November 2019 Monthly Update

In This Issue
Kairos Palestine Christmas Alert
Pompeo’s Proclamation – Settlements are Legal
Gaza – Ever in Netanyahu’s Crosshairs
How an Israeli Air Force Pilot Became a Champion of BDS
Become a Twinning Congregation
Go to Palestine: Tours
Read More

Kairos Palestine Christmas Alert
Kairos Palestine has just issued its Christmas Alert 2019 This year the Christmas Alert sheds light on the importance of restoring a new hope for Palestine, the Middle East and the world. The alert offers resources and reflections for each Sunday of Advent and inspires individuals and congregations to act to help make hope a reality in the lives of Palestinians.
Pompeo’s Proclamation – Settlements are Legal
From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, every US president has expressed disapproval of Israel’s illegal settlements in Palestine. Their rebuke, however, was never more than a slap on the wrist.  As recently as 2016, while Secretary of State John Kerry blasted settlement expansion as the greatest threat to peace in Israel/Palestine, Obama pushed a bill through a willing Congress for $38 billion dollars in military aid to Israel over the next ten yearsOn November 18, 2019 Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, the Christian Zionist Mike Pompeo, singularly declared Israeli settlements as legal when, in fact, they are a flagrant violation of international law and at odds with the international community. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention is unambiguous: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territory it occupies.”

Ali Abunimah, Palestinian-American journalist and editor of the online Electronic Intifada, contends that Pompeo has simply made explicit what has been implicit all along, that this new proclamation “is merely a shedding of the fiction that the U.S. has ever opposed Israel’s land-theft colonies. It changes nothing but makes clear to all that the U.S. and Israel are partners in crime.”

This is now the third time Trump has emboldened Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his ever-increasing aggression toward Palestine. First came the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Then, affirmation of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. And now opening the door for Israel’s unhindered and rapid expansion of settlements on Palestinian land.

Noura Erakat, Palestinian civil rights attorney, legal scholar and professor at Rutgers University, addressed the motivation behind Trump’s latest move in a recent interview on Democracy Now!: “The tragic part is that the U.S. administration is doing this in order to support Netanyahu in his own bid to consolidate power in Israel. Palestinians are pawns…to be moved around…What’s going on is a violation of human rights.”

Whether to strengthen Netanyahu’s hand or to placate Christian Zionists (or both), US policy now unequivocally affirms the rights of one country to occupy and establish permanent settlements on land in a neighboring country.

The losers, once again, are the people of Palestine. Will the international community stand by and allow Trump and Pompeo to rewrite international law? Will the churches remain silent?

Gaza – Ever in Netanyahu’s Crosshairs
The history of Gaza stretches back more than 4,000 years. Situated near the coast on a 200-foot hill and surrounded by a fertile plain with numerous wells, Gaza borders the desert between Syria and Egypt. In ancient times caravans and armies frequently passed near Gaza and it had periods of wealth and importance. It was also frequently besieged and destroyed by the likes of Sargon, the Philistines and Alexander the Great, among others. Setting Gaza in their crosshairs, they sometimes massacred and enslaved the entire population.Gaza’s appearance in the Old and New Testaments also extends back thousands of years. As early as Genesis 10:19, Gaza is described as on the border of Canaan, and it became part of Judah when the land was first divided into the twelve tribes. Many times Gaza is mentioned in the biblical histories of Israel, in Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. It was in Judges that Samson went to Gaza, visited a prostitute and met and married Delilah. After Delilah’s betrayal, he was captured, blinded and imprisoned in Gaza, “grinding at the mill.” (Judges 16:21). It was also in Gaza that Samson met his death. The prophets Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah and Zechariah all railed against the sins of Gaza and its conquerors. And after the first Pentecost, it was on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza that Philip met and baptized the eunuch from Ethiopia.

Today, as it has been for over a decade, Gaza again sits directly in the crosshairs, this time those of Israeli snipers, drones and bombers. Blockaded by Israel in every way, Gazans suffer, “grinding at the mill” of poverty. Entrapped by barb-wired fences, 2,000,000 people languish in an open-air prison. By 2020, next year, Gaza may literally become uninhabitable.

On November 12, 2019, Benjamin Netanyahu placed Gaza in his crosshairs again. This time he killed Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza, along with his wife, Asmaa, four children and an adult neighbor. Following that, Netanyahu bombed the offices of the Islamic Jihad in Damascus. In retaliation, Islamic Jihad fired over 150 rockets into Israel, injuring dozens. Israel returned fire, killing 34 Palestinians, including 11 children, and wounding 111 others. Once again, violence begets violence begets violence.

Netanyahu is in deep political and personal trouble. For the first time in 10 years, he is unable to form a government and may lose his seat in power. He has also been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, but he cannot face those charges while holding office. Many believe he initiated the assassination of Abu al-Ata and the subsequent bombing of Gaza as an attempt to rally the public to his side. Jonathan Cook, the Nazareth-based freelance journalist and critic of Israeli policy toward Palestine expressed what many inside and outside Israel fear, that “his instinct for political survival trumps the interests of stability in the regions.”

The word for Gaza means “strong.” Over millennia, the people of Gaza have shown strength and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. Will they be able to do so once again?

How An Israeli Air Force Pilot Became a Champion of BDS

Yonatan Shapira (Credit – unknown)
Yonatan Shapira used to be a bomber pilot for the Israeli Air Force, but today he is a strong advocate for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement. His powerful story is well worth the lengthy read.It’s 11 PM here in Oslo and I’m trying to write a few words about my support for the BDS movement. I’m looking for an interesting angle so that I don’t repeat what many other, better writers have already written. And then I recall that today is actually the Jewish New Year. I miss my family and friends in Israel, and I am so far from them in chilly Norway. It was exactly 16 years ago, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, September 2003, that I became a conscientious objector. We put our letter and declaration of refusal, with the signatures of 27 Israeli air force pilots, on the desk of the Air Force commander – a General and a mass murderer. These ranged from a Lt. General who almost became the air force commander to lower ranking pilots like me with the rank of captain. We felt brave and important and a bit scared. It’s not every day you find yourself accusing your commanders and leaders of sending you to commit war crimes. On the following day, the headlines in the Zionist media were “The Mutiny of the Pilots”.

Plenty of water has flowed in the Jordan River and Akerselva since then. A lot has changed, and not for the better. We thought we could shake up the system and fix it, but the massacres in Gaza have only intensified. One of the changes is that more and more bombings of the population of Gaza are carried out by drones. Why work hard to convince Israeli pilots to bomb an overcrowded ghetto of two million people, if the commander can just sit in the control room and push the button almost all by himself?

It’s midnight soon. I just received a Whatsapp message from 23-year-old Muhammad. He suffers from pain all over his body, and he’s trying to find a way to receive critical medical treatment to heal his wounds. He writes to me to ask if I have any ideas. I met Muhammad in 2011, eight years ago. He was 14 then, and was lying in a hospital bed, in critical condition after he and his 12-year-old cousin Ibrahim were hit by a missile fired from an Israeli drone. They were playing in the street next to their home in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza, Ibrahim lost both arms and incurred a gaping hole in his belly and lung. With the help of an Italian NGO, the two were transferred to an Israeli hospital. Ibrahim succumbed to his wounds a few days later. Ronnie and Renen, two Israeli activists came to visit Muhammad. His whole body was wrapped in bandages, and numerous skin grafts were required to fill the holes in his body. Muhammad asked the visitors why the Israeli army was firing at children playing in the street – why did they shoot Ibrahim and him – and he said he wanted to speak to an Israeli pilot and receive an answer. He wanted an Israeli pilot to come and see his wounds.

That’s when I got a phone call. I was told there was a severely wounded boy from Gaza who wanted to see me and speak to me. I was on my way to visit my cousins, but then I was told that because I had just taken part in the Gaza freedom flotilla, I’m not welcome. My cousin’s husband did not want me near his children. For people in such a brainwashed society the struggle for peace and justice could be like a Contagious disease and he didn’t want me to infect his kids. So when I got this call, I turned straight to the hospital to meet the wounded Palestinian boy, who did want to see me. Since that visit, the life of my family has been connected to Muhammad’s life. My mom took it upon herself to solicit support from anyone who can help and has fought tooth and nail so that Muhammad can undergo more and more of the surgeries required to save his life. In the 2014 Gaza massacre, commanded by General Benny Gantz, the Israeli military bombed Muhammad’s family home, and since he turned 18, he no longer receives the Israeli military permits to come from Gaza to treatment in Israeli hospitals.

A year ago, in some tortuous way, Muhammad managed to leave Gaza and receive a temporary visa to stay in Istanbul. The visa expires in two months, and he now faces the threat of detention or forcible return to Gaza. Muhammad is anxious to complete the required surgeries, so that he can return to a normal life, study and begin his adult life. And now, at midnight, I’m getting messages from him. He’s asking me if I have any ideas as to what can be done, how he can receive medical treatment, rather than go to prison. I’m reading his messages and my heart is broken. I wish all those obedient pilots and drone operators, and other indifferent people, would receive these messages every day from a wounded Palestinian boy, who is eager to have a normal life. I stay up all night, trying to come up with ideas how to help this young man. If only we could get him a permit to fly to anywhere in Europe and receive proper medical care. And Muhammad is just one in thousands upon thousands.

And how, how can this madness be stopped? What other choice do we have? What other way is there to fight? What else does the oppressed, weak, occupied, bombarded, shredded side have at its disposal? And we, whose eyes and ears are already open, we who long to help and long not to remain silent – what other choice do we have?

So, who among you still has doubts as to the necessity of the boycott movement? The non-violent BDS movement allows every person in the world to take part in a just struggle for freedom and equality. It’s time for you to join too. Among the supporters, you will find hundreds of thousands of Jews all across the world, among them more than 1,000 Israelis. I am just one of them.

And one small detail to cap this off: Some of the navigation and stabilization systems for these monstrous drones are being produced here in picturesque and peaceful Norway, at the Kongsberg plants. Polite Norwegian workers, who eat tacos on Fridays and wish for world peace, assemble them gently and skillfully. And this whole supply chain ends up in the hands of the Israeli military, or, to be precise, in the bodies of Muhammad and Ibrahim.

It doesn’t have to go on like this. It can be stopped. Are you going to join us or are you one of those who will keep silent?

As I almost finish writing these words, I read about a famous young Norwegian singer who wants to heal the world but is planning to sing to the prison guards of the Gaza Ghetto, when they come home for the weekend.

Dear Aurora, what should I say in order to help you open your heart and your eyes? I just watched a short recent interview with you. You seem to be a human being with a beautiful soul. They showed you recording different sounds and listening to the tiny little things we usually tend to miss.

Here is a sound you’re missing and what children in Gaza hear 24/7 – the constant buzz of Israeli/Norwegian predator drones.

Can you hear this buzzing? Can you hear the bombs? Can you hear their cries?

Please cancel your concert in Tel Aviv.

Let your music inspire love and hope in the hearts of those who struggle for freedom and equality. Singing to the ghetto prison guards will be something you will always regret.

Become a Gaza Twinning Congregation

A father bathing his daughters in Gaza City (Credit: Wissam Nassar)

The current siege of Gaza has created severe restrictions on the availability of food, water, medical care, commerce and industry. A year after the March of Return, which resulted in hundreds of Palestinian deaths and tens of thousands of injuries, many peacemakers are feeling frustration and failure at our inability to focus attention on the condition of the people of Gaza. In response, MennoPIN is launching a new campaign among Mennonites to “End the Gaza Siege.”

The first step in the campaign is called the “Mennonite Twinning Initiative with Gaza.” This initiative will match Mennonite congregations with churches, mosques, hospitals, clinics and schools. Already, eight congregations have signed up and are on their way to being paired-up with Gaza!

Please give prayerful consideration to your congregation becoming a “twinning” congregation with Gaza! To find out more about the initiative, the Gaza scandal, and guidelines for ethical relationships, visit the MennoPIN website and click on End the Gaza Siege tab at the top of the front page. Interested congregations can send an email to with the Subject line “Twinning Initiative.”

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 Palestinians and those who actively 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 the 70th Great March of Return, 66 Palestinian civilians were injured due to the Israeli military’s continued use of excessive force against peaceful protests along the Gaza Strip’s eastern border. At least 20 children, 3 women and a volunteer paramedic were among those injured this Friday, August 16, 2019. Twenty-nine civilians were shot with live bullets; 2 of them were deemed in a critical medical condition. Each protest has its own theme with this one being titled “Palestinian Youth Friday” and involving activities such as speeches by political leaders and theatrical performances. Lord, we continue to pray for the right to protest peacefully in Gaza without the threat of injury or death by the use of live ammunition and dispersal methods by Israeli forces. We are grateful for those who continue to find new ways to protest in a creative and nonviolent way. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.  Sabeel Wave or Prayer

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