children alone. He is a prisoner in his own home, just as the Palestinians are prisoners within their own borders. The facade of self-government is an absurdity. The Strip, with its 1.48m Palestinians, is a vast internment camp, the borders of which shrink as more and more demolition takes place, and within which the population rises faster than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, about 7,000 Israeli settlers live in oases of privileged segregation. This is a state of apartheid. It’s taken me less than a week to lose impartiality. In doing so, I may as well be throwing stones at tanks. For as MSF’s president, Jean-Hervé Bradol, has said, “The invitation to join one side or the other is accompanied by an obligation to collude with criminal forms of violence.”

    The late Lieutenant-General Rafael Eitan, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), once likened the Palestinian people to “drugged cockroaches scurrying in a bottle”. In 1980 he told his officers: “We have to do everything to make them so miserable they will leave.” He opposed all attempts to afford them autonomy in the occupied territories. Twenty- five years on, it seems to me that his attitude and policy have been applied with great gusto. Every movement here in any of the so-called sensitive areas, which account for a large, ever-increasing proportion of the Strip (borders, settlements, checkpoints), is surveyed and reacted to by a system of watchtowers.

    These sinister structures cast the shadows of malign authority across the land. On our third day, as we stood at the tattered edge of the refugee camp at Rafah, the forbidding borderland between Gaza and Egypt, bullets bit into the sand a yard and a half from where we stood. It was in this place — was it from the same watchtower? — that Iman el-Hams, a defenceless 13-year-old schoolgirl, had been shot just weeks before. She ran and tried to hide from the pitiless death that came for her. I felt her presence; the sky vibrating with the shallow, fluttering breath of her final terror.

    I read this transcript before I left home; the cold facts ran through me like a virus. It is a radio communications exchange by the Israel Defense Forces, Gaza, October 2004. Four days later, crossing into Gaza, I’m still shivering: what the hell is this place we’re going to?

    Soldier on guard: “We have identified someone on two legs [code for human] 100 metres from the outpost.

    Soldier in lookout: “A girl about 10.” (By now, soldiers in the outpost are shooting at the girl.)

    Soldier in lookout: “She is behind the trench, half a metre away, scared to death. The hits were right next to her, a centimetre away.”

    Captain R’s signalman: “We shot at her, yes, she is apparently hit.”

    Captain R: “Roger, affirmative. She has just fallen. I and a few other soldiers are moving forward to confirm the kill.”

    Soldier at lookout: “Hold her down, hold her down. There’s no need to kill her.”

    Captain R (later): “…We carried out the shooting and killed her… I confirmed the kill… [later]… Commanding officer here, anyone moving in the area, even a three-year-old kid, should be killed, over.”

    A military inquiry decided that the captain had “not acted unethically”. He still faces criminal charges. Two soldiers who swore they saw him deliberately shoot her in the head, empty his gun’s entire magazine into her inert body, now say they couldn’t see if he deliberately aimed or not; another is sticking to his damning testimony.

    Every weighty bag of flour for Abu Saguer’s household must be broken up and lugged across the 200 yards of wasteland. Everything must be carried. We are smoking apple-flavoured shisha in the courtyard after a lunch his wife made of bread, tomatoes, olive oil, olives and yoghurt, all from the small plot left to him. “Take some puffs so you can write,” he says. He speaks with great urgency and my pen lags behind. On November 7, during Ramadan’s month of fasting, a three-tiered perimeter of razor wire was laid, encircling his house. This forced him and his family to use the military access road, walking his children past tanks to get to school. It’s a much longer and more dangerous route. After a week of this he was shot at from the watchtower. Abu Saguer gathered his wife and children, then they sat down in the road. All afternoon they sat.

    “I didn’t care if they crushed us there and then. I wanted a resolution,” he said. Jeeps passed, nothing happened. After dusk they went in to break their fast. The next day a senior officer approached them in the road.

    “What’s the problem? Are you on strike? What is it, are you upset?”


    “A lot?”

    “A lot, a lot, a lot.”

    “Are you upset with us?”

    “I’m upset with the whole lot of you.”


    “You’re forcing my wife and children to walk in front of tanks and bulldozers — I want a donkey and cart.”

    “Big donkey or small donkey?”

    “Big, to pull a cart.”

    “Impossible.” (Abu Saguer, his eyes twinkling, smoke streaming from his nose and mouth, says: “If they’d said yes, I’d have bought a very big donkey to bite his nose, and donkeys that bite are very inexpensive.”)

    “Give me a gate, then.”

    “We don’t have gates.”

    “I’ll make one.”

    He makes a gate from two pieces of wood and a wire grill. They ask him to buy a padlock. He buys one. A soldier supervises as he cuts through the bottom tiers of razor wire (they won’t allow the top one to be cut) and he installs his little gate. “If the gate is left open and anything happens, we will shoot you.”

    Sue Mitchell, the MSF psychologist, asks: “What’s it like for you to tell this story?”

    “I release what I have in my chest,” he says. “I can’t sleep. I woke this night at 1am. I thought it was sunrise. I woke the kids and told them to go to school. I look around and see that my life has been ruined. I’m like a dry branch in the desert.”

    Psychologists have been visiting the family since shortly after the occupation of their house began. Each time, they have to apply for access to Israeli authorities; it’s usually granted three times out of four. Sue, a 41-year-old Australian, has a wonderfully gentle presence. She quietly steers her patients to and fro between the pain of their memories and a recognition and acknowledgment of their dignity, courage, generosity and good humour in the face of this desperation. She encourages them to voice their fears, tell their stories and, particularly with the children, act out their experiences.

    Abu Saguer is a man of great affability. Because of his resilience, his wit, his tenderness with the children, it’s easy to think of his survival in heroic terms, but often he has periods of deep depression, disorientation and forgetfulness. “I’m not scared any more, I can’t explain it, I just don’t care. There’s one God, I’ll die only one time.”

    The soldiers have decamped for the moment, but the family is never sure when they will come back. Part of their home has been lost to them. We walk through those rooms that the troops occupy. The curtains chosen with care by Abu Saguer’s wife long ago billow inwards, in unsettling contrast to the camouflage netting in front of the window. His gate is visible from here. I imagine him approaching across the broken ground, struggling with a bag of flour, stooping to unlock and open that little gate.

    As we leave, Sue calls her base. Each visit must be registered with and approved by the District Civil Liaison (DCL). We hear that a doctor has been shot dead while treating a wounded boy at a crossroads in Rafah that we passed yesterday.

    Entering Gaza for the first time at the Erez checkpoint, we saw some Israeli kids in army uniform — we’d seen them on the way from Jerusalem, hitchhiking or slouching at bus stops, dishevelled, their uniforms accessorised with shades and coloured scarves. Weapons were slung across their backs. They looked like they should have been on the way to school. One girl at Erez wearing eyeliner and lipstick, friendly with the implied complicity of “We’re on the same side,” said: “I’m laughing all the time — I’m crazy.” Most of them appeared indifferent, almost unseeing. We walked through the concrete tunnel separating these two worlds. In the eyes of their bosses, we are a menace because we’re witnesses. All humanitarian workers are witnesses. The UN has been on phase-four alert, the highest level before pulling out completely.

    They’re a little tired of being shot at. We travel south from Erez toward Beit Lahiya through the area “sterilised” during “Days of Penitence”. That was Israel’s 17-day military offensive in northern Gaza that started on September 29, after a rocket fired by the Islamic militant group Hamas killed two toddlers in the Israeli town of Sederot, a kilometre away on the other side of the border. These home-made rockets have a five-mile range, so Israel sent in 2,000 troops and 200 tanks and armoured bulldozers to set up a 61/2-mile buffer zone and “clear out” suspected militants. Days of Penitence killed 107 Palestinians (at least 20 of them children), left nearly 700 homeless, and caused over $3m in property damage.

    Towards the end of it, even Israeli military commanders were urging Ariel Sharon to stop. He wouldn’t listen. So there is not a building left standing that hasn’t been acned by shells and bullets, many of them with gaping mouths ripped out by the tanks. A vast area has been depopulated and ground into the rubble-strewn desert we find wherever we go. A Bedouin encampment has settled, impossibly, on one of these wastelands. Half a dozen smug-faced camels and a white donkey stand behind the fence waiting for Christ knows what; the air is heavy with their scent. The families have constructed hovels of sheet plastic, branches and jagged pieces of rusting corrugated iron. They look like the last scavenging survivors of doomsday. As we head southwest towards Gaza City, the Mediterranean Sea appears like a mirage, shocking in its beauty: Gaza’s western border.

    We arrive at the MSF headquarters in Gaza City for the daily logistical meeting. Hiba, a French-Algerian about to complete her mission, has perhaps the most stressful job of all: to daily organise and monitor the movements of each of the six teams working here. She has to seek “co-ordinations”, which, in the veiled dialect of occupation, means permission to enter and leave any sensitive area. This she achieves, if possible, through an Israeli DCL area commander in the department of co-ordination. We’d met one of them — just a kid like the others — at Erez. “Oh, Hiba, she takes it all too personally,” he’d said. As if the whole thing were a game, with no hard feelings, between consenting adults. Even with this “co-ordination”, an MSF team may arrive in the area only to be refused access by the local Israeli officer in charge (or, in some cases, to be shot at). No reason need be given. “Security,” they’re sometimes told.

    Hiba is constantly assessing, reassessing, adapting. At any moment the heavily fortified Israeli checkpoint at Abu Houli, in the centre of the Strip, can be closed, effectively dividing Gaza into two parts. It may remain closed for four, six, 10 hours. It might be a security alert or an officer’s whim. Yasser, Sue’s Bedouin driver, once waited for three days to cross. We were held up there. A Palestinian officer, identifiable by the size of his belly, had overridden his leaner subordinates and waved us to the front of the queue. A babble of aggressive commands was disgorged from the IDF bunker through new burglar-proof loudspeakers. Recently a gang of young boys had made a human pyramid and stolen the originals. “Wah, wah, wah,” the boxes yell at you from within their razor-wire cocoons.

    Hiba rests only when the teams return safely to their bases in Gaza City, or in the south where another MSF apartment allows visits there to continue if the checkpoint is closed.

    At the southern MSF base in Abassan I’m awoken on our third day at 4.30am by the call to prayer, then again at 7am by the surprising sound of children in a school playground. In any place, in any language, the sound is unmistakable. Gleeful and contentious. When you’re in bed and you don’t have to go to school yourself it’s delicious. Are they taught here, among other things, that they have no future? The windows on this side of the apartment overlook a playground of pressed dirt with a black-and-white-striped goal of tubular metal at each end. The school, conspicuously unmarked by bullet or shellfire, is a long two-storey building, built in an L-shape along two sides of the pitch. It is painted cream and pistachio and resembles a motel in Arizona. (Later, in the refugee camp at Rafah, we’ll drive past one riddled with bullet holes, and meet a grinning 10-year-old who proudly shows us the scars, front and back, where the bullet passed through his neck one day at school.)

    After waking, I move to the back of the flat, to the kitchen. At the far side of a hand-tilled field warming itself in the early sunshine stand two pristine houses, white and cream, like miniature palaces. The field is hemmed at one end by a row of olive trees, and at the other by a large cactus.

    A middle-aged man and woman in traditional clothes move the drills in unison. The distance between them maintained, gestures identical, they advance, bent at the waist, planting one tiny onion at a time plucked from a metal bowl. If an occupying force were ever in need of an image to advertise the benevolence of their authority, this would be it. I wonder what awaits them. I try but fail to imagine the roar of a diesel engine, the filth of its exhaust, as a bulldozer turns this idyll to dust.

    Later, sipping cardamom-flavoured coffee, I look down on a fiercely contested football game. Half the kids have bare feet. There’s a teacher on each side, in shirt and tie. One tries a volley which, to shrieks of delight, sails over the wall behind the goal. Two little boys watch, arms around each other. They turn and hug for a long time, then wander off still arm in arm. Sue Mitchell arrives. The co-ordination we needed has come through. After the warning shots fired at us from the watchtower at Tuffah yesterday, we’d thought maybe the Israelis would refuse it.

    Yasmine is a grave, self-possessed 11-year-old. She emerged from her coma after a nine-hour operation to remove nails embedded in her skull and brain. An exploding pin mortar had been fired into her house. Her father was hit in the stomach and can no longer work. I’ve held this type of nail in my hand. They are black, about 1½ in long, sharpened at one end, the tiny metal fins at the other end presumably designed to make them spin and cause deeper penetration. We sifted through a pile of shrapnel at the hospital, all of it removed from victims. These jagged, twisted fragments, some the size of an iPod, were not intended to wound, but to eviscerate and dismember: to obliterate their victims. Yasmine lives a short drive away from Abu Saguer, in a ramshackle enclave with a courtyard shaded by fig trees. Across a sterilised zone lies her cousins’ house, but it remains inaccessible (the cousins, including the most withdrawn child Sue Mitchell has ever met, are also her patients).

    On the other side of a coil of razor wire, laid within feet of Yasmine’s house, runs a sunken lane gouged out of the sand by tanks. When Sue first met her, Yasmine was terrorised, screaming and throwing up during the night. Such symptoms are common. In areas such as this, leaving your house day or night means risking death; staying there is no more secure. Nowhere is safe.

    Under Sue’s guidance, Yasmine and countless other cousins have prepared a show which, after many last-minute whispered reminders and much giggling, they perform for us. Yasmine is undoubtedly the force behind this. Her power of self-expression is immense. As she recounts the story of her wounding, her voice rides out of her in wave upon wave, full of pleading and admonition. Her crescent eyes burn within a tight mask of suffering; her hands reach out to us palms up, in supplication. At the end the tension in her fierce, lovely face resolves into the shy smile of a performer re-inhabiting her frailer self when the possession has lifted. Then there is a play, with sober, stylised choreography and a chorus of hand jives. A silent little girl whose expression is deadpan, unchanging, play-acts being shot by soldiers during a football game.

    This four-year-old has witnessed much of the horror that has befallen the family. She lies obediently on the ground, splayed out and rigid. The mourners, curved in a semicircle around her, pretend to weep and wail, but they’re all laughing behind their hands; we laugh too. Then they sing: “Children of the world, they laugh and smile, they go to sleep with music, they wake with music, we sleep with shooting and we wake with shooting. Despite them we will play, despite them we will play, despite them we will laugh, despite them we will sing songs of love.”

    Yasmine doesn’t join the others as they cluster around us to say goodbye. Looking up, we see her leaning on the parapet of the roof, smiling down on us. Silent. Her dark face is golden in the rich, syrupy light of dusk.

    Sue Mitchell is one of three psychologists here for MSF. Each will work with about 50 families during their six-month stay. The short-term therapy they offer is invaluable, but in some way it seems like a battlefield dressing with no possibility of evacuation for the injured. These stories are unexceptional. Every room in every humble, makeshift, bullet-ridden dwelling, in each of the labyrinthine streets of the camps, contains a story such as this — of loss and injury and terror. Of humiliation and despair. What separates those of Abu Saguer and Yasmine is that we carry their stories out with us. The others you’ll never hear about.


    Violence and bloodshed are the backdrop to the lives of the children of Gaza. That they cling to hope and their dignity leaves psychologists such as Sue Mitchell deeply moved. With one group of young patients, she has produced a practical guide to help them and children in other war-torn areas. The children of the Abu Hassan family — 10 of them, aged from five to 13 — were caught in Israel’s Days of Penitence offensive. “They’d been shot at, attacked, some of their houses had been demolished, they’d seen people blown up, and had been confined in the smallest room of their house for two weeks by Israeli soldiers,” says Mitchell. Faces they drew in the sand showed inverted semicircle mouths and large tears.

    “I was feeling my heart small and I was unable to talk. I thought I was going to die,” said one. Mitchell was inspired by how they coped with the trauma, and wrote down what they told her. The result is a booklet in the children’s own words, How to Manage the Effects of a Military Attack: Tips for Children. “Invent games that make you laugh and help you breathe,” says one child. “Look at each other’s faces. If you see someone is distressed, talk to them,” says another. And there are dreams for the future: “Eat olives — the olive tree is the tree of peace.”

    “They’re delighted by the book,” says Mitchell, “but they also underplay their strengths. They say, ‘We’re not so special; all Palestinian kids know how to do this.’”


    In The Sunday Times Magazine’s continuing series, renowned writers and artists bring a fresh perspective to the world’s trouble spots. The international medical-aid organisation MSF has helped our correspondents reach some of these inhospitable areas. To donate to MSF, visit, or call 0800 200 222

  • Amira Hass: Using the Holocaust to Ward Off Criticism

    The pilgrimage to Jerusalem of so many European leaders shows that they are not deterred by the criticism of Israel – they are taking part in a media event that can only be interpreted as support for Israel, as it is today.

    Amira Hass, Haaretz, Mar 16, 2005

    The crowd of world leaders visiting the new Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem attests to the strength of Israel’s position in the West.
    Israel is often criticized in the home country of these leaders, but many Israelis and Jews will, as usual, attribute such criticism to anti-Semitism. Palestinians and left wingers including Jews will discover that the knowledge about the Israeli occupation in these countries is meager, and the public’s interest in it is weak.

    The pilgrimage to Jerusalem of so many European leaders shows that they are not deterred by the criticism of Israel – they are taking part in a media event that can only be interpreted as support for Israel, as it is today.

    At best, the visit can be seen as encouragement to both sides to stick to the “renewed peace process.” But encouragement for what? For the meetings between Mohammed Dahlan and Nasser Yousef with Shaul Mofaz? For the separation barrier, whose construction is continuing with vigor, contrary to the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague? For the condescending Israeli “gestures” – 200 more movement permits to merchants, a road open to private Palestinian vehicles, not only to public ones? Or for the continued mashing of Palestinian East Jerusalem and severing it from the rest of the Palestinian territory, in violation of the international demand that East Jerusalem serve as the Palestinian state’s capital?

    Are the German foreign minister and the Dutch and Swedish prime ministers – after crossing themselves and proving they remember the Holocaust – planning to remind Israel that all the settlements, not only the outposts, are illegal? Will they demand that Israel evacuate them? Which of the participants in the ceremony will go to see the roads for Jews only and for Palestinians only? Will any of them protest the laws discriminating against Israeli citizens, only because they are non-Jews – Arabs – and threaten to impose sanctions unless these laws are revoked?

    One of the infuriating absurdities in every injustice, especially one of inconceivable proportions like the German murder industry (with extensive European aid), is that the victims and their offspring remember and live it day in and day out. The perpetrators, however, repress and forget it, and it is easy for their offspring to ignore it.

    So let the entire diplomatic throng, which is seeking Sharon’s audience today, go and talk of the European responsibility for the Holocaust in its own territory, not in Israel. Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Krakow, Sarajevo, and the villages and forests around them are soaked with the memories of our parents, with the forgetfulness of the perpetrators and their offspring, and with the helplessness and indifference of those standing idly by. Let the prime ministers and foreign ministers go there and raise the memory and knowledge and historic understanding. And not just once a year, on the day of Auschwitz’s liberation or Germany’s surrender, just to pay lip service.

    We remember and feel the pain of that liquidation day by day. Let us confront them with it day by day. For example, let it be inscribed on a large marble slab outside every house in which Jews used to live, where they were deported and where they were murdered. Let every railway station from which the human transports were dispatched provide the information: when, how many trains a day, how many people. Let the names of those responsible for the transport be written down – at the police station, the railway station, city hall.

    The way to fight the fading memory is not merely with memorial monuments and ceremonies. It is done mainly with an uncompromising rejection of the master race ideology, which divided the world into superior and inferior races and denied the principle of equality among human beings. We were placed at the bottom of the ladder of the Nazi ideology. Would this ideology not have been criminal had we been ranked in the upper rungs?

    An ideology that divides the world into those who are worth more and those who are worth less, into superior and inferior beings, does not have to reach the dimensions of the German genocide to be improper and wrong – the apartheid in South Africa, for example.

    Thirty-eight years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian nation have accustomed generations of Israelis to regard the Palestinians as inferior, and therefore not as deserving as we are. But hush, one must not say that out loud, because Israelis will raise an indignant cry: “How can you compare?”

    In the same way, it is forbidden to demand of us – with diplomatic threats – to change our ways. Because then we will remind them of our people who were murdered.

    This widely covered event shows that Israel has turned the liquidation of Europe’s Jews into an asset. Our murdered relatives are being enlisted to enable Israel to continue not giving a damn about international decisions against the occupation. The suffering our parents endured in the ghettoes and concentration camps that filled Europe, the physical and mental anguish and torment that our parents were subjected to every single day since the “liberation,” are used as weapons to thwart any international criticism of the society we are creating here. This is a society with built-in discrimination on the basis of nationality, and the discrimination is spreading on either side of the Green Line. This is a society that is systematically continuing to banish the Palestinian nation from its land and usurp its rights as a nation and its chances for a humane future.

  • An Israeli Refuser’s Message for Peace

    Ruth Conniff, The Progressive, March 7, 2005

    On Saturday I sat with other members of the conservative synagogue in Madison, Wisconsin, listening to Yonatan Shapira, a pilot in the Israeli Air Force since 1991 before he was dismissed after refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories.

    It was a controversial event. Shapira calls the bombing of the Occupied Territories illegal and immoral, and he makes a point of bringing his views to ardently pro-Israel groups, as well as pro-Palestinian activists. Tempers run high all around him. But the soft-spoken Shapira hits notes people on both sides seem able to hear. And this is perhaps the most compelling thing about him. As one of the members of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (, the Jewish peace group that brought him to town, said, “Hearing him humanizes the Israeli side. And that’s important because getting beyond dehumanization is critical in getting to peace.”

    Shapira sees the humanity of Palestinian civilians–the children who are “collateral damage” of missions his fellow pilots are asked to fly as no different than the humanity of Israeli civilians. And many of his colleagues in the Air Force feel the same way.

    In October 2003, Shapira and 26 other pilots signed a letter refusing to participate in aerial attacks on populated areas of Palestine, saying the attacks did not serve Israel’s security. “These actions are illegal and immoral, and are a direct result of the ongoing occupation which is corrupting all of Israeli society,” the letter states. “Perpetuation of the occupation is fatally harming the security of the state of Israel and its moral strength.”

    (For the full text of the letter see

    I was impressed by Shapira’s answer to one of the members of the Madison congregation, who told him he had every right to make his appeal to Israel’s conscience at home. But here in the United States, especially in a liberal university town, he may be bolstering noxious anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment.

    Shapira listened, nodding, and then he explained: He has spoken to many groups of Europeans and Palestinians and others hostile to the Israeli government. Afterwards, audience members came up to tell him how much better they felt toward Israelis after hearing “a regular Israeli guy” like him. It makes sense. After all, refusing to admit doubt about the justice and morality of bombing civilians is hardly a path toward reconciliation or understanding.

    Among Israelis, as a pilot, Shapira was a rock star. “Girls like you. Their mothers and grandmothers like you,” he joked. He and his 26 co-refusers traded in this popularity to speak their conscience. Because of that, they are uniquely effective messengers.

    Yonatan Shapira’s decision to refuse orders is hard to argue with. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, he says he loves Israel and believes he must uphold the Jewish values he was raised with. That means, he says, the deliberate bombing of civilian residential areas, in order to kill suspected militants, is out of the question. He also says that he was taught in the Air Force that it is every soldier’s duty to disobey illegal orders, and so he feels that he is acting not only within his moral rights but within the law. So sure is he, he says he has invited prosecution, believing that the Israeli courts would find his refusal to be correct. The government has avoided a direct legal confrontation, which he takes as a sign that it feels its case is weak.

    Israeli soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend the settlements are increasingly aware of both the strategic and the moral unworkability of the occupation, Shapira said in his talk. The doubts of the soldiers about the morality of their mission undermines Israel’s strength, he went on.

    But his audience of American Jews demanded to know about the threats to “drive the Jews into the sea” and the refusal of many Palestinians and surrounding Arab countries to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

    Shapira replied that Israel still has the strongest Army in the region. “We could take over Syria in three days,” he says. Abandoning the occupation will not make the Army suddenly weak.

    Ultimately, most Israelis believe that a two-state solution, with the border between Israel and Palestine roughly tracing the 1967 borders, is inevitable, Shapira pointed out. The only question is how long will it take, and how many more people will die.

    For his part, Shapira is determined to do what he can to stop the killing sooner, rather than later. Hearing him gave me hope.

    Ruth Conniff is Political Editor of The Progressive.

  • April 10-11, 2005
    "Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision"

    A Partners for Peace presentation

    Sunday, April 10, 2005 — 4 pm
    Memorial United Church of Christ
    5705 West Lacy Rd.

    Monday, April 11, 2005 — 7 pm
    First Unitarian Society Meeting House
    900 University Bay Dr.

    Sponsored by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) , The Peace and Justice Committee of the First Unitarian Society, and Memorial United Church of Christ.

    Michael Brown of Partners for Peace will introduce the three speakers. Partners for Peace can be contacted at and partnersforpeace at

  • Board of Regents must support divestment

    FAYYAD SBAIHAT, Badger Herald, Mar 3, 2005

    The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has adopted a series of guidelines to regulate the $330 million UW trust fund.

    The trust and investment policies are meant to prevent the university’s money from being invested in companies whose business is deemed unethical or immoral.

    These policies have governed and informed decisions pertaining to the portfolio at some times but have been ignored on other occasions. Trust and investment policy 78-1 states rapid divestment should be carried out “in any company, corporation, subsidiary or affiliate which practices or condones through its actions discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, creed or sex … ”

    The state attorney general established in 1978 that all investments of the UW trust fund made into South Africa or companies that contracted with the apartheid regime were in violation of this policy and, subsequently, the Board of Regents divested the fund from all such investment.

    Divestment from South Africa was carried out because that government implemented a system of apartheid and ethnic discrimination. Black South Africans were pushed into small, isolated Bantustans surrounded by walls and fences, forced to live in poverty and exploited by the white colonialist minority.

    Some companies targeted with divestment provided the apartheid regime with equipment and services that were directly used to subjugate the oppressed black population and foster discrimination; others condoned such practices by dealing with the regime and strengthening the very economy that drove these cruel, racist policies. When the divestment effort was joined by a number of other academic, religious and community institutions, it contributed to ending the apartheid regime in South Africa.

    In 1997, prompted by human-rights abuses in Burma, the regents adopted a new policy that regulates investments in companies whose products contribute to or cause social injury. Policy 97-1 classifies as socially irresponsible investments in companies whose “corporate policies or practices that are discriminatory … or cause substantial social injury.”

    Today, the regents are requested to make a decision on investments in corporations whose products and services cause or allow for grave human-rights abuses around the world — most prominently, those perpetrated by Israel against the civilian Palestinian population.

    Unfortunately, in a recent statement, Board of Regents President Toby Marcovich described the calls for divestment from Israel as political. Indeed, Mr. Marcovich’s comments are politicized, an attempt to avoid the real issue and a dishonest retreat in the face of a serious moral dilemma, as he fails to recognize the facts presented.

    One of the times world officials overlooked abuses of human rights, or dismissing them as below the “critical level,” the world woke up to the news of hundreds of thousand of Rwandan lives being lost in a matter of weeks.

    It is not the position of the regents to rule what constitutes violations of human rights and war crimes. It is, however, their responsibility to recognize when their policies are being violated, and accept reports by U.N. Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other such independent organizations as a basis for determining the occurrence of such violations and use them to follow guidelines and policies without regard to any political considerations.

    The Board of Regents president’s politicized comments ignored reports by, for example, the U.N. special human-rights commissioner in January that Israel’s systemic home demolitions classify as war crimes. Demolitions are often carried out using Caterpillar bulldozers, a company in which UW holds stocks.

    Though Israel is considering discontinuing its punitive home-demolitions campaign, it still pushes ahead with other types of demolitions. An example would be the recently announced plan to destroy nearly 3,200 homes in Rafah to expand a military zone, as well as demolishing the homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who live in poverty, with little to no access to social services or economic opportunity.

    UW’s investment in companies with ties to Israel range from those who provide arms that are used directly to attack Palestinians, carry out extra-judicial assassinations, collective punishment, land appropriation, infrastructure destruction — and the list goes on, as documented by many Palestinian, Israeli and international human-rights organizations.

    Regents must divest from Israel because it is their duty, according to their policies, irrespective of their political considerations and expediency or diplomatic maneuvers by those attempting to avoid change to the bloody status quo.

    Fayyad Sbaihat (frsbaihat at is a senior majoring in chemical engineering.

  • March 6 – 20, 2005
    Silent Art Auction for Augusta Victoria Hospital, Jerusalem

    Madison, Wis — A silent auction of donated art work benefiting Augusta Victoria Hospital in Palestine will be on display March 6-20, 2005.

    The show opens Sunday, March 6, 2005 at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Monona in Koinonia Place, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Initial viewing and bidding will take place at the reception. Art will be on view until the closing reception, 6 to 8 p.m. on March 20. At the end of the reception bidding will close and art will be awarded to high bidders.

    Donations of art work will be accepted through March 1. Call 222-1241 to donate.

    Many artists have contributed to date, including: Steve Chapell, multicolor woodblock print; Tom Eiler, oil painting; Robin Luersdorf, drawing; Dorla Mayer, silkscreen; Leslee Nelson, textile art; Kat Pluff, knit scarf and photography; Art Paul Schlosser, oil painting; Maggie Schuchardt, acrylic painting; Jim Schwall, photography.

    The Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands has been a hardship for people trapped in this decades-long political struggle. Augusta Victoria Hospital, a health care facility funded by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), has served Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for over 50 years. Situated on the Mount of Olives, Augusta Victoria was established as a hospital after the war of 1948. Initially under the control of the Red Cross, in 1950 it transferred ownership and management to LWF.

    All money raised will benefit Augusta Victoria Hospital.

    Contact: Robin Good, rgood at, or
    Pastor Bruce Burnside or Assoc. Pastor Nick Utphall, 608-222-1241
    St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, 5700 Pheasant Hill Road, Monona, Wisconsin

    Artist links show representative work and not known donations.

  • Divestment not for UW System

    JOSH MOSKOWITZ, Badger Herald, Feb 24, 2005

    In just a few short weeks, the political climate in Israel has drastically changed. One needs to look no further for proof than by scrutinizing the actions of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. Sharon recently released 500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody and won cabinet approval to withdraw Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, paving the way for the future establishment of a Palestinian state. Recently elected, Abbas ran a campaign based on non-violence and has managed to quell hostile activity perpetrated by terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yet in light of these sanguine developments, anti-Israel rhetoric and activity continues to plague college campuses, including University of Wisconsin institutions.

    Recently, a small but vocal group of students on this campus have visited UW-Whitewater and UW-Platteville hoping to convince faculty senate members to vote for a resolution that would force the UW System’s Board of Regents to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel.

    This divestment plan specifically calls for the board to “divest from Caterpillar, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman and Raytheon based on evidence of the active role these companies play in enabling Israeli forces to engage in practices that violate international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.”

    While the resolution may have passed at UW-Platteville, a school of 5,800, it did so by the smallest of margins: 7-6.

    And while there certainly is cause for concern that UW-Platteville’s faculty government could become the first in the nation to call for divestment of university funds from Israel, words from the UW Board of Regents president and action taken by UW-Whitewater faculty senate members make it very clear that divestment has no legitimate place in other UW institutions.

    “We don’t divest on a political basis,” Board of Regents President Toby Marcovich recently said. “We do it if there are true human rights violations.” The divestment from Israel campaign “was not convincing” to the regents, according to Marcovich.

    At UW-Whitewater, freshman Molly Fields, publicity chair of the Jewish Student Organization, courageously appeared before members of the faculty senate and flat-out told them that divestment was designed to “dehumanize, demoralize and delegitimize” the state of Israel. After listening to her message and the words of Jewish faculty members, the faculty senate voted to defeat the resolution plan.

    At first glance, it is interesting to note that members of the Madison community who have initiated this divestment plan have traveled to institutions of higher learning with little Jewish representation. It is certainly quite feasible that they expected the embrace of liberal-minded professors and little, if any, dissent from members of the community because Jews are such a small minority on these campuses. Without any formal counter-representation, they could propagandize to their heart’s content.

    At second glance, it is reassuring to note that the UW Board of Regents and the faculty senate of UW-Whitewater have realized what divestment really is: an inappropriate and outlandish campaign that wrongfully attacks and demonizes the state of Israel.

    The divestment campaign in South Africa was appropriate and legitimate because it garnered international recognition of apartheid, an internal system of exploitation and segregation forced upon a black majority by a white minority. Divestment legitimately targeted corporations that profited from this egregious situation. While some have argued that Israel is conducting apartheid policies against the Palestinian people and Arab-Israeli citizens, this comparison is absurd. Arab-Israeli citizens retain the same civil and political rights that any Jew possesses in Israel, with the ability to vote in elections and serve their constituents as elected officials. And while many Palestinians have faced personal hardships since the second intifada began, many have also contributed to the recent cycle of violence that has destroyed the development and maturation of any peace negotiation.

    While a select few in our student body have focused on directing their energies towards perpetuating anti-Israel rhetoric and sentiment throughout the state, it is reassuring to know that their fallacious claims have largely gone unheeded. With the implications for peace between Israelis and Palestinians gaining ground every day, now is the time to urge universities across the country to invest in peace.

    Universities should begin to invest in joint Israeli-Palestinian business enterprises, spurring economic growth and participation in the region. Now is the time to focus on the positive and refrain from giving any credence to anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic movements.

    Josh Moskowitz (jmoskowitz at is a junior majoring in political science and journalism.

  • March 4-5, 2005
    Yonatan Shapira, Israeli Refusenik

    March 4, 6:00 PM, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society building, 2010 Whenona Drive, Madison. Potluck followed by a discussion with Shapira. Daycare will be available.

    March 5, 9:00 AM, Beth Israel Center, 1406 Mound Street, Madison. Shapira will speak during services and stay for discussion after the Kiddush.

    March 5, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM, UW-Madison Memorial Union (room TBA).

    Sponsored by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace. From the tour description: “Shapira served as a widely-respected senior officer for eleven years in the Israeli army’s elite “Black Hawk” helicopter squadron. He was dismissed from the Israeli Air Force after authoring and issuing the Pilot’s Letter refusing to serve in the occupied territories. Shapira will discuss the personal and political considerations that led him to write this letter at the core of a heated national debate.”

    For more information, contact info at

  • Festival celebrates political filmmakers

    Gwen Evans, UW News, February 8, 2005

    For filmmaker Saul Landau, who has interviewed the likes of Fidel Castro and Zapatista leaders in Chiapas, Mexico, the recent popularity of political documentaries must give him cheer. With more than 40 films to his credit, he has been putting a focus on human rights and social and political issues long before “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “The Fog of War” took the spotlight.

    Landau’s films will be featured at the Sixth Annual CineFest Film Festival Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 24-26. “The Landau Legacy with Special Guest Haskell Wexler: Films from the Americas and Beyond,” is a three-day extravaganza of documentary and politically charged filmmaking, which will take place on campus and in the Madison community. CineFest is one of the premiere Latino film festivals in the United States. This year’s event features the work of three internationally renowned filmmakers who have focused their attention on themes related to Latin America.

    CineFest organizer William Ney, assistant director of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS) program, which sponsors CineFest, believes the festival will be popular with both the campus and Madison communities. And for Landau, a UW–Madison graduate, the festival will be a homecoming of sorts.

    “This year’s CineFest promises to be an extraordinary event, and we are pleased to welcome Landau back to Madison and Wexler to our campus and community for the first time,” says Ney.

    All events are free and open to the public, except for the “Evening of Solidarity” benefit at the Barrymore Theater. Adult admission to that event is $10; student admission is $5. Admission to all other film screenings is on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Landau’s films have garnered numerous awards, including the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award, the George Polk Award for Investigative Reporting and the First Amendment Award, as well as an Emmy.

    In addition to making films, Landau is an internationally known scholar, author and commentator, and is the director of Digital Media Programs at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Calif. He received an Edgar Allen Poe Award for his book “Assassination on Embassy Row,” a report on the 1976 murders of Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Moffitt.

    Joining Landau at CineFest is Haskell Wexler, one of the most important cinematographers working in film today. Some of his better-known films include “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Coming Home,” “Bound for Glory” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” He received five Academy Award nominations and earned two Oscars for best cinematography. Wexler is the first cinematographer in more than 35 years to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

    Like Landau, Wexler produces documentaries that concentrate on politics and human rights. Landau and Wexler worked together on “Report on Torture.” Made in 1971, it examines methods of torture inflicted upon political prisoners by Brazil’s military police.

    Also participating in CineFest is Greg Landau, Saul Landau’s son. Greg Landau is an award-winning music video producer and educator, a two-time Grammy nominee and a producer of more than 30 CDs, film soundtracks and videos. For the last 20 years, he also has made documentaries in Latin America with his father and Wexler. His “Rock Down Central America” is a music documentary that follows a Nicaraguan reggae band back to its hometown during the 1988 Sandinista revolution.

    CineFest is co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the Division of Continuing Studies, the Department of Communication Arts, The Harvey Goldberg Center and the Global Studies program at UW–Madison, and the Capital Times newspaper and WORT radio. Promotional support is provided by the Wisconsin Film Festival, the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program, the WUD Film Committee and the Department of History at UW–Madison, and the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua, the Havens Center, the Wisconsin Film Office, the Madison Arcatao Sister City Association, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Community Axtion on Latin America and the Progressive magazine.

    For more information on CineFest, visit or contact Ney at 262-2811.

  • FEBRUARY 25, 2005
    “Voices, Images and Hearts”

    Barrymore Theatre
    2090 Atwood Avenue
    5:00-9:30 pm

    Celebrating Solidarity from Latin America to the Middle East

    An Evening of Solidarity Films and Food– Featuring Saul and Greg Landau, Special Guest renowned cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and Evening DJ by rapper “The Iron Sheik”. Part of the sixth annual Cinefest.

    This event is a benefit for the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua, Madison Rafah Sister City Project and Madison Arcatao Sister City Project. Tickets are $10/$5 for students, and are available at the Barrymore Box Office or at WCCN, 122 State Street.

    5-6 p.m.: Reception/Social Hour with Arabic and Latin American food for purchase.

    6 p.m.: The Sixth Sun: Mayan Uprising in Chiapas, directed by Saul Landau, 1996. Just before dawn on New Years Day 1994, armed Mayan Indians declared war on the government of Mexico. They seized eight towns in Chiapas and set in motion events that ripped away a facade of prosperity and stability to reveal the other Mexico. Calling themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), they demanded land, public services and Indian autonomy. This documentary features in-depth interviews with people from EZLN, as well as others involved in the conflict, and examines issues surrounding global economic integration.

    7:30 p.m.: Syria: Between Iraq and a Hard Place, directed by Saul Landau, Sonia Angulo and Farrah Hassen, 2004. Saul Landau presents the Wisconsin premiere of his film that examines present-day Syria. The country lives with the tension of maintaining centuries-old traditions in the face of modern culture and economics, the aftermath of the war in 1973 and the decline in U.S.-Syrian relations since the Iraq War.

    8:30 p.m.: Rock Down Central America, directed by Greg Landau, 1989. This music documentary follows a Nicaraguan reggae band back to its hometown. Filmed during the Sandinista revolution in 1988, it captures the culture and political aspirations of the people of the Atlantic coast region of Nicaragua, along with a lot of great music.

    Contact: Barbara Alvarado mascp at For more information on the other films to be shown this week, see Cinefest or contact Willie Ney at 262-2811.

  • Rafah Delegation – Jan 2005

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