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First South African Church to commit to BDS

In a historic step the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) issued a clear statement in support of the non-violent Palestinian struggle. The church’s national conference approved the resolution on 10 July 2016.

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Rev. Thulani Ndlazi, Synod Secretary of UCCSA, speaking at the conference

The declaration names the danger of Christian Zionism and its literal reading of the Bible which confuses the Old Testament’s Israelites with Jewish Israelis. ‘We hear the Palestinian Christians’ appeal for help,’ they say, and we commit our support to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.

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The statement is the first of its kind by a South African church.

Earlier South African Methodists also urged their circuits to “study the Palestinian Kairos Document that calls for divestment of Israel to end the occupation by Israeli in Palestine” (2013 Yearbook, 3.4:93-95). They also encourage those who undertake “Holy Land Pilgrimages” to have meaningful engagements with the Palestinian community. Yet the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) does not ask people to consider the requests of the Palestinian Kairos Document. UCCSA acknowledges their requests, it affirms the call for creative, non-violent resistance and it commits publically.

What makes it even more historic is the fact that UCCSA was the only South African church who publicly supported the now historic South African Kairos call of 1985.  In it South African theologians asked the world to help end apartheid. The world listened and it helped. In recent years the churches of the world have started to speak up about fundamentalist, Zionist readings of the Bible that support Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

The statement by UCCSA on Palestine is a welcome prophetic step. It reads as follows:

We pledge our support to the Palestinian people as follows at this 8th South African Synod Conference of UCCSA in George, South Africa:
  • We recognize that the Palestinian struggle is not simply a conflict, but an asymmetric struggle between an oppressor and the oppressed. The oppression entails a decades’ long institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territories of Palestine and also against those within Israel and those in the diaspora who are not allowed by Israel to return.
  • We hear the call of our sisters and brothers from Kairos Palestine who asked the world and in particular Christians to take a public stand against injustice in ‘A Moment of Truth – a Word of Faith, Hope and Love.’
  • We do not take an anti-Semitism position. However we are extremely concerned about fundamentalist and progressive Christian Zionism which conflate the Biblical Israel with the modern state of Israel. We call on all Christians to read the Bible responsibly so as to not trample on the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinians.  We ask Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land to meet with and to listen to the Palestinians in Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and other cities in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • We acknowledge with gratitude the support of our Palestinian sisters and brothers in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle.
  • With this resolution we join other churches in the world such as the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the United States of America as well as the United Church of Canada. With them we stand in public solidarity with the Kairos Palestine’s appeal for help and the Palestinian civil society’s call for creative non-violent resistance.
  • We pledge our support to the international Boycott Divestments Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

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The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa is one church in five countries –Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The UCCSA was formed in 1967 but traces its origins back more than 200 years to the arrival of the first missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society to Southern Africa. Today over 500,000 members worship in over one thousand local churches across the five countries.

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Jews from around the world: STOP THE KILLING — END THE OCCUPATION

Members of Jewish communities around the world are horrified by the violence that sweep the streets of Palestine and Israel. And so they call on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. Justice and equality will bring true peace to the people of Palestine and Israel, they say.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

I signed their petition, and so can you by clicking here.

Why is it so important to endorse this kind of statement in public?

In doing so, you side not with a nationality or with a religion at the cost of others, but with the values of justice, equality and a common humanity. It gives us the chance to transcend boundaries and to strengthen the good. Your signature inspires others who still hesitate. It is really a small step for each individual, but the collective value is enormous.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took these photos on 9 August 2014 when Muslims, Christians, Jews and many others marched through the streets of Cape Town to protest against the War on Gaza.

Here is the full statement that asks for our public endorsement:

STOP THE KILLING – END THE OCCUPATION

As members of Jewish communities around the world, we are horrified by the violence that is sweeping the streets of Palestine/Israel, costing the lives of over 30 people, both Palestinians and Israelis in the past two weeks alone.

A two year old girl in Gaza was the youngest of four Palestinian children who were killed in the past two weeks. A 13 year-old Israeli boy is in critical condition after being stabbed nearly a dozen times. Over a thousand people were injured in the same period.

Fear has completely taken over the streets of Jerusalem, the center of this violence. Israelis shooting Palestinian protesters in and around East Jerusalem. Palestinians stabbing and shooting Israeli civilians and policemen in the middle of the streets. Israeli forces killing Palestinian suspects when they are clearly not a threat and without trial. Palestinians throwing stones at passing cars. Israeli mobs beating up Palestinians or calling on police to shoot them. Humiliating strip searches of Palestinians in the streets – all of these have become a daily occurrence in the city in which we are raised to pray for peace, as well as other places in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

While violence is visible on the streets, it is also occupying people’s minds and hearts. Fear is bringing out the worst of people, and the demand for more blood to be shed, as if this will repair the damage done. Fear and racist rhetoric are escalating the situation.

The Israeli government is once again responding in a militarised way: there have been hundreds of arrests; Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound has been limited; parts of the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem have been closed to Palestinians; open-fire regulations have been changed to allow the use of sniper fire against children; a minimum sentence for stone throwing has been introduced, including for over 150 children arrested in East Jerusalem alone in the past few weeks; and now there are talks of enforcing a curfew, or even a closure, of East Jerusalem.

All these constitute collective punishment on the entire population of East Jerusalem with over 300,000 people. In the past, these measures have proven themselves ineffective at ending violence. Decades of dispossession, occupation and discrimination are the main reasons for Palestinian resistance. Further Israeli military repression and ongoing occupation and siege will never end the Palestinian desire for freedom nor will it address the root causes of violence. Indeed, the current actions by the Israeli government and army are likely to create further violence, destruction, and the entrenchment of division. Only justice and equality for all will bring peace and quiet to the residents of Israel and Palestine.

As a group of Jews from around the world we believe that immediate change needs to come from the Israeli government and Israeli people. It is incumbent on all Jews around the world to pressure the Israeli government – and those who follow and support its words and deeds – to change its approach. The military crackdown must cease immediately, Palestinians must be allowed complete freedom of movement. It is also a responsibility of Jewish people worldwide to obligate the countries in which we live to immediately cease the economic and military support of the ongoing Israeli occupation in Palestine and siege of Gaza.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

Sign the petition to send a strong message to Israel to end the occupation of Palestine.

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Palestinian child’s death part of a criminal, terrorist pattern

For Jewish Israeli settlers to kill an 18 month old baby is not an accident or an ad hoc incident. It is part of a criminal pattern. When I used to work in the villages near Nablus settlers routinely attacked villagers’ homes with Molotov cocktails at night.

A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family’s house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

On 30 July 2015 settlers attacked a village near Nablus. They threw Molotov cocktails to the villagers’ houses while they were asleep. Ali Dawabsheh was burned to death and three family members sustained severe burns. The baby’s mother Reham together with a four year old brother, Ahmad, were burned on 90 percent of their bodies. The father Sa’ad Dawabsha suffered 70% burn injuries.

The Jewish author of an article in The Times of Israel (31 July 2015) says that this killing will not be the last, for no-one is stopping these criminals. He describes yet another incident that he personally witnessed:

I tried to go back out and shout at the stone-throwers to stop, but they kept on throwing stones at us too. All this time, the flames were spreading.

Some of the Jewish spectators were advising the stone-throwers where to target the trapped Palestinians. They were not trying to halt the attack.

It took 20 minutes for Israeli security forces to reach the house and extricate us all.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody was ever prosecuted over this incident.

It was a narrow escape from death (to the dismay, I might add, of some people who posted comments on my article at the time indicating regret that it had ended without loss of life). The attack early Friday morning ended very differently.

We are not talking here about a tiny group of wild, deranged extremists. Rather, Jewish terrorists who heed no law, and feel empowered to do as they wish.

They are confident that the Israeli authorities will not lay hands on them. And so far, they’ve been proven right.

And no, this has nothing to do with any political stance. Early Friday morning, a family was targeted for no reason. This is a foul crime, and is regarded as a foul crime by the most of the Jewish settler population. But the silent majority has allowed these despicable people to grow and flourish. And the state has demonstrated untenable tolerance and turned a blind eye, time after time.

And this won’t be the last time that Jewish terrorists seek to murder Palestinians simply for being Palestinians.

Mourners carry the body of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set to fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015.  REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Mourners carry the body of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family’s house was set to fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Indeed, silence screams complicity. The Jewish Israeli society at large needs to speak up against these and other evils.

The Palestinian Embassy in South Africa together with the human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa strongly condemns the extremist attack. They also say it is no isolated incident:

In recent months there has been increasing attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian churches, mosques and other sites of worship. In June of this year the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fish near the Sea of Galilee in Palestine-Israel was attacked by 16 Israeli Settlers. The church is on the site Christians believe Jesus Christ performed the biblical miracle of feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish (click here). Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian sites of worship are now extending to Palestinian civilian homes, at their most vulnerable moments, at night, in their sleep.

[…]

We concur with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation that yesterday’s attacks “is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to [Israeli] settler terrorism”

The Israelis who were responsible for the death of Ali Saad Dawabsha and attack on the family must be brought to justice and face the fullest might of the law. In addition, the Israeli government must be held accountable for the impunity that is provided to Israeli settlers who carry out these gruesome attacks on the Palestinian people.

We must hold both the Israeli settlers and Israeli government accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people through all legal means available including taking Israel to the International Criminal Court and through isolation methods similar to how Apartheid South Africa was held accountable in the 1980s for its attacks on the South African people.

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Not only the people from Nablus and the surrounding villages suffer. Children, women and men – all of them civilians – are routinely injured and killed in the West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem. The United Nations statistics say it all.

Here are some examples of similar terrorist acts that I recorded when I monitored human rights violations in the villages near Nablus in 2011:

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Naja is from the village of Asira near Nablus. The Jewish settlement of Yitzhar is nearby. Her house is routinely attacked by settlers and their Molotov cocktails. Her children cannot play outside and their behaviour show signs of severe stress.

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This girl and her family in Burin suffer from weekly attacks. They too have nothing to defend themselves with other than the stones they pick up in the fields.

 

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These children are from Yanoun where my team and I were based. They need constant, 24/7 protection by internationals from settlers from the nearby settlement Itamar.

It sickens me. What kind of psyche kills a child? Again and again? What kind of government builds more and more homes to house its citizens illegally in Palestine where they create havoc? In the same week Israeli Prime Minister gave the nod for new settler homes – supposedly under pressure of right-wing Jews.

It is a dark moment for humanity. Let us continue to advocate for the dignity of all. Our voice is gaining momentum.

2015 Gaza Flotilla: A Cry for Peace, a Plea for Justice

Why does someone like fellow activist Clint le Bruyns* risk his life by sailing to Gaza? Did Israel not kill nine unarmed activists in a similar attempt?

When reading the news of Israel’s horrific attack on the 2009 Gaza Freedom Flotilla I was sitting at a desk in Berlin where I studied at the time. Then I had no idea that I would become involved in the plight of the Palestinians and that six years later the very person who introduced me to the matter would be on his way to Gaza in another Flotilla.

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Dr Clint le Bruyns – theologian, scholar, Kairos colleague and human rights activist – is one of the more than 50 crew and passengers on his way to be part of yet another attempt to break the siege on Gaza and to provide much needed humanitarian aid. With him are a former Tunisian president, athletes, academics, parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists and a Catholic nun who want to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it:

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According to the official website of Freedom Flotilla III their purpose is not to act against Israel, but against occupation:

Our actions would not be needed, if governments worldwide and international bodies like the EU and the UN would take steps to ensure accountability of Israeli governments for war crimes and collective punishment against the 1.8 million Palestinian population in Gaza Strip. We welcome voices from Israel who publicly state that the State of Israel is not threatened by the action against the blockade.

The international community should stop turning a blind eye on the blockade and occupation and take steps urgently towards the direction of ensuring the opening of the port in Gaza, the only port of Palestine to the rest of the world.

The Israeli-Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas from the Arab Joint List, before boarding a converted fishing trawler the Marianne of Gothenburg, which is leading the convoy, said: “It is my right and moral obligation to tell the world, ‘Behold, look, in Gaza there is a closure and two million people are on the brink of explosion'”:

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Israel’s right-wing is now moving to penalize MK Ghattas for his participation in a legitimate political action of people from all around the world.

The activists are not alone. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of activists from all over the world, sail with them in spirit.

shipThe Marianne of Gothenburg, which is preparing to set sail for Gaza. Photo: Press TV.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is a public cry for peace and a plea for justice. It is a demonstration of all that is good in humanity. It celebrates unity across religious traditions, cultures, gender and race.

A year ago I sat nailed before my TV screen as Israel bombarded Gaza:

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According to the UN Human Rights Council report, there were 6000 airstrikes on the Palestinian Gaza Strip including “targeted attacks on [Palestinian] residential and other buildings.” These Israeli attacks resulted in 142 Palestinians families having “three or more members killed in the same incident”. The report says that “in many of the cases examined…there is little or no information as to how [Palestinian] residential buildings, which are prima facie civilian objects immune from attack, came to be regarded as legitimate military objectives [by Israel].

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Justice Mary McGowan Davisto, chair of the UN investigation commission said that Israel’s killing of thousands of Gaza civilians and their destruction to the lives of many more in the summer of 2014 were ”unprecedented and will impact generations to come.”

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The Israel of today is more right-wing than on 30 May 2009 when the nine activists on the Mavi Marmara were killed, and even more right-wing than in the summer of 2014. The newly elected Netanyahu regime and its allies cling neurotically to an unjust system of discrimination and neglect. They tighten the desperation of their grip by instilling fear amongst Jewish Israeli civilians; by claiming that God gives them the right to dispossess and extinguish Palestinians; and by feeding the greed of power-hungry political and business players as fast as they can.

Meanwhile Israel has the highest poverty rate among countries in the developed world (see the findings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD). In other words the Israeli government, with the financial and political help of the USA, spends billions of dollars on illegal, unjust warfare and occupation instead of building a just, sustainable society. Israel denies its own Arab citizens, the Palestinians in diaspora and those trapped in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem decent lives and basic human rights. Who benefits? The politicians who for ever want more power and the business elites who militarize the world for profit. It is a shame. Then there are of course those who are led by the nose, or who are too self-absorbed or too scared to confront the injustices, and those who believe in a God who favours some lives more than others. This too is a disgrace.

Humanity can do better!  Clint and the other activists on the Freedom Flotilla represent the moral voice of the global civil society. They can do with our support. They have had very good non-violent training, but of course we know what Israel is capable of. Let us take hands with these activists who want the siege of Gaza to end in a just, non-violent manner. We can do it with our energy – wherever we are.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA* Dr. Clint Le Bruyns (second from the left) is Director and Senior Lecturer: Theology and Development Programme at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. Ismail Moola of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (SA) and others are providing logistical support for all activists on board the flotilla. (This photograph was taken at the Cape Town airport when comrades welcomed me home after Israel denied me entry without giving a reason.)

Some interesting findings from the newly released UN Gaza Report

…all rejected together with the rest of the report by Israel and its funder, the Obama Administration:

  • Paragraph 321 shockingly describes how Israel used Palestinians as human shields in the war of 2014.
  • Israeli supporters claimed that one of the reasons for the Israeli attacks was to destroy tunnels that were allegedly being used to conduct “terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians”. The report found that the Palestinian tunnels “were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”
  • According to the UN investigators Israel refused to respond to any requests for information and barred the UN investigators from traveling to the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. Did Israel hide something?
  • In Israel six civilians and more than 60 soldiers died in fighting due to violations on the part of Palestinian resistance groups. Yet the scale and impact of Israeli violence dwarfs anything allegedly done by Palestinians.
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Allenby Bridge: 11 hours of detention before Israel denied me entry

My camera captured the Allenby Bridge* as we crossed it at 11:00 on 1 December 2014. We were excited and on our way to the Kairos Palestine conference in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine.

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All went fine on the Jordanian side. As we crossed the bridge and entered the Israeli controlled border post, I remembered images of a murdered judge at this very same border crossing:

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On 10 March 2014 Raed Zuayter, a distinguished judge and PhD holder, was killed by Israeli soldiers while crossing in a similar bus to the one I was sitting in. Zuayter was a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin. He was unarmed and a-political. His family is part of the Palestinian diaspora—refugees who had fled ethnic cleansing in 1948, war in 1967, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. “How is his family and especially his wife coping?” I wondered. Judge Zuayter had travelled across the border to collect rental money to cover the medical expenses of their sick child. He never returned home and the child passed away in the same week. (Click here for more information.)

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In reading the rest of this post you may find the style to be mechanistic, staccato and distanced. I am sorry about it, but right now, I struggle to phrase the unfolding events differently.

At the Israeli border post we had to put our luggage onto a conveyor belt that led into the building. Those of us from Africa had to remain outside to undergo Ebola virus screenings. After waiting for approximately half an hour an official told us to stand on the central ridge of the road. It felt odd: a number of people standing in the sun for a number of minutes before being summoned back. We returned to our seats and were called one by one. A doctor took our temperatures. Those who were declared healthy could enter the building.

At the counter on the inside I was asked where I was heading to, why I wanted to go there, and so forth. Behind the glass screen the lady pointed to something on her computer screen whereupon her colleague said I should be screened. This is what I did not want.

After waiting for about an hour I was taken to a room. They locked the door and asked me to unpack my handbag and my small backpack with my tablet and a few personal items. My body was searched by a female soldier. I was told to take my purse, to hand over my phone and to leave everything else in the room. A man guided me to another room.

The fairly polite man made lotso of notes on a computer while a young woman with an incredibly smooth, beautiful cappacino-coloured skin questioned me. She kept her hands in the pockets of her jacket as if she was cold. It was winter, but I could not feel any cold. “Why are they not googling me?” I thought. Before leaving South Africa I closed my social media accounts, but I could of course not shut down the internet. They asked lots of things including why I returned to Israel for a third time, what I did on my previous visits, who I know there, and what were in my luggage. There were many questions, but I think I’m blocking some of them out of my memory.

The man called another young woman. She ignored me and they spoke in Hebrew. She left. The questions continued. They wanted to know what I do for a living. I told them I am a researcher and I spoke about the piece on policy making processes in South Africa that I finished days before my departure. They did not know that South Africans still struggle to build a better life for all. The questions continued. I felt calm knowing very well that they were constructing a profile of me on their system.

The second woman re-entered. Her tone was markedly different. She was visibly angry and irritated. It is perhaps correct to say that she was hateful. She fired groups of questions at me. When was the last time I saw so-and-so? Why do I have only stamps of Ethiopia and Namibia in my passport besides those of Israel? Where was my old passport? Why didn’t I have it with me? Whenever I answered, she interrupted me or sneered at what I had said. It was clear that she had done an internet search whilst the other two had recorded my personal details. Still, she wasn’t sure exactly where I fit in. She knew about NC4P (South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine) and the Cape Town March for Gaza. They were also very aware of BDS (the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign), but said nothing about our local boycott of Woolworths.

She wanted to know exactly what roles I play. I told her that besides being a member of Kairos Southern Africa and a researcher at Stellenbosch University, I hold no other positions. She was doing her best  to intimidate and unnerve me. I remained calm and polite. She was so very desperate to find an enemy in me and I refused to be it. All of this went on for about four or five hours. I don’t remember how it ended or at which point they gave up on me. However I do remember asking if having my profile on their system meant that I cannot enter Israel now or in future. The man said it is not up to them to say, they are just doing their job. He offered me something to drink and I asked for tea.

With my phone, but without my passport they took me to a narrow corridor with a row of chairs. After a while someone brought me about 100ml of weak tea in a white plastic cup. At last it was just me and a Palestinian woman with two young people – perhaps her children – sitting on the chairs. When the woman asked me if I was cold I realised that my legs were shivering uncontrollably. Even with effort I could not still them. I was still not feeling any cold.

The woman was summoned inside. While a man shouted loudly at her, her daughter stood listening on our side of the locked door. The woman came out, went back in, came out, went back in, waited once more and after a while the three of them were taken away. They received no tea. I don’t know where they were taken to.

All the while soldiers entered the doors to the left and to the right of the corridor. They slammed the doors loudly. We seemed to have been reduced to invisible particles of dust.

More time passed.

I sent a text message to the South African Ambassador in Jordan to say that I may need his help in fetching me and/or my colleagues later that night. At that stage my biggest worry was about them. Where were they? What happened to them? We agreed to not text one another in case one or more of us were interrogated.

At around 22:00 yet another woman instructed me to fetch my handbag and backpack, to follow her out of the corridor and to sit in the hall. The image on the wall was to say the very least, totally out of place and deceiving – there was nothing normal, free or colourful about the situation:

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I went through my hand luggage. My tablet was switched on and my book mark was missing.

I now started to remember my two pieces of luggage that entered the building on the conveyor belt when the sun was still shining. From where I sat I could see that they were not on the moving belt. By now I was indeed shivering from cold. I asked an official how and when I could try to find my bags and she opened a side gate and accompanied me to the other side of the hall. Finding both pieces and being able to put it on a trolley that I could push gave me a sudden sense of belonging. I had stuff. I had a life, a history, a place, a face.

During the course of the eleven hours they detained me, I passed through the hands of fourteen or more people. All seemed to just do their job without anyone accepting responsibility for the person or the situation. A Palestinian friend who is well acquinted with this situation described it in an email to me as “a sea of uncertainty, temporality, emergency and hopelessness.”

I texted my colleague Rev Edwin Arrison in South Africa. He told me that my two colleagues went through after seven hours of interrogation. Two more sets of people came to ask questions. I was relieved to hear that my visa was about to be issued. I waited.

Then a young man summoned me abruptly to follow him. As I stood up to follow the man who was already metres away, I realised that he was walking in the wrong direction. With a voice like the bark of a dog and without eye contact he said I was not allowed to enter Israel, but must wait outside the building. And there I was, one middle-aged woman dressed in pink with no sharp objects or explosives in her luggage (they searched my other bags too) under the guard of five armed soldiers, waiting in the cold of the winter’s night for the bus to return to the Jordan border post.

It all happened in such an abrupt, disjointed way. Perhaps similar to the way I tell the story. But actually it was a carefully orchestrated process, designed to humiliate, to provoke, to intimidate and to punish. Why not refuse me from the start and let me go? They seemed so desperate to find an enemy in me. Yet I refuse to allow the behaviour of others to dictate my own.

I am convinced that not all Jewish Israelis are bad people even though so many of them do bad things to other people. I do not hate them. I see their desperation to cling to an outdated narrative of a small, threatened people in a sea of hate. What they don’t realise is that they are held captive by their own choice!

It was cold outside the building. I asked to use the bathroom. A porter with an Arabic accent, a man who is no longer young (perhaps an Arab Palestinian Israeli?) rushed to my side from nowhere. He insisted on taking my trolley as a gesture of help and directed me to an opening in the wall of the building that was next to the hole of the conveyor belt. Like a real gentleman he parted plastic panels so that I could walk through it. He helped me pass the security gate and he watched over my things while I went to the restroom. When I returned, he helped me out again in a similar manner. He made me feel as if I was the most honoured person to have ever visited that border post.

When the bus eventually departed, I was the only passenger in it. Dr Molefe Tsele, South African Ambassador to Jordan, and one of his colleagues, met me around 01:00 on the Jordan side. He brought me a flask of hot tea and some biscuits.

By that time my passport carried two red stamps, but it was back in my handbag. I am still South African. I am free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmbassador Dr. Tsele Molefe and his wife graciously and generously hosted me for two days in Amman. I am infinitely grateful to them for their wisdom, their warmth and their practical help.

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If you have read up to here, you probably realise that this post is a raw account. When I’m ready I shall try to reflect on the experience more coherently and perhaps also share some details of my simply wonderful encounter with family members of the murdered Judge Zuayter on my second day in Amman.

Finally – here is a short video recording made at Cape Town International Airport on my arrival – click here to listen to it.

* Allenby Bridge is called King Husain Bridge by the Jordanians.

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Woolworths taking its clients to court: As a WW shareholder, here’s my perspective on #BoycottWoolworths

“And you do all this for a few pretzels and pomegranates?” the journalist from The Times asked me. I do it for all those whose houses are demolished, I do it for the workmen who need to queue since 2:00 at a checkpoint, I do it for Gaza, I do it for the children who are harrassed on their way to school, I do it for the farmers whose olive trees are destroyed or whose land is confiscated, I do it because I believe in human dignity for all. I do it for justice and freedom.

The journalist wanted to know why, as a shareholder in Woolworths, I am so concerned about the national boycott of Woolworths. Click here for a link to the audio interview with The Times.

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I am indeed very concerned – as a consumer, as a concerned citizen and as a shareholder. Corporate identity, or a brand, is not about window dressing or  fancy advertising. It is about embodying the values of a company on every single level. These values should inspire staff relations and also those with clients, shareholders and all other stakeholders. The values must be visible in every detail – in products, in the service, in the advertising…..down to the state of the restrooms. Yet Woolworths chooses to take its clients (of which some are shareholders) to court!

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My statement was one of a number by concerned shareholders that was read out at a media conference in Johannesburg on 18 November 2014. I also submit it through my stockbroker to Woolworths. Thus far I have had no reply from Woolworths:

Shareholder statement by Marthie Momberg for the Woolworths Annual General Meeting on 26.11.14:

As an investor in Woolworths I am compelled to reveal my concern about the image and the ethics of the company in which I invested a considerable amount of my savings.

The Woolworths brand is increasingly questioned. Woolworths imports products such as pretzels, couscous, matzos, coriander and fruit from Israel. The real issue is not the number of Israeli products on the shelves of Woolworths, but rather the existence of contracts between Woolworths and Israeli businesses. Israel is well known for its continued, systemic violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (Gaza, the West Bank and East-Jerusalem). Peaceful, economic resistance against Israel and her partners is by no means a protest against Jews, but against a systemic regime of oppression. The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) is part of an international strategy similar to the one which helped to end South African apartheid. Major businesses and churches, across the globe have already implemented BDS. They did so not because they are politically driven, but for ethical reasons.

Woolworths say they are an ethical company. Woolworths’ products are of outstanding quality and are loved by South Africans. It is the result of dedication, courage and a commitment to quality. And yet, with regard to their relation with Israel Woolworths argues that they adhere to the law and need not do anything more. Ethical behaviour demands moral leadership. Laws are prerequisites that apply to everyone. It codifies practices, ideals, norms and moral values as the minimum that is required in a society, whilst ethics starts where the law ends. What would the quality of Woolworths’ products be if their business strategy simply adheres to the law and ignores going the extra mile? As shareholder I expect a consistent, reliable integrity from Woolworths. It implies responsible ethics in line with the growing international appeal for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. South African Karstens Farms has already demonstrated ethical leadership by cutting its ties with Israeli exporter Hadiklaim. Woolworths can be the first South African retail company to take this step.

As a person who values the human dignity of all I, together with South Africans from all walks of life, support ‘the non-violent boycott against Woolworths. With our history of apartheid South Africans have a special role to play in saying no to Israel’s decades long institusionalised violations of the Palestinians. It is now our turn to express our moral support with the oppressed. As shareholder I expect Woolworths to practice what they preach and to restore trust in the business. The integrity – and the viability – of a brand has to do with values that are embodied.

As shareholders we are concerned about Woolworths’ decision to take BDS South Africa to court whilst declining a face-to-face meeting with BDS South Africa and other human rights groups.

Corporates are arguably one of society’s most potent change agents for a sustainable world and a safer, cleaner, healthier and thriving society. Woolworths is a signatory to the U.N Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative. The UNGC is underpinned by principles derived from international instruments including the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UNGC asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption. On human rights it says: “Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.” Woolworths has developed enormous goodwill for the company with the company’s brand and reputation being wisely crafted on good citizenship and squeaky clean values. It is for precisely these reasons that Woolworths should pay attention to BDS. Why doesn’t it?

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Alan Horwitz, a Jewish human rights activist representing a group of Jewish Woolworths shareholders said:

I represent a group of Jewish shareholders in Woolworths and I think I must explain why as Jewish South Africans we have taken a stand to support the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. Israel, as we are well aware wrongly claims to act and speak on behalf of Jewish people all over the globe and Israeli actions over the last decade have featured violations not just of international law but also of Jewish ethical structures. We say this because Jews can only flourish, like any other people, in open societies that respect human rights at an individual and at a national level.

We find though, that Israel has systematically violated the rights of not just of Palestinians but of other minorities within the borders of Israel. We have seen over the last few months an escalation of quite fascistic behavior by the Israeli government and the right wing, which forms part of that government. The Israeli provocations in Jerusalem are leading to intense conflict and of course the illegal expansion by Israel of the Jewish settlements around Jerusalem are making the possibility of a negotiated and just settlement with Palestinians almost impossible. We have to say that boycott as a nonviolent response to state oppression is a completely valid and ethical response, and that is why we support this action and the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. Woolworths and other big South African corporations in the retail sector are public companies that have a responsibility in terms of our anti apartheid stance. Many Jewish activists were prominent in the anti apartheid struggle, we must continue to show the world that as Jews we will not tolerate Israel acting in our name in a a fashion which is fascist. We wholeheartedly support this boycott campaign. The Israel-Palestine conflict is something which degenerates daily, quite literally and really is time that we as South Africans take a very firm stand. Finally in conclusion, we find that Woolworths claims to be a very ethical company, that it claims to be at the forefront of good corporate practice and that is why perhaps it makes sense for Woolworths to be the front runner in this action of terminating relations with Israel.” For comment from Mr Horwitz contact 0825128188

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The #BoycottWoolworths campaign receives wide spread attention and support from various South African Government Ministers, artists, well known personalities and anti-apartheid stalwarts. To date, the management of Woolworths has refused to meet so that this issue can be resolved.

Last year Woolworths was ranked first in the RepTrak Reputation Index survey of South African companies in 2014. It was also rated in the top three of the Sunday Times Top 100 companies for 2013 and was included in the JSE Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) index for 2013/14.

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The pig’s head debacle: A disgrace to Palestinians, to Jews, to South Africans and to all others

Placing pigs’ heads on top of the meat others want to buy serves neither the Palestinian cause nor the boycott campaign against Woolworths. It disrespects all Jews, all Muslims, all animals, and all who advocate for freedom and dignity.

pig's head

Tactics of intimidation and disrespect belongs to an ideology of oppression. It is disguised violence. To argue that the end goal justifies the means is part of an outdated, dualistic, hierarchical framework which ignores relationships. Isn’t this the very thing that we try to move away from? Does it not go against everything the broader South African solidarity movement stand for? Can such tactics ever win people over to hear the cries of the Palestinians?

mondoweiss, artist unknown

Calling the incident “completely offensive”, Sumayya Omar, of BDS South Africa, said the group “condemned” the action. “We are completely distancing ourselves from the incident. BDS is not involved or implicated at all,” she said. Likewise, South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine made it clear that the incident is unacceptable.

The following letter in the Cape Town newspaper, Argus (6 November 2014), written by a Jewish colleague in the local Palestine solidarity movement, is crisp and clear:

Dear Editor of Argus,

The action at Woolworths last Thursday as well as today’s press release by COSAS that it has placed a further three pig’s heads in Woolworths stores and is so planning to place ten more, is unacceptable both for reasons of principle and strategy.

In principle it is conflating ‘ the Jewish religion’ with ‘the political state of Israel’. This is through linking a pig’s head to Jewish religious dietary laws that regard pork as impure and there are injunctions not to eat it. Their intention is anti-Jewish, and not simply anti-Israel. The action also demeans sentient life other than human, in this case about 14 pigs have been killed and beheaded to make a political point.

The action has brought pork into a store which also caters for Muslim consumers, whose dietary laws also forbid them to consume pork; this is an affront to them, and they are the main target of consumers whom this campaign is appealing to boycott Woolworths. Today’s press release confirms that it is COSAS’ explicit intention to deeply affront Jewish, Muslim and other consumers in order to shock them into realising the IDF’s carnage in Gaza (they refer specifically to the killing of schoolchildren through targeting artillery, tank and air bombardment on schools etc.), rather than engaging consumers with information about the attack on Gaza as well as the broader issue of Israel’s historical and ongoing violation of Palestinians’ human rights (including the right to self-determination) in order to raise their awareness and convince them to boycott Woolworths over the longer term. I think that the placing of the Pigs’ heads is already causing a backlash from the targeted consumers themselves.

This is a tactic of intimidating consumers into boycotting, for which there was a history in the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s where COSAS and other youth formations sometimes enforced consumer boycotts by punishing consumers who dared to break them – youths guarded the entrances to townships and searched people’s bags and containers as they came home, forcing those who had bought at forbidden shops to consume all that then and there; often this entailed forcing them to drink raw cooking oil, etc. They were able to do this because they had made the townships ungovernable. This is not the situation today where the ideas that legitimise or delegitimise opposing actions, is the terrain where this struggle is largely being fought outside of Israel/Palestine. In any event this is not a democratic but an authoritarian politics and I reject it both for its taunting of Jews and Muslims as well as for its undermining the growth of a movement that has legitimacy and mass support across the religious, ethnic/race and class spectrum.

COSAS thinks that the end justifies the means, but equally there is a greater risk that these means will start corrupting a noble end.

Yours truly,

Dr Paul Hendler
Stellenbosch

I am a Jewish South African against the demonisation of the Palestinian People and for a rational discussion of their circumstances.

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The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) has since expressed their disgust and distanced themselves from the incident. They said that only one person, Siphakamise Ngxowa, was involved and that he is suspended from the organisation. Ngxowa’s actions lacked the backing of COSAS even though he pretended otherwise.

COSAS STATEMENT ON WOOLWORTHS PIG HEAD INCIDENT
Official Statement of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) on the Lamentable Woolworths “Pig Head” Incident:

The Congress of South African Students would first like to continue pledging its solidarity with the people of Palestine. COSAS has nationally supported the advocating for freeing people of Palestine from apartheid Israel, we have done that through releasing press statements, doing interviews, attending the campaigns, marches and
addressing various events on the particular matter.

The Congress of South African Students has committed itself in forming part of this struggle without any hesitation because it is a just course. Democracy, peace and stability are deserved by any living human being; this is why we continue to pledge our consistent solidarity with the people of Palestine.

With the above being said as an organization we must go on to mention that it comes as a disappointment to us that establishments such as Woolworths continue to import goods from Israel, whilst there is no peace in that country and people of Palestine including children are brutally killed and murdered every day.

As an organization we indeed believe that Woolworths should continue to be lobbied until they join the rest of the country in being in solidarity with the people of Palestine. As an organization we do understand the importance of boycotts and sanctions as they also assisted our very own country when it fought against apartheid governance.
We are however of the view that when we do not agree with certain methods being used to push the struggle of the Palestinians forward, we are not going to be censored to raise it in fear of being labelled sellouts. When as an organization we resolved on participating in this campaign we never requested advice from anyone therefore even
now we will not seek approval of anyone to continue to participate in it and we again will not be threatened not to critique where we see fit to do so. South Africa remains a country in itself, which has its own beliefs and values it also has a constitution which guides it.

The Congress of South African Students is again also an organization which has its own constitution which guides it will never compromise on. As we continue to push forward this struggle we can never lose identity of who we are and what our primary principles are.

The Congress of South African Students joins the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) SA and the African National Congress in condemning the placing of the pig heads in the meat section of Woolworths stores around the Western Cape Province as a method to lobby Woolworths to stop trading with Israel. This particular method is
surrounded by a number of controversies when it comes to religion.

As the Congress of South African Students we view this method as seeking to provoke certain religions in order to push the campaign forward which we believe weakens and further mobilizes against the boycott as some religions may find this offensive and further provocative. We find this method ill-advised and not well thought as it has now
brought a certain level of instability in our own country religiously, which is not something that we should allow to happen. We cannot compromise peace and religious rights of our own people in order to push forward this struggle.

As an organization we would like to place it on record that it was not COSAS which led this campaign. There is no structure of the organization which set and resolved on this Pig Head campaign, we do however acknowledge that an individual by the name of Siphakamise Ngxowa was part of that action.

Siphakamise Ngxowa is currently suspended from the organization, in a suspension which was in effect before the Woolworths incident happened, which gives the organization all rights to distance itself from the mishap and clear itself from participating in it, as Siphakamise Ngxowa participated on the campaign in his own personal capacity.

It is further important we point out that no other member of COSAS in good standing was found in this debacle. The organization has noted that the particular individual continues to release statements and address the media on behalf of the organization posing as the chairperson of COSAS Western Cape, despite being suspended from the organization. We view this act as unprincipled, misleading and further bringing the organization in disrepute, the act by the individual will further be engaged and added when the appropriate structures of the organization considers his suspension further.

Statement issued by COSAS President General Collen Malatji, November 4 2014

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“I have one child – the one you shot today.”

On 10 March 2014, Raed Zuayter, a distinguished judge and PhD holder, was killed by Israeli soldiers while crossing the border between Jordan and the West Bank of Palestine. Raed was a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin. His family is part of the Palestinian diaspora—refugees who had fled ethnic cleansing in 1948, war in 1967, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

  Mondoweiss

A friend of mine, Carrie Schwartz, stays in Jordan and the Zuayter family asked her to record their story, “to express the truth in English”:

Entering the living room of Raed Zuayter, I meet his widow, child, father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, aunts, and uncles. Raed’s two-year-old daughter playfully skips between relatives. “She is too young to understand what happened,” her grandfather explains. As we drink Arabic coffee together, I feel a deep sadness and responsibility to tell their story accurately. I start the interview by asking Raed’s father about his son’s life:

“He was born in 1976. He went to the best schools in Amman. After finishing high school, he went to the University of Jordan to study a bachelor’s in law. Then he asked me, ‘What do you think, Dad? Should we go for a master’s?’ I said, ‘We don’t mind.’ He finished his master’s and asked me, ‘What do you think, shall we go for PhD?’ And I answered him, ‘Yes, go for a PhD.’ When he finished his PhD, he went to the judicial institute to become a judge. In the judiciary, he was appointed as a judge for reconciliation. He got a raise on the first of March. He was promoted. And then he passed away.”

The story of Raed’s death began with another tragedy: Raed’s four-year-old son was hospitalized. A lack of oxygen caused him to go into a coma. Raed decided to travel to the town of Nablus in Palestine, to collect rent from tenants to cover the cost of his son’s treatment.

Raed traveled across the Jordan-Palestine border controlled by Israel. The process begins with security checks and immigration control on the Jordanian side. Then travelers are bused into a deserted “no man’s land” for additional security checks, before proceeding to the Israeli terminal.

At this point, an Israeli soldier pushed Raed toward the bus. A verbal argument ensued. Raed’s father recounted the story told to him by eyewitnesses: “Raed told the soldier, ‘Why are you pushing me, because I’m going up in the bus? Why did you push me?’ and he was waving his hands.” Two additional soldiers approached and pushed Raed toward the street until he fell to his knees. The soldiers then aimed their weapons and fired five shots into his body, from a distance of three to four meters, killing him.

Raed’s father recounted his interaction with the Israeli intelligence during the preliminary investigation:

“They asked me, ‘How many kids do you have?’ I said, ‘I have one child—the one you shot today. Why did you kill him? Did you see any weapons with him?’ They said no. ‘So you did not see any weapons with him—why did you kill him? … you knew that he was unarmed, and you wanted to take him in, then just take him, hold his hands, put him on the ground, but shoot him, five times? Why?”

Raed was an innocent person, killed when his family needed him the most. On the day this piece was written, his son who had been in a coma passed away. Raed’s family is asking for justice: “The soldiers who shot him should be put on trial, and we need a just compensation for everything that happened to the family.”

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Carrie Schwartz is an editor currently based in Amman, Jordan. She holds an MPhil in Justice and Transformation from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Sources/further information:

Interview with the family of Raed Zuayter, 21 March 2014, Amman, Jordan
Al-Haq Announces Investigation Results in Martyrdom of Judge Zuaiter (Arabic)
http://www.maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=682613
Palestinian advocacy group says Israeli soldiers ‘intended’ to kill Jordanian judge http://jordantimes.com/palestinian-advocacy-group-says-israeli-soldiers-intended-to-kill-jordanian-judge

refugees near tulkarem, summer 1948
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Al-Nakba: Three Times Over

What struck me most that morning in Jerusalem was her serenity. Listening to the 77 year old Christian woman somehow felt like spring water in a desert – this despite her traumatic experience of three interwoven Nakbas.

She talked about the human catastrophe of being displaced by Israel, the identity catastrophe of no longer knowing where you fit in or may live; and a theological catastrophe since your own religion (Christianity) is used to justify your oppression.

Al-Nakba is Arabic for “The Catastrophe” referring to the widespread death, destruction, dispossession and displacement of Palestinians during the creation of the State of Israel. Today Nakba day is annually commemorated on 15 May.

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I was listening to her at Sabeel, an Ecumenical Centre for Liberation Theology in Occupied Palestine.

The woman was only eleven years old on Sunday 30 November 1947 when the Irgun, a clandestine Zionist armed group, first shelled the Arab sections of Haifa, her city.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaifa today – an Israeli city.

  1. A human Nakba

Haifa was not the only place under attack. In March 1948 David Ben Gurion announced a program for destroying and depopulating Arab areas and eliminating any resistance. By then already 30 Arab villages had been depopulated.

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By April 1948 Haifa’s indigenous Arab residents fled to the harbour with what little they could carry. Many drowned as their overloaded boats capsized.  Since the woman’s family are Christians they fled to Nazareth.

refugees near tulkarem, summer 1948

Clandestine Zionist forces dispossessed 531 Arab towns or villages and 11 Arab urban areas with almost complete looting of Palestinian property and wealth, including the banks, property, businesses, fields and orchards. 

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A comment by the then head of the International Red Cross delegation in Palestine on the massacre of Deir Yassin is particularly chilling.  On 10 April 1948 he drove into the village outside Jerusalem and came across a detachment of Zionist Irgun members.  They came from Deir Yassin which was wiped out the previous night:

All of them were young, some even adolescents, men and women armed to the teeth: revolvers, machine-guns, hand-grenades, and also cutlasses in their hands, most of them still blood-stained.  A beautiful girl with criminal eyes showed me hers still dripping with blood; she displayed it like a trophy.  (Dimbleby1979:79).

Israel’s Irgun museum refers to the Deir Yassin massacre as an “operation” that was “a key point in the War of Independence”.

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The display in the entrance proudly displays the following words in its entrance:

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Other Zionist troops – Haganah and Palmach – carried out dozens of operations. They blew up as many houses and killed old people, women and children where there was resistance.

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As the Arabs moved out, the Zionists moved in…several hundred thousand Palestinians were on the move, criss-crossing Palestine or fleeing towards neighbouring countries, dodging the Zionist army, sleeping in olive groves and in mountain huts, or swamping villages not yet under attack.  (Dimbleby:89).

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Israel declared itself a state on 14 May 1948. Nazareth and many other places was under military control. The world stood by. No-one came to their rescue:

 We are a burden on Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, we are a burden…

She repeated her words, and briefly turned her head away. I cringed.

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2.     An identity Nakba

Israel became a state, but Palestinians were not welcome there:

We woke up in Israel.  Who are we? We were not allowed to say that we are Palestinian.

Suddenly 750 000 Palestinians were refugees. Many of them still have the keys to their houses, but Israel does not allow them to return to their properties (homes, agricultural land, etc.) as allowed for in Resolutions 194 (1948) and 237 (1967) of the United Nations. Displaced Palestinians do not have access to civilian courts that could provide effective remedies and reparations.

Today more than 50 laws enshrine the status of Palestinians in Israel as second-class citizens based on their ethnic and religious identity. Palestinians within occupied Palestine face daily violations of human rights, economic rights and political rights.

post-traumatic stress in gaza

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We recognise Israel as an Israeli state, but it is a state only for its Jewish citizens.

3. A theological Nakba

She grew up as a Christian and attended missionary schools.

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After they fled they realised that in the land of the Bible and just as in the days of Joshua, they experienced ethnic cleansing:

We couldn’t pray anymore.  When we most needed hope, to pray and to read our scriptures, we could not.  People stopped going to church.

The Biblical Israel used to be our spiritual ancestor, now it was our oppressor. We did not know what to think.  The churches gave us a lot to address our physical needs.  To them we were a bunch of refugees who needed aid, wherease we were actually a people with spiritual needs and an identity crisis.

She concluded on an inspirational note:

But the Bible has good news and we as Palestinians are trying to find it. This is why we started with a liberation theology. Jesus lived as a Palestinian under the Roman oppression. As Palestinian Christians we believe in standing up for our rights – but non-violently. We want to rise up over the ways of the world without abandoning the poor and the oppressed or losing sight of the humanity of the oppressor.

It is this compassion with Israel as the oppressor that inspires me so much. For despite everything they go through in an ongoing Nakba of occupation, destruction and dehumanisation as, for example, Gaza in 2014 and in ongoing, daily human rights violations in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, the majority of Muslim and Christian Palestinians still acknowledge the humanity of  Jewish Israelis.

Our task is to take the lead from these Palestinians in a mutual quest to overcome hatred and division between people. It is as applicable to other contexts as it is to the Palestinians and Israel.

Earlier in May 2015 a group of mainly South African Jews publicly acknowledged how Palestinians have been displaced and dispossessed. Their message was that there are Jewish people who support their struggle. Heidi Grunebaum, one of the organizers of the ceremony in Lubya told The Electronic Intifada:

Given what South Africa’s history has been, there’s something abominable and unthinkable in Israel proclaiming a South Africa Forest not only on stolen land, but on land where there used to be a village. It’s almost another level of erasure.

Lubya used is one of the 530 Arab Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed during the Nakba. Today it is planted over with a forest with money South African Jews donated.  Many donors to the South Africa Forest in present-day Israel probably do not realize that they are helping to cover up the results of ethnic cleansing. The Jewish National Fund website promoting the Lower Galilee project as environmentally sound and offering a certificate to anyone who finances the plantation of at least two trees does not mention these critical details.

 

For more on the Nakba, see http://www.palestineremembered.com/

For more on Lubya, including a film on it, see https://marthiemombergblog.com/2013/06/07/new-film-peels-layers-of-truth/

Reference: Dimbleby. 1979. The Palestinians. London: Quartet Books.

Photos on Nakba from ICRC and UNRWA archive.

 

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Jerusalem: It is done now

It happened. The people left. The dust settled. But you can still watch the children shouting, the adults trying to calm them down, the soldiers laughing, the grotesque Hyundai bulldozers hovering over the damaged furniture in the dusty rubble.

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You can also turn away – there are after all so much terror and injustices in this world. But there it remains – the flattened Palestinian house in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem.  The boy who doesn’t understand. The unsettled dust.

media_29ebc6919dd74f69ad4b1c1ff51d929e_t607(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

It happened on 5 February 2013 and it is one of thousands of similar stories.  Children returning home after school to see this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_U83yMFVFM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxCX9j230x8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-FySzDyOTI

nushi20130205223614270Photo: press tv

It is not the end.  More demolitions will follow on Palestinian land – in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.  They will be executed by the hand of Israel who occupies Palestine illegally.

My EAPPI colleague Jan McIntyre (Group 41 Sept – Dec 2011) returned to Palestine for a second term.  This time she monitors human rights violations in Jerusalem.  She wrote as follows:

Hi Marthie,

…You know how your heart is broken open in this work?  This was one of those times.  I felt physically ill at the sight of all this and my voice broke as I told the young girl how sorry I was that this had happened.  But this isn’t about me….it’s about the ongoing suffering under Israel’s occupation….

I was there yesterday to check on the family.  The scene was beyond horrible. All that is left is a massive pile of rubble.  Iman, the oldest daughter of the Castero family, a very articulate 18 year old first year law student with excellent English, came up to speak with me.  She said that the house had been a 10 year old two storey stone house (typical Arab style), built without a building permit. (Building permits are virtually unobtainable for Palestinians in Jerusalem and so people build without). A demolition permit had been issued only days ago and they had been unable to stop it. The Israeli authorities allowed less than five minutes for the family to get their belongings out of the house, and did not allow neighbours to help.  As a result, they were only able to get a very few things out of the house. The majority of their household goods are buried under the rubble.

This house was home to Iman’s grandparents, their three sons and their families.  In total, this demolition has left 37 people homeless!  They have no access to water, no food, no clothes other than what they were wearing, and no bathroom facilities.  The ICRC (Red Cross) have supplied them with two tents and other agencies have contributed a small amount of food.  Neighbours are helping out as much as they can.

Apart from the obvious physical needs of the family, they also are suffering from considerable psychological trauma.  As well, the grandmother was taken to hospital during the demolition.

I simply ask that you include this Castero family in the prayers of the people of your congregation on Sunday.

Peace,

Jan

It is all done now. The incomprehensible destruction. The shattered lives of ordinary civilians.  Israel’s repeated breaching of international law continues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_U83yMFVFM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxCX9j230x8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-FySzDyOTI

In 2011 almost 1,100 Palestinians, over half children, were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli forces in violation to international law. This is over 80% more than in 2010. What is the world doing about it? Why do we think it does not matter if we pretend to not see it?

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An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man from the anti Zionist Neturei Karta (Guards of the Walls) in solidarity with praying Palestinians against the Jerusalem municipality’s house demolition policy.  (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Never Again – unconditionally

As Jews, with our own painful history of oppression, we are compelled to speak out against human rights violations committed by the State of Israel – in our name – against the Palestinian people.

These are the first words of a group of South African Jews in their public statement in the Mail & Guardian of 14 December 2012. They recognise not only their own wounds and humanity…

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…but also those of others:

The temptation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine… yet we would be less than human if we did so”

 – Nelson R. Mandela

2009 (2) Berlyn 022A Holocaust memorial site in Berlin, Germany.

Their statement continued as follows:

We note that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) together with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) recently met with the South African Presidency and other politicians. We also note, with great concern, that the SAJBD and SAZF’s assertion that they represent and speak on behalf of all Jewish South Africans, particularly when it comes to Palestine-Israel.

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Let us be clear, the SAJBD and SAZF’s position of supporting Israel at all costs does not represent us. We also appeal to the SAJBD and SAZF to respect one of the hallmarks of Judaism: respectful debate amongst those who hold divergent viewpoints. The SAJBD and SAZF’s position on Israel, and attempts to stifle opposing voices that speak out against Israel, is morally untenable.

The Jewish community is neither homogeneous nor monolithic.  There is a growing number of Jews, in South Africa and around the world, who are organising to form alternative spaces and who unconditionally oppose Israeli policies and practices that shamefully privilege Jews over the indigenous Palestinian people.  In this vein, we support the non-violent campaign of applying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law and respects basic human rights [see www.bdsmovement.net].

We are encouraged that our South African government is joining those countries that are taking a clear stance against Israel’s violations of international law and its acts of violence against the Palestinian people [see this City Press newspaper article]. We also welcome and support our Department of Trade and Industry’s initiative to prevent the false labelling of Israeli settlement products. We hope that the ANC and the SA Government goes further and completely bans Israeli settlement products. Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and seriously undermine any chance of negotiations and a just peace.

Such positions as those recently taken by our government against Israeli violence and violations of international law, in fact, serve to affirm a proud Jewish tradition of respect for justice and human rights; regardless of race, religion or creed. Such positions connect us to our fellow humanity.

We humbly – and sadly – acknowledge that our voices may not be the dominant ones in our community, but neither were Dietrich Bonnhoefer’s in Nazi Germany nor Beyers Naude’s, Antjie Krog’s, Braam Fischer’s and Joe Slovo’s in Apartheid South Africa.

Our individual consciences, our Jewish tradition and our painful history compel us to declare to the SAJBD, SAZF and to the Israeli government that we will continue to speak out and take a stand for justice and human rights.  Taking such a stand is in the very interests of being Jewish. For when we proclaim “Never Again”, we should mean “Never Again”, unconditionally, and to any human being – including the Palestinians.

Issued by Alan Horwitz for StopTheJNF, a campaign initiated by a group of Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis.

2009 (2) Berlyn 011

I took this photo in the Jewish Museum, Berlin.  The windows reflect the harrowing, unsettling reality of Jews during World War II.

Never Again – but unconditionally.

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What Israel wants

PEACE, OR PIECE BY PIECE?

My team and I report on human rights abuses for three months. We live in the ancient village of Yanoun, but also work in surrounding villages and in the Jordan Valley, all in the West Bank in the occupied territories of Palestine.

Today my breakfast consisted of grapes that we received from a Palestinian shepherd as we passed him and his flock of sheep earlier this morning plus some pomegranate seeds, raisins and almonds.

We do daily walks to monitor the roads of Yanoun. This is a pleasant task, especially now that it is no longer so sweltering hot. With our binoculars we search the hills for anything out of the ordinary such as new (illegal) structures or the presence of (often armed) Israeli settlers.

The sheep, goats, donkeys, horses and the olive, fig, almond and pomegranate trees stand by as we watch over the farming community. We, in turn, are watched from another hill by members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) – who should ensure peace on both sides, but often collaborate with Israeli settlers.

Providing a protective presence to the Palestinian people is one of our main priorities.  Local farmers lived and worked here since the eighteenth century but today there are only 75 inhabitants left after Yanoun was nearly wiped off the face of the map in 2002. Israeli settlers invaded the village and forced everybody from their homes. According to Mayor Rashed Murrar “They came with dogs and guns, every Saturday night. They beat men in front of their children. One Saturday they said that they didn’t want to see anyone here next Saturday … the whole village left that week.”

Some families returned but only after intense international media focused on their plight and with the assistance of an Israeli peace group, Ta’ayush.  Since 2003 EAPPI members have provided a protective presence to the villagers.

However, Israeli inhabitants from the nearby Itamar settlement still harass the town. Six months ago, on the 5th of March, they polluted the water well (the only source of water for the inhabitants).

A month later, on the 27th of April they invaded the village with dogs. During the night, on the 2nd of July, settlers together with over 30 armed IDF soldiers launched a full incursion into the village to search, allegedly, for stolen sheep (which was never found, the crime never proved, the harassment never interrogated). Last month, on the 7th of August, when confronted by the EAPPI team, the armed settlers and soldiers claimed to be carrying out “research” at the Palestinian water well.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967. All settlements are in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Peace talks came to a standstill a year ago precisely due to Israel’s continuous expansion of settlements. Between the start of the peace talks and now, Jewish settlers in the West Bank have doubled – they now number just over half a million people, living in 121 settlements, at approximately 100 outposts and they control more than 42 percent of the West Bank.

The settlers gradually, piece by piece, confiscate land in the West Bank and cultivate it with water at Israeli State subsidized rates. All this while Palestinian houses, roads, wells and clinics are demolished and they themselves are denied building permits and free access to roads, churches, mosques, hospitals and schools.

Many of the Israeli settlers come from different parts of the world and have no immediate genetic affiliation with the land.  Yet they claim: “This is the land of our fathers and grandfathersThis is the land of Israel” – these are slogans on posters placed by Israelis on the main road between Hebron and Jerusalem, in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Since my arrival in the West Bank two weeks ago, I have witnessed many forms of humiliation and oppression. In fact, on my third day here, I attended the funeral of a young Palestinian man who was shot in a nearby village after Israeli settlers damaged the olive groves for a third time in three weeks, during prayer-time on Friday.

I write this as I sit outside the community center with the mayor of the village.  We are waiting for a delegation from Ramallah to discuss the construction of a road on Palestinian soil that settlers began work on early this morning. He has already contacted the Palestinian District Co-ordination Office but they in turn need to ask the Israeli authorities to intervene.  There was no response from the Israeli authorities. “Maybe the Red Cross would help,” the mayor said, “maybe.”

We both watch the settlers and their tractors work on their new road that snakes downhill. We need no binoculars to do so, they are so close. I do not know what to say to the mayor.  I am thinking of the shepherd who gave us grapes, the women from whom we buy almonds, yoghurt, cheese and eggs, the children who play in front of our house at night.

Tonight we shall sleep under the bright security spotlights that light up the houses and gravel roads. I do not sleep well here.

(as published in the Sunday Independent of 2 October, 2011 by Marthie Momberg)

UPDATE: ISRAELI SOLDIERS AND SETTLERS HARASS UNARMED FARMERS

On Saturday, 7 July 2012 at approximately 3:00PM (GMT+2) Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Itamar approached three Palestinian farmers in Yanoun who were harvesting their wheat and grazing their sheep. The settlers were armed with knives and killed three of the farmers’ sheep.

A clash then ensued, in which the settlers and farmers began throwing stones at one-another. When EAs arrived to the scene, three fires were ablaze in the fields, but it was unknown whether the flames were intentionally lit by the settlers or were started by teargas canisters that the Israeli military fired at the farmers. Nonetheless, two wheat fields and one olive grove were burnt, and when other Palestinian farmers arrived at the scene to turn out the flames, Israeli soldiers and police prevented them from reaching the fields by firing more teargas at them.

In total six Palestinians were injured, and five were hospitalized:

  • Jawdat Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten and stabbed multiple times by settlers, then shot in the face and foot by Israeli soldiers. He was then handcuffed by Israeli soldiers and attacked again by the settlers while the soldiers pursued other Palestinian farmers. After being attacked, the military did not allow a present ambulance take him to a hospital or care for him for approximately 3-hours.
  • Ibrahim Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten by a soldier on his head with the butt-stock of an M16 rifle, causing damage to his eye, and was later beaten by settlers while handcuffed.
  • Hakimun Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was shot in the arm at close range by a soldier.
  • Adwan Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten by settlers with clubs.
  • Ashraf Bani Jaber: was beaten by a soldier with a club.
  • Jawdat Ibrahim (Hospitalized): was handcuffed, beaten by Israeli soldiers and then released for the settlers to attack as they watched. He was then tied up by the settlers and left on his land; he was found the next morning (Sunday, 8 July 2012).

Rashid, Mayor of Yanoun and long-time EAPPI local contact (pictured above), expressed fear that settlers initiated the clash to enforce new invisible boundaries, which would de facto confiscate much of the area’s wheat fields to the Itamar Settlement.

What the International Humanitarian Law says:

The International Court of Justice has stated that the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian persons in Times of War applies to the occupied Palestinian territory.

All Israeli settlements are illegal according to Article 49 the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.” Thus, according to International Humanitarian Law, Israel has the duty as an occupying power to protect Palestinians from settler attacks.

Report from Rabbis for Human Rights on the settler attack.

READ MORE: Why this village needs constant protection

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A visit by three Zionists to Stellenbosch

The other night someone started to talk to me at an art exhibition.  After asking all the obvious questions over glasses of wine (his) and mineral water (mine) and learning of my studies in religion and culture, he asked: “So what do you think of Islam?” I almost choked.  Ok, so now he had my attention.

I mentioned my travels to Indonesia and that I recently spent three months in Palestine. “These people opened their hearts and their houses to me” I told him.  “And I witnessed gross human rights abuses in Palestine….”

Someone else started to talk to the man and I wandered away to look at the young artist’s first solo exhibition. The extraordinary colourful paintings featured a South African fishing community – salt of the earth, weathered faces. They are not rich in earthly belongings, but they have such joy that they made me smile too.

happiness by Wilko Roon

The man and I eventually ended up having a late supper in town where I listened to his myths on Islam and Palestinians.

“There are two sides to the story” he said (But why do you think that these two sides are equal? Ever heard of systemic injustice? Like in apartheid – in our country – remember?)

“It’s a complex situation” he tried to ease it up (Well it would help if Israel starts to adhere to international law…. that’s not complicated, it’s pretty much black and white).

And so it went on.  I did not move him one inch (or centimetre). “You can say what you want,” he concluded “but the Israelis are damn good with water.”  (Yeah….they also steal Palestinian water.)

But we did part on a nice foot and when he called about two weeks later to say that some Israelis were visiting Stellenbosch to talk about their country I thought I should better check it out.

The Israelis turned out to be an ex-Christian South African couple, previously from Klerksdorp.  White Afrikaans speaking people like me, but probably about ten or fifteen years younger.  Their conversion to Judaism a few years earlier was prompted by their realisation that Christmas trees are part of a pagan tradition. They burnt their tree, started to study their Bible and eventually felt that it was their destiny to “return” to Israel. They now live in Be’er Sheva just off the southern border of the West Bank.

This is also the home of the Ben Gurion University (the University of Johannesburg severed ties with UBG in 2011).

Accompanying this couple was another Jew, a man who also used to be Christian. He emigrated from Dortrecht in the Netherlands to Israel.

To them their lives as new-born Jews in Israel have real purpose.  During the first part of their presentation they told us about their religious task to take back all that “belongs” to them.

“Fifty to sixty years ago” they said, “the West Bank and the area where we live was a wilderness and nobody wanted to live there.” (Thoughts of the thriving Palestinian agriculture and trade before the Nakba – the Catastrophe of 1948 when over 700 000 Palestinians became refugees and Israel took possession of 530 Palestinian villages in addition to the land allotted to them by the UN – crossed my mind).  He showed us beautiful pictures of fields in bloom – exactly the way Yanoun (where I used to stay whilst I worked in the West Bank) looks like in spring…. green fields dotted with red poppies….all natural.  “No-one succeeded before to let the Negev blossom” he said. “Each year our crop increases and this is God’s blessing to us.” I kept my silence to listen him out.

The Dutch Jew quoted from the Bible (Gen 22:19, Ex 3:31, 1 Kings 5:1, 1 Kings 19:1-3, Num 21:1, 1 1 Sam 25:1, Lev 26:20,32, Ps 126, Ezekiel 36:8, and so forth) to demonstrate that God promised all of the current Israel plus the occupied territories of Palestine (the West Bank, Gaza and East-Jerusalem) to the modern state of Israel and to anybody else in the world who chooses to be Jewish.

“There is only one thing in the Middle East that matters” he told us, “and that is the truth.  We can now see how the things that our prophets mentioned are coming true.” (Thank goodness my Bible talks about an inclusive love and respect for all.)

It was as if he repeated the Netanyahu rhetoric of “truth – more truth – and the truth only.”   But even Netanyahu’s truth sometimes shifts…like when he realised that the illegal expropriation of Palestinian homes and lands could actually implicate Israeli officials in war crimes litigation as one can read by clicking on the following link:

Netanyahu ordered evacuation of Hebron home over fears of war crimes suits

“God’s will”, they explained, “is to bring the people of Israel back to Israel.” (Will the land always be enough no matter how many people from all over the world convert to Judaism and move there? What about the many Jews who do not agree with the Israeli government’s policy to take someone else’s land and resources by force….those who say that the Torah speaks of respect for others and human dignity without a political and nationalistic agenda?)

“Each nation needs to be in its own place where they belong and this only will bring peace” the presentation continued. (Therefore Dutch and South African Jews are… what…Israelis? What is a nation and what is a religion – is there perhaps a difference between the two?)

“The Arabs belong in Jordan.” (In other words those Palestinians whose families date back to the times of the Old Testament, many of them Christians, should move to Jordan? What about the millions of Palestinian refugees worldwide – all of them too? I am a South African whose ancestors came from the Netherlands, France and Italy a mere three hundred years ago…where is my “place”?)

The man from the art exhibition and I were the only people who attended the talk by the three people from the Beit Moriah organisation. It turned out they came to ask money for their community which they said had been falling apart lately. They need the money to integrate immigrants from Ethiopia and the USSR, to feed those living below the poverty line, to run schools, to train leaders, to turn neighbours into friends, to instil Jewish and Israeli knowledge and pride. (The money that Israel receives from the USA each year is more than what the USA gives to the entire developing world.)

We had a long discussion and I felt like a lone voice between three Zionists and one person with an un-nuanced admiration for Israel.  I tried to talk to my fellow (albeit ex-)South Africans with warmth and love and asked them if they really, honestly, in their inner-most beings as members of a post-apartheid society think that the solution lies in separation. They answered quickly and surely – they don’t – and therefore all of the land must belong to Israel. I actually referred to separation between people.

The woman told me how she once took her child to a Palestinian hospital and how well she and her child were treated. There she realised that she and the Palestinian women are both mothers. The couple acknowledged that settlers live illegally in the West Bank (this unsettled the guy I went with) and that they are deemed the “baddies”. They know this. But they deny settler violence and regard the United Nations, the Red Cross, the Quartet and Save the Children as leftish organisations – “Don’t talk to us about them” they told me.

They felt the IDF discriminates as much against them as they do against Palestinians. Yet when I told them some of the things I witnessed in the West Bank they asked if I am sure that the transgressors were indeed settlers.  They didn’t know about the demolitions, the personal harassments, the damage to property, the confiscation of water, the denial of basic human rights and all the double standards. These things are not true they asserted, in fact, they heard rumours and when they checked it out the army told them that none of this is true and therefore none of this is true.

Despite my very best intentions and much discipline to restrain myself, my many questions and my counter information clearly irritated them. Or perhaps not? Did I give them something to reflect on? I’m not sure of this. The gentleman whom I accompanied assured me afterwards that I launched an attack on the three guests from Israel who just wanted to tell us their story.

I arrived home feeling very emotional…but I also remembered the grace and dignity of the Palestinians in the midst of their humiliation, pain and loss. I owe it to them to engage with those who do not yet see Israel’s systemic injustices so that even though they do not hear me, they can still feel my longing for harmony and perhaps, maybe on a level outside their minds and beyond their emotions and religious convictions, something may start to shift.

Over centuries, the truth has always shifted. We know only in part. Therefore we should be modest about our claims on truth or a single right way. In fact, we start to recognise a plasticity in the nature of reality as Richard Tarnas explains in his book on the ideas that shape(d) Western worldviews (1993:406).

If this is indeed the case, it has immense implications for the human situation as it actually implies that you and I can participate in the creation of reality.  It means we can influence our own reality through our actions, and even through our attitudes, our thoughts and our prayers. As we are all inter-connected, we can also influence the reality beyond our own bodies. All of this means that what we do really matters (in the literal sense of the word). We actually have an impact on what happens.

This is (one of the reasons) why I don’t give up, and why a situation as the one I described here actually energises me in my quest for living a message of non-violence.  I’ll keep on trying.

Read also the profoundly moving testimony of Rabbi Brian Walt (who grew up in South Africa) on Affirming a Judaism and Jewish identity without Zionism.

Tarnas, Richard. 1993.  The Passion of he Western Mind. New York.

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Demolitions: An account of ONE week

To sit with a family whilst their houses or water cisterns are being demolished, or when their olive trees are bulldozed to make way for the illegal Israeli wall, is a nauseating experience.

Israel demolishes all kinds of Palestinian structures… schools, clinics, roads, houses, animal shelters, mosques…anything one can think of. They say they  do this for “security reasons,” but in reality they displace people and grab more land for settlements and agriculture – in other words for economic gain.

  • The current Palestine is only 22% of what the UN allocated to them in 1948.  Israel took the other 78% by force.
  • Israel currently occupies most (66%) of this 22% (Areas B and C in the West Bank) and they continue to grab more land, day by day.

According to international law, no occupying power may confiscate land to use it for their own gain, and everyone in an occupied territory have the right to basic human rights.  Yet there are many, many, many (yes many) examples of how Israel violates these laws (and the USA consistently vetoes UN resolutions that want to stop Israel).

The examples below, are a collection of some (yes some) of the things I encountered during ONE WEEK.

HEBRON:
One farmer, fifteen soldiers, a bulldozer and loads of rocks…

While visiting the Hebron EAPPI-team (a programme of the World Council of Churches) I witnessed the demolition of a farmer’s water cistern on 17 November 2011.  After destroying the cistern, the hole was filled with 20 truck-loads of rocks.

Fifteen soldiers, the contractor, the media, internationals as well as the owner and his friends and family stood by as it happened.

The Equipment:

The farmer….

The soldiers…

On what level does this make sense?

We do not know…

JERICHO, AL QASAB:
In one sweep – houses, furniture, everything…

My team and I were working on our advocacy strategy for former Ecumenical Accompaniers on 15 November 2011 when we got the call.

In total 21 people including 15 children were displaced by the three demolitions on 15th November. One person told EAPPI:

“Everything is gone. All my daughter’s toys – it is so hard.”

The New Age in South Africa published an article on the demolitions:

http://www.thenewage.co.za/35146-1020-53-Israel_demolishes_Palestinian_homes_near_Jericho

I replied to this letter on 16 November, but do not know if they published my comment:

Dear Editor of The New Age,

As my team were present at the site of the demolitions yesterday and took testimonies, we would like to draw your attention to the following:

You quote Israeli civil administration spokesman Guy Inbar saying that the structures were “uninhabited”.  In fact two of the demolished houses were inhabited, but the owners were simply not home when the Israeli Defense Force demolished the structures. The owners received no warnings, neither written nor verbal. The first house had some items removed by the soldiers before it was demolished. Nothing was removed from the other two which were demolished with everything still inside.

According to Inbar the houses were built “near an archaeological site with the risk of endangering it”.  Yet the houses were on a street amongst other houses so it was not clear to the EAPPI eye witnesses (or to the owners and their neighbours) why these particular houses posed a threat.

My team and I form part of a group of internationals who monitor human rights violations and transgressions of applicable international law in the West Bank.  We report these to the United Nations, the Red Cross (ISCRC), the Quartet and other partner organisations.

We all participate in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches.  Some of us are affiliated to churches and some are not, but we all subscribe to an ending of the occupation and a just peace based on international law and human rights.

Please see the attached photo by Eduardo Minossi, one of our team members, taken yesterday at one of the demolished houses.

These photos in Al Qasab were all taken by my colleagues Linda Bailey (Wales) and Eduardo Minossi de Oliveira (Brazil):

AL ‘AQABA: 95% of this village has demolition orders…

We visited this village on 14 November 2011 to interview learners and teachers for Save the Children.  This village is considered as a place of training by Israel, as “it looks like South Lebanon”.  The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) conducts regular training in this village, i.e. weekly sessions.  They practice by “arresting” locals and “releasing” them after their training.

When we spoke to them, the mayor told us that the last army incursion into the village was two days ago.  95% of the village has demolition orders but they are on hold as they are waiting for a ruling by the High Court of Israel.

Here are some verbatim comments from the teachers and children we spoke to:

“We don’t teach the children about the war or the occupation, we teach them peace.”

“I am so afraid when the army trains here and I’m an adult – so you can just imagine how the children feel.  They can’t concentrate.  They want to watch what happens and want to know how they will escape and what they need to do.”

“Our minds are not with our teachers when there is training happening.”

“I am scared when I see their guns and that they may hit me with it. I have seen them hitting motorists at Tubas with the back of their guns.”

“When I see them, I think they came to demolish my home.”

“They sometimes knock on our door (at night) and search our house.  They ask if we have guns. We are scared that they may leave guns in our house just to be able to say that it belongs to us so that they can arrest us.  They once took my neighbour’s father far away for a week.”

“I started to cry when I arrived at my house after school and saw that it was demolished. We couldn’t remove anything from the house.”

The town’s mayor is in a wheel chair after being hit by three bullets when he was 16 years old.  Over the years, 50 people in this village have been injured and 13  killed as a result of the IDF’s training.

The next two photos feature Mayor Haj Saml Sadiq.  He travels the world to spread his message of peace and the ending of the occupation:

AL AUJA: A mud school threatening Israel?

This mud school of the Bedouin community outside Al Auja received a demolition order (the green in the background is an illegal Israeli settlement):

This is what fellow EAs Linda Bailey (Wales) and Jan McIntyre (Canada) looked out upon as they stood in front of the school….

How do we make sense of this?

We don’t.

Instead we advocate for the ending of the occupation and a just peace based on international law.

In the mean time, life goes on…

… several baby goats were born a few metres from the  school while we were there

And across the road, in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement, life also goes on – one with houses, swimming pools and electricity…

And finally….

AL HADIDIYA:
June 2011, and again in November 2011

In June 2011, 40 people including 15 children were made homeless in Al Hadidiya.  See Fact Sheet 2011 02 on the EAPPI website:

Last week we heard that the Israeli authorities handed over demolition orders that target 17 structures and will affect 72 people, including women and children, in Al HadidiyaThese demolitions were due on 18 November 2011.  However we contacted our respective national representative offices, and so far the demolitions have not yet taken place.  We hope….

(See also my post on Pending demolitions in the Jordan Valley for details on Al Hadidiya)

More on demolitions:

Sometimes the Israeli Defense Force demolishes Palestinian structures without orders to do so as in September 2011 when they destroyed six water wells in An Nassariya.  (See my post All we have in our hands are plants.)

Are the demolitions of Palestinian structures perhaps on the decrease?

I wish I could say yes. However house demolitions in 2011 were 80% more than in 2010.

This trend continues in 2012. 120 Palestinian structures were demolished in the first two months of the year, including 36 homes.  Remember that it is winter and very, very cold. On average over 25% more people were displaced per month in 2012 than in 2011 (125% more than the average per month in 2009).

By March 2012, whole towns were under threat of being demolished by Israel (Al ‘Aqaba in the Jordan Valley and Susiya in South Hebron Hills).

More photos by EAPPI on recent demolitions.  

United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied territories of Palestine: Statistics and more information

Al ‘Aqaba in the Jordan Valley

Susiya in South Hebron Hills



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Shocked South Africans call for public protest against the UK and Canadian stance on BDS

South African citizens (and many in the UK and in Canada) are – to say the least – shocked.

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Why did the Canadian and Brittish goverments pass motions to repress BDS? They must be under severe pressure from Israel and the Zionist lobby. For those who want the good things in life only for themselves and are willing to diminish a whole people in the process are really scared of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, because it is winning rapid ground. Besides putting pressure on Israel, BDS also unmasks Israel’s lies about its longstanding, illegal oppression of the Palestinians in the name of religion and greed.

How can the UK and the Canadian goverments say that economic pressure as a way to achieve full civil and human rights for all in Israel and Palestine is illegal? The very same strategy played a huge role in ending apartheid in South Africa. Do the same countries not also have sanctions in respect of many other countries?

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In 2014 over a hundred thousand people from all walks of life took to the streets in Cape Town to raise awareness of Israel’s war on Gaza as can be seen in these photos. Now Cape Town’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign calls for a clear, public response against these goverments who supress free speech and non-violent, economic pressure on Israel through BDS:

PSC

PRESS RELEASE:

29 February 2015

BRITISH GOVERNMENT RESORTS TO REPRESSION TO COUNTER BDS CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISRAEL

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT stated last week that it is will be illegal for “local [city] councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israel or even products and companies that operate in illegal settlements will face “severe penalties.”(via “The Intercept).

It is with outrage and disappointment that we, in the South African Palestine solidarity movement, note the British government’s ban on free speech and political expression relating to public sector boycotts of Israel and its illegal settlement goods. This means that workers in British parastatal companies like British Telecom or Rail-Track or any arm of government such as the Department of Welfare, the Airports Authority, Customs & Excise, the NHS etc. could be dismissed for promoting such boycotts in the workplace and managers could be sacked for committing their branches to such actions.

Recent successful actions by pro-Palestinian groups in Britain against companies such as G4S, the notorious British security company, which operates in some Israeli prisons and illegal settlements (and shamefully, operates also in South African airports, a prison and numerous public enterprises) would be stopped in their tracks by this bill. We also note the almost immediate removal of anti -Israel Apartheid Week posters in London’s Underground this week by the London authorities following Netanyahu’s recent demands to the UK government to do so, as a sign of closer collusion between the racist Israeli government and their British counterparts.

The enormity of such a draconian crackdown in Britain on behalf of Netanyahu’s racist and increasingly fascist Apartheid Israeli government could best be judged by imagining if a similar ban had been put in place in the UK during the Apartheid years to prevent boycotts of South Africa by the British state, its organs and thousands of public sector workers. The backlash then from public sector workers would have been instant and extremely difficult to control. Sadly, the public sector in Britain is so diminished in size and the unions so cowed into subservience by decades of Thatcherite neo-liberal bludgeoning, that not much of an uproar has been heard – even from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party which is pre-occupied with internecine strife within its ranks.

No doubt, David Cameron, who is a self-confessed Zionist stalwart, calculated that his US patron and its compliant Canadian neighbour, would be right behind him. In fact Canada’s new “Liberal” government under Trudeau, almost immediately pushed a similar motion through his US-hired and bribed parliament. The US Congress, controlled now by rabid Zionist Republicans, is also pushing for blanket bans on any anti-Israeli boycotts in the US and even for the outlawing of demonstrations and media calls for such actions. These are the same governments of the West who have invaded sovereign states in the Middle East in order to achieve “regime change” and install “democracy”.

As things stand, the BDS campaign is the only meaningful and peaceful means of pressuring Israel and its Western allies to end its brutal and murderous occupation of Palestine and institute one democratic state where everyone will enjoy equal rights.

South Africans must not underestimate the implications of these Orwellian moves by the USA and its British, European client states. Their governments will use their massive economic and military influence to blackmail smaller, independent countries such as ours, to turn away from supporting the Palestinian struggle against the colonial Israeli regime and their systematic, incremental genocide.

As the stalwart anti-surveillance and freedom of speech activist, Glen Greenwald, living in exile in South America, stated in response to this British move:
“There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS — modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa — is succeeding”.

WE THEREFORE URGE THE ANC GOVERNMENT TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE BRITISH/AMERICAN CRACKDOWN ON FREE SPEECH AND TO REAFFIRM ITS SUPPORT FOR THE PALESTINIAN CIVIL SOCIETY’S CALL ON ALL PEOPLE TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL.

WE CALL ON BRITISH PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY WORKERS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR, TO VIGOROUSLY CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEIR GOVERNMENT’S ATTACK ON BASIC DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS OF SPEECH AND THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST.

WE ALSO CALL UPON ALL PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS AND SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT THE BRITISH CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL FREEDOMS TO SHOW THEIR OPPOSITION IN FRONT OF THE BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION IN CAPE TOWN ON FRIDAY 18 MARCH BETWEEN 13.30 AND 14.30.

Contacts: Mike Makin 0845039156 Martin Jansen 0828702025

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Israel asked to stop its abuse of Christianity, Judaism and Islam

We all need to face the stark truth: We must choose for humanity, or against it.

In a strongly worded article, Rev Edwin Arrison, general secretary of Kairos Southern Africa and also Chair of South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) asks Israel to not abuse religion in their colonial project of oppressing the Palestinians. Accept the Palestinians as your equals, he asks, for we are all human.

He also says that we should not count on politicians to bring about positive change.

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Rev Arrison is pictured here (on the left) with Nobel Laureate, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu and others #March4Gaza on 9 August 2014.

Here is Arrison’s article as published in the Sunday Tribune, 15 November 2015:

Since 2009, when Christians gathered in Bethlehem to launch the Palestine Kairos document, there has been a great deal of reflection going on in the Church, from small congregations to global Church bodies, to consider what the best way is to respond to the injustices meted out by the State of Israel to all our Palestinian sisters and brothers – including those in refugee camps and in the Diaspora. A great injustice has been, and continues to be perpetrated against them, making them effectively stateless, and Christians can never be silent about injustice, even if we take our time to reflect and make decisions.

There was a time when Israel could depend on support from most Christians across the world, but that time has passed. The Vatican – representing more than a billion Christians – has taken the small step to recognize the State of Palestine. The recent proclamation of two Arab Palestinians as saints is also a profound way of expressing respect for the dignity and humanity of the Palestinian people.

Many Christians within the Evangelical and Pentecostal arms of the Church, have begun to express grave doubt about their support for the Zionist project called Israel. They are beginning to distinguish between Biblical Israel and Zionist Israel.

Even German Christians, who have lived with the guilt of the Holocaust over them, are even beginning to rethink their support for the Zionist State of Israel and for Zionist Christianity. Christians everywhere are thinking very carefully about whether they will continue to buy into a narrative of some exceptional tribe of God or whether they will continue to stand firm in their faith, rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures, that ALL human beings have been created in the image of God and that God is not a tribal God, but God of ALL people. These are quite fundamental choices against the abuse of faith that, once made, can never be reversed, not even by millions of dollars of Israeli propaganda.

We know that there is much injustice in all parts of the world today, but there is only one that gets justified from a misuse of the Bible, and that is the current State of Israel. Serious students and teachers of the Bible have begun to say that the Zionist State of Israel cannot possibly justify its occupation of Palestinian land, leading to oppression of Palestinian people, from the Biblical text.

This old apartheid myth that one group is apparently more important in the eyes of God than another group is today again playing itself out in Palestine and the Zionist State of Israel. Only this time it is worse. In the 1980s the “Communist Threat” was used as justification, this time the “Muslim” is used as a substitute for “terrorist’ and thereby a whole religion and its adherents are being demonized and abused. If parts of the Christian Church were drawn to this for a while, it has now begun to see this tactic for what it is – an evil wedge that is being used to create permanent war to feed a military industrial complex.

Unfortunately for the Zionists, the truth is like the Holy Spirit: it finds a way of seeping through and setting people free from all evil and deception.

The Christian and Muslim faith should not be abused for Zionist colonial propaganda, and neither should the Jewish faith be abused in this way. Many Jews are saying that Judaism and Zionism should not be equated. By equating these two things, anti-Semitism gets fed and for the sake of all humanity, this link must be broken. This can only happen if today we declare Zionist Israel to be a pariah and use every non-violent means to call on Israeli’s to come to their senses. They will not, of course, do this without economic and social pressure from the outside world.

We should not believe that politicians will bring change as we will either be forgetting our own history, or we are being completely naïve or use this belief as a way to either do nothing or to delay things as long as possible. In the 1980s, when South Africans realised that Thatcher, Reagan and Kohl and also some church bodies were not prepared to take a clear stand against apartheid, we appealed to the humanity of citizens worldwide. German church women then took a stand to boycott South African goods despite the fact that their Bishops cut their budget. Across the world, men, women and children not only affirmed the humanity of black South Africans but also gave the Dutch Reformed Church an ultimatum: either you accept that all people are created in the image of God or we will no longer accept you at the Communion Table.

The time has now come for a similar message to go directly to the citizens of the State of Israel and all its supporters across the world: either you stop your abuse of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, and accept that Palestinians are your equals or you will no longer be welcome at the table of humanity.

The choice has to be as simple and stark as that.

#WallWillFall: Breaking down the Walls of a Conflict or a Rape?

What do we ask for when praying for Palestine Israel? Do we ask God to end the conflict? Do we ask for reconciliation and strive for a balanced approach? The answer is a definite ‘NO’ to all of these.

I raise these points as we are preparing for the annual World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (20 – 26 September 2015)

To talk about ‘balance’ or a ‘conflict’ in the context of Palestine Israel presupposes equal sides. Nothing can be further from the truth. David Wildman (Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church) writes as follows:

Too many churches rushed to embrace interpersonal reconciliation projects without any examination of the inequalities in power between the Israeli state and Palestinians. Churches stressed the need for balance when there was nothing balanced about the situation. This is a key value of “church theology” that must be challenged. […] Israel has had a state since 1948 while Palestinians were largely refugees and civilian populations living under military occupation and unending dispossession from their land.

(Click here for Wildman’s full paper: BDS_and_Churches_now_ David Wildman.)

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In this year’s World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel the World Council of Churches asks us to pray, to educate and to advocate around the theme of “God has broken down the dividing walls” (Ephesians 2.14).

My experience in South Africa is that many people do not know what these dividing walls are. They only know of the suffering of Israelis. They do not realise that the analogy is closer to a ‘rape’ than to a ‘conflict’.

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Israel – a military superpower funded by the USA – denies Palestinians basic human rights, they injure and kill Palestinians and their resources in a grand sweep of land theft, displacement and mass destruction. Israel denies six million refugees to return to their homes and have more than 50 laws that discriminate against Arab Palestinian Israeli citizens. The Palestinians scream for help, throw stones and fire some rockets in response to these large scale systemic injustices by Israel. But the rapist wants the sympathy of the world and it gets it! Can we blame a rape victim who scratches her rapist?

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How do we know what to pray for and what to do?

Do we say it has nothing to do with us or is too complex to grasp? Do we question the focus on Israel?

Once more, the answer is NO. More and more people are starting to see the links between global empire systems of greed, power and militarism that are crystallised in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. Likewise people are starting to realise how we are led by the nose by what Dr Mitri Raheb calls the “software” – the stuff that enables us to think that Israel is untouchable and above international law.

No, we don’t give up. It is wrong to think it has nothing to do with us.

A world system that allows the USA to consistently veto all UN decisions to enforce international law on Israel is a sick society. Does it not warrant our attention? Is it not in our own interest to educate ourselves? When we benefit from Israeli produce and services (think Dead Sea cosmetics, G4S, retailers like Woolworths that claim ethical business but do not apply it to Israel, etc.) then our money support the oppression of the Palestinians. If we ignore the public plea of the Palestinian civil society for non-violent resistance through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) we are complicit in entrenching the Palestinians’ suffering.

If we lie to ourselves about it or blame others, we fool ourselves. We cannot deny it – we are involved in this matter. Yes, there are many other issues in the world, but you are reading this post and therefore right now this matter is knocking on your door.

The segregation wall

Have courage

To embark on a road in the pursuit of love and a just peace is most fulfilling and deeply enriching. The important thing is to START by taking the FIRST STEP.

If you have not yet done so, start by reading the urgent, deeply inspiring appeal (‘A Moment of Truth’) of the Palestinian Christians. It is available in 22 languages (also available in Afrikaans). You’ll find it by clicking here. It addresses not only Christians. It also asks for several practical actions. For facts and figures, go to the United Nations website by clicking here http://www.ochaopt.org

Let us pray for a world where international law, human dignity and equality apply to all. Let us pray for a shift in consciousness and a spirituality that fosters human and all other forms of life on this planet. Let us practice our belief in equality and pray for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Let us educate ourselves and our circles. Let us work with those Jews, Muslims, Christians and the people of other faiths or none who share our values to create a better world.

God,

You ask for our courage to protect the powerless
but we prefer to remain safe, preserving ourselves for future challenges.

You ask us to speak out for justice
but we whisper, in case we are heard.
You ask us to stand up for what is right,
but we would rather blend in to the crowd
You ask us to have faith,
when doubting seems so much easier.

Lord forgive our calculated efforts to follow you,
only when it is convenient to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so,
only with those who make it easy to do so.

Together we pray
God forgive us and renew us;
Inspire us and challenge us
So that we might risk the journey, to your kingdom with you,

Amen
(Prayer of Confession as read in 2003 at a service at Cheltenham Races, GreenBelt, UK)

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More about the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2015:

Why a theme on walls? In the figurative sense it is of course about walls that separate classes, ethnic groups, religions and the transcendence thereof. But it is also about the ongoing construction of the illegal, Apartheid Israeli Wall that grabs more and more fertile Palestinian land. Click here to watch a short, shocking video on Israel’s theft of land from the Catholic Church in the West Bank, and here for yet another story of land confiscation – one of thousands of similar tales.

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches invites churches, faith-based communities, and civil society organizations to join in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. For full details go to their website. You can also write to Ranjan Solomon, Consultant for the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum at ranjan.solomon@wcc-cor.org.

#Kairos30: Dare we remember?

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Now that I’m home from our global #Kairos30 conference (titled Kairos as a Dangerous Memory) the question remains: “What do we do with our memories?”

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You see mine are not those of taking a brave stand against apartheid like the theologians who wrote the 1985 Kairos document. Mine are memories of feeling scared, incapable and paralysed. They are memories of apathy and silence about something I clearly knew was wrong. For I was one of those white South Africans who did nothing to end the systemic, legalised injustices in my country.

Thirty years ago a group of South African theologians (listed below) asked the world for help in ending apartheid. Their appeal became known as the South African Kairos document. Since then the Kairos theology has found root in diverse places such as Germany, India, the USA, Swaziland, Palestine, India, Brazil and Nigeria. This week (17-20 August 2015) delegates from these and many other countries gathered in Johannesburg to reflect on what Kairos theology means to us now.

We asked: What can we learn from the Kairos of then? How should we critique it? Are we faced with new contexts that need interventions? How do we go forward? Dare we remember?

I cannot go forward without facing the truth of the past, and without being open, or for that matter public, about my neglect. I have failed to stand with my black sisters and brothers during South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. I have failed calling on my white sisters and brothers to be honest, just and loving. I have failed the Christian principles of love, justice and inclusivity. I have failed (and harmed) myself when I reduced my own happiness by not reaching out to others. For all of this, I am truly sorry. I know I cannot correct your pain and suffering.

Despite all this so many of you receive me with immense, gracious love and warmth. You treat me as if I am one of you despite my failures. You allow me to learn from you and you walk with me.

Often, when we come across so much resistance amongst Jewish and Christian Zionists and other supporters of Israel’s human rights abuses in respect of the Palestinians, I long to hold them tightly. I want to say to them “It’s okay to admit it. Just do it and release yourself from this terrible burden of justifying the modern state of Israel. We too shall welcome you and be there for you. It’s not a scary thing to support the human dignity of the Palestinians. In fact it may make you feel stronger and better!”

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Today Kairos Palestine’s evocative Kairos document A Moment of Truth: A word of Faith, Hope, and Love from the Heart of the Palestinian suffering, for example, challenges Christians worldwide (in 22 languages) to help them in their non-violent struggle.

11024714_10152916108011537_1010922261154685911_n(All four of the above photos on the #Kairos30 conference are by Sid Luckett)

Here is the full #Kairos30 statement as released on 20 August by the conference delegates:

Kairos 30th Anniversary Statement:
Dangerous Memory and Hope for the Future

We gathered in Johannesburg (near Cottesloe) from 17 to 20 August 2015, to celebrate how the 1985 South African Kairos document, “Challenge to the Church,” responded to a moment of truth in the most painful days of Apartheid. That Kairos document inspired three decades of Kairos movements in many different contexts. This 30th celebration has now re-inspired us toward a common humanity and a concern for human dignity and our environment.

The pain of Marikana and the reasons behind it (multinational profit before people and corporate greed) hovered over our conference.

The 2009 Kairos Palestine document, “A Moment of Truth,” a cry from the Palestinian Christian community, carries a disturbing echo of the dangerous memory of the South African story of Apartheid. Kairos Palestine has evoked a powerful global response from Kairos contexts around the world. The catalyzing power of Kairos Palestine was deeply felt in our gathering. We were inspired by this renewed energy. Palestine is the space where our sacred texts are contested.

There was much to celebrate in this gathering. Our Kairos conversations were intentionally multi-generational and broadly international. We were grateful to engage deeply with Muslim and Jewish perspectives. We found much joy in our solidarity and shared struggles. We were particularly encouraged by the inter-generational nature of this gathering and how that can be nurtured and encouraged. We are particularly inspired by the birth Zinzi Kairos Mbenenge during the conference. “… for unto us a child is given”!

A NEW KAIROS
We have reached a new moment of truth, a new Kairos. We recognize how the coming of Jesus and his teaching about a new kingdom and a new reign against the Roman empire of his day has completely passed us by. We lament that, by and large, the church of today has become distracted from this mission of preparing the way for God’s reign.

In our time, we find that various sites of pain and struggle are joined in a Global Kairos, a shared quest for justice. In our discussions, we named our shared struggle against the scourge of this global empire of our times. Empire is an all-encompassing global reality seeking to consolidate all forms of power while exploiting both Creation and Humanity. The empire we face is not restricted by geography, tribe, language or economy. Empire is an ideology of domination and subjugation, fueled by violence, fed by fear and deception. It manifests itself especially in racial, economic, cultural, patriarchal, sexual, and ecological oppression. Empire deceptively informs dominant, white supremacist, capitalist paradigms controlling global systems and structures. Global empire is sustained by weapons and military bases (hardware) along with ideologies and theologies (software).

We rejoice that resistance against empire is manifested in a plurality of struggles throughout the world. Struggles against ecological injustice, gender injustice and patriarchy, landlessness, abuse of people on the move, refugee vulnerability, political and religious persecution, social exclusion, denial of indigenous rights, neglecting children’s rights, harm to LGBTI persons, access for the differently abled, and racial supremacism represent only a portion of the struggles against empire. Since 1985, Kairos documents have expressed resistance to these and other realities in Central America, Europe, Malawi, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Palestine. In this conference, we were pleased to receive new Kairos documents from siblings in Swaziland, Nigeria, and the United States. The memory of unjust suffering in all contexts is dangerous to the purposes of empire.

In our listening to one another, we found that the context of suffering and pain created by Israel’s oppression of Palestine contains all aspects of empire. Palestine is therefore a microcosm of global empire, a critical site of reflection that can bring experiences in other locales into sharper focus. Palestine does not eclipse other situations around the globe but instead intensifies the need for greater interconnection and mutual engagement.

All Kairos movements emerge from sites of grave injustice and deep pain. Every Kairos document is a cry to God and to the world. We confess, however, that we have served two masters and preached a gospel that requires nothing of the rich young ruler, even as we build empire on the widow’s mite. We recognize that we and our church institutions have often closed our ears to our siblings’ cries and drowned them out. In many cases, very little action has followed. The church has often been ambiguous and cautious in its response to human suffering. Sometimes, the church has engaged in active opposition to the liberating work of God present in communities of resistance, increasing church complicity in structures of injustice. The church has often provided theologies of domination in the service of Empire. In our discussions, we found that the South African Kairos indictment of Church Theology is as relevant in our time as it was in 1985.

RESISTING IMPERIAL THEOLOGY
The dangerous memory of the South African Kairos document provided a prophetic critique of State Theology, theologies that validate and confirm forms of state terror. It identified as heresy theologies that justify Apartheid. In our time, we are called to expand this critique and rejection of state theology to address Imperial Theology, the ‘software’ that justifies imperial exploitation and oppression. We were encouraged to find that, although Empire seeks to divide communities from one another, peoples’ resistance can unite us across religious, ethnic and culture divides.

Imperial theology is at work in the continued oppression of Palestinians and the crisis now engulfing what is known as the Middle East. Analysis and rejection of the State Theology supporting Apartheid in South Africa was an essential element in exposing and resisting that sinful system. In its dominant forms, Zionism has been used to justify the dispossession, transfer, massacring, ghettoization and exploitation of the Palestinian people. Zionism has become an element within the dominant structures of empire. Politically, we call for an intensification of all economic and political pressures on the State of Israel, including the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). In our biblical interpretation, we strongly distinguish between biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel. Theologically, we declare to be heresy any Christian theologies that support the Zionism informing Israeli oppression.

We now therefore resolve

1) to act and pray, inspired by the dangerous memory of Jesus Christ, God’s siding with suffering and poor communities, aiming to do all we can to return the global and local church to the mission of Jesus to enact the reign of God, opening toward a new way of relating to humanity and the earth;

2) to encourage all Christians to respond to the Palestinian Christian call to “come and see” the living stones of the Holy Land, providing hope to all who suffer under the cross of illegal Israeli Occupation;

3) to advocate that international law must apply equally to all. We reject the imperial dictate that imposes sanctions on some regimes while vetoing and criminalizing popular calls for sanctions on egregious violations of international law;

4) to impress upon our churches, seminaries and theological institutes the need to deepen theological engagement with the pressing challenges of the world, including the global systems and structures of empire and to promote Kairos spirituality;

5) to reflect intentionally on the South African experience of the effectiveness of the BDS efforts and express our full support for an intensification of BDS as an effective, nonviolent strategy against global empire;

6) to create appropriate systems to ensure that young people will be nurtured and mentored in the Kairos understanding of faith, hope, and love and supported in their growth into leadership;

7) to express public support for those working against corruption in South Africa; while we rejoice that political apartheid has ceased in South Africa, we lament that economic apartheid continues; we commit to working toward Kairos Africa to ensure that the hopes of the next generation of the African continent are not dashed by Empire; and

8) to foster and nurture the Global Kairos for Justice movement; we are because you are.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4)

20 AUGUST 2015

FOR COMMENT:

Reverend Edwin Arrison: +27 (0) 847351835 / earrison78@telkomsa.net
Mark Braverman: +14439957882 / mbraverman@kairosusa.org
Ms. Marthie Momberg: +27 (0) 832907742 / momberg@sun.ac.za

Kairos Document: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos_Document
Kairos Palestine: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/content/kairos-document
Kairos USA: http://kairosusa.org

 

11180304_1449819825322050_2669416159281431213_nPreparing for the #Kairos30 conference with Mokesh Morar, Father Albert Nolan, Rev Edwin Arrison, Nonhlanhla Shezi and Vernon Weitz.

Signatories of the 1985 South African Kairos document against apartheid:

1. Dr JC Adonis
2. LA Appies
3. Ms Mary Armour
4. Dr JF Bill
5. Rev N Bixa
6. Rev A Bhiman
7. Rev N Botha
8. Rev A Boer
9. Rev A Booyse
10. Rev AS Brews
11. Rev J Carnow
12. Sis F Cassidy
13. Mr Tony Chetty
14. Rev F Chikane
15. Dr J Cochrane
16. Rev R Cochrane
17. Dr GD Cloete
18. Mr W Cloete
19. Mr Roy Crowder
20. Canon C Davids
21. Mr Mike Deeb
22. Mr S de Gruchy
23. Prof JW de Gruchy
24. Rev J de Waal
25. Dr W Domeris
26. Rev JH Dyers
27. Ms JW Engelbrecht
28. Mr PA Germond
29. Dr B Goba
30. Fr G Gobaiyer
31. Rev S Govender
32. Dr TSN Gqubule
33. Sis Aine Hardiman
34. Sis Clare Harkin
35. Rev A Hendricks
36. Fr Basil Hendricks
37. Rev B Hoorn
38. Rev R Jacobus
39. Dr Lizo Jafta
40. Ms Jave Joubert
41. Mr K Kiefer
42. Rev HM Koaho
43. Rev JNJ Kritzinger
44. Rev C Langeveld
45. Rev T Lester
46. Mr J Liddell
47. Ms L Liddell
48. Rev AM Lindhorst
49. Mr D Loff
50. Rev Wesley Mabuza
51. Archdeacon E MacKenzie
52. Prof SS Maimela
53. Rev JF Mahlaseala
54. Rev CJ Martin
55. Rev PN Mentoor
56. Rev Kenosi Mofokeng
57. Dr KE Mgojo
58. Fr S Mkhatshwa
59. Mr Peter Moll
60. Fr MSL Monjane
61. Dr M Mothlabi
62. Rev M Mpumwlana
63. Dr B Naude
64. Dr Margaret Nash
65. Sis B Ncube
66. Pastor Z Nertuch
67. Rev H Ngada
68. Fr S Ntwasa
69. Rev TW Ntongana
70. Dr A Nolan
71. Mr R Nunes
72. Rev M Nyawo
73. Fr R o’Rourke
74. Rev C Ontong
75. Rev T Pearce
76. Rev GB Peter
77. Ms Debora Patta
78. Mr RE Phillips
79. Rev Robin Peterson
80. Mr VP Peterson
81. Ms Heather Peterson
82. Canon G Quinlan
83. Rev C Sampson
84. Fr L Sebidi
85. Prof G Setiloane
86. Rev JN Silwanyana
87. Rev AL Smith
88. Rev Z Somana
89. Fr Thami Tana
90. Mr S Thaver
91. Mr B Theron
92. Rev M Tisani
93. Rev S Titus
94. Fr B Thlagale
95. Rev M Tsele
96. Rev J Thsawane
97. Rev van den Heever
98. Mr K Vermeulen
99. Dr C Villa Vicencio
100. Rev A Visagie
101. Rev H Visser
102. Rev MR Vithi
103. Dr CA Wanamaker
104. Rev MI Weeder
105. Rev D White
106. Ms J Williams
107. Rev B Witbooi
108. Fr A Winston
109. Mr RG Wortley
110. Rev BB Finca
111. Rev Z Mokhoebo
112. Ms S Britton
113. Rev DN Goga
114. Mr Paul Graham
115. Rev G Grosser
116. Rev B Habelgaarn
117. Rev Frans Kekana
118. Dr W Kistner
119. Rev CT Kokoali
120. Prof Charl le Roux
121. Rev CW Leeuw
122. Rev PT Letlala
123. Rev Gerrie Lubbe
124. Mrs M Mabaso
125. Rev Lucas Mubusela
126. Rev Maake Masango
127. Rev S Masemola
128. Rev TS Farisani
129. Rev O Mbangula
130. Rev GT Mcoceli
131. Rev M Mguni
132. Rev S Mogoba
133. Mr C Molebatsi
134. Rev Sol Jacobs
135. Vicar F Muller
136. Mrs M Mxadana
137. Mrs L Myeza
138. Rev SB Ngcobo
139. Rev D Nkwe
140. Rev PA Nordengen
141. Rev T Nyanela
142. Mrs A Rathebe
143. Prof W Saayman
144. Prof Nico Smith
145. Rev WT Soeldner
146. Rev MA Stofile
147. Fr F Synnott
148. Rev E Tema
149. Rev B Tshipa
150. Rev Stephen Warnes
151. Fr X Keteyi
152. Rev CZ Nevhutalo
153. Rev Lionel Louw
154. Ms V Zweigenthal
155. Rev Sol Jacobs
156. Dr T Kneiffel

“We won this one together” says Desai on Virgin Active gym debacle

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After being kicked out of a Johannesburg gym on 12 August 2015 when pro-Israel supporters did not like his T-shirt, BDS South Africa’s National Coordinator said:

I am humbled by the outpouring of revolutionary love, support, advice and guidance from so many….I also humbly realise that it wasn’t necessarily done for me (nor BDS South Africa). For most people, it was simply about a principled commitment to defending our hard fought for freedoms and not giving-in to power and privilege.


Virgin Active Zapiro

Following a nationwide outcry, Virgin Active eventually took responsibility for its wrong-doing and apologised for initially denying access to BDS South Africa’s National Coordinator, Muhammed Desai to the Old Eds Virgin Active gym. Desai and BDS South Africa welcomed the company’s apology and backtrack. Says Desai:

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I’m humbled by the outpouring of revolutionary love, support, advice and guidance from friends, comrades and members of the public as well as the various media commentators, freedom of expression experts, lawyers and, of course, fellow members of the organisations that I belong to (YCL, BDS SA etc.)

However, I also humbly realise that it wasn’t necessarily done for me (nor BDS South Africa). For most people, it was simply about a principled commitment to defending our hard fought for freedoms and not giving-in to power and privilege.

No matter how horrible Howard Page and other pro-Israeli gym patrons were, this was not an issue about a “disagreement” between gym patrons over a tshirt. It was about a company unfairly siding with (or succumbing to) pressure by those who support Israel and then taking an unfair decision – as a company – in favour of one group over another. A decision that violated several constitutional rights.

This was about how power and privilege is used to suppress voices that challenge injustices, and in particular, voices that are critical of Israel’s injustices against the Palestinian people.

Finally, I take serious offence at comments by some that they were shocked to learn that I actually go to gym. But, I guess, that’s their constitutional right🙂

———-
For the record: I never called the ENCA journalist to the gym (in fact, I never knew him nor had his details until after this issue). It was by (a very fortunate) chance that he was also there that evening (he was on his way out as he had forgotten his towel). Secondly, I did not go to the OId Eds gym because it is frequented by pro-Israeli supporters. I go to Old Eds simply because it is the closest to where I live. In fact, I have never visited another Virgin Active Gym in the whole of Johannesburg. Thirdly, I was never, as claimed, at any point on Wednesday evening aggressive or forceful. Virgin Active surveillance cameras can attest to that.

BDS

This is a victory for freedom of expression. It is also a victory against those South Africans who think their support of Israel’s human rights crimes gives them the right to bully and harass businesses, academics, journalists, students and members of the public who voice (or even simply allow) support for BDS, the Palestinian people, or criticism of Israel.

In this instance, the pro-Israeli pressure (which Virgin Active was wrong to succumb to) back-fired with thousands taking to social media and other platforms and eventually leading the company to back-track and apologise.

Many more supporters now, more than before, wear BDS T-shirts to gym. I too did some yoga in the Old Eds Virgin Active gym earlier this week when I was in Johannesburg for the #Kairos30 Conference. Wearing a suitable T-shirt, of course,🙂

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Thousands more now know, more than before, about the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement.

Update: Dr. Clint Le Bruyns on the Gaza Flotilla, and why we hear nothing

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Dr. Clint Le Bruyns describes how Israel tries to prevent his team from boarding the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and why they have to limit their communication.

Click on the link below to read his blog:

Public Activism

I also received the following update this morning (29 June 2015):

“4 hours 49 min ago:
News: The Israeli military (IDF) announces on their blog that they have boarded the fishing vessel Marianne of Gothenburg on it’s way to Gaza. All passengers will be transported to the Israeli seaport Ashdod within 12 to 24 hours. The fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg, a rebuilt trawler loaded with medical equipment and solar panels, was boarded in international waters. Ship to Gaza had last contact with the crew onboard 00.57AM (GMT+2).”

and further:

“Statement by Ship to Gaza Sweden
Press release Created Today at 09:32

Ship to Gaza’s Swedish-flagged fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg has been boarded by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) about 100 nautical miles from Gaza. Last contact with Marianne took place 00:57 Swedish time. According to information from the IDF, who does not deny that the attack took place far out in international waters, is the hijacked ship in this moment, along with the captured crew and passengers, brought to the Israeli seaport Ashdod, which they expect to reach during the day. Also this time there were active MPs among participants of the flotilla, as well as Tunisia’s former president.

Ship to Gaza Sweden protest against this flagrant abuse of the freedom of navigation. Israel’s repeated acts of piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean.

We demand that Marianne be returned, and that her crew and passengers will be immediately released, so that they can continue their journey to their destination in Gaza.

We urge our government and the international community to take immediate action against daily violations of international law and human rights under Israeli blockade and occupation.

The three boats Rachel, Vittorio and Juliano II who followed Marianne has now according to plan turned back towards Greek ports.”