Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Short film produced by young adult conference participant

While we're on the topic of Hebron:

Peter, one of our 2008 Young Adult Conference participants, has produced a short film based on the experience that the group had in AlKhalil/Hebron.

Click here to view the film:

Great work Peter, and thanks Jill and Margaret for sharing your testimonies!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Watch the World Famous "Sharmouta" Clip from B'Tselem

If Arthur Gish's story of working on the Christian Peace Maker Team in Hebron below was interesting to you, watch a video of an example of the kinds of altercations he would have had to deal with there. The second portion of this 6 minute clip from B'Tselem's "Shooting Back" program is now world famous and has become known as the "Sharmouta" video.

The first portion of the clip shows a settler boy drunk throwing stones and harassing a Palestinian family. You'll notice that a cage has been erected around the Palestinian residence in an attempt to alleviate frequent acts of harassment like the one shown. The second clip begins by displaying the distress of one of the members of the Palestinian family. She is trying to help her brother get safely home from school. Frequently, Palestinian children have stones thrown at them or suffer other forms of abuse on their way home from school if they are not accompanied. Toward the end of the clip you'll see a settler woman heckling the woman worried about her brother. This portion of the video is the reason the clip became known as the "Sharmouta" video.

This video is a great illustration of the situation in high conflict areas in the West Bank, particularly Hebron. Its important to know that altercations such as these are not out of the ordinary.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A story from Arthur Gish, A member of the Christian Peace Maker Team (CPT) in Hebron

Hebron Journal: December 16, 1995, Saturday (Arthur's first day in Hebron)

After spending the night in Jerusalem, I got a taxi to
Hebron this morning. It was exciting to see the beautiful
countryside, to drive through Bethlehem. Soon I was at the
municipal building in Hebron. Ahlam Muhtasib, the public
relations person for the Palestinian mayor and CPT's contact
in city hall, invited me into her office. Soon Cliff Kindy (a
50-year-old organic farmer from Indiana) and Anne
Montgomery (a 70-year-old Catholic nun), both members of
the CPT team here, arrived and we walked to our apartment
in the old city.

The old city is in a valley surrounded by hills and ancient
stone houses. Our apartment is on the second floor of a
building at the edge of the old market, in a small street that
used to be the glassmakers' street. Now it is known as chicken
market. Each day the competing squawks of the chickens,
turkeys, ducks, geese, and other creatures fill the air.

Our apartment is two doors from the corner of Shuhada
Street, which used to be the main street through Hebron, but
is now closed to Palestinian vehicles. Walk half a block up
Shuhada Street and you come to a military encampment in
what used to be the Palestinian central bus station. Go one
more block up the street and you come to the Beit Hadassah
settlement. Go two blocks up a steep hill to the left and you
find the Tel Rumeida settlement. There is a Yeshiva school
(Beit Romano) just below the military encampment. Go the
other way on Shuhada Street about three blocks and you
come to the Ibrahimi Mosque/Synagogue, also known as the Tomb of de Patriarchs.
Between our apartment and the mosque/synagogue is the Avraham Avinu settlement. There are military checkpoints in each direction. It
feels like weare in the middle of the action.

Today was Saturday, the biggest day of the week for our
team. Lots of settlers from all over the West Bank come to
Hebron each Sabbath weekend to support the Hebron settlers.
Many acts of violence have happened on Saturdays,
due to the interaction of settlers, soldiers, and Palestinians on
the street. Anne, Cliff, and I spent the day walking up and
down the street. The most disturbing thing I saw was settlers
Walking back and forth with their automatic weapons.

Right away I began to learn CPT tactics from Cliff. We
Were in the park near the mosque/synagogue when two soldiers
ran across the park, pretending to be attacking some
one with their weapons. Soon another group of soldiers did
the same thing. Cliff walked right up to them and talked with
them about how dangerous it is to act that way in a tense situation where their actions could be interpreted as an attack.
He talked to them about the need to be sensitive. I was
impressed with his courage and gentleness. It had never
occurred to me that one could actually confront soldiers
about their actions.

Later I saw four Palestinian men standing up against a
Wall. We learned that two soldiers had taken away their
identity passes and made them stand there for four hours
because they had opened their shop during curfew. The market is closed as a collective punishment because two days ago
a Palestinian was shot in front of the mosque/synagogue and
left for two hours to bleed to death. He is reported to have
stabbed a settler after being harassed by settlers.
We approached the two soldiers and asked them about
What was happening. They didn't want to talk with us, or
give us their names. Cliff told them his name and said that
since he wasn’t ashamed of what he was doing, he wasn't
afraid to give his name. We went to the police station and
made a complaint about this incident. The policeman said he
would contact the commanding officer.

This evening we visited the Abu Haikel family. The family
has been harassed for years by the settlers in the neighboring
Tel Rumeida settlement, because the settlers want the
Abu Haikelland which adjoins the Tel Rumeida settlement.
Settlers have attacked the Abu Haikels and damaged their
property. We have been accompanying their young daughter
past the settlement when she comes home from school,
because she has been threatened by the settlers.
Last summer soldiers detained two CPT members for ten
hours after accompanying a water truck up to the Abu
Haikel home. The family had been without water and the
settlers were preventing water trucks from passing the settlement.
Because two North Americans were involved, this incident
received international attention and raised awareness
about the water problem in Hebron, where settlers enjoy
well-watered lawns even as Palestinians lack water for basic
needs. Prime Minister Rabin even sent a fact-finding group
to evaluate the water problem in Hebron. The publicity also
helped ease the pressure on the Abu Haikel family.

On the way home we were stopped by six soldiers who
wanted to see our passports. They told us they heard we had
created a lot of trouble this afternoon. We had a good talk
with them about what we are doing in Hebron.

To learn more about Hebron:
Read information about Hebron from Btselem
Read Btselem's publication entitled, "Ghost Town"

To learn more about CPT work in Hebron:
Visit the CPT Hebron site

Thursday, April 16, 2009

International presence deters eviction of Palestinian family from East Jerusalem

Today, Israeli police presented the al Hanoun family with an eviction notice notifying them that they would need to vacate the premises within half an hour. Fortunately, a member of the family noticed that the address on the document was not the address of their house. Frustrated, the police left to obtain a notice with the al Hanoun's address on it promising to return within an hour. During that time, members of the neighborhood, various Israeli and Palestinian peace organizations, and the media were mobilized in order to create a presence that would deter the police from returning to carry out the intended eviction.

Similar to the al Kurd family, members of the al Hanoun family were refugees of the 1948 War. In 1956, the United Nations Relief and Works Agencies (UNRWA),in cooperation with the Jordanian government, built housing units for Palestinian refugees of 1948 in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. This agreement would trade UNRWA refugee benefits for permanent housing in this neighborhood.

Since 1972, Israeli settlers have been claiming ownership of the land using fraudulent documents demanding rent from the al Hanoun family. Legal battles have ensued since then. The family was evicted for a period of time in 2002 and forced to live in a tent. However, the court overturned the ruling and the al Hanoun's were allowed to return to their home.

Regardless of that ruling, the eviction notices continue to be issued and the al Hanoun family lives under constant threat of being displaced once again. The al Hanoun family's story is only a part of a much broader Israeli policy of forcing Palestinians in East Jerusalem out to create "One Jerusalem undivided".

To find out more:
PNN's article about the eviction notice today
Maan's article about the al Hanoun family from last month

Below is a map of East Jerusalem neighborhoods from Btselem. The Green Line on the map indicates the 1949 armistice line. The red line represents the Wall, or Separation barrier. The brown indicates Palestinian neighborhoods and the blue indicates illegal Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Creative resistance: Hip-hop for Gaza

Here's a great story from Electronic Intifada about hip-hop groups performing in Chicago to raise awareness of the situation in Gaza.

Do you have a story of creative resistance? Are you using music or art to raise awareness about the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories?

Let us know about it here!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Campus Activism Opportunity for U.S. YFOS

Great opportunity for young friends of Sabeel on U.S. college campuses:

"Last year, our anti-apartheid speaking tour, Separate Is Never Equal, we had 10 events on campuses and forged relationships with amazing groups of students and faculty across the country. This year, we want to build on the education done during Separate Is Never Equal by spending more time with a few select campuses and implementing intensive training to support groups organizing for boycott and divestment campaigns on campuses.

We know that boycott and divestment campaigns (BDS) require real time and energy investments and we want to work closely with campus communities to develop leadership in student groups, solidify connections with supportive faculty and build coalitions between campuses and community groups working to unify campaigns in selected cities.

The tour is being organized with consultation from Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine - the only campus group to have successfully divested from Israel's illegal military occupation. We will bring the lessons learned during Hampshire's two-year campaign to campuses across the country and build a support network for campuses organizing BDS campaigns. The US campaign will commit to working side-by-side with groups in the selected cities before, during and after the tour to build sustainable BDS campaigns modeled after the work that was done to end apartheid in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s.

Regardless of what investments your university may hold there are myriad ways to get involved in BDS. We will offer students, faculty and community groups a full menu of options, from divesting from war profiteers like Caterpillar, to boycotting Motorola on campus, to selective purchasing like having campus food service buy Palestinian olive oil."

Find out more by clicking here.

Young friends outside of the U.S.--let us know what's happening on campuses and in churches at home!

Comment or email us at youngfriendsofsabeel[at]gmail[dot]com.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Reflection from Sabeel's Contemporary Way of the Cross

From Sabeel's Contemporary Way of the Cross:

"The Arabic word for Good Friday is jum'a al hazini which means "Sad Friday." Sad Friday denotes the situation of Christ on that Friday two thousand years ago: Christ had been humiliated, condemned, and crucified as a criminal. His disciples were all disheartened, scattered to the four winds, and broken in spirit. They had abandoned their Lord and Master, who seemed to have betrayed their hopes of a glorious kingdom which was heralded by his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It represented the depth of despair for the apparent victory of the forces of evil, oppression, and hypocrisy. The Romans, the foreign occupiers, had collaborated with the local political and religious leadership to crush the fresh voice of the prophet from Nazareth. All hope seemed to have been abandoned.

Palestinians are living today in the "Sad Friday" period of their history. Never before did their situation seem as desperate as it is now. People correctly point out that their current situation is worse than it ever has been. Even the most optimistic Palestinian is now feeling a deep sense of depression and despair, as what looked like the beginnings of statehood, freedom, and self-determination, has been turned into an abysmal combination of Bantustans and a silent international community.

Yet precisely in this dark hour of despair, the message of Easter needs to be proclaimed again: Christ will not remain in the tomb, nor will evil and oppression have the last word. Christ rose again on the third day with a glorious triumph over the forces of evil and darkness, and over death itself proclaiming to the whole world a new era and the victory of good over evil. The message of Easter, for Palestinians, as well as for the poor and oppressed everywhere, is that God is sovereign in the affairs of the world. No matter how dark things appear to be on "Sad Friday," Easter is coming and with it the promise, hope and certainty of resurrection, a new beginning, and the victory of life over death."

--Jonathan Kuttab, board member of Sabeel

Remember Deir Yassin

Yesterday, Holy Thursday, also marked the 61st anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre, often considered as the beginning of Al-Nakba.

To read about Deir Yassin and to see a short video commemorating the massacre--including the voices of people that past Sabeel young adult conferences have heard from, such as Jeff Halper and Eitan Bronstein--click here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Trip to Sderot

During Operation Cast Lead, or the recent war in Gaza, the Israeli media was flooded with stories of Israeli citizens in Sderot running for cover upon hearing air raid sirens going off signaling the flight of a rocket originating from the Gaza Strip. The story of Sderot as a besieged city has become the symbol of Israeli suffering at the hands of Palestinians and Hamas in particular. When the opportunity arose to go to the city to hear directly from its citizens, my friends and I traveled an hour and a half southwest of Jerusalem to visit with members of three groups active in their community: Other Voice, a student group at Sapir College, and Sderot and Western Negev Media Center.

As we approached the city (in Israel, a population exceeding 25,000 is considered a city), I finally understood the news stories I read during the war recounting people finding cover from rockets at bus stops. Every bus stop in Sderot either was a bomb shelter, or had a bomb shelter next to it. One of the first bits of information we received from our first hosts, members of Other Voice, was the location of the bomb shelter in the house. Our hosts expressed that they experienced perpetual tension waiting to hear the next air raid siren go off. From the very first moments upon our arrival in the city, there was no doubt that the citizenry has been deeply affected by threat of rocket attacks.

Our introduction included a brief history of the area. Sderot is considered a “Development town”, part of a policy of social engineering that emerged in the 1950s to absorb the flooding of new immigrants, generally of non-European descent. In its earliest years, Sderot was almost entirely composed of Moroccan immigrants. These towns tend to be the poorest Jewish areas of Israel and offer little to no social mobility. This compounds the issue in Sderot. Most of the citizens do not have the means to move away from the area, and there has been little government intervention to ameliorate these and other social issues that plague the city.

Our hosts told us that the rockets had started after the second Intifada. As a result, real estate prices in Sderot plummeted making it nearly impossible for residents to move. Despite the hardships our hosts experienced, they expressed their deep sense of concern, and even grief for the people of Gaza, stating that the intolerable situation they lived in did not compare to the suffering felt in Gaza. All of the members of Other Voice had kept in contact with Palestinians in Gaza throughout the war via phone and internet and every one of those Palestinians knew some one who had died as a consequence of Israeli Defense Force actions. After the war, Other Voice has continued their efforts to maintain dialogue and to demonstrate solidarity with their friends in Gaza.

We then traveled to Sapir College to meet with two students who had organized a recycling center, and were dedicated to living a green or sustainable lifestyle. The students had traveled across Israel collecting various items that people considered to be waste, including books, kitchen items, clothing, etc. The students then mend or fix the items and resell them for a nominal fee. The fee is then used to sponsor different events for the Sderot community in an attempt to provide an alternative and empowering image of Sderot rather than that of a victimized city. The students expressed dedication to Sderot and to all of the people of the Western Negev, including the Bedouin (an Arab population that was once nomadic). Stories of exchanges between these Jewish Israeli students and the Bedouin were a great source of optimism for me.

However, the optimism I felt from meeting these two extraordinary groups came to an abrupt halt with our third and final meeting. The director of the Sderot and Western Negev Media Center was to be our guide on a tour of the city. He began as our first hosts did by informing us of the proper procedure in the event of the air raid siren going off. However, his language was a bit different. He informed us that we would be running for our lives as all citizens of Sderot are forced to do on a regular basis. He went on to paint more frantic and pitiful pictures of parents unable to “save” their children because of the limited time they have to run for their lives to shelter. Every morning, bus drivers are plagued by trying to choose which child they would save if the siren goes off because they could only save one. He went on to say that the psychological detriment to the citizenry of Sderot is overlooked by the international media because people are dying in Gaza and “if it bleeds, it leads.”

One of my friends asked a very interesting question:

Q: If the people of Sderot are suffering psychologically from the possibility of rocket attacks, then what of the citizens of Gaza who are bombarded every day by the Israeli military?

A: Yeah, of course they suffer psychologically because Hamas uses them as human shields.

During our conversation with the guide there was no indication that Israel could even partially be at fault for the suffering of the people of Sderot or Gaza. When asked about the 1,400 Gazans who had been killed in the war, again, our guide put the burden on Hamas stating that very few civilians had been killed because the Israeli military was able to target the terrorists. Apparently he had not read the Haaretz articles discussing the Israeli military’s lax policy of defining “combatant” and accounts of the targeting of civilians. Finally, we asked him what the war had accomplished as Sderot is still threatened with rockets, if not more so now. He replied: “The job wasn’t finished”

It is this mentality that has made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intractable. The Israeli government and the media’s manipulation of Sderot’s very serious problem as a symbol for Israeli suffering has hindered any kind of real change for the neglected resident of the city, and has perpetuated the view that all Palestinians in Gaza are terrorists. This kind of dehumanization is an obstacle to peace.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great site for morally responsible investment activists

Here's a great resource for anyone working on morally responsible investment in their church or on campus.

It's a website called Who Profits?

Who Profits? is a website built and maintained by the Coalition of Women for Peace. It's an online database of all the companies that support, sustain, and profit from the illegal and immoral Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Here's some cool things you can do with the website:

1) You can search by country of origin. Just go to Advanced Search on the site and type in your country under Location. This gives you all the companies that originate from your country that profit from the occupation. So, for example, if you're from Sweden, you can search for Swedish companies that help build and sustain the occupation.

2) You can also search by country of activity. Just type in your country under "Global Presence" in the Advanced Search menu. This gives a list of companies that profit from the occupation that have a presence in your country. So, if you're Canadian, you can search for companies that profit from the occupation that might have a store or sell products in your area, whether or not those companies are Canadian-owned or not.

3) You can also report a company. So for those of you living in Palestine and Israel, if you see a company that has chains in settlements, or is involved in the Wall or checkpoints, or is supplying the Israeli military with equipment they use to maintain the occupation, you can report it by going here

Let's try it, shall we? There's a Domino's Pizza chain in the French Hill settlement, but Domino's doesn't show up on the Who Profits database. Who wants to help me report Domino's by clicking here?