Month: March 2017

Tennis Balls and Whittled Bats

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Palestinian women take part in a baseball training session in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (photo: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)

Palestine starts a baseball federation with scrounged equipment.

By Marissa Payne / The Washington Post
March 21, 2017


“I used to watch baseball at home while I was a child. I love it because it’s full of freedom and the only thing the player needs to do is run. Girls come and practice and the numbers are increasing. There are lots of girls who’d like to sign up despite their lack of knowledge of the sport.”
— Iman Al-Moghayer


There are no baseballs. The bats aren’t regulation. They don’t even have a baseball diamond, but that hasn’t stopped a group of Palestinian athletes from launching the territory’s first federation of baseball and softball.

“The federation seeks to make baseball well known to Palestinians, help male and female amateurs to become professional baseball players and train local coaches and referees,” the team’s coach, Mahmoud Tafesh, told Al-Monitor earlier this month.

The federation, headquartered in the Gaza Strip, was established in late January. By the following month, the territory had fielded its first team, composed of 20 men and 20 women. The women are the most keen, according to Tafesh, who recruited several members from a specialized sports education college in Gaza.

“We targeted this group because they had permission from their families to play sport as sports students,” Tafesh told the Associated Press. “Through them, we started to spread, attracting girls from other fields such as journalism and accountants.”

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Event Reminder: Turning the “Other” into a Brother (Town Hall Seattle)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Euphrates Institute for an evening with Janessa Gans Wilder speaking on “Turning the ‘Other’ into a Brother.”

Date: Friday, April  14, 2017
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Town Hall Seattle (Downstairs)
1119 Eighth Ave
Seattle, WA  98101
(enter on Seneca St)
Information: Facebook event
Event website
Tickets: $10 suggested donation at the door

Event Details

Janessa Gans Wilder, founder and CEO of Euphrates Institute, has a powerful and refreshing perspective as a nonprofit executive and former CIA officer turned peace builder. She will share her journey of transformation from seeing Iraqis as the “other” to seeing them as brothers during the Iraq war. In 2006, Janessa founded Euphrates, a nonprofit organization that builds peace and understanding about critical Middle East issues. Euphrates informs people about Middle Eastern issues, inspires them with examples of solutions, and invites them to become effective global citizens. Janessa speaks frequently in interfaith, community, government, international, and educational settings. She has been published by CBS, CNN, The Christian Science Monitor, Democracy Now, and the Los Angeles Times.

Event: Disturbing the Peace (film screening)

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Please join our brothers and sisters at the Euphrates Institute for a screening of the award-winning film “Disturbing the Peace.”

Date: Thursday, April  13, 2017
Time: 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Location: AMC Southcenter 16
3600 Southcenter Mall
Tukwila, WA  98188
Information: Facebook event
Film website
Tickets: Ticket website

Event Details

“Disturbing the Peace” follows former enemy combatants — Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters — who have joined together to challenge the status quo. The film reveals their transformational journeys from soldiers to nonviolent peace activists, leading to the creation of Combatants for Peace. The film is incredibly inspiring, and is rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 9.0 on IMDB. Following the film there will be a short Q&A session with Euphrates Founder, Janessa Gans Wilder, and an exchange student from Gaza, Amjad al-Shaer.

“Disturbing the Peace” is a story of the human potential unleashed when we stop participating in a story that no longer serves us and, with the power of our convictions, take action to create new possibilities. “Disturbing the Peace” follows former enemy combatants — Israeli soldiers from elite units and Palestinian fighters, many of whom served years in prison — who have joined together to challenge the status quo and say “enough.” the film reveals their transformational journeys from soldiers committed to armed battle to nonviolent peace activists, leading to the creation of Combatants for Peace. While based in the Middle East, “Disturbing the Peace” evokes universal themes relevant to us all and inspires us to become active participants in the creation of our world.

Please purchase your tickets online at http://gathr.us/screening/19346. Gathr is like Kickstarter for independent movie screenings, so we need at least 60 people to reserve tickets by March 30th in order for the screening to take place. You can also help us spreading the word with our Facebook event.

Washington State Anti-BDS Legislation

 We’ve won this round: a letter from Cindy Corrie.

March 28, 2017

Dear friends and allies at the Bishop’s Committee,

Your calls and emails to the governor and state legislators of Washington are working. None of the anti-BDS measures threatened during the 2017 session are moving forward. The deadline for introducing bills has passed for this session. House Joint Memorials 4004 and 4009, both condemning BDS, died in committee. Senator Baumgartner (R-Spokane) never formally introduced the anti-BDS bill that he announced in December. Governor Inslee has not signed the Governors Against BDS statement that more than forty other state governors have signed. We’re grateful for all your individual activism and also to the long list of WA groups and organizations that joined our campaign against these measures.

We may have won this round in Washington State, but we have every reason to believe that anti-BDS measures will be introduced again in 2018, with all the same state legislators in office. Anti-BDS measures like these have passed in at least fourteen other states, and an anti-BDS bill has been introduced in the United States Senate.

We have to continue our campaign to make sure that our state legislators know that they should not endorse or vote for any measures that curtail our free speech by prohibiting or penalizing boycotts.

  • IN PERSON MEETINGS are among the most effective ways to influence our legislators. Anti-BDS advocates are lobbying in person, and we can’t leave the field to them. This is especially important if your WA legislator was among the 36 sponsors of HJM 4004 and 4009. Click here to find out if your legislator was a sponsor.

Are you able to meet with your WA legislators, either in Olympia over the next month, or in your home city over following months? Would you like to connect with others in your district who might be able to join you in a meeting?

Let us help. Contact us at FreeSpeechWA@gmail.com for help in setting up a meeting and gathering information for the 2018 legislative session.

  • OTHER ALLIES: Do you know other organizations that will share our concern for these threats to free speech and our right to boycott? Let us know at FreeSpeechWA.org and we’ll reach out to them to join our campaign.

Thank you for taking action in defense of our civil liberties and the BDS Movement for justice and equal rights.

— Cindy Corrie

Free Speech Washington
FreeSpeechWA.org
FreeSpeechWA@gmail.com

Tomb of Jesus at Risk of Collapse

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The Edicule  inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Oded Balilty / AP for National Geographic)

Newly restored, but new problems discovered.

March 27, 2017

After a $4 million restoration, the Edicule, enclosing what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, was reopened to the public. (The Guardian, The New York Times)

“For the first time in over two centuries, this sacred edicule has been restored. This is not only a gift to our holy land, but to the whole world.”
— Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem

However, the scientific team from National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) that completed the restoration is warning of a newly-discovered risk of the Edicule’s  collapse.

“When it fails, the failure will not be a slow process, but catastrophic.”
— Antonia Moropoulou, NTUA’s chief scientific supervisor

Ground-penetrating radar and robotic cameras reveal that the Edicle and the rotunda that protects it are built on an unstable foundation of the crumbled remains of earlier structures, honeycombed with tunnels. (National Geographic) (more…)

Swift Reaction to U.N. “Apartheid State” Report

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U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf was fired after refusing to withdraw a report declaring Israel an “apartheid state.” (photo: Mohamed Azakir / Reuters)

Heads roll after publication of damning report.

March 26, 2017

Reaction has been fast and furious to the publication of the report, “Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA).

This report concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Aware of the seriousness of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.

Israel and its allies condemned the report and its authors. (Independent)

“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.”
—Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N.

“The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”
— Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

Newly-installed U.N. Secretary General Antonió Guterres demanded the retraction of the report, which U.N. Undersecretary General Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the UN-ESCWA, refused. She was subsequently dismissed, and the report was withdrawn. Read her resignation letter here. (New York Times, Haaretz)

After giving the matter due consideration, I realized that I too have little choice. I cannot withdraw yet another well-researched, well-documented U.N. work on grave violations of human rights, yet I know that clear instructions by the Secretary-General will have to be implemented promptly. A dilemma that can only be resolved by my stepping down to allow someone else to deliver what I am unable to deliver in good conscience.

Richard Falk, one of the authors of the report, Princeton University professor and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, describes the thorough process behind the report in an editorial. (The Nation)

Our report concludes that Israel has deliberately fragmented the Palestinian people . . . relying on systematic discrimination . . . to maintain its control, while continuing to expand territorially at the expense of the Palestinian people. On the basis of these findings — backed up by detailed presentations of empirical data, including reliance on Israeli official sources — we conclude that the allegation of apartheid as applied to the Palestinian people is well founded.

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A Palestinian woman argues with Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint south of Hebron on Aug 16, 2016. (photo: Mussa Qawasma / Reuters)

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If you can’t ban Muslims . . . ban their computers

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Dubai carrier Emirates is one of 10 airlines from predominantly Muslim countries affected by the new computer ban. (photo: Marwan Naamani / AFP)

“A Muslim ban by a thousand cuts.”

March 21, 2017

In a scathing opinion written by Judge Derrick K. Watson, the U.S. District Court in Honolulu blocked the Administration’s second travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries. (New York Times)

“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. . . . It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam.”

Now, the Administration is prohibiting passengers from eight Muslim-majority countries from carrying computers, tablets, and cameras onboard U.S.-bound flights. (The Washington PostIndependent)

“Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration acting administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last-point-of-departure airports to the United States.”

This despite the U.K. having tried and abandoned a similar ban in 2006, and the utility of such an approach being seriously questioned being raised by security experts. (Independent, The Guardian)

“From a technological perspective, nothing has changed between the last dozen years and today. That is, there are no new technological breakthroughs that make this threat any more serious today. And there is certainly nothing technological that would limit this newfound threat to a handful of Middle Eastern airlines.”

“What appears to be new is this latest overreaction — it appears to be a Muslim ban by a thousand cuts.”

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Mr. Friedman, Where Do You Stand on the Demolition of a Palestinian Village and School?

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Students at Khan al Ahmar village school, Palestine (photo: Vento di Terra)

An open letter to Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel.

By Donna Baranski-Walker / Mondoweiss.net
March 8, 2017


My question: Do your own donations to support education in the Israeli settlement of Beit El and President Trump’s trust in you put you in a unique position to stop Israel’s demolition of Palestinian communities?


David Friedman, esq.
Nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Dear Mr. Friedman,

I am writing with urgency. I have asked my Senators Feinstein and Harris to forward my questions to you and request your reply. I am bringing these questions forward because although many speculate about what shape peace between Israelis and Palestinians will take in the future, I am most concerned with how you will assure a future for Palestinians who are being forced from their land right now.

The stakes were always high, but since January 2017, this situation is critical. These past two weeks, I have once again been urging everyone I know to write to their Senators and Representatives to urgently request that they call the Israeli Embassy and the U.S. State Department to prevent the imminent demolition of a West Bank Palestinian school and village, this time the village of Khan al Ahmar. Simultaneously we await word of the State of Israel’s position re the appeal by the Palestinian village of Susiya, calls are arriving from the village of Umm al Kheir about the Israeli Army’s demolition of water catchment cisterns in their area, and more.

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Event: Kids4Peace Jet City to Jerusalem

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Please join our brothers and sisters at Kids4Peace Seattle for their 4th Annual Spring Celebration and Fundraiser.

Date: Thursday, May 18, 2017
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Temple De Hirsch Sinai
1441 16th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
Information: Facebook event
Event website
Tickets: $50

Event Details

Join Kids4Peace Seattle supporters, volunteers, youth, families, and staff for our fourth annual spring celebration! Help us recognize the many successes of the past year as we also look forward with excitement to this summer’s programs. Hear directly from youth involved in the program and also get updates on our work in Jerusalem and the US.

Tickets are $50 per person; there will be an opportunity to make an additional pledge of support at the event. The ticket price is fully tax-deductible, and all donations go directly to support the work of Kids4Peace as we heal divided societies in both the United States and Jerusalem.

Registration and reception from 7:00 – 7:30
Program and dessert buffet from 7:30 – 8:30

Wine and coffee will be served, along with a delicious dessert buffet.

For more information, please contact Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Northwest Regional Director, at jordan@k4p.org or 617-335-7603. Can’t attend but would still like to support our work? Donate online anytime.

“I’m Part of a Dying Breed that Believes in Two States”

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Jeremy Ben Ami speaks at a J Street conference. (photo: J Street)

The election of Donald Trump has emboldened fears that the two-state solution will officially be tossed into the dustbin of history. But J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami is undeterred.

By Dahlia Scheindlin / +972 Magazine
February 28, 2017


The most important value for J Street that is an issue for the Palestinian community is our Zionism. J Street’s raison d’etre in the Jewish community is to say that — for those American Jews who care about there being a nation-state for the Jewish people — things are going in the wrong direction.


Under the dark cloud of Israeli and American leaders who appear united in their disinterest in a two-state solution, and the growing refrain in policy circles that the “window” is gone, J Street, the organization whose signature policy goal is a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — might have found itself foundering. What new ideas can be found when all avenues to the goal have been exhausted? What role does it have left to play in such a bleak context?

The annual J Street Conference that ended Monday in Washington, D.C., raised all these questions — minus the despair. Organizers said that over 3,500 people had turned out, panel rooms were packed to standing-only. The abundant cheering and whooping sometimes felt spontaneous and emotional, at others seemed tinged with effort to be enthusiastic.

One person whose enthusiasm seems effortless is Jeremy Ben Ami, the founder and president of the liberal Zionist organization. Despite all signs pointing to perdition, Ben Ami is indomitable, ticking off a long list of vital roles J Street has to play in the changed landscape of both America and Israel, and insisting on the singular viability of two-state solution. I spoke to Ben Ami as the conference neared its end on the role J Street must play in influencing U.S. government policy, among other things.

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