About this Blog

"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Contact Israeli military regarding failure of soldiers to protect schoolchildren from settler attack.

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

The school year in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) for 2009-2010 began on Tuesday 1 September. The school children, who walk from the nearby villages of Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed to At-Tuwani's elementary school, continue to require a military escort in order to ensure their safety. On every day during the first three weeks of this new school year, the Israeli army has failed to complete the escort as agreed in 2004, leaving the children to walk alone in an area where they have been attacked by Israeli settlers. Instead, they complete only a little over half the distance of the escort.

Of the twenty-six journeys to and from school, soldiers have only walked with the children on six journeys, the other journeys they have remained in their vehicle. The soldiers have never completed the escort by escorting the children to and from the end of the Ma'on chicken barns. Remaining in their vehicle and not completing the escort leaves the children vulnerable to settler attacks and harassment. On one third of the journeys, the army escort has been late, resulting in the children being late for school or having to endure a long wait after school.

The shortest route to school for the Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed children is a public road that passes between the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the outpost of Havat Ma'on. For years, armed Israeli settlers have attacked, threatened, and harassed the children along this road. In 2004, the Israeli District Coordinating Office (the branch of the Israeli military that deals with civilian matters) agreed to provide the children with an armed escort. The Israeli Knesset (parliament) Committee for Children's Rights endorsed the agreement.

ACTION

The team now requests that concerned people make calls to the Communications office of the Southern District Commander of the Israeli Military, phone number (+ 972) 2 996 7200. * Request that Commander Ben Moha instruct the soldiers who perform the escort of the Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed school children to accompany the children all the way to the end of the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Stress that this protection is particularly necessary because of the repeated presence of settlers in this area at the time of the children's walk home. Remind the commander that settlers used violence against the school children on ten occasions in the 2008-09 school year and that already during this school year a settler has threatened the children in the area of the Ma'on chicken barns.

If you have difficulty reaching Commander Ben Moha's office, try the following numbers:

IDF Public Appeals Fax: +972-3-569-9400*

IDF Public Appeals Phone: +972-3-569-1000*

In addition to phone calls, the team asks that people send the Israeli military's Public Appeals office a simple message by clicking on this link: http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/Contact+US/ Please include Commander Ben Moha's name in the subject line.


Sample message (no more than 75 words):

Subject: Request to Commander Ben Moha

Palestinian school children from Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed must walk past militant settlers from Ma'on and Havat Ma'on to attend school in At-Tuwani. The Knesset recommended in 2004 that the IDF escort these children. In order to ensure the children's safety, soldiers must accompany them all the way past the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Currently soldiers are not escorting the children far enough to ensure their safety.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

• This school year, the children have been late for school on three mornings out of thirteen.

• This school year, on nine of the thirteen school days, the children have had to wait after school for twenty minutes or more for the escort. On three days, they had to wait a little over half an hour, on two days forty-five minutes, and on one day nearly an hour.

• On the morning of Thursday 10 September 2009, the children had to wait twenty minutes at the Ma'on chicken barns because the army escort vehicle left the children to chase Palestinian shepherds from a nearby valley. The children were late for school.

• On the morning of Monday 7 September 2009, at the end of the Ma'on chicken barns, an Israeli settler came towards the children yelling at them. The children ran part way to school.

• During the 2008-2009 school year, settlers used violence against the children ten times; two of these times the settlers threw rocks at the children.

• For a complete report on the school escort in 2007-2008, including maps, photographs and interviews with the children, please see "A Dangerous Journey" at www.cpt.org/files/Dangerous-Journey-Summary-2008.pdf

•A report for the school year 2008-2009 will shortly be available.

*Please check your own country's dialing prefix for international calls.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Israeli military delivers demolition orders for six Palestinian houses

RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

At Tuwani: Israeli Military Delivers Demolition Orders for Six Palestinian Houses
13 September 2009

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Settlement outposts are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

In the afternoon of 13 September, members from the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), accompanied by Israeli soldiers, delivered demolition orders for six Palestinian houses near the village of At-Tuwani.

The houses were recently built on privately-owned Palestinian land in Humra valley. On the night of 16 July, while some of the houses were still under construction, one building was destroyed and a nearby olive tree was damaged. The Palestinian family suspected the house had been destroyed by Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement Ma'on or the outpost Havat Ma'on. The family began rebuilding their house the next day.

On 20 July 2009 the Israeli military delivered stop work orders on the houses and two other structures, including a cistern. Now that demolition orders have been issued the families fear the Israeli military will soon destroy the houses.

The Israeli military severely restricts Palestinian building in the South Hebron Hills area, designated Area C under the Oslo Accords and under full Israeli control. However, the nearby Israeli settlements of Ma'on and Carmel and the outposts of Avigail and Havot Ma'on continue to expand. Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove have documented continuous settlement expansion since 2004.

Photos from the day are available at: http://tinyurl.com/kkb4ez

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Israeli settlers build new caravans in Ma'on settlement

RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Israeli settlers build new caravans in Ma'on settlement
10 September 2009

At a time when the international community is calling for a freeze on new building in settlements and the disbanding of settlement outposts, the settler community of the South Hebron Hills is continuing its expansion unabated.

Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement on Ma'on, in the South Hebron Hills area, are constructing at least five new caravans on the south-west side of the settlement. Internationals based in the nearby Palestinian village of At Tuwani first observed building preparatory work in Ma'on a few days ago. Today, as the new caravans were being built, settlers began preparatory work on a nearby hilltop for further settlement expansion. Over the past three months, internationals have also observed settlers constructing numerous new buildings in the nearby illegal Israeli outposts of Havat Ma'on (Hill 833) and Avigail.

Since its establishment in 1981, Ma'on settlement has been a source of violence towards local Palestinians. The agricultural orchards of Ma'on are cultivated on private land belonging to a family from the nearby Palestinian village of At Tuwani. By 1997, ongoing settler violence forced the Palestinian inhabitants of three nearby villages (Sarura, Humra and Kharoubeh) to abandon their homes.

The original outpost of Havat Ma'on was established in July 1999, but was dismantled in September of that year by the Israeli military. The following year, the outpost was re-established on a nearby hilltop, Hill 833, and has remained and grown since then. Avigail outpost was established in 2001.

Settlers from Ma'on and Havat Ma'on attack and harass Palestinian children from Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed traveling to and from school in At Tuwani. In 2004, following two attacks on internationals accompanying the children, the Israeli Knesset Committee for Children's Rights affirmed the need for a military escort for the school children. The escort continues five years later. Settlers from Avigail and Havat Ma'on outposts also regularly attack Palestinian shepherds grazing their sheep.

For photos of new buildings in Ma'on go to: http://tinyurl.com/mj9fmw

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Exhibit A: Israeli Settlers Throw Stones at Palestinian Shepherds

Sometimes the Israeli occupation of Palestine is simply too difficult for me to capture in words. So I develop a (two month!) long writing block, trying to decide on what to say and how to communicate well to those far away. Recently my team posted a new video on YouTube, documenting Israeli settlers throwing stones at Palestinian shepherds.

So, this is one example of what a settler attack looks like:


People around the world can watch a settler attack on Palestinian shepherds. This video shows the images. What the video cannot capture the daily hardship, the act of being repeatedly pushed off one's land. It does not demonstrate the fear, the uncertainty of what will happen next when settlers appear: they may simply yell and shout or they may shoot at the shepherds' flock. Or they may throw stones and injure people or sheep.

The video also cannot capture the courage and endurance of the Palestinian community here in the South Hebron Hills: the daily nonviolent resistance, the commitment to remain on one's land no matter what the cost.

Friday, July 3, 2009

More from I Saw it in Palestine: Top Ten Reasons Ma'on and Havot Ma'on Have Got to Go

Reason Number Three: Settlers Harass and Attack Palestinians on a Daily Basis
The settlers of Havot Ma’on and Ma’on are waging a campaign of intimidation and violence aimed at driving Palestinians off of their land. In addition to attacking school children, settlers have insulted and threatened Palestinian farmers, as well as throwing stones, beating, and shooting them. This violence makes the daily tasks of living – everything from agricultural work to walking home through the hills – dangerous and terrifying for Palestinians. Here is an incomplete list of acts of violence settlers have perpetrated against Palestinians over the last two years...
Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words

Take this one, for example:


I started seeing these posters -- outside Jerusalem, near the Israeli settlements of Ma'on and Efrata (near Bethlehem) -- around the time of President Obama's Cairo speech.

I find this most disheartening primarily because Obama has not called for radical actions from Israel. He has asked that Israel stop settlement growth. No mention of dismantling settlements, the final status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees' right of return, an end to the occupation, etc.

If Obama is an "anti-semitic Jew-hater" now, what are ordinary people who call for actions that will promote a real peace with justice?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

AT-TUWANI: Israeli Police Detain Palestinian Children While Grazing Sheep

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Settlement outposts are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

On the morning of June 25, Israeli police detained two Palestinian children, aged 15 and 16, near the village of Tuba. The boys, accompanied by internationals, were grazing their flocks near their village of Tuba, located in the South Hebron Hills.

Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost, Havat Ma’on, observed the boys for sometime before the Israeli military arrived. The Israeli military jeep drove to a home within Havat Ma’on and the soldiers spoke with the settlers. After speaking with the settlers, the soldiers approached the boys and the internationals demanding that they provide personal identification, saying that the boys were in a forbidden area.

The Israeli police arrived at the scene and, after conferencing with the settlers and soldiers, detained the two boys at 10:00AM and took them to the Kiryat Arba police station. The police refused to provide a reason for the detention of the boys.

The Palestinian boys were held in detention at Kiryat Arba Police Station for nearly five hours before being released. Responding to the detention, one of the boys’ fathers said, “they weren’t doing anything, they graze their sheep there everyday.”

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Blogger's note: Stay tuned. More on this later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Open Letter to President Obama from Christian Peacemaker Teams: Call on Israel to Stop Its Violence against Palestinians

An Open Letter to President Obama from Christian Peacemaker Teams: Call on Israel to Stop Its Violence against Palestinians

Dear President Obama,

On Tuesday June 15th, you said of the protests in Iran, “When I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, whenever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it is of concern to the American people.” For the last 13 years, Christian Peacemaker Teams have witnessed the brutal suppression of peaceful dissent here in Palestine. In the city of Hebron and the village of At-Tuwani, CPT supports vibrant Palestinian nonviolent resistance to Israel’s military occupation. Every day, Palestinians hold nonviolent demonstrations and defy curfews and closed military zones. They rebuild demolished homes and work their land despite the threat of
arrest and attack. Though their struggle is largely ignored by the media, we find inspiration in the way Palestinians are working for justice and peace.

We are deeply troubled by the way Israeli authorities respond to this nonviolent resistance. On April 22, 2006, Israeli police beat and arrested the mayor of At-Tuwani village and his brother for doing no more than holding a peaceful demonstration against the illegal Israeli wall. CPT has documented the Israeli army demolishing the homes of nonviolent resistance leaders, harassing them at checkpoints, and targeting them for arrest.

Too often, Israeli forces respond to nonviolent resistance with lethal force. In the past nine months, Israeli soldiers have killed four residents of the village of Ni’lin during demonstrations against the Israeli wall. Ahmed Mousa, age 10, was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29, 2008. Yousef Amira, 17, was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets in next day. On December 28th 2008, 22-year-old Arafat Rateb Khawaje was shot in the back with live ammunition. The same day, Mohammed Khawaje, 20, was shot in the head with live ammunition. On March 22nd 2009, American demonstrator Tristan Anderson was shot in the face with a tear gas canister. He still lies in the hospital in critical condition. Each of these incidents raises a simple question: why do Israeli soldiers respond to unarmed protesters with deadly force?

When Israel arrests, attacks and kills Palestinians who practice nonviolent resistance, it is saying to the Palestinian people, “No matter your methods of struggle, no matter the justice of your cause, we will not share power with you.” In this context, it is a grave mistake to call, as you did in your Cairo speech, for Palestinians to abandon violence without calling on Israel to do the same. To speak as though there is no Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement is worse than na├»ve; it gives Israel permission to continue to ignore their cries for justice and freedom.

In his recent speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined his conditions for peace with Palestine. He described a future Palestinian state that would not be a state at all. Its borders and airspace would be controlled by others. It would be demilitarized while Israel remained free to continue building a nuclear arsenal. This is not a plan for peace. It is a demand that Palestine submit to Israeli domination.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu makes these demands, his government continues to suppress Palestinian nonviolent resistance. Unarmed demonstrators in N’ilin are still met with tear gas and live bullets. In Hebron and At-Tuwani, children on their way to school are still attacked by Israeli settlers and settlements continue to grow. We ask you, President Obama, to demand that Israel stop its campaign of violence against the Palestinian people. We echo the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement’s calls for justice and human dignity. Only justice will lead to
peace.

In Hope,
Christian Peacemaker Teams-Palestine

Sunday, June 14, 2009

HEBRON RELEASE : Israeli Civil Administration, military, and police destroy cisterns in Beqa'a Valley

The following release is from CPT's project in the city of Hebron, located north of At-Tuwani.

9 June 2009
HEBRON RELEASE : Israeli Civil Administration, military, and police destroy cisterns in Beqa'a Valley

by Donna Hicks


HEBRON, Palestine In the early morning hours of 8 June 2009, the Israeli Civil Administration, police and military, along with bulldozers and heavy equipment arrived in the Beqa'a Valley situated east of Hebron, and between the Israeli settlements of Givat Ha Harsina and Kiryat Arba.

When CPTers Donna Hicks and Barbara Martens arrived around 9:00 a.m., heavy equipment was lined up along the bypass road running through the area, and bulldozers, civil administration representatives, soldiers and police were at several sites destroying cisterns and pulling up irrigation pipes from Palestinian farmland, preparatory to hauling the pipes away. The work continued throughout the morning and afternoon, concluding around 3:00 p.m.

The Israeli military injured five people, including two Palestinians wounded when a mother intervened in the beating of her son. Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions was arrested when he protested the actions of the Israeli military at one of the sites.

In total, the Israeli military destroyed six cisterns, hauled away many feet of irrigation pipes from Palestinian fields, and took down an electricity pylon and power pole. Palestinian farmers build cisterns to collect rainwater to supplement irrigation of their crops. The area is suffering from a multi-year drought. Stop work orders and demolition orders are frequent, because this area is under total Israeli control and it is nearly impossible for Palestinian residents to get permits for building and improvements.

Friday, June 12, 2009

From I Saw it in Palestine Blog: Ten Reasons that Havot Ma'on Outpost and Ma'on Settlement Have Got to Go

Lest there is any question in your minds, Israeli settlements and outposts are bad. They slow the peace process and are an impediment to the creation of a Palestinian state. They often steal privately owned Palestinian land, ever expanding while the amount of land which Palestinians have access to shrinks smaller.

But these reasons are political, and not personal. But the fact of the matter is, these settlements and outposts affect the lives of Palestinians in real, concrete ways. So, as promised in my previous post, I want to share with you a list my friend and teammate is writing, Ten Reasons that Havot Ma'on Outpost and Ma'on Settlement Have Got to Go.

At present, she has two, which are:

Reason one: As long as Havot Ma'on and Ma'on remain, school children from Tuba and Mayger Al Abeed can't get to school in a safe and timely fashion.


Reason Two: As long as Havot Ma'on and Ma'on remain, Palestinians in the village of Tuba have no usable road to their village.

Click on the links to read the whole articles -- they're good stuff.

When listening to the media and politicians, it is easy to forget that these things that seem so abstract and far away have real human consequences. These are a few of them in the area of At-Tuwani. There are many, many more settlements and outposts, with just as many repercussions for the Palestinain communities whose land they are confiscating.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stop the Settlements -- What ordinary people can do

We are just ordinary people. Sometimes it feels like we are powerless, voiceless, and helpless to change the movements of the Powers that Be.

I don't believe it. I believe that the Powers that Be know the masses have power, but if we feel silenced, unheard, then maybe we won't do anything in our despair.

Below is a way to stick it to 'em! It is a petition calling for the end to the settlements, which a big obstacle to the way to peace. Settlements cut through Palestine, making it more like Swiss cheese than contiguous land.

Please read the message below, and sign the petition.

Coming up in blog posts: Reasons why an Israeli settlement, Ma'on and the nearby settlement outpost, Havat Ma'on, located near At-Tuwani, have got to go.

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Dear friends,


Obama is challenging Israel's right-wing government to stop its settlements, which are killing prospects for peace -- let's raise a massive global chorus to help him overcome powerful opposition in Israel and the US:

Sign the petition
President Obama just made a remarkable speech in Egypt, committing personally to building peace in the Middle East. Unexpectedly, his first move is to directly challenge the new right-wing government of America's ally Israel -- actively pressing them to stop their self-destructive policy of settlements (illegal colonies set up on Palestinian lands).

There's widespread support for stopping the settlements, including among ordinary Israelis -- even George W Bush paid lip-service to it -- but this new move looks like it could finally get traction. Obama is facing powerful opposition, so he’s going to need help around the world in the coming period to strengthen his resolve. Let’s start right now -- by raising a massive global chorus behind Obama’s statement that the settlements must stop.

We’ll advertise the number of signatures in key newspapers in Israel, as well as in Washington DC (where some are trying to undermine Obama in the US Congress). Read Obama’s words now and add your signature to them at the link below, then forward this email to friends and family so they can do the same:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/obama_stop_settlements


Most diplomats and experts agree that the settlements are a significant barrier to peace, as a silent majority of the Israeli public also know. Combined with a network of roadblocks and barriers, these colonies now blanket the West Bank, seizing territory and forcing Palestinians to live effectively as prisoners in smaller and smaller pockets.

Until this problem is tackled, it seems impossible to build a viable Palestinian state or any kind of lasting peace. For Arab states deciding what more they themselves can do for peace, stopping the settlements has become a crucial test of Israel’s seriousness.

We’ll need to urge the other parties to take bold steps too. If we can help Obama to stay the course on settlements, shift Israeli policy and encourage the Palestinians and key Arab states also to stretch out their hands, a new beginning for the Middle East is possible.

But none of this will happen without a growing global movement of citizens taking action to support it. Read Obama’s words, add your signature and spread the word today:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/obama_stop_settlements

With hope and determination,

Paul, Raluca, Ricken, Brett, Paula, Graziela, Rajeev, Iain, Taren, Milena, Luis, Alice and the whole Avaaz team

President Obama's speech (full text):
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/politics/04obama.text.html?_r=2

Heading More on Israeli Settlements:
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/world/story/1070944.html


Israeli Settlement Growth Must Stop:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/world/middleeast/28mideast.html?bl&ex=1243656000&en=b27e2280187214a9&ei=5087%0A

Israel Hopes for Arab Reconciliation:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hIeUqCAozK3Ibhbxa86Ur6mL3Tsg

Obama Seeks New Start with Muslims:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/06/20096492421821542.html

Ministers Split Over Obama's Cairo Speech
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3726367,00.html


Bin Laden Attacks Obama Policies:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/06/200963123251920623.html

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ABOUT AVAAZ Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva. Call us at: +1 888 922 8229 or +55 21 2509 0368

Click here to learn more about our largest campaigns.

Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace and Bebo pages!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blessed are the peacemakers

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." - Jesus

When accompanying Palestinian shepherds, one can never know what to expect. Israeli soldiers might arrive and attempt to drive the Palestinian and his flock off his land. Israeli settlers might arrive, masked and armed with slingshots, and use violence to deter Palestinians from asserting their right to access their land.

Or, nothing happens, and one spends a lot of time watching sheep and goats, making small talk with teammates and shepherds, or playing little games to pass the time: How far can a person flick a pebble from between their thumb and forefinger? How does one make a propeller from a thorn, a twig, and some dried grass? (These games are always concocted by the shepherds, and enthusiastically participated in by us foreigners.)

Or we, the internationals, learn lessons about peacemaking and the kingdom of God.

It was a quiet, hot day not too far from At-Tuwani. My teammate and I were accompanying a Palestinian shepherd whom I will call Kareem, which means "generous." Kareem is goofy and playful, whose face often breaks into broad, childlike grin. He is brilliant in his nonviolent resistance, using creativity and play to run mental circles around Israeli soldiers attempting to drive him off his land.

We were sitting on a hill, talking about the situation here in the South Hebron Hills. Kareem turned thoughtful, and he began speaking about peace. He was imagining a life of coexistence, between Muslim and Jew. He began dreaming of a day in which children from the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the Palestinian children of At-Tuwani would go to school together.

Kareem - who knows well the violence of the Israeli settlers of Ma'on and Havat Ma'on, who knows that these people from the Israeli settlement and the outpost have attacked Palestinian children time and again as the children were on their way to school and summer camp - had the generousity to imagine a day in which the Israreli childern of Palestinian children's attackers would go to school with Palestinian children in peace. Kareem has no illusions about the current situation, the violence, and the oppression here in the South Hebron Hills. Yet he has the audacity to dream of a different world.

Kareem is, undoubtedly, a greater peacemaker than I. I, who frequently struggles to subdue my rage and hopelessness over the situation here in At-Tuwani. And as I sat and listened to him on that day, I had the sensation that I was blessed, because I was sitting in the presence of a true peacemaker, who is called a child of God.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A message to Pope Benedict XVI from Jerusalem Christians

I know this is rather belated, but you may have heard that Pope Benedict XVI was in the Holy Land recently. Nora Carmi, CPT Steering Committee member, was chosen to present the following statement to the Pope on behalf of the Christians in Jerusalem.

I think it is a powerful statement and worth sharing:

Your Holiness,

We, the indigenous faithful Christians of Jerusalem, join our voices to those of our Palestinian Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters in the West Bank and Gaza to welcome you on your much desired pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Your Holiness, your pilgrimage for peace, comes at a very critical moment in the history of the Palestinian people. For this reason, religious institutions and members of the civil society have communicated to Your Holiness, their concerns and aspirations prior to your arrival in the country. We, “the little flock” of Jerusalem would have loved to celebrate with joy your presence among us, but as your experience in Jerusalem in the past few days has proved, we are not free and our rights are denied.

We are pleased that you have insisted on coming at this time to give spiritual support and guidance to the steadfast Christians of Jerusalem, the resilient faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ and His Church established in this city over 2000 years ago. Sad to say, there are only about 9000 Christians of various denominations left but they form an integral part of the rich fabric of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the city of peace anxiously awaiting a just peace for all.

Your Holiness, you have in the past two days, observed the ramifications of the 42-year old military occupation of this city significant to all faiths. Christians and Muslims suffer the same violations of human and national rights because Jerusalem is under occupation. As the Vatican has recognized: “the part of the city militarily occupied in 1967 and annexed and declared the capital of the State of Israel, IS OCCUPIED TERRITORY (as recorded and confirmed by the United Nations) As such, all Israeli measures which exceed the power of a belligerent occupant under international law are therefore null and void”. This courageous stand of the Vatican should be upheld and prayerfully acted upon in order to end the illegal monopolization and the unilateral judaization of Jerusalem, strangulated by settlements, divided by road blocks and checkpoints. Families are separated because of the wall; residents lose their residency rights; married couples are denied family reunification and homes are demolished! Young people who raise their voices against injustice are thrown into prison and the sanctity of life is desecrated. The beautiful mosaic of Jerusalem is shattered under oppression and injustice.

How can your flock be spiritually empowered and guided when faced with the violation of their rights to worship, to move, to learn, and to return home. How can your flock remain steadfast and continue resisting non-violently? How can we secure jobs and housings for the young people so that they will not lose hope and emigrate? How can we encourage our children in exile to risk coming back to their country and contribute to maintaining the uniqueness of the Christian presence without being denied entry?

Your pilgrimage to the sites made holy by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, not only
constitutes a rich spiritual experience, but, is made especially meaningful through the sharing of the sufferings of the people who also make this land holy. We count on Your Holiness, to proclaim anew to the world the teachings of our Savior “to bring good news to the poor…release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.”(Luke 4; 18-19)

Your Holiness, you come as a peacemaker to promote tolerance and reconciliation. We urge you to continue following in the courageous footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in daring to raise a prophetic voice and to state clearly that:
• Jerusalem must remain an open city to all faiths and be the shared capital of the two states.
• The occupation has to end.
• Israel has to abide by International Law, implement UN resolutions and be held accountable for all violations especially the most recent brutal onslaught on Gaza.

Two thousand years ago, from the Mt. of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, Jesus wept over the city, under occupation and torn apart by violence and dissent. “You do not know the things that make for peace!” That cry resonates in Jerusalem to-day, still under occupation and shattered by the absence of tolerance, respect and love.

We trust that your prayers and your genuine desire for peace in Jerusalem will drive Your Holiness and the world that looks up to your leadership to work for a just peace for all. Only then can Christians, Muslims and Jews live in freedom and in harmony in the promising land for all. Only then can the inhabitants of this blessed land enjoy a just peace that they very much deserve.

In closing, we welcome Your Holiness with the Arabic greeting “Ahlan wa Sahlan” which literally means you are among family and that your stay goes smoothly.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

All the Israeli settlements + "Natural growth" = 26 Outposts . . . Wait, what?

International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) reports:

Israel is planning to offer dismantling 26 illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in exchange for American approval that Israel keeps all of its settlements and expands the existing settlement blocs though all settlements are illegal under the international law.
It seems that according to Israeli Occupation mathematics, demolishing 26 outposts (which are generally smaller in size, and demolished outposts are often rebuilt a short time later) is a good exchange for Israel keeping all the of the settlements, plus allowing for settlement expansion.

Wait . . . What?

It is worth mentioning that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, are a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which states that an occupying power cannot move its civilian population into its occupied territories -- which is exactly what Israeli settlements are.

In addition, outposts are usually illegal under Israeli law, so by demolishing outposts Israel is simply upholding its own laws.

Is this a peace deal, or a farce?




Friday, May 29, 2009

AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Demand that Israeli occupying forces allow At-Tuwani to bring electricity into their village

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

At-Tuwani, Palestine On Monday, 25 May 2009, members of the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO)—the branch of the Israeli army that administers civilian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)—entered the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani and ordered villagers to halt construction work on new electricity pylons.

Currently At-Tuwani receives only four hours of electricity a day, supplied by a diesel generator operated and paid for by the villagers. The Israeli settlement and outposts of Ma’on, Havat Ma’on, and Avigail, located within two kilometers of At-Tuwani, receive electricity from the main Israeli power grid.

International Humanitarian law (1907 Hague Regulation and 1949 Fourth Geneva Conventions) obliges occupying powers to ensure the welfare of the occupied population. Israel is thus responsible for the general welfare of the occupied Palestinian civilian population. However, it fails to supply electricity and water to Palestinian towns and villages, even though it is providing these services to settlements and outposts in the same vicinities. In this most recent move, the Israeli military is denying the villagers of At-Tuwani the opportunity to improve their living conditions.

After the DCO’s orders, the chair of the At-Tuwani village council told At-Tuwani team members, “It is 2009. And still we do not have electricity.”

On 19 March 2009, Tony Blair, special mid-east envoy of the Quartet, visited At-Tuwani. (See 20 March 2009 CPTnet release, “AT-TUWANI: At-Tuwani hosts former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to address Israeli occupation and violence in the southern West Bank.”) He supported the villagers’ desire to improve their living conditions, saying, "… without a new and different system applying in [the area in the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control, … it is very hard for Palestinians to enjoy the standard of living that they should enjoy and be able to develop their land as they should be able to develop in freedom." When asked what he could do to address the hardships inflicted on residents of the South Hebron Hills by settlers and the army in the region, he said, "It's got to be stopped, hasn't it? This is what should happen. But it needs to be done in a systematic way so that the whole way this area is looked at and administered is changed to make it fair." The Palestine National Authority and Tony Blair assured villagers at the time of the visit that the DCO had given oral permission for the electricity construction work. The work on the new pylons, to connect At-Tuwani to the main Palestinian electricity grid, began earlier this month.

ACTION

Please contact The DCO and demand that they grant permission for the village to receive basic services
• from Europe 00 972 29977097
• from North America 011 972 29977097 (for other world areas please check relevant country code +972 29977097)

Please send copies of your correspondence to Tony Blair:
The Office of Tony Blair
P.O. Box 60519, London,
W2 7JU
info@tonyblairoffice.org

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

At-Tuwani in The Guardian

As we hauled our tired bodies across miles of rock-strewn fields, our human cargo skipped effortlessly ahead of us, seemingly untroubled by either the exertion of the hike or the relentless heat of the mid-morning sun. The excitement of a day off school had lifted their spirits, as had the prospect of their weekly football practice in the village to which we were heading.

The children flew along the torturous gradients as nimbly as the gazelles we'd encountered earlier on the trail, and – to the untrained eye – the walk through the stunning South Hebron Hills would have appeared utterly calm and carefree. However, that the pre-pubescent players required our accompaniment at all belied the seemingly benign nature of our journey. Were it not for the presence of the international activists, the likelihood of the children coming under attack from nearby [Israeli] settlers would have been too high to risk them setting off for Tuwani from the neighbouring hamlet of Tu'ba.

... Grown men attacking defenceless children on their way to school is the stuff of nightmares, yet is a waking reality for dozens of youngsters forced to run the settler gauntlet every day.
Seth Freedman, writer for a UK newspaper called The Guardian, visited At-Tuwani recently. A friend kindly forwarded me the link to the full article he wrote. He provides a fresh perspective to the situation here in the South Hebron Hills. If you're interested in a clear, concise description of the Israeli Occupation in At-Tuwani and the surrounding villages, you would do well to read the full article.

Monday, March 30, 2009

AT-TUWANI RELEASE: Palestinian shepherds resist settler violence and disruption

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli
settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

In three recent incidents Palestinian shepherds asserted their right to graze their sheep on their own land, despite Israeli settlers' attempts to
intimidate the Palestinians and disrupt their agricultural work. Palestinians in the South Hebron hills have responded to recent violence
and incursions on their lands with a law suit and a nonviolent grazing action.

The morning of March 22, as shepherds from the village of At-Tuwani grazed their sheep in nearby Humra valley, a settler brought his flock to the
area from the Israeli settlement outpost of Havot Ma'on. The settler called the police and army, claiming that one of the Palestinians had
thrown a stone at him. When the police arrived, they detained the accused Palestinian and took him to Kiryat Arba police station. Internationals
who had been present and videotaped the scene showed the police video and pictures demonstrating that the shepherd had not thrown stones, and the
man was released. The following day the Palestinian shepherd returned to the police station with papers proving his ownership of the valley. He
has filed a suit against the settler for trespassing.

On March 25, while Palestinian shepherds grazed their sheep on land belonging to the village of Juwayye, twenty Israelis approached from the
settlement of Ma'on and shot at the shepherds. Despite the presence of Israeli soldiers and the Ma'on settlement security guard at the time of
the shooting, no Israelis were arrested. Palestinian shepherds continued to graze their sheep for two hours after the shooting, but were then
forced from the land by soldiers claiming they were too close to road 317.

On March 28 shepherds from Tuwani and other villages in the South Hebron Hills responded to recent harassment by gathering peacefully with their
families to graze sheep in Khoruba valley near Tuwani. After they had been in the valley for about an hour four settlers, two with their faces covered, walked out from Havat Ma'on outpost into the flocks and among the
shepherds and their children. In response, Palestinian shepherds sat down and refused to remove their sheep from the area. Israeli soldiers,
police, and border police arrived but did nothing to prevent the settlers from disrupting the grazing sheep.

Palestinians in Tuwani and the surrounding villages face continued threats of violence and intimidation from setters. With the start of the grazing
season, villagers say they expect the actions of the settlers will become increasingly disruptive, but that the villages remain committed to
nonviolence as they confront the incursions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lunch as Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance

Recently, my teammate Jan and I were accompanying some Palestinian shepherds from the village of Tuba, one of the many villages in the area committed to nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation. The shepherds were a man and his nephew; I’ll call the man Samoud, which means “steadfastness,” because that is what he embodies.

Samoud, his nephew, Jan, and I were eating a picnic lunch when an Israeli settler security guard from Ma’on settlement appeared on a nearby hilltop, along with Israeli soldiers. Jan and I prepared for “action”, dropping our food and grabbing our video cameras and binoculars.

Samoud, however, reclining on a nearby rock, was entirely unperturbed. He told us to stop. “Eat,” he said, “and then maybe video them.”

While the settler security guard and the soldiers looked at Samoud, his nephew, and us through their binoculars, we continued our picnic. Samoud was not about to be intimidated by these men, their guns, and the state legitimizing their violence. In fact, it was not even worth interrupting his lunch.

Such an attitude typifies resistance here in the South Hebron Hills; Palestinians know they are stronger than the Israeli occupation, and they prioritize their lives accordingly. Are Israeli soldiers in the village? Fine – finish drinking tea, and then go meet them. Are Israeli authorities attempting to intimidate Palestinians off Palestinian land? It will not work. Palestinians will stay, and eat lunch on their land as an act of resistance instead.

Friday, March 20, 2009

AT-TUWANI RELEASE: At-Tuwani hosts Tony Blair to address Israeli occupation and violence in the southern West Bank


Tony Blair, representative of the Quartet on the Middle East, speaks with Saber Hereni, the mayor of At-Tuwani

19 March 2009
Photos available at http://cpt.org/gallery/album275
At-Tuwani, West Bank

On 19 March 2009, Tony Blair, representative of the Quartet on the Middle East, visited the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani, located in the southern West Bank. His reason for visiting, he stated, “is really to draw attention to the fact that without a new and different system applying in Area C [the area in the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control], then it is very hard for Palestinians to enjoy the standard of living that they should enjoy and be able to develop their land as they should be able to develop in freedom.”

Mr. Blair met with the mayor of At-Tuwani as well as members of Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove, who described the attacks and harassment Palestinians experience from Israeli settlers and soldiers when Palestinians attempt to access their land. The conversation also highlighted Israeli government inaction toward settler aggression, exemplified by the government’s failure to follow through with the demolition orders on the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on. When asked what he will do about this situation, Mr. Blair answered, “It’s got to be stopped, hasn’t it? This is what should happen. But it needs to be done in a systematic way so that the whole way this area is looked at and administered is changed to make it fair.”

Under the Oslo Accords, the village of At-Tuwani is in Area C, leaving it under Israeli military and civilian control. Israeli authorities have refused to provide electricity and running water to the village, despite the fact that the Israeli settlement of Ma’on, less than a kilometer away, has access to these utilities. In addition, the Israeli government refuses to grant building permission to Palestinians in At-Tuwani and surrounding villages.. Consequently Palestinians frequently face the threat of demolition on their houses, mosques, schools, clinics and wells. In contrast, Ma’on and Havat Ma’on and other settlements and outposts in the area continue to expand outside of regulations.

Over recent years, At-Tuwani has received increased media attention due to the people’s commitment to nonviolent resistance. Palestinians in the area have had success using nonviolence to reclaim their land and freedom of movement and to highlight the violence they experience under the Israeli occupation.

Background information is available on Christian Peacemaker Teams' website, http://www.cpt.org/work/palestine/tuwani

Thursday, March 12, 2009

At-Tuwani Release: Israeli Court Releases CPTers Arrested While Accompanying Palestinian Landowners

At 2:30 pm, on Monday, 9 March, a Jerusalem court released two Christian Peacemaker Teams members (CPTers) who were arrested while they accompanied 19 Palestinians trying to access their land near the Bedouin village of Um al-Kheir. The CPTers were charged with trespass and obstruction of construction work, despite being invited to the land by the Palestinians landowners and being at least 10 meters away from the work zone. Israeli police arrested the CPTers on Sunday, 8 March, at 11:30 am, when
Palestinian landowners asserted their right to visit their land. Palestinians from Um al-Kheir observed workers using road-building equipment on Palestinian-owned land near the adjacent Israeli settlement of Karmel. When the Palestinians and CPTers approached the work area, an Israeli settlement security guard began to shout, demanding that they leave. When they remained on their land, the guard contacted the Israeli army and police. At 12 pm, Israeli police detained the Palestinians at the scene for 45 minutes. They also arrested the CPTers and transported them to Kiryat Arba Police Station outside Hebron. Neither the army nor police asked the Palestinians for papers to ascertain the true ownership of the land.

Um al-Kheir villagers report that the work they observed is expanding Karmel settlement and stealing their land and livelihood.

Friday, February 27, 2009

At-Tuwani Release: Video Available of Israeli Army Harassment

The following video has been posted by CPT on YouTube. It documents an incident of Israeli army harassment in the village of Mufaqara. (see At-Tuwani Release: Soldiers Kill Palestinian Migrant Worker, Increase Harassment of Villagers in South Hebron Hills, February 12, 2009). Mufaqara is a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank.

The video documents Israeli army harassment of local Palestinians as well as the soldiers' dismaying attitude toward the widespread killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. A soldier says, in full view of the camera, that the children killed in Gaza "will be terrorists in about 20 years anyway."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Israeli Settlers Kill Donkey in the South Hebron Hills

Dear readers, as you may (or may not) have noticed, I'm catching up on some blogging backlog that occurred during some months that I spent away from At-Tuwani. In my 2 February post "At-Tuwani = Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance = An Amazing Village", I referred to Israeli settlers killing a Palestinian's donkey, which happened last November. My teammates created a video from the footage they captured.

Sometimes describing these situations in writing is not quite horrific enough.




Wednesday, February 11, 2009

At-Tuwani Release: Soldiers Crack Down on Palestinian Migrant Labor

6 February 2009
At-Tuwani Release: Soldiers Crack Down on Palestinian Migrant Labor

Three incidents in recent days indicate that Israeli occupation authorities are stepping up their aggression in the South Hebron Hills, particularly in response to Palestinian migrant laborers.

Since Israel's sealing of the West Bank behind a separation barrier and subsequent destruction of its economy (unemployment is currently around 20%), growing numbers of Palestinian men travel to Israel for work. Israeli army and police are increasing mobility restrictions and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians, chasing vehicles, and even shooting them.

Under Israeli law it is illegal for Palestinians to cross the 1949 Green Line (the internationally recognized border between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories) without a permit, which is extremely difficult to obtain.

Along part of the West Bank's border near the Israeli town of Be'er Sheva, the barrier is not yet completed, and instead is heavily enforced by armed Israeli patrols. At-Tuwani, 5km north of the border, lies directly on the primary route traveled by Palestinian workers. For a map of this area see <http://tinyurl.com/bt629r>.

On the morning of Monday, 2 February, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man on the Israeli side of the border near the Palestinian village of Jinba and the Israeli settlement of Beit Yatir. Taysir Manasra, 27, from the Hebron-area village of Bani Na'im, was attempting to travel into Israel for work.

CPTers, along with other human rights workers, arrived on the scene at 1:30 pm to find a bullet-riddled car, a puddle of blood, and soldiers and police detaining about 10 Palestinian men. A corpse had just been removed from the scene.

The Palestinians told the internationals that they had already been detained when Manasra drove his car through an army ambush. The soldiers ordered them to lie face-down before they shot at Manasra's car and killed him.

The same morning, Israeli soldiers set up a checkpoint on the Palestinian road from at-Tuwani to al-Birkeh. They stopped two Palestinian vehicles, removing and physically assaulting the drivers.

One of the men was delivering goods to at-Tuwani. Although he showed valid documents, both for his van and the road he was using, the soldiers removed and confiscated his license plates. The man was indignant and told CPTers, "The soldiers asked to see my papers, so I showed them. I have the correct papers, but they punched and shoved me. I am an older man, and I showed them my papers, but they still hit me."

The other man transports Palestinian schoolchildren daily between at-Tuwani and the village of Susiya (3km southwest). He also showed the soldiers valid papers. One of the soldiers grabbed and struck him repeatedly on the face and upper body, before letting him go.

The following day, 3 February, Israeli soldiers arrested a Palestinian at his home in Mfagara, 1km southwest of at-Tuwani. They claimed that the van parked outside his home was not correctly registered. CPTers videotaped him as he showed the soldiers his documents, which they confiscated. The man, a well-known local peace activist, calmly agreed to go with the soldiers in order to settle the dispute. The soldiers handcuffed him, placed a black hood over his head, and drove him away in an army humvee.

For images of these incidents, go to <http://tinyurl.com/cgkqll>.

Monday, February 2, 2009

At-Tuwani = Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance = An Amazing Village

Tomorrow I go back to my work in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani. I am incredibly excited. I am going back to *amazing* teammates, a village of incredible people, and work I love so dearly. In the months that I have been away, Tuwani has continued in its nonviolent resistance. And the village has succeeded in gaining dozens of small victories that feeds into this beautiful, replenishing cycle of nonviolent resistance --> small victories ---> life gets just a little bit better in the South Hebron Hills --> the movement for Palestinian nonviolent resistance grows, little by little. Every year, the village gains access to more land; valleys that were once perpetually declared a closed military zone by the Israeli military are now in frequent use by Palestinians. Every year, through the power of nonviolence, Palestinians gain victories over the violent Israeli settlers who are trying to force Palestinians off their land.

Of course, these victories do not come without great sacrifice, courage, and commitment. For example, Israeli settlers from Ma'on and Havot Ma'on have stolen property, shot at Palestinian flocks (wounding three. One sheep died from its wounds), and killed a donkey while shepherds were grazing their flocks on their land. (To name just a few violent incidences.)

And yet, Palestinians in At-Tuwani and the surrounding villages persist in their commitment to nonviolent resistance. For instance, less than a week after Israeli settlers killed the Palestinian donkey, the Palestinian villagers organized and successfully used the land on which the attack occurred. Instead of driving Palestinians off their land, the Israeli settler violence only strengthened Palestinian nonviolent resistance and commitment to their land.

This -- the strength of Palestinian nonviolent resistance -- is one of the many reasons why I am thrilled to be going back to Tuwani. Also, I can't wait to see the Palestinians I have missed while I was away. I am excited to play with the village children, with whatever book or toy is most taking them at the moment (last summer, the fad was spending hours paging through "Where's Waldo?"). I look forward to being in the beautiful South Hebron Hills once again, working with beautiful, amazing people.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Electricity for Flowers, Not People

The Jordan Valley is a place where Israeli flowers have electricity and Palestinian people do not.

Located in the east, along the Jordan River, the Jordan Valley comprises approximately 25 percent of the land in the West Bank or Occupied Palestine. In previous times, landowners were known as “princes”, because of the availability of water and the fertility of the land.

Today, the Jordan Valley is a land of contrasts. There are Israeli settlements and farms that exist side-by-side (and sometimes through) Palestinian villages and farms. Israeli settlements have homes made of stone or concrete, with space to grow. Palestinian villages are often filled with homes made of tarp and scrap metal (making the homes cold in the winter and hot in the summer.) In some areas electric lines crisscross Palestinian villages, and water pipe lines run through them. But often Palestinians have no access to this infrastructure; they are for the Israeli settlements nearby. The Israeli authorities have fenced in the water pumps, so Palestinians can’t “steal” the water beneath their villages. However, the most striking example of racist distribution of resources is the Israeli flower plantations next to Palestinian villages. Flowers have rows of lights hanging over them, to make them bloom earlier for export to Europe. Yet the Palestinians living next to these farms cannot tap into these electric lines.

In sum, Israel encourages the growth of the Israeli settlement population. At the same time, the Israeli government attempts to force Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley off their land through the demolition of Palestinian homes, refusal of permission to build new homes and fix roads, and the control of water, electricity, transport of produce to markets. Additionally, the Israeli government refuses to allow Palestinians who do not have an address in the Jordan Valley to visit there.

Yet as in the rest of Palestine, the Israeli occupation does not have the final word. Palestinian communities are organizing in nonviolent resistance to Israel’s systematic oppression. By building schools for their communities (sometimes in defiance of the Israeli government), and providing electricity for themselves, by insisting on their right to remain in the Jordan Valley, some Palestinian communities are nonviolently resisting the forces of the Israeli Occupation intent on removing them.

For more information, please see the Electronic Intifada report: Israel Plundering the Jordan Valley.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Palestinian Nonviolent Resistence to the Israeli Occupation in Palestine

It has been quite some time since I have highlighted Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Lest you, dear readers, begin to form an inaccurate perception of the role of Palestinians in their struggle for justice (through nonviolent resistance), I present to you this video for your viewing enlightenment. It is about At-Tuwani, the village in which I work with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Villagers from At-Tuwani daily practice committed, disciplined, stratigic, nonviolent resistance. This video tells the story of the situation in Tuwani and gives an overview of the village's nonviolent struggle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Way to Go, 60 Minutes! -- A Beginner's Guide to the Israeli Occupation

On Sunday, 25 January, CBS 60 Minutes (a U.S. news broadcast)aired "Exposing Israeli Apartheid", an excellent (and accurate!) segment reporting on Israel's occupation of Palestine. Check it out:





And now act! Write to CBS 60 Minutes to thank them for their accurate portrayal of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation. The Gaza Justice Action Center makes it easy to do. I am so grateful that CBS had the courage to air this segment. Let them know you're grateful, too!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The "Numbers Game" Part 2

The numbers game will always bother me.

The world keeps insisting that human lives are valued on a sliding scale. Not all people are created equal in the image of God.

Listen to the media. I recently read "Off the Charts: Accuracy in Reporting on Israel/Palestine: The New York Times" by If Americans Knew. (They also produced a report on TV media coverage, but I haven't had the chance to read it yet.) The report focused on the New York Times' coverage of Israeli and Palestinian deaths during two years of the Second Intifada. A synopsis from the report:
In the first study period The Times reported Israeli deaths at a rate 2.8 times higher than Palestinian deaths, and in 2004 this rate increased by almost 30%, to 3.6, widening still further the disparity in coverage. The Times’ coverage of children’s deaths was even more skewed. In the first year of the current uprising, Israeli children’s deaths were reported at 6.8 times the rate of Palestinian children’s deaths. In 2004 this differential also increased, with deaths of Israeli children covered at a rate 7.3 times greater than the deaths of Palestinian children. Given that in 2004 22 times more Palestinian children were killed than Israeli children, this category holds particular importance.
This report covered data from 2000 and 2004. Yet even now the media plays the numbers game. "Israel has the right to protect its civilians." Three Israeli civilians have been killed in this recent war on Gaza. How many Palestinian civilians has the Israeli military killed? (To date, the death toll in Gaza is 1,188 Palestinians -- approximately a third of whom are children.) Where is the international outcry?

Then I remember: To the world, the death of a Palestinian is not worth the same as the death of an Israeli. I watch, horrified, on the news as the Palestinian death toll climbs. And I keep wondering: when will the scale tip? At what Palestinian-to-Israeli death-toll ratio will the world say, "Enough! A life is a life. And every death is a crime against humanity."

When will we end this spiral into madness? When will we hold sacred every human life -- regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion -- and treasure it as our own?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The "Numbers Game"

It happens. Often.

When I am speaking (or writing) about Israel's military occupation and Palestinian nonviolent resistance, people frequently ask me: "But Palestinians are violent! They're the ones killing civilians!"

I had this experience recently in chatting with a neighbor about the situation in Gaza. "Palestinians are the violent ones -- they're firing rockets!"

This comment -- and Western media coverage of Israel's military assault on Gaza -- astounds me. Since the beginning of Israel's assault on Gaza until now (27 December 2008 to 16 January 2009), the Israeli military has killed 1, 133 Palestinians. According to If Americans Knew, 300 of those casualties were children. In contrast, 13 Israelis have been killed in this war on Gaza. Three of them were civilians.

The media portrays Palestinians as the aggressors, the abusers of violence. Yet after looking at the numbers, one is left wondering: Who are the violent ones?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gaza Action in 30 Seconds

A co-worker directed me to this website as a way to act in response to Israel's military assault and blockade on Gaza. The site's format makes it easy send a statement to President Bush, President Elect Obama, and the Senators and Representative from your state. (The statement is pre-written, but editable, for anyone like me who always develops writer's block when writing to government officials.)

It is fast, simple, and advocacy. So, all you busy (and concerned) citizens, give it a whirl -- you have time to do this.

P.S. To readers outside the U.S. -- Apologies for being U.S. centric. If any of you know of a similar site for your respective countries, please let me know, and I will be happy to post them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine Release Statement on War in Gaza

Christian Peacemaker Teams deplores the use of violence, stands with the oppressed, and supports all nonviolent efforts to build justice and peace. We believe God loves both Palestinians and Israelis and regards every person's death a tragedy. With this in mind

-We call on all armed groups to cease killing and traumatizing the children of God.

-We implore our governments to do more to end this massacre in Gaza, including demanding that Israel immediately remove its forces from Gaza and cease aerial bombardment.

-We ask our government representatives to insist that Israel conform to International law in its dealings with the Palestinians.

- We urge our governments and media outlets to press beyond surface explanations as to the cause of this recent conflict between Hamas and Israel and address the 'root' problems (i.e. the systemic oppression and domination of the Palestinian people).