December 2022 Monthly Update

In This Issue

Christmas Greetings and a Request
Israel’s Election: Apartheid Unmasked
Norway Gets it Right on BDS
An Invitation to Engage with the Gaza YMCA
The Firing of Katie Halper
HR 2374 – Peace and Tolerance in Palestine Education Act
Stay Informed on Palestine
Prayer

Christmas Greetings and a Request

No please

Well, maybe not everyone around the manger was filled with adoration, but all of us on the MennoPIN Steering Committee are grateful to walk with you as we together seek peace, justice and freedom throughout Palestine, that “peace on Earth and good will to all” the shepherds heard sung. We hope you had a blessed Christmas and that 2023 brings for you renewed energy and a sense of hope for all of the people of Palestine.

We rarely ask for financial support, but as 2022 comes to a close, please consider a gift to MennoPIN. In July of 2023 the Mennonite Church USA will hold a convention in Kansas City, MO. MennoPIN plans to have a strong presence at the convention in two ways: (1) through an exhibit booth in which we plan to raise up the realities and dangers of both Christian Zionism and Israeli apartheid and (2) through workshops that show what it is like on the ground in Palestine and how we can all contribute to and work for the end to the occupation and apartheid. We are especially hopeful to have present one of two people from Gaza, with whom we’ve developed relationships through the MennoPIN Gaza Twining Initiative, to help lead at least one of the workshops.

To have a successful presence will involve financial costs and that is why we are asking for your help. All members of the steering committee are volunteers, and we have no paid staff. So, every penny you contribute will go to our efforts at MennoCon23 and other projects during 2023. To make a tax-deductible contribution, please send a check, made payable to Peace Mennonite Fellowship with a notation in the memo line for MennoPIN, to Joe Roos, MennoPIN, 479 Crosby Street, Altadena, CA 91001. Thank you very much!

Israel’s Election: Apartheid Unmasked

Jan - election

Look who helped Netanyahu regain power – his new good friends Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Givr (credit Mondoweiss)
 

Last month Israel conducted its fifth national election in the past three years. Benjamin Netanyahu, under criminal investigation, won the election as Prime Minister, but only by bringing the extreme right-wing elements into his coalition. Itamar Ben-Givr, the leader of the Jewish Power party and Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Party, have teamed up with Netanyahu to form by far the most right-wing government in Israeli history. Finally, for Apartheid Israel, the masks have come off.

Both men and their respective followers are heirs and devoted followers of the late infamous Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was declared illegal in Israel since the mid-1990s. Now, Givr and Smotrich are bring Kahane’s racism and extremism to the center of Israeli politics under Netanyahu. Both have been granted significant governmental posts which promises to have dire consequences for Palestine. For example:

Givr wants to establish a “migration ministry” with the purpose of expelling Palestinians who he considers disloyal to Israel. Just after the election, Givr stated: “It’s time to show [Palestinians] who is master of the house here.” In October 2022, just before the elections, he pulled a gun and threatened to shoot nonviolent protestors in Sheikh Jarrah. In December 2021 he also pulled a gun on a Palestine security guard who asked him to move his illegally parked car. Over the years, Givr has been indicted by Israeli courts over fifty times and convicted a dozen times, including supporting a terrorist organization. And now he has great power over Palestinians.

Smotrich, with a racist history and as a self-described “proud homophobe,” has declared his commitment to formally annex the occupied West Bank and to expel indigenous Palestinians who do not accept permanent subjugation under Israeli rule. He told a right-wing religious gathering: “According to Jewish law, there must always be some inferiority.” He went on to explain that Palestinians who accepted this second-class citizenship would be considered “resident aliens.” And for those who resisted second-class citizenship: “The Israeli military will know what to do.”

The Biden Administration, which has publicly shown it wasn’t totally pleased with this situation, has not signaled any consequences for Israel. Netanyahu has tried to appease international opposition by claiming that there is no need to worry, that he will keep Givr and Smotrich under control. To think of Bibi as the adult in the room is laughable to the absurd.

The liberal American Jewish community, spokespersons and lobbyist are, however, taking the change in government seriously. Thomas Friedman, ever the Israeli defender, recently wrote in the New York Times that he thinks Israel is in serious danger of losing international support. And on the day following the election, Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the J-Street lobby, stated bluntly: “Last night’s election results in Israel are deeply troubling for all who care about Israel and who care about liberal democracy globally…The likely formation of an ultra-right Netanyahu government should force a moment of serious reckoning for all American’s who care about the nature of the US-Israel relationship and about a just, equal and democratic future for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Even if the aftermath of the Israeli elections produces, in the long-term, cracks in the US-Israel relationship, in the much shorter term, Palestine will likely suffer greatly, and a violent response becomes an increasing possibility. Israeli apartheid is impossible to deny.

Norway Gets it Right on BDS

Norwegian flag.

The Jewish newspaper Haaretz and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) have just reported that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, with assets valued at $1.3 trillion, will reportedly end investments in firms tied to apartheid Israel’s illegal settlement enterprises in Palestine. If Norway follows through, this will be one of the biggest victories of the BDS, initiated by Palestinians as one way to nonviolently oppose the Israeli occupation and violence inflicted upon Palestinians on a daily basis.

She was Just Looking for Her Cat – Now She’s Dead

Jan update - Jana
Jana Zakarneh (inset) and her body being carried to her grave by mourners [Credit: Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty]

16-year-old Jana Zakarneh lived with her family in Jenin, Palestine. Earlier this month she heard gunshots and climbed to the top of her home to look out for her cat. One moment she was standing on the roof, searching for the cat. The next moment she was lying dead in a pool of her own blood, shot by an Israeli sniper with four bullets, one in the head, one to her face and two in her chest.

At first Israel claimed she was an unfortunate victim of crossfire between Israeli military units and Palestinian terrorists. When it was later shown that the so-called “terrorists” were hundreds of meters away and out of the line of sight of Jana, the story changed to one of an unintended civilian killing. There will be no investigation, military forces said, and no one will be held accountable.

Jana was the 36th Palestinian minor killed by Israel this year, and the 224th Palestinian to lose their lives to Israeli gunfire.

An Invitation to Engage with the Gaza YMCA

Jan update - Gaza YMCA
Parents and visitors mill around at an art display from students of the Gaza YMCA

You are invited to a 1-hour conversation with leaders of the Gaza YMCA on January 14, 2023. Two years ago, the Fellowship of Hope in Elkhart, IN began a relationship with the Gaza YMCA through MennoPIN’s Gaza Twining Initiative.

Through bi-weekly Zoom conversations between the Fellowship of Hope and the Gaza YMCA, the Indiana Mennonite community has “enjoyed and been challenged by the relationship, according to David Janzen. Gaza YMCA leaders Suheil Tarazi and Hani Farah will talk about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the compelling work that the YMCA has been doing to support families in the midst of dire conditions caused by the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza and the frequent bombings of Gaza by Israeli military aircraft and drones.

During the Zoom conversation, you will hear directly from Christian Palestinians and get a better picture of what life is like on the ground in Gaza, a 2,000,000 person outdoor prison in which Israel allows into Gaza barely just enough food to meet the bare minimum daily nutritional requirements to live.

No registration is needed. Simply log into the Zoom meeting on Saturday, January 14, 2023 at 10 am Eastern/9:00 am Central/8:00 am Mountain/7:00 am Pacific/5 pm Gaza. The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86324229910?pwd=emszSlJRQkprWnVJU0laQnZlekVpdz09

The Firing of Katie Halper

Jan update - Halper

 In recent years the politics and civics around the concept of antisemitism have become more complicated. The organization International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) released a ‘working legal nonbinding’ definition of antisemitism in 2016. The working definition seeks to give a broad application of what antisemitism means. However, IHRA defines about half of their examples of antisemitic activity in connection with criticism of Israel. IHRA’s working definition has been adopted by the US State Department, The ADL and sum 20 U.S. states in varying degrees.

This language has been, as Rebecca Ruth Gold states, an intervention, “in public discourse by way of obfuscation. Defining and adopting this definition in a broad way allows for the muddling of that public discourse. This could be in part why Katie Halper, a Jewish political commentator for The Hill, was fired. In September of 2022 Katie Halper was let go due to her approval of Rashida Tlaib’s description of Israel as an apartheid state. This approval of criticism was labeled antisemitic. Unfortunately, Halper being fired from The Hill is not an isolated event. Recently the new UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine, Francesca Albanese, reportedly was deemed antisemitic by Israel and ‘one-sided’ by the US’s representative to the Human Rights Council at the UN.

What makes the public discourse around the firing of Katie Halper contentious is there has also been an increase in antisemitism within U.S. society. The most prolific example of this would be Ye (Kanye) West’s recent unearthing a slew of antisemitic talking points across many platforms. This language is harmful to Jews and ought to be condemned. Yet, antisemitism and critique of a nation-state’s actions are not one in the same; even though there can be overlap in some cases. However, Jewishness is not intrinsically tied the nation-state of Israel. For some tying Jewishness to the current state of Israel is seen as antisemitic itself because it renders a Jewish identity as monolithic, as are Jews who support Israel as Medinat Yisrael.

Within this contention however, we should recognize the firing of Katie Halper is a signal that antisemitism is being used to divert culpability from Israel. Efforts to call attention to a rise of antisemitic actions can coexist at the same time of denouncing the actions of Israel against Palestinians. We ought to be able to condemn both types of actions within public discourse if we want to bring about a more peaceful world. In many ways the Mennonite commitment to peace building requires us to span multiple arrays of injustice and have a prophetic voice towards it. Bridging a place of division for reconciliation is a place that Mennonites have historically held. But, as Desmond Tutu argues, true reconciliation of people is through the proclaiming of sin or injustices, and the healing that comes from rehabilitating each party to themselves which will bring about a new way forward from the ashes of conflict.

HR 2374 – Peace and Tolerance in Palestine Education Act

On April 5, 2021, Democratic Representative Brad Sherman introduce to the House bill H.R. 2374. The bill is entitled Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act and seeks to surveil Palestinian education in Palestine Authority governed areas and Gaza. Through this surveillance the U.S. government would be required to not fund or support any education that they deemed harmful to the state of Israel.

What the bills defines as harmful education is wide, but these are some of the topics: (1) maps that are misleading or include Jerusalem as the capitol of Palestine; (2) using math of the deaths of Palestinians during the First or Second Intifada, (3) portraying violence or aggression against Israel or Israelis, and (4) that no language or definition Israel as an apartheid state should be included. If this is not upheld in the event of the Bill being passed, the U.S. would withhold funds from the UNRWA budget or any other organization that supports education in Palestine receiving U.S. government funds.

The fight for peace and not further harm is the goal in any conflict, however, this bill raises some concerns. The first is the push for the US to control Palestinian education in respect to the State of Israel. At the moment Palestinian civil society has been constricted heavily by the sanctions coming from Israel. This would further limit that space by disallowing Palestinians from determining their own story and politics through their shared history; especially after the Department of State’s adoption of IHRA’s definition of antisemitism. The second is while Palestinian education is brought under suspicion, Israeli education gets a pass. Often times, Israeli Hebrew texts books participate in similar dehumanizing rhetoric that could be found in Palestinian educational materials. A third way forward would be to not only call to reform of one side of educational materials but all.

Stay Informed on Palestine

MennoPIN keeps you informed about Palestine through our monthly update, special alerts, calls to action, important resources and tour possibilities, all from an Anabaptist perspective. But there are additional excellent organizations and web publications that can keep you informed, some on a daily basis. We invite you to explore these groups and visit the web publications as another way to keep current and active for the people of Palestine. Here are some MennoPIN recommends:

Organizations

Web Publications

Prayer

 The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos, III spoke out at a Christmas tree lighting at Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate on Saturday, the 17th of December. Addressing the crowd from the balcony of the Imperial Hotel in the Old City, he warned that Christians in the Holy Land have become target of repeated attacks by radical Israeli groups in a deliberate attempt to expel them. Lord, we echo the words of the Patriarch in our prayer: “We long for peace and so let us not rend this fabric of our historic common life that has provided room enough down the ages for all who call the Holy Land their home.” Sabeel Wave of Prayer

— 
Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network
mennopin@gmail.com | mennopin.org | facebook.com/mennopin | twitter.com/mennopin

Steering Committee:
Anthony Khair (Mennonite Central Committee, Washington, DC)
Bob Atchison (Manhattan Mennonite Church, Manhattan, KS)
Dorothy Jean Weaver (Community Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA)
Joe Roos (Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA)
Jonathan Kuttab (Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist, Manheim, PA)
Lydia Brenneman (Lima Mennonite Church, Lima, OH)
Rod Stafford (Portland Mennonite Church, Portland, OR)
Zachary Murray (Mennonite Central Committee, Washington, DC)

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