December 15, 2017 Update:
Hebron Playground




Hi everyone,

I went to Hebron yesterday and helped with the installation of the playground. They were supposed to continue today but working on Saturday is a bit risky because of the settlers. See attached some pics. 2 international volunteers were also helping us.

Best,
Samir


Fall fundraising appeal from MRSCP, October 6, 2016
Remembering Rachel Corrie, March 22, 2016

Gaza City in the spotlight: hesitant hope in a city where everyone still wants out

As the UN’s day of solidarity with Palestinians nears, Gazans have restored a hesitant bustle

Miriam Berger, The Guardian, Saturday 25 November 2017

Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. (David Levene, The Guardian)

Today Medinat Ghazzah, or Gaza City, is running on empty – and yet still going. Gaza City, the Gaza Strip’s principal urban centre, carries various scars of war. Since 2006, Gaza has endured one civil war between Palestinians, three wars between the ruling Hamas militant group and Israel, a decade of Hamas’ repressive rule, and a crushing blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt – all of which have crippled the economy and turned the tiny territory into a site of humanitarian crisis.

Gaza City’s dusty buildings and bumpy roads, many still damaged or half-rebuilt from the last war, are at times reminiscent of facades found in Egypt and the Palestinian West Bank. But it is the crushing monotony and suffocating limits of life that define the city for residents who have walked the same streets for a decade without a chance of getting out. Still, the city carries on, with coffee shops, traffic, clothes stores, restaurants and even a new upscale mall offering diversions for those who can afford them.

Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.

The city’s framework, like the rest of Gaza, is innately tied up with politics. Gaza was once part of Britain’s Mandate Palestine. Then came Egyptian occupation in 1948, followed by Israeli in 1967. Now, for the last decade, Hamas, which the European Union has designated as terrorist group, has ruled the tiny territory while Israel controls most borders.

Limited visitors

This month – on 29 November – brings the United Nations international day of solidarity with Palestinians. Gazans, however, don’t see much of the international community these days. That’s in part because Israel strictly limits entry to the Gaza Strip, with mainly journalists (Israelis and Palestinians excluded) and aid and development workers allowed through. Even then, UN bodies and NGOs working in Gaza constrain much of the movement of their foreign staff due to security protocols. Along Gaza City’s highly polluted coast are two expensive hotels that are considered the “safe zone” where aid workers and many journalists stay.

The five-star Arcmed al-Mashta Hotel, built in 2011The five-star Arcmed al-Mashta Hotel, built in 2011

Facing an ineffective and corrupt government, the UN and NGOs have stepped in. Gazans are grateful – but know they can do better and mistrust the politics that dictates where funds are directed. Around much of Gaza are signs thanking Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates for funding reconstruction projects. But the Arab countries have pledged far more for reconstruction than they’ve actually delivered, while many Gazans feel acutely abandoned by the Arab states and international community, and know new buildings still go first to those with Hamas connections.

Gaza City in numbers

40 – rank of Gaza city in 2014 list of most densely populated cities worldwide. At the time, the population of Gaza City and surrounding area was estimated at 750,000.

360 – square kilometers covered by the Gaza Strip, about the size of Detroit.

80 – percentage of families in Gaza who receive some sort of aid.

44 – percentage official unemployment rate in Gaza; for those aged 15-29, the rate rises to 60%.

3 – number of hours of electricity generated by Gaza’s only working electricity plant at a severe low point this summer. For the last few years Gaza has averaged around at most eight hours a day of electricity.

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Children are starving in Yemen

The White House should intervene

A Yemeni woman takes the clothes off her malnourished child. (Yahya Arhab/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock)

Editorial Board, Washington Post, November 20, 2017

IT HAS been two weeks since Saudi Arabia imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Yemen, a country already devastated by two and a half years of Saudi bombing. Before the embargo, Yemen was suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with 7 million people on the brink of famine and another 900,000 stricken by cholera. Those conditions have now grown far worse — and yet the Saudis persist with their siege. It is time for the Trump administration, which has indulged the Saudi leadership for too long, to intervene.

Yemen’s 28 million people depend on imports for up to 90 percent of their basic needs, including food, fuel and medicine. The vast majority of those imports come through the port of Hodeida, in northern Yemen, which along with the capital, Sanaa, is under the control of Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia imposed the blockade after a missile allegedly fired by the Houthis came close to its capital, Riyadh. The Saudis blamed Iran for supplying the weapon, though U.N. monitors in Yemen say they have not seen convincing evidence of that.

U.N. humanitarian officials warned that the shutdown would quickly lead to an emergency. Now their predictions are coming true. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sanaa, Hodeida and three other crowded cities — with 2.5 million people in all — have lost access to clean drinking water because of a lack of fuel. One million children are at risk from an incipient diphtheria epidemic because vaccines are out of reach on U.N. ships offshore. According to Rasha Muhrez, Save the Children’s director of operations in Yemen, several governates are down to a five-day supply of the fuel needed to operate flour mills, without which the millions dependent on food handouts will starve. “This blockage has cut off the lifeline of Yemen,” Ms. Muhrez told us.

Last week the Saudis began allowing limited humanitarian imports through the southern port of Aden, which is controlled by their Yemeni allies. But that is not adequate access. That’s why three U.N. agencies — the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and UNICEF — issued a joint statement last Thursday saying that the continued shutdown of other ports and airports “is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.” A confidential report by U.N. monitors, seen by Reuters, went further, saying the Saudis were violating a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution on Yemen by obstructing humanitarian assistance.

The Trump administration, through the State Department, has objected to the ongoing blockade and called for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian supplies. But many in Yemen suspect, with some reason, that the White House is tolerating, if not encouraging, the crime. Shortly before the siege was announced, Jared Kushner paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and reportedly met late into the evening with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince. Even if it was unaware of the subsequent crackdown, the White House has the leverage to put a stop to it. It should act immediately, or it will be complicit in a crime against humanity.

Banksy Customizes A West Bank Hotel, Offering Rooms With A View Of The Wall

Bill Chappell, NPR, March 3, 2017

A doorman stands at the entrance of The Walled Off Hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Friday. Dusan Vranic/AP

There’s no pool, but there is a piano bar that exudes “an air of undeserved authority.” That’s part of the promise at The Walled Off Hotel, the artist Banksy’s vision of a hotel along the wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.

The project blends Banksy’s trademark style — a trickster’s eye for trompe l’oeil and a political cartoonist’s ear for satire — into more traditional hotel amenities such as food, drinks and well-appointed rooms. The hotel will begin taking reservations on March 11.

Just don’t call it the Waldorf. For a hint of what awaits visitors to the small hotel in Bethlehem, consider this description of the piano bar inside:

The Walled Off Hotel, which offers what it calls the “worst view in the world,” has rooms that look onto an Israeli security barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Dusan Vranic/AP

“Guests can peruse a collection of Banksy artworks that include vandalized oil paintings and statues choking on tear gas fumes. Warm scones and freshly brewed tea are served daily on fine bone china and the Walled Off Salad should not be missed.”

That’s from Banksy’s website, which adds that the engagement is open-ended: “We’re aiming to be here for the whole of the centenary year, maybe longer if people come.”

Palestinians protest moving US embassy to Jerusalem

Israeli forces suppress weekly marches in Bilin, Kafr Qaddum

Ma’an News Agency, January 21, 2017

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israeli forces Friday suppressed weekly marches held in the villages of Billin and Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya.

In Bilin, the weekly march, which occur every Friday to protest the Israeli separation wall and illegal settlements, was launched in solidarity with the Bedouin village of Umm Hiran on Wednesday which was violently raided by Israeli forces on Wednesday, leaving a local teacher and an Israeli police officer killed, before Israeli forces carried out home demolitions in the village.

The demonstration was also centered on protesting President Donald Trump’s support of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian and international solidarity activists held up Palestinian flags and signs condemning the potential embassy move and threatening an escalation of the resistance if such a decision is made.

As the demonstrators marched through the streets, they called for national unity, resisting the Israeli occupation, and releasing all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

The popular resistance committee’s spokesperson Ratib Abu Rahma called upon Islamic, Arab, and all nations of the world to stop the new US administration from moving the embassy, while also urging Palestinian factions to unify their efforts to defend Palestine.

When the protestors reached the western part of the village near the separation wall, Israeli forces prevented them from marching on, declaring the area a military post and firing rubber bullets, sound bombs, and plastic bullets at protesters.

Abu Ahmad noted that Israeli forces detained Palestinian activist Ahmad Abu Rahma during the protest, but he was released afterwards.

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Hope & Peace Foundation For Children Update

Anees Mansour, December 16, 2016

Dear Friends,

Assalamu Alaikum & Hello Everyone,

I hope you, your family and friends are doing well.

Special thanks to our old and new donors for your contributions to our winter project “Keep Children Of Gaza Warm.”

Alhamdulillah (Thanks to God) we have achieved our goal within a few days and finally we received the whole donation today. We started the process of delivering the coats as a gift from you to our children – please check the pictures down below.

We also decided to extend the project goal to cover more children of Rafah/Gaza. So please don’t hesitate to support if you can at:

A. Gifts for the kids:

B. The children of Rafah in their rehearsal for the play show “International Criminal Law Moot Court – War Crimes on Trial”

    (please expect our show on you-tube soon)

C. Preparing the Gallery of the Peace City

Please keep your eyes open for:
1. Play show, we expect so many people to attend the Trial on Sunday, the show will be translated into English.
2. Play show, Gallery of the Peace City, also on Sunday.
3. Our new initiative for the new year, I will surprise you with it.

Thank you all for your support

Best Wishes,

Mr. Mahmoud Mansour (Anees)
Executive Director
Hope & Peace Foundation For Children – Gaza
Mobile: +970 599 028556
+970 2131 371
www.facebook.com/HPFFC.Rafah

No fires or inciting politicians can destroy our shared society

Samah Salaime, +972, November 26, 2016

The wildfire that struck Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam left our Jewish-Arab village more resilient than ever before. We invite Israel’s politicians to learn from us on how to heal our society’s wounds.

Fire fighters try to extinguish a forest fire in the forest near Neve Shalom and Latrun, outside Jerusalem, November 22, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)Fire fighters try to extinguish a forest fire in the forest near Neve Shalom and Latrun, outside Jerusalem, November 22, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Our country has been up in flames this past week. Hundreds of fires have broken out in various areas resulting in tens of thousands of people being evacuated from their homes. The first fire started last Tuesday at Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam, a unique community between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where Jews and Arabs live together in equality, which struggled to quell the flames and bring peace to the region. My husband and two children and I were evacuated from with 300 others, fearing of our lives and the destruction of our homes.

It was frightening for all of us. However what was even more frightening was the reaction of some of the countries journalists and politicians who used the opportunity to ignite and inflame hatred, claiming that arson was the cause of the wildfires. Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett posted an unfortunate and irresponsible Facebook status, in which he wrote that “The only ones capable of setting the land on fire are people to whom it does not belong.” Rather than unifying and reassuring Israeli citizens — if only slightly — Bennett incited against an entire public and inflamed the public atmosphere.

Following the elections in the United States, the world has become a dangerous place, as sparks have begun to fly in all directions, igniting hatred and fear. We have seen this over the past decade in Europe with new immigrants, and we now see it in the U.S., as white supremacists begin to cheer on Trump’s victory as a victory for the ‘white race,’ while graffiting swastikas on walls.

The fire at Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam was clearly an unfortunate accident, as was the one in the neighboring town of Nataf. One reporter, an expert in arson, deemed the fire an “inspiration” to other supposed pyromaniacs, giving second and third-rate politicians carte blanche to do what they are best at: incite. But perhaps the journalist was right; since the fire in my community was an inspiration. We made it through the freezing night together in the fields below our homes, where we realized that our community can teach this country’s leadership a thing or two about humane behavior in times of crisis.

Cohesion and unity in the face of fire is not so surprising in our community – the first and only Jewish-Arab community in the Middle East. It is what makes us feel that 40 years of living together through wars, intifadas, crises, military “campaigns,” and lots of pain has been worthwhile. They have been years of valuable teaching and learning; investment in people rather than stones; investment in one another, rather than in fences and barriers.

Pro-annexation Jewish Home ministers Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett during a preliminary vote on the ‘Regulation Law’ to legalize ‘illegal’ settlement outposts, November 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)Jewish Home ministers Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett in the Knesset, November 16, 2016. Bennett hinted this past week that Arabs were responsible for the spate of wildfires across Israel. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Our hearts were open as we waited in the fields below, where a protective ring circled our community as the rescue forces fought to safeguard our life’s project, built on a hilltop surrounded by fires that raged on every side. (Those of us who are dedicated to living together in peace have felt this way often.) Meanwhile our neighbors, Kibbutz Nachshon, Bekoa, and Tel Shahar, opened their gates to us. At 6 a.m. they took us in; Arab and Jewish men, women and children and offered us a warm and cozy place to recover, without checking our identity cards to check which nation we belonged to.

If the world is looking for inspiration, and our minister of education is looking to bring our people together instead of pulling us apart, we invite you to join the Arab and Jewish families who send their children to our bilingual school. On the day after the fire, the pupils and teachers got together and cleaned up the school grounds, where for more than 30 years Jewish and Arab children have studied together every day — through war and through peace as equals, promoting peace and shared society. We invite him to observe how this week we set out with 40 up-and-coming politicians from Israel and Palestine to seek new solutions together and open avenues of communication. We invite him to learn from us how to struggle to bind a shared society together, not to pull it apart.

Students from Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam clean up the school grounds following a wildfire at the Jewish-Arab village. (Lindsay Stanek)Students from Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam clean up the school grounds following a wildfire at the Jewish-Arab village. (Lindsay Stanek)

The attempt to sabotage the humanity of any people who share a common space in order to survive politically is a highly dangerous experiment —one that places the lives of millions all over the world. We have seen the results in the past, we see it happening all over the world today. This is truly playing with fire. If a burned forest takes years to rehabilitate, the work required to heal the wounds of hatred and fear is far more difficult.

Although it is hard to imagine that the voices we are hearing today, even from your political leaders, will lead us to a better society, I urge you, dear readers, for the health of your minds and your sanity, not to listen to the voices of malice or be carried away in the cold, dry winds of hatred and fear. Since inside that fear lies an unsustainable fire that eventually leads to hell. Look around and see that people, irrespective of religion, race and gender, are afraid of the fire and other disasters, just like you are. It is best to learn how to survive it together, or else we will burn together.

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Palestinians Blamed for Forest Fires Across Palestine

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, November 25, 2016

But fires are raging across Western Asia

Middle East Fires, Past Week (Global Forest Watch, Washington, DC)

Over 200 forest fires are raging in Palestine (now renamed the Jewish State of Israel, including its occupied Palestinian territories). Many countries are helping put out the fires, including four teams of Palestinian firefighters (nobody helped Gaza when it was being fire-bombed by white phosphorous).

But the fascist, racist government of “Israel” blamed the Palestinians for the fires! Even some decent Israelis pointed out that fires are raging across Western Asia (aka the “Middle East”).

Perhaps coincidentally or otherwise, right after war criminal Netanyahu blamed Palestinians, new fires erupted near Palestinian communities. If you really want to know who is to blame for the damage, it is clearly Zionism, as I wrote in many articles and books before.

In 1901 at the World Zionist Congress, and despite objections of conscientious Jews, a Jewish National Fund (Keren Keyemet Li’Israel, or KKL) was established to further “Jewish colonization” (the term they used) of Palestine.

One of the tasks was to raise money, and they used the gimmick of collecting money for trees. Indeed they did plant trees, but it was unfortunately the highly flammable European pine tree.

After 1948-1949 when some 500 Palestinian villages and towns were depopulated, their lands (cultivated with figs, almonds, olives and other trees) were razed to the ground, and again resinous and inflammable pine trees were planted.

The same happened after 1967 when here Palestinian villages were demolished and their village lands planted with the same European pines; one of those villages is the biblical Imwas (see photos before and after here: freepaly.wordpress.com/tag/environmental-racism.

Palestinian village of ‘Imwas, 1958

Palestinian village of ‘Imwas after destruction by Israeli army, 1968

Ruins of Palestinian village of ‘Imwas, site of Jewish National Fund’s ‘Canada Park’, 1978

The choice of European pine trees was because a) they grow fast, b) they give a European look to the otherwise “Arab” landscape, and c) their leaves on the ground make it acidic, preventing growth or regrowth of endogenous trees. In total, KKL boasts that it planted 240 million pine trees.

Resinous pine is like petrol and burns with a ferocity. This was not the only environmentally catastrophic decision by the Zionist movement in Palestine: others include draining the Hula Wetlands and the diversion of the water of the river Jordan and now the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal.

Environmentally, the current fires are deadly to all living creatures regardless of their origins, and they do spread to the remaining few indigenous forests and to human dwellings (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Atheist without distinction).

We environmentalists (Palestinian and Israeli) have long warned of the catastrophic consequences of politically driven decisions, guided by colonial ideology but devastating to native animals and plants.

So here we are: the remaining native Palestinians watching our lands go up in flames and being blamed for it. This is not unusual and we are the victims of others from long ago. We even paid the price of what happened in WWII (by Europeans to fellow Europeans).

I am thinking now if a meteor hits the Earth, we Palestinians will also pay a disproportionate price. 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people.

We in the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (http://palestinenature.org) urge protection of our nature. Environmental conservation is a priority for all decent human beings, including guarding biodiversity (and human diversity).

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
http://qumsiyeh.org
http://palestinenature.org/

Gaza Summer Camp

Gaza Summer Camp — July 17, 2016

Dearest Friends,

I would like to thank you all so much for your support to our project “Gaza Summer Camp”. I would also like to inform you that we have achieved our goal. Again your support is much appreciated. Here are some pictures of the first few days of the project.

In the other hand, we will start a few Skype meeting, please if you’re interested to join your kids into it let us know, feel free to ad my skype anees.mansour7

So keep your eyes open for our further updates.

Best Wishes from Gaza

Mr. Mahmoud Mansour (Anees)
Hope & Peace Foundation For Children – Gaza
Mobile: +970 599 028556
+970 2131 371
www.facebook.com/HPFFC

Breaking Ground at Cinema Hebron

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Shalom Rav, July 17, 2016

This past Friday, I had the honor to participate in an incredible, unprecedented mass action of civil disobedience in the H2 section of Hebron – in the heart of Israel's unjust and illegal occupation.

I'll start with a little bit of history:

In 1968, a year after Israel conquered the West Bank, a group of radical religious settlers led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, led a group of followers to a hotel in Hebron – with the government’s support – to observe a Passover seder. When it was over, they refused to leave; and following a negotiation with the government, they were allowed to create a settlement to the east of Hebron that they named Kiryat Arba Since that time, Jewish settlers gradually moved into Hebron proper. Over the years tension gradually increased in Hebron. Things changed drastically in 1995 after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi mosque. Fearful of reprisals, the IDF imposed increasing curfews and restriction of movement on the Palestinian population.

In 1996, as part of the Oslo agreement, Hebron was divided into two sections: H1 and H2. H1 is locally governed by the Palestinian Authority and is home to approximately 120,000 Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in H2 along with 600 Jewish settlers. Since the Second Intifada, Israel increased their security crackdown on this part of the city, blocking off major streets to Palestinians – most notably the main commercial road, Shuhadah Street. (The army refers to them as “sterile roads”).

Virtually every Palestinian shop in H2 has been closed and their doors welded shut by the army. Because the Palestinian residents of Shuhadah St. are not allowed to walk on the road, they must enter and exit through the rear of homes because they cannot leave their own front doors. Because of these measures – and the ongoing harassment and violence at the hands of Jewish settlers – what was once the busting commercial center of Hebron has become a ghost town. 42% of its Palestinian homes are empty and 70% of its Palestinian business have been shut down.

We visited Hebron earlier this week and it was a truly chilling experience. Our group went on a tour led by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli army veterans who are speaking out about the abuses the IDF are committing in Hebron. I did a BTF tour in 2008 during my first real foray into the reality of contemporary Hebron. Today, the situation there is even more dire if such a thing is possible.

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