MennoPIN Update: February 2019
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February 2019 Monthly Update

In This Issue
The Ilhan Omar/AIPAC Controversy
Intersectionality: MennoPIN and Movement for Black Lives
Michelle Alexander: Palestine and Vietnam
Will Bibi Destroy Al Khan al-Ahmar Before Elections?
How Did Your Senator Vote on S1?
Gaza Update
Go to Palestine: Tours
Read More

The Ilhan Omar/AIPAC Controversy

Ilhan Omar responds to criticism (Al Jazeera)

Israel, money and anti-Semitism. A recent series of exchanges on social media among public figures painfully surfaced all three.

A brief chronology might help.In early February Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) disciplined Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for outrageous white supremacy comments. But McCarthy also called on House Democratic leaders to discipline the two newly elected female Muslim members of Congress, Ohlan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), for their support of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), claiming they are equal to King, “even more so.” After reading McCarthy’s challenge, prominent journalist, Glen Greenwald tweeted that McCarthy’s comparison of Omar and Tlaib to King was “obscene” and the threat to punish Omar and Tlaib was “stunning,” and an attack “on free speech rights of Americans.” Upon reading Greenwald’s tweet, Omar sent out her own tweet. In a somewhat indelicate manner, Omar stated that McCarthy’s support of Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” alluding to a song by that name and with “Benjamin” referring to the U.S. $100 bill with the face of Benjamin Franklin.

The bipartisan backlash was immediate and Omar quickly apologized for her insensitivity to anti-Semitic tropes, acknowledged that anti-Semitism was real, expressed gratitude to Jewish colleagues who are educating her to the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes, but reaffirmed her main point: “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee], the NRA [National Rifle Association] or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.” While it is true that AIPAC is a nonprofit and therefore cannot lobby Congress or give money to congressional candidates, AIPAC, by its own admission, carries considerable influence in congressional circles.

Hopefully, the main takeaway from this controversy may be the beginning of a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the halls of Congress. With Omar and Tlaib as the first Muslim women in Congress and open supporters of BDS, vocal support for Palestine will be ever present. And with the 2020 primaries approaching, there are signs that some of the Democratic candidates running for President will address Palestinian human rights, with Bernie Sanders the most prominent. Still, there is a long uphill road to climb.

Intersectionality: MennoPIN and Movement for Black Lives


M4BL Poster

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) has issued a statement in solidarity with the people of Palestine and MennoPIN has signed on in support. The statement reads, in part:“The Movement for Black Lives stands with the Palestinian people and especially those in Gaza, that have been engaging in resistance at the Gaza border. As we watched the brutal attacks on these brave activists which continued during and after the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, we were painfully reminded of what happens when Black people, here in the U.S., decide to resist. We know that the United States government sends the same weapons to Tel Aviv as it sends to Ferguson, and hundreds of other cities across the country. We know that police officers in the United States learn the tactics of war from Israeli police forces, who come annually to train U.S. officers in methods of oppression, surveillance and murder. We understand that we are connected to the Palestinian people by our shared demand for recognition and justice and our long histories of displacement, discrimination and violence.”

That is what intersectionality is all about. If you want to sign on individually or as an organization, or to read the full statement, click here.

Michelle Alexander: Palestine and Vietnam
Another example of intersectionality: Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, wrote an article in the New York Times reminding everyone of the day Martin Luther King, Jr spoke at Riverside Church in New York City opposing the war in Vietnam. Some of his closest associates advised him not to, but he spoke about Vietnam anyway: “When the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of dreadful conflict…we must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

Alexander went on to write: “If we are to honor King’s message and not merely the man, we must condemn Israel’s actions: unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations. We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water that many of them face.” To read the entire article, click here.

Will Bibi Destroy Al Khan al-Ahmar Before Elections?

Al Khan al-Ahmar in the Negev



There is speculation that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (also known as Bibi), will destroy the Bedouin village of Al Khan al-Ahmar before Israel’s snap elections on April 9 to boost his chances among voters. His recent indictment on corruption charges will not help him. But if he does okay the demolition of Al Khan al-Ahmar, he will also be destroying the livelihood of 32 families of nearly 200 people. Located in the Negev desert outside Jerusalem, Al Khan al-Ahmar’s inhabitants descend from the Jahalin tribe and are mostly sheep and goat herders. Within the village are 160 structures with many homes, a mosque, a clinic and a school for 175 students that serves the Bedouin population of 1,400 people in neighboring villages as well. Two Israeli settlements, Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, were built around Al Khan al-Ahmar. The impetus for the village’s demolition is the desire to expand the two settlements, land grabbing at its worst. The Israeli government has given the people of Al Khan al-Ahmar the choice to move to either of two locations: next to a garbage dump or next to a sewer plant.

Al Khan al-Ahmar is not alone. About 225,000 Bedouin live in the Negev and are under constant threat of destruction by an Israeli government’s intention to build more settlements on Palestinian land. But the High Court of Israel’s order to demolish Al Khan al-Ahmar makes it the most vulnerable. Only time will tell if Bibi forces its destruction as he fights for a sixth term as Prime Minister.

How Did Your Senator Vote on S1?
On February 5, 2019, the Senate passed S1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act. One section of S1 is called, “Combatting BDS Act of 2019.” This anti-BDS section would allow U.S. states and localities to retaliate against companies or individuals supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, an international nonviolent campaign, begun by Palestinians, to place pressure on Israel to end the occupation and establish justice for all Palestinians.

Washington Memo, a blog of Mennonite Central Committee U.S., has made it possible to easily see how your senators voted on S1. The overall bill, including the anti-BDS section, passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 77-23. To see how your senators voted, yea or nay, click here.

Gaza Update
Ahmed Abu Artema is a Palestinian journalist who helped create the nonviolent Great March of Return in Gaza, which began on Friday, March 30, 2018 and continues to this day every Friday. The goal of the march is to end the 10-year-old Israeli siege of Gaza and allow Gazan refugees to return to their homes in other parts of Palestine and Israel. Israeli forces have killed well over 100 people and injured over 10,000 since the nonviolent protests began.

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is sponsoring a tour for Artema this spring to tell the story of the Great March of Return. To find out more about the tour schedule and venues, click here. If you are unable to hear Artema in person, you can live stream his presentation in the New York City tour stop on March 14, 2019 by going to the AFSC website.

Go to Palestine: Tours
MennoPIN strongly encourages trips to Palestine to see upfront the struggle Palestinians endure on a daily basis. Established justice tours usually last about two weeks and offer both visits to Holy Land sites as well as experiences with Palestinian people. Most tours also include visits to both Palestinian and Israeli activists who work for justice and freedom for the people of Palestine. Or you may want to plan a do-it-yourself tour. To find out more about tours, visit the MennoPIN website and click on the Tours to Palestine tab.

Read More

On Friday evening, 22 February 2019, in excessive use of force against, mainly peaceful, protesters on the 48th Friday of the “Great March of Return” and “Breaking the Siege,” Israeli forces killed a 15-year-old Palestinian teenager and wounded 115 civilians, including 16 children, 10 women and a journalist, in the eastern Gaza Strip. The injury of 3 of the wounded civilians, including a 12-year-old boy, were reported as serious. Lord, we continue to pray for the safety of the Palestinian protesters and the commitment of many to non-violence. We pray that those who have injured may soon recover and that grieving families may find solace. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayersSabeel Wave or Prayer

Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network | | | Committee:
Tom Harder (Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, Wichita, KS)
Joy Lapp (Pleasant View Mennonite Church, Mt Pleasant, IA)
Jonathan Kuttab (Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist)
Anita Rediger (Emmaus Road Mennonite Fellowship, Berne, IN)
Joe Roos (Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA)
Rod Stafford (Portland Mennonite Church, OR)

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