Monday, December 15, 2008

Under civil society pressure, Unilever withdraws from settlement

We just wanted to share a success story with all of you! Kudos to all of the civil society activists across Europe who worked on this:

November 27th 2008
Unilever withdraws from an Israeli settlement

United Civilians for Peace (UCP) welcomes Unilever’s decision to divest from a factory based in an illegal Israeli settlement on the West Bank. This decision comes in a period in which UCP and Unilever Netherlands are engaged in a constructive dialogue about Unilever’s presence in Barkan. UCP and Unilever discussed the ethical considerations with regards to investment in settlements and Unilever’s responsibilities within the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility.

In 2006, a report by United Civilians for Peace concluded that the Anglo-Dutch multinational owns a 51% share in Beigel & Beigel, a pretzel and snacks factory. This factory is located in Barkan, an industrial zone in Ariel, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Last Wednesday, Unilever announced their decision to divest from Beigel & Beigel.

Since the publication of the report “Dutch economic links in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and/or Syrian territories” in 2006, UCP has advocated the departure of Unilever from the settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This resulted in a constructive dialogue with Unilever Netherlands and UCP research into the legal and ethical implications of Unilever’s investment in Beigel & Beigel.

The research document titled: “Improper Advantage: A Study of Unilever’s investment in an illegal Israeli settlement” concludes that:
- The land of the Barkan industrial zone was confiscated from surrounding Palestinian villages by a military order issued by the Israeli Defence Force issued in 1981, and declared “state land”. International Law prohibits the confiscation of occupied land not for military purposes.

- Because the factory is located in an illegal settlement, Unilever complies with violation of Palestinian human rights and the structural discrimination of Palestinian workers.

- Beigel & Beigel benefits from subsidies that are allocated by the Israeli government to the industrial zones in the settlements. Also, the factory has been guaranteed a state grant for a plan of expansion.

The report is available as of Friday November 28th.

UCP congratulates Unilever with their decision to divest. This important and constructive step shows that Unilever takes serious both the provisions of international law as well as its Corporate Social Responsibility. Israeli settlements form a major obstacle to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the industrial zones play an important economic role in maintaining these settlements.

Not for publication: For more information and to request a copy of the report “Improper Advantage: A Study of Unilever’s investment in an illegal Israeli settlement”, please contact Merijn de Jong (United Civilians for Peace) +31(0)30-8801581 / +31(0)6-27249753 or

The report is available as of Friday November 28th.

United Civilians for Peace (UCP) is a Dutch platform that strives for a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. UCP is a joint initiative of Oxfam Novib, Cordaid, ICCO and IKV Pax Christi.

__Oxfam works with others to overcome poverty and suffering.Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International and a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 612172.Registered office: Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY.A registered charity in England and Wales (no 202918) and Scotland (SCO 039042)

Seventh International Conference statement


We are more than 200 Christians from five continents who have come together to commemorate the tragic events that occurred 60 years ago in the lives of the people of Palestine. While we have come to hear from and to offer our solidarity and support to the indigenous Palestinian community in both Palestine and Israel, we have also heard from brothers and sisters in the Muslim and Jewish communities as they too have borne witness to the injustices visited upon the Palestinian population of this land. They have seen more than 531 villages depopulated and destroyed, and the creation of more than 750,000 refugees who have not been allowed to return to their homes since 1948.

We recognize the irony in the coincidence that this year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The establishment of peace with justice requires that the full truth be told about the events of 1948 and the subsequent displacement of hundreds of thousands more Palestinian citizens in 1967, a process which has continued to the present day. The human rights of the Palestinian people continue to be crushed under a military occupation that dehumanizes both oppressed and oppressor. We share our conviction that it is only an acknowledgement of the full truth behind and within this current state of oppression that will lead to true freedom for all parties in the conflict.

Truth is essential for peacemaking. We acknowledge the truth that our silence about the status of the Palestinian people equals complicity in this ongoing tragedy. The status quo is a crime against humanity. As Christians, we can no longer be silent. Things worsen as each day passes. The so-called peace process is rather a consistent and persistent process of death and destruction, both physically and spiritually. The Nakba - the catastrophe - that has been imposed and is still being imposed on the people of Palestine--continues unabated and unrestrained. The truth of it is silenced or ignored both in our churches and in our media. This must change if we are to be true to Jesus' call to be peacemakers.

We have been encouraged by the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who have practiced methods of nonviolent resistance in seeking to bring an end to the current conflict. We lift up the practice of nonviolence as the most practical means of achieving peace in this situation where the balance of military power is so overwhelmingly one-sided and where the reliance upon violence only continues to make matters worse. We are concerned by the use of the Bible as an instrument of colonialism and exploitation by those who would enlarge the conflict. We reject the exclusivism presupposed in such an interpretive approach to biblical truth. We seek the reconciliation of all peoples throughout the world, and therefore call on our brothers and sisters in the worldwide church to speak out and act out the ministry of reconciliation.

We have been touched by the faces of children wherever we have gone. We have come to realize that an entire generation of children is being crippled because they have no access to the nutrition needed for normal growth and development, and thus endure spiritual and social alienation, violence and lack of opportunities which none of us would tolerate even for a day in our own communities. We remember the call of the Nobel peace laureates that the first decade of this new century be devoted to nonviolence. We hear anew the call of Jesus to "let the little children come unto me," to let them be placed in the center of the current picture of marginalization, thus challenging the international community with their vulnerability and their need for protection. Therefore, we call upon all our churches and governments:

▪ to work with renewed energy for an end to this endlessly spreading military occupation;

▪ to insist on full implementation of all United Nations resolutions and all human rights requirements in international law which pertain to Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the right of return for Palestinian refugees;

▪ to insist on greater freedom of movement and more humane conditions in the occupied territories;

▪ to insist that Israel accord equal rights to all its citizens, Jewish and Palestinian alike;

▪ to divest themselves from investments in companies that enable the occupation;

▪ to insist that Israel lift its ongoing siege and collective punishments which prevent the free movement of people, goods and humanitarian aid in and out of Gaza; and finally

▪ to support the work of Sabeel in its efforts to build bridges of nonviolence between people in all the monotheistic religions represented in the region.

We have heard the call of urgency from our fellow Christians in this holy land. As in Jesus' own day, so Bethlehem lies under military occupation today surrounded by a prison wall. Our memories of the birth of The Child of Bethlehem 2000 years ago are contrasted and challenged by the reality of the children and the parents and the grandparents of Bethlehem today. As followers of that holy child, may our spirits meet in Bethlehem's streets as we join in prayers and actions for light and life! May we seek creatively to disturb the status quo with acts born of the Spirit of courage, love and truth.

Monday, December 1, 2008

7th International Sabeel Conference: A Time To Act

The last full day of the International Conference was entitled, “A Time to Act” because the lectures this day highlighted the way in which the Nakba continues to impact Palestinian society in negative ways on a daily basis and the urgent need to respond to this problem as internationals.

The first lecturer, Dr. Jeff Halper, Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD), speaking from a Jewish Israeli perspective, pointed out that the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict stems from an exclusive Israeli identity by which Jewish Israelis believe that they have exclusive right to the land. Therefore, “It’s a matter of 1948, not 1967” because the affects of this sense of entitlement have continued in various manifestations since 1948, the occupation of the West Bank being only one of these.

The first panel discussed a central issue to the peace process that continues to be on the negotiating table, the status of Jerusalem. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, founder of Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), speaking on this topic, described the Wall as a “sharp knife cutting us [Palestinians] to pieces”. The construction of the Wall, or the “Separation Barrier” consists of rows of 25-foot concrete slabs in urban areas while other sections of it consist of an electronic fence equipped with surveillance devices, a trench, and barbed wire. The construction of the Wall has resulted in Israel’s further annexation of Palestinian land, the impediment of a West Bank economy, and the fragmentation of Palestinian society. Btselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories doubts the Israeli government’s intention for building the Wall as a security measure:

“The route of the Barrier, however, defies all security logic and appears politically motivated. In Jerusalem, the Barrier roughly follows the municipal boundary, set when Israel annexed East Jerusalem. This boundary ignores urban planning considerations; it cuts through Palestinian neighborhoods, at times literally running down the middle of busy, urban streets. Leaving 220,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites on the Israeli side of the Barrier, it is hardly consistent with the State’s own security logic: does the State of Israel consider Palestinians living on one side of the street dangerous, but not those on the other side?”

-Btselem “A Wall in Jerusalem: Obstacles to Human Rights in the Holy City” Summer 2006

(This particular portion of the Wall is located in the Bethlehem area and separates the Ayda Refugee Camp residents from one of their only sources of income, their olive grove)

Mahdi Abdul Hadi underscored the urgent need to take immediate action when he warned that another Nakba, “catastrophe” is immanent.

The second speaker on the panel, Elias Khoury is a lawyer based in East Jerusalem specializing in real property law. His vocation is inspired by his father’s lose of land during the Nakba in 1948. Khoury challenges Israeli policy regarding settlements, house demolitions, the decisions of the Planning and Building Commissions, etc. through the legal system.

The next panel’s topic concerned civil rights. Sarah Kreimer, a Jewish Israeli activist and Chair of the Board of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, called for the cessation of harmful unilateral actions on the part of the Israeli government and fair allocation of funds. Currently, the “facts on the ground” contradict governmental declarations. Kreimer urged the internationals to act immediately stating, “The future of Jerusalem is being determined every day by facts on the ground and we can be a part of that today”.

The second speaker on this panel, Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American based in Ramallah and specializing in business development, provided his analysis of the situation. Describing the various statuses of Palestinians vis-à-vis the state of Israel, he states that the status of Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship is of a 3rd or even 4th class citizen. He went on to speak on the problematic status of Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza “residents”. He states that this status connotes impermanence, “something the Israeli government bestows upon you and can take away”. The arbitrary revocation of this status in East Jerusalem is a tool by which the government rids the area of Palestinians and creates Jewish neighborhoods in their place (creating new facts on the ground). Further tools of repression include: inflated taxation without the provision of equal municipal services, the legal maze for the required periodic renewal of residency, and the difficulty in obtaining building permits. Sam Bahour concluded his talk by stating that though the Palestinian people are fragmented as a result of Israeli policies, they are held together by an undeniably just cause. Bahour ended with a quote, “There is nothing whole like a broken heart”.

The evening closed with dinner at the Ambassador’s Hotel and the keynote address given by Manuel Hassassian, the current Ambassador of Palestine to the U.K. He told his audience that “The Nakba is going on today”.

The last day of the International Conference provided the inspiration for the participants to act. Former prime minister of the Netherlands, Andreas Van Agt described his conversion to supporting the Palestinian cause and called on the internationals to put pressure on the Israeli government to observe international law through their respective governments.

Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., American Civil Rights Movement activist, minister, and educator, offered inspiration by recounting stories from the Civil Rights Movement. Lafayette entitled his talk, “The Struggle, the Suffering, the Success” and stated that “pain can be a sign of healing”. In order to bring about change, one must suffer. However, this suffering is to be distinguished from the suffering that occurs on a daily basis due to dehumanizing Israeli policies. The suffering Lafayette describes is deliberate and empowering. Lafayette called the audience to move past nonviolent resistance and change the power dynamic by putting your opponent on the defensive resisting the change that you are creating through nonviolent action.

Mairead Maguire, an Irish peace activist committed to nonviolence and Nobel Peace Prize winner, further urged the audience that nonviolence does work and has worked to improve the situation in Northern Ireland. Lily Habash, advisor to the Bureau Chief/ Cabinet Secretary General at the Office of the Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayaad in the Palestinian National Authority closed the panel by appealing to the internationals to help Palestinians better communicate their cause to their respecting countries. Habash views the Palestinian position not as one of victimization or despair but of hope.

7th International Sabeel Conference: creating cultural bridges

But this and the whole conference experience also drives home something else, namely, the personality and character of so many Palestinians -- kids, youths, and older -- we met and which my country rarely is enabled to see: persons of warmth, courage, humor, dignity, grit, and a fantastic spirit of welcome
Darrel Meyers

The 7th International Sabeel Conference moved to Jerusalem but before traveling south, the international participants had the opportunity to connect with the local Christians in Nazareth. They joined in fellowship with congregations of various churches located around Nazareth. Following the service, the 300 participants were broken into groups of two to five people to eat at Nazarene family homes enjoying homemade Palestinian cooking. This informal setting allowed participants to identify with Palestinians living in Israel with citizenship on a basic human level by sharing in a universal family activity.

After lunch, participants traveled to Jerusalem and were greeted by local Jerusalemites and clergy at Saint George’s Church. This gave internationals another opportunity to connect with local Palestinians, thus exposing the internationals to a Palestinian population in a different socio-political position vis-à-vis the Israeli state.

The next day of the conference was devoted to the issue of refugees and how the solution of this issue is integral to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In order to introduce this topic Adel Manna, research fellow at the Jerusalem Vanleer Institute, briefed the participants on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem. Manna described the context in which the five waves of refugees either fled or were expelled. It is important to note that expulsion of Palestinians occurred during the First and Second Truces of the 1948 war. Further to this, it is not widely known that expulsions continued after the war and through the 1950s. In fact, 30,000-50,000 Palestinians became refugees after the conclusion of the war constituting an ongoing Nakba.

The overview continued with a briefing by Allegra Pacheco, OCHA, concerning the occupation and annexation of Palestinian land. The concept of occupation is one of a temporary nature by international law. However, the settlements have been established with the intention of permanence and much of occupied land has remained closed areas considered military zones inaccessible to Palestinians for decades. In addition, Israel continues to annex Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and in the construction of the wall. Annexation is defined as the acquisition of land by force and is in contravention of international law.

Concluding the overview, Bob Tobin, Sabeel volunteer, read a letter from UNRWA representative Sami Mshasha describing the situation of Palestinian refugees inside of Israel and the West Bank today.

Following the briefing, the participants traveled to one of four refugee camps located in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank: Dheishe, Aida, Azza, and Aroub Camps. They attended general tours of the camps and were divided into small groups in order to visit with different families in their homes. The participants learned about the hardships of life as a person with refugee status directly from camp residents. Currently, unemployment is at eighty percent in the Dheishe Camp. This is caused mainly by the construction of the wall cutting the inhabitants off from their olive trees. In addition, the residents are subject to other forms of discrimination. One woman recounted the story of her son being arrested without charge. He has been in jail for seventeen years now and still has not been charged with any criminal offense.

After the visits, all of the participants convened in the al-Feneiq Center of Dheishe Refugee Camp to attend panels. The first speaker, Muhammad Jaradat, BADIL Resource Center, spoke on the topic of refugee rights and international law today. The second panel was entitled, “The Church’s Response to the Occupation”. The speakers included: Mr. Rifat Kassis, World Council of Churches, Mr. Tarek Abuata, Christian Peacemakers Team, and Mr. George Sahhar, Sabeel board member.

The evening concluded with the Ibda’a Dance Troupe performing Dabka, the national dance of Palestine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

7th International Sabeel Conference discusses nonviolent action and hosts Rashid Khalidi

Rashid Khalidi speaks with the Rev. Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel and the Rev. Richard Toll, Friends of Sabeel North America

The fourth day of the 7th International Sabeel Conference opened with a lecture concerning the impact of the Nakba on Christian Palestinians’ faith. The speaker, Rev. Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, described the need for a new form of Christian theology after 1948 in order to satisfy religious answers to the tragedy which struck them. Palestinian Christians were in a state of spiritual schizophrenia unsure if the establishment of the state of Israel was a fulfillment of the scriptures, “Does this mean that Jews are really God’s chosen people and he is active in bringing the Jews back to the Holy Land?” Many left their faith as a result of the church’s failure to speak out against the exclusive concept of the Jewish chosen people and their right to Palestinian land. The silence was broken in the 1980s with the establishment of Al-liqa’ by Jiryes Khoury and Sabeel by Rev. Naim Ateek. Rev. Naim Ateek established a theology of hope for the oppressed by drawing parallels between Christ’s experience under occupation and the current situation in Israel-Palestine. As an advocate of nonviolence, Ateek asks Christian Palestinians to look to Christ as a role model of nonviolent resistance. Palestinian liberation theology challenges Christians to respond to occupation with love rather than hate for the enemy.

This theme of nonviolent resistance continued with a series of workshops in which 300 international participants were given the opportunity to listen and discuss with speakers from various Jewish and Palestinian NGOs working toward peaceful coexistence. One speaker, Mohammad Zeidan, Arab Association for Human Rights, discussed the social and political situation of Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship. He described their status as second class citizens and the direct and indirect forms of discrimination that they are subject to on a daily basis living inside of Israel. Zeidan is part of the civil rights movement inside of Israel, a nonviolent movement focused on gaining equal rights by civil and legal means.

Following the workshops, Rashid Khalidi, senior lecturer at Columbia University, spoke about the evolution of Palestinian collective identity and the centrality of the Nakba to its development. As Palestinians become increasingly fragmented politically, socially, and spatially, the work of memory has succeeded in creating a collective identity. Khalidi describes memory as “the rock on which Palestinians stand.” The steadfastness of Palestinian memory is integral to resisting the view in the United States and Israel that the dominant Israeli narrative has exclusive authority. Khalidi lambasts the extent to which the Israeli narrative is entrenched in American culture and asserts that the only practical solution to changing American opinion is nonviolence. He offers the example of the first and second Intifadas’ impact on international opinion of Israel. The first Intifada was effective due to its use of nonviolent methods while the second was a failure due to the salience of Palestinian violence. In addition, the holocaust is part of American consciousness and acts of violence perpetrated by Palestinians will reinforce the American view of Israelis as victims. Also, acts of terror reinforce a connection between the United States and Israel based on a shared “War on Terror”. Khalidi ended by underscoring the need for Palestinian political consensus and a suitable forum in which to discuss the issues.

The last event of the night included Palestinian music, poetry, and a testimony from a former Jewish soldier. Guest speaker, Josef Ben-Eliezer recounted his experience as a soldier participating in the events of the Nakba drawing parallels between the Holocaust and the Nakba. Beginning his account with an emotional description of his suffering under the Nazis in occupied Poland, Ben-Eliezer described how this experience profoundly shaped his outlook as a young man in Palestine. 1948 was a “matter of fighting for our survival.” Ben-Eliezer believed that if he did not fight that the Jewish people would be exterminated. After the establishment of the state of Israel, he began to doubt the necessity of continued hostilities. The expulsion of Palestinian residents from Lydda and the confiscation of their belongings reminded Ben-Eliezer of his childhood in Poland, “We are here in Palestine doing the same things that were done to us.” After the war, Israelis did not accept his version of events labeling his story “Arab propaganda”. Eventually, Ben-Eliezer left Israel with the conviction that living in the state of Israel constituted an injustice.

7th International Sabeel Conference visits demolished Palestinian Villages

On the 3rd day of the ongoing 7th International Sabeel Conference, the lost narrative of the Nakba, or the "Catastrophe" of 1948 was uncovered and participants gained an understanding of the continuing impact this event has on Palestinian society inside of Israel. 250 internationals from the United States and Europe visited locations that had once been thriving Palestinian villages and towns prior to the War of 1948. Currently, these villages exist in various states of destruction. Some villages have been partially demolished, with Jewish immigrants residing in homes previously owned by Palestinians. Others have been completely destroyed, the cacti that once served as natural fencing acting as the only remaining evidence of their existence. The international participants listened to testimonies from witnesses and former residents of the demolished villages. The witnesses were forcibly transferred in 1948 and are still currently denied their right to return to their homes.

In Azib, the Palestinian mayor’s house has been converted into a museum displaying confiscated household possessions of the former Palestinian residents and headstones stolen from the village’s cemetery. These items are displayed as artifacts of unnamed Muslims. The village mosque has been converted into bathrooms and showers servicing Israelis visiting the private beach located on land that was previously considered Azib. The observers saw many such acts of desecration tacitly approved by the Israeli state.

In the evening, the international participants returned to the convention center to share their experiences visiting these villages. A young American man mentioned that he had asked an Israeli resident of a partially demolished Palestinian village, Ijzim what the neglected mosque in the center of his town was. The Israeli incorrectly informed him that the mosque had been a hotel during the British Mandate. This shocking ignorance on the part of these new residents and the ability to witness evidence of the erasure of a culture visibly moved the international participants. They were outraged and many were moved to tears.

Today, this pre-1948 structure formerly inhabited by Palestinian residents of Sa'sa', is now inhabited by a Jewish family that immigrated after 1948. The village is now Kibbutz Sasa retaining its Palestinian name but pronounced in a Hebrew manner.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sabeel Conference, November 13--Highlights of the Day

The first full day of Sabeel's seventh international conference focused on remembering the Nakba and on the current reality for those Palestinians who remained within the borders of Israel after 1948. These Palestinian Arabs became citizens of the new state of Israel, but suffered discrimination, racism, and restriction, first during the military rule of 1948-1966 and then in more subtle ways up to the present day.

These themes were introduced by the first part of a film entitled "The Land Speaks Arabic," directed by Maryse Gargour. The film included testimonies from Palestinian refugees who recalled their connections to the land prior to the Nakba.

The film was followed by a panel discussion on memory, featuring Dr. Ahmad Sa'di and Dr. Efrat Ben Ze'ev. Dr. Sa'di spoke of the way in which Palestinians remember the Nakba as "A total destruction, the uprooting of people from their homeland, the destruction of a social fabric that had existed for centuries, and the frustration of national aspirations," in addition to the personal stories of trauma presented by survivors of the Nakba. He went on to argue for the need for moral accountability in response knowledge of the events of 1948. The Nakba narrative is, according to Dr. Sa'di, "not triumphalist, but rather looking for a place to begin....For a story of trauma to be told, there is a need for a sympathetic audience." This audience, according to Dr. Sa'di, must be found not only among other Palestinians and the wider Arab world, but in the Western world and the Israeli Jewish public.

Dr. Ben Ze'ev presented her research among Israeli veterans of 1948, and found a much more complex narrative than the official and popularly accepted Zionist version of 1948. She found that, after 60 years, the self-imposed silence of the veterans is beginning to crack, and that many veterans, seeing changes in the Israeli public and seeking some sort of relief or forgiveness, have begun to tell the truth about what the saw and experienced in 1948. While usually portraying themselves as sympathetic witnesses to massacres, abuses, and expulsions, she found that veterans are increasingly willing to tell the truth about the war experiences, even when that truth runs counter to the official or popular narrative. Although Dr. Ben Ze'ev observed that "much of the old version of truth still holds in Israeli society," she urged the audience to "pay attention to the process by which some silences were broken, and some buried voices were surfaced," arguing that it is time to reincorporate the veterans narrative into an understanding of 1948 because "agreeing on the meaning of 1948 is a crucial step to reconciliation."

The next session included an overview of the current socioeconomic reality for Arab citizens of Israel by Dr. Basel Ghattas, who addressed housing shortages, inequalities in development budgets and public health, unemployment and underemployment, and other forms of socioeconomic inequality in Israel. Abir Kopty took time off from a successful political campaign in the Nazareth municipality to speak to the conference on issues of identity for Arab Palestinians in a Jewish state. And Dr. Ameer Makhoul gave participants a briefing on political realities.

Former MK Tamar Gozansky addressed inequality in Israel as a "crisis of Israeli democracy," pointing to recent attacks on Arab residents of Akka in the North of Israel as a sign of increasing racism. Dr. Uri Davis presented an argument for the use of the term "apartheid" to describe the Israeli state and its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Dr. Davis defined an apartheid state as “a state that regulates racism through acts of parliament,” in which the “constitution and the legal system obligates citizens of that state to make racialized choices. It criminalizes humanitarian action.” Although pointing to differences between South African apartheid and the Israeli form of apartheid, such as the lack of petty apartheid (white-only bathrooms and drinking fountains, for example), Dr. Davis maintained that the classification of Israel as an apartheid state is accurate and calls for a response of economic activism--divestment and morally responsible investment.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sabeel Conference, November 13--Morning Worship

"A Time to Remember"

The first full day of Sabeel's seventh international conference began with an opening worship filled with prayer, song, and welcome.

Violette Khoury, of the Sabeel Nazareth board, greeted the conference participants, expressing her appreciation for their solidarity:: "Now is the time for hope, for we are no longer alone."

Rev. Jonathan Frerichs of the World Council of Churches brought greetings from WCC General Secretary Rev. Sam Kobia. Echoing the language of the ecumenical Amman Call, Rev. Kobia's message emphasized the need for the church to move beyond words into action towards a just peace in Palestine and Israel, and drew attention to many recent activities of the church, from economic strategies for ending the occupation to the Core Group and Working Group (of which Sabeel's Rev. Naim Ateek and Nora Carmi are members) to the World Council of Church's Interchurch Week of Action for Palestine and Israel. Rev. Frerichs concluded with the words of the Action Week message from 2008: "It's time for Palestine."

This hopeful greeting was seconded by Cristoffer Sjoholm of Diakonia, who told the story of successful economic advocacy undertaken by a joint effort of the Church of Sweden, Diakonia, and SwedeWatch. Together, these Christian organizations were able to secure a promise from a Swedish company to close a factory built in an illegal Israeli settlement in the north of the West Bank.

Worship continued with the reading of Scripture from the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 10: "Recall those earlier days when you endured a hard struggle with suffering." With this scriptural framework in mind, participants listened to an overview of the conference program by Rev. Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel, and concluded with prayers and song: "O Lord, hear my prayer."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sabeel Conference--Opening Worship

November 12, 2008

Opening Worship, Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

The seventh International Sabeel Conference began on November 12, 2008 with an opening worship service held at the Church of the Annunciation officiated by Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo. The service was followed by a reception held for the 300 conference participants with the local Christian community and clergy. The Sabeel Peace Tapestry consisting of banners of quilt squares illustrating individual desires for peace in the Holy Land was on display in the reception hall. The concept for the tapestry originated with Marijke Egelie-Smulders, Netherlands, when she came to this region on a witness visit in 2007. The tapestry consists of over 2,000 squares that have been sent to Jerusalem primarily from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The squares were then sewn into banners and embroidered with the names of 400 villages affected by the Nakba. The embroidery work was done by women from the Jalazoun Refugee Camp. The banners illustrated the theme of this year's conference, "Nakba: Memory, Reality, and Beyond."

Sabeel International Conference--Welcome!

Dear friends,

Peace to you from Nazareth!

Here at Sabeel, we are in the midst of kicking off our seventh international
conference. Entitled “The Nakba: Memory, Reality, and Beyond,” and lasting from November 12-November 19, 2008, this conference aims to educate participants about the Nakba, its modern day effects, and the hope and struggle for a future of justice and peace. Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” is the term that Palestinians use to refer to the events of 1948, in which some 800,000 Palestinians were forced to become refugees and some 500 villages were destroyed. In addition to the historical aspects of the Nakba, conference participants will learn about and witness the ongoing Nakba—modern realities of racism and identity crisis for those Palestinians who became citizens of Israel, inequalities in public services and treatment, house demolitions, evictions, pressures to emigrate, and more.

In an effort to increase the impact of our educational efforts, we will be posting entries about the conference, including summaries of presentations, pictures, helpful excerpts, and links to relevant information. We hope that you will follow along with us, from wherever you might be, and that you will take this opportunity to learn and encounter the history, memory, struggles and hopes of Palestinians and Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel.

In peace,

Sabeel Staff and Volunteers

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sabeel Young Adults have had a busy month

For those of you who have participated in our Young Adult Conference, you've already had a chance to encounter some of the awesome participants in our local Sabeel young adult programs. We want to keep all of you updated on the sorts of young adult programming that is happening here in Palestine and Israel.

The Sabeel young adults have had a busy month. As the month of Ramadan came to a close, members of the young adult program and the women's program were guests at the house of the Al Kurd family. Half of the Al Kurd house, located in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, has been taken over by a group of radical Israeli settlers. This takeover is part of a larger plan to push Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem out and to build a large settlement complex in the heart of East Jerusalem. (Participants of the 2008 young adult conference visited the Al Kurd house for a press conference). Members of Sabeel broke the fast with the Al Kurd family and then heard the family's story, including incidents of vandalism, harassment, and attempts to entrap the family by leaving purses and guns by their doors. There was also traditional Palestinian poetry and music. (For more on the Al Kurd family, see this article by EAPPI).

The young adults have also participated with the local Syrian Christian community in a cultural celebration held by the community and have begun going together on Sundays to the worship services of different churches in Jerusalem. They have prayed at the Syrian Orthodox church and the Latin Catholic church so far. This continuing ecumenical outreach is one of the most important aspects of the work of Sabeel's young adults.

Other recent activities have included a camping and cultural activity at the Nassar family farm, the Tent of Nations, which is threatened by the encroachment of illegal settlements. Participants shared special stories from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The young adults also gathered at the Sabeel office for a movie on interfaith understanding.

Most recently, 35 young people from Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem traveled to Hebron to participate in the olive harvest. The olive harvest is central to Palestinian economy and culture, but tragically, many Palestinian farmers cannot get to their fields due to land confiscation, military bases, settler harassment, or the Wall.

The young adult group worked alongside members of a family whose olive trees are threatened by settlers in Hebron. Along with members of an Israeli peace group, they were able to pick olives together for several hours before settlers began threatening the group. After a confrontation with a journalist and a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Israeli military arrived on the scene and declared the area a closed military zone, thus preventing the family from continuing their harvest. You can read more about this incident as reported by CPT.

Next weekend, the Sabeel young adult group will continue its participation in the olive harvest by picking olives at the Garden of Gethsemane.

In all of these activities, Sabeel young adults attempt to break down walls of division in order to be living witnesses to the love and justice of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Event in Toronto Area

For any friends of Sabeel in the Toronto area who might be interested:

The Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation
presents the 2nd Annual James Graff Memorial Lecture

The Israel Lobby & Middle East Peace
Guest Speaker: Dr. John Mearsheimer

Dr. John Mearsheimer will speak about the Israel Lobby's push to create a special relationship between the United States and Israel and its detrimental effect on US foreign policy and prospects for peace in the Middle East. He will also address the significant influence of Israel lobbies in Canada and Europe.

Sunday November 2, 2008
3:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Trinity-St. Paul's United Church - 427 Bloor St. W
(just west of Spadina) - Toronto
$10 (adult) - $5 (student)

Tickets will be available at the door.

For advance tickets or more info e-mail NECEF at

Dr. John Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. Professor Mearsheimer has written extensively about security issues and international politics. His most recent and controversial book with Stephen M. Walt is The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sabeel resources

Hi friends,

I wanted to make you aware of a few resources available on the Sabeel website that might be helpful to you in education and advocacy work.

Sabeel statements, including our document on Morally Responsible Investment, are available at Check out the Jerusalem Sabeel Document for Sabeel's basic understanding of the situation here and possible solutions, and the Morally Responsible Investment document for a practical and concrete advocacy project that you can work on in schools, churches, and communities.

For information about the Palestinian Christian community in West Bank and Israel, see the Sabeel survey available at

One thing we always ask is that people pray for our Sabeel ministries, for Palestinian Christians, for the Palestinian community in general, and for all the people of this land, that justice, peace, and reconciliation be made available for all. We invite you to join us in prayer by viewing our weekly "Wave of Prayer." Share these prayers with your church and with prayer groups, youth organizations, etc. Available at

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Resources from UN-OCHA

Hello friends,

It seems that one of the presentations that is consistently the most helpful for people visiting Palestine and Israel is the power point given by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA-oPt). In our most recent Young Adult Conference, this presentation was given by OCHA director Allegra Pacheco.

OCHA has a great website that is very helpful for presenting objective facts and analysis of the situation on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories (East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza):

They publish updates on the humanitarian situation, the construction of the Wall, and checkpoints and closures.

If you are interested in OCHA's power point presentations, you can find them at:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

'Friend' Sabeel on Facebook

If you've visited us here at Sabeel and are interested in keeping in touch with the friends you made here in Palestine and Israel, you might want to consider 'friending' Sabeel on Facebook.

Just search for Sabeel's profile on the most exquisite procrastination device ever created. It's a great way to keep up with friends and with Sabeel's local programs. Nicolas posts pictures of local programs on our Facebook site, and what better way to harrass Omar from afar than asking him lots of questions on the Facebook wall?

Alright, so it's a bit cheesy, but hey, we're all friends here, right?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dates of Next Sabeel Young Adult Conference

Just an announcement of the dates of the next Sabeel International Young Adult Conference!

The next Young Adult Conference will be held from July 22-August 2, 2009. Start telling your friends, your churches, your young adult groups, and anyone else you can think of!

We haven't yet decided on a theme--if you have any suggestions, let us know by commenting on this post or by emailing us at

Monday, September 22, 2008

Want to speak about your experiences in Palestine?

For those of you from the U.S., here is an opportunity to share your story with others. If you're not from the U.S., do you know of a similar initiative in your country? Are you interested in contacting your regional Friends of Sabeel office to see if you could start a Speaker's Bureau to organize presentations and speakers on the situation for Palestinians, the Palestinian-Christian community, and prospects for a just peace in Palestine and Israel?

Let us know by commenting on this blog post or by emailing us at!

From Friends of Sabeel North America:

Dear Friends: Have you ever wanted to speak about your experiences in Palestine? You will be provided the chance to speak through a new project sponsored by the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights Foundation (AAPER Foundation). AAPER Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to inform the American public about the situation in Palestine, particularly the human and national rights of the Palestinian people. Their website can be found at

As part of its educational work and its Five for Palestine Campaign (, the AAPER Foundation is developing a list of speakers from across the United States to speak about and educate their fellow citizens in their respective states and communities on the situation in Palestine. And because we constantly hear that participants in Sabeel witness trips to Palestine would like opportunities to speak to audiences about what they have seen and learned, we want to include them on the speakers list.

If you are interested, the AAPER Foundation can provide you with well-researched, nicely-designed and very professional informational materials, a compelling PowerPoint presentation, training workshops and speaking opportunities in your area.
If you would be interested in participating in this project, please send an email to: or call (202) 683-8438.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Young Adult Conference in Latest Issue of Cornerstone

Hello friends!

The 2008 Sabeel Young Adult Conference is featured prominently in the latest issue of Cornerstone, Sabeel's quarterly English publication. Several reflections from the young adult conference, a summary of one of our collaborative Bible studies, and pictures from conference participant Jay Gregory are all worth seeing.

You can access the latest issue of Cornerstone, in PDF format, on our website:

Let us know what you think!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photo essay from a Young Adult Conference participant

Umayyah Cable, one of our participants from last year's Sabeel Young Adult conference, has created a photo exhibit and a short essay based on her time here. The exhibit is called "Palestine and Palestinians: Cultural Survival Amidst a Ravaged Geography." Her photos are beautiful and well worth your time to see! You can view it at:

or at:

Great work Umayyah!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Read about the 2008 Young Adult Conference

This summer, Sabeel held its third Young Adult Conference, entitled "1948: The Nakba, Justice, and Beyond."

To read reflections from conference participants and few some of the pictures of the conference, check out this link:

Welcome to YFOS!

Welcome to the Young Friends of Sabeel blog!

Young Friends of Sabeel (YFOS) was organized out of the desire by memebers of the international community to support the work of Sabeel Ecumencial Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Sabeel, an ecumenical grassroots movement among Palestinians, seeks to make the Gospel contexually relevant, and strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different faith communities. The word "Sabeel" in Arabic means "the way" and also a "channel" or "spring" of life-giving water.

YFOS supports the work of Sabeel through education, advocacy, conferences, solidarity visits, partner-to-partner projects, and financial contributions. Young people, as a network of friends throughout the world, work in partnership with Sabeel to help bring about a just and durable peace for Palestine and Israel.

Young Friends of Sabeel educate other young adults around the world about the realitis of the Israeli occupation and how to work for peace with justice. We can help you with:
  • Publications, resource materials and bibliographies
  • Resources on the Sabeel website (
  • Worship and reflection tools such as the Contemporary Way of the Cross
  • Lectures and presentations from young adults who will come to your town

Young friends of Sabeel advocate for peace with justice through nonviolent means. We work together on:

  • Morally Responsible Investment (
  • Solidarity demonstrations
  • Internet strategies
  • Young Adult Conferences
  • How to's for community meetings, teach-ins and rallies

Young Friends of Sabeel participate in building a community of people who care:

  • Global partnerships
  • Volunteering
  • Lobbying for change
  • Media activism

Interested in joining YFOS? Want to request specific resources? Let us know what you are looking for from the YFOS network. Tell us what you want to see on this blog. Get in touch with us at

Whatever your gifts are, we need you!