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.

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.