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.
Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman,
We, members of Other Voice — residents of the Western Negev who live close to the border with the Gaza Strip — are writing to you, yet again, in our call for a long-term political program to end the hostilities with Gaza.
The situation in our region and in the Gaza Strip is unthinkable, unbearable and unacceptable. The deep hostility, the never-ending rounds of violence, the mortar and rocket attacks, the tunnels, the kites — all of these have made our lives a living hell. And on the other side of the border, the people live with 3-4 hours of electricity a day; they have no potable water; the sewage runs in the streets and into the sea; their health system is collapsing and they have soaring numbers of unemployment. Two million people are living without hope that they will have a sustainable future.
The government is trying to persuade us — the Israeli public, and mainly the residents of the region surrounding Gaza — that the Gazans are our enemies. We see them, however, not as our enemies, but as our neighbors.
The Hamas regime is tyrannical and has caused great harm, mainly to its own people. We neither justify nor legitimate its behaviors and its decisions. Nevertheless, it is the authority in Gaza — whether we like it or not — and so we have to find a way to speak to its members.
We call upon you to change direction. Instead of more rounds of violence, instead of another war, we need to reach a long-term ceasefire. We need to put into place a political program that will promise the people in Gaza electricity for 24 hours a day, potable water, employment, freedom of movement, air to breathe and removal of the blockade.
Israel is the strong side in this equation. We have the power and the ability to reverse this unacceptable and unbearable situation, and to create a situation in which life and hope blossom on both sides of the border. The disaster that has been going on for too long is not a natural — it is human-made. We created it and we can change it. We want to live in peace with our neighbors in Gaza. We need to live in peace with them.
Members of Other Voice
An Open Letter to Hamas’ Leadership
Dear Yahya Sanwar and Ismail Haniyeh,
We are your neighbors to the east; we live in Israeli communities that share the border with the Gaza Strip. Our peoples have been at war for decades, and as the years go by, the hostilities and hatred have deepened — on both sides. This state is toxic both for your people and for ours.
We have been, and remain, enemies. But this can, and must, change. We are also neighbors — we live just a few kilometers away from one another. This tragedy that has befallen both of our peoples is not a natural disaster — it is a human-made one. We created it and we can change it.
Enough hatred. Enough revenge. Enough showing strength through rockets, mortars, tunnels and arson kites.
We have written Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin – the leaders on the Israeli side. We have written them what we have written you. Our message to them is that it is time to reach a long-term ceasefire, make and implement a political plan, end the blockade, help rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, help make sure that every person in Gaza has full access to electricity, clean water, enough medicine, air to breath and freedom of movement and rights.
We do not know if you will read this letter, or toss it into the waste basket. We are writing in hopes that you will read it and think about what an opportunity this is — to completely change what has been, and to bring hope to your people. Hope and a good life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also means hope and a good life for Israelis, on our side of the border.
We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors. We want to live as neighbors, at the very least, in co-existence.
We know that we can do this. We can make this happen. You have the power to make a huge difference on your side. We have also demanded from our leaders to do the same here.
We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors, and we want a life of dignity and peace for all people – in the Gaza Strip and in the Western Negev.
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)
Once again, the Israeli military has turned its guns on Gaza — this time on unarmed protestors, in a series of shootings over the last few weeks. Gaza’s already under-resourced hospitals are straining to care for the 1,600 protesters who have been injured, on top of 40 killed.
The violence is getting some coverage in the news. But the conditions in Gaza that have pushed so many to protest remain largely invisible. So do their actual demands.
The Great Return March was organized by grassroots groups in Gaza as a peaceful action with three key demands: respect for refugees’ right to return to their homes, an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Seventy years ago, Palestinians were expelled from their homes en masse when their land was seized for the state of Israel. Many became refugees, with millions of people grouped into shrinking areas like Gaza. Fifty years ago, the rest of historic Palestine came under Israeli military occupation.
While these refugees’ right of return has been recognized by the international community, no action has been taken to uphold that right. Meanwhile, the occupation has become further and further entrenched.
For over a decade, the people of Gaza have lived under a military-imposed blockade that severely limits travel, trade, and everyday life for its 2 million residents. The blockade effectively bans nearly all exports, limits imports, and severely restricts passage in and out.
In over 20 visits to Gaza over the last 10 years, I’ve watched infrastructure degrade under both the blockade and a series of Israeli bombings.
Beautiful beaches are marred by raw sewage, which flows into the sea in amounts equivalent to 43 Olympic swimming pools every day. Access to water and electricity continually decreases, hospitals close, school hours are limited, and people are left thirsty and in the dark.
These problems can only be fixed by ending the blockade.
As Americans, we bear direct responsibility for the horrific reality in Gaza. Using our tax money, the U.S. continues to fund the Israeli military through $3.8 billion in aid annually.
A group of U.S.-based faith organizations has called out U.S. silence in a statement supporting protesters and condemning the killings: “The United States stood by and allowed Israel to carry out these attacks without any public criticism or challenge,” they said. “Such U.S. complicity is a continuation of the historical policy of active support for Israel’s occupation and U.S. disregard for Palestinian rights.”
The signatories include the American Friends Service Committee, where I work, an organization that started providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Gaza as far back as 1948.
While the U.S. does give money to the United Nations and international aid groups working in Gaza, it’s barely a drop in the bucket compared to our support of the military laying siege to the territory.
As my colleagues in Gaza have made clear, what they need isn’t more aid. That humanitarian aid is needed because of the blockade. What they need is freedom from the conditions that make life unlivable — like the blockade itself — and a long-term political solution.
Ignoring the reasons Gaza is in crisis only hurts our chances to address this manmade humanitarian horror.
Mike Merryman-Lotze has worked with the American Friends Service Committee as the Palestine-Israel Program Director since 2010.
We forget where we came from. Our Jewish
names from the Exile give us away,
bring back the memory of flower and fruit, medieval cities,
metals, knights who turned to stone, roses,
spices whose scent drifted away, precious stones, lots of red,
handicrafts long gone from the world
(the hands are gone too).
Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. (Isaiah 59:15b)
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:41)
We the undersigned, a group of Palestinian-American Christians from several church traditions, call on all faith communities to:
Denounce the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Lift up, in your places of worship, the plight of Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, recognizing that Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid are leading to the virtual extinction of the indigenous Christian population in Palestine.
Recognize the urgency of ending Israel’s genocidal siege and attacks on the entire Palestinian hostage population of the Gaza Strip.
Continue to use economic pressure as well as other nonviolent means to compel Israel to end its apartheid practices and policies against the Palestinian people.
We express deep concern at the increasingly hostile direction of Israeli policies and actions, emboldened by the equally aggressive foreign policy stance of the Trump administration toward the Palestinian people. President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the final nail in the coffin of the so-called “peace process,” which has now been unmasked as a farce, exposing the United States not as an “honest broker” but as Israel’s unquestioning advocate. There is little doubt that the Trump administration’s Jerusalem decision, although condemned by the overwhelming majority of the international community, will encourage Israel to act with even greater impunity.
The Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights, is now in its fifty-first year, the longest military occupation since the end of the nineteenth century. Palestinian Christians and Muslims are calling on the church to use its influence to end the occupation.
Since its occupation of Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has consistently followed a policy aimed at confining the city’s Palestinian population to ghettos surrounded by a ring of expanding Jewish settlements. It annexed the city and its suburbs into a much-expanded “greater Jerusalem,” and isolated it from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. This separation of Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank has resulted in grave economic and social consequences for all Palestinians in the occupied territories, because East Jerusalem has been the economic and spiritual heart of the Palestinian territories. Even the U.S. State Department recognized in a 2009 report that “many of [Israel’s] policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.” Palestinian Jerusalemites complain that conditions are far worse now.
Last year, a Palestinian mass protest forced Israeli authorities to retreat from a decision to impose obtrusive “security measures” in the form of metal detectors at the entrances to the Muslim holy sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Christians joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in peaceful protest, some praying shoulder-to-shoulder in the streets surrounding the mosques. More recently, it was the turn of the Christian communities to experience a serious attack on their freedom to worship, in the form of debilitating Israeli taxes on church properties. A protest letter signed by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem strongly condemned this decision as a departure from the centuries-old tradition of tax exemptions for places of worship, under both Muslim and Christian rule. Church leaders closed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for several days in protest, marking only the second time to close this sacred site.
Palestinian protests and international pressure have since compelled Israeli authorities to suspend the legislation in question. However, Palestinians are rightly concerned that Israel will continue to find ways to weaken Palestinians’ control of their land and property. Many are concerned about Jerusalem as the birthplace of Christianity: will it become a city with Christian shrines and cathedrals but devoid of the native Christian population?
On Friday, March 30th, Israel committed a massacre in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians were engaged in a demonstration on Land Day. This annual event commemorates the killing, in 1976, of six unarmed Palestinians in the Galilee who were protesting against the confiscation of their lands. The Gaza demonstrators were protesting against the genocidal conditions that Israel has imposed on the territory of two million inhabitants over the past eleven years; most importantly, they were expressing their right of return to their lands and villages from which the Israeli forces expelled them in 1948. The peaceful protest was interrupted by the Israeli army, which used tanks and militarized drones as well as over 100 well-hidden snipers. Violence began by the Israeli forces who shot a farmer working on his land. This served as incitement to a few protestors—out of a total of about 30,000 peaceful demonstrators, to engage in throwing stones from behind a large, barbed wire fence. The unarmed Palestinians’ actions did not come anywhere close to endangering the Israeli forces. Eighteen Palestinians were shot dead and hundreds of men, women, and children were wounded.
These events occurred on Good Friday, when the Christian world was mourning the crucifixion of Jesus. As the injustices and human rights violations keep piling up against the Palestinian people, we call on all churches and faith communities to take bold steps to end these grave injustices. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step up even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Why Palestine Matters, The Struggle To End Colonialism, contextualizes the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people within other global justice struggles. With a foreword by Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, the book is grounded in international law and brings Palestine into focus through a lens of intersectionality, calling all those who struggle for justice against oppression to consider the challenge of seeing Palestinians in the context of other justice struggles. Why Palestine Matters demonstrates that the project of human emancipation is not limited to Palestine, but it also cannot proceed without Palestine. The book is a 108-page, full-color publication with visuals on every page, a discussion guide, and maps. A companion website features enhanced resources for study, including video clips and discussion guide: WhyPalestineMatters.org. Published by the IPMN.org, The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) whose General Assembly mandate engages them “toward specific mission goals that will create currents of wider and deeper involvement with Israel/Palestine.”
Two recent and alarming actions by the Trump Administration are destroying long-held hopes for a peaceful, secure future for many people in Israel/Palestine and are endangering lives. These actions represent irresponsible foreign policy for the United States.
works to end Israel’s occupation in acknowledgment of the fact that ending the occupation regime is the only way to forge a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all persons living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. While it is not B’Tselem’s role to choose between the various political options that can bring about this future, one thing is clear: none of them include continuation of the occupation.
The name B’Tselem, bestowed upon the organization by former Member of Knesset Yossi Sarid, literally means “in the image of” in Hebrew. It is taken from Genesis 1:27: “And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him” and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The name expresses the Jewish and universal moral edict to respect and protect the human rights of all people.
B’Tselem was founded in 1989 and until recently devoted most of its efforts to documenting human rights violations that come under Israel’s purview as occupying power. This included publishing statistics, testimonies, video footage and reports concerning human rights violations and their implications, in order to promote better living conditions for the occupied population – with the understanding that the occupation was to be a passing matter.
Yet after almost half a century of occupation, during which Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories have created profound changes that indicate long-term intentions, it is clear that this reality cannot be viewed as temporary. Therefore, B’Tselem continues to document and publicize human rights violations while also exposing the injustice, violence and dispossession that lie at the very core of this regime of occupation, challenging its legitimacy in Israel and abroad and helping to expedite its end.
B’Tselem has established a strong reputation among human rights organizations in Israel and around the world. It has received various awards, including the Carter-Menil Award for Human Rights, together with Al-Haq (1989), the Danish PL Foundation Human Rights Award, together with Al-Haq (2011), and the Stockholm Human Rights Award (2014). B’Tselem’s video project was granted the British One World Media Award (2009) and the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum Award (2012), among others.
B’Tselem is an independent, non-partisan organization. It is funded by donations alone, from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide and from private individuals in Israel and abroad.
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Recently, the struggle for Palestinian human rights gained international attention surrounding a new icon of resistance–16 year old Ahed Tamimi.
While in the West Bank in late 2016, Abby Martin interviewed Ahed Tamimi about her hardships and aspirations living under occupation and it becomes clear why her subjugators are trying to silence her voice. Her brother Waad and father Bassem also talk about their experiences with Israeli soldiers harassing their village and targeting their family.
In this exclusive episode, Abby outlines the Tamimi family’s tragic tale and unending bravery in the fight for justice and equality in Palestine and how the story of their village of Nabi Saleh is emblematic of the Palestinian struggle as a whole.