Personal accounts of current events in Palestine and Israel; commentary and analysis from the Middle East, the USA and Europe
From Janet Lahr Lewis

Uri Avnery's Column

Gideon Levy articles & opinion

Avraham Burg - Opinion

Commentary by
James Wall

The Two-State Illusion
by Ian S. Lustnick

A Palestinian Pastor's Advice for President Obama
by Rev. Alex Awad

Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's path to Palestinian Solidarity  by Rabbi Brant Rosen

"Change without Progess in the Middle East"
by Ambassador Chas Freeman

"Justice Requires Action to Stop Subjugation of Palestinians"
by Desmond Tutu

"Why I Refuse"
by Moriel Rothman

Messages from Janet Lahr Lewis, UM Liaison to Israel-Palestine

Personal Accounts: Testimonies of Methodist Ecumenical Accompaniers


"Goldstone's Legacy for Israel" by Naomi Klein

"Mourning the Jewish New Year" by Prof. Marc Ellis

"Palestine Papers Expose US as Dishonest Broker"
  by Alison Weir

"Top 10 Reasons for  
Skepticism on Talks"

  by Josh Ruebner

"Boycotting the boycotters"
by Gideon Levy

"Apartheid in Holy Land"
  by Desmond Tutu

"Nakba Day is a Reminder"
    by Yousef Manayyer

"Israel's racism spreads"
   by Zvi Bar'el

Holy Land Christians' Decline
  Al-Jazeera video report

Two articles on Israel's
Independence Day 2010
  by Burston; Avnery

Presbyterian General Assembly 2010 - News and Commentary

"End US Tax Exemption 
for Settlements"

  by Sama Adnan

"A Call for Livable Futures"
  by Rela Mazali

"Israel 2007: Worse Than

Ronnie Kasrils, SoAfrican

"Israel's Greatest Loss:
Its Moral Imagination"

by Henry Siegman

Can Muslim & Jewish  
Narratives Co-exist?

Jewish Respect for Islam

Muslims & Jews Closer  

Tragedy of Monotheism

Using Qur'anic narratives

Missionary seeks justice in an often ‘not-so-holy land'

by Linda Worthington
UMConnection Staff

Since 1994, Janet Lahr Lewis has worked in the Holy Land, or as she says, "the not-so-holy land."

During a brief December visit in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, Lewis spoke at several churches, sharing the story of conditions inside Jerusalem, the West Bank, Bethlehem and Gaza.

Her message centered around what is life is like in the Holy Land, the difficulties for Palestinians to work or live in the area and the plight of Christians in the land where Christianity began. She also offered ideas for churches and individuals to respond.

According to Lewis, only a small area of the West Bank near Jericho and in the north is under Palestinian control. "The rest is Palestine in name but controlled by Israel. Many roads are for Israelis only, even when they go through Palestine," she said. "Some go through Palestinian olive groves, which owners can't access because the Israelis control the roads and 50-feet on each side."

For people to move anywhere, to jobs, schools, shopping or home, they must have permits, which the Israeli government gives on a selective basis, first to Israelis and sometimes a "second class" permit to Palestinians, said Lewis.

The Palestinian cities of Hebron, Bethlehem and Jeneen are virtually prisons, she said. "You can improve conditions inside a prison, but it's still a prison."

Lewis, who is educated in civil engineering, architectural design and theater arts, explained how she ended up spending a good part of her adult life in the Holy Land.

Her journey began with "a typical Holy Land tour and seeing the devastating consequences of the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza," she said. "I experienced an undeniable push to go back."

She was a volunteer in Galilee for a few years with Father Elias Chacour, a recipient of the United Methodist Peace Award and now an archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church. In 1997, she moved to Bethlehem where she lived with her neighbors "under the heavy hand of injustice and military occupation."

She worked for 10 years with Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, until 2007, including time both before and since the General Board of Global Ministries commissioned her in 2001.

Her job today is as a liaison between ecumenical groups and Israel and Palestine. She is the first non-ordained person in the position.

"She helps people coming to Jerusalem," said the Rev. Monroe Wright, pastor of Lanham UMC, who is her Baltimore-Washington Conference contact. "She is our United Methodist presence on the ground since we have no churches there."

Lewis' work focuses on activism and advocacy. She educates visitors about the realities of the situation, organizes conferences and hosts delegations to the area.

Despite the General Conference's resolution on responsible tourism to the Holy Land, Lewis says few groups or individuals contact her.

"It happens constantly that people come and we don't know it," she said "They don't realize we're there."

Lewis can do a lot to help a tour group be better educated, more aware of the issues and, more importantly, to meet local Palestinians whose lives are impacted every day by the oppression. She also arranges visits with some of the many Israelis who deplore the military occupation as much as the Palestinians do. "Several secular groups in Israel are working for Palestinian rights," she said.

"If nothing else, I can send information and suggest Web sites to help," she said. "We also help with what you can do when you go home - everything from praying to lobbying Congress."

Lewis can make arrangements for Volunteers in Mission teams so the team not only has a good volunteer work experience, sees all the traditional sites, but also meets and spends significant time with Palestinian families.

"In October, a West Virginia VIM group went to Zababdeh, where they'd not seen Americans in years," she said as an illustration. They worked ecumenically with Catholic Christians and Muslims from the village and every evening they visited a different family. Their attention made a huge impact on the families, she said.

"Palestinian Christians have been in the Holy Land for 2,000 years, but many are giving up and leaving. It would be a real crime if there are no more Christians in the Holy Land," she said.

"Christ calls us all to be ministers of justice," she said. "I answer this call by working for a just and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis, so that reconciliation and healing can occur."


To learn more about Janet Lahr Lewis,

United Methodist Liaison to Israel & Palestine, see the article in the left hand column, below the section listings.

Janet Lahr Lewis, on the right in the photo above
Personal Message
Easter, 2013

Dear Friends,
Wishing you all a “Happy Easter” may be slightly premature since it is only Thursday and Easter is still a few days away, but this is the Holy Land, and the excitement in anticipation of Easter is already rising here. As one local friend put it, “We already know what’s going to happen, so why wait?” Tonight there will be big family “barbecues” where lamb is cooked over a grill in celebration of the Last Supper. Tomorrow will be Al Juma al Mukadas, Holy Friday or Sad Friday. Pilgrims from around the world will begin walking the Via Doloroas, the Way of the Cross, at around 6:30 in the morning. Many other religious rites and traditions will be manifested in remembrance of Christ’s last days on earth. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre will be packed full of people paying homage and visiting the site of
Christ’s burial.

The important thing is not the where or when, but that He is not there! He is risen!

To be honest, in the past I have always tried to avoid Jerusalem during Holy Week where I find that too many internationals crowding the streets and demonstrating their religious fervor to be very distracting. I don’t need to walk the Via Dolorosa yet again in order to remember what happened at each station. I don’t need to be jammed into the hot and smoky basilica with thousands of other people to remember that Christ died for my sins. I need only to remember that he is not in that tomb anymore. I prefer to spend the time worshipping with the smaller local congregations in one of the towns or villages in the Galilee where Jesus spent his life, where He learned from the elders in the community, where He taught His revolutionary message that we are all chosen by God, where He
continues to live among the people, where I can feel His presence, not the crush of international pilgrims.

This year I will be hosting some visitors during Holy Week, so escaping to the Galilee will not be an option for me. Instead it will be a good reminder for me of the blessing that I have in being able to live and work in a place where so many only dream of visiting. I can forgive the sometimes outrageous outpouring of religious enthusiasm. I can even forgive the pushing and shoving as people press to get close enough to rub their hands on the “holy stones,” most of which were imported from Italy. I will even attend the Sunrise Service on Easter Sunday and watch the sun come up from behind the mountains in Jordan as I do every morning when I eat breakfast on the balcony of my apartment. And I will give thanks, as I do every day, that because Jesus is no longer in the tomb, He is beside me now and always. I don’t need to have a special day of the year set aside to be reminded of that or to celebrate that. I celebrate that every day when I see the sun rise.

One does not need to be in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection. One does not even need to do it on one special day. In fact, a common question here is “When do you celebrate Easter?” since we have two Easter Sundays, one for the Eastern or Oriental churches and one for Western or Occidental churches depending on which calendar is used. To me, the day does not matter. Where and when we celebrate the Risen Lord should be something that is on-going. It is an event that carries a message that should not be limited to one day of the year or a particular place on Earth. All around the world people will be celebrating that Jesus rose from the
grave and has conquered death. But will these same people remember to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the oppressed lift their heads with dignity and freedom? You don’t need to be in the Holy Land or “walk where Jesus walked” to do that. You don’t need to light candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to know God’s grace. You need only to love your neighbor as Jesus loves you, as God loves you. He is present now and always. Perhaps it would be better to remember that every day is an Easter day. A celebration is a fine way to remember that Christ is risen. But as we celebrate and remember His resurrection, let us also remember His message and do the work He expects us to do the other days of the year.

Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed. Al Messiah Kam! Hakan Kam!

Janet Lahr Lewis
Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel

January 26, 2012


This is the checkpoint I pass through to get to and from my office in Bethlehem from my home just on the other side of the checkpoint in Beit Zafafa.
What evil idea will they come up with next?

New Israeli search method at West Bank checkpoint worries Palestinians
According to eyewitness reports, Israeli police officers have begun searching Palestinian vehicles at a Bethlehem checkpoint through use of nausea-inducing chemicals.
By Amira Hass
January 25, 2012

 Israel Police have begun implementing a new method of searching Palestinian vehicles through use of nausea-inducing chemicals at a Bethlehem checkpoint, international aid workers have reported.
 Since December, Israeli police officers have introduced what they call a sophisticated method of tracking explosive materials.

Palestinian workers at the Bethlehem checkpoint.
Photo by: Daniel Bar-On

Palestinians with Israeli license plates, usually residents of Jerusalem or foreign residents are allowed to pass through the checkpoint. Cars traveling to Jerusalem are often asked by Border Police soldiers to park their car in a side lot with eight parking spaces near the checkpoint. Once parked, the passengers are asked to roll up all windows, apart from that of the driver – and exit the vehicle. Two tubes are then connected to the vehicle – one is connected to an air pump, the other, which passes through a tiny filter, is attached to the vehicle. A policeman with a stopwatch flicks the air pump switch.


According to Palestinians, police officers who carried out the search refused to describe the procedure. An official in the Israel Police told Haaretz that it is an approved procedure, and another police source said there is no use of any chemicals, but would not expand on the new search method.

 A foreign resident who works at an international organization and must pass through the checkpoint several times a week told Haaretz that the tube is left connected for approximately 10 minutes. Afterward, the filter is removed and taken to a nearby building. The worker says she was under the impression that some kind of chemical was disseminated into the vehicle, as she and another passenger began feeling nauseous and suffered from headaches several days afterwards. The worker has informed her country’s embassy.

 However, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, whose car also underwent the same procedure, told Haaretz that he did not feel a thing, and that the police officers added that it was “only oxygen” being pumped into the vehicle.

 Israel Police officially responded to the inquiry by saying that “as the force entrusted to protect the country’s citizens and their quality of life, it must conduct arbitrary, rudimentary checks through use of sophisticated technological means, all the while alleviating the experience of those being checked.”

 Approximately three months ago, the police used bomb-sniffing dogs at the checkpoint. One man who passes through the checkpoint regularly told Haaretz that the security forces have a tendency to switch methods.


January 24, 2012

Important new book to share with your friends!

Highlights are mine.


The evangelist lobby

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict by Craig Neilson
January 23, 2012

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict (2011).

We asked Craig Nielsen to tell us about his new book, and the following is an excerpt from the introduction of

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict (Foundation University Press (2011).
Christian Zionism, the belief that the current Zionist state of Israel is an unambiguous portent of the imminent return of Christ, is said to be the largest growing cult in America. With some 70 million Christian evangelicals in the U.S. (a large proportion subscribing to Christian Zionist beliefs), unconditional support of Israel on religious grounds translates into massive lobbying power in a country where the "religious right" has seen itself as the leaders in a fight against the infidels of secularism, Islam, socialism and any one else in their way.

Yet few, if any, scholarly Christian theologians support this view. It is a belief advanced mostly by powerful TV evangelists and lobby groups. The average "garden variety" Christian has little to arm themselves against the deluge of almost hysterical demands on Christians that they must support the Zionists' absolute entitlement to their colonialist project in the Holy Land with its dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs.

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict informs Bible-believing Christians with clear and easily understood reasons why Christian Zionism is nothing short of outright heresy. The book has taken inspiration from the resistance to Zionism from Orthodox Jews as well as arguments from Christian theologians over the centuries showing that both Old and New Testaments of the Christian and Jewish scriptures provide no comfort for Christian Zionist dogma. The book shows that the idea that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a basically religious conflict is false; the conflict finds its roots in European Zionist colonialism and western indifference to real democracy in the Middle East.

January 24, 2012

 The Palestinian children – alone and bewildered – in Israel's Al Jalame jail
Special report: Israel's military justice system is accused of mistreating Palestinian children arrested for throwing stones

Harriett Sherwood in the West Bank
The Guardian (UK)
January 22, 2012

The room is barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep. The delivery of food through a low slit in the door is the only way of marking time, dividing day from night.

This is Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel. It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.

The only escape is to the interrogation room where children are shackled, by hands and feet, to a chair while being questioned, sometimes for hours.

Most are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers; some, of flinging molotov cocktails; a few, of more serious offences such as links to militant organisations or using weapons. They are also pumped for information about the activities and sympathies of their classmates, relatives and neighbours.

At the beginning, nearly all deny the accusations. Most say they are threatened; some report physical violence. Verbal abuse – "You're a dog, a son of a whore" – is common. Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions that they later say were coerced.

These claims and descriptions come from affidavits given by minors to an international human rights organisation and from interviews conducted by the Guardian. Other cells in Al Jalame and Petah Tikva prisons are also used for solitary confinement, but Cell 36 is the one cited most often in these testimonies.

Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers each year, mostly accused of throwing stones. Since 2008, Defence for Children International (DCI) has collected sworn testimonies from 426 minors detained in Israel's military justice system.

Their statements show a pattern of night-time arrests, hands bound with plastic ties, blindfolding, physical and verbal abuse, and threats. About 9% of all those giving affidavits say they were kept in solitary confinement, although there has been a marked increase to 22% in the past six months.

Few parents are told where their children have been taken. Minors are rarely questioned in the presence of a parent, and rarely see a lawyer before or during initial interrogation. Most are detained inside Israel, making family visits very difficult.

Human rights organisations say these patterns of treatment – which are corroborated by a separate study, No Minor Matter, conducted by an Israeli group, B'Tselem – violate the international convention on the rights of the child, which Israel has ratified, and the fourth Geneva convention.

Most children maintain they are innocent of the crimes of which they are accused, despite confessions and guilty pleas, said Gerard Horton of DCI. But, he added, guilt or innocence was not an issue with regard to their treatment.

"We're not saying offences aren't committed – we're saying children have legal rights. Regardless of what they're accused of, they should not be arrested in the middle of the night in terrifying raids, they should not be painfully tied up and blindfolded sometimes for hours on end, they should be informed of the right to silence and they should be entitled to have a parent present during questioning."

Mohammad Shabrawi from the West Bank town of Tulkarm was arrested last January, aged 16, at about 2.30am. "Four soldiers entered my bedroom and said you must come with us. They didn't say why, they didn't tell me or my parents anything," he told the Guardian.
Handcuffed with a plastic tie and blindfolded, he thinks he was first taken to an Israeli settlement, where he was made to kneel – still cuffed and blindfolded – for an hour on an asphalt road in the freezing dead of night. A second journey ended at about 8am at Al Jalame detention centre, also known as Kishon prison, amid fields close to the Nazareth to Haifa road.

After a routine medical check, Shabrawi was taken to Cell 36. He spent 17 days in solitary, apart from interrogations, there and in a similar cell, No 37, he said. "I was lonely, frightened all the time and I needed someone to talk with. I was choked from being alone. I was desperate to meet anyone, speak to anyone … I was so bored that when I was out [of the cell] and saw the police, they were talking in Hebrew and I don't speak Hebrew, but I was nodding as though I understood. I was desperate to speak."

During interrogation, he was shackled. "They cursed me and threatened to arrest my family if I didn't confess," he said. He first saw a lawyer 20 days after his arrest, he said, and was charged after 25 days. "They accused me of many things," he said, adding that none of them were true.

Eventually Shabrawi confessed to membership of a banned organisation and was sentenced to 45 days. Since his release, he said, he was "now afraid of the army, afraid of being arrested." His mother said he had become withdrawn.

Ezz ad-Deen Ali Qadi from Ramallah, who was 17 when he was arrested last January, described similar treatment during arrest and detention. He says he was held in solitary confinement at Al Jalame for 17 days in cells 36, 37 and 38.

"I would start repeating the interrogators' questions to myself, asking myself is it true what they are accusing me of," he told the Guardian. "You feel the pressure of the cell. Then you think about your family, and you feel you are going to lose your future. You are under huge stress."
His treatment during questioning depended on the mood of his interrogators, he said. "If he is in a good mood, sometimes he allows you to sit on a chair without handcuffs. Or he may force you to sit on a small chair with an iron hoop behind it. Then he attaches your hands to the ring, and your legs to the chair legs. Sometimes you stay like that for four hours. It is painful.

"Sometimes they make fun of you. They ask if you want water, and if you say yes they bring it, but then the interrogator drinks it."

Ali Qadi did not see his parents during the 51 days he was detained before trial, he said, and was only allowed to see a lawyer after 10 days. He was accused of throwing stones and planning military operations, and after confessing was sentenced to six months in prison.The Guardian has affidavits from five other juveniles who said they were detained in solitary confinement in Al Jalame and Petah Tikva. All confessed after interrogation.

"Solitary confinement breaks the spirit of a child," said Horton. "Children say that after a week or so of this treatment, they confess simply to get out of the cell."

The Israeli security agency (ISA) – also known as Shin Bet – told the Guardian: "No one questioned, including minors, is kept alone in a cell as a punitive measure or in order to obtain a confession."

The Israeli prison service did not respond to a specific question about solitary confinement, saying only "the incarceration of prisoners…is subject to legal examination".

Juvenile detainees also allege harsh interrogation methods. The Guardian interviewed the father of a minor serving a 23-month term for throwing rocks at vehicles. Ali Odwan, from Azzun, said his son Yahir, who was 14 when he was arrested, was given electric shocks by a Taser while under interrogation.

"I visited my son in jail. I saw marks from electric shocks on both his arms, they were visible from behind the glass. I asked him if it was from electric shocks, he just nodded. He was afraid someone was listening," Odwan said.

DCI has affidavits from three minors accused of throwing stones who claim they were given electric shocks under interrogation in 2010.

Another Azzun youngster, Sameer Saher, was 13 when he was arrested at 2am. "A soldier held me upside down and took me to a window and said: 'I want to throw you from the window.' They beat me on the legs, stomach, face," he said.

His interrogators accused him of stone-throwing and demanded the names of friends who had also thrown stones. He was released without charge about 17 hours after his arrest. Now, he said, he has difficulty sleeping for fear "they will come at night and arrest me".

In response to questions about alleged ill-treatment, including electric shocks, the ISA said: "The claims that Palestinian minors were subject to interrogation techniques that include beatings, prolonged periods in handcuffs, threats, kicks, verbal abuse, humiliation, isolation and prevention of sleep are utterly baseless … Investigators act in accordance with the law and unequivocal guidelines which forbid such actions."

The Guardian has also seen rare audiovisual recordings of the interrogations of two boys, aged 14 and 15, from the village of Nabi Saleh, the scene of weekly protests against nearby settlers. Both are visibly exhausted after being arrested in the middle of the night. Their interrogations, which begin at about 9.30am, last four and five hours.

Neither is told of their legal right to remain silent, and both are repeatedly asked leading questions, including whether named people have incited them to throw stones. At one point, as one boy rests his head on the table, the interrogator flicks at him, shouting: "Lift your head, you." During the other boy's interrogation, one questioner repeatedly slams a clenched fist into his own palm in a threatening gesture. The boy breaks down in tears, saying he was due to take an exam at school that morning. "They're going to fail me, I'm going to lose the year," he sobs.

In neither case was a lawyer present during their interrogation.

Israeli military law has been applied in the West Bank since Israel occupied the territory more than 44 years ago. Since then, more than 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained under military orders.

Under military order 1651, the age of criminal responsibility is 12 years, and children under the age of 14 face a maximum of six months in prison.

However, children aged 14 and 15 could, in theory, be sentenced up to 20 years for throwing an object at a moving vehicle with the intent to harm. In practice, most sentences range between two weeks and 10 months, according to DCI.

In September 2009, a special juvenile military court was established. It sits at Ofer, a military prison outside Jerusalem, twice a week. Minors are brought into court in leg shackles and handcuffs, wearing brown prison uniforms. The proceedings are in Hebrew with intermittent translation provided by Arabic-speaking soldiers.

The Israeli prison service told the Guardian that the use of restraints in public places was permitted in cases where "there is reasonable concern that the prisoner will escape, cause damage to property or body, or will damage evidence or try to dispose of evidence".

The Guardian witnessed a case this month in which two boys, aged 15 and 17, admitted entering Israel illegally, throwing molotov cocktails and stones, starting a fire which caused extensive damage, and vandalising property. The prosecution asked for a sentence to reflect the defendants' "nationalistic motives" and to act as a deterrent.

The older boy was sentenced to 33 months in jail; the younger one, 26 months. Both were sentenced to an additional 24 months suspended and were fined 10,000 shekels (£1,700). Failure to pay the fine would mean an additional 10 months in prison.

Several British parliamentary delegations have witnessed child hearings at Ofer over the past year. Alf Dubs reported back to the House of Lords last May, saying: "We saw a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, one of them in tears, both looking absolutely bewildered … I do not believe this process of humiliation represents justice. I believe that the way in which these young people are treated is in itself an obstacle to the achievement by Israel of a peaceful relationship with the Palestinian people."

Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, who witnessed the trial of a shackled 14-year-old at Ofer last month, found the experience distressing. "In five minutes he had been found guilty of stone-throwing and was sentenced to nine months. It was shocking to see a child being put through this process. It's difficult to see how a [political] solution can be reached when young people are being treated in this manner. They end up with very little hope for their future and very angry about their treatment."

Horton said a guilty plea was "the quickest way to get out of the system". If the children say their confession was coerced, "that provides them with a legal defence – but because they're denied bail they will remain in detention longer than if they had simply pleaded guilty".

An expert opinion written by Graciela Carmon, a child psychiatrist and member of Physicians for Human Rights, in May 2011, said that children were particularly vulnerable to providing a false confession under coercion.

"Although some detainees understand that providing a confession, despite their innocence, will have negative repercussions in the future, they nevertheless confess as the immediate mental and/or physical anguish they feel overrides the future implications, whatever they may be."

Nearly all the cases documented by DCI ended in a guilty plea and about three-quarters of the convicted minors were transferred to prisons inside Israel. This contravenes article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention, which requires children and adults in occupied territories to be detained within the territory.

The Israeli defence forces (IDF), responsible for arrests in the West Bank and the military judicial system said last month that the military judicial system was "underpinned by a commitment to ensure the rights of the accused, judicial impartiality and an emphasis on practising international legal norms in incredibly dangerous and complex situations".

The ISA said its employees acted in accordance with the law, and detainees were given the full rights for which they were eligible, including the right to legal counsel and visits by the Red Cross. "The ISA categorically denies all claims with regard to the interrogation of minors. In fact, the complete opposite is true – the ISA guidelines grant minors special protections needed because of their age."

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told the Guardian: "If detainees believe they have been mistreated, especially in the case of minors … it's very important that these people, or people representing them, come forward and raise these issues. The test of a democracy is how you treat people incarcerated, people in jail, and especially so with minors."

Stone-throwing, he added, was a dangerous activity that had resulted in the deaths of an Israeli father and his infant son last year.

"Rock-throwing, throwing molotov cocktails and other forms of violence is unacceptable, and the security authorities have to bring it to an end when it happens."

Human rights groups are concerned about the long-term impact of detention on Palestinian minors. Some children initially exhibit a degree of bravado, believing it to be a rite of passage, said Horton. "But when you sit with them for an hour or so, under this veneer of bravado are children who are fairly traumatised." Many of them, he said, never want to see another soldier or go near a checkpoint. Does he think the system works as a deterrent? "Yes, I think it does."
According to Nader Abu Amsha, the director of the YMCA in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, which runs a rehabilitation programme for juveniles, "families think that when the child is released, it's the end of the problem. We tell them this is the beginning".

Following detention many children exhibit symptoms of trauma: nightmares, mistrust of others, fear of the future, feelings of helplessness and worthlessness, obsessive compulsive behaviour, bedwetting, aggression, withdrawal and lack of motivation.

The Israeli authorities should consider the long-term effects, said Abu Amsha. "They don't give attention to how this might continue the vicious cycle of violence, of how this might increase hatred. These children come out of this process with a lot of anger. Some of them feel the need for revenge.

"You see children who are totally broken. It's painful to see the pain of these children, to see how much they are squeezed by the Israeli system."


From Janet on December 1, 2011

UN marks 'day of solidarity' with Palestinian people

A boy hangs the Palestinian flag in front of Israeli soldiers during a

demonstration against Israel's illegal separation barrier in the West Bank
town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem.(MaanImages/file)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that a Palestinian state was "long overdue," in a statement to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

"The need to resolve this conflict has taken on greater urgency with the historic transformations taking place across the region," Ban said.

The UN chief said that a solution to the conflict must end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and establish two states with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

A just solution must also be found for the millions of Palestinian refugees in the region, the statement added.

Ban praised the accomplishments of the Palestinian Authority, noting that the West Bank government is "institutionally ready to assume the responsibilities of statehood."

He called on both sides to return to direct negotiations, while describing Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as a "major obstacle" to peace.

Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory Richard Falk condemned the ongoing denial of Palestinian rights as a result of the Israeli occupation.

"Every year, on this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we are reminded of Israeli authorities’ invidious schemes to permanently empty Palestine of Palestinians.

"This prolonged human catastrophe must be brought to an end once and for all," a statement said.

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi stressed the historical significance of the day, noting that UN resolution 181, which called for the division of Palestine, allotted 55 percent of land to a Jewish minority "at the expense" of the Palestinian majority.

“For sixty-four years, the Palestinian people have been subjected to an apartheid-like regime and prevented from proclaiming their rights to person and property.

"Even in the face of this grave historical injustice, the Palestinians continue to rise up to preserve their identity and presence on Palestinian land," she said.

Ashrawi called on all UN member states to acknowledge Israel's systematic violation of human rights and international law and hold the country accountable for its actions.

“Today’s occasion exemplifies the vital importance for the Quartet and the international community to act in solidarity with the Palestinians and support our peaceful diplomatic efforts to achieve an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital."

The United Nations partition plan for Palestine, or UN resolution 181, was adopted by the General Assembly on Nov. 29 1947.

A Jewish state was proposed on 56.47 percent of Palestine with an Arab state on 43.53 percent of the land. The resolution excluded Jerusalem, which was to be controlled under an international trusteeship.

At the time of the partition plan, 67 percent of the total population of mandate Palestine was Arab and roughly 33 percent Jewish, according to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine.



October 17, 2011

Dear Friends,

Here’s a follow-up article to the one I sent last week which had been published in Ha’aretz, the Israeli paper. Please note that when they say 2,600 they mean Units, not people. Multiply that by 6 and you’ll get the average number of people who will occupy this illegal settlement.


Israel plans new settlement of 2,600 that will isolate Arab East Jerusalem

Britain, the EU and the UN condemn Israel's decision as provocative and a further threat to the peace process

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
The Guardian (UK)
October 16, 2011

Israel has submitted plans to build the first big Jewish settlement in the occupied territories in 25 years, in a move condemned as an "assassination" of attempts to revive peace negotiations.

A leading Israeli peace group, Peace Now, denounced the plan to build 2,600 homes at Givat Hamatos on the southern edge of Jerusalem as a "game changer" because it would virtually cut off the Arab east of the city from the rest of the occupied West Bank.

The UN, the EU and Britain joined the Palestinians in condemning the move as provocative at a time when the major powers are struggling to rekindle negotiations while the Palestinian bid for statehood is still before the UN security council.

The Palestinian leadership, which has said there can be no new talks if settlement building continues, said the plans were further evidence that Israel "wants to destroy the peace process".

Givat Hamatos would form a big part of the crescent of Jewish settlements which, in parallel with the West Bank wall and fence, has increasingly isolated East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied territories. Israeli peace activists say the intention is to solidify Israel's claim to all of Jerusalem and to minimise the amount of the city ceded to an independent Palestine. Work could begin as early as next year.

A fortnight ago, Israel drew strong international condemnation over plans to expand an existing settlement, Gilo, by about 1,200 homes. Meir Margalit, a leftwing member of the Jerusalem council who holds the portfolio overseeing the east of the city, said that the Givat Hamatos plan had more serious implications because, not only is it much larger but, for the first time in quarter of a century, it established a new colony.

"This is a big deal because this is a new settlement. It's not more houses in an existing settlement but a new one that takes one of the last reserves of land remaining for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem," he said. "I don't want to be overly dramatic but this will be that last nail in the coffin of the peace process.

"The government knows the Palestinians cannot live with this, that settlements are the most important issue for them. The people behind this are pyromaniacs and terrorists because they are lighting fires all over the place that at the end of the day will set up a new wave of terrorist attacks."

The plans were submitted for approval by Israel's interior minister, Eli Yishai, a member of the religious, rightwing Shas party. They are likely to be backed by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who is competing with Shas for the support of Jewish settlers and rightwing voters. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel regards itself as free to build anywhere it chooses within the area it defines as Jerusalem, which cuts deeper into the West Bank since the municipal boundaries were extended after the occupation of the east of the city began in 1967.

Givat Hamatos would be the first major new Jewish settlement since Netanyahu approved the construction of nearby Har Homar in 1997, during his first term as prime minister.

The government has sought to minimise the significance of the plans by saying they have been around for several years and that no final decision has been taken. The proposal was originally drafted three years ago and then put on hold. But last week, with attention focused on the pending release of Gilat Shalit after five years captivity in Gaza, they were quietly revived and submitted for a 60-day public comment period, a last step before a final vote on approval. The decision will be made by the Jerusalem municipal council where there is broad support for settlements.

The move was welcomed by David Hershovitz, a rightwing member of the city council's planning committee. He told the Jerusalem Post: "Givat Hamatos is a prerequisite for massive building in Jerusalem."

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Givat Hamatos proposal "makes a mockery of … international efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace."

On Sunday, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, condemned "this provocative step, which further encloses East Jerusalem". Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, described the Givat Hamatos plans as "deplorable". She said the plans undermine peace efforts by breaching Israel's responsibility to create "an environment of trust conducive to negotiations".

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said the Givat Hamatos plans are "contrary to international law".

"Recent developments in this regard have been unacceptable, particularly as efforts are ongoing to resume negotiations," he said.

Margalit said that he believes the government is deliberately seeking to undermine attempts to revive talks.

"From the one side, Netanyahu says he is ready to negotiate; from the other, the government does this and undermines any possibility of negotiations with the Palestinians," he said.



The day after the International Day of Peace
The eve of Palestine's petition for membership in the United Nations
September 22, 2011

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, September 21, has annually been designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace. It is also the International Day of Prayer for Peace. Last evening in the town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem we held an interfaith prayer service in the grotto of the Shepherd’s Field on the land of the YMCA. (Note that ‘interfaith” in this instance refers to Christians and Muslims since it is against Israeli law for Israeli Jews to enter the area. I guess this is what the Israeli government considers “co-existence:” i.e. You live on your side of the wall and we’ll live on ours and we will co-exist on opposite sides.)

Tomorrow, Friday, as most of you know, Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, will go to the UN to present a petition for the recognition of a Palestine state. Already the Israeli security has been heightened and the checkpoints have been closed intermittently. I will not even attempt to come into Bethlehem tomorrow since I know the checkpoint will be closed all day (especially since evening will be the beginning of Shabbat.)

It is extremely encouraging to note that demonstrations have continued to be non-violent as the Palestinian people heed the call of their elected officials to refrain from confrontation in this extremely sensitive time. The wave of non-violent resistance is swelling and will hopefully become a tidal wave that the U.S. and Israeli governments can no longer ignore. Change will happen. Change must happen. God does not allow injustices to continue indefinitely.

I am sending this statement below which is from Open Windows, an organization that participated in the pray event yesterday. I am also requesting that we continue to be in prayer for the Palestinian people and their efforts to have freedom and recognition of their right to self-determination as outlined by the International Declaration of Human Rights in what is left of their homeland, the West Bank and Gaza.

Yours in Christ,
Janet Lahr Lewis
UM Liaison in Palestine and Israel


The occupation is unsustainable – no alternative to freedom

On the eve of the day that the Palestinian Authority goes to the United Nations to submit its bid for Palestinian statehood, it is important to clearly see what has moved the Palestinians to do this step. It has not been taken lightheartedly nor is it just a matter of media theatrics.

   1. The UN bid has been chosen because the peace process, if it could be called so, was hijacked by the US government and “managed” in various impotent diplomatic forums and formats while on the ground settlement and Wall building flourished. The bid at the UN is intended to bring back the principles of freedom and independence into public discourse about Palestine. At the same time, other principles and legal rights should not be forgotten. There has been much discussion and criticism these days among Palestinians that the rights of the Palestinian refugees is pushed to the sidelines, as is also the role of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO, as representative of all Palestinians. We appeal to the Palestinian leadership inside and outside the country to take care that the UN bid will not legally imply or be interpreted as abandoning the personal and collective rights of Palestinian refugees.

   2. The forum of the UN is chosen because it represents not just the heads of governments, but symbolically also the peoples of the world. The Palestinians are saying: we want to hear the voice of the peoples. If the leading governments are unable to act upon their professed principles – we remember how Obama a year ago brought up the vision of a new Palestinian state in his UN speech – it is the task of worldwide civil society to challenge their governments. We notice that public opinion about Palestine is ahead of their governments in several European states.

   3. The UN bid means that more sumud or steadfastness will be required of the Palestinian people. These days many people in the West Bank put flags on their cars. This may remind us that the “Palestine question” or the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” is about humans with feelings. While feeling a moment of celebration, people here generally prepare themselves for the worst. Both Israel and the US threatened to punish the Palestinian cry for freedom. If the US will withdraw the annual 500 million $aid to the PNA, this may severely affect its future, and that of the thousands of employees dependent on it. This very day, it is expected that armed settlers from neighboring settlements are going to march to Palestinian cities. Israel may announce annexation of parts of the West Bank. We do not know what the immediate future will bring. Sometimes we have the feeling that the Israeli government and the settlers hope for the outbreak of violent clashes, so as to declare that the problem is one of violence and not freedom, while at the same time hiding their own and the settlers’ provocations. AEI together with its Palestinian Leadership and with many other organizations and groups, will focus on Palestinian nonviolent protests against the occupation and bringing out the people’s sumud notwithstanding the sacrifices demanded on the road to freedom.

At the least, Palestinians feel that the present situation of direct or indirect occupation and siege of West Bank and Gaza, and also the annexation of East-Jerusalem, is unsustainable. In all fields: politically, economically, culturally, educationally, humanly. Instead, we wish to raise the banner of the Kairos Palestine document of Palestinian Christian leaders, challenging world leaders and Israeli occupation with the principles and practices of love, peace, nonviolent action, and justice. Only that road will lead to real freedom.

April 2, 2011
Pre-Easter message

Dear Friends,

Much has been happening here in Palestine and Israel over the past few months. We have received two Volunteer in Mission teams who have spent time visiting holy sights, meeting with folks from our partner organizations, learning first-hand about the current political situation, and serving at a variety of locations for their service projects. They have played games with the elderly, painted stairwells at a school, worked to beautify a playground area, and even washed windows! I have already received feed-back from the organizations about how wonderful it has been to be able to host these groups, and for their cheerful participation and interest in the people here.

In addition we hosted a group from California who were here on their annual visit, bringing new people to the area to meet with and hear from our local partners. In addition, they came to visit the Community Development Project in the village of Wadi Fukin where we were able to host them in a newly rented building. The building has been empty for a number of years so there is a need for volunteer teams to come and help out getting it back into shape. (Let me know if you are interested in bringing a team!) We are all very excited about the new location which will be available for the community to hold programs for young adults, women’s projects, a small shop where visitors can purchase locally made products and organic honey from the Bee Hive Project. The local committee has many exciting plans for the facility and the community.

I am most grateful for all those who chose to come despite the turmoil in other countries in the region. Many folks came under pressure by family and friends to cancel their trips out of concern for their safety. As those of us who live here know all too well, we can not let fear of the unknown immobilize us from doing what we can. I keep a quote from John Wesley on my office door as a reminder of this:

“Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, as long as ever you can.”

I will be traveling to the US on Sunday for a speaking trip in Texas followed by some time in Washington D.C. before spending the Easter holiday with some of my family. Please feel free to email at my yahoo email : if you need anything. I will try to keep in touch.

Until I return home to Palestine-Israel I wish you all the blessings that the Day of Resurrection brings and all the joy of the Easter season. And in anticipation of this day I will close this message in the way we will spend the 40 days after Easter greetings one another:

Al Messiah Kam! Hakan Kam! (Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!)

Janet Lahr Lewis
UM Liaison in Palestine and Israel


April 1, 2011
Gun-free Kitchen Tables


As many of you know, I have always voiced my concern for the people of Israel (I’m not talking about the Zionist government here!) and how the effects of the militarization of an entire society plays out among that society in very negative ways. Their military training (and almost everyone is required to serve in the military) teaches people how to dehumanize the Palestinians in order to carry out their despicable tactics. This training carries over into everyday life.

One of the biggest challenges for those of us who are working and/or living among the Palestinian society and see first-hand the effects of this militarization is to remember that we are all human beings born in the image of God, even the people who aim their weapons at our heads or humiliate us at the checkpoints. We must make a conscious effort not to retaliate and behave as they are taught to behave. This is not always easy, but it is something our faith requires of us.

Click on the link below to go to a website for Gun Free Kitchen Tables

This is one of the organizations inside Israel, along with New Profile and others, that is working to de-militarize and thus RE-humanize the population of Israel. It is through organizations like this that I find hope; that more and more Israelis will begin to stand up against their government’s evil policies not only against the Palestinians, but against her own people. (And we thought the U.S. was a violent country!) This organization and others like it deserve our support and encouragement. They are waging a serious uphill battle, but one that needs to be fought and won.

Janet Lahr Lewis

“We wish to thank the growing circle of activist volunteers whose active work and faith in this project have been vital to keeping it afloat. We also sincerely thank the Samuel Rubin Foundation for the seed money that allowed us four vital months of full-capacity work in 2010 as well as Kvinna till Kvinna and SweFor, each of which recently pledged a small grant for 2011.

Thanks to each and all of you for your interest and caring,

Rela Mazali & Smadar Ben Natan, Co-Founders Gun Free Kitchen Tables

March 22, 2011

Dear Friends,

Great Lenten greetings!

This is a quick message to let those of you in Texas know that I will be coming to Texas April 4-11 and will be in San Antonio, Georgetown, and North Dallas areas.

There are a couple of free nights still open (Friday, April 8 and Sat, April 9) so if you are located somewhere between Georgetown and McKinney and would like to organize an evening event at your church, please let me know and I will put you in touch with Rev Laura Merrill who is making my arrangements.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Janet Lahr Lewis
UN Liaison in Palestine and Israel

March 30, 2011
Land Day


Today is Land Day in Palestine and Israel, a day set aside to remember those who died trying to protect their land, and in protest of continued land confiscation inside the State of Israel and the West Bank.

Please watch the link in the message below from Omar Barghouti and come up with your own clever ideas on how to advocate for change, especially during the World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel, a World Council of Churches week of global events, May 29 – June 4, 2011.

Please also visit our website,, and access these new resources.  They include the following:

    * The Jerusalem Prayer for 2011, authored by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem (available in English, French, German, and Spanish)
    * Service of the Word liturgy for 29 May 2011, based on the lectionary readings for the day
    * a series of reflections on the theme, "I Dream of Peace in Jerusalem," written by residents of the city
    * a link to EAPPI Eyewitness Reports, an ongoing blog updated with the experiences of Ecumenical Accompaniers
    * "Life Under Occupation:  An Introduction to the Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," published by the Alternative Tourism Group and the YMCA-YWCA Joint Advocacy Initiative
* a publicity brochure for the week, created by the UK World Week for Peace planning group

In the coming weeks, more resources will be added to the website, including a Jerusalem Dossier providing additional information and links to articles related to the history and current status of Jerusalem.

 From Omar:

As part of the Global BDS Day of Action commemorating Land Day, Adalah-NY: the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel surprised crowds in New York's Grand Central Station with a song and dance.  Performing to the tune of "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey, we added our own little twist to remind people to boycott Israel:

A most remarkable and inspiring action ... highly recommended.

Viva Adalah-NY! They've pioneered making BDS campaigning FUN!

[Worth mentioning that the exceptionally witty and attractive videos of Canadian filmmaker, John Greyson, have taken that "fun BDS" commitment to new levels, of course]

Omar Barghouti


March 22, 2011
Residency Permits and Visa Denials


Many of you have are already aware of the visa problems that internationals face in order to be able to remain in the country for longer than three months (the time allotted on the usual “tourist visa”). This is not a new problem. For several years those of us working for or representing various denominations have met with delegations from the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, and other “high level” denominational representatives voicing our concern about the tightening restrictions and the difficulties in obtaining visas. By denying entry to Christians, even local Christian hierarchy, the state of Israel is directly and indirectly imposing its goal to be rid of all non-Jews and justify it’s declaration of Israel as a Jewish state. This means Israel will maintain its standing as a racist state.

We should all be outraged by the actions of Netanyahu and the policies which deny access to the holy city of Jerusalem that the U.N. maintains should remain open for all. According to the Oslo Agreements the final status of Jerusalem has yet to be determined. We need to work to ensure it remains an open city. Please FAX a message (emails just get deleted) to the Prime Minister’s office voicing your objections to such actions as mentioned in the article below. (Highlighting by Roy Hayes).


Benyamin Netanyahu
Office of the Prime Minister of Israel
Fax: +972 2 566 4838

Episcopal leaders dismayed at Israel's denial
of Jerusalem bishop's residency permit

By Matthew Davies
March 10, 2011

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal bishops of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have in separate statements decried the decision by Israel's Ministry of the Interior to deny a residency permit for Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and his family to live in Jerusalem.

Dawani's episcopal ministry requires him to travel throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which includes parishes and institutions in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. Dawani, a Palestinian Christian, has held a residency permit for Jerusalem since 2007.

"The seizure of Bishop Dawani's travel documents means not only that he cannot visit the Christian communities of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It also means he cannot minister to the Christian communities located minutes from St. George's Cathedral: the brewmasters of Taybeh, the schoolchildren of Bethlehem, the unemployed and elderly of Jericho," said Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, whose diocese has shared a companion relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem for six years.

Bruno, who has led more than 50 pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the past 30 years, also noted in his March 9 statement that without a permit Dawani cannot deliver essential medical supplies "and alms, as well as hope" to the patients at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, an institution run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem that serves the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip regardless of their faith.

"Make no mistake: The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem is a peacemaker," Bruno said. His "status and rights as a religious leader should mean he can travel freely throughout his diocese."

Chane, whose diocese also shares a companion relationship with the Jerusalem diocese, said in a March 10 pastoral letter that he -- along with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem -- has joined in the effort to reinstate the bishop's visa and residency cards for his family.

"Almost four weeks have passed since our letters, expressing our deep concern and calling for the Israeli government to correct this indignity and injustice, were delivered to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," he said. "Our efforts have been met with silence."

Israel's Ministry of the Interior denied the residency permit for Dawani, his wife and his youngest daughter on the grounds that Dawani had allegedly sold Israeli land illegally to Palestinians, according to the release. Dawani also was accused of forging documents.

The official letter denying the permit, which was written in Hebrew, said (in a translation provided by the Diocese of Jerusalem), "Bishop Suheil acted with the Palestinian Authority in transferring lands owned by Jewish people to the Palestinians and also helped to register lands of Jewish people in the name of the church."

The letter also stated that Dawani and his family should leave the country immediately.

Dawani has denied the allegations, none of which have been substantiated by any documentary evidence, according to the release. The bishop has attempted to resolve the matter, sending letters to the Ministry of the Interior and the nation's attorney general in which he asked to know the specific charges against him and requested reinstatement of the residency permit. According to the release, none of his inquiries have been answered.

"This is placing huge pressure on my role as Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem as I now have no right to live in the city of which I am the Anglican representative. It directly affects my ministry here as the future of my position remains uncertain," Dawani said in a recent e-mail to ENS.

Jefferts Schori told ENS that she has been concerned about the matter since learning of it last August.

"Overtures through our own State Department, with the Israeli ambassador, and directly to Mr. Netanyahu, have thus far proved fruitless," she said. "The situation Bishop Dawani and his family are in remains untenable. We seek an immediate regularization of the bishop's residency status, and continue to express our concern about his treatment and the repeated failure to address this matter directly."

Chane is urging Christians to e-mail Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren ( and President Barack Obama ( expressing their concerns about Israel's decision concerning Dawani's residency permit.

"Israel prides itself on being a democracy -- the only one in the Middle East. Yet a true democracy adheres to the rule of law and defends the religious freedom of all persons," he said. "This has not been the case for Bishop Dawani, a Palestinian Christian."

"The church has too often been silent in addressing the abuses of power by the Israeli government," Chane said. "I have spoken to many Christians who are fearful and believe if they speak out against human rights abuses by the government of Israel they will be labeled as anti-Semitic. But not to speak out when injustices are done to a Christian religious leader and a much respected bishop of the Anglican Communion is to be guilty of a greater crime; the crime of silence.

Chane was due to meet with U.S. Sen. John Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Fitzpatrick at the Religious Freedoms Desk at the State Department to continue to press the issue.

Bruno recalled that in March 2010, there was a sudden announcement that 1,600 homes for settlers would be built on contested lands of East Jerusalem.

"This unexpected announcement that was horribly embarrassing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came from the Ministry of Interior," he said. It is this same Ministry of Interior that has offended the world's 80 million Anglicans and Episcopalians by targeting our bishop ... Someone needs to tell the Interior Ministry that in the new millennium, religious wars for control of Jerusalem are over. Let's end this holy war before it starts."

-- Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.

February 21, 2011

From an Israeli paper. (I’m surprised they printed it, actually.) These kinds of trips that promote and perpetuate the idea of “victimhood” among Jewish society truly sadden me.


February 17, 2011

How school trips to Hebron resemble visits to Auschwitz
Just as upon return from the state-sponsored trips to Auschwitz, Jewish students will come back from Hebron feeling more nationalist than ever before.

By Gideon Levy

More than half of Jewish school children in Israel have visited Auschwitz; each year more than 10,000 go on a trip to Poland or on the March of the Living, a pilgrimage to the death camps. They come back shocked and nationalist. These tours mislead the weeping students for a moment as they wrap themselves in the national flag, before and after downing a Vodka Red Bull in their rooms.

These programs bring back thousands of teens who have learned nothing about the danger of fascism, who have heard nothing about morality, humanity and the slippery slope on which a dangerous regime might pull down a complacent society. Just more and more blind faith in strength, xenophobia, fear of the other and inflamed passions. So in their current format, these tours are missed opportunities whose damage is greater than their use.

Now Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar wants to add a tour to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Thousands of teens will be taken in armored buses to the danger zone, accompanied by soldiers and armed bodyguards. A safari in Hebron. During the visit, a curfew will be imposed on the last Palestinians left in the neighborhood.
   Gideon Sa'ar, Education Minister, at the Tomb
   of the Patriarchs

The students will be hurried into the ancient site that is believed to be the Cave of Machpelah - the tombs of the patriarchs and matriarchs who are probably not buried there. No one will show them what is around them. No one will tell them what happened to the thousands of people who lived near the tomb.

Their guides, the most violent and atrocious of the settlers in the territories, will not tell them what they have done. They will discuss the history of the place with Zionist selectivity. They will tell them about the 1929 Hebron massacre, but not about the 1994 Baruch Goldstein massacre. The students will see a ghost neighborhood around them and will not ask why it is abandoned, and whom the inhabitants were afraid of when they fled.

Here, too, as at Auschwitz, they will only scare them more and more. At Auschwitz they will make them frightened of the Poles and in Hebron of the Arabs. Everyone always wants to annihilate us. They will return from Hebron excited at having touched the ancient stones and even more blinded from not having touched the people who lived alongside those stones. They will see nothing and learn nothing. As at Auschwitz, they will come home even more nationalist: Hebron forever, and the force of arms.

After all, what will they be told? What are the hidden messages? That the sanctity of the place means sovereignty. That the place is sacred to us, but only to us. That there is Abraham but no Ibrahim. That the fact that there is Jewish history here must "sanctify" it, even in the eyes of secular students, whom one would suppose have nothing to do with anything holy. A mixed multitude of fabrications, propaganda and uneducational messages.

If the education minister were true to his job and his image as a relatively enlightened minister, he would have organized a true tour of Hebron. A "Let Us Ascend to Hebron" program? Indeed, but on condition that everything is included: the Jewish tradition and the Jewish injustice.

That will not happen, of course. If Sa'ar were honest, he would have also encouraged heritage tours for the Arab school children in this country. Let the Jewish kids go to Auschwitz and Hebron, and the Arabs to Deir Yassin and Sheikh Munis. They also deserve to learn about the history of their people and their country. It would be better if all Israeli school children, Jews and Arabs, went to all those heritage sites, learning each other's fate. That will not happen either, of course. Instead, we have an education minister who tries to have it all: sitting like a liberal in Tel Aviv's Cafe Tamar with Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, and as a nationalist, sending students on trips to the occupied Tomb of the Patriarchs.

But the problem, of course, is not who is education minister. The problem is what we are instilling in our students; where we are taking them (and ourselves ) and what we are telling them there. The students who return from the annual field trip to Hebron will be worse students. They will learn to touch history and hide from reality. They will believe that Abraham the patriarch has been buried for thousands of years in Hebron, but they will learn nothing about justice and humanity, which are buried there a thousand times deeper.


February 17, 2011

Read the article sent to us by Janet Lahr Lewis:
US as Israel's Enabler in the Middle East, by a former CIA Political Analyst

February 3, 2011

Winter has finally come to Palestine. The cold and rain (and last night we even had a tiny bit of snow) are in full force. I’m not complaining. We need the rain badly here and since it only rains in winter it is a welcomed sight. And being the good northerner that I am, I love the change in temperature, even if there’s no hot water in my apartment!

It has been many months since I have written an update. I left for the U.S. on August 27 of last year for my required itineration, speaking in churches across the country about our ministry here, and hoping to get support. It was four months (less two weeks off for good behavior) of traveling from Maryland to California, speaking at events, in churches, for United Methodist Women’s groups, sleeping in a different bed every night. It was good but exhausting. (I also made a trip to Geneva, Switzerland in September for a World Council of Churches meeting on Palestine-Israel during U.N. advocacy week.) The only time I had to take a break and clear my head was driving from one city to the next. I must say, the U.S. is truly a beautiful country! Not just the landscapes which can be breathtaking, but the people there are gracious and considerate. (OK, you “United Statesians” may not think so, but compared to many other countries in this world, you should be proud of yourselves, not counting for road-rage, of course.)

 I did not return to the office until after the New Year. I had only two days here in the office before it was closed for Orthodox Christmas. Since I missed being in Bethlehem for Western Christmas in December (something I haven’t missed in probably 10 years) I had two more chances to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem; Orthodox and Armenian. I had only time to prepare visitors’ packets and pack an overnight bag when the first Volunteer in Mission team arrived, so I was on the run again. I’ve actually written several updates in my head, but until now I didn’t have time to actually write anything. Now, using my “advanced age” as an excuse, I can’t remember any of those pressing things I wanted to write about!

To all of you who sent me birthday messages and prayers, Shokran kteer, Many thanks! (I have one request: PLEASE include an email in your cards so I can acknowledge it without it costing me $2.50 for a stamp.) For my “party” I had the chef here at work make something special for the staff to enjoy during our morning coffee break. People here are always grateful to celebrate something…anything… when the world around us is in chaos. Oddly enough, considering how much the Palestinian people have been made to suffer, we currently seem to be the eye of the storm amidst uprisings in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. But then again, it’s hard for Palestinians to rise up against something when they can’t get beyond the walls of their prison, when their “jailers”, having all the power, feel no need to pay attention even when they do protest. This is the sorry state of affairs here at the moment.

 The Palestinian people have an incredible ability to make the best of a bad situation. They are ingenious in finding ways to try to make ends meet when the unemployment level still hovers around 40%. When a new checkpoint appears, suddenly someone shows up with a cart to sell coffee or sandwiches to the long lines that form. At times I get angry with my Palestinian friends for so easily adapting to their circumstances and for seeming to be so complacent to the situation that is putting them in this prison. But then I have to remind myself that it is their job to work at making the conditions inside the prison as livable as possible. It is OUR job as internationals to work to tear down the prison! While negotiations continue for years and years the Israeli government continues to create the “facts on the ground” to which so many sequential Israeli prime ministers keep referring. Meanwhile we watch helplessly as more and more illegal settlements extend onto private Palestinian land (as in these before and after shots of the settlement of Bitar Ilit next to the village of Wadi Foukin), more settlement roads eat up the ancient Judean desert, more springs and water supplies are become flooded with settlement sewage, more radical Jews with their automatic weapons continue to throw Palestinians out of their homes at gunpoint.

 These are just of few of the “realities” that our VIM teams witness when they come here to do their service projects. All too many of our United Methodists come on pilgrimages to the Holy Land to “walk where Jesus walked”, to touch the ancient stones (many of which are actually are imported from Italy), to take photos of holy sites or of the market in the Old City or even the camel that is stationed on the Mount of Olives to attract visitors. When they pass through the Separation Wall into Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, they are completely unaware of where they are or what they are seeing because no one is with them to tell them. Their Israeli tour guide will certainly not mention it. It is enough for them to stay in a 5 star hotel and shop for souvenirs and go home to tell their friends what a wonderful trip they had, all the while never having met a single local person other than their guide and driver.

 Our denomination was born out of a need for social justice. It is built into the fiber of our ministries. It is even in the hymns that the Wesley brothers wrote. It is the message of Christ. Jesus came at a time when there was a serious skew in society, when the Jews were looking for a new king who would lead them out from under Roman occupation. Jesus began a revolution. But it was not the kind of revolution that the people anticipated. It was a revolution of the mind, a turning of the heart, a shift in thinking from violence to non-violence, a change from the exclusivity of master and slave to one of inclusivity and the equality of all people, of bringing sight to the blind who would not see the injustices happening all around them.

 Unfortunately all too many of the people from our churches who come to see the places where Jesus preached these messages, miss the message! They remain blind to what is going on all around them, and by remaining blind, do not hear the call to make a change, to participate in that revolution to end injustices around the world or even here in Palestine.

 No matter how tired I get, no matter how frustrated or angry I become, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, I remember the Sermon on the Mount as it was explained to me and as Elias Chacour describes in his book, Blood Brothers. The original text does not use the word “blessed.” Although I have no problem receiving a blessing (in fact I’ll take all I can get!) I prefer to read these important texts in their true meaning using the language of the day, Aramaic, and the word “ashray”, which means to get up and DO something if you are hungry and thirsty for justice, get up and DO something if you want to be called children of God. It is a call to action! Too many of us aren’t hearing that call, being happy to just sit quietly on the hillside and wait for our blessings to fall like manna from heaven. That’s not how it works! Jesus gave us a revolutionary message and it is our responsibility to use that message to make the change.

 Or, in the words of another great advocate for justice and non-violence, Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

June 8, 2010


For those who are having trouble speaking to their Jewish friends who are believing the spin machine, you may wish to remind them that many Israelis do not back their government’s blockade of Gaza and the attack on the flotilla. I’m sure this information does not hit the news stand, especially in the U.S. The update below is from Uri Avnery whose article I recently circulated. The highlights are from Roy Hayes. (Thanks Roy.)

In addition, last evening I attended an ecumenical/interfaith prayer service in Jerusalem focusing on the suffering in Gaza, and the members of the flotilla and their families. As we stood around in a circle with lighted candles to pray outside the church that marks the location of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, I could not help thinking that the flotilla attack is but one incident in a very long tragic 43 year history. I added my own prayer: “Dear Lord, let us not lose sight of the real issue here; the on-going illegal occupation.

When I got to my office this morning there was a message from Greta Berlin [organizer with Free Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla] that reflected my prayer. 

She said, “Thousands of words have already been written about the Freedom Flotilla, Israel is out with its talking heads trying to justify murdering nine human rights workers, brutally hijacking our boats and hauling us all into Israel, a country none of us wanted to visit.

But we have to remember why we care and why we go and why we are so outraged at governments' inaction.This piece by Roger Walters says it all."



Uri Avnery writes:

My sincere thanks to all of you who inquired about my well-being after yesterday's incident.

Attached below - for those who are interested - the Gush Shalom website report about the event.

Shalom, Salamaat,
"The Government Is Drowning Us All"
Uri Avnery attacked by rightist thugs

Read the life story of Avnery:

A disaster was averted yesterday (June 5)  at Tel-Aviv's Museum Square, when rightists threw a smoke grenade into the middle of the protest rally, obviously hoping for a panic to break out and cause the protesters to trample on each other. But the demonstrators remained calm, nobody started to run and just a small space in the middle of the crowd remained empty. The speaker did not stop talking even when the cloud of smoke reached the stage. The audience
included many children.

Half an hour later, a dozen rightist thugs attacked Gush Shalom's 86 year old Uri Avnery, when he was on his way from the rally in the company of his wife, Rachel, Adam Keller and his wife Beate Siversmidt. Avnery had just entered a taxi, when a dozen rightist thugs attacked him
and tried to drag him out of the car. At the critical moment, the police arrived and made it possible for the car to leave. Gush spokesman Adam Keller said: "These cowards did not dare to attack us when we were many, but they were heroes when they caught Avnery alone."

The incident took place when the more than 10 thousand demonstrators were dispersing, after marching through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest against the attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Not only was this one of the largest peace demonstrations for a long time, but also the first time that all parts of the Israeli peace camp - from Gush Shalom and Hadash to Peace Now and Meretz - did unite for common action.

The main slogan was "The Government Is Drowning All of Us" and "We must Row towards Peace!" - alluding to the attack on the flotilla. The protesters called in unison "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies!"

The demonstrators assembled at Rabin Square and marched to Museum Square, where the protest rally was held.  Originally, this was planned as a demonstration against the occupation on its 43th anniversary, and for peace based on "Two States for Two Peoples" and "Jerusalem - Capital of the Two States", but recent events turned it mainly into a protest against the attack on the flotilla.

One of the new sights was the great number of national flags, which were flown alongside the red flags of Hadash, the green flags of Meretz and the two-flag emblems of Gush Shalom. Many peace activists have decided that the national flag should no longer be left to the rightists.

"The violence of the rightists is a direct result of the brainwashing, which has been going on throughout the last week," Avnery commented. "A huge propaganda machine has incited the public in order to cover up the terrible mistakes made by our political and military leadership,
mistakes which are becoming worse from day to day."

May 24, 2001

Dear Friends,

Ah, the irony of ironies. This morning on my way into my office in Bethlehem from my home just across the way in Beit Safafa, I turned the corner to take my place in the line of cars waiting to pass through the checkpoint, only to encounter two large metal gates that had been closed, shutting off the main entrance to Bethlehem. There was no security guard in the booth, no security guard in sight at all, for that matter, although I am certain they were just out of sight. This is the third day in a row this gate has been closed.

I made a quick u-turn along with the other cars and drove back toward the main intersection where I decided to try a different way in. I took the Israeli by-pass (settlement) road that runs south to the settlements of Efrat and Gush Etzion and drove past the road going to Bethlehem via Beit Jala. (The Israelis have another checkpoint there and have blocked that entrance to Bethlehem for all traffic going heading south since only Palestinians would need to use that road, thus forcing all traffic to continue toward the settlements.) I then turned right at the next intersection, a turn-off to the
settlement of Bitar Ilit, where I then made another u-turn than headed back the way I had come, toward Jerusalem. I stopped to take a photo of the new well-built by-pass road in juxtaposition to the newly “built” Palestinian dirt road and the tunnel they must now take since not only are they not allowed to drive on the Israeli roads, they are not even allowed to cross them! On my return I made a right turn up the hill that was barred by blockades when I had been heading south. So even though my way had been blocked in two places, I still made it to work in Bethlehem, albeit 45 minutes late. It was just one example of how the road system is not a matter of “security”, but rather an effort to make the life of the Palestinian people harder, putting up roadblocks and restrictions at every turn, so that life becomes so difficult they will give up and leave the country.

I got to work and opened my email only to find the article whose link I have listed here, (Ah, irony of ironies)
announcing that the IDF (Israel Defense Force) has lifted restrictions, opened roads and a variety of other seemingly generous concessions to ease the life of the Palestinians. They mention that tourists will now be able to enter Bethlehem through all entry points. That was not what I had just experienced at the checkpoint that was closed for three days in a row. I find it interesting that they don’t mention how difficult it is to get OUT! One evening last week it took me two and a half hours to get home from work. In the “good ole days” I could walk home from my office in Bethlehem in a matter of about 20-25 minutes. I live only about a mile and a half away. Now because of the change in the road system and the tightly controlled terminal/checkpoint on a good day it usually takes me around 45 minutes to one hour by car. And I’m a foreigner. You can imagine how difficult it is for Palestinians!To be sorted 042.jpg

The article says that internationals will now be allowed to use all the routes into Bethlehem and yet the reality is that everyone is still forced to go through the one main checkpoint either because of how the roads have been constructed to facilitate Israeli traffic but not Palestinian, or because the security person at the checkpoint doesn’t like the way you look and can send you back the way you came. Why? Because he can! At 8:00 in the morning tour buses are lined up all the way down the road where they sit for 45 minutes to
one hour waiting to have the bus inspected both inside and out, wait for one of the guards to use the long-handled mirror to look under the bus, check the luggage area, check passports, before finally being allowed to pass over four different sets of concrete bumps or metal spikes on the way out of Bethlehem.

The article also mentions that 50 Israeli (Jewish) tour guides (out of over 2000!) will be given permission to enter with groups into Bethlehem. Currently, all Israeli Jews and some Arab Israelis are forbidden by the Israeli government to enter any area under the Palestinian Authority, including Bethlehem and Jericho. This new policy of allowing Jewish guides into Bethlehem is not some concession founded on humanitarian concerns. Prior to this the Israeli government was hoping that by making the passage in and out of Bethlehem so time-consuming and restrictive that travel agencies would simply give up trying to take tourists to Bethlehem and opt to spend the time at alternate Israeli sites (where the tourists could spend their money.) They did not foresee the determination, devoutness, (or as in my case, obstinacy) of international Christians who refuse to be duped by the words, “It’s too dangerous to go there.” Instead, travel agencies were forced to unload the Jewish tour guide (and in many cases, park the tour bus as well), hire a Palestinian guide (and sometimes even a bus and driver), and run the risk of losing their commission from the big Palestinian tourist shops where visitors may opt to spend their money.  The Israeli tour companies were losing money. As always where money is concerned, people started to complain.

And the Israeli government listened.

This new policy is not a generous concession on the part of the Israeli government. It is a ruse. Those 50 Israeli guides will now take the work away from the Palestinian guides who can not get permits from the Israeli government to leave Bethlehem and guide groups outside the occupied territories and who are therefore reliant on finding work with only the few buses who leave their Jewish guides outside the checkpoint. It will only be a matter of time before the other 1950 Jewish guides demand the same ability to pass.

When I see shiny new razor wire stacked eight feet high running along both sides of a main Israeli Only four-lane highway, I know it was not put there in order to ease the movement restrictions of the Palestinians. It is being put there to reinforce the complete and total separation of the two populations and to facilitate the ease of movement for the Israelis only. And in many cases our U.S. tax money is being used to build these roads which will eventually be accessible by Israelis only.

The only reason checkpoints are being removed is because the movement of the Palestinian people has been so completely restricted and isolated by other means that the checkpoints are no longer needed.

As the talk of a Palestinian state alongside Israel begins to pick up momentum once again, the questions remain: Will it be viable? Will it be contiguous? Will the body be connected to its heart, Jerusalem?

Don’t be duped!