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FACTS ABOUT THE WALL from friends in Bethlehem

Read the truth about the Wall and what is happening today in the Holy City of Bethlehem.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence

 

Home arrow Blog arrow June 2009 arrow June 25, 2009

June 25, 2009
June 25, 2009: The New Fourth Estate in Iran and Gaza 11 AM July 8 UPDATE LEADS

 Former Congressmember Cynthia McKinney arrived back in the USA following her deportation from Israel and here http://www.democracynow.org/2009/7/8/fmr_congressmember_cynthia_mckinney_back_in she speaks with Amy and filmmaker and co-founder of ISM, Adam Shapiro, who also was detained and deported as well.




Email from < >,

Monday 6th July, Heathrow, London Adie Mormech, one of the six British Free Gaza boat passengers and crew deported today from an Israeli jail, says he's raring to return.

The Free Gaza boat Spirit of Humanity was forcibly boarded by the Israeli navy last Tuesday while trying to sail to Gaza through international and Gazan waters. The boat remains at the Israeli port of Ashdod. “Another boat which tried to reach Gaza a few months ago is still there, so we don't have much hope of getting ours back” says Mormech, “but the lawyers are working hard on it and we will be fundraising for new ones.”

Of the experience of being boarded by Israeli soldiers, Mormech remained upbeat about his memories. “The soldiers were trying to look intimidating,” he said, “but the boat was rocking so much that they kept sliding all over the place and falling over each other... the Special Forces weren't looking so special!”

Of his time in the Israeli immigration jail at Ramle, though, he emphasised the appalling conditions for people – mainly from Africa and South East Asia – being held there for years at a time. “It was like dipping your toe in an enormous pool of lost people,” said Mormech. He described the jail, where Free Gaza prisoners were helped by fellow inmates with mobile phones and in return gave English lessons and took testimonies, as a 'hellhole.' Many of the inmates, he said, have no money for lawyers, and described one individual from Cote d'Ivoire who had been incarcerated for two years with no hope of legal representation or release.

And, said Mormech, the inconsistencies and irregularities of the Israeli system which seemed like a “game of cat and mouse” for him as an internationa,l are “of course, a brutal reality governing the lives of thousands of Palestinians.”

“It's not about me, it's about Gaza entirely,” he stressed.

Sarah Irving is a freelance writer specialising in social and environmental issues and the Middle East


RELATED:

June 30, 2009: Reality in 2009 and 1948  Read more...





FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

30 June 2009

ISRAEL ATTACKS JUSTICE BOAT; KIDNAPS HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS; CONFISCATES MEDICINE, TOYS AND OLIVE TREES
 

[23 miles off the coast of Gaza, 15:30pm] - Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

“This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. “President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey.”

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are “trapped in despair.” Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel’s December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.

“The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead”. Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry  medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”

Arraf continued, “Israel’s deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release.”
###

WHAT YOU CAN DO!

CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Justice
tel: +972 2646 6666 or +972 2646 6340
fax: +972 2646 6357

CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
tel: +972 2530 3111
fax: +972 2530 3367

CONTACT Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:
tel: +972 5 0620 3264 or +972 2670 5354


CONTACT the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask for their assistance in establishing the wellbeing of the kidnapped human rights workers and help in securing their immediate release!

Red Cross Israel
tel: +972 3524 5286
fax: +972 3527 0370


Red Cross Switzerland:
tel: +41 22 730 3443
fax: +41 22 734 8280

Red Cross USA:
tel: +1 212 599 6021
fax: +1 212 599 6009


For more information contact:
Greta Berlin (English)
tel: +357 99 081 767 /

Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish):
tel: +357 99 077 820 /
www.FreeGaza.org


The list of Kidnapped Passengers from the Spirit of Humanity is below



June 29, 2009 UPDATE:


At 1:40 am in Israel, the Israeli Navy surrounded the SPIRIT while it is on its way to the Gaza Strip. The following is a compilation of emails:

We got a call from the boat saying that they were being threatened, told to turn back or they would be fired on.

Huwaida Arraf, one of the delegation leaders, was on the phone with the Israeli gunboats, and we could hear her saying, "You Cannot Open Fire on Unarmed Civilians" several times. At this writing, they are surrounded by several ships shining bright lights into the SPIRIT...


...We just spoke to the passengers. Everyone is OK, but the situation is still very tense. They continue to be surrounded by Israeli warships which are threatening to open fire. The Israeli Navy is actively jamming all navigation systems in violation of international maritime law, endangering the people on board.

Former U.S. Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, speaking from on board the SPIRIT, stated, "I am extremely angry. We demand that the Israeli government call off their attack dogs. We are unarmed civilians aboard an unarmed boat delivering medical and reconstruction aid to other human beings in Gaza. Why in God's name would Israel want to attack us and threaten our safety and welfare. I call on President Obama and the international community to intervene now to prevent this situation from escalating with potentially drastic results to the civilians on board."

Since the boat's navigation equipment is being jammed, it has turned westward in order to stay in international waters.The Captain and crew are working from the most ancient of navigation equipment...the compass to stay clear of Israeli waters.

CALL or FAX Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at:
Tel + 972 5 781 86248 or +972 3737 7777 or +972 3737 6242
Fax +972 3737 6123 or +972 3737 7175

CALL Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:
Tel +972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264


CALL Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
Tel +972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
 

I left phone messages for all three around 8PM EST.

For the latest info on Twitter:
http://www.freegaza.org



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Free Gaza Boat "Spirit of Humanity" Departs Cyprus


(LARNACA, 29 June 2009) - The Free Gaza boat the "Spirit of Humanity" departed Cyprus at 7:30am on Monday, 29 July. Twenty-one human rights and solidarity workers representing eleven different countries were aboard. The passengers include Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The ship also carries three tons of medical aid, children's toys, and rehabilitation and reconstruction kits for twenty family homes.

Over 2,400 homes were destroyed in Gaza during the Israeli massacre in December/January, 490 of them by F-16 airstrikes, as well as 30 mosques, 29 educational institutions, 29 medical centers, 10 charitable organizations, and 5 cement factories.

Each kit carries a small amount of supplies for a single family, representing sectors of civil society currently being blockaded by Israel:

Agriculture, Building & Reconstruction, Education, Electricity, Health, and Water & Sanitation. Although over 4 billion dollars in aid was promised to Gaza in the aftermath of the Israeli onslaught, little humanitarian aid and no reconstruction supplies have been allowed in.


Quotes:

Mairead Maguire, co-winner of the 1977 Nobel Peace prize for her work in Northern Ireland: "[The Palestinians of Gaza] must know that we have not and will not forget
them.”

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney: "[T]he U.S. should send a message to Israel reiterating the reported White House position that the blockade of Gaza should be eased, and that medical supplies and building materials, including cement, should be allowed in... Will [President Obama] stand by his own words and allow us to provide relief for Gaza or will he back down?”

Huwaida Arraf, Chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement: "Israel’s closure policy is a blatant violation of international law. We call upon our governments to take action to uphold their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Until they do, we will act.


Passengers aboard the Spirit of Humanity include:

Khalad Abdelkader, from Bahrain, Khalad is an engineer representing the Islamic Charitable Association of Bahrain.
Othman Abufalah, from Jordan, a world-renowned journalist with al-Jazeera TV.
Khaled Al-Shenoo, from Bahrain, is a lecturer with the University of Bahrain.
Mansour Al-Abi, from Yemen, is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera TV.
Fatima Al-Attawi, from Bahrain, is a relief worker and community activist from Bahrain.
Juhaina Alqaed, from Bahrain, is a journalist & human rights activist.
Huwaida Arraf, from USA, is the Chair of the Free Gaza Movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.
Ishmahil Blagrove, from the UK, is a Jamaican-born journalist, documentary film maker and founder of the Rice & Peas film production company. His documentaries focus on international struggles for social justice.
Kaltham Ghloom, from Bahrain, is a community activist.
Derek Graham, from Ireland, is an electrician, Free Gaza organizer, and first mate aboard the Spirit of Humanity.
Alex Harrison, from the UK, is a solidarity worker from Britain. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.
Denis Healey, from the UK, is Captain of the Spirit of Humanity and this is his fifth voyage to Gaza.
Fathi Jaouadi, UK/Tunisia, is a British journalist, Free Gaza organizer, and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.
Lubna Masarwa, from Palestine/Israel, is a Palestinian human rights activist and Free Gaza organizer.
Theresa McDermott, is a solidarity worker from Scotland and is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.
Cynthia McKinney is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice issues, as well as a former U.S. congressperson and presidential candidate.
Adnan Mormesh, UK, is a solidarity worker from Britain. He is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.
Adam Qvist, Denmark, is a solidarity worker from Denmark. He is traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.
Adam Shapiro, is an American documentary film maker and human rights activist.
Kathy Sheetz, USA nurse and film maker, traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.
Mairead Maguire, is a Nobel laureate and renowned peace activist whom I met in November 2008 and we went together to the Erez Checkpoint on Nov. 18, 2008:

READ MORE:

Read more...

Read more...

Please phone the USA Israeli Embassy @ 202-364-5500 and in Tel Aviv @ 972-2-530-3111 that you are following HUMANITY and FREE GAZA @ http://www.freegaza.org

Please pray for all good and safe travels for all.



When the Iranian government slowed down corporate mainstream news media's reporters, the dissidents up against the rotted empire became members of the New Fourth Estate by telling their eye witness accounts armed with cellphones and video cameras.
 
Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication said, "What the Iranian leadership didn't seem to understand, as they went through the traditional methods of censorship, is that everybody is now a reporter."

 
The Iranian government managed to throttle down many websites and cellphone and broadband services, but texting and video got out- as it did on November 18, 2008, when Darlene Wallach of California was kidnapped at gunpoint by Israeli forces from a fishing boat in international waters off of Gaza.

Darlene had entered Gaza on one of the FREE GAZA boats and is also connected with The International Solidarity Movement/ISM.

ISM is a Palestinian-led movement that resists the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in creative and nonviolent ways. ISM was founded by a few committed thoughtful people in August, 2001 and supports and strengthens the Palestinian popular resistance by providing international presence and a voice that cannot be silenced.

"When I saw the Zodiacs, I tried to text on my cell phone but there was no network. By some miracle, I received a phone call and told the person what was happening. A little later the captain, Adham, handed me his phone as Fida, the ISM-Gaza Strip Palestinian coordinator called to talk with me, she could not get through on my phone. If I had not received that first phone call I don't know how our friends in Gaza would have known what happened to us.

"It began around ten in the morning on the 18th. I was with 15 fishermen and Andrew and Vittorio; all on three typical wooden Palestinian fishing boats. The usual response from the Israeli Naval Forces who illegally invade Gaza water zones, is to shoot machine guns, canons, grenades. They do a lot of damage to the boats with targeted high pressure water canons. Those water canons have cracked peoples ribs and one of the nonviolent activists was nearly washed over board from the force. The Palestinian fishing boats have sustained a lot of damage from the high pressured water fired from the water canon. The Israeli navy has also used some kind of "dirty water". We still don't know what the Israeli Forces are mixing in that water, but it smells like putrid sewage and they wear protective clothing - masks, gloves and what ever else, to keep themselves protected from the liquid they shoot at the fishing boats, the catch in the nets and at the Palestinian fishermen and internationals who are in Gaza territorial waters.


"On that Tuesday morning, the Israeli Forces had three gunboats that were joined by five Zodiacs. Zodiacs are inflatable, high-speed maneuverable water craft. The Zodiacs came right up to each wooden fishing boat one at a time. I saw them board the boat Andrew was on - he raised his arms above his head and they put a life vest on him and put him on the Zodiac. Then more Israeli Forces boarded that boat and began putting the Palestinian fishermen on another Zodiac. Usually the Israeli Forces do not board the fishing boats. They order the fishermen to strip and then swim over to the Israeli boat. This time was different.


"After they finished with the boat Andrew was on, a Zodiac came and Israeli Forces boarded the boat I was on. One of the Israelis said in English "you are in Israel."

"We were in Gaza waters and I did not want to go to Israel, but the Israeli Forces kidnapped me at gunpoint and forced me to Israel against my will. We were told in English to raise our hands.

"I said, 'I want to stay with my friends. I want to stay on the boat.' The three notebooks I had with me were confiscated. At gunpoint I was forced off the Palestinian boat, onto the Israeli Zodiac and then onto the Israeli gunboat.

"I saw the Palestinian fishermen, blindfolded and handcuffed, taken from the boat Andrew was on. I said I wanted to stay with my friends on the deck. I was then forced below to the second level and I finally saw Andrew again. He was handcuffed and sitting at a table in a galley-kitchen area. We started to talk and were ordered to shut up. The Israeli Forces separated us and later they brought Vittorio in.

"Vittorio looked awful! I was very concerned about him, but didn't learn until much later that he had been tasered while holding onto a metal structure on the roof of the fishing boat. He ended up in the cold water and I am assuming he was suffering from hypothermia; he was barefoot, and shivering!

"When we arrived in Ashdod and as I was being taken off the Israeli gunboat I saw the Palestinian fishermen, blindfolded and handcuffed sitting on the deck. I yelled, in Arabic, that they were my dear friends and I will see them again.

"I was questioned by many Israelis and my response was that I was not talking to anyone or answering any questions without my attorney present.

"All of my belongings - cell phones, cameras, keys to my apartment, everything was  confiscated and while in Israeli custody, I was taken to Ben Gurion Airport for an audience with the Minister of the Interior.

"I told him-and every other inquisitor that I wasn't answering any questions without my attorney. His response was, 'We are done!'

"I do not know what charges were filed against me. I was held in the women's compound in the men's prison at Ramle that held people with visa violations. So I'm assuming I was there for being in Israel without a visa - pretty ridiculous given I was forced to go to Israel at gunpoint against my will. Israel deported me against my will back to America. I wanted to go to London or Cypress, but my requests were ignored. My belongings were not returned to me - my cell phone, my three notebooks, my keys to the apartment!

"Usually Israel will hold Gaza fishing men and their boats for weeks or months at a time. This time the men were released the following day and their boat a week later. The Israeli Forces damaged a motor on one and stole all the GPS units. On this trip 15 men who usually remain at sea for two days at a time, were denied their catch and that resulted in denying hundreds of children some protein! Hundreds of people were impacted just from this one illegal action by Israeli Forces. The families and everyone connected with the three Palestinian fishing boats were without their source of food and income for ten days - longer for the damaged boat.

 
"The thing that pulls me back to Gaza is the people. The Palestinians have touched my heart and I will continue to work in solidarity with them and I will return to Gaza. It is because of the people of Gaza. It is their spirit, courage, resilience, kindness, warmth, hospitality, love and resistance to the occupation that pulls me back."


On June 18, 2009, Darlene Wallach sent out an email announcing that on June 25th, "the Free Gaza movement will set sail on its eighth mission to break Israel's horrific siege and collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip."

Former Representative Cynthia McKinney said, "The Israelis violated international law by ramming my boat carrying medical supplies to Gaza. Therefore, I never got to Gaza.  Especially after Operation Cast Lead, I want to go to Gaza, and if I'm lucky, one day, I'll also get to visit a free Palestine."


Also returning is Mairead Maguire, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Ireland, "I am going to Gaza to show my love and support for the people of Gaza who continue to suffer under Israeli siege and occupation, yet whose spirit of nonviolent resistance inspires all who believe in equality, freedom and justice."

Delegation leader, Huwaida Arraf, stated, "It is crucial that we continue sending boats to Gaza to challenge Israel's criminal closure on the Strip. Gaza does not need our charity but needs us to stand up against the forces that continue to deliberately deny an entire people their human rights. International donors pledged over $4 billion to rebuild Gaza, and yet none of them are doing anything about the fact that Israel is not allowing any building supplies into Gaza, not to mention thousands of other items such as anesthetic, oxygen and cancer treatments, chlorine to treat the water supply, even paper, books, toys for children as well as tea and coffee."




Email from FREE GAZA Movement:

(25 June 2009, LARNACA) - This is not the statement we in the Free Gaza Movement intended to release today. We had hoped to announce that our two ships, the Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, departed from Larnaca Port on a 30-hour voyage to besieged Gaza, carrying human rights activists who have travelled to Cyprus from all across the world for this journey, 3 tons of medical supplies, and 15 tons of badly needed concrete and reconstruction supplies.

 

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, returning for her second trip to Gaza aboard one of our ships, said “[The people of Gaza] must know that we have not and will not forget them.”

 

That was our hope, but that is not what happened.

 

Instead, our ships were not given permission to leave today due to concerns about our welfare and safety. Our friends in Cyprus tell us that the voyage to Gaza is too dangerous, and they are worried we will be harmed at sea.

 

Cyprus has been a wonderful home for the Free Gaza Movement over these last 10 months. Cypriots know first hand the terrible consequences of occupation. They too know what it is to suffer from violence, injustice, and exile. Since our first voyage to break through the siege of Gaza, the Cypriot authorities have been extremely helpful and understanding of our goals and intentions.

 

The journey to Gaza is dangerous. The Israeli navy rammed our flagship, the Dignity, when we attempted to deliver medical supplies to Gaza during their vicious assault in December/January. Israel has previously threatened to open fire on our unarmed ships, rather than allow us to deliver humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to the people of Gaza.

 

The risks we take on these trips are tiny compared to the risks imposed every day upon the people of Gaza.

 

The purpose of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance is to take risks - to put ourselves “in the way” of injustice. We take these risks well aware of what the possible consequences may be. We do so because the consequences of doing nothing are so much worse. Anytime we allow ourselves to be bullied, every time we pass by an evil and ignore it - we lower our standards and allow our world to be made that much harsher and unjust for us all.

 

In addition to the concerns expressed by our Cypriot friends today, the American consulate in Nicosia warned us not to go to Gaza, stating that:

 

“…[T]he Israeli Foreign Ministry informed U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv that Israel still considers Gaza an area of conflict and that any Free Gaza boats attempting to sail to the Gaza Strip will “not be permitted” to reach its destination.”


Former U.S. Congresswoman & presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney responded to this warning by pointing out that, “The White House says that cement and medical supplies should get into Gaza and that's exactly what we are attempting to take to Gaza.”

“Instead of quoting Israel policy to us,” McKinney continued, “…the U.S. should send a message to Israel reiterating the reported White House position that the blockade of Gaza should be eased, that medical supplies and building materials, including cement, should be allowed in. The Free Gaza boats should be allowed to reach their destination, traveling from Cyprus territorial waters, through international waters, and straight into Gaza territorial waters.”

 

“The State Department has chosen to advise us to take the Israeli notification seriously.  Our question is, ‘Can we take President Obama seriously?’  Will he stand by his own words and allow us to provide relief for Gaza or will he back down?”

Tomorrow we will deliver a waiver, signed by all going to Gaza, that we absolve Cyprus of all responsibility for our safety. We would like to tell our friends here in Cyprus that though we understand and appreciate their concerns, we will not back down to Israel’s threats and intimidation.


Learn More:

http://www.freegaza.org





The same morning Darlene was kidnapped, I was at the Erez Checkpoint for my first time:

November 19, 2008: What do Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea and Israel have in Common? 
Read more...








People ask me all the time why I went to occupied Palestine-not just once-but six times since 2005 and why do I care so much about such a small plot of real estate.


I reply, that I went the first time to meet a little boy of Bethlehem who changed my life and to be the Christian delegate amongst the Palestinian and Jewish co-founders of the Olive Trees foundation for Peace [http://www.olivetreesfoundation.org/] an interfaith non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and funds to purchase trees to replace those that have been destroyed by The Wall.

But, all my last trips to occupied Palestine were driven by the fierce urgency of now and a sense of calling; to go-bear witness-and report about the lives of regular people living under military occupation and to learn about and support the grass root efforts of Israeli, Palestinian and International nonviolent activists against the occupation of Palestine.

I also left hearth and home for occupied Palestine because injustice anywhere reverberates all over the world and American taxpayers are culpable in where their money is laid down. Annually, over 3.2 billion USA tax dollars are sent to Israel to support the now 40+ years of military occupation of the indigenous peoples of the Holy Land.


It was at an Olive Trees Foundation for Peace meeting, that I met a Catholic woman who showed me a photo first published by the Florida Catholic in 2000; a photo that irrevocably changed my life.

Photographer Debbie Hill, captured three year old George [it is his photo that adorns the banner of my website] of Beit Jala, a once peaceful Christian village a five minute car ride from downtown Bethlehem, the morning after the Israeli army destroyed his sanctuary.

Israeli forces had retaliated against a few hopeless militants who had infiltrated George's neighborhood to snipe across the way into the illegal settlement/colony of Gilo, about a mile from the top of the hill not far from George's home.
 
The shrapnel that blew apart the wall of George's bedroom read 'Made in USA ' and was delivered via American made Apache helicopters.

The second I saw George's eyes, in that photo, my heart said "DO SOMETHING!"

What could I possibly do I wondered, but I did make a copy of the photo, put it in a frame and placed it upon the altar [a bar high table] in the upper room of my home. Dozens of times a day, I stop and gaze into the eyes of that little boy of Bethlehem and wonder what it will take to end the insane cycle of violence in the Holy Land; which is in pieces-bantustans.


When I met George for the first time in June 2005, I vowed to him that the rest of my life would be dedicated to doing all I could to help bring about the end of the occupation of Palestine.

Of course I had no clue as to what I would or could possibly do, or  how much of an 'impossible mission' I had promised a little child of Bethlehem. But, every morning I wake up and wonder what I can do today in the pursuit of peace and justice; equal human rights for all, for that is the only way Israel will ever be secure.

A month after my first return home from occupied territory, I put up my website and became a civilian journalist; which is best understood as one who goes out of their comfort zone to report for the benefit of we the people, without orders or censorship from editors or paychecks from conglomerates.

The first civilian journalist may well have been Rachel Corrie, the altruistic young American and volunteer with ISM/International Solidarity movement who was run over and killed by the weight of a Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, four days before America bombed Baghdad.

Rachel and other NONVIOLENT activists had spent hours protesting against the demolition of the home of a pharmacist with five children in Gaza. The Corrie family has sought but has yet to receive justice; an open Congressional investigation and admission of accountability by the Caterpillar Company which continues to reap profits from manufacturing products that further the military occupation of Palestine.

On February 7 2003, Rachel wrote:

"…no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it - and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality…Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown…When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting…at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done…I am in Rafah: a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are refugees - many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Today, as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, 'Go! Go!' because a tank was coming. And then waving and [asking] 'What's your name?'

"Something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously - occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving - many forced to be here, many just aggressive - shooting into the houses as we wander away…There is a great deal of concern here about the "reoccupation of Gaza". Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren't already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope you will start."[1]

It was the events of THAT DAY we call 9/11 topped off by President Bush's advice a few days later to we the people that we should all go shopping if we wanted to help, that drove my curiosity to learn "about the consequences" of USA foreign policy in the Middle East.

Being a Christian, I also was driven by the need to forgive, love and do good to my 'enemies' that led me to connect with the interfaith non-profit OTFFP/Olive Trees Foundation for Peace during the summer of 2003.

I connected with the OTFFP after reading two oped's published in the Orlando Sentinel written by the Palestinian Muslim and American Jewish Co-Founders of the OTFFP regarding the need for open dialogue that recognizes, respects and empathizes with the pain of the other; for when that happens, anyone of good will, will be moved by compassion to do something to alleviate the pain of the other.

The OTFFP organization united American and Israeli Jews, Christians and Muslims after THAT DAY we call 9/11 to literally extend the olive branch of peace to all the cousins in Father Abraham's family in Israel Palestine by providing the funds to purchase fruit bearing trees on both sides of The Wall. So far, 30,000 have been rooted.


After a few phone calls and emails to the OTFFP organization, I committed to attend a Sunday afternoon OTFFP meeting in south Orlando following the final third of my first year of weekend retreats for students in a two year formation program for Spiritual Director's.

During 2002-2003, I participated in a central Florida, Episcopal-Methodist Formation Program for SD/Spiritual Director's/SD's. SD's are not counselors or therapists, but are centered and prayerful people who have learned to listen with their hearts to any other speaking of their struggles with God.

I knew going into the program that I would NOT be hanging out a shingle as an SD, I was drawn to be there for the curriculum; studying the saints and various ways of prayer. That is also when I began to write creative spiritual literature.

But on a Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2003, after concluding my final weekend retreat I attended my first OTFFP meeting and my life was irrevocably changed, and it began that morning during a guided meditation.

The workshop leader instructed my class to close our eyes and breathe deep and slow as she invited us to enter into a long corridor with many closed doors; and then, she went silent. Immediately, I imagined myself skipping, jumping, dancing and running past miles of closed doors as I headed to the end of that long corridor. I was aware of, but not interested in any of the closed doors on my right and left. I headed straight ahead although it was a while before I saw the enormous cathedral sized double doors at the very end of the hallway. As I approached the wooden doors they slowly opened into the inner space and I could see trees and mountains. After crossing the threshold, I realized I stood upon a mountain top and I could see for miles. There were people of every color and creed, in diverse dress and all were at rest and in peaceful harmony under those trees.

When the workshop leader interrupted my reverie, I did not want to leave that mountain top. I also had no clue if I had a glimpse of heaven or a possibility for this world, but as I was on my way to meet some of the Olive Trees for Peace people I thought that had something to do with my imaginative meditation.

I was the first to arrive at Dr. Diab's home for the meeting, and on that Sunday I was the only Christian in a room filled with American Jews and Palestinian Muslims. I was in awe of all of them as I prayed, "Jesus Christ! Will you look at all these Muslims and Jews doing exactly what you commanded your followers must do; forgive, love and bless ones enemies. Imagine when all we Christians do it too!"

It was that fateful day that led me to travel two hours every Tuesday afternoon for many months in order to listen and write down Dr. Diab's memoirs, with the intention that it would be for his grandchildren.

But, being an Irish story teller, dissident and spiritual creative, I had no control over the six fictional characters that welled up within me and who began to converse with Dr. Diab during the days that followed our Tuesday meetings. Not until I completed, KEEP HOPE ALIVE did I even realize that my 'imaginary friends' also represented six different ways to intuit, love and serve God.


KEEP HOPE ALIVE is also an historical fiction based on the memoirs of a 1948 Palestinian Muslim refugee who became an American citizen with Top Secret Clearance during the Cold War and founded the non-profit interfaith Olive Trees Foundation for Peace as a positive response to THAT DAY we call 9/11.

Because of my connection to the OTFFP, I journeyed the first time to occupied territory in June 2005. I wrote down everything I experienced, felt in my gut and wondered about. I went places I had never imagined existed and I did things I never thought I would or could; such as leaving Ramallah for Jerusalem late at night with a driver I did not know and who only spoke Arabic.

That morning, I rode along with Dr. Diab and his driver to Ramallah from Jerusalem, and witnessed the Wall in full frontal, brutal view. On my left was a thirty foot high wall of concrete; on my right, only rows of bankrupt businesses.

"Financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile, the Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families' sole livelihood for generations." [Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Page 43, Jan/Feb. 2007]


Dr. Diab and I had an appointment at the Palestinian Authority’s compound, where Arafat is now buried.

We met with Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff to President Abbas who informed us, “We have lost more than 1.1 million fruit-bearing trees in Palestinian territories. Trees are about food, the environment, and life. Ancient trees have been demolished by tanks, and we thank the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace for addressing the need to replace them and rebuild the faith of our people. Palestine has always been tolerant to people of all religions. The Jews came here out of Spain along with many Arabs — and then came Zionism. When one wants to take over another, war happens. President Abbas is a very bad politician; he does not lie! He is ready to move on from the past. We have quit crying over our losses; we must move on. Live and let live is the motto of this administration. We can not carry on a battle; it must stop. Peace can only happen with peace, not force. President Abbas has promised, ‘We will do whatever it takes to show the world we want peace.’ We need America to help us. The best thing would be for Americans to come and see the truth of the situation for themselves. I encourage Americans to come and see the Wall; it has nothing to do with security, but everything to do with grabbing water and more land. When Americans understand the real situation, things will change for the better. The humiliation at the checkpoints is beyond belief. It can drive anyone to desperation. We condemn all terrorism, but resisting occupation is necessary.”


After that meeting, Dr. Diab set off for his home village in the Galilee and I explored Ramallah with a friend who was born and lives there. Just before midnight, my friend walked me through the checkpoint to where the cabs waited. I cringed when I saw the watchtower’s small window lit up, and I considered how easy it would be to be shot at and never see it coming. The ground was rocky, uneven, and littered with debris and the only light was from the moon.

My friend bargained with a cabbie in Arabic and I marveled that I, who hated to fly before 9/11 and with absolutely no sense of direction at all, who only speaks and understands English, was traveling alone through occupied territory without any fear at all.

After two weeks of traveling through Israel Palestine with ten other Americans connected with the OTFFP, I remained alone in Jerusalem for the following three days and once again, my life was irrevocably changed.

On the third Tuesday in June of 2005- six days before I returned to the USA- after an excruciatingly painful day in Hebron, I crossed paths with Vanunu for the first time.

In April 2005, two months before my first trip to Jerusalem, I turned the TV on that had last been tuned onto the History channel. They were broadcasting a show called, "Sexpionage" all about Russian female spies and one from the Mossad.

The very first clip that ran before my eyes was of Vanunu being transported to his closed door trial depicting his inspired move to write upon his palm: "HIJACKED" and the Rome flight number he had been on. That was followed by a clip of Shimon Perez in 1986 stating that Israel would never be the first in the Mid East to possess nuclear weapons.

Then, a black and white photo of a bearded, unkempt and disheveled Vanunu filled the TV screen and I thought his eyes looked just like George's of Beit Jala's, and again, I heard in my heart:

"Do Something!"


I did email Vanunu after that show to thank him for what he had done in 1986 and to let him know that I and nine other Americans would be in his territory in two months and we would like to take him to dinner or lunch. But, just days before that trip, a Palestinian American warned me not to contact Vanunu as Israel had denied him the right to speak to not just foreign media but also ordered him to not speak to any foreigners at all.

Only because a friend from Ramallah happened to be in Jerusalem on the third Tuesday in June 2005, and invited me out to dinner, did I venture out again. I had no hunger for food after my day in Hebron but as we walked towards the Old City and neared St. Georges Cathedral where Vanunu had been living, I asked my friend if he knew about Vanunu. He recalled hearing about Vanunu's release from prison in 2004, but he did not know Vanunu was a Christian who had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish home but rejected the faith at 14 years old.

As we entered the courtyard, Vanunu was on his way out to a meeting and a few minutes difference and we would have missed him completely.

Instead I was startled by his physical presence, for I had imagined Vanunu to be dark eyed and much taller than I at 5'4". Vanunu is not much taller or heavier than I, but what knocked me for a loop were his light green-blue eyes that immediately reminded me of the eyes of an old woman I met in 1998, who irrevocably changed my life.

Her name was Bernice and I crossed paths with her for the first time just a few weeks after I began visiting someone at a local nursing home. As I walked down the hallway, Bernice called out, "Help me. Help me."

I had been a registered nurse for twenty-five years and when ever I hear someone ask for help, I am compelled to do something, or at least try. All Bernice wanted was for me to change her position, for she was completely paralyzed. From a distance I thought her eyes were dark, but as I approached her, I was startled at how light green-blue they were. That day was the beginning of my now ten year nursing home ministry, and although I have no clue what color Jesus' eyes may have been, in that moment, I sensed/experienced the presence of The Other; that mystery we call God, for lack of a better word. Crossing paths with Bernice was the first time I had known a visceral, intuitive experience of the presence of God within another. It happened for the second time in the courtyard of St. George's Cathedral in 2005, during the chance crossing of paths with Vanunu, who inspired me to do something I had not yet imagined I would or could.

During our third meeting, while Vanunu was telling me about growing up in Marrakech, Morocco he asked me if I had ever seen the  "Dorothy Day"  movie, "The Man who Knew Too Much" for the beginning scenes were shot where he grew up.

He meant to say Doris Day, but in that moment I realized my childhood dream of being Brenda Starr had matured, for Vanunu's slip of the tongue was the catalyst for me to begin to imagine following in the footsteps of Dorothy Day, the 20th century socialist muckraker who became a Christian and a voice for the voiceless in her newspaper The Catholic Worker, which persists today.

Dorothy Day understood that, "Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing......Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers."

During my travels through occupied Palestine and after listening with my heart to the people who shared their stories with me, I asked everyone, "How can I help? What can I do to try to be a peacemaker?"

Everyone responded, "Tell our stories."
 

Dorothy Day and Rachel Corrie told the stories of the oppressed. They both are dead, but as long as I can do something and have breath, I too will tell the stories as I try to be a peacemaker by seeking justice; equal human rights for all, and persist to hope for the best.

Might you do something too.



1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/mar/18/usa.israel

   
 
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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

 "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust." - Aquinas

BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's Freedom of Speech Trial

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UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



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"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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