Pence and Jordan’s king “agree to disagree” on Jerusalem

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Vice President Mike Pence, left, had a “very frank discussion” with King Abdullah II of Jordan, right, in Amman on Sunday. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi / AFP / Getty Images)

Pence had delayed his trip to the region amid the furor over Trump’s decisions, which were seen as pro-Israel and a slap in the face to Palestinians.

By Rana Sweis | The New York Times | Jan 21, 2018


“Trump and Israel want to end the Palestinian cause; they want to erase the idea of Palestinian refugees. They want to pressure Jordan, the Palestinians and others to give into the demands of an imaginary peace process that benefits only Israel, and that is unacceptable.”
— Abdul Rahman Qanas, 52, a resident of the Baqaa, the largest refugee camp in Jordan


Vice President Mike Pence met with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Sunday, telling reporters afterward that they had “agreed to disagree” on the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The meeting in Amman, on the second day of Mr. Pence’s visit to the Middle East, came as tension has increased between the two allies over President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem last month and his decision last week to withhold aid to the United Nations agency that serves Palestinian refugees.

Speaking before the meeting with Mr. Pence at Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, King Abdullah reiterated his support for “East Jerusalem as a capital of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with a secure and recognized Israel,” Petra, Jordan’s official news agency, reported.

Jordan is also home to more than two million Palestinian refugees who could be affected by the cut in American aid to the United Nations agency.

Mr. Pence said the two leaders had a “very frank discussion.”

Continue reading “Pence and Jordan’s king “agree to disagree” on Jerusalem”

Refugees hold “slave auction” to protest Israeli deportation

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Eritrean asylum seekers stage a mock slave auction outside the Knesset to protest Israel’s plans to deport tens of thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, Jan 17, 2018. (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

Israel plans to begin deporting tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers within weeks.

By Oren Ziv | +972 Magazine | Jan 17, 2018


“The asylum seekers that are deported from Israel end up in Libya, end up being sold. This is not just an idea, this is what happens to them actually once they are deported from Israel. Their lives are in danger. We came today to the Knesset to reinforce that message.”
— Sigal Avivi, Israeli refugee rights activist


A group of Eritrean asylum seekers and Israeli refugee advocates staged a mock slave auction outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, while a conference on government plans to begin mass deportations of asylum seekers took place inside Wednesday morning.

Around 10 asylum seekers stood on make-shift auction blocks made of milk crates, while an auctioneer called out, “get your slaves, slaves for half price,” over a megaphone. A single member of Knesset, Dov Khenin, came outside to support the asylum seekers, and called Israel’s refugee policy inhumane and unacceptable.

Israeli officials have stated that starting in a matter of weeks, tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel will face a stark choice: indefinite imprisonment or agree to be sent to Rwanda or Uganda. Asylum seekers who have left Israel for the two countries in recent years have not received any legal status there, and faced dangerous conditions and choices, including heading toward Europe through Libya, where human trafficking and other types of violence is a constant danger.

Continue reading “Refugees hold “slave auction” to protest Israeli deportation”

US role as Mideast peace broker may be over

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Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, has visited Israel four times before and pushed for Trump’s inflammatory policies in the Middle East. (photo: Alex Brandon / AP)

Under Trump, relations between the Palestinian leadership and Washington have soured – and Pence’s trip is expected to confirm the enmity.

By Oliver Holmes | The Guardian | Jan 20, 2018


Trump has said he wants to revitalize long-stalled peace talks in pursuit of what he has described as the “ultimate deal.” Yet when Pence touches down in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, the US’s role as mediator in the conflict may be over for good.


It’s not the trip to the Holy Land that Mike Pence might have imagined. For a start, the US vice-president — an evangelical Christian — is no longer welcome in Jesus’s birthplace of Bethlehem.

Donald Trump doomed Pence’s chances of a visit to the West Bank when he reversed decades of US policy last month by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This broke a longstanding international consensus that the issue would be negotiated in peace talks with the Palestinians, who also claim parts of the city.

While Trump did not rule out a future division of Jerusalem, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, swiftly rescinded Pence’s invitation to meet him and visit Bethlehem, while senior Christian clerics in Egypt — where Pence arrives on Saturday at the start of his four-day trip ­— also cancelled planned events.

Continue reading “US role as Mideast peace broker may be over”

ACTION: Call on Congress on to oppose UNRWA cuts

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UNRWA provides a lifeline to 5 million Palestinian refugees. (photo: AFP)

Take action today, and urge Congress to reject any cuts to vital aid for Palestinians and to oppose the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

By American Friends Service Committee | Jan 20, 2018


“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
— Cornel West


Last month, President Trump announced his administration’s reckless, one-sided decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eventually move the US embassy there. Now the administration is threatening to cut off US aid to the Palestinians — a move that would have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian refugees who depend on it.

Please click on this link to send and email to your congressional representatives →

Volunteer opportunities at the Tent of Nations

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A memorial for Bishara Daher Nassar at the Tent of Nations near Bethlehem, with a settlement visible in the background. (photo: HolyLandJustice.org)

If you’re interested in spending some time in the West Bank, please consider volunteering with our friends at Tent of Nations.

By Glenna Kay Plitt (via email) | FOTANNA | Jan 18, 2017


  • Mar 19–30, 2018 — Camp 1: Tree Planting Camp
  • Jun 4–14, 2018 — Camp 2: Cave Renovation Camp
  • Jun 25–Jul 7, 2018 — Camp 3: Children’s  Summer Camp
  • Jul 30–Aug 9, 2018 — Camp 4: Almond Harvest Camp
  • Aug 27–Sep 7, 2018 — Camp 5: Fig and Grape Harvest Camp
  • Oct 22–Nov 2, 2018 — Camp 6: Olive Harvest Camp

High school students look for gap-year experiences, retired people look for short-term volunteer projects, college students look for international travel experiences for credit or for internships, people between jobs look for something new and different to add to their résumés — many people are searching for meaningful ways to make a difference in a world that feels very topsy-turvy right now. FOTONNA is here to help you make that difference.

We are offering any and all of you an opportunity to participate in a small but meaningful way through volunteering on the Nassar family farm (Daher’s Vineyard, outside Bethlehem) or enabling someone you know to go in your stead. I know that you are all familiar with the Tent of Nations Peace Project, and Daoud Nassar is in need of volunteers to help in both small and big ways. With the current unrest in the area (which is an understatement), there is an even greater need today to have an international presence on the farm at all times. You can find out more by visiting Daoud’s website — www.tentofnations.org — and clicking on the Volunteer tab. Continue reading “Volunteer opportunities at the Tent of Nations”

Female IDF soldiers move from the front lines to the headlines

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Female soldiers in the IDF take a water break during an exercise on Nov 19, 2007. (photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr)

Debate over mixed-gender IDF units rages in the Hebrew-language press.

By Adiv Sterman | The Times of Israel | Jan 18, 2018


“It is too bad that too many ultra-religious Zionists — both rabbis and MKs — are stoking the flames, stirring up unnecessary controversy, and provoking hatred.”
— Yossi Yehoshua, writing in Yedioth Ahronoth


The frustration felt by many citizens of the Jewish state over the growing chasm between religious-conservative and secular-liberal values in Israel is reflected in today’s Hebrew-language newspapers, as pundits and analysts pretty much across the board denounce calls for draft evasion issued by prominent right-wing rabbis, including Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who went as far as saying that the IDF’s chief of staff should be fired for promoting women’s service in combat roles.

“Woman combat soldiers: The secret to the IDF’s success,” writes Israel Hayom’s Maayan Adam, who is an officer in the army reserves herself. “The comments against women’s service no longer manage to anger me; they even lead me to feel pity. It is easy to notice that behind the patriarchal discourse stands a distress call from a handful of scared men,” Adam says, adding that there can be no turning back now that women have been introduced into the army’s various combat units.

Continue reading “Female IDF soldiers move from the front lines to the headlines”

Belgium pledges $23m to UNRWA after US cuts aid

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UNRWA supports about 5 million Palestinians. (photo: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

Belgium is the first to step up after refugee agency pleas for additional donors.

By Al Jazeera News | Jan 18, 2018


“For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy. With the help of UNRWA half a million of Palestine children are able to go to school. This prevents them from falling prey to radicalization and extreme violence.”
—Alexander De Croo, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister


Belgium has pledged to donate 19m euro ($23m) to UNRWA, the UN’s aid organization for Palestinian refugees, after the US government announced it would slash its funding to the agency by half.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement on Wednesday that Brussels would allocate the funds over three years.

The first annual payment is being disbursed immediately “considering the financial difficulties that UNRWA currently faces,” the statement said.

Washington announced on Tuesday it is withholding $65m out of the $125m aid package earmarked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, or UNRWA.

Continue reading “Belgium pledges $23m to UNRWA after US cuts aid”

UN seeks donations for refugees after US cuts aid

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Palestinians hold signs during a protest against aid cut, outside United Nations’ offices in Gaza City. (photo: Reuters)

UNRWA issues a broad appeal in the wake of the Trump administration’s aid cut.

By Reuters via New York Post | Jan 17, 2018


“At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization.”
— Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General


The head of the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees appealed on Wednesday for world donations after the United States withheld about half its planned funding for the organization, a move he said risks instability in the region.

Washington said on Tuesday it would provide $60 million to the UN Relief and Welfare Agency while keeping back a further $65 million for now. The US State Department said UNRWA needed to make unspecified reforms.

Palestinians, already angered by US President Donald Trump’s Dec 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, denounced the decision, which could deepen hardship in the Gaza Strip where UNRWA helps much of its population of 2 million.

Continue reading “UN seeks donations for refugees after US cuts aid”

US cuts to refugee agency a “death sentence”

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A Palestinian woman rides in a car after collecting aid provided by UNRWA in Gaza City on Wednesday. (photo: Mohammed Abed / AFP / Getty Images)

Trump’s decision to cut aid to Palestinian refugees threatens the well-being of millions.

By Hazem Balousha and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Jan 17, 2018


“We are extremely worried. We support 1 million people with food. . . . [We] just hope we have enough time to persuade them to change their mind and/or to find another donor.”
— Matthias Schmale, UNRWA Gaza Director


The UN Relief and Works Agency, the main body providing aid to millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East, made an urgent appeal for international support Wednesday, one day after the State Department announced that it will slash its annual funding.

“After decades of generous support, dramatic reduction of US funding to @UNRWA results in most critical financial situation in history of Agency,” the agency’s commissioner general, Pierre Krähenbühl, wrote on Twitter. “I call on member states of the United Nations to take a stand & demonstrate to Palestine Refugees that their rights & future matter.”

In a more detailed statement to the media, Krähenbühl said the U.S. contribution of $60 million, less than half of a planned $125 million installment, is “dramatically below past levels” and jeopardizes the “dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support.”

Continue reading “US cuts to refugee agency a “death sentence””

Jerusalem: It’s tense, crowded and can feel like a jail

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Israeli border police officers responding to a disturbance in the Muslim Quarter after Friday prayers. (photo: Uriel Sinai / The New York Times)

This is a tense city on a good day.

By David Halbfinger | The New York Times | Dec 9, 2017


“There’s a big religion problem in Jerusalem. It’s a city of racism. Once there’s a little bit of balagan [chaos] between Jews and Arabs, Jews won’t go in my taxi, and Arabs won’t go to the mall. And if I go into a religious neighborhood and they find out I’m Arab, they’ll stone my car. . . . There will never be peace here. If they take all the Arabs away, the Jews would eat each other. And the same thing with us.”
— Jerusalem taxi driver Muhammad Ziada


You feel it behind the wheel: The traffic signals turn red and yellow to alert a coming green. Hesitate a half-second before accelerating? A honking horn. Schoolgirls gesture at motorists as they step into a crosswalk, fingertips bunched and faces scowling: Will you wait, or what?

You see it in the crowding: Overstuffed apartments spilling onto one another, in teeming Palestinian neighborhoods, and in ghetto-like ultra-Orthodox enclaves, a few blocks apart on either side of the Green Line, the pre-1967 boundary with the West Bank.

You hear it in the way people talk — “The Arabs,” “The Jews” — about people with whom they have been sentenced to share a tiny patch of soil atop a ridge with no strategic value, over which the world has been battling for thousands of years, and negotiating on and off for decades, with no end in sight.

Continue reading “Jerusalem: It’s tense, crowded and can feel like a jail”