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An Honest Broker? The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Delegation to Palestine/Israel
June 1, 2013

Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem Neighborhood
By Alison Rice

Friday afternoon we had an experience that I doubt any other tour of Israel would include:  a visit to an East Jerusalem Palestinian family whose double house (front for the son's family, rear for the mother) has been half taken over by Israeli settlers. 

The three generation family had fled from Haifa to East Jerusalem, (then controlled by Jordan) in 1948. After several years, they, along with about 20 other families were given houses built by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.  Jordan promised to transfer the property title to them but neglected to do so before it came under Israeli control. 

About three years ago, settlers, along with Israeli soldiers arrived in the middle of the night and ordered the family to leave the front section. Their furniture was thrown out. Two other families on their street suffered similar settler takeovers. These properties are not being occupied by settler families but by rotating groups of settlers who continually harass the family.

The story is, unfortunately, not uncommon.  Palestinian complaints are ignored. In fact, the settlers claim that the family is harassing them!



“Tell America how much we are suffering at the hands of the settlers”
By Shelly Altman

Friday afternoon, we were graciously welcomed at the home of Rifqa, and met with her and her daughters Maysa and Nadya. All 33 of us squeezed into the small courtyard of her home in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.

Rifqa is native to Haifa. Her family had a prosperous business in Haifa, but was forced out in 1948 along with thousands of other Palestinian residents and became a refugee in Jordan. In 1956, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in conjunction with the Jordanian government, sponsored the construction of 28 housing units, one of which was Rifqa’s. Each of the families was promised title to the property after 3 years.

After the ’67 war, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are considered protected persons under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention of 1949. Israel, as an occupying power, is legally prohibited by the convention from forcibly transferring protected persons from or within the occupied territory. International law also requires an occupying power not to violate human rights or pillage natural resources in the occupied territory.

Israel has repeatedly and flagrantly violated this law, as reports from this delegation document. In East Jerusalem, Israel is determined to replace the Palestinian majority with a Jewish one. To accomplish this, it brutalizes and forcibly evicts Palestinian residents in key neighborhoods. In Sheik Jarrah, Jewish settlers came in the dead of night 3 years ago, backed by Israeli police, and forcibly evicted many families from their homes. In Rivqa’s case, they evicted her son from the home she had built for him next to hers and a settler family immediately moved in.

Rifqa now lives in her house with her extended family, and fears her house will be next. Her family is subject to constant harassment by the settlers, many of whom speak poor Hebrew and are paid to live in the illegally confiscated Palestinian homes by a program sponsored by an American organization. When Nadya was assaulted by a settler and had to be admitted to the hospital, she was treated as the offender and a culture swab was forcibly taken from her mouth to get a DNA sample.

When asked what message we should take with us, Rifqa replied “Tell America how much we are suffering at the hands of the settlers”. America, you have now been told.

Earlier today, we visited the Holocaust Museum in West Jerusalem. We bore witness to the Nazi relocation, brutalization, and slaughter of much of the Jewish population in Europe. On the way to the museum, we drove past the Independence Park grassy area with the Tolerance Museum behind it. These are built on top of a former Palestinian cemetery, which was dug up and removed during their construction.

All in all, a chilling day despite the 90+ degrees in the shade.

Remember Lest We Forget
by Ralph Watkins 

Friday we started our day at the Holocaust History Museum.  The experience was simply overwhelming. 

To see what humans can do to each other baffles me.  How could the world stand by and watch millions of our brothers and sisters murdered?  How could Hitler and his mad men be allowed to do what they did?  As I walked silently through this sacred site and heard the voices of the victims all I could say is, “How could this happen?” 

As I asked the question how could this happen to my Jewish brothers and sisters I paused to think about today.  Could something like this happen in our time?  Could mass killings, ethnic cleansing / genocide occur in 2013?  Would we sit back and watch?  Would we be silent or would we speak up?  Is it happening somewhere today? 

If we forget what happened to our Jewish brothers and sisters and the arguments used in Hitler’s “Final Solution” similar efforts could be taken on other people and groups in our time and we might not recognize it.  We have to remember what happened in Germany and other places and times in the world and say, “Never again!”  We are to speak up, speak out and get in the way of injustice.  We have to be informed to act. 

When we see anything that slightly resembles what happened to our Jewish brothers and sisters we must call it out.  I am calling .... do you hear me?  Do you see what I see?  What are saying and doing about it?

This report is excerpted from Ralph Watkins' blog. Click here to read in full.


Women in Black
By Krista Brewer

As I walked alone along the street in West Jerusalem in the blazing sun, I was afraid I had missed my destination.  But I soon came to an intersection and saw the Women in Black, a weekly vigil to end the occupation of Palestinian lands. Around 10 Israeli women, one very old man and a group from our delegation, all dressed mostly in black, were gathering, and taking up signs. I joined the group and found a spot on the sidewalk with a black sign in the shape of a hand that said "End the Occupation."

I had vaguely heard of the Women in Black, but I learned more from talking to the women.  This effort started in January 1988 soon after the first Palestinian intifada began. The women have a simple message: to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands that the Israeli government has been occupying since the war in 1967.  They dress in black to symbolize the suffering and tragedy of both the Israelis and Palestinians.

As we stood amidst the hot sun and the noisy traffic, a few drivers gave us a thumbs up of agreement.   Many others gave us an obscene gesture.  There were some angry yells, and spitting.  A pedestrian yelled at one of the women while he was waiting for the light to change.  A young Israeli woman stood on the opposite corner holding an Israeli flag in protest of the vigil.

Next Friday, the Women in Black will hold a larger vigil to mark the 46th anniversary of the 1967 war when the occupation by Israel of Palestinian started.

As we were ending the vigil, I asked one of the women, who had been born in the US, but came to Israel in 1951, how she thought peace could happen.  She shrugged a bit and said, "Well we certainly cannot have peace as long as we occupy and suppress a group of people.  It is morally wrong." 

For photos of delegates at the Women in Black vigil, see



The Soul of a Black Panther
By Ralph Watkins

You wouldn’t expect to meet a retired Black Panther in Palestine/Israel, but we did. 

We were privileged to hear the stories of a warrior as he shared with us the parallels between the struggles of Jews of Color, Palestinians, and African Americans in the United States.  He inspired in me a renewed spirit of activism that doesn’t quit.  While we take a stand against Empire, we will have our victories and defeats, but we must continue the struggle.  Those who advocate on the part of just causes will win.  God is on the side of the oppressed and by the power of God we struggle.  We must also remember we don’t struggle alone. We are united symbolically and literally with our brothers and sisters in struggle around the globe. 

Traveling to this part of the world has reignited my understanding of my faith tradition as one that is on the side of Justice. I can literally see Jesus walking these dusty road of Palestine/Israel saying to the powers that be, “I have come that they may have life.”  “I have come to set the captives free!”  As Jesus ascended into heaven he gave us the mandate to stand with the oppressed and fight against injustice.  We are to be about establishing God’s Justice on earth.  Are you with us or against us?

This report is excerpted from Ralph Watkins' blog. Click here to read in full.


VIDEO: Crossing a Black Panther
By Ralph Watkins

Ralph sent in this video after the delegation's third day on the ground:




At the Gates of Gaza
by Noura Erakat

We drove southwest Thursday and reached the western edge of Gaza. We did not have permits to enter so we marveled at the enormous, militarized, high-tech crossing known as Erez - one of the five entry points into the Gaza Strip, and one of the four controlled by Israel.

1.7 million Palestinians stuck inside a 360-square mile strip which the World Health Organization says will be "unlivable" by 2020. Somehow, though, when we speak of security, it is not about theirs.

We later met Moroccan Jews, or Mizrahim, in Isdud, originally home to many of the refugees stuck in Gaza but which is known today to its poor refugee and immigrant population as Ashdod.

The speakers discussed their involvement in the Israeli Black Panther party and their victimization at the hands of Zionism. They likened themselves to Palestinians, but the state violence directed at them is quite distinct. Israel has ethnically cleansed Palestinians and seeks to continue doing so. In contrast, it desires the Mizrahim to stand in as expendable statistics at Israel Proper's ever-expanding borders and to serve as cheap labor in its market. They are not the same.

This report is an excerpt of a post which originally appeared on Noura's facebook page.


Palestinian Movement and Qalandia 
By Bobbie Wren Banks

Wednesday we walked through Qalandia checkpoint, one of over 60 such installations Israel has built to control the movement of Palestinians in the name of security. We filed into a narrow aisle of metal and waited for a green light to blink permission for a few at a time to pass through the turnstile. A ceiling of wire stretched over our heads like a cage. Waves of barbed wire floated above the ceiling and a disembodied voice yelled commands from a loud speaker.

It was unnerving in spite of the fact that our US passports ensured easy passage. Not so for the hundreds of Palestinians who arrive at Qalandia every day, as early as 4 a.m., to shuffle for hours through the caged metal rows just to go to school or work. The commute from hell.

We learned that these are the lucky ones (only about 2 percent of the Palestinian population) able to meet the stiff requirements for a permit.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Israeli military maintains between 61 and 86 staffed Checkpoints and 410 temporary “flying” Checkpoints on average per month in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

Checkpoints are profoundly sad places, overwhelming in their statement of the brokenness of human community.

Earlier in the day we had talked with a man who helps Palestinian children arrested by the Israeli police. I asked this extraordinary man how he keeps his spirits up in the face of such sadness and injustice. His response carries me into the days ahead: "These kids are tough and their families too. They keep going. They're not going to stop so neither will I. And there are little victories . . . moments when you tell yourself this could lead to something bigger."

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