War Industry Resisters Network presents:
How does Israel get away with it? with Jeff Halper
3-4 pm CT
War Industry Resisters Network presents:
How does Israel get away with it? with Jeff Halper
3-4 pm CT
Please join us on Thursday, November 30th for an extremely timely live webinar about Palestinian olive oil and Medjool dates from the West Bank.
Many of you have purchased our Organic Olive Oil from small farmers in the West Bank for years. Did you ever wonder exactly how the oil and dates get from the farmers to Equal Exchange? Come to this webinar to learn more about our organizational partner, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), and learn how these farmers are faring at this tragic and dangerous moment in the Middle East.
The olive harvest is just concluding as this announcement goes out, so we’ll have updates for you. At the very end of the webinar, for those interested, we’ll have a short demonstration on how to do an olive oil tasting. We hope you’ll join us.
With your support, we’re growing alternative trade. Now we’re asking you to get even more involved. Join our growing community of Citizen-Consumers working to change the food system, together.
Palestinians attend a gathering outside UN offices to protest a decision by World Food Program to suspend aid of around 200,000 people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in Gaza City, May 7, 2023. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
GAZA, May 7 (Reuters) – The World Food Programme (WFP) will suspend food aid to over 200,000 Palestinians from next month due to a “severe” shortage of funds, the group’s senior official for the Palestinian territories said on Sunday.
“In light of the severe funding shortages, WFP is forced to make painful choices to stretch the limited resources,” Samer Abdeljaber, the WFP’s country director, he told Reuters by phone from Jerusalem.
“WFP would have to start suspending assistance to over 200,000 people, which is 60 percent of its current case load, from June.”
The most impacted families are in Gaza, where food insecurity and poverty are the highest, and in the West Bank.
The United Nations agency offers impoverished Palestinians both monthly vouchers with a value of $10.30 per person and food baskets. Both programs will be affected.
Gaza, which has been run by the Islamist Hamas group since 2007, is home to 2.3 million people, of which 45 percent are unemployed and 80 percent depend on international aid, according to Palestinian and U.N. records.
“WFP understands the implications of this unavoidable and hard decision on hundreds of thousands of people who also depend on food assistance for their most basic needs,” said Abdeljaber.
Citing security concerns with the enclave’s Hamas rulers, Israel has led a blockade together with Egypt that has put restrictions on the movement of people and goods for years.
The U.N. agency will continue its aid to 140,000 people in Gaza and the West Bank, said Abdeljaber, who added the suspension decision was taken to save those who are at the highest risk of not being able to afford their food.
Unless funding is received, WFP will be forced to suspend food and cash assistance entirely by August, he said.
Chanting “No to Hunger” dozens of Palestinians staged a protest outside the WFP offices in Gaza City to protest the decision.
“The voucher is life, the message they sent us equals death since there is no other source of income,” said Faraj Al-Masri, a father of two, whose family gets vouchers worth $41.20 per month.
In Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip, Jamalat El-Dabour, whose family receives $164.80 worth of vouchers per month, said they will “starve to death” as her husband was sick and unemployed.
Reporting and writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Mike Harrison
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years’ experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace accord between the two sides.
For International Women’s Day we are honored to share a video highlighting some of the incredible women MECA and our partner the Gaza Urban and Peri-Urban Agricultural Platform (GUPAP) supported during a special project to enhance food sovereignty in Gaza.
Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season.
A Boy in the Shahin Family Helps His Family Pick Olives During the Olive Harvest Season in Gaza, October 2022. (Photo: Mohammed Salem)
The Shahin family sits happily in a circle in their home, located in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City. The house is warm and lively, and the smell of the meal inside the oven fills the whole room. Everyone can barely contain their excitement at tasting the season’s new olive oil. On the menu is musakhan, a traditional Palestinian dish utilizing the freshly harvested olive oil to make a layered dish of taboon bread, onions cooked in copious olive oil and sumac, and often topped with chicken.
Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season. Starting in October, families prepare harvest tools, mats, plastic rolls, high ladders, and pails, venturing out in the early morning to visit their lands, finally able to pick the olives after an entire year tending to the trees.
Everyone in the Shahin family participates in the harvest, considered the most important season of the year. They spend weeks on end together, enjoying the olives, and the resulting fresh and thick green oil, as an accompaniment to their meals. “When I dip the first piece of bread into the oil we made, I feel all the effort we put into harvesting melting away,” Amr Shahin, 13, says from his family farm.
He is part of a group of teenagers participating in the harvest. As they continue to pick up olives from the ground, Hassan, 12, points his finger to his cousin Mahmoud, a year older.
“Take Mahmoud for instance,” says Hassan. “If he doesn’t have olive oil for a week, he will die!” They all snicker, coming down from their ladders to participate in the interview.
The olives go through a short process to be ready for consumption, either as pickled olives or as fresh-pressed oil. The family all joins together under the tree to carry out a designated task within the division of labor necessary for olive picking.
The Shahin family owns eleven acres of land, home to three hundred olive trees. They work daily, from afternoon to sunset, taking advantage of the presence of the young boys after they get off from school to climb up the tall ladders and pick the olives from the top of the trees.
Their mothers wait for them to get back from school. They have their lunch at home quickly, then get to work. Mothers sit under the tree while the boys are up on the ladders, picking the olives and letting them fall down amid their mothers and sisters, who pick it up and separate the olives, dividing the green and black olives into separate bags. After harvesting, the olives are taken home in plastic bags. The family sells a few bags to their neighbors when they get back home.
The fastest way to prepare the olives for eating is to smash them with the flat side of a rock, without breaking the pits. Then the olives are mixed with salt and red pepper, and stored in containers for a week. After the curing period, the olives are ready.
And when the family judges the quantity it harvests to be enough, they send it over for pressing.
Extracting the oil from the olives is a long process, entailing taking the olives through several stages in the ancient olive press factories in the Gaza Strip.
Located among the farms east of al-Shuja’iyya, the Kishko Olive Press receives hundreds of people, who bring olives from their land in plump bags.
“This year the olive harvest is good, and when trees hold an extra amount of olives, the oil extracted becomes less than usual,” Salah Kishko, the owner of the press, tells Mondoweiss.
According to Kishko, this year a gallon of olive oil — containing sixteen liters — would require over 150 kg worth of olives. During the previous season, it would only require 120 kg. The amount varies each year, says Kishko, depending on the season’s prevailing climate. The amount of olives that his press goes through daily numbers over three hundred tons, which explains the good season.
The first step of this process is dumping the olives into a steam machine, in which the olives are moved through a tiny steel conveyor belt to be cleaned as the steam drags the tree leaves and other impurities.
The olives are cleaned and washed by water, and then transferred to another machine for mashing. The olives then are pressed, turning the olive into wet mush.
This renders the green olives soft and ready for oil extraction. At the end of the machine, two young boys received the olive paste mixed with the pits on a canvas, who transfer it to the pressure machine.
Dozens of burlap sacks loaded with the smashed olives are lined up between the jaws of the press. The pressing continues for over an hour, during which time the pure oil leaks into a metal basin and then into a filter tube. When the pressing ends, the cores remain inside the ceramic circles, while the pure oil goes to purification.
In the last stage of this process, the pressed oil is fed into the purification machine, splitting the unclear oil into a long pipe, while the clear oil is refined by water. The pipe carrying the oil has two faucets, one for impurities, and the other for the clear olive oil.
At this stage, people fill the fresh oil into gallon containers and take them home, to distribute among their family members or take to market to sell.
This season, the price of a 16-liter tank is 450 NIS (about $127 USD).
The oil is now ready, not only for consumption in the typical seasonal meals, but also for daily use, like in manakish za’atar pastries, musakhan, or just on the side, dipped with bread.
The olives and the olive oil are essential components of any Palestinian table. Palestinians in Gaza believe that as long as a family has olive oil at home, they will never go hungry.
Another important part of the season, especially for those who buy oil on the market, is the search for the best olive oil. If you have a neighbor who owns land with olive trees, you would usually ask them to keep you a tank — usually enough to last a family for a year.
And as the new oil flows in, people start to find ways to use up the leftover oil for last year. Weeks before the harvest season, most families start to use up their stores, using the old oil in several cooked meals.
Samera Al-Astal, 52, lights her traditional handmade clay oven to bake bread. Her daughter, Nidaa, prepares the bread dough in between mixing olive oil with zaatar — a blend of sumac, sesame, salt, and Palestinian thyme.
The rest of the family helps out, preparing one of the best breakfasts you can have — zaatar manakeesh with fresh olive oil. The smaller children are already seated, anxiously anticipating the food.
The wild thyme and oil mixture is spread across the flattened dough, which is then placed in the oven for fifteen minutes, until it comes out bubbling and green.
“Oil, olives, and thyme have been produced by this land for thousands of years,” says Samera. “Palestinians understood their land and used its bounties for their survival.”
And they continue to use it to this day.
Nidaa, Samera’s daughter, is 28 years old and has a family of her own. She happily prepares Friday lunch for them, which usually includes chicken or meat. With the olive season, most families tend to make Musakhan, which as a dish makes heavy use of olive oil.
Nidaa’s family gathers ahead of lunch, while she prepares the meal.
Musakhan, perhaps the quintessential Palestinian dish, consists mainly of chicken, onions, and Taboon bread. A kind of rough flatbread, the “taboon” loaf is derived from the traditional oven of the same name, when the dough is laid over hot rocks inside the taboon, leading to the flatbread’s characteristic dimples and uneven pockets — ideal for catching and soaking up the season’s olive oil.
After the bread is made, Nidaa chops up a hefty amount of onions, and mixes them with a large quantity of olive oil and sumac. Marinated chicken bakes in the oven, with the oil and onions underneath it, catching the chicken juices that mix with the copious amounts of oil.
Once the chicken is cooked and the oil-and-onion mixture underneath is tender, it’s time for assembly.
The taboon bread is covered — in fact, soaked — with the onion, sumac, and olive oil. Once they’re all assembled, the flatbreads are layered on top of each other, and then finally topped with the roasted chicken. When they pick up the bread, it is dripping in oil.
After a heavy lunch, dinner is comparatively light, but no less replete with the season’s olive oil. Nidaa’s family gets ready for dinner at a leisurely pace, cutting vegetables for a light salad — fattoush.
It is a favorite meal for the elderly in Palestine, as it is soft and smooth. Small diced pieces of crisped bread are added to oven-roasted eggplants, fresh tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and green pepper, seasoned with salt and dressed generously in olive oil.
This meal can be head for breakfast or dinner, and is served alongside the prepared olives.
The Palestinian relationship with olive trees has been millenia in the making. Palestinians in Gaza consider the olive as their symbol and their most prized property.
Reflecting on how vital olive trees are for Palestinian survival, Amr Shahin said: “When we feel hungry, we eat the olive. When we get tired, we rest in the shade under the trees. And when we are cold in winter, we use the wood for warmth.”
Tareq S. Hajjaj
Tareq S. Hajjaj is the Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent, and a member of Palestinian Writers Union. He studied English Literature at Al-Azhar university in Gaza. He started his career in journalism in 2015 working as news writer/translator at the local newspaper Donia al-Watan. He has reported for Elbadi, Middle East Eye, and Al Monitor. Follow him on Twitter at @Tareqshajjaj.
The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide back-to-school backpacks to 2000 poor children in Gaza, including Rafah and Rafah camp which suffered significant damage and casualties in the latest Israeli assault.
Our goal is to provide at least 100 Gaza-produced backpacks that MECA will distribute at schools and kindergartens in Rafah. The backpacks cost $17.50 each for a total of $1,750. MRSCP will match half the cost of the first 100 backpacks before the end of August, when school resumes in Gaza. 100 percent of your donation will go to this project.
The people of Gaza suffered terribly from the recent Israeli bombardment, which was just the latest in a series of what Israeli officials callously refer to as “mowing the grass” — periodic military assaults on the two million people (one million of them children) with no safe place to hide in what has been called the world’s largest open-air prison.
But even when bombs are not falling, Gazans struggle to survive under the Israeli land, air and sea blockade that deprives them of safe drinking water, medical care, employment, and fuel, and which kills and traumatizes them day in and day out through this cruel policy of deliberate deprivation.
Your tax dollars are paying for this outrage. Please consider partially offsetting them by contributing to the backpack campaign.
AND…Here at Home:
Urban Triage will be distributing shoes and coats to families on Saturday, September 24th, for their Back to School Give Back event!
“Help us in keeping kids warm during this upcoming Wisconsin winter season, where weather conditions can change rapidly and temperatures can reach to -20, with wind chills down to -40! Adequate shoes and coats can prevent hypothermia and frostbite. With your donations, Urban Triage will distribute shoes and coats to up to 75 families at Penn Park on Saturday, September 24th, from 2:30 to 4:30 PM.
We are now accepting donations. Donate Gift Cards and Cash to support vulnerable families this fall.
To make financial donations online, please fill out the donation form!
Drop off checks and gift cards (and NEW coats & shoes) at 147 S Butler St, Monday thru Thursday from 12 to 5 PM.
For more information, please contact Charnice: canderson at urbantriage.org.
Thank you for donating and keeping kids warm this winter!”
Meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Thursday, August 25, 2022
“The Situation in the Middle East Including the Palestinian Question”
I would like to thank the Council and the Chinese presidency in particular for allowing me to share some thoughts with you today. The events of earlier this month covered in detail by Special Envoy Wennesland are as concerning as they are predictable. To be very clear, Israelis deserve security; Palestinians deserve security.
Mr President, month in and month out the Council meets to repeat its familiar condemnations, formulas and slogans. I want to use this opportunity to rethink and re-appraise some assumptions and beliefs that may inadvertently contribute to the intractability in Israel-Palestine—to consider afresh, reasons why this conflict remains so prone to stalemate and human suffering.
I suggest to do this through 5 concepts that may assist us in such an endeavour:
First, Justice: The permanent dispossession and denial of the most basic rights and freedoms to the Palestinian people will never be a recipe for achieving sustainable security: this, the illegal blockade of Gaza and the unlawful occupation, represents forms of structural violence and collective punishment that we cannot ignore.
While the need for a political horizon is acknowledged, the dimensions of that horizon shrink and shrivel, becoming ever less ambitious.
There can be no effective or prolonged approach to Gaza in isolation—it is part of broader Israeli-Palestinian realities—in terms of security, the separation policy and closure. And crucially, there is a need to respect international law across the board—whether in state responses to armed threats or partisan resistance against state occupation.
Also in this context, there is a need for Palestinian political renewal, internal reconciliation and overcoming of divisions as well as an international need to engage all relevant actors without applying unrealistic and selective preconditions.
Second, Equilibrium: Any attempt to resume negotiations between the parties without addressing power asymmetries is a hollow and redundant exercise. As Comfort Ero, president of Crisis Group—with whom my organization the U.S./Middle East Project cooperates extensively—noted to this Council recently— “the structural power imbalance between an occupying state and an occupied people must be acknowledged.” A focus on relations of power rather than both sides-ism offers a path to clarity of thinking and policy.
As an example, attempts at economic confidence building measures are consistently too little, too late, and too ephemeral when attempted under conditions of a permanent, relentless and expanding matrix of occupation. This defies principles of harmony and reciprocity.
Especially with global resources stretched thin, the Palestinian economic predicament must be understood primarily as a function of politically imposed obstacles—on movement, borders, access to land, confiscations, demolitions and ever-expanding settlements—rather than an absence of charity. Economic palliatives under occupation deepen dependence and enmity.
We have heard the briefing of UNRWA Commissioner General Lazzarini. There must be an
economic commitment to a predictably resourced UNRWA capable of delivering services, not only a security necessity but also a political commitment to the Palestinian refugees who continue to be denied a solution.
Third, Accountability: I have previously highlighted to this Council two core problems; a legitimacy deficit in Palestinian politics and an accountability deficit viz Israel’s policies. It is Israel’s actions as the powerful occupying party that pre-eminently determine the direction of travel of this conflict.
Profound shifts are occurring as a result of the unwillingness to hold Israel to account not least on settlements.
Recent months have witnessed a disturbing intensification of that trend as Israel has targeted those least able to protect themselves and those most in the frontline bearing witness to violations of international law.
Following the shock expressed by Secretary General Guterres over the number of Palestinian children killed and maimed by Israeli forces last year, we have continued to see the same trend and suffering among the very young in Gaza this month.
We have witnessed the killing of those who report on and expose these crimes, Shireen Abu Akleh, being the latest journalist to pay with her life. And now the assault on those who document abuses and defend human rights, as well as community service providers, with Israel’s actions against six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations.
Following a terror designation having been made against the six NGOs by the Israeli authorities, a number of countries went on record that compelling evidence had not been forthcoming. Now in the past week, the offices of these organizations have been raided and shuttered and their workers interrogated.
A response limited to expressions of condemnation is too easily dismissed. This is impunity on steroids, it encourages more of the same or worse.
There should be practical consequences at a multilateral and bilateral level. We already have a hollowed out Palestinian polity and economy; this is now an attempt to emaciate Palestinian civil society.
Fourth, Context: It is no exaggeration to characterize the current global disorder as a world in metamorphosis—dangerously combustible while potentially rewarding if we can be innovative while realistic.
In this respect, the Abraham Accords can be many things, but they cannot be a substitute or distraction from securing peace and the rights of Palestinians. If not properly managed, normalisation risks further nurturing a misplaced Israeli sense that the Palestinians can be ignored and marginalised.
It is also the case that international law and principles purported to be universal cannot be asserted only when it is convenient and then set aside when friends or allies appear in the role of perpetrator. Our world is too transparent, these things are noticed.
Fifth and finally, Architecture: I would suggest that contrary to a prevailing perception of stuckness and stalemate, in actual fact, Israelis and Palestinians are passing through a quite profound transition.
Let me close by briefly explaining why.
Talk of the eclipse of a two-state option is neither alarmist nor farfetched, rather, it is a sober and probably behind-the-curve rendering of the lived reality. I would say that for Israel itself, the absence of an off-ramp on this journey toward a new paradigm should be cause for concern—placing in jeopardy that country’s future.
Neither Palestinians nor Israelis will disappear and finding a just way to live together has never been more urgent.
This profound shift will, over time, likely take every state represented here out of their comfort zone.
We know of certain developments that can at the same time be both politically uncomfortable and politically salient. The increasingly weighty body of scholarly, legal and public opinion that has designated Israel to be perpetrating apartheid in the territories under its control is just such a development.
A designation made by Palestinian scholars and institutes, later examined and endorsed by the Israeli human rights community led by B’tselem, has now become the legal designation made by Human Rights Watch and this year by Amnesty International.
This is what the failure to generate accountability and to achieve two states looks like.
As uncomfortable as it is for some, I urge his chamber not to underestimate the longer-term significance and traction of what is happening. At the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva this March, states speaking on behalf of the African group, the Arab group and the OIC group, all referenced this apartheid situation.
It will come as little surprise if this echoes and resonates in parts of the world that have experienced apartheid and settler colonialism and have gone through decolonisation. It is a paradigm that will also bring the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel into sharper relief.
It must be a wakeup call.
75 years ago, this United Nations offered partition as the political paradigm for the Holy Land. Today that land is de facto united under one dominion.
Absent unprecedentedly far-reaching action to make good on partition, your successors in this chamber will come to debate the challenge of achieving equality under a reality of non-partition.
Mr. President, if the Council seriously considers these five principles and their implications, we may find a way out of the repetitive impasse—the familiar condemnations, formulas and slogans—and perhaps usher in a new opening and path to justice and equilibrium for Palestinians and Israelis.
Daniel Levy is president of the US/Middle East Project (USMEP) and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). He was an advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, an Israeli official for Israel/Palestine talks under Barak and Itzhak Rabin, and a founder of J Street.
An eviction in East Jerusalem lies at the center of a conflict that led to war between Israel and Hamas. But for millions of Palestinians, the routine indignities of occupation are part of daily life.
Israeli soldiers firing tear gas towards Palestinian protesters in the town of Kfar Qaddum. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
JERUSALEM — Muhammad Sandouka built his home in the shadow of the Temple Mount before his second son, now 15, was born.
They demolished it together, after Israeli authorities decided that razing it would improve views of the Old City for tourists.
Mr. Sandouka, 42, a countertop installer, had been at work when an inspector confronted his wife with two options: Tear the house down, or the government would not only level it but also bill the Sandoukas $10,000 for its expenses.
Such is life for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation: always dreading the knock at the front door.
The looming removal of six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem set off a round of protests that helped ignite the latest war between Israel and Gaza. But to the roughly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and has controlled through decades of failed peace talks, the story was exceptional only because it attracted an international spotlight.
For the most part, they endure the frights and indignities of the Israeli occupation in obscurity.
Even in supposedly quiet periods, when the world is not paying attention, Palestinians from all walks of life routinely experience exasperating impossibilities and petty humiliations, bureaucratic controls that force agonizing choices, and the fragility and cruelty of life under military rule, now in its second half-century.
Underneath that quiet, pressure builds.
If the eviction dispute in East Jerusalem struck a match, the occupation’s provocations ceaselessly pile up dry kindling. They are a constant and key driver of the conflict, giving Hamas an excuse to fire rockets or lone-wolf attackers grievances to channel into killings by knives or automobiles. And the provocations do not stop when the fighting ends.
No homeowner welcomes a visit from the code-enforcement officer. But it’s entirely different in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians find it nearly impossible to obtain building permits and most homes were built without them: The penalty is often demolition.
Mohammed Sandouka amid the ruins of his home in East Jerusalem. Dan Balilty for The New York Times
Mr. Sandouka grew up just downhill from the Old City’s eastern ramparts, in the valley dividing the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.
At 19, he married and moved into an old addition onto his father’s house, then began expanding it. New stone walls tripled the floor area. He laid tile, hung drywall and furnished a cozy kitchen. He spent around $150,000.
Children came, six in all. Ramadan brought picnickers to the green valley. The kids played host, delivering cold water or hot soup. His wife prepared feasts of maqluba (chicken and rice) and mansaf (lamb in yogurt sauce). He walked with his sons up to Al Aqsa, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
In 2016, city workers posted an address marker over Mr. Sandouka’s gate. It felt like legitimation.
But Israel was drifting steadily rightward. The state parks authority fell under the influence of settlers, who seek to expand Jewish control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Citing an old plan for a park encircling the Old City, the authority set about clearing one unpermitted house after another.
Now it was Mr. Sandouka’s turn.
Plans showed a corner of the house encroaching on a future tour-bus parking lot.
Mr. Sandouka’s children salvaging household items as their home is demolished. Dan Balilty for The New York Times
Zeev Hacohen, an authority official, said erasing Mr. Sandouka’s neighborhood was necessary to restore views of the Old City “as they were in the days of the Bible.”
“The personal stories are always painful,” he allowed. But the Palestinian neighborhood, he said, “looks like the Third World.”
Mr. Sandouka hired a lawyer and prayed. But he was at work a few months ago when someone knocked on his door again. This time, his wife told him, crying, it was a police officer.
The knock at the door is not always just a knock.
Badr Abu Alia, 50, was awakened around 2 a.m. by the sounds of soldiers breaking into his neighbor’s home in Al Mughrayyir, a village on a ridge in the West Bank.
When they got to his door, a familiar ritual ensued: His children were rousted from bed. Everyone was herded outside. The soldiers collected IDs, explained nothing and ransacked the house. They left two hours later, taking with them a teenager from next door, blindfolded.
He had taken part in a protest four days earlier, when an Israeli sniper shot and killed a teenager who was wandering among the rock-throwers and spent tear-gas canisters.
Badr Abu Alia inside his house in the West Bank town of Al Mughrayyir. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
Al Mughrayyir was one of the few villages still mounting regular Friday protests. They began after settlers cut off access to some of the villagers’ farmland. The boy’s death became a new rallying cry.
The army says it raids Palestinian homes at night because it is safer, and ransacks them to search for weapons, in routine crackdowns aimed at keeping militance in check.
But the raids also inspire militance.
Mr. Abu Alia seethed as he described seeing his son outside in the dark, “afraid, crying because of the soldiers, and I can do nothing to protect him.”
“It makes you want to take revenge, to defend yourself,” he went on. “But we have nothing to defend ourselves with.”
Stone-throwing must suffice, he said. “We can’t take an M-16 and go kill every settler. All we have are those stones. A bullet can kill you instantly. A little stone won’t do much. But at least I’m sending a message.”
Settlers send messages, too. They have cut down hundreds of Al Mughrayyir’s olive trees — vital sources of income and ties to the land — torched a mosque, vandalized cars. In 2019, one was accused of fatally shooting a villager in the back. The case remains open.
For Majeda al-Rajaby the pain of occupation never goes away. It slices straight through her family.
A twice-divorced teacher, Ms. al-Rajaby, 45, is divided from her five children by the different ways Israel treats Palestinians depending on where they are from.
Majeda al-Rajaby teaching children at the UNRWA school in the Shuafat refugee camp. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
She grew up in the West Bank, in Hebron. But both her ex-husbands were Jerusalem residents, allowing them to travel anywhere an Israeli citizen may go. The children were entitled to the blue IDs of Jerusalem residents, too. Hers remained West Bank green.
Both her husbands lived in Shuafat refugee camp, a lawless slum inside the Jerusalem city limits but just outside Israel’s security barrier. West Bankers are not allowed to live there, but the rule is not enforced.
She had thought she was marrying up. Instead, she said her husbands “always made me feel inferior.”
Ms. al-Rajaby at home in Anata, on the West Bank. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
After the second divorce, she was left on her own, with her green ID, to raise all five children with their blue IDs. The distinction could be life-threatening.
When a daughter accidentally inhaled housecleaning chemicals, Ms. al-Rajaby tried to race her to the closest hospital, in Jerusalem. Soldiers refused to let her in. As a teacher in Shuafat, she had a permit to enter Jerusalem, but only until 7 p.m. It was 8:00.
Her children are older now, but the distinction is just as keenly felt: Ms. al-Rajaby allows herself to be excluded from joyful moments and rites of passage so her children can enjoy advantages unavailable to her.
She stays behind on the Palestinian side of the security barrier while they head off to Jaffa or Haifa, or on shortcuts to Hebron through Jerusalem, a route forbidden to her. “West Banker,” they tease her, waving goodbye.
One daughter is 21 now and engaged and goes on jaunts into Israel with her fiancé’s mother. “I should be with them,” Ms. al-Rajaby said.
Last summer, Ms. al-Rajaby moved out of Shuafat to a safer neighborhood just outside the Jerusalem city limits, in the West Bank. That means her children could lose their blue IDs if Israel determined that their primary residence was with her.
“I’m not allowed to live there,” she said of Shuafat, “and my daughters are not allowed to live here.”
Constrained as she is, Ms. al-Rajaby wants even more for her children than freedom to move about Israel.
In 2006, her daughter Rana, then 7, was burned in a cooking accident. An Italian charity paid for treatment at a hospital in Padua. Mother and child stayed for three months.
The experience opened Ms. al-Rajaby’s eyes. She saw green parks, children in nice clothes, women driving cars.
“It was the moment of my liberation,” she said. “I started thinking: ‘Why do they have this? Why don’t we?’”
Today, she urges all her children to see the world, and holds out hope that they might emigrate.
“Why,” she asked, “should someone keep living under the mercy of people who have no mercy?”
Try as they might to make their accommodations with Israel, Palestinians often find themselves caught in the occupation’s gears.
Majed Omar once earned a good living as a construction worker inside Israel. But in 2013, his younger brother was spotted crossing through a gap in Israel’s security barrier. A soldier shot him in the leg.
Mr. Omar, 45, was collateral damage. Israel revoked his work permit just in case he had ideas about taking revenge — something Israel says happens too often.
He sat unemployed for 14 months. When Israel reissued his permit, it only allowed him to work in the fast-growing West Bank settlements, where workers are paid half as much, searched each morning and supervised by armed guards all day.
Majed Omar working construction in the settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. Dan Balilty for The New York Times
Which is how he came to be the foreman on a crew that remodels Jewish homes and expands Israeli buildings on land the Palestinians have long demanded as part of their hoped-for state.
In a small way, it’s like digging his own grave, Mr. Omar said. “But we’re living in a time when everyone sees what’s wrong and still does it.”
Violence is often sudden and brief. But the nagging dread it instills can be just as debilitating.
Nael al-Azza, 40, is haunted by the Israeli checkpoint he must pass through while commuting between his home in Bethlehem and his job in Ramallah.
At home, he lives behind walls and cultivates a lush herb and vegetable garden in the backyard. But nothing protects him on his drive to work, not even his position as a manager in the Palestinian firefighting and ambulance service.
Recently, he said, a soldier at the checkpoint stopped him, told him to roll down his window, asked if he had a weapon. He said no. She opened his passenger door to take a look, then slammed it shut, hard.
He wanted to object. But he stopped himself, he said: Too many confrontations with soldiers end with Palestinians being shot.
“If I want to defend my property and my self-respect, there’s a price for that,” he said.
Nael al-Azza in his garden outside his house in Bethlehem. Dan Balilty for The New York Times
His commute is a 14-mile trip as the crow flies, but a 33-mile route, because Palestinians are diverted in a wide loop around Jerusalem along a tortuous two-lane road of steep switchbacks. Even so, it ought to take less an hour — but often takes two or three, because of the checkpoint.
The Israelis consider the checkpoint essential to search for fleeing attackers or illegal weapons or to cut the West Bank in two in case of unrest. Palestinians call it a choke point that can be shut off on a soldier’s whim. It is also a friction point, motorists and soldiers each imagining themselves as the other’s target.
Idling and inching along, Mr. al-Azza compared traffic to blood flow. Searching one car can mean an hour’s delay. The soldiers are so young, he said, “They don’t feel the weight of stopping 5,000 cars.”
He thinks only of those delayed. “When they impede your movement and cause you to fail at your job, you feel like you’ve lost your value and meaning,” he said.
Nael al-Azza sitting in traffic while heading to work along the winding road leading from Bethlehem to Ramallah in the West Bank. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
A few nights each week, delays force him to sleep at work and settle for video calls with his three children.
On weekend outings, the checkpoint takes a different toll on his family.
“I try to keep my kids from speaking about the conflict,” he said. “But they see and experience things I have no answer for. When we’re driving, we turn the music on. But when we reach the checkpoint, I turn it off. I don’t know why. I’ll see them in the mirror: All of a sudden, they sit upright and look anxious — until we cross and I turn the music back on.”
Mr. al-Azza inside a small shack outside his house in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
Deadly scenarios constantly play out in Mr. al-Azza’s head: What if a tire blew out or his engine stalled? What if a young soldier, trained to respond instantly, misconstrued it as a threat?
“It’s not possible to put it out of mind,” he said. “When you’re hungry, you think about food.”
No Palestinian is insulated from the occupation’s reach — not even in the well-to-do, privileged “bubble” of Ramallah, where Israeli soldiers are seldom seen.
Everyone Sondos Mleitat knows bears the scars of some trauma. Her own: Hiding with her little brother, then 5, when Israeli tanks rolled into Nablus, where she was raised.
In the dark, she said, he pulled all his eyelashes out, one by one.
Today, Ms. Mleitat, 30, runs a website connecting Palestinians with psychotherapists.
Sondos Mleitat at her office in Ramallah. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
Instead of reckoning with their lingering wounds, she said, people seek safety in social conformity, in religion, in the approval gleaned from Facebook and Instagram likes. But all of those, she said, only reinforce the occupation’s suffocating effects.
“This is all about control,” she said. “People are going through a type of taming or domestication. They just surrender to it and feel they can’t change anything.”
After her uncle was killed by Israeli soldiers at a protest, she said, his younger brother was pushed into marriage at 18 “to protect him from going down the same path.”
But a nation of people who reach adulthood thinking only about settling down, she said, is not a nation that will achieve independence.
“They think they’re getting out of this bubble, but they’re not,” she said.
Ms. Mleitat working next to her fiance, Majd, at their office in Ramallah. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times
Mr. Sandouka earns about $1,800 in a good month. He hoped the lawyer could quash the demolition order. “I thought they would just give us a fine,” he said.
Then he got another panicked call from home: “The police were there, making my family cry.”
Khalas, he said, enough. He would tear it down himself.
Early on a Monday, his sons took turns with a borrowed jackhammer. They almost seemed to be having fun, like wrecking a sand castle.
Finished, their moods darkened. “It’s like we’re lighting ourselves on fire,” said Mousa, 15.
“They want the land,” said Muataz, 22. “They want all of us to leave Jerusalem.”
In 2020, 119 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were demolished, 79 of them by their owners.
When all was rubble, Mr. Sandouka lit a cigarette and held it with three beefy fingers as it burned. His pants filthy with the dust of his family’s life together, he climbed atop the debris, sent photos to the police and contemplated his options.
Mr. Sandouka’s children demolishing their home in East Jerusalem. Dan Balilty for The New York Times
Moving to the West Bank, and sacrificing Jerusalem residency, was unthinkable. Moving elsewhere in Jerusalem was unaffordable.
A friend offered a couple of spare rooms as a temporary refuge. Mr. Sandouka’s wife demanded permanency.
“She told me if I don’t buy her a home, that’s it — everyone can go their separate ways,” he said.
He turned his eyes uphill toward the Old City.
“These people work little by little,” he said. “It’s like a lion that eats one, and then another. It eventually eats everything around it.”
Join us for a Virtual Delegation to the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip with We Are Not Numbers, Palestinian youth telling the human stories behind the numbers in the news. The camp was established in 1949 and is now home to more than 125,304 refugees according to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Join us to walk around the camp and understand more of its particular challenges.
Deterioration of Living Condition For 4860 Fishermen and Workers in Associated Professions
Date: 26 April 2021
Time: 10:30 GMT
On Monday, 26 April 2021, Israeli authorities closed Gaza Sea completely and prevented fishermen from sailing and fishing. These Israeli measures are part of the Israeli collective punishment policy practiced against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip that aims to harass fishermen and prevent them from sailing and fishing freely in areas where fish breed.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)’s follow-up, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) declared the complete closure of Gaza Sea, starting from 06:00 on Monday until further notice. The Israeli Coordinator stated that, “This decision came in response to the launch of rockets towards Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”
This decision is part of Israel’s policy of inhuman and illegal closure and collective punishment against the Gaza Strip. As a result, the livelihoods of 4,160 fishermen and 700 workers in professions associated with the fishing sector; the main providers for their families (a total of 27,700 persons) are threatened with further deterioration. Even before this decision, Gazan fishermen already suffered and were unable to fish and sail freely in the allowed fishing area due to the recurrent Israeli attacks at sea, the entry ban of equipment and necessary supplies for fishermen. Consequently, hundreds of fishermen are effectively unable to provide their families’ basic needs, such as food, medicine, clothing, and education.
Furthermore, the impact of the new Israeli decisions would deepen the humanitarian and living crises in the Gaza Strip, especially raising unemployment, poverty and food insecurity. Statistics pre-recent restrictions indicate a dangerous unemployment rate at 45%, i.e. 217,100 unemployed workers; this rate is highest among youth at 63%. Also, more than half of the Gaza Strip population suffers poverty, as data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) indicate that the prevalence of poverty among the Gaza Strip population exceeds 53%, and more than 62.2% of the Gaza population is classified as food insecure according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
PCHR emphasizes that the Israeli decision to close the Gaza Sea violates the economic and social rights of Palestinian fishermen and violates their right to work stipulated in Article (6) of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The ongoing Israeli attacks against fishermen also constitutes a flagrant violation of the international humanitarian law.
Josie Shields-Stromsness, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)
Update for Madison Rafah Sister City Project
The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating dramatically as a result of the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli blockade. The precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus including imposing of lockdowns and curfews have worsened the dire situation. As a result, more than 70% of the population are reported below the poverty line and food insecurity and malnutrition pose serious risks to the health of hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children.
With donations from MRSCP, MECA and our local partner in Gaza, the Never Stop Dreaming Association, were able to provide nutritious food parcels to families in need in Rafah while also supporting local farmers and businesses.
We received additional funding from several individuals and organizations in the United States for this project and in total were able to provide 1413 families in Rafah, Khan Younis and the middle region of the Gaza Strip with food parcels. Families were nominated by community organizations in each location and then checked against official lists to ensure we are reaching people most in need. MRSCPs donations of $4655 provide food parcels to 116 families in Rafah governate in the southern Gaza Strip, the transportation, warehouse rental, and meals for volunteers were covered by other funding sources.
The contents of the food parcels were purchased from 4 farms employing 24 individuals and 3 small grocery stores. This project therefore provided critical income to 27 families in Gaza.
Each food parcel contained fresh vegetables, chickens, and other household staples designed to provide each family with the necessary items to make healthy, balanced meals for two weeks. MECA staff member Wafaa El-Derawi is a trained nutritionist and oversaw the contents of the parcels.
We faced some challenges with the COVID-19 restrictions in Gaza. We overcame this by having several distribution points, providing all staff and volunteers with masks and gloves, and by organizing pick up times well so there was not overcrowding at the warehouses.
Some families from remote areas could not reach the distribution points. With help from the local community organizations in each location, we were able to arrange transportation for these families.
The number of nominated cases was more than the food parcels. This was overcome through rapid research to identify the most difficult cases and families living in severe poverty to prioritize their coverage.
Beneficiaries had positive evaluation of the contents of the food parcels. We received many comments appreciating the fresh vegetables and chicken which are unusual in food parcels.
One family in Rafah that received the food parcel was particularly appreciated. She lives with her family – her sick husband and her 11 children – in a marginalized area. Their house doesn’t have a roof, instead corrugated iron board covers part of it, leaving them to drown in rains every winter. The family has no source of livelihood, and they live on food aid. They were very happy with the food and chicken package. She thanked and prayed for all those in charge of the project.
The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is joining with MECA, ZamZam Water, PaliRoots, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees to provide food parcels to families in Rafah. As always, MECA strives to support the local economy while providing much needed aid for families. With these food parcels many Palestinian farmers and cooperatives benefit, and the end result is a healthy and local package of eggs, vegetables, beans, lentils, rice, cheese, za’atar and more.
The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating dramatically as a result of the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli blockade. The precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus including imposing of lockdowns and curfews have worsened the dire situation. As a result, more than 70% of the population are reported below the poverty line.
The project aims to provide support for some of the poorest families in the Gaza strip through provision of fresh food items as well as protect the livelihoods of small farmers and women by helping generate income to support their families.
Each family will receive a food parcel with essentials like rice, beans, and lentils as well as fresh local produce and poultry. An estimated 20 small farmers and cooperative members will benefit from providing the produce and locally made packaged goods such as jam and maftool.
The project will be overseen by an agricultural engineer and a nutritionist to ensure the parcels are well balanced and good quality. MECA staff and local partners will work to identify families in Rafah area to receive the food parcels.
Selection criteria include
Sample contents of the food parcel, subject to change based on the season and feedback from the recipients during the current distribution to 1400 families:
The estimated cost of each food parcel is $40 and the food parcels will last each family 2-3 weeks depending on family size. The contents are meant to complement what UNRWA provides to refugees in Gaza in order to provide these families with a more balanced diet though recipients of these parcels will not be exclusively refugees.
As 2020 comes to a close, we are writing to ask for your end-of-year contribution to two great efforts: one for Rafah and the other right here in Dane County.
The economic situation in the Gaza Strip was already terrible due to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Lockdowns, curfews and other measures taken to combat COVID-19, while initially slowing the spread of the virus, ultimately worsened the situation. COVID-19 is rapidly spreading and more than 70% of the population is now reported below the poverty line.
MRSCP is therefore partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide some of the poorest families in Rafah with fresh, nutritious food parcels. Each family will receive a food parcel with essentials like rice, beans, and lentils as well as fresh local produce and poultry. We are excited about this project because an estimated 20 small farmers and cooperative members will also benefit from providing the produce and locally-made packaged goods such as jam and maftool.
$40 provides one family with a 2-3 week supply of this food. Priority will be given to poor families that have disabled individuals or those with chronic diseases, and to female-headed households. More information on this project including a video and a description of the food parcel contents and selection criteria can be found at our website.
Donate directly online:
Here in Dane County, besides straining our healthcare system, the COVID-19 crisis has swelled the ranks of the unemployed and working poor. Children may have lost access to school-provided meals. So this year, we are also asking you to support The River Food Pantry.
The River Food Pantry is Dane County’s busiest, offering free groceries, meals and mobile lunches to anyone who comes for help. Located in a warehouse on the north side, The River is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods and subsidized senior housing—exactly where they are needed the most. They provide a mobile lunch program for children and teens and distribute nutritious packed lunches in the neighborhoods on non-school days.
The River also provides a warm and welcoming family atmosphere where everyone is treated with respect, encouraged to find needed support, and given chances to share what they can with others. Serving over 1,000 Dane County families per week, The River handles over 50,000 pounds of food per week or about 2.7 million pounds each year. Over $1 million worth of clothing, furniture & household items are also distributed annually.
You can donate directly online at:
If you prefer to mail a check for either project, please see the addresses below. Mailed checks go 100% to the projects; online donations charge a small transaction fee. All contributions are tax deductible.
As always, we thank you for your support, and we wish you and your family health and good fortune in the New Year.
USPS MAIL DONATION ADDRESSES
The River Food Pantry
2201 Darwin Road
Madison, WI 53704
(Make checks payable to The River Food Pantry)