MennoPIN Monthly Update – January 2021

MENNONITE PALESTINE ISRAEL NETWORK
 
January 2021 Monthly Update
 
In This Issue
It’s Biden Turn Now – What’s Up for Palestine?
The Capitol Insurrection and Israel
B’Tselem Calls it Like it Is: Apartheid
Kumi Now – Rising Up for Palestine
Stay Informed on Palestine
Prayer

 It’s Biden’s Turn Now – What’s Up for Palestine


(Weather forecast for Washington, DC, from January 19)

Good riddance 45 and hello 46. There is a lot on the new president’s plate, but what will Joe Biden do for Palestine, and when? Here are two administration views into the crystal ball and a perspective from Palestine.
 
While campaigning in October, now-Vice-President Kamala Harris said that Biden and she would do this about Israel/Palestine: “Joe and I also believe in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli and we will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy. We are committed to a two-state solution and will oppose any unilateral steps that undermine that goal. We will also oppose annexation and settlement expansion. And we will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington.”
 
However, Biden’s choice for Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, gave another less promising perspective in his recent Senate confirmation hearings. In fact, he spent a fair bit of time applauding Trump’s policies: “The Abraham Accords…push forward on normalization with Israel…It makes Israel safer.”
 
Regarding Jerusalem and the US Embassy move there, Senator Ted Cruz asked Blinken: “Do you agree that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and do you commit that the United States will keep our embassy there? Blinken responded, “Yes and Yes.”
 
And when Senator Lindsey Graham asked Blinken if he considered Israel a racist nation, Blinken replied: “I do not.” Graham patted him on the back: “Good start.”
 
It is likely that Biden will re-enter US funding for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) and reopen the Palestinian consulate in Washington, DC, but Blinken’s testimony is a far cry from Harris’ pledge.
 
What do Palestinians think of the prospects for positive change under the Biden administration?
 
Samia Khoury, co-founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in East Jerusalem, tells the following story: “The joy and relief at seeing an end to the Trump era reminded me of the story of the widow who was living in a very small and crowded house with her family. She sought the help of her parish priest and he advised her to get a goat. What a crazy suggestion she thought as I hardly have room for my children. But she took his advice hoping for a miracle, which the church keeps talking about. She got herself a goat, and God knows what she went through for two weeks until the priest checked in on her and advised her to remove the goat. Ah, she sighed in relief. The house seemed so spacious and she was happy and ever so grateful for the advice of the priest, although the house was the same.
 
Acknowledging her relief at Trump’s departure, Samia is realistic about what a Biden administration might do, given the disappointment of the Obama/Biden era: “Shielding Israel and turning a blind eye to all its violations in the occupied territories has always been the normal stand of the US.
 
Still, with a resilience characteristic of the people of Palestine, Samia dares to hope for change, that “Mr. Biden will launch a new dawn by realizing that justice for the Palestinians and ending the occupation will actually not only be the right thing to do but will also benefit Israel and grant it the security that it demands and which it constantly uses to justify all its violations.
 
It will be up to those of us in the US, who seek justice, peace, and freedom for the people of Palestine, to put the pressure on the Biden administration to make Samia’s dream, and the dream of all Palestinians, come true.
 
 The Capitol Insurrection and Israel


(Credit: Ali Abunimah Twitter Feed) 

The Capitol insurrection on January 6 was a frightening affair. Egged on by Donald Trump, hundreds of white supremacists took Trump at his word, barged through the Capitol, smashed their way throughout the walls and halls of Congress, assaulting police officers, killing one, in an effort to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States and possibly taking congressional women and men as hostages. “
 
Among the flags and signs being waved at the Capitol was an Israeli flag, as the photo above (lower center) shows. But there were others expressing clearly anti-Semitic attitudes. One participant wore a t-shirt with the slogan “6MWE” for “Six Million Wasn’t Enough.” Another wore a hoody saying, “Auschwitz Camp, Work Brings Freedom.”
 
The insurrection did not go unnoticed by Palestinians and those who support justice in Palestine. Here are a few comments:
 
Ali Abunimah, Editor of the Electronic Intifada: “This is a story for me because of the Israel parallel. There were, of course, Israeli flags brandished at the Capitol Hill riot. And it’s no coincidence: Israel’s proudly stated principle of Jewish supremacy, higher Jewish rights to land and office, has long been a model for white supremacists [in the Unites States].”
 
Jewish Voices for Peace commented that: “Many white supremacist groups both hate Jews and love Israel. Depending on their specific ideology, they may admire Israel as a model ethnic supremacist state, share its Islamophobic and anti-Arab views, and/or want Jews to be corralled in their own state far away from the US.”
 
Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent figure in Palestine political circles, said: “While people in Palestine and in many other places in the world are struggling to achieve democracy, there are those in the US who are actively sabotaging theirs. Despots everywhere thrive on repression, oppression, and violence.”
 
A friend of MennoPIN in Gaza, whose organization we support through the MennoPIN Twinning Initiative, showed empathy in return when she wrote to us: “We feel sorry for what was happening in the USA a few days ago, though we are sure that every cloud has a silver lining, and the American people will come over this hard situation for sure. Our hearts, prays, and souls are with you and your people. Keep safe and in peace.”
 
 B’Tselem Calls it Like it Is: Apartheid

 

B’Tselem, the largest Israeli human rights organization, has designated Israel as an apartheid regime for its human rights violations in Palestine. It is the first time they have given that label in their 30-year history. In what many have called a ”watershed moment,” B’Tselem stated: “In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.”
 
Israel responded to the B’Tselem report by trying to prevent them from lecturing at schools, but B’Tselem said it would not be deterred and will continue giving virtual lectures on the subject to a school in the northern city of Haifa, stating that “B’Tselem is determined to keep with its mission of documenting reality, analyzing it, and making our findings publicly known to the Israeli public, and worldwide.
 
You can view the full B’Tselem apartheid report here and their illustrated website here.
 
Kumi Now – Rising Up for Palestine
 

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, located in East Jerusalem, has started Kumi Now to connect activists around the world with organizations working on the ground in Palestine and Israel to bring justice and lasting peace based on international law and nonviolence. Here is how Sabeel describes Kumi Now: “In response to our current situation and adhering to our principles of justice, inclusion, and nonviolence, Sabeel has been moved to act. After months of collaboration with local Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals, Sabeel is excited to introduce the Kumi (Rise Up) project. We wish to invite local and international individuals and organizations to join the Kumi project to work as a united force.”
 
To keep current on what is happening in Palestine and join others from around the world in support of Palestine, we encourage you to be part of Kumi Now by registering for weekly sessions here and visiting their YouTube channel here.

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
Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (Sabeel)
Mennonite Central Committee Palestine and Israel
Christian Peacemaker Teams
U.S. Campaign for Palestine Rights (USCPR)
Kairos PalestineKairos USA
Americans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU)
Christian Zionism
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace
Palestine Portal 

Web Publications
Mondeweiss
The Electronic Intifada
+972 Magazine
B’Tselem
Palestine InSight

Prayer

This week’s Kumi Now online meeting at 6pm (Jerusalem Time) on Tuesday, the 19th of January, will focus on the work of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition, (ICAHD). Jeff Halper, the founder of ICAHD, will discuss the refusal of the Israeli authorities to grant building permits to Palestinians. Even if Palestinians wish to build on their own land, very few permits are granted. When Palestinians go ahead and build without the permits, their homes are demolished by the Israeli authorities. Many Palestinians are even forced to bulldoze their own homes to avoid paying demolition costs… Lord Jesus, we come before you with hearts full of grief as we think of the Palestinian families forced to watch the destruction of their own homes. Lord, you experienced a harsh life under occupation during your ministry on earth, with nowhere for you to lay your head, (Matt.8:20). We pray for an end to this deplorable practice of home demolition in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayers. Sabeel Wave of Prayer— 
Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network
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Steering Committee:
Anita Rediger (Emmaus Road Mennonite Fellowship, Berne, IN)
Bob Atchison (Manhattan Mennonite Church, Manhattan, KS)
Joe Roos (Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA)
Jonathan Kuttab (Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist, Washington, DC)
Jonathan Brenemann (Syracuse, NY)
Lydia Brenneman (Lima Mennonite Church, Lima, OH)
Rod Stafford (Portland Mennonite Church, Portland, OR)

December 2020 MennoPIN Monthly Update

December 2020 Monthly Update

In This IssueChristmas Greetings from MennoPIN
Inside the COVID Relief Bill – Half a Billion Dollars for Israel
A Hopeful Note on the Biden Administration
Turning Olives into Energy
A Poem from Noor Hindi
Stay Informed on Palestine
Prayer
Christmas Greetings from MennoPIN


(Credit: FOSNA/Maher Naji) 
We wish you a blessed Christmas, even as this devastating year draws to a close. Through the exhaustion and pain of 2020, we hope for the renewal of our spirits as we wait expectantly for the child Jesus to come once again into our needy world. We hope for replenishment and renewal in our labor of love in support of the people of Palestine amidst their ongoing suffering and pain. And we hope that a new administration will offer some positive steps forward for Palestinians as we hold their feet to the fire. Have a blessed New Year!
Inside the COVID Relief Bill – Half a Billion Dollars for Israel

If you thought the 5,593-page COVID relief bill was singularly designed to address the needs of people and small businesses suffering from the pandemic, you would be wrong. Three examples (there are more) that have nothing to do with COVID relief:

  • On pages 341 and 342, $500,000,000 to Israel for its Iron Dome defense system, short range ballistic missiles and more.
  • On pages 2630-2633, opposition to China’s interference in the education of Tibetan monks and the selection of future Dalai Lamas.
  • On pages 244, important classification of certain racehorses as three-year old property.

A Hopeful Note on the Biden’s Administration


Joe Biden introducing Antony Blinkin as his nominee for Secretary of State
(Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

We all know that the Biden Administration will not do what Palestine deserves and needs – full freedom and justice. It is true that, during the campaign, Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris, told The Arab American that “Joe [Biden] and I also believe in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli and we will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy.” We hope that this is one campaign promise they live up to.

Biden’s cabinet picks bring a ray of hope to that direction. Secretary of State Elect, Antony Blinken, and National Security Adviser Elect, Jake Sullivan, have outlined a shift from the Trump Administration that will emphasize diplomacy and human rights which may revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and bring Israeli and Palestinian officials to the negotiating table with fewer concessions for the Israeli government. That’s not nearly enough, but at least a step in the right direction.
Turning Olives into Energy in Gaza


(Photo by Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images) 
Tamer Abu Mutlaq, seen above, is a trained engineer living in Khan Yunis is southern Gaza. Of course, there are very few paid jobs for engineers in Gaza, so Tamer was unemployed. Using his education, Tamer had an idea. Why not take olive waste and turn it into energy he wondered, and he figured out a way to do exactly that. Making environmentally friendly fuel pellets from olive skin, pits, and pulp, Gazans can now use the resulting pomace wood to warm their homes and cook their food.

The resilience and creativity of the people of Gaza and the West Bank under such oppressions conditions is remarkable and deeply inspiring!
A Poem from Noor Hindi


(Credit: Stephen Bivens Photography)
Noor Hindi is a Palestinian-American poet and reporter. Her poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in The RumpusjubilatGay magazine, American Poetry ReviewAndroit Journal, and elsewhere. Hindi is the equity and inclusion reporter for Devil Strip magazine. The following poem appeared in Poetry magazine, December 2020.
Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People are Dying

Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them. 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

This Christmas we turn our eyes to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, and we see a suffering town. The pandemic has hit the economy of the town hard with over 7,000 people working in the tourism sector, now unemployed for over nine months. Some families are having to withdraw their children from schools, forced to make hard choices between education, food or medicine. Others can no longer afford to pay rent and are having to move back in with their parents and grandparents…Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world, (John 8:12). When we light our Advent candles remind us that we will not walk in darkness if we follow your light. When the darkness of poverty, oppression, illness and bereavement press in hard, lift our eyes to your light of hope. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayers. Sabeel Wave of Prayer

November 2020 MennoPIN Monthly Update

MENNONITE PALESTINE ISRAEL NETWORK
 
November 2020 Monthly Update
 
In This IssueBiden/Harris: Will Palestine Be on Their Radar?
The United States of Arms?
Jonathan Kuttab on a Post Two-State Solution
Kairos Christmas Alert 2020
Sabeel and the COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis
FOSNA and Advent: Keep Awake!
Garth Hewitt – Troubadour for Justice
Help COVID-19 Suffering in Gaza
Stay Informed on Palestine
Prayer
 
 Biden/Harris: Will Palestine Be on Their Radar?


(Credit: Latuff 2020 – monsoweiss.net)
Their record is not promising. Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have voted consistently pro-Israel in the Senate. Both consider themselves Zionists and have taken photo ops with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both consider conditioning military aid to Israel out of the question. Biden termed it, “absolutely outrageous.”
 
But while campaigning in Detroit in late October, Harris had some hopeful things to say to The Arab American News: “Joe and I also believe in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli and we will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy. We are committed to a two-state solution and will oppose any unilateral steps that undermine that goal. We will also oppose annexation and settlement expansion. And we will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington.”
 
In another hopeful sign, the Israeli newspaper Haartez reported on November 24, 2020 that senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials have opened talks with the Biden transition team for a phone conversation between President-Elect Joe Biden and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. A few days ago, Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah. After reaching a low during the Trump administration, the talks could begin what might become an important turn in US relations to Palestine.
 
Re-establishing relations with Palestine and returning humanitarian aid to Palestine and Gaza would certainly provide needed relief to the desperation felt by the people of Palestine. But even if they follow through on all the things Harris promised in The Arab American News interview, that would at best return to the pre-Trump status quo. Palestinian voices know that only too well:
 
Hanan Ashwari, Palestinian political leader, educator and activist: “We have no illusions. Biden is no savior…American policy has failed repeatedly…in protecting human rights…[He should] forge a new way ahead, not by going back to the way things were before…Palestine now is part of the American conversation, no longer taboo. We are part of a movement to respect human rights.”
 
Ali Abunimah, Editor of Electronic Intifada: “Biden has already endorsed some of Trump’s signature pro-Israeli policies. He has welcomed normalization deals the Trump administration brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain…Yet there is a slight shift in tone…Kamala Harris pledged that the Biden administration would restore humanitarian aid for Palestinians cut by Trump…But at best it would mark a return to a status quo where Palestinians are kept on life support while Israel continues to aggressively steal land and violate their rights with impunity.”
 
Noura Erakat, human rights attorney and Palestinian activist: “Palestinians understand that the election of Joe Biden is not a panacea that will ensure Palestinian freedom…While the majority of Palestinian Americans, and Arab Americans more generally, supported the Biden-Harris ticket, they did so understanding that they did not have — and have never had — a presidential candidate who represented their freedom dreams for Palestine. This is not to say that there is no daylight between President Trump and Biden on Palestine. The Biden administration, for example, could reinstate U.S. aid for Palestinian refugees, and it will allow the reopening of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission Office in Washington; it also wants to include Palestinians back in negotiations…Ultimately, the path forward does not look for saviors in U.S. politicians but seeks strategic interventions within a broader set of tools, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and building solidarity with other social justice struggles.”
 
Voice from a café in Bethlehem: “Trump was horrible for us, that’s for sure. But do we honestly think Biden is going to be better for us than any other president, like Obama? I don’t think so…I think Biden is going to return us back to the days of Obama, where the US maintained a façade of being an honest peace broker, but in reality was still supporting fully Israel and the Zionist agenda…If Trump did anything positive, he lifted the veil off the false pretense that the US cared about Palestinian rights. But with Biden, we’d just be going back to that false sense of security.”
 
But maybe, just maybe, Biden will remember a fiery speech he gave in 1986 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he passionately expressed his opposition to another apartheid state, South African: “Dammit, we have favorites in South Africa. The favorites in South Africa are the people that are being repressed by that ugly white regime…Hell, they’ve tried to compromise for twenty years. They’ve tried everything. Everything in their power! And look what’s happened to them. They’re being crushed…Our loyalty is not to South Africa, it’s to South Africans. And the South Africans are the majority black. They are being excoriated.”
 The United States of Arms?
  
For decades, the United States has been by far the largest exporter of arms around the world. Most of those arms are sold to authoritarian regimes. It is increasingly apparent that a central feature to the Abraham Accords normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain was the promise by the United States to a massive sale of arms. The Trump administration recently announced the $10 billion munitions package to the UAE, including 50 F-35s, 18 MQ-9 Reapers, MK 82 dumb bombs, guided bombs, missiles and more. The weapons will be used in the UAE’s war in Yemen.
 Jonathan Kuttab on a Post Two-State Solution

 
In addition to serving on the MennoPIN Steering Committee, Jonathan Kuttab wears many hats. He is a human rights attorney who has practiced law in the United States, Palestine and Israel; serves on the board of Bethlehem Bible College and is a co-founder of Nonviolence International. Jonathan has recently returned from a month-long observation trip to Palestine.
 
After the announcement of the Trump Administration’s support for Israel annexation of significant portions of the West Bank, Jonathan wrote a book, Beyond the Two-State Solution, on a way forward for a one-state solution now that the two-state solution is no longer viable and charts a path that challenges both Zionism and Palestinian nationalism. You can learn more about this possible solution by:
 Watching an interview hereOrdering a copy of his book here Kairos Christmas Alert 2020

 
Kairos Palestine describes their Christmas Alert this way: “This year the Christmas Alert shed light on the importance of restoring a new hope for Palestine amidst the new happenings worldwide that are affecting Palestine. We need new light and hope to come from the hearts of all believers in the Christmas message to encourage churches around the world to act Let us all together spread the message of Palestinian Christians around the world!” To read the entire alert, click here.
 Sabeel and the COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis

 
The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Sabeel, has published the most recent issue of their newsletter, Cornerstone, about the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine and its devastating impact. Articles include “Love Transcends Pandemic,” “Depression in Palestine During COVID-19,” and “Moving Forward: A Path to Liberation.” To read the entire issue, click here.
 FOSNA and Advent: Keep Awake!

 
This year the first Sunday of Advent and International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People coincide on November 29, 2020. The Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) is encouraging congregations to preach on Palestine this first Sunday of Advent. They have provided multiple resources from liturgies, hymns, sermons, children’s stories, artwork and more on their website here. Consider preaching Palestine either November 29 or any Sunday of Advent. Keep Awake!
 Garth Hewitt – Troubadour for Justice

 
Garth Hewitt is an activist, song writer and Anglican priest who regularly champions the cause of Palestinian justice and freedom. The Indian Center for Middle East Peace is hosting Hewitt in a live concert and conversation on December 6, 2020 at 2:00 pm Eastern time. Join ICMEP and Hewitt commemorating the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights here.
 Help Alleviate COVID-19 Suffering in Gaza 
The health crisis Gaza has been facing is made worse by the expanding COVID-19 suffering people there are facing now. One way you can help alleviate suffering in Gaza is to support a project with the Youth Vision Society that MennoPIN has been supporting in our Gaza Twinning Initiative. Please consider supporting this tremendous need in Gaza here.
 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:
 
OrganizationsFriends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (Sabeel)Mennonite Central Committee Palestine and IsraelChristian Peacemaker TeamsU.S. Campaign for Palestine Rights (USCPR)Kairos PalestineKairos USAAmericans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU)Christian ZionismPalestinian Christian Alliance for PeacePalestine Portal 
Web PublicationsMondeweissThe Electronic Intifada+972 MagazineB’TselemPalestine InSight 
 PrayerConcerns have been expressed at an international level over the way the Israeli government is expediting plans to build 1,257 settler homes beyond the Green Line in Giv’at Ha Matos Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem. There are fears that approval plans for this contentious project, as well as a number of others, will be rushed through before a change in the US administration in the New Year…Lord, we cry out to you for mercy as we see more plans for a massive expansion of settler unit building in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian Territories. We pray that governments around the world will speak out strongly over further breaches of international law. Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayers. Sabeel Wave or Prayer https://sabeel.org/2020/11/23/sabeel-wave-of-prayer-147/Sabeel Wave of Prayer

August 2020 MennoPIN Monthly Update

August 2020 Monthly Update

In This Issue

Israel/UAE/US Accord – Throwing Palestine Under the Bus
Annexation Update – Listening to Palestinian Voices (and a Jewish Voice, too)
The Biden/Harris Ticket and Palestine
Betty McCollum Strikes Again
Cry for Hope: A Decisive Call for Action
Stay Informed on Palestine
Prayer

Israel/UAE/US Accord – Throwing Palestine Under the Bus

Donald Trump after signing the Accord with participants from Israel and the United Arab Emirates behind (Credit: NYT)

President Trump, of course, wanted to call it the Donald J. Trump Accord, but it became formally known as the Abraham Accord. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the third Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel (following Egypt and Jordan years earlier). It is possible that other Arab states, like Bahrain and Oman, will soon follow suit. Trump tweeted that it was a “HUGE breakthrough” and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called it a “geopolitical earthquake.” But was it really?

Israel and the UAE have never been to war with each other. In fact, relationship building between the two has been going on for decades, beginning as far back as the 1970s when they started sharing intelligence information. Over time, cooperation included economic and diplomatic ties, security concerns (including cyber-security) and, most importantly, opposition to Iran’s growing regional influence in the wake the U.S. failed invasion of Iraq in 2003. As Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University put it: “This was making overt a relationship that was already covert…making even more salient an alliance against Iran.”

Richard Falk, former Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on Palestinian Human Rights, assessed possible motivations for the accord by the three players involved: (1) Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “to justify a delay in fulfilling his election promise to annex large portions of the occupied West Bank territory belonging to Palestine…[and] pressure to convince Israelis that he could be an effective leader…while under indictment for corruption and without making concessions to the Palestinians”; (2) For the UAE, “once ‘peace’ with Israel is achieved, the UAE will be eligible to buy advanced weapon systems from the United States…[and] to strengthen the anti-Iran coalition”; and (3) “as Trump has already claimed, this will be presented to the American people as a demonstration of the effectiveness of Trump’s deal-making diplomacy, as well as securing a victory for Israel in its efforts to achieving normalization with Arab countries without allowing the formation of an independent sovereign Palestine.”

In the process, the accord effectively throws Palestine under the bus. The announcement of the deal stated ambiguously that “Israel will suspend [emphasis added] declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim World.” The critical word is “suspend,” and as Falk put it, “in order to reach a common understanding the parties agreed not to specify what was meant by the word ‘suspend’…There seems little doubt that the two parties want to …put forward divergent interpretations…The UAE to hide its abandonment of the Palestinians in their struggle for basic human rights…and Israel wants to convince especially its settler movement that the suspension is temporary, and when an opportune moment arises, annexation will go forward.”

Rashida Tlaib, the first female Palestinian U.S. congresswoman, blasted the accord on Twitter: “We won’t be fooled by another Trump/Netanyahu deal. We won’t celebrate Netanyahu for not stealing land he already controls in exchange for a sweetheart deal. The heart of the issue has never been planned, formal annexation, but ongoing, devastating apartheid.”

In Palestine, Samia Khoury, co-founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, spoke from her heart: “We hardly got over the shock of the explosion in Beirut on August 4, and the loss of so many lives…when we got another shock on August 13, with the breaking news of the United Arab Emirates’ recognition of Israel and the normalization of their relationship on all levels. Why would the Emirates do that at a time when the Palestinians are at their lowest ebb, and they need the support of all the Arab neighbors to sanction Israel instead of allying with it…The UAE is rewarding Israel…and further abandon the Palestinians…Once again the Palestinians are paying the price…In an era of power and domination, neither justice nor the United Nations resolutions seem to work…’Woe to the powerless’ could not be more true than in those times when our cry is not only the cry of the powerless but a cry in the wilderness, when even our closest friends are not listening…But amidst all this hopelessness, can I really lose hope? Of course not. History has taught us that no injustice or empire can last forever.”

Annexation Update – Listening to Palestinian Voices (and a Jewish Voice, too)


Apartheid map (Credit: GUE/NGL)

With the threat of annexation as real after the accord as before, Palestinian voices cry out ever more strongly, like that of the prophet Habakkuk nearly three millennia ago: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Our annexation coverage continues with three Palestinian voices from today and one significant American Jewish voice who just changed his mind.

Palestinian Voices
Jonathan Kuttab – An Analysis
“There has been a huge fervor over the threat of Netanyahu to annex portions of the West Bank…The outcry [in response]…hides the fact that a creeping form of annexation has been taking place the last 50 years…It is valuable…to remember why annexation is so roundly condemned…First, the entire fabric of international law and stability requires that…boundaries be respected and should not be altered unilaterally…Second…is that it puts the last nail in the coffin of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders…What most people miss is that Israel was perfectly happy to carry out its settlement and annexation activities as long as the world limited its response to verbal disapproval and did not take concrete steps to sanction it for these activities…It is therefore more important than ever that those of us who care about international law and the prospect of peace find ways to make our position known not by empty toothless proclamations and resolutions, but by seeking to make Israel to pay a price for its settlement and annexation activities. Where governments fail to take such actions, then we must turn to civil society activities like those proposed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).”

Yousef Al Khouri (Bethlehem Bible College) – The Sin of Annexation
“The Israeli government and its allies continue their plan to erase the Palestinian historical presence in the land of Palestine…The Christian biblical way to describe the plan is SIN…The Kairos Palestine Document, ‘Moment of Truth,’ states clearly that the occupation is a sin against God and humanity…Stealing of the Palestinian land from its indigenous people is an explicit breaking of God’s commandments to his people and the church…The coming of God’s Kingdom…is based on justice, peace, love and coexistence…The church…has the responsibility to be the prophetic voice of the Kingdom that speaks against the sin of occupation and annexation of the Palestinian people.”

An Open Letter from Christian Clergy from Bethlehem
“We are writing this letter in our capacity as spiritual leaders of various Christian communities in the Bethlehem area. The Israeli government is planning to annex more occupied Palestinian land….For…Bethlehem…the process of annexation will be particularly catastrophic…Soon after the occupation of 1967 Israel annexed over 20,000 dunums of land in the northern part of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour for construction of illegal settlements…One of the only areas left…for agriculture and simply for families to enjoy nature are the valleys of Cremisan and Makhrour, both located to the west of our urban areas and are under the current threat of annexation by Israeli authorities…Our biggest concern is that the annexation of those areas will push more people to emigrate. Bethlehem, surrounded by walls and settlements, already feels like an open prison. Annexation means the prison becomes even smaller, with no hopes for a better future…This is land theft.”

Peter Beinart’s Dramatic Change of Heart
For many years, the liberal American Jewish community has been firmly committed to a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. But one of those voices recently shook up the liberal Jewish American community.

Peter Beinart is one of the leading voices in the liberal American Jewish community and editor of Jewish Currents. Beinart has held out for a two-state solution for many years. But in July he published an article in which he declared the two-state solution dead and the one-state apartheid solution equally dead. His article included the following assertions about annexation and Israel’s future:

“Annexation is not the end of the line. It is a waystation to hell [for both Israel and Palestine]. Averting a future in which oppression degenerates into ethnic cleansing requires a vision that can inspire not just Palestinians, but the world. Equality offers it…The demand for equality—as manifested in the civil rights movement, anti-apartheid movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement—retains enormous emotional power.”

“For generations, Jews have seen a Jewish state as tikkun, a repair, a way of overcoming the legacy of the Holocaust. But it hasn’t worked. To justify our oppression of Palestinians, Jewish statehood has required us to see them as Nazis. And, in that way, it has kept the Holocaust legacy alive. The real tikkun is equality, a Jewish home that is also a Palestinian home. Only by helping to free Palestinians—and in the process coming to see them as human beings, not the reincarnation of our tortured past—can we free ourselves from the Holocaust’s grip. The Hebrew word for peace, ‘shalom,’ is connected to the word ‘shlemut,’ wholeness. Only Palestinian freedom—a precondition for true peace in Israel-Palestine—can make Jews whole.”

Beinart’s vision of a one-nation solution that is both a homeland for Jews and for Palestinians, where in a democratic Israel every Jew and Palestinian has an equal voice, has sparked a vigorous debate within the American Jewish community. Many, while opposing annexation, also disagree with Beinart. But criticism has also come from some who think he did not go far enough.

One of those is Rabbi Brant Rosen. While agreeing that Beinart’s article was “something of a milestone in American discourse on Israel-Palestine,” Rosen also argued that Beinart’s position “betrays a mindset that views the issue as a political conflict to be solved, not a moral injustice to be confronted.”

The Biden/Harris Ticket and Palestine


Joe Biden with Benjamin Netanyahu (Credit: Getty Images) Kamala Harris with Benjamin Netanyahu (Credit: Graystone)

Hopefully, a Biden/Harris win on November 3, 2020, will turn back the clock on the many horrendous policy changes made by the Trump administration on civil rights, immigration, the economy, the environment and so much more. But with Palestine, while their records and the words are not as damaging to Palestine as Trump’s cruelty, their expressed loyalty to Israel and near silence on the occupation and oppression of Palestine does not inspire hope. Indeed, no mention of Palestine was made in prime time during the Democratic National Convention.

A Biden/Harris administration will need to be pressed hard. As Rashid Khalidi told Democracy Now, “The people who are going to vote for the Democrats…strongly believe that Israel should be sanctioned for its violations of Palestinian human rights…So, a lot of work is going to be necessary to force the leadership to do what the people want.”

Here are just a few of their stated positions.

Joe Biden

  • ON SETTLEMENTS – “Look, I have been on record from very early on opposed to settlements, and I think it’s a mistake, and Netanyahu knows my position. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find it to be absolutely outrageous.”
  • ON EMBASSY MOVE – “It should not have been moved…The move shouldn’t have happened in the context as it did, it should happen in the context of a larger deal to help us achieve important concessions for peace in the process.”
  • ON ANNEXATION (from an aide) – “Unilateral steps taken by either side that make the prospect of a negotiated two-state outcome less likely is something he opposes, and that includes annexation.”
  • ON BDS – “Firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel – home to millions of Jews – and too often veers in anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”

Kamala Harris

  • ON DEMOCRACY IN ISRAEL – “Israel is a beautiful home to democracy and justice.”
  • ON PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS – When asked if Israel meets international standards of human rights, Harris replied, “Overall, yes.”
  • ON U.S MILITARY AID TO ISRAEL AND ANNEXATION – “My support for Israel’s security and the ten-year $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding is unwavering…I am deeply concerned by the warnings of some of Israel’s most prominent defense and intelligence leaders regarding annexation…and the disruption of peaceful relations between Israel and her neighbors, Jordan and Egypt.”
  • ON BDS – [The BDS] “movement is based on the mistaken assumption that Israel is solely to blame for the Israel-Palestine conflict…The BDS movement seeks to weaken Israel but it will only isolate the nation and steer Israeli’s against prerequisite compromises for peace.”
Betty McCollum Strikes Again

U.S. Representative Betty McCullom (Credit: Star Tribune)

Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) is proving to be one of the strongest supporters of Palestinian rights in the halls of the Congress. Last year she introduced legislation (H.R.2407) to prohibit Israel from using U.S. funds to detain and prosecute children. Now she, along with six Democratic House member cosponsors (Rashid Tlaib {MI}; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez {NY}; Ayanna Pressley {MA}; Ilhan Omar {MN}; Mark Pocan {WI} and Andre Carson {IN}) has introduced the Israeli Annexation Non-Recognition Act.

McCollum is putting forth the legislation because, “Annexation…will fuel instability, injustice, and an abhorrent system of apartheid. I want Palestinians and Israelis to have their human rights respected, their right to self-determination realized, and a future with peace, security, equality, and justice…I reject Israeli apartheid. I condemn annexation. And I will work to ensure the U.S. does not support, defend, or legitimize any plan to annex Palestinian lands.”

Cry for Hope: A Decisive Call for Action

Israel police stand guard in front of Orthodox Christians on the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) in Jerusalem (Credit: Saeb Awad/APA Images)

Global Kairos for Justice is a coalition of concerned Christians from a broad spectrum who passionately seek to use nonviolent means to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but who also seek to support movements around the world to bring down structures of racism, ethnic cleansing, violations of human rights and the abuse of land and its resources.

In early July Global Kairos for Justice issued a Cry for Hope: A Decisive Call for Action to churches around the world. Asking denominational bodies and congregations to decisively act to end the oppression of the people of Palestine, the Cry for Hope issued a challenge with Seven Actions to be taken, including to engage in study and discernment, to participate in the nonviolent  Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), to strongly oppose anti-Semitism and to come and visit the Holy Land.

To read the entire document and the full list of the Seven Actions, click here.

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

On Tuesday, the 18th of August the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant halted operations due to an Israeli ban on fuel, along with most other goods, entering the enclave which is under Israeli blockade and bombardment. The Israeli action came as part of the punitive measures enforced over the launch of incendiary balloons and rockets from Gaza. Hospitals, businesses, and homes in Gaza will have to rely on generators and solar power to make up for the power cuts. Lord, we pray for the people of Gaza as they try to survive under the crippling Israeli blockade. We pray that the Israeli authorities will have mercy at this time of pandemic crisis and allow the restoration of fuel supplies to Gaza, before a humanitarian crisis breaks out. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer. Sabeel Wave of Prayer

June 2020 MennoPIN Monthly Update

MennoPIN Monthly Update: June 2020
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MENNONITE PALESTINE ISRAEL NETWORK
June 2020 Monthly Update

In This Issue

In Memoriam
Israel and the Murder of George Floyd
Annexation
Part 1 – The Kairos Palestine Response
Part 2 – Annexation and the Bibi/Benny Election Tango
Part 3 – Can Bibi be Stopped?
Stay Informed on Palestine
Prayer

In Memoriam

 

Breonna Taylor   George Floyd    Ahmaud Abery        Iyad al-Halak

Breonna Taylor – a 26-year-old African American woman, an emergency room technician, was killed with eight bullets after Louisville, KY police, using a battering ram, crashed into her apartment, unannounced. Their warrant was for a location in a different part of the city from someone who had already been arrested. No charges have been filed.

George Floyd – a 46-year-old African American died by asphyxiation when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. His “I can’t breathe” pleas were ignored by the four officers involved, all of whom have been charged in Floyd’s death.

Ahmaud Abery – a 25-year-old African American man was jogging through his Glynn County neighborhood when he was shot by two white men with the assistance of a third man, thinking he was a burglary suspect. It took nearly three months for the police department to arrest the three men.

Iyad-al-Halak – a 32-year-old Palestinian man with autism was shot and killed by Israeli police outside his special needs school.

MennoPIN is an inclusive and anti-racist network. We stand opposed to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, all forms of racism, and any other expressions of bigotry directed at any person or group

RIP Brionna, George, Ahmaud and Iyad. The work for freedom and justice will go on.

Israel and the Murder of George Floyd

  

Two young Palestinian men with knees to their necks and beaten by Israeli armed forces

For many, many years Israel has been exporting the brutal tactics they use against Palestinian citizens. In cities all over the United States, personnel from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have come to teach police in this country the very repressive measures they use in their occupation of Palestine.

The U.S. group Deadly Exchange describes the exchange of practices this way: “One of the most dangerous places where the regimes of Trump and Netanyahu converge is in exchange programs that bring together police, ICE, border patrol, and FBI from the US with soldiers, police, border agents… from Israel. In these programs, ‘worst practices’ are shared to promote and extend discriminatory and repressive policing in both countries. These include extrajudicial executions, shoot-to-kill policies, police murders, racial profiling, massive spying and surveillance, deportation and detention, and attacks on human rights defenders.” As the photos above show, constraint with a knee to the head/neck is one of the practices IDF uses against Palestinians.

In 2012 over 100 Minneapolis police officers attended a conference, led by IDF and cosponsored by the FBI, in which they received training in restraint techniques and other violent, repressive measures. It is unclear whether the four officers involved in the murder of George Floyd were involved in that conference, but it seems likely they had some knowledge of the knee-to-the-neck technique.

Some U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, have stopped the deadly exchange relationship with Israel, but the very same techniques of military occupation Israel uses against Palestinians have been and are being used against U.S. citizens, and especially people of color, like George Floyd.

The enormous, nation-wide opposition to militarized police forces coming from all sectors of U.S. society has potential for change never seen before. The decision by the Minneapolis City Council to dismantle their police force is a deeply encouraging sign. How they will do that remains to be seen.

Donald Trump would like military forces to “dominate” and “crush” those advocating for justice in this country. But a clear rejection of his hoped-for policy must also include a rejection of Israel’s use of military domination against the people of Palestine.

Annexation

Netanyahu overlooks part of the West Bank he promises to annex (Credit: Debbie Hill, Reuters File)

The Kairos Palestine Response
Christian Palestinian voices have issued an unambiguous consensus: “Stop Annexation!” The Kairos Palestine statement begins with these words: “Israel’s West Bank annexation policy, fueled by Trump’s ‘peace plan,’ may gratify extreme evangelicals, but is a mortal blow to the future of Christianity in the Holy Land.” And concludes with these: “Peacemaking is a blessing from God; oppression is a sin. But various U.S. officials are misusing the Holy Bible to justify policies of colonization and the annexation of occupied territory, a crime under international law. People around the world who believe in justice must say, “Enough!” and act accordingly.” You can read the entire statement here.

Annexation and the Bibi/Benny Election Tango
After three elections and 500 days of political instability, Israel finally formed a new government between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. Gantz ran on a platform that included annexation but only with strong international input. Citing COVID-19 as justification, Gantz abandoned many of his supporters and allies and agreed to the ruling coalition with Netanyahu and dropped his minimal hesitations about annexation. Netanyahu will continue as Prime Minister for the first 18 months, at which point Gantz is slated to become the head of state.

Netanyahu plans to push through the annexation vote through the Knesset, with Gantz’ support, on July 1. Affirming his intention to move forward with unilateral annexation, Netanyahu asserted at his swearing-in that “It’s time to apply the Israeli law and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism…These territories are where the Jewish nation was born and grew.”

Can Anyone Stop Bibi?
Probably not, but perhaps.

Substantial international opposition to annexation is building. Expressing clear opposition to annexation or deep concerns are the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, Jordan, Russia, China, the Vatican, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Canada. With the United States set to recognize the annexation, it remains to be seen whether international opposition will have any impact.

But a new and surprising force questioning annexation has arisen—the settlements. Influential forces have recently expressed doubts about the annexation plan, that annexation will be the death knell to settlements. As Bezalel Smotrich, an outspoken settlement lawmaker, recently stated, “It’s either or…either the settlements have a future, or the Palestinian State does—but not both.”

But there is growing evidence that annexation will be pushed through expeditiously. On June 1, Benny Gantz, former Netanyahu opponent and current Israel Defense Minister, told the head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “to accelerate...preparations ahead of political steps on the agenda in the Palestine arena.” Most observers understood his instruction to mean that IDF should prepare for possible extensive violence by Palestinians as well as other possible difficulties in the region. Then on June 7, Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Yariv Levin, said that Israel will move forward with annexation “within weeks.”

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

Hundreds of protesters gathered in cities across Palestine/Israel on Tuesday, the 2nd of June, to remember recent victims of police brutality in the US and Israel. On the 25th of May, George Floyd, and African American, was arrested, handcuffed and suffocated by a US policeman in Minneapolis. On the 30th of May, Iyad Hallaq, a Palestinian man with autism, was shot dead by an Israelis policeman. Outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, protestors lit candles in front of a photo of Floyd and Hallaq and chanted, “Black Lives Matter, Palestinian lives matter.’ Sabeel Wave of Prayer


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

Steering Committee:
Anita Rediger (Emmaus Road Mennonite Fellowship, Berne, IN)
Bob Atchison (Manhattan Mennonite Church, Manhattan, KS)
Joe Roos (Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA)
Jonathan Kuttab (Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist, Washington, DC)
Jonathan Brenemann (Syracuse, NY)
Lydia Brenneman (Lima Mennonite Church, Lima, OH)
Rod Stafford (Portland Mennonite Church, Portland, OR)

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April 2020 MennoPIN Monthly Update

April 2020 Monthly Update

In This Issue
Easter Saturday in Jerusalem (Virtually)
Kairos Palestine Easter Alert 2020
COVID-19 in Palestine
Part 1 – The Hard Reality
Part 2 – Notes of Hope
Part 3 – Some Things You Can Do
The Israeli Election Mess
Stay Informed on Palestine
Jesus of the Scars: A Song and Prayer for Good Friday

Easter Saturday in Jerusalem (Virtually)

Celebrate Easter Saturday live, hearing from our Palestinian elders in Jerusalem, sharing lessons of liberation and spiritual survival in the midst of colonization and COVID-19. Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) and Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theological Center will bring words of wisdom and hope desperately needed in these days. To register to participate in this special time of worship, click here.

MennoPIN wishes you a blessed Easter during very trying times!

 Kairos Palestine Easter Alert 2020

Kairos Palestine has issued its annual Easter Alert 2020 with compelling reflections from Palestinian Christian activists, theologians and leading clergy. Powerful essays and searching questions illuminate the meaning of the resurrection in a time of occupation and coronavirus. Easter Alert 2020 is available here.

COVID-19 in Palestine

Part 1 – The Hard Reality

A volunteer sprays sanitizing gel on the hands of a Palestinian man near the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (Credit: AFP)

East Jerusalem
These times are extremely difficult, even for the fortunate ones…I think of the Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds of children, in overcrowded jails with no access to proper food, warmth, or anything resembling entertainment, save for the shouts of Israeli prison guards and military personnel. Many are held under, administrative detention without charge or trial.” – Mariam Barghouti

Bethlehem
Prior to the Corona virus the unemployment rate was a staggering 31%, and now it has skyrocketed. Fear, hopelessness, helplessness and despair, are overwhelming feelings of the mass of the population. People are worried…and fear about a bleak future. Many have lost their jobs, especially those previously employed in the tourism sector. Churches and mosques are closed.” – Zoughbi Zoughbi

Gaza
When the news of confirmed cases broke out, Gazans started taking precautionary measures to protect themselves and their family members from infection. However, with the lack of sufficient resources and equipment, Gazans had only one other way to cope with stress: cynicism and dark comedy. From Facebook posts to Twitter hashtags, Gazans reacted to the irony of being advised by the Palestinian Authority not to travel, whilst living under siege and prohibited from doing so for more than a decade. Others reacted with sarcasm to isolation notices to close down businesses and shops and go into confinement, wondering how they would provide for their children when there is little commercial activity in an ailing economy, even before the arrival of the virus in the first place.” – Omar Shaban

Part 2 – Notes of Hope

Two paramedics, working together to fight the coronavirus, pray outside of an ambulance, the Jewish man facing toward Jerusalem and the Palestinian Muslim toward Mecca (Credit: Magen David Adom)

Arab and Jewish Medics Work Together on the Frontline
At the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, both Arab and Jewish doctors and other medical staffers have worked side-by-side for years, bucking the tensions between their communities. Palestinian Israelis comprise about 20% of the population of Israel, but a slightly greater percentage are health care workers within the Jewish state.

During this time of coronavirus, the collaboration between the two is critical. Rafi Walden is Sheba’s Deputy Director Emeritus. Walden recently explained how crucial the Arab medical population is to Israel: “We work together with Arab medical staff everywhere and not just in the time of coronavirus. Without them, the Israeli medical system would collapse.”

Ventilator Prototype Created at al-Quds University
The Abu Dis campus of Al-Quds University, located in East Jerusalem, is committed to educating Palestinian youth as a basic human right that should be exercised by all those who wish to pursue a higher education. Research plays a strong role in academic pursuits.

A team of engineers and doctors at al-Quds has recently developed a ventilator prototype to help treat Palestinians with serious cases of COVID-19. Hopefully, the ventilators will be able to address the severe shortage of ventilators in the West Bank and Gaza where, respectively, only 256 and 87 ventilators are now in use.

Gaza Clothing Factory Makes Protective Suits
A Gaza factory that makes children’s clothing has been converted into a factory producing protective suits for essential workers inside the strip as well as for others throughout Palestine. Producing more than 400 suits each day, medical workers can now treat the coronavirus safely. Explained the 20-something-old factory owner, Alaa Qreiqua, “We are in an emergency. I hope this nightmare will end.”

Part 3 – Some Things You Can Do

At this point the most helpful way to help with COVID-19 in Palestine is by donating money through reputable organizations providing relief. Here are two excellent examples that MennoPIN affirms:

Middle East Children’s Alliance
Manhattan (KS) Mennonite Church has developed a Twinning Congregation relationship with the Youth Vision Society (YVS) in Gaza. After several months of building relationship, Manhattan is supporting the YVS Hand-to-Hand project to distribute hygiene kits with cleaning supplies to slow the spread of the coronavirus as well as food baskets to vulnerable families. You can send a tax-deductible donation to support Hand-to-Hand through the Middle East Children’s Society here.

Mennonite Central Committee (Gaza)
The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has partnered with Al-Najd in Gaza to provide food baskets, hygiene supplies, blankets and school kits for Gazan families. Your tax-deductible donation can be sent here.

The Israeli Election Mess

Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu (Composite: Frank Hulley-Jones)

The third Israeli election within one year produced similar results as the previous two – stalemate. This time, Benny Gantz’ Blue and White (moderate conservative) party was given the first right to form a new government and to oust Benjamin Netanyahu’s (ultra-conservative) Likud party. But surprisingly, appealing to the coronavirus pandemic, Gantz decided instead to attempt to form a unity government with Netanyahu, something many in his party considered a betrayal. Under the new government, Netanyahu would serve as Prime Minister for one-year and Gantz as Foreign Minister. The following year Gantz would become Prime Minister. In the negotiations between the two, compromise was made on two key issues: (1) joint decision-making on all issues and (2) the movement forward to annex much of the West Bank. But as Passover approached, the two parties backed away from what they had compromised on and agreed to renew negotiations after Passover.

Out of the third election, the Joint List party, consisting of a coalition of Arab Israeli groups, came in third place behind Blue and White and Likud, its strongest showing ever. Even so, the Joint List will have essentially no political power in the new Knesset, Israel’s legislative branch.

The true losers in every Israeli election are the people of Palestine because whatever new government forms (by Gantz, Netanyahu or a unity government) or, as is a real possibility, a fourth election occurs, the so-called Deal of the Century, engineered by the Trump and Netanyahu administrations, will be implemented with no international opposition to stop it. Stay tuned in for the ongoing saga.

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

Jesus of the Scars
A Song and a Prayer for Good Friday

Jesus of the Scars is a poem written by Edward Shillito at the end of World War I. Garth Hewitt is a singer, composer and Palestinian activist. Hewitt put this poem to music, and you can listen to it here.

If we have never sought, we seek you now
Your eyes burn through the dark our only stars
We must have sight of thorn-marks on your brow
We must have you, Jesus of the scars

The heavens frighten us, they are too calm
In all the universe we have no place
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by your scars we know your grace

O Jesus of the scars we seek you now
O Jesus of the scars we seek you now
We must have sight of the thorn-marks on your brow
We must have you, O Jesus of the scars

The other gods were strong, but you were weak
They rode, but you did stumble to a throne
But to our wounds only God’s wounds speak
And not a god has wounds but you alone.


Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network
mennopin@gmail.com | mennopin.org | facebook.com/mennopin | twitter.com/mennopinSteering Committee:
Anita Rediger (Emmaus Road Mennonite Fellowship, Berne, IN)
Bob Atchison (Manhattan Mennonite Church, Manhattan, KS)
Joe Roos (Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA)
Jonathan Kuttab (Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist, Washington, DC)
Jonathan Brenemann (Syracuse, NY)
Lydia Brenneman (Lima Mennonite Church, Lima, OH)
Rod Stafford (Portland Mennonite Church, Portland, OR)

March 2020 MennoPIN Monthly Update

March 2020 Monthly Update

In This Issue
Deal of the Century – And Now What?
Part 1 – Bibi to Palestine: “Accept it or not, it’s going to happen”
Part 2 – Former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa: “No…to this new apartheid”
Part 3 – Jonathan Kuttab: “And now what”?
“I wasn’t sent to defend the state, I was sent to murder”
The Coronavirus and Palestine – Bethlehem in Lockdown
Sabeel Holds First Young Adult Gathering
Join Counter CUFI This June
Eye-Opening Tours to Palestine
Read More
Prayer

Deal of the Century – And Now What?
Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to the presidents of American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, explains how he plans to pound Palestinians into submission (Credit: Netanyahu Twitter Feed)

Part 1 – Bibi to Palestine: “Accept or not, it’s going to happen”

Addressing the presidents of American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem in mid-February, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke glowingly about the so-called Deal of the Century and his relationship to Donald Trump: “For the last three years I’ve worked very closely with a good friend of mine, President Trump, we’ve never had a better friend of Israel in the White House.”

With an arrogance of power matched only by Donald Trump, Netanyahu laid out to his audience the conditions Palestine must meet according to the ‘Peace Plan,’ for there to be peace, including:

  • Recognize Israel as the Jewish State
  • Recognize the united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  • Give up completely the right of return, completely
  • Stop paying terrorists
  • Disarm Hamas and demilitarize Gaza
  • Recognize our sovereignty in…the West Bank and Jerusalem

But, in his mind, whether Palestine agrees or not to these conditions for peace with Israel, it really doesn’t matter: “Whether they accept it or not, it’s going to happenWho’s to say that they fulfill these conditions? Two powers. The United States and Israel.”

Part 2 – Former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa: “No…to this new form of apartheid”

Alon Liel served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa from 1992-1994 and was the Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2000-2001. Liel had a front row seat watching the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Writing in the February 27, 2020 issue of Foreign Policy, Liel blasted the Deal of the Century as “Israel seeking to introduce and develop the new millennium’s version of the old South Africa’s deplorable policy.”

Comparing the plan to the South African government’s Bantustan, he described the Deal of the Century this way: “The details of the proposal, and the rhetoric used by both Trump and Netanyahu, made it clear that this was not a deal but rather the implementation of Netanyahu’s long-standing plan to further entrench Israel’s control of the West Bank by giving its residents disconnected enclaves of territory without granting them real freedom or basic political rights.”

He concluded the article with this indictment: “Trump believes he can disregard international law and legitimize a new 21st-century model of apartheid. This arrogant show of force must be met with a clear answer…No one must give even tacit approval to this new form of apartheid and the ideology undergirding it. Doing so would betray not only the legacy and efficacy of international resistance to South African apartheid but also the fate of millions of people living in Israel and what should be a truly independent Palestine.”

You can read the entire article here.

Part 3 – Jonathan Kuttab: “And now what”?

Jonathan Kuttab is a member of the MennoPIN Steering Committee, a prominent human rights attorney and founder of several Palestinian Human Rights organization. In the February 2020 issue of the MennoPIN Monthly Update Kuttab analyzed the 181-page so-called Peace Plan.

Earlier this month, Kuttab followed up his analysis with an article on the Middle East Institute website entitled, “And Now What? A Realistic Approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.” He asks, “If a genuine two-state solution is truly dead, and an equitable one-state solution is even harder to achieve, then where does that leave us”?

Assuming the Deal of the Century becomes implemented, which Netanyahu full intends, Kuttab feels this “rude shock…also presents an urgent challenge for all those who reject it because they realize the dire implications of what it portends for the future of any peaceful negotiated solution.” Part of the agenda he proposes for the foreseeable future includes:

  • Ending the siege of Gaza, allowing people and goods to move freely in and out of the Strip.
  • Abandoning armed resistance by Palestinians, because armed resistance cannot help in their present situation.
  • Stopping collective punishment, including detention without trial, home demolitions and restrictions on travel.
  • Removing barriers, checkpoints and obstructions within the West Bank, allowing for freedom of movement for goods and persons.
  • Granting permission for Palestinians to build in the West Bank, returning planning authority to Palestine
  • Making all residents of the West Bank subject to the same laws, including Jewish settlers and administered by civilian, not military courts.

You can read the entire article here.

“I wasn’t sent to defend the state. I was sent to murder”

Snipers and locaters, perched on a shooting berm at the Gaza/Israel border, preparing to kill and maim (Credit: UPI/Alamy)

On March 6, 2020 the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a summary from an interview they did with some of the snipers who have killed over 200 protesters at the Gaza/Israeli border since March 2018 and wounded and permanently maimed over 8,000 more. One was described as a “musician from a good high school,” and another as a “Boy Scout who majored in theater.” None of them expressed remorse or guilt about what they had done. Here are some of the blunt, chilling, matter-of-fact statements given by these young men:
  • The regular scenario is supposed to be that you hit, break a bone—in best case, break a kneecap.”
  • Let me just once take down a kid of 16, even 14, but not with a bullet in the leg—let me blow his head open in front of his whole family and whole village.”
  • I keep the casings of every round I fired. I have them in my room. So I don’t have to estimate—I know: 52 definite hits.”
  • On that day, our pair had the largest number of hits, 42 in all. My locator wasn’t supposed to shoot, but I gave him a break…He got around 28 knees there, I’d say.”
  • I wasn’t sent to defend the state, I was sent to murder.”

The Coronavirus and Palestine – Bethlehem in Lockdown

Palestinian police officers stand guard in Bethlehem outside the closed down Church of the Nativity (Credit: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters)

At the instigation of Israel and in coordination with the Palestine Authority, the city of Bethlehem, along with nearby Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, were placed in a lockdown in early March. According to Palestinian Health Minister, Mai al-Kaila, the total number of coronavirus cases read 25 with more expected. All government and private institutions, including churches, mosques, clubs, convents, coffee shop and restaurants have been closed indefinitely. It is uncertain how long the lockdown will last.

Sabeel Holds First Young Adult Gathering

The Sabeel Ecumenical Theological Center in Jerusalem announced its First International Young Adult Gathering, to be held June 17-25, 2000. This gathering provides an opportunity for young people from around the world, ages 18-35, to engage first-hand with local young Palestinians and hear their stories, learn more about current realities on the ground, explore and discuss together liberation theology, nonviolence, engaging Christian Zionism and to work together to take action.

MennoPIN encourages your participation at this unique and significant opportunity. To that end, MennoPIN is offering scholarships of $200 for each young adult deciding to attend. To apply for a scholarship, write us at mennopin@gmail.org. We hope you decide to attend this life-changing conference! Please pass this message on to friends, families and those in your church community.

Join Counter CUFI This June

The Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) has issued a call to action to counter Christians United for Israel (CUFI). On June 28-29 CUFI will be meeting by the thousands in Washington, DC. Hundreds of people who struggle for justice and freedom for the people of Palestine will also be there to counter CUFI’s pro-Israel anti-Palestine message.

In their call to action FOSNA states: “CUFI has quietly become the largest organization in the United States driving support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. With over seven million members, CUFI uses its political leverage to ensure ongoing U.S. support for Israel’s colonization and military occupation of Palestine, including imprisoning Palestinian children; bombing homes, schools, and hospitals in Gaza; massacring peaceful protestors; and confiscating Palestinian land. By its own admission, CUFI led the charge to have the U.S. recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and it continues to push for unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation and illegal settlement expansion.”

MennoPIN is a co-sponsor of this action and encourages you to consider joining people from the MennoPIN steering committee in Washington, DC to voice your in opposing all that CUFI stands for. If you would like to explore this possibility, please go to FOSNA’s Call to Action here.

Eye-Opening Tours to Palestine – Several Excellent Opportunities

Go beyond your head knowledge about Palestine and get some heart knowledge by going to Palestine on a tour that will take you to Holy Land sites but also give you the chance to meet Palestinians, hear their stories, visit organization working for an end to the occupation and listen to Palestinian and Israeli activists for freedom, equality and the end of the violence. Here are several coming up this year and then visit the MennoPIN website for more details.

  1. E3Collective: Nazareth and Bethlehem. May 8-May 25, 2020, led by Dorothy Jean Weaver, Professor Emerita, Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Craig Maven, Lead Pastor, Harrisonburg Mennonite Church
  2. Come and See Israel/Palestine Witness Trip. June 1-June 14, 2020, led by Kathy Bergen and Joy Lapp
  3. Christian Peacemaker Teams Delegations to Palestine/Israel. In 2020 CPT will sponsor four delegations to Palestine: February 12-March 2; Aug 3-17; October 17-31 and December 1-15
  4. Eyewitness Palestine. In 2020 Eyewitness Palestine will lead three delegations to Israel/Palestine
  5. Sabeel Solidarity Visit. October 13-October 21, 2020 led by Naim Ateek, co-founder of Sabeel, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Read More
Prayer
The Palestinian Authority called a 30-day state of emergency throughout the West Bank after twenty COVID-19 cases were confirmed in a Bethlehem hotel. Alongside this, Israeli authorities as part of their public health restrictions, in agreement with the Palestinian Authority, have closed checkpoints only allowing people to leave if they have to travel directly to the airport or have special permission. Lord we pray for those in the frontline of treating this new virus. We pray for those who have been diagnosed with the virus. We also pray for those whose livelihoods have been affected by ongoing and constantly changing public health restrictionsLord, in your mercy…hear our prayer. Sabeel Wave or Prayer

February 2020 MennoPIN Monthly Update

February 2020 Monthly Update

In This Issue
Deal of the Century
Part 1 – Jonathan Kuttab – An Analysis
Part 2 – What Others Are Saying
Part 3 – What You Can Do
Christian Zionism and the Assassination of Soleimani
Eye-Opening Tours to Palestine – Several Excellent Opportunities
Become a Gaza Twinning Congregation
Read More
Prayer

Deal of the Century

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump agree to crush the people of Palestine (Credit: Public Domain)

Part 1 – Jonathan Kuttab – An Analysis

Even a casual reading of the 181-page Plan shows clearly that it is neither a Peace Plan, nor the outline of an “agreement” which can be used as a basis for further negotiations. Rather it is a series of disjointed declarations asserting right wing Israeli positions and interests, and granting US support for their immediate implementation, while dangling the prospect for some conditional “concessions” to Palestinians to be given, maybe, at some future point in time, if they are willing to accept the agreement and meet the conditions imposed on them in it to Israel’s satisfaction.

Immediately, there is recognition of Israel’s current annexation of Jerusalem, legitimization of all its settlements, recognition of its “moral and historic” right to annex further territory, particularly in the Jordan Valley, total rejection of the Palestinian Right of Return, and extermination of any claims or demands on Israel with respect to refugees. The plan calls  for immediate normalization with the Arab countries, assertion of Israel’s right to have “overriding security control” in the areas under Palestinian control, a specific rejection of UN resolutions and international law as a basis for any future agreement, and recognition of a Unified Jerusalem under full Israeli control.

As an inducement to Palestinians, the Plan suggests, without promising anything concrete, that if the Palestinians sign this “agreement” there will be a “path” in the future to an entity, which they can call a state, and a capital, which they can call Al Quds or East Jerusalem, if they wish, in a few disjointed neighborhoods outside the Wall currently surrounding Jerusalem. The Deal of the Century also outlines  a detailed Plan to provide economic assistance of 50 billion dollars, to be raised from Arab countries, that will alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, and provide assistance to neighboring Arab countries who will host many of them ( $9.1 billion to Egypt, $7.6 billion to Jordan and $6.1 billion to Lebanon). There is also an impossible list of demands before the people of Gaza can participate in this largess: control of Gaza by the Palestinian Authority, disarming Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad, and the total demilitarization of Gaza to Israel’s satisfaction.

If that were not enough, two new elements were added, that had not been previously mentioned in the long history of  negotiations, but which were unrealistic fantasies  for the Israeli Right: First, the demand for compensation to Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries into Israel. The Plan states these Jewish refugees who were settled in Israel were of equal number to Palestinian refugees, who now need to be settled anywhere but in Israel; and secondly, the idea that a number of densely populated Arab villages adjacent to the West Bank in the area known as the Triangle, should be transferred to the new Palestinian “state” and given Palestinian citizenship instead of their current Israeli citizenship, thereby ridding Israel of some of its Arab citizens, while pretending to compensate Palestinians for being forced to cede the lands which are populated by Jewish settlers in the West Bank who will now be formally incorporated into Israel.

In effect, this Plan is not an outline for a peace agreement, but a demand for Palestinian surrender of their positions, a confirmation of Israeli “realities on the ground,” an abandonment of international law, and the end of any attempt to reach a negotiated two-state solution. Instead it requires, whether with or without Palestinian approval, the acceptance of permanent Israeli control over all of historic Palestine, on the basis of inequality and apartheid.

While the timing of the announcement was clearly a political attempt to assist Trump and Netanyahu in their upcoming elections, the effect of the agreement is to make a strategic shift towards permanent acceptance of a new paradigm where Israel controls the entire area and provides a truncated, unequal disjointed existence for Palestinians within that entity, that would spare Israel the call for genuine equality that would be inevitable in the case of formal annexation of all this territory.

This utter rejection of a realistic possibility of a two-state position explains why many liberal Israelis and Zionists and their supporters are totally outraged by this Plan.

For us, however, it is a sobering reminder of the true realities on the ground, and that those seeking genuine peace and justice, need to come up with new ideas and not continue to pursue a moribund process and a solution that no longer applies. Painful as it is, we must start to think in terms of equality within a single political entity, rather than hold on to the dream of a state, which today is only an alibi for inequality and denial of genuine freedom.

Part 2 – What Others Are Saying

Kairos Palestine – “The position announced by the U.S. Administration regarding what they call the ‘deal of the century’ was in fact an insult to history humanity, the Palestinian people…President Trump did not offer anything towards…equality but rather consolidated further Israeli hegemony and Palestinians subjugation to it. This means that the conflict will continue, bloodshed will continue, hatred and inhumane treatment will persist.”

Jonathan Cook – “A U.S. map handed out on Tuesday showed Palestinian enclaves connected by a warren of bridges and tunnels, including one between the West Bank and Gaza…All of this has been dressed up as a ‘realistic two-state solution’…the Palestinians are being required to accept a state on 15 per cent of historic Palestine after Israel has seized all the best agricultural land and water resources…where Israel controls its security, borders, coastal waters and airspace.”

The Electronic Intifada – “The plan amounts to a permanent state of military occupation, apartheid and Palestinian suffering.”

Palestinian Authority – “A thousands nos…We’ve informed the Israeli side…that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States including security ties…Trump asked that I speak with him by phone, but I said ‘no,’ and that he wants to send me a letter, so I refused to receive it.”

The Arab League (including Egypt Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon) – The plan “ignored legitimate Palestinian rights in the territories.”

12 U.S. Senators (including three candidates for president: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Van Hollen, Sherrod Brown, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Patrick Leah, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tammy Baldwin, Jack Reed and Tom Carper) – “Unilateral implementation of this one-sided proposal will risk eliminating any remaining prospects for achievement of a peaceful and viable two-state solution.”

Part 3 – What You Can Do

  1. Flood the White House and Congress with emails and phone calls to show your strong opposition to the “Deal of the Century.”
  2. Write Op-Eds for your local newspaper.
  3. Join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and start boycotting.
  4. Start a No Deal of the Century group in your church.
  5. Link up with Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) to counter Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest Christian Zionist group in the U.S. who played a strong supporting role in the Deal of the Century.
Christian Zionism and the Assassination of Soleimani

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo (Credit: U.S. Embassy)

Did Christian Zionism play a role in the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the head of Quds, the external operations branch of Iran’s armed forces? Many think so. According to the Washington Post, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has been pushing President Trump for months on the idea. Vice President Mike Pence also voiced his support. And both are Christian Zionists. Pompeo claimed the assassination was a preemptive strike.

John Hagee, who is close to both Pompeo and Pence, heads up the Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Christian Zionism interprets some passages in the Bible to mean that before Jesus can return, Israel must reestablish itself as a nation and a massive war must take place. As far back as 2007, Hagee has held the view that part of that war will be against Iran: “It is time for America to consider a preemptive strike against Iran.”

When Pompeo spoke at last summer to a CUFI convention in Washington, DC, he compared President Trump to the Jewish queen Esther of the Persian Empire (now Iran) who saved her Jewish people from death by the powerful assistant to the king, who was assassinated. Now, it is Trump who supposedly saved Israel and others from Iran’s powerful assistant to the Ayatollah, Soleimani, risking a major war in the Middle East.

Did Christian Zionism play a role in the assassination of Soleimani? Who knows, but it may very well have factored into Pompeo and Pence’s thinking.

An interesting sidelight. ISIS’ weekly newspaper, al-Naba, expressed joy at the assassination, calling it “divine intervention” and an “act of God.” Strange bedfellows indeed.

Eye-Opening Tours to Palestine – Several Excellent Opportunities

Go beyond your head knowledge about Palestine and get some heart knowledge by going to Palestine on a tour that will take you to Holy Land sites but also give you the chance to meet Palestinians, hear their stories, visit organization working for an end to the occupation and listen to Palestinian and Israeli activists for freedom, equality and the end of the violence. Here are several coming up this year and then visit the MennoPIN website for more details.

  1. E3Collective: Nazareth and Bethlehem. May 8-May 25, 2020, led by Dorothy Jean Weaver, Professor Emerita, Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Craig Maven, Lead Pastor, Harrisonburg Mennonite Church
  2. Come and See Israel/Palestine Witness Trip. June 1-June 14, 2020, led by Kathy Bergen and Joy Lapp
  3. Palestine and Israel Learning Tour. June 1-June 14, 2020, led by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)
  4. Christian Peacemaker Teams Delegations to Palestine/Israel. In 2020 CPT will sponsor four delegations to Palestine: February 12-March 2; Aug 3-17; October 17-31 and December 1-15
  5. Eyewitness Palestine. In 2020 Eyewitness Palestine will lead three delegations to Israel/Palestine
  6. Sabeel Solidarity Visit. October 13-October 21, 2020 led by Naim Ateek, co-founder of Sabeel, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
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 mennopin.org and click on End the Gaza Siege tab at the top of the front page. Interested congregations can send an email to mennopin@gmail.com with the Subject line “Twinning Initiative.”

Read More
Prayer
On Thursday, the 12th of December the Israeli authorities declared that Christians in the Gaza Strip would not be granted permits to travel to holy sites in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or into Israel over Christmas. Only men over 45 wishing to travel abroad traveling through Jordan may be granted permits. We pray with our Christian brothers and sisters as they seek to challenge the decision of the Israeli government to ban permits for the people of Gaza to visit family and celebrate Christmas in Israel or the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer. Sabeel Wave or Prayer

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

Steering Committee:
Anita Rediger (Emmaus Road Mennonite Fellowship, Berne, IN)
Bob Atchison (Manhattan Mennonite Church, Manhattan, KS)
Joe Roos (Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA)
Jonathan Kuttab (Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist, Washington, DC)
Jonathan Brenemann (Syracuse, NY)
Lydia Brenneman (Lima Mennonite Church, Lima, OH)
Rod Stafford (Portland Mennonite Church, Portland, OR)

December 2019 MennoPIN Monthly Update

December 2019 Monthly Update

In This Issue
Christmas Blessings
Gazan Christians Blocked from Bethlehem for Christmas
Kairos Palestine and Sabeel Hold Major Conferences
Palestine: A Year in Review
Thank You for Helping!
Become a Gaza Twinning Congregation
Tours to Palestine
Read More
Prayer

Christmas Blessings

The MennoPIN Steering Committee joins Sabeel in Jerusalem and all Christians in Palestine in wishing you many Christmas Blessings as we, together, look forward to a New Year of continuing solidarity with all the people of Palestine in their long struggle for peace, justice, reconciliation and healing. May 2020 be a break-through year for peace in the Holy Land!

Gazan Christians Blocked from Bethlehem for Christmas

The Old City of Bethlehem Today (Credit: Reuters/Musssa Qawasma)

An Israeli military liaison spokeswoman announced last week that Gazan Christians will not be allowed to travel to Bethlehem or anywhere else in the West Bank or East Jerusalem this Christmas. Some will be able to travel abroad, but, unlike last year when 700 travel permits were granted, no Gazan Christians will be allowed to travel anywhere within the occupation territories.

With a total population of about two million people in Gaza, only 1,000 are Christians and most of them are Greek Orthodox. An Israeli human rights group, Gisha, sees the ban in broader terms, calling it the “intensifying of access restrictions between the two parts of the Palestinian territories…a deepening of Israel’s separation policy” for the West Bank and Gaza.

While condemning the move, Christian leaders in East Jerusalem are making an appeal to Israeli authorities to reverse their decision: “Other people from around the world are allowed to travel to Bethlehem…Gaza’s Christians should have that right, too.”

Kairos Palestine and Sabeel Hold Major Conferences

From November 29 to December 7, 2019, two major conferences were held in Bethlehem, Palestine, one by Kairos Palestine and the other by Sabeel, with some people attending both. Kairos Palestine celebrated its 10th anniversary on November 29-30. Their founding document, A Moment of Truth, advocates for the end of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a just peace in Palestine/Israel. The 10th anniversary conference issued a statement that begins with these words: “Since the launch of A Moment of Truth ten years ago, life in Palestine has rapidly deteriorated under the illegal occupation by the State of Israel. The oppression is more aggressive and brutal. Our imprisoned and besieged sisters and brothers in Gaza, non-violently gathering in the March of Return, were the targets of a bloody and deadly response. Settlements continue to expand. Threats of annexation of the Jordan valley and the settlements themselves grow without a word of condemnation from the major powers. We are experiencing the continued dispossession of our land, our freedom and our human rights.”

The statement affirms that prophetic voices within the global church are very helpful, but with many Christians, who misuse the Bible to unquestioningly support Israel, Kairos Palestine feels that “the global Church is failing us.”

The ending of the statement shows the courageous resistance to injustice the Christians in Palestine continue to demonstrate: “Know that ten years after the first call of Kairos Palestine, we resist fainting and becoming weary and falling exhausted. Empowered by the equal love of God and joined together with others in God’s community of grace—coming on earth as it is in heaven—we mount up with wings like eagle (Isaiah 40:31). We run and grow not weary. We walk and faint not. God’s design for universal justice, peace and provision may be delayed, but it will not be deterred.”

The Sabeel 1st International Gathering ran from December 1 – 7. Christians from 17 different countries heard numerous speakers, Christian, Muslim and Israeli, update the situation on the ground in Palestine. Sponsored by The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, the gathering explored many pertinent issues including that of Jerusalem, Christian Zionism, Jubilee, Palestinian Christianity and the Bible. All the speakers were Palestinian and one entire day the presentations were mostly in Arabic.

Last year Sabeel launched the Kumi Now Palestine Initiative. Based on the story in Mark (5:21-34) of Jairus’ daughter, who Jesus raised from the dead with the words, “Talitha, kumi” or “Little girl, rise up. The Kumi Now initiative calls for Christians in Palestine to rise up in nonviolent resistance to the occupying forces.” At the December conference Sabeel launched the Kumi Now Global Initiative, inviting the global church to join in the struggle based upon the principles of inclusivity, justice (according to international law) and nonviolence. All those attending the conference pledged to take Kumi Now back into their home countries.

Palestine: A Year in Review

If Joseph, Mary and Jesus tried to immigrate into the United States today (Credit: Rev. Karen Clark Ristine)

2019 has been a devastating year for Palestinian rights, including:

  • U.S. funding for Palestinian refugees continues to be slashed
  • Blatant racism against Palestinians in the Israeli general elections
  • Continued killing and wounding of nonviolent protesters at the Gaza border
  • U.S. declaration that West Bank settlements are legal
  • Deportation of human rights activists by Israel
  • Ongoing killing and administrative detention of children and youths
  • And so much more

But there have been glimmers of hope in the darkness, including:

  • New voices in the U.S. Congress openly supportive of the Palestinian people
  • Democratic presidential candidates expressing justice for Palestine
  • Growing intersectional identification with the Palestinian struggle (Black Lives Matter, immigration and climate justice)
Thank You for Helping!
Last month MennoPIN asked for your help in raising $2,700 to support our work in challenging Christian Zionism. You not only sent in what we needed, but more! We will use the additional funds for other work we are doing, especially around the Gaza Twinning Initiative (see below). The committees of MennoPIN are made up entirely of volunteers, so every dollar you sent is going 100% toward supporting the struggle for justice in Palestine. Thank you very much!
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 mennopin.org and click on End the Gaza Siege tab at the top of the front page. Interested congregations can send an email to mennopin@gmail.com 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
Prayer
On Thursday, the 12th of December the Israeli authorities declared that Christians in the Gaza Strip would not be granted permits to travel to holy sites in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or into Israel over Christmas. Only men over 45 wishing to travel abroad traveling through Jordan may be granted permits. We pray with our Christian brothers and sisters as they seek to challenge the decision of the Israeli government to ban permits for the people of Gaza to visit family and celebrate Christmas in Israel or the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer. Sabeel Wave or Prayer

November 2019 MennoPIN Monthly Update

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
Prayer

Kairos Palestine Christmas Alert
Kairos Palestine has just issued its Christmas Alert 2019 https://kairospalestine.ps/images/kairos-christmas-alert-2019.pdf. 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 mennopin.org and click on End the Gaza Siege tab at the top of the front page. Interested congregations can send an email to mennopin@gmail.com 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.
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Prayer
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