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November, 2010:

Wadi Rahal villagers commit to non-violent resistance

In 1975, Wadi Rahal (The Valley of Travelers) villagers built the school where their kids are educated to this day.  Seven months ago, villagers found a map, placed carefully under two rocks so it wouldn’t blow away.  This map was left by Israeli soldiers for villagers to find, it indicated the planned route of The Wall that will be built around the village.  It will be built 10 meters away from their school.

Immediately after finding the map, five college students from Wadi Rahal began organizing non-violent demonstrations against The Wall.  These students, since 2006, have also provided summer camps for the kids in the village, giving them a place to play, English lessons and training in non-violent resistance.  Once, the kids were able to go on a trip to the sea, an opportunity most Palestinian children do not have as the coast is inaccessible by Palestinians.

Wadi Rahal kids enjoying a day at the beach

Wadi Rahal’s 1700 residents live in the shadow of Efrata, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  The settlers control Wadi Rahal’s water, which flows through a shared water pipe that fills the village’s tanks.  During the summer when water is a priceless commodity, villagers say that Efrata cuts their water to one day a week, leaving them to savor the water in their tank for a week.

A mobile clinic run by Palestinian Medical Relief Services comes once a week for three hours.  At other times, villagers must travel to Bethlehem for medical assistance.

Before 6:00pm, the Israeli army locks a gate that separates the highway (route 60) from the road to the settlement and the village.  Once locked up, villagers have to take a much longer, winding route out of the area.

Any noise at night scares the villagers, whose homes are subject to twice-monthly raids.  Israeli soldiers enter the village at night to search a home.  They knock on doors with the butt of their machine guns and, if the door isn’t opened fast enough, the soldiers break it down.  When they leave, the house is ransacked and things are broken.  What they search for, no one is sure.

Every Friday at noon, the college students organize a non-violent demonstration against the impending construction of The Wall.

For more information about Wadi Rahal, please go to their new website here. Without A Map will be working Wadi Rahal villagers to complete their website and upload more interactive elements.  Stay tuned!

Ahava Flashmob

The Bathrobes Brigade has contacted numerous Dutch magazines to inform them about the ugly truth of Ahava beauty products and requested that they do not advertise for this product of stolen beauty.

Remembering Home

This year wasn’t my first Thanksgiving abroad, a holiday that is oh-so-North-American that celebrations overseas usually take on a little local flavor. In Kerala, India we were treated to curried barbeque chicken and the most delicious mashed potatoes I may ever taste. I wore a navy blue churidar to that meal. In Dublin, our Irish hosts had a special meal cooked up for our group of college students on a social justice study trip. We arrived after dark and left patches of snow on the carpeted stairs as we tromped up to the second floor, where we ate family-style. In Rome, I wore chic black and ate Chinese food at a restaurant in Monte Mario. Each time, the food was warm and delicious and I felt thankful to be among friends thoughtful enough to make Thanksgiving part of their week.

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving with hummus and pita in Bethlehem, Palestine while my Mom and younger brother made prime rib and Yorkshire pudding in Madison, WI. They probably talked about his latest rugby game and her projects at work and their upcoming trip to the Holy Land for Christmas. Pete fixed a few things in the house and carried the water softener salt to the basement while Mom set the table with festive placemats and a bouquet of enormous sunflowers. It probably smelled like slowly cooking meat and the house felt warm and cozy, at least in the rooms where Mom didn’t close the vents to save energy. Van Morrison probably crooned on speakers throughout the house. They might have remembered little Briggs, the ancient cat who blessed my family with her tiny presence from my childhood into my young adulthood. Though her little legs were atrophied in old age, she continued to launch herself with reckless abandon over sofas and between our legs, and proceed to sleep for hours with the same reckless abandon that got her to her latest perch.

Thanksgiving, even more than Christmas, is a time when going home is about just that – going home. There aren’t gifts or mad shopping-sprees to make you sweat with pressure. It’s a time to cook extravagantly and eat American-ly, and then sleep with the reckless abandon only possibly during a long weekend.

Once I left home for college, returning home make me conscious of what it felt like to be home, something I had taken for granted when I was always there. I realized that it smelled like detergent and wood and a constantly brewing pot of Red Rose tea. Mom would make up my bedroom with clean sheets, often placing a small vase of fresh flowers on my nightstand. I’d return to school realizing that no, I wasn’t actually Buddhist, and the guy I was dating was a materialistic yahoo and that I should take an afternoon and go to the Art Institute to absorb inspiration and realize my vast potential.

Home, no matter where you are, is a place of rejuvenation and encouragement, solace and stability, family and peace. When I asked friends what home means for them, whether American or Palestinian, their responses were fed with the same nourishing sentiments.

“Home is safe, caring, giving and can be anywhere as long as it’s a place where one can feel alive.”

“There is a song that says that home is where I’m loved, which is turning out to be the most true definition of home for me. Until I reach my own definition of the physical meaning of the home, I would say that my home is the virtual space where I’m comfortable. It could be a nice gathering in the evening or it could be a sweet late phone call with someone you love.”

“A place to be carefree without worries. Being with family. The only door that is always open when other doors are closed. Home is a place where one finds peace, solitude, serenity, tranquility and enjoys his time regardless of how trivial his lifestyle is, he still finds it to be sublime.”

“Home equals warmth, love and encouragement. It’s where you can just be you.”

“Home is where the heart is and where you make it a place of welcome. It is a place where family and friends can come any time…and there will be food.”

Home is hardly ever about the actual structure, it’s about the feelings you have when you are there. That is, until the structure itself is at risk.

My apartment in the West Bank is within spitting distance of The Wall near Rachel’s Tomb. When I look out my bedroom window, I see it wrapping around the other side of my building, up the hill next to Aida Refugee Camp. Heavy cement blocks soar up to 25-feet-tall with metal fencing on top, the kind that protects innocent outsiders from dangerous prisoners inside (I’m on the inside). I have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge kitchen and a living room that seats nine because the family that used to live here moved out when The Wall was built. Their store on the first floor failed because the street was difficult for shoppers to access and their view was, suddenly, demoralizing rather than breathtaking.

Fear and resignation are emotions I don’t relate to when I think of my home, but for some of my Palestinian friends this is their reality at home.

Once, I was invited to dinner during Ramadan at a friend’s house in a village called Sarra, situated near Nablus on the top of a hill and surrounded by Israeli settlements on all sides. As we walked through the village, my friend expressed pride in the beauty of her neighborhood. She pointed to her house from far away, “That is my home.”

The house was gorgeous, with a special room for the eldest daughter to teach English to kids in the village. The three daughters shared a pink bedroom. Her father, a taxi driver, came home just for dinner and then returned to work until nearly midnight. He cracked jokes and his daughters poked fun at him during dinner. He fed his wife a piece of bread with a look of admiration and adoration on his face. He made the best of the few minutes he had with his loved ones, relaxing in the home he created with them.

We sat on their porch to eat, sitting elbow to elbow on a mat that wrapped us around the generous meal. In the distance, I noticed a growing flame. Olive trees were on fire. I looked around at the family members when we all noticed and saw on their faces something frightening, resignation. They were so accustomed to watching their land burn, that they were resigned to it. We watched an Israeli army jeep drive past the fire, doing nothing about the huge flames burning innocent olive trees, the crops and livelihood of Sarra villagers. We continued to eat as the land burned.

Yesterday I visited Wadi Rahal, a beautiful village nestled among sloping hills and surrounded by olive trees just a few kilometers from Bethlehem. We drove the winding path from route 60 to the village, the foundation of The Wall followed us. When built, The Wall will separate the village from its own olive trees. It will sit 10 meters from the village’s one school. It will cut off the village from the highway. I met with two college students, both activists doing their best organize weekly demonstrations and train the village in non-violent ways to resist The Wall.

They said that, about twice a month, Israeli soldiers enter one of the homes in the village in the middle of the night to do a search. They use the butt of their machine guns to bang on the door. If it isn’t opened in time, they break down the door. They wake up the entire family and search the entire house, breaking dishes and wreaking havoc. One of the guys said if he hears any noise at night he believes it is the army and it scares him. His home does not feel safe.

Each Thanksgiving, many recognize that the holiday symbolizes a loss of land and livelihood for one group of people and the victory of another. While I stare at The Wall from my kitchen window, I think about my neighbors in Aida Refugee Camp, who were kicked out of their homes in 1948 so that Israeli families could have a homeland. I am thankful that during my Thanksgiving dinners at home, I have never looked out the window to see our trees burning down. I am thankful that I can sleep, with reckless abandon, after a huge turkey (or prime rib) meal, knowing that I don’t need to feel scared. My home smells like detergent and wood and Red Rose tea, and I’m not afraid of losing it.

Most of the time I feel that the conflict for a home in Israel and Palestine is too complicated to ever truly grasp, but sometimes, like on Thanksgiving, it seems pretty simple.

Princeton Sabra hummus vote

PRINCETON, N.J. — Princeton University students voted Monday in a referendum by a pro-Palestine student group on whether to expand the school’s hummus offerings.

The student group Princeton Committee for Palestine wants university-run stores to offer alternative brands of the Middle Eastern chickpea dip because they say the only brand available is linked to human rights violations.

The brand, Sabra, is owned by PepsiCo and Strauss Group, and Strauss’ website says it supports members of the Israeli military.

The group has been pushing for the university to boycott and get rid of its investments in companies that make donations to parts of the Israeli military that it says violate human rights.

Ilya Welfeld, a spokeswoman for Sabra, which has headquarters in Queens, N.Y., and Richmond, Va., said Sabra only makes donations in North America — and none of them are political.

But the Strauss Group, an Israeli food conglomerate, says on its website that it makes contributions for the “welfare, cultural and educational activities” of members of the Israeli military.

Students seeking the referendum made it happen by collecting 200 signatures. If the effort is successful, it would mean the student government would make a formal request to the Ivy League school’s administration to provide additional brands of hummus.

The pro-Israel student group Tigers of Israel opposes the referendum. The group says the allegations raised by the other side are sketchy.

The results of the vote are scheduled to be released Friday.

The referendum was originally scheduled for last week but was canceled then because of a goof: The wording called for Sabra hummus not to be offered at university stores rather than for additional products to be sold, too.

—Copyright 2010 Associated Press

Read the original article on wsj.com here

Palestine 2011

BY JEFF HALPER for Middle East Post

Struggling as I have for the past decades to grasp the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and find ways to get out of this interminable and absolutely superfluous conflict, I have been two-thirds successful. After many years of activism and analysis, I think I have put my finger on the first third of the equation: What is the problem? My answer, which has withstood the test of time and today is so evident that it elicits the response…“duh”…is that all Israeli governments are unwaveringly determined to maintain complete control of Palestine/Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, frustrating any just and workable solution based on Palestinian claims to self-determination. There will be no negotiated settlement, period.

The second part of the equation – how can the conflict be resolved? – is also easily answerable. I don’t mean entering into the one state/two state conundrum and deciding which option best. Under certain circumstances both could work, and I can think of at least 3-4 other viable options as well, including my favorite, a Middle Eastern economic confederation. The Palestinian think tank Passia published a collection of twelve proposed solutions a few years ago. What I mean is, it is not difficult to identity the essential elements of any solution. They are, in brief,

· A just, workable and lasting peace must be inclusive of the two peoples living in Palestine/Israel;

· Any solution must provide for a national expression of each people, not merely a democratic formula based on one person-one vote;

· It must provide economic viability to all the parties;

· No solution will work that is not based on human rights, international law and UN resolutions.

· The refugee issue, based on the right of return, must be addressed squarely.

· A workable peace must be regional in scope; it cannot be confined merely to Israel/Palestine; and

· A just peace must address the security concerns of all the parties and countries in the region.

These seven elements, I would submit, must configure any just solution. If they are all included, a settlement of the conflict could take many different forms. If, however, even one is missing, no solution will work, no matter how good it looks on paper.

Read the rest of the article on The Middle East Post website.

The Windy City Makes Waves for Peace, Equity and Justice in Palestine


The suburban Chicago-based Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine (CJPIP) “is a diverse, community-based group dedicated to organizing activities and educational events that advance the cause of peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

It supports:

— equal rights and access to resources (equitably) based on social, economic, environmental, and political justice principles

— peace and equal justice

— an end to Israel’s illegal occupation and continuing land theft

— an end to US policies that sustain the occupation

— international support for an equitable and just negotiation process

— granting Palestinian refugees their right of return, guaranteed under international law

— ending all forms of individual, organizational, and state-sponsored terror.

Read the entire article by Stephen Lendman here.

Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine website.

CPT At-Tuwani October 2010 Update

CPTnet AT-TUWANI UPDATE: October 2010

The At-Tuwani team had between two to three CPTers serving during the month
of October.

School Patrol

Together with the members of Operation Dove, the team monitored the Israeli
military accompaniment of the school children from the Tuba area as they
passed near the Israeli settlement of Ma’on. Twice the soldiers failed to
arrive in the afternoon, and the internationals accompanied the children back
to Tuba. Four settlers, with faces masked, chased the children during one of
these accompaniments, but no verbal or physical contact with the settlers
occurred, and no one was injured. On another occasion, two high school
students were returning to Tuba when two masked settlers stole the donkey
they were riding.  Later the donkey appeared back in Tuba missing its

Shepherd Accompaniment

Team members often spent Friday or Saturday nights at Tuba and accompanied
young shepherds in the morning as they grazed their flocks near the Ma’on
settlement barns. When settlers approached, the shepherds generally left the
area quickly. Israeli soldiers on one occasion chased young shepherds back to
Tuba and arrested their brother, a university student, when he videoed the
soldiers’ actions. He was taken to an army base and held for five hours. On
one occasion, two masked settlers attacked two members of Operation Dove as
they returned from accompanying shepherds, but did not injure them. The next
day, a settler on horseback challenged two CPTers and warned them to stay off
the road to Tuba. Three more settlers appeared and watched the CPTers as they
took a longer route.

Israeli Army Checkpoints

Soldiers often set up a temporary army checkpoint at the junction of the
settler-only highway and the road from At-Tuwani to Yatta. They stopped
most vehicles and checked IDs, possibly looking for labourers travelling to
or from Israel illegally across the nearby green line.  CPT and/or the Doves
monitored the checkpoint and intervened when soldiers detained Palestinians
for a longer time than usual. Sometimes they were able to engage the soldiers
in conversation about what they were doing and why.


A visitor from England spent a day with the team, and a delegation of thirty
Mennonites from the U.S. and Canada visited to see and hear the stories of
nonviolent resistance practiced by the people of At-Tuwani to the occupation
and confiscation of their land by Israeli settlers and soldiers. The team
helped a Palestinian couple from At-Tuwani prepare for a November speaking
tour in Italy.

Olive Harvest

The army seemed to have orders to protect the farmers from settler attack
during their olive harvest. While the families from At-Tuwani were in the
Humra valley near the Ma’on settlement, two army jeeps remained on the road
between the valley and the settlement for the entirety of the olive harvest,
which passed without incident.

Israeli soldiers detain five Palestinian school boys in South Hebron Hills


[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

November 21st, 2010

At-Tuwani – Christian Peacemaker Teams Press Release: Claiming that the children were throwing stones, Israeli soldiers detained five Palestinian schoolboys.

Since the beginning of 2005, the children from the village of Tuba wait every morning for an Israeli army escort to accompany them to the school in At-Tuwani, along the shortest road that goes through the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on. The escort’s task is to protect the children from the violence of the Israeli settlers of Havat Ma’on.

On the morning of November 21st, Palestinian schoolchildren had been waiting for over an hour near the settlement chicken barns when, at about 8:50 am, the soldiers arrived to escort the children to school past Havat Ma’on. Instead of escorting the children, however, the soldiers stopped and talked with the settlement security guard while the children waited on the road nearby. While the soldiers and the security guard were talking, two settlers passed the children.

After waiting for 15 minutes, two of the schoolchildren left for school on their own, unaccompanied. The other 13 children waited for another five minutes, then turned around and left to head back home. The soldiers remained with the security guard.

As the children were arriving at their villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al-Abeed, the same soldiers drove up, and, shoving away two internationals from Christian Peacemaker Teams, grabbed five boys and put them in the army vehicle. The soldiers took the boys back to the settlement barns, where, according to the children, they asked them no questions, but made them sit against a barn. After holding them for 15 minutes, the soldiers released the boys.

As the boys were leaving, the captain told the internationals “tell the children’s parents that if the boys throw stones again, it won’t be like this time. There will be problems.”

“I was waiting with the kids for over an hour, and I never saw them throw stones” said Joe Yoder, member of CPT. “Even if they were throwing stones while they were playing around, I don’t see how that’s an offense that merits soldiers coming into their home and carrying them off like criminals. If the army would just arrive on time, then there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.”

Schoolchildren from Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed rely on the Israeli army to escort them past the settlement of Ma’on and the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on, where Israeli settlers have committed acts of violence against the schoolchildren in the past.

These kinds of incidents are the evidence of the Israeli military escort’s failure to protect the children from settler’s violence. In the last school year, the children were attacked 19 times, they waited for the escort 53 hours and they missed almost 27 hours of classes.

A more detailed report about the military escort of schoolchildren in South Hebron Hills will be published in the next few weeks.

Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

Mujadarah: food for the masses

This dish is Palestinian comfort food at its best.  It’s great for a big crowd.  I cooked it for two couchsurfers and a friend, and we finished every bite!

1 cup rice
1 cup brown lentils (soaked beforehand)
3 cups water
3 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
4 large onions
3 TBSP butter or olive oil

Pre-soak the lentils. Add rice and lentils with spices to 3 cups water. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is cooked and lentils are soft.

While rice and lentils are cooking, brown sliced onions in butter or olive oil. Add this on top of the finished rice and lentils.

Serve with yogurt (plain) and a salad.

Mock checkpoint at Columbia University

Below is the press release provided by C-SJP, links to two videos of the mock checkpoint and links to other articles about the action.

New York, NY, November 18 – On November 18th, 2010 from 12pm to 2pm, Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP)—a diverse group of students, faculty, staff, and community members—constructed a theatrical mock Israeli checkpoint at the Low Library steps at Columbia University.

Three students dressed as Israeli soldiers lined up dozens of volunteer students throughout the afternoon, blindfolded them, and forced them to sit on their knees as a symbolic gesture to portray the hardships faced by Palestinian students.

Those playing the role of the Palestinian students had tape over their mouths to reflect how Israel silences Palestinian voices by withholding their right to education.

We learned on Thursday morning that the Columbia administration alerted Zionist groups on campus 48 hours prior to our action in order for them to organize a counter demonstration.

Although Palestinian voices are loud and strong at Columbia – amplified by the opening of the Center for Palestine Studies last month – the administration remains firmly Zionist.  All things considered, the action was a tremendous success!

Israel-Palestine debate hits College Walk from Columbia Daily Spectator on Vimeo.

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine website

Israel/Palestine group clash on College Walk