Sunday, May 21, 2006

Art Supplies for Bethlehem:
They asked for art supplies and we have art supplies! :-)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Art from Palestine!

These school kids drew me some of the most wonderful pictures, as a part of an letter-exchange. Take a look! I recomend clicking on the pictures so that you can actually see them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Israeli Soldiers Shoot Two International Peace Activists In The Head at Bil’in

Nakba Interviews

Check out this article for a variety of reflections on this years anniversary of the Nakba.

Monday, May 15, 2006

It's hard to know what to say on Nakba day. This is the day that Palestinians remember the way that so many of them were violently expelled from their homes at the founding of the state of Israel. They remember life 58 years ago, before ethnic cleaning and occupation.

The Nakba is daunting. I feel unable to really speak about it in a way that does the subject justice. But I feel as though something must be said. It is the denial of the Nakba (which is Arabic for catastrophe) that gives Israel "moral authority" in the eyes of the world. If we were to face the way that state of Israel was founded, we would come to see this "conflict" in a total different way.

But that's enough of me. I will try to find some more information and resources to share about this important topic, but that's for another day. Right now, I want to try to talk about the Nakba from a different angle.

I got this email quite a while ago from Hannah, who I lived with in the International Women's Peace Service house. She's doing some pretty amazing things right now. First, she's running a travel program for other Jewish young people called Birthright Unplugged. This gives Jewish people a chance to travel to the West Bank and see the occupation for themselves. Please help spread the word about this work. Secondly, she's running a program called "Birthright Re-plugged." It's very special. Let me let her tell you about it:
Our Re-plugged trips with children living in a West Bank refugee camp complement our Unplugged trips described above. As Jewish people, the participants on our Unplugged trips have an open invitation by the Israeli government to move to a nation that has been superimposed on the lands of displaced people. These displaced people, Palestinian refugees, are denied their internationally recognized right to return to their land. Strict movement restrictions require Palestinians to obtain permits for themselves and their cars if they want to move from place to place. Most Palestinian people do not have these permits and are unable to enter Israel, which for refugees means they cannot even visit the villages they were expelled from in 1948. Israel controls Palestinian movement through the ID card system, which begins at age 16 for Palestinian people. Until that age, children are able to move with fewer constraints, but rarely do because their parents, grandparents, and older siblings are unable to do so. This is where we come in. As internationals with foreign passports, we can move with relative freedom, and we can escort the children our of their refugee camp in the West Bank, through checkpoints, and to the places they always talk about but are rarely able to visit.

We ran two Re-plugged trips, one for 8 girls and one for 8 boys. Some of the most moving experiences we had with the children included their first sight of the sea, discovering their ancestral villages and connecting with
the land, and seeing their community come together to share and celebrate during the exhibit.

The girls trip was first, and we had not emphasized the importance of bringing towels and changes of clothing. When we arrived at the sea, the girls ran straight into the water, despite the mid-January weather. They played, danced, and ran around for an hour or two, and came out of the water soaking wet. At this point, they realized they would have to share towels, and many of the girls had to wear pajamas for the rest of the day, not
having any dry clothes.

The host families they met later, through the Yaffa-based Palestinian organization Al-Rabita, took good care of them and their wet clothes. Many of the children do not know Palestinian people who live inside Israel, and
vice versa, since Israeli travel restrictions prevent West Bank Palestinians from entering Israel and Israeli citizens from entering Areas "A" (or urban centers) of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The experience was moving for
both parties, and the kids invited their host families to the exhibit in Dheisheh two weeks later.

Most profound for all the children was experiencing the villages they have heard their grandparents talk about since they were born. The boys ran around picking flowers and plants for each other, rolling around on the
land, and kissing the earth they have never touched before. The girls dressed in traditional embroidered dresses in preparation for the visit. In one village, they climbed the minaret of the mosque that still stands amidst
a newly built Jewish Israeli community, its prayer space now filled with trash. In another village, they ran up a hillside to find the remains of their grandparents houses, old water wells, and olive and fig trees
probably planted by their ancestors. Their exuberance at discovering these things turned into a kind of hysteria as they laughed and screamed, and then decided they wanted to stay and sleep on the land, refusing to leave.

We finally boarded the van to return to the camp, the girls still angry and upset about what they had seen and having to be pulled away from it. Our driver, Rimon, tried to appease the girls with, "Next time weÂ’ll stay
longer." Twelve-year-old Lana responded: "There is no next time. You know that, and we know that. WeÂ’re going back to Dheisheh now and we will die in Dheisheh."

We had anticipated painful moments like this, and in preparation for the program, had spoken with people who had gone to their villages as children. We were assured that the kids would carry this once-in-a-lifetime experience with them always, making it well worth it. The organizations we worked with in Dheisheh camp, Shiraa’ and Ibdaa’, also had follow-up meetings with the children, helping to support them upon their return.

After the trip, we helped the children curate an exhibit of their photographs and objects they had collected. The planning and carrying out of the exhibit gave the children the opportunity to reflect on their
experiences, as well as a way to make a tangible contribution to the collective memory in the camp, where the photographs still hang.
Chech out more information on the project at

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Plans for...a summer in Palestine

Palestine Summer Encounter

I'm preparing in earnest for my next trip to Palestine and I think that it is high time that let you know just what I'll be doing. This summer, I'm travelling to Bethlehem to practicipate in the Palestine Summer Encounter Program and I could hardly be more excited.

I will be spending the summer learning Arabic, living with a Palestinian family, and volunteering with the Holy Land Trust's nonviolence training program. Though I could hardly be more excited about this volunteer placement, I'm participating in this program primarly so that I can learn some basic Arabic. I'll soon be joining on a part-time yearly basis an organization that supports Palestinian nonviolent resistance, so it's time to learn some Arabic!

I'm also collecting art and school supplies to donate school children who are lucky to go to schools practipating in the Holy Land Trust's Peacebuilders Program. That's an effort to train teachers in peace education, from preschool to university. Check out that program - it one of the only in the world like it.

Oh! And if you want to learn more about the Palestine Summer Encounter, you can watch a video about it.
Occupied Voices: Bethlehem Bloggers

To continue my efforts to highlight the voices of Palestinians, and to continue preparing for my own experiences living in Bethlehem, I'm excited to recommend Bethlehem Bloggers.

At the entrance to Bethlehem - a gap in the 25ft high cement wall that surrounds and strangles this tiny city - the observant traveler, stopped at the checkpoint, might take notice the following spray-painted on to the wall: "Welcome to the Ghetto:"

The Bethlehem Bloggers, who dare to use Israel's Wall as advertising space, call their blog "A window for you to look in; to see past the walls, barbed wire fences, and the media distortions; to hear from the people in Bethlehem themselves."

A further review of Bethlehem Bloggers and comments on the potential power of Palestinian blogs can be found here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

US Freeze on Medical Aid Takes its Toll
by Tim Butcher, Telegraphy/UK

The United States has stopped providing medical supplies to Palestinian hospitals as part of Washington's sanctions against Hamas.

The decision is believed to be dramatically lowering the standard of health care in Gaza and the West Bank where patients are going untreated because of a lack of essential medical supplies. More here

This reminds me of the way that the Iraqi people bore the brunt of US sanctions "against Sadam Hussein." We need to ask ourselves one very simple question: should the people of Palestine suffer because Hamas is in power? If the answer to that question is yes, we simply must realign our values. Do we believe in the right of a people to elect a government or not? Is democracy only desirable until it conflicts with American domination and control? If we answer that we still believe in democracy and we believe in the right of a people to decent life, then Americans need to raise our voices and tell our leaders that we can’t tolerate this any longer.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Conversation with Jerry and Sis Levin

In late April, Portland was graced with the presence of Jerry and Sis Levin, two people with a remarkable story. Between the two members of this husband and wife team, the Levins have decades of experience working in four different Middle Eastern countries, one PhD in peace education, eleven grandchildren, and wealth of peacemaking wisdom.

The Levins were catapulted into the international spotlight when Jerry, then working in Beirut as the CNN Middle East Bureau Chief, was kidnapped by extremists. Jerry became the first of the so-called forgotten American hostages. After eleven and a half months, Jerry was able to escape, thanks to the nonviolent reconciliation efforts of Sis, Landrum Bolling, and a team of supporters. During Jerry's captivity, each of the Levins went through deep transformations and became willing to devote their lives to the cause of nonviolence. Jerry write in his book West Bank Diary, "After my release our lives moved in dramatically new directions …We have signed on, each in our way, to struggle against both physical walls and the walls of the mind in Palestine and Israel because it's our belief that if the world can't get nonviolence "right" in the so-called Holy Land where the concept first began - then the world won't be able to get it "right" anywhere else."

Jerry and Sis Levin are currently living in the West Bank where they work to support Palestinian nonviolent resistance. Jerry is a full time Christian Peacemaker Teams member. (Dr.) Sis works in Bethlehem schools where she is implementing the world's premier comprehensive, preschool-to-university peace education program. I began my interview by asking Jerry and Sis what they would like to share with the Oregon peace community. I quickly learned that Jerry and Sis need no prompting to get straight to the heart of the mater:

Jerry: Well, I've got one [question]. Precisely what is the concern about writing about Palestine?… Why isn't there objection to the steady erosion and taking of Palestinian land,…collective punishment, extra legal assassinations, the theft of water and land in the West Bank and Gaza, the harassment of school children, the invasions of homes arbitrarily by the Israeli army, settlers interfering with the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of crops, the poisoning of the forage for the Palestine sheep and goats. Is there any objection to that by the people who object to talking about Palestine? My question to them is what about the occupation? The occupation is the elephant in the middle of the room.

Sis: I think the word "suicide" needs to be examined. I am on an educational mission of my church, the Episcopal Church, and the fact is my Christian colleges and my Israeli colleagues believe that Israel is committing suicide. The direction that Israel is going in will lead to suicide of a nation. You cannot continue to do what Israel is doing and survive, historically.

When you deal with the word suicide, generally, you want to know the why of it. The why of it seems to be a manipulation in Israel of the holocaust: This happened to us. Nobody came to help us. So, there they [Jewish settlers] are. They have fled there. They have taken up residence there in a land where people live. It was not a land without a people. That the why of it - fleeing what happened to them…and [believing] security is ensured by taking the land away from others and by keeping this iron fisted control, which won't work.

You almost never hear the why of the suicide bombings, which are relatively rare. I'd like to share with you the story of a student in a refugee camp two blocks away from where I live. The Israeli soldiers came in, as they often do, into the camp to implode her home. This was resisted by the girl, her mother, her father, and her fiancé. She was 17 years old. They killed her mother, her father, and her fiancé and locked her in the room with their bodies for three or four days. This girl came out alive and went to the terrorists and said, "Give me the explosives." Now that's the why of it.

It's cycle of violence. It's a cycle of destruction of each other. It needs to be forgotten, abandoned and something else tried. That's what we doing in Palestine with education for peace and I can guarantee that the students from kindergarten to university understand the cycle of violence. It doesn't work. It will never work. The only way out of this is through creative, constructive nonviolent resistance to this brutal occupation.

Joy: If we could back up at bit, I was wondering if both of you could describe what exactly it is that you are doing in the West Bank.

Sis: I am teaching teachers to teach the entire curriculum from the point of view of creating a nonviolent lifestyle…[The program] begins in kindergarten and it goes relentlessly through every step of cognitive development… and it works. It is disarming and children prefer it. [The program] is quite unique. It's the only one in the Middle East and there are very few in America and Europe because we have become a military society.

Joy: Jerry, can you tell us about what CPT is doing in Hebron and At-Tawani?

Jerry: We are trying to interfere nonviolently with the brutal occupation in Hebron and elsewhere in the West Bank in all of it's forms…and trying to call attention to through our writing the relentless confiscations that are taking place, the settlement in the West Bank that goes on every day, the continued building, and also the what I call the underreporting or really lack of reporting of what's going on in the West Bank and Gaza in terms of the suffering of the Palestinian people. These kinds of actions are what I say are taking place behind the radar of mainstream media coverage in the West.

Joy: So what would you describe as the state of Palestinian nonviolent resistance?

Jerry: The state of Palestinian nonviolent resistance is massive. It monumental…The type of resistance is Palestinians simply refusing to leave, simply to get up and go, simply to stand by silently while thousands of their men, women and children are thrown in prison. The fact that Palestinian resistance hasn't erupted into a violent war of defense is one of the great miracles of the 50 or 60 or 100 years.

What the Palestinians have to fight against is what they call the normalization - to not simply accept the occupation, but try to withstand it… they continue to try to get their story told and it's a heartbreaking process for them because there is little or no interest in conventional sources of information in the Western world.

Sis: What is being done to the Israelis is important to look at in the way that is not being looked at. I think that you could characterize it as child abuse. When I see, as I often do, [Israeli setter] children carrying signs saying, "Kill all the Arabs" That is child abuse. If you love Israel you will speak out about this because they are committing suicide themselves.

What we are asking [in Bethlehem] is, "if it were over tomorrow who are we? Is what is happening to Israel going to happen to us? They suffered the holocaust and they came out and this is how they are behaving. God forbid that after all of our suffering that we should behave like that, that we should buy into the idea that the only security in this world is to take away from somebody else and keep them under iron-fisted occupation." This is our critical discussion. It isn't simply end the occupation but who are we as a people and what have we learned.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Who says there's no hope in the Holy Land?

Nearly a month ago, the Christian Science Monitor published a story entitled "Enemy soldiers gather - to strive for peace." The article begins "Shunned by their respective governments, former Israeli and Palestinian fighters have been meeting in secret, seeking common ground." It goes on to describe what I hope will prove to be an exciting new development in Israel and Palestine.

I wonder if these courageous people have any plans to become involved with some of the youth reconciliation programs like Seeds of Peace and Seeking Common Ground. Like the Bereaved Families Circle, their voices seem to be real, meaningful, and challenging. If anything, I tend to believe those voices could be more helpful for Israeli and Palestinian youth than summer camp experiences.

The stark white room buzzes with Arabic and Hebrew conversation as a group of about 50 men jovially shake hands and arrange themselves in seats around its perimeter. The men range in age from 20 to 60. Some wear suits and polished shoes; others are dressed casually in sweat pants and T-shirts.

They have one thing in common: All are former combatants who struggled to defend their state - but half of them are former Israeli soldiers or pilots, while the other half are former Palestinian "freedom fighters," many of whom served time in Israeli jails.

These men once fought against each other. Together they form a new organization called Combatants for Peace, which - after being kept secret for a year - will make its public debut in Jerusalem on April 10. The date coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover and Palestinian Prisoners Day, which is devoted to those detained in Israeli prisons.

Combatants for Peace brings together these ex-fighters to encourage dialogue, peace, and an end to conflict in the region.

Continued at the Christian Science Monitor website:

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Accouncing the results of many, many hours of hard work...

Just last week, the project that I've been involved in for almost 4 months drew to a close and If Americans Knew released Deadly Distortion an examination of Associated Press coverage of Israel and Palestine.

But let me give you an insider’s view of the study. This study began when I downloaded every AP article distributed to American audiences in 2004 with the words Israel, Palestine, Israeli, or Palestinian. From these hundreds of headlines, I painstakingly tallied the number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths that the AP reported in headlines and first paragraphs each day. Then, I compared the number of deaths reported by the AP to the actual number, as reported by Israeli human rights organization B't Selem.

Yes, the process of complying this report was as tedious, and grizzly, as it sounds. But the results were say the least.

In 2004, there were 141 reports in AP headlines or first paragraphs of Israeli deaths. During this time, there had actually been 108 Israelis killed (the discrepancy is due to the fact that a number of Israeli deaths were reported multiple times). 543 Palestinian deaths were reported in headlines or first paragraphs, but 821 Palestinians had actually been killed. In other words, 131% of Israeli deaths and 66% of Palestinian deaths were reported in AP headlines or first paragraphs.

The discrepancy between the number actual deaths and the AP's reporting increases with it comes to Israeli and Palestinian children. 9 Israeli children’s deaths were reported in the headlines or first paragraphs of AP articles on the Israel/Palestine conflict in 2004, when 8 had actually occurred. During the same period only 27 out of 179 Palestinian children’s deaths were reported.

Our report analyzes this discrepancy in greater detail and looks briefly into the AP's coverage of other aspects of this conflict, including Palestinian prisoners, Israeli refuseniks, and nonviolent protest. Read it for yourself.

What are the implications of the dramatic differences in the way the AP covers Israeli and Palestinian victims of this conflict? I trust that you, dear reader, can grasp them easily enough: American's aren't getting the whole truth.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mordechai and Me

"Raise your hand if you've heard of Mordechai Vanunu." Sometimes I ask this question when I speak about the situation in Israel and Palestine. I'm happy to say that usually a few people have heard to Mordechai, but the number is usually small. Too small.

That's Mordechai and me in the picture above. I was incredibly excited to get to meet Mordechai when I was last in Jerusalem. Mordechai Vanunu did something for each of us, something that he has paid for dearly.

Mordechai is the Israeli Daniel Ellsberg. (Oh no. Don't tell me I should be asking h many people know Daniel Ellsberg.) Formerly a nuclear technician, Mordechai choose to tell the world of Israel's nuclear weapons program. Israeli secret agents captured him in Rome on September 30th, 1989. Mordechai then spent 18 years in prison for revealing Israel's Dimona nuclear weapons facility secretes.

That's 18 years Mordechai spent in jail for all us. For the world. Mordechai choose to expose Israel's nuclear weapons program with hopes of keep the world safe from them. He went to jail because nuclear weapons are not a dirty little secret, but something about which the whole world must know. Mordechai knew that undeclared nuclear weapons in the hands of any nation make all of us less safe.

Mordechai should be celebrated as a hero, but why write of him now? Well, Mordechai is still paying for what he did for all us. He has been out of jail for two years and under strict restrictions imposed by the Israeli government. He is forbidden to leave Israel or move freely inside Israel. He is also forbidden to speak to foreign nationals may not move freely inside Israel; is forbidden to speak to foreign nationals "for fear of causing damage to the security of the State." Last week, these restrictions were extended for a third year.

Experts say that Mordechai has no more secrets to tell. Why then is this man, whom we should celebrate, being put through another year of punishment?

Mordechai spent 11 and a half years in solitary confinement during his 18 year sentence. Now, he’ll spend another year under restrictions. Enough is simply enough.

Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz wrote an excellent article about Mordechai’s plight: More information about Mordechai can be found at this own website:

Please tell other people you know about Mordechai’s plight.

New Feature! Occupied Voices: Palestinian Bloggers Of Note

When I am in Palestine, I'm always asked by the people I meet to share their stories with my country, the country that is funding the occupation of their land. And I do by best to do just that. But I can really only share my own story - my experiences, which as an American are so different from those of any Palestinian. And my story isn't what is important. Whenever possible, I want to share the voices of Palestinians themselves, unfiltered.

So do to so, I'm starting a new feature here at "I Saw it in Palestine." Every week, I'll be advertising a Palestinian blogger or website that I think it worth reading. And to kick this off, let me tell you about my favorite blog. I was lucky enough to come across "Raising Yousuf: a diary of a mother under occupation." Check it out:

"Raising Yousuf" is lovely, entertaining, and insightful blog that is an informative and very enjoyable read. The author, Laila El-Haddad, calls herself a "Journalist, mom, occupied Palestinian-all packed into one," and blogs about the experiences of her and her son, Yousuf, as they navigate daily life under occupation. Laila blogs from Gaza and has helped me to learn more about the situation there, which is so rarely reported, among both the mainstream Western media and human right activists like myself.

So, check out "Raising Yousuf." You'll enjoy it.