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Corrections, Action Alert + more...


Corrections, Action Alert + more...

First of all, to our Muslim friends and family, "Kul aam wa antum b'kheir" - Our best wishes for a blessed Eid al-Adha.

1) Important corrections 2) Action Alert! - Please contact the Atlanta Journal Constitution_PMW 3) Amongst the Olives _ Hilary and S'ra

1) Important Corrections

In our last press release about Na'im's imprisonment, there were a few errors:

1) The MK who spoke to the Shabak about Na'im is not Yossi Beilin but Yossi Sarid. 2) We listed the Minister of Justice as Meir Sheetrit. This was mistakenly taken from our old records. The current Israeli Minister of Justice is Yosef Lapid and the correct information is below:

Ministry of Justice Minister of Justice Yosef Lapid 29 Salah al-Din Street Jerusalem 91010 Telegram: Justice Minister, Jerusalem Tel: +972-2-646-6527 Fax: +972 2 628 5438 E-mail: sar@justice.gov.il

We apologize for these errors and any inconvenience that they may have called all who responded to our call. Thank you to those who called and wrote to point out our errors and thank you for mobilizing to support our efforts.

In solidarity & struggle, ISM

2) Action Alert! Contact the Atlanta Journal Constitution Friends in the US,

There was recently a terribly condescending editorial published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution preaching about how Palestinians should try nonviolence (Palestinians Should Try King's Approach - see below) The author, Stanley Crouch is obviously ignorant to the history of Palestinian nonviolent resistance and the many forms in which it is practiced today. We are asking ISMers from around the country to phone David Beasley ((404) 582 -7371) the op-ed editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Monday or email him at:

dbeasley@ajc.com (cc: his boss Cynthia Tucker at tucker@ajc.com) to point out a few important facts.

Note that we are not going to bother to try and influence the Daily News which published this piece first.

Let Beasley know that:

a.. Palestinians are and have been practicing non-violence throughout 37 years of Israeli military occupation, but are met by repressive Israeli measures like arrest and overwhelming violence. The Israeli government does everything within its power to break any Palestinian non-violent movement. Palestinian leaders of the non-violent movement are threatened, attacked and jailed.

b.. Foreigners like Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall have also been the victims of these same Israeli tactics.

c.. You and your colleagues have first-hand experience of this reality on the ground. Cite examples.

d.. The international and US press have completely failed to cover this reality, thus allowing people like Stanley Crouch to hold and spread such inaccurate information.

e.. The AJC should publish stories and editorials reflecting the reality that most Palestinians practice non-violence and the Israeli government uses extremely repressive measures to crush non-violence. It's probably better for people not to identify themselves as specifically from ISM, especially since we hope this alert will generate many calls.

Contact: op-ed editor - David Beasley - (404) 582 -7371.

Thank you to Ahmed Bouzid of Palestine Media Watch: www.pmwatch.org for brining this to our attention and drafting the talking points.

Palestinians should try King's approach Stanley Crouch - New York Daily News Friday, January 30, 2004

I have been thinking, yet again, about the Middle East since that Palestinian mother of two kids decided the time had come to blow herself up and take some Israelis with her.

This kind of violence has been gathering steam over the last year. Terror is no longer the business of only male Muslims. Now female terrorists also believe they can fly into the arms of Allah in bits and pieces. I wonder what the female equivalent of the 70 virgins supposedly awarded the male terrorist in heaven amounts to.

It seems to me that if the most extreme Palestinians were not so infected with their conventional attitude toward struggle --- kill, kill and kill again --- they might have considered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s tactic: aggressive nonviolence.

Had they ever done that, there would have been a Palestinian homeland long ago.

Israel would have had to make a deal with people who refused to spill blood but were quite willing to go to jail in large numbers --- men, women and children until they got their day at the negotiating table.

Men such as Ariel Sharon would not have become important in Israeli politics, because strongmen mean essentially nothing in the world of nonviolence.

They can't make threats about using hit squads to kill terrorists, because the only weapons being used are nonviolent disruptions in the streets, the stores, the workplaces.

Their tanks would mean nothing unless they were willing to give orders to run over the people seated on the road blocking them. Rubber bullets used on nonviolent people wouldn't play too well on television.

Due to a long and deep moral tradition, the Israeli people would begin to crumble and start to identify --- with the women and children first, then the men. Eventually, the Israeli troops would refuse even to tear gas the nonviolent demonstrators. That is the nature of civilized societies --- even those born and bred in a climate of hostility.

Though such an approach would have worked --- and still would work --- it has never seemed attractive to the Palestinian extremists.

That's partly because it is unusual. And partly because, like Malcolm X and all the other fat mouths of King's lifetime, they've been influenced by the self-righteous fantasy violence that has been a staple of American entertainment, especially in the costume dramas, Westerns and gangster films that Hollywood has produced in great abundance for more than 60 years.

Nonviolence is the tactic of cowards, the anti-King contingent would say. A real man would stand up to the enemy with his gun in his hand --- ready to die, if necessary. Well, King won. That is something the Palestinians should consider.

The human will of the people can always be stronger than the madness of the fools.

STANLEY CROUCH is a columnist for the New York Daily News. His column appears occasionally.

3) Amongst the Olives

January 14-16, 2004 Hilary & S'ra Tulkarem

Friends and Family,

We are writing from Palestine, the land of olives and abundant hospitality. Not to mention falafel and hummus.

Finding the time to write has been a bit difficult but finally here we are.

[Personal information edited out]

In these e-mails, we will try our best to share with you that which we have seen, felt, and heard. We are not Palestinians, so we cannot speak for Palestinians, only as observers who come from a place of privilege. When we write "Palestine," it is in itself a political assertion. Some people deny the existence of Palestine. After touching the olive trees that were planted by Palestinians over four generations ago, we know Palestine exists.

We have just come from Tulkarm, a city in the West Bank that borders Israel. In the taxi, a woman pointed out the two refugee camps that lie on the outskirts of the city. We later learned that the Israeli military was at that moment raiding the camp, looking for wanted men. Palestinian men were arrested, women and children were blocked inside, another building was burned. Inside the camp, curfew was enforced, keeping people locked inside wherever they were, without food or access to the rest of their families. Two homes inside the camp have since been demolished. We have heard these reports from internationals that were inside the camp with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Because we did not yet have the proper training, we did not enter the camp. We would rather not explain things that we do not witness ourselves; we thought we would include it here to impress upon you all the instability in Palestine. From the stories that we have heard so far, any semblance of normality can be shattered at any time. If you are interested in learning more about the work of the ISM, you can visit their website to learn about joining their list serve (the website itself is not always updated): www.palsolidarity.org

We had the pleasure of staying with an active farmer, organizer, and father who bears an amazing resemblance to Emiliano Zapata, minus the sombrero. (He seemed pleased at our observation.) We will call him Mohammed. After eloquently explaining the situation of agriculture in Tulkarm, he took us to visit his own farm. As we approached his fields, the "security fence" loomed in front of us. The farm was cut in half by the construction of the wall and again in half by six rolls of razor wire that soldiers laid on the main farm road. As we walked on the farm, we saw trenches dug by Israeli soldiers, the remains of four irrigation lines that were vandalized by soldiers, and the ominous 25' wall. As we started to take pictures, Mohammed nervously asked us to refrain from photography and pointing, calling attention to the cameras mounted on top of the wall. We were not sure if soldiers were in the watchtowers, but if they were, Mohammed said they would arrive to interrogate us within minutes. Soldiers have visited their farm several times and threatened to kill them, telling them the land was not theirs, even though for generations his family has nurtured this land. Considering this situation we are amazed at his courage for cutting through the razor wire to have access to his own crops.

This family has witnessed this kind of oppression for years. In 1986, an Israeli factory relocated to land bordering Mohammed's farm. This factory, incidentally, was court ordered to close in Israel because Israeli citizens complained of pollution: Justice prevailed for the Israelis. Mohammed and his neighbors complained when their vegetables and fruit trees died. Later, it was explained that an effluent filter had broken, but they received no compensation and their legal steps were ignored. Together, farmers in Tulkarm sent soil to be tested to a soil lab in Israel, but after accepting payment, the lab refused to provide the results. These days, the factory continues operations, polluting the land, air, and water. We met another farmer, whose land directly borders the factory. He, his wife, and five of his six children all suffer from asthma. They no longer grow on their land; they do not trust that the black dust that settles on their crops is safe. The appeals that the Tulkarm farmers have made to the Israeli government for regulations and compensation have been fruitless; in fact, they have resulted in harassment from the factory. Mohammed reenacted for us the scene of his attempted assassination-he accidentally dodged two bullets that came from behind the factory wall when he moved to flick his cigarette. Apparently he was too persistent in his attempts to organize with his neighbors (including Israelis in a nearby village) to apply pressure on the factory.

That night, with Mohammed's family, we watched his videotape documenting Israeli soldiers completely bulldozing their fields in 1996. It was unbelievable-watching the bucket scrape off the topsoil, the vegetables, and the fruit trees-all while the family and their friends scrambled to glean what they could in the minutes before everything was buried. As farmers, we could not imagine living through this kind of violence-to watch all of our labor, our love, and connection to the land disappear. Of course, Mohammed and his family have since re-cultivated that land. It is amazing how beautiful their farm is, despite all the destruction. We found his wife and son in the fields, harvesting cucumbers, lettuce, sage, and tomatoes--vegetables we would later enjoy for dinner. All that remains of the bulldozer's destruction is trenches that border the fields. When the family asked the soldiers what they had done to deserve this, the soldiers said "for no reason." Seven years later, the wall was constructed on this same field.

Especially since the beginning of this Intifada, checkpoints around the West Bank have restricted the free movement of Palestinians as well as their goods. Now, in areas that are surrounded by the Apartheid Wall, most farmers are unable to transport agricultural products. The access to markets beyond their own villages has been almost completely lost. Due to flooded local markets, the prices farmers receive have decreased dramatically.

Many Palestinians have asked us this question: "If the wall is supposed to secure Israelis from Palestinians, then why is it separating us from our own people and land?" The construction of the wall has cut deeply into Palestinian territory, confiscating farmland. One farmer we interviewed outside of Tulkarm had 5000 olive trees that have been in his family for longer than his father could remember. These trees have provided the economic livelihood for his extended family (22 individual families, 130 people). To clear land for the wall, 3000 trees were demolished and the remaining 2000 trees lie on the opposite side of the wall. To be able to harvest his olives, he must first receive permission from the Israeli government. Then he must walk five km to the gate in the wall and then five km back to the trees, even though the trees are only a few meters from his house. No vehicles are allowed entry, so they can only transport what they and their donkeys can carry. This year, for the first time, the family bought olive oil, as olives rotted on their own trees.

Constraints to farming in Palestine increase every day with confiscation of land, destroyed infrastructure, loss of markets, and destruction of crops. Organizations, both non-governmental and grassroots, struggle to help farmers meet their needs and survive. Not only do they face all of the challenges that we have described, but they are also targeted by the Israeli military simply for helping farmers gain access to infrastructural needs. For example, in the invasion of Ramallah in 2002, Ma'an Development Center, an NGO working on sustainable development, had their office raided, computers and printers shot out, windows broken, and files destroyed. A year earlier, a center of theirs in Mad'ha that included the largest indigenous seed bank in the West Bank was completely destroyed. In addition to pressure from Israel, Palestinian organizations are loosing vital funding due to the "war on terror." At the end of 2002, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began suspending funding for NGOs that support "terrorist organizations." Most Palestinian NGOs, such as Ma'an, who does not support terrorism, are now refusing USAID funds, because the unstated implications will completely restrict organizations from funding anyone involved, including non-violently, in the struggle against the occupation. In Ma'an's case, this means $1.2 to 1.5 million lost annually. If you would like to hear the full interview with Sami Hedr, the founder of the Ma'an Development Center, it will be posted with our reports at www.vtjp.org

Together with Jon Bauer, we have been asking people their opinions about the current state of the Intifada. When talking to Mohammed, he expressed to us his disappointment about the popularity of Hamas and other organizations that encourage suicide bombings. For a peaceful organizer like Mohammed, this is a mistake. As he was explaining this to us, his 16-year old daughter interrupted, asserting that she supports Hamas. The debate that ensued was heated, and even humorous, but to us it was the most poignant moment of our visit. Mohammed's daughter asked her father how he can believe in peace-after the wall tore through their community, his land and equipment was destroyed, his nephew killed, Mohammed himself almost assassinated several times, and on and on-how can he possibly believe in peace? The loss of hope in any kind of peace is echoed by so many Palestinians. Especially, and most tragically, by young Palestinians who have known nothing but war and occupation. To hear this young, beautiful, intelligent girl, who wants to study journalism in France, emphatically describe suicide bombing as the only choice for Palestinians is heartbreaking. We pressed her for her opinions about Hamas as a whole-specifically what kind of future she saw Hamas bringing to Palestine. At this, she admitted that she did not support Hamas' conservative beliefs, especially regarding women.

More and more Palestinians are turning to right-wing organizations simply because the word "peace" has lost its true definition and has been co-opted to mean compliance with Israeli Occupation. The Palestinians have participated in non-violent resistance since the beginning of the occupation, especially in the first Intifada, but they are tired. Many Palestinians are losing their faith in these tactics, and they are turning to armed struggle. The more isolated Palestinians feel, the less options they have. This is why it is so vital that the international community stand with Palestinians or as the slogan goes, that we globalize the Intifada (literally the "shake off," referring to Israeli Occupation). One of the questions we are looking to explore further is how the Intifada can be a popular movement that reaches beyond suicide bombing, a movement that can truly liberate the oppressed and the oppressor, (for one cannot be liberated without the other), and a movement that can be a global struggle.

We feel honored to be here. Thank you to everyone who is supporting us from home, and know that we are doing our best to communicate your support to the people that we meet. We have promised the Palestinians we have met that we will carry their stories to the United States, and that hopefully we can all help to bring down the wall and to end this immoral occupation.

Amongst the olives, In love and solidarity, Hilary and S'ra

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