The leader of Gaza’s Great Return March holds a rare conversation with Israelis who refuse to serve in the army because of the occupation. ‘Those who refuse to take part in the attacks on the demonstrators in Gaza — they stand on the right side of history.’
It is difficult to imagine today, but meetings between Palestinian and Israeli activists used to be routine. The younger generation of Palestinian and Israelis, however, were born into a world of walls, fences, and segregation, where even a simple conversation can be complicated, and at times, impossible.
That stark reality was on display two weeks ago when dozens of Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors held a rare conversation with Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the main organizers behind Gaza’s Great Return March. For many of the younger conscientious objectors, the Great Return March served as an inspiration for their personal reasons to refuse enlistment in the Israeli army….
The Jewish Museum of the Palestinian Experience was founded to provide a Jewish perspective on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Jewish perspective is rooted in Jewish values, to treat our neighbor as we would want to be treated.
An interactive exhibit of historical photographs and documents with links to audio and video materials, founded to provide a perspective on the Palestine-Israel conflict rooted in Jewish values of truth, justice, and peace to treat our neighbors as we would want to be treated.
Dr. Steven Feldman, founder of the Promised Land exhibit, is a dermatologist in Winston Salem, North Carolina. As a child, Steve collected dimes to help plant trees in Israel. Like most young Jewish boys, he believed that Jews had come to an uninhabited land of deserts and swamps and made the land bloom. But as an adult he saw United Nations data that showed that about 700,000 Palestinians became refugees during the fighting of 1948. “That seemed odd,” he says. “If we Jews had come to a land of empty swamps and deserts as I had been taught as a child, how did so many Palestinian men, women and children become refugees?”
Steve’s questions led to more research, finding many moral Jewish voices that have been advocating for peace for all people in Israel and Palestine. The Jewish-sourced materials and historical artifacts that he found are now on display in the Promised Land Museum exhibits as well as online at promisedlandmuseum.org.
“You don’t have to be anti-Palestinian in order to love Israel,” he says. “Judaism, not to mention the Holocaust, teaches us to support peace, justice and security for all people.”
Quakers in Britain has today become the first church in the UK to announce it will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. (November 19, 2018)
The decision, made by the church’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers – fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments. It follows decisions not to invest funds in, among others, the fossil fuel industry, arms companies, Apartheid South Africa, and – going even further back – the transatlantic slave trade.
Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said:
“Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.
“With the occupation now in its 51styear, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.
“We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.
“As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.
“We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.
“We hope that by announcing our refusal to profit from these companies it will encourage others to think about their own investments, and help challenge the legality and practices of the ongoing military occupation.
Ingrid Greenhow, clerk of Quakers in Britain trustees, said:
“While we do not believe we currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation, we will now amend our investment policy to ensure this remains the case in future.
“This includes companies – whichever country they are based in – involved for example in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestine, and the construction and servicing of the separation barrier and Israeli settlements.
“We look forward to the publication of the UN Business and Human Rights Database which will list companies involved in settlement-related activities in occupied Palestine. We recognise the help this – and others including the Investigate database compiled by the American Friends Service Committee – will give our investment managers in implementing this new policy.”
In their minute, the trustees said, “We hope this policy might be useful to [Quaker] area meetings interested in adopting a similar approach”.
In their minute, Meeting for Sufferings reaffirmed their 2011 decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine “until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended.”
Meeting for Sufferings added that, “[W]e continually pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts, and looking forward to a future of loving and generous co-operation.”
Join the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker Palestine Israel Network, and Pendle Hill for a weekend of exploring what it will take to realize a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel.
From Dec.14 to 16, we’re holding a conference titled “Whatdoesjusticelooklike? Moving towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel.” We invite you to join us for this exciting opportunity to learn more about Israel and Palestine and what you can do to bring change.
AFSC and Quakers have engaged in Palestine for over a century and worked for peace with justice since 1948. After decades without change, we want to open up a conversation about what’s needed for a just future.
It has been 70 years since the 1948 war, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced and the State of Israel was born. It has been over 50 years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, gaining control of all of historic Palestine. And it has been 25 years since Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn at the start of the Oslo Peace Process.
But 25 years after the start of what was intended to be a five-year peace process, we must question that framework. Why hasn’t peace yet been achieved? What paradigm shifts are needed to bring change? What are the historic injustices that need to be righted, and what might it looklike to address these issues today? What actions can people outside of the conflict take to promote change?
As international attention on Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians—occupation and blockade—increases, our Israel-Palestine Working Group produced the following program at our annual five-day New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) Sessions:
Outdoor displays: photos from Gaza and a pin wheel display memorializing the recent dead in Gaza
Workshops: Building a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel with John Reuwer and Laurie Gagne, plus Moving our Meetings to Take Action on Israel-Palestine with Minga Claggett-Borne and Jonathan Vogel-Borne
Informal lunch chats
Photographic exhibition: Gaza Awaken by Skip Schiel
A special visit and presentation by a colleague from Gaza, Dr. Mustafa El-Hawi
(Click here for more info and here for photographs of Sessions)
However, we failed to bring our annual report to meeting for worship with the intention of business, a staple of this Yearly Meeting. Click Talking Points (Word)for our report’s talking points, with illustrations.
ONE CAN look at events in Gaza through the left or through the right eye. One can condemn them as inhuman, cruel and mistaken, or justify them as necessary and unavoidable.
But there is one adjective that is beyond question: They are stupid.
If the late Barbara Tuchman were still alive, she might be tempted to add another chapter to her groundbreaking opus “The March of Folly”: a chapter titled “Eyeless in Gaza”.
THE LATEST episode in this epic started a few months ago, when independent activists in the Gaza Strip called for a march to the Israeli border, which Hamas supported. It was called “The Great March of Return”, a symbolic gesture for the more than a million Arab residents who fled or were evicted from their homes in the land that became the State of Israel.
The Israeli authorities pretended to take this seriously. A frightening picture was painted for the Israeli public: 1.8 million Arabs, men, women and children, would throw themselves on the border fence, break through in many places, and storm Israel’s cities and villages. Terrifying.
Israeli sharpshooters were posted along the border and ordered to shoot anyone who looked like a “ringleader”. On several succeeding Fridays (the weekly Muslim holy day) more than 150 unarmed protesters, including many children, were shot dead, and many hundreds more severely wounded by gunfire, apart from those hurt by tear gas.
The Israeli argument was that the victims were shot while trying to “storm the fences”. Actually, not a single such attempt was photographed, though hundreds of photographers were posted on both sides of the fence.
Facing a world-wide protest, the army changed its orders and now only rarely kills unarmed protesters. The Palestinians also changed their tactics: the main effort now is to fly children’s kites with burning tails and set Israeli fields near the Strip on fire.
Since the wind almost always blows from the West to the East, that is an easy way to hurt Israel. Children can do it, and do. Now the Minister of Education demands that the air force bomb the children. The Chief of Staff refuses, arguing that this is “against the values of the Israeli army”.
At present, half of our newspapers and TV newscasts are concerned with Gaza. Everybody seems to agree that sooner or later a full-fledged war will break out there.
THE MAIN feature of this exercise is its utter stupidity.
Every military action must have a political aim. As the German military thinker, Carl von Clausewitz, famously said: “War is but a continuation of politics by other means.”
The Strip is 41 km long and 6 to 12 km wide. It is one of the most overcrowded places on earth. Nominally it belongs to the largely theoretical State of Palestine, like the West Bank, which is Israeli occupied. The Strip is in fact governed by the radical Muslim Hamas party.
In the past, masses of Palestinian workers from Gaza streamed into Israel every day. But since Hamas assumed power in the Strip, the Israeli government has imposed an almost total blockade on land and sea. The Egyptian dictatorship, a close ally of Israel and a deadly enemy of radical Islam, cooperates with Israel.
So what does Israel want? The preferred solution is to sink the entire strip and its population into the sea. Failing that, what can be done?
The last thing Israel wants is to annex the Strip with its huge population, which cannot be driven out. Also, Israel does not want to put up settlements in the Strip (the few which were set up were withdrawn by Ariel Sharon, who thought that it was not worthwhile to keep and defend them).
The real policy is to make life in Gaza so miserable, that the Gazans themselves will rise and throw the Hamas authorities out. With this in mind, the water supply is reduced to two hours a day, electricity the same. Employment hovers around 50%, wages beneath the minimum. It is a picture of total misery.
Since everything that reaches Gaza must come through Israel (or Egypt), supplies are often cut off completely for days as “punishment”.
Alas, history shows that such methods seldom succeed. They only deepen the enmity. So what can be done?
THE ANSWER is incredibly simple: sit down, talk and come to an agreement.
Yes, but how can you sit down with a mortal enemy, whose official ideology totally rejects a Jewish State?
Islam, which (like every religion) has an answer to everything, recognizes something called a “Hudna”, which is a lasting armistice. This can go on for many decades and is (religiously) kept.
For several years now, Hamas has been almost openly hinting that it is ready for a long Hudna. Egypt has volunteered to mediate. Our government has totally ignored the offer. A Hudna with the enemy? Out of the question! God forbid! Would be terribly unpopular politically!
But it would be the sensible thing to do. Stop all hostile acts from both sides, say for 50 years. Abolish the blockade. Build a real harbor in Gaza city. Allow free trade under some kind of military inspection. Same for an airport. Allow workers to find employment in Israel, instead of importing workers from China and Romania. Turn Gaza into a second Singapore. Allow free travel between Gaza and the West Bank by a bridge or an exterritorial highway. Help to restore unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
WHY NOT? The very idea is rejected by an ordinary Israeli on sight.
A deal with Hamas? Impossible!!! Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Everybody knows that.
I hear this many times, and always wonder about the stupidity of people who repeat this.
How does a group of a few hundred thousand “destroy” one of the worlds most heavily armed states, a state that possesses nuclear bombs and submarines to deliver them? How? With kites?
Both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin pay us homage, the world’s fascist dictators and liberal presidents come to visit. How can Hamas pose a mortal danger?
Why doesn’t Hamas stop hostilities by itself? Hamas has competitors, which are even more radical. It does not dare to show any sign of weakness.
SOME DECADES ago the Arab world, on the initiative of Saudi Arabia, offered Israel peace under several conditions, all of them acceptable. Successive Israel governments have not only not accepted it, they have ignored it altogether.
There was some logic in this. The Israeli government wants to annex the West Bank. It wants to get the Arab population out, and replace them with Jewish settlers. It conducts this policy slowly, cautiously, but consistently.
It is a cruel policy, a detestable policy, yet it has some logic in it. If you really want to achieve this abominable aim, the methods may be adequate. But this does not apply to the Gaza Strip, which no one wants to annex. There, the methods are sheer folly.
THIS DOES not mean that the overall Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is any more wise. It is not.
Binyamin Netanyahu and his hand-picked stupid ministers have no policy. Or so it seems. In fact they do have an undeclared one: creeping annexation of the West Bank.
This is now going on at a quicker pace than before. The daily news gives the impression that the entire government machine is now concentrating on this project.
This will lead directly to an apartheid-style state, where a large Jewish minority will dominate an Arab majority.
For how long? One generation? Two? Three?
It has been said that a clever person is able to extricate himself from a trap into which a wise person would not have fallen in the first place.
Stupid people do not extricate themselves. They are not even aware of the trap.
Americans are grappling with the incarceration of 10-year-olds and the concept of “tender age detention centers” while morally bankrupt politicians wring their bloodied hands. As courts begin to respond, many folks across the political spectrum are wondering, “What happens to the children caught in this catastrophe?” Interestingly, there is much we can learn from research in the US and from the Israeli experience with regard to children and prisons. The US and Israel both perceive themselves as enlightened “western democracies,” yet both have high incarceration rates, particularly for children of color, sometimes involving the same global prison industries. In both countries, these kinds of children are perceived as the “other,” the “enemy,” the “invading hordes ready to destroy America,” the “Muslim terrorists seeking to kill Israelis.” They are presented as less human and less deserving than white and/or Jewish children and less likely to evoke an empathic reaction….
….The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children should not be deprived of liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily and that arrest, detention, or imprisonment should only be used in extreme circumstances for the shortest period of time. Ironically, the US is the only country in the world that has not signed the treaty as reported by the ACLU.
But signing the treaty is clearly not enough. According to Defense of Children International-Palestine, last year an average of 310 Palestinian children were imprisoned for “security offenses” each month, with 60 children 12 to 15 years of age. An estimated 700 children are prosecuted each year in military courts with a 99+% conviction rate. The most common charge is stone throwing which can result in up to 20 years in prison. There have been multiple reports of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse during arrest and interrogation, with 74.5% of children reporting physical violence during arrest and 62% reporting verbal abuse, intimidation and humiliation. Solitary confinement during interrogation has been documented, with an average period of 12 days. The Israeli military courts also put children in administrative detention for months, basically imprisoning them without charges or trial.
To be absolutely clear on this, if a Jewish Israeli child was caught throwing stones at a PA security officer or a Palestinian farmer harvesting his olives, he would not end up in detention. Indeed, if he was from certain Jewish settlements, he would be celebrated as a hero. Such is the justice under military occupation. Jewish children live under civil law and of course are not viewed as the enemy….
On March 30th, 2018 tens of thousands of Palestinians marched peacefully in Gaza in the Great Return March, beginning a six-week tent city protest along the Gaza/Israel border from Land Day, March 30th, to Nakba Day, May 15th.
The Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic) refers to the forced displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment in 1948, and that continues to this day.
The #GreatReturnMarch, organized by civil society and grassroots activists, called for an end to the siege of Gaza and the right of return for Palestinian refugees according to international law.
On the first day of the march, the Israeli military killed 19 Palestinians and wounded over 1,400. No Israeli soldiers were harmed. Videos show Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinians as they ran away from the gunfire and even as they prayed.
No one should be killed for taking part in a peaceful protest, and Jewish Voice for Peace and our members will not sit quietly while the Israeli military kills Palestinians for demanding their rights.
Here’s what you need to know about the what happened in Gaza during the #GreatReturnMarch and how you can support Palestinian protesters.
The Great Return March is an ongoing mobilization and we will be updating this page as the demonstrations in Gaza continue. Update, June 14th, 2018: Since March 30th, the Israeli military has killed at least 135 Palestinians and wounded more than 14,600 others.
It is estimated that as many as 250,000 Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the Great Return March since the nonviolent border protest launched March 30. Many are from a new generations of Palestinian refugees who are rediscovering the spirit of resistance manifested during the first and second intifadas. One of them was Abed El-Fattah Abed Elnaby, 18. He was my second cousin.
He was among the first martyrs—a number that since has grown to 49. One of nine shot and killed by Israeli snipers that first day, Abed El-Fattah achieved a kind of posthumous fame when what has now become an iconic photograph, taken moments before he was shot by Gaza photographer Mahmoud Abu Salama—appeared on the front page of the Washington Post. Here is the story behind that photo:
Abed El-Fattah was both the tallest and the youngest among the four sons in the family. (He also had five sisters!) He was known as a joker, but was a quick learner in school with a special aptitude for math. However, the boy left school when he was just 16 to help support his family. He trained as a plumber and put in additional hours at a baker, helping to pay one of his sister’s university tuition. Abed El-Fattah even bought his own clothes with his earnings.
Why did he decide to risk his life, meager as it was, to not only participate in the protest but approach the front lines? His family members tell me Abed El-Fattah yearned to see his family’s original village of Simsim (سمسم), located just 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) northeast of Gaza. On May 12, 1948, pre-state Israeli forces ran the villagers out of their town. The concept of a daily march to the border to call for Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homes captured his imagination, and he had been listening to the news every day.
On March 30, Abed El-Fattah woke up at 8 a.m. and worked at his brother’s falafel restaurant until around 2.p.m. Then he went home for his mother’s lunch, but didn’t eat much. Instead, he began preparing himself for the march, putting on new clothes he had purchased the day before. It was as if he wanted to look like a gentleman for what would become the day of his death. Dressed, he left home in a taxi. His friends next door (Zyed Abu Oukar and Yousef Masoud) and his brother Muhammad, with whom he was very close, followed shortly after.
Many of the protesters carried tires, which had become a symbol of the first and second intifadas. Tires were used at that time to block the vans driven by Zionist soldiers. But this time, many among the thousands gathered along the border began burning the tires to obscure the view of the Israeli snipers, who were targeting them with live ammunition.
According to Muhammad, Abed El-Fattah did not join them. However, when snipers began shooting at a younger boy carrying a tire close to the border fence, he darted toward and grabbed it from him so the teen could run faster. Both were running back toward the crowd of demonstrators when the Israeli snipers shot five bullets: One hit Muhammad, who was close by; he was spared only because the bullet was deflected by the mobile phone in his front shirt pocket. Another hit Abed El-Fattah in the head. He was rushed to a hospital, but he could not be saved.
“My soul was taken from me,” his father says.
How do you begin to describe such a loss? I could write about his grieving family and friends, who are haunted by his memory. Or I could describe the community mosque and his sister’s house he had helped build. Or I could interview Fadwa, an elderly woman in the neighborhood who can’t walk so is confined to a wheelchair. Abed El-Fattah knew she had no children to look after her, so became her surrogate son, bringing her food and helping her with chores almost every day. Now, she moans about how deeply she misses him.
“He is still with us, though, because he is in our hearts,” says his mother with tears in her eyes.
And despite their bottomless grief, his brothers continue to participate in the march with their father, in the hope that change will come, and that maybe, just maybe, they can see Simsim.
The strategy of The Great March of Return, Palestinians in Gaza demanding their right of return to their villages and towns, curiously parallels the nonviolent resistance methods taught by Mubarak Awad before Israel exiled him in 1988. (Posted two days before Memorial Day in the United States, a day dedicated to participants in violence, honorable people no doubt but perhaps misguided.)
Here’s part of an interview conducted in 2000:
An old man came to me whose land the Israelis had taken. He wanted it back. So I told him to get 300 or 400 people from his village—children, young people, old people—anybody who wanted to come.
The settlers had put a fence around the land. We could take the fence down and just sit there and if the Israeli military wanted to kill us, let them kill us. I told him, on one condition: Not a single person should throw a stone.
If we are all going to be massacred, let it be. And we did that; we took the land back from the settlers. That created an echo with a lot of Palestinians, who started coming to me at the Center instead of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Taking fear away from people and replacing it with courage is the essence of nonviolence.
Mubarak Awad is the founder of Nonviolence International. Meir Amor, an Israeli peace activist living in Canada, interviewed him.
In May 1988, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered Awad arrested and expelled. Officials charged that Awad broke Israeli law by inciting “civil uprising” and helping to write leaflets that advocated civil disobedience that were distributed by the leadership of the First Intifada. No evidence was provided to support the charge and Awad appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that he had forfeited his right to residence status in Israel when he became a U.S. citizen and he was deported in June 1988. (Wikipedia)