MCC Palestine Update #133
4 March 2007
Sustainable Development as Peacebuilding and Nonviolent Resistance
Long-time MCC partner the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ; http://www.arij.org/) is beginning a waste water treatment project that will provide rural Palestinian areas in the West Bank with new sources of water for irrigation. A $1.16 million Cdn/$1 million U.S. grant from MCC makes it possible for ARIJ’s water and environment research unit to install on-site waste water treatment systems for 180 homes, providing direct benefits to about 1,800 people. The project gets underway this year and will be completed in 2010.
Nader Sh. Hrimat from ARIJ has pointed out that scarcity of fresh water supplies and restricted access to traditional water supplies creates ongoing shortages of water for agricultural purposes. These new systems will not only improves access to water they improve management of waste water, said Nader, explaining that the re-use of treated wastewater for irrigation is now considered to be one of the most feasible and economical ways to utilize household waste water in a sanitary manner.
The anticipated success of expanding this project to 180 homes is expected to encourage more Palestinian villages to install on-site treatment systems. In addition to addressing water shortages and water pollution concerns, these systems are also expected to increase agricultural productivity and food security. Treatment units will be manufactured locally and create much-needed employment opportunities in Palestinian Territories. Learn more about this project at http://www.mcc.org/news/news/article.html?id=144.
On the surface, this might simply appear to be another development project, one that is similar to those MCC supports around the world. However, in this context of ongoing Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestinian life and land, such simple acts of waste water treatment and sustainable development are not only peacebuilding initiatives in their own right but they also become powerful acts of nonviolent resistance.
Another example would be the next phase of a hydrology project MCC is supporting with the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG; http://www.phg.org/index1.html/). I recently joined Abdul-Latif from PHG in a field visit to the Palestinian villages of Jayyus and Kafr Jammal in the northern part of the West Bank where farmers are cut off from their agricultural lands by the Israeli separation barrier. This hydrology project in its various phases has sought to assist farmers in keeping a presence on their lands on the other side of the Wall by maintaining well pumps and irrigation systems.
Projects such as these give Palestinian people greater control over their natural resources, explained Nader. Water resources, he noted, are particular vulnerable because Israelis control up to 82 per cent of the Palestinian groundwater resources in the West Bank, restricting access to water for agricultural irrigation and other purposes.
Indeed, this is the form that a relevant nonviolent resistance has taken in the Occupied Territories. And it goes unnoticed by many in North America because it is not as recognizable as demonstrations or sit-ins. But in a context where so many pressures are exerted on Palestinian communities to leave their homes due to economic, social, or political forces (or other softer forms of what is essentially ethnic cleansing), assistance by the international community to help these communities simply be, simply exist, is the most salient form of nonviolent resistance that Palestinians live out on a daily basis.
This is why when I hear people ask, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi, or the Palestinian King, or the Palestinian Mandela?” (once again blaming the victim for their victimhood and absolving the oppressor by placing the responsibility and the initiative on the shoulders of the oppressed, which makes one want to respond with a “Where is the Israeli de Klerk?”) I think of the Nader’s and Abdul-Latif’s of Palestine who exercise courage, persistence, and steadfastness in the face of all of these pressures of dispossession, colonization, occupation, and most recently international boycott, and through the seemingly mundane acts of farming, reclaiming land, and water and food security initiatives truly resist injustice and truly pursue a sustainable peace born of justice in this land.
MCC delegation to Iran
There continues to be much discussion over the tensions in the Middle East due to the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the occupation in Iraq. U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh has written recently on the new direction the U.S. government is taking on dealing with the problems in Iraq and the larger region, where fears as to the potential of either a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran are very real (“The Redirection,” http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/
It is in the context of this uncertainty and with it the potential for new opportunities (only in the past few days did the U.S. Secretary of State announce the possibility of meeting with Iran and Syria) that a delegation led by MCC visited Iran last month. During this weeklong visit, they met with Christian and Muslim religious leaders, women serving in the Iranian parliament, former President Mohammad Khatami and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
After the visit the group will meet with members of the U.S. Congress informing them of what they heard leaders in Iran saying and ways to move toward lessening current tensions. When several members of the delegation met with members of Congress in October 2006 following a meeting in New York with President Ahmadinejad, congressional staff members encouraged them to continue their efforts at what is often called “Track Two Diplomacy” and visit Iran if possible.
Following their visit, the delegation released a statement saying: “As Christian leaders from the United States, we traveled to the Islamic Republic of Iran at this time of increased tension believing that it is possible to build bridges of understanding between our two countries. We believe military action is not the answer, and that God calls us to just and peaceful relationships within the global community.
“We are a diverse group of Christian leaders from United Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Quaker, and Mennonite traditions. The Mennonites have 17 years of on the ground experience in Iran. We were warmly welcomed by the Iranian people, and our time in Iran convinced us that religious leaders from both countries can help pave the way for mutual respect and peaceful relations between our nations.”
They concluded their statement with this hope and challenge:
“We believe it is possible for further dialogue and that there can be a new day in U.S. — Iranian relations. The Iranian government has already built a bridge toward the American people by inviting our delegation to come to Iran. We ask the U.S. government to welcome a similar delegation of Iranian religious leaders to the United States.
“As additional steps in building bridges between our nations, we call upon both the U.S. and Iranian governments to:
· immediately engage in direct, face-to-face talks;
· cease using language that defines the other using "enemy" images; and
· promote more people-to-people exchanges including religious leaders, members of Parliament/Congress, and civil society.
“As people of faith, we are committed to working toward these and other confidence building measures, which we hope will move our two nations from the precipice of war to a more just and peaceful relationship.”
Learn more about this delegation’s experience at http://www.mcc.org/iran/delegation/.
There are many opportunities available here in Palestine / Israel for you all to participate in the coming months that could give you a reason to “Visit Palestine”:
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD; http://www.icahd.org/eng/) has announced its Study Tour Program for this spring:
“The situation in Israel and Palestine continues to deteriorate. The Palestinian economy is collapsing and with it, a deepening humanitarian crisis for millions of Palestinians resulting in civil unrest. Open discussions are taking place over the use of the word "Apartheid" to describe Israel's regime. International governments meet to progress the peace process. Is the root of the problem being addressed? With lame governments in Israel, the UK and the USA, could this be civil society's opportunity for a pro-active move in re-framing the conflict based on universal human rights?
“To develop strategic campaigns and advocacy work, ICAHD believes that one of the most important means to equip the international community is to visit this region, witness the situation on the ground and receive in-depth analysis. Therefore ICAHD announces the next study tour which has been arranged in conjunction with Experience Travel Tours.”
To learn more or to apply for participation in ICAHD’s study tour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Holy Land Trust (http://www.holylandtrust.org/) has announced its 4th Annual “Palestine Summer Encounter,” a one to three month cultural immersion and Arabic language training program in the West Bank, starting on May 24th, 2007 where participants live with a host family, voluinteer with a local organization and study Arabic. “The purpose of the program is to create a dialogue between Palestinians and members of the global community. During the program, participants will learn beginner or intermediate converstaional Arabic through language immersion and class and partner with Palestinian non-profit organizations as a volunteer.” For more on this, see http://www.middleeastfellowship.org/pse2007.
Siraj Center (http://www.sirajcenter.org/) has announced its “Palestinian Summer Celebration 2007,” “a unique annual program that gives people from all over the world the chance to encounter the life and culture in Palestine in addition to donating some of their time to a local community organization through voluntary work and internships. The Palestinian summer celebration 2007 will take place in the Bethlehem area in Palestine, between Wednesday June 20th and August 18th, 2007.” For more on this, see http://www.sirajcenter.org/courses.htm.
The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (http://www.sabeel.org/) has announced its “Second International Young Adult Conference” titled “40 Years in the Wilderness: 40 Years of Occupation,” between July 19th and 29th, 2007. “Our vision for this conference is to gather, network, and further educate young leaders from Palestine and around the world, during this 40th year of the Occupation; so that they may be trained, commissioned, and equipped with the tools to act in advocacy to end the Occupation.” For more on this, see http://www.sabeel.org/pdfs/2007%20YA%20Conference%20Flyer.doc.
In the Gospel of Luke, the Shepherds, after hearing the news of Jesus’ birth, tell each other “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened”(Luke 2:15). There is no better way to understand the depths of the realities of this land than to see it for yourself. And as ICAHD has pointed out: “In 2007, forty years of Israeli occupation is being commemorated. Mark it by participating in the study tour and stand in solidarity with those who are working for the end of the occupation and a just and sustainable solution for both people groups.”
Please check out the websites of these organizations and think about which of these opportunities might be for you. And come Visit Palestine!
Peace to you all,
Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine
Attachments and Links:
· Yoav Stern, “Israeli Arab group proposes new ‘multi-cultural’ constitution,” Haaretz, 28 February 2007
· John Dugard, “UN Rapporteur compares Israel to Apartheid South Africa,” The Electronic Intifada, 27 February 2007
· “Human rights organizations testify about Israel’s ongoing policy of population transfer, also known as ‘ethnic cleansing,’ to the UN’s antiracism body,” BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, 18 February 2007
· “Growing poverty, unemployment threaten Palestinians’ ability to feed their families,” UN News, 22 February 2007
· Ran HaCohen, “How to Live with Hunger,” The Electronic Intifada, 27 February 2007
· Miko Peled, “It’s Time to Visit Gaza,” The Electronic Intifada, 13 February 2007
· Louis Frankethaler, “Reinforcing the Occupation: Israel's High Court,” The Electronic Intifada, 21 February 2007
· Amira Hass, “What a strange ‘abroad,’” Haaretz, 14 February 2007
· Khalid Mish’al, “Our unity can now pave the way for peace and justice,” The Guardian, 13 February 2007
Israeli Arab group proposes new ‘multi-cultural’ constitution
28 February 2007
A proposed constitution written by the Israeli Arab advocacy center, Adalah, states that Arab Knesset members will be able to bring about the disqualification of bills that impinge on the rights of Arabs, and classifies the State of Israel as a "bilingual and multicultural" country rather than a Jewish state.
The proposal, entitled "The Democratic Constitution," also calls for majority and minority groups to split control of the government in such a way that will strengthen the Arab minority on issues relating to the character of the state.
Adalah's version of the constitution essentially abolishes the Jewish elements of Israel, but allows the Jewish majority to maintain its character through educational and cultural institutions. The proposal invalidates the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to people with at least one Jewish grandparent, and states that citizenship will be granted to those who come to Israel for humanitarian reasons, regardless of their religion…
Instead of dealing with the issue of who is a Jew, says Adalah, the proposal deals with the issue of who is a citizen.
Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6602.shtml
The Electronic Intifada
UN Rapporteur compares Israel to Apartheid South Africa
27 February 2007
The international community, speaking through the United Nations, has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights - colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. Numerous resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations testify to this. Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem contains elements of all three of these regimes, which is what makes the Occupied Palestinian Territory of special concern to the international community.
That the OPT is occupied by Israel and governed by the rules belonging to the special legal regime of occupation cannot be disputed. The International Court of Justice confirmed this in respect of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in its 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (see, ICJ Reports, p. 136, paragraph 78), and held that the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 1949, was applicable to this Territory (ibid., para. 101). The Security Council, General Assembly and States Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention have declared that this Convention is applicable to the entire OPT (ibid., paras. 96-99). Moreover, it is not possible to seriously argue, as Israel has attempted to do, that Israel has ceased to occupy Gaza since August 2005, when it withdrew its settlers and the Israel Defense Forces from Gaza. Even before the commencement of "Operation Summer Rains", following the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit on 25 June 2006, Israel was able to exercise effective control over the Territory by reason of its control of Gaza's external borders, air space and sea space. Since that date it has exercised its military authority within Gaza by military incursions and shelling, in circumstances which clearly establish occupation.
Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6602.shtml. And for Dugard’s full report, see http://electronicintifada.net/artman/uploads/a-hrc-4-17.pdf
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Human rights organizations testify about Israel’s ongoing policy of population transfer, also known as “ethnic cleansing,” to the UN’s antiracism body
18 February 2007
Today, after ten years of evading its international duty to report on its implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the UN’s antiracism monitoring body, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), questioned Israel about its institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Ten human rights NGOs, including Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations, briefed CERD and documented how Israel bestows certain economic, social and cultural rights, privileges and benefits solely on its citizens holding Jewish nationality. This discriminatory practice has resulted in the systematic dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population, including over five million refugees. Over 20 human rights organizations also presented a joint parallel report to CERD, documenting Israel’s breaches of the antiracism treaty.
“As we approach 60 years since Israel’s 1948 dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel must be held accountable for continuously violating Palestinian refugee and internally displaced persons’ rights to reparation,” asserted Karine MacAllister, of the Bethlehem-based Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.
Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/825644.html. And for another report on this committee meeting see http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/YAOI-6YS7WP?OpenDocument
Growing poverty, unemployment threaten Palestinians' ability to feed their families
22 February 2007
Rising unemployment, poverty and "economic suffocation" in the occupied Palestinian territory are posing acute challenges to food security, leaving many families entirely dependent on outside aid as well as threatening vital sectors of the Palestinian economy, United Nations agencies warned today."
The poorest families are now living a meagre existence totally reliant on assistance, with no electricity or heating and eating food prepared with water from bad sources. This is putting their long-term health at risk," UN World Food Programme territory Director Arnold Vercken said.
The warning comes in a report by the WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) due to be released this month, reviewing and analyzing 2006 statistics and assessing food security and socio-economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report illustrates how restrictions on trade and movement last year led to the progressive fragmentation of the economy, dragging previously self-reliant sectors of society such as farmers, workers, fishermen, traders and small shop owners into poverty and debt.
Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6583.shtml. For more on this also see, “80 percent of Gazans now rely on food aid” (Haaretz) at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/832929.html and “Pollution adding to Gaza's woes” (Al Jazeera) at http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/C411C216-6D79-43E2-A07B-B1F40D6DB976.htm
The Electronic Intifada
How to Live with Hunger
27 February 2007
The UN report on Palestinian "food insecurity" was posted on Ynet too, in a fair synopsis headlined "Half the Palestinians Face Difficulty Getting Food" (Feb. 22), attracting about 75 readers' comments. With just a couple of exceptions (met with scorn and aggression), empathy and compassion are completely missing from the reactions. "Who cares?" one reader writes. "If my grandmother were alive, it might have interested her," says another.
Palestinian suffering is not perceived as a human catastrophe, but as a political argument. It's as if the Israeli propaganda machine managed to turn off the most basic human solidarity within the Israelis, replacing it by cynical sophistry devoid of any humanity. Hungry Palestinians are merely an attack on Israel's righteousness, and they are confronted as such…
The Israeli reactions to the Palestinian suffering for which they are morally responsible, especially when set against the background of their ostensible concern about world hunger, show how pervasively inhumane the Israelis have become. A well-oiled propaganda machine turns them from compassionate human beings into heartless parrots of state demagoguery, ready to ignore, excuse, and even support the starvation of the other nation with which they share the same land. The dehumanization of the Palestinians by Israel has dehumanized the Israelis themselves.
Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6597.shtml
The Electronic Intifada
It's Time to Visit Gaza
13 February 2007
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one area where liberals and neo-conservatives in America find common ground. From Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton all the way to George Bush and Condoleezza Rice one and all are united in supporting Israel's assault on the Palestinian people and their land.
The criticism of Jimmy Carter's book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid is a case in point. The hysteria on the Right is not worthy of repetition, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outdid herself by issuing a statement that: "It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression." Wrong to suggest? Here is something right to suggest: Madam Speaker, it is time for you to visit Gaza…
In America people still speak of a "peace process", and the situation in Gaza and in the West Bank is characterized as a conflict between two people who can't find a fair compromise. Few dare to mention that the only process that is taking place is oppression for the sake of expansion. Palestinian children are imprisoned, traumatized, starved and murdered so that Israeli can maintain its hegemony over the: "Land of Israel".
Gaza is collateral damage, the children of Gaza are of no consequence and the leaders of the enlightened, democratic Western world could not care less. But in spite of its enormous military might Israel's authority over life in Gaza can be must be defied. People conscience must act so that the ethnically based oppression, of which House Speaker Pelosi says it is wrong to accuse Israel, must be brought to an end.
Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6547.shtml
What a strange ‘abroad’
14 February 2007
Now it is official: The Gaza Strip is "abroad." As of February 1, the few Israelis whose entry into the Strip is approved by the army have had to present a passport at the Erez crossing, and they are listed on the Interior Ministry's computer as having crossed the country's borders…
There is reason for concern. A move such as erasing the Gazans from the registry fits the thought process that has characterized Israeli policy toward the Strip since 1991. Over the past 16 years, residents of the crowded, 360-square-kilometer Strip have been ordered to get used to its transformation into a kind of isolated autarkic economy and make do with the little it produces: increasingly little (and increasingly polluted) water; diminishing land; declining sources of income; industry and agriculture with no markets; and inferior educational and health institutions, due to their isolation from the world and the West Bank.
The peak of this policy, so far, was the disengagement in 2005. This is a policy that contradicts what is written in the Oslo Accords, which call the Strip and the West Bank a single territorial unit, as well as international resolutions about the solution for peace. But evacuating a few thousand settlers from the Strip was successfully marketed as Israeli moderation, even as Israel strengthened all its methods of control over the West Bank. Israel is also liable to market the deletion of Gazan names from the population registry as some kind of goodwill gesture. But such a move would only intensify the human distress of Gaza's 1.4 million residents, as well as their separation from the world. And that is a proven recipe for keeping a reasonable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians at a distance.
Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/825644.html
The Electronic Intifada
Reinforcing the Occupation: Israel's High Court
21 February 2007
Journalist Gideon Levy wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz: "From now on, the [Israeli] Supreme Court will act without Aharon Barak. It will, however, presumably continue to act within his legacy, which has authorized nearly all injustices in the territories. Barak, meanwhile, will continue to be depicted in Israel and the world as a pursuer of justice." The Israeli High Court of Justice under the presidency of Professor Barak has impressed many observers as being many things: progressive, daring, precedent setting. However, the actual results of the Barak Court offer little in the way of comparison to a Court like the Warren Court in the United States. The Warren Court is most remembered for breaking down the cruel and completely undemocratic system of racial segregation in United States schools and for its Miranda decision which said that criminal defendants must be clearly informed of their civil rights, including the right to an attorney. The Barak Court, in contrast (while not detracting from some of its decisions regarding civil rights in Israel), admonished the state on many occasions regarding some of the more egregious manifestations of Israeli Occupation cruelty but did little to dismantle the occupation and, instead, left it intact and actually, as Mr. Levy notes, reinforced it.
The Court should have declared the Occupation illegal. It could have used the clear and highly developed legal reasoning for which it is so well known in order to explain exactly how there is no fundamental difference between an 'illegal' outpost such as Kochav Ya'akov West and a 'legal' settlement such as Kochav Ya'akov or Ma'aleh Adumim (both of which are over the Green Line, on expropriated and occupied Palestinian land) and that the State has no right to confiscate land in order to build a wall that divides Palestinians and protects settlements that have no right to exist. The Court might have easily relied on international humanitarian law (IHL) which forbids Israel from doing exactly what it is doing in the OPT. The Court left the assassinations policy in place, delivering a meticulously reasoned legal analysis while forgetting or ignoring the human and human rights dimensions of the issue…Furthermore, the Court, in an important decision, by many accounts, ostensibly prohibited torture in Israel, yet it did not refer to the Israeli euphemism "moderate physical pressure" as torture -- which it is. Rather than reconciling its decision with international law and absolutely outlawing torture and cruel and inhuman treatment it left the window open and actually paved the way for torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to continue to be used as a counter-terrorism/insurgency tool albeit, (and perhaps), to a lesser extent than in the past.
Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6576.shtml
Our unity can now pave the way for peace and justice
13 February 2007
A historic new phase in the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence has begun. Last week's Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah will pave the way for the first ever truly Palestinian national unity government. Hamas and Fatah, joined by all the other Palestinian factions, will now seek to rebuild Palestinian society following the destruction brought upon it by Israeli occupation and resume the campaign for our national rights…
So, will the international community seize this historic opportunity, require Israel to respect our rights and stop hindering this attempt to turn the Palestinian national agreement into a reality? Or will it remain weak and ineffective in the face of Israeli intransigence and risk alienating not only Hamas but also Fatah and all the other Palestinian factions?
If the latter is the choice, the outcome will be dire indeed: the entire Middle East region will be driven towards another cycle of bloody escalation that may last for many years to come - and an entire Palestinian generation, which might not be willing to accept what we accept today, will be left profoundly embittered.
The west needs to wake up and realise that time is no longer on the side of Israel and its policies of occupation, destruction and expansion. Time no longer favours the continuation of policies biased towards Israel. It will not serve the best interests of the west to support Israel while it continues to terrorise our people, occupy our land, violate our basic human and national rights and encroach on Muslim and Christian holy places. Such blind support has proven to be very costly for the west and will increasingly damage its vital interests.
It must be understood by all that the people of Palestine have the key to both peace and war in the Middle East. There can never be peace and stability in the region without settling the Palestinian question. And that can only be achieved by ending the occupation and recognising our people's rights.
Please read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2011657,00.html