Film: Sky and Ground (Mar 1)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Mideast Focus Ministry for their First Friday Film series.
Date: Friday, Mar 1, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: St. Mark’s Cathedral
Bloedel Hall
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free Admission
Event Details

A compelling, ground-level immersion into the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, Sky & Ground accompanies the Nabi clan, a large, extended Syrian-Kurdish family, as they painstakingly make their way from their home in Aleppo, bombed out by the war, to the Idomeni refugee camp on the border of Greece and Macedonia. Their goal is Berlin, where they will reunite with family members and seek asylum but first they must make the arduous and dangerous journey through Serbia, Hungary and Austria.

Continue reading “Film: Sky and Ground (Mar 1)”

Israel’s growing settlements force stark choices about its future

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 15.17.34

The country cannot remain Jewish and democratic while controlling the entire Holy Land.

By Staff | The Economist | Feb 2, 2019

Between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, the overall number of Arabs has caught up with that of Jews, and may soon exceed them.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are frozen. President Donald Trump’s plan for the “deal of the century” has been put off. The subject is absent in campaigning for the Israeli election in April, which focuses on looming corruption charges against Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.

The Oslo accords of 1993 created a crazy quilt of autonomous zones in the lands that Israel captured in 1967. They also kindled the hope of creating a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem. After much bloodshed, though, most Israelis are wary of this “two-state solution.” Today Palestinians are mostly shut off by security barriers, and divided. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank refuses to negotiate with Israel but co-operates on security. Its Islamist rival, Hamas, which runs Gaza, dares not risk another war, for now.

Continue reading “Israel’s growing settlements force stark choices about its future”

BDS is a trap for Democrats

Senate Judiciary Committee members Sheldon Whitehouse, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Christopher Coons during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Sep 28, 2018. (photo: Getty Images)
Progressive Democrats are beginning to understand how Israel and BDS are being used to manipulate them into betraying their values and undermining their own cause.

By Lara Friedman | Forward | Jan 28, 2019

So long as the likes of McConnell, AIPAC, Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu are allowed to dictate the limits of acceptable discourse and opinion on Israel, and to impose a definition of “pro-Israel” that is inconsistent with liberal values, progressives are preordained to get hammered politically.

On Monday night [Jan 28], the United States Senate voted to advance a bill that will quash free speech in the name of supporting Israel. It’s just one more sign that Israel-Palestine is being used as a potent weapon in today’s political arena.

The bill is S. 1, aka the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.” S. 1 was introduced by an all-GOP set of sponsors back on January 3. A grab-bag of Israel and Middle East-related measures, it also includes the “Combating BDS Act,” a controversial bill which would grant federal cover to laws passed by U.S. states that, in the name of supporting Israel, require companies and even individual contractors to sign away their right to engage in boycotts of Israel or its settlements.

The ACLU says these state laws are unconstitutional. Federal judges in Kansas and Arizona agree. So do constitutional law scholars and free speech experts.

But AIPAC and its fellow travelers, both in the GOP and among hardline pro-Israel forces, reject such views, albeit with arguments that stand up poorly to fact-checking. Instead, they have been framing these state laws, and S. 1, as political litmus tests of pro-Israel bona fides.

Continue reading “BDS is a trap for Democrats”

Can Arab Evangelicals play a bridging role?


Palestinian Christian delegations travel to Latin America to argue the shift of embassies to Jerusalem is counterproductive to peace.

By Daoud Kuttab | The Jordan Times | Feb 6, 2019

Palestinian Evangelicals turned the tables on their counterparts, using biblical arguments that there are no more chosen people and that God’s blessing is no longer limited to one people, but as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount “blessed are the peacemakers”.

Palestinian foreign ministry officials were in a quandary in recent months. Despite the strong support for the Palestinian cause around the world, a handful of small Latin American countries were causing a political-headache, as they were publicly talking about the possibility of moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For the Spanish speaking Palestinian foreign minister, this was truly troubling. He has been to many Central and South American countries and is aware that Palestinian and Arab immigrants to these countries are among the most important communities, both in terms of economic abilities and political power. Arab social clubs are so powerful that anyone wanting to have a chance for networking and influence wanted to join them.

The trouble, of course, was coming from a wave of new fundamentalist Christian leaders, often referred to as Christian Zionists. These leaders, who often get their theology from fellow American televangelists, were bringing the Middle East conflict into internal discussions and promising their supporters to move their embassies as part of their distorted view that somehow blessing and supporting Israel would bring blessing to them.

To counter these new phenomena, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki and his staff decided to turn to their own Palestinian Christian community to enlist them in the campaign to put a stop or to reverse the pro-Israeli shift that was taking place by some right-wing Latin American leaders. Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun and others were asked to travel to countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Brazil to argue the danger of such a reckless move not only to regional peace, but also to the very same religious communities that these leaders claim to be supporting.

Continue reading “Can Arab Evangelicals play a bridging role?”

Republicans are cynically trying to split Democrats over BDS

Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla). (photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
A provision added to the new Senate bill by Sen. Marco Rubio seeks to stifle support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

By Brant Rosen | Truthout | Jan 31, 2019

It is a message to Jews who still care about Israel, to say, ‘You’ll be much more comfortable in the Republican Party.’
— Norm Coleman, national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition

With the Senate’s imminent passage of the grandiosely titled Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, it’s now official: Israel/Palestine will be a major political wedge issue in the 116th Congress and the 2020 election season. And it’s not going to be pretty.

This new Senate bill is essentially a package of previous bills that appears on the surface to be boilerplate Middle East legislation. But with the addition of a provision by Sen. Marco Rubio that seeks to stifle support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, this legislation is nothing short of a Republican line drawn in the sand.

BDS — the movement mobilized in response to a Palestinian civil society call for economic activism in support of Palestinian human rights — has long been a flash point for advocacy on the issue of Israel/Palestine. Over the past several years, there have been attempts on a state and federal level to fight BDS on a legislative level. While this new Senate bill does not criminalize BDS outright, it does encourage the passage of state laws that would require government contractors to certify they don’t participate in boycotts. More than two dozen states have passed such legislation in the past four years — laws that clearly violate the First Amendment right of free speech, as the ACLU and myriad other legal experts have pointed out.

In fact, the legality of these laws has already been successfully challenged in court. In Arizona, a US District judge issued an injunction blocking enforcement of its anti-BDS laws. Last December, a lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of a speech pathologist in Austin, Texas, after she was told that she could no longer work in the school district for refusing to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel.

Continue reading “Republicans are cynically trying to split Democrats over BDS”

Deep empathy of Irish for Palestinians is in no way anti-Semitic

A new Israeli road divided into a side for Palestinians and another to be used exclusively by Israelis and settlers, in East Jerusalem. Dubbed the “Apartheid Road”, it is divided by an 8m-high wall. File photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty
A new Israeli road divided into a side for Palestinians and another to be used exclusively by Israelis and settlers, in East Jerusalem. Dubbed the “Apartheid Road”, it is divided by an 8m-high wall. (Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP / Getty)
Occupied Territories Bill and criticism of Israel’s colonization are not attacks on Jews

By Dr. Ronit Lentin | The Irish Times | Feb 4, 2019

Settlements, built on Palestinian (often privately owned) lands, impinge on Palestinian human rights

Israel’s response to the passing of the Occupied Territories Bill in the Dáil last week entailed, on the one hand, threatening to impose severe economic-political measures against Ireland, including taxing Irish imports and suspending bilateral economic and commercial agreements with Dublin. On the other hand, Israel accused Ireland of anti-Semitism, often weaponised against any criticism of the Israeli colonisation of Palestine and its ongoing infringements of international law.

There is no need for me to discuss the merits and effectiveness of the Bill here. It’s worth noting, however, that the settlements, from which products would be banned if the Bill becomes law, are considered illegal under international law. According to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies”, making Israel’s building and transferring of its population to the occupied Palestinian territory illegal.

Continue reading “Deep empathy of Irish for Palestinians is in no way anti-Semitic”

Trapped in Gaza, star misses Sundance Film Festival

Adel Hana / AP)
Actor and playwright Ali Abu Yaseen, star of the film “Gaza,” was blocked from leaving the Gaza Strip.

By Associated Press Staff | Haaretz | Jan 30, 2019

‘I’m seething with indignation. The dream that I had for the past three months has all but collapsed.’
— Actor and playwright Ali Abu Yaseen

A new documentary called “Gaza” is hitting the screens at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival this week, providing a colorful glimpse of life in the blockaded Hamas-ruled territory. But one of its main subjects, Gaza actor and playwright Ali Abu Yaseen, won’t be attending the gathering due to the very circumstances depicted in the film.

Abu Yaseen had hoped to make his first-ever trip to the US to take part in the festival. But the continued closure of Gaza’s border with Egypt, and Hamas’ bureaucratic inefficiency, made it impossible for him to reach Cairo in time to receive a visa from the American Embassy needed to travel to Utah.

After missing Tuesday’s premiere, Abu Yaseen has all but given up hope of reaching Utah on time. The film’s final screening is on Saturday.

Continue reading “Trapped in Gaza, star misses Sundance Film Festival”

As Israel steps up ‘Judaization’ policy, IfNotNow takes a step toward anti-Zionism

Member of #IfNotNow is dragged away from Damascus Gate on Jerusalem Day, May 24, 2017. (photo: Jon Atkins)
The American Jewish group IfNotNow calling this forced removal ethnic cleansing.

By Jonathan Ofir | Mondoweiss | Feb 2, 2019

In 1948, as Israeli Jews fought for and celebrated the formation of the new state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were being forcibly displaced by Israeli military forces. From then to today, Israeli policies have frequently forced Arab residents off their ancestral lands, often for the benefit of the Jewish majority.

Last Monday, Israeli authorities announced a plan to “forcibly transfer 36,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel living in unrecognized villages in the country’s southern Naqab (Negev) region in order to expand military training areas and implement what it called ‘economic development’ projects,” according to Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel).

The American Jewish group IfNotNow noticed this, and posted the article with the heading:

This is ethnic cleansing.

IfNotNow are now making it clear that when they speak of opposition to “occupation,” they are not just speaking about the 1967 occupation, but also the 1948 occupation. Or as they formulate it:

And this is part of what, when we demand that the Occupation end, we are talking about.

This is a critical qualification. Opposition to the 1967 occupation, be it real or ostensible, has not really been that radical an issue as far as Zionism is concerned. Liberal Zionists could easily take that position and still call themselves proud Zionists. In fact, liberal Zionists have used this position to claim that they were protecting Zionism from a “demographic threat,” in that controlling a large Palestinian population without rights means Apartheid (which they have warned that people will ‘accuse Israel of’), whereas granting them rights means an end to Jewish State

Continue reading “As Israel steps up ‘Judaization’ policy, IfNotNow takes a step toward anti-Zionism”

Killing a Palestinian, according to the rules

Order must be maintained. If Palestinians start getting killed against the regulations, we’ll lose control.

By Zvi Bar’el | Haaretz | Jan 30, 2019

Because it’s allowed to commit the most terrible and despicable acts, to kill a disabled Palestinian when his back is turned to the shooter, to demolish a home inhabited by innocent civilians, to prevent entry to a wheat field or an olive grove, to keep 2 million people closed up in a pen, to cause the deaths of sick people unable to get to a hospital — on condition that everything is done according to the regulations, the instructions and the norms.

Someone killed a Palestinian, and suddenly the country is amazed and in an uproar. Who in the world could have killed this Palestinian? (And who even remembers his name? After all, it happened a long time ago, four days ago.) Settlers? The settlement’s volunteer armed security team? Maybe the army?

The undisputed fact is that the Palestinian “met” his death. That’s how it is with the Palestinians. They seek and meet their death. It’s the same custom that got Aisha al-Rabi killed by a stone thrown at her a few months ago.

But the pure Jewish souls can find no rest. We have to investigate, they say, we have to discover the truth, find the murderers, punish them; the same law applies to everyone, Jews and Palestinians.

Continue reading “Killing a Palestinian, according to the rules”

New “progressive” pro-Israel group has strong ties to AIPAC

(photo: Getty Images)
On Monday, the Democratic Majority for Israel was incorporated in Washington. On the same day it received a favorable write-up in the NY Times.

By Aiden Pink | Forward | Jan 30, 2019

AIPAC has been discussing credibility problems with progressives at the highest level. And they have been exploring the possibility of creating a Democratic group that would push AIPAC policy and fight the pro-Israel fight within the Democratic Party. That’s something they’ve been discussing for years.

For at least five years, pro-Israel groups who want Israel to enjoy bipartisan support in the United States have been worried about Democrats. While evangelical Republicans are some of Israel’s most passionate supporters, young Democrats are less likely to support Israel than in past generations.

The groups have tried to reverse this trend in lots of ways: free junkets to Israel for everyone from feminists to firefighters, increased educational programming on college campuses, and new organizations like Zioness. AIPAC, the major pro-Israel lobby, has particularly emphasized the growth (or stopping the decay) of liberal support for Israel, even naming a director of progressive outreach.

On Monday, a new group was incorporated in Washington, with a flashy website, a roster of diverse and distinguished board members and a write-up in The New York Times: the Democratic Majority for Israel. Continue reading “New “progressive” pro-Israel group has strong ties to AIPAC”