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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.

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“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.

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Gaza as seen by an Israeli soldier and street artist Banksy

A revealing interview

Everyone should hear how a former IDF soldier explains the similarities of what his grandmother experienced in Auschwitz and why he has to speak out against Israel and the USA. Eran Efrati is a former IDF soldier who recounts his experience, assignments and killing protocols along with what he witnessed as a soldier to Aby Martin:

Abby-MartinClick here for the YouTube interview.

 

When Banksy sneaked into Gaza

It is not the first time that Banksy, a street artist revered by millions for his socio-political commentary on the walls of the world, has been to the occupied Palestinian territories. His graffiti are on the segregation wall in Bethlehem and in Ramallah, and now also on the ruins of Gaza:

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Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate

There are different ways to position yourself as superior to others, but the message stays the same.

Some methods may be more sophisticated or subtle than others. Miroslav Volf (1996:74-75), for example, mentions both obvious forms of exclusion such as domination and more nuanced forms such as assimilation whereby others are expected to fit into the dominating or existing way of doing things. Yet another form of exclusion entails rejection by not taking cognizance of others. A subtle yet very damaging form of exclusion is symbolic exclusion whereby we refuse to engage with others in such a way that we really learn to know them but rather choose to serve our own interests.

In a new book with the title “Palestine in Israeli School books” Israeli language and education professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan shows how an anti-Palestinian ideology is promoted in the minds of Israel’s youth through the use of exclusion and absence in Israeli school books:

“(N)one of the textbooks studied here includes, whether verbally or visually, any positive cultural or social aspect of Palestinian life-world: neither literature nor poetry, neither history nor agriculture, neither art nor architecture, neither customs nor traditions are ever mentioned” (49).

Peled-Elhanan concludes:

“The books studied here present Israeli-Jewish culture as superior to the Arab-Palestinian one, Israeli-Jewish concepts of progress as superior to Palestinian-Arab way of life and Israeli-Jewish behavior as aligning with universal values” (230)

Click on the link below to read the full book review on Electronic Intifada:

Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate.

During my time in the West Bank I visited several schools and also did research for Save the Children. I never encountered an ideology in their education system that belittle Israelis. Instead my team members and I found children that are very scared of the Israelis. (I’ve written several posts about it which you can find by typing “Children in armed conflict” in my blog’s “search” facility.)

Below are some photos I took of Palestinian children:

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Israel confiscated the family land of these two siblings to build the illegal Apartheid Wall in the West Bank.  I watched as it happened.

Israel confiscated the family land of these two siblings to build the illegal Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. I watched as it happened.

Al Walaja, wes van Bethlehem, sal uiteindelik algeheel omring word deur die Muur.  Hier het ek saam met die Hagahla familie gesit en kyk hoe hul familiegrond van ses geslagte deur die aanbou van die Muur van hulle vervreem word. Ongeveer 50 olyfbome is daardie dag onthoof, ontwortel en weggevoer.

A boy from Al Walaja in the district of Bethlehem watches intently as his family’s land is confiscated by the building of the illegal Israeli wall. .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA girl serving us with coffee during the olive harvest.

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Being searched by Israeli soldiers on their way to and from school:

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Volf, M. 1996. Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Peled-Elhanan, N. 2014. Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education (Library of Modern Middle East Studies). Tauris Academic Studies.

Yom Kippur: Why some South African Jews fasted for Gaza

Our religion and cultural beliefs require us to help repair the world. It is time the Jewish people as a whole begin engaging in our own version of liberation theology: Tikkun olam.

These are the words of a group of mostly South African Jews. They also said that religion means nothing if it does not serve justice. The group dedicated the most important dates on the Jewish calendar to reflect on what their Jewishness mean in light of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the recent bombing of Gaza.

This is how they explain their decision:

mountain-sunshine-yom-kippur-meditation

The fast is a spiritual, social and political practice that is many thousands of years old. Most major religions and ethnicities practice some form of fasting whether it is a partial fast (the refusal of certain foods and drinks) or an absolute fast (the abstinence from all food and water).

Spiritually, its purpose usually includes forms of meditation or prayer, a physical cleansing, an interpersonal request for repentance, and an expression of solidarity with the poor.

In recent decades, however, the fast has also been transformed into an act of political activism and the long-term hunger strike has often come to be one of the most effective forms of civil disobedience out there. It is used both as an appeal to the oppressor’s conscience and also, more importantly, a method to galvanise supporters behind a specific social justice campaign. Most recently, the hunger strike successfully has been used by Palestinian political prisoners to call attention to their unjust incarceration. In some cases throughout the world, it has also helped stimulate popular action that has brought down authoritarian governments.

The holiday of Yom Kippur is widely accepted as the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar. On this day, we are requested to repent for all our wrong-doings during the previous year and resolve to not commit that transgression again in the future. If one is religious, one goes to Synagogue to pray and repent directly to God. However, even cultural non-religious Jews use the Yom Kippur fast as a time to reflect on where we have missed the mark, to correct wrongdoings and to mend relations with others.

However, one of the important points that many religious Jews make is that fasting and praying to God is not in fact the primary method of achieving atonement. Instead, being sincere about one’s regret for the wrong-doing and the rectification of one’s misconduct is fundamental (see also Isaiah, 58:1–13). This righting of wrongs should be done in the 10 days between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur.

Since we have been raised and educated with the memory of the Holocaust which killed tens of millions of Jews, Roma, Homosexuals, Communists and others, we are acutely aware of the pitfalls of nationalism that seeks to place one group of people above all others. Nationalism therefore has no place in the Jewish community with its attempt to make reality the motto, The Chosen People, in the form of Zionism. We don’t believe that there is anyone who is ‘chosen’. We are all people with the responsibility to do right by others whether they find themselves in the Warsaw ghetto, physically imprisoned in Gaza or economically confined in South African townships.

At the forefront of wrongs we need to right, is the ongoing mainstream Jewish support for the Israeli colonisation of Palestine and its continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is being done in our name, and we have not done enough to stop it. It is for this reason that we believe that Gaza is the most urgent issue for us to reflect on this Yom Kippur. We will be going out and physically fasting and raising money for those in Gaza who have suffered unconscionable horrors.

Religion is inherently a political construct. This fact has been recognised by liberation theologists who believe that religion is nothing unless it is in the service of justice. Antisemitic and Racist churches played major roles in upholding the Nazi regime and Apartheid respectively. In contrast, liberation theology has long played an emancipatory role against oppression. During apartheid, progressive churches and mosques became key sites of political organising and in Latin America, rogue Catholic priests helped mobilise and protect the population against oppressive dictators.

Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who South Africa hosted in our country following the US coup in Haiti, has said “It is better not to believe than to believe in a miracle from heaven…there is no Messiah other than the people”. With this he sought to say that religion’s relevance is in its fight against injustice and that God would see this as the true purpose of religion.

Dedicating our Yom Kippur fast to the people of Gaza follows this line of thinking. Unlike the dominant Zionist organisations, some of whom preach ethnic and religious nationalism and the bombing of Gaza directly from the bimah (the Jewish equivalent of a pulpit), our beliefs are based on tolerance, inclusivity and social justice. We think that this is what Judaism, and Yom Kippur in particular, is all about.

Case in point is the prophetic reading recited on the morning of Yom Kippur which in fact denounces people who fast as a substitute for working for social justice.

We have dedicated our fast to raising money for the Gaza Community Mental Health Program – a well-known and respected organisation founded by the first psychiatrist in the Gaza Strip, Dr Eyad el Sarraj. The GCMHP is renowned for helping Palestinians move beyond their collective trauma to recognise the basic humanity of all human beings.

Yet it is not good enough for us merely to give charity to such an important cause. Tzedakah, in its biblical conception, is about much more than this. It embodies the theology that Jews are obligated – rather than asked – to seek economic and social justice with the oppressed.

Our religion and cultural beliefs require us to help repair the world. It is time the Jewish people as a whole begin engaging in our own version of liberation theology: Tikkun olam.

Jared Sacks
Benjamin Fogel
Heidi Grunebaum
Lauren Segal (USA)
Koni Benson
Emma Daitz
Monique Marks
Steven Friedman
Ru Slayen
Rina King
Jill Chamsa
Janet Brenda Shapiro
Anonymous 1
Anonymous 2

The following non-Jews  fasted in solidarity with us:
Saydoon Nisa Sayed
Nina Butler
Clint Le Bruyns

Yom Kippur 2014 began in the evening of Friday, October 3 and ended in the evening of Saturday, October 4.

Jewish Holocaust survivors respond to Wiesel and call for justice in Gaza

40 Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and 287 descendants of survivors and victims issued a letter this weekend condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza. The letter, with signatories from 26 countries representing four generations of survivors, runs in the Saturday, August 23rd edition of the New York Times:

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine.

Elie WieselElie Wiesel

Their letter is in reponse to a statement by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel prize-winning author, and Shmuley Boteach, an outspoken American-born Orthodox rabbi. An advert jointly written by Wiesel and Boteach called on David Cameron and other political leaders “to condemn Hamas‘ use of children as human shields”:

Elie wieseA part of the advertisement

The advertisement by Wiesel and Boteach was carried in US newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the New York Observer. It compares the murder of children during the Holocaust to Hamas’ actions in Gaza. The Times of London declined to run it and the Guardian published a response for free. In an open letter on its website, the Stop The War coalition, the UK anti-war organisation, described the advert as a “wildly inaccurate and inflammatory advert from supporters of the state of Israel branding Palestinians opposing Israel in Gaza as ‘child killers’.”

The Holocaust survivors in turn expressed their dismay over Israel’s assault and misrepresentation of their shared history. Liliana Kaczerginski, daughter of a Vilna ghetto resistance fighter, said:

What Israel is doing goes against everything that my father fought for; it is a violation of my family’s memory and I am proud to honor them with my signature.

Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz who lives in the Netherlands expressed outrage at the racism coming out of Israel:

The dehumanization of Jews is what made possible the Nazi genocide. In the same way, we are witnessing the escalating dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society.

 In their response letter, the survivors write:

We are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children.

Dr Hani Jamah, a Palestinian living in California who lost 30 family members in an Israeli bombing said:

When Israel started it’s bombardment of Gaza, I turned on the news and discovered that 30 of my aunts and cousins had died in a single bomb blast. Joining my voice with 40 survivors of the Nazi genocide adds power to our call that we must work together to bring justice to Gaza.

Said Monadel Herzallah, who is part of the US Palestinian Community Network and has family in Gaza:

With the growing number of people around the world holding Israel accountable for its genocidal crimes, I applaud the courageous statements by holocaust survivors and their families being on the right side of justice,”  “Our children and grandchildren inside of Gaza deserve a life of believing that Never Again means Never Again for Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.

Raphael Cohen, grandson of survivors who lives in the United States, called on people to take action to demand justice for Palestinians:

It is my own government paying for this violence. When governments won’t do what’s right, individuals and communities must speak out. That’s why I support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

The signatories hope that their letter will strengthen the claim that the legacy of Jewish suffering must mean never again for anyone, least of all, to be used in defense of Israeli violence.

Signatories will be hosting a press conference on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am Eastern Time

[8/22/14 San Francisco, CA]
Press Contact: Lee Gargagliano – survivorsletter@gmail.com

UPDATE ON CHILDREN IN GAZA:

A UNICEF field officer in Gaza reported that to date, 469 chjildren died as a result of violence against Gaza since early July. The report added “there is not a single family in the tiny enclave that has not been touched by the current violence.”

“The impact is has truly been vast, both at a very physical level, in terms of casualties, injuries, the infrastructure that’s been damaged, but also importantly, emotionally and psychologically in terms of the destabilizing impact that not knowing, not truly feeling like there is anywhere safe place to go in Gaza,” Pernilla Ironside, Chief of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Gaza field office told a press conference at UN Headquarters.

UNICEF has 50 psychologists and counsellors in Gaza reaching out to children directly impacted by loss. They have reached 3,000, but the needs are “staggering” as parents are also in a state of trauma, Ms. Ironside said, noting that today 373,000 Palestinian children need “immediate psycho-social first aid.”

Meanwhile, Defence for Children International Palestine reported how a Palestinian child was used as a human shield by Israeli forces:

humanshield.profile2.21august2014_0Ahmad Abu Raida was only 16 when Israeli soldiers repeatedly used him as a human shield for five days in Khuza’a, southern Gaza

Ramallah, August 21, 2014—Israeli soldiers repeatedly used Ahmad Abu Raida, 17, as a human shield for five days while he was held hostage during Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Ahmad, from Khuza’a, near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, was just 16 years old when he was taken from his family on July 23. He was forced at gunpoint to search for tunnels for five days, during which time he was interrogated, verbally and physically abused, and deprived of food and sleep. Ahmad told DCI-Palestine in a sworn testimony that Israeli soldiers attempted both to extract information from him regarding Hamas members, and recruit him as an informant, before releasing him on July 27.

“The Israeli military has consistently accused Hamas of using civilians – particularly children – as human shields, but this incident represents a clear case of their soldiers forcing a child to directly assist in military operations,” said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “Israeli officials make generalized accusations while Israeli soldiers engage in conduct that amounts to war crimes.”

Ahmad’s ordeal began on July 21, when Israeli tanks entered Khuza’a, a town where Israeli forces allegedly committed war crimes during the the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. After two days of hiding at home, Ahmad’s family and neighbors attempted to flee intense artillery fire. As they tried to leave, however, Israeli soldiers assembled civilians, separating young men from others.

Ahmad was singled out, detained with his hands tied behind his back, and kicked and insulted by a soldier. His family was released, but lost sight of him as they fled the area.

In the days that followed, despite not being associated with Hamas, Ahmad was interrogated about his political affiliation and the location of Hamas tunnels. He managed to sleep for just two hours on the first night, sitting in a chair with his hands tied behind him. Every day he was made to search for tunnels, including at one point digging under the afternoon sun.

Speaking to DCI-Palestine, Ahmad said, “[The Captain and the soldiers] were walking behind me, with their rifles pointed at me. “Get in and see if there are tunnels or not,” [the Captain] ordered me. They made me search all the rooms for tunnels. Whenever I told them there were no tunnels, they would take me out and search the room themselves.”

Invitation to public talks: Illan Pappe in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg

“Myths and Truths about the Land of Israel”

– by two Jewish scholars: Prof Illan Pappe & Dr. Heidi Grunebaum:

ilan-pappe-200 heidi

Thursday, 31 July 2014
Room 222, Arts Building, c/o Merriman and Ryneveldt Streets, Stellenbosch

18:00 – Public Lectures/ Discussion
19:30 – Soup, Bread & Drinks + book and dvd sales.

Please RSVP by 30 July to psc.stellenbosch@gmail.com

This invitation to courageous conversations with two highly respected Jewish scholars on Israel/Palestine will be hosted by Stellenbosch University’s Sociology and Social Anthropology Department, Kairos Southern Africa and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Stellenbosch on invitation of Muslim Views who is responsible for the South African tour.

For Prof Pappe’s schedule in the other South African cities, click here:
Pappe Programme – Public Sheet1

Background to the topic in Stellenbosch

The Israel-Palestine conflict is often viewed as so complex that no-one seems to know how it started or how to go forward. Such views lead to feelings of hopelessness and inertia and play into the hand of Zionist myths. The discussion will uncover myths such as “Palestine was a land without a people”, “Israel is about to be pushed into the sea”, “Israel wants peace for all” and “the exodus of Palestinian refugees in 1948 was a voluntary mass relocation” as portrayed by Jewish and Christian Zionist ideology.

These myths need to be uncovered not only for scholarly reasons or because it’s interesting. Amongst other, social relations and particularly the role of South Africa in either perpetuating the oppression of another people through our myths and ignorance or acting in solidarity, demand clarity.

The event offers the opportunity to reflect critically on common myths to advance an understanding of the historical political domination of the Palestinian People by the State of Israel.

More about the speakers

In the 1980s, a group of Israeli historians challenged the traditional Zionist view of the events leading up to and including the 1948 Declaration and War of Independence.

pappe2Prof. Pappe is one of these historians who argue that the violence and war crimes that accompanied the transfer of the Palestinian population to the West Bank and Gaza was a conscious strategy for ethnic cleansing. He is an Israeli historian from the College of Social Sciences and International Studies, Director of European Centre for Palestine Studies, and Co-director of the Centre for Ethno-Political Studies, University of Exeter, UK.

Dr. Heidi Grunebaum is a scholar, writer and senior researcher at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape. Her work focuses on memory and trauma; the afterlives of war and genocide; and psycho-geographies of displacement in South Africa, Germany and, more recently, Palestine/Israel. Her exploration mirrors that of Prof. Pappe through challenging the dominant mainstream Zionist myths.

heidi2

About PSC Stellenbosch and Kairos Southern Africa

PSC Stellenbosch is a group of people drawn together out of its concern for the human rights violations by Israel over the Palestinian people. Kairos Southern Africa is an ecumenical voice from within the Christian community, inspired by the contextual and liberation theology tabled in the 1985 South African Kairos document. Both PSC Stellenbosch and Kairos South Africa support the Palestinian peoples’ right to self-determination, oppose Israel’s systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, endorse the human rights and the dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians and join with like-minded others to work towards a sustainable, just peace based on international law.

Previous events hosted by PSC Stellenbosch and Kairos SA include the showing of three films on Israel/Palestine, as well as addresses by Israeli author Miko Peled and Dr. Mitri Raheb, a Christian Palestinian theologian.

We look forward to welcoming you on 31 July.

Please RSVP by 30 July to psc.stellenbosch@gmail.com

For Prof Pappe’s schedule in the other South African venues, click here:
Pappe Programme – Public Sheet1

Sign the petition to end imprisonment of conscientious Israelis who don’t join the military

Imagine being a Palestinian Israeli and having to join the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to oppress, intimidate and attack Palestinians in the occupied territories?

Israeli strikes in Gaza destroy office of Hamas premier.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmedia_29ebc6919dd74f69ad4b1c1ff51d929e_t607

Omar Sa’ad is one such refuser, and he has just been incarcerated for a seventh time, this time for 40 days. Imagine his guts and his perseverance. I am not sure that I could have done such a thing, let alone having the moral integrity at such a young age. What Omar does, is by far more brave than putting on a uniform to brutalise someone else.

omarOmar Sa’ad at a recruitment center. Photo by Twitter

To sign a petition by New Profile and Amnesty International for the immediate and unconditional release of Omar Sa’ad and all other all other individuals held solely for their conscientious objection to military service, click here: SIGN THE PETITION.

Palestinian Israelis are Arabs who are largely Sunni Muslims, with smaller numbers of Christians and members of the Druze community. They do not enjoy the same benefits as Jewish Israeli citizens, but the Druze group is the only non-Jewish group that must enlist in the Israeli Defense Force.

Maisan Hamdan, the coordinator of the Druze campaign against military service, said:

“Refusing the imposed military service is one of the components of our Palestinian identity. Our campaign is not affiliated with any political party nor religion. We call all the national powers to unite and coordinate in a joint effort to end the mandatory military service imposed on the Palestinian Arab Druze youth.

druze community

In my own inner conversation, I too had to ask myself what I can do. Omar needs the help, the encouragement, the solidarity, the prayers, the letters and whatever else may be appropriate, from those of us who share his values.

After being sentenced for the seventh time, Omar issued a public statement:

The Easter gift, The Spring Feast, the Freedom Fest. They talk about Easter holiday as a symbol of freedom and the story of the children of Israel who were saved out from slavery…I have gave in myself to the Israeli Army…I was ruled 6 times to prison, and every time for 20 days, and today for the seventh time and in retaliation I was sentenced for 40 days.
Since one year and a half I declared my refusal to the conscription law imposed on the Druze community, and I refuse to serve in the Israeli army, through a letter sent to Israel’s Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, and up till today I have not received any reply.
I declare out loud today: I Omar Zaher Alden Saad will not serve in the Israeli military army and I demand respect for my faith and I yearn for my freedom.
Those who sent me to prison today and for 40 days: before you sit with your family to celebrate Easter and to tell the Easter your children how they are free now and not slaves any more, look in the mirror, you will see you are still a slave that carry out orders.

In his original refusal declaration Omar wrote:

“I refuse because I am pacifist, and I hate any kind of violence, and I believe that the army institute is the top of physical and psychological violence, and since I received your order for making the checking procedures my life changed completely. I became very nervous and my thoughts were dispersed. I remembered thousands of hard images, and I could not imagine myself wearing the military uniform and participating in suppressing my Palestinian people, and fighting my Arab brothers. I reject enlisting to the Israeli army or to any other army, because of national and moral reasons. I hate oppression, and I reject occupation.”

Please write a letter of support to Omar?
Since the prison authorities often block mail from reaching imprisoned objectors, please e-mail your letters to: messages2prison@newprofile.org and they will be printed out and delivered during visits.

New Profile is an Israeli organisation working towards the demilitarization of the Israeli society. Ruth Hiller, one of its founding members, wrote as follows:

I have friends, activists like myself who are feeling discouraged. Indeed our mission is a difficult one, and there is good reason to feel fearful with the present government and the on-going military suppression and other actions against the Palestinians, internationals, and supportive Israelis. It is difficult to remain optimistic.
At the same I can’t help but note that when my son Yinnon declared his refusal to serve in the military, he was one; and I was the one mother who said no. Today we are not alone.
I would like change to happen more quickly, at a different pace. But I also believe that in order to maintain change, it must start from deep within Israeli society and in particular at the grassroots level.

Please write to Omar!

Israel has a militarized society. It means, for example, that people in uniform are heroes, and that fighting is something to aspire to, even if you are a child as recently demonstrated in  Efrat, an illegal Israeli city in the occupied West Bank of Palestine:

An Israeli boy wearing a military vest throws a mock grenade during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014.(Photo: Gali Tibbongali / AFP)

If you have the stomach for disturbing information click here for more on militarizing children.

50 Young Israelis to Netanyahu: “We Refuse to Serve in the Occupation Army”

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On 8 March 2014, the largest group of draft refusers in the history of Israel sent Prime Minister Netanyahu a letter in which they declared their refusal to serve in the Israeli military:

The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.

I quote from an e-mail I received from  Ruth Hiller co-founder of New Profile in Israel:

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This is the largest group of Israeli draft refusers in the history of Israel; it is the first act of its kind in five years, but follows a long tradition of communal conscientious objection. The current Israeli government is trying to widen the army draft to all ethnic groups within Israel against their will and young people from all over the country are reacting by refusing to serve in the Israeli Army.

The purpose of this statement is to protest against the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories where, according to the signatories “human rights are violated and acts defined by international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis.” They are also protesting the way in which the army influences civilian life, deepening the sexism, militarism, violence, inequality and racism present in Israeli society.

Mandy Cartner, a 16 years old signatory from Tel Aviv said: “The actions of the army distance us from finding a solution and from creating peace, justice and security. My refusal is a way of expressing my opposition to the wrongs done daily in our name and through us.”

Shaked Harari, a 17 years old signatory from Bat Yam, said: “The army serves the people in power and not the civilians, who are only a tool. My friends and I refuse to be cannon fodder.”

Roni Lax, a 20 year old signatory from Bnei Brak: “We stand in solidarity with the ultra-orthodox youth and the Arab youth – Christian and Druze, some of whom are currently in an army prison.”

Contact Info:

Dafna Rothstein Landman – 0522470123 – dafna.e.r.l@gmail.com

Itamar Bellaiche – 0547484248 – itabellaiche@gmail.com

Their statement reads as follows:

“We, citizens of the state of Israel, are designated for army service.

We appeal to the readers of this letter to set aside what has always been taken for granted and to reconsider the implications of military service.

We, the undersigned, intend to refuse to serve in the army and the main reason for this refusal is our opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinians in the occupied territories live under Israeli rule though they did not choose to do so, and have no legal recourse to influence this regime or its decision-making processes. This is neither egalitarian nor just. In these territories, human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis. These include assassinations (extrajudicial killings), the construction of settlements on occupied lands, administrative detentions, torture, collective punishment and the unequal allocation of resources such as electricity and water. Any form of military service reinforces this status quo, and, therefore, in accordance with our conscience, we cannot take part in a system that perpetrates the above-mentioned acts.

The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.

We refuse to aid the military system in promoting and perpetuating male dominance. In our opinion, the army encourages a violent and militaristic masculine ideal whereby ‘might is right’. This ideal is detrimental to everyone, especially those who do not fit it. Furthermore, we oppose the oppressive, discriminatory, and heavily gendered power structures within the army itself.

We refuse to forsake our principles as a condition to being accepted in our society. We have thought about our refusal deeply and we stand by our decisions.

We appeal to our peers, to those currently serving in the army and/or reserve duty, and to the Israeli public at large, to reconsider their stance on the occupation, the army, and the role of the military in civil society. We believe in the power and ability of civilians to change reality for the better by creating a more fair and just society. Our refusal expresses this belief.

For details:

Dafna Rothstein Landman – 0522470123 – dafna.e.r.l@gmail.com

Itamar Bellaiche – 0547484248 – itabellaiche@gmail.com