Category Archives: Peaceful

The magical Oud

Music can sooth the busy mind, and calm the tormented soul.  Music can bring people together, and it can lift them above their struggles.

oudFive years ago, on a beautiful evening in Gaza, I was serenaded by an Oud player and his fellow musicians for several hours. The event was a complete surprise to me, and was without a doubt one of the highlights of my visit.  I will never forget the magical feeling I had that evening. “This can’t be real.”  “This is too good to be true.”  “Someone pinch me and wake me from this dream.”

I haven’t stopped thinking of these wonderful musicians in Gaza, especially the Oud player, Yehal Adel.  You can catch a snippet of Yehal’s talent here. He composed the music and words to this beautiful song about his love for Jerusalem.

Recently I was reminded of the power of the magical Oud when I heard Rahim AlHaj play in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was playing with a group at the St. John’s United Methodist Church.

Rahim AlHaj is world famous and his performance at the Library of Congress is just a sample.  I hope I can introduce these two Oud players, and someday they may play together!

Rahim AlHaj was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud (Arabic lute) at age nine. He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ever since. Rahim has performed around the globe and is considered one of the finest oud players in the world. His compositions evoke the experience of exile from his homeland and of new beginnings in his adopted country. In 2015 Rahim was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.

Sourena Sefati was born in Ramsar, Iran, and started playing santour (hammered dulcimer) at age 11. He won the award for best composer of Iranian music at Art University in 2006 and served as instructor at Art University and Elmi-Karbordi University in Tehran from 2008 to 2014. Sourena moved to the United States in 2014, and teaches Iranian music in Albuquerque.

Issa Malluf is a Palestinian-American native of New Mexico. Originally self-taught, Issa has become a highly skilled and internationally recognized specialist in Middle Eastern, Arabic, and North African percussion.

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, Video

BDS Movement shines

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005, is receiving a lot of attention these days.

The stated goals of BDS are: the end of Israel’s occupation and settler colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promotion of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Netanyahu and Israel’s government want to kill the BDS Movement

On January 7, 2018 Israel published its list of NGOs that support BDS — with the intention of preventing leaders of those organizations from entering Israeli territory — and thus Palestinian territory.  A U.S. Quaker group that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 is on the list. Even Jews who support BDS are targets for Israel’s ire.

Israel, the homeland for the Jews, only wants Zionists apparently, not just any Jew.

A joint team from the Strategic Affairs and Interior ministries has already determined the parameters that will serve as a basis for barring activists from coming into the country. Those who hold senior or important positions in blacklisted organizations will be denied entry, as well as key activists, even if they hold no official position.

Mayors and establishment figures who actively and continually promote boycotts will also be prevented from entering, as will activists who arrive to Israel on behalf of or as part of a delegation initiated by one of blacklisted groups.  See the full article here.

The “Anti-BDS Law”, passed by the Knesset in March 2017, has already been used against Americans (including American Jews) traveling to Israel and against elected representatives of the French republic (MPs, MEPs, and mayors of major French cities) who wished to visit Israel and occupied Palestine, with a particular aim to meet their Palestinian counterparts. In response, the Israeli government invented a new offence: that of applying for permission to visit! (Check out this article in the Middle East Eye).

The list of organizations now banned by Israel includes:

AFPS (The Association France Palestine Solidarité)
BDS France
BDS Italy
ECCP (The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
FOA (Friends of Al-Aqsa)
IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
Norge (The Palestine Committee of Norway)
Palestinakomitee
PGS (Palestine Solidarity Association in Sweden)
Palestinagrupperna i Sverige
PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
War on Want
BDS Kampagne
AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)
AMP (American Muslims for Palestine)
Code Pink
JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace)
NSJP (National Students for Justice in Palestine)
USCPR (US Campaign for Palestinian Rights)
BDS Chile
BDS South Africa
BNC (BDS National Committee)

I was questioned for five hours by three different Israeli security officials in March 2016 when I was crossing into the West Bank from Jordan. And what did they want to know? Their chief concern was whether or not I supported BDS. One security official found photos I had posted on Facebook from my visit to Paris a few months earlier, including pictures of a BDS rally. She accused me of being the organizer of this BDS rally. I told her I support BDS because it’s a peaceful, nonviolent form of protest against the occupation but I was not the organizer of this BDS rally in Paris. She responded: “You’re a liar!”

King Hussein bridge

I’m allowed into the West Bank after 5 hours of questioning 

I was eventually allowed to enter, thanks (I believe) to the support I received from my Jewish Israeli friend who invited me to visit her kibbutz. The Israeli security officials had called her twice that afternoon — her responses must have been my ticket in.

But what is the government of Israel afraid of when it appears to be waging a global war against the BDS movement? Most undergraduate Psych majors would interpret Israel’s public relations campaign against BDS as a sign of Israel’s fear of the movement’s growing success.

If the BDS movement achieves its goal, Israel as a Jewish-majority homeland for the Jews will cease to exist, and the occupation will also end. It worked in South Africa; it realistically has every chance of working in Israel-Palestine.  THAT’S what Israel is afraid of — the end of the status quo.

Now it’s incumbent on BDS activists to share a narrative of what life in Israel-Palestine will look like for both Israelis and Palestinians after the occupation ends. Even though Israel is by far stronger than Palestine today, it is far weaker in spirit and imagination.  And fear among Israelis obscures their vision of a world beyond occupation.  Palestinians and international supporters of BDS must provide this alternative vision to replace their fear.

Norwegian lawmaker wants to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize on BDS

A few days ago, a Norwegian lawmaker nominated the BDS Movement for the Nobel Peace Prize.  He said:

“This nomination reflects the growing international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, dignity and freedom from the Israeli occupation.”

“If the international community commits to supporting BDS to end the occupation of Palestinian territory and the oppression of the Palestinian people, new hope will be lit for a just peace for Palestinians, Israelis and all people across the Middle East.”

“My hope is that this nomination can be one humble but necessary step towards bringing forth a more dignified and beautiful future for all peoples of the region.”

Nobel_Prize

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Filed under Israel, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Uncategorized

Jewish Federation’s astonishing admission to New Orleans City Council

In an odd twist of events, on January 11, 2018, the New Orleans City Council approved a non-binding resolution to review the city’s investments and contracts to ensure that they are consistent with human rights; and two weeks later the city council unanimously withdrew the resolution. The stated reason was to correct a procedural flaw in its passage.

There’s more to this story than meets the public’s eye. But first, read the resolution, reprinted in full below.

RESOLUTION

NO. R-18-5

CITY HALL: January 11, 2018

BY: COUNCILMEMBERS CANTRELL, BROSSETT, GRAY, HEAD AND WILLIAMS

WHEREAS, the City of New Orleans (hereinafter the “City”) was declared to be a Welcoming City on October 1, 2015, to create a more inclusive, receptive city environment for all local populations; and

WHEREAS, the City commits itself to protect, respect, and fulfill the full range of inherent human rights for all, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and numerous other international human rights instruments; and

WHEREAS, the City enshrined these values in Ord. No. 19278 M.C.S.; 25700 M.C.S.; Code of Ord. Sec. 86-4. (Safeguard all individuals within the city from discrimination because of race, creed, national origin or ancestry, color, religion, gender or sex, sexual orientation, gender identification, marital status, age, physical condition or disability in connection with employment, housing, public accommodations, financial practices, and credit transactions; to protect their interest in personal dignity and freedom from humiliation; to make available to the city their full productive capacities in employment; to secure the city against domestic strife and unrest which would menace its democratic institutions; to presevre the public safety, health, and general welfare; and to further the interest, rights, and privileges within the city); and

WHEREAS, the City has pledged to meet its commitments to rewarding workplace diversity, promoting local industry, protecting the environment, and promoting equity through compliance with civil rights; and

WHEREAS, consistent with its responsibilities to its residents, the City of New Orleans, has social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in corporations whose practices consistently violate human rights, civil rights or labor rights, or corporations whose practices egregiously contradict efforts to create a prosperous, educated, healthy and equitable society; NOW, THEREFORE

BE IT RESOLVED, That the City Council encourages the creation of a process to review direct investments and contracts for inclusion on, or removal from, the City’s list of corporate securities and contractual partners, according to the values of the City as referenced in this Resolution.

THE FOREGOING RESOLUTION WAS READ IN FULL, THE ROLL WAS CALLED ON THE ADOPTION THEREOF, AND RESULTED AS FOLLOWS:

YEAS: Brossett, Gray, Guidry, Ramsey, Williams – 5

NAYS: 0

ABSENT: Cantrell, Head – 2

AND THE RESOLUTION WAS ADOPTED.

Not a word about Israel, Palestine, BDS, or human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. Not a peep about which investments or contracts the city should review. But as soon as the ink was dry, the Jewish Federation of New Orleans was down at City Hall lobbying councilors to rethink their support for this pro-Palestinian resolution because they found the resolution’s “anti-Israel sentiment was offensive.” And the elected officials fell right into line.

latoya-cantrell-51c5550333bea9d5

New Orleans Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell ((Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) )

Mayor-Elect Cantrell explained her reason for rescinding the resolution.

Compounding the procedural deficiencies in the adoption of this resolution, [suspension of the rules is allowed via Rule 17] its passage has shrouded the city in an undesired and damaging falsehood. Statements from outsiders now claim that New Orleans is now one of the largest cities in the United States supportive of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), a movement aimed at delegitimizing the State of Israel. This is totally inaccurate, untruthful and does not reflect the values of New Orleans. We are a city that is welcoming, and open to all. Well intentioned actions can be taken out of context by others for their own political benefit, with negative connotations that overshadow any original motives; I believe that is what happened with this resolution.

As mayor-elect, I am committed to leading a city that champions civil and human rights, democratic engagement, and transparency. While I will continue to examine issues of civil rights and fair contracting, I want to unequivocally reiterate that I am neither supportive of the BDS movement nor in any way hostile to the Jewish community or the State of Israel.

Clearly, the Mayor-elect did not hear from the UN Special Rapporteur S. Michael Lynk (Canada), who recently called on the international community to recognize Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestine as unlawful under international human rights law and to use the tools in its toolbox to bring an end to the occupation. (Photo on Left)

The Mayor-elect didn’t hear from Amira Hass, the Israeli journalist who has written extensively about the occupation and its impact on both Palestinians and Israelis, and most recently about Israel’s decision to blacklist people and organizations that support BDS. See her Jan. 8 column.  (Photo top right).

I suspect the Mayor-elect might not know Gideon Levy, another Israeli journalist, who has written for many years about Israel, Palestine, the occupation and BDS (photo middle right), nor Rabbi Arik Ascherman (photo bottom right) who lives in Israel and after 21 years leading Rabbis For Human Rights, recently founded “Torat Tzedek Torah of Justice,” dedicated to the human rights of Israeli single parent moms and Palestinians alike, because the Torah teaches Jews that every human being is created in God’s Image.

That a non-binding resolution — calling for the city to review its investments and contracts to ensure they’re consistent with the city’s support for human rights — might impact the State of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, is a damning confirmation by the Jewish Federation of New Orleans that at least some American Jews know that Israel’s dehumanizing treatment of Palestinians is contrary to international human rights law.

THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MOMENT!

I hope New Orleans Mayor-elect and the full City Council will reflect on this unintended admission by the Jewish Federation, and take it upon themselves to learn more about the non-violent BDS movement whose goal is not to “delegitimize Israel” (as the Mayor-elect seems to believe) but to focus the world’s attention on the human rights of Palestinians who have lived under Israel’s occupation for half a century. The City of New Orleans needs to get on the right side of history.

Loss of Land

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I Am Angry by Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery, an Israeli peace activist, journalist and writer, began his life in Hitler’s Germany, arrived in Palestine with his family in 1933, joined the Irgun underground in 1938 to fight the British but quit after three years in protest of the Irgun’s anti-Arab attitudes and its terrorist methods. His biography is very interesting, check it out here.  I haven’t read any of his books, but pledge to correct that deficiency this year.

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery credit – Veterans Today

Avnery wrote the following message on January 6, 2018.  I share it here in full because the history of the two branches of Jews (the Mizrahim and Ashkenazim) is currently playing out in Israel’s politics, with deep implications for the future of the region and the Palestinians. This internal division may be more consequential than the Israeli-Arab divide that dominates the news.

Why are we (humans in general) so predisposed to see our neighbors as “the other” and to cast “the other” in such disparaging terms?  What is the antithesis of “the other”?            

Why I am Angry

I AM angry with the Mizrahi elite. Very angry indeed.

Mizrah is the Hebrew word for East. Eastern Jews are those who lived for many centuries in the Islamic world. Western Jews are those who lived in Christian Europe.

The words are, of course, misnomers. Russian Jews are “Westerners”, Moroccan Jews are “Easterners”. A look at the map shows that Russia is far to the East of Morocco. It would be more accurate to call them “Northerners” and “Southerners”. Too late, now.

Westerners are generally called “Ashkenazim”, from the old Hebrew term for Germany. Easterners were usually called “Sephardim”, from the old Hebrew term for Spain. But only a small part of the Easterners are actually descended from the flourishing Jewish community in medieval Spain.

IN TODAY’S Israel, the antagonism between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim is growing stronger from year to year, with vast political and social repercussions. It is no exaggeration to see this as the determining phenomenon of current Israeli society.

Before I continue, allow me to state (once again, I am afraid) my personal part in this.

My last few years in Germany, before we fled, were spent in the shadow of the ascent of the Swastika, the last half year already under Nazi rule. I came to hate Germany and everything German. So when our ship reached the port of Jaffa, I was enthusiastic. I was just ten years old, and the Jaffa of 1933 was in every respect the exact opposite of Germany – noisy, full of exotic smells, human. I loved it.

As I learned later, most of the early Zionist “pioneers” who arrived in Arab Jaffa hated it on sight, because they identified themselves as Europeans. Among them was the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl himself, who did not want to go to Palestine in the first place. On his only visit here, he hated its Oriental character. He vastly preferred Patagonia (in the Argentine).

Fifteen years later, during Israel’s war of independence, I was promoted to the lofty rank of squad-leader and had the choice between new immigrant recruits from Poland or Morocco. I chose the Moroccans and was rewarded by them with my life: when I was lying wounded under fire, four of “my Moroccans” risked their lives to get me out.

It was then that I got a foretaste of things to come. Once, when we got a few precious hours of leave, some of my soldiers refused to go. “The girls in Tel Aviv don’t go out with us,” they complained, “for them we are blacks.” Their skin was just a little bit darker than ours.

I became very sensitive to this problem, when everybody else still denied its very existence. In 1954, when I was already the editor-in-chief of a news-magazine, I published a series of articles that caused a huge stir: “They (expletive) the Blacks”. Those Ashkenazim who did not hate me before, started to hate me then.

Then came the riots of “Wadi Salib”, a neighborhood in Haifa, where a policeman shot a Mizrahi. My paper was the only one in the country to defend the protesters.

A few years later the small group of Mizrahim started an unruly protest movement, expropriating the American term “Black Panthers”. I helped them. Golda Meir famously exclaimed: “They are not nice people”.

Now, many years later, a new generation has taken over. The Internal conflict dominates many aspects of our life. The Mizrahim make up about half the Jewish population of Israel, the Ashkenazim form the other half. The division has many manifestations, but people don’t like to talk about them openly.

For example, the great majority of Likud voters are Mizrahim, though the party leadership is predominantly Ashkenazi. The opposition Labor Party is almost completely Ashkenazi, though they just elected a Mizrahi leader, in the vain hope that this will help them to overcome the profound alienation of the Mizrahim.

MY OPPOSITION to the treatment of the Mizrahim was primarily a moral one. It sprang from the desire for justice. It also sprang from my dream that all of us, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, would eventually be submerged in a common Hebrew nation. But I must confess that there was another motive, too.

I have always believed – as I believe now – that there is no future for Israel as a foreign island in the Oriental sea. My hopes go much further than just peace. I hope for Israel’s becoming an integral part of the “Semitic region” (an expression I invented long ago).

How? I have always entertained a monumental hope: that the second or third generation of Mizrahim will remember its heritage, the times when Jews were an integral part of the Muslim world. Thus they would become the bridge between the new Hebrew nation in Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, and indeed the entire Muslim world.

Being despised by the Ashkenazim as “Asiatic” and inferior, would it not have been natural for the Mizrahim to reclaim their glorious heritage, when the Jews in Iraq, Spain, Egypt and many other Muslim countries were fully integrated partners in a flourishing civilization, at a time when Europeans were mainly barbarians?

Jewish philosophers, mathematicians, poets and medical doctors were partners of that civilization, side by side with their Muslim counterparts. When the persecution and expulsion of Jews and the inquisition were facts of life in Europe, Jews (and Christians) enjoyed full rights in the Muslim world. They were accorded the status of “Peoples of the Book” (the Hebrew Bible) and fully equal, except for being exempted from army service and paying a tax instead. Anti-Jewish incidents were rare.

When all the Jews were expelled from Christian Spain, only a small minority immigrated to Amsterdam, London and Hamburg. The vast majority went to Muslim countries, from Morocco to Istanbul. Curiously enough, only a handful settled in Palestine.

HOWEVER, WHEN masses of Oriental Jews arrived in Israel, my hopes were dashed. Instead of becoming the bridge between Israel and the Arab world, they became the most ardent Arab-haters. The centuries of Muslim-Jewish culture were erased, as if they had never existed.

Why? Being despised by the “superior” Ashkenazim, the Mizrahim started to despise their own culture. They tried to become Europeans, more anti-Arab, more super-patriot, more right-wing.

(Though one Mizrahi friend once told me: We don’t want to be a bridge. A bridge is something people trample on.)

Yet no one can escape from himself. Most Mizrahim in Israel speak with an Arab accent. They love Arab music (presented as “Mediterranean” music), and have no love for Mozart and Beethoven. Their features are different from European ones. All the more reason to hate the Arabs.

The erasing of the Eastern-Jewish culture is all-encompassing. Israeli children of Eastern descent have no idea of the great writers and philosophers of their heritage. They don’t know that the Christian Crusaders who conquered the Holy Land butchered Muslims and Jews alike, and that Jews defended Jerusalem and Haifa shoulder to shoulder with their Muslim neighbors.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides – the great Rambam – is well known, but only as an important rabbi, not as the friend and personal physician of Saladin, the greatest of Muslim heroes. The many other medieval Sephardic intellectuals are hardly known at all. None of them appears on our paper money.

YET I am an optimist, in this respect also.

I believe that a new Mizrahi intelligentsia will search for its roots. That with the rise of its social status, social complexes will give way to a normal patriotism. That a fourth or fifth generation will come forward and struggle not only for equality, but also for peace and integration in the region.

As our Arab friends would say: Inshallah.

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Listen with open hearts and minds in 2018

Five years ago tonight I joined friends at the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza City to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

This year I attended midnight Mass in America’s First Cathedral — the Basilica in Baltimore — with Bishop Madden presiding.

Xmas Eve Mass Holy Communion 2

Holy Communion at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2017 in Baltimore’s Basilica

Bishop Madden is a very special man. I first met him in 2015 when a friend invited me to join his monthly “Bishop’s Walks” in different distressed Baltimore neighborhoods.

Bishop Madden October 2015

Bishop Madden and Lora – October 2015

He believes in putting words and prayer into action, and regularly leads groups (usually 30-50 people) around neighborhoods that have recently witnessed violence. I’ve probably joined a dozen or more of these “Bishop’s Walks” and participated in the songs and prayers for community peace and healing.

Bishop Madden leads walk

Bishop Madden leads a walk through a Baltimore neighborhood.

Then I learned that Bishop Madden had lived and worked in Gaza City many years ago, and my bond with him was cemented.  Every time I’ve prepared to travel back to the Middle East, I’ve ask him to pray for me. He does and he asks me to pray for him. I do.

Tonight on Christmas Eve his sermon focused (of course) on the birth of Jesus, emphasizing that Jesus came to live among humanity to provide hope and an example of how we must treat each other. Then he mentioned “September 23, 2017 in Albuquerque, New Mexico” and my ears perked up.

Bishop Madden spoke of a police officer in Albuquerque who responded to a burglary, and when he got to the scene he saw a man and woman both shooting up with needles in the yard outside. The woman was clearly very pregnant, it turned out later that she was 8 months pregnant. The officer talked with them and the woman said she didn’t want to keep her baby, she knew she couldn’t raise the child. At that moment, the officer knew that he could raise the child. He and his wife had 4 children at home, the youngest was 10 months old. He went home to confer with his wife, which drew chuckles from the people in the Basilica. They have since adopted the baby as their own.

Xmas Eve Mass nativity

Nativity scene at the Basilica

Bishop Madden shared a couple of other examples of how average people who have their hearts and minds open to possibilities, can hear the spirit lead them to do good things. In these troubled times at home and around the world, we must each keep our hearts and minds open to possibilities to do good.

His sermon resonated with me. At the end of the service, Bishop Madden told us he would pray for us to find the good that we are called to do, and then he asked the congregation to pray for him for the same reason.

Xmas Eve Mass Bishop Madden 2As everyone filed out of the Basilica, Bishop Madden stood outside greeting and wishing everyone Merry Christmas. I went up to him and gave him a card I made especially for him with a photo of the Christmas Eve Mass at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City. Bishop Madden’s eyes twinkled as he thanked me. And I wished him a Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my family and friends, near and far!

May we each find the good that we are called to do in 2018.

Xmas Eve Mass card

 

 

 

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Palestinian child prisoners – H.R. 4391

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum

A brave Congresswoman from Minnesota (Betty McCollum) recently introduced a bill to end the Israeli military detention of Palestinian children.  H.R. 4391

GovTrack predicts it has less than a 5% chance of passing. So why would she subject herself to the inevitable vitriol from Zionists and ardent supporters of Israel with those odds?  Because real leaders don’t do what’s expedient, they do what’s right.

 

Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?

Expediency asks the question – is it politic?

Vanity asks the question – is it popular?

But conscience asks the question – is it right?

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Twelve other members of Congress acting from a place of conscience have cosponsored the bill as of this date. I’m going to ask my Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham to sign on.

Blumenauer, Earl [D-OR3] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Carson, André [D-IN7] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Conyers, John [D-MI13] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Davis, Danny [D-IL7] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
DeFazio, Peter [D-OR4] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Grijalva, Raúl [D-AZ3] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Gutiérrez, Luis [D-IL4] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Pingree, Chellie [D-ME1] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Pocan, Mark [D-WI2] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA7] (joined Nov 15, 2017)
Johnson, Eddie [D-TX30] (joined Nov 15, 2017)
Khanna, Ro [D-CA17] (joined Nov 15, 2017)

In a world where the Rights of the Child should not be controversial, and protecting those rights should be as easy as protecting Grandma’s apple pie, the U.S. Congress will be avoiding H.R. 4391 like a hot potato.

The bill is short and reads like a homework assignment in human rights.  Share it with your member of Congress and ask where they fall on Martin Luther King, Jr’s spectrum. Are they a coward or a person of conscience?

A BILL

To require the Secretary of State to certify that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.

Findings

Congress finds the following:(1) Israel ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on October 3, 1991, which states—

(A) in article 37(a), that no child shall be subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

(B) in article 37(b), that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(C) in article 37(c), that every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age; and

(D) in article 37(d), that [e]very child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

(2) In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, there are two separate legal systems, with Israeli military law imposed on Palestinians and Israeli civilian law applied to Israeli settlers.

(3) The Israeli military detains around 500 to 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 each year and prosecutes them before a military court system that lacks basic and fundamental guarantees of due process in violation of international standards.

(4) Approximately 2,700,000 Palestinians live in the West Bank, of which around 47 percent are children under the age of 18, who live under military occupation, the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence by the Israeli military, and the threat of recruitment by armed groups.

(5) Since 2000, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system.

(6) Children under the age of 12 cannot be prosecuted in Israeli military courts. However, Israeli military forces detain children under the age of 12 and question them, for several hours, before releasing them to their families or to Palestinian authorities.

(7) Human Rights Watch documented, in a July 2015 report titled Israel: Security Forces Abuse Palestinian Children, that such detentions also included the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15 years.

(8) The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) concluded, in a February 2013 report titled Children in Israeli Military Detention,that the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized through­out the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.

(9) The 2013 UNICEF report further determines that the Israeli system of military detention of Palestinian children profoundly deviates from international norms, stating that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.

(10) UNICEF also released reports in October 2013 and February 2015 noting that Israeli authorities have, since March 2013, issued new military orders and taken steps to reinforce existing military and police standard operating procedures relating to the detention of Palestinian children. However, the reports still found continued and persistent evidence of ill-treatment of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces.

(11) In 2013, the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories (Annual Report) published by the Department of State noted that Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture minors, frequently arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, in order to coerce confessions. The torture tactics used included threats, intimidation, long-term handcuffing, beatings, and solitary confinement.

(12) The 2013 Annual Report also stated that signed confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most could not read, continued to be used as evidence against them in Israeli military courts.

(13) The 2016 Annual Report noted a significant increase in detentions of minors in 2016, and that Israeli authorities continued to use confessions signed by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew. It also highlighted the renewed use of administrative detention against Palestinians, including children, a practice in which a detainee may be held indefinitely, without charge or trial, by the order of a military commander or other government official.

(14) The nongovernmental organization Defense for Children International Palestine collected affidavits from 429 West Bank children who were detained between 2012 and 2015, and concluded that—

(A) three-quarters of the children endured physical violence following arrest;

(B) under Israeli military law, children do not have the right to a lawyer during interrogation;

(C) 97 percent of the children did not have a parent present during their interrogation;

(D) 84 percent of the children were not properly informed of their rights by Israeli police;

(E) interrogators used stress positions, threats of violence, and isolation to coerce confessions from detained children; and

(F) 66 children were held in pre-trial, pre-charge isolation for interrogation purposes for an average period of 13 days.

(15) Amendments to Israeli military law concerning the detention of Palestinian children have had little to no impact on the treatment of children during the first 24 to 48 hours after an arrest, when the majority of their ill-treatment occurs.

(16) In 2002, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reviewed Israel’s compliance with the Convention and expressed serious concern regarding allegations and complaints of inhuman or degrading practices and of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children during arrest, interrogation, and detention.

(17) In 2013, the Committee declared that Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces continue to be systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture and that Israel had fully disregarded the previous recommendations of the Committee to comply with international law.

Purpose

The purpose of this Act is to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinian children and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds shall not be used to support the military detention of Palestinian children.

Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that the detention and prosecution of Palestinian children in a military court system by the Government of Israel—

(1) violates international law and internationally recognized standards of human rights;
(2) is contrary to the values of the American people and the efforts of the United States to support equality, human rights, and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis;
(3) undermines efforts by the United States to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians; and
(4) should be terminated and replaced with a juvenile justice system in which Israeli authorities do not discriminate between the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children and that adheres to internationally recognized standards of human rights and obligations.

Statement of policy

It is the policy of the United States not to support the military detention of Palestinian children, a practice that results in widespread and systematic human rights violations against Palestinian child detainees and is inconsistent with the values of the United States.

Prohibition on United States funds to support military detention of Palestinian children

(a) Prohibition

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds authorized to be appropriated for assistance to Israel may be used to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law or to support the use against Palestinian children of any of the following practices:

(1) Torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.
(2) Physical violence, including restraint in stress positions.
(3) Hooding, sensory deprivation, death threats, or other forms of psychological abuse.
(4) Incommunicado detention or solitary confinement.
(5) Administrative detention, as described in section 2(13).
(6) Denial of access to parents or legal counsel during interrogations.
(7) Confessions obtained by force or coercion.
(b) Certification

Not later than October 15, 2018, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate—

(1) a certification that none of the funds obligated or expended in the previous fiscal year for assistance to the Government of Israel have been used by such Government to support personnel, training, lethal materials, equipment, facilities, logistics, transportation or any other activity that supports or is associated with any of the activities prohibited under subsection (a); or
(2) if the Secretary cannot make such a certification, a report describing in detail the amount of such funds used by the Government of Israel in violation of subsection (a) and each activity supported by such funds.
(c) Additional matter in existing reports

The Secretary of State shall include, in each report required under section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151n), a description of the nature and extent of detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli military forces or police in violation of international humanitarian law.

Olive harvest and children

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Turn ‘Black Friday’ into Golden Generosity

“Black Friday” represents good shopping deals to some, and the cash register ringing for retailers when their bottom line goes from red to black, but for me it’s become a day symbolizing what’s rotten about the USA and I can’t pretend to hide my scorn.

Few realize the origin of “Black Friday” —

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to holiday shopping but to financial crisis: specifically, the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869. Two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits. On that Friday in September, the conspiracy finally unraveled, sending the stock market into free-fall and bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers.

The modern version spells bad news for the climate, the economy and the human spirit. But rather than itemize the doom and gloom of crass consumerism and why it’s so bad for our souls and the planet, I’m sharing some tips for alternative “shopping” if people have greenbacks in their wallets. Avoid your credit cards. If you don’t have the cash in hand, you shouldn’t be caught up in holiday shopping of any kind. Sit down, stretch your imagination and make your gifts.

Two years ago, I blogged about gift ideas from my perch in Cairo, see here.

Idea #1 – Remember the refugees.

More than 20 million refugees have fled their homes. Most are living in dire circumstances today, caught between violence, disease, lack of security and respect, and an uncertain future. Treat yourself and family to Ai WeiWei’s documentary ‘Human Flow’ perhaps playing at a theatre near you.  The filmmaker suggests some actions we can take, check it here.  (My sister has been making microloans with Kiva for years. I’m going to follow her example.)

A store is opening in London, the first of its kind, where shoppers can stop by and purchase gifts for refugees. The retail space has been donated by a real estate investment trust. The organization, Help Refugees, will get the gifts into the hands of refugees and an online store is planned soon. If you’re not in London, you can donate here.

Friends in Washington, DC can purchase a Palestinian falafel sandwich for $3 and a portion of each dollar will be sent to help feed refugees worldwide. Check it out here.

Give a gift to a Palestine refugee through UNRWA-USA, the agency that’s been working closely with refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Check out the button on the top right corner here.

If you have the time, flexibility and desire to help refugees directly, there are many opportunities. I recommend Advocates Abroad currently operating in Greece.

Idea #2 – Double the impact.

Good journalism requires eyeballs and subscribers. Give holiday subscriptions to family and friends. You’ll be supporting the journalism you appreciate and sending a subtle message to the gift recipients where their attention should be focused.  Of course, a digital subscription is preferable.

My favorite recommendations include:

Yes! Magazine — “YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions.”

The Nation and the Christian Science Monitor are my two picks for keeping informed on international and local news.

Idea #3 – The children in your life.

This might be the toughest part of holiday giving, at least for me. I remember my own childhood and unwrapping tons of gifts Santa had spread under the tree. I want children today to feel the same anticipation and excitement.

Olive harvest and children

Children in Gaza – 2013

Children everywhere need security, love, education, a planet that can sustain them, and adults who respect their needs today and in the future. If the TV commercials would only drum that message into consumers’ heads rather than the latest iPhone 10 and electronic gadgets.

Books are a good gift for any age, and if you can find them at your local independent bookstore, that’s even better.

P for Palestine

P is for Palestine – A Palestine Alphabet Book sold out within days of its launch in November 2017 but you can preorder your copy of the second edition for delivery in Spring 2018 here.

Other titles to consider:

White and Black – Political Cartoons from Palestine by Mohammad Sabaaneh (2017) for teens and adults.

The Last Earth – A Palestinian Story by Ramzy Baroud (2017) has not been released yet but can be pre-ordered here.

The Anteater and the Jaguar by Rayek R. Rizek (2017) is another book I’m ordering. It’s available on Amazon.

In addition to books, give your time to the children in your life. Itemize your talents (cooking, drawing, story-telling, sewing, knitting, hiking, writing, photography, fishing, etc.) and prepare a home-made gift certificate with a promise to share your talent with your child in a real and meaningful way.

Family photo album with names, dates and stories about family members is a gift I wish I’d received as a child, and I wish I’d given to my own. My family photos are scattered in boxes in storage now.

Time with the children is the best gift any parent can give any child of any age. Their time is priceless because many parents are working two jobs just to put food on the table. Carving out a day, a weekend, or an hour every evening just for your child may be challenging, but the effort will reap rewards for everyone. (This goes for Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and everyone else.)

hiking

Photo Credit: Michelle Lake 

Idea #4 – Put your money where your heart is.

I don’t believe our hearts reside in Wal Mart #1 retailer, Costco #2 retailer, or Kroger #3 retailer in the U.S.  Shop with thoughtful intention during this holiday season and every day.

Chain store proliferation has weakened local economies, eroded community character, and impoverished civic and cultural life. Moreover, consolidation has reduced competition and may harm consumers over the long-term. See here and here.

Remember, you’re the role model for your family and friends. Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

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