Overcoming isolation in Gaza: A report back

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Gaza City. (photo: Brant Rosen)

Even under the brutality of Israel’s blockade, we could not help but be struck by the beauty of this place and the dignity of its people.

By Brant Rosen / AFSC Acting in Faith / Oct 18, 2017


I heard one young woman speak of entering into Israel through the Erez Crossing for the first time to travel to the West Bank for meetings. . . . She was eighteen years old and had never seen an Israeli Jew in person in her life. Up until that time, she said, she had only seen them as “helicopters, planes and bombs.”


I’ve written a great deal about Gaza for over ten years but until this past week, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit in person. I’m enormously grateful for the opportunity to experience Gaza as a real living, breathing community and I’m returning home all the more committed to the movement to free Gaza from Israel’s crushing blockade — now eleven years underway with no end in sight. . . .

It’s extremely rare for Americans to receive permission from Israel to enter Gaza through the Erez Crossing. Permits are generally issued only for journalists and staff people of registered international NGOs. Though I was technically allowed to enter Gaza as an AFSC staff member, I wasn’t 100% sure it would really happen until the moment I was actually waved through the crossing by the solider at Passport Control in Erez.

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“Kansas won’t let me train math teachers because I boycott Israel”

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Esther Koontz, math teacher and Mennonite Church member, is suing Kansas for denying her a position because of her faith-based boycott of Israel. (photo: ACLU)

Esther Koontz speaks out on her suit against the Kansas anti-Israel boycott law.

By Esther Koontz / ACLU Speak Freely / Oct 12, 2017


“I believe that the First Amendment protects my right, and the right of all Americans, to make consumer spending decisions based on their political beliefs. You don’t need to share my beliefs or agree with my decisions to understand that this law violates my free speech rights. The state should not be telling people what causes they can or can’t support.”


I’m a member of the Mennonite Church. I’ve also been a math teacher for almost a decade. Because of my political views, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t help it train other math teachers.

I was chosen last spring to participate in a program that trains public school math teachers all over Kansas. After completing a two-day preparation course in May, I was ready to take on the role.

But in June, Kansas passed a law requiring any individual or company seeking a contract with the state to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel. That law affects me personally. As a member of the Mennonite Church USA, and a person concerned with the human rights of all people — and specifically the ongoing violations of Palestinians’ human rights in Israel and Palestine — I choose to boycott consumer goods made by Israeli and international companies that profit from the violation of Palestinians’ rights.

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ACLU sues Kansas for punishing teacher over Israel boycott

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Following its new law, Kansas denied longtime teacher Esther Koontz a new position because of her faith-based boycott of Israel.

By Zaid Jilani / The Intercept / Oct 13, 2017


“This law is clearly aimed at suppressing not just boycotts generally but one particular boycott based on its viewpoint. So we think that’s a blatant constitutional violation and we hope the court agrees with us.”
— Brian Hauss, ACLU staff attorney

“Whether in Kansas or in Congress, this kind of legislation is an anti-democratic attempt to silence a nonviolent movement for equality for Palestinians, and a just peace for everyone in the region. It sets an alarming precedent of curtailing free speech, in an era when mobilizing grassroots energy to resist repressive government policies is more important than ever.”
— Rabbi Joseph Berman, Jewish Voice for Peace government affairs liaison


Esther Koontz is a long-time math teacher and curriculum coach at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet School in Wichita, Kansas.

She’s also a member of the Mennonite Church USA, which in July voted to divest itself from American companies that profit off of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

One month prior to that vote, Kansas’s legislature passed into law House Bill 2409, which seeks to discourage boycotts of the state of Israel by prohibiting state contracts with individuals who refuse to say they will not engage in such boycott activity.

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Jewish Youth Riot in Muslim Quarter of Old City

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Jewish youth rampaging through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem on Oct 11, 2017. (photo: Haaretz)

Palestinian shopkeeper is hospitalized after being beaten; police make no arrests.

By Nir Hasson / Haaretz / Oct 13, 2017


“If it were Palestinians who were rioting, they would have sent for reinforcements, and probably shot tear gas and stun grenades.”
— Louis Zorba, a resident of the Muslim Quarter


A Palestinian shop owner was hospitalized after hundreds of Jewish teenagers reportedly rioted in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday night.

According to Palestinian eyewitnesses, approximately 400 youths marched through the Old City from the Western Wall towards the Muslim Quarter’s Damascus Gate, allegedly shouting, beating the doors of houses and shops, throwing rocks and smashing car windows.

As they approached Damascus Gate, the youths stormed an open shop and attacked the shop’s Palestinian owner. The owner was taken to Hadassah University Hospital to be treated for his wounds and was released in the morning, his injuries described as “light.”

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NJ community center targeted in Facebook hate campaign

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Students doing homework at the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton, NJ. (photo: Viorel Florescu)

In just a few hours, more than 400 Facebook posts accused the community center of being “terrorists, terrorist sympathizers and liars.” Many of the posts came from Israel.

By Hannan Adely / NorthJersey.com / Oct 11, 2017


“It was very shocking because of the fact that it has nothing to do with the center. It was blatant that it was people who don’t know our center and have never been to our center writing these hateful comments. . . . It’s very clear that it’s hate speech. “It’s a group of people that don’t like the general idea of what we’re about and they’re being hateful for it.”
— Rania Mustafa, Executive Director of PACC


Hundreds of negative online messages flooded the Facebook pages of a community center in Clifton and a Rutgers student group over the weekend, in what appeared to be an organized effort targeting them for their support of Palestinian causes.

Some commenters accused the Palestinian American Community Center and the Rutgers chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine of being terrorists, terrorist sympathizers and liars — allegations the groups dismissed as politically motivated smears.

Rania Mustafa, executive director of the community center, said 400 posts were written on the center’s Facebook page over just a few hours on Sunday morning. The posts were attached to one-star reviews that drove the community center’s rating from a 4.8 out of five to a 1.8.

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