Tuesday, September 25, 2007

LWF reports on restrictions of movement that affect Palestinians

Information about the annual report of the Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem Program came to me a few months ago. It's fascinating reading.

I'll provide a couple of criticial items here and send you to the annual report page for the rest: www.lwfjerusalem.org/ANNUAL%20REPORT%202006/LWF%20Jerusalem%20Annual%20Report%202006.pdf

For more about the ministries of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem, go to the website: www.lwfjerusalem.org

[From the LWF annual report] WALLED IN
Restrictions on Movement Affect Palestinians as Well as LWF Projects

A map of the West Bank looks like a knotted cobweb of walls and roads. Cutting across Palestinian territory, roads constructed specifically for Israeli settlers separate local residents from farmland and neighboring towns. Cement roadblocks and large mounds of dirt appear overnight at entrances to villages, forcing residents to use one checkpoint-controlled roadway when they travel. As more settler-only roads are built and as the Separation Barrier weaves deep into Palestinian lands, West Bankers are finding themselves caught between physical barriers, unable to move from their towns in order to work, attend school, receive medical care, or visit family and friends.

International organizations have more leeway than local West Bankers when it comes to freedom of movement, but these obstacles greatly hinder the work of humanitarian groups as well. Palestinian staff members of the LWF village health clinics drive meandering routes to reach the villages, sometimes crossing roadblocks by footand taking a taxi on the other side to reach the clinics. The permit and checkpoint system, always in flux,casts an air of uncertainty and instability over all LWF programs, as staff may be unable to cross a checkpoint on any given day. And beyond the limitations put on staff, the LWF must adjust to the needs of the people it serves.

The Augusta Victoria Hospital busing program was established for just this reason. As more and more patients spent hours waiting in line at checkpoints or were unable to reach Jerusalem altogether, AVH began busing its patients and staff in from the West Bank, allowing them to bypass the longest checkpoint waits. AVH also acts as a liaison between the patient and the Israeli ministries responsible for granting the approval and renewal of permits for patients. With each new obstacle and requirement placed on the Occupied Territories, Palestinians and the humanitarianorganizations for which they work are forced to find new ways to operate through the maze of restrictions.

VTC Works to Overcome Permit Obstacles
The LWF Vocational Training Center (VTC) has faced many changes and challenges in the past year due to the steady decline of the socio-economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Separation Wall near the VTC was near completion as of December 2006, a major part of it standing opposite the VTC in Beit Hanina. In areas where the wall is not yet complete, temporary fences and concrete blocks have been installed, disrupting the flow of traffic between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Such measures have severely restricted the access and movement of VTC trainees and trainers between the West Bank and the center. The VTC has been geographically and demographically isolated from the West Bank, leaving the center with the challenge of acquiring permits for staff and trainees in order that they may continue reaching the center.

Abu Dis, a Jerusalem suburb well within the Palestinian Territories, has nonetheless been bisected by the Separation Barrier which runs two kilometers east of the Green Line, the border between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Residents who once easily traveled to Jerusalem for work or school now have found themselves arbitrarily severed from Jerusalem, while neighbors on the other side of the wall can still access the city.

Metal fencing and roadblocks act as a temporary barricade until the Separation Wall is completed in Beit Hanina, just blocks from the LWF’s Vocational Training Center (VTC). This closure was completed the second half of the year, keeping students from reaching the VTC, as well as snarling traffic between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The main road connecting the two cities was blocked, and nearby neighborhood streets are now noisy and potholedby the heavy traffic that must follow the complicated detours.

Permits were not easily granted early in 2006. Only half of the VTC trainees were granted permits, and many permits were cancelled. As a result, the VTC implemented a temporary emergency plan, contacting all trainees and staff unable to come to the VTC because of denied permits. The VTC dedicated itself to working with the Israeli civil administration to find a better procedure for obtaining permits. These efforts brought positive results when the civil administration responded by issuing permits to the majority of students and staff, although the VTC lost one trainer due to the rejection of his permit. With this outcome, the VTC managed to contain the problem of permits and sustained its educational program.

The complicated and discriminatory policies of permitsand travel restrictions directly challenges the future of the vocational program in Beit Hanina, a program that provides real opportunities for needy youth to overcome poverty.

The website - www.lwfjerusalem.org - also provides a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” regarding the Mount of Olives Housing Project. The FAQs are regularly updated the project moves forward to help bring a halt to the exodus of Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and to strengthen Jerusalem as a city of peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims, for Palestinians and Israelis.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Senate Resolution and November Summit

Churches for Middle East Peace

ACTION ALERT - Senate Resolution and November Summit
Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator

Senate Resolution and November Summit - http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Sept20.htm

September 20, 2007

After some time in legislative limbo, the Feinstein/Lugar resolution on Israeli-Palestinian peace was reintroduced yesterday [Sept. 19] with the new number, S. Res. 321, and a total of 36 co-sponsors, over one-third of the Senate. The text of the new resolution [http://www.cmep.org/Legislative_Issues/Feinstein-Lugar_Res_Text.htm] includes changes that were made over the summer to reflect the June Hamas takeover of Gaza and the appointment of Tony Blair as Quartet Envoy.

The Feinstein/Lugar resolution had been “hotlined” (scheduled for quick passage by unanimous consent) on August 2nd, just before Congress headed out of town for its summer recess, but in the final legislative wrap-up it was not included. CMEP has learned that at least two Senators expressed objections to the resolution, effectively blocking Senate action. Since Congress reconvened on September 4th, the Senate has focused on the Iraq debate. We were concerned that the resolution would simply not re-surface and in that case, the public record would not reflect the full list of co-sponsors.

The fact that the resolution was reintroduced with 36 co-sponsors shows that many Senators feel this is an important message to be sending at this time. Now, with the Israeli-Arab summit scheduled for November and new hopes for substantive progress in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, Senate support for U.S. diplomacy to end the conflict is even more critical.

S. Res. 321 has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Given the objections that have been made to the resolution and the busy fall Senate calendar, even if it passes out of the committee the resolution could still not be placed on the Senate calendar. However, this strong show of support by co-sponsors and your advocacy could encourage additional senators to sign on. Regardless of what happens going forward, the resolution’s introduction and the large number of co-sponsors it has garnered demonstrates strong Senate support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and robust U.S. diplomacy to achieve it. The last time there was positive pro-peace Senate legislation was four years ago (in support of peace initiatives like the Geneva Accords) and it only garnered 7 co-sponsors. There are five times that many Senators today who are pledging to support Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. The current list of co-sponsors, with key leadership positions noted, is included below.

If your Senator(s) is a co-sponsor of the resolution, please take a moment to thank them for their stand for peace, even if you did so earlier. If your Senator is not a co-sponsor, let him or her know that the resolution has been re-introduced and that you still want them to co-sponsor it. Also, this is an important opportunity to highlight the necessity of the November Israeli-Arab peace summit making real progress toward the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and a two-state solution to the conflict. Reports indicate that the risks for failure are great. Unless the agenda includes serious political discussions that can lead toward negotiations to resolve the final status issues, key countries may not attend and a failed conference may spark a further breakdown in the region.

Call or send a personalized email. Contact Info for Senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Sample message for co-sponsors:
Thank you for your leadership in co-sponsoring S. Res. 321, the updated Feinstein/Lugar resolution on Israeli-Palestinian peace. As an American Christian who cares deeply about peace in the Holy Land, I appreciate your commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and your call for more robust U.S. diplomacy to achieve peace. I ask that you encourage Senate colleagues to join you as a co-sponsor and urge quick action to pass this important resolution.

With the Israeli-Arab peace summit upcoming in November, your support of U.S. efforts to help resolve the conflict comes at a critical time. For the November international meeting to be successful, vigorous U.S. diplomacy is needed to ensure that real progress is made toward a viable Palestinian state and a two-state solution to the conflict. The agenda should include substantive political discussions that can lead concretely toward negotiations of a peace agreement.

Sample message for non co-sponsors:
I am contacting you today to bring to your attention the updated Feinstein-Lugar resolution, S. Res. 321, which was reintroduced on September 19th with 36 co-sponsors. As an American Christian, I support high-level and sustained U.S. engagement to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Israel living in peace and security alongside a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. Please co-sponsor S. Res. 321, which reaffirms the Senate’s commitment to a two-state solution and urges a robust U.S. diplomatic effort to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.

With the Israeli-Arab peace summit upcoming in November, your co-sponsorship of S. Res. 321 and support of U.S. efforts to help resolve the conflict is vital. For the November international meeting to be successful, vigorous U.S. diplomacy is needed to ensure that real progress is made toward a viable Palestinian state and a two-state solution to the conflict. The agenda should include substantive political discussions that can lead concretely toward negotiations of a comprehensive peace agreement.

Co-Sponsors (36)
Listed alphabetically with key committee membership or leadership position(s) noted:
Akaka (D-HI): Armed Services; Veterans Affairs (Chair)
Baucus (D-MT): Finance (Chair)
Bingaman (D-NM): Energy & Natural Resources (Chair), Senate Democratic Conference (Chair of Cmte Outreach)
Brown (D-OH)
Burr (R-NC): Intelligence (Select)
Byrd (D-WV): Appropriations (Chair); Armed Services; President Pro Tempore
Cantwell (D-WA)
Casey (D-PA): Foreign Relations
Craig (R-ID): Appropriations; Veteran’s Affairs (Ranking)
Dodd (D-CT): Foreign Relations (Near East), Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs (Chair)
Durbin (D-IL): Appropriations (State, Foreign Ops and Related Programs), Majority Whip
Feingold (D-WI): Foreign Relations (Near East); Intelligence (Select), Majority Deputy Whip
Feinstein (D-CA): Appropriations; Intelligence (Select), Rules and Administration (Chair)
Hagel (R-NE): Foreign Relations (Near East); Intelligence (Select)
Harkin (D-IA): Appropriations; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry (Chair)
Hutchison (R-TX): Appropriations, Senate Republican Policy Cmte (Chair)
Kennedy (D-MA): Armed Services, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (Chair)
Kerry (D-MA): Foreign Relations (Near East, Chair), Small Business and Entrepreneurship (Chair)
Klobuchar (DFL-MN)
Kohl (D-WI): Appropriations
Leahy (D-VT): Appropriations (State, Foreign Ops and Related Programs, Chair); Judiciary (Chair)
Levin (D-MI): Armed Services (Chair), Intelligence (Select), Senate Nat'l Security Working Group (Co-Chair)
Lott (R-MS): Minority Whip, Senate Nat'l Security Working Group (Co-Chair)
Lugar (R-IN): Foreign Relations (Ranking)
Murray (D-WA): Appropriations, Senate Democratic Conference (Secretary)
Nelson (D-FL): Foreign Relations; Intelligence (Select), Armed Services, Majority Deputy Whip
Reed (D-RI): Appropriations (State, Foreign Ops and Related Programs), Armed Services
Smith (R-OR): Minority Deputy Whip
Snowe (R-ME): Intelligence (Select), Small Business and Entrepreneurship (Ranking)
Specter (R-PA): Appropriations (State, Foreign Ops and Related Programs), Judiciary (Ranking)
Stabenow (D-MI): Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Cmte (Chair)
Sununu (R-NH): Foreign Relations (Near East), Minority Deputy Whip
Voinovich (R-OH): Foreign Relations (Near East)
Webb (D-VA): Armed Services; Foreign Relations
Whitehouse (D-RI): Intelligence (Select)
Wyden (D-OR): Intelligence (Select)

-- -- -- --

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).

Churches for Middle East Peace

Email: info@cmep.org
Phone: 202-543-1222
Web: http://www.cmep.org

110 Maryland Ave. NE
Suite 311
Washington DC 20002

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Living Nonviolence Peace Camp - see the video

The Living Nonviolence Peace Camp was held at the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah - www.elcjhl.org/ed/schools/hope/hope.asp - in July 2007.

The Living Nonviolence Peace Camp is a ministry of Love Thy Neighbor - www.ltneighbor.com/ - an ecumenical organization dedicated to providing educational resources and programs about the plight of Palestinians and to supporting both Israeli and Palestinian peoples' deepening commitment to nonviolence as the way to bring a just peace for themselves and their neighbors.

See the video at the ELCA's Peace Not Walls website: www.elca.org/peacenotwalls/videos/Peacevideo.html

The Hope school is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land - http://www.elcjhl.org/

The video was produced by Tim Frakes - http://frakesproductions.blogspot.com/2007_07_15_archive.html

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jerusalem Women Speak through Partners for Peace upcoming tour

News of an upcoming speakers tour from Partners for Peace - www.partnersforpeace.org

Partners for Peace is organizing another "Jerusalem Women Speak" tour for Oct. 27 through Nov. 18, 2007. This tour will begin in Washington D.C. and travel to New Mexico, Arizona, southern Nevada and southern California.

A little background:
The Jerusalem Women Speak tours were designed from the very beginning to bring the voices of women from the Jerusalem area and from the two national communities and three religious groups directly to Americans in their own home towns.

Since the Jerusalem Women Speak project began, 12 tours with 28 different women from Palestine and Israel have traveled the USA. Partners for Peace has now organized more than 250 tour events and 300 media interviews and press conferences in hundreds of diverse communities.

Tour participants bring a range of experience and knowledge in the everyday work of peacemaking. Their voices need to be heard in various forums and with media coverage necessary to reach the maximum number of people.

Please contact susanne.partnersforpeace@gmail.com if you know of any groups that would like to invite our speakers to address their audiences.

Still to come from Partners for Peace, speakers' biographies and schedule updates. You may also visit the website at www.partnersforpeace.org for more information. Partners for Peace looks forward to seeing some of you in the southwest USA soon!

Partners for Peace
1250 4th St. SW, STE WG-1
Washington, DC 20024

Thursday, September 13, 2007

September in the Lutheran church in the Holy Land

A few notes from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) - http://www.holyland-lutherans.org/

Salaam and Grace to you from Jerusalem!

The September calendar is available at the church's web site - www.elcjhl.org/resources/calendars/ - and ready for you to download, print and display.

This month please pray for the ELCJHL schools, teachers and staff as they begin the 2007-8 school year. More than 2000 ELCJHL students are back to school and hard at work. ELCJHL Schools Director Assistant Sister Sylvia Countess said the teachers will also be hard at work implementing a new action plan. The plan calls for more innovative teaching methods, more cooperative learning and alternate forms of evaluation, such as more projects and less testing.

September will see an overlapping of the Muslim and Jewish holy seasons of Ramadan, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, which will cause an increase in tension and restriction of movement. Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

Note on our website two new reports:

1) On the front page a link to the new UN-OCHA report on the humanitarian impact of Israeli settlement and infrastructure in the West Bank - www.ochaopt.org/documents/TheHumanitarianImpactOfIsraeliInfrastructureTheWestBank_full.pdf;

2) Under Life in Palestine/Isolation of East Jerusalem, a link to the UN-OCHA report on the current situation in East Jerusalem; www.ochaopt.org/documents/Jerusalem-30July2007.pdf

Thanks for your support and prayers!

Rev. Julie Rowe
ELCJHL Communications


Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan & the Holy Land (ELCJHL)
P.O. Box: 14076
Jerusalem 91140
Tel: +972-2- 6266800
Fax: +972-2- 6285764
Email: communication@holyland-lutherans.org
website: http://www.holyland-lutherans.org/

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let Us be Harbingers of Everlasting Joy - Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Rosh Hashana begins on Thursday, as does Ramadan. This greeting for the Jewish new year comes from Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

Let Us be Harbingers of Everlasting Joy
Rosh Hashana 5768

By Rabbi Roberto Graetz, Rabbinic Cabinet

Just before the shofar is sounded in the third movement of the Shofar Service on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish people plead "Lead us with song to Zion Your city, with everlasting joy to Jerusalem, the place of Your sanctuary..."

Many of us have been blessed to witness the rebirth of the State of Israel. In the beginning we all felt the urge to sing songs of Zion, to rejoice in our presence in our ancestral land. Sixty years later the old songs have grown stale. They remind us of the time when hope was high, the air charged with possibilities, the road to a peaceful existence almost clearly mapped before us. There is a dearth of new song in the land and the joy sometimes seems to be sucked out of the enterprise of state building.

At the time when all Jews are called to teshuvah, to return to their core, the plea reminds us of the centrality of the land in the life of our people. We cannot despair; neither can we turn our backs. We cannot imagine our lives without Israel yet we need to imagine an Israel redeemed through a generous peace. We need that image in front of us always, and ever new roadmaps on how to realize the vision.

We can turn towards Zion in song when we see coexistence efforts succeeding. We can turn towards Zion in song when two viable states living in peace with each other are fashioned. We can turn towards Zion in song when checkpoints are transformed into connecting bridges. There are no songs in empty gestures, no melodies that flow from the rehashing of old mantras that say, "peace, peace, yet there is no peace!"

The time of turning is now. Let the call of the shofar awaken us to the possibility that Jerusalem may become again a place of sanctuary for Jews, Christians and Muslims. That it be for us a source of everlasting joy. Let us dream of a generous peace in the New Year and stay active on the path that needs to be traveled. Let us be the writers of new songs, the harbingers of everlasting joy.

Suggestions for Rosh Hashanah:

Share copies of the Brit Tzedek brochure or download our newest recruitment letter with family, friends and acquaintances at holiday events and bring them to the informational table of your synagogue if appropriate. You can request copies of the brochure by emailing info@btvshalom.org.

When you recite the Al Chet — the list of sins prefaced by the words "for the sin which I have committed against you," — reflect on the significance of the tradition of reciting this in unison with your community and the responsibility that we bear as American Jews for "resolving the wrongs" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Send a High Holiday greeting card to your Senators and Congressional Representatives urging them to support policies that promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians. If your Senator has signed on to the Feinstein/Lugar resolution or your Representative has signed on to the Davis Mideast envoy resolution, H. Res. 143 you can thank them. Be certain to also mention your support for Brit Tzedek v'Shalom as a force working to mobilize the American Jewish community as advocates for a negotiated, two-state solution to the conflict.

Consider what you as an American Jew can do in the coming year to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Here are some ideas:
- Respond to Brit Tzedek's action alerts.
- Become involved in your local Brit Tzedek chapter. To find out more email chapter@btvshalom.org.
- Organize a discussion in your synagogue, Havurah or home about Brit Tzedek’s work or issues related to its message. For guidance, email chapter@btvshalom.org.
- Contribute generously in support of Brit Tzedek's important work in making heard the voice of the many American Jews who support an active US government role in facilitating a negotiated, two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Additional High Holy Day Resources:
- Rabbi Arthur Waskow's Shalom Center has published a number of High Holiday resources related to the conflict which are available online. Rosh Hashanah Resources can be found at http://www.shalomctr.org:80/taxonomy_menu/1/126/9/108 and those for Yom Kippur are at http://www.shalomctr.org/taxonomy_menu/1/126/9/119
In addition, Abrahamic celebrations has materials on Jewish, Christian and Muslim connections including those for the High Holidays: http://www.shalomctr.org:80/taxonomy_menu/1/126/9/102
- Rabbis for Human Rights has reflections for Rosh Hashanah - http://rhr.israel.net/rhr/learn/hermeneutics/holidays/rosh-hashanah/ - and Yom Kippur - http://rhr.israel.net/rhr/learn/hermeneutics/holidays/yom-kippur/
- Tikkun magazine has produced the Tikkun Repentance Workbook for the 2007 High Holidays: http://www.tikkun.org:80/magazine/tik0709/frontpage/high_holiday_workbook


Rabbi Roberto Graetz joined Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, California in San Francisco’s East Bay, in 1991 after having served as rabbi in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for almost 20 years. He acted as the Director for Latin America for the World Union for Progressive Judaism, was active in human rights issues during the military dictatorship in Argentina, and worked on behalf of the street children in Rio de Janeiro. Since joining Temple Isaiah Rabbi Graetz has served on Jewish and non-Jewish nonprofit boards. Presently he is the Chairperson of Contra Costa Interfaith Housing, a coalition of faith communities working to increase transitional and affordable housing in his county, the Chairperson of the Pacific Central West Region of ARZA/WUNA and serves on the Executive Committee of the North American Board of Rabbis for Human Rights. Rabbi Graetz is a member of Brit Tzedek’s Rabbinic Cabinet - http://btvshalom.org:80/aboutus/RabbinicCabinet.shtml


Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206

Monday, September 10, 2007

Invitation: CMEP conference call with Philip Wilcox

Announcement: Churches for Middle East Peace Network Conference Call with Amb. (ret.) Philip C. Wilcox, Jr. - www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Sept7.htm

A Diplomat's Guide to the November 2007 Peace Summit
Wednesday, September 26, 1:00 pm Eastern time

12:00 pm Central time
11:00 am Mountain time
10:00 am Pacific time

Please join Corinne Whitlatch on Sept. 26th in a discussion with Philip Wilcox, President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and a member of the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Leadership Council. They will discuss the November Israeli-Arab peace summit, announced by President Bush on July 16th [www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/07/20070716-7.html ] and prospects for progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Amb. Wilcox will provide an analysis of the political and diplomatic challenges facing conference participants and will outline realistic expectations.

About CMEP Network conference calls: Churches for Middle East Peace is pleased to offer the first in a new series of occasional conference calls that will feature prominent policy analysts and issue experts from the CMEP/church community and others who stand with CMEP in support of Middle East peace. The conference call speakers will offer their perspectives and provide timely, informational updates on key developments in Washington and the region.

How to join the call: Dial 1-785-686-2400 and then enter the access code 693031. You are responsible for domestic long distance charges associated with this call. The call will last approximately one hour, beginning promptly at 1pm (ET).

Questions: The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session open to all participants. Questions should be submitted by email before or during the call to confcall@cmep.org

Background reading:
The Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, the Hamas Problem, and the Need for a New American Policy - www.fmep.org/analysis/articles/Kahn-Wilcox_interview.html - radio interview with Ambassador Philip Wilcox, FMEP President, by Roger Kahn on "Outside-In", for KBUT, Crested Butte, Colo., August 27, 2007.Internal complications - www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl200807ed31.html#pal1 - Ghassan Khatib, Bitterlemons, Edition 31, August 20, 2007.The Consequences of Failure - www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl200807ed31.html#isr1 - Yossi Alpher, Bitterlemons, Edition 31, August 20, 2007Pres. Bush's Speech on Palestinian State & Peace Conference - www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007July17.htm - CMEP July 17th Email Alert

Speaker: Ambassador (ret.) Philip C. Wilcox, Jr. is President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace - http://www.fmep.org/ - a Washington D.C.-based foundation devoted to fostering peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Wilcox retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1997. His last overseas assignment was as Chief of Mission and U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem. In the Department of State, Wilcox's assignments included Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, and Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Counter Terrorism. In 2002, Wilcox received a Distinguished Service Award from Americans for Peace Now, and in 2004 he received the Lewis B. Sohn Human Rights Award from the U.N.Association- National Capital Area. Wilcox is a board member of the Middle East Institute and Americans for Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) and a member of CMEP's Leadership Council.


Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).


email: info@cmep.org
phone: 202-543-1222
web: http://www.cmep.org/

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Interfaith Peace Builders: A Family and A Force

Here is the concluding report from the Interfaith Peace-Builders' - http://www.ifpbdel.org/ - August/July 2007 delegation. I am so heartened by the long list of upcoming trips and travel seminars. I firmly believe that seeing and hearing for ourselves the situation in Palestine is what makes the difference and changes hearts. This is a long post, but I have inserted a lot of very interesting web links where various agencies and organizations are mentioned in the IFPB report. Ann

For more of this group's reports, go to www.ifpbdel.org/del24/default.html

Interfaith Peace-Builders
August/July 2007 Delegation

Israeli and Palestinian Women Working for Peace: Realities, Struggles, and Visions for the Future

Report Four: A Family and A Force
Pictures from the delegation are posted online here: www.ifpbdel.org/photos/del24/default.html

Palestinian Nonviolence in Bil’in; Transforming Grief into Action

The villagers of Bil’in struggled for many months against the barrier that now separates them from their fields with a razor wire fence, Israeli army (IDF) patrol road, and a fence wired with sensors to trigger cameras mounted on towers. We were taken to the gate controlled by IDF soldiers who refused to allow us to cross the barrier where we would have seen a new Jewish Israeli settlement encroaching on the Palestinian villagers' fields. Returning to our host's home we saw evidence of the struggles that have taken place here. Tear gas and concussion grenade remains littered the ground. Rubber bullets and rubber coated bullets also testified to the tactics used by the IDF to meet the villagers nonviolent protests. We also saw the scorched fields where the settlers have attempted to burn Palestinian olive trees. Back at the house we were treated to an incredible feast by our host’s wife. We watched videos documenting their non-violent protest and the brutal response of the IDF. Palestinians in Bil’in have used tactics familiar to most peace activists like chaining themselves to their trees and blocking bulldozers with their bodies. The IDF responded with batons, tear gas, concussion grenades, high tech devices designed to disrupt human balance via sound and bullets. Despite all that the Palestinians persist and many Israelis of conscience join in protesting the barrier.

This evening we met Rami and Ibrahim. They are two members of the Parents Circle - www.theparentscircle.com/ - [an organization made up of relatives of victims of] Israeli and Palestinian violence. Ibrahim is a Palestinian who used to work as an educator. Rami is an Israeli combat veteran now working as graphic designer. They have similar stories. Ibrahim's only son was murdered by a settler at the age of six. Rami's 14-year old daughter was killed by a Palestinian bomber. Neither of them allow hate to consume them. Instead they have turned their energy to ending the killing and stopping the occupation.

--Ken Hayes


After a UN briefing we went to Ramallah to see if we could find Laila's childhood home and the site of her father's restaurant. We also visited the Tamer Institute - www.tamerinst.org/. It provides a reading and art program for children. We had a chance to visit with the children and see their artwork. Then a young Palestinian woman, Tala, gave us a tour of Ramallah. This involved eating lots of ice cream since there are several parlors there. Then we met another young woman, Sanabel, and listened to them while we had drinks and snacks in a nice restaurant. The women were close friends but had differing opinions. Tala dressed in western styles; Sanabel wore the traditional Muslim head scarf. Tala said that she was willing to be friends with Israeli peace activists but Sanabel said she was willing to work with Israeli activists but would not call them friends. This may be related to the fact that the IDF had used Sanabel as a human shield 3 times, or perhaps the fact that her father had been imprisoned and tortured by Israel. We ended the day by crossing the checkpoint back to Jerusalem on foot, the way most Palestinians are forced to do. Of course being from the US we were not subjected to the same abuse.

--Ken Hayes

Voices of Women

Dorothy... an Israeli Tel Aviv suburban woman- focused, informed and deeply committed to the cause of anti-militarism. We sat in her comfortable living room, listening to her and several feminist members of New Profile - www.newprofile.org/default.asp?language=en - talk about their all out effort to help refusers wherever they may be resisting a militaristic regime.

I was struck by the speakers' respect for each other as each described the organization's work and her particular involvement in it. Last to speak was a very young woman who had grown up in a military household and community but refused to take her expected place in it. She spoke with conviction, humor and youthful enthusiasm about preferring to be at peaceful demonstrations rather than going to school.

Demilitarization needs to be part of a new way of thinking was the common theme. Feet follow fervor with these feminists; they go where the action is, to participate as a group- but always making space for individual voices.

The Palestinian Women of Al-Tuwani... Picture a remote, barren hillside in the middle of arid desert countryside, some 20 miles south of Bethlehem. The place is known locally as home of "the forgotten ones." Four or five extended families live there in a shepherds' community. The women are by culture homebound, largely uneducated with the status of second class citizens. To lessen their loneliness and use a talent they share, the women began doing handwork together while their husbands and children were at school or tending the goats and sheep. The small cave-like space they used as a workroom became a place to display their craft. But, as one the women sadly explained in Arabic, for long months nothing sold. Someone gave them the idea of beginning a co-op that would be open whenever groups (like ours) came to visit the village. Now they feel the pleasure of earning small sums of money and a sense of worth before unknown.

As we were leaving Al-Tuwani, a line of women began their climb from the cistern where they had filled large containers with water for the evening. They climbed the dusty road slowly, one by one, carefully balancing the water filled jars balanced on their heads. It was a Biblical sight to our eyes but those women are on their way to new thoughts and new freedoms. They did not want to be photographed; pride is their new companion.

--Tish Gardner

Other Feminist Voices

I listened for the feminine voice during our visits with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists. I heard it echo throughout our meetings as both women and men advocated for inclusiveness, and acknowledged their interconnectedness and equality. For me, the feminist voice values cooperation and interdependency as an antidote for pathological patriarchy evinced as domination, exploitation, and exclusion.

A feminine voice aims to help --not hurt. It protects and nurtures. The voice of feminism is not biologically determined nor does it valorize the importance of woman over men. It’s not intended to sissify men or to merely reverse the power structures between men and women. It’s about the practice and implementation of egalitarian principles.

Females can advocate pathologically inspired masculinity just as much as males. Likewise, both males and females can be use the feminist perspective in their orientation to egalitarian power structures.

Thus, ironic as it may seem, I heard a feminist voice from a young Palestinian woman who told us that wearing the veil was her choice. She informed us her decision supported her desire to be close to her husband. Further, her decision affirmed her belonging in a Palestinian culture that has long been the target of ethnic cleansing. Her veil did not symbolize her exploitation by male oppression as in pathological masculinity but seemed to be an expression of her innate feminine voice.

While she may not have overtly identified herself as a feminist, this woman was not willing to subordinate her identity to the perspectives of oppressors who have long attempted to exploit her land, her family, her home and her culture. For example, when a soldier ‘reminded’ her she could be killed when she advocated for more humane treatment of her father, she reminded him, “I wouldn’t be the first one [to die]!” At the point of a gun, (the hallmark of pathological masculinity), she expressed an inextricable interconnectedness to those thousands who have suffered before her.

This woman seemed no more willing to let go of her veil than she was to subordinate her families’ integrity to the Israeli soldiers who invaded her home, removed her people from their land, tortured and imprisoned her father, and labeled her non-violent resistance as “terrorism.” No, she could decide for herself how she belongs with her husband, her family, her land, and her people. And she could do it without resorting to bullying and exploitation, that is, without resorting to militaristic inspired brutality.

I also heard the feminine voice from Bassam, a founder of Combatants for Peace - www.combatantsforpeace.org/
After his young daughter had been mercilessly shot dead while eating sweets on a walk home from school, he learned that the Israeli government would not hold those soldiers accountable.

He channeled his grief into organizing his people’s resistance. He organized a large protest outside of the Ministry of Justice office the next week. The joint Israel-Palestinian organization the “Parents Circle” joined in. His deep sorrow garnered a respect achieved not by the willful expression of violence, dominance and revenge but by the expression of deep sadness and vulnerability, resolve and non-violent integrity. His response displayed a spiritual strength that could best be described as a fruit of his wise use of power—feminist principles stewarded through appropriate and timely action. Bassam told us he is seeking to do a speaking tour in the U.S. soon. I hope so.

--Jill Flores

Just following orders

In early August, an incident occurred in the hills south of the city of Hebron in the West Bank, occupied Palestine. Three members of OCHA - www.ochaopt.org/ - a UN team charged with coordinating international relief and development activities in Palestine, were brutally assaulted by two Jewish settlers. At the time of the attack, the OCHA staff were accompanied by two Israeli journalists on a mission to document human rights abuses perpetrated on the inhabitants of the region by illegal Jewish settlers.

Amira Hass, a Jewish Israeli who lives in the city of Ramallah in Israel-occupied Palestine and who reports regularly on the occupation in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz - www.haaretz.com/ - was one of those journalists. On August 8 she filed a piece about the incident entitled “The Hebron Tactic.” For those moments that these settlers were terrorizing us, she wrote, “they were the Lords of the land.” The point of her piece was that this incident cannot -- must not -- be seen as the extreme act of a fanatic fringe. The settlers are actively enabled by the government of Israel to carry out the illegal land taking and harassment of Palestinians in the cities, villages and farms in the midst of which the settlements have been built. “It is easy to blame the two men, or those like them,” writes Hass. But they practice terrorizing Palestinians because Israeli authorities let them do so. “In their own way, they do the same thing the ‘legitimate’ occupation authorities do: they drive the Palestinians off their land to make room for Jews. In other words, they are following orders.” As such, they are carrying out the will of the government and, by logical extension, the will of the people of the State of Israel. Hass is saying to her fellow Israelis: “these men and women are carrying out your orders. You are responsible.”

We saw it. Everywhere we went in the West Bank and in illegally annexed Jerusalem, our delegation of eleven Americans saw it. In Bethlehem. In Hebron and in the southern hills. On the fine new roads we traveled, privileged foreigners in the land of the Palestinian villagers, farmers and city dwellers barred from using them. We saw it at the checkpoints we sailed through with our Jerusalem license plates and our US passports. And, everywhere, the unbelievable, inexplicable wall snaking across the landscape and smashing through the streets of cities and villages. Everywhere the obscene concrete settlements blighting the hilltops, sucking up the water, gobbling up the fields and byways. We met the people of the land – farmers, political activists, educators, students. We were welcomed into their midst, ate with them, cried and laughed with them and expressed solidarity with them. And we saw their lords, walking the streets of cities built on the ruins of pre-1948 Palestine, most of them simply leading their lives, apparently unaware of this history, and a minority actively claiming their lordship, thumping their hands on the Bible they claim confers the deed to the property. We also met with another minority, those Jews born in the land who struggle to forge a birthright based on justice and coexistence. We stood in vigil with them against the occupation, sat with them in their homes and offices to learn about their struggle to establish connection and reconciliation with the people they have de facto displaced, sat in awe of those courageous Israelis who through advocacy, education and direct action have devoted their lives to holding their society to account, to making Israel a homeland in which they can live and raise their children.

We saw it – both the oppression and the struggle to right it, we saw it. We, coming from our own legacy of ethnic cleaning and oppression and our own shame and horror over our country’s current crimes against humanity, we saw it. Furthermore, we realized that as Americans we are directly involved in Israel’s crimes through our government’s huge, unconditional funding of Israel’s expansionist and militaristic policies. We have returned to our communities, united in our commitment to act on we have seen and what we now know. Each of us, in her or his own way, has been changed forever.

--Mark Braverman

Our Voices

After a day in Hebron and Al-Tuwani, we needed an energy release which we got by demonstrating with an Israeli group, Women in Black - http://coalitionofwomen.org/home. They gather at busy intersections in Jerusalem every Friday from 1-2 waving Peace placards and attracting attention by wearing outrageous broad brimmed black hats and black outfits of every description, creating a noisy presence for Peace. The regulars have no trouble engaging with passers by; cars honk in support or protest. Drivers signal their feelings with all kinds of hand gestures and yells not hard to interpret.

During the hour the crowd swells; groups like ours move into the gathered throng, waving and mingling, shouting, feeling the thrill of solidarity. I will long remember an French man who emerged from the crowd, came to full height, raised his cane and holding it high led us in what has become an international song of hope - WE SHALL OVERCOME.

As we move toward home after a packed 2 weeks of listening, learning, questioning and reacting, some members of our group have thoughts to share.

Ray... It was a particular privilege to be among a bunch of empowered women--young and older--who were able to face into injustice and mince no words. Quite an honor to witness inSpirited women affirming the women of Palestine and Israel and the other women-leaders taking leadership for justice.

Stephanie... Our voices were not as important as I thought on this trip, because our ears were more. We came to listen and learn, to use our voices upon our return to translate the ground facts and deep stories of those we met. I was privileged for two weeks and it felt good. For I was among the kindest, most warmhearted and gracious people I have ever met... IFPB delegation group and people of Palestine.

Ann... 4:45 am, waiting for a flight out; at first delayed, now not. A half dozen security clerks; AC just turned on; passengers singled out by race, ethnicity, religion--practices not allowed other places. It will be good to get home.

Martha... All suspicions have been confirmed; violence and separation are not the answer. It will take dialogue, open-heartedness and a return to simple truths to resolve the long-standing conflict. Partisanship and injustice should be replaced with a creative sentiment that doesn't take sides. Mothers have been practicing this for eons. Let's try a new approach that doesn't resort to military might by default. The world is waiting...

Mark...We are a family now and a force. Our power is in our fellowship.

Meera… I have made many return trips from Israel/Palestine on my own, facing alone the intimidation and mechanical racism of Israeli security as well as the quickly passing interest of acquaintances in the US regarding my time spent in a volatile, complicated region (too complicated to understand, they often say). This time, I return home with a group of fellow Americans with whom I shared powerful experiences, with whom I became friends, and with whom I look forward to working in solidarity towards a just resolution to this conflict -- a peace that truly addresses the needs of the courageous, inspiring, and determined Israelis and Palestinians that we met in these two brief weeks. It is a wonderful feeling not to be alone.

Donate to support IFPB’s work of informing North Americans about Israel/Palestine and supporting advocacy for peace with justice:

Join a delegation to Israel and Palestine - www.ifpbdel.org/upcoming.html

IFPB upcoming delegation dates:
October 27 - November 10, 2007

2008 dates:
March 22 - April 5
May 24 - June 7

Interfaith Peace-Builders
1326 9th St., NW
Washington, DC 20001

phone: 202.244.0821
fax: 202.232.0143

Friends of Sabeel-North America Newsletter Online

Friends of Sabeel--North America
September 2007 Newsletter

Available now online in pdf format: http://www.fosna.org/fosna_newsletters/documents/FOSNA-Sept2007NEWSLETTER.pdf

In this edition:
Upcoming Boston Conference with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky and others
More FOSNA regional conferences scheduled
International Witness Trips planned
Sabeel's 7th International Conference in Jerusalem, November 2008
Summer 2007 Young Adult Conference report
Sabeel's Cornerstone publication questionnaire
2007 Combined Federal Campaign for Federal Employees (FOSNA qualifies!)
Report of 2007 summer membership drive telephone campaign
FOSNA-Colorado fact-finding trip report
New office assistant, Rachel Joy
FOSNA Area Coordinators--U.S. Group Contacts
Request for donations

Current FOSNA members will receive this newsletter in the mail soon.

Friends of Sabeel--North America
PO Box 9186
Portland, OR 97207

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Russ Siler: add another source of information, remember the pain of the people

Not From Jerusalem # 115
August 2007

We have now been back in the United States a little over two months. We have experienced emotional ups and downs with two weddings and a funeral. We have been involved with several large church events and some smaller ones. Our attempt has been to ease back into the normal flow of things without too much discomfort, and it has been strange…not because it has proven to be difficult, but because it all comes so easily. It begins very subtly as one day goes by…then two, when ordinary life tasks take so much of one’s available time, attention, and energy that it suddenly hits you that you haven’t seen a newspaper article or a TV news item about what the people in Israel-Palestine refer to as “the situation.” In addition your fellow shoppers, travelers, and walkers in the market, the gas stations, and the town center haven’t so much as mentioned the words Jerusalem or Occupation. I haven’t seen even one armed “settler” or passed through a single checkpoint, and my passport is nestled away in a secure place, awaiting our next jaunt out of the country. And I realize with a great sadness the immeasurable distance that separates my comfortable existence on this side of the Atlantic from the fragile life, tainted by fear and suffering, that our sisters and brothers plod through on the other side of the ocean. The allure of gliding through comfortable days here untouched by the brutality of life there is powerful. We can grasp the relief of the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan as they were able to “…pass by on the other side.” They had important duties to perform and the battered body of the stranger would have been in the way.

Fortunately, this past week brought our first opportunity to make presentations at a church. It was truly gratifying to have so many people working with us to grasp the character of the human tragedy relentlessly unfolding in the Holy Land. We were able to share with them our perception that the Israeli government, with the full support of our administration and Congress, had achieved precisely what it intended, now that Palestine is divided against itself, and Gaza is even more a prison world, a lifetime away from its sibling territories in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. We were able to let them know, as best we could, of the enormity of human suffering and loss when land, life, and livelihood confiscation masquerade as “security measures.” When discussing the Wall or, as others refer to it, the “Security Barrier,” we were able to let people know that as many as 50,000 Palestinians will be cut off from their neighbors and families by the wall. That is to say, they will be on the Israeli side of that which is ostensibly being erected for the protection of Israeli people. Just that single fact makes it apparent that the wall is more about dividing the West Bank and taking much of its land than it is about security.

It was a welcome weekend, but then it was past, and we, like all of us, went back to those ordinary tasks…but with a difference. We are once again enlivened and energized by people who are keenly aware that what they read in the papers and hear on the TV carry, at best, a partial story. What is not contained in most of America’s popular media prevents us from grasping differing perspectives on the circumstances of fear and fighting. I hope that what I write in coming months will provide a little help in that direction. My first suggestion is that you add another source to your daily information intake. Try www.guardian.co.uk [The Manchester Guardian] or www.haaretz.com [the English language Israeli newspaper Haaretz] or www.icahd.org or www.icahdusa.org [sites of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions].

My second suggestion is that you resolve to find some way each day to bring to mind the pain and suffering of the people in Israel-Palestine. In any conflict it is not when one side or another is stronger that injustice occurs. It is when people who can make a positive difference don’t take the time to care.

--- --- ---

Note: In response to my question last month, many of you who have read these letters over the past years replied to encourage me to continue writing—this time from the perspective of how I perceive Middle East news received in the United States after having lived in Jerusalem. I am going to continue my letters as long as I believe I have something to contribute. As always, you may pass the letters on. I only ask that, where it is possible, you forward them in their entirety, and include the contact information found at the end. If you wish to be removed from my mailing list, simply email your request. If you received this one from another source and wish to be added to my list, just let me know that also. ROS

Russell O. Siler, retired