University of Michigan students vote to divest from Israel

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A student listens to a speaker during a University of Michigan Student Government meeting to vote on a resolution to divest in businesses connected to Israel, Nov 14, 2017. (photo: Hunter Dyke / The Ann Arbor News)

The resolution passed after an 8-hour meeting, following a series of failed attempts dating back to 2002.

By Martin Slagter | MLive | Nov 15, 2017


“By passing [the resolution] what we are saying to Palestinian students is we acknowledge for the first time that this is an issue that deeply affects their everyday campus experiences, and that the broader campus owes it to them to have a real institutional conversation about it. Nowhere in that validation and humanization of one group of students does this resolution isolate or marginalize another group.”
— student government member Hafsa Tout


The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government is calling on university leaders to investigate divestment from companies that do business with Israel.

UM’s student government passed the motion with 23 members voting in favor and 17 against the motion stating that three companies “violate Palestinian human rights,” while five members abstained.

The meeting stretched nearly eight hours — the longest in student government history — before a vote was conducted under secret ballot, which was done after much debate to protect pro-Palestinian and divestment members from being subject to damaging online blacklists.

The resolution was passed to investigate divesting in Israel after 10 previous attempts since 2002. The vote tally was dramatically different than last year’s resolution, which was voted down 34–13.

Continue reading “University of Michigan students vote to divest from Israel”

How to write effective letters to Congress

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The US Capitol Building. (photo: US Capitol Police)

Short-and-sweet, specific, and personal carries the day.

By Robert Longley | ThoughtCo. | Nov 13, 2017


  1. Be courteous and respectful without “gushing.”
  2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly.
  3. Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
  4. State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
  5. Keep your letter short — one page is best.
  6. Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
  7. State what it is you want to be done or recommend a course of action.
  8. Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.

People who think members of the US Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail are just plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing the lawmakers they elect.

Members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day, so you will want your letter stand out. Whether you choose to use the US Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help you write a letter to Congress that has an impact.

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How grassroots efforts moved Congress to action on the abuse of Palestinian children in military detention

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People take part in a demonstration of Palestinians living in Greece to mark the Palestinian Prisoners Day, in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Apr 21, 2017. (photo: Grigoris Siamidis / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The No Way to Treat a Child movement bears legislative fruit.

By Jennifer Bing | Truthout | Nov 15, 2017


The bill [introduced in] Congress this week is a significant step forward for all those who want to align our values with the actions — and aid monies — of our government. Now we need the rest of Congress to act by swiftly passing this breakthrough legislation. Looking at what has been accomplished since a small group of us sat at my kitchen table three years ago, agonizing over how to end these abuses, I know this vital change is possible.


Imagine you are a child between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. The army comes to your home in the middle of the night, wakes you from your bed, blindfolds you and ties your hands with plastic cuffs.

Your parents’ pleas do not stop the soldiers from roughly taking you and throwing you in their Jeep, never telling you or your parents what you are charged with or where you are going.

You arrive at a detention cell in an Israeli settlement where you are interrogated without a lawyer or family member present, and you are pressured to confess to throwing stones so you can go back home to your family. Once you sign the confession, written in a language you can’t read, you then face a military court hearing where a military judge sentences you to prison for three months, in a detention center in Israel where your family members are likely unable to visit.

Continue reading “How grassroots efforts moved Congress to action on the abuse of Palestinian children in military detention”

New legislation promoting human rights for Palestinian children

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An Israeli soldier detains a Palestinian boy during a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah Aug 28, 2015. (photo: Reuters)

This legislation would prohibit US funding from supporting Israeli military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.

Press Release / Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn) / Nov 14, 2017


“[We] strongly endorse Rep. Betty McCollum’s Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act. In order for the US to play a constructive role in bringing about a comprehensive and sustainable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must ensure we are not supporting the continued trauma inflicted on Palestinian youth entangled in the Israeli Military Detention system.”
— Churches for Middle East Peace

“Jewish tradition teaches that each and every single person has inherent dignity and worth and must be treated accordingly. This legislation recognizes and acts upon the inherent dignity and worth of Palestinian children and sends the message that the United States is committed to a future with freedom, safety, and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
— Jewish Voices for Peace


Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) today introduced legislation — the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act — to prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children. The full text of the bill can be found here.

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch have documented that these children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15. In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has found that Palestinian children are frequently held for extended periods without access to either their parents or attorneys.

“This legislation highlights Israel’s system of military detention of Palestinian children and ensures that no American assistance to Israel supports human rights violations,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.”

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Remembering Paul Findley and Yasser Arafat

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Former Rep. Paul Findley (R-IL) speaking on “How to tame lobbies like AIPAC,” Apr 10, 2015. (photo: National Press Club)

A tribute to Paul Findley on the 13th anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death.

By James Wall / wallwritings.me / Nov 14, 2017


Findley was that rare member of the U.S. Congress who ignored memos from foreign governments. He understood the danger of allowing the state of Israel to control American foreign policy in the Middle East.


On the day Yasser Arafat died, Nov 9, 2004, former Illinois Republican Congressman Paul Findley wrote an article to describe the relationship he had with the Palestinian leader.

Paul Findley knew then, and he knows now, that if enough members of Congress had joined with him in favor of talking with Yasser Arafat, Israel’s control over American policy might well have shifted in a different direction.

His article was published in the Daily Star, a Beirut, Lebanon, publication, on the occasion of Arafat’s death, 75, in a Paris hospital. Arafat had been under essential house arrest in his Ramallah headquarters. When he became ill, Israel moved him to Paris.

The failure of Finley’s news-worthy piece to find significant American exposure was further evidence of just how much Israel and its American allies fear an influential man like Paul Findley.

Continue reading “Remembering Paul Findley and Yasser Arafat”

TOMORROW: Is peace possible in the Holy Land?

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The Rev. Alex Awad in Bethlehem. (photo: Indiana Center for Middle East Peace)

Ten ways churches can contribute to peace in Israel and Palestine.

Please join our brothers and sisters at University Presbyterian Church for this exciting presentation by the Rev. Alex Awad.

Date: Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: The Inn Chapel
University Presbyterian Church
4540 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105
Information: Event website
Tickets: Free

Event Details

The Rev. Alex Awad is a retired missionary who served under the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church Israel/Palestine. He is the former pastor of the East Jerusalem Bible Church and Professor at Bethlehem Bible College.

More information about Rev. Awad here →

Cambridge University criticized for censoring BDS event

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Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. (photo: David Iliff)

Recently several UK universities have censored or restricted pro-Palestinian events.

By Shafik Mandhai / Al Jazerra / Nov 11, 2017


“Removing a respected Palestinian academic as chair of a panel event based on an unsubstantiated assumption about her lack of ‘neutrality,’ and in doing so bowing to external pressure from a pro-Israel lobby group, cannot be construed as anything other than a naked attack on free speech and, more particularly academic freedom.”
— Cambridge University student Ed McNally


The University of Cambridge is facing accusations of censorship after it allegedly threatened to ban a meeting about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement unless the Palestinian academic chairing it was removed and replaced with its own choice.

Ruba Salih from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) was set to oversee Wednesday’s event featuring Palestinian BDS activist, Omar Barghouti, but organizers say they were forced to cancel her participation hours before it was due to start after the university intervened citing concerns over her neutrality.

Continue reading “Cambridge University criticized for censoring BDS event”

Protect free speech

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The US Constitution is the oldest document currently governing a nation. (photo: iStock Photos)

A message from faith organizations in the United States.

Friends of Sabeel North America


As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace. These economic measures have proven to be powerful tools for social change. . . . Anti-BDS legislation is an extremely grave attack on free speech that threatens the use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions for other peace and human justice causes.


We are members of faith communities in the United States whose congregations or denominations have adopted resolutions to boycott products made in Israeli settlements—built on occupied Palestinian lands in violation of international law and longstanding official U.S. policy—or have implemented a screen to divest from companies that profit from the 50-year-old Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These resolutions affirm our commitment to a just peace for all Palestinians and Israelis.

We are alarmed by legislation recently passed in a number of states penalizing  participation in the nonviolent, grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights and by similar legislation that is proposed in the U.S. Congress. In August, the Kansas State Department of Education used the state’s anti-BDS legislation to bar a member of the Mennonite church, a math teacher and curriculum coach in Wichita, Kansas, from participating in a program to train other math teachers.

This is a dangerous precedent that threatens to extend repression of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule by muzzling the right of Americans to free speech.

Accordingly, the ACLU has filed suit against the Kansas Commissioner of Education in defense of this school teacher and her right to boycott.

Continue reading “Protect free speech”

EVENT: Is peace possible in the Holy Land?

awad
The Rev. Alex Awad in Bethlehem. (photo: Indiana Center for Middle East Peace)

Ten ways churches can contribute to peace in Israel and Palestine.

Please join our brothers and sisters at University Presbyterian Church for this exciting presentation by the Rev. Alex Awad.

Date: Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: The Inn Chapel
University Presbyterian Church
4540 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105
Information: Event website
Tickets: Free

Event Details

The Rev. Alex Awad is a retired missionary who served under the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church Israel/Palestine. He is the former pastor of the East Jerusalem Bible Church and Professor at Bethlehem Bible College.

More information about Rev. Awad here →

Criticism and defense of Kairos Palestine

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(photo: uruknet.info)

The director of AJC New England denounces Kairos Palestine; the United Church of Christ responds

By Robert Leikind / The Boston Globe / Sep 20, 2017
By Peter Makari and The Rev. Jim Antal / The Boston Globe / Oct 3, 2017


Israel, [Kairos] states, is the “enemy” who stands in opposition to God himself. Its “occupation,” according to Kairos Palestine, “is an evil that must be resisted.”

[Kairos] advocates peace with justice, rejects and condemns violence and extremism . . . . It offers a word of hope and of love, while naming the injustice of the occupation.


From AJC New England:

Over the last decade, a number of mainline Protestant Churches, including some with a significant presence in New England, have adopted resolutions harshly critical of Israel. During the summer two more were passed by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. These measures share three core elements: Each assigns Israel near total culpability for the conflict with the Palestinians; each overlooks decades of Palestinian activity that has undermined prospects for peace with Israel; and each justifies its claims by referring to a document called Kairos Palestine. . . .

This appeal reduces the complex, painful history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a single word: “occupation.” Information that might contradict Kairos Palestine’s far-reaching declaration is ignored. Gone from the historical narrative are  . . . multiple Israeli peace proposals, rejected by Palestinian leadership, that included withdrawal from nearly all of the West Bank; acts of terror that have caused thousands of Israeli casualties; thousands of missiles that followed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza; and repeated calls by Palestinian religious, civic, and political leaders to reject peaceful coexistence with Israel on any terms.

Read the full article here →


From United Church of Christ:

. . . Because the voices of Palestinian Christians are among the voices that need to be heard, our churches commended Kairos Palestine for study, reflection, and response in April 2010, five months after it was issued. The document is written by Palestinian Christians who have lived under Israeli occupation for half a century — a people whose rights are denied every day. Kairos Palestine is an authentic and legitimate voice of a community with which we have close relations, a document that advocates peace with justice, rejects and condemns violence and extremism, and seeks better relationships among all the people of Israel and Palestine. It offers a word of hope and of love, while naming the injustice of the occupation.

We are eager to engage with the multiple perspectives of our sisters and brothers in the Jewish community on Israel and Palestine, and hope that Leikind and the American Jewish Committee would be willing to speak more publicly and critically of the settlements and of occupation, which cannot go on indefinitely, but which must be addressed more urgently.

Read the full article here →