300 meters in Gaza: Snipers, burning tires and a fence

A protest in Khan Younis on Mar 30. The photographer, Yasser Murtaja, was killed by an Israeli sniper in the same location the following week. (photo: Yasser Murtaja, Ain Media)

A fence that divides Israel and Gaza has become the latest flashpoint in the decades-old conflict.

By David Halbfinger, Iyad Abuheweila and Jugal Patel | The New York Times | Apr 13, 2018

Most Gazans are Palestinian refugees or their descendants, and marching on the fence highlights their desire to reclaim the lands and homes from which they were displaced 70 years ago in the war surrounding Israel’s creation.

A fence that divides Israel and Gaza has become the latest flashpoint in the decades-old conflict, with Israeli soldiers unleashing lethal force against mostly unarmed Arab protesters who have been demonstrating every Friday for the past several weeks.

The image above shows how each side is arrayed in Khan Younis, one of five demonstration sites where 34 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began nearly three weeks ago.

The protests resumed on Friday, and the Palestinians plan to keep the weekly protests going with large turnouts until May 15, when many plan to try to cross the fence en masse. The Gazans are protesting Israel’s blockade, which has been choking off the impoverished coastal strip for more than 10 years. They also want to reassert the rights of refugees and their descendants to reclaim their ancestral lands in Israel, 70 years after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced.

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Announcing the launch of One State Foundation

one state foundation

A new Palestinian-Israeli initiative to grow debate and support for a one state solution.

By Jonathan Ofir | Mondoweiss | Mar 1, 2018

“Can we make people see, emotionally feel and rationally understand that a shared future in equality is in the end beneficial for all? That is the challenge we are taking on.”
— Angélique Eijpe, co-founder and board member of One State Foundation

We are still in times where speaking about a single democratic and secular state in Israel-Palestine is considered contentious. Just look how former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg was received at a liberal synagogue in NY, when he spoke about this concept — Rabbi Matalon called him a “troublemaker,” and rabbi Cohen said he “pushed all the buttons.”

But today, a new foundation is officially launching — the One State Foundation, which boldly and clearly promotes this concept and goal.

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ACLU says revised anti-BDS bill remains unconstitutional

BDS rally in Washington, DC. (photo: Elvert Barnes / Flickr)

The opinion is a blow to pro-Israel groups who had hoped revisions would soften the constitutional issues.

By Middle East Monitor | Mar 7, 2018

“This bill is unconstitutional because it seeks to impose the government’s political views on Americans who choose to express themselves through boycotts.”
— Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticized a revised version of draft legislation intended to target the growing Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, saying that the latest version of the bill remains unconstitutional.

The ACLU had voiced objections to the original bill in Jul 2017 on First Amendment grounds, and in response to such criticisms, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) released a revised version over the weekend.

But in a Mar 6 press release, the ACLU revealed that it had written to senators informing them of the veteran civil liberties group’s opposition to the revised bill, in what is a blow to pro-Israel groups who are hoping that the bill will become law. [The letter can be viewed here.]

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Israel approves law to criminalize criticism of the Israeli Army

An Israeli soldier fires on Palestinian demonstrators during a protest against Jewish settlement near Tubas, in the occupied West Bank. (photo: Reuters)

“The only way to stop us is to end the occupation,” said the group being targeted, Breaking the Silence.

By Telesur | Feb 27, 2018

The bill is just one among many recently passed by the Israeli Knesset to crush dissent. In November, lawmakers introduced a bill to criminalize those that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Israeli Knesset approved the first reading of a bill that would prohibit organizations from being critical of the Israeli Army Monday.

The bill, which passed by 35-23 votes, was proposed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett is the chairman of the right-wing Jewish Home party, a party seeking to criminalize any criticisms of the Israeli occupation.

The principal target of the bill is the group Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israelis who expose the brutal nature of the occupation.

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Evangelicals deeply concerned about US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel

The Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: G Adventures)

Multiple Christian organizations express their opposition to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Press Release|Religion News Service | Feb 22, 2018

Given the rich heritage of this city and its spiritual significance to the Jews, Christians, and Muslims of the Holy Land, we hope that Jerusalem will be able to serve as the capital for both Israel and Palestine.

As followers of Christ, we share a hope that the Holy Land — the birthplace of our Lord and Savior and the Promised Land of the Israelite Patriarchs — will be a land of peace where divine justice, as expressed through the Jewish prophets, can reign. We recognize the historical significance of this land to the Jewish people, who after generations in exile looked to return to the land to secure their physical safety and spiritual redemption. We also affirm the presence of an indigenous Arabic speaking community in the land that has been present since the time of Pentecost (Acts 2:11).

It is therefore with the deepest concern that we are witnessing unprecedented actions by the United States government that — while supported by many good-meaning people within the Church — may inadvertently jeopardize the lives and future security of the peoples of the Holy Land. We therefore cannot support President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel absent a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

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Journalists protest Facebook’s suppression of Palestinian accounts

Palestinian journalists protesting Facebook in Gaza City. (photo: @jscommittee / Facebook)

Facebook had been working with Israeli Government officials to suppress Palestinian voices in social media through censorship, removal or blocking of content deemed critical of Israel.

By Telesur | Mar 7, 2018

“[Nothing happens] to Israelis who publish a status calling for killing Palestinians. But if Palestinians post any news about something happening on the ground or done by an Israeli soldier, Facebook [may] close the account or the page, or delete the post.”
— Salama Maarouf, Hamas spokesman

On Monday, dozens of Palestinian journalists protested social media giant Facebook’s routine blocking of accounts from the Middle Eastern country.

According to Al-Jazeera, the media workers gathered outside the United Nations office in Gaza City with banners that read “Facebook is complicit in [Israel’s] crimes” and “Facebook favors the [Israeli] occupation.”

The protest was organized by Palestinian NGO Journalists Support Committee.

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Film: This is Palestine (Tomorrow)


Pushing for Change: Mideast Focus Ministry Film Series V

“This is Palestine” brings us to the present day by exploring the impact of ongoing conflict and military occupation on the people who live under it. This film features powerful interviews with people who have lost homes, land, family members and friends in their struggle to bring changes during the 50-year-long occupation of the West Bank.

Date: Friday, Mar 9, 2018
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Bloedel Hall
St. Mark’s Cathedral
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA  98102
Information: Event website
Admission: Free

Event Details

Our concern is to help balance the limited and confusing media coverage of the Holy Land. We use compelling films as an entry point for reflection and discussion. As Christians, we respond to Christ’s call to seek justice and love the oppressed. As Americans, we ask: Can we reconcile this calling with our government’s massive financial support of Israeli military operations? We hope the time will come when Jews, Muslims and Christians will again come together in harmony in the Holy Land.

In this series, we see how people pushed to bring about a safe country for the Jewish people, and how today others are still push- ing for safety and change. Do our efforts for change lead to peace and justice . . . or not?

More information here →

Israel slaps entry ban on Norway’s largest labor union

Norway’s largest alliance of trade unions has fully endorsed the Palestinian call for BDS. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / ActiveStills)

A routine matter of racial profiling by Israeli authorities has spiraled into a diplomatic attack on Norway’s largest labor organization.

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler | The Electronic Intifada | Mar 5, 2018

“Unless and until LO rectifies the shameful boycott resolution and puts an end to its discriminating practices against the only Jewish state, its leaders should not expect getting a business as usual treatment from Israel,”
— Raphael Schutz, Israeli ambassador to Norway

Mohammed Malik, a Norwegian citizen with Pakistani heritage, had joined a trade union study tour organized by the Palestine Committee of Norway, but was stopped for questioning by officials at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on 17 Feb. While all other members of the delegation were allowed to continue on their trip, Malik spent the night in detention before being deported and issued a lifetime entry ban.

During Malik’s interrogation, Israeli agents discovered that he was a member of the Norwegian Food and Allied Workers Union. He was questioned about his union affiliation and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions’ (LO) policy toward Israel.

“My name was obviously the reason I was taken aside in passport control,” Malik told a LO-affiliated newspaper. “But they deported me because I am a [trade] unionist. I was thrown out because I am affiliated with the LO.”

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Chuck Schumer thinks there’s no peace because Palestinians don’t believe in the Torah

Senator Chuck Schumer speaks to the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC, Mar 5, 2018. (photo: AIPAC)

Which begs the question, instead of pointless negotiations, should Washington embark on a mass proselytizing program?

By Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man | +972 Magazine | Mar 7, 2018

“Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but [the Palestinians] don’t believe in the Torah. So that’s the reason there is not peace.”
— Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference

Senator Chuck Schumer, arguably the top ranking democrat in the United States right now, believes that there is no peace between Israel and Palestine because — well, because the Palestinians don’t believe in the Torah.

Speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference earlier this week, Senator Schumer shuffled his way through a list of clunky talking points ostensibly exonerating Israel of any blame for — well, anything.

It’s not about the settlements, he explained, aptly noting that the conflict didn’t end in 2005 after Israel withdrew a whopping two percent of the settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It’s not about borders, obviously, because Yasser Arafat said “no” that one time, Schumer told the crowd of people who had clearly been on the fence about whether Arafat was the bad guy in this story.

And it’s definitely not about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, he preached, because . . . well, he didn’t actually explain that one. But I’ll agree with him on this point, considering that it hasn’t actually happened yet.

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AIPAC bars journalists from panel on press freedom

A monitor announcing a panel on freedom of the press at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, Mar 4, 2018. (photo: Allison Sommer)

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) barred journalists from a panel on press freedom at its annual policy conference.

By Joel Pollak | Breitbart News | Mar 4, 2018

“AIPAC has a long history of being wary of, and less than friendly toward, the press. Members of the media enter the AIPAC convention through a separate entrance and must be accompanied by staff to proceed to the main area where sessions are held — and, at times, even accompanied to the rest rooms.”
— Editorial in New Jersey Jewish News

AIPAC is one of the most influential pro-Israel organizations in the United States.

Allison K. Sommer, a journalist for the left-wing Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, tweeted Sunday that AIPAC’s panel on press freedom — on which she spoke — was closed to the media. She added the hashtag: “#irony.”

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