Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Little Q. and A. on Palestine and At-Tuwani.

I was just asked a few research questions from a university student. I thought I might as well share my answers with you as well. Good luck on your paper, Alicia!

1. How do you come to discover the Palestinian situation?

Well, I was raised Quaker, which is to say that I was raised to believe strongly in social justice and peace. I knew a number of people who had spent time in Palestine and went to a college with a significant number of Palestinian students. I first visited in 2005 and fell immediately in love with Palestine, but my heart was broken by what I saw. It was clear, though, that Palestinians in the West Bank were articulating a few well-defined ways that internationals could support their struggle. I wanted to be a part of that.

2. Do you feel more or less hopeful now about a Palestinian state and peace in general since you first went to the holy land?

I feel just as hopeful as I did four years ago, but far less optimistic. I say that because I think hope is a decision more than an emotion. Hope is about faith and I still agree with Dr King, who
said "the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice." I don't think that the region will, in the long run, have any choice but to become a society based on justice and peace. I agree with Ali Abunimah's analysis in One Country. But I worry that the short term doesn't look good. The new Israeli government has been really hard on Tuwani. The most striking change is that the army seems to be colluding with the settlers even more and is willing to arrest Palestinians for anything they can come up with. I hadn't seen shepherds getting arrested just for being out with their sheep, but now it's happening regularly. Jail sentences are getting longer and fines higher. It's clear they're trying to shut down Palestine's nonviolent movement. Moreover, Obama is bowing to Israel's wishes regarding settlements and that's pretty scary.

3. What do you think political leaders/decision-makers are overlooking in trying to reach the two state solution?

Wow, a lot. First, they're over-looking the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement. This is the movement that most Palestinians are involved in, in some way or another. Violent resistance is actually abnormal by comparison. Secondly, they're overlooking international law, which is a clear guide for a just solution. Perhaps most importantly, they're overlooking the right of return. Until Palestinians are afforded their rights, I don't think that a just solution is possible. Lastly, it's the settlements, stupid, as they say. A disengagement of the West Bank is crucial. But I don't think my opinions on this really matter all that much. Everyday Palestinians need meaningful representation at the table. Their dreams and needs are being overlooked and that needs to stop.

4. In his recent speech to Cairo, Obama encouraged Israelis and Palestinians to see each other as victims (historically). Do you agree with his statement?

The more compassion we can all have for one another the better. But Obama mostly really missed the point in that speech. Here's our response to it:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some Electronic Housekeeping and Playing Well Together:

Hi readers! I want to point out of couple of changes to this blog and just do some general housekeeping here. First of all, thanks so much for reading. I'm a couple of entries away from my 365th post, which seems like some sort of blog-o-versary. Any way, I'm so glad that all of you are still reading. Please, leave comments! Let me know you're here. Ask questions and I'll answer them. Or not. Regardless, you are deeply appreciated.

Secondly, shiny new blog toys! I've made a couple of changes to the blog, all aimed at making it easier to read and to share. First on the side bar, to the right of this entry, under the videos you'll find a link to my twitter feed. Yes, I tweet! If you do too, take a moment to start following me. I'll tweet links to these posts, but also news from Tuwani and very occasionally things about myself. I'd love to follow you as well and see what all of the fine people reading this are up to. Next, notice that at the end of this post there's a little green button labeled "share this." Click on that and it's easy to send a link to that blog post pretty much any where. You can post it to facebook, your blog, twitter, or just email it to a friend. Take advantage of it! I certainly will.

Thirdly, a word on internet etiquette - pretty please identify yourself in some way when you comment! I don't mind if you don't have a blogger id or don't want to share your name or email - in fact, please remember not to share personal information you wouldn't want someone you don't know to find. But do identify yourself in some way - initials, an internet handle, whatever. I tend to assume that people do want to remain anonymous are doing so to mask their bad behavior. Palestinians and other people who write about this issue do receive threats and harassment. I have myself. If you don't want to be treated like an internet troll, please identify yourself.

That's all, readers. Take care and thanks again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Urgent Action: Contact Israeli military regarding failure of soldiers to protect Palestinian schoolchildren

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

The school year in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) for 2009-2010 began on Tuesday 1 September. The school children, who walk from the nearby villages of Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed to At-Tuwani's elementary school, continue to require a military escort in order to ensure their safety. On every day during the first three weeks of this new school year, the Israeli army has failed to complete the escort as agreed in 2004, leaving the children to walk alone in an area where they have been attacked by Israeli settlers. Instead, they complete only a little over half the distance of the escort.

Of the twenty-six journeys to and from school, soldiers have only walked with the children on six journeys, the other journeys they have remained in their vehicle. The soldiers have never completed the escort by escorting the children to and from the end of the Ma'on chicken barns. Remaining in their vehicle and not completing the escort leaves the children vulnerable to settler attacks and harassment. On one third of the journeys, the army escort has been late, resulting in the children being late for school or having to endure a long wait after school.

The shortest route to school for the Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed children is a public road that passes between the Israeli settlement of Ma'on and the outpost of Havat Ma'on. For years, armed Israeli settlers have attacked, threatened, and harassed the children along this road. In 2004, the Israeli District Coordinating Office (the branch of the Israeli military that deals with civilian matters) agreed to provide the children with an armed escort. The Israeli Knesset (parliament) Committee for Children's Rights endorsed the agreement.


The team now requests that concerned people make calls to the Communications office of the Southern District Commander of the Israeli Military, phone number (+ 972) 2 996 7200. * Request that Commander Ben Moha instruct the soldiers who perform the escort of the Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed school children to accompany the children all the way to the end of the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Stress that this protection is particularly necessary because of the repeated presence of settlers in this area at the time of the children's walk home. Remind the commander that settlers used violence against the school children on ten occasions in the 2008-09 school year and that already during this school year a settler has threatened the children in the area of the Ma'on chicken barns.

If you have difficulty reaching Commander Ben Moha's office, try the following numbers:

IDF Public Appeals Fax: +972-3-569-9400*

IDF Public Appeals Phone: +972-3-569-1000*

In addition to phone calls, the team asks that people send the Israeli military's Public Appeals office a simple message by clicking on this link: Please include Commander Ben Moha's name in the subject line.

Sample message (no more than 75 words):

Subject: Request to Commander Ben Moha

Palestinian school children from Tuba and Maghayir-al-Abeed must walk past militant settlers from Ma'on and Havat Ma'on to attend school in At-Tuwani. The Knesset recommended in 2004 that the IDF escort these children. In order to ensure the children's safety, soldiers must accompany them all the way past the Ma'on chicken barns and past any settlers present. Currently soldiers are not escorting the children far enough to ensure their safety.


• This school year, the children have been late for school on three mornings out of thirteen.

• This school year, on nine of the thirteen school days, the children have had to wait after school for twenty minutes or more for the escort. On three days, they had to wait a little over half an hour, on two days forty-five minutes, and on one day nearly an hour.

• On the morning of Thursday 10 September 2009, the children had to wait twenty minutes at the Ma'on chicken barns because the army escort vehicle left the children to chase Palestinian shepherds from a nearby valley. The children were late for school.

• On the morning of Monday 7 September 2009, at the end of the Ma'on chicken barns, an Israeli settler came towards the children yelling at them. The children ran part way to school.

• During the 2008-2009 school year, settlers used violence against the children ten times; two of these times the settlers threw rocks at the children.

• For a complete report on the school escort in 2007-2008, including maps, photographs and interviews with the children, please see "A Dangerous Journey" at

•A report for the school year 2008-2009 will shortly be available.

*Please check your own country's dialing prefix for international calls.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Little Rude: Settlers Stab a Palestinian Working with B'TSelem.

Every well-mannered activist knows that ethnic cleaning doesn't make for pleasant dinner conversation. There's something about military occupation that turns the stomach and if you want to keep your guests happy, best to keep the conversation light. Olives, tea, cute children - those are the polite things about which to speak.

It's rude, after all, to point the finger of blame. So, talk about the children of Tuba and Mayger Al Abeed, but don't mention who it is who beats them up on their way to school. If you talk about the Israeli army arresting Palestinians as they graze their sheep, or build houses, or go to the doctor, be sure to mention who scared Israelis are - that they have a right to defend themselves from Palestinians going about their everyday lives. Be sure not to biased when you describe how it feels to see the Israeli army abduct three children and hand them over to settler to beat. After all, you'll only make everyone feel uncomfortable. The truth isn't polite.

You know what? I'm not afraid to be a little rude. A while ago - and I'm sorry it's taken me so long report on it - a friend of mine was stabbed by an Israeli settler. Would you like to know how I feel? I'm angry. Even more than that, I am bone-tired from having my heart broken over and over again by the same petty, greedy evil acts. And I think it's time for a few more people to be rude enough to speak the truth.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

School Escort 2008-2009 Video

Just wanted to get this wonderful new video about the school kids out there as soon as possible for all of you. Expect more info about our school patrol report soon!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Checking In and Checking Out the US Campaign to End the Occupation

Well, I've been a little quiet lately. I'm back in the US enjoying a little break, so things will probably continue being slow here for a bit. However, this weekend I'll be at the US Campaign to End the Occupation's National Organizing Conference here in Chicago. I promise you updates from there!