Barbara Olson and Tsela Barr: Let’s stop funding Israel’s campaign of oppression


Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Weary Palestinians are somberly marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish-Arab violence raged across Israel. (AP Photo – Adel Hana)

TSELA BARR AND BARB OLSON, The Cap Times, May 15, 2021

For the past few weeks, Israel has intensified a provocative campaign of oppression and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, focused largely but not exclusively on occupied East Jerusalem.

You can be forgiven if you are unfamiliar with the details, since most of the mainstream U.S. media has studiously ignored them.

Among the major provocations were: looming theft of more homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem long targeted by Jewish settlers for “demographic change;” bulldozing homes in adjoining Silwan; protecting a mob of far right Jews as they walked through East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs”; and repeatedly, violently and for no good reason driving Palestinians out of public areas surrounding the Al Aqsa mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, several times even invading and damaging the mosque itself while beating and gassing those inside.

Things got so bad that the Palestinian citizens of Israel marched in the thousands past roadblocks into Jerusalem and rallied in their towns and villages, even launching running urban revolts that very much resemble anti-police violence protests here at home.

Eventually, the Israelis got the response that they foresaw and many probably wanted: rockets fired from Gaza. Now they can unleash their vastly superior, U.S. funded and supported military upon the citizens of Gaza, inflicting damage and casualties in the hugely disproportionate ratio that they are accustomed to. This practice of assaulting the Gaza inmates in their open-air, blockaded prison every few years is publicly referred to in Israel as “mowing the grass.”

As soon as the first rocket left Gaza, the mainstream press suddenly discovered that “tensions are increasing” and that the “conflict,” which by the way was just labeled by Human Rights Watch as an apartheid system, calls for “restraint on both sides.”

And then came the predictable pronouncements from the pundits and politicians of all stripes that Israel has “the right to defend itself.”

Do the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves? Do they have the right to declare, like Black Lives Matter protesters and all human beings the world over, that they have a right to freedom and dignity? That with no justice, there is no peace?

Underwriting this injustice is massive U.S. aid to Israel, currently $3.8 billion annually, which doesn’t include, for example, private tax exempt donations to Israeli “charities” that are funding and driving the expropriations from Palestinians like the residents of Sheikh Jarrah.

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Update: May 10, 2021
Banner Drop for Sheikh Jarrah

Note: The start time has changed to 3:30 pm.

In light of the recent events in Jerusalem and the escalating fight to stop the forced expulsions of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, MRSCP will be holding a banner drop tomorrow, Monday May 10, beginning at 3:30 on the Campus Drive pedestrian overpass. We plan to be finished no later than 5:30 pm.

We have a minimum number of volunteers, but could use more so if you would like to join us, we invite you to do so for any amount of that time.

Parking is available in UW Lot 41, north off of old University Avenue, with the entrance near 1800 University Ave. between the Enzyme Institute and the UW Foundation Buildings.

We will have large banners and flags, and will take pictures to be posted and circulated online afterwards. If you come, dress warmly as it is expected to be cool (in the 50s) and probably windy on the overpass.

Tomorrow the UN Security Council is meeting in closed session to discuss Sheikh Jarrah. There have been many demonstrations around the world in the past couple of days, and there have even been a few items in the US mainstream news. The Israeli court decision about the Sheikh Jarrah evictions scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed. Meanwhile, extremist Israelis are planning a provocative anti-Arab march that will bring them into Palestinian areas tomorrow.

If you are looking for good background on Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem including periodic live broadcasts, we suggest visiting Middle East Eye.

Finally, you can also take these two actions:

  1. Thank Rep. Mark Pocan for being among those who have spoken out on Sheikh Jarrah.
  2. Sign the Save Sheikh Jarrah Petition.

As always, thanks for your support.

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May 23, 2021
Virtual Book Launch for Determined to Stay on Silwan

Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)
Virtual Book Launch for Silwan!
“Determined to Stay: Palestinian Youth Fight for Their Village”
May 23 @ 1-2 pm Central

Silwan is a Palestinian village just outside the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. Determined to Stay is the moving story of its people in the face of occupation. As Silwani youth and community members share their lives with us, their village becomes a doorway to Palestinian history and current reality. Written with young people in mind, Determined to Stay draws deep connections between the lives of youth in the US and Palestine — from criminalization, forced relocation, and buried histories to hip-hop as resistance.

Author Jody Sokolower will read from the book. With Sahar Abbasi, live from Silwan, Palestine, to talk about the current situation. Sahar visited Madison with the Room Number 4 Exhibit in November 2015.

Registration

Methodists Divest from Caterpillar citing Palestinian Evictions


Israeli bulldozers expand the West Bank Jewish-only settlement of Nofei Nehemia in the Salfit District on private Palestinian land, which was expropriated by Israel and declared “state” (public) land, according to the owners. ActiveStills Ahmad Al-Bazz, 13 Aug 2020

Methodist Sabeel-Kairos Group (UK), 5th May 2021

The Methodist Church has sold its shares in the US-based company Caterpillar, citing the continued use of its equipment to destroy peoples’ homes as part of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its poor record in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance.

More photographs have recently emerged of Caterpillar vehicles being used in the destruction of farmland and olive groves, as well as the construction of illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Caterpillar claims it is not directly involved in sales into Israel but the likely path of trade via the US military and local agencies is widely known.

Other church bodies have sold out of Caterpillar in the past, as long ago as 2006 the Church of England voted to divest from Caterpillar and in 2014 the US Presbyterian Church did the same. The Quakers have also indicated they would not hold Caterpillar shares, for similar reasons. The recent reports by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and the international body Human Rights Watch, declaring the situation in Israel/Palestine to meet the criteria of Apartheid, following on many similar statements by Palestinian groups and South African church leaders, including Archbishop Tutu, have added impetus to the international divestment and sanctions movement.

Churches are responding most particularly to the ‘Cry for Hope’ issued by Palestinian Christians last July, which called for such actions as the only means left to bring non-violent pressure on the Israeli Government. The Cry for Hope says ‘the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) provides a framework for economic, cultural, and academic measures, and for direct political advocacy, as nonviolent means to end occupation and oppression’. Its aim is ‘to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and to call upon its government and its people, in the spirit of the Word of God, to enter into the ways of justice and peace’.

Revd David Haslam, a member of the Methodist Finance Board, said;

‘The Methodist Church has now joined other church bodies in refusing to invest in Caterpillar. Recent photographs from Palestine have shown Caterpillar equipment demolishing Palestinian houses, destroying farmland and extending Israeli settlements in violation of international law. It is nonsense for Caterpillar to claim it does not sell its bulldozers and earthmovers for use in Palestine, it knows exactly what its vehicles are being used for and should be utterly ashamed’.

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US Congressman: Respecting Palestinian Rights is Key to Defeating Antisemitism


US Congressman Andy Levin

US Congressman Andy Levin has warned that anti-Semitism cannot be properly defeated without addressing Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Speaking earlier this week during an online discussion hosted by the progressive Jewish movement IfNotNow on how the Biden administration can combat anti-Jewish racism, the Michigan Democrat lawmaker mentioned his long track record of urging the US to oppose Israel’s occupation.

“Over 30 years ago, I was part of a little group of Jews and Christians and Muslims who organized an interfaith delegation to Israel and Palestine from Metro Detroit,” explained Levin. “We went to Gaza, we went to the West Bank, and I wrote a piece in the Detroit Jewish News saying ‘There’s no time left’,” He added that he “took a lot of c**p in my community. “And now it is 30 years later and we have to change things right now. We have to find the language to talk about this in a grounded way.”

He drew a comparison to the recent coup in Myanmar. “The Burmese military just conducted a coup and ended Burma’s fragile, 10-year experiment with democratic self-governance. During those 10 years, the rights of the Rohingya and the Karen and other minority peoples of Burma were never recognized at all.” The suggestion seemed to be that Myanmar could not be considered a democracy even while it held elections because of its failure to respect the rights of its minorities.

The village where Palestinians are rendered completely powerless

Help Harun Abu Aram Heal

Rebuilding Alliance is organizing this fundraiser and will be working with the family to meet their needs. They are a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to realize a just and enduring peace in Palestine and Israel founded upon equal rights, equal security, and equal opportunity for all.

Harun Abu Aram was shot and paralyzed by Israeli security forces on Friday in his village, where even having electricity is deemed illegal


Ashraf Amour and family members inside their home, in a cave in the village of Khirbet al-Rakiz, in the West Bank’s south Hebron Hills. (Emil Salman)

Amira Hass and Hagar Shezaf, Haaretz, January 5, 2021

"I blame myself for Harun’s injury,” said Ashraf Amour from the village of Khirbet al-Rakiz, near the cave where he and his family live in the West Bank’s south Hebron Hills.

“Ultimately, all that he did was come and help me when he saw soldiers confiscating my generator, and because of that, they shot him,” Amour said Sunday in describing the incident that left village resident Harun Abu Aram paralyzed from the neck down. 

'All that he did was come and help me when he saw soldiers confiscating my generator, and because of that, they shot him'

“It would have been easier for me if they had demolished my animal pen or my children’s swings or if Harun had been shot in the arm or the leg,” Amour said, not attempting to hold back his tears, “but the bullet hit his neck and came out the other side, hitting nerves. Now he’s lying in the hospital paralyzed.”

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Why Was Harun Abu Aram Shot?

Help Harun Abu Aram Heal

Rebuilding Alliance is organizing this fundraiser and will be working with the family to meet their needs. They are a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to realize a just and enduring peace in Palestine and Israel founded upon equal rights, equal security, and equal opportunity for all.

Hamed Qawasmeh, Breaking the Silence, Jan 3, 2021

On Friday, IDF forces arrived at a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills and confiscated a generator. In the scuffle that followed – a video of which can be seen below – Harun Abu Aram was shot in the neck by the soldiers. He was not shot for attacking or threatening the soldiers; he was simply trying to prevent them from taking the generator.

Abu Aram probably understood that he was taking a risk by intervening. He knew the soldiers wouldn’t just let him take the generator back. But village residents depended on that generator; getting by without it would be hard at the best of times, let alone at the height of winter. This is particularly true in the handful of villages in the South Hebron Hills in an area known as Massafer Yatta, which has been declared ‘Firing Zone 918’, an area that has been designated for IDF training. Even though many of the Palestinian families in those villages have lived there since before the State of Israel was even established, they are now on the verge of being evicted from their own land. In the meantime, the residents have been subject to constant harassment by Israeli security forces. In fact, Abu Aram’s house was demolished on the IDF Civil Administration’s orders less than two months ago.

This is no coincidence. Documents exposed by עקבות Akevot show that since the 80s, Israel has been making a concerted effort to establish its presence in strategic areas in the occupied territories through a variety of methods – including the creation of IDF training zones. (We wrote about it in the past here.)

So it’s clear this isn’t just about a fight over a generator; it’s about policy and facts on the ground.

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Update: December 3, 2020 Rep. Mark Pocan Virtual Town Hall on Palestine

Please thank Rep. Pocan for participating in the town hall and for being a champion for Palestinian rights. His DC office line is (202) 225-2906.

The town hall was an amazing event that you don’t want to miss. The situation for Palestinians is so dire in so many ways, and hearing their stories directly should spur us all to action.

It’s not easy for Members of Congress to take a principled position on Palestinian rights, but Congressman Pocan has been on the frontlines despite the risks and pushback. In his town hall speech, he lists some of the amazing initiatives he’s led or participated in on Capitol Hill related to Palestinian rights just this year, and the list is admirable. Please take a minute to call his office and show appreciation for all he’s done.

Thanks for your activism,

Raed Jarrar
Advocacy Director, American Muslims for Palestine

Rep. Mark Pocan will be holding a virtual town hall this Thursday, December 3 at 9:30 am CT on Palestine, covering the impact of COVID-19 in Gaza and demolitions in the West Bank.

Co-organized by American Muslims for Palestine and the Rebuilding Alliance, the town hall features these on-the-ground speakers:

  • Eid Abu Khamis Jahalin, a community leader for his village of Khan Al Ahmar.
  • Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, an architect and urban planner who leads Bimkom’s activities in the West Bank.
  • Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei, Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.
  • Dr. Ahmed Mhanna, General Director Of Al Awda Hospital.

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